Album Review – Empress / Fateweaver (2022)

This up-and-coming Symphonic Metal five-piece outfit from Philadelphia is well on their way to conquering the big stages and setting people’s minds ablaze to the sound of their striking debut album.

An up-and-coming five-piece act from Philadelphia, in the United States, centered around classically-trained singer Barbara Blackthorne and main songwriting, mastermind and guitarist Vlad Khavin, Symphonic Metal outfit Empress is well on their way to conquering the big stages and setting people’s minds ablaze with kaleidoscopic arrangements, and their brand new album Fateweaver is the perfect way to kick-off their path to success showcasing their unique take on Symphonic Metal while they effortlessly transition between a variety of powerful tunes. Mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö at Unisound Studios, produced and engineered by the aforementioned Vlad Khavin, and displaying a classy artwork by Nguyen Hieu, Fateweaver will fully captivate your senses thanks to the amazing job done by Barbara and Vlad alongside their bandmates Joseph Muir on the guitars, Nicholas Bonsanto on bass and Mark Stainthorpe on drums, asking you if you’re bound by fate or bound to control it, as they navigate the overarching theme of destiny through the tales of the individual characters on each song.

Whimsical keys ignite the symphonic, epic title-track entitled Legion, with Mark dictating the pace with his heavy beats before Barbara arrives like a Valkyrie from the sky and stuns us all with her operatic vocals, and the guitars by Vlad and Joseph reverberate in the air in the also imposing Beyond the Sleep, with all background elements adding an extra touch of magic to the overall result. Then a sinister, somber start evolves into a multi-layered feast of Symphonic Power Metal titled Chimera, also presenting tons of progressiveness and electricity while Barbara is flawless on vocals supported by the pounding drums by Mark; whereas they don’t waste a single second and continue their musical adventure in The Fall of Kingdoms, with Vlad and Joseph being on absolute fire with both their riffs and solos, followed by Black Arcana, very rhythmic, epic and dense from start to finish, with Barbara’s soaring vocals being a thing of beauty while Nicholas and Mark generate a rumbling atmosphere with their respective bass and drums.

Monarch is another dynamic and ethereal display of Symphonic Metal by those talented musicians where the riffage by the band’s guitar duo beautifully clashes with the song’s  background keys, while there are moments of sheer progressiveness that remind me of Opeth and Dream Theater. In the electrifying Into the Grey, the unstoppable Barbara gorgeously declaims the song’s words (“The coming storm brings a change / The eye of fate shifts its gaze / The sky will show the way to rend fear from my heart”) while her bandmates make sure we’re transported into a world of magic and epicness to the sound of their undisputed Symphonic and Melodic Metal; whereas Immortelle sounds clearly inspired by classic Nightwish and Epica, offering our ears another round of their piercing sounds albeit a bit generic if compared to the rest of the album. And last but not least, closing such powerful album we have the seven-minute symphony Eventide, where Barbara showcases all her vocal range and potency and where all elements are in the right place, elevating the song’s punch to a whole new level and resulting in a climatic ending for admirers of the genre.

You can get to know more about Empress, their music, plans for the future, tour dates and so on by following the band on Facebook and on Instagram, stay up to date with their new songs and videos by subscribing to their YouTube channel and by streaming their music on Spotify, and show your utmost support to those hard working American metallers by purchasing a copy of their new album from their own webstore or from their BandCamp page, or simply by clicking HERE or HERE to select your favorite version of the album or to stream it in full. What do you say? Are you bound by fate or bound to control it? If you don’t know the answer to that, let Empress help you to the sound of their striking debut album, allowing their stylish Symphonic Metal to penetrate deep inside your mind and soul.

Best moments of the album: Legion, Chimera and Into the Grey.

Worst moments of the album: Immortelle.

