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 – Obscura Qalma / Apotheosis (2021)

Exploring human existence in an epistemological solipsistic view, the debut album by this Stygian Italian horde is a lecture in epic and dark Death Metal that exists in its own philosophically inspired realm.

Formed in 2018 in Venice, Italy from connections built in their local scene while performing within their prior projects, the unrelenting Blackened/Symphonic Death Metal horde known as Obscura Qalma have just released their debut full-length opus, entitled Apotheosis, the follow-up to their 2019 EP From the Sheol to the Apeiron. Mixed and mastered by Simone Mularoni at Domination Studio and displaying a sinister artwork by Mexican artist Néstor Ávalos (Black Arts), Apotheosis (or “to deify” from Greek) explores human existence in an epistemological solipsistic view inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, as well as by contemporary figures such as Massimo Recalcati and James Owen Weatherall, while musically speaking the inspiration comes from bands the likes of Dissection, Emperor and Death as well as by classical music and film composers such as Alexandre Desplat, showcasing all the talent and passion for dark music by vocalist and guitarist Sirius (Necrosy, Supremacy), guitarist Sartorius (As Memory Dies), bassist Theo (From the Shores), and drummer Res (Supremacy).

The cinematic and absolutely epic intro Demise Of The Sun sets the stage for Obscura Qalma to crush our souls in Impure Black Enlightenment, a lecture in Symphonic Black Metal with Res smashing his drums manically accompanied by the wicked riffage by Sirius and Sartorius, all spiced up by an imposing atmosphere and the demonic growls by Sirius. Then keeping the ambience as dark and sulfurous as possible the quartet blasts the venomous Gemini, with Theo and his rumbling bass adding a touch of aggressiveness to the overall result, not to mention how infernal the drums sound once again; and their onrush of obscurity goes on in The Forbidden Pantheon, another epic, massive Blackened Death Metal extravaganza led by the hellish vociferations by Sirius, sounding old school but at the same time offering the listener a fresh and modern twist. There’s no time to breathe as the quartet keeps decimating our souls in Transcending The Sefirot, with Res sounding like a three-headed beast behind his drums supported by the whimsical riffs and solos by Sirius and Sartorius.

It can’t get any more symphonic than in Paradise Lost, a dense, multi-layered creation by Obscura Qalma showcasing their trademark fusion of classic Death and Black Metal with movie-inspired scores and wicked sounds, and you better get ready to have your neck broken in half to the sound of Fleshbound, a pulverizing Blackened Death Metal tune where their riffs, bass lines and pounding beats will hammer your head mercilessly until the very last second. Never tired of bringing forward their passion and admiration for the dark side of music, it’s time for Sirius to roar in anger in The Telemachus Complex, a beautiful composition that will leave you completely disoriented, with Res taking the lead with his intricate and furious beats, whereas not a single moment of peace is offered to us all in Imperial Cult, with its background elements creating an interesting paradox with the savagery crafted by all band members. Lastly, we’re treated to Awaken A Shrine To Oblivion, starting in a more alternative and futuristic manner and evolving into their usual sound, albeit not as compelling as its predecessors.

You can enjoy all the obscurity and fury of Apotheosis by streaming the album in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course in order to show your utmost support to those talented Italian metallers you should purchase the album from their BandCamp page or Big Cartel, from the Rising Nemesis Records’ BandCamp page or Big Cartel, or simply click HERE for different places where you can buy or stream the album. In addition to all that, don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news and tour dates, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their wicked music. “From the nihilistic foundations of European culture and epistemological solipsism to astrophysics and psychoanalysis, Apotheosis dwells on the limits of human knowledge and the impassable boundaries of its own existence,” commented the band about their newborn spawn, creating epic and dark Death Metal that exists in its own philosophically inspired realm and, therefore, paving a promising path ahead of the band in the coming years.

Best moments of the album: Impure Black Enlightenment, Paradise Lost and The Telemachus Complex.

Worst moments of the album: Awaken A Shrine To Oblivion.

Released in 2021 Rising Nemesis Records

Track listing
1. Demise Of The Sun 1:24
2. Impure Black Enlightenment 4:07
3. Gemini 5:17
4. The Forbidden Pantheon 5:01
5. Transcending The Sefirot 4:33
6. Paradise Lost 6:23
7. Fleshbound 4:01
8. The Telemachus Complex 5:28
9. Imperial Cult 4:28
10. Awaken A Shrine To Oblivion 5:57

Band members
Sirius – vocals, guitar
Sartorius – guitar
Theo – bass, backing vocals
Res – drums, additional percussion

Interview – Jaume Antuñano (Eonian)

It’s time for The Headbanging Moose to chat with guitarist, composer and lyricist Jaume Antuñano about his awesome solo project Eonian and his debut EP The Nomad, among other fun topics.

jaume-antunano-eonian

Jaume Antuñano (Eonian)

The Headbanging Moose: Hi, Jaume! Welcome to The Headbanging Moose, and thanks for joining us for this interview! Can you please begin by introducing yourself to our readers and talk a little about your new project Eonian? How would you label your music?

Jaume Antuñano: Hi Gus! Thank you so much for having me. Eonian is a symphonic black/death metal solo project that I started in early 2020. The pandemic had just hit NYC and we were stuck at home, so I began writing music to keep my mind busy. Originally, this was going to be an instrumental project, but as I started composing and recording, I decided to write lyrics and to incorporate vocals too.

THM: You have just released a fantastic debut EP entitled The Nomad, which I highly recommend for fans of bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. What’s the main idea or concept behind the album, and how long did it take for you to finalize the entire process until the release of the album?

JA: The Nomad is a concept EP. All five songs tell the story of this mysterious, once powerful character who is condemned by the gods to wander for eternity after falling from grace. Trying to tie all the songs together both musically and through the lyrics made it a little harder, but overall it was a pretty quick process. It took about ten months for the EP to be completed.

THM: I personally enjoyed all five songs from the EP, especially Winter Wanderer and Cleansing Fire. What about you? What’s your favorite song of the EP and why? And you can’t say all five, of course! 😉

JA: This is like choosing between mom and dad! But okay, I’ll go ahead and say Cleansing Fire too.

THM: The main band that plays with you in The Nomad is formed by French vocalist DM, Italian bassist Francesco Loconte, Swedish drummer Freddy Ortscheid and Argentinian musician Diego Soldi. How difficult was it to put together such distinct international project, and how did you get to know each one of your band members?

