Album Review – Moonspell / Hermitage (2021)

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution returns with their thirteenth full-length album, offering us all a revolutionary and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence.

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution Moonspell is approaching their 30th anniversary more ambitious and stronger than ever, and in order to proper celebrate such important milestone there’s nothing better than savoring each and every track from their newest opus, entitled Hermitage, the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Sólstafir) at Orgone Studios and featuring a stylish artwork by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh, Hermitage is not only the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2017 album 1755 and their 2015 masterpiece Extinct, but it’s also a revolutionary, wonderfully intuitive and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence masterfully crafted by frontman Fernando Ribeiro, guitarist Ricardo Amorim, keyboardist Pedro Paixão, bassist Aires Pereira and newcomer Hugo Ribeiro on drums, as well as a testament to what they’ve always loved the most, which is honest, emotional metal that binds us even in the darkest times.

Just like the soundtrack to a dark thriller, the opening track The Greater Good will already mesmerize your senses, with the thunderous bass jabs by Aires and the massive beats by Hugo adding heaviness to such atmospheric tune, whereas sheer poetry flows from Fernando’s words (“So close to me, as tight as you can be / Inside the cell / The voice within, the desert wind / Calls out our name / So close, so close”) in Common Prayers, another captivating Gothic Metal aria by Moonspell where Ricardo and Aires are on absolute fire with their stringed weapons, not to mention the epic keys by Pedro. In All or Nothing, the guitars by Ricardo exhale passion and harmony nonstop in a beautiful display of Dark and Melancholic Metal that will please all fans of Moonspell’s most Gothic side, while Fernando is flawless as usual on vocals; and back to a more visceral and atmospheric sonority we’re treated to the dense Hermitage, with Fernando roaring the song’s epic lyrics (“In the circle of life and sin / On this day of apocalypse / On our way to hermitage / It’s the return to innocence”) while Hugo pounds his drums mercilessly. Then the cryptic bass sounds by Aires are intertwined with the classic keys by Pedro in Entitlement, a very melodic tune blending elements from Gothic and Progressive Metal, therefore sounding very experimental at times, with Ricardo taking the lead with his soulful riffs and solos.

It’s time for a fully instrumental voyage through the realms of darkness in the form of Solitarian, offering our ears classic, crying guitars, delicate keys and tribal beats, working as an interlude for the piercing The Hermit Saints, a headbanging extravaganza where all band members are in absolute sync, generating that classy trademark sound found in their latest albums. Moreover, Fernando’s anguished vocals are effectively supported by all background elements, resulting in a lecture in Dark Metal. In Apophthegmata we face an enfolding and smooth start, evolving into a massive sonority where Ricardo and Aires are once again unstoppable with their axes while Hugo showcases all his skills and potency behind his drums and Pedro keeps the ambience as sinister as it can be with his keys; whereas the quintet offers us fans over seven minutes of magnificent Dark Metal titled Without Rule, where the music remains ethereal but at the same time heavy and sharp from start to finish, with Fernando leading his bandmates into the unknown, flowing into the cinematic Black Metal-inspired outro City Quitter, putting a beyond atmospheric conclusion to such multi-layered album. Not only that, if you purchase the superb mediabook or limited deluxe box set versions of Hermitage, you’ll get as a beyond amazing bonus track the song Darkness in Paradise, Moonspell’s cover version for Candlemass’ classic tune from their 1988 album Ancient Dreams (check out the original version HERE), and let me tell you that their tribute to one of the pillars of Doom Metal is just as imposing as the original song, with Fernando stealing the spotlight with his Stygian vocals.

You can enjoy Hermitage in its entirety on Spotify, but this album is so detailed, enfolding and captivating that I highly recommend you purchase a copy of it to add it to your collection of dark and melancholic albums from Moonspell’s BandCamp page or webstore (where you can by the way find the special mediabook edition), or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream this precious gem of contemporary Dark Metal. Needless to say, don’t forget to follow Moonspell on Facebook and on Instagram to keep up to date with all things surrounding one of the most important metal bands of the European scene. As soon as this pandemic is over, we’ll all be able to leave our hermitages, including the guys from Moonspell, and we’ll finally be able to meet them again on stage to stun us all with the impressive creations of their newborn spawn.

Best moments of the album: Common Prayers, Hermitage, The Hermit Saints and Apophthegmata.

Worst moments of the album: Solitarian.

Released in 2021 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. The Greater Good 5:04
2. Common Prayers 4:08
3. All or Nothing 7:22
4. Hermitage 4:43
5. Entitlement 6:16
6. Solitarian 4:07
7. The Hermit Saints 4:22
8. Apophthegmata 5:41
9. Without Rule 7:42
10. City Quitter (Outro) 2:59

Mediabook/Limited Deluxe Box Set bonus track
11. Darkness in Paradise (Candlemass cover) 7:10

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards, samples, programming
Aires Pereira – bass
Hugo Ribeiro – drums

Album Review – Nervosa / Perpetual Chaos (2021)

What happens when you put together four metalheads hailing from Brazil, Italy, Spain and Greece? A deadly and thrashing lesson in perpetual chaos, of course.

Staying true to their roots while exploring new terrains with a revitalized international line-up now comprised of Brazilian founding guitarist Prika Amaral, Spanish growler Diva Satanica (of Bloodhunter), Italian bassist Mia Wallace (of bands such as Abbath, Triumph of Death and The True Endless) and Greek drummer Eleni Nota (of Lightfold and Mask of Prospero), the ruthless all-female Death and Thrash Metal powerhouse Nervosa is ready to attack with inexorable fury, pungently sharp riffs and aggressive vocals on the 13 massive tracks from their newborn spawn, entitled Perpetual Chaos, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2018 opus Downfall Of Mankind. Recorded at Artesonao Casa de Grabación Studio in Málaga, Spain, produced by Prika Amaral and Martin Furia at Studio Porino, and mastered by Yarne Heylen, Perpetual Chaos builds upon the turbulence, adding diverse musical elements to create an infallible new standout that will strike the listener in a way only Nervosa could, therefore placing the album as one of the best releases of 2021 hands down.

