Album Review – Blind Guardian / The God Machine (2022)

Seven years after the release of Beyond The Red Mirror, the most respect German Power Metal bards of all time make a brilliant return with their breathtaking twelfth studio album.

Seven years after the release of Beyond The Red Mirror, the multi-talented German Power Metal bards Blind Guardian make a brilliant return and compensate for the waiting time with their new studio album, entitled The God Machine, the twelfth in their undisputed career. Produced, recorded and engineered by Charlie Bauerfeind and Thomas Geiger, mixed by Joost van den Broek and Jos Driessen, mastered by Jaakko Viitalähde, and displaying a classy artwork by Peter Mohrbacher, The God Machine brings everything we learned to love and more in the music by frontman Hansi Kürsch and his henchmen André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen on the guitars, Frederik Ehmke on drums, and session musicians Barend Courbois on bass and Thomas Geiger on keyboards, with each song having its lyrics based on a specific novel, play, series or milestone in their personal lives, such as The Kingkiller Chronicle, Battlestar Galactica and American Gods. “We didn’t want to rehash our style from 1995, but on the other hand we didn’t want to have to continue on our current path forever. The God Machine is a new beginning for us. We’re putting everything back to square one and return to certain patterns that we neglected a bit on previous releases. Look forward to an album that is straighter, more aggressive, but always blessed with highly infectious melodies and hooks,” commented Hansi about the band’s new opus.

The rhythmic riffs by André and Marcus set the stage for the epic Deliver Us From Evil, with Hansi distilling his trademark, powerful vocals from the very first second in a pure Blind Guardian sound with no shenanigans, or in other words, this will be a fantastic opener for their upcoming concerts. In Damnation we’re treated to cryptic words darkly declaimed by Hansi (“They’re like ghosts / The ancient ones / Burning blue’s their sign / It’s all true / Hush don’t cry / Better hide”) while his bandmates deliver first-class Power and Heavy Metal nonstop in a journey back in time to the band’s early days; followed by Secrets Of The American Gods, which starts in a beyond epic, majestic manner before exploding into another headbanging, symphonic Power Metal aria, being therefore tailored for their live setlists. And it’s then time for another explosion of visceral Power Metal by the bards entitled Violent Shadows, where Barend and Frederik’s kitchen offers the band’s guitar duo the perfect atmosphere for their wicked riffs and solos.

Life Beyond The Spheres displays solid instrumental and vocals, albeit it lacks the same punch as its predecessors. The keys by guest Joost van den Broek are spot-on, though, enhancing the song’s kick. Then speeding things up and delivering a beautiful fusion of heaviness, epicness and violence the band brings forward Architects Of Doom, where Frederik dictates the pace while Hansi continues to stun us all with his unparalleled vocals; and Hansi mesmerizes us once again in Let It Be No More, starting in a serene, pensive manner and evolving into a bold and beautiful sonority where André pierces our souls with his guitar solo. The fantastic Blood Of The Elves brings to us listeners powerful lyrics (“Honor, it’s easy to dispose / In this darkest hour we’re alone / From behind closed doors it aims for her / Magic’s reaching out to draw her in / To the eye of the storm / The storm”) spiced up by a traditional, straightforward sound that will please all fans of the band, whereas just like a sinister, climatic ending of a fantasy movie we’re treated to the hammering Destiny, a great way to conclude another sensational work by Blind Guardian showcasing their characteristic vocals and riffs enfolded by gorgeous background elements.

Blind Guardian The God Machine Nuclear Blast Mailorder Vinyl Boxset

Such masterpiece of German Power and Heavy Metal can be appreciated in all of its glory on YouTube and on Spotify, but if I were you I would certainly click HERE or HERE to purchase the physical edition of the album, including the superb Nuclear Blast Mailorder Vinyl Boxset, limited to 1,700 copies, which comes with a crystal-clear double LP with red inkspot and black splatter in a gatefold with 24-page booklet, a digipack CD, a board game, a slipmat, a signed card, a sticker and a postcard set. Don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news and tour dates, and to stream all of their amazing videos and albums on YouTube and on Spotify. In summary, seven years between two albums feels like an eternity for us fans when the band in question is as amazing as Blind Guardian, but the wait was certainly worth it as The God Machine proves why such German metal machine is so respected and admired in the world of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Deliver Us From Evil, Damnation, Violent Shadows and Blood Of The Elves.

Worst moments of the album: Life Beyond The Spheres.

Released in 2022 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Deliver Us From Evil 5:21
2. Damnation 5:20
3. Secrets Of The American Gods 7:28
4. Violent Shadows 4:17
5. Life Beyond The Spheres 6:02
6. Architects Of Doom 6:20
7. Let It Be No More 4:48
8. Blood Of The Elves 4:37
9. Destiny 6:46

Nuclear Blast Mailorder Edition, Vinyl Boxset bonus tracks
10. Life Beyond the Spheres (Cyber Mix) 6:07
11. Destiny (Lead Guitar Version) 6:42
12. Let It Be No More (Heavy Vocals) 4:49

Band members
Hansi Kürsch – vocals
André Olbrich – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Marcus Siepen – rhythm and acoustic guitars
Frederik Ehmke – drums

Guest musicians
Barend Courbois – bass (session)
Thomas Geiger – keyboards, effects (session)
Joost van den Broek – keyboards on “Life Beyond The Spheres”
Marcela Bovio, Marjan Welman, Olaf Senkbeil, Hacky Hackmann & John “Jaycee” Cuijpers – backing vocals

Album Review – Grave Digger / Symbol of Eternity (2022)

The mighty Grave Digger go back in time to offer us all a powerful sequel to their 1998 classic Knights of the Cross based on the Knights Templar, the Crusades and the Holy Grail.

