Metal Chick of the Month – Mary Zimmer

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It’s my time to soar… I am here to stay!

Born and raised in Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin, but currently residing in “Sin City” Las Vegas, Nevada, the multi-talented Mary Zimmer, our metal chick of the month of April, is ready to set the world of heavy music on fire with her unique vocal range, stunning looks and ass-kicking onstage performance, proving why she was chosen in 2019 to become the frontwoman for Sacramento, California-based Power Metal unity Helion Prime. Not only an accomplished vocalist who can do both clean vocals and harsh screams, known for her work with bands the likes of Luna Mortis and White Empress (not to mention her years as a touring member of Helion Prime from 2018 to 2019), Mary has also been a vocal coach and instructor for more than a decade, a session musician for some amazing underground bands, and a YouTuber who discusses about singing, screaming and music theory, as well as reviews and reaction videos. Put differently, Mary Zimmer is just awesome, and I bet you’ll have a very good time knowing a little more about such skillful musician here on The Headbanging Moose.

A classically trained singer who has a Bachelor of Music from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Mary has also studied additional techniques to shout and sing with The Zen of Screaming creator, Melissa Cross, allowing her to showcase all her vocal skills in bands from different styles as aforementioned, as well as her studies in audio engineering. “I got my degree in classical music fairly young at the age of 22. Even after my music degree, I did an absolute ton of research on the anatomy of the voice and tried to absorb all of the information that’s available out there,” commented Mary on her passion for technical singing. Long before joining Helion Prime, Mary was the vocalist for a band named A Touch of Evil between 2001 and 2002; for an American Folk/Gothic Metal/Ambient group named Earthen; for American Progressive Metal act Luna Mortis (and its previous incarnation The Ottoman Empire); for a band called Santa Marta from 2016 to 2019; and for American Extreme Symphonic Metal outfit White Empress from 2013 until 2016.

Perhaps the two most interesting projects she was involved in her pre-Helion Prime days are Luna Mortis and White Empress, with whom she recorded some excellent material and official videos. Let’s begin talking about Luna Mortis, formed in 2002 in her hometown under the name The Ottoman Empire, and as the vocalist for The Ottoman Empire she recorded the album Way of the Blade, in 2006, and the EP The Answer: Does Not Exist, in 2008. Then after the change in the band’s name to Luna Mortis still in 2008, Mary recorded with the band the 2009 album The Absence, presenting a much stronger sound and polished production compared to the band’s two previous releases. You can enjoy online the official videos for the songs Forevermore and Anemic World, and if you think Luna Mortis will be back in action one day, well, after their reunion back in 2013, which was not as great as the band itself expected as they had several internal issues (shortening the reunion considerably), and as mentioned by Mary herself, it was a failed experiment and she can pretty much guarantee they won’t try to reunite again. After Luna Mortis, Mary said she’s a completely different person on many levels, having changed mentally, emotionally, physically, visually and vocally, as you’ll be able to notice in White Empress.

It was in 2013 under the moniker “White Empress” (and later as Mary Z) that our unstoppable diva helped to found the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Extreme Symphonic Metal unity White Empress, having recorded a self-titled EP in 2014 and the full-length opus Rise of the Empress that same year (containing the four songs from the EP plus other original tracks). When asked about the concept of White Empress, Mary said that the band was band based around the character of the White Empress herself, an empowering and a feminine power in her own right, representing the individual inner strength and power we all have within, with the original concept being created by the band’s founder Paul Allender (better known for his superb work with Cradle of Filth for over two decades). If you want to have a quick and incendiary taste of their music, you can enjoy the official video for the awesome song Darkness Encroaching.

Mary can also be seen lending her powerful voice to different bands and projects as a guest vocalist, on top of her years as a live member of Helion Prime as mentioned before. For instance, she recorded the harsh vocals for the song Goodbye to Farewells, from the 2021 album Psychosomatic by Austin, Texas-based Progressive/Power Metal band Immortal Guardian; and vocals as “President Fox” on the 2019 self-titled album by Brooklyn, New York-based Symphonic/Progressive Metal project Valcata. Not only that, Mary was also involved in the recordings of the 2018 eight-track demo The Remains of Judgment, by Madison, Wisconsin-based Death Metal act Burial of an Era, showing another side of our multi-talented musician (and we’ll talk more about her technical skills shortly). When asked about how she became a session musician, Mary said that the fact she already had the skills necessary to record her own vocals, plus her business professionalism, made it easier for people to trust and hire her, complementing by saying that it’s important to choose if you want to be an in-person guest musician or if you want to learn how to record yourself at home and work worldwide, which of course demands some investments that can be a bit expensive for beginners.

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Regarding her career with Helion Prime, after joining the band as their full-time frontwoman Mary recorded the album Question Everything in 2020 with the band, currently comprised of our electrifying diva on vocals together with guitarists Jason Ashcraft and Chad Anderson, bassist Jeremy Steinhouse and drummer Alex Bosson. When asked what attracted her to Helion Prime in first place, she said she learned to love the guys from the band during her two years as their touring singer, enjoying singing their material, and finally deciding to join forces with them after it became logistically difficult for their previous singer Sozos Michael to be involved as needed. As Question Everything contains several songs that work as tributes to influential names in the history of science, Mary was asked which one of those people was her favorite one to sing about. “I think my favorite is Katherine Johnson. She’s the subject of the song Madame Mercury. Her story really speaks to the successes people can have against daunting odds, and she’s certainly an inspiration to folks all over the world,” said Mary, providing some inspirational words to us fans.

As already mentioned, Mary is a famous YouTuber who runs her own channel called VoiceHacks, providing singing and screaming tutorials for beginner to advanced vocalists, teaching private lessons, and training people in a variety of techniques. “I kind of became a YouTuber by accident. I’m a vocal coach and vocalist first and foremost who kind of ‘fell’ into YouTube as a result of using it as a hosting place for my tutorials and other resources for the people I teach,” commented Mary in one of her interviews, also saying that “I’ve been doing all lessons online since 2013 because physical in-person lessons are out of date and relatively impractical. Most people prefer not having to leave home for their lessons.” If you explore her YouTube channel, you’ll find several videos with important tips on how to preserve your voice while doing harsh vocals, how to reach the right key, how to fix “easy-to-correct” mistakes a lot of singers and producers make in the studio, and so on. For example, did you know that getting vocalists to aim upwards into the microphone while recording is not a good idea? “It’s way easier for a singer to sing a high note while looking DOWN! This being the case, I want all engineers to stop putting the microphone above the singer, and instead to place it straight in-front, or slightly below their mouth at a 45-degree angle,” said our talented vocal coach.