The unstoppable Prika ignites their thrashing machine with her flammable riffs in the brutal Venomous, sounding pulverizing from the very first second with Diva Satanica being a true she-demon on vocals while Eleni showcases all her skills and rage on drums, whereas in Guided by Evil the rumbling, obscure sounds blasted by Mia and Eleni are everything Diva Satanica needs to growl the song’s vile words (“Desire consumes you, blinds you, takes you off the line / But you go slowly cause all you do is lie / Every step taken, misfortune is your delight / Tormented by feelings, swallowed by quicksand”) in another ass-kicking fusion of Death, Thrash and Black Metal. Following such frantic start, People of the Abyss is perhaps one of the most infuriated and heaviest of all songs in the history of Nervosa where Prika will pierce your ears mercilessly with her classy riffs and solos accompanied by the devilish bass by Mia, therefore inflicting some serious pain in your neck due to the intense headbanging needed. And more of their demented and grim sounds is offered in the title-track Perpetual Chaos, with Eleni and Prika making a hellish duo and, consequently, providing Diva Satanica a solid base for her to haunt our souls with her otherworldly screeches and gnarls.

Featuring guest guitarist Guilherme Miranda (of Entombed A.D.), Until the Very End is a high-octane fusion of Death and Thrash Metal brought forth by those unrelenting women where Prika is once again phenomenal armed with her killer strings; and it’s time for Nervosa to smash our skulls mercilessly in Genocidal Command, with German thrash legend Schmier, from the one and only Destruction, making a demented vocal duo with Diva Satanica, always supported by the thunderous kitchen by Mia and Eleni. Slower but heavy-as-hell, Kings of Domination presents hints of Groove Metal added to the guitar lines by Prika and the bass jabs by Mia, resulting in the perfect sound for headbanging like there’s no tomorrow, while Time to Fight is another short and sweet display of their thrashing savagery, inviting us all to slam into the pit while Eleni pounds her drums in great fashion. If you think the girls from Nervosa are tired already of so much violence, you better get ready for more of their Stygian sounds in Godless Prisoner, showcasing a straightforward sonority led by Prika while Eleni dictates the pace with her solid beats, albeit not as powerful as the other songs from the album.

Blood Eagle gets back to a more ferocious and somber musicality, with Prika and Mia being in total sync with their stringed weapons while Diva Satanica adds her personal dosage of Death Metal to the band’s core Thrash Metal through her devilish gnarls; and Eric A.K. (of Flotsam and Jetsam) lends his trademark vocals to Rebel Soul, a Motörhead-inspired metal extravaganza that will invite you to raise your horns and bang your head like a beast, bringing forward Diva Satanica and Eric on absolute fire from start to finish. Never slowing down nor selling out, and always loyal to the foundations of Thrash Metal, the band offers us all Pursued by Judgement, with Mia hammering her evil bass accompanied by the crushing drums by Eleni, keeping the album at a high level of animosity before we’re treated to the closing tune Under Ruins, presenting disruptive words viciously barked by Diva Satanica (“I feel death coming / Getting lonelier everyday / In the cravings that consume me / Self destruction without limits”) while her bandmates make sure the electricity keeps flowing nonstop through their wicked instrumental.

To be fair, I was a little worried about the future of Nervosa after the departures of vocalist and bassist Fernanda Lira and drummer Luana Dametto last year, but the moment Prika announced Diva Satanica, Mia Wallace and Eleni Nota as the new members of her thrashing squad I was more than sure their new album would sound phenomenal to say the least based on their unique talent and background in heavy music. Well, let’s say those four metal ladies exceeded all expectations in Perpetual Chaos, delivering an album that’s at the same time brutal, melodic, thrilling and detailed. Hence, don’t forget to give the girls a shout on Facebook and on Instagram to let them know how much you enjoyed their newest creations, to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their distinguished music and videos, to stream all of their catalogue on Spotify, and above all that, to purchase Perpetual Chaos from their own BandCamp page or webstore (America or Europe), or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream what’s by far one of the most exciting metal albums of the year. And before I forget… VIVA PERPETUAL CHAOS!

Best moments of the album: People of the Abyss, Genocidal Command, Time to Fight and Rebel Soul.

Worst moments of the album: Godless Prisoner.

Released in 2021 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Venomous 3:46
2. Guided by Evil 3:30
3. People of the Abyss 3:27
4. Perpetual Chaos 3:39
5. Until the Very End 3:18
6. Genocidal Command 2:56
7. Kings of Domination 3:41
8. Time to Fight 2:32
9. Godless Prisoner 3:19
10. Blood Eagle 3:41
11. Rebel Soul 3:17
12. Pursued by Judgement 3:27
13. Under Ruins 3:57

Band members
Diva Satanica – lead vocals
Prika Amaral – guitar, backing vocals
Mia Wallace – bass
Eleni Nota – drums

Guest musicians
Guilherme Miranda – additional guitars on “Until the Very End”
Schmier – additional vocals on “Genocidal Command”
Eric A.K. – additional vocals on “Rebel Soul”

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 – Grave Digger / Fields of Blood (2020)

One of the most influential and pioneering bands of the German scene celebrates 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.

Standing tall as one of the most influential and pioneering bands of the German Heavy Metal scene since their inception in the early 80’s, Gladbeck’s own Power Metal institution Grave Digger is celebrating their 40th anniversary in great fashion with the release of their 20th studio album, entitled Fields of Blood, the logic consequence of a legendary trilogy which started in 1996 with the breathtaking Tunes of War and an auditory battle of unique traditional metal, continuing their epic Highlands story. One thing I must say is that although most fans of the band had a very good time with their latest albums Return of the Reaper, Healed by Metal and The Living Dead, it’s when the band comprised of the iconic frontman Chris Boltendahl and his henchmen Axel Ritt on the guitars, Jens Becker on bass and Marcus Kniep on drums takes us into the vastness of Scotland on a journey through explosive sound landscapes that they truly thrive. Featuring a classy, old school artwork by Russian artist Alexander Tartsus, Fields of Blood even had some of its parts recorded in the Scottish Highlands, giving an extra touch of epicness to their no-frills, traditional brand of metal with unwavering pure steel, which nevertheless offers surprises, celebrating such a special anniversary of one of the most successful German Heavy Metal acts in the most glorious style.

