Album Review – Empress / Fateweaver (2022)

This up-and-coming Symphonic Metal five-piece outfit from Philadelphia is well on their way to conquering the big stages and setting people’s minds ablaze to the sound of their striking debut album.

An up-and-coming five-piece act from Philadelphia, in the United States, centered around classically-trained singer Barbara Blackthorne and main songwriting, mastermind and guitarist Vlad Khavin, Symphonic Metal outfit Empress is well on their way to conquering the big stages and setting people’s minds ablaze with kaleidoscopic arrangements, and their brand new album Fateweaver is the perfect way to kick-off their path to success showcasing their unique take on Symphonic Metal while they effortlessly transition between a variety of powerful tunes. Mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö at Unisound Studios, produced and engineered by the aforementioned Vlad Khavin, and displaying a classy artwork by Nguyen Hieu, Fateweaver will fully captivate your senses thanks to the amazing job done by Barbara and Vlad alongside their bandmates Joseph Muir on the guitars, Nicholas Bonsanto on bass and Mark Stainthorpe on drums, asking you if you’re bound by fate or bound to control it, as they navigate the overarching theme of destiny through the tales of the individual characters on each song.

Whimsical keys ignite the symphonic, epic title-track entitled Legion, with Mark dictating the pace with his heavy beats before Barbara arrives like a Valkyrie from the sky and stuns us all with her operatic vocals, and the guitars by Vlad and Joseph reverberate in the air in the also imposing Beyond the Sleep, with all background elements adding an extra touch of magic to the overall result. Then a sinister, somber start evolves into a multi-layered feast of Symphonic Power Metal titled Chimera, also presenting tons of progressiveness and electricity while Barbara is flawless on vocals supported by the pounding drums by Mark; whereas they don’t waste a single second and continue their musical adventure in The Fall of Kingdoms, with Vlad and Joseph being on absolute fire with both their riffs and solos, followed by Black Arcana, very rhythmic, epic and dense from start to finish, with Barbara’s soaring vocals being a thing of beauty while Nicholas and Mark generate a rumbling atmosphere with their respective bass and drums.

Monarch is another dynamic and ethereal display of Symphonic Metal by those talented musicians where the riffage by the band’s guitar duo beautifully clashes with the song’s  background keys, while there are moments of sheer progressiveness that remind me of Opeth and Dream Theater. In the electrifying Into the Grey, the unstoppable Barbara gorgeously declaims the song’s words (“The coming storm brings a change / The eye of fate shifts its gaze / The sky will show the way to rend fear from my heart”) while her bandmates make sure we’re transported into a world of magic and epicness to the sound of their undisputed Symphonic and Melodic Metal; whereas Immortelle sounds clearly inspired by classic Nightwish and Epica, offering our ears another round of their piercing sounds albeit a bit generic if compared to the rest of the album. And last but not least, closing such powerful album we have the seven-minute symphony Eventide, where Barbara showcases all her vocal range and potency and where all elements are in the right place, elevating the song’s punch to a whole new level and resulting in a climatic ending for admirers of the genre.

You can get to know more about Empress, their music, plans for the future, tour dates and so on by following the band on Facebook and on Instagram, stay up to date with their new songs and videos by subscribing to their YouTube channel and by streaming their music on Spotify, and show your utmost support to those hard working American metallers by purchasing a copy of their new album from their own webstore or from their BandCamp page, or simply by clicking HERE or HERE to select your favorite version of the album or to stream it in full. What do you say? Are you bound by fate or bound to control it? If you don’t know the answer to that, let Empress help you to the sound of their striking debut album, allowing their stylish Symphonic Metal to penetrate deep inside your mind and soul.

Best moments of the album: Legion, Chimera and Into the Grey.

Worst moments of the album: Immortelle.

Released in 2022 Independent

Track listing
1. Legion 4:20
2. Beyond the Sleep 4:34
3. Chimera 7:11
4. The Fall of Kingdoms 5:40
5. Black Arcana 4:38
6. Monarch 5:35
7. Into the Grey 4:00
8. Immortelle 4:53
9. Eventide 6:54

Band members
Barbara Blackthorne – vocals
Vlad Khavin – guitars
Joseph Muir – guitars
Nicholas Bonsanto – bass
Mark Stainthorpe – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Ambre Vourvahis

I will not give up… I will not stand down!

Greece, France and Germany are three countries well known for their immensurable contributions to rock and metal music, and here on The Headbanging Moose how about we unite all three and have an absolute blast with our metal lady of the month of July? That’s exactly what you’ll get with the talented, gorgeous vocalist Ambre Vourvahis, the new frontwoman for German Symphonic Metal act Xandria, and a woman who definitely knows how to add tons of passion and feeling to her already powerful vocal lines. Having said all that, are you ready to join us and Ambre in this short but sweet tribute to one of the most promising names of the Symphonic Metal scene worldwide?

Half-Greek and half-French, but currently residing in Germany, the mesmerizing Ambre Vourvahis was already singing in choirs and musicals when she was in middle school, saying in one of her interviews that her life has always revolved around music, although she continued her studies in literature and philosophy and concluded it with a philosophy degree while at the same time she was still dreaming of making music, singing and going to concerts (which she confessed she sometimes did instead of going to class, just like all of us metalheads have already done at a given point in our lives). She said she started listening to metal music when she was around 11 years old, saying metal has been a crucial part of her whole life, and let’s say it’s quite easy to notice that by the way she sings, always putting her heart and soul into her performances.

