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 – Ani Lo. Projekt / A Time Called Forever (2020)

May your heart and soul be filled with the timeless Heavy Metal blasted by Ani Lo. and her henchmen forever and ever in their sophomore full-length opus.

Brought into being in 2010 in Sofia, the capital of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria, when well-known Bulgarian singer Ani Lozanova (also known as Ani Lo.) and her long-term musical partner, drummer Konstantin Dinev (also known as Kossy D.) decided to join forces to create a project of their own, Symphonic Heavy/Power Metal act Ani Lo. Projekt will bring to your ears a powerful and metallic sound in their sophomore album, entitled A Time Called Forever, the follow-up to their 2011 opus Miracle presenting 12 breathtaking creations composed by Jens Faber (Dawn Of Destiny), who also played guitar, bass and keyboards on the entire album, as well as some growls and clean vocals. Recorded and mastered by Markus Teske at Bazement Studio, featuring an array of guest musicians the likes of Eric Dow (Helsótt), Michael Thionville (Voodoma) and Ani Lo.’s own husband Lachezar Stefanov, and displaying a classy artwork by Bulgarian artist Deliana Stoyanova, A Time Called Forever will undoubtedly please all fans of the music played by bands such as Lords Of Black, Almanac, The Unity and Within Temptation, blending the most symphonic, epic and harmonious elements form classic Heavy and Power Metal.

Kossy begins hammering his drums in the epic and symphonic opening track Break My Chains, with Jens providing Ani all she needs to shine with her potent vocals by blasting crisp background keys and wicked growls, followed by the title-track A Time Called Forever, a beyond mesmerizing tune showcasing Arabian elements and the piercing vocals by Ani, inspiring you to bang your head nonstop while the band smashes your senses with their kick-ass Symphonic Heavy Metal. Featuring guest vocals by Lachezar Stefanov, Bleed is an upbeat composition where the keys by Jens and the beats by Kossy generate an incendiary paradox perfect for admirers of the very melodic but still ferocious and high-octane side of Power Metal, and even more epic and imposing than its predecessors, End Up in Sorrow is a song where Ani steals the spotlight with her enfolding vocals, sounding as if Nightwish and Epica had the mighty Doro on vocals, not to mention Jens’ stunning keys.

Back to a more frantic and very sharp sonority, The Letter presents Kossy kicking some serious ass with his Helloween/Stratovarius-inspired beats, with Jens once again sounding bestial with his guitar riffs and solos; whereas again investing in more melodious and fiery sounds the band offers the gorgeous ballad Back to You, where the passionate vocals by Ani are boosted by Jens’ souful riffage while Kossy keeps the pace very pleasant with his beats. Then we have Cold Death, a galloping and fierce aria of Power Metal by the trio with Ani’s vocals sounding even more captivating, feeling like a song form the Middle Ages turned into modern-day metal music, and Feel Inside, perhaps the most generic of all songs despite its positive message and another solid performance by all band member, especially Jens with his guitar solos, never really taking off (but nothing that causes any damage to the album).

Featuring guest vocals by Michael Thionville, who by the way makes a flammable duo with Ani, Fly with Me is another passionate ballad by Ani and her henchmen, showcasing epic keys and spot-on drums, being therefore perfect for enjoying it with your significant other in your arms. Then again venturing through the realms of Symphonic Power Metal the band explodes our senses with the fantastic Don’t Leave (This World), where Ani hypnotizes us all with her potent, high-pitched lioness roars while guest Eric Dow delivers sheer rage through his growls, making it impossible not to raise your fists to such epic tune; and it’s time to put the pedal to the metal in a Melodic Metal extravaganza titled My Misery, where again we’re treated to the awesome Ani-Eric duet, living up to the legacy of renowned acts like Stratovarius and Kamelot, sounding absolutely fast and thrilling thanks to the unstoppable beats by Kossy. And the last blast of heavy music by Ani Lo. Projekt comes in the form of the ballad Walk Alone, where Ani’s deep vocals are accompanied by gentle piano notes and an embracing atmosphere until the very end.

The multi-talented Ani Lo., Kossy D. and Jens Faber are waiting for you on Facebook, and if you want to show your utmost admiration and support for such distinguished group of musicians you should definitely purchase A Time Called Forever from countless locations such as the Season of Mist webstore, Record Shop X, HMV, Apple Music and Amazon, as well as stream it in its entirety from YouTube and from Spotify. And may Ani and her awesome Ani Lo. Projekt keep reigning forever and ever not only in the metallic Republic of Bulgaria, but anywhere else in the world where our good old Heavy Metal is truly appreciated.

Best moments of the album: A Time Called Forever, End Up in Sorrow and My Misery.

