Album Review – Celtic Hills / Mystai Keltoy (2021)

A massive metal attack made in Italy offering us all 11 tracks that speak of ancient alien civilizations, European pyramids, legends and historical facts of Friuli.

3.5rating

celtic-hills-mystai-keltoy-2021Mystai Keltoy, an enigmatic name that alludes to the Elusian Mysteries, is also the name of the brand new album by an Italian Melodic Power/Thrash Metal entity formed in 2010 that goes by the epic name of Celtic Hills, offering us fans of heavy music 11 tracks that speak of ancient alien civilizations, European pyramids, legends and historical facts of Friuli. Recorded and produced at The Groove Factory in Udine, Italy by Michele Guaitoli, and displaying a classy artwork representing the myth of the ancient visitors hand painted by artist Sheila Franco, Mystai Keltoy is a journey through several metal styles from early Thrash Metal to modern-day Power Metal, showcasing all the talent of the band comprised of Jonathan Vanderbilt on vocals and guitar, Jacopo Novello on bass, and Simone Cescutti on drums.

The Iron Maiden-like riffs by Jonathan and the crushing drums by Simone kick off the band’s metal extravaganza in The Light, blending the magic of traditional Heavy Metal with the acidity of the Speed Metal played by Megadeth. And let’s keep banging our heads to the smashing drums by Simone in Blood is not Water, accompanied by the thunderous bass by Jacopo, reminding me of some classic compositions by Overkill, Exodus and Metal Church, whereas powerful backing vocals add an extra touch of epicness to the imposing The Tomorrow of Our Sons, supporting Jonathan and his old school vocal lines. Putting the pedal to the metal, the trio fires the absolutely pulverizing battle hymn The 7-Headed Dragon of Osoppo, where all three musicians are in total sync with their incendiary riffs, bass punches and pounding drums, resulting in a lesson in Italian Heavy and Thrash Metal. There’s no time to breathe as those Italian metallers deliver another kick-ass tune entitled The Landing of the Gods, with Jonathan slashing his stringed axe nonstop.

Already Lost is epic and bold form the very first second, with the trio being on fire throughout the entire song which “forgets” their previous Speed Metal and invests into a pure Melodic Metal sonority. Then a futuristic atmosphere walks hand in hand with the metal demolition spearheaded by Simone’s drums in Falling Star, where it’s impressive how only three musicians can generate such dense sound; followed by Battle Of Frigidium, once again drinking from the same fountain as renowned acts the likes of Manowar, Iron Maiden and Iced Earth, with Jonathan’s vocals getting darker and more enraged as the music progresses. Featuring guest vocals by Italian singer Germana Noage (Aetherna, ƝOΔGE), Celtic Hills offer us fans a more melodic side of their music à la Nightwish, After Forever and Lacuna Coil in Eden, while Temple of Love never really takes off albeit sounding similar to the previous song, and never showing the same amount of adrenaline form the rest of the album. Finally, closing the album it’s time for a Melodic Power Metal tune entirely sung in Italian entitled Allitteratio, with Jacopo and Simone kicking some ass with their groovy and heavy kitchen.

celtic-hills-2021If you’re curious to see how the fusion of heavy music and legends of ancient civilizations sounds, you can enjoy Mystai Keltoy in its entirety on Spotify, but if I were you I would certainly purchase a copy of the album by clicking HERE. And, of course, you can start following Celtic Hills on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the band. Inspired by the history of the populations that inhabited the area of present-day Carnia and Friuli, as aforementioned, but seen with a different perspective, Mystai Keltoy will blow your mind so heavy and detailed it sounds, leaving you eager for more as soon as it’s over and, therefore, keeping the fires of Italian metal burning bright thanks to the amazing job done by the unstoppable Celtic Hills.

Best moments of the album: The 7-Headed Dragon of Osoppo, The Landing of the Gods and Eden.

Worst moments of the album: Temple of Love.

Released in 2021 Elevate Records

Track listing  
1. The Light 3:16
2. Blood is not Water 4:05
3. The Tomorrow of Our Sons 3:29
4. The 7-Headed Dragon of Osoppo 4:02
5. The Landing of the Gods 3:27
6. Already Lost 3:51
7. Falling Star 3:58
8. Battle Of Frigidium 4:59
9. Eden 3:54
10. Temple of Love 3:10
11. Allitteratio 3:20

Band members
Jonathan Vanderbilt – vocals, guitar
Jacopo Novello – bass
Simone Cescutti – drums

Guest musician
Germana Noage – vocals on “Eden”

Album Review – Tragedian / Seven Dimensions (2021)

This multicultural Melodic Power Metal unity hailing from Germany is ready to enlighten our destiny to the sound of their fourth full-length album, presenting to the world a new and reinvigorated lineup.

The esoteric and the obscure. Tales of the eternal fight between darkness and light… Formed by arcane energies. The mysteries that lay beyond human recognition. We are Tragedian, Power Metal that enlightens your destiny!

Formed in 2002 by American guitarist, songwriter and producer Gabriele Palermo, Tragedian are a multicultural metal band from Hamburg, Germany with a range of influences from Heavy Metal to Speed and Melodic Power Metal, taking their favorite elements from each genre and making their own interpretation. Currently comprised of the aforementioned Gabriele Palermo on the guitars together with Venezuelan vocalist Joan Pabón, German bassist Dawid Wieczorek, German keyboardist and pianist  Denis Scheither, and Italian drummer Nicolò Bernini, the band is about to unleash their fourth full-length album, entitled Seven Dimensions, the first with Joan, Dawid and Denis on the lineup. Produced by Gabriele himself, post-produced and mixed by Eike Freese at Chameleon Studios in Hamburg, and featuring an ethereal artwork by Polish artist Piotr Szafraniec (Archart Studio), Seven Dimensions takes the band to a different direction of Melodic Metal, showcasing nine new, electrifying anthems plus three previously released tracks reworked by the quintet.

Blazing guitars and whimsical keys kick off the Melodic Metal extravaganza titled Rising Rage, with Nicolò dictating the rhythm with his classic beats in a fast, harmonious and epic manner just the way we like it, and with Joan proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new lead singer. Then more of Gabriele’s slashing riffs and solos penetrate deep inside our ears in Aloneless, where Dawid and Nicolò’s low-tuned, rumbling sounds make a vibrant paradox with Denis’ classy keys. Put differently, it will certainly please all fans of bands like Stratovarius, Rhapsody of Fire and Angra, whereas investing in a more direct sonority, the band blends the electricity of Power Metal with the rebelliousness of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock in Out of the Dark, featuring guest guitars by Dan Palmer (Zebra Head, Death By Stereo), and the final result is simply awesome. And putting the pedal to the metal the quintet fires the melodic hurricane Darkest of My Days, where Joan is amazing on vocals supported by the unstoppable drums by Nicolò, not to mention the razor-edge guitar lines by Gabriele.

In Bringer of Dreams, featuring guest vocals by Wade Black (Crimson Glory, Leatherwolf), after a not-so-promising start the music fortunately evolves into another solid feast of Melodic Power Metal by Tragedian, with Joan and Wade bringing joy to our hearts with their dynamic vocal duo; and it’s time for a power ballad led by Joan’s passionate vocals and Denis’ melancholic piano notes entitled Crying in the Rain, also presenting background female vocals which bring an additional touch of finesse to the overall result, albeit going on for too long. Back to a more imposing and epic musicality, Nicolò kicks ass once again on drums while Gabriele keeps extracting sheer adrenaline from his axe in Enlightened, all spiced up by a classic Stratovarius-inspired keyboard solo by Denis, followed by an avalanche of classic riffs and nonstop drums in Forevermore, with the groovy bass punches by Dawid bringing thunder to the music. Needless to say, it can’t get any more melodic than this.

Destiny sounds relatively generic compared to the rest of the album, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, though, it’s just that it falls flat after a while despite the solid instrumental pieces blasted by the quintet. Then Joan showcases all his vocal potency and range is his mother tongue in Para Siempre (Forever), a very entertaining tune (and of course very special and personal for Joan himself) that results in a lecture in Spanish Melodic Metal; and those power metallers are never tired of embellishing the airwaves with their stylish sounds like what they do in The Journey, where Gabriele and Denis are once again in absolute sync form start to finish. Guest vocalist Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle) adds his touch of melancholy and epicness to the inspiring ballad Forces of the Light, where we’re invited to let Tragedian’s enfolding music soothe our souls while Joan and Zak give a lecture in vocal performance, closing the digital edition of the album. However, you should definitely go for the CD version of Seven Dimensions, as the bonus tracks Crying in the Rain (duet version) and Forces of the Light (full orchestral version) are definitely worth the investment in the physical edition, especially the orchestral version for the embracing ballad with Zak Stevens.