JA: They all did such an amazing job and I’m so glad I got in touch with them. I can compose parts for different instruments, but I can only play the guitar, so I went on Fiverr and contacted these great musicians to record everything else. After I wrote the songs, I sent them a first demo and midi files, and we went from there. This was entirely done via the Internet and we actually never met in person, but despite all that, this was a very easy process and they knocked it out of the park.

THM: There are also seven other guest musicians on the album, as for example Russian violinist Margarita Chernova and Ukrainian pianist Polina Chornaya. Why did you decide to have so many guests on the album, how did you recruit each one of them, and how happy are you with the final result?

eonian-the-nomad-ep-2021 150px

Album Review – Eonian / The Nomad EP (2021)

JA: The reason behind having all these guest musicians is because I wanted to include musicians from different backgrounds. Some of them are used to playing metal, but some others are not, and I think that added some depth to my original ideas. Each one of them brought something to the table that I wouldn’t have been able to come up with myself, and I’m absolutely stoked with the results.

THM: What’s next for Eonian? Can we expect a full-length album from you in the near future? And as you’re basically a virtual band (at least for now), do you have any plans for a tour either with the same musicians featured on the album or with new local ones from the New York area?

JA:   I already have some ideas for new songs, but it is too early to know if the next release will be an EP or a full-length album. As for a future tour, I would really like it if Eonian became a band, so NYC folks, hit me up if you are interested.

THM: How has this never-ending pandemic impacted your work as a musician? And do you see a light at the end of the tunnel for metal bands now that the vaccination is picking up almost everywhere and concerts and festivals are starting to be scheduled again?

JA: Like many other musicians, new and consolidated, being stuck at home for so long really pushed me to start writing new stuff. Luckily, it looks like things are improving rapidly and that many bands are going to be presenting their new material live soon. I can’t wait and I already marked down a few concerts I don’t want to miss, including your fellow Canadians Unleash the Archers at Le Poisson Rouge here in NYC.

THM: When and why did you decide to move from Spain to the United States? Did it have anything to do with your career as a musician, or was it due to a completely different reason?

JA: I moved to the U.S. in 2011 to complete a Master’s degree in Literature. My plan was to stay for two years and go back to Spain, but I met my now-wife and… never left.

eonian-logoTHM: How different is the metal scene in your home country Spain compared to where you are now in The United States? Any local underground bands from both countries you would recommend to our readers?

JA: There is so many different styles and so much talent out there that I find it difficult to come up with major differences between the current metal scenes of Spain and the U.S. Maybe ten, fifteen years ago the difference was more defined, as European metalheads in general were very into the wave of Power Metal bands and also the Gothenburg sound was huge over there. The elitists will probably correct me, but I think that today there is quite an overlap regarding the genres that metalheads from both countries listen to. As for your second question, I’ll start by giving a shout-out to a couple of bands from my hometown of Valencia: In Mute (Melodic Death Metal) and Retribution (Symphonic Black/Death). And as for New York bands, I’m going to go with Valcata, which is another Internet-produced project that features many different musicians and vocalists from all over the world. Check them out!

THM: Thanks again for your time, and congratulations for your amazing debut EP! Please feel free to send your final message and considerations to our readers, and keep up with the excellent work with Eonian!

JA: Thank you for the interview and for your positive review of The Nomad! I would also like to thank all of the session musicians that recorded in this EP, and Fernán Nebiros, from Peruvian death metal legends Mortem, who was involved in the early stages of this project and whose valuable input helped me immensely. And to the readers, I encourage you to follow Eonian on Instagram and Facebook and to let me know what you think of the EP!

Links
Eonian Facebook | Instagram | Linktree | Spotify | BandCamp | DistroKid

Interview – Tommaso “Tommy” Monticelli (Genus Ordinis Dei)

Join us in this awesome interview with Genus Ordinis Dei guitarist and producer Tommaso “Tommy” Monticelli where he discusses about the band’s new opus Glare of Deliverance, the series of videos from the album, and what’s next for those talented Italian metallers.

Tommaso “Tommy” Monticelli (Genus Ordinis Dei)

The Headbanging Moose: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about the music by Genus Ordinis Dei. Can you please start by introducing yourself to our readers? Who are the guys from Genus Ordinis Dei, and what are your goals with the band?

Tommy: Hi, I’m Tommy and I’m the guitarist and producer of Genus Ordinis Dei. We’re 4 metalheads: Me, Nick (Guitars and Vocals), Steven (Bass) and Richard (Drums). The band was formed in 2008 in Crema, our hometown. We were just a bunch of long-time friends who shared the passion for metal music and we decided to start to play together. We were 20 years old and none of us ever played in a real band before Genus Ordinis Dei (and I personally still never played in other bands). Richard came later in 2012 after changing two other drummers. Our goal is simple: become the most important Italian metal band ever.

THM: Now let’s begin talking about your 2020 album Glare of Deliverance. It’s known that the album tells the story of a young woman named Eleanor, who is persecuted by the Holy Inquisition, bringing the concept art of American author Tom Roberts to life. Can you explain in more detail this concept behind the album? How did you guys come up with such distinct theme?

Tommy: The idea of the story was born years ago too, actually, I still remember us writing down on a notebook the plot of the chapters while hanging out in a pub in our hometown. Then, almost two years ago, we thought it was good enough and we decided it was time to try to make it real. Glare Of Deliverance tells the story of Eleanor in 10 episodes with 10 videos and 10 songs, describing all the steps that bring Eleanor in the grasp of the Holy Inquisition. More in detail, the Hunters of the Holy Inquisition chase after her interrupting a mysterious ritual. The ritual involves a powerful item, a black stone that she calls “The Heart Of Stone”. The stone goes lost during the chase and she is captured and brought to the citadel where the Inquisitor awaits. She’s examined, tortured and finally judged guilty of witchcraft by the Bishop who gives her the possibility to abjure and be forgiven. But the night before the abjuration, a mysterious entity, The Fallen, appears in her dreams and foresees her fate. The story will continue in the next episode 🙂

THM: Also, each one of the ten songs from the album are combined in sequence like a short film or television series to tell that story. How difficult was it to put together those ten songs in the correct order without having any major breaks or interruptions to the flow of the storyline?