As usual, such important woman to the world of heavy music was asked several times about her view of women in metal, and her answer to that question focuses on the respect she gets as a musician instead of hearing things like “you’re a chick in a band, you’re a novelty”, also saying you don’t have to be a super model to be a great vocalist, although she truly enjoys all types of singers in the end. “I think there are a lot of particularly glamorous metal singers, I think… Simone Simons (Epica), Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish), there is a lot of glamorous metal singers but then you also have your ones that just came in their t-shirt and jeans like Anneke (van Giersbergen) from The Gathering you know?” She also mentioned in one of her interviews when asked about the fact the recording industry is a heavily male-dominated business that it still astonishes her that all these years later she’s still one of the only women who knows anything about recording, albeit she doesn’t see it as a masculine or physically challenging task.

There were also three other interesting topics where Mary was asked to provide her insights on, those being the evolution in the music industry, what a manager can offer a band that’s proactive aside from contacts, and all environmental issues the world is facing. Mary said that what has changed most is the evolution from physical product to monetized music listening streaming and that has been a very positive change for all musicians everywhere, and she personally vastly prefers living in the digital era of music now. “It’s an utterly fantastic time to be a musician. There are so many resources at our fingertips. The only limit is our attitude, willingness to educate ourselves about the new music industry landscape and tools, and writing good music. That hasn’t changed, even with all the abundant opportunities for musicians, the songs still have to be good.” Regarding the need for a band manager or not, Mary said that there are good managers out there that have a good business sense, that are rooted in the genre that the band is playing and they have contacts and connections they can work on the band’s behalf to deal with publicists, tour planners, other things and just sort of be the mouth for the musician, and of course, that can be the a neutral face when dealing with people, avoiding exposing the band to negative feedback and opinions (in a good way, of course). And lastly, in regards to the way mankind is treating the environment, she said that she has three degrees in varying areas of Renewable Energy and from that education she has learned that sustainability is necessary for human survival. “The earth is a finite sphere with a finite amount of resources – a finite amount of matter and energy.  If we seek to live on a habitable planet, we must find totally 100% sustainable ways to live.  Unsustainable practices shouldn’t even exist.  I am a huge renewable energy advocate, as it is the most logical, safe, sustainable, abundant means of powering humanity,” suggesting we all watch the video or read the book Cradle to Cradle and learn about sustainability and how it changes the world and the environment.

If you want to have fun together with Mary, you can find several excellent interviews online with her as for example this one for Musican’s HQ podcast, episode 23; the one she did together with Helion Prime’s own guitarist Jason Ashcraft for Rustyn Rose from Metalnation where they discussed their new album Question Everything, Ronnie James Dio, special guests and the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry, among other topics; and this one for Audible.com where she discusses about her YouTube channel VoiceHacks. Having said all that, what are you waiting for to let Mary Zimmer and her powerful voice penetrate deep inside your soul in the name of Heavy Metal? I’m sure Mary will love to hear from you and to get your feedback on her undisputed work as the great vocalist she is.

Mary Zimmer’s Official Facebook page
Mary Zimmer’s Official Instagram
Mary Zimmer’s Official YouTube channel
Mary Zimmer’s Official Twitter
Mary Zimmer’s LinkTree
Helion Prime’s Official Facebook page
Helion Prime’s Official Instagram
Helion Prime’s Official YouTube channel

“I don’t think that metal is an intentionally sexist genre, I think metalheads are pretty broad thinking people and I think that most of them will give you a shot. If you can play you can play if you can sing you can sing. And it doesn’t really matter to a lot of them if you’re a woman or a man.” – Mary Zimmer

Album Review – Blaze Bayley / War Within Me (2021)

The man who will live for a thousand years returns with the 11th studio album in his undisputed career, inspiring us all to fight the war within us and to take our future in our own hands.

In celebration of our 1000th review here at The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing more appropriate than reviewing the brand new opus by the man who will live for a thousand years, the indomitable Heavy Metal fighter Blaze Bayley. Moving forward from the success of his Infinite Entanglement trilogy released in three consecutive years (Infinite Entanglement in 2016, Endure And Survive in 2017, and The Redemption of William Black  in 2018), Blaze and his loyal Absolva henchmen Chris Appleton on the guitars, Karl Schramm on bass and Martin McNee on drums are unleashing upon humanity the awesome War Within Me, the 11th studio album in his extensive solo career which started with his legendary Silicon Messiah album in the year 2000. Mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd., and featuring another striking artwork by Spanish artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration, War Within Me is not a concept album but does include a positive thread throughout. In Blaze’s own words, “This is an album that I want to put on and feel very positive about. Whatever song you choose there’s some good feeling about it. As fans of metal music we tend to be damaged, strange and different in some way and this album is (as I say in my live intro to the song ‘Futureal’) about taking your future in your own hand. It’s one of the things that really connects with people at my live shows.”

The slashing riffage by Chris ignites the high-octane, pure Heavy Metal anthem War Within Me, with Blaze powerfully declaiming the song’s meaningful and inspirational words as usual, resulting in a sensational option for singing it along with Blaze & Co. while hitting the highway. Following such powerful tune, we have the also breathtaking 303, inspired by the No. 303 Squadron RAF, one of two Polish squadrons to fight during the Battle of Britain along with squadron 302, of 16 total Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Musically speaking, it’s another metallic feast where Karl and Martin kick some serious ass with their rumbling kitchen, not to mention the trademark guitar lines by Chris. And more of Blaze’s incendiary and energetic metal music comes in the form of Warrior, where Chris and Karl make a dynamic duo with their stringed weapons in a straightforward Heavy Metal extravaganza with some welcome Power Metal elements; followed by Pull Yourself Up, a rhythmic and stunning metal hymn from the bottom of Blaze’s heart to all metalheads out there, inviting everyone to walk and sing with him, accompanied by the sharp riffs by Chris and the marching beats by Martin. Then the entire band is on fire in another classic display of old school NWOBHM entitled Witches Night, where it’s impossible not to raise our fists together with Blaze during the song’s chorus, also showcasing a slashing performance by Chris on the guitars.

18 flights, 15 shows, 6 countries, 1 earthquake. That’s the story Blaze masterfully tells us in 18 Flights, narrating his adventures in January 2019 when there was an earthquake while the band was on stage at a very special gig organized by fans in Coquimbo, Chile called Blaze Fest. What a fun and thrilling way to tell that story through his undisputed Heavy Metal, I might say, whereas in The Dream of Alan Turing the unstoppable Blaze pays homage to the famous English scientist highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science and, of course, the music couldn’t have sounded more exciting, with Chris piercing our ears with his sick solos. Then it’s time to pay another tribute, this time to Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, with The Power of Nikola Tesla, a kick-ass tune where Blaze and his bandmates generate an electrifying ambience that matches perfectly with the song’s theme. And how about one more tribute to a great personality the likes of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking? That’s what Blaze has to offer in The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking, investing in a more epic, galloping rhythm, with the pounding drums by Martin dictating the pace while Blaze delivers his trademark vocals in great fashion. And last but not least, a final message of hope and positivity from the band is provided to us all in the closing tune Every Storm Ends, starting in a melancholic, acoustic way before evolving into a dark and metallic feast that flows smoothly until its delicate finale.

