Album Review – Flames Of Fire / Flames Of Fire (2022)

Hailing from Sweden, Norway and Finland, these fired up musicians will rock your world to the sound of their debut album of old school Heavy Metal.

Formed in the spring of 2021 by vocalist Christian Liljegren (Narnia, The Waymaker, Audiovision) and guitarist and composer Mats-Åke Andersson (Zaragorn), but with its history going back to 1987 when the duo met for the first time in their hometown Jönköping, a city on the shores of Lake Vättern, in southern Sweden, the newborn Heavy Metal entity known as Flames Of Fire is ready to show us all what they got with the release of their self-titled debut album. With multi-instrumentalist Jani Stefanovic (The Waymaker, Solution .45, Miseration), bassist Per Schelander (House of Shakira, Astrakhan, Royal Hunt, Pain of Salvation) and guitarist Stephen Carlson (Brotthogg, Peter Carlsohn’s The Rise, Tales, Viva) completing the line-up, this Sweden/Norway/Finland-based squad is highly recommended for admirers of the music by Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and Dio, among others, delivering the awesomeness of metal music in their new album while also displaying a crystal clear and very professional overall production and sound quality.

The sinister intro New Dawn warms up Flames of Fire to strike us all with their high-octane sound in Gloria, with Jani dictating the pace with his fierce drumming while at the same time he embellishes the airwaves with his classy keys, all of course spiced up by the powerful vocals by Christian in an old school, no shenanigans Heavy and Power Metal hymn by the quintet. Mats-Åke, Jani and Stephen keep slashing their guitars in the battle song that carries the name of the band, Flames Of Fire, supported by the thunderous bass by Per. Needless to say, it will inspire you to keep fighting for heavy music no matter what; whereas Madness brings to our ears classic Melodic Metal with that trademark European harmony, also presenting a pleasant pace with Jani kicking ass with his rhythmic beats. Then in I Am the band drinks from the same mystical fountain as bands like Helloween, Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden, while Christian’s soaring vocals add an extra touch of magic to the musicality accompanied by the galloping bass by Per.

It’s time to bang our heads to the electrifying fusion of Melodic and Power Metal found in Time To Live, showcasing traditional guitar riffs and solos, a breathtaking pace and the always visceral vocals by Christian, not to mention Per’s stunning bass lines. Are you ready for 10 minutes of epicness and a deep passion for metal music? That’s what the band has to offer us all in Solution, a heavy-as-hell aria by Flames of Fire where Christian darkly declaims the song’s wicked words. Moreover, it has a strong Black Sabbath vibe from their Dio-era, resulting in almost a metal opera with the massive drums by Jani making your head tremble mercilessly. The band has one final metal onrush for us all in the form of Soldiers Of The King, tailored for diehard fans of the genre, with their guitar triumvirate Mats-Åke, Jani and Stephen being on absolute sync until the very last second, flowing into the outro End Theme, which puts an atmospheric ending to the album.

After carefully listening to Flames of Fire, you’ll easily notice how professional and focused those Scandinavian metallers are, which explains why the album sounds so thrilling from start to finish. Hence, in order to show them your support and admiration, you can start following the band on Facebook for news, tour dates (if they will do that one day, of course), plans for the future and other nice-to-know details about them, and purchase your copy of the album from the Melodic Passion Records’ webstore or by clicking HERE. Having said all that, are you ready to rock and bang your head in the name of Heavy Metal together with the guys from Flames of Fire? You won’t get disappointed at all, showing you once and for all that Scandinavia is and will always be a fantastic source of heavy music for your metallic heart.

Best moments of the album: Flames Of Fire, Time To Live and Solution.

Worst moments of the album: Madness.

Released in 2022 Melodic Passion Records

Track listing
1. New Dawn 1:25
2. Gloria 4:15
3. Flames Of Fire 3:16
4. Madness 3:55
5. I Am 4:31
6. Time To Live 4:07
7. Solution 9:58
8. Soldiers Of The King 5:05
9. End Theme 1:32

Band members
Christian Liljegren – vocals
Mats-Åke Andersson – guitars
Jani Stefanovic – guitars, keyboards, drums, backing vocals
Stephen Carlson – guitars
Per Schelander – bass

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2021

“I wanted to play drums because I fell in love with the glitter and the lights, but it wasn’t about adulation. It was being up there playing.” – Charlie Watts

And there goes another year without a single metal concert in Canada. Another year full of uncertainties, fears, polarization, restrictions, and everything else we “love” so much. I honestly don’t know what to say about 2021 apart form the fact it was undoubtedly much better than 2020, but that means nothing considering the total nightmare that 2020 was. We lost a lot of huge names in the rock and metal scene such as Joey Jordison, Dusty Hill, Mike Howe, Johnny Solinger, Marsha Zazula, Alexi Laiho, John Hinch, John Lawton, Charlie Watts and Hank Von Hell, among many others. Tons of festivals including Download, Wacken Open Air, Hellfest, Bloodstock Open Air, Sweden Rock Festival and Dynamo MetalFest were scheduled to return this year after the 2020 editions of those festivals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately Sweden Rock, Hellfest, Download and Wacken Open Air were once again cancelled. With that said, why do we metalheads still believe in a better future? Is it because, despite all adversities, our favorite bands released some of their best albums from the past few years?

Hence, as new lockdowns are being imposed upon us in a never-ending pandemic loop, there’s not much we can do but enjoy The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2021, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, keeping us sane until this madness is finally over. Or maybe I should say if it will be over one day, of course. There’s a bit of everything for all types of fans, from classic Heavy Metal to the brutality of Death Metal, from the modern nuances of Melodic Death Metal to old school Thrash Metal, and so on, and in my humble opinions one of the most interesting facts about several albums launched in 2021 is their duration, with many of those surpassing the one hour barrier such as Senjutsu, Helloween, Persona Non Grata, Existence Is Futile and Blood on Blood, not to mention the over four hours of music from the Lordiversity boxset, which for me proves how much the bands responsible for those albums love their fans by offering them a lot of new music to enjoy during such difficult times. I would say that even if there are ZERO metal albums launched in 2022, we’ll still have a lot of great music to enjoy throughout the year thanks to all the amazing records released in 2021, don’t you agree?

1. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu (REVIEW)
Behold another masterpiece by the one and only Iron Maiden with its 82 minutes of tactics, strategy, war, resilience and determination.
Best song of the album: Hell on Earth

2. Helloween – Helloween (REVIEW)
A dream come true for all generations of “Happy, Happy Helloween” fans from all over the world.
Best song of the album: Skyfall

3. Trivium – In the Court of the Dragon (REVIEW)
It’s time to join Trivium in the court of the dragon to the sound of their magnificent new opus.
Best song of the album: Like a Sword Over Damocles

4. Exodus – Persona Non Grata (REVIEW)
Don’t be a “persona non grata” in the world of heavy music and get into the circle pit to the sound of this newborn thrashing beast.
Best song of the album: Lunatic-Liar-Lord

5. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (REVIEW)
State of the art Death Metal played with passion and breathless precision by the most violent and unrelenting band of all time.
Best song of the album: Surround, Kill, Devour

6. 1914 – Where Fear and Weapons Meet (REVIEW)
Ukraine’s own doom infantry is back into the battlefield with another masterpiece, telling the gruesome tales of World War I.
Best song of the album: Pillars of Fire (The Battle of Messines)

7. Motorjesus – Hellbreaker (REVIEW)
Let’s drive through the fires of hell together with one of the best bands from the German rock and metal scene.
Best song of the album: Hellbreaker

8. Nervosa – Perpetual Chaos (REVIEW)
A deadly and thrashing lesson in perpetual chaos by four metalheads hailing from Brazil, Italy, Spain and Greece
Best song of the album: Time to Fight

9. Gojira – Fortitude (REVIEW)
Let’s all face up the world to the sound of the new masterpiece by one of the most dynamic bands of the current metal scene.
Best song of the album: Amazonia

10. Blaze Bayley – War Within Me (REVIEW)
The man who will live for a thousand years is back, inspiring us all to fight the war within us and to take our future in our own hands.
Best song of the album: Pull Yourself Up

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

11. Running Wild – Blood on Blood (REVIEW)
12. Lordi – Lordiversity (REVIEW)
13. Cradle of Filth – Existence Is Futile (REVIEW)
14. Diabolizer – Khalkedonian Death (REVIEW)
15. Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida (REVIEW)
16. Moonspell – Hermitage (REVIEW)
17. Lutharo – Hiraeth (REVIEW)
18. Unflesh – Inhumation (REVIEW)
19. Scarlet Aura – Genesis of Time (REVIEW)
20. Coiled Around Thy Spine – From The Ashes (REVIEW)

In addition to all that, let’s bang our heads with our Top 10 EP’s of 2021 to prove once and for all that not all great albums of the year have to be so long. The EP’s from this list are simply awesome, showcasing the band’s talent and their ability to sound epic even if the music lasts for only a few minutes.

1. Eonian – The Nomad (REVIEW)
2. Lady Beast – Omens (REVIEW)
3. The Agonist – Days Before the World Wept (REVIEW)
4. Tantivy – Eyes in the Night (REVIEW)
5. Grale – AGITACIÓN (REVIEW)
6. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Hemispheres Part 2: Cerebral (REVIEW)
7. Kadavereich – Radiance Of Doom (REVIEW)
8. Wolvencrown – A Shadow Of What Once Was (REVIEW)
9. Juliet Ruin – Dark Water (REVIEW)
10. Black Hole Deity – Lair Of Xenolich (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2021? 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 2021 – 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 2022!

And before I go, I’ll leave you with some touching words by Mr. Lordi and his crew of monsters…

Something something blah blah to you
All the sincere wishes come true
I put vengeance on my wish list
And that’s what Santa brought
So have a merry something and a happy blah blah blah

Album Review – Emerald Rage / High King (2021)

Raise your horns to this triumphant and epic album of pure Heavy Metal crafted by three young American musicians, paying homage to the glorious medieval times, King Arthur and tales of pagan folklore.

After four intense years releasing a bunch of demos, EP’s and singles, Akron, Ohio-based Heavy/Power Metal unity Emerald Rage has finally unleashed upon humanity their debut full-length album, entitled High King, a fun and admirable sonic rollercoaster as the band successfully explores the melodic sense of the NWOBHM and all the explosive leads that come with the baggage, being highly recommended for admirers of the music by Skyclad, Falconer, Iron Maiden, and so on. Paying homage to the glorious medieval times, King Arthur and tales of pagan folklore, the album sounds and feels absolutely triumphant and epic, showcasing all the talent and passion for old school metal music by Jacob Wherley on vocals and guitars, Patrick Kern also on the guitars, and Erik Curry on bass, supported by session drummer David Hardesty.

Frantic riffs and beats ignite the metal extravaganza titled Into the Sky, a beautiful and electrifying tribute to the golden years of Heavy Metal with Jacob kicking ass on vocals accompanied by the galloping bass by Erik. In Wrathful Eyes the rumbling bass by Erik offers exactly what Jacob needs to declaim the song’s wicked lyrics (“You think the morning fog hides all the lies you’ve told / But I see through the dismal gloom straight to your blackened soul / Your forces they stand line by line grumbling to themselves / They know their leader is a thief, a craven and a fool”) in another high-octane display of classic metal music, whereas a more epic, thunderous vibe permeates the air in High King, spearheaded by the tribal beats by David while Jacob and Patrick extract sheer electricity from their guitars in the best Manowar style. Then telling a story of a pagan warrior, the band blasts the traditional Heavy and Power Metal tune Heart of a Pagan, showcasing an excellent guitar attack together with the unstoppable bass jabs by Erik.

In Dire Wolves the band delivers a solid hybrid of classic Heavy Metal with 80’s Hard Rock that reminds me of some of the most thrilling creations by Axel Rudi Pell, with their striking guitar riffs and solos penetrating deep inside your mind; and adding elements from Thrash Metal to their core sonority, Erik and David bring the groove to the music in White Stag while Jacob and Patrick keep slashing their stringed axes with tons of feeling and dexterity. Then inspired by the badass Rock N’ Roll by the unparalleled Motörhead, those young metallers will put you to bang your head and slam into the pit in Empress, with even Jacob’s voice displaying hints of the grumpy vocals by Lemmy, followed by Goddess Freya, which albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album still has its good moments, with Jacob doing another great job on vocals supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals. Last but not least, Emerald Rage bring forth the rumbling tune Wings of Solitude, sounding very stylish with its strident riffs in paradox with the low-tuned, metallic bass by Erik, also full of breaks, variations and endless stamina for our total delight.

You can join Emerald Rage in their metal voyage through the glory of the medieval times by streaming High King in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, by following the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details, and above all that, by grabbing your copy of their thrilling debut installment from their own BandCamp page, from the Stormspell Records’ Big Cartel, from Apple Music, from Amazon or from Discogs. Now that those young rockers have finally released their first full-length album, let’s wait and see what’s next in their career and to what period in time they’ll take us with their refined Heavy Metal, sounding like true veterans and, consequently, keeping the fires of old school heavy music burning bright wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Into the Sky, Dire Wolves and Empress.

