Album Review – Apolinara / Shadows & Signs (2022)

It’s time for this multi-talented singer to fly solo and deliver a powerful message about facing the endless fight with inner demons in her striking debut album.

Creating Symphonic Gothic Metal with a mystical twist, United States-based but Ukraine-born multi-talented, independent singer and songwriter Apolinara is among us to light up the path where music evokes magic to the sound of her debut full-length opus, entitled Shadows & Signs. Drawing inspiration from her travels and delivering a powerful message about facing the endless fight with inner demons, Apolinara took destiny into her own hands creating the project to write music she loves, with Shadows and Signs being a thrilling odyssey venturing into the realms of dark emotions balanced with the light. Produced by Max Morton (Jinjer, Ignea, Bare Infinity, Morton, Nimea) at Morton Studio and featuring an array of special guests, those being Fabian Morales (Paralyzed Sun, Silent Poetry) on harsh vocals, Vyacheslav Khabarov on lead, rhythm and bass guitars, Alexander Kasiarum on drums, Tatyana Krasavina on cello, Julia Polishchuk on the violin, and Brien Engel on the glass harp, Shadows & Signs is a must-listen for admirers of the music by renowned acts such as Nightwish, Epica and Within Temptation, with each track bringing something different to the record while remaining faithful to the project’s symphonic, gothic roots.

The cinematic and enfolding Intro sets the stage for Apolinara and her guests to mesmerize us all in Wonderful, with Alexander dictating the pace with his classy beats accompanied by epic keys and strident guitars while Apolinara declaims the song’s words beautifully, reminding me of some of the trademark compositions by Nightwish and Epica. Then Vyacheslav adds tons of rage and fire to the music with his riffs and rumbling bass in You Can’t Get Away With This, an awesome display of European Symphonic Metal spearheaded by Apolinara’s stunning vocals; and it’s time to dance with Apolinara to the sound of the epic and symphonic Dragon Dance, with the metallic bass by Vyacheslav making a stylish paradox with the violin by Julia and the crisp vocal lines by Apolinara. Another round of embracing sounds and metallic riffs and bass lines comes in the form of Slowly, with Fabian playing “beauty and the beast” with Apolinara thanks to his hellish gnarls, whereas in The Smile of the Demon the name of the song matches flawlessly with its rhythm, heaviness and epicness, or in other words, it’s a lesson in Symphonic Gothic Metal that will please all fans of the genre, all spiced up by a superb performance by our beloved diva on vocals.

The melodic guitar lines by Vyacheslav kick off the mid-tempo, dark tune No More, feeling more modern than the rest of the album while maintaining Apolinara’s core essence, resulting in what’s perhaps the most commercial of all songs; and back to a more symphonic vibe it’s time for Shadows and Signs, presenting a catchy chorus by Apolinara and Fabian (“Once you learn how to fly / Nothing weights you down / Claim the right to decide / What your life is about / Who are we to deny / Universal Design? / Path of the Warrior of Light  / Lies in Shadows and Signs”) amidst the thunderous bass punches by Vyacheslav. Apolinara and her crew slow things down and bring love to the airwaves with the whimsical ballad Tears of Love, with the gentle sound of the piano complementing Apolinara’s vocals in great fashion, whereas featuring guest Brien Engel on the glass harp, the band delivers a gorgeous acoustic rendition of Slowly, with Apolinara bringing to our avid ears her most passionate vocals of the entire album. Lastly, putting a climatic ending to the album we have the delicate ballad We Had It All, with the ethereal cello by Tatyana adding a touch of melancholy to the music while Apolinara tells her “goodbye” to the listener.

If you want to know more about Apolinara, her career, her projects and plans for the future, you can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to her YouTube channel for more of her music and other videos, stream her stylish compositions on Spotify, and of course purchase your copy of Shadows & Signs from her BandCamp page, or click HERE for all locations where you can get in touch with Apolinara and enjoy all her musical voyages. As Apolinara herself commented about her debut solo album, “Shadows and Signs is my first full length musical baby. No wonder I feel very sentimental but fierce about it. I’m excited to share it with the world as my personal manifest of inspiration and inner fight with personal demons. Let’s Fire Up!” And that’s exactly what you’ll get in Shadows & Signs, an album overflowing with fire, passion and, of course, the first-class Symphonic Metal brought into being by our beyond talented, distinct musician.

Best moments of the album: Dragon Dance, The Smile of the Demon and Shadows and Signs.

Worst moments of the album: No More.

Released in 2022 Independent

Track listing
1. Intro 1:04
2. Wonderful 4:56
3. You Can’t Get Away With This 5:24
4. Dragon Dance 6:52
5. Slowly 5:12
6. The Smile of the Demon 4:37
7. No More 5:00
8. Shadows and Signs 5:11
9. Tears of Love 3:26
10. Slowly (acoustic) 5:10
11. We Had It All 2:16

Band members
Apolinara – lead and backing vocals, arrangements

Guest musicians
Fabian Morales – growls
Vyacheslav Khabarov – lead, rhythm and bass guitars
Alexander Kasiarum – drums
Tatyana Krasavina – cello
Julia Polishchuk – violin
Brien Engel – glass harp on “Slowly (acoustic)”

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 – Immaterium / The Primal Evil EP (2021)

This newborn project from Poland is ready to stun us all with its debut EP, offering us all a journey through the realms of Symphonic and Progressive Metal.

