Album Review – Cauchemar / Rosa Mystica (2022)

Behold the fully realized expression of this French-Canadian band’s signature sound of somber traditional doom they have been perfecting since their inception.

Rising from their moss-covered crypt, French-Canadian Heavy/Doom Metal act Cauchemar is back with their third full-length opus, darkly titled Rosa Mystica, the band’s first offering since the 2019 compilation Trapped Under Ice. Meticulously composed and rehearsed to perfection, recorded at No Man’s Land Studio, and displaying a stylish cover art by Russian artist Valeria Sakseeva, the album is a fully realized expression of Cauchemar’s signature sound of somber traditional doom the band has been perfecting since their inception in 2007 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, delivered with the vigor of Heavy Metal. The atmosphere on Rosa Mystica is spacious and rustic, gilded by the warm glow of stained-glass luminescence, all carefully brought into being by frontwoman Annick Giroux and her French-language incantations, guitarist François Patry and his austere muscular riffs, and bassist Andres Arango and drummer Joel Ladouceur’s vaulted geometry.

An atmospheric, grim intro to the acoustic guitars by François kicks off the old school opening song Jour de colère (or “day of wrath” in English) while Andres and Joel generate a rumbling ambience with their respective bass and drums, offering Annick all she needs to powerfully shine on vocals, whereas blending the epicness of classic Heavy Metal with the obscurity of Doom Metal the quartet offers us all the excellent Rouge sang (“blood red”), with Annick taking the lead with her solid vocals while François keep extracting fire from his riffs. Leaning towards pure Doom Metal, Notre-Dame-sous-Terre (“Notre-Dame-under-Earth”) is a Stygian composition by Cauchemar with Joel delivering those sluggish beats we love so much, and more of the blazing riffs and solos by François embellish the airwaves in Danger de nuit (“danger at night”), accompanied by the low-tuned bass by Andres in a thrilling hybrid of Heavy and Doom Metal with classic Hard Rock.

The title-track Rosa mystica brings to our ears another round of their cryptic Doom Metal spearheaded by the slow and steady drums by Joel. Needless to say, the guitar lines by François are a thing of beauty, whereas adding elements from Speed and Thrash Metal to their core sonority we’re treated to the high-octane aria Le tombeau de l’aube (“the tomb of dawn”), showcasing another spot-on performance by Joel on drums. Volcan (“volcano”), featuring a guest guitar solo by Alan Jones, is an old school Doom Metal chant with Blackened Doom nuances slightly less visceral than its predecessors but still very enjoyable; and last but not least, François’ acoustic guitars and the low-tuned bass by Andres kick off the melancholic La sorcière (“the witch”), offering our ears six minutes of mesmerizing doom enhanced by a guest guitar solo by Chany Pilote that puts a beyond climatic ending to the album.

Annick and her henchmen are waiting for your feedback on their music on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course if you want to show your total support to the Canadian underground you can purchase a copy of Rosa Mystica from the band’s own BandCamp page, or if you’re in Canada, in the United States or other non-EU country you can also get the album from the Temple of Mystery webstore as a CD, an LP or as a very special gold “Die Hard” version with a 4-page insert, a woven patch, a sticker and an 11″ x 17″ A3 poster, as well as from Record Shop X. In other words, let the atmospheric music found in Rosa Mystica penetrate deep inside your soul, keeping the fires of underground doom burning bright thanks to the talent and hard work of one of the torchbearers of the Québécoise scene.

Best moments of the album: Rouge sang, Danger de nuit and Le tombeau de l’aube.

Worst moments of the album: Volcan.

Released in 2022 Temple of Mystery

Track listing
1. Jour de colère 6:18
2. Rouge sang 3:11
3. Notre-Dame-sous-Terre 5:49
4. Danger de nuit 4:51
5. Rosa mystica 5:28
6. Le tombeau de l’aube 2:50
7. Volcan 5:22
8. La sorcière 6:07

Band members
Annick Giroux – vocals
François Patry – guitars
Andres Arango – bass
Joel Ladouceur – drums

Guest musicians
Alan Jones – guitar solo on “Volcan”
Chany Pilote – guitar solo on “La sorcière”

Metal Chick of the Month – Bruna Wanderley

Beauty in desolation, or else…

Born and raised in the city of Brasília, inaugurated as Brazil’s capital in 1960, but currently residing in the charming city of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, in Canada, our metal lady of the month of April is here on The Headbanging Moose to embellish the airwaves with her distinguished music, bringing us the joy of the spring that has just started while still sounding as metal as she can be. If you’re a fan of progressiveness, groove and experimentations in Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal, get ready to be stunned by the multi-talented Bruna Wanderley, a songwriter, vocalist and cellist who’s taking the world of heavy music by storm with her brand new project, entitled Kapitur. You’ll certainly fall in love for the thunderous sound of her cello, placing her among the most interesting new names of the independent scene in Canada. Having said that, are you ready to rock together with Bruna and her incendiary cello?

Drawing from a young life in Brazil, living in an environment of violence, fear and contrasting beauty, artist and multi-instrumentalist Bruna Wanderley grew up in a conservative Evangelical milieu, which has led her to tease her family’s most beloved boundaries and, since her solo arrival to infamously libertine Montreal in 2015, she has actively performed and recorded as a cellist in a wide array of contexts. For instance, until the beginning of 2019 she was part of an Art Punk Rock band from Montreal named Spectroom, before the band called it quits in February that year. Bruna played cello with Spectroom together with vocalist and bassist Angelo Carocci, guitarists Branco De Souza and Raya Traboulsi, and drummers Matisse Chan and Emixam Maxime Gaboriault, having recorded with them the 2018 five-song EP Kissing Garbage, available for a full listen on Spotify. Although not being metal at all, the music by Spectroom can indeed provide you with very nice and relaxing moments while listening to it, and of course you can enjoy each note played by Bruna on her stylish cello.

Apart from her time with Spectroom, Bruna can be seen playing live with Canadian Death Metal band Infección as their bassist (not cellist) together with vocalist and guitarist Diego, drummer Andrés, and also guest guitarist Jean Bélanger, since 2021. She might not have recorded anything yet with the band, but if you want to have a taste of their fury and aggressiveness you can enjoy their debut demo on their BandCamp page. Furthermore, Bruna was also a guest vocalist for Canadian Progressive Death Metal band Messora on their 2019 album The Door, recording additional vocals for the songs The Veil and The Tide. And if you want to see Bruna Wanderley “multiplied” by four, you can enjoy Bruna’s cover video of Making a Murderer’s full theme by composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who’s largely known for his original score for The Last of Us, with all effects on the electric cello achieved with Line 6’s Helix LT.

Before we talk about Bruna’s brand new endeavor Kapitur, it’s important to mention that, besides her career in the Arts and Culture industry working mainly as a cello instructor and performer in Montreal, where she currently resides as already mentioned, she also studied Sociology and Anthropology at UnB – Universidade de Brasília in Brazil from 2010 to 2015, Music at Escola de Música de Brasília from 2007 to 2013, and Music at Vanier College in Canada from 2016 to 2018, and has not only obtained several certifications in web programming and development such as Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3, Regex and jQuery, but she also has experience working to some companies in Montreal in that segment, as well as volunteering experience as a barista and also running art workshops for Coop Le Milieu, also in Montreal.

However, as this is an underground metal webzine let’s focus on what really matters, and that’s the fusion of extreme music with the whimsical, thunderous sound of her cello in her new project, entitled Kapitur, formed in 2020. Under the up-and-coming Montreal, Canada-based Kapitur she composes, sings, performs guttural vocals and plays the cello, while Sam Neumann’s unyielding drumming presents a strong contrast with the her unbound vocal and cello lines, also supported by guitarist Zach Dean and bassist Bruno Coe. The music is filled with soundscapes and hammering repetitions with bleak cacophony followed by heavenly melodies, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the music by Opeth, modern Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Saltland, and Tina Guo, among others. Bruna and her Kapitur will release an EP of original songs in the upcoming months, and while we wait for such distinguished experiment let’s stay in touch with the band on Facebook, on Instagram, on BandCamp, and on Spotify, where by the way you can find her first-ever releases, those being the demo song Decay, and the cover version for Sepultura’s all-time classic Roots Bloody Roots (or click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream the song).

