Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Prudential Center, Newark, NJ, 10/21/2022)

Another night of pure Iron Maiden madness hit the nice city of Newark as the band approaches the end of their fantastic 2022 tour.  

INTRO: Liberty and Prosperity… but no FTTB!

What wild, wild two weeks (or maybe I should say the entire month of October) of pure fuckin’ metal! After winning the renowned (and sometimes controversial) First to the Barrier in all three Canadian dates this year, I didn’t get it for the Legacy of the Beast World Tour 2022 concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey last Friday, which motto is by the way “Liberty and Prosperity”, but to be fair I think the experience of meeting my fellow IMFC blood brothers and sisters before the gig was even more engaging and fun. The place chosen for our meetup was Bello’s Pub & Grill, located a short walking distance from the venue, and I loved meeting some new friends there while enjoying a beer, talking about Iron Maiden and metal in general, and so on. Furthermore, knowing that some people lined up for the FTTB at 6am and still got number 30 made me even happier for not winning it this time and being able to go to the meetup. And once again I made it to the flags picture! How cool is that?

OPENING ACT: Within Temptation

After our nice IMFC meetup, the crew headed to the Prudential Center for a look at the merch, some beers and some relaxing moments before Iron Maiden hit the stage once again with their fulminating Heavy Metal. The opening act was as expected Dutch Symphonic Metal/Alternative Rock band WITHIN TEMPTATION, who not only made a couple of changes to their setlist compared to their Canadian dates, but the stunning Sharon den Adel finally ditched that “dark princess” attire with a very tight corset for a more rockin’ style, wearing leather pants and jacket, and I think she looked a lot more relaxed and dynamic on stage by wearing that. Their concert was again short and sweet, with the song Raise Your Banner being once again one of the top moments of their performance. I’m not sure how much the Iron Maiden fans from New Jersey enjoyed Within Temptation as their reaction wasn’t as rowdy as in Ottawa, but it was a decent show in the end.

Setlist
The Reckoning
Paradise (What About Us?)
In the Middle of the Night
What Have You Done
Supernova
Don’t Pray for Me
Raise Your Banner
Mother Earth

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Stefan Helleblad – guitars
Jeroen van Veen – bass
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Mike Coolen – drums

IRON MAIDEN

My last concert of the current Legacy of the Beast World Tour 2022 couldn’t have been more special, as I was reunited with one of my best friends to see the almighty IRON MAIDEN for the first time together since 2013, and of course the band didn’t disappoint at all. Everyone at the venue had an amazing moment from the first seconds of the opener Senjutsu with its Samurai Eddie to the closing moments of Aces High, with classics such as Revelations and Hallowed Be Thy Name driving the fans absolutely crazy. Bruce was simply phenomenal on vocals throughout the entire show, as well as of course the rest of the band armed with their sonic weapons, making New Jersey lose its breath on another night of pure awesomeness.

Anything I say about the band’s guitar triumvirate won’t represent exactly how in sync, incendiary and precise they are, but in New Jersey our beloved Adrian kicked some serious ass with his axe, with his intro to The Writing on the Wall being a thing of beauty once again. And Steve and Nicko, holy shit, I thought the roof of the Prudential Center was going to fall due to the insane heaviness flowing from their respective bass and drums. I wish I could attend another concert before their last one in Tampa, Florida this Thursday October 27, but that’s not a problem at all. There’s a new tour coming up in 2023, so who knows? It’s just a matter of planning a decent trip to Europe or wait for the probable announcement of the North American leg soon.

And before I go, I wanted to mention one weird and dangerous incident that happened during the gig according to some members of the IMFC. As I was a little further back I didn’t see anything, but several people mentioned that there was a guy in the floor section carrying a handgun that became visible while he was crowdsurfing. I know it’s the United States and people love guns from the bottom of their hearts there, carrying guns anywhere they go, but having one during a concert with over 15,000 people was very immature and irresponsible of him. Maybe he wasn’t going to shoot anyone, but what if someone caught his gun and decided to do so? And how did he manage to go through security with a handgun while several fans, including myself, had to take even their belts off to be allowed into the venue? Is a belt more dangerous than a gun? Anyway, fortunately nothing bad happened and we all had a great time enjoying Iron Maiden in 2022, and now it’s time to get ready for The Future Past Tour in 2023!

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor
Senjutsu
Stratego
The Writing on the Wall
Revelations
Blood Brothers
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Trooper
The Clansman
Run to the Hills

Encore 2:
Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata, ON, 10/15/2022)

One of the wildest crowds ever turned the charming Ottawa into a cauldron of pure Iron Maiden madness on an unforgettable Saturday night.

