Album Review – Korpiklaani / Jylhä (2021)

The Finnish clan of the wilderness is ready to put us all to dance around the firepit once again with their majestic fusion of folk elements and heavy sounds.

Forged in the already  distant year of 1993 (first as Shamaani Duo and later as Shaman), Finnish Folk Metal institution Korpiklaani is more than ready to put us all to dance around the firepit once again with their fusion of folk elements and heavy sounds found in their eleventh studio album, titled Jylhä, and let me tell you there couldn’t be a better name to describe such awesome record. Jylhä is the Finnish word for “majestic”, which is exactly what frontman Jonne Järvelä, guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi, bassist Jarkko Aaltonen, violinist Tuomas Rounakari, accordionist Sami Perttula and drummer Samuli Mikkonen have to offer throughout the album’s 13 original compositions in the impressive span of one hour of music, all embraced by the beautiful artwork by Finnish designer Jan “Örkki” Yrlund (Darkgrove Design), resulting in one of the most sonically diverse records they’ve ever written and, therefore, proving why they’re considered one of the most important names of the genre alongside giants the likes of Finntroll, Eluveitie, Ensiferum and Turisas.

The tribal beats by Samuli kick off the dark and folk Verikoira (“bloodhound”), a headbanging, beer-drinking tune by those old school Finnish guys with the violin by Tuomas and the accordion by Sami taking us back on a journey to a distant time, whereas it’s time to slam into the circle pit and drink some vodka in the name of Folk Metal in Niemi (“the cape” or “peninsula”), a song about the triple murder in Lake Bodom in 1960 that shocked the whole Finland, with Jonne leading his horde with his inebriate vocals while the slashing guitar by Cane adds some extra spice to the overall result. Then we have Leväluhta (“algae”), with its name taken from a spring in Isokyrö where remains of approximately a hundred Iron Age bodies have been found buried, highly inspired by Finnish traditional folk music where Samuli’s beats dictate the rhythm accompanied by the wicked accordion by Sami; followed by Mylly (“the mill” or “grinder”), the story of a man’s journey to the mill who on his way sees a figure sitting on a fence, a “devil” with a hoof as a  foot. Musically speaking, it’s another entertaining round of their fusion of Folk and Heavy Metal where Jonne nicely declaims the song’s dark words.

A melancholic and pensive intro led by Jonne’s introspective vocals evolves into a dark and metallic Folk Metal extravaganza titled Tuuleton (“windless”), showcasing the razor-edge riffs by Cane in constant paradox with the crying violin by Tuomas, while in Sanaton Maa (“wordless land”), inspired by a legend known at least in Kaukola and Valkeala in Finland, a beautiful melody flawlessly flows from their unstoppable riffs, violin and accordion, resulting in a Folk Metal headbanger that will please all fans of the band. The violin by Tuomas keeps crying in Kiuru (“lark”), not as inspiring nor as vibrant as its predecessors despite the decent job done by Jonne with his trademark raspy vocals and the always stylish riffs by Cane; and Cane continues to extract electrifying sounds from his stringed axe in Miero, showcasing elements from Doom and Melancholic Metal carefully inserted in their traditional Folk Metal, therefore exhaling sadness while Jonne is effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals.

Get ready to prance around the fire pit together with the boys from Korpiklaani in the fun Pohja (“base” or “ground”), where Samuli is on fire with his crushing drums while Cane and Jarkko make our heads tremble with their riffs and bass jabs, not to mention Tuomas’ incendiary violin solo. Then more traditional, old school Finnish music in the form of Folk Metal is offered to us all in Huolettomat (“careless”), keeping the atmosphere light and exciting while Jonne’s vocals sound like a drunk minstrel from the past; and never tired of drinking and partying around the fire, the band brings to our ears the straightforward Anolan Aukeat, with Samuli and Jarkko providing Tuomas and Sami a strong base for their refined violin and accordion sounds. Their second to last display of insanity and booze comes as the semi-acoustic extravaganza titled Pidot (“feast”), which should work really well if played live mainly because of how much fans of the band love this type of dancing tune, and last but not least Korpiklaani fire the grim and heavy Juuret (“roots”), presenting their usual dexterity and musical roots infused with pensive and sluggish sounds, changing its shape and form as the music progresses and with Cane, Tuomas and Sami displaying all their passion for folk music.

In a nutshell, we can rest assured that as long as the Finnish clan of the wilderness is among us, our good old Folk Metal will remain alive and kicking, with albums like Jylhä beautifully showing how majestic and fun Scandinavian Metal (as well as all other styles from the north) can be. Hence, don’t forget to give the guys from Korpiklaani a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel and to search for them on Spotify for more of their first-class music, and of course to buy your copy of Jylhä by clicking HERE​ or HERE. Every single time Korpiklaani release a new album, you know it’s time to stretch our legs and arms, grab some cold beer, start the fire and get ready to spend hours and hours dancing around the firepit, celebrating the Scandinavian culture and, above all, our deep passion for heavy music together with those unstoppable Finnish metallers.

Best moments of the album: Niemi, Pohja and Huolettomat.

Worst moments of the album: Kiuru.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Verikoira 6:19
2. Niemi 3:42
3. Leväluhta 3:50
4. Mylly 4:43
5. Tuuleton 5:50
6. Sanaton Maa 4:29
7. Kiuru 5:26
8. Miero 4:21
9. Pohja 4:28
10. Huolettomat 4:16
11. Anolan Aukeat 3:05
12. Pidot 3:47
13. Juuret 6:19

Band members
Jonne Järvelä – vocals, mandolin, hurdy gurdy, violafon, shaman drum, djembe, flute
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars, backing vocals
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion
Samuli Mikkonen – drums

Album Review – Enslaved / Utgard (2020)

Once again inspired by Norse mythology, one of Norway’s most prominent bands of all time returns with more of their early Black Metal roots infused with experimentations with 70’s Progressive Rock.

Since their inception in the distant year of 1991, Bergen, Norway-based Progressive Black/Viking Metal horde Enslaved has continued to push their sound into new territories and remain fresh and relevant with each one of their records, which is also the case with their brand new opus entitled Utgard, the fifteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Currently comprised of vocalist and bassist Grutle Kjellson, guitarists Arve Isdal and Ivar Bjørnson, keyboardist Håkon Vinje and drummer Iver Sandøy, the band’s music once again draws heavily on the Viking cultural and religious heritage of their home country for inspiration, with most of the band’s lyrics relating to Norse mythology. Embraced by a somber artwork by Norwegian artist Truls Espedal, Utgard is titled after a location in Norse mythology, even including some Norse lyrics and song titles, while at the same time displaying the band’s early Black Metal roots infused with their experimentations with Progressive Rock from the 70’s, resulting in a very entertaining album for both diehard fans of the band and newcomers to their Viking realm.