Featuring very special guests Les Tambours du Bronx, the intro The Clansman’s Journey showcases a stunning combination of their tribal beats with the strident sound of the bagpipes, resulting in one of the most inspiring intros I’ve ever heard in my life, therefore warming up our senses for a feast of classic, warlike Grave Digger tunes starting with All for the Kingdom, where Marcus dictates the rhythm with his fierce beats while Axel and Jens slash their strings majestically, all of course spearheaded by Chris and his trademark raspy vocals. Then we’re treated to Lions of the Sea, the battle of the Scots against the Vikings translated into fist-raising Power Metal made in Germany, a song that should sound amazing when played live especially due to its catchy, rebellious chorus, not to mention the crisp riffage by Alex, who also kicks some serious ass in the inspiring tune Freedom, an ode to William Wallace’s famous speech where the whole bands speeds things up providing us all we need to head into the battlefield, with Chris delivering a superb vocal performance supported by the song’s spot-on backing vocals.

And Les Tambours du Bronx are back to add an extra kick to the already piercing sound of the bagpipes in The Heart of Scotland, where Chris declaims the song’s words with tons of feeling (“Raise your voices – raise your fists / For the king – the pride of our nation / Praise him and kneel – a will strong as steel / He carries the heart of Scotland / Praise him and kneel – a will strong as steel / He carries the heart of Scotland”) while the music remains slow, steady and dark from start to finish. After such imposing composition, the band brings forward Thousand Tears, a gentle and melancholic ballad that only Grave Digger can offer us featuring the unrelenting Finnish she-wolf Noora Louhimo, and as Chris and Noora have a sensational vocal duet I personally hope she can join the band on stage for a few concerts in the near future. In Union of the Crown they get back to their traditional (and I would even say their most traditional) sonority, with Chris singing with a lot of rage and power while Markus continues to pound his drums mercilessly, accompanied by the rumbling bass by Jens, whereas it’s impossible to stand still to the beer-drinking battle hymn entitled My Final Fight, where Chris screams and shouts the song’s lyrics flawlessly (“The battle began in the morning light / Five thousand gathered for the fight / Tired, exhausted we stood side by side / Welcomed the English with brave and pride”). Put differently, it’s time to prance around the fire, raise your swords and praise our beloved Heavy Metal together with those Teutonic metallers.

Grave Digger Fields of Blood Wooden Box

Then more of their trademark metal music comes in Gathering of the Clans, a song about the unity of the Highland clans and their will to fight for their freedom until the very end, with Alex sounding infernal with his razor-edged riffs and solos while the atmosphere is spiced up by the rebellious bagpipes by guests Hans Grothusen, Paul Grothe and Florian Bohm. After that, be prepared to bang your heads like dauntless highlanders in the rockin’ extravaganza titled Barbarian, where Alex’s riffs are beautifully complemented by the thunderous kitchen by Jens and Marcus, sounding as if the whole song was taken from one of their epic albums from the 90’s, followed by the title-track Fields of Blood, where a sensational bagpipe-infused intro evolves into ten minutes of pure Grave Digger with Chris, Alex, Jens and Marcus being on fire with their respective sonic weapons, guiding the music smoothly and with an endless amount of epicness and fire until the very end. By the way, the song’s closing moments are not only climatic, but also somber, captivating and as metallic as they can be, putting a pensive ending to the battle before the symphonic and cinematic outro Requiem for the Fallen embraces us all and provides us moments of peace in the aftermath, allowing us to grieve for the countless fallen bodies of all brave Scotsmen who died fighting for their freedom.

If you have what it takes to join Grave Digger in their quest for freedom in the Highlands, you can enjoy Fields of Blood in it entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, watch Chris and his loyal bandmates talking about each and every track from the album on a special series on YouTube by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE, and of course purchase your desired version of this grandiose album of metal music by clicking HERE, such as the insanely awesome Wooden Box strictly limited to 300 units including the digipak CD version of the album, a bonus live DVD titled “Live in Japan”, a special Highland flask and a black 7″ single. Also, don’t forget to follow Grave Digger on Facebook and on Instagram, staying up to date with everything that surrounds the band such as their new releases, live concerts and other nice-to-know details. I’m absolutely thrilled this unstoppable Teutonic army decided to return to the Highlands once again in celebration of their 40th anniversary, filling our hearts and souls with their inspiring tunes of war and freedom, and I can’t wait to see what Chris Boltendahl & Co. will offer us in their future albums if they decide to stay in Scotland for a little longer, hopefully bringing to our avid ears more of their undisputed Heavy Metal for many years (and decades) to come.

Best moments of the album: All for the Kingdom, Freedom, My Final Fight and Barbarian.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. The Clansman’s Journey 1:27
2. All for the Kingdom 4:10
3. Lions of the Sea 3:58
4. Freedom 4:53
5. The Heart of Scotland 5:19
6. Thousand Tears 4:57
7. Union of the Crown 3:58
8. My Final Fight 4:09
9. Gathering of the Clans 3:57
10. Barbarian 3:43
11. Fields of Blood 10:10
12. Requiem for the Fallen 3:00

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitars
Jens Becker – bass
Marcus Kniep – drums

Guest musicians
Noora Louhimo – female vocals on “Thousand Tears”
John Jaycee Cujpers, Olaf Senkbeil, Andreas von Lippinski & Hacky Hackmann – backing vocals
Les Tambours du Bronx – percussion on “The Clansman’s Journey” and “The Heart of Scotland”
H.P. Katzenburg – keyboards on “Thousand Tears”
Hans Grothusen, Paul Grothe & Florian Bohm – bagpipes, uilleann pipes

Album Review – Konvent / Puritan Masochism (2020)

A dark, primeval and absolutely stunning fusion of Death and Doom Metal masterfully crafted by four unrelenting women hailing from Denmark.

If you’re craving a dark and primeval fusion of Death and Doom Metal in the same vein as renowned acts such as Candlemass, Paradise Lost, Cult of Luna and Black Breath, who all unleashed the bleakest horror on mankind in the early 90’s, you’ll certainly fall in love with the “Primitive Death Doom” blasted by four talented and hardworking Danish women collectively known as Konvent. Formed in 2015 in the charming city of Copenhagen, this all-female band currently comprised of Rikke Emilie List on vocals, Sara Helena Nørregaard on the guitars, Heidi Withington Brink on bass and Julie Simonsen on drums is ready to haunt our souls with their debut full-length opus entitled Puritan Masochism, the brilliant follow-up to their 2017 demo, conjuring up a deserved revival for the whole death doom genre.