As already mentioned, the addition of Joan, Dawid and Denis to Tragedian’s lineup brought a new share of epicness, melody and creativity to Gabriele’s brainchild, with Seven Dimensions perfectly depicting the band’s renewed energy throughout each one of the albums’ ten vibrant tracks (or twelve, if we also count the two bonus tracks of the CD version). Having said that, let’s all show the guys from Tragedian how much we admire their music, and that they’ve chosen to follow an exciting path in this new phase of their career by giving them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, by streaming more of their music on Spotify, and especially by purchasing a copy of Seven Dimensions or by streaming it in full by clicking HERE. This is first-class, international Melodic Power Metal that deserves our attention and recognition, my friends, and let’s hope Gabriele and his melodic army keep delivering sheer awesomeness to all of us with all of their future releases, always displaying their refined techniques, and of course, their passion for heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Rising Rage, Out of the Dark, Forevermore and Forces of the Light.

Worst moments of the album: Crying in the Rain and Destiny.

Released in 2021 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Rising Rage 4:19
2. Aloneless 4:03
3. Out of the Dark 3:42
4. Darkest of My Days 3:42
5. Bringer of Dreams 5:35
6. Crying in the Rain 4:48
7. Enlightened 5:01
8. Forevermore 4:13
9. Destiny 4:19
10. Para Siempre (Forever) 3:37
11. The Journey 4:32
12. Forces of the Light 6:35

CD Edition bonus tracks
13. Crying in the Rain (duet version) 4:49
14. Forces of the Light (full orchestral version) 4:50

Band members
Joan Pabón – vocals
Gabriele Palermo – guitar
Dawid Wieczorek – bass
Denis Scheither – keyboards, piano
Nicolò Bernini – drums

Guest musicians
Wade Black – vocals on “Bringer of Dreams”
Zak Stevens – vocals on “Forces of the Light”
Dan Palmer – guitars on “Out Of The Dark”

Album Review – Unleash The Archers / Abyss (2020)

The Matriarch is ready to eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss to the sound of the brand new album by one of the best Canadian metal bands of all time.

Formed in 2007 in Vancouver, the biggest city in the stunning province of British Columbia, Canada, the unrelenting Power/Melodic Death Metal squad known as Unleash The Archers has sharpened their arrows and hit the bullseye once again with their fifth full-length album, entitled Abyss. Featuring ten new tracks, this adventure is a concept album and a sequel to their 2017 masterpiece Apex, and was once again recorded with legendary producer Jacob Hansen of Hansen Studios in Denmark. Portraying another epic artwork, this time designed by Adam Burke (Nightjar Illustration), Abyss might not be as grandiose and breathtaking as Apex, something quite impossible to be done in my humble opinion, but it’s indeed a vibrant display of the band’s dexterity, their passion for Heavy Metal and their infinite creativity to bring forth a compelling storyline together with their music, proving why frontwoman Brittney Slayes, guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Saunders, and drummer Scott Buchanan heave reached such high level of admiration and relevance all over the world, carving their spot in the hearts of all types of metalheads.

Smooth, serene guitar lines invite us all to join the band in their quest for metal in the opening tune Waking Dream, where Brittney already showcases all her vocal potency, gradually evolving into the epic title-track Abyss, with Grant and Andrew taking the lead with their crisp and strident riffs and solos. It will work beautifully when played live, blending their modern-day Power Metal with 80’s Glam Metal, I might say. Then again presenting an 80’s rockin’ vibe thanks to its background keys and classic beats we have Through Stars, sounding like it was taken from an old school Hard Rock album, being very pleasant while at the same time developing the story majestically told by Brittney, and when you think they’re going to slow down a little they come with an onrush of sounds titled Legacy, even bringing nuances of Black Metal added to their classic metal music. However, the music never really clicks, though, falling flat after a while (nothing to worry about, though).

In Return to Me the band brings forward a more progressive and groovier side, with Scott dictating the rhythm with his old school beats, resulting in another good composition by the quartet albeit a bit generic if compared to their older songs, whereas it’s with Soulbound that the party really starts, showcasing ass-kicking lyrics screamed by Brittney (“We race around the melted char of what was once a neutron star / And use the gravity to whip us into dark galactic rifts / Yet still somehow we can’t escape, they have no flaw, they feel no pain / These twisted shadows of the men I once condemned”) while Grant and Andrew are unstoppable with their axes in this ode to Heavy Metal. And get ready for another round of inspiring, metallic words (“Once more we’re flying fast as light / Dark matter passing in the night / Pursued by a force we can’t outrun / As we hurtle towards a dying sun / We maneuver through the remnants of a moon on the solar winds of supernovas / There is not a place to hide, the Matriarch is close behind, it’s plain to see she’s coming for us all”) in the superb Faster Than Light, bringing to our ears a stuninng Stratovarius-like feel (and an absolutely weird official video to our eyes, by the way), with all band members speeding things up and blasting sheer awesomeness for our total delectation.

After such intense tune, it’s time for a passionate performance by Brittney supported by her loyal bandmates in The Wind that Shapes the Land, with Grant and Andrew slashing our ears with their sharp riffage while Scott doesn’t stop hammering his drums throughout the song’s eight minutes of a top-of-the-line fusion of Melodic Death and Power Metal. Carry the Flame is another 80’s-inspired Hard Rock/Heavy Metal song showcasing a beautiful vocal duo between Brittney and Andrew, while Scott continues to bring the thunder to the music with his beats, all spiced up by some ass-kicking, soulful guitar solos. Lastly, in order to properly conclude the album the band brings to our ears the epic, symphonic and climatic Afterlife, a very detailed and dense composition where Brittney is once again flawless with her high-pitched, heroic vocals, accompanied by the galloping beats by Scott and the always flammable guitars by Grant and Andrew until the song’s serene and warm ending.

In a nutshell, as already mentioned, although Abyss is not on par with Apex, it will surely entertain all fans of the band while at the same time it puts a climatic conclusion to the overall story concept initiated with their 2017 album. Do not expect to listen to a new “The Matriarch”, “Call Me Immortal” or “Shadow Guide” in Abyss, but to brand new, unique compositions that have their place and purpose well defined by Unleash The Archers, and if you want to give their new album a shot you can stream it in full on Spotify or purchase a copy of it from several locations such as their own BandCamp page, Napalm Records, Apple Music, Amazon or indiemerchstore.com, among others. Also, don’t forget to follow Brittney and the boys on Facebook and on Instagram, getting up to date to all things related to one of the best metal bands of all time hailing from Canada. In the end, the Matriarch might eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss, but as long as that happens while we listen to the first-class metal blasted by Unleash The Archers, we can rest assured our souls will be free in the afterlife.

Best moments of the album: Through Stars, Soulbound, Faster Than Light and The Wind that Shapes the Land.

Worst moments of the album: Legacy and Return to Me.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Waking Dream 3:45
2. Abyss 6:44
3. Through Stars 5:34
4. Legacy 5:26
5. Return to Me 5:34
6. Soulbound 3:54
7. Faster Than Light 5:11
8. The Wind that Shapes the Land 8:36
9. Carry the Flame 4:42
10. Afterlife 7:30

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Saunders – guitar, harsh growls, additional vocals, synths
Scott Buchanan – drums

Guest musicians
Francesco Ferrini – orchestration on “Afterlife”
Ben Arscott – bass (session)

Album Review – Winter’s Verge / The Ballad of James Tig (2020)

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands returns with their most ambitious project to date, telling the story of a man who lost his family at sea seeking revenge against a sea monster.