INTRO: Third time (at the FTTB) is a charm… or maybe not!

There I was yesterday in Ottawa for another night of pure Iron Maiden madness, but let’s say my third and last experience with the First to the Barrier offered by the Iron Maiden Fan Club was a mix of joy and disappointment due to the total lack of organization and the freakin’ cold winds blowing the whole time we were waiting in line for the slowest security on earth to give us our wristbands, check our names and so on. We got in only at around 5:59pm, less than a minute before the doors opened for the fans who had regular floor tickets, and as most of those fans simply rushed to the barrier, several (if not most) of the FTTB winners were only able to get to the third, fourth, fifth row, or even further back. Well, it is what it is, and at least I was able to be in the flag picture at the end of the concert and have a really cool meetup with other IMFC members the night before. If only the IMFC management allowed us members to organize the FTTB like we organize our meetups, things would have been a lot different on Saturday.

OPENING ACT: Within Temptation

The FTTB fiasco wasn’t a huge problem in the end as we got really good spots for the last Canadian date of the Legacy of the Beast World Tour 2022 at the Canadian Tire Centre, which despite being sold as Ottawa it’s in fact located in Kanata, around 25km from Ottawa’s city centre. It’s a nice venue, but in the middle of nowhere, and if you don’t want to pay the high prices for food and beverages inside it I would say the best “restaurant” in the area is a convenience store located at the only gas station nearby. Anyway, at exactly 7:30pm the Dutch metallers from WITHIN TEMPTATION hit the stage with their solid fusion of Symphonic Metal and Alternative Rock, this time replacing the song Faster with a much better one called Entertain You, and they did entertain the crowd a lot, giving everyone a very good taste of the hurricane that was about to happen with Iron Maiden. Sharon was so thrilled with the warm reception the band got from the rowdy Canadian audience she sometimes got lost in her words, which was cute to witness. Great job, Sharon and boys! See you in Newark!

Setlist
The Reckoning
Paradise (What About Us?)
In the Middle of the Night
Stand My Ground
Entertain You
Supernova
Don’t Pray for Me
Raise Your Banner
Mother Earth

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Stefan Helleblad – guitars
Jeroen van Veen – bass
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Mike Coolen – drums

IRON MAIDEN

Just like a Heavy Metal ritual, precisely at 8:50pm the lights went down, the speakers played the beyond classic intro Doctor Doctor, and there they were, the unparalleled, undisputed metal giants IRON MAIDEN for another insane concert for the delight of all fans at a sold out Canadian Tire Centre, and from the very first notes of Senjutsu it was clear that wasn’t going to be a slow and relaxed night. If you think about it, not only it was a Saturday night, the best day for anyone to see a concert, but Ottawa is geographically perfect for fans from Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, all surrounding towns and cities, other Canadian provinces, and several US cities, not to mention all fans travelling from other parts of the world such as Germany and England, and all fans were on absolute fire from start to finish, firing up the band with each scream, fist raised and mosh pit. And yes, there were several mosh pits. At an Iron Maiden concert. It was that chaotic.

I personally thought Bruce was a bit rushed in the first part of the gig, being disconnected from his bandmates in songs like Stratego and The Writing on the Wall, but nothing that could make the concert less enjoyable, of course. The concert was relatively calm until they played the classic Revelations, and that’s when the first mosh pits started if you could believe that, growing in intensity and reaching some insane levels of speed and violence in songs like Fear of the Dark and Iron Maiden. I was just waiting for a Scooby-Doo plot twist when Bruce would take off his mask and review himself as Tom Araya, saying Slayer was back in action and playing “Angel of Death” right after Aces High was over, but again, it was “just” Iron Maiden on stage, proving even a band that’s not as heavy like Iron Maiden can make our blood boil to the point we must slam into the pit so awesome they are. It was indeed a unique experience, and apart from Rock in Rio III in 2001 (for obvious reasons, as we’re talking about 150,000 people back then), Saturday night’s concert in Ottawa was the band’s most intense one I’ve ever been to.

The man of the night for me was undoubtedly Dave Murray. Although he doesn’t move as much around the stage as Bruce, Steve or Janick, he was absolutely fuckin’ flawless with his riffs and solos throughout the entire concert, as if all the energy emanating from such wild crowd was inspiring him to play better and better. That’s the beauty of seeing an iconic band like Iron Maiden different times during the same tour, as there are always those nuances that make each concert different from the others. Another example is that Bruce spoke a few sentences in French with the crowd. Some people might be wondering why he did that if we were in Ottawa, but as mentioned the city of Montreal and many other cities on the Quebec side are so close to Ottawa I would say maybe half of the venue was comprised of French-speaking fans, and Bruce acknowledging that shows how much they (still) care about their loyal fanbase. So it’s “goodbye” or “au revoir”, Canada! And we’ll meet again in Newark on Friday!