One of the most important and creative bands in the history of German rock and metal, the mighty Power Metal institution Grave Digger, is back two years after the excellent Fields of Blood with another headbanging album entitled Symbol of Eternity, bringing to our ears everything we’ve learned to love in their music since the band’s inception decades ago. Produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s mastermind, the iconic Chris Boltendahl himself, at his own studio named Graveyard Studios, and displaying a beautiful artwork by Uwe Jarling, Symbol of Eternity is a concept album based on the Knights Templar, the Crusades and the Holy Grail, working as a sequel to the band’s 1998 classic Knights of the Cross while showcasing once again all the talent and passion of the aforementioned Chris Boltendahl together with his henchmen Axel Ritt on the guitars, Jens Becker on bass and Marcus Kniep on drums.

It’s time to head into the battlefield to the sound of the epic, cinematic intro The Siege Of Akkon before Chris & Co. deliver pure Heavy Metal in the exciting Battle Cry, with Marcus dictating the pace with his old school beats accompanied by the rumbling bass by Jens. Put differently, it’s pure, unfiltered Grave Digger for all diehard fans of the band to sing along with them, and the same can be said about Hell Is My Purgatory, showcasing an addictive chorus vociferated by Chris (“Hell is my purgatory / I’m a sinner, I’m your priest / Hell is my purgatory / Faith unleashed the beast / Hell is my damnation / My holy revelation / Hell is my crematory / Hell! Hell! Hell!”) and a great sync between Axel’s riffs and Jens’ metallic bass. Then pure German metal riffage flows from Axel’s guitar in the also high-octane King Of The Kings, where Marcus once again hammers his drums in great fashion, whereas the title-track Symbol Of Eternity brings forward the band’s usual heaviness and obscurity, displaying a sluggish pace, somber passages and the melancholic vocals by Chris, albeit not as exciting a the rest of the album. After the short Middle Eastern-inspired interlude Saladin, the band returns in full force with Nights Of Jerusalem, offering our ears more of their thunderous drums, dirty riffs and raspy vocals. Moreover, we all know Chris is an amazing storyteller, and he nails it once again in this classic tune.

Heart Of A Warrior presents another beyond catchy chorus (“Take my last breath / Prepared myself to death / In my last hour / I feel the power / And I was sent by God / To be victorious / I got the heart / Of a warrior”) embraced by a classic Grave Digger sonority; while acoustic guitars kick off the mid-tempo, headbanging tune Grace Of God, with its background symphonic element adding an extra touch of epicness to the overall result. Back to a more melodic sonority, it’s time for Axel to extract sheer electricity form his guitar in Sky Of Swords, perfect for banging your head and raising your fists in the air together with the unrelenting Grave Digger, followed by Holy Warfare, a pure Heavy and Power Metal feast made in Germany with an exciting pace and riffage where Marcus pounds his drums as we dive into the battle together with the band. The Last Crusade, the last original song from the album, will darken the skies to the deep, sinister vocals by Chris while the instrumental pieces sound and feel utterly powerful. Last but not least, the bonus track Hellas Hellas, featuring guest vocals by its original singer Vasilis Papakonstantinou, has been a staple in Grave Digger’s sets whenever they played Greece, since the 90’s, and this new studio version kicks some serious ass to the point it should be played anywhere, not just in Greece (and you can compare it to the original version by clicking HERE).

Grave Digger Symbol of Eternity Limited Collector’s Hardcover Boxset

Symbol of Eternity can be savored in its entirety on Spotify, but of course if you’ve always been a loyal soldier of the Grave Digger army you can purchase your favorite version of the album by clicking HERE, including the super limited collector’s hardcover boxset (and good luck trying to find that one available as it’s limited to only 500 copies worldwide) that includes the limited 2CD mediabook, a 115 x 75cm flag, an armband with metallic 3D emblem, an A3 poster, a signed autograph card and a certificate of authenticity. Also, don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news and their electrifying tour dates, raising your sword together with Chris and his horde whenever they take your city by storm. In a nutshell, Symbol of Eternity might not get even close to being their strongest effort to date, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful and gripping album of old school German Heavy Metal, proving why Grave Digger have been on the road for so many decades and showing us all they’re far from calling it quits. Long live Grave Digger, and may their Power Metal be part of the soundtrack of our lives for all eternity!

Best moments of the album: Battle Cry, Hell Is My Purgatory, Heart Of A Warrior and Holy Warfare.

Worst moments of the album: Symbol Of Eternity.