Inspired by the aggressive guitars of Tesseract and Gojira, the epic orchestrations of Wintersun and the powerful vocals of Wind Rose and Rhapsody of Fire, Polish self-taught songwriter and composer Ma’ar Gareth is ready to unleash upon humanity The Primal Evil, the debut EP by her Symphonic/Progressive Metal project Immaterium. Featuring guest vocalists Filip Robertsson from Sweden, Craig Cairns (Midnight Prophecy, Cosmic Void) from the UK and Lucas Rodrigues (FerReus, Hell Gun) from Brazil, as well as multi-instrumentalists Zebyl from Romania and Barthelemy from France, The Primal Evil is a stunnig debut effort by Ma’ar Gareth, who’s responsible not only for all keyboards, synths and orchestrations in the album, but also for all lyrics, which are by the way based on Sci-Fi and fantasy series, resulting in a journey through the realms of Symphonic and Progressive Metal that shall please all fans of those subgenres of heavy music.

Like the soundtrack to a fantasy movie, Ma’ar brings forth epic orchestrations and eerie piano notes accompanied by the operatic vocals by Lucas in The Phoenix Falls, while Barthelemy takes takes care of the more metallic part of the music with his classic riffs and beats. Then investing in a more Progressive Metal sonority it’s time for Vargöld, When All Is Dust, where Zebyl plays all guitars, bass and drums while Filip fires his Dream Theater-inspired vocal lines, all of course embraced by Ma’ar’s epic sounds; and continuing to explore mystical lands it’s time for the Symphonic Metal tune Hymn Of The Warmaster, this time with Craig on the vocal duties, while the music exhales groove and heaviness. Lastly, Ma’ar and her henchmen Filip and Zebyl offer our ears a fusion of Symphonic, Progressive and Groove Metal entitled The Curse Of Enlightenment, presenting strong elements from the music by Gojira, Fear Factory and Therion, sounding futuristic and somber at the same time.

You can stream The Primal Evil in its entirety on YouTube (and most probably also on Spotify) starting December 14, and also show your support to Ma’ar Gareth by following Immaterium on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to the project’s YouTube channel, by streaming its music on Spotify, and above all that, by purchasing the EP from its own BandCamp page or from Apple Music. The Primal Evil showcases not only a very promising start to Immaterium, but also all the passion for heavy music and epic tales by the project’s mastermind Ma’ar Gareth, leaving us eager for more of her captivating music in a not-so-distant future, and who knows, perhaps that will come in the form of a full-length concept album for our total delight.

Best moments of the album: Vargöld, When All Is Dust and The Curse Of Enlightenment.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. The Phoenix Falls 4:13
2. Vargöld, When All Is Dust 6:32
3. Hymn Of The Warmaster 5:32
4. The Curse Of Enlightenment 4:55

Band members
Ma’ar Gareth – keyboards, synths, orchestrations

Guest musicians
Filip Robertsson – vocals on “Vargöld, When All Is Dust” and “The Curse Of Enlightenment”
Zebyl – guitars, bass and drums on “Vargöld, When All Is Dust”, “Hymn Of The Warmaster” and “The Curse Of Enlightenment”
Craig Cairns – vocals on “Hymn Of The Warmaster”
Barthelemy – guitars, bass and drums on “The Phoenix Falls”
Lucas Rodrigues – vocals on “The Phoenix Falls”

Album Review – Ewiniar / Burning the Night (2021)

From a mutual love of dark, moody and melancholic music emerges the debut album by a Melodic Gothic Rock and Metal husband-and-wife unity from Croatia.

From a mutual love of dark, moody and melancholic music emerges the sound of Split, Croatia-based Melodic Gothic Rock/Metal unity Ewiniar,  who has just released their debut effort Burning the Night. Combining female vocals over juddering drums and blistering guitar work to deliver a sonic experience that is all their own, the husband-and-wife duo formed of vocalist Katarina Tramontana and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Marin Tramontana explores the broad range of their influences by producing music that lights their inner fire in Burning the Night, all enhanced by the top-of-the-line mixing and mastering by Theodor Borovski at Slaughtered Studio and the stylish artwork by James Hutton Illustration, therefore being highly recommended for admirers of the music by renowned bands the likes of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica, among many others.

As soon as you hit play a doomed atmosphere will embrace your soul in Against the Stream, with Marin delivering classic beats and riffs, and consequently providing Katarina with all she needs to shine on vocals. Not only that, all elements from 80’s Gothic Rock added to their music make things even more mesmerizing. Then blending the whimsical sounds of bands like Tristania, Nightwish and Paradise Lost, the band offers us all Under the Stars, a beautiful creation by the duo showcasing Katarina’s crisp vocal lines amidst the rumbling bass lines and rhythmic beats by Marin, followed by Years of Heaven, another enfolding creation by Ewiniar where Marian has an awesome performance as a one-man music machine, with his riffs and solos walking hand in hand with his ethereal keys. And a serene start to the acoustic guitars by Marin and Katarina’s gorgeous vocals evolves into Mother, presenting a solid sound but lacking the same punch and feeling from the rest of the album.