Just a few weeks ago, our Greek goddess was announced as the new vocalist of Xandria, and in her own words, “I am beyond happy to be part of this adventure, I gave everything I had on the songs that are about to come and I love every single one of them. I hope you will do too. I can’t wait to meet you all and hear about your own musical journey.” Combining atmospheric, delicate vocals with harsh, visceral roars, her potent and versatile voice fits perfectly with the new musical direction of the band, which can already be seen in their new single title Reborn (which you can also stream on Spotify). Formed in 1994 in Bielefeld, a city in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region in the north-east of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Xandria have already had in their career the impressive number of eight vocalists, those being Nicole Tobien, Lisa Middelhauve, Kerstin Bischof, Manuela Kraller, Dianne van Giersbergen, Lisa Middelhauve, Aeva Maurelle, and now our metal lady Ambre Vourvahis. Accompanied by fellow musicians Robert Klawonn on the guitars, Tim Schwarz on bass and Dimitrios Gatsios on drums, as well as of course Ambre on vocals, the newly formed outfit around band leader, main songwriter, composer and guitarist Marco Heubaum is ready to bring its impressive career to the next level.

“Xandria is reborn… and the first sign of the return to life is the respectively titled song. Like before, Xandria are taking you on a voyage to your imagination, and the emotional and varied voice of new frontwoman Ambre Vourvahis will show you the way there with more facets then ever – prepare for some surprises! The new line up around mastermind Marco Heubaum will definitely start a whole new chapter that is fascinating and fresh, but still genuinely Xandria. Because this is what Xandria always has been – a voyager and explorer in the inspiring world of symphonic and heavy music. And now it is reborn,” commented the band about this new phase in their career, with Ambre also having some words to say about her new band. “I knew the band personally for a long time now and during their break Marco and I started to work on music for a possible project, while at the same time he was writing already some new Xandria songs, and then he thought my voice would fit very well on them, too. In the end we even took some of the ideas for that project into Xandria as it was fitting also really well actually and brought some new elements and diversity.”

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Although nothing is known about the new album yet, Ambre seems to be very excited and can’t wait to meet the band’s fans on the road. “I feel grateful, especially with the overwhelming warm welcome I got so far by the wonderful Xandria fans,” said our raven-haired diva, and I bet you can’t wait to listen to the follow-up to their 2017 album Theater of Dimensions and to see Ambre taking the stages by storm when the band begins their tour to promote their upcoming album. By the way, starting this September the band will embark on a massive European double headlining tour with Austrian Melodic/Symphonic Power Metal band Visions of Atlantis, inviting fans to dive deep into breathtaking soundscapes of Symphonic Metal, and hopefully that tour will also be extended to other places such as North and South America, Japan and Australia. “We want to plan a lot of tours, in as many countries as we can. But especially continue to make music that will be exciting for us and our fans,” said Ambre, also mentioning that she wants to thank all of the band’s fans in person and discover their musical journeys and taste as well, as she really loves to talk about music. Well, I bet you don’t want to miss that opportunity when Ambre hits the road together with Xandria, right?

You can also find Ambre doing the female vocals for Fragment Soul, a Progressive Metal band formed in 2016 in Greece which has another metal lady featured already on our webzine, the charming Heike Langhans, as a special member on vocals. How can she sing in such different bands at the same time, one might ask? Well, Ambre mentioned in one of her interviews that she loves to challenge herself vocally and to try new things, and as she can do both clean and guttural vocals it won’t be a surprise if other musicians and bands start recruiting her to be part of their new albums or live concerts, consequently leading her to visit more and more cities and countries while on tour. Hence, let’s show our total support to Ambre in this new phase of her career, and hope that sooner than later we’ll be able to witness her kicking some ass onstage with her bandmates from Xandria in our hometowns, showing once again why Symphonic Metal has always been the perfect place for skillful and hard working women who rock our world like our up-and-coming Greek vocalist.

Ambre Vourvahis’ Official Facebook page
Ambre Vourvahis’ Official Instagram
Xandria’s Official Facebook page
Xandria’s Official Instagram
Xandria’s Official YouTube channel
Xandria’s Official Twitter

“I trained and developed my singing on my own (especially the harsh vocals) as well as with vocal coaches for many years, and still today – there is always so much more to learn and to achieve so I will probably never stop working with a professional vocal coach.” – Ambre Vourvahis

Album Review – Majesty Of Revival / Pinnacle (2022)

One of Ukraine’s most prominent bands returns with their fifth full-length opus, continuing with their sonic experimentations while still loyal to their metal roots.

Following up on the successful releases of their 2016 album Dualism and their 2019 album Timeless, Uzhhorod, Ukraine-based Symphonic Power Metal explorers Majesty Of Revival are back in action with their fifth full-length installment, entitled Pinnacle, continuing with their eccentric experimentations while at the same time remaining loyal to their metal roots. Recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by the band’s mastermind Dimitriy Pavlovskiy at Beast Sound Studios and displaying a stylish artwork by Ursula Tabaka, Pinnacle is about the experience of our thoughts, about casual situations that happen around us or with ourselves, problems that surround us daily like domestic violence, blind idolizing, struggles in front of big challenges, leadership, money issues and so on, consisting of 13 cross-genre and progressive compositions filled with subjective visual descriptions and tactile audio figures carefully brought into being by the aforementioned Dimitriy Pavlovskiy on vocals and guitars, Myroslav Danko also on the guitars, Vitalii Popfalushi on bass, Maestone on keyboards and Marvin on drums. In other words, you’re in for a ride with those Ukrainian metallers who will take you on a journey through the vast lands of progressiveness in the name of good music with their newborn opus.

