Metal Chick of the Month – Mary Zimmer

maryz01

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 – Sombria / Chirographon Dei (2020)

Let your soul be embraced by the beautiful fusion of Dark and Melancholic Metal from the debut album by a promising international group that has all it takes to conquer the world of heavy music.

Formed in 2019 by singer and songwriter Dimi De San, who comes under the name ‘’Valentina Devin’’, and guitarist and composer Raven Seven, Sombria are an international Dark/Melancholic Metal project featuring members from Greece, Norway and Mexico, those being the aforementioned Dimi De San on vocals and Raven Seven on guitars and orchestrations together with session musicians Lucien Keir also on the guitar, Saber Thorn on bass and Winter Cain on drums, aiming at raising awareness through their music, lyrics and performances over many sensitive subjects like child poverty and environmental issues. Now in 2020 this recently formed unity is unleashing upon humanity their debut opus Chirographon Dei, which translates from Latin as something like “the manuscript of the gods”, containing nine original songs recorded, mixed and mastered by Raven Seven at his own studio, all embraced by a gorgeous artwork by Dimi De San, and all depicting everything Symphonic Gothic Metal stands for.

Enfolding orchestrations and piano notes permeate the air in the opening tune Voyage into Lethe, with Dimi embellishing the airwaves with her operatic vocals while Raven Seven extracts somber, minimalist sounds form his guitar in a hybrid of the early days of Nightwish and Tristania. Then leaning towards the most melancholic form of Gothic Metal the band offers our ears the sorrowful Black December, with Saber Thorn and Winter Cain bringing a welcome dosage of Doom Metal to the musicality, followed by Sarcophagus of Roses, another symphonic and epic aria by Sombria where Winter Cain showcases all his dexterity behind his drums, offering Dimi all she needs to shine once again on vocals and, therefore, resulting in the perfect depiction of modern-day Symphonic Gothic Metal. And whimsical piano notes are intertwined with the rumbling bass by Saber Thorn in the gothic extravaganza Mirror of God, where Raven Seven and Lucien Keir make a dynamic duo with their darkened riffage, with the music remaining dense and imposing until the very end.

Dimi takes the lead with her pensive, anguished vocals in the darkly beautiful Ballet of Sadness, a delicate ballad by Sombria that will conquer the hearts of even the toughest metalheads, whereas the crying sound of the violin kicks off the epic and obscure The Soul’s Manuscript, where Winter Cain keeps pounding his drums and bringing doom to us all while Dimi invades our souls with her mesmerizing voice, not to mention the excellent job done once again by the band’s guitar duo. Then like a creature from another world the band comes ripping in the symphonic and heavy-as-hell Wine of Lunacy, where Gothic, Doom and Symphonic Metal are united in the name of darkness. Needless to say, Dimi is once again stunning on vocals, and investing in an even more romantic musicality we have Penitence, with all band members providing Dimi a truly enfolding ambience perfect for her sexy vocals, while the music alternates between heavier moments and menacing passages. Lastly, Sombria’s final breath of obscurity, melancholy and melodious lines comes in the form of the multi-layered Poem from the Dark Gardens, even more epic and operatic than all previous songs, with Raven Seven and Lucien Keir slashing their axes in great fashion supported by all background orchestrations.

The magical and dark world crafted by Sombria in Chirographon Dei can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course in order to show Dimi, Raven Seven and their loyal henchmen all your support and admiration you should grab a copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In addition, don’t forget to also follow Sombria on Facebook and on Instagram to keep an eye on everything surrounding such amazing multi-national band, once again demonstrating your passion for the darkest and most melancholic form of heavy music. Sombria’s hybrid of Dark and Melancholic Metal found in their debut opus will surely embrace you like the bitterly cold wind on a winter night, dragging you to their lair and keeping you in the shadows forever and ever. And I’m more than sure that’s exactly what you’re expecting from those ptalented musicians who put their hearts and souls into creating meaningful music for lovers of the dark side.

Best moments of the album: Voyage into Lethe, Sarcophagus of Roses and Wine of Lunacy.