Ritualistic vocalizations ignite the flammable and melodic Fires In The Dark, before the acoustic guitars by Arve and Ivar take us to desolate, bitterly cold Norwegian lands in a beautiful depiction of their modern-day Progressive Black Metal. Furthermore, Grutle, Håkon and Iver have a healthy vocal duel with their respective harsh roars and serene clean vocals, increasing the song’s taste considerably. Then leaning towards their more classic Black Metal, but of course also providing their fans elements from their current musical stage, we have Jettegryta, where Iver is on fire with his blast beats and intricate fills while Grutle growls and gnarls in a dark and captivating manner; followed by Sequence, more rhythmic and less visceral than its predecessors, with Grutle’s gnarls being once again effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals. However, the guitar solos seem a bit disconnected from the rest of the music, resulting in a sound that’s not as exciting as expected in the end. Fortunately, in Homebound the band gets back on track, offering our ears beautiful, poetic words vociferated rabidly by Grutle (“When gold blinds / I will see beyond the false torches / The howling will guide us / Walking the plains between worlds / When houses fall / I will be the pillar in the hail / Unmoving we travel / Crossing oceans in mythological dreams”) while the music remains imposing and vibrant from start to finish.

In Utgarđr, a cryptic, hypnotizing interlude presenting deep vocalizations, we face freezing background sounds until Enslaved come ripping once again with Urjotun, blending their raw sonority with modernized and even electronic sounds and tones from 80’s pop music. As a matter of fact, the final result is truly exciting, as if it was taken from a cult action movie from that same decade. And strident riffs and the pounding drums by Iver kick off the grim and furious Flight Of Thought And Memory, a lecture in contemporary Progressive Black and Viking Metal alternating between obscure savagery and melancholic passages, or in other words, a very detailed, multi-layered composition tailored for admirers of the genre. Back to a more straightforward musicality the quintet offers us all the melodic Storms Of Utgard, with the guitars by both Arve and Ivar permeating the air in great fashion, boosted by the song’s galloping beats and celestial keys, and they put a gentle and inspiring closure to the album with Distant Seasons, a semi-acoustic ballad where we’re treated to serene clean vocals infused with tribal and primeval nuances, featuring spot-on backing vocals by guests Inger Sunneva Peersen and Sonja Elisabeth Peerson.

We must all admit it’s a real pleasure to witness Enslaved experimenting and developing new sounds album after album, and in Utgard, which by the way is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, let’s say they nailed it, offering us all a well-balanced mix of their more violent roots with their present progressiveness and harmony. Hence, don’t forget to give those Norwegian metallers a shout on Facebook, to follow them on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, and to purchase Utgard from their own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all location where you can find the album), and may Enslaved keep on rocking like there’s no tomorrow through the realms of Viking Metal and Progressive Rock for many decades to come in their gorgeous and mythical homeland.

Best moments of the album: Jettegryta, Homebound and Flight Of Thought And Memory.

Worst moments of the album: Sequence.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Fires In The Dark 5:59
2. Jettegryta 4:56
3. Sequence 6:39
4. Homebound 5:29
5. Utgarđr 1:51
6. Urjotun 4:21
7. Flight Of Thought And Memory 6:22
8. Storms Of Utgard 4:38
9. Distant Seasons 4:31

Band members
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass, keyboards
Arve Isdal – lead guitars, acoustic guitars, backing vocals on “Fires In The Dark”
Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, acoustic guitars, keyboards, effects, backing vocals on “Fires In The Dark”
Håkon Vinje – keyboards, piano, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy – drums, percussion, keyboards, effects, clean vocals

Guest musicians
Martin Horntveth – percussion, glockenspiel, rototoms, tubular bells, keyboards and programming on “Sequence”
Inger Sunneva Peersen – backing vocals on “Distant Seasons”
Sonja Elisabeth Peerson – backing vocals on “Distant Seasons”

Album Review – Sepultura / Quadra (2020)

A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal, masterfully crafted by the best Brazilian metal band of all time.

In case you’re form another dimension and haven’t listened to Quadra yet, let me tell you that the fifteenth studio effort by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal titans Sepultura is much more than just another metal album. With a concept based on Quadrivium, which are the four subjects or arts (namely arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy), taught after teaching the trivium, Quadra, meaning “four ways” from Latin, is a 12-track album divided into four sections of three songs each. The first being Thrash Metal songs based on the classic Sepultura sound; the second section is inspired by the groove-percussion oriented sound the band explored in Roots; the third part has more progressive songs inspired by the track Iceberg Dances from Machine Messiah, albeit not all are instrumental tracks; and side four features slow-paced and melodic tracks similar to the song Machine Messiah. Add to that the undeniable talent by the band’s four horsemen Derrick Green on vocals, Andreas Kisser on the guitars, Paulo Jr. on bass and Eloy Casagrande on drums, and there you have the band’s most successful record since 1998’s Against.

Recorded and produced by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden, and featuring a bold artwork by Christiano Menezes from Darkside Books revolving around the meaning of the number four, Quadra is also the Portuguese term for sports court. “We all come from different Quadras. The countries, all nations with their borders and traditions; culture, religions, laws, education and a set of rules where life takes place. Our personalities, what we believe, how we live, how we build societies and relationships, all depends on these set of rules that we grew up with. Concepts of creation, gods, death and ethics. Money, we are enslaved by this concept. Who’s poor and who’s rich, that’s how we measure people and material goods. Regardless of your Quadra you need money to survive, the prime rule to play this game called life. Hence the coin. The coin is forged with the senator skull, who represents the set of rules and laws we live by; the world map on his head delimiting the borders of all nations, imaginary lines separating people by concepts of race and the sacred,” explained Andreas about the concept behind the album art.

Tribal beats and futuristic sounds ignite the brutal and groovy Isolation, an old school Thrash Metal chant with Sepultura’s unique twist, where Derrick already tells us all this album is going to be fantastic through his enraged roars, whereas Means to an End is another ass-kicking, trademark creation by the quartet with the talented Eloy bringing tons of progressiveness and fury to the musicality, while Paulo continues to be precise and groovy as usual on bass. And there’s no sign of slowing down in Last Time, where Derrick and Eloy represent the brutality in the music while Andreas showcases his infinite talent as a shredder as well as with his fantastic solos; and adding primeval elements and beats from the band’s cultural background it’s time for one more round of savagery and groove united in the name of metal in Capital Enslavement, with Andreas slashing his strings beautifully accompanied by the unstoppable Eloy on drums. Back to a more traditional sound blending Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal, Andreas, Paulo and Eloy generate a bold and reverberating atmosphere in Ali, sounding beyond perfect for Derrick to fire his beastly growls.