There’s no excuse not to follow the man who would not die Blaze Bayley and his talented bandmates on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course to stream all of his vast catalogue on Spotify (like I enjoy doing a lot on my free time). However, War Within Me is such a great album of classic Heavy Metal that it truly deserves to be part of the collection of anyone who considers him or herself a true headbanging bastard, and you can add it to your personal pile of ass-kicking albums by purchasing it from Blaze’s own webstore, as well as from an array of locations including Napalm Records, Season of Mist, HHV, Record Shop X, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon. Having said that, what are you waiting for to fight the never-ending war within you alongside Mr. Blaze Bayley? The time is now to fight for what’s yours and to take your future in your own hands, as Blaze himself likes to say, always to the sound of our beloved Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: War Within Me, 303, Pull Yourself Up and 18 Flights.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Blaze Bayley Recordings

Track listing
1. War Within Me 4:12
2. 303 3:19
3. Warrior 3:45
4. Pull Yourself Up 4:45
5. Witches Night 4:57
6. 18 Flights 3:45
7. The Dream of Alan Turing 2:47
8. The Power of Nikola Tesla 3:11
9. The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking 6:00
10. Every Storm Ends 5:08

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Album Review – Immortal Guardian / Psychosomatic (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Candlelight.

Released in 2021 M-Theory Audio

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

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

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

Album Review – Accept / Too Mean to Die (2021)

In their hard-hitting, uncompromising sixteenth studio album, the unrelenting German kingpins of Heavy Metal will tell you why they’re too mean to die.

Following on their critically acclaimed releases Blind Rage and The Rise of Chaos, the unrelenting German kingpins of Heavy Metal collectively known as Accept are back in 2021 with a brand new and pulverizing album of undisputed metal music entitled Too Mean to Die, the 16th studio album in their amazing career and the fifth to feature American frontman Mark Tornillo on vocal duties. Recorded in Nashville, the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and considered by many as the worldwide capital of music, the album was once again produced by British master producer Andy Sneap, known for his work with titans the likes of Judas Priest and Megadeth, and who has also been responsible for all Accept productions since 2010, enhancing the impact of the music blasted by the aforementioned Mark Tornillo on vocals, Wolf Hoffmann, Uwe Lulis and newcomer Philip Shouse on the guitars (marking it as their first-ever album with three guitarists), newcomer Martin Motnik on bass and Christopher Williams on drums, and therefore, proving this legendary squad will keep bringing to us all hard, direct and uncompromising metal music for many years to come.

Wolf, Uwe and Philip rev up Accept’s metallic engine in the amazing opening tune Zombie Apocalypse, delivering pure, unfiltered 80’s-inspired Heavy Metal with a modern twist, of course showcasing the band’s trademark sound and Mike’s piercing vocals, singing about mankind’s dependence and fixation with social media (“They’re walking by day, they stumble by night / Wandering blindly, with no end in sight / Mass communication, hand to hand / A new epidemic has control of this land”); whereas in Too Mean to Die we face lyrics about being a true headbanger (“I’m a heavy metal warrior / Restless son of a bitch / A weapon of destruction / With both hands on the switch”), while fast and furious German Power Metal flows from their riffs and Christopher hammers his drums in great fashion. And adding a good dosage of Hard Rock to their core metal music, the band fires the excellent Overnight Sensation, with Martin’s rumbling bass and Christopher’s classic beats providing Mike all he needs to shine on vocals in a song about becoming a (sub)celebrity and getting addicted to that ephemeral fame.

In No One’s Master, Accept lean towards some of their latest songs from The Rise of Chaos and Blind Rage, with the band’s guitar triumvirate being on fire with their crisp, crystalline riffs and soulful solos in another high-octane metal extravaganza, and Martin will make your head tremble with his wicked bass jabs in The Undertaker, a good, classic Heavy Metal tune that has its moments, but that’s considerably below the rest of the album in terms of adrenaline and punch. Then Wolf and his wolfpack extract sheer rage from their sonic weapons in the thrilling Sucks to Be You, with Mike’s classic screams being effectively supported by the band’s backing vocals, resulting in a beer-drinking, pub-brawling hymn for diehard fans of the band. And there’s no sign of slowing down or selling out by those dauntless metallers, as Accept keep blasting their instruments mercilessly in Symphony of Pain, showcasing a more imposing sonority found in Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad: Brothers in Death.

After so much heaviness and adrenaline, it’s time for one of Accept’s stylish, melancholic ballads entitled The Best Is Yet to Come, where Mike steals the spotlight with his introspective performance singing about how we get simpler as time goes by, while the band’s guitar trio embellishes the airwaves with their delicate riffs and piercing solos; followed by How Do We Sleep, a true headbanger by Mike, Wolf & Co. that sounds at the same time old school and modern, with Christopher dictating the pace with his pounding drums. And those metal veterans speed things up a bit, getting heavier and more aggressive in the acid tune Not My Problem, displaying an amazing job done by Wolf, Uwe and Philip on the guitars, adding endless electricity to the overall result and as a consequence sounding straight-to-the-point and as fun as hell until the very last second. Lastly, the solid instrumental tune Samson and Delilah closes the album on a distinct mode, with Wolf stealing the show with his classic riffs and solos and, of course, his undeniable and deep passion for all things Heavy Metal.

After listening to Too Mean to Die, I’m pretty sure you’ll get yourself headbanging nonstop, tapping on your desk, raising your horns while drinking a cold beer, and everything else that perfectly represents our beloved metal music, getting back to the start and repeating this exciting “ritual” over and over again, which means Accept moe than succeeded once again in their quest for Heavy Metal as expected. Hence, in case you’re from another dimension and don’t know Accept yet, you can start following them on Facebook, on Instagram and on VKontakte, subscribe to their YouTube channel, stream their extensive catalogue on Spotify, and purchase their awesome new album by clicking HERE or HERE, showing the world that just like the unstoppable guys from one of the most important metal bands in the world, you’re also a true metalhead that’s too mean to die.

Best moments of the album: Zombie Apocalypse, Too Mean to Die, Sucks to Be You and Not My Problem.