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands of all time, Nicosia-based Symphonic Power Metal act Winter’s Verge has been on a roll since their inception in 2005, having released so far four studio albums and three EP’s, and building a strong reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in Cyprus with a powerful blend of Epic, Melodic and Symphonic Metal. Currently comprised of George Charalambous on vocals, Deniel Pavlovsky and Savvas Parperi on the guitars, Miguel Trapezaris on bass, Stavry Michael on keyboards and Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway on drums, Winter’s Verge’s music is highly conceptual and takes place within a mythological realm called Tiberon, with all songs and lyrics allowing fans to explore the themes, characters and locations for their own interpretation. Now in 2020, after three years in the making, the band is ready to stun us all once again with The Ballad of James Tig, their fifth full-length opus and their most ambitious projects to date, telling the story of James Tig, a man who lost his family at sea when he was a young boy and had set his life-long dream to find the legendary Killagorak, a sea monster who he believes was what killed his family when he was very young, therefore seeking revenge.

With a concept and lyrics by renowned local author and playwright Frixos Masouras, featuring a classic artwork designed by George Vasiliou, mixed and produced by vocalist George Charalambous himself, mastered by George Eracleous at Oneirism Studios, and featuring guest vocalist Teodora Stoyanova Freya (known for her work with Bulgarian Viking Metal band Freija and with a metal project called Magic of the North) playing the part of Nina in the story, The Ballad of James Tig is not just another concept storyline, but a much bolder project by Winter’s Verge with a huge sounding scope and symphonic sound, cementing the band’s name as one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands from the entire Eastern Mediterranean region.

Get ready to embark on a musical voyage together with Winter’s Verge, beginning with the symphonic and serene opening aria It Begins, with George taking the lead with his soulful vocals while his bandmates embellish the airwaves with their respective instruments, whereas the keys by Stavry and all background orchestrations are soon joined by the pounding Power Metal drums by Danny in the heavier and faster A Thousand Souls, where the band’s guitar duo Deniel and Savvas are on fire with their riffs and solos, also presenting tons of breaks and variations to make things even more impactful. Sounding very theatrical from the very first second, Dead Reckoning is a lot more symphonic than metallic, which obviously means the focus is on its melody rather than its heaviness, while George does a great job once again on vocals, and featuring Teodora as a guest vocalist for the first time we have the charming and enfolding Timeless, with the delicate piano notes by Stavry adding an extra touch of finesse to this beautiful ballad by Winter’s Verge.

Killagorak (yes, the monster itself) is a two-minute imposing, epic interlude that will embrace you and prepare your senses for the breathtaking I Accept, starting in full force spearheaded by Danny and his intricate and powerful beats while Deniel and Savvas keep slashing their strings in great fashion, once again with Teodora and George making a dynamic vocal duo for our total delight. Then we have Blood on the Foam, a pirate-inspired Metal Opera where the Progressive Power Metal played by Winter’s Verge is flawlessly intertwined with pure symphonic passages, not to mention how thunderous the bass jabs by Miguel and the drums by Danny sound; and we’re treated to one final round of Teodora’s gorgeous, operatic vocals in The Sea, offering our ears eight minutes of dark passages, introspective vocals and crushing riffs. In the end, you’ll feel absolutely mesmerized by such detailed and thrilling song, before The Ballad of James Tig, a true ballad of the seas, closes the album on a high note, with its semi-acoustic guitars and tribal beats permeating the air and putting a climatic and melancholic conclusion to the story told by Winter’s Verge.

You can get in touch with such distinguished band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their stylish music and official videos, but of course in order to show your utmost support to underground Symphonic Metal you should definitely purchase The Ballad of James Tig from your favorite retailer such as Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon, as well as stream the album in full on Spotify as soon as it’s released in the coming weeks. It’s truly mesmerizing the way Winter’s Verge told the tale of James Tig in their new album, uniting music and storytelling in a compelling way and, above all that, providing us fans of heavy music a very good reason to sail the unruly waters of the mythological realm if Tiberon together with James Tig himself, and obviously with our six talented Cypriot metallers.

Best moments of the album: A Thousand Souls, I Accept and The Sea.

Worst moments of the album: Dead Reckoning.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. It Begins 6:57
2. A Thousand Souls 4:57
3. Dead Reckoning 4:41
4. Timeless 6:57
5. Killagorak 2:11
6. I Accept 5:03
7. Blood on the Foam 6:06
8. The Sea 7:59
9. The Ballad of James Tig 4:07

Band members
George Charalambous – vocals
Deniel Pavlovsky – guitars
Savvas Parperi – guitars
Miguel Trapezaris – bass
Stavry Michael – keyboards
Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway – drums

Guest musician
Teodora Stoyanova Freya – female vocals on “Timeless”, “I Accept” and “The Sea”

Album Review – Manticora / To Live to Kill to Live (2020)

Let the Progressive Power and Thrash Metal by this Denmark-based unity mesmerize you during the 63 minutes of music found in the second part of their horror novel-inspired concept album.

Hvidovre, Denmark’s own Progressive Power/Thrash Metal unity Manticora is back in action in 2020 with their ninth full-length opus, entitled To Live to Kill to Live, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed To Kill to Live to Kill, released in 2018. This is the second part of a grandiose concept based on their 334-page horror novel (which by the way can be purchased HERE), mixed by Jacob Hansen (Primal Fear, U.D.O., Destruction) and featuring guest musicians form bands like Allegiance Reign, Defacing God and Withering Surface, all embraced by a comic book-inspired artwork by Danish artist David Troest. To Live to Kill to Live offers the listener 63 minutes of undisputed metal music, showcasing not only all the dexterity by frontman Lars F. Larsen, gutarists Kristian Larsen and Stefan Johansson, bassist Kasper Gram and drummer Lawrence Dinamarca, but also their creativity and precision in uniting Heavy Metal with a thrilling storytelling. “It all started out as a crazy and almost impossible idea… A book and two albums… I mean… come on? Today I’m so proud of the final result and I still can’t understand that we actually did it,” commented Kristian about the band’s newborn spawn, inviting us all to join them in this breathtaking adventure in the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

A cinematic intro ignites the 14-minute aria entitled Katana – The Moths and the Dragonflies/Katana – Mud, quickly exploding into modern and electrifying Heavy Metal where Lawrence is absolutely bestial on drums, sounding like a hybrid between the music by Trivium and Stratovarius, and with Kristian and Stefan delivering sheer stamina from their riffs and solos. Furthermore, the storyline progresses flawlessly together with the massive wall of sounds and all breaks and variations blasted by Manticora, building an instant connection with the Japanese-inspired bridge To Nanjing, bringing peace to our minds and soothing our souls before those Danish metallers explode our senses with the imposing The Farmer’s Tale, Pt. 3 – Eaten by the Beasts, where Kasper and Lawrence bring tons of groove and intricacy to the music while Lars keeps declaiming the song’s dark words in great fashion, not to mention the guitar duo’s wicked solos. Then it’s time for a Groove and Heavy Metal feast entitled Slaughter in the Desert Room, where both guitars and Kasper’s bass jabs generate a rumbling atmosphere perfect for Lars to fire more of his trademark vocals. In other words, this amazing song couldn’t have sounded bolder nor more epic than what it already is.

Following such insane composition, phantasmagorical keys give an extra touch of evil and darkness to Through the Eyes of the Killer – Filing Teeth, a true Metal Opera where Kristian and Stefan take the lead with their sinister guitars while Lawrence blasts sluggish, Doom Metal-inspired beats; followed by Katana – Death of the Meaning of Life, leaning towards classic Scandinavian Melodic Death and Power Metal and at the same time sounding as thunderous as it can be, with Lars giving a lesson in passion and feeling while his bandmates don’t stop crushing their instruments not even for a single second for our total delectation. And Tasered/Ice Cage is another explosion of modern-day Melodic Death Metal with both Kristian and Stefan kicking some serious ass with their strident, piercing guitar lines, always in absolute sync with Lawrence’s intricate beats.

Then serene, acoustic guitars intertwined with crisp riffs in a Dream Theater-ish style ignite the pleasant Goodbye Tina, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and with tons of harmony flowing from Lars’ vocal lines, before Manticora come ripping once again with Tasered/Removal, a heavy and rumbling tune where Kasper does a superb job with his metallic bass, being perfect for cracking your neck headbanging to their solid fusion of Groove and Power Metal; whereas the atmospheric instrumental bridge Stalin Strikes will expand your senses and gently flow into a Japanese-spoken narrative titled Ten Thousand Cold Nights, advancing the storyline into the closing tune Katana – Beheaded, sounding and feeling imposing and vibrant form the very first second, therefore putting a climatic end to the album with all band members being on fire, in special the band’s unstoppable guitar duo and the talented Lawrence, while Lars continues to give life to the story through his soaring vocals.