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor
Senjutsu
Stratego
The Writing on the Wall
Revelations
Blood Brothers
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Trooper
The Clansman
Run to the Hills

Encore 2:
Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton, ON, 10/12/2022)

A “Hamilton virgin”? No problem, Bruce. We know how to take good care of you.

INTRO: First to the Barrier, here we go again… or maybe not!

Due to work-related duties, I was unable to join my fellow brothers and sisters from the Iron Maiden Fan Club for the First to the Barrier yesterday at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a very good time enjoying my second night in a row of pure awesomeness with the Legacy of the Beast World Tour 2022. As a matter of fact, the venue was so small and cozy that even if you arrived five minutes before Iron Maiden started their concert, you would still be able to grab a very good spot and witness everything happening on stage, and I still had time to be on the flag photo of the night with my fellow members of the IMFC, meeting a few new faces, and so on. This Saturday I’ll be in Ottawa and will certainly do the FTTB, but for now let’s focus on another amazing night of metal music in Hamilton.

OPENING ACT: Within Temptation

I was so late to the concert last night that I missed pretty much the entire concert by WITHIN TEMPTATION, plus the fact that I spent the first 20 minutes at the venue checking the merch and grabbing a beer. However, everything I said about the band’s performance from the Toronto show is also valid for Hamilton, with Sharon den Adel leading her henchmen throughout their solid setlist and, therefore, properly warming up the fans at the venue for another flawless performance by the one and only Iron Maiden. I saw a few people complaining about Within Temptation, saying they’re boring and shouldn’t be opening for Iron Maiden during this part of the Legacy of the Beast World Tour, but that’s most probably because Symphonic Metal is not as appreciated in the US and Canada as it is in Europe, for example, and when the type of music being played is not your cup of tea not even the best band in the genre can entertain you, don’t you agree? Anyway, there are still two more dates for me to see Within Temptation on stage this tour, so I’ll try to make the most out of it and support those Dutch metallers as much as I can.

Setlist
The Reckoning
Paradise (What About Us?)
Faster
In the Middle of the Night
Stand My Ground
Supernova
Don’t Pray for Me
Raise Your Banner
Mother Earth

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Stefan Helleblad – guitars
Jeroen van Veen – bass
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Mike Coolen – drums

IRON MAIDEN

By now you might know already that if there’s one thing that IRON MAIDEN love to do, that is starting their concerts precisely at 8:50pm, and it couldn’t have been any different in Hamilton, of course. As I was a little further back than the barrier I was able to see the full stage last night, paying attention to each detail (while obviously screaming all songs together with the band), and what really caught my attention this time is the “massive” break between the three songs from Senjutsu and the Legacy of the Beast ones. Also, not sure if anyone has noticed it yet, apart from those two very distinct acts we can also notice in the Legacy of the Beast one how the band begins in a slower, darker and more melodic mode and starts speeding up with each upcoming song, culminating with the breathtaking Aces High. Those guys always think of every detail, providing their fans with a unique experience even when the setlist is absolutely the same during an entire tour.

Bruce was having a lot of fun playing with the band in Hamilton for the first time ever, calling himself a “Hamilton virgin” while also explaining he has already been in the city for his “An Evening with Bruce Dickinson” spoken tour, and complementing by saying the rest of the band had already played in Hamilton but in 1998 (with Blaze Bayley on vocals during the Virtual XI tour). Also, during Blood Brothers as usual Bruce began pointing out different flags from all over the world, focusing on two fans from Puerto Rico and Bangladesh which were let’s say a surprise to him, as in his opinion those places are too far from Canada. Well, maybe he hasn’t realized yet that Canada, in special the province of Ontario, is beyond multicultural, with people from pretty much every country in the world living here. I’m pretty sure those two guys didn’t travel all the way from Bangladesh and Puerto Rico to the show, but letting Bruce think about that was all the fun, right?

Musically speaking, the band was tight and electrifying as usual, with Adrian and Dave kicking some serious ass with their beautiful solos while Steve was in his natural beast mode running around the stage and jumping up and down nonstop. Depending on the night, and of course on the fans, some songs get more incendiary than others, and last night that was the case with Sign of the Cross, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Trooper, The Clansman and Run to the Hills, proving that although their concerts on the same tour might look the exact same things, they’re never the same. Add to that the fact the venue was smaller than the Scotiabank Arena (and it was fun seeing Bruce checking if the fans at the highest seated sections were alive by asking them to move their arms and scream), and there we had a very intimate and flammable night with Eddie and the boys. Moreover, I still had some time after all was said and done to chat with a couple of buddies from the IMFC, who will obviously be in Ottawa this Saturday. Or do you think that one or two Iron Maiden concerts in one tour is enough?