Adding hints of folk to their doomed Gothic Rock it’s time for the almost medieval ballad Midnight Sun, flowing smoothly until the very end (and all spiced up by a soulful guitar solo by Marin), whereas drinking form the same fountain as Epica, Nightwish and After Forever the duo brings forward Suspiria, with Katarina stealing the spotlight with her stunning vocals. Back to an 80’s goth sonority the couple delivers the melodic Until the End of Time, feeling like the soundtrack to a fantasy movie thanks to the cryptic ambience crafted by Marin; and the second to last blast of their fusion of Gothic Rock and Metal comes in the form of Seekers of the Sense, another stylish, gentle but at the same time dark composition. Lastly, the title-track Burning the Night is even more epic and imposing than its predecessors, with Katarina embellishing the airwaves with her voice while Marin brings thunder to the music with his riffs, beats and keys until the very last second.

Burning the Night might be available in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but in order to show your true support to such talented couple you should definitely purchase a copy of the album from their own BandCamp page. Also, don’t forget to follow Katarina and Marin on Facebook and on Instagram for news, more of their music and other nice-to-know details about them, immersing yourself in the Gothic and melodic world of Ewiniar. Katarina and Marin deserve our full appreciation and respect for putting together such beautiful and embracing album all by themselves, and let’s hope that their aforementioned mutual love for dark music never dies and that they keep bringing forth an array of albums as good as their debut opus in the coming years.

Best moments of the album: Under the Stars, Suspiria and Burning the Night.

Worst moments of the album: Mother.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Against the Stream 4:43
2. Under the Stars 4:30
3. Years of Heaven 5:23
4. Mother 5:31
5. Midnight Sun 6:29
6. Suspiria 5:11
7. Until the End of Time 5:02
8. Seekers of the Sense 4:57
9. Burning the Night 5:09

Band members
Katarina Tramontana – vocals
Marin Tramontana – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Trivium / In the Court of the Dragon (2021)

It’s time to join Trivium in the court of the dragon to the sound of their magnificent new opus.

“In the court of the dragon
Death of gods and world
In the court of the dragon
You will know your worth”

After getting back on track with their two previous albums, those being the excellent The Sin and the Sentence, released in 2017, and What The Dead Men Say, released in the beginning of 2020, Orlando, Florida-based Heavy Metal unity Trivium continues to deliver their trademark fusion of violence, speed and intricacy with their newborn spawn, beautifully titled In the Court of the Dragon, the tenth studio album in their beyond solid career. Produced by Josh Wilbur and mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, In the Court of the Dragon sounds and feels even better than its predecessors, proving the isolation during the pandemic was extremely productive for vocalist and guitarist Matt Heafy, guitarist Corey Beaulieu, bassist Paolo Gregoletto, and drummer Alex Bent, who as I always like to say elevated Trivium’s sound to a whole new level after joining the band in 2017, and in their new album he sounds even more awesome than usual.

Composed and arranged by Emperor’s own Ihsahn, X is an epic, dark and cinematic intro that warms up our senses for the fulminating In the Court of the Dragon, where Matt begins screaming the song’s powerful lyrics (“In the court of the dragon / Death of gods and world / In the court of the dragon / You will know your worth”) accompanied by the headbanging riffs and beats by Corey and Alex, whereas an imposing start morphs into sheer adrenaline in Like a Sword Over Damocles, with Matt and Corey kicking ass on the guitars while Paolo makes the earth tremble with his bass jabs. Needless to say, Alex adds tons of intricacy and feeling to this already fantastic composition, turning it into my favorite of the entire album. Then we have Feast of Fire, the second single of the album and a solid, traditional Trivium song, albeit not as powerful as the rest of the album. Then it’s time for another frantic, high-octane creation by the quartet named A Crisis of Revelation, providing an excellent balance between their heaviest side and their more melodious, clean sounds, and if played live it will surely ignite some fun mosh pits during their live concerts.

In The Shadow of the Abattoir we’re treated to a gentle beginning to the deep, clean vocals by Matt, evolving into another complex Melodic Death and Heavy Metal feast spearheaded by Alex and his unstoppable drums and spiced up by their sick guitar solos; and more of their groovy sounds are offered to us all in the neck-breaking No Way Back Just Through, with Matt once again thriving with both his clean singing and enraged roars. A massive wall of sounds will hammer your head mercilessly in Fall Into Your Hands, even heavier and more detailed than its predecessors, where Matt screams nonstop from the bottom of his heart while his bandmates add elements from Progressive, Death and even Symphonic Metal to their core sonority. It looks like the guys form Trivium wanted to offer endless heaviness in their new album, and they more than succeeded in that as From Dawn to Decadence is another bestial Metalcore tune where Matt, Corey and Paolo are in absolute sync from start to finish with their infernal riffage and bass. Lastly, closing the album we face one final round of their trademark wicked lyrics in The Phalanx (“Within the thrill, amidst the kill / One against all, soon blood will spill / We cannot wait to make your pain / We are the burn inside your brain”) amidst a hurricane of heavy sounds that lasts for stunning seven minutes.

Trivium are a band that at the same respects their past while always looking towards the future, and In the Court of the Dragon (available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify) is the perfect depiction of that, pointing to an even brighter future ahead of those four talented metallers who are becoming one of the most important bands of the current scene worldwide. Hence, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube for news, tour dates, and more of their sick music and videos, and if you want to add the majestic In the Court of the Dragon to your personal collection, you can purchase it from their official webstore, or click HERE for several other places where you can buy the physical or digital copy of the album. As the lyrics to the title-track say, “in the court of the dragon you will know your worth”, and if you’re there to the sound of Trivium’s new album, you can rest assured the “dragon” will provide you with exactly what you deserve.