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“Twenty-six years ago, Roots Bloody Roots pleaded for the preservation of Brazilian cultural diversity. Today, Kapitur’s distinctive revisit of the song revolves around the historical alienation of common people regarded as different, the Bloody Roots of us outsiders. It grips on the struggle of finding oneself estranged from one’s original and adoptive cultures, to the ongoing murder and colonization suffered by many people in a land that was theirs for centuries; from immigrant, racial, religious intolerance to the global, modern alien anxiety suffered by African descendants and their relationship to an inaccessible homeland. Roots Bloody Roots is about you, or someone you know and care for,” commented Bruna about her newborn beast. Recorded and mixed by Jonathan Lefrançois Leduc, Kapitur’s rendition for such undisputed metal classic will surely put a huge smile on the faces of Max and Igor Cavalera, Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr., not just because of its rawness and aggressiveness, but also because Bruna is proudly carrying the flag of Brazilian metal to the four corners of the earth with her talent and hard work.

There are a few fun facts about Kapitur and the recording of Roots Bloody Roots that are definitely worth sharing with everyone reading this tribute to Bruna. First of all, when Kapitur’s music video for the song was still unpublished, someone Bruna knows sent a private link to it to Sepultura, and they loved it so much that Derrick Green himself contacted her to say it’s very creative, that it sounds incredible and that he looked forward to meeting her in person, which happened during their concert in Montreal on March 17 this year. In addition, Bruna mentioned that shooting the music video for the song was one of the most demanding and fun experiences the band has had so far. “It was a very cold Fall day, we set up a tent on the sandpits and unexpectedly spent 13 hours outdoors on the first day. As soon as we got there, one of the cars got stuck in the mud, and only after greatly shoving, did a guy on a tractor appear to tow the car in a few seconds. The photographer was buried naked in the sand at 5°C – he did say he liked it. For the entire time, I was cold from shooting in a thin dress and being barefoot on the sand. At night, we had to beware of the coyote sounds coming our way – it was so reassuring to have combustible material available, just in case. Finally, all the team left the site at 3 a.m., with our gear frosted by the dew and fake blood stains on our clothes and shoes. That whole night felt really special though. Will do it again next year, once we get rid of all the sand stuck in our stuff,” said our skillful cellist.

In summary, the multi-talented Bruna Wanderley can sing, play cello and bass, compose, write lyrics, act, and so on, which proves how focused and talented she is and, at the same time, showcases all her passion for music in general. I won’t be surprised if in a not-so-distant future we start seeing partnerships between Bruna and both underground and mainstream rock and metal bands, and I would love to see what she could do together with renowned bands the likes of Cradle of Filth, Triptykon and Tristania, adding her own touch of darkness, doom and heaviness to their already venomous music. Having said all that, let’s raise our horns to the “Cello Metal” blasted by Bruna Wanderley, resting assured she’ll always remain loyal to heavy music and to her roots, bloody roots.

Bruna Wanderley’s Official Facebook page
Kapitur’s Official Facebook page
Kapitur’s Official Instagram
Kapitur’s Official YouTube channel
Kapitur’s Official BandCamp page

“It’s uncommon to hear a classical instrument like the cello in heavy music that isn’t Melodic or Symphonic Metal. My intent is to explore creative ways of using my instrument in heavier contexts.” – Bruna Wanderley

Album Review – The Agonist / Days Before the World Wept EP (2021)

Canada’s own Melodic Death Metal beast returns with a new EP inspired by real life experiences, exploring a grim, conceptual tale of greed, gluttony, confusion, pain, redemption and hope.

After the excellent full-length albums Eye of Providence and Orphans (and the mediocre Five), Montreal, Canada-based Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore outfit The Agonist is back in 2021 with an amazing new EP beautifully titled Days Before the World Wept, taking another bold step in their musical and lyrical progression. Produced by Christian Donaldson at The Grid Productions (Beyond Creation, Cryptopsy, Despised Icon), Days Before The World Wept is inspired by real life experiences, exploring a grim, conceptual tale of greed, gluttony, confusion, pain, redemption and hope enveloped in a new level of aggression and cohesive, technical prowess carefully brought into being by frontwoman Vicky Psarakis, guitarists Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin, bassist Chris Kells and drummer Simon McKay, therefore representing a new solid stone in the metallic castle of one of the most important bands of the Canadian metal scene.

Serene, melancholic piano notes ignite the Melodic Death Metal extravaganza titled Remnants in Time, where Vicky sounds like a she-wolf on vocals, growling like a demented creature while Simon hammers his drums mercilessly, or in other words, it’s old school The Agonist with a modern twist. Immaculate Deception is another shot of brutality and harmony by the quintet, with Danny, Pascal and Chris slashing their stringed weapons in great fashion, therefore putting us all to headbang nonstop; followed by Resurrection a solid metal tune where Vicky continues to shine with both her deep guttural roars and her piercing clean vocals, showcasing tons of intricacy and violence thanks to the rumbling kitchen by Chris and Simon. And the band’s guitar duo keeps extracting sheer electricity and darkness from their weapons while Vicky screams and sings beautifully in Feast on the Living, presenting a classic Melodic Death Metal sound infused with Metalcore elements, not to mention how vibrant the drums by Simon sound and feel. Lastly, the title-track Days Before the World Wept is the most demonic and heaviest of the EP, with Vicky being a beast incarnate on vocals, offering us all six minutes of savagery with the band’s trademark melody while bringing to our ears razor-edged riffs and crushing beats, all spiced up by a delicate and whimsical chorus.

In a nutshell, The Agonist nailed it with Days Before the World Wept, which is by the way available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, bringing to our avid ears the band’s full potential even being just a five-track EP, and you can show your support to Vicky and the boys by following them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and by purchasing the EP by clicking HERE, or in case you have some extra budget left I recommend you go for the outstanding Days Before the World Wept Immortal Bundle including a signed vinyl 45RPM, a signed CD, a signed 11×17 poster, a 4×4 sticker, a pullover hoodie, a stress ball, a bottle opener keychain, and a T-shirt (from five awesome choices). The days before the world wept might be long past us, but the music by The Agonist remains strong, heavy and thrilling just the way we like it in their new opus, paving the way for more of their first-class releases in the coming years.

Best moments of the album: Remnants in Time and Days Before the World Wept.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Remnants in Time 4:53
2. Immaculate Deception 3:35
3. Resurrection 5:11
4. Feast on the Living 3:22
5. Days Before the World Wept 6:05

Band members
Vicky Psarakis – vocals
Danny Marino – guitar
Pascal “Paco” Jobin – guitar
Chris Kells – bass
Simon McKay – drums

Album Review – Immortal Guardian / Psychosomatic (2021)

What’s the best thing to do during this never-ending pandemic? This talented American group has the answer to that armed with their brand new album of breathtaking Progressive Power Metal.