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor
Senjutsu
Stratego
The Writing on the Wall
Revelations
Blood Brothers
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Trooper
The Clansman
Run to the Hills

Encore 2:
Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, 10/11/2022)

Finally, after over three long years, the city of Toronto was able to scream for the one and only Iron Maiden again in a perfect night of beautiful Heavy Metal.

INTRO: Scream for me, IMFC!

Before I start talking about the concert itself last night, I must say it’s awesome to be part of a family like the Iron Maiden Fan Club, also known as IMFC. As Bruce likes to say, we’re all blood brothers, and on Monday night at The Loose Moose it was really fun meeting some of the IMFC members that were going to the concert the next day in Toronto, enjoy a few pints together, talk about the current tour and the upcoming The Future Past Tour 2023, and so on. I know it’s not easy to invest some good money into the IMFC these days due to everything that’s going on with the world, but if you’re lucky enough to have some spare budget it’s definitely worth it. I can’t wait to meet some of my IMFC buddies tonight in Hamilton, because as I said, there’s nothing like the Iron Maiden family, right?

OPENING ACT: Within Temptation

One of the most fun perks of the IMFC is undoubtedly the First to the Barrier, or the FTTB, and this year I must say I was extremely lucky getting the FTTB for all three Ontario dates, those being Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, and of course I was more than excited for it in Toronto because if you’re familiar with the Legacy of the Beast World Tour 2022 setlist, you know you’re in for a treat, getting to a very decent spot on the right side of the barrier. And Maidenmaniacs from all over the world started packing the Scotiabank Arena up early, allowing Netherlands-based Symphonic Metal/Alternative Rock act WITHIN TEMPTATION to play to an already big crowd, and we could see on the faces of all band members how happy they were because of that.

Promoting their latest EP Don’t Pray for Me, the band spearheaded by the charming vocalist Sharon den Adel played a short and sweet setlist including one of my favorite songs from their career, the exciting Paradise (What About Us?), and after each and every song the reaction from the fans at the venue was really heartwarming to the band. Right before playing the song Raise Your Banner, Sharon dedicated the song to Ukraine, raising an Ukrainian flag and waving it during the entire song, another moment that generated several claps and screams from the fans acknowledging not only how good the band is, but also that they’re on the right side of this stupid war. And after all was said and done, the band said farewell to their Torontonian fans, promising to be back soon to the city with more of their classy music.

Setlist
The Reckoning
Paradise (What About Us?)
Faster
In the Middle of the Night
Stand My Ground
Supernova
Don’t Pray for Me
Raise Your Banner
Mother Earth

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Stefan Helleblad – guitars
Jeroen van Veen – bass
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Mike Coolen – drums

IRON MAIDEN

Precisely at 8:50pm, the speakers began playing UFO’s classic Doctor Doctor as a “warning” to anyone who wasn’t on their seats or still outside buying beer or merch that the party was about to start. Actually, there was an even earlier warning when they played a video of the Legacy of the Beast game with Transylvania as the soundtrack on the big screens a few minutes before that, but you know, there’s always time to grab another beer before the show. And what a show! The unstoppable British Heavy Metal machine IRON MAIDEN was on absolute fire from the very first second, captivating their crazy fans with the three songs from Senjutsu they’re playing on this tour, those being the title-track Senjutsu, Stratego and my favorite of all three live, The Writing on the Wall, with Bruce inspiring everyone at the venue to sing it along with him, before kicking us hard in the head with an avalanche of classics, including of course Revelations, Flight of Icarus and Hallowed Be Thy Name, making up for the long wait of over three years for the band to return to Toronto.

It feels like every single time the band comes to Canada they love to point out how diverse the audience is, with people from all over the world like Brazil, Mexico and Peru, as mentioned by Bruce before playing the beautiful Blood Brothers, visiting the city for another night of Iron Maiden magic. The entire band was flawless and I heard several old school fans saying that was one of the best Iron Maiden concerts they’ve seen in the past few decades, and based on the crowd’s reaction to Sign of the Cross, The Trooper, The Clansman and Run to the Hills, I have to admit that was indeed a night to remember. Furthermore, what can I say about the performance by Mr. Janick Gers? The man was out of control (in a good way, of course), feeling like he was not just playing the guitar but also giving us an aerobics lesson, playing and throwing his axe around in all possible and imaginable ways.