Dimitriy and Myroslav begin their DragonForce-inspired riff attack in the opening tune Open, blending Progressive and Symphonic Metal to the pounding beats by Marvin, while You Have A Message (Welcome to GULAG) reminds me of some of the best creations by Mastodon with their own Ukrainian touch, presenting an amazing job done by Vitalii on bass by generating a venomous paradox with the stylish keys by Maestone. In Rebellion we have powerful lyrics declaimed by Myroslav (“Fear has been born among us / Tied our hands with hardest chains / Cowardice grows like mushrooms under autumn rain / Left no word unspoken / Though desecration will touch all of you said / Let this silence to be banned / Let this silence be broken”) amidst a melodic, Hard Rock-ish sonority, followed by Mindcrime, featuring vocalist David Readman of Pink Cream 69, bringing forward another round of the band’s whimsical sounds with Maestone kicking some ass on keyboards supported by the Stratovarius-inspired beats by Marvin. Then featuring vocalist Kärtsy Hatakka (Waltari), trumpetist Volodymyr Shchobak and guitarist Vasil Dovganych, the band offers us all Fool, an imposing tune also presenting elements from rap music in its vocals, and Deliverance, featuring violinist Veronika Shestakova, where the band keeps embellishing the airwaves with their Progressive and Symphonic Power Metal.

In At All Costs a change in pace fills our ears with Dimitriy’s melancholic vocals embraced by a serene musicality led by Maestone’s keys and piano, resulting in a stunning ballad by those Ukrainian metallers, and it’s then time to hit the dance floor to the sound of the groovy Bury Me Part II: Dig Me Up, where Vitalii is once again on fire with his metallic bass punches. The band shows no sign of slowing down in Citylights; quite the contrary, they keep firing their Melodic Power Metal riffs, solos and keys for our total delight, which is also the case in the hard-hitting extravaganza Stone, with Dimitriy also delivering his demonic side through his deep, enraged roars. Things Are Not What They Seem, featuring guest vocals by Anzhelika Zyzych, brings forward more of their whimsical lyrics (“Sweet misguidance crucified us / Funeral bells won’t stop your yearning / Now its time for tables turning / Demolition in progress / But nothing will force you to confess / Desolation, commotion / Curtain call your emotions”) supported by a huge dosage of Progressive Rock and Metal, whereas their second to last explosion of melodious sounds, progressiveness and insanity comes in the form of Guardians, with Vitalii, Maestone and Marvin generating a stunning wall of sounds in the background. Lastly, the acoustic guitars by Dimitriy and Myroslav will soothe your soul in Overcome?, putting a melancholic, delicate ending to such multi-layered and detailed album, and if you go for the BandCamp edition you’ll also receive two bonus tracks, one being the instrumental version for Stone while the other, named Вартові, is “Guardians” but with Ukrainian lyrics.

Dimitriy and the boys are waiting to hear from you on Facebook and on Instagram, where you can find news about the band, their tour dates and so on, and don’t forget to also subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their intricate and melodic creations. The excellent Pinnacle, which is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale from the band’s own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all locations where you ca buy or stream the album, including a very interesting USB wooden flash drive version), will not only please all longtime fans of the band, but it will also attract the attention of newcomers to the world of Majesty Of Revival, proving once again this Ukrainian outfit is undoubtedly going places thanks to their undeniable creativity and feeling. If the album will become the pinnacle of their career no one knows for sure, but we must admit it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to top their own creations with each album released.

Best moments of the album: You Have A Message (Welcome to GULAG), Mindcrime, Stone and Guardians.

Worst moments of the album: Fool.

Released in 2022 Massive Sound Recordings

Track listing
1. Open 4:04
2. You Have A Message (Welcome to GULAG) 4:38
3. Rebellion 3:46
4. Mindcrime 5:01
5. Fool 4:37
6. Deliverance 4:17
7. At All Costs 3:11
8. Bury Me Part II: Dig Me Up 3:24
9. Citylights 4:02
10. Stone 6:12
11. Things Are Not What They Seem 4:17
12. Guardians 4:54
13. Overcome? 3:35

BandCamp bonus tracks
14.Stone (Instrumental version) 6:12
15.Вартові 4:54

Band members
Dimitriy Pavlovskiy – vocals, guitars, choirs
Myroslav Danko – guitars, vocals, choirs
Vitalii Popfalushi – bass, vocals, choirs
Maestone – keyboards, backing vocals, choirs
Marvin – drums

Guest musicians
Kärtsy Hatakka – vocals on “Fool”
Vasil Dovganych – guitars on “Fool”
Volodymyr Shchobak – trumpet on “Fool”
David Readman – vocals on “Mindcrime”
Veronika Shestakova – violin on “Deliverance”
Anzhelika Zyzych – female voice on “Things Are Not What They Seem”, choirs
Rostik Groshick, Andy Brok & Yriy – choirs

Metal Chick of the Month – Kristina Vega

Save me, for the punishment of my head…

Let’s turn up the heat here at The Headbanging Moose in this month of June and properly kick off the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere with a metal lady that will absolutely stun you with her powerful vocals and onstage presence. A metal singer and vocal coach known for her work with bands the likes of Born In Exile, SerapiS, and Cobra Spell, she has a fantastic vocal range that allows her to sing not only metal but pretty much any music style, which explains why she’s becoming more and more famous, respected and admired in the current music scene. I’m talking about the multi-talented Kristina Vega, also known as Kris Vega, carrying the flag of Catalan metal wherever she goes armed with her fulminating voice. I bet you’re eager to know more about such skillful musician as much as Kris is waiting for you to join her in her quest for heavy music.

Born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, Kris had her first contact with metal music when she was only eight years old, more specifically a Rammstein song which she has tattooed on her arm (which we’ll talk about shortly). When she was 16 she had a band called MOTH (which didn’t last for too long according to Kris herself), she also spent five years with a Japanese music group where she used to write music and do the guttural vocals, then three more years with a Blues band, and another metal group called Lunes 12. However, Kris had to take a break from music for a while, getting back in action in the metal scene after seeing an ad asking for a vocalist for a local band. It didn’t take long for Born In Exile to take its desired shape and form, catapulting our diva to stardom right after the band’s first release. Furthermore, growing up in the golden years of Nu Metal helped her to detect all her registers, to play with different techniques of singing and to find her way as a vocalist, having also thoroughly studied how harsh vocals, textured voice and hyper-compression techniques work in order to reach different types of sound. A formed vocal coach by Rodrigo Llamazares at Vocal Studio (a specialist in vocal coaching for teachers), she actually started studying electric bass at the age of 14, and two years later she recorded her first album as a bass player and a guttural vocalist.