Worst moments of the album: The Undertaker.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Zombie Apocalypse 5:31
2. Too Mean to Die 4:21
3. Overnight Sensation 4:24
4. No One’s Master 4:10
5. The Undertaker 5:37
6. Sucks to Be You 4:05
7. Symphony of Pain 4:39
8. The Best Is Yet to Come 4:47
9. How Do We Sleep 5:41
10. Not My Problem 4:21
11. Samson and Delilah 4:31

Band members
Mark Tornillo – lead vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – guitar
Uwe Lulis – guitar
Philip Shouse – guitar
Martin Motnik – bass
Christopher Williams – drums

Album Review – Tragedian / Seven Dimensions (2021)

This multicultural Melodic Power Metal unity hailing from Germany is ready to enlighten our destiny to the sound of their fourth full-length album, presenting to the world a new and reinvigorated lineup.

The esoteric and the obscure. Tales of the eternal fight between darkness and light… Formed by arcane energies. The mysteries that lay beyond human recognition. We are Tragedian, Power Metal that enlightens your destiny!

Formed in 2002 by American guitarist, songwriter and producer Gabriele Palermo, Tragedian are a multicultural metal band from Hamburg, Germany with a range of influences from Heavy Metal to Speed and Melodic Power Metal, taking their favorite elements from each genre and making their own interpretation. Currently comprised of the aforementioned Gabriele Palermo on the guitars together with Venezuelan vocalist Joan Pabón, German bassist Dawid Wieczorek, German keyboardist and pianist  Denis Scheither, and Italian drummer Nicolò Bernini, the band is about to unleash their fourth full-length album, entitled Seven Dimensions, the first with Joan, Dawid and Denis on the lineup. Produced by Gabriele himself, post-produced and mixed by Eike Freese at Chameleon Studios in Hamburg, and featuring an ethereal artwork by Polish artist Piotr Szafraniec (Archart Studio), Seven Dimensions takes the band to a different direction of Melodic Metal, showcasing nine new, electrifying anthems plus three previously released tracks reworked by the quintet.

Blazing guitars and whimsical keys kick off the Melodic Metal extravaganza titled Rising Rage, with Nicolò dictating the rhythm with his classic beats in a fast, harmonious and epic manner just the way we like it, and with Joan proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new lead singer. Then more of Gabriele’s slashing riffs and solos penetrate deep inside our ears in Aloneless, where Dawid and Nicolò’s low-tuned, rumbling sounds make a vibrant paradox with Denis’ classy keys. Put differently, it will certainly please all fans of bands like Stratovarius, Rhapsody of Fire and Angra, whereas investing in a more direct sonority, the band blends the electricity of Power Metal with the rebelliousness of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock in Out of the Dark, featuring guest guitars by Dan Palmer (Zebra Head, Death By Stereo), and the final result is simply awesome. And putting the pedal to the metal the quintet fires the melodic hurricane Darkest of My Days, where Joan is amazing on vocals supported by the unstoppable drums by Nicolò, not to mention the razor-edge guitar lines by Gabriele.

In Bringer of Dreams, featuring guest vocals by Wade Black (Crimson Glory, Leatherwolf), after a not-so-promising start the music fortunately evolves into another solid feast of Melodic Power Metal by Tragedian, with Joan and Wade bringing joy to our hearts with their dynamic vocal duo; and it’s time for a power ballad led by Joan’s passionate vocals and Denis’ melancholic piano notes entitled Crying in the Rain, also presenting background female vocals which bring an additional touch of finesse to the overall result, albeit going on for too long. Back to a more imposing and epic musicality, Nicolò kicks ass once again on drums while Gabriele keeps extracting sheer adrenaline from his axe in Enlightened, all spiced up by a classic Stratovarius-inspired keyboard solo by Denis, followed by an avalanche of classic riffs and nonstop drums in Forevermore, with the groovy bass punches by Dawid bringing thunder to the music. Needless to say, it can’t get any more melodic than this.

Destiny sounds relatively generic compared to the rest of the album, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, though, it’s just that it falls flat after a while despite the solid instrumental pieces blasted by the quintet. Then Joan showcases all his vocal potency and range is his mother tongue in Para Siempre (Forever), a very entertaining tune (and of course very special and personal for Joan himself) that results in a lecture in Spanish Melodic Metal; and those power metallers are never tired of embellishing the airwaves with their stylish sounds like what they do in The Journey, where Gabriele and Denis are once again in absolute sync form start to finish. Guest vocalist Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle) adds his touch of melancholy and epicness to the inspiring ballad Forces of the Light, where we’re invited to let Tragedian’s enfolding music soothe our souls while Joan and Zak give a lecture in vocal performance, closing the digital edition of the album. However, you should definitely go for the CD version of Seven Dimensions, as the bonus tracks Crying in the Rain (duet version) and Forces of the Light (full orchestral version) are definitely worth the investment in the physical edition, especially the orchestral version for the embracing ballad with Zak Stevens.

As already mentioned, the addition of Joan, Dawid and Denis to Tragedian’s lineup brought a new share of epicness, melody and creativity to Gabriele’s brainchild, with Seven Dimensions perfectly depicting the band’s renewed energy throughout each one of the albums’ ten vibrant tracks (or twelve, if we also count the two bonus tracks of the CD version). Having said that, let’s all show the guys from Tragedian how much we admire their music, and that they’ve chosen to follow an exciting path in this new phase of their career by giving them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, by streaming more of their music on Spotify, and especially by purchasing a copy of Seven Dimensions or by streaming it in full by clicking HERE. This is first-class, international Melodic Power Metal that deserves our attention and recognition, my friends, and let’s hope Gabriele and his melodic army keep delivering sheer awesomeness to all of us with all of their future releases, always displaying their refined techniques, and of course, their passion for heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Rising Rage, Out of the Dark, Forevermore and Forces of the Light.

Worst moments of the album: Crying in the Rain and Destiny.

Released in 2021 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Rising Rage 4:19
2. Aloneless 4:03
3. Out of the Dark 3:42
4. Darkest of My Days 3:42
5. Bringer of Dreams 5:35
6. Crying in the Rain 4:48
7. Enlightened 5:01
8. Forevermore 4:13
9. Destiny 4:19
10. Para Siempre (Forever) 3:37
11. The Journey 4:32
12. Forces of the Light 6:35

CD Edition bonus tracks
13. Crying in the Rain (duet version) 4:49
14. Forces of the Light (full orchestral version) 4:50

Band members
Joan Pabón – vocals
Gabriele Palermo – guitar
Dawid Wieczorek – bass
Denis Scheither – keyboards, piano
Nicolò Bernini – drums

Guest musicians
Wade Black – vocals on “Bringer of Dreams”
Zak Stevens – vocals on “Forces of the Light”
Dan Palmer – guitars on “Out Of The Dark”