Released in 2022 ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records

Track listing
1. The Siege Of Akkon 1:03
2. Battle Cry 3:53
3. Hell Is My Purgatory 3:53
4. King Of The Kings 4:43
5. Symbol Of Eternity 5:18
6. Saladin 0:36
7. Nights Of Jerusalem 4:40
8. Heart Of A Warrior 3:46
9. Grace Of God 4:23
10. Sky Of Swords 4:16
11. Holy Warfare 3:43
12. The Last Crusade 5:20
13. Hellas Hellas (Vasilis Papakonstantinou cover) 4:00

Limited Edition Boxset/ Mediabook CD 2 (Live at Metal Hammer Paradise)
1. The Clansman’s Journey 1:31
2. Healed by Metal 4:31
3. The Clans Will Rise Again 5:31
4. Lawbreaker 3:33
5. The Roundtable 5:36
6. The Curse of Jacques 5:09
7. Season of the Witch 5:17
8. Excalibur 5:25
9. Rebellion 5:49
10. Witch Hunter 3:44
11. Heavy Metal Breakdown 8:18

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

Guest musician
Vasilis Papakonstantinou – vocals on “Hellas Hellas”

Metal Chick of the Month – Ambre Vourvahis

I will not give up… I will not stand down!

Greece, France and Germany are three countries well known for their immensurable contributions to rock and metal music, and here on The Headbanging Moose how about we unite all three and have an absolute blast with our metal lady of the month of July? That’s exactly what you’ll get with the talented, gorgeous vocalist Ambre Vourvahis, the new frontwoman for German Symphonic Metal act Xandria, and a woman who definitely knows how to add tons of passion and feeling to her already powerful vocal lines. Having said all that, are you ready to join us and Ambre in this short but sweet tribute to one of the most promising names of the Symphonic Metal scene worldwide?

Half-Greek and half-French, but currently residing in Germany, the mesmerizing Ambre Vourvahis was already singing in choirs and musicals when she was in middle school, saying in one of her interviews that her life has always revolved around music, although she continued her studies in literature and philosophy and concluded it with a philosophy degree while at the same time she was still dreaming of making music, singing and going to concerts (which she confessed she sometimes did instead of going to class, just like all of us metalheads have already done at a given point in our lives). She said she started listening to metal music when she was around 11 years old, saying metal has been a crucial part of her whole life, and let’s say it’s quite easy to notice that by the way she sings, always putting her heart and soul into her performances.

Just a few weeks ago, our Greek goddess was announced as the new vocalist of Xandria, and in her own words, “I am beyond happy to be part of this adventure, I gave everything I had on the songs that are about to come and I love every single one of them. I hope you will do too. I can’t wait to meet you all and hear about your own musical journey.” Combining atmospheric, delicate vocals with harsh, visceral roars, her potent and versatile voice fits perfectly with the new musical direction of the band, which can already be seen in their new single title Reborn (which you can also stream on Spotify). Formed in 1994 in Bielefeld, a city in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region in the north-east of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Xandria have already had in their career the impressive number of eight vocalists, those being Nicole Tobien, Lisa Middelhauve, Kerstin Bischof, Manuela Kraller, Dianne van Giersbergen, Lisa Middelhauve, Aeva Maurelle, and now our metal lady Ambre Vourvahis. Accompanied by fellow musicians Robert Klawonn on the guitars, Tim Schwarz on bass and Dimitrios Gatsios on drums, as well as of course Ambre on vocals, the newly formed outfit around band leader, main songwriter, composer and guitarist Marco Heubaum is ready to bring its impressive career to the next level.

“Xandria is reborn… and the first sign of the return to life is the respectively titled song. Like before, Xandria are taking you on a voyage to your imagination, and the emotional and varied voice of new frontwoman Ambre Vourvahis will show you the way there with more facets then ever – prepare for some surprises! The new line up around mastermind Marco Heubaum will definitely start a whole new chapter that is fascinating and fresh, but still genuinely Xandria. Because this is what Xandria always has been – a voyager and explorer in the inspiring world of symphonic and heavy music. And now it is reborn,” commented the band about this new phase in their career, with Ambre also having some words to say about her new band. “I knew the band personally for a long time now and during their break Marco and I started to work on music for a possible project, while at the same time he was writing already some new Xandria songs, and then he thought my voice would fit very well on them, too. In the end we even took some of the ideas for that project into Xandria as it was fitting also really well actually and brought some new elements and diversity.”

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Although nothing is known about the new album yet, Ambre seems to be very excited and can’t wait to meet the band’s fans on the road. “I feel grateful, especially with the overwhelming warm welcome I got so far by the wonderful Xandria fans,” said our raven-haired diva, and I bet you can’t wait to listen to the follow-up to their 2017 album Theater of Dimensions and to see Ambre taking the stages by storm when the band begins their tour to promote their upcoming album. By the way, starting this September the band will embark on a massive European double headlining tour with Austrian Melodic/Symphonic Power Metal band Visions of Atlantis, inviting fans to dive deep into breathtaking soundscapes of Symphonic Metal, and hopefully that tour will also be extended to other places such as North and South America, Japan and Australia. “We want to plan a lot of tours, in as many countries as we can. But especially continue to make music that will be exciting for us and our fans,” said Ambre, also mentioning that she wants to thank all of the band’s fans in person and discover their musical journeys and taste as well, as she really loves to talk about music. Well, I bet you don’t want to miss that opportunity when Ambre hits the road together with Xandria, right?