After winning over new audiences with their acclaimed 2018 debut full-length album Age of Revolution and touring relentlessly alongside fellow shredders such as Marty Friedman, Powerglove and Exmortus, Austin, Texas’ own Progressive Power Metal entity Immortal Guardian is back in action in 2021 with their sophomore effort, entitled Psychosomatic, offering their fans more of what they like to call “Super Metal”. As a matter of fact, as the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent pandemic began to ensue, each member of the band retreated to their respective hometowns; guitarist and keyboardist Gabriel Guardian (also known as Gabriel Guardiola) remained in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States, vocalist Carlos Zema (of bands like Outworld and Heaven’s Guardian) recorded his vocals from his home in Brazil, new drummer Justin Piedimonte stayed in Montreal, Canada, and new bassist Josh Lopez remained in the band’s native Texas. With shutdowns around the world being enforced, the band completely scrapped the originally planned record that they had been working on and were heavily inspired to write and create a new thematic record about their emotions surrounding current events, with the final result being at the same time epic, bold and of course very personal to each one of those four talented musicians.

The title-track Psychosomatic beings in an imposing manner led by the whimsical keys by Gabriel, gradually evolving into a feast of Progressive Metal showcasing the high-pitched screams by Carlos (and somewhat working as an extended intro to the rest of the album), and they put the pedal to the metal in the heavy and groovy Power Metal tune Read Between the Lines, with the bass jabs by Josh adding sheer heaviness to the overall result while Carlos continues to shine on vocals. Then it’s time to enjoy this eternal lockdown together with the guys form Immortal Guardian in the multi-layered, electrifying Lockdown, with Justin dictating the pace with his intricate beats while Gabriel kicks some serious ass with both his riffs and keys, whereas featuring guest guitars by Marcelo Barbosa (of Almah and Angra), Phobia is another thunderous dosage of their fusion of Progressive and Power Metal where Gabriel, Josh and Justin are in absolute sync with their sonic weapons. And more of their intricate sounds and magical passages are offered in the epic extravaganza titled Clocks, with the keys by Gabriel generating a beautiful ambience perfect for his own piercing guitar solos.

After the short atmospheric interlude Self-isolation, let’s keep banging our heads to the sound of the Heavy Metal hurricane titled Goodbye to Farewells, featuring guest vocals by Mary Zimmer (of Helion Prime), with all band members extracting tons of adrenaline from their instruments while Mary sounds utterly bestial with her harsh roars, showcasing a different side from her work with her main band. Then in Candlelight we’re treated to a pensive, melancholic intro where Josh adds his share of darkness through his bass, evolving into a more traditional hybrid of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock (albeit not as entertaining nor dynamic as the rest of the album, though, going on for too long), and more of their refined piano notes permeate the air in Find a Reason, a more gripping ballad than the previous song, sounding dense from start to finish and with Carlos passionately declaiming the song’s words while Justin pounds his drums flawlessly. Finally, Gabriel once again brings forward his deep passion for shredding in New Day Rising, a spot-on depiction of their Progressive Power Metal, offering many breaks, variations, complex passages and the usual speed and energy of Power Metal for the delight of admirers of the genre.

It’s quite easy to join the army of immortals spearheaded by Gabriel, Carlos, Josh and Justin, as their newborn spawn is available from an array of locations including the band’s own BandCamp and webstore, the M-Theory Audio webstore (in CD and limited purple LP format), the Plastic Head webstore (also in CD and limited purple LP format), or simply click HERE for all places where you can buy or stream the album. Also, let’s show our support to those talented metallers by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their YouTube channel and by streaming more of their music on Spotify. Psychosomatic is undoubtedly the perfect example of how we should face the COVID-19 pandemic, turning our fears, anxiety and hopelessness into ass-kicking metal music like what Immortal Guardian were capable of doing (perhaps not in such majestic way, of course), showcasing once again the positive energy Heavy Metal can bring to us all even during the most difficult times of our lives. Stay home, stay safe, and rock on!

Best moments of the album: Lockdown, Phobia and Goodbye to Farewells.

Worst moments of the album: Candlelight.

Released in 2021 M-Theory Audio

Track listing
1. Psychosomatic 5:33
2. Read Between the Lines 6:01
3. Lockdown 4:12
4. Phobia 6:13
5. Clocks 5:12
6. Self-isolation 0:39
7. Goodbye to Farewells 5:50
8. Candlelight 5:24
9. Find a Reason 7:00
10. New Day Rising 5:56

Band members
Carlos Zema – vocals
Gabriel Guardian – guitars, keyboards
Josh Lopez – bass
Justin Piedimonte – drums

Guest musician
Mary Zimmer – harsh vocals on “Goodbye to Farewells”
Marcelo Barbosa – guitars on “Phobia”

Album Review – Your Last Wish / Eradicate (2020)

Exploiting post-apocalyptic themes, the new album by this unrelenting Canadian Melodic Death Metal unity will undoubtedly eradicate all boredom and peace from the face of the earth.

Eight years after their sophomore album Desolation, Montreal, Quebec-based Melodic Death Metal unity Your Last Wish is back in full force with an even darker and heavier sound in their third full-length studio release, entitled Eradicate, an album that not only exploits post-apocalyptic themes, but that’s also a bilingual album alternating between English and French, showcasing all the dexterity and versatility of frontwoman Roxana Bouchard, guitarists David Gagné and Michael Cope, bassist Peter Hamm and drummer Blake Lemieux. Featuring a futuristic artwork by Canadian artist Francesco Lorenzetti, Eradicate is highly recommended for fans of the early days of bands like Arch Enemy, Soilwork and Carcass, encapsulating a wide variety of influences to create a sound that is at the same time haunting and harsh, delicate and disciplined, perfectly depicting everything Your Last Wish have always stood for since their inception in 2003.

Get ready to be stunned by Your Last Wish in the incendiary title-track Eradicate, where the primeval beats by Blake together with David’s and Michael’s slashing riffs provide Roxana all she needs to kick ass with her enraged roars, followed by Exile, presenting amazing instrumental pieces where Peter shows no mercy for his bass while Roxana rabidly vociferates its warlike lyrics (“Eurasia / Surrounded by violence and death / In battle, where men consume their own flesh / On the inside, no one there realizes / Few are permitted to survive / No allies / They couldn’t help but hide / After crossing the fiercest sea”). And as groovy and obscure as its predecessors, Monarque is a bestial display of modern-day Melodic Death Metal spearheaded by the demented she-demon screams by Roxana, while the band’s guitar duo blasts sheer aggressiveness and electricity through their eight-stringed axes nonstop.

Then ritualistic drums permeate the air in Décimé while Roxana fires a blend of Stygian vocalizations and demonic screams, also bringing forward tons of progressiveness flowing from the band’s guitar riffs, solos and bass jabs, with Blake enhancing the song’s complexity even more with his unstoppable beats. And an epic, imposing intro ignites the sinister Lost, presenting an enfolding atmosphere until becoming a mid-tempo Melodic Death Metal tune with Groove and Progressive Metal nuances, with the bass punches by Peter getting more and more metallic as the music progresses, whereas back to a more ferocious and rumbling sonority the band offers us all Pursuit, a fantastic Melodic Death Metal extravaganza where David and Michael will cut your skin deep with their riffs and solos. Furthermore, you’ll definitely be mesmerized by their crisp and demolishing sounds, overflowing sheer groove and rage with Peter and Blake shaking the foundations of earth with their respective instruments.

Do you have what it takes for more of the first-class metal music by Your Last Wish? Because an eerie start quickly explodes into a lesson in violence and progressiveness titled Pandore,  featuring the talented growler Simon Girard (from Canadian Progressive/Technical Death Metal band Beyond Creation) as a guest vocalist making an infernal duo with Roxana amidst all the devastation and fury blasted by the whole band. In Prestige the band proves once again they never get tired of crushing our heads with their hellish sonority, with Roxana sounding absolutely demonic on vocals showcasing all her skills and strength as the awesome growler she is, not to mention how Blake adds some welcome hints of classic Black Metal to his beats, and if you thought they would slow things down to close the album you’re absolutely wrong, as Le Cri Du Monde brings forward more of their frantic and very intricate Melodic Death Metal led by Roxana’s evil roars and Peter’s rumbling bass, while the guitar solos bring a touch of finesse to the overall result, ending the album in a truly phantasmagorical way.