Raging Void is a mid-tempo, neck-breaking tune led by Eloy and his pounding drums where Derrick is effectively supported by all backing vocals, while Andreas keep stunning us all with his whimsical guitar. Then  a sensational acoustic intro by Andreas sets the stage for an austere and multi-layered metal feast entitled Guardians of Earth (which has one of the best and most touching official videos of the past decade), with all choirs and orchestrations making the whole song even more impactful and thrilling; followed by The Pentagram, bringing to our ears a classic Death Metal sonority infused with endless progressiveness and rage. Furthermore, Andreas is superb on the guitars as usual, while Paulo brings the groove with his minimalist but precise bass jabs, resulting in an excellent instrumental composition. After that we have Autem, uniting the past, present and perhaps the future of Sepultura by alternating between old school thrashing moments and the obscurity and hatred from Death and even Black Metal. Needless to say, Eloy and Andreas are in absolute sync throughout the entire song, and after the brief but beautiful acoustic intermission Quadra, it’s time for a darker, more introspective side of Derek in Agony of Defeat, where once again all background choirs and orchestrations bring a touch of finesse to the overall result, albeit not as majestic as the rest of the album, though. And last but not least, the delicate, sexy vocals by guest Emmily Barreto make a superb paradox with the raspy growls by Derrick in Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering, with the music sounding grim, melodic and vibrant form start to finish, or in other words, a great composition showcasing the band’s endless creativity and passion for heavy music.

After all is said and done, it’s more than fair to give such amazing album of heavy music four of our rating skulls, especially as the album revolves around the various meaning of the number four, right? In addition, in case you haven’t done so yet, I recommend you follow the best and most influential band of the Brazilian metal scene of all time on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their official YouTube channel for more of their unique and heavy-as-hell songs and videos, and of course purchase or stream Quadra by clicking HERE. When Derrick was asked during an interview with BraveWords “Which Sepultura album are you most proud of?”, he replied, “Definitely Quadra. It’s the latest album, and we really worked so hard on it. We have so many different elements from the past that have helped us get to here – where we are at right now. So, without a doubt in my mind, this is the strongest album that we’ve done together. And I’m extremely proud of it.” I guess we must all agree with Derrick that Quadra is hands down the most detailed, diverse and electrifying album of his era fronting Sepultura, raising the flag of Brazilian metal higher and higher for the delight of all of their loyal and diehard fans.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Capital Enslavement, Guardians of Earth and Fear and Pain, Chaos, Suffering.

Worst moments of the album: Agony of Defeat.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Isolation 4:56
2. Means to an End 4:39
3. Last Time 4:27
4. Capital Enslavement 3:40
5. Ali 4:12
6. Raging Void 3:57
7. Guardians of Earth 5:11
8. The Pentagram 5:20
9. Autem 4:06
10. Quadra 0:46
11. Agony of Defeat 5:51
12. Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering 4:09

Alive in Brazil Digipack and Earbook bonus disc (recorded live at “Audio” in São Paulo, Brazil on June 20, 2015)
1. Choke 3:46
2. Convicted in Life 3:31
3. Sepulnation 4:41
4. Apes of God 3:22
5. Sepultura Under My Skin 3:45
6. Manipulation of Tragedy 4:19
7. The Vatican 6:34
8. Cut-Throat 2:55

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Bruna Zenti – violin
Kadu Fernandes – percussion on “Capital Enslavement”
Renato Zanuto – keyboards, orchestrations on “Isolation”, “Means to an End”, “Capital Enslavement” and “Guardians of Earth”, choir arrangements
Francesco Ferrini – orchestrations on “Last Time” and “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”
Robertinho Rodrigues – acoustic bass
Chorus Mysticus – choir vocals
Jens Bogren – backing vocals
Paulo Cyrino – effects on “Ali”
Gunnar Misgeld – choir arrangements on “Isolation”, “Last Time”, “Guardians of Earth” and “Agony of Defeat”
Emmily Barreto – female vocals on “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”

Album Review – Carcass / Despicable EP (2020)

The trailblazers of Goregrind, Grindcore and Melodic Death Metal are back with a four-track collection of songs serving as a precursor to their upcoming 2021 album.

The legendary Liverpool, UK-based institution Carcass has released several classic albums over the years and changed the trajectory of Extreme Metal with each consecutive release, with albums like Reek of Putrefaction and Heartwork creating the template for Goregrind, Grindcore and Melodic Death Metal. Now in 2020, seven years after the release of the excellent Surgical Steel (and six years after the EP Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel), the band currently comprised of Jeff Walker on vocals and bass, Bill Steer and Tom Draper on the guitars, and Daniel Wilding on drums is about to release a new EP entitled Despicable, a four-track collection of songs serving as a precursor to the band’s upcoming 2021 full-length album and, above all, a bold and gory statement that those four guys still have a lot of fuel to burn and blood to spill with their wicked creations.

Just hit play and when The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue begins you’ll know it’s goddamn Carcass form the very first guitar note, with Bill and Tom sharpening their axes for a Grindcore and Death Metal onrush that’s about to start while Jeff snarls demonically as usual, also full of breaks and variations effectively inserted throughout this infernal tune. Led by the classy beats by Daniel, the quartet fires another solid, headbanging creation beautifully titled The Long and Winding Bier Road, where Jeff’s inhumane gnarls get deeper and more enraged, with their guitars showcasing more of their trademark riffage; and one more round of darkened riffs, devilish growls and rhythmic beats fills our avid ears in Under the Scalpel Blade, where it becomes clear the band is focusing a lot more on shaping up their melody rather than pure speed and heaviness. However, it’s when they accelerate their pace that things get really exciting (at least for old school fans like myself). Lastly, the band’s guitar duo keeps extracting strident, razor-edged sounds form their guitars in Slaughtered in Soho, sounding very progressive at times while Jeff continues to haunt our souls with his demon-like barks and vociferations.