I must confess that when I first saw they were closing the concert with Aces High I was a little worried if Bruce was going to be able to sing it after such intense performance, but of course to the surprise of zero people he nailed it as usual, ending the night in such an electrifying note it was hard to believe the concert was over when the speakers started playing Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. One funny thing Bruce mentioned during the show was the fact that he was very, very happy to be playing indoors and not at the Budweiser Stage (as per their latest concerts in Toronto), which I don’t fully agree because the Budweiser Stage is a lot cooler than the Scotiabank Arena. Well, to be honest, I don’t really care where they play as long as they keep coming back to Toronto, and please excuse me for such short and not-very-detailed review as I’m heading now to the FTTB in Hamilton. Oh yeah, the show must go on. UP THE IRONS!

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor
Senjutsu
Stratego
The Writing on the Wall
Revelations
Blood Brothers
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Trooper
The Clansman
Run to the Hills

Encore 2:
Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Metal Chick of the Month – Elina Siirala

The heat that licks my skin, it takes me high…

Brothers and sisters of metal, let’s all get together to praise our metal chick of the month of April 2018, the stunning Finnish soprano and vocal coach Elina Siirala, better known for being the founder and frontwoman for English Melodic Metal band Angel Nation (formerly known as EnkElination), and for joining German Symphonic/Viking Metal act Leaves’ Eyes as the second female vocalist in the history of the band, replacing the iconic Liv Kristine. Having said that, are you ready to know more about such talented musician, and obviously head into the battlefield side by side with her?

Elina was born on October 27, 1983 in the Finnish capital Helsinki, being the second cousin of Tuomas Holopainen, well known founder and keyboardist of Nightwish. And let’s say that music truly runs in her veins as her whole family is comprised of musicians, not to mention she’s the third generation of teachers, with her passion for singing having started at a very young age when she was only 5 years old. Both her parents are teachers at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and her brother works as a professor in Munich, which means there was a lot of singing, playing and listening to music in her life while she was growing up. One funny story about her passion for music was that she basically begged her parents to start violin lessons, even building her own violin out of a piece of wood and rubber bands. She ended up playing the violin for seven years and also learned how to play piano by herself, but in the end singing was always what she loved the most in music.

After taking singing lessons at the age of 17, Elina got into the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki two years later, completing a Bachelor’s degree in classical music and performing in operas and concerts during that period, and after finishing her studies she decided to broaden her knowledge by moving from Helsinki to London, England, where she spent another year studying contemporary styles such as Rock & Soul (a very challenging one vocally speaking according to Elina herself), a course that also included a lot of performing by the way. In addition, throughout all those years of study, she was also a music teacher and wrote a lot of music, which culminated in 2011 with the creation of her own band EnkeliNation. As a matter of fact, her move to London was the true catalyst of her love for heavy music, with some hard times in her personal life being a source of inspiration for her music and lyrics.

In regards to her career with Angel Nation, as aforementioned it all started in November 2011 when she formed the band under the name EnkElination, with the band’s name being a play on words featuring “enkeli”, which is the Finnish word for “angel”, and also her own name “Elina” in the middle, changing the name to Angel Nation in 2016. Elina was initially joined by guitarist Shadow (Empyreal Destroyer, Stand Aside, Shadow Venger), playing the local London scene and developing the band as a live act while going through several lineup changes during the band’s first few years. Angel Nation also played a few important European festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air, Lankafest and The Dames of Darkness Festival, having released so far in their career the three-track, download-only EP titled Never Ending in 2012, and the albums Tears of Lust, in 2014, and Aeon, in 2017, as well as a couple of singles. Currently comprised of Elina on vocals and keyboards, Sonny Antoniou on the guitar, Julia B Cadau on bass, and Lucas Williamson on drums, Angel Nation play classic, straightforward Symphonic Metal, and you can enjoy their stylish music on their official YouTube channel, having the pleasure of listening to Elina’s powerful vocals in songs like Last Time Together (also available as an acoustic live version), Do It Anyway, and Tears Of Lust, as well as other live videos and special announcements.