Tommy: It’s been tough! We had to deal with the construction of the video series of this story, a totally new thing for us (and also for the fans) that led us to face a lot of difficulties and uncertainty moments, especially in the middle of this pandemic. We enjoyed it and we’re so proud of the final result, both visually and musically speaking. It took a lot of time, considering that we had to create a crowdfunding campaign that fortunately went well. We wanted to create something that mixes a concept album with a tv series, and I think we did pretty well.

THM: Can you tell us how hard was it to produce the album yourself instead of hiring an external person or company to do it? What are some things you wish you could have done in a different way?

Tommy: After all I have to say that it’s been easier than ever. Having the complete control of any single detail at any step of the production is much better than telling someone else what to do and hoping to share the same vision. Obviously you need the right amount of experience and skill to do it yourself and achieve a professional result. We can’t be happier than this!

THM: How has been the whole experience of shooting a special video for each one of the songs from Glare of Deliverance? How are you guys managing all production, costume designing, extras and so on? And which member of the band has the strongest film-making vein, taking the lead in this bold endeavor?

Tommy: Nick is definitely the video guy of the band. Even if we shot a lot of videos during these years, this was a totally new experience for us. We spent months planning the production of audio and video before shooting the first episode. Creating the storyboards, hiring pro artists to draw the concept and create the costumes and the masks, finding the main actress, finding the locations, hiring the videomaker and planning all the logistics and budget took almost a year, considering that we funded everything with a crowdfunding campaign. We were almost beginners about this and finishing this crazy puzzle on our own makes us extremely proud.

Album Review – Genus Ordinis Dei / Glare of Deliverance (2020)

THM: I want to personally ask about the closing song, the 16-minute aria Fire. How special is that song for you and the rest of the band, I mean, did you feel something different while writing and recording this specific song compared to the others, and can we expect to see you guys playing it live one day?

Tommy: If we’ll have enough time on the setlist we’re gonna play the whole album live. In particular Fire is a special song because the first 9 minutes contain all the main riffs and melodies of the previous 9 songs (revisited, rearranged), a sort of moment of reflection of the journey that took to the final act. It also explodes in a choral epic hook that we personally love. We had a great time recording the choir (in another studio, a bigger one :)), another new experience for us. We feel we’ve grown so much after making this album.

THM: As you guys are based in Italy, one of the countries that have suffered the most with COVID-19, how has this never-ending pandemic been impacting your work with Genus Ordinis Dei and your life in general? How are the other bands from your local scene surviving these years with no live concerts?

Tommy: We always wanted to stay positive and keep developing this idea despite all this crazy situation. Also, we knew that people still need music and entertainment, even if the whole damn world is turning upside down. We decided from the beginning that we’d have never stopped working and that Glare Of Deliverance would be released, a way or another. Every band is trying to do their best to keep creating new content but I understand that it’s a tough challenge.

THM: Can you tell us a little about your biggest idols in music, arts and life in general? And how has their music influenced you and the band in the writing process of Glare of Deliverance?

Tommy: Then there’s a lot of bands that inspired me through this journey but I can’t forget how it started: Blind Guardian, Kamelot, Manowar and Iron Maiden are my all-time favourite guys and they’ll ever be. In this exact moment, the most impressive band to me is Gojira, from the songs to the image to the performances: top band right now. They’re so inspiring. In general I love concept albums and artists that try to focus on creating epic and evocative atmospheres.

Genus Ordinis Dei

THM: Do you think the Italian underground scene is stronger than ever, or do you see it decaying somehow? And what are some bands from your region other than Genus Ordinis Dei that you would recommend to our readers?

Tommy: Italy is not famous for metal bands in general. I’m not into the underground scene so much but for what I’ve seen in the last years, it’s not so interesting. Excluding big bands like Lacuna Coil and Fleshgod Apocalypse, what I would recommend right now are DGM and Nightland. Check them out.

THM: What does the future hold for Genus Ordinis Dei? Can we expect to see more of your epic and atmospheric music in a not-so-distant future?

Tommy: Now we’re focused on the last video episode releases, Dream on March 22nd and the other 3 in the following months. There’s still so much to do before saying “ok, Glare Of Deliverance is done, let’s pass to next one” but I confess that I’m already collecting new melodies and riffs, and we started writing the next storyboard 🙂 But still, we have tons of new stuff regarding Glare Of Deliverance and a couple of great news to spread. We’re preparing for the next live shows, creating a new show from scratch.

THM: Thank you very much for the interview! Any final considerations or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Tommy: If you want something new, something that no one ever did before, follow the first Metal Music Series: Glare Of Deliverance.

Thank you guys for the interview.

Stay safe and stay metal!

Hail!

Links
Genus Ordinis Dei Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Album Review – Genus Ordinis Dei / Glare of Deliverance (2020)

Witness the story of a young woman named Eleanor who is persecuted by the Holy Inquisition in the form of a stunning album of Symphonic Death Metal made in Italy.

There’s nothing better than celebrating what’s probably the weirdest Halloween of the past few decades (due of course to all the madness the world is going on right now) than with the pulverizing Symphonic Death Metal         blasted by a four-piece band hailing from Crema, a city and comune in the province of Cremona, in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy, that goes by the stunning name of Genus Ordinis Dei, which translates from Latin as something like “the order of the race”. Comprised of Niccolò “Nick K” Cadregari on vocals and guitars, Tommaso “Tommy” Monticelli on guitars and orchestrations, Steven F. Olda on bass and Richard Meiz on drums, Genus Ordinis Dei are unleashing upon humanity their brand new opus entitled Glare of Deliverance. Produced by Tommy himself at Sonitus Studio, Glare of Deliverance is much more than a follow-up to their sophomore album Great Olden Dynasty, offering us all a series of ten individual songs, each with its own music video or episode, which combine in sequence like a short film or television series that tells the story of a young woman named Eleanor, who is persecuted by the Holy Inquisition, bringing the concept art of American author Tom Roberts to life.