Worst moments of the album: Goddess Freya.

Released in 2021 Stormspell Records

Track listing
1. Into the Sky 5:30
2. Wrathful Eyes 4:26
3. High King 5:37
4. Heart of a Pagan 3:25
5. Dire Wolves 3:29
6. White Stag 3:54
7. Empress 3:21
8. Goddess Freya 3:56
9. Wings of Solitude 5:35

Band members
Jacob Wherley – lead vocals, guitars
Patrick Kern – guitar, backing vocals
Erik Curry – bass, backing vocals

Guest musician
David Hardesty – drums (session)

Album Review – Running Wild / Blood on Blood (2021)

The German pirates of Heavy and Power Metal are back with what’s unarguably their strongest album in over 20 years.

The German pirates of Heavy and Power Metal, collectively known as Running Wild, are finally back with an album that lives up to their own legacy, the excellent Blood on Blood. Produced, recorded and mixed by the band’s own mastermind, vocalist and guitarist, the one and only Rock N’ Rolf (aka Rolf Kasparek), and displaying an old school artwork by Jens Reinhold of Zenz-Art, the seventeenth studio album by one of the most important names of the German metal scene to emerge in the early to mid-80’s puts the band back on track after a few bland albums, offering us fans the power and the glory of fantastic albums such as Under Jolly Roger, Death or Glory, Black Hand Inn, Masquerade and The Rivalry. Put differently, if you’re into stories and tales of piracy, or into songs about riding your motorbike wildly and freely, then Rock N’ Rolf and his crew comprised of Peter Jordan on the guitars, Ole Hempelmann on bass and Michael Wolpers on drums have exactly what you’re craving in heavy music with their new opus.

Rolf and Peter begin their incendiary riff attack in the title-track Blood on Blood, an upbeat Heavy Metal tune will put you to headbang within 20 seconds without a shadow of a doubt, whereas Wings of Fire sounds even more traditional than the opening track, with Rolf being on fire with his trademark raspy vocals while Michael dictates the song’s pace, inviting us to hit the road to the sound of such rockin’ tune. Say Your Prayers is another thrilling mid-tempo song mixing old school Heavy Metal with badass Rock N’ Roll, with Rolf’s piercing voice being effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals; followed by Diamonds & Pearls, where albeit their pirate-inspired lyrics might be too cheesy (“Setting all gear, no doubt and no fear / Trailblazers stories were told / Sliding the waves that cover the graves / Of seamen and ships in the cold”), they go along really well with their straightforward Heavy Metal instrumental parts. There’s no time to breathe as Rolf and his crew keep kicking ass in Wild & Free, another fast song about riding free in the name of rock and metal music, with Ole making the earth tremble with his sick bass, not to mention the slashing riffs and solos by Rolf and Peter. Then soulful guitars set the stage for the quartet to shine with their Pirate Metal in Crossing the Blades, showcasing an addictive chorus (“Crossing the blades / Flashing the steel / We will ride, and united we stand / Flashing the blades / Crossing the steel / One for all, and all for one, in the end”) amidst a prancing, beer-drinking, sword-fighting sonority.

Running Wild Blood on Blood Deluxe Box

I personally believe Running Wild shouldn’t try to do any ballads, and One Night, One Day is the ultimate proof that those do not match with their core essence, getting tiresome and bland after a short while, falling flat and sounding way too generic, especially if compared to the rest of the album. Fortunately they get back to a much more thrilling vibe in The Shellback, where Rolf leads his crew of buccaneers inspired by the band’s own early days, with Ole and Michael bringing the groove to the overall result. It’s then time for another rockin’ tune with a powerful vibe that will inspire you to hit the road with your metal brothers, entitled Wild, Wild Nights, where Rolf and Peter are precise as usual with their razor-edged riffs, before the band invites us to join them in an epic journey through The Iron Times (1618-1648), showcasing stunning passages, sharp riffs and solos and pounding beats, all spearheaded by Rolf’s dark, storytelling vocal lines, flowing like an arrow on fire in total darkness until its epic finale. In addition, if you go for the Japanese edition of Blood on Blood you’ll be treated to three very special bonus tracks, those being Stargazed, their cover version for KISS’ classic Strutter (which you can check the original one HERE), and my favorite one Ride on the Wild Side, all worth the investment in this unique version of the album.

As aforementioned, if you’re into Heavy and Power Metal with a strong pirate vein you’ll have a really good time listening to Blood on Blood, which is available for purchase from the Steamhammer Records webstore or as a very special deluxe box from the Napalm Records webstore, strictly limited to 666 units and including the digipak CD and tape versions of the album, a flag, a pendant, a patch, an autograph card and a chain, or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream the album. “We all know the difficulties the cultural sector was faced with during the lockdown. On the other hand, it also gave me and many other artists some extra time since most releases had to be postponed. I used that time to fine-tune every little detail of my new material. The result is an album that in my opinion is probably the best in Running Wild’s career to date. Every one of the ten songs sounds exactly as I had it in mind when I composed it. I’ve never been happier with a Running Wild record before,” said Rock N’ Rolf himself, and although he might be exaggerating when saying it’s the best Running Wild album ever we must agree it’s indeed a sharp, exciting and detailed piece of work by those German pirates, who are by the way waiting for you to join their crew on Facebook and on Instagram. As the title track says, “one for all and all for one, blood on blood, we stand as one!”

Best moments of the album: Wings of Fire, Say Your Prayers, Crossing the Blades, Wild & Free and The Iron Times (1618-1648).

Worst moments of the album: One Night, One Day.

Released in 2021 Steamhammer Records

Track listing
1. Blood on Blood 4:07
2. Wings of Fire 3:57
3. Say Your Prayers 5:14
4. Diamonds & Pearls 4:44
5. Wild & Free 5:28
6. Crossing the Blades 6:00
7. One Night, One Day 4:59
8. The Shellback 6:11
9. Wild, Wild Nights 4:30
10. The Iron Times (1618-1648) 10:29

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
11. Stargazed 3:40
12. Strutter (KISS cover) 3:05
13. Ride on the Wild Side 4:05

Band members
Rock N’ Rolf – vocals, guitars
Peter Jordan – guitars
Ole Hempelmann – bass
Michael Wolpers – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Haydee Irizarry

Blame the witch! Shame the witch! Hang the witch!