Formed in 2012 in Barcelona by drummer JuanMa Ávila and guitarists Carlos Castillo and Rodrigo Baez (all from the band Corelyn) with the goal of creating a project with progressive influences inside Heavy Metal that would please fans of bands the likes of Symphony X, Opeth, Dream Theater, Rush, Myrath, Leprous and Circus Maximus, among others, the unstoppable Melodic Progressive Metal outfit known as Born In Exile has been on a roll since its inception, all of course multiplied by one thousand after Kris joined the band in August 2015 with her melodic, raspy and soaring vocals, having recorded with the band their debut opus Drizzle of Cosmos, in 2017, which by the way led the band to play at Barcelona Rock Fest in 2018, their sophomore album Transcendence, in 2020, and an EP titled Live at Vampire Fest, in 2021. Kris mentioned in one of her interviews that she recorded a cover version for Queen’s “The Show Must go On” as a reply to the band’s ad where they were searching for a new vocalist, followed by a short meeting with JuanMa and Carlos, and both were absolutely mesmerized by her vocals, which you can enjoy in all its glory in songs such as Fields On Fire, The Lighthouse of the Haunted Keeper, Enchantress, One More Line, Ziggurat, Revenant and Torch.

Apart from her career with Born In Exile, our talented diva can also be seen blasting her unparalleled vocals with the bands Cobra Spell, Uneven Frame and SerapiS, as aforementioned. As a matter of fact, Kris has just started her stint with Cobra Spell, the Dutch Heavy Metal/Hard Rock outfit led by guitarist Sonia Anubis (Burning Witches, Crypta), having replaced the band’s original vocalist Alexx Panza about a month ago, and although she hasn’t recorded anything in the studio yet with the band you can already enjoy her visceral vocals with Cobra Spell on the road, as she’s now touring with the band despite the extremely short time to rehearse with them. It’s not clear if Barcelona-based Nu Metal project Uneven Frame is still active as there are no news from the band since 2020, but it would definitely be interesting to see what Kris can do in a more alternative style (and you can take a listen at their demos on their YouTube channel); and regarding Progressive Metal project SerapiS, recently formed by Kris together with guitarist Joaco Luís (Mollitiam, Born In Exile), you can enjoy the band’s first three singles on Spotify, or go to YouTube to be stunned by Act I: Defiance, Act II: Dissidence, and Act III: Wistfulness, pointing to a very interesting future ahead of them.

Our multi-talented Kris can also be seen as a guest vocalist for the songs Our Demise, from the 2021 album The Harbour in Me, by Spanish Symphonic Power Metal act Embersland, and The Breathless Season Bane, from the 2021 album Portraits, by Spanish Atmospheric Black Metal horde Perennial Isolation; and as a metal vocal coach at the Metal Academy School of Music, the first school completely devoted to Heavy Metal and Hard Rock founded in 2017 in Barcelona, and as a voice actress for The Monster Factory, a Montreal, Canada-based company specialized in the conception of voices for monsters, zombies, aliens and many more creatures in the video game and film industries provided by metal vocalists the likes of our unstoppable diva.

Highly influenced by a wide variety of styles, from bands like Tool, Arch Enemy, Opeth, Leprous, Slipknot and Jinjer to vocalists like Freddie Mercury and Mónica Naranjo, Kris has already performed in over 500 concerts, singing not only Heavy Metal and Hard rock, but also Blues, Soul, Death, Progressive and Experimental Metal, proving not only how skillful she is, but also how experienced she already is in the music industry. As mentioned, having listened to her first metal song at the young age of eight, more specifically the song Klavier, from the album Sehnchust by Rammstein, thanks to the father of one of her neighbours, Kris quickly moved on to other bands and artists such as Linkin Park, Slipknot, Machine Head, System of a Down, Otep and Arch Enemy, being right now a huge fan of Jinjer, In This Moment, Gojira, Opeth, Devin Townsend, Myrath and Twelve Foot Ninja. When asked if she listens to any bands that she considers some sort of “guilty pleasure”, Kris mentioned Nino Bravo, from her childhood years, Azul y Negro, from her teens, and Evanescence, when she was in her 20’s. In addition, when questioned if she prefers Nightwish or Epica, she said she doesn’t really enjoy their voices, being a much bigger fan of stronger vocals the likes of Jinjer and Battle Beast.

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An avid reader of everything surrounding the voice anatomy, Kris is also writing a book to help singers who are just starting their careers and trying to find their own voice, focusing on all obstacles a vocalist might find along the way as for example not being told what’s working and what’s not, which by the way happened to her in the beginning of her career. She believes anyone can sing as long as it represents your own voice and delivers the desired message, always working not only her students’ voices but also their fears, their landscapes and so on, trying to transfer as much courage and strength to all of them during her classes.

It was right after the release of Drizzle of Cosmos that Kris and her bandmates from Born In Exile began touring on a more professional level, having played in different countries and festivals, such as Barcelona Rock Fest. She mentioned that when the band received an email informing they were selected to open that festival she almost cried of pure joy, also saying their performance at the festival was one of the most memorable moments of her life so far. She mentioned in one of her interviews how difficult it is to perform onstage for a massive festival crowd, the importance of being mentally prepared, and the energy shared with the crowd. Still talking about touring, Kris said that she loves to play alongside renowned bands as everything feels a lot more professional, and that although organizing tours (especially outside of Spain) is a lot of work, all that effort is definitely worth it.