If you haven’t got in touch with the music by Manticora yet, go check what those Danish metallers are up to on Facebook and on Instagram, listen to more of their music (including the first part of the story released in 2018) on Spotify, and grab a copy of To Live to Kill to Live from their own BandCamp page, from the Sound Pollution webstore, from the ViciSolum Productions’ BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In summary, we must all admit Manticore have definitely outdone themselves in their new album, sounding tighter and even more melodic and incendiary than in their previous album, and concluding their epic Japanese saga on a high and utterly metallic note. After setting the bar so high with To Live to Kill to Live, what’s next for Manticora? Well, that’s something only time will tell, but until then we have a lot of high-end metal music to enjoy thanks to one of the best bands hailing from the Danish scene.

Best moments of the album: Katana – The Moths and the Dragonflies/Katana – Mud, Slaughter in the Desert Room and Katana – Death of the Meaning of Life.

Worst moments of the album: Goodbye Tina.

Released in 2020 ViciSolum Productions

Track listing
1. Katana – The Moths and the Dragonflies/Katana – Mud 14:40
2. To Nanjing 1:57
3. The Farmer’s Tale, Pt. 3 – Eaten by the Beasts 4:23
4. Slaughter in the Desert Room 6:11
5. Through the Eyes of the Killer – Filing Teeth 4:59
6. Katana – Death of the Meaning of Life 5:25
7. Tasered/Ice Cage 5:45
8. Goodbye Tina 5:54
9. Tasered/Removal 3:16
10. Stalin Strikes 2:36
11. Ten Thousand Cold Nights 0:51
12. Katana – Beheaded 7:26

Band members
Lars F. Larsen – vocals
Kristian Larsen – guitars
Stefan Johansson – guitars
Kasper Gram – bass
Lawrence Dinamarca – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Seraina Telli

Don’t leave me out in the cold…

She’s by far one of the best rock and metal singers of the current scene hands down. Owner of a beautiful, stunning and extremely potent voice, she’s also a songwriter, pianist, guitarist, vocal coach and designer, known for her awesome contributions to bands such as Dead Venus, Burning Witches and Surrilium, among other very interesting bands and projects, always ready to rock our hearts with her mesmerizing vocal lines. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our metal chick of the month of August, the ravishing Seraina Telli, the unstoppable musician from Aargau, one of the more northerly cantons of Switzerland, who can flawlessly translate all her passion for music and art into emotional and inspiring compositions that will certainly captivate your hearts from the very first second. Having said that, are you ready to rock together with Seraina here on The Headbanging Moose?

A self-employed musician and vocal coach, Seraina has always wanted to make music and sing, and although she’s a team player who loves to play in bands she sees independent people as their role models, saying that she didn’t want to be a singer who just needs a band to play with her, but that she wanted to learn what it’s like to make music herself, playing different instruments and therefore being independent. Her looks and attire are also an important part of her musical persona, with all of her piercings, tattoos and her dyed hair providing a unique look that more than fits in the world of rock and metal music, but you’re wrong if you think Seraina is only a beautiful woman, as she has years of formal and professional study that provided her an invaluable background, allowing her to become the exceptional performer she is. Just to give you an idea of her undeniable talent,  she took classical singing lessons between 2007 and 2008, studied at the Jazz & Rock School in Freiburg, Germany from 2010 to 2011, achieved a Bachelor of Arts at hKDM and International Music College also in Freiburg, with focus on Jazz, Rock and Pop, between 2012 and 2013, and attended the Musik- Akademie Basel in 2015.

In regards to her career with Swiss Heavy/Power Metal band Burning Witches, Seraina was the band’s frontwoman between 2015 and 2019, having recorded with the band their debut self-titled album in 2017 and their sophomore effort Hexenhammer in 2018, as well as a four-track live album released in 2018 titled Burning Alive, recorded on September 30, 2017 at the Z7 Club in Pratteln, Switzerland. There are a few official videos on YouTube from when Seraina was the band’s vocalist, such as Hexenhammer, Black Widow and Executed, and also some unofficial live footage including a concert in Mannheim, Germany in 2018, and a pocket show at Salzhaus Brugg in 2018. I’m not going to extend this tribute to Seraina with the origins of the Burning Witches, but as already mentioned when their guitarist and founding member Romana Kalkuhl was our metal chick of the month in July 2019, during a party at a festival she met Seraina, starting a very healthy and productive partnership between them, with Seraina’s ideas and experience from her studies at the Music Academy and her bands being exactly what Romana wanted for Burning Witches. Furthermore, although Seraina always mention Heavy Metal as one of her passions, at the moment she is determined to go full throttle with her own band Dead Venus, saying Progressive Rock has always been her thing; however, we can expect to see Seraina venturing through heavier and faster lands in a not-so-distant future without a shadow of a doubt.

As we already started talking about Seraina’s brainchild, female-fronted Progressive Rock unity Dead Venus, where she’s not only the band’s vocalist but she also plays acoustic guitars, keyboards and piano, let’s discuss a little about the origins of the band, their goals and what their music represents to Seraina. Formed in early 2015 by Seraina herself around a year after being singing for a German Neo-Progressive Rock band named Surrilium, Dead Venus is a triumvirate currently comprised of Seraina on vocals, obviously, together with bassist André Gärtner and drummer Mike Malloth, delivering music that’s at the same time charming, passionate and incendiary, applying her multidimensional vocals to bring the desired message with each and every song, that being through her piercing vocals or just by whispering the lyrics. As a matter of fact, Seraina mentioned that it’s difficult to tell when Dead Venus actually started, as she began writing songs at some point and then began studying music and developed it further with music theory, learning the instruments and techniques better, which helped in the development of the songs, before she started looking for people to play them with. Seraina placed an advertisement recruiting musicians for Dead Venus, getting a reply from Mike, who also referred André for the band, whom by the way she already knew through her father (who had always spoken very well of him).

Apart from a couple of singles, the trio recently released at the end of 2019 their debut album, a 12-track Progressive Rock extravaganza titled Bird of Paradise (available for a full listen on Spotify), pointing to a bright future for Seraina and her bandmates. In addition, Seraina said that their goals with Dead Venus do not include appealing to a broader or more demanding audience, saying their music already has enough pop character in it despite not being disco dance music, of course. She complemented by saying that what Dead Venus and any other band needs is an audience that listens and that feels inspired by the music being played, as long as the music is authentic like what she does with Dead Venus, putting no boundaries to what the trio can do. You can listen to their music and purchase their debut album by visiting the MUSIC page on their official website, or by subscribing to their YouTube channel, where you’ll find some amazing compositions (and videos) for the songs The Sirens Call, Bird of Paradise and Redemptionless in both regular and acoustic versions.

You can also enjoy Seraina’s unique voice in other interesting bands and projects, showcasing all her versatility and skills it doesn’t matter if it’s a rock band playing covers or a full-bodied progressive and symphonic act. For instance, she did female vocals for Swiss Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Rizon from 2010 until 2014, having recorded with them the album Masquerade in 2012, which you can listen in its entirety HERE; and she’s been the vocalist for German Progressive Rock/Metal band Surrilium since 2011, having recorded with them the album Sir William in 2015. Seraina is also the vocalist for a distinct cover bands called Hit Grinder, taking hits that everyone knows and performing them in a unique way with heavy guitars, rocking drums and hard driving bass, giving those songs a more aggressive edge. The band is formed by Seraina on vocals, Stefan Schroff on the guitars, and a rotation between Yannick Schmidt and Emmi Lichtenhahn on bass and Franceso Gasparini and Alain Ackermann on drums, and you can get in touch with them and listen to more of their music on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube, with their renditions of Sia’s Chandelier and Michael Jackson’s Bad showing you all of the band’s awesomeness.

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Perhaps one of the most delicious works by Seraina is her personal YouTube channel, where she puts her heart and soul into delivering beautiful versions of several rock, pop and metal classics, usually only accompanied by her own piano. Simply visit her YouTube channel and you’ll be able to enjoy our talented singer kicking ass with her versions for Red hot Chilli Pepper’s classic Under the Bridge as a studio project band from the hKDM Music High School in Freiburg, Edgar Alan Poe’s The Haunted Palace, Rush’s masterpiece Closer to the Heart together with a children’s choir, Nancy Wilson’s The Nearness of You, The Misfits’ Dig Up Her Bones live at a pub in Zurich, Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up, Sting’s The Hounds of Winter, Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons, John Lennon’s Imagine, and a very special version for Christina Aguilera’s Keep on Singin’ My Song, as according to Seraina herself Christina Aguilera was one of her teenage heroes and one of the reasons she started singing when she was around 13 years old. And let’s keep talking about her idols and influences, with bands like Opeth, Pain of Salvation and the almighty Judas Priest being among her favorite bands of all time. Seraina even mentioned in one of her interviews that playing with one of those three bands would be a dream come true for her, complementing by saying it would be beyond fantastic to be able to talk, interact and especially sing with the one and only Metal God Rob Halford.