You can also find Ambre doing the female vocals for Fragment Soul, a Progressive Metal band formed in 2016 in Greece which has another metal lady featured already on our webzine, the charming Heike Langhans, as a special member on vocals. How can she sing in such different bands at the same time, one might ask? Well, Ambre mentioned in one of her interviews that she loves to challenge herself vocally and to try new things, and as she can do both clean and guttural vocals it won’t be a surprise if other musicians and bands start recruiting her to be part of their new albums or live concerts, consequently leading her to visit more and more cities and countries while on tour. Hence, let’s show our total support to Ambre in this new phase of her career, and hope that sooner than later we’ll be able to witness her kicking some ass onstage with her bandmates from Xandria in our hometowns, showing once again why Symphonic Metal has always been the perfect place for skillful and hard working women who rock our world like our up-and-coming Greek vocalist.

Ambre Vourvahis’ Official Facebook page
Ambre Vourvahis’ Official Instagram
Xandria’s Official Facebook page
Xandria’s Official Instagram
Xandria’s Official YouTube channel
Xandria’s Official Twitter

“I trained and developed my singing on my own (especially the harsh vocals) as well as with vocal coaches for many years, and still today – there is always so much more to learn and to achieve so I will probably never stop working with a professional vocal coach.” – Ambre Vourvahis

Album Review – Kreator / Hate Über Alles (2022)

Let the hate flow through you to the sound of the magnificent new opus by one of the trailblazers of the German Thrash Metal scene.

Recorded at Hansa Studios and Studio Wong, both located in Berlin, Germany, produced by Arthur Rizk, and displaying a classy, demonic artwork by renowned Israeli artist Eliran Kantor, Hate Über Alles is not just the fifteenth studio album by German Thrash Metal masters Kreator, but the band’s first studio album since their 2017 opus Gods of Violence, marking the longest gap between studio albums in their career, and the first to feature former DragonForce bassist Frédéric Leclercq, who replaced longtime band member Christian “Speesy” Giesler in 2019. And what do I think about the album? Well, let’s say Kreator more than nailed it once again, with the iconic Miland “Mille” Petrozza on vocals and guitar, Sami Yli-Sirniö also on the guitar, the aforementioned Frédéric Leclercq on bass, and Jürgen “Ventor” Reil on drums delivering sheer violence, blasphemy and hatred with a welcome dosage of progressiveness and experimentations throughout the entire album, therefore keeping the fires of German thrash burning bright for our total delight.

Sergio Corbucci was an Italian film director, screenwriter and producer who directed both very violent Spaghetti Westerns and bloodless Bud Spencer and Terence Hill action comedies, and there’s nothing better than the Spaghetti Western intro Sergio Corbucci Is Dead to set the stage for Kreator to kill in Hate Über Alles, with both Mille and Sami kicking some fuckin’ ass with their undisputed thrashing riffage. Put differently, a new metal anthem is born overflowing fury and hatred, and of course without a single second of boredom. Then in Killer Of Jesus we face an endless amount of brutality spiced up by absolutely austere lyrics (“Tell the hordes / I’ve come to save them all / Could their souls be dead / Or why can’t I hear their words? / Goddess of time / Always by my side / Faithless redemption / Is this what they have been praying for?”), with Ventor sounding demented behind his drums in another must-listen to any fan of our good old Thrash Metal, whereas the tribal beats by Ventor ignite the neck-breaking Crush The Tyrants, with Mille flawlessly vociferating the song’s visceral words. Strongest Of The Strong is very exciting from start to finish, with Mille and Sami delivering first-class riffs and solos throughout the entire song, resulting in another serious candidate to be part of their live performances, followed by Become Immortal, where I must say I love how Kreator are honoring all metal legends (including themselves) in their past few albums, with the song’s  galloping pace inviting us all to raise our horns together with one of the most important Thrash Metal bands of all time.

Conquer And Destroy brings forward old school Kreator for diehard fans of the band, and it will surely ignite some amazing circle pits if played live while Mille leads his horde with both his piercing vocals and melodic but razor-edged riffs and solos; and featuring guest vocalist Sofia Portanet, the hypnotizing Midnight Sun is by far the most experimental of all songs, with the final result being utterly captivating as if we were part of an uncanny, bloodthirsty Scandinavian midsummer festival. Demonic Future offers us all another round of wicked lyrics roared by Mille (“In terror, in riots in war / Just when you thought that you’ve seen it all / Awareness turns to repulsion / From everywhere, echoing chants / A requiem for their bitter lands / Just when you thought a sick society / Died in their final convulsions / Fantasies of omnipotence / Erased they’ll become aware”) while the music is that beautiful Thrash Metal we love so much, with Frédéric and Ventor making the earth tremble with their respective bass and drums, and when the entire album is awesome a song like Pride Comes Before The Fall that’s “just” very good becomes the “worst” one, albeit still showcasing of course Kreator’s unique thrashing sounds. And last but not least, Kreator darken the skies and send an apocalyptic message to everyone in Dying Planet, presenting hints of Doom Metal in their core sonority and, consequently, inspiring us to break our necks headbanging in the name of darkness together with Mille and his crew.