As a prominent woman in Heavy Metal, Kris commented on how she sees the role of women in the current metal scene and the type of treatment she receives from men. She mentioned that despite a few bad experiences and situations in her career, one of the most beautiful things in her life is the fact she’s extremely well treated by her bandmates, who support her in everything and the whole feminist movement. However, she believes women in metal should stop fighting against each other for different reasons and realize that they’re stronger when united, saying it’s important to stop thinking like a man and avoid at all costs using sexist words and expressions that are stuck inside our minds thanks to the way we’re taught those things by our society. Moreover, Kris also faced some criticism and sexism when she decided to move from her hairdresser job (which she had been doing since she was 15) to pursue her career in music. She used to listen to things such as being a vocalist or working with music doesn’t pay your bills, doesn’t put food on the table, that she should get a “real” job, and so on, but that didn’t stop her from becoming the awesome vocalist she is today.

Regarding the metal scene these days, she said she thinks the musical landscape is unfair, complaining about an empty venue for an excellent band that goes all the way from Australia to Spain, for example, which is frustrating for the musicians involved. In addition, she said she would like to encourage all bands to have more respect and companionship among themselves, and to see more support to local bands by inviting them to open for the foreign headliners, just like what happened to Born In Exile during Barcelona Rock Fest where the band might have played for only 30 minutes, but according to Kris herself it was good enough to show the crowd what they got. And to be honest, even if they had played for only five minutes that would have been more than enough for the metalheads at the festival to witness how amazing the music by Born In Exile is and how powerful Kris’ vocals are, always singing about love, pain, real-life experiences and other related topics, therefore adding an extra personal touch to her thrilling performance.

As aforementioned, Kris is an accomplished vocal coach, offering vocalists not only from Barcelona but from all around the world different options to work with her, including more basic, free courses through the Metal Academy School of Music, or intensive online and in-person courses (which you can get more details by contacting her by email), and she’s waiting for you to begin a very productive and fun partnership in the name of rock and metal music. By the way, you can also click HERE to check all of her official links where you can get to know more about Kris and her career. Lastly, in case you decide to take vocal classes with Kris and it starts to rain, that might be a very good sign, and the reason for that is quite funny. When she was asked about something curious that has already happened with Born In Exile, she said that every time the band is about to do something important, it rains, it doesn’t matter if it’s the recording of a new album, signing with a record label, playing at a famous venue, or anything else. In other words, let’s join the incendiary Kristina Vega in her quest for heavy music, and may the rain fall down on us for many decades to come together with such inspiring musician.

Kristina Vega’s Official Facebook page
Kristina Vega’s Official Instagram

Kristina Vega’s Official Twitter
Born In Exile’s Official Facebook page
Born In Exile’s Official Instagram
Born In Exile’s Official YouTube channel
Born In Exile’s Official Twitter

Metal Chick of the Month – Adrienne Cowan

So sin ‘til you win, let your demons out! Lady Lightbringer!

It’s time for a true metal opera this February on The Headbanging Moose, courtesy of our multi-talented metal lady of the month. A metal vocalist, poet, vocal coach and musician best known for being the frontwoman and composer for American Symphonic Metal band Seven Spires, among several other amazing metal bands and projects, Adrienne Elizabeth Catli Cowan, who goes by her stage name of Adrienne Cowan, will mesmerize you with her unique vocals, both extreme and classic Heavy Metal clean vocals. In other words, she can sing pretty much any type of metal and non-metal music, from the Symphonic Metal of Seven Spires to Death Metal, Deathcore and Dark Jazz, and I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast with Adrienne after knowing more about the life and career of such skillful artist.

Born on January 28, 1995 in Houston, the most populous city in Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States, Adrienne is formally trained in classical and most contemporary styles as a graduate of both Berklee College of Music (with a degree in Music Composition) in Boston, Massachusetts and the Academy of Contemporary Music in the UK, although she was also self-taught in both extreme clean vocals for many years before finally finding a perfect vocal coach in Swedish singer David Äkesson. Her connection with music started a lot earlier than that, though, as since she was a child she was already taking part in choirs and taking piano lessons, performing in musicals and then entering music school, and from there starting to compose her music and to expand her knowledge and skills, especially as a singer. For instance, Adrienne had her first performance as a vocalist at the age of three at an event at the church her family attended, beginning her piano lessons after that at the age of six and being mainly into choir and darker popular musicals such as Phantom of the Opera throughout elementary and middle school. Not only that, her parents pulled her out of high school so that she could attend a music school full-time, so through that show of support she already had a good feeling about her potential skills.

When she was still living in England, in 2012, Adrienne was making demos by herself for a dark and theatrical project she had yet to debut, and after moving back to the United States in 2013 she met Jack Kosto in a bookstore in her first week at Berklee and told him about her project and songs. From there Seven Spires were born, with all band members having extensive musical knowledge and studies, therefore drawing on their backgrounds to express themselves musically without limits of genre or technique. Seven Spires released their first album in 2014, the EP The Cabaret of Dreams, with all of its songs representing half of their 2017 full-length opus Solveig, where not only Adrienne was responsible for all vocals, keyboards, lyrics and songwriting, but also for the production and vocal engineering, showcasing all her talent and professionalism. After Solveig, the band released the full-length albums Emerald Seas, in 2020, and Gods of Debauchery, in 2021, and if you want to enjoy all of the band’s epic creations you can find Seven Spires on Spotify and on YouTube, where you can also have a visual orgasm with their official videos for the songs Lightbringer, Succumb, The Unforgotten Name, The Cabaret Of Dreams, Drowner Of Worlds, Bury You, The Paradox, This God Is Dead, Silvery Moon, The Cursed Muse, and Dare To Live, as well as some live footage, making of’s, behind the scenes and other awesome videos by Adrienne and her crew.