Worst moments of the album: Black December.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Voyage into Lethe 5:47
2. Black December 6:07
3. Sarcophagus of Roses 7:07
4. Mirror of God 6:52
5. Ballet of Sadness 5:01
6. The Soul’s Manuscript 5:45
7. Wine of Lunacy 7:28
8. Penitence 7:11
9. Poem from the Dark Gardens 9:02

Band members
Valentina Devin (Dimi De San) – vocals
Raven Seven – guitars, orchestrations

Guest musicians
Lucien Keir – guitar (session)
Saber Thorn – bass (session)
Winter Cain – drums (session)

Album Review – Eleine / Dancing In Hell (2020)

The time has come 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.

My dear metalheads, if you haven’t taken a listen yet at any of the songs from Dancing In Hell, the brand new opus by Landskrona, Sweden-based Symphonic Metal unity Eleine, I highly recommend you do so as soon as possible and get ready to be absolutely stunned by frontwoman Madeleine “Eleine” Liljestam, guitarist Rikard Ekberg, bassist Anton Helgesson and Jesper Sunnhagen throughout the 50 minutes of first-class, undisputed music found in what’s most probably the best Symphonic Metal album of 2020. With Dancing In Hell, the follow-up to their awesome 2019 EP All Shall Burn,  Eleine sound even more powerful, beautiful and unique than in their previous releases, taking a natural step into darker and heavier sounds and setting a new standard within the symphonic genre with hard-hitting, melodic and seductive metal hymns. Written and produced by Rikard and Madeleine, mixed, mastered and co-recorded by Thomas “Plec” Johansson at The Panic Room, and featuring another incendiary and sexy artwork by Néstor Ávalos, the album brings forward stories of inner demons, strength and loss, all embraced by majestic passages, heavy-as-hell riffs and the always sharp and hypnotizing voice of the one and only Madeleine.

Eleine kick off their amazing album with Enemies, originally released in their incendiary 2019 EP, and I won’t repeat myself and say how awesome this tune is. Simply enjoy all of its power and epicness, which is also the case in the title-track Dancing in Hell, one of the band’s heaviest compositions since their inception, offering our ears a massive wall of sounds boosted by symphonic elements with Jesper being unstoppable on drums, while Eleine embellishes the airwaves with her piercing vocals as usual. Then in Ava of Death we’re treated to in-your-face words beautifully declaimed by Eleine (“We will not forgive / Nor will we forget / The willful deceit that spread / Your future is dark / Soon filled with regret”) while Rikard and Anton slash their stringed weapons in a true headbanging mode, whereas it’s time to go full symphonic and epic in Crawl from the Ashes, with Jesper dictating the song’s imposing rhythm while Rikard continues to add the word “metal” to the overall musicality. And Eleine kidnaps our senses once again in As I Breathe, giving life to the song’s dark lyrics (“Have you no eyes at all / You’re standing against your own kind / Sickness from mind and heart / Eating flesh of those who risk it all / We’ll rise / You’ll fall / We run / You crawl”) while her bandmates fire a crisp fusion of Symphonic, Melodic and Groove Metal.

Anton takes the lead with his rumbling, metallic bass jabs in Memoriam, a mid-tempo symphonic tune tailored for admirers of the music by bands like Epica and Nightwish where all background elements only make the song even more thrilling and vibrant, followed by Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.), almost six minutes of grandiose metal music for our total delight where Rikard is not only bestial with his flammable riffs but also with his sick, deep guttural, while Jesper keeps the atmosphere heavy and dense with his unstoppable drums. All Shall Burn is the second song from their 2019 EP, and once again there’s nothing else to say about such amazing and imposing tune, whereas Die from Within is a lot more melodic than its predecessors, with Rikard sounding astounding on the guitar while Eleine brings her touch of finesse and passion to this metallic Opera-inspired tune, showcasing a beautiful paradox between her angelical voice and Rikard’s harsh roars. Lastly, after the serene and melancholic piano interlude The World We Knew, the band offers us all a cinematic and symphonic version for Die from Within, even more enfolding than the original one, with Eleine displaying all her vocal potency, therefore having an absolutely passionate performance supported by all the song’s booming orchestrations.