As obscure as the pits of hell from the very first second, the title-track Puritan Masochism comes ripping mercilessly, with Rikke barking the song’s acid lyrics in great fashion (“You pathetic, worthless subject / Submission keeps you erect / Ignorant as you wait / There are enemies at the gate / Slaughter the peacocks / Set fire to the lawns / Now the Queen shall hang”) while Julie sounds thunderous with her sluggish and damned beats, followed by The Eye, where Sara continues to masterfully slash her strings, therefore generating a menacing ambience complemented by Julie’s pounding drums and Heidi’s rumbling bass punches in another solid and visceral display of our good old Doom Metal. And in Trust we face a gargantuan amount of darkness, dementia and rage flowing from all instruments with Rikke being once again bestial with her she-demon growling, living up to the legacy of the genre without a shadow of a doubt.

Stygian clouds are all over us in World of Gone, with Sara and Heidi delivering minimalist but extremely sharp guitar lines and bass jabs respectively, inspiring us to break our necks headbanging in solitude while their music penetrate deep inside our psyche. Then blending elements from the grim music crafted by Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Tryptikon, the quartet fires another round of doomed riffs and beats simply titled Bridge, getting heavier and heavier as the music progresses thanks to the venomous beats by Julie, whereas the absolutely metallic and devilish bass lines by Heidi ignite the incendiary Waste, featuring guest vocals by Danish singer Tue Krebs Roikjer (from Atmospheric Black Metal band Morild), and let me tell you that Rikke and Tue make an infernal vocal duo throughout the entire song, turning it into one of the best and most demonic moments of the entire album.

Kicking off the last batch of songs from Puritan Masochism, Julie will smash your skull with her beats while Sara keeps extracting pure evil form her strings in Idle Hands, all embraced by the cryptic, poetic lyrics vociferated by Rikke (“These idle hands full of will / Go into the field / I will yield / Only dust and dew where they grew / Empty bags / Working mill / Go into the field / I will yield”). And closing the album we have Ropes pt. I, the first part of a double-the-pain extravaganza which begins in a mournful and cadaverous way thanks to the crisp guitar lines by Sara, with its ending being just as somber and captivating as its beginning, flowing smoothly into Ropes pt. II, an epic fusion of the slow and lugubrious sounds of Doom Metal with the enraged growls from Death Metal where Sara, Heidi and Julie are in perfect sync, providing Rikke all she needs to crush our minds with her deep guttural vocals. Put differently, this is what I call a breathtaking closure to such amazing album of extreme music.

In a nutshell, the girls from Konvent nailed it in Puritan Masochism, offering fans of both old school and contemporary Doom Metal a powerful lesson in heaviness and obscurity over the span of 48 minutes of music found in their newborn spawn, consequently pointing to a fantastic future for the band. Hence, go check what Konvent are up to on Facebook, including their tour dates, and of course don’t forget to show your true and honest support to those amazing metallers by purchasing Puritan Masochism directly from their BandCamp page, or click HERE for all locations where you can buy and stream the album in its entirety. The (under)world of doom will never be the same after Puritan Masochism, an album that can already be considered a new classic of such distinct genre, and albeit it has set the bar absurdly high for Rikke, Sara, Heidi and Julie in their future installments, I’m sure that’s exactly what those four amazing Danish girls wanted to achieve with the album, showing the entire world they’re among us to stay, their passion for a good challenge and, above all, that they’ll keep praising the riff and the horrors of doom for years to come.

Best moments of the album: Puritan Masochism, Trust, World of Gone and Waste.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Puritan Masochism 4:41
2. The Eye 3:25
3. Trust 5:17
4. World of Gone 5:57
5. Bridge 6:30
6. Waste (feat. Tue Krebs Roikjer) 4:59
7. Idle Hands 5:22
8. Ropes pt. I 4:36
9. Ropes pt. II 7:21

Band members
Rikke Emilie List – vocals
Sara Helena Nørregaard – guitars
Heidi Withington Brink – bass
Julie Simonsen – drums

Guest musician
Tue Krebs Roikjer – vocals on “Waste”

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 – Rage Of Light / Imploder (2019)

A contrast made of light and rage in the form of an action-packed album of trance music and Melodic Death Metal.

A contrast made of light and rage. That’s exactly what you’re going to get in Imploder, the debut full-length album by Swiss Electronic Groove Metal unity Rage Of Light, the brainchild of vocalist and keyboardist Jonathan Pellet, known for his past works with Symphonic Power Metal band Trophallaxy/Dysrider. Offering a hybrid of trance and Melodic Death Metal, a unique combination of sounds that can be labeled as “Trance Metal”, Rage Of Light will stimulate all your senses with their brand new opus, showing why the multi-talented Jonathan, together with the gorgeous Melissa Bonny (Evenmore, Warkings, Ad Infinitum) on lead vocals and the talented Noé Schüpbach on guitars and bass, are more than ready to conquer the world of heavy music with their creativity, electricity and, of course, a lot of rage.

Jonathan came up with the idea to create a fusion of trance and metal music in 2007, but due to being busy with other projects it took almost a decade for the idea to fully bear fruit. Finally, in 2015, he recruited Melissa and Noé to complete the band, releasing in 2016 their debut five-track EP Chasing a Reflection, followed by a few very interesting singles in 2017 and 2018 including cover versions for Amon Amarth’s battle hymn “Twilight Of The Thunder God” and Lady Gaga’s hit “Judas”. After receiving very positive feedback from fans and critics from all over the world through the years, it’s time now in 2019 for Rage Of Light to reach new heights with Imploder, featuring a modern artwork by Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes, cellist Joëlle “Jo” Graz (Trophallaxy/Dysrider) as a very special guest musician and, above all, three superb musicians who perfectly represent the union of endless talent and a deep passion for music.