I must admit Despicable is much better than what I was expecting, a really entertaining EP of modern-day Melodic Death Metal infused with Grindcore elements, and if this is the direction Carcass are taking with their music I can’t wait to see what they’ll bring into being in 2021 with their seventh full-length opus. Having said that, you can add Despicable to your demonic collection by clicking HERE or HERE, and keep an eye on the band’s official Facebook page and on Instagram for news about their upcoming album and, of course, for their tour dates as soon as all this madness is over. Let’s all hope 2021 is a much better year than this nasty 2020, and that bands like Carcass keep inspiring us all, “despicable” human beings, to slam into the circle pit while they pulverize our ears with their refined technique and aggressiveness for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue 6:00
2. The Long and Winding Bier Road 4:21
3. Under the Scalpel Blade 3:55
4. Slaughtered in Soho 4:37

Band members
Jeff Walker – vocals, bass
Bill Steer – guitars, backing vocals
Tom Draper – guitars
Daniel Wilding – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Obsidian (2020)

The overlords of doom return with another majestic album, exploring the unknown and opening new horizons with their awe-inspiring music.

Still reigning supreme as the overlords of doom after over three decades on the road, Halifax, England-based Doom Metal act Paradise Lost never gets tired of stunning us all with their refined hybrid of old school Doom and Death Metal with 80’s and contemporary Gothic Metal and Rock, proving why they’ve maintained their relevance in the world of heavy music without disappointing their loyal fans not even once in their vast career. Now in 2020 it’s time for frontman Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen to darken the skies once again with Obsidian, their sixteenth studio album and the follow-up to their latest releases Medusa, from 2017, and The Plague Within, released in 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Orgone Studios, with additional recordings done at Black Planet, and featuring a cryptic artwork by British artist Adrian Baxter, Obsidian might not be considered a classic yet like Gothic, Icon or Draconian Times, but I’m sure the album will reach its deserved cult status soon based on the amazing quality of the music found throughout its 47 astonishing minutes (plus the extra 10 minutes from the deluxe edition).

The gorgeous guest violin by Spanish musician Alicia Nurho adds a touch of finesse to the opening track Darker Thoughts, led by the always enfolding, deep vocals by Nick, sounding utterly grandiose, epic and doomed, and with Waltteri displaying all his refined skills behind his drum set. Then in Fall from Grace the band keeps slamming our heads mercilessly with their crushing riffage and damned beats, all led by Nick’s obscure roars while Steve makes the earth rumble with his bass (not to mention Greg’s hypnotizing solo), whereas Steve kicks off the 80’s-inspired dark tune titled Ghosts, enhanced by a brilliant performance by Nick with his Stygian vocals while his bandmates bring endless groove and electricity to the song from start to finish. And bringing forward contemplative lyrics that reek of modern-day poetry (“I’m tired of dreams, I’m tired of almost everything / Dreams deceive and living never lasts. / Too tired to sleep, denial of grief awakes my sins / Too weak to breathe, from living in deaths hands”), The Devil Embraced is another lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal spearheaded by Waltteri’s classic drums and the strident riffs by both Greg and Aaron.

Ominous sounds embellish the ambience in the also somber and heavy-as-hell Forsaken, where Nick is once again flawless on vocals supported by the slashing guitars by Greg and Aaron, while Steve and Waltteri sound absolutely thunderous with their respective instruments. After such dense tune, it’s time to bang our heads in darkness to the sound of Serenity, a hammering fusion of Doom and Death Metal tailored for admirers of the genre, also presenting some welcome breaks and variations, tons of progressiveness and the always macabre roars by Nick, followed by Ending Days, where Alicia returns with her gentle violin while the band gets back to a more serene and melancholic vibe, showcasing all their versatility and talent. Furthermore, the impact of the guitars and drums combined to the overall result is majestic, which can also be said about Hope Dies Young, featuring backing vocals by American singer Heather Mackintosh (Tapping the Vein), a very pleasant and enfolding sonority, and another round of their unique and stylish lyrics (“How could you know? / As pure as driven snow / Through a winter of descent / The splintered argument / Such a withering lament / Hopes will die young / Hopes will die young now”). The last song of the regular version of Obsidian, titled Ravenghast, brings to our ears a classic Paradise Lost sound, reminding me of some of their old school compositions from Draconian Times, with the level of heaviness and melancholy being beautifully insane while Waltteri blasts his drums in the best Doom Metal way possible and Nick fires his deep, demonic growls. If you decide to purchase the deluxe edition of Obsidian you’ll face the bonus tracks Hear the Night and Defiler, both very solid and classy Doom Metal compositions presenting all the elements we learned to love form the band’s distinguished music, making it totally worth the investment.

I guess I don’t need to ask you to take a good listen at Obsidian in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the band, and of course don’t forget to keep the fires of doom burning by purchasing your copy of the album by clicking HERE, and to follow Paradise Lost on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you search for the meaning of “obsidian” online, you’ll find out it’s a volcanic glass that’s supposed to be truth-enhancing, a strongly protective stone which forms a shield against negativity, blocking psychic attack and absorbing negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension, stimulating growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. There couldn’t be a better representation of the new album by Paradise Lost, as their brand new opus is indeed a work-of-art perfect for heightening our senses and opening our minds and hearts for the glory of doom.

Best moments of the album: Darker Thoughts, Ghosts, Serenity and Ravenghast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Darker Thoughts 5:46
2. Fall from Grace 5:42
3. Ghosts 4:35
4. The Devil Embraced 6:08
5. Forsaken 4:30
6. Serenity 4:46
7. Ending Days 4:36
8. Hope Dies Young 4:02
9. Ravenghast 5:30

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
10. Hear the Night 5:34
11. Defiler 4:45

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead & rhythm guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musicians
Alicia Nurho – violin on “Darker Thoughts” and “Ending Days”
Heather Mackintosh – backing vocals on “Hopes Die Young”

Album Review – Lamb of God / Lamb of God (2020)

Re-energized and unrelenting, Richmond, Virginia’s own Groove Metal titans are finally back after five years with their pulverizing eighth studio album.

At long last, five years after the release of the excellent VII: Sturm und Drang, Richmond, Virginia-based Groove Metal titans Lamb of God are finally back with a brand new album self-titled Lamb of God, the band’s eighth studio effort, for our vulgar delectation. Produced by Josh Wilbur (Korn, Megadeth, Gojira, Trivium), the fact that their new effort is self-titled is a testament to the band’s pride and satisfaction with these songs and this period in their creativity, showcasing a true and healthy collaboration between frontman Randy Blythe, guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton, bassist John Campbell and newcomer Art Cruz on drums, a re-energized and unrelenting lineup that’s more than ready to lay claim to the metal throne. “Putting only our name on it is a statement,” Mr. Randy Blythe said. “This is Lamb of God. Here and now,” expressing in words all the rage, groove and darkness found in each of the album’s ten original and extremely acid songs.