Sounds of nature warm up our senses for the enfolding and atmospheric journey that’s about to begin in a beautiful and imposing intro named Ritual, setting the stage for the band to kill in Hunt, a majestic Death Metal aria infused with symphonic and epic elements, with Nick roaring and screaming in anger nonstop accompanied by the pulverizing drums by Richard and the beyond whimsical orchestrations by Tommy; and soaring choirs intertwined with the pounding beats by Richard ignite the progressive and heavy-as-hell Edict, with Steven adding his share of groove to the music while Nick and Tommy slash their stringed axes powerfully. The band keeps smashing their instruments in great fashion in Examination, where we’re all invited to bang our heads to this sinister tune spearheaded by Nick’s demonic growls and vociferations, alternating between Symphonic Metal moments and eerie passages. After that, like in an epic movie, the music in Torture grows in intensity until all hell breaks loose, morphing into a melodic and atmospheric feast of Death Metal presenting incendiary guitars making a thrilling paradox with all background orchestrations.

Then phantasmagorical guitars, melancholic violins and endless sorrow and pain will penetrate deep inside your mind in Judgement, where Steven and Richard bring a touch of Doom Metal to the music while Nick and Tommy fire Groove Metal-inspired riffs, with the whole experience ending in pure solitude. And cryptic sounds and tones are gradually joined by serene acoustic guitars in Dream, sounding and feeling as progressive as possible, with its hammering drums walking hand in hand with the background keys by Tommy, whereas Gregorian chants kick off the also dense and doomed Abjuration, offering our avid ears a cinematic vibe boosted by Nick’s and Tommy’s razor-edged guitars in another gorgeous creation by the quartet, uniting the rage of Death Metal with the finesse of a classic opera. Sounding like a metallic and grim waltz we face the amazing Exorcism, with Nick taking the lead with his deep guttural roars while his bandmates generate a massive wall of sounds for our total delight, resulting in seven minutes of the best Symphonic Death Metal you can find anywhere in the world; and last but not least, if Mastodon, Nightwish, Dimmu Borgir and Gojira were combined into one single entity they would certainly write the multi-layered, breathtaking tune Fire, where the keys by Tommy are enhanced by the contrast with Steven’s bass and Richard’s beats, and with all breaks, variations, gentle passages and the Stygian growling by Nick blowing our minds, or in other words, it’s a first-class hybrid of sheer heaviness and a stylish metal opera to flawlessly close the album.

I’m sure you’re eager to put your hands on what’s one of the best metal albums of the worldwide underground scene, and you’ll be able to do that sooner than later by clicking HERE and selecting your favorite version of the album to buy or stream when it’s officially released. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow Genus Ordinis Dei on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel to be the first to know about each chapter of the incredible Glare of Deliverance, and listen to more of their music on Spotify. Are you curious to know what happens to Eleanor in this high-octane, top-of-the-line album of Symphonic Death Metal? Well, the skillful musicians of Genus Ordinis Dei are here to tell us the fate of such interesting character in their new album, and let’s hope they continue to embellish the airwaves for many years to come with their impressive creations while at the same time they keep us all absolutely hooked with their refined storytelling abilities in each of their future releases.

Best moments of the album: Hunt, Edict, Exorcism and Fire.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Eclipse Records

Track listing
1. Ritual 3:47
2. Hunt 4:18
3. Edict 6:42
4. Examination 6:59
5. Torture 4:41
6. Judgement 7:46
7. Dream 6:38
8. Abjuration 7:47
9. Exorcism 7:04
10. Fire 16:08

Band members
Niccolò “Nick K” Cadregari – vocals, guitars
Tommaso “Tommy” Monticelli – guitars, orchestrations
Steven F. Olda – bass
Richard Meiz – drums

Album Review – Mazikeen / The Solace of Death (2020)

A beastly album of Symphonic Death and Black Metal from Australia that proves death can be comforting when enfolded by first-class extreme music.

What started in 2013 in Melbourne, Australia as a solo project by guitarist Andrew Shiells with the help from Chris Meyer (from Australian Black Metal act Aberration Nexus), who recorded some drums and synths for the project’s first demo tracks, has evolved to a much bolder and multi-layered beast in recent years, blasting a crushing hybrid of Symphonic Death and Black Metal with other extreme styles such as Melodic Death Metal and old school Black Metal. I’m talking about Mazikeen (based on the Hebrew word “mazzikim”, meaning “harmful spirits”), an infernal horde comprised of the aforementioned Andrew Shiells and his henchmen James Edmeades (Claret Ash) on vocals, Kris Marchant on the guitars, Aretstikapha (Plasmodium, Klavierkrieger) on piano and synths, and Marco Pitrruzzella (Six Feet Under, Sleep Terror) on drums, who are unleashing upon us their first full-length opus titled The Solace of Death, featuring eight original songs and four insane cover tracks throughout impressive 67 minutes of music, all embraced by the stylish and sinister artwork by Australian artist Jamie Ludbrooke.

An eerie, phantasmagorical intro evolves into a feast of symphonic and dark sounds in the opening track The Solace Of Death, where Marco is absolutely infernal with his blast beats while James delivers his Dani Filth/Shagrath-inspired roars and gnarls, supported by the imposing synths by Andrew and Aretstikapha, whereas in Apostate it’s time for ten minutes of Symphonic Black Metal infused with Doom and Melodic Death Metal nuances where the guitars by Kris and Andrew sound sharp and very harmonious just the way we like it in extreme music. Brutal and enthralling form start to finish, this great composition lives up to the legacy of bands like Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and Carpathian Forest, which can also be said about Vexation Through The Golden Sun, even more obscure, violent and epic than its predecessors, spearheaded by the insane drums by Marco while his bandmates make sure every empty space in the air is filled with darkness and evil, resulting in a lecture in modern-day Symphonic Black Metal full of breaks and variations, Stygian passages and even some serene, acoustic moments for our total delight. And featuring guest vocals by Josh Young (Astral Winter, Atra Vetosus), Mazikeen go full Scandinavian Black Metal in Fractricide, inspired by the trailblazers of the genre such as Mayhem and Emperor, blasting a demolishing sonority that will make your head tremble nonstop.

Josh returns with his wicked gnarls in the melancholic and somber Psychotic Reign, starting in a Gothic Metal-ish vibe while also presenting elements from Atmospheric Black Metal in its core essence. Moreover, I personally love the paradox created between Marco’s stone crushing beats and all background keys and symphonic elements, giving the whole song and extra touch of eccentricity, flowing into the cryptic and atmospheric instrumental bridge Harrowing Cessation, which also develops into a romantic instrumental ballad entitled MORS VINCIT OMNIA, or “death conquers all” from Latin, where the strength and depth of the piano notes take the lead and guide the music until its inevitable and grim ending. And in the last original song from the album, Cerulean Last Night, Mazikeen get back to a more ferocious and visceral mode, uniting the most piercing elements from old school Black Metal and contemporary Symphonic Black Metal spiced up by the visceral guest vocals by Ian McLean (The Maledict).