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020

“Rock stars come and go. Musicians play until they die.” – Eddie Van Halen

What can I say about the year of 2020? No words can describe all the pain, fear, anxiety, losses and struggles we all had to endure during what’s going to be sadly remembered as the worst year of our modern times. We saw the rise of coronavirus, which had a huge negative impact on pretty much everything and everyone we know, with millions of hardworking people unfortunately losing their jobs, concerts being cancelled, restaurants and other businesses being shut down, people getting stuck in their homes and having to deal with psychological issues like depression, and more important than that, with countless lives, and in some cases people really close to us, people we love, losing their battle against such horrible disease. We also witnessed a gut-wrenching surge in racism against black people all over the world, and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the never-ending fight for freedom and justice, trying to make our world a better place for everyone. And last but not least, we lost so many iconic figures it’s hard to list everyone without crying a little. We lost sports titans such as Kobe Bryant, Diego Maradona and Paolo Rossi, amazing, talented actors and actresses including our beloved “Black Panther” Chadwick Boseman, the original “Darth Vader” David Prowse and the unstoppable Mad Max’s villain “Immortal Joe” Hugh Keays-Byrne, and music geniuses like Rush’s unparalleled Neil Peart and one of the best and most revolutionary guitarists of all time, the one and only Eddie Van Halen. May their souls rest in peace.

However, although we might be living such difficult and stressful times, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with the development of effective vaccines that will certainly put our society back on track sooner than later, giving us all some hope and pointing to a much better future for all of us. In the meantime, I guess one thing that we metalheads have been doing (and will always do) throughout such shitty year is using the music we love to face all of our problems and fears with our heads and horns high in the sky, never giving up nor giving in. Having said that, I’ll leave you with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, showing to us all that it doesn’t matter what happens with the world, heavy music will always stand strong. From the most primeval form of Black Metal to fast and electrifying Power Metal, from a beyond amazing soaring numbers of women kicking ass in an array of styles such as Doom, Symphonic and Death Metal to the most underground Atmospheric Black Metal entities you can think of, from our good old Rock N’ Roll to modern-day Alternative Metal, music prevailed above darkness, pain and hate, and that’s how it will be forever and ever. Enjoy our list of top metal albums for this (terrible) year that’s coming to an end, and let’s keep raising our horns and banging our heads together in 2021!

1. Primal Fear – Metal Commando (REVIEW)
Join Primal Fear’s undisputed rock brigade and become a true metal commando to the sound of their breathtaking new album.
Best song of the album: Infinity

2. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say (REVIEW)
It’s time to listen to what these four (un)dead men from Orlando, Florida have to say in their thrilling new opus.
Best song of the album: Amongst the Shadows & the Stones

3. Testament – Titans Of Creation (REVIEW)
The titans of Thrash Metal are back in action with another technical, melodic and absolutely pulverizing album of extreme music.
Best song of the album: Night of the Witch

4. Lamb of God – Lamb of God (REVIEW)
Re-energized and unrelenting, Lamb of God are finally back after five years with their pulverizing eighth studio album.
Best song of the album: Gears

5. Sepultura – Quadra (REVIEW)
A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal.
Best song of the album: Guardians of Earth

6. Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (REVIEW)
These UK veterans are ready to set the world on fire once again with one of the most ferocious Thrash Metal albums of the year.
Best song of the album: Religiousuicide

7. Ecclesia – De Ecclesiæ Universalis (REVIEW)
This army of French inquisitors stands strong on their crusade against every doom heretic with their incendiary debut album.
Best song of the album: Antichristus

8. Eleine – Dancing In Hell (REVIEW)
Time for us all to dance in the fires of hell to the sound of the striking new opus by this unstoppable Swedish Symphonic Metal group.
Best song of the album: Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.)

9. Grave Digger – Fields of Blood (REVIEW)
Grave Digger celebrate 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.
Best song of the album: Freedom

10. Konvent – Puritan Masochism (REVIEW)
A dark, primeval and stunning fusion of Death and Doom Metal masterfully crafted by four unrelenting women hailing from Denmark.
Best song of the album: Puritan Masochism

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Genus Ordinis Dei – Glare of Deliverance (REVIEW)
12. Paradise Lost – Obsidian (REVIEW)
13. Axel Rudi Pell – Sign of the Times (REVIEW)
14. Raventale – Planetarium II (REVIEW)
15. Hellsmoke – 2020 (REVIEW)
16. My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion (REVIEW)
17. Burning Witches – Dance with the Devil (REVIEW)
18. Naglfar – Cerecloth (REVIEW)
19. Scarlet Aura – Stormbreaker (REVIEW)
20. Thundermother – Heat Wave (REVIEW)

And how about we also pay a tribute to the bands that released short and sweet albums that condensed pretty much the same amount of electricity, rage and intricacy than any of the full-length albums from the list above? That’s why we’re also going to provide you as usual our Top 10 EP’s of 2020 for you to see that size doesn’t really matter.

1. Front – Antichrist Militia (REVIEW)
2. Malfested – Shallow Graves (REVIEW)
3. Tøronto – Under Siege (REVIEW)
4. Soul Dissolution – Winter Contemplations (REVIEW)
5. Lutharö – Wings of Agony (REVIEW)
6. Póstuma – Moralis (REVIEW)
7. Black Sun – Silent Enemy (REVIEW)
8. MĀRA – Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive! (REVIEW)
9. Serocs – Vore (REVIEW)
10. Invocation – Attunement to Death (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2020? Also, don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 10pm BRT on Rádio Coringão to enjoy the best of classic and underground metal with Jorge Diaz and his Timão Metal, and every Thursday at 8pm UTC+2 on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of underground metal with The Headbanging Moose Show! And if you lost some or most of our special editions of The Headbanging Moose Show, including our Top 20 Underground Albums of 2020 – Parts I and II, go to our Mixcloud page and there you have hours and hours of the best of the independent scene, sounds good?

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2021!

And before we go, let’s bang our heads one last time in 2020 with a classic Christmas song by an amazing Romanian band that loves Heavy Metal from the bottom of their hearts, pointing to much better times ahead for all of us! Enjoy!

Album Review – Helestios / Your Pain Tastes Good (2020)

Drawing upon ancient mythology while at the same time looking at the current state of the world, this newborn multi-cultural metal act is ready to attack armed with the fusion of melody and fury from their debut release.

Combining the melodic approach and broad appeal of Metallica with the ferocity and thematic invention of Sepultura, Basingstoke, UK-based Power/Thrash Metal outfit Helestios is ready to conquer the world of heavy music with their debut album titled Your Pain Tastes Good, a reminder of how metal stays true to itself and its fans, reflecting the reality of life and urging people to think for themselves and move forward positively. Formed in early 2020 by Henrijs Leja on vocals and guitar, Stelios Aggelis on lead guitar, Agnis Aldiņš on bass and Ian den Boer on drums, all skillful musicians hailing from Latvia, Greece and Netherlands, Helestios are both the power and the fury we need to inspire us, with their new album offering our ears both traditional metal riffing and melodic structure as well as more aggressive and atmospheric tones, and with its lyrics drawing upon ancient mythology while at the same time looking at the state of the world around us right now.