When questioned about the fact she was in an all-girls band during her time with Burning Witches, our striking banshee said in the beginning the idea of only playing with other women in a band was quite funny for all of them, and that they never expected it to be such a big topic, having to face sexist comments and other situations related to the male/female gender differences. Needless to say, that didn’t have any impact on the way Seraina performs on stage, saying the most difficult part is actually dealing with her own emotions and feelings to make sure her voice perfectly sends the desired message. In addition, she said she usually has it under control, using the appropriate techniques to have the best results while playing live. Seraina is also responsible for designing her own outfits, saying it’s actually more like a hobby for her despite the fact she wanted to become a fashion designer before singing, mainly because it’s very time consuming. And regarding metal festivals, she said during her time with Burning Witches they always wanted to play something big such as Wacken Open Air, Sweden Rock Festival and Hellfest, but we must all agree that now with Dead Venus her focus is a lot more on smaller, more intimate venues and crowds.

When asked about her singing style, her limits as a vocalist and her writing and composing process, Seraina said she always puts her heart and soul into singing, it doesn’t matter if it’s a heavy-as-hell metal song or a serene rock ballad, complementing by saying that it’s all a matter of practice to know and understand your limits and what’s causing that barrier, such as breathing techniques and discipline. For example, she said she doesn’t do much Opera singing as she’s not professionally trained in it, but maybe with some time and by applying the right techniques she can reach a good performance singing it. Her process for writing and composing her songs is also very detailed and honest, with Seraina usually writing something on the piano and then complementing it with the guitar, not working with sequences and, therefore, sounding a lot more organic. She also said the order in which she writes the lyrics and the music is never the same, always depending on the song being composed and the situation she’s in, with most of the ideas for the music by Dead Venus coming from her past experiences, especially due to her anger, energy and creativity as a teenager, saying it wasn’t easy in the beginning for her as she doesn’t come from a family of musicians like several other artists.

If you also enjoy watching Seraina perform and not only listen to her powerful voice, you’ll notice she always carries a special chain or necklace, a symbol of luck that’s linked to her family. She said she had a very strong bond with her sister when they were kids, which by the way lasts until today, with the necklace being a gift she got for her 12th birthday from her stepfather that symbolizes two parts that are connected together and forever. As a matter of fact, the Dead Venus logo is a variation of that symbol, a Celtic cross knot with an “S” at the end. Talking about stunning looks in rock and metal, Seraina was asked what she would say if one day a band like Arch Enemy invited her to sing for them, and albeit she said she simply loves the charisma, the voice and the looks by the she-wolf Alissia White-Gluz, she said she couldn’t see herself fronting such distinct band.

Lastly, as an artist that has been making  music for a long time despite her young age, Seraina said she will always pursue a career in music no matter what, saying she got to know a lot of good people with both Dead Venus and Burning Witches that provide her all the support she needs to keep moving forward. She sees a lot of potential with Dead Venus, the type of music she has always wanted to do, but you can also hire her to feature on your next album doing backing vocals or singing one or more songs, for example, as she has already done a few studio and advertising jobs in her career. She can even sing in German (or Swiss German) if you prefer, and you can actually check Seraina speaking (not singing, though) in her mother tongue in a short interview where she talks about what it means for her to be from Aargau, how much she loves her hometown, and her life in the city. I guess after knowing about her personal life, her career and her passion for heavy music, there’s nothing better than banging our heads to Seraina’s piercing vocals or simply sitting down, relaxing and enjoying her more delicate creations, resting assured we’ll hear a lot more from such talented artist in the coming years.

Seraina Telli’s Official Facebook page
Seraina Telli’s Official Instagram
Seraina Telli’s Official YouTube channel
Dead Venus’ Official Facebook page
Dead Venus’ Official Instagram
Dead Venus’ Official YouTube channel

Metal Chick of the Month – The Harp Twins

Can you feel the wind of the north, my dear Camille and Kennerly?

How about we celebrate insane six years of The Headbanging Moose with two very talented women who have the unique ability of transforming the heaviest and most intense metal classics into serene and touching ballads only armed with their ethereal harps? I’m talking about Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known worldwide as The Harp Twins, who have achieved an unprecedented success not only among metal fans but in countless other music genres and entertainment segments, leading them to tour across several countries in North and America, Europe and anywhere else where their whimsical sounds are truly appreciated. And no, you’re not seeing double, as The Harp Twins are indeed identical twins, providing your avid ears double the pleasure with their refined skills by mixing all types of rock, metal and soundtrack arrangements with the gentle sounds flowing form their harps. Not only that, Camille and Kennerly are also accomplished actresses, showing there’s no actual limit for this talented American duo.

Born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, United States in 1989, with their heritage being mostly Norwegian mixed with Swedish, Finnish, English, Scottish, French, German and a little Cherokee Indian, Camille and Kennerly began playing the piano when they were children, followed by the harp when they went to junior high school. The duo was drawn by the beauty of the harp, saying it seemed like a magical instrument to them. By the way, their first harps (small, pre-owned lever harps) were bought with money they got from jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, in order to show their mother they were really serious about playing the instrument. Classically trained in piano and also capable of playing a little percussion, the two blonde harpists also love to sing, which can be seen in some of their own original compositions and cover songs, although of course their main focus is and will always be their mesmerizing harps.

Having already played their electric harps, acoustic and electro-acoustic concert grand harps in several concert series, festivals, fairs and conventions in front of the most diverse crowds, even playing for US presidents, tech geniuses and global leaders, Camille and Kennerly have released over 100 singles online since the beginning of their career, as well as some very interesting cover albums, developing a huge cult of followers worldwide through their social media and becoming undoubtedly the most famous harp duo in the world. All that success is not in vain, of course, as both sisters hold a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance and graduated with highest honors (“Summa Cum Laude”) at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, located in Wheaton, Illinois, not to mention their previous years in a music studies program at a local college where they were in the Honors Scholar Program and represented the college at several collegiate summits.

Despite being formally trained in classical music and having the aforementioned degrees, their true obsession in music has always been taking the harp to new heights and exploring new grounds, nurturing a deep passion for arranging and performing rock, metal and soundtrack music as a harp duet, as well as their Nordic-inspired original songs thanks to their Scandinavian origin, always without any backtracks, studio productions or record labels involved, beautifully representing what it truly means to be an independent artist. And after listening to their duet arrangements of contemporary songs from artists including Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Enya and Journey, among many, many others, you’ll be able to fully understand why they have chosen to follow such distinguished path, embellishing the airwaves with their gentle, melodic and classy harp fingering.

As already mentioned, The Harp Twins, who by the way perform on Venus “Classic” Concert Grand pedal harps and Lyon & Healy “Silhouette” Electric lever harps, have several albums released (also in physical format) apart from their hundreds of online singles and videos, with their YouTube videos totaling over 106 million views with over 600,000 subscribers as of September 2019. For instance, their cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven alone garnered over three million YouTube hits as of September 2019, while their version of Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark received over 11 million views as of September 2019. Their six self-produced albums are Harp Attack (2013), Harp Attack 2 (2015), Harp Attack 3 (2018), Harp Fantasy (2013), Harp Fantasty 2 (2016), and Winter Lights (2017); while the Harp Attack series are dedicated to covers of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal songs and the Harp Fantasy series focus on covers of video game, anime, film and television soundtracks such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean, Final Fantasy, Star Trek, Star Wars, Vikings, Silent Hill and The Lord of the Rings, just to name a few, Winter Lights was their first-ever holiday album, including two new original songs and ten new arrangements of holiday classics from years gone by. Furthermore, their music has also been featured in countless media like National Geographic, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Conan O’Brien’s TeamCoco, AMCtv.com, Guitar World, Revolver, and many more, having also been praised by different music icons like Megadeth, Billy Idol, Kansas and Within Temptation, who shared the twins’ music on their official social media.