Worst moments of the album: Feel Inside.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Break My Chains 4:52
2. A Time Called Forever 5:47
3. Bleed 4:27
4. End Up in Sorrow 5:16
5. The Letter 3:53
6. Back to You 3:23
7. Cold Death 4:07
8. Feel Inside 3:13
9. Fly with Me 5:13
10. Don’t Leave (This World) 3:19
11. My Misery 3:53
12. Walk Alone 4:15

Band members
Ani Lo. – vocals
Kossy D. – drums
Jens Faber – guitars, bass, keyboards, growls, clean vocals

Guest musicians
Eric Dow – vocals on “Don’t Leave (This World)” and “My Misery”
Michael Thionville – vocals on “Fly With Me”
Lachezar Stefanov – vocals on “Bleed”

The Walking Dead Review – Episode 414: The Grove

The Walking Dead is full of pecans, charred walkers, flowers, sorrow and death.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

If you haven’t seen The Grove yet, I suggest you scroll down to the end of this post first and watch the entire episode before reading the rest of the text.

twd414_01Last night’s episode, The Grove, was probably one of the most sorrowful and depressing episodes of all seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead, and by far the most stressful of season 4. This is something expected when you put together some characters with deep psychological issues (including two children), the heavy burden of carrying a little baby girl with absolutely no decent conditions to take care of her, and of course, some hungry charred zombies. However, I’m pretty sure the message is clear now for all of us and especially for most of the characters in the show: nowhere is safe, and even more important than that, the living are the real danger, not the dead.

First of all, kudos to the superb job done by Chad Coleman, Melissa McBride, Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kenedy, especially to Melissa and Brighton for playing respectively the roles of an even more sorrowful Carol and a truly troubled Lizzie so brightly. The group of Tyreese, Carol, the two girls Lizzie and Mika and the baby Judith has been a great surprise so far: when everybody thought they were going to play a secondary part in the whole story, they deliver us a rollercoaster of emotions mixed with some desperate measures that made us forget this was the third episode in a row without Rick, Carl and Michonne, that Beth was kidnapped or even who Sgt. Abraham Ford is. We all knew Lizzie was some sort of lunatic, but what happened yesterday was really jaw-dropping, and it was something Tyreese and Carol will never ever forget in their painful post-apocalyptical journey.

Despite being sisters, Lizzie and Mika revealed themselves as complete opposites: while one cannot kill walkers, the other is truly afraid of having to kill someone alive; while one enjoys feeding rats to walkers, killing bunnies and playing catch-up with zombie “Griselda”, the other prefers playing with regular harmless dolls and eating pecans. Mika was so innocent and convinced that things were going to be just fine, that Carol got really mad at her for not being tougher nor ready to fight the dangers of that new world (which reminded Carol of her little Sofia when she was alive), but in the end it was Mika who was ready to face the new reality, not psycho Lizzie, and when Carol realized that it was too late for both of them.

All the sadness in this episode was so strong that not even the attack to their new “home” by those totally amazing charred walkers, some of the best zombies we’ve ever seen in the show, was able to make things more fun and easier to watch. That scene with the “crispy” zombies was awesome (and just after the episode was over I realized they were coming from the house Daryl and Beth set on fire, proving once again they’re all in the same place, but at a different time) and if it had happened at a different time, in another episode, it would have been epic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a regular episode with some zombies just being killed; it was much deeper than that.

twd414_02Anyway, it seems that Carol is the character selected by the producers to do all the dirty work in the show: the moment she saw Lizzie with a knife and blood on her hands, and poor Mika dead on the ground, she already knew what needed to be done and that it was going to be her again. “She can’t be around other people.”, Carol said to Tyreese, and knowing that was the only thing they could do to avoid the same destiny for baby Judith, he sadly allowed Carol to end Lizzie’s life.  “Look to the flowers, Lizzie!”, were her last words (the ones always used when Lizzie had any type of psychological issues) to that poor disturbed kid, so disturbed she didn’t even think she was being punished for killing her own sister and for being a huge threat to any living person.

Not only that, after all that melancholy with the deaths of Lizzie and Mika, Carol had the guts to tell Tyreese she was the one who killed Karen. Maybe she knew he was going to forgive her, or maybe he already knew it was her after seeing her shooting Lizzie in cold blood, but she had to let him hear that from her own mouth in order to ease some of her suffering. Now maybe Tyreese’s nightmares with Karen will be over and he’ll get stronger to protect baby Judith and even Carol, or maybe their path to Terminus will be even more excruciating.

Finally, I don’t know how Carol has been able to handle all that pain until today, but I’m pretty sure things will just get worse for her, if that’s humanly possible. Because after losing all she’s already lost and doing all she’s already done, what’s left inside her that’s worth living for? Is Judith now her only reason to stay alive? What will happen when (or if) they find Rick?

The Grove (FULL EPISODE)