Apart from her career with Seven Spires, you can also find Adrienne and her powerful vocals in distinct bands and projects such as International Power Metal band Light & Shade, with whom she recorded the vocals for the 2016 album The Essence of Everything; International Power Metal/Hard Rock band Sascha Paeth’s Masters of Ceremony, with whom she recorded the vocals (and piano for one track) in the 2019 album Signs of Wings; and American Symphonic Deathcore band Winds of Plague, with whom she recorded the keyboards and backing vocals in the 2017 album Blood of My Enemy. In addition, Adrienne was also part of American Melodic Heavy Metal band FirstBourne from 2016 to 2018, having recorded the vocals and keyboards in their 2016 album Riot and in the 2017 acoustic single Home, and of Frontiers All Stars in 2020 and Riot Underground between 2012 and 2013.

You can also find her singing and playing live with German Symphonic Power Metal band Avantasia since 2018, with American Heavy Metal band Mike Kerr from 2015 until 2018, and with American Power/Thrash Metal band Sonic Pulse. Not only that, Adrienne was also a guest musician in an array of bands and projects, those being vocals for the song I Declare War from the 2020 album The Journey, by German Melodic Death Metal band Deliver the Galaxy; vocals for several songs from the 2021 album The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson, by Swedish Symphonic/Melodic/Power Metal band Heart Healer; vocals for the song My Guide My Hunger from the 2018 album As Above So Below, by Italian Melodic Death Metal band Hell’s Guardian; vocals for the song The End of Innocence from the 2017 album Reflections, by American Neoclassical Heavy Metal artist Jimi Mitchell; vocals for the song Mammoth from the 2017 album Pianometal, by American Symphonic/Progressive Metal artist Kyle Morrison; vocals for the song The Truth of the Lion from the 2015 album The Truth of the Lion, by Mike Kerr; harsh and clean vocals for the songs Conjunction of Souls and The Restitution from the 2020 album Pile of Priests, by American Progressive Death Metal band Pile of Priests; vocals for the song Let It Go from the 2018 album Re-Animated, by Italian Power Metal band Trick or Treat; and vocals and lyrics for the 2018 album Lights in the Murk, by Italian Symphonic Black Metal band Yass-Waddah. Do you want more? Because our she-wolf was also responsible for the songwriting for the song Hold Tight from the 2016 EP Dirty Lyxx, by American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Dirty Lyxx, and she also sung vocals in Black Science’s Freedom (Or Die Trying), featured in the outro of one Camp Camp episode, and sang both a duet with Casey Lee Williams in the RWBY Volume 6 credits song Nevermore, and in the song War of Volume 7. Adrienne has also been a part of the Freelance Orchestra in their RTX 2016 (where to her surprise she ended up in the RWBY music panel) and 2018 concerts, plus Anime Boston 2018, and you can always have a great time watching her own videos on her official YouTube channel.

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Adrienne got into the world of metal music around the age of 11 when her uncle showed her Metallica and Scorpions, but it wasn’t until she found out about musicians the likes of Alexi Laiho, Janne Wierman and Yngwie Malmsteen that she really started to feel at home listening to Heavy Metal. She mentioned it appealed in some way to her classical background, and watching live Children of Bodom videos was quite inspiring. However, she’s not only into metal, but showcases a wide variety of influences in her life. “I’m not a one-dimensional person – I’m a human – so I’m allowed to like other stuff”, she said in one of her interviews. “I’m not a huge K-pop fan or anything, but I really like good pop writing. From a technical standpoint, as a songwriter, I’m like: damn, good for you guys. And there’s a certain sassy energy – it just speaks to me in a way that a lot of metal doesn’t.” Another influence on our beloved diva as a writer are painters of the Romantic period, with German painter Caspar David Friedrich and Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky being two of her main inspirations. “I’m also a big fan of (the English composer) Edward Elgar – he does this piece called ‘Sospiri Op. 70,’ which is the most beautiful thing, it sounds like the pain of falling in love. It was something I listened to a lot when we were writing this record. And of course, Chopin,” she said, also finding inspiration under night skies and in the darker depths of the human condition to write her lyrics. Adrienne also nurtures an amazing openness with her fans on social media, which she credits to her experience as a My Chemical Romance fan back when she was younger. “This one interview with them came out, and I remember one of the guys in the band saying basically, ‘We say these things in our music, we are a bunch of fucked up guys, and it helps our fans know… you’re not alone.’ That really made me feel less alone when I was a sad teenager, and then when I grew up into a sad adult, I thought, damn, I could be that for somebody else.”

Regarding her singing style, technique and how she maintains her vocal cords in great shape, Adrienne mentioned in one of her interviews that she likes to meditate before shows and uses her instincts to decide what she’ll sing or scream either high or low. “The low death metal style is more present and more grounded and more angry and earthier in a way. The higher black metal screams are more spiritually pitched or spiritually empty — when there’s black metal themes and nihilistic lyrics, of course I’m probably going to scream with that high tone”, said Adrienne. In addition, when she was enrolled at The Academy of Contemporary Music at the age of 16 she joined an after-school club where all metalhead students gathered to jam on a new song every week, opening her eyes to the rest of the metal world and challenging her to vocally try different styles of each subgenre of metal. She also mentioned that she has studied many techniques of singing including theatrical belting, Speech Level Singing, bel canto and even some throat singing, with the hardest part being unlearning things previous teachers had told her in order to properly approach whatever new technique she was learning, and with the very high Power Metal “scream” being one of the styles that took her the longest to develop. In order to maintain her vocal health, she mentioned that she basically has to just mind her sleep and hydration levels, trying to stay out of the direct blast of heaters or air conditioners, and trying not to get sick or allergic. However, at the end of the day, even dehydrated or sick the show must go on, which forced her to develop alternate techniques to sing through sickness.