Best moments of the album: In the Court of the Dragon, Like a Sword Over Damocles, A Crisis of Revelation and Fall Into Your Hands.

Worst moments of the album: Feast of Fire.

Released in 2021 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. X 1:26
2. In the Court of the Dragon 5:09
3. Like a Sword Over Damocles 5:30
4. Feast of Fire 4:18
5. A Crisis of Revelation 5:35
6. The Shadow of the Abattoir 7:11
7. No Way Back Just Through 3:53
8. Fall Into Your Hands 7:45
9. From Dawn to Decadence 4:08
10. The Phalanx 7:15

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitar
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Guest musician
Ihsahn – orchestration and synths on “X”

Metal Chick of the Month – Başak Ylva

Between love and hate… I’m waiting for you daydreamer…

There’s nothing better than celebrating any type of anniversary with some classy metal music, and here at The Headbanging Moose it couldn’t be any different than that as we celebrate eight years of existence supporting the underground by paying a humble tribute to our beyond amazing metal chick of the month of October. Owner of a stunningly operatic voice, she’s the singer, songwriter and founder of a fantastic Symphonic Metal act that goes by the poetic name of Dream Ocean, as well as a professional Opera singer. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the multi-talented Başak Ylva, also known as Başak C., a woman that will surely put you in a trance with her powerful vocals and stylish music. Are you ready to join Basak and The Headbanging Moose on a very pleasant symphonic journey?

Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, but currently residing in Cologne, the largest city in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Başak began her singing career at the age of seven encouraged by her parents (although they were hoping she would sing traditional Turkish music) in the children’s choir of the TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) and continued it in 2003 as a soprano in the youth classical choir of the TRT. During her high school years, she initially pursued a scientific focus, which she followed in 2004 with a degree in business administration at the University of Istanbul, which she completed in 2008 as a bachelor’s degree. On the advice of her professors, she decided in 2008 to make music her profession and at the age of 23 she started her first bachelor’s degree for her operatic career with Prof. Ayşe Sezerman in Opera singing at the Music Conservatory of Istanbul University as a mezzosoprano. During her studies, she sang as a choir singer in various Opera projects such as Die Opernprobe and Dido and Aeneas, while in 2012 she sang for the first time in Europe at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival under the direction of Rolf Beck, later making her solo debut in 2013 as Susanna in La Nozze di Figaro.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in 2014 in the role of Giovanna Seymour from Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, she began her master’s degree at the University of Music and Dance in Cologne with Professor Mechthild Georg in 2015, where she sang in many different Opera projects such as the literary Opera of the HfMT Cologne, AscheMOND or The Fairy Queen (choir, Opera Wuppertal), Hansel and Gretel (witch, Opera studio of the HfMT Cologne), Dido and Aeneas (Sorceress, Festival of Early Music Knechtsteden) and The Clever Little Fox (Forester and Owl at the Theater Aachen). In addition to her operatic activities, she also performs musicals and film and crossover music with event orchestras. Furthermore, as a choir and solo singer, she was able to gain further experience with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Tan Dun and E. Oronzo Estrada in countries such as Brazil, China, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Poland and South Korea.

An accomplished mezzosoprano and vocal coach, an admirer of makeup, interior design, fashion, movies and video games, and a huge supporter of female freedom and empowerment, Başak started her metal music career with Dream Ocean in Turkey in 2009, having “moved” the band to Germany in 2015 to pursue her career as an Opera singer. As she’s the creative mind, lyricist and composer behind the band, it was becoming really hard for her to fly all the time back to Turkey due to the fact she had been working in Germany for three years already. Currently comprised of our beloved diva together with Oz Khan and Borna Matosic on the guitars, Sebastian Heuckmann on bass, Nils Kessen on drums and Sebastian Plück on the keyboards, the band has been on a roll for the past ten years, having already released the EP Daydreamer, in 2012, and the full-length albums Lost Love Symphony, in 2018, and The Missing Stone, now in 2021. Before that, the band was “just a name” according to Başak herself, as they were just entertaining themselves without investing into anything more serious at first. In other words, Dream Ocean was a hobby band where they tried some covers with friends every now and then in the studio, and then she started to write her own songs and got encouraged to take things a lot more serious due to all the positive feedback received. As they were all working in different jobs or studying, and due to their their limited financial situation, they couldn’t record and album and the band was put on hold from 2011 to 2016. In between that they still did concerts and wrote songs, until they were finally able to record their debut album. If you want to have a very good taste of the music by Dream Ocean, you can enjoy several of their official videos on YouTube including Eterna Espera, Uyan, Daydreamer, The Great Silence, Somewhere Untouched, Everstorm, Forever and Beyond The Greed, or you can also stream all of their creations on Spotify.