The very atmospheric and entrancing intro Light captivates our senses from the very first second, dragging us to Rage Of Light’s lair of heavy music in Enraged, where the trio begins distilling their refined techniques and ethereal sounds, with Melissa’s hypnotizing vocals matching flawlessly with the song’s epic ambience and crushing beats, not to mention Noé’s amazing guitar solo as the icing on the cake. Following such powerful start, keep banging your head to Melissa, Jonathan and Noé to the heavy-as-hell Fallen, a beautiful fusion of modern-day Melodic Death Metal with trance music, or in other words, a rebellious hymn by Rage Of Light led by Jonathan’s whimsical keys and synths, all complemented by his own rabid growls. And in their 2018 single I Can, I Will we’re treated to a more frantic and electrified version of their Trance Metal, with both Melissa and Jonathan kicking some serious ass with their powerful roars, giving life to the song’s poetic lyrics (“My eyes drag me down / When I look around and see what I’m not / Is there, anywhere, a stairway to the top? / Watch me, never again / Will I look down and feel this pain / Cause now, step by step I start to climb and leave these cries behind”).

Experimenting even more with electronic and eccentric sounds, the band offers our ears another dancing fusion of 90’s trance with Heavy Metal infused with Symphonic Metal nuances in Away With You, where it’s quite impossible to stand still to its enfolding rhythm, while In The Shadow is another solid composition featuring classic beats and riffs mixed with the band’s trademark modernity (it falls flat after a while, though), with Melissa stealing the spotlight once again with her unique voice. Then the gentle and potent cello by Jo brings a touch of finesse to the beyond fantastic and insurgent Battlefront, with Melissa alternating between her crisp clean vocals and her she-demon roars in what’s probably the most detailed and multi-layered song from the entire album; and get ready for a trance-meets-metal party in the instrumental title-track Imploder, courtesy of Jonathan and Noé, who together generate a dense, mechanized and metallic atmosphere for admirers of the genre. Furthermore, despite the fact the drums in the entire album are programmed, they still sounds very organic, therefore smashing your skull mercilessly.

With lyrics sounding like a blend of cult flicks such as Terminator and Night of the Living Dead (“Our lives, threatened by this viral disease / We thought we could handle this affliction / No cure will stop the infection to spread / Condemned by our evolution”), Mechanicals, also previously released as a single, is a movie score-inspired extravaganza showcasing intricate guitar lines, pounding drums,  tons of insanity and a futuristic vibe in over seven minutes of first-class modern metal music, leaving us completely disoriented before Nothingness closes the regular version of the album, with Jo returning with her somber cello to add her share of melancholy and serenity to Rage Of Light’s vibrant music while Noé brings rage to the overrall result with his riffs, flowing smoothly until its delicate grand finale. And please I beg you to go for the deluxe edition of Imploder, as you’ll be absolutely stunned by the bonus track Twilight Of The Thunder God, their cover version for Amon Amarth’s most powerful tune of all time in my opinion (you can check the original version HERE). I saw somewhere a guy saying this version should be called “Twilight of the Thunder Goddess”, and I agree one hundred percent as Melissa is on her more-than-perfect “beast mode”, resulting in a flawless performance by one of the most versatile singers of the new era of metal music.

If you still can’t imagine how the flammable fusion of such distinct styles like trance and Melodic Death Metal sounds like, you can take a full listen at Imploder on Spotify, but in case you’re already familiar with (and addicted to) Rage Of Light’s breathtaking music, don’t forget to follow Jonathan, Melissa and Noé on Facebook and to purchase your copy of their excellent new album from their own BandCamp page, from the Napalm Records’ webstore (in Europe or in the United States), or from your regular retailers like iTunes and Amazon. In the end, no one knows for sure if Rage Of Light play a heavier-than-usual version of trance music, or a modernized and electronic version of Heavy Metal, and that very interesting contrast is what makes their music so unique and vibrant. That’s the beauty of it, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: Fallen, Battlefront, Mechanicals and Twilight Of The Thunder God.

Worst moments of the album: In The Shadow.

Released in 2019 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Light 1:48
2. Enraged 5:01
3. Fallen 4:32
4. I Can, I Will 4:36
5. Away With You 3:50
6. In The Shadow 6:47
7. Battlefront 4:30
8. Imploder (Instrumental) 5:58
9. Mechanicals 7:17
10. Nothingness 5:40

Digipak Edition/iTunes/Amazon bonus track
11.Twilight Of The Thunder God (Amon Amarth cover) 4:06

Band members
Melissa Bonny – lead vocals
Jonathan Pellet – vocals, keyboards, synth, drums programming
Noé Schüpbach – guitars, bass

Guest musician
Joëlle “Jo” Graz – cello

Album Review – Nervosa / Downfall Of Mankind (2018)

Slam into the pit to another killing hardcore thrashing bulldozer by Brazil’s meanest all-female Thrash Metal commando unit.

After two long years, here they finally are the unrelenting Brazilian all-female Thrash Metal commando unit Nervosa with a brand new and devastating album titled Downfall Of Mankind, delivering their usual raw aggression and untamed power throughout the album’s almost 50 minutes split into 14 compositions (including the limited edition bonus track) of killing hardcore thrash. In addition, the follow-up to their sensational 2016 release Agony marks their first with drummer Luana Dametto (who also plays drums for Brazilian Death Metal squad Apophizys), adding an extra touch of pugnacity to the band’s already heavier-than-hell and faster-than-a-bullet musicality and, therefore, providing lead singer and bassist Fernanda Lira and guitarist Prika Amaral all they need to keep haunting the souls of the lighthearted with their Thrash Metal tempest.

Downfall Of Mankind perfectly captures the live energy and the old school character that defines this São Paulo-based band without neglecting the strengths of a modern, compact soundscape, bringing the most pulverizing and sharp elements from all types of extreme music such as Thrash, Death and Black Metal, but of course always being deeply rooted in our beloved Bay Area Thrash sound. Featuring a demonic artwork by Brazilian artist Hugo Silva (Abracombie Ink), and with guest musicians João Gordo (Ratos de Porão), Rodrigo Oliveira (Korzus) and Michael Gilbert (Flotsam & Jetsam) providing their share of insanity and rage to Nervosa’s music, Downfall Of Mankind is definitely one of those albums that will inspire you to slam into the circle pit and bang your head like a maniac, two of the main goals in our good old Thrash Metal,  becoming a permanent part of your most metallic playlist.