Released in 2022 Independent

Track listing
1. Legion 4:20
2. Beyond the Sleep 4:34
3. Chimera 7:11
4. The Fall of Kingdoms 5:40
5. Black Arcana 4:38
6. Monarch 5:35
7. Into the Grey 4:00
8. Immortelle 4:53
9. Eventide 6:54

Band members
Barbara Blackthorne – vocals
Vlad Khavin – guitars
Joseph Muir – guitars
Nicholas Bonsanto – bass
Mark Stainthorpe – drums

Album Review – High Reeper / High Reeper (2018)

Reeper, deadly reeper, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this up-and-coming five-piece act from Philadelphia.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, in the United States by Zach Thomas on vocals, Pat Daly and Andrew Price on the guitars, Shane Trimble on bass and Napz Mosley on drums, Hard Rock/Doom Metal act High Reeper originally started as a studio band, but it rapidly became apparent that their music was meant to be heard live and loud, making their debut in the Philly stoner rock scene in early 2017 with success and, as a consequence, being followed up by the release of their self-titled debut album now in 2018. Deeply rooted in modern Stoner Rock but still giving a nod to the early days of Black Sabbath, the band’s first offering is driven by pounding rhythms, thick guitars and soaring, screeching vocals, meant to be played loud and to be played often.

In other words, High Reeper is an unapologetic punch in the face for fans of early 70’s proto-metal, with the sound and smell of leather, weed, boozing, gambling and death permeating the record from start to finish. Produced, engineered and mixed by bass player Shane Trimble at TTR studios in Philadelphia as well as his home studio Delwood Sound in Delaware, the sound is laced with old school elements while still maintaining the focus of a modern-sounding release, being highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Black Sabbath, as well as other noisy and obscure bands like Saint Vitus and Orchid. Throughout its 42 minutes of music split into nine unique tracks, each one with its own purpose and soul, High Reeper will take you on a psychedelic and stoner musical journey, running from up-tempo straight-ahead rock, to slowed down, heavy, early doom.

Otherworldly riffs kick off the flammable Doom Metal feast titled Die Slow, a fun tune that will certainly put you into a trance where Shane with his rumbling bass and Napz with his rhythmic beats set the stage for the Ozzy-inspired vocals by Zach; and enhancing their electricity and stamina to a whole new level, the quintet delivers a rockin’ hymn titled Chrome Hammer, showcasing a great riffage by the guitar duo comprised of Pat and Andrew in what’s in my humble opinion the best song of the entire album. Keep in mind the party is just starting, as in Soul Taker we’re treated to another excellent Black Sabbath-like anthem by High Reeper, with Napz smashing his drums and Pat and Andrew delivering pure feeling with their strings.

The title-track High Reeper is sluggish and somber as expected in good old Doom Metal, ignited by the low-tuned bass by Shane before it becomes a drum feast by Napz, flowing into a thrilling, metallic ending; whereas in Reeper Deadly Reeper a dark and menacing intro evolves into a hard rockin’ Stoner and Doom Metal mass, with Zach putting his heart and soul into his performance, therefore enhancing the song’s already powerful vibe considerably. Then we have Weed & Speed, where the name says it all, with the weed part coming in the form pure Stoner Metal flowing from their instruments, while the speed appears every now and then amidst the most sluggish and soulful riffs you can think of. However, the final result doesn’t feel as cohesive as the other songs, falling flat after a while.

In the fantastic Double Down And Let It Ride, simply let their doomed sounds and noises invade your senses, led by the always thrilling guitars by Pat and Andrew. This is what I would call the perfect depiction of a hybrid between old school Doom Metal with modern Stoner Metal and Southern Rock, and a path High Reeper should definitely keep exploring in their future releases. Black Leather (Chose Us) is an ode to the 70’s lifestyle where heavy rockers used to wear black no matter what, translated into top-tier Stoner Rock full of crisp riffs and solos, rhythmic beats and the inebriate vocals by Zach. And last but not least, closing this feast of witchcraft and psychedelia we have another solid tune titled Friend Of Death, where we’re able to enjoy all the dexterity by the band’s guitar duo as well as the precision and feeling of Napz on drums for over six minutes, not to mention Shane with his blackened low-tuned punches, with its last part being a thing of beauty for fans of the genre.

You can easily enter the psychedelic world ruled by High Reeper by visiting their Facebook page and by purchasing their incendiary album through the Heavy Psych Sounds BandCamp or webstore (as a regular version or as a bundle that includes the album plus a T-shirt and a patch), as well as on iTunes, on Amazon, and on other retailers like Saturn and Best Buy. Because, you know, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this excellent band from Philadelphia, and once you get into their vibe there’s no way out.

Best moments of the album: Chrome Hammer, Reeper Deadly Reeper and Double Down And Let It Ride.

Worst moments of the album: Weed & Speed.