An eerie start evolves into a pounding Groove Metal feast in the opening track Memento Mori, where Willie and Mark and infernal with their riffs, inspiring us all to slam into the pit like true metal maniacs while Randy darkly vociferates the song’s psychological lyrics (“The hardest hour, the cruelest sign / I’m waking up from this wretched lie / I fight it the same, don’t waste this day / Wake up, wake up, wake up / Memento mori”), whereas in Checkmate we’re treated to more of their modern-day, austere words (“Watch the gears grind off their teeth / The screeching halt machine digging heels in disbelief / Two reactional identities, opposing policies / A bait and switch routine”), while Art brings forward all his fury and dexterity on drums, proving why he was chosen to take the band’s drumming duties. And in Gears, my favorite song of the entire album, Randy sounds inhumane with his enraged roars accompanied by Art’s pounding beats and the groovy and thunderous bass by John, resulting in a very intricate, multi-layered and thrilling aria from start to finish.

Speeding things up a notch, the quintet fires the neck-breaking, pulverizing tune Reality Bath, bringing an amazing shredding blasted by the band’s guitar duo while Randy alternates between his trademark growls and dark, eerie clean vocals, followed by New Colossal Hate, keeping the album at an insane level of wrath and violence. In other words, it’s another song perfect for jumping up and down with the band, with John and Art making the foundations of the earth tremble with their hellish kitchen, and they continue to crush our heads with the wicked and visceral Resurrection Man, one of the heaviest and most obscure of all tracks, with Art hammering his drums fiercely while Rady fires deep, vicious roars nonstop. Then featuring guest vocalist Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), the band delivers more of their hybrid of Groove and Thrash Metal in Poison Dream, with the sick riffage by Willie and Mark adding an extra kick to the overall result, not to mention the song’s vibrant and aggressive vibe.

The one and only Mr. Chuck Billy (Testament) lends his thunderous vocals to the high-octane Groove and Thrash Metal hurricane entitled Routes, sounding very melodic and at the same time as vile and caustic as possible, offering our avid ears their usual frantic beats, rabid screams and strident guitar solos, and you better get ready for another round of insanity and heaviness spearheaded by Randy and his demented screams in Bloodshot Eyes, also bringing some introspective moments while John and Art deliver endless groove through their unstoppable weapons. And last but not least, Lamb of God fire one last breath of first-class, demolishing metal music entitled On the Hook, with all of its crisp and thunderous riffs and bass jabs being nicely spiced up by Art’s rhythmic beats, uniting the heaviest elements from Thrash and Death Metal to the band’s core essence and, therefore, putting an amazingly heavy and explosive end to the album.

You can follow Lamb of God on Facebook and on Instagram (if you haven’t done so yet, of course) to stay up to date with everything that surrounds the band, including their tour dates, new songs and videos, news and other nice-to-know details, but I highly recommend you invest a small amount of your hard-earned money into their brand new album by clicking HERE and selecting your favorite version of it, as this is among the best metal albums of the year hands down. It might have taken a little longer than expected for Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen to released their new album due to all this horrifying and tedious COVID-19 pandemic, but at least the wait is over and, if you look on the bright side of life, all the wait was relatively worth it, making us insanely eager to see what Lamb of God had to offer us all in such obscure times. Needless to say, they didn’t disappoint at all, with their self-titled installment certainly fueling their inner selves to keep composing and delivering more of their unique Groove Metal for many years to come. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for metal concerts to be back on, buy your tickets to see Lamb of God live, and witness them kicking some serious ass with both their classics and the new fulminating songs from their new album, just the way we like it.

Best moments of the album: Memento Mori, Gears, Reality Bath and Routes.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Epic Records/Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Memento Mori 5:48
2. Checkmate 4:30
3. Gears 3:55
4. Reality Bath 4:32
5. New Colossal Hate 4:30
6. Resurrection Man 4:59
7. Poison Dream 4:57
8. Routes 3:04
9. Bloodshot Eyes 3:57
10. On the Hook 4:30

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Art Cruz – drums

Guest musicians
Jamey Jasta – vocals on “Poison Dream”
Chuck Billy – vocals on “Routes”

Album Review – Burning Witches / Dance with the Devil (2020)

The witches are back to mesmerize us all and put us to dance with them forever and ever to the sound of their incendiary Heavy Metal.

Swiss Heavy/Power Metal outfit Burning Witches is by far one of the hottest exports from the Alpine Republic since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2017, receiving a very positive feedback from fans and critics from all over the world. Formed in 2015 in Brugg, a Swiss municipality and a town in the canton of Aargau, the band currently comprised of Dutch newcomer Laura Guldemond on vocals (replacing the band’s original singer Seraina Telli in 2019), Romana Kalkuhl and Sonia Nusselder on the guitars, Jeanine Grob on bass and Lala Frischknecht on drums is ready to show the world everything they got once again with their third full-length installment Dance with the Devil, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed sophomore album Hexenhammer, released in 2018, and a lesson in Heavy Metal by five talented ladies who have always loved and breathed heavy music that will certainly inspire you to raise your horns and bang your head like there’s no tomorrow.

An eerie, mesmerizing intro titled The Incantation captivates our senses for the infernal Lucid Nightmare, with Romana and Sonia blasting sheer adrenaline through their sick riffage. Put differently, it’s classic Heavy Metal from the 80’s with Laura kicking some serious ass with her witch-like, soaring vocals, setting the bar really high for the rest of the album. Then it’s time to dance with our beloved Swiss witches in the title-track Dance with the Devil, a Hard Rock extravaganza led by Lala’s spot-on beats and Laura’s stunning vocals while the band’s stringed trio fills every single space in the air with adrenaline and electricity; followed by Wings of Steel, originally released in their 2019 EP Wings of Steel, a pure Heavy Metal tune showcasing the band’s dexterity and passion for what they do, all spiced up by Romana’s and Sonia’s classy guitar solos.

And Laura keeps blasting her high-pitched, piercing vocal lines in Six Feet Underground, another solid tune where Jeanine and Lala make the earth tremble with their low-tuned, metallic weapons, whereas in Black Magic we’re treated to an introspective, melancholic intro where Laura beautifully declaims the song’s words, evolving into a stunning ballad presenting passionate guitar solos and an ethereal atmosphere, showing a more delicate side of the band. Less visceral than the previous songs but still heavy-as-hell, Sea of Lies is a good composition bringing to our ears a great performance by Lala on drums, providing her bandmates a solid base for them to effectively slash their strings, while a Judas Priest-inspired riff kick off the metallic anthem The Sisters of Fate, perfect for banging your head nonstop with the girls or for hitting the road with your loved ones. This is the epitome of the band’s killer Heavy Metal with a Rock N’ Roll twist, with their guitar riffs and solos penetrating deep inside our minds.