Kreator Hate Über Alles Deluxe Box

It’s time to let the hate blasted by Kreator in their outstanding new album flow through you, and you can do that by streaming it in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing it from the band’s own webstore or by clicking HERE or HERE, where you can by the way find the limited deluxe box including the red and black splatter double vinyl with etching on side D in trifold cover, a digibook CD, a digipack live CD, a photobook, the artprint and a pin. Furthermore, Kreator are waiting for you on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube for news, tour dates and more of their flammable music. Because in the end as you might already know it’s hate above all, as long as it’s blasted by an undisputed thrashing institution like Kreator.

Best moments of the album: Hate Über Alles, Killer Of Jesus, Strongest Of The Strong, Conquer And Destroy and Demonic Future.

Worst moments of the album: Pride Comes Before The Fall.

Released in 2022 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Sergio Corbucci Is Dead 0:58
2. Hate Über Alles 3:48
3. Killer Of Jesus 4:05
4. Crush The Tyrants 4:10
5. Strongest Of The Strong 4:01
6. Become Immortal 4:23
7. Conquer And Destroy 4:45
8. Midnight Sun (feat. Sofia Portanet) 3:38
9. Demonic Future 4:43
10. Pride Comes Before The Fall 4:48
11. Dying Planet 6:52

Band members
Miland “Mille” Petrozza – vocals, guitar
Sami Yli-Sirniö – guitar
Frédéric Leclercq – bass
Jürgen “Ventor” Reil – drums

Guest musician
Sofia Portanet – female vocals on “Midnight Sun”

Album Review – Axel Rudi Pell / Lost XXIII (2022)

Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his henchmen are back with another thrilling album consisting of ten deeply melodic Hard Rock songs.

For more than thirty years, Bochum, Germany-based guitarist and songwriter Axel Rudi Pell has released new albums at regular intervals with his Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Axel Rudi Pell, and it couldn’t have been any different now in 2022 as Axel and his henchmen Johnny Gioeli on vocals, Volker Krawczak on bass, Ferdy Doernberg on keyboards and Bobby Rondinelli on drums have just unleashed upon us their 21st album to date, the excellent Lost XXIII, following up on their 2020 album Sign of the Times. Mixed by Thomas Geiger, produced by Axel Rudi Pell himself, mastered by Ulf Horbelt, and displaying a classic artwork by Thomas Ewerhard, Lost XXIII consists of ten deeply melodic Hard Rock songs showcasing a number of fast-paced highlights and surprising compositions, putting a huge smile on the faces of all diehard fans of such talented guitarist as well as to newcomers to his metallic world.

Lost XXIII Prequel, one of their trademark intros to pretty much all of their albums, sets the stage for Johnny and Axel to kick some ass in Survive, where Johnny flawlessly declaims the song’s catchy chorus (“Will we survive? / Who is our enemy? / Restrictions for all, can’t you see? / Will we survive? / Searching for destiny / Unchaining the souls to be free / Will we survive?”) while Bobby dictates the pace with his heavy and melodic beats. And let’s keep raising our horns to the dirty and thrilling Hard Rock by Axel and his crew in the dancing tune No Compromise, with Volker and Bobby doing an awesome job with their old school kitchen, whereas the electrifying riffs by Axel will keep penetrating deep inside your mind in Down on the Streets, while Ferdy brings forth those 70’s-inspired keys we all love so much. Johnny will make the hearts of Hard Rock lovers from all over the world melt with the deep, soulful ballad Gone with the Wind, all spiced up by the passionate keys by Ferdy, followed by Freight Train, another song that sounds like a heavier version of Bon Jovi in the band’s career, presenting a solid instrumental always boosted by Johnny’s soaring vocals.

Putting the pedal to the metal it’s time for the high-octane tune Follow the Beast, showcasing an incredibly addictive chorus (“Follow the beast / The end is in sight, the end’s coming near / Follow the beast / Dark clouds all over the sea / Follow the beast / There’s no way out, living in fear / Follow the beast / Stay close to me, don’t disappear”), with Bobby being on fire behind his drums while Axel embellishes the airwaves with his stylish riffs and solos. Then Ferdy’s gentle piano kicks off the romantic Fly with Me, where needless to say Johnny steals the spotlight with another striking vocal performance while Axel extracts sheer passion from his strings, proving metal bands don’t need to play at the speed of light to sound majestic. Johnny takes a break while his bandmates jam in great fashion in the instrumental tune The Rise of Ankhoor, spearheaded by the virtuoso Axel armed with his incendiary guitar, pumping us up for the title-track Lost XXIII, a traditional Axel Rudi Pell aria exhaling epicness, magic and darkness, with Ferdy’s keys nicely complementing Axel’s riffs in a bold and powerful feast full of melancholy beautifully transformed into words by Johnny, putting a stunning ending to the album.

Axel Rudi Pell Lost XXIII Deluxe Box Set

Such beautiful and pleasant album of our beloved Heavy Metal and Hard Rock can be appreciated in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if I were you I would add it to your collection of metal albums by clicking HERE, or even better, you can grab the superb Lost XXIII Deluxe Box Set from Nuclear Blast or from Napalm Records. In addition, Axel and his team of amazing musicians are waiting for you on Facebook and on Instagram, where you can stay updated on their tour dates, and based on the high quality of the music found in Lost XXIII their upcoming shows will surely be awesome. And just like that we have more of the thrilling music by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell to enjoy until the band releases new material, most probably in 2024, for our total delight.