A huge fan of Lord of the Rings, all forms of art, Gothic style, cheesy Sci-Fi, vampire shows, coffee and fantasy games, Adrienne enjoys mountain hikes, spending time by any shore, and playing JRPG’s (Japanese Role-Playing Games) and games with friends between her musical ventures. “After a long tour, I like to sit at home and sleep in my own bed, play video games, maybe think about going out… If I get to go on a little holiday or something, I love road trips and anywhere remote with alpine forests and quiet waters. Wyoming is great for this, as are many spots on the West Coast. Anything to get me away from people and out of my regular world,” commented Adrienne, who despite being very fond of animals cannot take care of a dog or cat due to her lack of space and time to do so. And when asked which hobbit from Lord of the Rings she would choose to be part of her band for the rest of their days, she provided a curious and fun answer to that. “Either Sam or Pippin, I think. Because I think I’m a Frodo, and I need a support system like Sam. But also I need a Pippin to just make me laugh all the time no matter what, and just help lighten the mood, and tell me to eat my carrots and mushrooms.”

Last but not least, our raven-haired vocalist also had a few interesting words to say about the whole pandemic and how it has been impacting her life on the road with Seven Spires. “All of this resulted in connecting more with our fans online. So although it’s super frustrating to not know exactly when we’re going to be able to play live again, we have found a way to do the online equivalent of hugging people at the merch table and listening to their stories,” said Adrienne, who also mentioned she keeps working hard to entertain and stay in touch with her fanbase, also teaching online, private vocal lessons and running a weekly workshop on everything from orchestration to arranging to songwriting techniques, all of which you can find on Linktree and on Patreon. “Mostly I teach tools for people to be able to express what they have in mind, and I teach from a really emotional standpoint.” And if you want to know more about Adrienne, her likes and dislikes, her inspirations and so on, there are countless interview online with her such as this one to Rock Titan or this one called RichardMetalFan Interviews! Ep. 33: Adrienne Cowan of Seven Spires/Winds of Plague/Avantasia, where she talks about her journey with music from where she started until now. Having said all that, what are you waiting for to let Adrienne reach deep inside your heart and take you on a breathtaking musical voyage to the sound of her stunning vocals?

Adrienne Cowan’s Official Facebook page
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Adrienne Cowan’s Official YouTube channel
Adrienne Cowan’s Official Twitter
Seven Spires’ Official Facebook page
Seven Spires’ Official Instagram
Seven Spires’ Official YouTube channel
Seven Spires’ Official Twitter

“I know that if I’m just stagnant and sitting on my ass, I’m not going to be happy. So if I want to be happy, I have to do something about it.” – Adrienne Cowan

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”

Album Review – Grimgotts / Sagas EP (2020)

A UK-based Symphonic Power Metal squad continues to chronicle the epic battles between men and dragons on the high seas of Andria in the second part of their new trilogy.

Fans of Rhapsody of Fire, Dragonforce, Sonata Arctica and Alestorm will be signing up to set sail with London, UK-based Symphonic Power Metal band Grimgotts with their brand new EP entitled Sagas, the second part of a trilogy that started earlier this year with the release of the EP Tales, and that will see its epic conclusion later in 2020 with the third EP Legends. Sagas continues to chronicle the epic battles between men and dragons on the high seas of the mythical land of Andria, which is by the way the band’s own original fantasy realm, just like what was told in the first EP of the trilogy and in their previous releases Lions of the Sea (2017) and Dragons of the Ages (2019), proving the band formed by frontman Andy Barton, guitarist David Hills, keyboardist Fabio Garau, bassist Nelson Moreira and drummer Mo Abdelgadir definitely know how to unite fantasy and heavy music with tons of symphonic and epicness flawlessly for the delight of metal fans across the seven seas (and beyond).

It’s time to sail together with the pirates from Grimgotts in the opening tune Northern Passage, a symphonic and epic feast led by the inspiring keys by Fabio and the always precise beats by Mo, while Andy declaims the song’s lyrics like a true bard. Put differently, simply grab your sword and join the band in their quest for metal, whereas the strident riffage by David ignites the even more metallic Power Metal tune Rise Again, accompanied by the rumbling bass by Nelson and the awesome balance between Andy’s vocal lines and Fabio’s magical keyboards, definitely making your day more exciting and fun. Then we have Plunder, Loot & Chantey, an absolutely perfect soundtrack for prancing around the fire while drinking a pint of mead, or if you prefer a more “technical” language, this is a very entertaining fusion of Symphonic Power Metal with Folk and Epic Metal, with Mo dictating the pace with his classic beats. And lastly, the band offers the faster and more traditional title-track Sagas, another great option for banging your heads with Grimgotts, with David and Fabio making an incendiary duo with their respective riffs and keys while Andy showcases all his talent as the band’s frontman, leaving us eager for the last EP of their trilogy in a not-so-distant future.

It feels like Grimgotts are following a treasure map with Tales, Sagas and Legends, with each EP and each song being a different adventure the listener needs to face before reaching the glorious end of the trilogy, and let’s all admit their formula is working really well, making us all excited and ready for their next challenge. Hence, don’t forget to follow those UK metallers on Facebook and on Instagram, to listen to more of their music on Spotify, and to grab your copy of Sagas (sooner than you can scream “ahoy!”) and all of their previous albums from their own BandCamp page, showing them your true support and proving you have what it takes to sail the unruly seas of Andria together with the boys from Grimgotts, spending your time signing metal anthems while drinking beer and raising your swords until the end of their exciting saga.

Best moments of the album: Rise Again and Plunder, Loot & Chantey.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Northern Passage 4:18
2. Rise Again 6:52
3. Plunder, Loot & Chantey 3:43
4. Sagas 4:06

Band members
Andy Barton – lead vocals
David Hills – guitars
Fabio Garau – keyboards
Nelson Moreira – bass
Mo Abdelgadir – drums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: Feel Inside.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

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

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

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

Album Review – Grimgotts / Dragons of the Ages (2019)

Set sail and enjoy this concept album about a war between dragons, sea-creatures and men in the form of classic and imposing Symphonic Power Metal.