As the days are getting shorter and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s warm things up here at The Headbanging Moose this November with the incendiary vocals and performance of our metal lady of the month, the multi-talented Haydee Irizarry, or Haydée Irizarry if you prefer. Vocalist for Melodic Groove/Death Metal act Carnivora, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer for Alternative Rock/Metal project Zahra Lux, and vocalist and composer for her own solo project, not to mention her six years as the vocalist for Melodic Death Metal outfit Aversed, Haydee owns a very potent and dynamic voice, delivering a wide range of styles that go from smooth, clean vocals to deep and visceral growls, positioning her as one of the most interesting names of the current American underground scene. Having said that, are you ready to know a little more about Haydee, her bands and projects, her influences, and her passion for all types of music?

Born on February 28, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, but currently residing in Salem, Massachusetts, and of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Haydee graduated in 2013 from Lincoln Park High School in Chicago and then moved on to study jazz, classical and contemporary music writing and production at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts that same year, where she also became the lead singer for her classmates’ band Aversed. However, before we start talking about her professional career in music, let’s take a step back and go all the way to her childhood years, more specifically to when she was only four years old. At that age, Haydee received a keyboard that ignited her interest in studying and writing songs on the piano, while her grade school was a Lutheran school that introduced hymnals and sight reading to her and prompted her to join choirs at the age of eight, when she realized she had a natural talent and love for singing that was undeniable and she knew she wanted to be a vocalist. Not only a vocalist, but a metal vocalist, as while she remembers her family listened to everything from Redding’s soul to their Latin culture’s salsa when she was a kid in Chicago, she also became enchanted by Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal. When asked what attracted her to the harder stuff, she said metal offered release and salvation as she struggled with her parents’ divorce, an abusive brother and her mental health. “When I was getting started, I really connected to the aggression because of all the things I was feeling at the time,” she explained. “I was feeling a lot of dark, intense things that I didn’t really quite know how to express outside of music.” Then at the age of 16 she joined the Chicago School of Rock so she could perform and develop as a performing frontwoman, having also studied guitar, piano and bass through private teachers, and through that plus her choral experience she achieved many honors and had the ability to play Lollapalooza and many other local festivals in Chicago. She learned pop, rock, jazz, blues, metal and so on, all of which directed her to the Berklee College of Music, as already mentioned.

Since 2017, Haydee has been the voice of American Melodic Groove/Death Metal act Carnivora, with whom she has already recorded three singles, those being Bogdweller, in 2019, Witch City, in 2020, and more recently Hypnogenic, featuring guests Jon Donais (Anthrax, Shadows Fall) and Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall, Act Of Defiance). The band’s guitarist Cody Michaud believes Haydee is helping Carnivora evolve in a more sophisticated, more accessible, less testosterone-fueled direction, helping them transition their sound from Metalcore and Melodic Death Metal to a more groove-oriented Heavy Metal with Death Metal influences. “If you’re a fan of folk music, there’s folk metal, and there’s symphonic metal,” commented Haydee in one of her interviews. “It doesn’t have to be the Cookie Monster screams. It isn’t always aggressive. It can be very beautiful.” She also explained how she ended up becoming the band’s new vocalist a few years ago. “I had met the Carnivora members at an early Aversed gig and we had become friends and performed with each others bands’ many times. They were interested in transitioning their style and believed my vocal skills and personality was compatible and here we are!”

Speaking about Boston, Massachusetts-based Progressive/Melodic Death Metal act Aversed, Haydee was the band’s vocalist from 2015 until September 1, 2021, having recorded with the band their 2016 EP Renewal and the full-length opus Impermanent earlier in 2021, not to mention the live album Abandoned in Charlestown, released in August 2021. You can enjoy Haydee kicking some ass with Aversed in the official videos for the songs Laboratory, Impermanent, and Close My Eyes, or simply click HERE to enjoy the album in its entirety. When asked how she was invited to join Aversed, she said the band had been active since 2009, before she lived in Boston, and as she was attending Berklee College of Music she had met many local metal musicians and bands and had been referred to be their new vocalist and joined them in 2015. In addition, Haydee mentioned that she had studied gutturals before joining them and it proved to be a great transition to practice performing the new technique that she had been developing.

Apart from her time with Carnivora and Aversed, our beloved vocalist has also lent her beautiful voice to an array of distinct bands through the years, with the first ever metal band she was officially in, called Ephemeral Sunrise, being a huge learning experience as she was able to get a taste of where she needed to grow and what the local scene was like. Another amazing project she’s currently involved with is called Zahra Lux, which translates to “beautiful light” or “flower light”, combining classical, rock and blues music to form one heavy and delicate musical experience featuring gorgeous piano lines, soulful vocals and orchestral arrangements. “Before I went down the surprising road of melodic death metal and guttural vocals I had thought that I would strictly be a blues and heavy metal vocalist that would sound more like Evanescence, and other female fronted rock and metal bands,” said Haydee, having already released under her Zahra Lux project the EP’s The Deam (2018) and Rosewater (2020), and more recently the single Say No More, in August this year.

You can also enjoy Heydee’s powerful vocals in other bands and projects, such as Symphonic/Progressive Power Metal band Widows Rite, with whom she recorded the album Volume 1 back in 2018, and Queen Boudicca Metal Opera. Haydee has also been a guest in distinct albums by excellent underground bands, those being vocals on the song Shutter, from the 2020 EP Eulogy by American Gothic/Death/Doom Metal band Autumn’s Ashes; vocals on Per Erebus, from the 2018 album Per Erebus ad Astra by American Blackened Thrash Metal band Graviton; vocals as “The Soldier” on Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, from the 2018 album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster by American Power Metal band Helion Prime; and vocals on A Gathering of Storms, from the 2018 album Genetically Engineered to Enslave, by American Death Metal band Solium Fatalis.

As aforementioned, Haydee grew up listening to all kinds of music such as blues, classic rock, classical, and Latin music, but when the music in question is our beloved Heavy Metal her main influences range from Joe Duplantier of Gojira and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy to all classic metal vocalists such as Dio, Ozzy and Rob Halford. Her first ever record which introduced her to heavy music was Fallen, by Evanescence, when she was eight years old, taking her down the rabbit hole that would eventually lead her to find Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and all of the icons of early metal, also delving into the early punk scene. Nowadays you can find pretty much anything on her playlist including Chelsea Wolfe, Bjork, Black Sabbath and At The Gates, as well as “guilty pleasures” such as Katy Perry, Sia and Lady Gaga, as long as it’s well-written pop music, of course. When asked which three songs would be perfect for someone listening to her for the first time, Haydee mentioned her cover versions for Sia’s Everyday is Christmas and Arch Enemy’s As The Pages Burn, plus Aversed’s Renewal, because they are diverse and represent her as she is now, still growing but slowly establishing a strong voice within the music industry. By the way, if you want to see how wide Haydee’s range can be and how eclectic her taste for music is, you can take a shot at her cover versions for Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name, Alanis Morissette’s Uninvited, Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel, and Prince’s Purple Rain, among several others on her personal YouTube channel.