The last batch of songs in The Solace of Death is the band’s own tribute to their biggest idols and influences, starting with Mayhem’s Freezing Moon, originally released in the 1994 cult album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (check the original version HERE), with Mazikeen’s version featuring the vicious vocals by guest Ashahalasin (Inhuman Remnants, Somnium Nox) infernally complemented by the pulverizing drums by Marco, followed by Disection’s Night’s Blood, from the 1995 album Storm of the Light’s Bane, as bestial as the original song with Kris and Andrew delivering sheer electricity and rage through their scorching riffs. Then we have a cover for Dimmu Borgir’s Mourning Palace, from the 1997 album Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (you can listen to the original one HERE), where James does a fantastic job on vocals accompanied by the whimsical keys and synths by Andrew and Aretstikapha. And finally, Ashahalasin returns for their cover song for Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger, from the 1994 album Transilvanian Hunger, as raw and malevolent as the original tune, with Marco once again taking the lead firing endless dementia and wrath from his blast beats.

You can enjoy this precious gem of Australian Black Metal in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, and also grab your copy of the album from the Satanath Records’ BandCamp page, from the Iron, Blood & Death Corporation’s BandCamp page, from Apple Music, or click HERE for all options where you can buy or stream the album. Mazikeen can also be found on Facebook, where you can know more about the band, their tour dates, their music and plans for the future, proudly carrying the flag of Black Metal wherever they go. In a nutshell, Andrew and his horde from Mazikeen nailed it in The Solace of Death, showing us all that death can be indeed comforting, especially if enfolded by a good amount of first-class Black Metal like the sonic devastation blasted by such distinct band hailing from the always inspiring Australia.

Best moments of the album: Vexation Through The Golden Sun, Fractricide and Night’s Blood.

Worst moments of the album: Harrowing Cessation.

Released in 2020 Satanath Records/Iron, Blood & Death Corporation

Track listing
1. The Solace Of Death 6:57
2. Apostate 10:05
3. Vexation Through The Golden Sun 10:46
4. Fractricide 4:54
5. Psychotic Reign 7:00
6. Harrowing Cessation 2:30
7. MORS VINCIT OMNIA 2:59
8. Cerulean Last Night 7:34
9. Freezing Moon (Mayhem cover) 6:36
10. Night’s Blood (Dissection cover) 7:10
11. Mourning Palace (Dimmu Borgir cover) 5:36
12. Transilvanian Hunger (Darkthrone cover) 5:36

Band members
James Edmeades – vocals
Kris Marchant – guitars
Andrew Shiells – guitars, synths
Aretstikapha – piano, synths
Marco Pitrruzzella – drums

Guest musicians
Josh Young – vocals on “Fractricide” and “Psychotic Reign”
Ian McLean – vocals on “Cerulean Last Night”
Ashahalasin – vocals on “Freezing Moon” and “Transilvanian Hunger”

Metal Chick of the Month – Māra Lisenko

Label me insane… My madness is not my enemy!

Get ready to be absolutely stunned by the sick growling, screaming and roaring blasted by our metal lady of the month of September, a true metalhead who loves all types of extreme music from the bottom of her Latvian heart, with her music being highly recommended for diehard fans of renowned acts like Aborted, Cryptopsy, Cattle Decapitation, Decapitated, Bloodbath and Hideous Divinity, among several others, who are always in pursuit of new names in the scene and who also love a feminine touch amidst such level of devastation. Hailing from Riga, Latvia’s capital, set on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava, but currently residing in the metal heaven known as the Federal Republic of Germany, here comes the ferocious she-wolf Māra Lisenko, the indomitable growler for some of the best bands of the past few years coming from the Baltics, those being Ocularis Infernum and MĀRA.

Having studied vocals at Vocaltech – Thames Valley University (currently known as University of West London) in 2007 in the UK, as well as with some of the most prestigious vocal coaches worldwide such as rock and metal vocal coach Melissa Cross, rockstar vocal coach Mark Baxter, and “Death Metal Phoniatrician” Dr. Enrico H Di Lorenzo (Hideous Divinity), Māra is an extremely versatile vocalist, being able to sing from the most brutal and gory growls to fragile, emotional clean vocals. In addition, although she started to sing in bands and tour around Europe in 2003, her singing career started way earlier than that, when she was still a three-year old girl, mainly because her own mother was a choir leader and inspired her to follow a similar path. A self-starter and an autodidact, our dauntless growler is also a vocal coach, having taught several aggressive as well as melodic vocal techniques and training since 2011, and also offering studio session work for bands who need professional sounding vocals for their recordings (and you can get more details about her services by clicking HERE or HERE). In one of her interviews, she said all the energy in her singing and screaming is driven by her real-life experiences and emotions, never about fictional topics, which in her opinion makes it a lot easier for her to transform those feelings into ass-kicking vocals.

During hear early years as a professional vocalist, she was part of two distinct Latvian bands named Defame (which I couldn’t find any information online) and Karmafree, with whom she won a couple of awards, those being Best Vocalist in a band contest named “Rīgas Dzintars” with Karmafree in 2011, and a Grand Prix with Defame at Sinepes Un Medus in 2005. Karmafree, which is still active by the way, is an alternative bass and vocal duo comprised of Māra on vocals and her husband Dmitry Lisenko on bass formed in 2010 in London, England, playing many festivals and releasing a self-titled demo and video entitled Fresh Millionaire before the duo returned to their homeland Latvia. In 2012 they released their first EP, named Illusions, along with a music video for the song Fragile; after their debut album, Karmafree released a series of singles, with songs like InvisibleValidate Me and #SSDD beautifully representing the evolution of the project, their social and political fights, and of course Māra’s fantastic vocal range. You can listen to a lot more of the music by Karmafree on their official YouTube channel, as well as on their BandCamp page.