An ominous intro takes us to the demonic realm ruled by Nervosa, who don’t waste a single second and start crushing our skulls with their ruthless Thrash Metal in Horrordome, with newcomer Luana simply demolishing her drums while Fernanda delivers her already classic she-demon gnarls. This berserk tune will surely generate some interesting mosh pits during their live concerts, which is also the case in Never Forget, Never Repeat, sounding even more devilish and pulverizing and showcasing the band’s heavy artillery at its finest. Prika seems to be mastering “the art of the riff”, delivering sheer brutality in a well-balanced fusion of Thrash and Death Metal, all complemented by the song’s utterly austere, old school lyrics (“Tyranny, bigotry / Crimes against humanity / Murder, persecution / Inprisonment subordination / Enough of genocides / Enough of bloodshed / Break this perpetration / Of history’s dark past”). Then toning down a bit their rage but still sounding brutal, the power trio blasts more of their thrashing music with their riffs and beats generating a menacing wall of sounds in Enslave, followed by Bleeding, presenting hints of the contemporary music by Cannibal Corpse (which is obviously a good thing) and with Fernanda taking her growls to a deeper, more hellish level, while Luana proves why she was the perfect choice as their new drummer.

After such level of destruction, get ready for an 80’s-inspired (or I should say old school Metallica-inspired) Thrash Metal attack by those three she-devils titled …And Justice For Whom?, where the unstoppable beats by Luana dictate the rhythm while Prika continues with her shredding onrush. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see them playing this one live. And Fernanda’s rumbling bass ignites a dark, mid-tempo tune beautifully titled Vultures, a good song to break your neck headbanging with Prika once again delivering cutting riffs from start to finish (despite the fact the song could have been a little shorter, though), whereas Kill The Silence brings a classic Nervosa sonority in terms of its pace, riffs and lyrics, led by the slashing guitar lines by Prika while Fernanda keeps growling and gnarling like a beast, therefore keeping the album at a truly high level of aggressiveness. Their sonic insanity goes on in No Mercy, a more rhythmic and groovy circle pit-generator with highlights to the solid job done by Luana on drums, and Raise Your Fist!, a rebellious anthem by Nervosa bringing forward an inspirational intro with historic speeches about freedom, gender equality and equal opportunities for all, such as the timeless one by Martin Luther King, Jr., sounding melodic, violent and electrifying, all at the same time. In other words, let’s all raise our fists up in the air to this insurgent hymn by Nervosa.

Downfall Of Mankind/Limited Edition Digipack CD Fan Package

And Nervosa still have energy left for more devastation, starting with the berserk Fear, Violence And Massacre, blending the most pulverizing elements from Thrash, Death and even Black Metal, with Prika firing an awesome, melodic guitar solo halfway through it, not to mention you’ll definitely feel the urge to scream the words “fear, violence and massacre” together with Fernanda; whereas although Conflict is a decent creation by the girls, it’s a bit too generic compared to the rest of the album. There’s a lot of good stuff in the song, though, such as the incendiary riffs by Prika and its frenzied pace. The last track from the regular version of Downfall Of Mankind is the superb Cultura do Estupro, with the iconic vocalist João Gordo (Ratos de Porão) sharing the vocal duties with Fernanda in the only song of the album entirely sung in Brazilian Portuguese. I really hope João joins Nervosa during some of their live concerts to sing this cataclysmic, acid tune, with Luana sounding simply demented behind her drums. Lastly, as a bonus track to the limited edition version of the album we have Selfish Battle, featuring Rodrigo Oliveira (Korzus) on drums and Michael Gilbert (Flotsam & Jetsam) providing a nice guitar solo in a slightly different version of Nervosa, feeling more like a heavier version of 80’s Hard Rock the likes of Warlock thanks mainly to the high-pitched vocals by Fernanda.

One can never get enough of Nervosa, and if you’re already addicted to their incendiary music go check what they’re up to on Facebook and purchase your copy of Downfall Of Mankind from their own BandCamp page or from several other locations such as the Napalm Records webstore, where you can get the deluxe fan package featuring the limited edition digipack, a cover flag, a patch, leather wriststraps and a tote bag. Also, don’t forget to watch the track by track breakdown of the album by the girls on YouTube (part 1 and part 2), and obviously to keep an eye on their official website and Facebook page for whenever they take your hometown by storm. Downfall Of Mankind once again proves that thrashing like there’s no tomorrow is Nervosa’s business, and they don’t need any guy to make sure that their business continues to be more than good.

Best moments of the album: Horrordome, Never Forget, Never Repeat, …And Justice For Whom? and Cultura do Estupro.

Worst moments of the album: Vultures and Conflict.

Released in 2018 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:12
2. Horrordome 3:17
3. Never Forget, Never Repeat 4:40
4. Enslave 3:15
5. Bleeding 3:47
6. …And Justice For Whom? 3:34
7. Vultures 4:09
8. Kill The Silence 3:29
9. No Mercy 3:40
10. Raise Your Fist! 4:04
11. Fear, Violence And Massacre 3:35
12. Conflict 2:59
13. Cultura do Estupro (feat. João Gordo) 3:10

Limited Edition/Digipak bonus track
14. Selfish Battle (feat. Michael Gilbert & Rodrigo Oliveira) 3:26

Band members
Fernanda Lira – lead vocals, bass
Prika Amaral – guitar, backing vocals
Luana Dametto – drums

Guest musicians
João Gordo – additional vocals on “Cultura do Estupro”
Michael Gilbert – guitar solo on “Selfish Battle”
Rodrigo Oliveira – drums on “Selfish Battle”

Album Review – Moonspell / 1755 (2017)

An orchestral and emotional concept album sang completely in Portuguese that will take you to the year of the horror when a giant earthquake destroyed the city of Lisbon.

The year of 1755 marks the year of the horror when a giant earthquake destroyed the city of Lisbon, when almost 100 thousand souls lost their lives, and this tragic event is still considered one of the most disastrous catastrophes in European history and nature. Now in 2017, in remembrance of the victims and the band’s hometown, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake was turned into a vicious, rip-roaring concept album straightforwardly titled 1755, the twelfth full-length studio release by Portuguese Dark Metal masters Moonspell, an orchestral and emotional adventure sang completely in Portuguese (which gives the whole album an additional poetic touch) that will transport your mind and soul to November 1, 1755, the holy day of All Saints’ Day and the day that the earth shook like never before in Lisbon.