Necronomicon is one of the darkest and most devilish of all songs, with Laura impersonating a true witch with her raspy, demonic vocals while Jeanine doesn’t stop hammering her bass strings, also presenting more of the band’s razor-edged riffs and solos, and bringing forward Helloween-inspired riffs blended with the classic Hard Rock by bands like Europe and Survivor we have The Final Fight, another lesson in charisma and vocal potency by Laura, therefore highly recommended for singing along with the band. Then taking their heaviness to a new level the quintet blasts the battle anthem Threefold Return, presenting an old school shredding infused with rumbling bass punches and rhythmic drums which will please all fans of classic Heavy and Power Metal without a shadow of a doubt, and lastly we have their cover version for Manowar’s classic Battle Hymn, featuring guest guitarist Ross the Boss (Manowar, Ross the Boss) and guest bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X, Ross the Boss). This is a sensational rendition by the witches with a welcome feminine touch, and still as strong and insurgent as the original version (which you can take a listen at HERE).

If you consider yourself a true metalhead and you think you have what it takes to face the stunning metal witches from Switzerland, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course go grab your copy of the breathtaking Dance with the Devil (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the Nuclear Blast webstore in different formats by clicking HERE or HERE. Hence, after putting your hands on such entertaining album of heavy music, you’ll quickly realize the unrelenting Burning Witches have taken over your mind for good, inspiring you to dance with them forever and ever to the sound of their undisputed Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Lucid Nightmare, Dance with the Devil, The Sisters of Fate and The Final Fight.

Worst moments of the album: Sea of Lies.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Incantation 0:57
2. Lucid Nightmare 4:50
3. Dance with the Devil 4:26
4. Wings of Steel 4:29
5. Six Feet Underground 4:31
6. Black Magic 5:06
7. Sea of Lies 4:56
8. The Sisters of Fate 3:31
9. Necronomicon 4:12
10. The Final Fight 4:35
11. Threefold Return 3:56
12. Battle Hymn (Manowar cover) 6:55

Band members
Laura Guldemond – vocals
Romana Kalkuhl – guitars
Sonia Nusselder – guitars
Jeanine Grob – bass
Lala Frischknecht – drums

Guest musicians
Ross the Boss – guitars on “Battle Hymn”
Mike LePond – bass on “Battle Hymn”

Album Review – Testament / Titans Of Creation (2020)

The titans of Thrash Metal are back in action with another technical, melodic and absolutely pulverizing album of extreme music.

Since the release of the brilliant The Formation Of Damnation in 2008, every single time American Thrash Metal masters Testament release a new album, you can see a huge smile on the faces of all fans of our beloved Bay Area Thrash, including myself. It was like that with their following albums, those being Dark Roots Of Earth, released in 2012, Brotherhood Of The Snake, released in 2016, and now four years later the same can be said about the bold, multi-layered opus Titans Of Creation, the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Produced by Jamaican musician and producer Juan Urteaga, who had recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered their previous two studio albums, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap, and featuring a hellish artwork by their longtime friend Eliran Kantor, who coincidentally has taken care of all of their art since The Formation of Damnation, Titans Of Creation will crush you like an insect from start to finish, proving once and for all why frontman Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, bassist Steve Di Giorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan are undoubtedly among the best, most demonic and most talented teams in the world of heavy music.

And the entire band comes ripping in the opening track Children of the Next Level, a classic avalanche of Thrash Metal with their trademark insane beats and flammable riffs, not to mention the fun and wicked lyrics vociferated by Chuck (“In trans-human state / It’s time to evacuate / Waiting for a ride to take them to the gate / Await the siren call / More phenobarbital / Pour it down the hatch, ingest it all / Children of the next level / They’re chillin’ with the Devil / Children of the next level / Here they come!”). After such demented start to the album, Gene takes the lead in the high-octane, thrilling tune WWIII, while Alex and Eric show everything they got with their sick riffs and solos. Put differently, this is old school Testament without sounding outdated at all, and needless to say Chuck is once again marvelous with his enraged roars. Then we have Dream Deceiver, more melodic and rhythmic than the previous songs, where Gene’s beats will smash your senses so intricate and precise they are, supported by the always thunderous bass lines by Steve and, therefore, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and rage.

The violent Night of the Witch reminds me of the early days of the band, but even more ferocious that that (if that’s something possible), bringing to our ears first-class Thrash Metal in honor of all witches of the world, with the vicious words barked by Chuck (and Eric) being the icing on the cake (“Conjuring in darkness, desecrate their will / The dead of night has taken flight, assassinate them all / Show them the face of terror / Show them the grace of Hell / Black magic of the witch / Shall never break the spell”). Slowing down things a bit but still venomous and heavy-as-hell, Testament offer us all the sinister City of Angels, alternating between more aggressive, thrashing moments and serene, dark passages, despite going on for a little too long; whereas in Ishtar’s Gate the sound of the guitars by both Eric and Alex is insanely heavy and captivating, while Steve keeps pounding his bass cords in great fashion, adding an extra metallic touch to the musicality together with Chuck’s characteristic deep roars. And showing no mercy for our necks the band blasts the excellent Symptoms, inspiring us to headbang like true metalheads. Furthermore, Gene sounds fantastic as usual, it doesn’t matter the song’s speed, and in this case we can enjoy sheer groove and heaviness flowing form his beats.

Titans Of Creation Limited Edition Boxset

Back to a more berserk and frantic sonority, Chuck and his henchmen fire the classic False Prophet, and if you love some brutal headbanging Gene offers you exactly what you need in this awesome chant, also bringing Alex and Eric’s razor-edged riffage beautifully complemented by Steve’s in-your-face bass punches, while incendiary riffs ignite the Thrash Metal party titled The Healers, presenting a mix of heavy beats and demonic growls intertwined with the complex and smashing drums by Gene and the always perfect solos by the band’s ruthless guitar duo. Then a groovy and dark bass intro by Steve quickly morphs into a demolishing hurricane of Thrash Metal by Testament entitled Code of Hammurabi, presenting the most entertaining, violent and melodic side of the band. Put differently, it’s simply impossible not to slam into the circle pit to the sound of this infernal anthem, and they still have a lot of fuel to burn in the breathtaking, pulverizing Curse of Osiris, where the Stygian backing vocals by Eric add a welcome touch of evil to the overall result. Moreover, Gene showcases once again all his dexterity and fury on drums, resulting in a lesson in devastation in the name of Bay Area Thrash full of demented solos and with endless electricity flowing from all instruments, before the cinematic and climatic outro Catacombs put an end to another bestial spawn of metal music by Testament.