Wicked vocalizations and the slashing riffs by Henrijs and Stelios ignite Helestios’ metal machine in Sacrifice, blending the fury of the Groove Metal by Lamb of God with the Power Metal by bands like Gamma Ray and Primal Fear, whereas Black Storm, a churning sea of riffs and tales told in the ancient mythologies of Syria and Egypt, sounds and feels as modern as the opening track with Ian dictating the rhythm with his classic beats accompanied by the thunderous bass by Agnis and the deep roars by Henrijs, keeping the album at a high level of animosity and rage. And  let’s keep banging our heads together with those four metallers in Downgraded World, presenting another amazing job done by the band’s guitar duo with their incendiary riffs and solos and all spiced up by the powerful vocal performance by Henrijs; and Back to Where it Starts offers us all more of their solid fusion of Thrash and Power Metal, albeit not as exciting as its predecessors. It still showcases a great work done by the stringed trio with their venomous riffage and rumbling bass, though.

The title-track Your Pain Tastes Good begins in an ominous manner before exploding into another round of Helestios’ infuriated metal music, again bringing forward a nice mix of harsh growls and clean vocals while Ian adds tons of progressiveness and intricacy to the music with his beats. Then it’s time for a metal onslaught spearheaded by the flammable guitars by Henrijs an Stelios in All Attack, a modern-day Thrash Metal extravaganza with hints of Death and Groove Metal written in support of the Belorussian people who have spent recent months fighting to overthrow what many see as one of the last tyrannies of Europe. Put differently, it can’t get any heavier nor darker than this, I might say.  And the quartet continues to slam their instruments in great fashion in You Are Free, where its headbanging rhythm is nicely boosted by Ian’s massive drums while also bringing forward very melodic lines exploding from their guitars and vocals. And last but not least, hypnotizing guitars kick off their final breath of Thrash Metal entitled Return to Baalbek, with Henrijs sounding truly demonic on vocals, therefore resulting in the perfect soundtrack for slamming into the circle pit in an amazing hybrid of sheer aggressiveness and soulful melodies.

In a nutshell, although Helestios might be a brand new name in the metal community, each band member know exactly what they are doing in Your Pain Tastes Good, sounding as polished, professional, focused and aggressive as any of the big names of the Thrash and Power Metal scene. Hence, don’t forget to show this talented, multi-cultural metal act your support by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, by streaming more of their powerful music on Spotify, and by grabbing your copy of their top-notch debut album from different locations sooner than you can say the word “pain”. Helestios’ fusion of melody and fury will surely please all fans of Heavy Metal in general, leaving us eager for more of their thrilling creations and, of course, putting a huge smile on our faces for knowing underground metal music in the UK is alive and kicking as usual.

Best moments of the album: Sacrifice, All Attack and Return to Baalbek.

Worst moments of the album: Back to Where it Starts.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Sacrifice 4:46
2. Black Storm 3:08
3. Downgraded World 4:05
4. Back to Where it Starts 3:39
5. Your Pain Tastes Good 5:45
6. All Attack 3:57
7. You Are Free 3:44
8. Return to Baalbek 5:11

Band members
Henrijs Leja – vocals, guitar
Stelios Aggelis – lead guitar
Agnis Aldiņš – bass
Ian den Boer – drums

Album Review – Helion Prime / Question Everything (2020)

A stunning concept album of Power Metal with each song revolving around different figures throughout human history who had the courage to question the status quo of their respective worlds and societies.

Two years after the release of their sophomore album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, the unstoppable Sacramento, California-based Sci-Fi Power Metal entity Helion Prime returns with their third effort (and the much shorter title) Question Everything, their first album with new vocalist Mary Zimmer, from bands like Luna Mortis, The Ottoman Empire, Earthen and White Empress, among others, who has also accompanied the band on two separate tours of the United States. Not only that, Question Everything also sees the band’s original singer, Heather Michele, returning in a writing capacity and contributing in all lyrics and melodies, supporting guitarists Jason Ashcraft and Chad Anderson, bassist Jeremy Steinhouse and drummer Alex Bosson in their quest for science and heavy music. Mixed by Chris Collier and mastered by Brett Caldas-Lima with additional mixing, drum edits and reamping by Alex Nasla of Gear Gods Studio, and featuring a stylish cover art by American artist Marc Whisnant, Question Everything is a concept album with each song revolving around different figures throughout human history who had the courage to question the status quo of their respective worlds and societies, in some cases even dealing with harsh persecution as a result.

The exciting opening track The Final Theory kicks off in full force to the strident guitars by Jason and Chad, setting the stage for Mary and her smooth, powerful vocals and offering our avid ears some good classic Melodic Metal to start their 60-minute journey through space and science. In Madame Mercury, a beautiful song in honor of American mathematician Katherine Johnson (who sadly passed away earlier this year), whose calculations of orbital mechanics during her 35 years as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent US crewed spaceflights, we’re treated to strong lyrics declaimed by Mary (“Born in a time defined / By bias in our laws / Held to a standard of / Injustice with no cause / Came a mighty force of reckoning / A gale of objectivity / One with the audacity / To know where she belonged”) while the music remains solid, cohesive and epic from start to finish; followed by Prof, a headbanging tune led by the galloping bass and beats by Jeremy and Alex, with the music growing in intensity until reaching a truly epic rhythm and vibe, and with its background keys also making an interesting paradox with the slashing riffs by the band’s guitar duo.

In The Gadfly, based on the one and only Greek philosopher Socrates, a serene intro explodes into a fusion of modern-day Power Metal with Symphonic and Melodic Metal, resulting in one of the most progressive of all songs, with the solos by Chad being absolutely incendiary. Then we have the breathtaking Photo 51, based on the life and discoveries of English chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, showcasing their most Iron Maiden/Helloween-inspired vein and with Mary living up to the legacy of grandiose female vocalists the likes of Brittney Slayes and Floor Jansen, not to mention how bestial Alex is behind his drums, whereas strident guitars ignite another Heavy Metal extravaganza titled E Pur Si Muove, where its keys add an extra touch of finesse to the overall result while Jason, Chad and Jeremy blast their stringed weapons in great fashion. And featuring guest vocals by American singer John Yelland (Judicator, Dire Peril, Principium), Words of The Abbot is another fast-paced, epic creation by Helion Prime, with the amazing job done by both Jason and Chad on the guitars providing Mary all she needs to shine on vocals once again.