Having said all that, I guess I don’t need to tell you that you must add such insane album of modern and vicious metal music made in Canada to your personal collection, right? All you have to do is go to the band’s own BandCamp page or to their official website, where you’ll find all available options to stream and buy the album, such as on Spotify. In addition to that, don’t forget to show your support to Your Last Wish by also following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and by subscribing to their YouTube channel, getting instant notifications every time the band uploads an amazing video like this one called Growl medley with Roxana!, got it? Your Last Wish are more than ready to kick some ass armed with their breathtaking new album, eradicating all boredom and peace from the face of the earth just the way we like it in extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Eradicate, Monarque, Pandore and Le Cri Du Monde.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Eradicate 5:52
2. Exile 4:46
3. Monarque 5:33
4. Décimé 5:24
5. Lost 5:12
6. Pursuit 4:33
7. Pandore 4:44
8. Prestige 4:46
9. Le Cri Du Monde 5:49

Band members
Roxana Bouchard – vocals
David Gagné – guitar
Michael Cope – guitar
Peter Hamm – bass
Blake Lemieux – drums

Guest musician
Simon Girard – vocals on “Pandore”

Album Review – The Agonist / Orphans (2019)

Montreal, Quebec-based juggernauts of Melodic Death Metal return with a brand new album that’s more extreme, more melodic and more exciting than ever.

I guess one of the most important details in Orphans, the sixth full-length album in the career of Montreal, Quebec-based Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore juggernauts The Agonist, is the fact that the band took their time to write and record it without rushing things up, and the final result is truly breathtaking. Featuring a minimalist but captivating artwork by Canadian artist Mikio Murakami (Silent Q Design), Orphans is a huge step forward in the band’s musical path compared to their previous album Five, released in 2016, a bland and uninspired album that seemed to have been released way too fast as if their record label was trying to capitalize on the huge success of their 2015 opus Eye of Providence. Fortunately for all of us, the band comprised of the stunning Vicky Psarakis on vocals, Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin on the guitars, Chris Kells on bass and Simon McKay on drums learned their lesson, putting a lot of effort, focus and time on the creation of the amazing Orphans and, consequently, getting back on track for our total delectation.

Vicky’s mesmerizing vocalizations ignite the furious and wicked opening track In Vertigo, my favorite song in Orphans showcasing lyrics clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland (“A little too big and a little too small / The thing is that life isn’t one size fits all / So take a sip and a couple of bites / And lay back to feast with your own eyes / Down down down the rabbit hole!”). Danny and Pascal are on fire with their riffs and solos, not to mention the brutal, guttural growls blasted by Vicky during the last part of the song, resulting in a full-bodied anthem that represents what The Agonist are all about to perfection. They continue their journey to the past without sounding outdated in As One We Survive, a modern and fresh version of their classic sonority where Melodic Death Metal meets Progressive Metal, with Simon crushing our heads mercilessly with his intricate beats; and get ready to slam into the pit with Vicky and the boys in The Gift of Silence, another frantic creation by the band overflowing rage and madness where Chris and Simon generate a rumbling ambience with their bass lines and beats, also presenting very melodic pieces led by Vicky and her piercing clean vocals.

Then it’s time for the band to head into the battlefield in Blood as My Guide, a fantastic composition showcasing thrilling vocal lines, powerful drums and an absolutely inspiring vibe, resulting in what’s by far one of the best creations of the Vicky era. Moreover, it’s impressive how Danny and Pascal can sound so violent and at the same time so harmonious on the guitars, with Vicky’s gorgeous Greek words bringing an extra touch of epicness to the overall result. After such imposing tune, let’s meet Mr. Cold together with The Agonist in another solid tune where all band members deliver some of the most progressive lines of the whole album, in special the stringed trio Danny, Pascal and Chris, whereas in Dust to Dust they venture through the lands of classic Rock N’ Roll and even Soul, but always loyal to their Metalcore essence, of course. Needless to say, Vicky is flawless with both her clean and harsh vocals, enhancing even more the song’s headbanging rhythm led by Simon’s beats. And back to a more aggressive and infuriated sonority we have A Devil Made Me Do It with its straightforward, in-your-face lyrics roared by our she-wolf Vicky (“Catch me if you can / I am faster than your mind can fathom / Armed with the element of surprise / I slither through the corners of your eyes”), while the band’s guitar duo keeps blasting flammable riffs and solos from start to finish.

The Agonist Orphans Limited Deluxe Box Set

Those talented metallers continue to hammer our heads in The Killing I, bringing to our ears groovy bass punches delivered by Chris while Simon goes berserk on drums, or in other words, this song should work beautifully if played live, and I have no words to describe Vicky’s demented performance on vocals where she proves once again she can easily and seeminglessly fluctuate between gorgeous clean vocals and deep, enraged roars. The title-track Orphans is perhaps the darkest of all songs, a voyage through the realms of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore infused with Progressive Metal, with Vicky effectively telling the story behind the music with tons of emotion while the rest of the band offers an avalanche of groovy and thunderous sounds nonstop. Then closing the album The Agonist smashes our senses one final time in Burn It All Down, where Vicky sounds as insane and violent as she can be while Simon and Chris build a solid stage perfect for Danny and Pascal to slash their stringed axes, leaving us all disoriented and eager for more of this version of the band in a not-so-distant future.

As mentioned in the beginning of this review, I’m glad The Agonist took their time to compose Orphans, which is by the way available in full on Spotify, delivering a beyond dense and potent album of metal music that will certainly please all diehard fans of the band as well as newcomers to their metallic world. You can grab your desired copy of Orphans from several different locations by clicking HERE, like for instance the limited deluxe box set containing a jewel case CD, a flag, a logo pendant, a patch and an autographed card. The investment in this box set is definitely worth it, mainly because Orphans kicks some serious ass, of course, and also due to the fact it’s been three long (but productive) years since their last installment. Orphans is undoubtedly a serious contender to feature among the best metal albums of 2019, proving once and for all great bands like The Agonist don’t need to release album after album just because their labels think it’s a good idea. We, metalheads from all over the world, are more than happy to wait for a while for new material as long as it’s as extreme, melodic and exciting as Orphans.

Best moments of the album: In Vertigo, The Gift of Silence, Blood as My Guide and The Killing I.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. In Vertigo 5:04
2. As One We Survive 3:40
3. The Gift of Silence 4:38
4. Blood as My Guide 4:27
5. Mr. Cold 4:40
6. Dust to Dust 3:17
7. A Devil Made Me Do It 3:38
8. The Killing I 4:17
9. Orphans 5:39
10. Burn It All Down 3:36

Band members
Vicky Psarakis – vocals
Danny Marino – guitar
Pascal “Paco” Jobin – guitar
Chris Kells – bass
Simon McKay – drums

Guest musician
Lefteris Germenlis – electronic and string arrangements

Album Review – Necronomicon / UNUS (2019)

Canadian powerhouses of Blackened Death Metal return with the heaviest, most obscure and most infernal opus of their undisputed 30-plus-year career.

The gates to the underworld are open once again for another onslaught of Canadian Blackened Death Metal, courtesy of the most demonic and ancient horde hailing from the city of Montreal, the one and only infernal beast Necronomicon, and you better get ready for the searing cacophony of blistering riffs, machine-like drums and a symphonic ambiance found in their brand new album, titled UNUS, the Latin word for “one”. And the band founded by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rob “The Witch” Tremblay back in the distant year of 1988 sounds better than ever in their newborn spawn, proving why Necronomicon have been on the road for such a long period of time and, more important than that, continuously producing high-quality metal that’s just as dark and brutal as it is elegant.