You can purchase your desired version of Titans Of Creation from several different locations, such as the ass-kicking boxset (limited to 1,500 copies worldwide) from the Nuclear Blast webstore, including a 24-page booklet with exclusive band photos and liner notes, a 3D lenticular, a CD and an Earth Element Edition Vinyl, or save it on your favorite streaming service by clicking HERE. As already mentioned, Testament showed us all everything they got once again with Titans Of Creation, keeping the flames of old school Thrash Metal burning bright and, consequently, positioning them as one of the top bands of the genre hands down. In other words, if you thought Thrash Metal was dead and gone after Slayer’s retirement, here come Testament to prove you wrong and to decimate you as the merciless titans of Thrash Metal that they have always been.

Best moments of the album: WWIII, Night of the Witch, Code of Hammurabi and Curse of Osiris.

Worst moments of the album: City of Angels.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Children of the Next Level 6:13
2. WWIII 4:48
3. Dream Deceiver 4:58
4. Night of the Witch 6:32
5. City of Angels 6:43
6. Ishtar’s Gate 5:09
7. Symptoms 4:37
8. False Prophet 4:54
9. The Healers 4:23
10. Code of Hammurabi 4:52
11. Curse of Osiris 3:24
12. Catacombs 2:01

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

Album Review – My Dying Bride / The Ghost Of Orion (2020)

A lesson in how to transform pain, agony and grief into beautiful metal music by one of the pioneers of the death and doom style.

It’s impressive when even after 30 years on the road a veteran band like West Yorkshire, UK-based Gothic/Doom Metal masters My Dying Bride, one of the pioneers of the death and doom style alongside Anathema and Paradise Lost, is capable of still delivering top-of-the-line music without sounding repetitive, outdated or tiresome, just like what they have to offer us now in 2020 with their 13th studio album, the majestic The Ghost Of Orion, proving once again why the band currently comprised of Aaron Stainthorpe on vocals, Andrew Craighan and Neil Blanchett on the guitars, Lena Abé on bass, Shaun Macgowan on keyboards and violin and Jeff Singer on drums is and will always be a reference in extreme music. Produced by Mark Mynett (Mynetaur), portraying a stunning artwork by Israeli artist Eliran Kantor (Testament, Tristania, Fleshgod Apocalypse), and featuring very special guest appearances by British cellist Jo Quail and Norwegian singer Lindy Fay Hella (from Folk/Ambient band Wardruna), The Ghost Of Orion not only marks the band’s longest gap between studio albums to date, being released five years after their previous effort Feel the Misery, but it’s also a lecture in how to transform pain, agony and grief into beautiful Doom Metal.

As soon as you hit play, get ready to dive deep into the Stygian waters of doom ruled by Aaron and his horde in the opening track Your Broken Shore, with Jeff dictating the rhythm with his somber, sluggish beats while Aaron is absolutely superb with both his anguished, clean vocals and his demonic roars, resulting in the perfect anthem for savoring endless darkness and solitude, not to mention the delicate and whimsical sounds of the cello by Jo Quail and the violin by Shaun throughout the entire song as the icing on the cake. And that lugubrious vibe goes on in the also captivating To Outlive the Gods, with sheer melancholy flowing from its words (“A fool will believe every single word said / And yes you may speak with only me now on the sunrise / Child of my sore and bleeding body come over here / Sit here and say your words feeding only me till sunrise”) while Andrew, Neil and Lena make our hearts tremble with their crushing riffs and bass punches.

Clearly inspired by Aaron’s arduous experience with his five-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer a couple years after the release of Feel the Misery, from which she was thankfully declared in remission later, Tired of Tears brings forward gentle and serene sounds that graciously permeate the air while Shaun is absolutely amazing with his violin, with Lena and Jeff keeping the atmosphere dense and mournful with their sonic weapons. Put differently, this is a lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal with nuances of Depressive Black Metal and Blackened Doom, showcasing My Dying Bride’s undisputed ability to turn pure sadness into grandiose metal music. Following such touching tune we have The Solace, where the hypnotizing vocals by Lindy Fay Hella are solely accompanied by the grim guitar lines by Andrew and Neil in a minimalist and enfolding creation by My Dying Bride.

In the brilliant The Long Black Land the energy emanating from the cello by Jo Quail together with the low-tuned, menacing bass by Lena is outstanding, embellishing even more the song’s over ten minutes of obscure passages spearheaded by the clean and aggressive gnarls by Aaron, giving life to its poetic lyrics  for our total delight (“On the lap of the world I lay my head / Pick my way carefully through our long past / Hold my hand, young one / Hold my hand / Listen to my voice / Hold my hand / Face your God / Your God”) and ending in a classy and mournful manner. The semi-acoustic, phantasmagorical bridge The Ghost of Orion sets the stage for the also bold and intricate The Old Earth, starting also in a gentle and somber way led by Andrew’s and Neil’s acoustic lines, suddenly exploding into a lecture in devilish and sluggish Doom Metal where Aaron declaims the song’s lyrics with passion and rage, overflowing sheer melancholy before the outro Your Woven Shore brings to the listener an ethereal, sinister atmosphere and sonority, putting a cinematic and therefore fabulous closure to the album.

In summary, as aforementioned, Aaron and his bandmates from My Dying Bride simply nailed it in The Ghost Of Orion, available for purchase from the Nuclear Blast webstore and for streaming on Spotify, filling our ears, minds and hearts with an immeasurable amount of melancholy, sorrow and distress in what’s undoubtedly one of the best metal albums of 2020. Having said that, I highly suggest you go check what the band is up to on Facebook and on Instagram, including their tour dates, as they’ll bring the music found in The Ghost Of Orion to the stages near you without a shadow of a doubt. Hence, after listening to such distinguished album of Gothic and Doom Metal (again and again), I’m sure you’ll understand once and for all why My Dying Bride are so important and relevant to the world of heavy music, getting better and better as the years go by just like that fancy red wine you enjoy savoring all by yourself on a cold and rainy night while listening to their undisputed doom.