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During one of the concerts where Angel Nation worked as a supporting act, Elina came up to the attention of Leaves’ Eyes, being invited in 2016 to join the band to replace their departing singer Liv Kristine. And she started touring and recording with Leaves’ Eyes immediately after joining the band, including a tour with Leaves’ Eyes alongside Sabaton in the United States in 2016 (while at the same time still managing and fronting Angel Nation), and some very unique concerts like the one in Indonesia where she sang in front of 21,000 people despite the heavy tropical storm that hit the venue before the gig, and a small but fully packed venue in Belgium that she considers one of the hottest shows she’s ever done, feeling like a sauna on stage. Since Elina became the new frontwoman for Leaves’ Eyes, the band has already released a handful of singles; an EP titled Fires in the North, in 2016, which includes an original song (also presented in acoustic format) and three re-recorded songs from the band’s 2015 album King Of Kings; and now in 2018 their first full-length album with Elina on vocals, entitled Sign of the Dragonhead. You can have a very good time together with Elina and Leaves’ Eyes by listening to excellent songs such as Edge of Steel, Across The SeaFires in the North, Jomsborg, and Sign Of The Dragonhead. When asked about her favorite songs by Leaves’ Eyes, our dauntless Valkyrie mentioned Take the Devil in Me (from the band’s 2010 album Njord) and Sacred Vow (originally from King Of Kings, but re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) as two songs she would definitely add to her personal playlist, while Edge Of Steel and Swords In Rock (both also from King Of Kings and re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) might be the ones she has the most fun playing live.

As previously mentioned, our Finnish diva has also been a vocal coach and teacher since she was 19, as during her years studying classical singing there was a a large variety of subjects such as music history, music theory and also music teaching, giving classes and lessons about breathing technique, vocal exercises (vocal placement and projection), stylistic awareness, repertoire, and stage and performance technique. Elina mentioned that she really loves teaching and that it’s been a pleasure for her to have already had many different students over the years, saying it’s at the same time challenging and rewarding. Of course, having to balance between Angel Nation and Leaves’ Eyes together with her vocal coach and teaching activities is not an easy task, with very little free time left, something she has to manage by scheduling and planning well in advance. Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews that whenever she has some free time, she likes seeing her friends, watching movies and relaxing, also saying she doesn’t really have any time for hobbies. And to stay in shape on and off tours, Elina said she has an active lifestyle, practicing all kinds of sports to keep her fitness up, and while she’s on tour she said that being on stage is already a good workout for her, always resulting in her losing some weight.

Lastly, when asked about her biggest idols in music, and singers she admires and that inspired her in any way, Elina said that she really likes female singers such as Dutch goddess Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation) and Whitney Houston, as she enjoys all kinds of styles, while her favorite male singers are Spanish tenor, conductor and arts administrator Placido Domingo, who she used to idolize when she was a teenager, and the one and only British icon Freddie Mercury, her all-time inspiration as a singer. Anyone who admires Mr. Freddie Mercury already deserves our utmost respect, and when that person is as talented, energetic and hardworking as our unstoppable Finnish banshee Elina Siirala, things get even better and more epic.

Elina Siirala’s Official Facebook page
Elina Siirala’s Official Twitter
Elina Siirala’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official Facebook page
Angel Nation’s Official Twitter
Angel Nation’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official YouTube channel
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Facebook page
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Twitter
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Instagram
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official YouTube channel

“I think it’s amazing how much emotions music can awaken in people, how it can change your mood and bring back memories. It’s the perfect way of expressing myself as an artist and sometimes writing songs is almost like therapy that helps you through hard times. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, singing is definitely the most personal for me as I’m actually the instrument and I get to express everything through my own voice and of course lyrics.” – Elina Siirala

Metal Chick of the Month – Ailyn Giménez

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Come sleep with me, I’ll set you free…

The name Pilar Giménez García might not make a lot of sense to you, especially if you’re not a fan of Symphonic/Gothic Metal. It might even sound like a name extracted from a Mexican “telenovela” for some people. However, when I say the stage name of our metal chick this month, you’ll probably connect to her and, of course, to her beautiful voice: please welcome the stunning Spanish singer Ailyn Giménez, or simply Ailyn.

Ailyn was born on May 29, 1982 in Esplugues de Llobregat, in Barcelona, Spain, a place so close to the Camp Nou stadium that many famous players such as Piqué and Iniesta reside there. She is the current female vocalist of Norwegian Symphonic Gothic Metal band Sirenia, and her story prior to becoming a professional lead singer for a Heavy Metal band is quite unique in comparison to many other female singers from both metal or non-metal bands.

However, before we talk about her path to stardom, let’s first focus on her beginnings, in other words when Ailyn was “just” Pilar and started her career in the world of music. Our Catalan diva started singing in school when she was around 11 or 12 years old, when her music teacher inspired her to sing by playing her the song Hero by Mariah Carey. Ailyn immediately fell in love with the song and Mariah’s voice, and from that day on she started trying to sing like her, something easy to notice in the pop/romantic songs Tu Voz Se Apagará and Una Flor En La Tempestad. As hard as it’s to believe, this blonde girl shaking her booty is our Ailyn!