Recorded at Silver Wings Studio, mixed and mastered at Darth Mader Music, and featuring a grim cover art and layout by German artist Totleben (Metal Artworks), UNUS, the crushing and cinematic follow up to the band’s 2016 opus Advent of the Human God, flawlessly combines the most infuriated elements of Death Metal with the orchestral prowess of Black Metal, creating the perfect synthesis of both genres and being highly recommended for fans of the music by Dimmu Borgir, Septicflesh, Behemoth and Deicide. Accompanied by newcomer Divider on drums, Rob takes care of all vocal duties, guitars and bass on the album, which therefore creates a very powerful and honest connection between the band’s mastermind and the music found in his new album, also showcasing all his refined skills and passion for dark music.

And Rob begins his onrush of violence and darkness in From Ashes into Flesh, featuring cryptic, phantasmagorical piano notes by guest musician Geirlioz. From the very first second we can witness how sensational Divider is on drums, setting fire to the music with his hellish beats. Put differently, what a bestial display of Symphonic Black Metal to kick off the album, with that devilish aura going on in  Infinitum Continuum, where the slashing riffs by Rob dictate the rhythm while his vocals sound a lot more Death Metal than ever, bringing an extra dosage of rage to the music. Its flammable musicality is beyond perfect for slamming into the circle pit, not to mention Rob’s incendiary guitar solo, elevating the overall quality of the album to new heights. Then it’s time for Divider to crush our skulls with his rumbling drums in Paradise Lost, a lesson in Blackened Death Metal by Necronomicon, sounding as dense and obscure as it can be and with Rob growling and roaring like a true creature from the netherworld.

The cinematic instrumental bridge The Price of a Soul sets the stage for Rob and Divider to explode our senses in the fulminating Singularis Dominus, a grandiose display of Black and Death Metal showcasing nonstop blast beats, electrifying riffs and deep, harsh growls. Put differently, it can’t get any better than this, with all that devastation being embraced by an epic aura generated by the song’s  background keys and choir, flowing like an arrow on fire in pitch black darkness until its thunderous finale. And a mesmerizing intro evolves into an Arabian nightmare entitled The Thousand Masks, with its keys bringing an extra dosage of epicness to the overall musicality, while Rob is on fire with his demonic growls and Divider keeps smashing our skulls with his blast beats.

Arising from the underworld like a fiendish entity, Necronomicon blend the aggressiveness of their trademark Blackened Death Metal with the obscurity of Blackened Doom in Ascending The Throne of Baator, feeling utterly sluggish and disturbing from start to finish and with the strident sound of its guitars being perfect for haunting your damned soul during your sleepless nights. Fhtagn is another atmospheric instrumental piece emerging from the crypts of Hades, preparing the listener for the devastating anthem Cursed MMXIX, a thrash-death-black spawn that will rip your heart out and feed it to the demons, with Rob delivering sheer darkness through his Death and Black Metal riffs and monstrous guttural vocals, resulting in what’s by far one of the heaviest and most frantic of all songs of the album. And Vox Draconis, the last song in UNUS, is just as brutal and exhilarating than its predecessors, bringing forward insanely sharp and heavy guitar solos by Rob supported by Divider’s rhythmic and precise drumming. What an epic and thunderous ending fur such grandiose album of Extreme Metal, I might say, leaving us completely disoriented and eager for more of Necronomicon’s music in a not-so-distant future.

You can get a very good sense of how somber and powerful the music found in UNUS is by listening to the full album on YouTube or on Spotify, but of course if I were you I would definitely purchase one of the best underground albums of 2019 from Necronomicon’s own BandCamp page, from the Season of Mist webstore, from the Napalm Records webstore, or from several other locations such as the FYE webstore, Waterloo Records, Apple Music or Amazon. Rob and his horde really stepped up their game in their 2016 opus Advent of the Human God, sounding extremely focused and professional back then, but there’s something about UNUS, which is by the way the “666th” album in their career,  that makes it absolutely addictive and evil, just like the fictional grimoire from H. P. Lovecraft’s horror stories that gives the band its classy name. It might be its absurd level of darkness and rage, its frantic speed, its epicness or everything at once. What really matters is that Necronomicon kicks ass in UNUS, cementing their name as one of the powerhouses of Canadian extreme music and, therefore, positioning them as the true leaders of extreme music in Canada hands down.

Best moments of the album: Infinitum Continuum, Singularis Dominus, The Thousand Masks and Cursed MMXIX.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. From Ashes into Flesh 4:23
2. Infinitum Continuum 5:27
3. Paradise Lost 4:55
4. The Price of a Soul 1:56
5. Singularis Dominus 4:50
6. The Thousand Masks 3:20
7. Ascending The Throne of Baator 4:54
8. Fhtagn 1:59
9. Cursed MMXIX 4:13
10. Vox Draconis 4:13

Band members
Rob “The Witch” Tremblay – vocals, guitar, bass
Divider – drums

Guest musician
Geirlioz – piano on “From Ashes into Flesh”

Concert Review – Heavy Montréal 2019 Day 2 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC, 07/28/2019)

The fans at Heavy Montreal will always be thankful to the almighty Slayer for their final and utterly devastating concert in Quebec.

INTRODUCTION: Alive and Kicking 10 Years On

The 10th anniversary of Canada’s biggest and most important metal festival, our beloved Heavy Montreal, couldn’t have been celebrated in greater fashion than what metalheads from all over Canada and from several other countries were able to enjoy at the always beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau. Although this was just my second time at Heavy Montreal, not counting the two editions of Heavy T.O. in 2011 and 2012, I must say the overall organization this year was a lot better than in 2014 (check our reviews for both days of the 2014 edition HERE and HERE), with a better layout, better access and exit, better facilities, food trucks, washrooms and so on, which was reflected in the happiness and good vibes flowing from all fans that were literally burning under a merciless sun in a (finally) scorching hot Canadian summer. As I was only able to attend day 2 of the festival, I’m not going to talk about any of the Saturday attractions, so if you’re curious to know how that day was go check the festival’s official Facebook page. And if you’re a hungry metalhead visiting Montreal for Heavy Montreal next year or any other metal concert, I highly recommend Il Focolaio for a delicious pizza or calzone to recharge your batteries before slamming into the circle pits.

SKILLET

Let’s begin with the first band I saw on Sunday, American Christian Hard Rock act SKILLET, who began their fun but not-so-heavy performance at 4:05pm when the sun and the temperature were hotter than the fires of hell. John Cooper, Korey Cooper, Seth Morrison and Jen Ledger put on a pretty good concert during the 45 minutes they had, with songs like Legendary, Sick of It and Hero receiving a very warm feedback from the crowd. I honestly had no idea they were a Christian band, but who cares? They might not be as heavy as most attractions of the festival (or maybe they’re too heavy for less extreme festivals), but they play with a lot of passion and energy, and I guess everyone who was watching their performance noticed that and showed a lot of respect for the band. Not only John is a great frontman, but the two girls Korey (who’s John’s wife) and Jen kicked ass on the guitar, piano, drums and vocals, bringing an amazing feminine touch to the entire festival. In a nutshell, if a heavier-than-usual (but not too extreme) version of modern-day Rock N’ Roll is your cup of tea, I’m sure you’re going to have a very good time watching Skillet live.

GAMMA RAY

As soon as Skillet’s performance was over, it was time for German Power Metal masters GAMMA RAY to fill the airwaves of the festival with some true old school Heavy Metal, especially because the band comprised of the iconic vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen, bassist Dirk Schlächter, guitarist Henjo Richter, drummer Michael Ehré and second (or first) vocalist Frank Beck was the only attraction of the entire festival who played that type of music. I’m a longtime fan of Mr. Hansen’s music and I was very happy I could witness them playing at Heavy Montreal instead of another Alternative Metal band, but I don’t think most of the attendees had the same reaction when the band hit the stage. I mean, there were still countless fans banging their heads and raising their fists to classics like Master of Confusion, Heavy Metal Universe and Send Me a Sign, but there was something missing to make the show memorable. And to be fair, I still don’t understand why the band needs Frank Beck; he’s a good vocalist, but he doesn’t bring any real value to Gamma Ray’s performance. His microphone was lower than Kai’s, he didn’t sing most of the songs, and the songs he did sing were just OK. I think putting that crazy dude that was all wet dancing samba (and several other rhythms) nonstop on the gray mud to dance on stage would have been a lot more fun than Frank’s performance, don’t you agree?