Formed in the town of Horsham in 2015 by vocalist Andy Barton as a joke parody band at first, British Symphonic Power Metal act Grimgotts initially described themselves as “probably the best Harry Potter themed symphonic power metal band to come out of West Sussex”, having released only one (unofficial) single under that gimmick. Fortunately for us, fans of symphonic metal music, Andy decided to shift the band’s focus to fantasy and nautical themes the following year, and with the help of other musicians Grimgotts released their debut EP entitled Here Be Dragonlords, followed by another EP that same year named Extenditus Playus, the EP Part Man, Part Beast, Part Dragon in early 2017, and the full-length album Lions of the Sea by late 2017 after teaming up with  keyboardist Fabio Garau, guitarist David Hills and bassist James Taylor.

In 2018 Grimgotts solidified their lineup with bassist Nelson Moreira and drummer Mo Abdelgadir, playing at Power Metal Quest Festival and supporting German power metallers Victorius in London, England, inspiring the band to set sail once again in 2019 with the release of their sophomore full-length opus, titled Dragons of the Ages, a concept album about a war between dragons, sea-creatures and men set in the same fictional world of Vale as per the band’s own previous albums. Produced by Alex Loader (Ethereal Sound Studio) and featuring an epic, dragon-infused artwork by Ryan Marter (Arctic Wolf Design), Dragons of the Ages will please most fans of bands like Edguy, Twilight Force, Rhapsody, Alestorm and Sabaton, among others, taking the listener on a vibrant journey to a whimsical land where heavy music is the ultimate soundtrack to epic battles.

The sound of the waves and the symphonic keys by Fabio invite the listener to join Grimgotts in War’s Come to Our Shores, reminding me of the epic and adventurous music played by UK’s own Alestorm, with Andy’s vocals being a mix of Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén’s and Italian icon Fabio Lione’s, also featuring guest Julia Zelg with her beautiful female vocals. After such vibrant welcome card it’s time for The Last Dragon Warriors, where Julia once again helps Andy to declaim the song’s classic Power Metal lyrics (“For every day that we are here / We prepare to take the world / With our ships we can sail to the sun / For years we’ve sat and we’ve decayed / But today with stand as one / A mighty army, hail to the lords”) while David fires some ass-kicking, incendiary solos to add more electricity to the overall result, whereas Ancient Waters sounds and feels even more epic and imposing, inspired by the symphonic music played by acts like Rhapsody of Fire, Blind Guardian and Sabaton, with David’s riffs and Nelson’s rumbling bass dictating its thrilling rhythm.

In War at Dawn Fabio fires strident key notes while Mo pounds and slams his drums with precision and feeling, resulting in a Symphonic Power Metal extravaganza perfect for heading into the battlefield, with Andy telling the story with a lot of passion. Then prance around the fire pit together with your friends to the sound of The King Under the Sea, where David keeps slashing his stringed weapon and Mo keeps smashing his drums nonstop, not to mention the epic vibe generated by Fabio’s keys; and folk-ish elements ignite the metallic feast entitled The Long Road, sounding more progressive than its predecessors but still loyal to the foundations of Symphonic Power Metal. In addition, Nelson and Mo once again shine with their refined techniques. And Turning the Tide, the most Power Metal of all songs, is another battle hymn where David is on fire with his riffs while Mo sounds like a stone crusher on drums, sounding and feeling very melodic, epic and, above all, as fast as good Power Metal should be.

Despite bringing forward fanciful lyrics as its main ingredient (“The Shaman spoke to me / Told me of my destiny / The Northmen march to war / The dragons still can fall / For our great ancient city / Let’s not delay / Pray, we won’t go astray”), Take to the Sea lacks more stamina and strength. It’s still very enjoyable, though, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the genre. Back to a more dense sonority, The Great Shadow is embraced by the crisp keys by Fabio, with Andy delivering high-pitched, tuneful vocal lines the likes of André Mattos (R.I.P.), and with that inspiring vibe going on until the song’s climatic ending, all spiced up by David’s flammable solos. Last but not least, get ready for over eight minutes of folk-like keyboards, galloping beats and bass, electrifying guitars and soaring vocal lines in Here Be Dragonlords, even presenting some deep guttural vocals on the second half of the song while its ending is amazingly epic, melancholic and powerful.

You can listen to Grimgotts’ tribute to the sea, to mythical creatures and dragons and, of course, to our beloved Heavy Metal on YouTube and on Spotify in its entirety, and after “returning” from such distinct voyage don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, and to purchase Dragons of the Ages from the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as from Apple Music or from Amazon. And may those metal pirates and warriors hailing from the UK continue to invade our minds and enhance our senses with their imposing and symphonic music for many years to come, always fighting for glory, for freedom and for metal.

Best moments of the album: The Last Dragon Warriors, War at Dawn and Turning the Tide.

Worst moments of the album: Take to the Sea.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. War’s Come to Our Shores 6:05
2. The Last Dragon Warriors 5:26
3. Ancient Waters 3:54
4. War at Dawn 4:18
5. The King Under the Sea 3:20
6. The Long Road 4:54
7. Turning the Tide 3:32
8. Take to the Sea 3:28
9. The Great Shadow 5:22
10. Here Be Dragonlords 8:30

Band members
Andy Barton – lead vocals
David Hills – guitars
Fabio Garau – keyboards
Nelson Moreira – bass
Mo Abdelgadir – drums

Guest musicians
Hector Clark – backing vocals on “The Last Dragon Warriors”
Julia Zelg – additional vocals on “War’s Come to Our Shores” and “The Last Dragon Warriors”
Nick Thurtell – additional vocals
Prash Sarma – additional vocals