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As aforementioned, Başak is also a professional Opera singer, using even a different name for her metal career (Başak Ylva, instead of Başak C.) due to the prejudice that still exists in classical music. “I actually try to hide it. Because in the past, I was told that I am dressing too much femme fatale-like, very extravagant. Or that my hair was too red for singing in a church. Or I should not make my hair blond because I am Turkish. Or that I should not wear red lipstick because this was not a job to wear red lipstick. Therefore the classical music branch, especially in Germany, not so much in Sweden or Norway, but in Germany, it is terribly backwards and conservative. And several times, I got severely bullied because of that,” commented our diva. Still regarding her career as an Opera singer, she described the dark moments experienced during the COVID-19 lockdown in Germany. “We performed a couple of performances around September and October. But then the next lockdown came, and the theatre decided to not extend the contracts. And when I thought I was just starting my job and was thinking, I landed in a good opera house, and I could slowly build up my career. And now I was jobless! Like from top to zero. Of course, for me, this is another thing. When I don’t have a job, I am at risk to lose my visa. And I am also helping my brother in Turkey. So everything went down. And I got a big depression. I could not go out for 6 months. I did not sing for 6 months. And I just started to have therapy. Because everything was falling apart in my life. I mean, in everybody’s life, in Sebastian’s too. But for me, my visa and everything is depending on my job. I thought something like, my career has ended. I’m done. They will throw me out of the country.”

Although she doesn’t have any side projects aside from Dream Ocean, Başak mentioned in one of her interviews that she would love to do her own solo crossover project with folk and Celtic touches. However, due to her very busy agenda with Dream Ocean and her career as an Opera singer, she said it will be really tough to actually pursue that. Let’s say that she already does A LOT with both Dream Ocean and her classical career (as you can see in her beautiful repertoire), and that we’re all more than fine with “just” those two projects. And lastly, regarding her influences and idols in music and what inspires her the most to compose her stunning creations, Başak said her introduction to Symphonic Metal happened with Nightwish, plus a local Turkish band called Almôra (which unfortunately split up in 2009). She said she used to listen to those bands and sing along with them, and the final result was so good that later on Almôra found her recordings online and invited her to sing with them in front of a real audience. Moreover, she also expressed her passion for Opera as well, saying that in the end her distinct influences end up complementing each other. “I love Opera because it has another challenging side and gives another satisfaction such as learning very hard, complicated music and then singing it with perfect technique. One is for technicality and the other is for my creativity.” Having said all that, how about we stop right here and go listen to the amazing creations by our metal diva and her Dream Ocean, and also enjoy her awesome performances as an Opera singer? I’m sure you’ll love every single second of her music and get addicted to her distinguished voice.

Başak Ylva’s Official Facebook page
Başak Ylva’s Official Instagram
Başak Ylva’s Official YouTube channel
Dream Ocean’s Official Facebook page
Dream Ocean’s Official Instagram
Dream Ocean’s Official Twitter
Dream Ocean’s Official YouTube channel

“I just want people to know that musicians and the audience – we complete a whole and we’re the same. Having the same struggles and happiness, the same problems and same solutions – one may find the way easier while the other needs to take a second look. But in the end, we meet at the same place, which is the concert hall. There we want to reach them, get to know them, and for them to get to know us. To see that we mean what we play and sing with our words, and while we do this we want to be speaking their words. Things maybe they could never say out loud. We just want people to know that we desire to tell stories and meet with people who ARE the heroes of those stories. We hope we can do this.” – Başak Ylva

Album Review – Malacoda / The Strain EP (2021)

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

3.0rating

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

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

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

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

Album Review – Belle Morte / Crime of Passion (2021)

Enjoy this stunning album of Gothic and Symphonic Metal made in Belarus with dark and progressive flavors and a beautiful, melancholic vibe.

3.5rating

belle-morte-crime-of-passion-2021Formed in 2015 in Minsk, the capital and the largest city of Belarus, the musical project that goes by the Stygian name of Belle Morte plays a fusion of Gothic and Symphonic Metal with dark and progressive flavors and a beautiful, melancholic vibe. Spearheaded by the talented and stylish vocalist Belle Morte, the project has just released their brand new opus entitled Crime of Passion, following up on their highly acclaimed 2018 debut EP Game On. Produced, mixed and mastered by Sergey Butovsky (who also plays bass and does backing vocals on the entire album), displaying a delicate artwork by Stefan Heilemann (Heilemania), and inspired by John Fowles’ novel The Collector, Crime of Passion tells a coherent story which started as an unhealthy obsession and stalking and resulted in murder, both from the side of the murderer and his victim, all beautifully and meticulously put together by Belle Morte and her bandmates Ilya Rogovoy and Ilya Petrashkevich on the guitars, Sergey Butovsky on bass, Maria Shumanskaya on keyboards and Rostislav Golubnichiy on drums in a way that will certainly please all fans of the genre.

Dark and melancholic sounds permeate the air in the cinematic intro Overture, preparing our hearts and souls for Who Are You, where Belle declaims the song’s poetic lyrics majestically (“You’re watching me, what do you see / I want to hide, but you’re behind / I try to run the hunt begun / Don’t cross this line, there’s no return”) while the band’s guitar duo slashes his stringed axe accompanied by the rumbling bass by Sergey; whereas investing in a more Gothic and modern sonority it’s time for the delicate If Only You Knew, featuring guest guitars by Artur Naumenko and displaying hints of Industrial Rock and Metal added to the band’s core essence. Artur keeps delivering his classic riffs in To Get Her, keeping the dark flames of Gothic and Symphonic Metal burning bright while Belle is again fantastic on vocals, resulting in a thrilling fusion of the music by Nightwish, Tristania and Lacrimosa, and leaning towards pure old school Symphonic Metal we’re treated to Beauty And The Beast, showcasing crushing beats, atmospheric passages and endless passion flowing from Belle’s distinguished voice supported by the guitars by Ilya Rogovoy and Ilya Petrashkevich.