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Absolutely engaged in the music no matter which band she’s in, Haydee not only has an incendiary voice, but her onstage performance is just as flammable and electrifying, earning her a few unique nicknames including Haydee the Hyena, Metal J.Lo and Metal Selena. “I love the Metal Selena and Metal J.Lo because I like to embrace my culture,” she said, “like wearing my hoops.” Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews the importance of understanding R&B and classical music to become a better metal vocalist. “Both styles have extreme soul and depth that is definitely important in metal music in both style and vocal delivery. Having experienced performing many different songs with different stories and intentions I have a large understanding of what level of emotions, strength, and movements to deliver to any song to make it as effective as it can be. I couldn’t do that if those many styles had not molded my range to be the way it is now as well. Every life and musical experience finds itself in each new performance that you share and it’s really wonderful.”

Regarding touring, Haydee said that she dreams of touring the world with Carnivora and of being able to make a living from her art without having to work a day job. having already played in many small to large stages in a wide variety of local bars and clubs, she would also love to play some major festivals the likes of Maryland Death Fest, NAMM and SWSW, and return to Chicago Open Air, a festival that holds a spot in her heart. “At Chicago Open Air 2017 Aversed and I had performed on the last day alongside acts such as Slayer, Behemoth, and Ozzy Osbourne to name a few. Nearing the end of Ozzy’s set our tour bus crew was giving the band a last call to get on the bus or else it was leaving without us! My phone has been dead and I didn’t know. By the grace of the metal gods I ran into my band mates while I was getting a pretzel and ran back with them. Everyone was there besides our guitarist Sungwoo Jeong. After an awful 10 minutes of frantic calling, searching, and figuring out a way for him to fly back to Boston on his own, we searched the bus one last time and found he’d been asleep the whole time. I had immense luck and Sungwoo cracked us all up and it made one hell of a story.” In addition, her first metal experience as a vocalist was the Iron Maiden vs. Judas Priest show at the Chicago School of Rock in 2011, a huge moment for her because it had really transitioned her from a bedroom performer to a real one, pushing her to keep doing it.

As Carnivora is now a female-fronted metal band, Haydee was asked her opinion about the role of women in the current metal scene. She said that the face of metal is shifting a lot towards women, but the metal community still has a lot to learn and that can be frustrating, mainly because bands with female lead singers often get lumped together even if they’re creating radically different sub-styles, although she’s fine with the label “female-fronted metal”. In addition, she said that as a growing force, women get a lot of attention that may not be given as frequently to an all-male group because there is something different brought to the table that is intriguing. Women have the same depth and aggression as men, and to have an artistic platform to display that (as well as their delicate nature) is a new and amazing thing. The only disadvantage that she sees is the play on sexism and creating sex appeal that purposefully overshadows or interferes with the platform for ones natural talent. “Women work hard to do what they do and they do not need to hide behind sex appeal to be respected for their time, talent, and work. Knowing that and showing that is important,” commented Haydee.

Last but not least, Haydee also provided her comments about things that she learned recording new music during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting by saying how important it was for her to put a strong focus on songwriting, something that we all know cannot be done properly when the musician is on the road most of the time, saying the simplicity of “one-on-one” writing with guitarist Cody Michaud allowed them to present something more refined to the rest of the team. Secondly, she mentioned how hard the entire band worked on the recording process of their demos, saying she pushed herself to knock out vocal takes and stacked harmonies. Then Haydee moved on to talking about their jam sessions, how important it was for them to get back to practicing together as soon as it was safe to meet up, and how tighter their playing got after that, followed by how important it was to release new music during the pandemic even without being able to tour during that time. And last but not least, she mentioned a fun game Carnivora had during the video shoot for Hypnogenic, the first time they had to load in and get together since everything shut down, where each band member had to wear their newest Vans shoes acquired during quarantine and compare them. Let’s say this is indeed a very healthy competition for a group of metalheads eager to get back on the road, and those shoes are beyond awesome for any trip or for a demanding activity like kicking ass on stage, and we cannot wait to see Haydee and Carnivora eating our flesh alive during their upcoming concerts.

Haydee Irizarry’s Official Facebook page
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Carnivora’s Official Facebook page
Carnivora’s Official Instagram
Carnivora’s Official Twitter
Carnivora’s Official YouTube channel

“The face of metal is shifting a lot towards women and women from all different countries that look so different. It’s awesome to be a part of that change.” – Haydee Irizarry

Album Review – Rampart / WWII: Memories For The Future (2021)

Let’s join Maria and the boys into the battlefield to the sound of their newborn opus, encompassing less known historical facts about the most destructive war in world’s history.

Founded in 2006 in Sofia, Bulgaria and led by frontwoman Maria “Dièse” Doychinova, the unstoppable Heavy Metal war machine that goes by the name of Rampart returns to the battlefront with their fifth full-length installment, entitled WWII: Memories For The Future, featuring 11 tracks full of energy, epicness, speed and violence. Produced by Maria Dièse herself, mastered by Michael “Miro” Rodenberg at Gate Studio, displaying a classic artwork by Stefan Valkanov, and featuring Rock Thrashler (aka Svetoslav Slaveykov) as a World War II and sound consultant and Valdemar (aka Vladimir Ivanov) as a guest bassist in four songs, WWII: Memories For The Future is a concept album that encompasses less known historical facts about the most destructive war in world’s history, all wrapped up by the straightforward, ass-kicking metal music brought forth by the aforementioned Maria together with guitarists Yavor Despotov and Sebastian Agini, bassist Svilen Ivanov and drummer Stefan Mijalković.