Best moments of the album: Your Broken Shore, The Long Black Land and The Old Earth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Your Broken Shore 7:43
2. To Outlive the Gods 7:56
3. Tired of Tears 8:37
4. The Solace 5:52
5. The Long Black Land 10:01
6. The Ghost of Orion 3:31
7. The Old Earth 10:32
8. Your Woven Shore 2:09

Band members
Aaron Stainthorpe – vocals
Andrew Craighan – guitars
Neil Blanchett – guitars
Lena Abé – bass
Shaun Macgowan – keyboards, violin
Jeff Singer – drums

Guest musicians
Jo Quail – cello
Lindy Fay Hella – female vocals on “The Solace”

Album Review – Grand Magus / Wolf God (2019)

It’s time to worship the almighty Wolf God together with one of the most talented and hardworking bands of the Swedish metal scene.

Hailing from the stunning city of Stockholm, Sweden, Heavy/Doom Metal three-piece act Grand Magus has been delivering a powerful and thrilling amalgamation of styles such as Blues, Hard Rock, Heavy and Doom Metal since their inception in the now distant year of 1999 (or even 1996 if you consider their years under the name Smack as part of their current career), gathering a respectable fanbase through the years around the entire world of heavy music. For instance, their self-titled debut album Grand Magus, released in 2001, stirred up the underground to the point it is now considered to be a cult favorite, and now in 2019 the band comprised of Janne “JB” Christoffersson on lead vocals and guitars, Mats “Fox” Skinner on bass and backing vocals, and Ludwig “Ludde” Witt on drums returns in full force with Wolf God, the ninth album in their solid career and undoubtedly one of the most interesting and epic albums of the year. Drawing influence from bands such as Motörhead, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Manowar, Grand Magus are absolutely focused, sharp and heavy-as-hell in Wolf God, blasting hymn after hymn for the delight of all lovers of the golden years of classic metal music.

With the majority of the songs being recorded on the first take at The Sweetspot Recording Studio in Sweden together with producer Staffan Karlsson (Arch Enemy, Firewind, Spiritual Beggars), Grand Magus achieved an honest, diverse and yet down-to-earth sound that envelops the trio’s true power, letting the music flow naturally throughout the album’s almost 40 minutes of undisputed Heavy Metal. “We decided to let go of the current philosophy to record drums first and then bass and then guitar etc. This time, we met up, jammed and created together during the last six months with the goal to record basic tracks live,” said the band about their newborn opus, and by enfolding it with the old school, aggressive artwork by American artist Anthony J. Roberts (Blackmindseye) the trio finally reached a new level of epicness that will certainly save a spot for them among the gods of metal.

Featuring orchestrations by Swedish musician Nico “Dyngwie” Elgstrand (guitarist for Entombed A.D.), who has already played acoustic guitars in a couple of tracks from their previous albums, Gold and Glory is a classy and epic intro to the howling title-track Wolf God, where Ludde pounds his drums in great Manowar-inspired fashion while JB delivers his trademark potent vocals, resulting in an old school metal song perfect for banging our heads while worshiping the Wolf God itself. And Fox’s thunderous bass take the lead in the also majestic A Hall Clad in Gold while Ludde continues to smash his drum set vigorously, not to mention all the passion and energy flowing from JB’s vocals, especially during the song’s absolutely catchy chorus.

Traditional, utterly metallic lyrics (“Ancient forces / Sleeping deep within my heart / Been searching / Through the ages in the dark / A secret / That will put me to the test / And guide me / So much stronger than the rest”) are the main ingredient in the headbanging tune Brother of the Storm, where JB fires pure electricity from his riffs while the beats by Ludde get more rhythmic and imposing, and you better keep banging your head like there’s no tomorrow in the incendiary Dawn of Fire, another classic, stylish Heavy and Doom Metal hymn led by JB’s crisp riffs and Fox’s rumbling bass. On a side note, I saw those guys playing this excellent tune live when they opened for Amon Amarth  here in Toronto, and it sounded beyond powerful and inspiring. Then putting the pedal to the metal the trio offers the circle pit-catalyst Spear Thrower, where we can enjoy Ludde’s berserk beats supporting the always pleasant vocals by JB, being tailored for fans of classic Heavy Metal while all is spiced up by JB’s piercing solos; whereas To Live and to Die in Solitude, one of the best songs in Wolf God with highlights to JB’s passionate performance and the unstoppable drums by Ludde, couldn’t be any more epic, vibrant and electrifying, or in other words, simply close your eyes and savor each and every note of such distinct ode to metal music.

A cryptic, semi-tribal intro evolves into another riff-fest titled Glory to the Brave, a beer-drinking, headbanging creation by the trio with Fox filling all spaces in the air with his bass jabs, perfect for raising your horns in the air together with Grand Magus, whereas in the thrilling He Sent Them All to Hel the skillful JB declaims the lyrics about a hero dealing with death and darkness in the aftermath (“First light in the morning – Foul smell of decay / He stands in silence – Nothing to say / Black ravens are calling / Flying high over head / Their wine is served by the dead / Once they rode together / Now he’s alone / Filling his soul with rage”), boosted by spot-on instrumental parts, endless stamina and the classic beats by Ludde, resulting in what’s in my humble opinion one of their best battle hymns of all time. And there’s nothing better than the pure Heavy Metal flowing from Untamed to close the album on a high note, showcasing a classic riffage and wild guitar solos by JB, while Fox and Ludde are on absolute fire on bass and drums, with the music flowing smoothly and powerfully until its epic finale.

It’s time for us all to praise the Wolf God, and we can do that by enjoying one of the best albums of 2019 in full on Spotify or by purchasing a copy of it from the Hamburg Records webstore or from the Nuclear Blast webstore. At this point of their career, we can all happily rest assured Grand Magus will never sell out, which means they’ll keep offering us all, lucky metalheads, precious gems of the underworld like Wolf God, bringing all their passion and respect for the gods of metal with each and every song of their albums and, more important than that, continuing to fight for Heavy Metal no matter what, always in the name of the almighty riff.

Best moments of the album: A Hall Clad in Gold, Brother of the Storm, To Live and to Die in Solitude and He Sent Them All to Hel.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Gold and Glory 2:18
2. Wolf God 3:49
3. A Hall Clad in Gold 5:02
4. Brother of the Storm 3:16
5. Dawn of Fire 5:12
6. Spear Thrower 2:55
7. To Live and to Die in Solitude 3:41
8. Glory to the Brave 5:15
9. He Sent Them All to Hel 3:37
10. Untamed 3:46

Band members
Janne “JB” Christoffersson – lead vocals, guitars
Mats “Fox” Skinner – bass, backing vocals
Ludwig “Ludde” Witt – drums

Guest musician
Nico “Dyngwie” Elgstrand – orchestrations on “Gold and Glory”