IN THIS MOMENT

There was no time to breathe as, the second Gamma Ray were over, we were all able to witness a fantastic and very theatrical performance by the stunning Maria Brink and her henchmen (and henchwomen), collectively known as American Alternative Metal/Metalcore band IN THIS MOMENT. The aforementioned Maria, who I dare to say looks and feels like an evil (and of course improved) version of Lady Gaga, together with Chris Howorth on lead guitar, Randy Weitzel on rhythm guitar, Travis Johnson on bass and Kent Diimmel on drums, plus the two sexy masked dancers who worked as some sort of “mirrors” to Maria, delivered a truly hypnotizing concert, with their music being a blend of the blasphemy and anti-religiousness of Marilyn Manson and Cradle of Filth with the insanity of Slipknot and Ghost. The final result was obviously fantastic, with my two favorite songs of their setlist being by far the demented Big Bad Wolf and the closing song Whore, where Maria’s dancers entered dressed up as characters from the excellent dystopian novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, holding sings with the words “SHAME” and “WHORE”. In the end, In This Moment kicked some serious ass without a shadow of a doubt, leaving all fans at Heavy Montreal extremely satisfied and eager for more of the music by metal’s favorite “whore” in a not-so-distant future.

HEAVY MANIA

When the next attraction from the Apocalypse Stage started, American stoner metallers Clutch, I went for a walk as I needed a break and some water. Terror and Demolition Hammer were on fire on the Forest and Garden stages, respectively, but I decided to watch the last wrestling show of the festival in the area called HEAVY MANIA, featuring wrestlers of the International Wrestling Syndicate like The Green Phantom, Sexxxy Eddy and Tabarnak De Team. The name of the fatal-four battle I was able to watch was “Le Cauchemar D’Oppenheimer”, and it was so fun I even missed the beginning of Slash’s concert. Well, it was definitely worth it, with Sexxxy Eddy winning the match amidst some trash talk and a few destroyed tables, just the way we like it in underground wrestling.

SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS

Back to the Heavy Stage, it was time for the one and only SLASH, accompanied by Myles Kennedy on vocals, Frank Sidoris on the guitar, Todd Kerns on bass and Brent Fitz on drums to bring old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock to our avid ears. It was still very hot in Montreal, but because the show started at 7:15pm the sun was already lower and we were able to enjoy the concert without sweating like pigs. Myles Kennedy, who looks like a rocker version of Kevin Bacon, is such a great singer to the point I even forgot it was Slash on the guitar at times, showcasing all his refined skills in excellent songs like Anastasia, World on Fire and, of course, their cover version for one of Guns N’ Roses biggest hits, Nightrain. Slash was precise as usual with his unmatched riffs and solos, not to mention how happy he looked on stage, making me wonder if he’s only playing with Guns N’ Roses nowadays to have enough money to fund his solo career. Well, I’m actually happy he’s in both bands, so I can’t complain about that at all. Anyway, at this point of the festival we had already had several subgenres of heavy music, as you can see, except for our good old Thrash Metal. Guess what happened next?

ANTHRAX

From 8:15pm on, Heavy Montreal became Thrash Montreal, with Anthrax and the almighty Slayer leading us all the way into the eye of the circle pit. First, it was American Thrash Metal institution ANTHRAX who revved up our engines with their punk/hardcore-infused thrash, blasting classic moshing hymns like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and Antisocial for our vulgar delectation, as well as their already classic tribute to the deceased Dio, Lemmy and Dimebag with the beautiful In The End. Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante were unstoppable during their short but extremely vibrant performance, inspiring all fans to raise their fists and horns in the air and mosh like there’s no tomorrow. Moreover, I don’t know why but the festival organization decided it was a good idea to throw more cold water on the crowd when it was already nighttime, making some people run away from the stage due to that. Maybe they were trying to calm down the more excited fans who were crushing their skulls into the circle pit, who knows. What I know for sure is that I love Thrash Metal, just like Scott Ian asked us all, and I was more than happy to be able to witness one of the bands of the Big Four once again in my life.

SLAYER

Lastly, the moment everyone at Heavy Montreal was waiting for. The heaviest, most evil and most demonic band in the history of music, Thrash Metal titans SLAYER, took the province of Quebec by storm for one final time before calling it quits by the end of this year, which is something I still cannot believe but that makes total sense taking into account their age, everything that has happened to the band in the past decade, and the humongous amount of energy needed to play their music at the required (and insane) level. Although the opening acts might not have been as demolishing as their 2018 concerts in Canada, when Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God opened for them like their pulverizing concert at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph were beyond possessed during their incendiary performance at Heavy Montreal, proving once and for all why you can play Black Metal, Death Metal or any other type of extreme music, but you’ll never be as badass as Slayer.

If their 2015 album Repentless was indeed their last studio album ever, let’s say they’re retiring in style, as the intro Delusions of Saviour plus the frantic thrashing hymn Repentless were everything they needed to set fire to Heavy Montreal. After that insane start it was pure Armageddon, with old school classics such as Evil Has No Boundaries and Mandatory Suicide being intertwined with newer songs like World Painted Blood and Payback (as Mr. Araya said, “payback is a bitch, motherfucker!”), and even songs they haven’t played in a while such as Gemini, Temptation and Born of Fire. By the way, Slayer played nothing more, nothing less than FIVE songs from Seasons in the Abyss, including of course the battle hymn War Ensemble (where Mr. Araya kindly asked us all to scream “WAAAAAAAAAR!” together with him), the serial killer-inspired classic Dead Skin Mask, and obviously the album’s flawless obscure title-track, or in other words, half of their 1990 masterpiece for our total delight. Furthermore, it was absolutely amazing witnessing all fans at the festival screaming “SLAAAAAYYYYEEEERRRR!”, “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!” and even “OLE OLE OLE OLE! SLAYER, SLAYER!” at the top of their lungs before, during and after the concert, showing a beautiful connection with the band as they masterfully played an avalanche of Thrash Metal classics amidst the flames burning on stage, ending with the all-time classic Angel of Death, including Mr. Araya’s famous demented roar at the beginning.

Gary Holt was once again fantastic on the guitar (needless to say, I can’t wait for the next Exodus album), Paul Bostaph couldn’t stop smashing his drums and our skulls, and Kerry King was the usual beast incarnate shredding his guitar chords manically from start to finish while all fans slammed their souls into the never-ending mosh pits. However, it was Tom Araya who stole the show with a perfect vocal performance, and after everything was said and done he didn’t leave the stage until he could thank each and every fan at the festival for our passionate support through the years. We could clearly see he was very emotional, very touched by our love for Slayer, and we were able to read his lips when he said “I’m gonna miss you, guys…” while tears fell from his eyes. Well, we’re going to miss his screams too, if that’s actually going to be the end of Slayer. Kerry King didn’t cry but he simply raised both fists in the air and roared like a wild beast, as the “demonic machine of Thrash Metal” he is. Maybe that’s his way of saying “thank you!” and crying tears of joy? At least that’s what all fans kept doing while returning from the festival on the subway, screaming SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! nonstop. And that’s what we’ll keep doing forever and ever, even if Quebec, the rest of Canada and any other part of the world never see the band playing live again after this farewell tour is over. Thank you, SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYEEEERRRRR! Heavy Montreal loves you!