Then at the age of 15 she started her musical career, studying solfege and classical singing at The Albéniz School of Music, with her professional debut taking place in 2002 in Cornellà de Llobregat, also in Barcelona, Spain, in an annual benefit fashion show the city held to raise money for Alzheimer’s sufferers. As weird as it might sound, her first music contract was as part of an Anime/J-Pop/J-Rock group named Charm, with whom she released an album entitled Konnichiwa, in 2003, before parting ways with the group and starting to invest in her solo career in 2004.

Things started to get really interesting for her in 2007, when she was chosen as one of the members of the “young team” in the Spanish version of X Factor, where in the four episodes she participated before being eliminated she sang Pop/Rock classics such as Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life, among others. Almost at the same time, her sister was looking for metal bands to add them as friends on the once useful MySpace, and that’s when she got to know Sirenia. They really enjoyed the dark and heavy music played by Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and composer Morten Veland and his crew, and as if by magic, a month later the band sent Ailyn an email asking her if she wanted to audition because they needed a new singer. Check her performances in songs such as The End of It All and Lithium (her cover version for one of Evanescence’s most famous songs), and you’ll understand why she was called to be the smooth female voice of Sirenia.

In the beginning of 2008, our Spanish beauty headed to the wonderful country of Norway for a couple of auditions with Sirenia, before being selected as their new female singer in April 2008. Since then, Ailyn has recorded four full-length albums with Sirenia: The 13th Floor (2009), The Enigma of Life (2011), Perils of the Deep Blue (2013), and earlier this year the excellent The Seventh Life Path, as well as the singles The Path to Decay (2008), The End of It All (2010) and Seven Widows Weep (2013), and of course started touring around the world with the band. Moreover, it was during one of her first tours with Sirenia that she had the most memorable show of her life, at the always awesome festival Masters Of Rock, in 2008. According to Ailyn herself it was not because of her performance (as she was very nervous): she mentioned this specific concert was special because it was her first big show with Sirenia, and because she was able to enjoy all the energy and grandiosity of the festival.

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Besides her career with Sirenia, Ailyn sang the song Needle Bites from the album Rejected Gods (2014), by Greek Symphonic Metal band Enemy of Reality, recorded additional vocals on the song Furia de Libertad from the album Argia (2014), by Spanish Symphonic Power/Gothic Metal band Diabulus in Musica, and female vocals on the songs The Chevalier and Prayer from the album Death & Legacy (2011), by Austrian Symphonic/Progressive Power Metal band Serenity. In addition, she performed live with German/Norwegian Symphonic Metal band Leaves’ Eyes at their 10th anniversary show in Wieze, Belgium in 2014., and she is also scheduled to take part on the Metal Opera album The Great Lie by Melted Space in October this year.

However, maybe none of her accomplishments as a metal singer would have been possible without the influence of Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation in her life. It’s not that she has ever been part of the band or anything like that, but it’s known that all her passion for heavy music started one day while she was watching TV and they played a video from Within Temptation, letting Ailyn eager for more of their music and of the music by any other band with a similar sonority. Of course, that led to Within Tempation’s lead singer Sharon Den Adel being one of her biggest idols in music, among other names such as Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars), Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman. Moreover, when asked about which artists she would like to sing with, our metal babe said she would love to perform a duet with  Roy Khan (ex-Kamelot), an amazing choice in my opinion.

Obviously, just as any other regular person in the world, Ailyn has her personal hobbies, including some very relaxing activities such as reading, drawing and sewing, especially sewing her stage clothes for her live performances with Sirenia, and of course she truly loves listening to music. Another interesting fact about Ailyn is that she has a condition called heterochromia iridis, meaning she has two different eye colours, one eye (right) is brown and the other eye (left) is green, which in my opinion only makes her even more attractive. And on a final note, one might ask how a Spanish woman named Pilar Giménez García ended up being called “Ailyn”, a Chinese name, and the answer to that is quite simple: not only she has always been attracted to the Asian culture, but mainly because Ailyn means “true love”. Do I need to say anything else?

Ailyn’s Official Facebook page
Sirenia’s Official Facebook Page

“Since I was a kid I dreamt about being in the music world, and as I grew up I dreamt about being part of a band, so I think my dreams have been accomplished. Of course I’ve got many dreams, but only time will tell if they become true or not.” – Ailyn Giménez

Album Review – Within Temptation / Hydra (2014)

As the name of the album says,  Within Temptation show all their “heads” with an interesting mix of Symphonic Metal, Pop, Rock, Rap and other musical variations.

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CoverLess symphonic, but a lot more eclectic: that’s a good definition for Hydra, the brand new studio album by the Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation, with so many special guests that it makes me wonder if they asked Pitbull or J-Lo for some tips on how to sell more albums. Anyway, 39-year old Dutch princess Sharon and keyboard player Matijn were responsible for almost all songs, all full of different elements from other musical genres, and it’s even hard to keep calling what the band does as Symphonic Metal after listening to it.