As already mentioned in the beginning of this review, Eleine are absolutely majestic throughout the entire Dancing In Hell, not only perfectly representing all the magic, epicness and feeling of classic Symphonic Metal in each of the album’s 11 tracks, but also sounding fresh and distinguished in a genre that’s considered already saturated by many critics and fans from all over the world. If you don’t believe me, you’ll have to wait a few more days to be undoubtedly surprised by Madeleine, Rikard & Co. when Dancing In Hell is officially released, but until then you can obviously take a look at what the band’s up to on Facebook and on Instagram, watch all of their astonishing official videos (including all the singles already released from their new album) on YouTube, stream more of their music on Spotify and, above all, purchase a copy or select your favorite streaming version of the album by clicking HERE or HERE, as well as buy a great selection of music, tees, prints and accessories from their own webstore. The time has come for us all to dance in the scorching fires of hell, and there’s nothing better than Eleine’s striking new album to serve as our devilish soundtrack to that.

Best moments of the album: Enemies, Dancing in Hell, As I Breathe and Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Black Lodge Records

Track listing
1. Enemies 5:22
2. Dancing in Hell 5:06
3. Ava of Death 4:06
4. Crawl from the Ashes 4:02
5. As I Breathe 3:56
6. Memoriam 6:15
7. Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.) 5:55
8. All Shall Burn 4:21
9. Die from Within 4:38
10. The World We Knew 1:35
11. Die from Within (Symphonic Version) 4:34

Band members
Madeleine “Eleine” Liljestam – vocals
Rikard Ekberg – guitar, growls, vocals
Anton Helgesson – bass
Jesper Sunnhagen – drums

Album Review – Walk In Darkness / On The Road To Babylon (2020)

Walk in darkness on the road to Babylon together with one of the newest names of the Italian Symphonic Metal scene to the sound of their third full-length album.

Born in 2015 as a Gothic Metal project with many influences by guitarist, composer and lyricist Shaman, Italian Symphonic Gothic Metal outfit Walk In Darkness has just released their third full-length opus, entitled On The Road To Babylon, the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2018 album Welcome to the New World. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Virus Recording Studio by Alessandro Guasconi, and portraying a stunning artwork by Brazilian artist Carlos Fides (Artside Studio), On The Road To Babylon presents the band’s captivating atmospheres from their previous efforts, dragging the listener to another dimension as in a psychedelic and shamanic journey through time, a dreamlike journey but only in appearance as the dream is lucid and plausible. Constantly evolving, albeit having originally approached the Gothic Metal genre, the band diverged from its primeval sound to more original and unpredictable paths following the emotional and psychedelic component of music, with their brand new album perfectly representing that evolution in their musicality through the years.

Currently comprised of the aforementioned Shaman together with the talented frontwoman Nicoletta Rosellini (from Kalidia), guitarist Flaming Jack, keyboardist Tio Frank, bassist Monk Key and drummer Arcanus, Walk In Darkness are on fire throughout the entire album, offering us fans a collection of hymns to the sublime beauty of humanity that recedes and declines, dramatically mortal and fleeting but unattainable in its immense poetry. “On the Road to Babylon is a milestone in our endless musical research and evolution, almost like a prophecy and a warning to a world imploding due to pandemic crisis, self-isolation and trans-humanity. Mankind is perpetually on the road to Babylon and once again we are awaiting trial. Our intention is to write original songs with emotional and intense vocal parts combined with atmospheric and heavy music. The album is a concept formed by 9 songs, each of which is surprising and irrepressible because of the melodic and rhythmic solutions, the sweet and strong vocals as well as the deep and engaging lyrics. We directed an attentive gaze to the present and future world, analyzing and thinking about it, and we realized this album with incredible and moving atmospheres. We hope that every human being can listen to this at least once during lifetime on the way to Babylon,” commented Shaman about their newborn opus.

Whimsical keys permeate the air in the gorgeous opening track The Sound Of Rain, morphing into a classic Symphonic Metal feast led by the crushing beats by Arcanus while Nicoletta and guest Emiliano Pasquinelli make a dynamic vocal duo with their respective clean lines and visceral roars, and after such imposing start it’s time for the title-track On The Road To Babylon, starting in a melancholic and dark manner before the scorching riffs by Shaman and Flaming Jack, supported by the rumbling bass by Monk Key, fill out every single empty space in the music, sounding epic and touching until its very last second. Then inspired by the music by renowned European Symphonic Metal bands like Epica, Xandria, Delain and Beyond the Black, Walk On The Sky brings forward another round of slashing riffs, pounding drums and guttural growling, all embraced by Nicoletta’s angelical performance, whereas futuristic elements are thoroughly inserted in their classic sonority in On The Moon Or On Mars, with the keys by Tio Frank bringing a touch of finesse to the overall result, feeling like a hybrid of Progressive Rock and a Metal Opera.