As a metalhead, I’m pretty sure you’re eager to listen to Camille and Kennerly playing some of your favorite metal classics of all time, right? Well, all you have to do is subscribe to their YouTube channel, sit down and enjoy their harp versions for, but not limited to, Rush’s Closer to the Heart, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark, Metallica’s Fade to Black, Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, and Megadeth’s A Tout le Monde. Go visit their official YouTube channel, or buy their music from CD Baby or from Apple Music, relax and enjoy these and countless other classic like Send Me an Angel, Smoke on the Water, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Hotel California, Don’t Stop Believin’, Every Breath You Take, and so on.

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Camille and Kennerly always say they switch off playing melody and accompaniment, even within the same piece, and also that apart from all cover songs they do either by request or by their own choice, they have also been composing original music for their harps for years, which can be seen in songs like North and the music theme for their own animated logo. In addition, you can also find Camille and Kennerly as guest harpists in the intro Time to Set You Free,  from the album The Second Big Bang, released in 2017 by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal project Soulspell. And regarding her main influences and idols in music, the twins mentioned in one of their interviews that their earliest musical influences were rock and classic rock because that’s what their mother used to listen to, including bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Van Halen, ZZ Top and Johnny Cash, later expanding their range due to their classical training to most artists and bands who think outside the box and follow their own path.

Although their main focus is obviously on their harp career, the duo is also famous for their acting and modeling skills, being members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and AFTRA and having already acted in theater, film and television. For instance, in the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, they played a walker nicknamed “Ouch That’s My Hair”, who was fought and killed by the character Carol, and had roles as “The Marcelli Twins” in the dark teen comedy Blacktino (as you can see in the official trailer by clicking HERE), from 2011, as well as appearances in many other movies like Delivery Man (2013), Elephant Medicine (2010) and The End of Lost Beginnings (2009), and in several commercial such as a national Japanese commercials for Chupa Chups lollypops. Still talking about their film career, Camille and Kennerly always like to mention that they do all their videos by themselves, arranging the music, finding the filming location, making their own costumes, filming everything with a small hand-held video camera on a tripod, recording the sound in their own living room and editing the video themselves. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as playbacks or any other “magic tricks” in their videos, as what you hear is exactly how it’s being played by our multi-talented twins. Also, when asked about their life on the road, Camille and Kennerly said in several interviews they have lots of memorable moments to share, like when they represented the United States at the World Harp Festival in Paraguay, where they had extensive support from the American embassy resulting in a full concert the day after the event to a sold out theater, and all of their performances at several Walker Stalker Cons, playing right before panels with Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs and Greg Nicotero. It’s impossible to list all events they have participated so far in their career, featuring in all types of public, private, philanthropic, academic, corporate, cultural and political events, proving once again how talented and professional they are.

Of course, there’s no Camille and Kennerly without their harps and vice-versa, and that’s why it’s important and truly interesting to know more about the girls’ ethereal weapons. Their acoustic concert grand harps are 6’3” (or 1.9 m) and weigh 90 lbs (or 40.8 kg), while their electric harps are 4’ (or 1.22 m) and weigh 16 lbs (or 7.25 kg); regarding the number of strings, their acoustic concert grand harps have 47 strings (which can have three different pitches, those being flat, natural and sharp), their electric lever harps have 33 strings (which can have two different pitches, either flat/natural or natural/sharp), and their Harpsicle Harps have 26 strings. In addition, although it’s possible for the twins to use distortion on their electric harps, they don’t actually do that due to the difficulty to use distortion while still continuing the melody and accompaniment; however, you can enjoy Camille and Kennerly blasting distorted harp sounds on their cover version for Billy Idol’s White Wedding (by the way, Billy Idol himself even said that “if you live long enough you get to see this version of White Wedding”), and a slight effect in their Doctor Who Theme and The Smith’s Asleep covers. When asked about how they manage to carry their harps everywhere and how they handle their weight while playing, they said they put a strap on their backs to do that, but that they also bruise their hips from the straps if they wear the harps for too long. They love the freedom of movement, though, helping them to properly perform rock songs with their electric harps. Some people like to ask them why they don’t move even more while playing, and they said it’s tougher to reach a necessary balance with the harps than with a guitar or violin, for example.

Aside from being impressive harpists, Camille and Kennerly also have a variety of other interests and hobbies in their lives, keeping them absolutely busy pretty much all of the time. For instance, the twins are third degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do and former Tae Kwon Do instructors, which by the way caused two broken fingers to Kennerly while sparring one day, and stitches to Camille’s face as a result of puncture wound sustained while holding a board that Kennerly was breaking. In the end, those incidents made them decide to stop practicing martial arts and focus on their career as harpists. Our beloved blonde musicians were also competitive swimmers as kids (having both qualified for the Junior Olympics five times), are experts in rifle marksmanship, and are trained in horseback riding, not to mention their passion for other activities and hobbies such as hiking, working out, watching TV shows like The Walking Dead and Vikings, reading, writing, and so on. Moreover, the Kitt Twins are also actively involved in their community, supporting education and health initiatives for unprivileged children overseas, and volunteering for many years at a monthly deaf/hard-of-hearing social gathering (and yes, they know sign language), among other endeavors, as they strongly believe in the importance of giving back. The girls also sponsor a few kids in Ethiopia, helping to provide them school, food, clothing and medical care, always hoping more and more people will follow their steps to make the world a better place.

Last but not least, Camille and Kennerly’s connection as twins is beautifully externalized in the way they always look at each other while they’re playing, and in their twin costumes (which as mentioned are always put together by the twins themselves by mixing and matching things they already have at home), unless of course they need to dress differently for a commercial, film or media project. Having said that, if you want to have double the fun with the classy and mesmerizing music by Camille and Kennerly, or if you are an event organizer who’s searching for a truly unique attraction to captivate the attention of your guests on your next big event, you can get in touch with The Harp Twins by sending an email to HarpTwins@HarpTwins.com, and don’t forget to keep an eye on their Events Page on Facebook for all of their public performances, concerts and other events. And if you want to show your support to their distinguished work with their harps, as aforementioned you can purchase their music from Apple Music and from CD Baby, or simply visit their official website for all music, news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the unstoppable twins who give a beyond welcome touch of delicacy to our good old rock and metal music.

Camille and Kennerly’s Official Facebook page
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Instagram
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Twitter
Camille and Kennerly’s Official YouTube channel

“When someone tells us that our music has helped them through an illness, or inspired their child to learn an instrument, or even just given them some peace after a trying day, that means the world to us. As musicians, it’s the greatest feeling to know that our music has touched someone else in some way.” – Camille and Kennerly Kitt

Album Review – Derdian / DNA (2018)

Get ready for over one hour of top-of-the-line Symphonic Power Metal, courtesy of one of the most prominent and skillful bands from the Italian scene.

Hailing from the always fun and vibrant Italian city of Milan, a global capital of fashion and design, here comes one of the most important and most consistent metal acts from the European scene, Symphonic Power Metal squad Derdian, back with another vibrant and well-balanced album titled DNA, the seventh full-length release in their beyond prolific and interesting career. In an era where most renowned bands tend to release only a handful of songs per album, Derdian go against the tide by offering fans of their fusion of symphonic elements and Heavy Metal nothing more, nothing less than over one hour of first-class music split into 13 original songs, proving once again how much they love what they do.

Comprised of Ivan Giannini on vocals, Enrico Pistolese and Dario Radaelli on the guitars, Marco Banfi on bass, Marco Garau on keyboards and Salvatore Giordano on drums, which is the same extremely talented and focused lineup from their previous releases such as their 2014 album Human Reset and their 2016 release Revolution Era, Derdian keep blasting their usual sonic extravaganza full of symphonic layers, epic passages and endless electricity in DNA, all embraced by a crystal clear overall production that enhances the impact of their music even more, turning the experience of listening to DNA a musical orgasm for admirers of the genre.