Best moments of the album: Survive, No Compromise, Gone with the Wind and Follow the Beast.

Worst moments of the album: Freight Train.

Released in 2022 SPV/Steamhammer

Track listing
1. Lost XXIII Prequel (Intro) 1:47
2. Survive 5:02
3. No Compromise 4:57
4. Down on the Streets 4:46
5. Gone with the Wind 8:56
6. Freight Train 6:08
7. Follow the Beast 5:02
8. Fly with Me 5:42
9. The Rise of Ankhoor 3:48
10. Lost XXIII 8:35

Band members
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Axel Rudi Pell – guitar
Volker Krawczak – bass
Ferdy Doernberg – keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli – drums

Album Review – 4 Kings / The 2021 EP (2021)

Get ready for 13 minutes of a fast and loud fusion of Thrash Metal, Punk Rock and Hardcore made in Germany.

Playing a fusion of Thrash Metal, Punk Rock and Hardcore as fast and loud as those styles demand since the band’s inception in 2015 in the city of Köln (or Cologne, if you prefer), Germany, the five-piece act known as 4 Kings is back in action in 2021 with a brand new EP, simply titled The 2021 EP. Currently comprised of Seth on vocals, Martin and Jannes on the guitars, Marino on bass, and Marcel on drums, 4 Kings (and yes, I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a band of five musicians to be named like that) will smash your cranial skull with the four heavy and visceral tracks from their new EP, inviting us all to slam into the pit and, consequently, to develop that severe neck pain we all love so much after some good headbanging, leaving you absolutely eager for more after the EP’s 13 intense minutes are over.

Martin and Jannes begin slashing their stringed axes in Tantrum, being quickly joined by the raspy roars by Seth and the classic Hardcore beats by Marcel, resulting in an old school and straight to the point tune that kicks things off in style. Then adding hints of Death Metal to their core Thrash Metal sound, the quintet delivers the fulminating Winter’s Back, with Marino’s bass jabs and Marcel’s beats generating a massive atmosphere perfect for the crisp riffs and solos by the band’s guitar duo; whereas Bay Area Thrash riffs ignite the circle pit celebration titled Braindead, where Seth sounds even more enraged and demented on vocals supported by the classy backing vocals by his bandmates. It’s undoubtedly the most dynamic and diverse of all four songs, pointing to an exciting direction for the band. And last but not least, sinister sounds permeate the air in Under my Skin, with Martin and Jannes cutting our skin deep with their razor-edged riffs, sounding less intense than the other songs but absolutely vile and brutal just the way we like it.

If you want to give The 2021 EP a try you can find it in full on Spotify, but in order to properly support the underground you should purchase a copy of it from Amazon, and don’t forget to also give the band a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel to stay updated with all of their future releases. As aforementioned, The 2021 EP will offer your metallic ears a very good dosage of Thrash Metal infused with Hardcore and Punk Rock nuances, proving 4 Kings (or maybe I should say those five thrashers from Germany) are back and ready to rock no matter what for years to come in the name of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Winter’s Back and Braindead.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Tantrum 2:32
2. Winter’s Back 3:53
3. Braindead 3:20
4. Under my Skin 3:41

Band members
Seth – vocals
Martin – guitar
Jannes – guitar
Marino – bass
Marcel – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Başak Ylva

Between love and hate… I’m waiting for you daydreamer…

There’s nothing better than celebrating any type of anniversary with some classy metal music, and here at The Headbanging Moose it couldn’t be any different than that as we celebrate eight years of existence supporting the underground by paying a humble tribute to our beyond amazing metal chick of the month of October. Owner of a stunningly operatic voice, she’s the singer, songwriter and founder of a fantastic Symphonic Metal act that goes by the poetic name of Dream Ocean, as well as a professional Opera singer. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the multi-talented Başak Ylva, also known as Başak C., a woman that will surely put you in a trance with her powerful vocals and stylish music. Are you ready to join Basak and The Headbanging Moose on a very pleasant symphonic journey?

Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, but currently residing in Cologne, the largest city in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Başak began her singing career at the age of seven encouraged by her parents (although they were hoping she would sing traditional Turkish music) in the children’s choir of the TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) and continued it in 2003 as a soprano in the youth classical choir of the TRT. During her high school years, she initially pursued a scientific focus, which she followed in 2004 with a degree in business administration at the University of Istanbul, which she completed in 2008 as a bachelor’s degree. On the advice of her professors, she decided in 2008 to make music her profession and at the age of 23 she started her first bachelor’s degree for her operatic career with Prof. Ayşe Sezerman in Opera singing at the Music Conservatory of Istanbul University as a mezzosoprano. During her studies, she sang as a choir singer in various Opera projects such as Die Opernprobe and Dido and Aeneas, while in 2012 she sang for the first time in Europe at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival under the direction of Rolf Beck, later making her solo debut in 2013 as Susanna in La Nozze di Figaro.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in 2014 in the role of Giovanna Seymour from Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, she began her master’s degree at the University of Music and Dance in Cologne with Professor Mechthild Georg in 2015, where she sang in many different Opera projects such as the literary Opera of the HfMT Cologne, AscheMOND or The Fairy Queen (choir, Opera Wuppertal), Hansel and Gretel (witch, Opera studio of the HfMT Cologne), Dido and Aeneas (Sorceress, Festival of Early Music Knechtsteden) and The Clever Little Fox (Forester and Owl at the Theater Aachen). In addition to her operatic activities, she also performs musicals and film and crossover music with event orchestras. Furthermore, as a choir and solo singer, she was able to gain further experience with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Tan Dun and E. Oronzo Estrada in countries such as Brazil, China, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Poland and South Korea.