Based on the fictional character Dr. Cornelius from the 1968 masterpiece Planet of the Apes (and I must say how much I love this movie, having watched it for the first time when I was just a little boy with my dad), The Forbidden Zone brings forward dark and epic lyrics (“What lies beyond / Those barren mountains / Hiding on that shore / I refrain”) with the music remaining absolutely loyal to the band’s foundations, offering us all their purest display of Symphonic Power Metal; followed by the title-track Question Everything, featuring the band’s former vocalists Heather Michele (Graveshadow) and Sozos Michael (Planeswalker), something I believe only Helloween had done before in the song “Pumpkins United”, with Michael Kiske, Andi Deris and Kai Hansen sharing the vocal duties. And let me tell you that the Helion Prime vocal triumvirate kicks some serious ass throughout the entire song, while Jason, Chad, Jeremy and Alex breathe fire, adrenaline and speed through their respective instruments. Then despite it’s 80’s inspired rhythm and vocal lines, as well as the soulful solos by Chad, Reawakening never really takes off, falling flat after a while, but fortunately for all of us the band closes the album with their cover version for Kong at the Gates/Forbidden Zone, from their 1999 album Famous Monsters by the Misfits (check out the original version HERE), with Helion Prime’s version sounding amazing (and very melodic) while presenting the band’s own twist, speahrheaded by the rebellious vocals by Mary.

“This album has truly been amazing to work on. The idea behind it is something I’ve been holding on to since around the time I started the band. Aside from writing some of what I consider to be Prime’s best work it was a great experience getting to work with Heather again on an album as she once again contributed her talents for the lyrics,” said Jason about the band’s newborn opus, and we must all admit it’s indeed their most complex and detailed about since their inception back in 2014. Well, when a Sci-Fi Metal band is named after an alien planet featured in the film The Chronicles of Riddick, you know their music will have a lot of content to support all their noise, right? It’s like if we could call their style “Nerd Metal” in the best way possible, and if you want to experiment their nerdy and thrilling music you can stream Question Everything in full on Spotify. In addition, don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram, and above all, to purchase your copy of their new album from their own webstore, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Those Helion Prime chose to write about in Question Everything faced prejudice, mockery and persecution, yet through it all they held true to their beliefs and ideas, serving as an inspiration for all minds to continue thinking outside the box and staying true to themselves, and of course for Helion Prime to unleash upon us one of the best Symphonic Power Metal albums of the year.

Best moments of the album: Photo 51, Words of The Abbot and Question Everything.

Worst moments of the album: Reawakening.

Released in 2020 Saibot Reigns

Track listing
1. The Final Theory 4:20
2. Madame Mercury 4:19
3. Prof 3:55
4. The Gadfly 6:35
5. Photo 51 5:13
6. E Pur Si Muove 5:48
7. Words of The Abbot 4:55
8. The Forbidden Zone 4:32
9. Question Everything 5:56
10. Reawakening 6:54
11. Kong at the Gates/Forbidden Zone (Misfits cover) 3:39

Band members
Mary Zimmer – vocals
Jason Ashcraft – rhythm guitars
Chad Anderson – lead guitars
Jeremy Steinhouse – bass
Alex Bosson – drums

Guest musicians
John Yelland – vocals on “Words of The Abbot”
Heather Michele – vocals on “Question Everything”
Sozos Michael – vocals on “Question Everything”

Album Review – Unleash The Archers / Abyss (2020)

The Matriarch is ready to eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss to the sound of the brand new album by one of the best Canadian metal bands of all time.

Formed in 2007 in Vancouver, the biggest city in the stunning province of British Columbia, Canada, the unrelenting Power/Melodic Death Metal squad known as Unleash The Archers has sharpened their arrows and hit the bullseye once again with their fifth full-length album, entitled Abyss. Featuring ten new tracks, this adventure is a concept album and a sequel to their 2017 masterpiece Apex, and was once again recorded with legendary producer Jacob Hansen of Hansen Studios in Denmark. Portraying another epic artwork, this time designed by Adam Burke (Nightjar Illustration), Abyss might not be as grandiose and breathtaking as Apex, something quite impossible to be done in my humble opinion, but it’s indeed a vibrant display of the band’s dexterity, their passion for Heavy Metal and their infinite creativity to bring forth a compelling storyline together with their music, proving why frontwoman Brittney Slayes, guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Saunders, and drummer Scott Buchanan heave reached such high level of admiration and relevance all over the world, carving their spot in the hearts of all types of metalheads.

Smooth, serene guitar lines invite us all to join the band in their quest for metal in the opening tune Waking Dream, where Brittney already showcases all her vocal potency, gradually evolving into the epic title-track Abyss, with Grant and Andrew taking the lead with their crisp and strident riffs and solos. It will work beautifully when played live, blending their modern-day Power Metal with 80’s Glam Metal, I might say. Then again presenting an 80’s rockin’ vibe thanks to its background keys and classic beats we have Through Stars, sounding like it was taken from an old school Hard Rock album, being very pleasant while at the same time developing the story majestically told by Brittney, and when you think they’re going to slow down a little they come with an onrush of sounds titled Legacy, even bringing nuances of Black Metal added to their classic metal music. However, the music never really clicks, though, falling flat after a while (nothing to worry about, though).

In Return to Me the band brings forward a more progressive and groovier side, with Scott dictating the rhythm with his old school beats, resulting in another good composition by the quartet albeit a bit generic if compared to their older songs, whereas it’s with Soulbound that the party really starts, showcasing ass-kicking lyrics screamed by Brittney (“We race around the melted char of what was once a neutron star / And use the gravity to whip us into dark galactic rifts / Yet still somehow we can’t escape, they have no flaw, they feel no pain / These twisted shadows of the men I once condemned”) while Grant and Andrew are unstoppable with their axes in this ode to Heavy Metal. And get ready for another round of inspiring, metallic words (“Once more we’re flying fast as light / Dark matter passing in the night / Pursued by a force we can’t outrun / As we hurtle towards a dying sun / We maneuver through the remnants of a moon on the solar winds of supernovas / There is not a place to hide, the Matriarch is close behind, it’s plain to see she’s coming for us all”) in the superb Faster Than Light, bringing to our ears a stuninng Stratovarius-like feel (and an absolutely weird official video to our eyes, by the way), with all band members speeding things up and blasting sheer awesomeness for our total delectation.

After such intense tune, it’s time for a passionate performance by Brittney supported by her loyal bandmates in The Wind that Shapes the Land, with Grant and Andrew slashing our ears with their sharp riffage while Scott doesn’t stop hammering his drums throughout the song’s eight minutes of a top-of-the-line fusion of Melodic Death and Power Metal. Carry the Flame is another 80’s-inspired Hard Rock/Heavy Metal song showcasing a beautiful vocal duo between Brittney and Andrew, while Scott continues to bring the thunder to the music with his beats, all spiced up by some ass-kicking, soulful guitar solos. Lastly, in order to properly conclude the album the band brings to our ears the epic, symphonic and climatic Afterlife, a very detailed and dense composition where Brittney is once again flawless with her high-pitched, heroic vocals, accompanied by the galloping beats by Scott and the always flammable guitars by Grant and Andrew until the song’s serene and warm ending.