Abduction, a symphonic-cinematic intro that sounds and feels very serene, sets the stage for Derdian to kick some serious ass with the title-track DNA, a fast and very melodic Power Metal feast inspired by the golden days of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, with Ivan showcasing a superb performance on vocals while Marco Garau and Salvatore have a healthy “duel” of delicacy versus stamina with their instruments. After such powerful start the band offers a top-notch Melodic Metal tune for the masses titled False Flag Operation, with its conspiracy theories-inspired lyrics (“It flies along the blue skies / No one knows what’s gonna happen / New York city will have / The right punishment to be / A nest of worms without a faith / Greedy hawks vultures and jackals / Soon the west will got a / Nice surprise to share with me!”) and sheer epicness flowing from the guitars by Enrico and Dario, followed by Never Born, where a smooth start evolves to a feast of harmonious and delicate sounds, but still bringing the traditional electricity of Melodic Power Metal. In addition, this is a great song to sing along with Ivan and the guys, with Enrico, Dario and Marco Banfi giving a lesson in intricacy, melody and feeling with their stringed weapons.

The next track in DNA, called Hail to the Masters, presents a fun fusion of Symphonic Power Metal with Epic and Folk Metal, considerably different from their traditional sonority, with Ivan singing like a true minstrel and with Marco Garau dictating the rhythm with his whimsical keys; while in Red and White, a perfect example of what Melodic Metal is all about, the band gets back to their old school musicality, which means fast and melodic riffs, nonstop drums and another great vocal exhibit by Ivan, flowing smoothly form start to finish. Then we’re treated to a prancing mid-tempo composition entitled Elohim, led by the rhythmic beats by Salvatore and feeling almost a hundred percent Folk Metal at times, before morphing into a Jazz-infused feast of bass punches, keyboard solos and an upbeat vibe. It’s indeed a fantastic and unique side of Derdian, but if that is not entertaining enough for you, we have another powerful tune named Nothing Will Remain for your avid ears, blending elements from classic and symphonic music with modern Progressive Metal, with highlights to the spot-on guitar solos by both Enrico and Dario.

While Fire from the Dust brings what’s perhaps their most aggressive lyrics (“Like a snake crawls out from the rocks / We go out from …this fucking hole / Let the hate becomes a fire / Fire from the dust! / Take the weapons, annihilate them / They are not machines! / Like a snake crawls out from the rocks  / Fire from the dust!”), musically speaking it’s a Symphonic Metal extravaganza tailored for diehard fans of the genre, with the solos by the band’s guitar duo and especially by Marco Garau adding even more electricity to the overall result. Then in Destiny Never Awaits a gentle piano intro evolves into a decent power ballad by this Italian six-piece squad, presenting pleasant guitar lines and potent vocals, but unfortunately never reaching the same electrifying vibe of the rest of the album; whereas in Frame of the End the band delivers a heavier version of their Symphonic Power Metal (it can even be considered a more symphonic and metallic version of the music by Dream Theater in my opinion) spearheaded by Ivan and his passionate and flammable vocal lines, with Stefano also having a precise and groovy performance on drums, not to mention all of the song’s nice breaks and variations. Marco Garau once again kicks things off in a vibrant feast of Melodic Metal titled Part of This World, where not only Enrico and Dario are in total sync with their riffs, but you should also pay attention to how they meticulously add several elements from classical music to their Power Metal. And lastly, as a “bonus” the band offers us a Spanish version for “Nothing Will Remain”, translated to Ya Nada Cambiara, bringing an extra dosage of epicness and an fresh kick to their Symphonic Power Metal.

If you’re not familiar yet with the symphonic and electrifying world of Derdian, you can get more details about the band, their tour dates and their music on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase a copy of DNA directly from their webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. In a nutshell, DNA is more than just another ass-kicking, thrilling album by this Italian squad that lives and breathes Melodic and Symphonic Power Metal, but a beyond recommended option for anyone who admires some good old Heavy Metal with a precise amount of symphonic elements and an epic aura. Some bands are comprised of talented musicians while others work their asses off to provide good music to the listener, but in the case of Derdian we can say they combine the best of both worlds, with DNA being the perfect depiction of the beautiful thing that happens when you put undisputed talent together with endless amounts of hard work.

Best moments of the album: DNA, Never Born, Elohim and Frame of the End.

Worst moments of the album: Destiny Never Awaits.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Abduction 1:12
2. DNA 5:27
3. False Flag Operation 5:00
4. Never Born 5:43
5. Hail to the Masters 4:27
6. Red and White 5:04
7. Elohim 5:26
8. Nothing Will Remain 5:31
9. Fire from the Dust 6:21
10. Destiny Never Awaits 5:41
11. Frame of the End 5:00
12. Part of This World 6:05
13. Ya Nada Cambiara 5:31

King Records Edition bonus track
14. Never Born (Japanese version) 5:41

Band members
Ivan Giannini – vocals
Enrico Pistolese – guitars
Dario Radaelli – guitars
Marco Banfi – bass
Marco Garau – keyboards
Salvatore Giordano – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Rie a.k.a. Suzaku

Shredding is her business… and business is good!

If you’re a fan of the enthralling art of shredding, I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast with our metal chick of the month of July, because not only she kicks some serious ass with her unstoppable guitar, but her looks are also beyond eccentric, sexy and mesmerizing. Born on November 26, 1985 in Funabashi, a city located in Chiba, a prefecture of Japan located in the Kantō region and the Greater Tokyo Area, the stunning Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, whose real name is Rie Tomimatsu (or if you prefer, it’s 富松里恵 in Japanese), is among us to show how a guitar should be treated, always delivering beautiful and electrifying riffs and solos. Highly influenced by traditional Heavy Metal, Power Metal and Hard Rock, Rie doesn’t limit her musical range to only those classic styles, being extremely adaptable to all kinds of music and situations with her refined technique. Having said that, are you ready to explore top-notch, unique metal music from the Land of the Rising Sun with our unstoppable Japanese guitarist?

As already mentioned, our Asian solo Heavy Metal guitar player draws a lot of influence from old school heavy music, with some of her favorite bands being Children of Bodom, Dream Theater, Arch Enemy, Helloween, In This Moment, Labyrinth, In Flames, Killswitch Engage, Ozzy Osbourne, Sonata Arctica and Nevermore, among several others, as well as other artists like American rock guitarist Eric Johnson, Japanese composer, arranger and musician Yoko Kanno, and electronic/orchestral musical and performing group Juno Reactor. Although her style is sometimes compared to Australian vistuoso Orianthi, Rie stands out by herself, crafting her own sound and style in the world of heavy music. First and foremost, she doesn’t sing, and second of all, she is a billion times more metal than Orianthi, playing Melodic Metal similar to Japanese bands like Destrose, Mary’s Blood, Aldious and Cyntia.

Rie’s solo career might have started back in 2008, but it was only in 2010 that she released her debut album, an EP titled Messiah, where she was responsible not only for playing the guitars, but also keyboards, programming and bass (on the song “Suzaku”), not to mention all lyrics and songwriting. As Rie is not a singer, the vocal duties on the EP were shared by Japanese female musicians Ibuki, Kaoru, Dia and Sattin, with bassist Hiroyasu Watanabe and drummer Isamu Tamaru completing the lineup. On her second EP, titled Mother Earth, which was released in 2011, Rie is supported once again by Hiroyasu Watanabe and Isamu Tamaru on bass and drums, respectively, as well as the returning Dia on vocals and newcomer Shizuka. The year of 2012 saw the birth of another EP by Rie a.k.a. Suzaku, entitled Dreaming Eyes, with almost the same lineup, except for Shizuka on vocals, and with vocalists Ibuki and Akane sharing vocals with Dia. After three EP’s in a row it was time for Rie to release her frist full-length album in 2013, named Kingdom of the Sun, a full instrumental album where Rie’s incendiary guitar riffs and solos were accompanied by Taku Yabuki on the piano, Isamu Tamaru on drums, and an array of bassists (Yoshihiro Naruse, Kenji Jino Hino, Ikuo and Isamu Takita) playing each in a different set of songs.

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In 2015 Rie released her second full-length installment, titled Noah’s Ark, a very interesting blend of instrumental songs with tracks featuring a guest female vocalist named Aira, including some of her longest compositions to date, which together formed some sort of concept aria within the album totalizing over 20 minutes of music split into four tracks (those being Noah’s Ark Prologue, Genesis, Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s Ark Epilogue). And the year of 2016 saw her latest release as a solo artist, an instrumental EP titled Seven Seas, comprised of seven “ocean-summer-like-inspired” tracks, such as Dolphin Dance, Sunrise and Ocean Breeze. Apart from those EP’s and full-length albums, you can also find in her portfolio three live DVD’s, those being Legend of Messiah (released in 2011), Dreaming Eyes Tour 2012, and Kingdom of the Sun Live Tour 2013, and a four-track single released in 2014 named Sonic City. As you can see, Rie is an extremely active musician with tons of releases already in her up-and-coming career, and if you want to enjoy her mind-blowing music you can check her official videos on YouTube for the songs Dreaming Eyes, Southern Wind‪, Seven Seas, Kingdom of the Sun, Messiah, Across the Sky, and Cyber Moon, as well as several videos with her stunning live performances.