It was back in 2015 when Māra was able to present herself to a much broader audience after joining a Riga-based Melodic/Symphonic Death/Black Metal band named Ocularis Infernum, who have been on the road since 2002 but who had released only one demo and one EP before she became their frontwoman. Under the stage name of Māra Sekhmet, she released in 2017 together with the band’s founders Andris and Magnuss the excellent Expired Utopia (which you can purchase from their own BandCamp page or listen in full on Spotify), exploring themes like darkness, occultism and paganism, always embraced by a symphonic and Stygian aura inspired by renowned acts such as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth. I personally loved listening to every single second of Expired Utopia, and if you’re also a fan of this fusion of extreme and symphonic music you can have a taste of the band’s darkness and of Māra’s refined gnarls and powerful clean vocals by listening to the songs A Confession Of Defeat and Lost Forest. There’s nothing on the band’s official Facebook page about an upcoming album, concerts nor anything like that since the end of 2018, but let’s hope they’re just taking a break and that the world can enjoy more of the music by Ocularis Infernum in a not-so-distant future.

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Right now, Māra’s main project is her own solo band named MĀRA, a Latvian/German four-piece outfit established in 2018 that plays a modern and sharp amalgamation of Death, Thrash, Alternative and Groove Metal. Currently based in two countries – Germany and Latvia – MĀRA have already played tours and summer festivals all across Europe since their inception, visiting countries like Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France and obviously Latvia, and opening for some of the biggest exponents of Extreme Metal such as Sepultura, Krisiun and Satyricon. So far Māra and her henchmen, including her aforementioned husband Dmitry on bass, released in 2018 their debut EP entitled Therapy For An Empath, which you can purchase from their BandCamp page or listen to in full on YouTube, and three music videos for the songs Sell Your Soul, Label Me Insane and Blameshifter, having already won Album Of The Year (with Therapy For An Empath, of course) and Best Vocalist at the  Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018. Moreover, you can enjoy MĀRA’s incendiary performance at the Latvian Metal Music Awards 2018,  which was held at an underground extreme music club in Riga named Melnā Piektdiena, playing the song Label Me Insane live during the event. As you might have already noticed, the name of the band was taken directly from her own name Māra, a very traditional Latvian girl name and, according to Māra herself, in Latvian folklore it’s also the name of a goddess, carrying a lot of strength rooted very deep in where the band comes from, also using Māra’s cross as their logo, a powerful Latvian magic sign.

Regarding her main idols in music, you just need to think of most classic Death, Thrash, Black and Groove Metal bands like Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Carcass, Aborted, Cryptopsy and so on, with Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) being perhaps her biggest idol as a vocalist. Māra even mentioned during an interview that one of her dreams as a musician would be to sing either Territory or Roots Bloody Roots together with Max as a very distinct and powerful duet, showing her total admiration and respect for a man that has undoubtedly revolutionized the way extreme vocalists sing all over the world. Not only that, you can also check all her passion for extreme music and vocalists on her official YouTube channel, where she uploads her own vocal covers for some of the heaviest and most awesome songs of all time, as for example Slipknot’s Psychosocial and The Heretic Anthem, Lamb Of God’s Laid To Rest and Sepultura’s Territory, with Slipknot having a huge influence on her vocal style and taste for music according to Māra herself, in special their 2001 masterpiece Iowa. As a matter of fact, she released her cover version for The Herectic Anthem on the same day Slipkont launched their brand new album We Are Not Your Kind this year, proving how much she loves and follows the band led by Corey Taylor. On a side note, our skillful vocalist also said that all metalheads from Latvia who dedicate a lot of their time to keep the local metal scene going, doing it just for their love for metal with basically no financial reward, also inspire her a lot in life, once again showing Māra has and will always have a beautiful connection with her homeland.

Māra also seems to be crazy four touring and performing live, as she mentioned in an interview that she could simply live out of touring. She enjoys visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, and learning about metal scenes everywhere she goes. She has already played in several European countries, and I’m pretty sure she can’t wait to expand her horizons to places like North and South America, Japan and Australia. As aforementioned, Māra and her husband Dmitry are currently residing in Germany (while the other band members, guitarist Denis Melnik and drummer Alberts Mednis, still live in Riga), and the reason why they decided to do that was purely due to music. She said that while metal in Latvia is considered underground and the opportunities for metal bands and artists there are very limited (albeit the internet can be very helpful in terms of worldwide exposure), even taking into account the metal scene in Latvia is healthy and friendly, Germany is the place to be for any type of metal band, complementing by saying that the fact her band is located in two different countries ended up helping them book gigs in more than one country. In addition to that, she said there are no metal radio stations in Latvia, and there are only 4 or 5 metal-oriented pubs in the entire country where local and touring bands can play. Well, let’s say that Māra is one of the most hardworking metal musicians (if not the most) hailing from Latvia that’s trying to change that, putting her beloved homeland on the global metal map even living in Germany.

Last but not least, when asked if she also sings and writes in her mother tongue Latvian and in any other language rather than English, she said although English is her preferred language because she wants her lyrics and messages to be understood by as many people as possible, she also sings and writes lyrics in Latvian and Russian depending on the project she’s working on, as sometimes she feels she wants to communicate only with Latvian and Russian speaking people. In case you want to enjoy about one hour of Māra talking about her career, her goals, her personal life and many other topics in English, I highly recommend you take a shot at an interview she gave to Dani Zed Extreme Music Reviews & Liveshows via Skype a couple of months ago. How lucky is Dani Zed for having the utmost pleasure of talking to such nice and talented metal woman for an extended period of time like that? We need to thank him for uploading the interview on YouTube, and obviously keep supporting Māra on her quest for extreme music in Lativa, in Germany, and anywhere else in the world where powerful and visceral female roars like hers are truly appreciated.

Māra Lisenko’s Official Facebook page
Māra Lisenko’s Official Instagram
Māra Lisenko’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official Facebook page
MĀRA’s Official Instagram
MĀRA’s Official YouTube channel
MĀRA’s Official BandCamp page

“I love touring, I could live like that. I love visiting different countries, meeting and playing for different people, learning about metal scenes everywhere I go. It’s very exciting.” – Māra Lisenko

Album Review – Tragacanth / The Journey of a Man (2018)

Follow the tale of a young man’s downward spiral into the abyss to the sound of the symphonic and progressive devastation blasted by this excellent Dutch quintet.