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Gemini
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Payback
Temptation
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Annick Giroux

Emmène-moi dans ton monde… De lumière et d’ombre… Emmène-moi dans ton monde… Car ma nuit est longue…

Born in May 1986 in Orléans, a suburb of Canada’s national capital Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, our metal chick of the month of June is much more than just your average metalhead. Not only she’s the lead singer for Montreal-based Heavy/Doom Metal band Cauchemar, but she’s also a bass player, the author of a fantastic book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, writer for UK’s Iron Fist magazine and for Morbid Tales fanzine, one of the promoters of the now defunct Wings of Metal festival in Montreal, and the co-founder of Temple of Mystery Records, not to mention she’s also a graphic designer who has already worked with the iconic Skyclad and countless underground bands. This might look overkill for any regular person, but not for the unstoppable Canadian superwoman Annick Giroux. Having said that, do you have what it takes to join Annick in her quest for metal music, good food and arts in general?

Annick’s life in metal and graphic design actually started when she was still a very young girl, at the age of 10, when her father brought home a floppy disk containing Paint Shop Pro 4.0, which she used with another software called Visual Page to make a primitive website about her favorite cartoon character. Almost at the same time, when she was 11 or 12 years old, she became pen-pals with a Vietnamese girl living in Belgium, who sent her some cassettes with the albums by Japanese Power Metal institution X-Japan. Annick immediately fell in love for their music, and that turned into an obsession to her to the point she even created an X-Japan fan site before eventually becoming a full metalhead. After that first contact with X-Japan, she started to properly explore the world of heavy music and to develop a deep passion for what she likes to call “Ancient Metal” (which includes Doom, Black, Speed, Thrash and NWOBHM), with bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pagan Altar, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Anvil, Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Destruction, Sacrifice and Celtic Frost, among many, many others, changing the way she used to see music. She then started playing bass, joined a few different bands, designed their logos, demo layouts and flyers, ran the Morbid Tales fanzine for six issues, and even DJ’d weekly at a traditional Montreal metal/punk pub named Katacombes.

Owner of a potent voice, Annick founded the French-Canadian metal institution Cauchemar back in 2007 together with guitarist François Patry originally as a recording project, as performing live didn’t really appeal to them. Still, Cauchemar released in 2010 the five-track EP La Vierge Noire (which means “the black virgin” in English) and played live three Canadian shows before putting the band on hold in 2011 and embarking on an eighteen-month trip around the world. However, that plan lasted only until a friend of the band from Chile invited them to play in the country with local musicians, igniting their desire to keep the band alive and kicking and, consequently, taking them to the most distinct places like Peru, Japan, India and Thailand. All material they wrote during that insane trip ended up on their debut full-length album, entitled Tenebrario, released in 2013, and Annick even said in one of her interviews that trip was the richest and most inspiring experience of her life, as she had the unique pleasure of getting to know many different cultures, metal scenes, local cuisines, religions and social classes.

After Tenebrario, Cauchemar also released another full-length album, titled Chapelle Ardente (or “burning chapel” in English), in 2016, and as you might have already noticed Annick sings all songs from Cauchemar entirely in French, giving their music an extra touch of mysticism, delicacy and occultism. By the way, the name of the band, wihich means “nightmare” in English, stems from a series of violent nightmares Annick used to suffer, some described exactly like sleep paralysis. “I actually did some research into this in the past as some of my nightmares were rather troubling. In fact, the first meaning of the name Cauchemar, or cauquemaire, loosely translates to ‘ghost pressing down’, which surely derives from those very sleep paralyses. But I’m unsure if that’s what I experienced, I’ve been having dreams about dying ever since I was a child,” mentioned Annick in one of her interviews. If you want to feel that nightmare-sih vibe flowing from the music by Cauchemar and especially from Annick’s vocals, you should definitely take a listen at songs like Étoile D’Argent, Trois Mondes, Comme Un Poignard, Tête de Mort, and Le Fantôme, as well as several live performances by the band such as at the Nuclear War Now! Festival V in 2016, playing the song Sepolta Viva at the Magog, in Sherbrooke, in 2014 and the song L’Appel at Cafe Deckuf in Ottawa in 2013, and playing cover versions for Black Sabbath’s The Wizard at Montreal is Doomed in 2010 and Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi in Montreal in 2016.

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Apart from her career with Cauchemar, you can also enjoy her bass punches and vocal lines in several other bands and projects from different parts of the world. For instance, in 2008 she played bass for Japanese Black/Thrash Metal act Barbatos during their live concerts, which ended up having Annick as their bass player in the 2008 Barbatos/Bastardator split live album Live in Montreal; you can also see her playing keyboards (yes, she can also play keyboards) on the introduction from the brand new album Destiny Calls, by Finnish Heavy/Speed Metal band Chevalier; and playing synths and/or doing female vocals on the songs Nordkarpatenland, Keď Svetlonosi Započnú V Močariskách Nazeleno Svícit, Nedlho Po Púlnoci Opacha Sa Doplazila Z Dzíry, and V Rujnovej Samote Pocichu Dumá Lovecký Zámek Zvlčilého Grófa, all from the album Nordkarpatenland, released in 2017 by Slovakian Black Metal horde Malokarpatan.

As you can see, Annick has already been involved in very distinct projects and bands in her career so far, and if you include in that mix her work as a graphic designer, then the list of bands and styles grows considerably. Having obtained a degree in Graphic Design before moving to Montreal with her then boyfriend (and now husband) François Patry, she mentioned in an interview that she actually earns a living as a freelance graphic designer, and as the co-owner of the aforementioned Temple of Mystery Records since 2016 she said she designs absolutely everything for the label’s releases. Furthermore, Annick said she has trouble listening to an album if the artwork is ugly, tasteless or uninspired, as in her opinion metal and graphic design have always been in symbiosis for her. Apart from the album design for Cauchemar’s Tenebrario and the artwork for their Chapelle Ardente album, you can also find Annick’s lines, colors and designs in the albums by tons of excellent underground bands like Anatomia, Venin, Night Demon, Metal Grave, Diabolic Force, Chevalier and Disforterror, just to name a few. For example, how not to enjoy the artwork she provided for the 2013 album Necheshirion, by Canadian Black Metal act Gevurah? When you listen to the music, it matches perfectly with the cryptic art by Annick, proving her point that the cover art is and will always be a crucial part of a metal album.

Despite being a talented musician and graphic designer, let’s say the metal community got to know Annick a lot better mainly due to her book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, which she signed as Annick “The Morbid Chef” Giroux, featuring a varied menu of over a hundred recipes from thirty countries, including Yorkshire Pudding from England, Beer Pizza Crust from Germany, Spaghetti Barracuda from Italy, Fårikål from Norway, Country Lamb Exohiko from Greece, Churrasco from Brazil, and Mushroom Steak à la Jack Daniel’s from the United States, among numerous other appetizer, breakfast, lunch, dinner, vegetarian, seafood, dessert and drink recipes, all with contributions by worldwide famous musicians from metal bands like Accept, Gwar, Tankard, Anthrax, Electric Wizard, Rotting Christ, Sepultura, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Doro, U.D.O., Obituary, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Uriah Heep, Kreator, Nuclear Assault, and a lot of underground acts. In the beginning, Hellbent for Cooking was just a section of the 6th edition of her Morbid Tales fanzine released in 2009, containing only around 20 recipes. However, the idea (originally conceived in 2007) for a metal cookbook by Annick became a reality when her editor Ian Christe picked up the 2009 fanzine and asked her if she was interested in having all recipes published as a book. Then for the pro-looking color cookbook itself that was released by Bazillion Points her deadline was only six months, and she took it seriously by dedicating herself entirely to research, writing, cooking, photographing and laying out the recipe pages. Our dauntless singer, bassist and chef said she contacted about 400 bands in total, and that she could never imagine that bands like Sepultura or Mayhem would actually respond to her. She even ended up discovering new bands during her research period, as for example a Death/Thrash Metal band from Pakistan named Dusk. Moreover, as an avid reader, Annick recommends apart from her own book a few other interesting Bazillion Points publications like Swedish Death Metal, by Daniel Ekeroth, Murder in the Front Row, by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, and and Only Death Is Real, by Tom Gabriel Fischer with Martin Eric Ain.