The guitars by Yavor and Sebastian ignite the opening tune June 22nd, inspired by Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union which started on Sunday June 22, 1941, with Maria delivering an epic vocal performance; whereas investing in a more melodic and thrashier sound, the quintet blasts the solid Napalm Stars, with Stefan dictating the song’s galloping pace accompanied by the rumbling bass by Svilen, showcasing interesting breaks and variations as well as elements from Progressive Metal. In Entropy Of Mind the band once again unites Heavy Metal with Hard Rock and Thrash Metal, resulting in a headbanging massacre spearheaded by the vicious beats by Stefan while Maria keeps stunning us all with her vocal lines; and drinking from the fountain of NWOBHM, the band delivers an Iron Maiden-inspired extravaganza titled Twice Occupied, with Yavor and Sebastian stealing the spotlight with their sharp riffs and solos, followed by Luftraum, switching gears to a more modern sonority, more inclined to Thrash Metal than Heavy Metal where Maria sounds infuriated on vocals.

Back to a more traditional musicality, it’s time to go all the way to the 80’s to the sound of Stormtalkers, where Maria is effectively supported by her bandmates’ backing vocals while the band’s guitar duo once again slashes their stringed axes nonstop. Valdemar makes sure the earth tremble to the sound of his bass in the fast and direct Power Metal tune Wolfsrudel, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline; while a Megadeth-like atmosphere will embrace your soul in Overcast Omen, with Maria and the boys bringing forward more of their old school metal music, and with Valdemar being once again on fire with his bass jabs. Then we have Harleys In Berlin, a tribute to all things metal by Rampart where the riffage by Yavor and Sebastian will pierce your ears in great fashion, while Maria declaims the song’s fresh and vibrant lyrics. Not only that, Yavor is also brilliant with his classy piano notes; whereas razor-edged riffs and solos are the main ingredients in the upbeat metal feast titled Black Sun, with Maria kicking some ass on vocals while Stefan doesn’t let the energy go down with his rhythmic beats and fills. Lastly, closing the album it’s time for another fast-paced, metallic creation entitled Now We Are One, again showcasing the band’s talent and passion for heavy music.

Maria and the boys are waiting for you to join their metallic army on Facebook, especially if you’re a fan of bands such as Helloween, Doro, Battle Beast and Burning Witches, and if you want to give WWII: Memories For The Future a try you can enjoy it in full on YouTube and on Spotify. In addition, don’t forget to show your utmost support to Rampart by purchasing their new opus from the Sleaszy Rider Records’ BandCamp page or webstore as a regular CD or as a CD + DVD combo including their live performance at Wacken Open Air in 2017 plus a couple of interviews and official videos, as well as from Apple Music or from Amazon. When heavy music and World War II are put together the final result is usually above average, but in the case of Rampart they more than nailed it with their new album, pointing to an even brighter future ahead of those Bulgarian warriors.

Best moments of the album: Entropy Of Mind, Harleys In Berlin and Black Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Luftraum.

Released in 2021 Sleaszy Rider Records

Track listing
1. June 22nd 3:09
2. Napalm Stars 5:50
3. Entropy Of Mind 3:41
4. Twice Occupied 4:00
5. Luftraum 4:30
6. Stormtalkers 3:06
7. Wolfsrudel 4:28
8. Overcast Omen 5:42
9. Harleys In Berlin 5:07
10. Black Sun 4:32
11. Now We Are One 4:13

Dics 2 (DVD)
1. Apocalypse Or Theatre (Live At Wacken) 6:02
2. June 22nd (Live At Wacken) 3:10
3. Napalm Stars (Live At Wacken) 5:25
4. The Flood (Live At Wacken) 4:08
5. Give Nothing Back (Live At Wacken) 3:55
6. Crown Land (Live At Wacken) 3:38
7. Ghost Of Freedom (Live At Wacken) 4:50
8. Interview with Wacken Foundation 14:10
9. Interview with Rampart 8:39
10. June 22nd (Official Music Video) 3:31
11. Entropy Of Mind (Official Music Video) 3:54

Band members
Maria Dièse – vocals
Yavor Despotov – guitars, bass and piano on “Harleys In Berlin”
Sebastian Agini – guitars
Svilen Ivanov – bass
Stefan Mijalković – drums

Guest musicians
Valdemar – bass on “Luftraum”, “Wolfsrudel”, “Overcast Omen” and “Now We Are One”

Album Review – Malacoda / The Strain EP (2021)

Inspired by the works of Guillermo Del Toro, this Canadian entity is unleashing upon us all their second EP of the year, delving even further into their horror inspired roots.

3.0rating

malacoda-the-strain-ep-2021After the releases of their debut self-titled album in 2015, the EP Ritualis Aeterna in 2016, the full-length opus Restless Dreams in 2018, and the EP Crawling Chaos earlier this year, Oakville, Canada-based metal band Malacoda continues to deliver their fusion of Gothic, Power, Symphonic, Melodic and Progressive Metal for our total delight with their second EP of the year, entitled The Strain. Recorded, mixed and mastered by the band’s own founder, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Di Mascio at Old Haunt Recording Studio,  and displaying a goth artwork by Yeganeh Ghasemi featuring model Goddess Ov Death, The Strain is inspired by the works of the one and only Guillermo Del Toro, delving even further into the band’s horror inspired roots and bringing forward all the talent of the aforementioned Lucas together with guitarist Wes MacDonald and bassist Zak Stulla, not to mention an array of guest musicians to make the EP even more compelling.

The title-track The Strain already begins in full force to the symphonic and epic keys by Lucas while guest drummer Andrew Suarez (Bangin Productions, Fatality) showcases all his dexterity behind his drum set, adding an extra touch of heaviness to the music, and also presenting elements from Doom and classic Heavy Metal with Lucas delivering his Ghost/Candlemass/Mercyful Fate-inspired vocals. Then featuring additional vocals by Beth Wilson and with Lucas taking care of the drumming duties, Crimson Peak is a slower but heavy-as-hell and obscure creation where Wes extracts sheer darkness from his riffage and solo, accompanied by the melodic, rumbling bass by Zak; whereas investing into a more progressive sonority were treated to Where Shadows Play, another solid tune by the band to also feature additional vocals by Beth Wilson, with Lucas and Beth making a great vocal duo while guest drummer Victor Boechat smashes his drums mercilessly from start to finish. And lastly, a very melodic and introspective intro morphs into the Gothic Rock and Metal feast entitled Mind Flayer, featuring drummer Ryan Claxton (This Is Death Valley) and additional vocals by Wes, while Lucas presents both his powerful clean vocals and his demonic gnarls from start to finish.

malacoda-2021You can stream the full EP on Spotify, show your support to Malacoda by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and click HERE for all social media, links to buy their music and merch, videos and so on. “There really is a balance of dark aggression and beauty in these songs,” stated Lucas about the band’s new EP, complementing by saying that “that’s been the consistent tone with these four tracks – keeping it dark but letting some tender spots poke through.” And let’s say Lucas nailed it, with his words precisely describing the music found in The Strain and, consequently, inviting us all to join him and his henchmen in the dark realm ruled by Malacoda, and proving Malacoda are following a healthy and strong musical path, evolving as a band and providing us all fans high-quality metal music made in Canada with each one of their releases.