An accomplished mezzosoprano and vocal coach, an admirer of makeup, interior design, fashion, movies and video games, and a huge supporter of female freedom and empowerment, Başak started her metal music career with Dream Ocean in Turkey in 2009, having “moved” the band to Germany in 2015 to pursue her career as an Opera singer. As she’s the creative mind, lyricist and composer behind the band, it was becoming really hard for her to fly all the time back to Turkey due to the fact she had been working in Germany for three years already. Currently comprised of our beloved diva together with Oz Khan and Borna Matosic on the guitars, Sebastian Heuckmann on bass, Nils Kessen on drums and Sebastian Plück on the keyboards, the band has been on a roll for the past ten years, having already released the EP Daydreamer, in 2012, and the full-length albums Lost Love Symphony, in 2018, and The Missing Stone, now in 2021. Before that, the band was “just a name” according to Başak herself, as they were just entertaining themselves without investing into anything more serious at first. In other words, Dream Ocean was a hobby band where they tried some covers with friends every now and then in the studio, and then she started to write her own songs and got encouraged to take things a lot more serious due to all the positive feedback received. As they were all working in different jobs or studying, and due to their their limited financial situation, they couldn’t record and album and the band was put on hold from 2011 to 2016. In between that they still did concerts and wrote songs, until they were finally able to record their debut album. If you want to have a very good taste of the music by Dream Ocean, you can enjoy several of their official videos on YouTube including Eterna Espera, Uyan, Daydreamer, The Great Silence, Somewhere Untouched, Everstorm, Forever and Beyond The Greed, or you can also stream all of their creations on Spotify.

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As aforementioned, Başak is also a professional Opera singer, using even a different name for her metal career (Başak Ylva, instead of Başak C.) due to the prejudice that still exists in classical music. “I actually try to hide it. Because in the past, I was told that I am dressing too much femme fatale-like, very extravagant. Or that my hair was too red for singing in a church. Or I should not make my hair blond because I am Turkish. Or that I should not wear red lipstick because this was not a job to wear red lipstick. Therefore the classical music branch, especially in Germany, not so much in Sweden or Norway, but in Germany, it is terribly backwards and conservative. And several times, I got severely bullied because of that,” commented our diva. Still regarding her career as an Opera singer, she described the dark moments experienced during the COVID-19 lockdown in Germany. “We performed a couple of performances around September and October. But then the next lockdown came, and the theatre decided to not extend the contracts. And when I thought I was just starting my job and was thinking, I landed in a good opera house, and I could slowly build up my career. And now I was jobless! Like from top to zero. Of course, for me, this is another thing. When I don’t have a job, I am at risk to lose my visa. And I am also helping my brother in Turkey. So everything went down. And I got a big depression. I could not go out for 6 months. I did not sing for 6 months. And I just started to have therapy. Because everything was falling apart in my life. I mean, in everybody’s life, in Sebastian’s too. But for me, my visa and everything is depending on my job. I thought something like, my career has ended. I’m done. They will throw me out of the country.”

Although she doesn’t have any side projects aside from Dream Ocean, Başak mentioned in one of her interviews that she would love to do her own solo crossover project with folk and Celtic touches. However, due to her very busy agenda with Dream Ocean and her career as an Opera singer, she said it will be really tough to actually pursue that. Let’s say that she already does A LOT with both Dream Ocean and her classical career (as you can see in her beautiful repertoire), and that we’re all more than fine with “just” those two projects. And lastly, regarding her influences and idols in music and what inspires her the most to compose her stunning creations, Başak said her introduction to Symphonic Metal happened with Nightwish, plus a local Turkish band called Almôra (which unfortunately split up in 2009). She said she used to listen to those bands and sing along with them, and the final result was so good that later on Almôra found her recordings online and invited her to sing with them in front of a real audience. Moreover, she also expressed her passion for Opera as well, saying that in the end her distinct influences end up complementing each other. “I love Opera because it has another challenging side and gives another satisfaction such as learning very hard, complicated music and then singing it with perfect technique. One is for technicality and the other is for my creativity.” Having said all that, how about we stop right here and go listen to the amazing creations by our metal diva and her Dream Ocean, and also enjoy her awesome performances as an Opera singer? I’m sure you’ll love every single second of her music and get addicted to her distinguished voice.