A lot more inclined to old school Gothic Metal, Nothing showcases pensive words declaimed by the charming Nicoletta (“We can see / ships leaving for the stars / along the lines of space-time, / defying the laws of gravity / Only memories / are left in the cone of light / among floating plastic islands / in post-reality”), while in In The Mists Of Time the band enhances their heaviness and epicness considerably, with Nicoletta being amazingly supported by the powerful riffage by Shaman and Flaming Jack. Furthermore, it’s quite easy to visualize their fans hanging their lighters high while singing it together with the band during their live concerts. Then featuring guest vocalist Elisabetta Bettini, the band fires the also extremely melodic and passionate My Restless Wings, where Tio Frank, Mon Key and Arcanus generate a dense base perfect for the band’s guitar duo to shine with their soulful riffs; followed by Time To Rise, one of the first singles of the album, bringing forward the band’s characteristic romance, serenity and an embracing atmosphere while flowing smoothly until the very end and sounding as imposing as good Symphonic Gothic Metal always demands. Lastly, closing the album we have the groovy Critical System Failure, where the heaviness brought forth by Monk Key with his bass creates a gorgeous paradox with the gentle vocals by Nicoletta, resulting in a hypnotizing tune that will leave you eager for more of their music.

The talented metallers from Walk In Darkness are waiting for you to (guess what?) walk in darkness together with them on the road to Babylon, and in order to do that go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, listen to more of their stylish music on Spotify, and of course purchase On The Road To Babylon from their own BandCamp page or from Apple Music, among other locations. Italy is a well-known source of some of the best Symphonic Metal bands in the entire world, and now with Walk In Darkness solidifying their name with a triumvirate of high-end albums we can rest assured not only the country will remain on top of the “symphonic” food chain, but also that it won’t take long before Nicoletta, Shaman & Co. take your city by storm with their delicate and powerful music wherever you are.

Best moments of the album: On The Road To Babylon, On The Moon Or On Mars and In The Mists Of Time.

Worst moments of the album: Nothing.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. The Sound Of Rain 5:24
2. On The Road To Babylon 6:22
3. Walk On The Sky 4:40
4. On The Moon Or On Mars 4:47
5. Nothing 5:31
6. In The Mists Of Time 5:24
7. My Restless Wings 5:19
8. Time To Rise 5:35
9. Critical System Failure 4:06

Band members
Nicoletta Rosellini – vocals
Shaman – guitars
Flaming Jack – guitars
Tio Frank – keyboards
Monk Key – bass
Arcanus – drums

Guest musicians
Emiliano Pasquinelli – harsh vocals
Elisabetta Bettini – additional vocals on “My Restless Wings”

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 – Memoira / Carnival of Creation (2020)

Combining a symphonic atmosphere with beautiful female vocals, this Finnish Gothic Metal outfit is back after a long hiatus with their third (and amazing) full-length album.

Known for their melancholic melodies and powerful guitar riffs, while combining a symphonic atmosphere with beautiful female vocals, Pori/Jyväskylä, Finland-based Symphonic Gothic Metal act Memoira is back after a long hiatus with their third full-length album, entitled Carnival Of Creation, the follow-up to their 2008 self-titled debut album and to their 2013 release Memories, Tragedies, Masquerades. Featuring a dark and melancholic artwork by Finnish artist Niina Varheenmaa, Carnival of Creation is highly recommended for fans of the music by Kamelot, Nightwish and Delain, among others, showcasing all the passion for the darkest and most delicate side of metal by founding members Jani Puusa on the guitars and Lassi Nuolivaara on keyboards and piano, together with newcomers Annika Jalkanen (For Selena and Sin, Blood Region) on vocals, Hannu Lindholm (The Howl) on the guitars, Niko Laaksonen (Randy Reckless, Blowtorch, Rorschach) on bass and Matti Virtanen (Dark Tone Company, Concrete Words, Anomaly) on drums.