Best moments of the album: The Strain and Where Shadows Play.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing 
1. The Strain 7:49
2. Crimson Peak 3:51
3. Where Shadows Play 3:51
4. Mind Flayer 5:11

Band members
Lucas Di Mascio – vocals, keys, drums on “Crimson Peak”
Wes MacDonald – guitar, additional background vocals on “Mind Flayer”
Zak Stulla – bass

Guest musicians
Andrew Suarez – drums on “The Strain”
Victor Boechat – drums on “Where Shadows Play”
Ryan Claxton – drums on “Mind Flayer”
Beth Wilson – background vocals on “Crimson Peak” and “Where Shadows Play”

Album Review – Scarlet Aura / Genesis of Time (2021)

One of the best Romanian bands of all time returns like a Phoenix with the breathtaking last part of “The Book of Scarlet” trilogy, offering us all more of their flawless fusion of Heavy and Power Metal.

4.0rating

scarlet-aura-genesis-of-time-2021Chaos on Earth, uncertainty in life, plagues, disasters and once again the feeling that there is no one there to save the world. But from a distance there is always someone or something that watches humankind. Scarlet, partly Devil, partly Angel and most important, partly Phoenix, is there together with its sidekicks to set rights and wrongs. That’s what you’ll get in Genesis of Time, the third and last part of “The Book of Scarlet” trilogy by Romanian Heavy/Power Metal outfit Scarlet Aura, following up on their critically acclaimed albums Hot’n’Heavy, released in 2018, and Stormbreaker, from 2020. Mixed, mastered and produced by the band’s own guitarist Mihai “Myke D” Dănciulescu at Silver City Studio, and displaying a stylish artwork by renowned Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes, Genesis of Time does not shy away from taking risks and introducing unexpected turns, new musical atmospheres and landscapes, bringing the perfect and balanced ending to the trilogy with its over one hour of undisputed music carefully brought forth by frontwoman Aura Dănciulescu, guitarist Mihai “Myke D” Danciulescu, bassist Rene Nistor and drummer Matthias Klaus.

The futuristic and epic instrumental The Book of Scarlet will instantly transport you to the magical world of Scarlet Aura, with Mihai taking the lead with his stylish and sharp riffs and solos accompanied by Rene and Matthias with their heavy kitchen, flowing into the Power Metal extravaganza titled Raw Power, a song that will put you to bang your head nonstop to the classic beast by Matthias while Aura mesmerizes us all with her soaring, metallic and absolutely melodic vocals until the very last second. Then a a cinematic intro morphs into more of their classic fusion of Heavy and Power Metal in Dark Lightning, where Mihai once again steals the spotlight with his razor-edged riffs and striking solos while Rene doesn’t stop smashing his bass; and Aura and the boys masterfully bring forward the Stratovarius-inspired tune Utopia, another powerful composition that lives up to the legacy of Melodic Metal without showing a single second of boredom. Quite the contrary, it’s utterly electrifying from start to finish, and there’s no time to breathe as the quartet keeps delivering fast and melodic metal music for our vulgar delectation in Frostbite, with Matthias taking the lead with his kick-ass drums, whereas in The Black Roses the band slows things down a bit but keeping the heaviness of their core essence intact, with Aura declaiming the song’s lyrics with tons of passion and energy.

And the rumbling bass by Rene ignites their metal machine once again in Right Place, Wrong Time, also showcasing interesting background keys, and all of course spiced up by another sharp vocal performance by Aura, while in Human Obsolete they get back to a more metallic and thunderous sonority, with Mihai and Rene being in total sync with their respective riffage and bass jabs. It’s time for another Scandinavian Melodic Metal-like feast entitled In The Line of Fire, where Aura’s vocals are beyond impactful, supported by the old school sound crafted by her bandmates, whereas adding hints of the Doom Metal played by renowned acts like Candlemass and Black Sabbath to their trademark Power Metal they offer us all the heavy and sinister tune Saints Need Sinners, with over six minutes of groovy bass jabs, slashing guitars, pounding drums and dark vocals. Are you ready to fly high in the sky together with Aura and her henchmen? That’s exactly what Scarlet Aura deliver in the epic Wings of Light, a straight-to-the-point, in-your-face Power Metal tune showcasing all of the band’s heavy artillery, followed by the title-track Genesis Of Time, the most epic of all songs bringing forward nine minutes of sheer power and electricity, or in other words, a dense and imposing aria by the band that will please all fans of classic Power Metal, also presenting elements from Progressive Metal to give it an extra kick. Needless to say, the trilogy couldn’t have ended in a more climatic manner.

scarlet-aura-2021All good things must come to an end, which is the case with Scarlet Aura’s “The Book of Scarlet” trilogy with the release of the excellent Genesis of Time, and it’s impressive how the band managed to bring into being an even better opus than Stormbreaker, displaying a more mature, melodic and intricate sound that will undoubtedly be appreciated by metalheads from all over the world. Hence, if you want to know more about one of the best bands (if not the best) in the history of Romanian metal, you can follow the band on Facebook, on Instagram and on VKontakte, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their distinguished music and videos, stream all of their awesome creations on Spotify, and of course show your true support to the band by purchasing Genesis of Time from their own webstore or from other retailers such as Apple Music and Amazon sooner than you can say “scarlet”. Now that the trilogy is finally concluded, let’s see what Scarlet Aura will have for us fans with their upcoming releases. And despite the fact I doubt they can unleash upon us something better than Genesis of Time, I must also say that no one should ever doubt Aura and the boys, as just like a metallic Phoenix they keep coming back from the underworld spreading their fiery music to all four corners of the earth with each of their first-class albums.

Best moments of the album: Dark Lightning, Utopia, In The Line of Fire and Wings of Light.

Worst moments of the album: The Black Roses.

Released in 2021 Universal Music Romania/Silver City Records

Track listing  
1. The Book of Scarlet 6:31
2. Raw Power 4:49
3. Dark Lightning 5:14
4. Utopia 5:02
5. Frostbite 5:46
6. The Black Roses 6:13
7. Right Place, Wrong Time 5:46
8. Human Obsolete 5:28
9. In The Line of Fire 5:46
10. Saints Need Sinners 6:20
11. Wings of Light 4:27
12. Genesis Of Time 9:06

Band members
Aura Dănciulescu – lead vocals
Mihai “Myke D” Dănciulescu – guitars, vocals
Rene Nistor – bass, vocals
Matthias Klaus – drums

Album Review – Helloween / Helloween (2021)

A dream come true for all generations of “Happy, Happy Helloween” fans from all over the world.