There are a few remarkable differences between 1755 and Moonspell’s latest releases such as Night Eternal, Alpha Noir/Omega White and especially Extinct, as the band “distanced” themselves a little from the more Gothic and melodic approach from the past decade to venture through the realms of symphonic and epic sounds, and the final result couldn’t be more breathtaking. Featuring a lavish artwork by Portuguese artist João Diogo (Dramafall), 1755 might not be an easy listen at first for newcomers to the world of Moonspell or even to longtime fans of the band who don’t know a single word in Portuguese, but the final result is so compelling, sharp and cohesive I’m sure the whole album will grow on you until it becomes a mandatory part of your day-to-day playlist.

When I first saw the tracklist for 1755 I asked myself why they added one of their old songs as the opening track of the album, but after hitting play everything made sense. Em Nome Do Medo (or “in the name of fear”) is an obscure, haunting and absolutely awesome orchestral version for their biggest classic sung in Portuguese, from their 2012 album Alpha Noir/Omega White (take a listen at the original version HERE), with highlights to the superb job done by guest musician Jon Phipps (who actually created the orchestrations for the whole album) and the insanely beautiful choir (comprised of the amazing Crystal Mountain Singers and Tristania’s own Mariangela Dermutas) that accompanies frontman Fernando Ribeiro and his piercing vocals, and that epic aura of darkness goes on in the title-track 1755, where keyboardist Pedro Paixão delivers as usual some insane keys that complement the guitar sounds flawlessly. And what to say about Ricardo Amorim’s souful guitar solo? Put differently, I simply can’t wait to witness Moonspell playing this metallic opera live. And leaning towards a more metallic, rockin’ vein we have the threatening In Tremor Dei (or “fear Of God”), presenting the band’s characteristic Dark Metal with Fernando being beautifully supported by guest vocalist Paulo Bragança (who supplies the trenchant voice of a Fado fallen angel who is a big part of the Portuguese culture), with the song’s lyrics perfectly depicting the fire, wreckage, despair and death that took over Lisbon that day.

Desastre (the Portuguese word for “disaster”) gets closer to what the band did in Night Eternal, with Fernando’s growls sounding deeper and more enraged as he screams the word “culpado” (or “guilty” in English) with all his fury. Furthermore, the beats by drummer Miguel Gaspar will hit you hard inside your mind, showing how acute the entire album is. Then orchestral elements shine in another great display of Dark Metal blended with classical music titled Abanão (which means “quake” or “shakeup”), where Pedro once again boosts the song’s epicness with his keyboards while Miguel and bassist Aires Pereira live up to the song’s name with their rumbling beats and bass punches, respectively; followed by Evento (or “event”), where Moonspell keep blending their own sonority from Night Eternal with Memorial and more intense elements from orchestral music, not to mention how its lyrics showcase the thin line between love and hate people experience with religion. It’s another one of the top moments of the album, and needless to say it should also sound fantastic if played live. And 1 De Novembro (or “1st of November”), in reference to the day the earthquake happened, brings forward a more contemporary version of Moonspell where Fernando’s voice sounds considerably different than usual and where tons of heaviness and epicness arise due to the excellent job done by Pedro and Miguel on keys and drums.

1755 Deluxe Box

Then infused with modern Gothic and Dark Metal similar to what they did in the darkest and most melancholic tracks of Alpha Noir/Omega White, but with an epic twist, Ruínas (or “ruins”) displays an 80’s-inspired rhythm where the bass lines by Aires sound ominous, with its lyrics passionately declaimed by Fernando transmitting a true sense of hopelessness, setting the tone for Todos Os Santos (or “all saints”), one of the strongest tracks of the album and the musical depiction of the eternal war between men and God. Its thrilling guitars combined with the powerful vocals by Fernando and its thunderous backing vocals result in top-notch Moonspell music, also presenting a catchy-as-hell chorus (even if you don’t know anything in Potuguese) in a beyond perfect closing to such sad and important event in the history of Portugal. As a matter of fact, there’s still one more song in the regular version of the album, their cover version for Brazilian rock band Os Paralamas do Sucesso’s hit Lanterna Dos Afogados (listen to the original song HERE), feeling more like a “bonus” than a regular track and sounding very somber, melancholic and touching, with Fernando giving a lesson in dark vocals. Moreover, if you go with any of the special editions of 1755, you’ll also be treated to the Spanish version of Desastre, which according to Moonspell themselves is a homage to all their Spanish-speaking fans around the world, as in the late 18th century a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese was spoken in the streets of Lisbon.

What Moonspell did in 1755, turning all devastation, death and grief from the 1755 Lisbon earthquake into first-class art, is not only terrific musically speaking, but it also proves that the human being is capable of finding beauty even in the most adverse moments, and I guess that’s some sort of subliminal message the band wanted to send us all with this excellent album. With that said, go grab your favorite version of 1755 at the Napalm Records webshop, or at the band’s own BandCamp page or official European webstore, and learn more about one of the saddest and most terrifying day in the history of Portugal. 1755 might be known as the year of the horror, as the year when God abandoned the people of Lisbon, but at least we have Moonspell to properly tell that grim story to us all and to soothe our hearts and souls forevermore with their undisputed Dark Metal.

Best moments of the album: 1755, In Tremor Dei, Evento and Todos Os Santos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Em Nome Do Medo 5:32
2. 1755 5:12
3. In Tremor Dei 4:26
4. Desastre 3:22
5. Abanão 4:08
6. Evento 4:43
7. 1 De Novembro 3:53
8. Ruínas 4:45
9. Todos Os Santos 5:10
10. Lanterna Dos Afogados (Os Paralamas do Sucesso cover) 6:30

Deluxe Box/Digipak/Limited Edition/Japanese Edition bonus track
11. Desastre (Spanish Version) 3:36

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards, guitars
Aires Pereira – bass
Miguel Gaspar – drums

Guest musicians
Jon Phipps – orchestrations
Paulo Bragança – vocals on “In Tremor Dei”
Martin Lopez – darbuka in “1755”
Crystal Mountain Singers (Carmen Simões, Alexandra Bernardo, Silvia Guerreiro) and Mariangela Dermutas – choirs

Album Review – Grave Digger / Healed by Metal (2017)

The iconic Chris Boltendahl and his battalion of metal have the right cure to heal any type of apathy, fatigue or mental stress in our lives, and you know what that is.