Apart from her solo career, Rie also played the guitar live for Japanese Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Crying Machine in 2011, and in January 2017 she joined forces with Japanese musicians Nicky (vocals), Ami (bass) and ViVi (drums) to form what would become a brand new band named RiViNi, with its name, which is a wordplay with the names of three of the band members (as bassist Ami only joined the band later), being chosen by their fans. Blending several elements form the rock and pop universes, RiViNi released earlier this year their debut mini-album titled Resistance, containing six distinct and very interesting tracks (幻想プラトニック, Emerald, Eternal Truth, Resistance, Sunflower and I Wish), and if you want to have a taste of their music you can watch their official videos for 幻想プラトニック (which means something like “platonic illusion” in English) and the title-track Resistance.

Fan of common things that most people also enjoy such as chocolate, ramen and swimming, Rie is also involved in quite a few other distinct projects and initiatives, such as playing original instrumental songs on a DVD for Young Guitar Magazine, appearing in a program named Effector Love for Roland, and performing at a booth at the Tokyo Guitar Show in 2011. However, perhaps the most curious fact about Rie also involves her own sister, Emi Tomimatsu, who’s a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Emi is not only a daredevil in the ring, but she gets pumped up for doing that by using Rie’s songs as her entrance themes, as you can see for example in this video posted on Twitter. Well, we have to agree that when you have a sister like Rie, delivering top-notch, electrifying metal music through her incendiary guitar, that’s all you need to get more than ready to rumble inside the octagon.

Equipment
Jackson USA RR-1 Skulls
Jackson USACorey Beaulieu Signature USA KV 7
Jackson USA RR-1 Ferrari Red Black
MXR (ZW – 44) BOSS (DD – 6) ERNIE BALL (VPJR) Maxon (AD – 80) (effector)

Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Facebook page
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Twitter
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official Instagram
Rie a.k.a. Suzaku’s Official YouTube channel

Album Review – Preludio Ancestral / Oblivion (2018)

A magnificent opus of epic-painted Power Metal with symphonic arrangements and amazing guitar work, where various guest musicians help give form to an album that will be a delight for any lover of the genre.

Formed back in 2005 by guitarist Leonardo Gatti in San Miguel, a city in the northwest region of Greater Buenos Aires located around 30km from the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Symphonic Power Metal band Preludio Ancestral has been making a name for themselves since their inception with a steady flow of high-quality releases, starting with the EP Silencio and the full-length album Hacia lo Inmortal, both in 2012, followed by the 2013 EP Putrefaction, the 2015 album Kybalion, and the 2016 album El Misterio de la Pasión Divina, gaining strong recognition not only in their native country, where they even opened for acts like Rhapsody of Fire and Stratovarius, but also everywhere where the epicness and electricity of Power Metal are admired.

Now in 2018 the band comprised of the aforementioned Leo Gatti on the guitars and keyboards, Ari Katajamäki on bass and Diego Camaño on drums are set to release a brand new album titled Oblivion, a magnificent opus of epic-painted Power Metal with symphonic arrangements and an awesome guitar work, where various guest musicians hailing from different parts of Argentina and Europe give form to an album that will be a delight for any lover of the genre. As a matter of fact, due to the fact that almost every song of the album has a different lead singer, Oblivion feels like three or four album in one, with the music always remaining fresh and captivating throughout its 10 distinct songs (or 12 if you purchase the special Japanese edition of the album).

Presagio is a cinematic intro that takes you to the world of Preludio Ancestral, where the flammable sound of the guitar by Leo and the unstoppable beats by Diego are joined by Alessio Perardi on vocals in King of Silence, a classic Melodic Power Metal tune the likes of Dragonforce and Stratovarius; followed by Storm, a Power Metal extravaganza led by the intricate drums by Diego with Enzo Donnarumma taking the vocal duties, while Leo and Ari bring tons of melody and feeling to the musicality. And Alessio is back on vocals for a fast and harmonious exhibit of modern-day Melodic Metal named Fear of Falling, showcasing all elements we love in this type of music. Furthermore, Ari is simply fantastic with his bass, smashing his strings mercilessly while guest keyboardist Gabliel Crisafulli embellishes the overall sound with his kick-ass solo.

With Fran Vázquez on vocals, Preludio Ancestral offer a mid-tempo, melodic tune titled Ready to Rock, leaning towards the darker and deeper metal crafted by icons such as Dio and Saxon. Moreover, can you feel those beats pounding inside your mind? Moving on with the album, the title-track Oblivion, featuring Juan Pablo Kilberg on vocals, could be part of a concept album due to its initial narration and pace, morphing into straightforward Power Metal the likes of Helloween and the early days of Sonata Arctica, with Juan Pablo also delivering a crisp guitar solo to make things even more epic. Then it’s time to slow things down a bit with a power ballad titled Universal Love, presenting more of the voice of Alessio Perardi, passionate solos by Leo and a dense background, but unfortunately with the overall result falling flat after a while.

In Reflection in the Wind they get back to a faster and more slashing musicality, presenting a solid instrumental base by Leo, Ari and Diego that sets the perfect stage for Kimmo Perämäki to thrive on vocals. This is one of those songs to sing along with the band wherever you are, not to mention another spectacular keyboard solo by Gabliel Crisafulli. In Dust World, a classic mid-tempo tune led by the powerful riffs by Leo, Alessio Perardi returns for one last breath of his potent vocals, while Ari and Diego keep the atmosphere as thunderous as it can be, before the closing act in Oblivion, titled Metal Walls, brings Daniel García on vocals in what can be considered the most modernized of all tracks, displaying elements from distinguished styles such as Alternative, Industrial, Dark Metal and Hard Rock, and let me tall you that the final result is above all expectations, in special due to the amazing job done by Leo on keyboards.

In summary, Oblivion (available for a full listen on Spotify) will not only cement the name of Preludio Ancestral as one of the best and most professional bands from this new wave of Symphonic and Power Metal in their homeland, but it will also help the band spread their wings and reach higher grounds in the world of heavy music. And if you wan to show your honest support to such up-and-coming act, simply go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel for news and other shenanigans, and purchase Oblivion through the band’s own BandCamp page, through the Xtreem Music webstore, through the Spiritual Beast webstore, or on Amazon. May the power of Heavy Metal be with Preludio Ancestral anywhere they go, and may other bands from Argentina and South America follow their steps and deliver more metal music to fans tired of having bad and fake music shoveled down their throats by their local TV shows, radio stations, and websites.

Best moments of the album: King of Silence, Fear of Falling and Reflection in the Wind.

Worst moments of the album: Universal Love.

Released in 2018 Fighter Records/Spiritual Beast

Track listing
1. Presagio 1:04
2. King of Silence 3:49
3. Storm 4:02
4. Fear of Falling 4:30
5. Ready to Rock 3:45
6. Oblivion 5:07
7. Universal Love 4:24
8. Reflection in the Wind 3:31
9. Dust World 4:49
10. Metal Walls 5:35 

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
11. Like A Star (New Version) 3:31
12. No Man’s Land 3:27

Band members
Leonardo Gatti – guitars, keyboards
Ari Katajamäki – bass
Diego Camaño – drums

Guest musicians
Alessio Perardi – vocals on “King of Silence”, “Dust World”, “Fear of Falling” and “Universal Love”
Fran Vázquez – vocals on “Ready to Rock”
Daniel García – vocals on “Metal Walls”
Juan Pablo Kilberg – vocals on “Oblivion”
Raffaele Raffo Albanese – vocals on “No Man’s Land”
Kimmo Perämäki – vocals on “Reflection in the Wind”
Enzo Donnarumma – vocals on “Storm”
Gabliel Crisafulli – keyboards solos on “Oblivion”, “Reflection in the Wind” and “Fear of Falling”
Juan Pablo Kilberg – guitar solos on “Oblivion”
José Paz – keyboards on “Presagio”