If you’re familiar with the work by Dutch Symphonic/Progressive Black/Death Metal act Tragacanth, having already listened to their 2015 debut full-length album Anthology of the East, you know how those five skilled metallers love to blend their entrancing melodies and symphonic sections with lyrical themes ranging from spiritual wars to mythical creatures, telling the tales of ancient Babylonian times. Now in 2018 it’s time for the band comprised of Terry Stooker on vocals, Erik Brouwer and Adrian Neagoe on the guitars, Mark Oosterbaan on bass and Jasper van Minnen on drums to strike once again with their sophomore opus entitled The Journey of a Man, this time showcasing a lyrical mix between mythological and purely personal topics, being recommended for fans of cult acts such as Nile, Carach Angren, Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth.

Formed in 2014 in Utrecht, a city in the central Netherlands that has been a religious center for centuries, Tragacanth are one of those bands that do not just create music, spicing up their creations with a fantastic storytelling, and their new album is the perfect depiction of their highly-developed musical and lyrical skills. “From the mystical, enigmatic Far East covered in Anthology of the East, this time we travel to Ancient Greek times where a young man finds out he is to perish soon. Wandering the complex maze of emotions and disease running through his veins, The Journey of a Man tells the tale of his downward spiral into the abyss,” commented the band about their newborn spawn, inviting us all to join this young man in his personal and very obscure journey.

Enter the ominous realm of Tragacanth to the sound of the eerie opening track Survival: Stagnate Reality, a lot more progressive than symphonic I might say, with the band’s guitarists Erik and Adrian giving a lecture in Progressive Death Metal, sounding utterly insane, heavy and intricate. And their creepy guitars and bass lines dictate the rhythm in Denial: They are Mistaken, where Terry sounds diabolical with his gnarling in a brilliant fusion of the Symphonic Black Metal by Dimmu Borgir with the Progressive Death Metal by bands like Augury and Virulent Depravity; followed by Anger: Kitrine Chole, a beautiful devastation blasted by Tragacanth where its bass lines will tremble inside your head while Jasper smashes your skull with his complex and powerful beats, not to mention how demonically Terry vociferates the song’s insane lyrics (“A black haze thwarts / My vision’s blurred / Sever the chains / Composure can’t hold / This pent up energy / The rage breaking free / The walls imploding destroying all what once was”).

Their demented feast of Progressive Death Metal and Symphonic Black Metal goes on in the pulverizing Depression: Waning Light, featuring the angelical voice of Romanian vocalist Manuela Marchis, and where the drums by Jasper sound heavier than hell while Terry keeps growling and screaming rabidly, turning it into my favorite song of the album by far.  Then not ready to accept his fate, the man turns to the gods, with the path leading him to Hades, god of the underworld, Thanatos, the personification of death, and eventually to those cruel sisters of fate, the Moirai, resulting in the vibrant Bargaining: Will You Answer Me?, featuring guest vocalist Rik van Schaaik in the role of Hades and Thanatos, among other additional vocal lines, with the music being as infernal and complex as its predecessors thanks to the impressive job done by Erik, Adrian and Mark with their stringed weapons. And a cryptic, Middle-Eastern beginning evolves into a dense and impactful display of Progressive Metal in Nightmare: The Vision, with highlights to its mesmerizing bass punches and ass-kicking drums, ending in a very symphonic and captivating manner.

Once again drinking form the fountain of modern-day Progressive Death Metal, get ready to have your spinal cord broken in half to the brutal headbanging tune Acceptance: My Destiny Awaits, with the guitars by Erik and Adrian bringing a touch of delicacy to this sonic demolition, and their onrush of berserk and intricate sounds goes on in Suffering: The Essence Implodes, where Terry roars like a demon while Jasper shows no mercy for his drums (nor for our necks), also bringing the most pulverizing elements from Death and Black Metal thoroughly added to the musicality. Lastly, darker and more introspective than all previous songs we have Death: Journey’s End, closing the album on a Stygian note, with Erik and Adrian stealing the spotlight with their slashing riffs and soulful solos, not to mention all the poetry flowing form the song’s lyrics (“Let go / Enclaved by the river Styx / Lies a tomb for me / My celestial sanctuary / Let go / An eternal resting place / All alone and forgotten /The Asphodel Meadows”).

As already mentioned, Tragacanth are not your average metal band, being true masters in blending heavy music with a deep and detailed background story, always keeping in mind the band has only a couple of years of existence (which means they still have a lot to grow in the coming years). Hence, The Journey of a Man, available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale from several different locations such as their own BandCamp, the Pest Records’ BandCamp, the Loud Rage Music webstore, iTunes, Amazon and Discogs, is a fantastic materialization of that impressive ability by those four Dutch metallers, beautifully taking us down into the abyss together with the  album’s main character.

Best moments of the album: Anger: Kitrine Chole, Depression: Waning Light and Acceptance: My Destiny Awaits.

Worst moments of the album: Suffering: The Essence Implodes.

Released in 2018 Pest Records

Track listing  
1. Survival: Stagnate Reality 5:24
2. Denial: They are Mistaken 7:21
3. Anger: Kitrine Chole 4:25
4. Depression: Waning Light (feat. Manuela Marchis) 8:40
5. Bargaining: Will You Answer Me? (feat. Rik van Schaaik) 4:36
6. Nightmare: The Vision 4:54
7. Acceptance: My Destiny Awaits 5:18
8. Suffering: The Essence Implodes 4:55
9. Death: Journey’s End 6:34

Band members
Terry Stooker – vocals
Erik Brouwer – guitars
Adrian Neagoe – guitars
Mark Oosterbaan – bass
Jasper van Minnen – drums

Guest musicians
Manuela Marchis – vocals on “Depression: Waning Light”
Rik van Schaaik – vocals on “Bargaining: Will You Answer Me”

Album Review – Misteyes / Creeping Time (2016)

Which side will you chose in the never-ending battle between Light and Dark Metal brought forth by this distinct symphonic band from Italy?

Rating4

creeping-time-front-cover-artwork“Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.” – Heraclitus

The never-ending battle between good and evil, day and night, light and dark, heaven and hell, life and death or whatever other philosophical depiction you want to give to the two opposite worlds that guide our thoughts and actions has just been transformed into high-end music by Italian Symphonic Death/Gothic Metal act Misteyes in Creeping Time, the debut full-length album by a band that definitely knows how to put together the best elements from Light and Dark Metal, enhancing their contrast and, consequently, their impact on the listener.