I’m not sure if the diehard fans of the band will enjoy it due to all the new stuff added to the music, but one thing I have no doubt about: the professionalism and talent of all members of the band. Hydra doesn’t have a single moment where it sounds amateur, showing how much the band cares about the final result of their material, and that becomes 100% clear with the opening track, Let Us Burn, an awesome start with its symphonic atmosphere, excellent keyboards and chorus, and Sharon’s voice as beautiful and potent as ever.

The next track, Dangerous, has an interesting duo on vocals with Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) together with Sharon and a more Heavy Metal approach, while And We Run, despite following a similar formula with rapper Xzibit on vocals, sounds too pop for me, but might be interesting for part of the fans. The next song is also the best track of the album undoubtedly: Paradise (What About Us?), featuring the one and only goddess Tarja Turunen with her unique perfect voice, has some great guitar solos and was born to become an instant hit. Not only that, this amazing song also has a music video made for our pure delight, with a “green” message against technology and, of course, all the beauty of Tarja and Sharon together.

Hydra continues with the semi-acoustic Edge Of The World, a beautiful song where Sharon shows a smoother side of her voice, and Silver Moonlight, another strong moment of the album with a very enjoyable pace and with the keyboards giving it all that special atmosphere. The next song, Covered By Roses, lacks creativity and it’s one of the albums weakest tracks (despite Sharon’s performance being beautiful again), followed by another nice song, Dog Days. The regular version of Hydra ends with the good song Tell Me Why with its strong chorus and keyboards, and Whole World Is Watching, featuring Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), a nice ballad but nothing special if compared to the other songs of the album.

Within-Temptation-2014However, if you acquire the digital premium or the deluxe album box version of Hydra, the total running time of the album goes up to over 90 minutes of music with all the bonus tracks. There’s a bunch of cover songs and alternate versions, including the music video for Paradise (What About Us?), but the best one by far is their version for the song Radioactive, from the American alternative rock band Imagine Dragons. This version is way better than the original (which by the way is not bad), and the same can be said about Summertime Sadness, from Lana Del Rey, and Dirty Dancer, from Enrique Iglesias.

The album art is simple but very effective, representing well the Hydra and what the band is delivering with the album. Regarding the musicians, as I previously mentioned, they’re all very professional and know what to do with their instruments, but it’s impossible not to get addicted to Sharon’s voice and “forget” the instrumental parts sometimes. And yes, she will be the “Metal Chick of the Month” one day for sure.

To sum up, Hydra might not be a wonderful album, but it’s pretty consistent and a good choice for the road, the gym or anytime you don’t want to get too heavy. Don’t worry, Within Temptation is still Symphonic Metal, and it’s totally entertaining to see how they were able to add so much unusual stuff to their music without losing their identity. Maybe Hydra will grant them the so desired ticket to stardom, who knows?

Best moments of the album: Let Us Burn, Paradise (What About Us?) and Silver Moonlight. Among the cover songs/bonus tracks, I would say Radioactive is the best one by far.

Worst moments of the album: Covered By Roses and Whole World Is Watching.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast/Universal Music

Track listing
1. Let Us Burn 5:31
2. Dangerous (feat. Howard Jones) 4:52
3. And We Run (feat. Xzibit) 3:50
4. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja Turunen) 5:22
5. Edge Of The World 4:55
6. Silver Moonlight 5:17
7. Covered By Roses 4:48
8. Dog Days 4:47
9. Tell Me Why 6:12
10. Whole World Is Watching (feat. Dave Pirner) 4:03

Digital Premium/Deluxe Album Box bonus tracks
11. Radioactive (Imagine Dragons cover) 3:15
12. Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey cover) 4:07
13. Let Her Go (Passenger cover) 3:44
14. Dirty Dancer (Enrique Iglesias cover) 4:15
15. And We Run (evolution track) 5:41
16. Silver Moonlight (evolution track) 6:05
17. Covered By Roses (evolution track) 4:43
18. Tell Me Why (evolution track) 5:00
19. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja Turunen) music video – iTunes Premium Version 5:51

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars, vocals on “Silver Moonlight” and “Tell Me Why”
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Jeroen van Veen – bass guitar
Mike Coolen – drums
Stefan Helleblad – additional guitars

Guest musicians
Howard Jones – vocals on “Dangerous”
Xzibit – vocals on “And We Run”
Tarja Turunen – vocals on “Paradise (What About Us?)”
David Pirner – vocals on “Whole World Is Watching”