Released in 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Track listing
1. Die Slow 5:28
2. Chrome Hammer 2:53
3. Soul Taker 3:27
4. High Reeper 4:37
5. Reeper Deadly Reeper 6:09
6. Weed & Speed 5:37
7. Double Down And Let It Ride 4:40
8. Black Leather (Chose Us) 3:28
9. Friend Of Death 6:07

Band members
Zach Thomas – vocals
Pat Daly – guitar
Andrew Price – guitar
Shane Trimble – bass
Napz Mosley – drums

Album Review – Skáphe / Skáphe² (2016)

Embrace the psychotic and dissonant uproar pouring from the satanic Black Metal crafted by this implacable duo, and you’ll definitely shorten your descent to the netherworld.

Rating5

skhape2_coverBorn in 2014 as a new project from American multi-instrumentalist A.P., also known as Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Esoterica, Krieg), and having released their self-titled debut full-length album that same year, Chaotic Black Metal band Skáphe return with their disturbing music and nightmarish vibe in Skáphe², an album that not only will keep haunting your soul just like their first installment, but that also consolidates this talented American duo as one of the most promising Black Metal acts in the world of heavy music.

The addition of Icelandic singer D.G., or Dagur (Misþyrming, Naðra), added a lot of dark power to this band from Philadelphia, located in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States, enhancing the obscurity, impact and malignancy found in their music. In other words, the macabre passages and enigmatic vociferations in Skáphe² will simply bring your deepest fears to light (or maybe I should say to darkness), a usually desired effect of Black Metal on people. Moreover, the hypnotizing artwork by Icelandic musician and artist H.V. Lyngdal, exhibiting an eviscerated devil devouring a human being, is the perfect depiction of our mental insanity and of our souls poisoned by the same fears exposed in the music by Skáphe.

Instead of regular song names, Skáphe simply numbered their creations from 1 to 6 in Roman numerals. The first track, entitled I, offers a darkling psychedelic start followed by a turmoil of dissonant growls and blast beats that will lacerate your soul, proving why they don’t label themselves “chaotic” in vain. In addition to that, D.G. provides his business card as the demonic voice of Skáphe in this bestial Black Metal chant with lots of Atmospheric Doom elements added to increase its infernal aura. II continues right where the opening track stopped, which means more satanic passages and cavernous screams with A.P. putting all his demons and anger into the music, resulting in sheer darkness. Needless to say, the anguished grasps by D.G. will make you feel very uncomfortable (in a good way, of course).

skhape_apIII, the third installment, is even sharper and more mesmerizing. It’s fast and sludgy at the same time thanks to the excellent job done by A.P. with all instruments, resulting in an ode to Black and Doom Metal represented by four minutes of despair with absolutely no hope in sight. In the Stygian tune IV, D.G. howls like a werewolf during its obscure start, and its eight minutes of extreme music are definitely not suitable at all for the faint at heart. Moreover, after an eerie break in the middle of the song, brutal Black Metal nicely explodes from all instruments for our total delight.

Obviously, the fifth chant, named V, keeps the fires of hell burning bright, showcasing a tormented performance by D.G. enhanced by the reverberating riffs and the doomed drumming by A.P. The tone of the guitar throughout the whole song is amazing, sounding like a downward spiral to Hades. And finally, the last tune VI reminds me of the most obscure songs by Triptykon at first, evolving to an extremely disturbing form of dark music. A.P. has an enraged performance, while D.G. continues his demented path to the underworld. And when the blasting Black Metal music stops, we’re treated to about two minutes of wicked background noises, meaning we’ve finally reached the gates of hell.

You can get more details on the apocalyptic loudness engendered by Skáphe at their Facebook page, and if you really want to add more affliction and pandemonium to your everyday life, you can buy a copy of Skáphe² at the band’s official BandCamp page, at the I, Voidhanger Records’s BandCamp page, at the Fallen Empire Records’ webstore (LP version) or at the Vánagandr’s Big Cartel page (cassette version). Embrace the psychotic and dissonant noises pouring from the satanic Black Metal crafted by this implacable duo, and you’ll consequently shorten your descent to the netherworld.

Best moments of the album: III and V.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 I, Voidhanger Records/Fallen Empire Records/Vánagandr

Track listing
1. I 6:32
2. II 4:40
3. III 4:11
4. IV 8:16
5. V 5:42
6. VI 6:34

Band members
D.G. (Dagur) – vocals
A.P. (Alex Poole) – all instruments