My Little Demon brings forward another round of their cryptic words declaimed by Belle and Sergey (“Come to me, my little demon, stay with me until the dawn / I won’t lie to you, my darling, when you fall asleep I’ll run / I won’t lie to you, my darling, you will lose me with the sun”), with the guitars by Ilya Rogovoy and Ilya Petrashkevich adding a touch of evil to the overall musicality, which is also the case in Broken Things, presenting a pleasant sonority led by Belle and her whimsical vocals and with Sergey once again kicking ass with his groovy bass. Then a serene intro gradually grows in intensity, evolving into a dark and melancholic ballad entitled Beauty Meant To Kill where the acoustic guitars by Sergey generate the perfect ambience for Belle to shine on vocals once again; whereas enfolding piano notes will penetrate deep inside your mind in Lace, featuring guest guitars by Kirill Movshuk, sounding very orchestral at times and with Belle hypnotizing us all with her soulful vocals as usual. And lastly, featuring guest backing vocals by Alexandra Mantis and Katya Shtirts, My Legacy drinks form the same fountain as renowned bands the likes of Epica, Within Temptation and Nightwish, or in other words, it’s the perfect way to close the album in great fashion.

belle-morte-2021The gorgeous and mesmerizing music by Belle Morte in Crime of Passion can be appreciated in full on Spotify, but of course in order to show your true support to the band you should definitely purchase a copy of the album by clicking HERE or HERE, as well as from their own BandCamp page or from the Aural webstore, and if you want to know more about Belle Morte and listen to more of their classy metal music simply go to their official Facebook page, to Instagram, to VKontakte and to their YouTube channel. Crime of Passion is one of those albums that will drag you to darkness, take you to another world and captivate all your senses once and for all, just the way we like it in Gothic music, and let’s hope Belle Morte and her amazing crew can keep embellishing the airwaves with more releases like their excellent new album for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: Beauty And The Beast, My Little Demon and My Legacy.

Worst moments of the album: Broken Things.

Released in 2021 WormHoleDeath

Track listing     
1. Overture 1:38
2. Who Are You 3:48
3. If Only You Knew 4:35
4. To Get Her 5:11
5. Beauty And The Beast 3:43
6. My Little Demon 5:41
7. Broken Things 4:10
8. Beauty Meant To Kill 4:26
9. Lace 5:15
10. My Legacy 3:07

Bonus track
11. To Get Her (Acoustic version) 4:19

Band members
Belle Morte – vocals
Ilya Rogovoy – guitars on “Who Are You”, “Beauty And The Beast”, “My Little Demon”, “Broken Things” and “My Legacy”
Ilya Petrashkevich – guitars
Sergey Butovsky – bass, backing vocals, vocals on  “My Little Demon” and “To Get Her”, acoustic guitars on “Beauty Meant To Kill”
Maria Shumanskaya – keyboards
Rostislav Golubnichiy – drums

Guest musicians
Alexandra Mantis – backing vocals on “My Legacy”
Katya Shtirts – backing vocals on “My Legacy”
Kirill Movshuk – guitars on “Lace”
Artur Naumenko – guitars on “If Only You Knew” and “To Get Her”

Metal Chick of the Month – Heike Langhans

heike01

The shackles of your demons fall silent… The shackles of your demons fall…

It’s time for the skies to get dark and melancholic here on The Headbanging Moose thanks to the doomed music blasted by our metal lady of the month of May, and I bet you’ll get absolutely addicted to her music right after the very first listen (in case you know nothing yet about her and her bands and projects, of course). Though of German descent, she was born on February 9, 1988 in Cape Town, a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast, and currently resides in Sweden, where she joined Swedish Doom Metal band Draconian as the replacement to former singer Lisa Johansson in 2012. I’m talking about the multi-talented Heike Langhans, a songwriter, singer and designer well known for her work in the Gothic and metal scenes, always exploring a vast array of styles including Dark Wave, Electronic and Gothic Rock, among several others, therefore conquering the blackened hearts of the damned ones.

Drawn to melancholy Gothic music during her teenage years, Heike Langhans (which correct pronunciation is ‘hey-keh’ and ‘lung [the organ] – huns [like guns]’, as it’s a German name) began to dabble in composition, writing and singing at a very young age, already being part of school choirs at the age of eight, although she got sick of singing in groups, left that behind and started doing her own thing. She played piano occasionally, but mostly played classical guitar, which helped a lot in her writing process, and used to sing with her father when he played guitar at social gatherings. Heike joined her first band when she was around 15 years old, an all-girls band comprised of friends of her that was mainly a fun holiday thing, while she kept doing music on her own until she joined a proper band at the age of 19. Needless to say, she kept doing her own thing on the side to stay focused and as an outlet for her frustrations with the world and her surroundings.