It was after her trip to different parts of the world, especially when she was in Europe and was able to enjoy many underground metal fests, that she returned to Montreal with the idea of organizing a festival of her own, naming it Wings of Metal. She said that as there was no such thing as an underground metal festival mixing styles in Canada, her idea was to do it in the European spirit with a lot of bands from overseas, focusing on the quality of sound and experience, and although the festival only lasted for four editions she’s still proud of her accomplishment. Known as somewhat of an archaeologist of obscure Canadian metal, Annick said that in her opinion Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric, mentioning renowned bands like Rush and Voivod as being uniquely bizarre, while other like Slaughter and Exciter are extremely violent, also mentioning that Montreal hosted the first ever international metal festival in North America, named World War III Festival, in 1985, featuring Voivod, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Possessed and Nasty Savage. In addition, when asked about the apparent division between Anglo-Canadians and French-Canadians in Montreal, Annick said she was not even aware of which local Anglophone bands were around, since they have their own shows and separate venues. However, she said that there’s no animosity between those two fronts, it’s just that people tend to stay in their own neighborhoods and feel more comfortable listening to music in their first languages. Well, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re an Anglo-Canadian, a French-Canadian or a complete foreigner to Montreal, whenever visiting the city try to stay updated about all metal concerts going on because, you know, you might be able to witness nightmares in the form of old school Doom Metal spearheaded by our multi-talented Annick Giroux.

Annick Giroux’s Official Instagram
Cauchemar’s Official Facebook page
Cauchemar’s Official BandCamp

“Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric. Being so far removed from the traditional music centres like New York City, Chicago, and LA made Canadian bands want to work even harder in developing something exceptional that could bring attention to them.” – Annick Giroux

Album Review – Bane / Esoteric Formulae (2018)

Conjuring visions of darkness, pain and frost, this Montreal-based Blackened Death Metal horde has poured their charred hearts into spawning their third and most complete opus to date.

Originally founded in 2006 in Novi Sad, a city in northern Serbia on the banks of the Danube River, but currently based out of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, Canada, Blackened Death Metal horde Bane has poured their charred hearts into this third full-length release, entitled Esoteric Formulae, a masterwork that leads many influences to an evil culmination, with each track being atmosphere-evoking, filling the soundscape with nocturnal melodies and conjuring visions of darkness, pain and frost. With several tours under their belts as well as countless concerts and festival performances in the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria and Poland, among several other countries, Bane continue to push the limits of their unique blend of Blackened Death Metal to the world of the underground, and Esoteric Formulae is the perfect depiction of where the band is headed to.

Featuring a classy artwork by Indonesian graphic artist and illustrator Bahrull Marta (Abomination Imagery), Esoteric Formulae not only showcases a sharp and malevolent duo comprised of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Branislav and drummer Honza Kapak (Master’s Hammer), but also the additional (and very welcome) devilish touches by guest musicians Giulio Moschini (Hour Of Penance), Amduscias (Temple Of Baal) and Canadian composer Ophélie Gingras, enhancing the album’s taste and impact considerably. Put differently, if you’re a fan of the dark, blasphemous and very melodic music by iconic acts like Dissection, Behemoth and Rotting Christ, Esoteric Formulae will bring you a lot of (evil) joy without a shadow of a doubt, placing Bane as one of your top picks from the underground and independent Extreme Metal scene.

Invocation Of The Nameless One is a beautiful, ominous intro embraced by the epic orchestrations by Ophélie Gingras, setting the stage for Branislav and Honza to deliver sheer darkness in The Calling Of The Eleven Angles, a brutal Blackened Death Metal extravaganza where Branislav’s roars get deeper and more demonic while Honza provides a huge dosage of heaviness with his beats and fills; followed by Beneath The Black Earth, and such powerful name could only be accompanied by a crushing sonority, of course, with Branislav doing a fantastic job with his pulverizing riffs and rumbling bass lines, resulting in a vibrant, modern and obscure display of extreme music for admirers of the genre.

Then drinking form the same fountain of iconic bands like Behemoth and Dragonlord, Bane offer our avid ears Bringer Of Pandimensional Disorder, where Black Metal blast beats are intertwined with very melodic and strident guitar lines, all embraced by the cryptic, hellish words vociferated by Branislav (“I call upon the currents – of Wrathful Chaos / Let the oceans of formlessness – into this world / Awaken by the esoteric formulae / Open the gates to the Astral plane of the dark Water / Bringer of Pandimensional Disorder!”). Wretched Feast keeps the album at a sulfurous level, presenting gripping guitars and nonstop beats, and with guest Giulio Moschini adding his own personal twist to the music with his fiery guitar solo, whereas in Into Oblivion, featuring Amduscias as a guest vocalist, Bane summon all evil through their violent Blackened Death Metal, also bringing elements form Symphonic Black Metal the likes of Dimmu Borgir to their already dense musicality.

And they keep scorching our hearts and minds with their visceral Black Metal in Burning The Remains, a mid-tempo, infernal tune where the guitar lines alternate between sheer malignancy and hypnotizing lines, while Honza adds tons of intricacy and strength to the overall result with his bestial drumming. Putting the pedal to the metal, Bane deliver a violent and thrilling tune titled Reign In Chaos, presenting hints of Melodic Death Metal and of the music by Cradle of Filth, which obviously boosts the song’s impact and taste considerably and, therefore, turns it into one of the top moments of the album. Lastly, like a bulldozer smashing our heads, Honza ignites the also vile and metallic Acosmic Forces Of The Nightside, where the duo makes their devilish waves fill every single empty space in a feast of instrumental darkness, before the atmospheric outro Wrathful Reflections brings back a massive wall of orchestrations, finally fading into absolute darkness and void.

In a nutshell, the excellent Esoteric Formulae, available from Bane’s own BandCamp page as well as from the Black Market Metal Label’s Big Cartel, is definitely a must-have album for fans of contemporary and sulfurous Blackened Death Metal, consequently setting the bar really high for the band’s future releases. After purchasing such excellent album, you can also show your utmost support to Branislav and his horde by following Bane on Facebook and by subscribing to their YouTube channel, letting all the aforementioned darkness, pain and frost flowing from the music found in Esoteric Formulae guide you on a one-way journey to the depths of the netherworld.

Best moments of the album: Beneath The Black Earth, Into Oblivion and Reign In Chaos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Black Market Metal Label

Track listing
1. Invocation Of The Nameless One 1:15
2. The Calling Of The Eleven Angles 3:46
3. Beneath The Black Earth 3:35
4. Bringer Of Pandimensional Disorder 3:49
5. Wretched Feast (feat. Giulio Moschini) 3:46
6. Into Oblivion (feat. Amduscias) 4:34
7. Burning The Remains 4:01
8. Reign In Chaos 3:30
9. Acosmic Forces Of The Nightside 5:27
10. Wrathful Reflections 1:59

Band members
Branislav – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Honza Kapak – drums

Guest musicians
Giulio Moschini – guitar solo on “Wretched Feast”
Amduscias – vocals on “Into Oblivion”
Ophélie Gingras – orchestrations on “Invocation Of The Nameless One” and “Wrathful Reflections”

Current/live lineup
Branislav – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Max Allard – guitars, backing vocals
Stéphane Deschênes – bass
Nicholas Wells – drums