Misteyes started back in 2012 in the city of Turin, Italy as a five-piece group, playing what could be considered Melodic Death/Black Metal before changing their music direction in 2014 to what exists today, including the addition of a female vocalist and a keyboardist to the band. The next couple of years were very fruitful for Misteyes, who not only started working on Creeping Time, but also shared the stage with renowned names in the Gothic scene such as Cadaveria, Opera IX, Lunarsea and Elegy Of Madness. The band’s approach and musicality can already be sensed through the obscure artwork by Italian artist Alessandro Alimonti (Overload Design Studio), but it’s when the music starts that you’ll find yourself in the middle of the fight between light and dark, getting completely mesmerized by the music that flows through your ears.

The melancholic intro The Last Knell, which begins with the sound of a baby crying, grows in intensity until the title-track Creeping Time arises from the depths of hell in a feast of Symphonic Black and Gothic Metal. Denise “Ainwen” Manzi is the beauty on vocals while Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono provides his beastly growls, perfectly depicting what the band wants to say with the “Light and Dark Metal” concept, with keyboardist Gabriele “Hyde” Gilodi being the one responsible for giving the song its operatic vibe. Then it’s time for some heavier riffs by Daniele “Insanus” Poveromo and Riccardo “Decadence” Tremaioni in the dense Brains in a Vat, an amazing composition filled with passion, hate and agony featuring the creepy spoken words by guest musician Mattia Casabona (Aspasia), sounding like a hybrid of the music by the early days of Cradle of Filth with Epica, resulting in a masterpiece of underground Symphonic Metal. Moreover, it’s interesting how Hyde maintains the mystery in Misteyes’ music through his keyboards no matter how fast and heavy the music is, which is the case in Inside the Golden Cage, where the vocals by Ainwen are once again heavily inspired by the diva Simone Simons whereas Irmin leans towards pure Black Metal, not to mention the thrilling beats by Federico “Krieger” Tremaioni.

Lady Loneliness, a beautiful atmospheric power ballad focused on the gentle voice of Ainwen with some pianos notes giving it an extra touch of delicacy, showcases a good story told through its lyrics (“If you are here, I cannot be overtaken by fear / Only this eternal silence is what can soothe my pain / In darkness I can find you, this time will be forever / Come! Come to me, my lady! Lady Loneliness!”); followed by The Prey, with the whole band getting back to a more brutish mode. Irmin effectively enhances the song’s aggressiveness due to his deranged harsh growls, with Insanus, Decadence and Hyde delivering sheer madness while bassist Andrea “Hephaestus” Gammeri brings forward his share of insanity through his low-tuned punches. Their operatic and dark vein becomes evident once again in Destroy Your Past, a song full of progressive passages thanks to the intricate lines delivered through guitars and bass and all tempo changes led by Krieger, as well as in the operatic metal hymn The Demon of Fear, where guest musician Roberto Pasolini (Embryo) complements the menacing keyboards by Hyde with his enraged growling. This excellent song, displaying a Symphonic Black Metal vibe with hints of Gothic Metal and Melodic Metal, is another good example of the fight between good and evil proposed by Misteyes, proving one more time how connected to the concept of opposition all songs are.

misteyes-2016Special guest Mattia Casabona is back in action, this time with clean vocals, in the two-part aria entitled “Awake the Beast”, starting with the operatic A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1), with its eerie piano intro and Ainwen providing her Tarja-inspired vocals. Almost “a capella”, it sounds like a horror flick soundtrack, leading to the furious and blackened Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2), a high-octane tune tailored for fans of obscure and harmonious music where Progressive and Symphonic Black Metal are flawlessly united. Krieger and Hyde are yet again the architects of the musicality, generating the perfect ambience for the sick riffs by both Insanus and Decadence to shine.

In the gripping Decapitated Rose, guest vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) steals the spotlight by blasting his infuriated declamation of the song’s dark lyrics (“When life is withered …There is no water which can bring it back! / Ivy smothers your soul! Petals fall and you are alone! / All beauty is gone! Only the thorn is what remains! / In this garden of madness … Decapitated rose! Decapitated rose!”), with Hephaestus firing some thunderous bass lines that end up increasing the song’s creepiness while the keyboard sounds by Hyde will pierce your head and haunt your soul. And last but not least, the talented Nicole Ansperger (Eluveitie) and the awesome sound of her violin add the word “epic” to the powerful Winter’s Judgement, a Symphonic Gothic Metal feast that blends elements from the music by Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, Epica, Moonspell and other prominent bands. In addition, the growls by Irmin get deeper than ever, guiding the listener into a journey through the realms of darkness and light until the song’s soulful ending.

In summary, it doesn’t matter which side you choose in the battle between Light and Dark Metal proposed by Misteyes, you’ll certainly win due to the sensational quality of their music. Thus, you can get in touch with these Italian metallers and get to know more about their music through Facebook, YouTube, ReverbNation and SoundCloud, and acquire your copy of Creeping Time at several different places such as their BandCamp page, the Maple Metal Records’ BandCamp page or Big Cartel, on iTunes, Amazon or CD Baby.

Best moments of the album: Creeping Time, Brains in a Vat, The Prey and Decapitated Rose.

Worst moments of the album: Destroy Your Past.

Released in 2016 Maple Metal Records

Track listing
1. The Last Knell (Intro) 1:40
2. Creeping Time 6:29
3. Brains in a Vat 5:39
4. Inside the Golden Cage 5:24
5. Lady Loneliness 4:37
6. The Prey 7:03
7. Destroy Your Past 5:02
8. The Demon of Fear 6:55
9. A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1) 3:41
10. Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2) 5:26
11. Decapitated Rose 4:48
12. Winter’s Judgement 8:05

Band members
Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono – growl and scream vocals
Denise “Ainwen” Manzi – clean and operatic vocals
Daniele “Insanus” Poveromo – lead guitars
Riccardo “Decadence” Tremaioni – rhythm guitars
Gabriele “Hyde” Gilodi – piano, synth and orchestrations
Andrea “Hephaestus” Gammeri – bass and fretless bass
Federico “Krieger” Tremaioni – drums

Guest musicians
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional scream and clean vocals on “Decapitated Rose”
Nicole Ansperger – violin on “Winter’s Judgement”
Roberto Pasolini – additional growls and scream vocals on “The Demon of Fear”
Mattia Casabona – spoken words on “Brains in a Vat”, additional clean vocals on “A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1)”, and additional growls and scream vocals on “Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2)”