Active since 2005, our South African started her career being associated with a few distinguished projects and bands, those being her Dark Electronic solo project :LOR3L3I:, South African Symphonic Metal band Inferium, and South African Black/Thrash Metal band Warthane, with her vocals being known to be sorrowful and her music peculiar and melancholic in nature. Regarding :LOR3L3I: (also known as LOR3L3I, LORELEI, or simply Lorelei), everything started back in 2006 as a melancholic electronic side project, with the name Lorelei having almost acted as an alter ego in a sense. According to Heike herself, the songs are raw and unpolished, a “spur-of-the-moment” type project where she just pours her heart into a song, record it and then struggle to touch it again, and you can take a very good listen at all her demos on her official BandCamp page, savoring delicate creations such as Jade Light and Fables. “I’ve said many times that I will never be able to sing these songs live, simply because I’ll be too emotional. It’s hard for me to wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes, so music is the only way. Lorelei is definitely my outlet and it’s quite revealing in many ways. Many people think me intimidating and secretive, but I’m more of an open book than what they care to realize,” commented Heike about her solo endeavor.

Inferium and Warthane are completely different stories, as they were already relatively established bands when Heike joined them. Under the moniker Heike Van Dominic, she was Inferium’s vocalist from 2005 until 2010, joining the band when they were still an instrumental group. They were the only band she knew doing Symphonic Metal at that time, with a huge influence from bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation. She said in one of her interviews that the band had a lot of potential and that they were doing quite well, but as they had a lot of issues with finding time and money to record and push it further they decided to call it quits in 2010. “I’ll always remember and enjoy my time in Inferium and I’ll forever be sad about the stellar songs that were to come, but it’s a sweet memory,” said Heike. Right after Inferium disbanded, more specifically in 2011, our diva, again under the name Heike Van Dominic, recorded the female vocals for the album Black Divine, by Warthane, which you can enjoy in its entirety on Spotify. Not only that, she also used her graphic designer skills to create the album’s stylish, somber artwork, proving how focused and talented she is it doesn’t matter which band or project she’s involved with.

Since 2012, Heike has been acting as the singer for Swedish Gothic/Doom Metal act Draconian, a cult band that started back in the already distant year of 1994 as Kerberos, playing Melodic Heavy and Death Metal with Black Metal influences, changing its name to Draconian around seven months after its inception. Heike joined the band following the departure of singer Lisa Johansson in 2011 after having made contact with guitarist Daniel Arvidsson, then with vocalist Anders Jacobsson to try an audition in Sweden. At first, she struggled to get a work visa in Sweden, which hampered the band’s ability to record an album, and until obtaining the visa she performed as a temporary singer for Gothic Rock band The Great Sleep in South Africa, as you can see for example in the song The Last Funeral. At the end of 2013, she finally received her work visa and was able to emigrate to Sweden, when she started working with Draconian while at the same time she started playing as a guest singer, guitarist and keyboardist in 2015 for Swedish Doom Metal band ISON, a side-project of Daniel Änghede (of Crippled Black Phoenix and Hearts of Black Science). She mentioned her main reasons for joining ISON were being able to play an instrument again like what she used to do in her teens, and putting a part of her own soul into it within a genre that was not electronic. You can have a very good taste of the music by ISON on their BandCamp page, with their first three albums having Heike on vocals, those being Cosmic Drone, Andromeda Skyline and Inner Space, or go to YouTube and search for their official videos such as the one for the song ISAE, as well as other precious gems like the duo playing a stunning acoustic version for The Final Cut by Pink Floyd (and you can compare their beautiful rendition with the original one HERE).

Finally, in 2015 Heike was able to record her first album with Draconian, by the way the sixth in the band’s career, the excellent Sovran, which she was not only responsible for the female vocal parts, but she also collaborated on writing the lyrics for tracks Dusk Mariner, Dishearten and The Marriage of Attaris, showing how easy it has been for Heike to connect with everyone at Draconian. “When I came to Sweden, I thought it would be very intimidating to have to all of a sudden be in this professional studio and work with world-class producers, and I underestimated myself a lot. But once I actually started doing it, I realized I was completely over-thinking everything. The guys were really laid back and easy to work with,” commented Heike. Then in 2020 she released with Draconian their second opus together, entitled Under a Godless Veil, where once again she was responsible for part of the lyrics, more specifically for the lyrics for the song Sleepwalkers, on top of her usual vocal duties. She also mentioned in one of her interviews that her work with Draconian hasn’t had any negative impact on her solo project :LOR3L3I: so far; quite the contrary, several Draconian fans kept writing her and asking her to continue to create music under her solo project, although she said nowadays she doesn’t have enough time to focus on that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Draconian or a newcomer to their doomed world, you must check all of their official videos on YouTube such as the ones for the songs Sorrow Of Sophia, Sleepwalkers, Lustrous Heart, The Sacrificial Flame, Moon Over Sabaoth and Stellar Tombs, all of their creations on Spotify, as well as live footage the likes of Pale Tortured Blue live at MS Connexion Complex in Mannheim, Germany in 2019, and simply get lost in their realm of melancholy.

Apart from all of those previous and current bands and projects, you can also enjoy Heike’s unique voice as a guest vocalist in several other bands from all over the world. For instance, she played live with Finnish Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal band Hallatar in 2018, with whom she also recorded vocals for the song My Mistake and narrations for the songs Raven’s Song, Pieces and Spiral Gate from their 2017 album No Stars Upon the Bridge; she was a guest vocalist in the song Vision VII: One with the Soil from the 2017 album Visions, by Austrian Post-Black Metal act Anomalie; she also recorded the female vocal parts for the song The Path to Puya, from the 2019 album Aamamata by Spanish Doom/Gothic Metal act Helevorn; and vocals for the song Wolves at the Border, from the 2015 album Signal, by Swedish duo Hearts of Black Science. Not only that, Heike also did the layout and band photos for the 2020 album Premonitions, by International Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal band Sojourner, and was responsible for the vocals, keyboards, songwriting, lyrics, vocal recording, artwork, layout and design in the 2020 album Another World, by International Atmospheric Doom Metal band Light Field Reverie.