And the gentle piano notes by Lassi intertwined with the enfolding voice by Annika set the tone in the charming opening track Dawn of Time, a very pleasant fusion of Gothic Metal and modern Hard Rock to properly kick things off in Carnival of Creation, followed by the title-track Carnival of Creation, bringing forward circus-inspired keys, potent beats by Matti and a strong symphonic vibe, with the band’s guitar duo Jani and Hannu keeping the ambience as dense and electrifying as possible through their riffs. Then get ready for over six minutes of adrenaline and groove in Queen Element, where sheer poetry flows from Annika’s mesmerizing vocals (“First rays of the sun awake the sleeping land / The roots of the bitter earth shall guide her hand / She pours the wine, sweet taste of divine”) while Niko pounds his bass in great fashion accompanied by the kick-ass drums by Matti; whereas sounding like a symphonic and delicate 80’s-inspired version of the Melodic Metal played by Stratovarius, Hunter’s Moon will please all fans of Scandinavian metal, with Lassi being in absolute sync with Niko and Matti, therefore generating a bold and gripping atmosphere.

Dark Passenger is an embracing metal waltz by Memoira that will penetrate deep inside your soul, with Annika once again stealing the spotlight with her dark and gentle vocals while her bandmates provide her a beautiful wall of sounds perfect for her to shine even brighter; and clearly inspired by the trademark sonority by Nightwish, Shooting Star reminds me of one of their greatest classics “Nemo”, with Niko bringing the groove with his rumbling bass. Put differently, it couldn’t have sounded more pleasant nor more atmospheric, which is also the case in Snowglobe, another gentle composition by Memoira with Annika taking the lead once again accompanied by the melancholic and smooth piano notes by Lassi, resulting in a lecture in Gothic Rock and Metal made in Finland. Last but not least, it’s time for a thrilling fusion of Gothic and Symphonic Metal in Crimson Bride Symphony, where all band member are on absolute fire, especially Jani and Hannu with their precise riffage, while Annika invites us all to dance to Memoira’s top-of-the-line music.

In a nutshell, Carnival of Creation, which is available for a full listen on Spotify, will undoubtedly take Memoira back to the position they deserve in the world of heavy music as one of the most interesting and talented bands from the Finnish Gothic scene, and if you want to show your support to such amazing band from the land of ice and snow you should follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and of course grab your copy of the album from their own webstore, from the Inverse Store, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Memoira seem to be back for good, inviting us all to join them in their dark and atmospheric carnival of Symphonic Gothic Metal, with their new album pointing to a bright and thrilling future ahead of those skillful Finnish rockers.

Best moments of the album: Dawn of Time, Queen Element and Crimson Bride Symphony.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Dawn of Time 5:52
2. Carnival of Creation 5:54
3. Queen Element 6:12
4. Hunter’s Moon 5:15
5. Dark Passenger 6:16
6. Shooting Star 5:45
7. Snowglobe 6:50
8. Crimson Bride Symphony 7:50

Band members
Annika Jalkanen – vocals
Jani Puusa – guitar
Hannu Lindholm – guitar
Lassi Nuolivaara – keyboards, piano
Niko Laaksonen – bass
Matti Virtanen – drums

Album Review – Helion Prime / Question Everything (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Reawakening.

Released in 2020 Saibot Reigns

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

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

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

Album Review – Winter’s Verge / The Ballad of James Tig (2020)

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands returns with their most ambitious project to date, telling the story of a man who lost his family at sea seeking revenge against a sea monster.

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands of all time, Nicosia-based Symphonic Power Metal act Winter’s Verge has been on a roll since their inception in 2005, having released so far four studio albums and three EP’s, and building a strong reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in Cyprus with a powerful blend of Epic, Melodic and Symphonic Metal. Currently comprised of George Charalambous on vocals, Deniel Pavlovsky and Savvas Parperi on the guitars, Miguel Trapezaris on bass, Stavry Michael on keyboards and Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway on drums, Winter’s Verge’s music is highly conceptual and takes place within a mythological realm called Tiberon, with all songs and lyrics allowing fans to explore the themes, characters and locations for their own interpretation. Now in 2020, after three years in the making, the band is ready to stun us all once again with The Ballad of James Tig, their fifth full-length opus and their most ambitious projects to date, telling the story of James Tig, a man who lost his family at sea when he was a young boy and had set his life-long dream to find the legendary Killagorak, a sea monster who he believes was what killed his family when he was very young, therefore seeking revenge.