5.0rating

helloween-helloween-2021The first album to feature vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen since the 1988 all-time classic Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II and the first one with vocalist Michael Kiske since 1993’s Chameleon, the self-titled sixteenth album by German Power Metal legends Helloween has everything a diehard fan of the band could have asked for (and more). Produced by Charlie Bauerfeind, co-produced by Dennis Ward, mixed by Ronald Prent, mastered by Sascha “Busy” Bühren, and displaying a classy, old school artwork by Eliran Kantor, Helloween marks the longest gap between two albums from the band, released six years after My God-Given Right, but the wait was absolutely worth it. Featuring for the first time ever Hansen, Kiske and Andi Deris sharing lead vocal duties, in addition to Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner on the guitars, Markus Grosskopf on bass and Dani Löble on drums, their new album is a dream come true after the critically-acclaimed Pumpkins United World Tour, a precise time travel through all phases of the band’s history going back to the roots but at the same time at the speed of light towards the future, therefore offering a complete metal universe within its 12 incendiary songs and opening a new chapter after 35 years of a beyond glorious career.

Ominous sounds kick off the beautiful Out for the Glory, a lesson in classic, fast-paced and extremely melodic Heavy and Power Metal that Helloween shaped up in the 80’s, and therefore an ass-kicking start to the album. Furthermore, it’s impressive how Mr. Kiske still has that hypnotizing voice from decades ago, followed by Fear of the Fallen, showcasing a vibrant singalong chorus (“Here come The Fear Of The Fallen / We rise when you’re calling / A light in the night / We are the flame in the fire / The voice in the choir / We’re always nearby”) while Kai, Weikath and Sascha slash their axes majestically. Then get ready for a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal extravaganza entitled Best Time, where Andi, Kiske and Kai will put you to dance and sing with them while Markus and Dani are simply flawless with their rumbling bass jabs and headbanging beats. And more of Markus’ metallic bass is offered to us all in the powerful Mass Pollution, an ode to all things metal where Andi takes the lead with his high-pitched screams accompanied by the stylish solos by the band’s guitar triumvirate, keeping the level of adrenaline in the album absurdly high.

helloween-helloween-vinyl-boxset

Helloween Helloween Limited Vinyl Boxset

More modern sounds permeate the air in Angels, with Kiske taking the lead with his operatic vocals from start to finish. It’s a good Helloween song with all of their trademark elements, albeit not as powerful as the rest of the album, whereas Markus makes the earth shake with his bass attack in the fast and melodic Rise Without Chains, leaning towards the band’s more recent creations with Andi on vocals, resulting in great option for hitting the road with your loved ones. Then an upbeat vibe brings joy to our hearts in the dancing tune Indestructible, where the band’s guitar trio keeps embellishing the airwaves with their riffs and solos while Andi and Kiske are beautifully supported by Kai’s unparalleled backing vocals; followed by Robot King, another contemporary Helloween tune with Andi and Dani dictating the pace with their respective screams and beats, while the guitar lines by Weikath, Sascha and Kai will bring fire to your ears.

The last part of the album begins with another solid composition titled Cyanide, with Andi showcasing all his vocal potency accompanied by the groovy and melodious riffage, bass jabs and beats by his bandmates, and get ready for a journey back to the 80’s with the mesmerizing voice of Mr. Kiske in Down in the Dumps, once again presenting the pounding beast by Dani intertwined with a classic riff lesson by Helloween’s undisputed axe masters. Lastly, the instrumental interlude Orbit will heighten our senses for the absolutely stunning 12-minute aria Skyfall, an instant classic offering us fans another one of Helloween’s fantastic and memorable choruses (“I fell from the sky, so don’t ask me why I’m feeling so down / attacked, shot down and wrecked, / there’s no turning back to find my way home”). Moreover, the music itself is superb, full of breaks and variations and with all band members kicking some serious ass nonstop, or in other words, a lecture in German Heavy and Power Metal that I can’t wait to see them playing live. What a brilliant vocal performance by Andi and Kiske, I must say, not to mention the epicness flowing from the band’s breathtaking riffs and solos until the song’s climatic ending.

helloween-2021In case you’re from another planet like the little alien from Skyfall and haven’t listened to their unparalleled new album yet, you can enjoy it in its entirety on Spotify, but if I were you I would definitely purchase a copy of it by clicking HERE or HERE, in special the limited vinyl boxset including an earbook with the album on CD, a three-track bonus CD (with of course Pumpkins United being by far my favorite one) and a black double vinyl including two bonus tracks, plus a clock, an album cover print, six pins, a necklace, a patch and a certificate, which you can buy from Nuclear Blast’s webstores in Europe or in North America. And of course, don’t forget to stay updated with all things Helloween on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube. The one and only Mr. Michael Weikath characterizes the band’s new lineup and the album in his own way, saying that “it is the incomprehensible encounter of seven musicians who are working as friends and even family and created something that no one would have thought it could be possible. It is like awaking from a sleep but still being in an incredible dream.” Well, we must all agree with him as it’s indeed a dream come true for all of us fans, as I already mentioned, and may Helloween stay united and delivering first-class metal music to us all like what’s in their sensational new album for decades to come.

Best moments of the album: Out for the Glory, Best Time, Mass Pollution, Indestructible and Skyfall.

Worst moments of the album: Angels.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing  
1. Out for the Glory 7:18
2. Fear of the Fallen 5:38
3. Best Time 3:35
4. Mass Pollution 4:14
5. Angels 4:42
6. Rise Without Chains 4:56
7. Indestructible 4:42
8. Robot King 7:07
9. Cyanide 3:29
10. Down in the Dumps 6:01
11. Orbit 1:04
12. Skyfall 12:11

Earbook/Japanese Limited Edition Disc 2 bonus tracks
13. Golden Times 4:48
14. Save My Hide 3:11
15. Pumpkins United 6:21

Japanese Limited Edition Disc 2 bonus track
16. We Are Real 4:24

Band members
Michael Kiske – vocals
Andi Deris – vocals
Kai Hansen – guitars, vocals
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums

Guest musicians
Jens Johansson – keyboards on “Skyfall”
Matthias Ulmer – keyboards
Xavier Russell – narration on “Out for the Glory”

Metal Chick of the Month – Mary Zimmer

maryz01

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.

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“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