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When asked about her main idols and influences in music, Heike said it’s actually hard to pinpoint influences because many of her personal likes are not in any genres considered as Gothic in modern terms. However, the bands she related to early on would be Fields of The Nephilim, The Awakening, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Type O Negative, Dead Can Dance and Lycia, to name a few. In addition, as far as more modern Goth-inspired music goes, she has spent a great deal of time listening to Diary Of Dreams, Tiamat, Tristania, Paradise Lost, Anathema, Sins Of Thy Beloved, Katatonia, Draconian, and of course My Dying Bride. She said her passion for metal started when she was a teenager, as she used to get her father’s Pink Floyd and Meat Loaf CD’s and listen to them on repeat in her room while singing along, also watching renowned acts like Black Sabbath on VH1 and taping whatever metal she could find onto VHS or cassette. By the time she was 16, she was consuming a lot of metal from all sub-genres, gradually focusing on what suited her best emotionally speaking like Gothic, Symphonic and Doom Metal, only getting into Black Metal in her 20’s, but of course the emotional aspect and the melodies found in Doom Metal turned it into her all-time favorite genre as it certainly triggers a lot more in her personally.

In regards to touring, Heike said in one of her interviews she would love to tour around a South America, South Africa and Australia with Draconian, understanding that requires a lot of traveling and a huge investment, of course. “I look forward to traveling to countries to enjoy the scenery, food and people. The music is just our way of saying thank you for having us. It would feel slightly selfish to think our music is what made the show worth it, if you know what I mean,” complemented Heike, who also has a deep connection with the metal scene in her homeland. “Despite what most South Africans make themselves believe, Cape Town actually has a great metal scene and more bands than you might think. I can count on one hand the amount of friends I have there who ISN’T a musician. It’s a very creative and beautiful town.” She recommends Atmospheric Black Metal band Crow Black Sky, 2017 Battle for Wacken winners Megalodon, scene-legend Industrial Metal band Terminatryx and a few new-comers such as Constellatia as excellent bands from her beautiful country (and city) that we should all take a listen at.

Moving from South Africa to Sweden wasn’t an easy task for Heike, as it took around 19 months for her to receive her residence permit renewal in Sweden due to the country dealing with an influx of refugees. Based in Säffle, a municipality in Värmland County in west central Sweden, with the rest of the band since December 2019, Heike said she obviously misses Cape Town, her friends, the forwardness of people, Afrikaans jokes and Afrikaans words that you really can’t say anywhere else, but of course that she loves Scandinavia and that her head and her heart are in the North. Her Swedish might not be perfect yet, but her Afrikaans (Dutch) and German background ended up helping her a lot in understanding the language in the beginning, and she’s picking it up quite fast in her own opinion. She also commented about the fact that a lot of people in Sweden and in different parts of the world keep asking her why she’s white, which she believes that happens due to the idea the media sells that everyone in the African continent is black, complementing by saying she usually takes the opportunity to explain how things really work in South Africa.

Lastly, although Heike seems to be an unstoppable music-making machine, she’s just a regular human being like all of us who has her favorite hobbies and pastimes when she’s not singing, recording or performing on stage. As an avid gamer, she said she loves playing World of Warcraft and old school RPG’s the likes of Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Lionheart, as well as newer games like Skyrim, but of course she spends a great amount of time doing art, mostly digital and editing. There are days when she doesn’t want to deal with technology and she focuses of drawings and illustrations by hand, though. She also enjoys painting and photography, albeit she considers those quite expensive hobbies, and sewing, showing how versatile and talented she is. Furthermore, Heike is a big supporter of the Ubuntu Liberation Movement in South Africa, the Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement, always focusing on human liberation and free energy. “I will not eat or drink anything that comes from big corporations. Yes it’s difficult, but I refuse to support them. I also don’t eat meat any more, and I don’t really care what people have to say about that. I think that once people really put in the time and effort and research, not only from a health or principle perspective, but from an environmental perspective, they will realize that there is a lot that they are not being told. If they want to follow all the bullshit lies in the industry, then fine. But I will actively be against that. That’s what I think being an activist is about,” said our dauntless diva, and you can know a lot more about Heike, her bands, projects and so on by watching several online interviews with her, such as this one at FemME 2015 and this one for Metal & High Heels in 2019, letting her smooth and enchanting words and her undeniable charisma penetrate deep inside your doomed soul.

Heike Langhans’ Official Facebook page
Heike Langhans’ Official Instagram
Draconian’s Official Facebook page
Draconian’s Official Instagram
Draconian’s Official Twitter
:LOR3L3I:’s Official Facebook page

“I love slow and melancholic music. It brings my inner suffering to the surface and Doom Metal makes me feel like it’s okay to be an emotional being that suffers in this strange world.” – Heike Langhans

Metal Chick of the Month – Mary Zimmer

maryz01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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