With a concept and lyrics by renowned local author and playwright Frixos Masouras, featuring a classic artwork designed by George Vasiliou, mixed and produced by vocalist George Charalambous himself, mastered by George Eracleous at Oneirism Studios, and featuring guest vocalist Teodora Stoyanova Freya (known for her work with Bulgarian Viking Metal band Freija and with a metal project called Magic of the North) playing the part of Nina in the story, The Ballad of James Tig is not just another concept storyline, but a much bolder project by Winter’s Verge with a huge sounding scope and symphonic sound, cementing the band’s name as one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands from the entire Eastern Mediterranean region.

Get ready to embark on a musical voyage together with Winter’s Verge, beginning with the symphonic and serene opening aria It Begins, with George taking the lead with his soulful vocals while his bandmates embellish the airwaves with their respective instruments, whereas the keys by Stavry and all background orchestrations are soon joined by the pounding Power Metal drums by Danny in the heavier and faster A Thousand Souls, where the band’s guitar duo Deniel and Savvas are on fire with their riffs and solos, also presenting tons of breaks and variations to make things even more impactful. Sounding very theatrical from the very first second, Dead Reckoning is a lot more symphonic than metallic, which obviously means the focus is on its melody rather than its heaviness, while George does a great job once again on vocals, and featuring Teodora as a guest vocalist for the first time we have the charming and enfolding Timeless, with the delicate piano notes by Stavry adding an extra touch of finesse to this beautiful ballad by Winter’s Verge.

Killagorak (yes, the monster itself) is a two-minute imposing, epic interlude that will embrace you and prepare your senses for the breathtaking I Accept, starting in full force spearheaded by Danny and his intricate and powerful beats while Deniel and Savvas keep slashing their strings in great fashion, once again with Teodora and George making a dynamic vocal duo for our total delight. Then we have Blood on the Foam, a pirate-inspired Metal Opera where the Progressive Power Metal played by Winter’s Verge is flawlessly intertwined with pure symphonic passages, not to mention how thunderous the bass jabs by Miguel and the drums by Danny sound; and we’re treated to one final round of Teodora’s gorgeous, operatic vocals in The Sea, offering our ears eight minutes of dark passages, introspective vocals and crushing riffs. In the end, you’ll feel absolutely mesmerized by such detailed and thrilling song, before The Ballad of James Tig, a true ballad of the seas, closes the album on a high note, with its semi-acoustic guitars and tribal beats permeating the air and putting a climatic and melancholic conclusion to the story told by Winter’s Verge.

You can get in touch with such distinguished band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their stylish music and official videos, but of course in order to show your utmost support to underground Symphonic Metal you should definitely purchase The Ballad of James Tig from your favorite retailer such as Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon, as well as stream the album in full on Spotify as soon as it’s released in the coming weeks. It’s truly mesmerizing the way Winter’s Verge told the tale of James Tig in their new album, uniting music and storytelling in a compelling way and, above all that, providing us fans of heavy music a very good reason to sail the unruly waters of the mythological realm if Tiberon together with James Tig himself, and obviously with our six talented Cypriot metallers.

Best moments of the album: A Thousand Souls, I Accept and The Sea.

Worst moments of the album: Dead Reckoning.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. It Begins 6:57
2. A Thousand Souls 4:57
3. Dead Reckoning 4:41
4. Timeless 6:57
5. Killagorak 2:11
6. I Accept 5:03
7. Blood on the Foam 6:06
8. The Sea 7:59
9. The Ballad of James Tig 4:07

Band members
George Charalambous – vocals
Deniel Pavlovsky – guitars
Savvas Parperi – guitars
Miguel Trapezaris – bass
Stavry Michael – keyboards
Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway – drums

Guest musician
Teodora Stoyanova Freya – female vocals on “Timeless”, “I Accept” and “The Sea”