Başak Ylva’s Official Facebook page
Başak Ylva’s Official Instagram
Başak Ylva’s Official YouTube channel
Dream Ocean’s Official Facebook page
Dream Ocean’s Official Instagram
Dream Ocean’s Official Twitter
Dream Ocean’s Official YouTube channel

“I just want people to know that musicians and the audience – we complete a whole and we’re the same. Having the same struggles and happiness, the same problems and same solutions – one may find the way easier while the other needs to take a second look. But in the end, we meet at the same place, which is the concert hall. There we want to reach them, get to know them, and for them to get to know us. To see that we mean what we play and sing with our words, and while we do this we want to be speaking their words. Things maybe they could never say out loud. We just want people to know that we desire to tell stories and meet with people who ARE the heroes of those stories. We hope we can do this.” – Başak Ylva

Album Review – Motorjesus / Hellbreaker (2021)

Let’s drive through the fires of hell together with one of the best bands from the German rock and metal scene to the sound of their fantastic newborn album.

4.5rating

motorjesus-hellbreaker-2021Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to rev up your engines once again to the sound of the first-class, undisputed fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock brought forth by Mönchengladbach, Germany-based rockers Motorjesus, who have just unleashed upon us all their brand new studio album, beautifully titled Hellbreaker. Following up on the success of their 2014 album Electric Revelation and their most recent opus Race to Resurrection, released in 2018, the band comprised of Chris “Howling” Birx on vocals, Andreas “Andy” Peters on lead guitars and Oliver Beck on drums, supported by their buddies Patrick Wassenberg on rhythm guitars and  Dominik Kwasny on bass, truly stepped up their game in Hellbreaker, offering fans of heavy music the perfect soundtrack for crossing the fires of the underworld in the best rockin’ style together with the band.

A cinematic start is quickly joined by the scorching riffs by Andreas and Patrick in the electrifying feast Drive Through Fire, before Chris comes ripping with his trademark, soaring vocals, inviting us all to hit the road in the name of Rock N’ Roll, and if you think that was awesome wait until you listen to the Motörhead-infused hymn Battlezone, with Oliver smashing his drums in great fashion accompanied by the rumbling bass by Dominik. Put differently, this song will sound beyond perfect if played live, and Motorjesus keep driving way over the speed limit in the superb Hellbreaker, where Chris beautifully sings the song’s rockin’ lyrics (“This is the meltdown / Generation of the steel / When the worlds collide, together / Between the angels and the hell machine”) while his bandmates not only kick some ass with their sonic weapons but also with their spot-on backing vocals. Then it’s time for a Southern Rock and Metal party together with the boys in Beyond the Grave, a neck-breaking tune showcasing the dirty, furious riffage by Andreas and Patrick supported by Dominik and his classic bass jabs, whereas putting the pedal to the metal once again the saviors of Rock N’ Roll will put us to dance in Dead Rising, where all band members are in absolute sync while Chris takes the lead with his visceral vocal lines.

You better have some inner fuel left as the band’s rockin’ energy keeps flowing nonstop in Car Wars, another amazing tune by those German rockers where the riffs and solos by the band’s guitar duo are absolutely thrilling, also presenting hints of our good old Rockabilly; and the thunderous bass by Dominik kicks off the Heavy Metal mid-tempo extravaganza Firebreather, as melodic and groovy as it can be, being therefore perfect for some headbanging, beer drinking and horns raising, not to mention its stylish lyrics (“Got no place to call my own / Another journey starts now / As we’re marching on / On the path that leads, / but it’s too soon / You’re on the crossroads to your doom”). More of their trademark Hard Rock is presented to us in the form of Lawgiver, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline with Andreas and Patrick once again stealing the spotlight with their refined axes, while Black Hole Overload is a heavier and denser creation by Motorjesus where the band’s stringed trio has all the support they need from Oliver’s pounding drums to shine with their Stoner Metal sounds. They still have enough stamina for another round of their frantic Rock N’ Roll in Back to the Bullet, once again inspired by the furious music by Motörhead, with Chris sounding truly enraged form start to fish for our total delight, flowing into the acoustic and smooth outro The Outrun, soothing our souls after such avalanche of incendiary heavy music.

motorjesus-2021I guess I don’t need to say that Hellbreaker, which is by the way available in full on Spotify, is a mandatory addition to your rock and metal collection, right? It’s undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year, and it will surely inspire you to bang your head and sing along with the band every time you hit the highway. Hence, don’t forget to give the guys from Motorjesus a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to stream more of their gasoline-infused creations on Spotify, and above all that, to buy or stream your favorite version of Hellbreaker by clicking HERE or HERE. The one and only “Motorjesus”, perhaps the coolest guy you’ll ever find out there, is ready to break through the fires of hell armed with his undisputed Rock N’ Roll. Having said that, what are you waiting for to join him in his awesome adventure? Simply hit play, raise your horns, and enjoy the ride.

Best moments of the album: Battlezone, Hellbreaker, Dead Rising, Car Wars and Back to the Bullet.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 AFM Records

Track listing  
1. Drive Through Fire 5:52
2. Battlezone 3:36
3. Hellbreaker 4:07
4. Beyond the Grave 3:40
5. Dead Rising 3:47
6. Car Wars 3:35
7. Firebreather 4:28
8. Lawgiver 5:05
9. Black Hole Overload 4:35
10. Back to the Bullet 3:51
11. The Outrun 1:55

Band members
Chris “Howling” Birx – vocals
Andreas “Andy” Peters – lead guitars
Oliver Beck – drums

Guest musicians
Patrick Wassenberg – rhythm guitars (live/session)
Dominik Kwasny – bass (live/session)