In a nutshell, as already mentioned, although Abyss is not on par with Apex, it will surely entertain all fans of the band while at the same time it puts a climatic conclusion to the overall story concept initiated with their 2017 album. Do not expect to listen to a new “The Matriarch”, “Call Me Immortal” or “Shadow Guide” in Abyss, but to brand new, unique compositions that have their place and purpose well defined by Unleash The Archers, and if you want to give their new album a shot you can stream it in full on Spotify or purchase a copy of it from several locations such as their own BandCamp page, Napalm Records, Apple Music, Amazon or indiemerchstore.com, among others. Also, don’t forget to follow Brittney and the boys on Facebook and on Instagram, getting up to date to all things related to one of the best metal bands of all time hailing from Canada. In the end, the Matriarch might eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss, but as long as that happens while we listen to the first-class metal blasted by Unleash The Archers, we can rest assured our souls will be free in the afterlife.

Best moments of the album: Through Stars, Soulbound, Faster Than Light and The Wind that Shapes the Land.

Worst moments of the album: Legacy and Return to Me.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Waking Dream 3:45
2. Abyss 6:44
3. Through Stars 5:34
4. Legacy 5:26
5. Return to Me 5:34
6. Soulbound 3:54
7. Faster Than Light 5:11
8. The Wind that Shapes the Land 8:36
9. Carry the Flame 4:42
10. Afterlife 7:30

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Saunders – guitar, harsh growls, additional vocals, synths
Scott Buchanan – drums

Guest musicians
Francesco Ferrini – orchestration on “Afterlife”
Ben Arscott – bass (session)

Album Review – Black Sun / Silent Enemy EP (2020)

Ecuador’s most prominent metal band is back in action with a new EP overflowing their trademark Heavy and Power Metal, serving as the inspiration for their first ever musical film.

Formed in the year of 1999 in Guayaquil, the second largest city of Ecuador, the three-piece Heavy and Power Metal act that goes by the straightforward name of Black Sun is set to release their fourth official album and their first EP, entitled Silent Enemy, following up on their previous albums Tyrant from a Foreign Land (2005), Dance of Elders (2011) and The Puppeteer (2017), while at the same time venturing through more “cinematic” lands as the EP also includes a short film in Blu-Ray. Featuring guest musicians from several amazing bands, most of them curiously from Finland, such as Sonata Arctica, Lordi, Battle Beast, Smackbound, Omnium Gatherum and Wintersun, which points to an interesting connection between the two countries, Silent Enemy is highly recommended for fans of classic Heavy Metal, overflowing epicness, electricity and a good dosage of 80’s Hard Rock, nicely cementing the names of guitarist Christopher Gruenberg, bassist Santiago Salem and drummer Nicolás Estrada in the local Ecuadorian scene as well as in the global metal community.

Just hit play and prepare your senses for a whimsical and futuristic voyage together with Black Sun in the intro Moebius, setting the stage for the breathtaking Resist, featuring Netta Laurenne (Smackbound) on vocals. This amazing tune has that delicious Hard Rock and Hair Metal feel from the 80’s amplified by Netta’s fantastic vocal performance, with Christopher kicking some serious ass with his in-your-face riffs while Nicolás pounds his drums in great fashion. Then we face Henning Basse (Firewind, Mayan, Sons Of Seasons) as the guest vocalist in Terror Zone, where Black Sun offer us all more of their thrilling fusion of Heavy and Power Metal with classic Hard Rock, therefore reminding me of old school Accept. Moreover, Santiago makes the earth tremble with his bass jabs, enhancing the song’s punch considerably. And Christopher takes the lead with his crisp riffs and solos in the instrumental feast titled Dark Mirror, while Santiago and Nicolás keep the band’s kitchen heavy and thunderous, also presenting tons of progressiveness and endless stamina.

After the short and atmospheric interlude No Return, it’s time for the incendiary Still Alive to inspire us all to bang our heads nonstop while enjoying an array of vocal styles the likes of Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Mr. Lordi (Lordi), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Pasi Rantanen (Thunderstone), Netta Laurenne (Smackbound), Jukka Pelkonen (Omnium Gatherum), Nino Laurenne (Thunderstone) and Asim Searah (Wintersun, Damnation Plan), not to mention Elias Viljanen (Sonata Arctica) and his wicked guitar solo, all embraced by the always solid Heavy Metal played by the Ecuadorian power trio and with Nicolás being on fire behind his drums, flowing into the climatic and melancholic outro Finale, putting a beautiful conclusion to the EP. In addition, as aforementioned, the EP also comes with a musical short film also named Silent Enemy in DVD format, developed by director and writer Gustavo Arguello alongside Black Sun, paving the way for experimentation and rediscovery of the “musical film” concept.

In summary, if you’re a fan of both old school Heavy Metal and the exciting world of action and Sci-Fi movies, you should definitely take a shot at Silent Enemy, which you can purchase from several locations such as the Rockshots Records webstore, Apple Music, Amazon, mvdshop.com, Craft & Vinyl, imusic.dk, and so on. Also, don’t forget to follow Christopher, Santiago and Nicolás on Facebook and on Instagram to know more about the band, and to stream all of their albums on Spotify. My only “compliant” about Silent enemy is that the EP is too short, with only 20 minutes of music (including the intro, interlude and outro), leaving me more than eager for more of their stunning metal music. Who knows, maybe next time Black Sun will return with not only a full-length opus, but also a full-bodied movie based on that, expanding their horizons even more and, consequently, showing the entire world Ecuador is an amazing alternative for metalheads who are searching for something that’s at the same time new and old school, technical and inspiring, just like what Black Sun have to offer in their new album.

Best moments of the album: Resist and Still Alive.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Rockshots Records

Track listing
1. Moebius 2:14
2. Resist 3:47
3. Terror Zone 3:48
4. Dark Mirror 4:30
5. No Return 0:31
6. Still Alive 4:16
7. Finale 1:33

Disc 2 (DVD)
8. Silent Enemy (short film)

Band members
Christopher Gruenberg – guitars
Santiago Salem – bass
Nicolás Estrada – drums

Guest musicians
Tony Kakko, Mr. Lordi, Noora Louhimo, Pasi Rantanen, Jukka Pelkonen, Nino Laurenne & Asim Searah – vocals on “Still Alive”
Elias Viljanen – guitar solo on “Still Alive”
Netta Laurenne – vocals on “Still Alive” and “Resist”
Henning Basse – vocals on “Terror Zone”