Rating4

healed-by-metalIf you’re one of those people suffering from the horrible disease called “boredom”, which makes your life miserable even if there isn’t a good reason for that, it means your heart and soul are dangerously injured and need to be healed as soon as possible by something special, something that will inject a good amount of adrenaline into your body and make you feel electrified. In other words, you need to be Healed by Metal, which by the way is the name if the eighteenth studio album by German Power Metal warriors Grave Digger. It might not be a classic like Tunes of War or Heart of Darkness (as you might have noticed, I always mention these two albums in my reviews of the band), but it’s a very cohesive and fun album that once again proves Grave Digger are far from calling it a day.

With the cover art designed once again by Gyula Havancsák, from Hjules Illustration and Design, Healed by Metal is a feast of traditional Grave Digger, blending the sounding of their early days with more contemporary material and especially with their warlike mode, which is in my humble opinion where the band truly thrives. Also, despite being the first album to feature new keyboardist Marcus Kniep as The Reaper since H.P. Katzenburg’s departure in 2014 after the average Return of the Reaper, that doesn’t impact the music negatively as keyboards are not the main ingredient in Healed by Metal. Quite the contrary, they are actually not very audible throughout the whole album, leaving more space for the band’s piercing guitars and the unmatched growls by the iconic Chris Boltendahl to shine.

grave-digger-2017Grave Digger kick off the album with the old school title-track Healed by Metal, with its lyrics and chorus being as cheesy as they can be (“The blind will see / And the deaf will hear / The dumb will speak / And the lame will walk / We are the law / We are still mesmerized / Leave the fear behind / We save the human kind / We all break out in rage / We’re ready for the stage / We live like a rebel / We’re all sent by the devil / We are… / Healed by metal / We rock / Healed by metal”). While Chris fires his trademark gnarls, the rest of the band keeps the music potent and metallic, with highlights to the mighty bass guitar by Jens Becker. The next tune, When Night Falls, reminds me of the sonority from their classic albums Tunes of War and Excalibur (if you’re a fan of old school German Power Metal, you’ll have a blast listening to this chant), with drummer Stefan Arnold being as precise as usual; whereas Lawbreaker sounds like a tribute to Judas Priest and their all-time classic “Breaking the Law”, displaying even the sound of a roaring Harley-Davidson in the beginning. The keen riffs and solos by the high-skilled Axel Ritt and the song’s rebellious chorus make it a must-listen for fans of our good old Heavy Metal, not to mention its pure metallic lyrics (“Hundred pounds of metal / Steaming through the shattered night / Roaring wheels cry out for battle / Magic stars our guardian light”).

I might be going crazy, but the main riff in the amazing Free Forever sounds a lot like the one from “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”, also by Judas Priest. Needless to say, it’s the perfect soundtrack for hitting the road, with the crisp and heavy sounds of guitar and bass increasing the song’s impact even more. Call for War brings more classic Grave Digger to your ears, with Chris firing his always pleasant raspy vocals in this great fighting composition, in special due to its uproarious chorus. Put differently, it could have easily been part of one of their previous concept albums about historical battles. Then in Ten Commandments of Metal, a metal hymn reminding us to always stay true to heavy music, we’re treated to a catchy, cheesy and extremely fun chorus (“What do you think who we are / Disciples of satan or something bizarre / For what do you think we fight this battle / We follow the ten commandments of metal”), with the instrumental pieces being classic mid-tempo Power Metal showcasing cutting guitars and steady double bass.

healed-by-metal-canvas-edition

Healed by Metal Canvas Edition

In The Hangman’s Eye, we have more high-octane heavy music courtesy of Chris and his battalion of metal, exhibiting a solid instrumental with a powerful and traditional chorus. This is probably the moment when fans will forget it’s “just” Power Metal and will surely ignite a fun circle pit; while Kill Ritual, albeit not as thrilling as the rest of the album, is still a good composition with highlights to its fun lyrics the always sharp riffs by Axel. And Grave Digger fire another one of their classic songs about religion and holy wars, this time titled Hallelujah, where Axel and Jens aim at lacerating our souls with their strings. Not only this is a great mix of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, but I bet you’ll be singing its chorus without even noticing (not to mention the awesome final solos by Axel). And lastly we have Laughing with the Dead, a creepy, slow-paced somber tune that ends up working well despite its weird chorus. It should be interesting to sing it together with the band during their live performances, in special if you’re drunk, don’t you agree?

In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter how sick you are of our society, you can always be healed by the power of our good old Heavy Metal, and Grave Digger definitely know how to turn the bitter taste of any medication into a high level of entertainment. And if you’re a diehard fan of the band and want to get an extra dosage of their distinct metal music, I suggest you go for the Healed by Metal Canvas Edition, where you’ll also be able to enjoy a couple of very decent bonus tracks, especially the rockin’ tune Bucket List. As aforementioned, Grave Digger are still many years away from coming to an end, always delivering high-end straightforward metal music that will cure any sign of apathy, fatigue or mental stress in our lives, and that’s what we can always expect from Chris and his henchmen.

Best moments of the album: Healed by Metal, Lawbreaker, Free Forever and Ten Commandments of Metal.

Worst moments of the album: Kill Ritual.

Released in 2017 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Healed by Metal 3:45
2. When Night Falls 3:56
3. Lawbreaker 3:07
4. Free Forever 3:23
5. Call for War 3:21
6. Ten Commandments of Metal 3:27
7. The Hangman’s Eye 3:07
8. Kill Ritual 3:43
9. Hallelujah 3:30
10. Laughing with the Dead 5:17

Limited Edition bonus tracks
11. Kingdom of the Night 4:07
12. Bucket List 3:02

Japanese Edition bonus track
13. Brave, Young And Innocent 4:20

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitars
Jens Becker – bass
Stefan Arnold – drums
Marcus Kniep – keyboards

Guest musicians
Hacky Hackman, Frank Konrad & Andreas von Lipinski – backing vocals