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
Adrienne Cowan’s Official Instagram
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

Album Review – Reternity / Facing the Demon (2019)

An exciting display of Melodic Heavy Metal by four experienced musicians from the German scene, dealing with the struggles we all have with our inner demons and temptations.

Founded in the summer of 2018 in Heilbronn, a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany, by Stefan Zörner (SpiteFuel, Lanfear, Strangelet) on vocals, Carsten Sauter (Mighty D., Pyroclasm) on guitars and bass, Semen Brik (Echo.Mensch) also on the guitar, and Sascha Beul (Remember Twilight, Darkness Ablaze) on drums, four experienced and skillful musicians from the German Heavy Metal and Hard Rock scene, Melodic Heavy Metal outfit Reternity has just released their debut full-length album, entitled Facing the Demon, following up the successful release of their 2018 two-track demo, which received an amazing feedback from both fans and critics. Dealing with the struggles we all have with our inner demons and temptations, something that’s beautifully depicted in the album artwork, Facing the Demon was carefully produced by Jonas Kümmerle at Analog Mixing Studio, taking the album’s overall sound quality to a whole new level and, therefore, allowing those Swabian metallers to shine throughout 40 minutes of heavy music, ranging from classic Hard Rock to more berserk styles such as our good old Thrash Metal.

The acoustic guitars by Carsten and Semen kick off the intro Strings of Sor 1: Sunset, working as the calm before the storm for Last Days of War, a frantic and very melodic Heavy Metal tune with thrashing elements, as if Anthrax decided to play a faster version of Hard Rock. Moreover, Stefan leads his metal brigade with his ass-kicking, angry vocals, keeping the energy level really high until the next song, titled Tomorrow’s History, comes crushing our minds with another incendiary performance by the band’s guitar duo while Carsten keeps rumbling the foundations of the earth with his bass lines, also bringing some soulful guitar solos just the way we like it in Power Metal. Then the spoken words by Stefan in the melodic bridge Reternity II set the tone for the amazing Hard Rock power ballad I Love the Night, highly inspired by 80’s Glam Metal but with the band’s own modern twist. As the sound of guitars and bass fills every empty space in the air, get ready to sing the song’s awesome chorus alongside those German metallers in great fashion.

In Down. Not. Broken, one of the songs from their 2018 demo and another potent tune infused with Thrash Metal nuances, it’s time for Sascha to pound his drums mercilessly, therefore adding tons of electricity and stamina to the musicality, with Carsten and Semen once again kicking us in the face with their riffs and solos. The title-track Facing the Demon is a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal, with Stefan and guest vocalist Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn (frontwoman for German Melodic Heavy Metal band E:L:A) being on fire and utterly flawless on vocals, while the guitars and bass sound absolutely metallic from start to finish for our total delight; whereas in Singularity all instruments, in special the bass lines, present a lot of Progressive Metal nuances, sounding more modernized than the rest of the album, albeit not as vibrant. Furthermore, Stefan does a great job on vocals as usual, with the song’s acoustic ending also being a nice addition to the overall result.

The second song from their 2018 demo, Suicide Butterflies, is a very rhythmic and solid creation by Reternity, showcasing an electrified Sascha on drums while Carsten brings considerable amounts of progressiveness and groove with his riffs and bass punches; followed by Stone to Mouth, featuring German singer Chantal Freier doing a gorgeous introduction to the song in her mother tongue. Overall, it sounds like a fusion of the music by Skid Row, Gojira and Anthrax with alternative music from the 90’s, with all the shredding plus the German words being welcome extra touches to such vibrant composition. And last but not least, Carsten and Semen fire acoustic guitar lines one last time in the outro Strings of Sor 2: Sundown, closing the album on a serene note; however, keep listening to it for the hidden track All Grey, a fun and frantic Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll party with highlights to Stefan’s vocal performance boosted by the song’s effective backing vocals.

You can show your support to those skillful and unrelenting Teutonic metallers by following them on Facebook, and of course by purchasing your copy of Facing the Demon (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the MDD Records webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. Because, you know, if you’ve decided you’re finally going to face your inner demons from now on, keeping your head high and without any fear of failure, the best way to do that is accompanied by our good old Heavy Metal, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Last Days of War, I Love the Night and Facing the Demon.

Worst moments of the album: Singularity.

Released in 2019 MDD Records

Track listing
1. Strings of Sor 1: Sunset (Intro) 1:05
2. Last Days of War 4:22
3. Tomorrow’s History 3:50
4. Reternity II 0:54
5. I Love the Night 2:55
6. Down. Not. Broken 3:32
7. Facing the Demon (feat. Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn) 4:31
8. Singularity 5:34
9. Suicide Butterflies 4:18
10. Stone to Mouth (feat. Chantal Freier) 4:47
11. Strings of Sor 2: Sundown (Outro) 1:12
12. All Grey (Hidden track) 2:39

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Carsten Sauter – guitars, bass
Semen Brik – guitars
Sascha Beul – drums

Guest musicians
Chantal Freier – female vocals (intro) on “Stone to Mouth”
Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn – female vocals on “Facing the Demon”

Album Review – Once / After Earth (2018)

Inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, this talented German squad will take you to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery with their debut full-length album.

Heavily inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, and including typical elements of a classical Aristotelian drama combined with heavy guitars and drums in their music, German Symphonic Metal act Once has been embellishing the airwaves with their unique musicality since their inception in 2012 in North Rhine-Westphalia, culminating now in 2018 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled After Earth. If you’re an admirer of the classy and enfolding Symphonic Metal crafted by iconic bands like Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation and Beyond The Black, the creations by this German quartet comprised of Alina Lesnik on vocals, Marco Paulzen on the guitars, bass and harsh vocals, Frank Wypchol on keyboards, piano and orchestrations, and Alexander Hey on drums will certainly please your metallic soul.

Featuring a curious artwork by Tullius Heuer and orchestra and choir arrangements by Frank Wypchol, produced by Frank Wypchol and Marco Paulzen, recorded and engineered by Marco Paulzen in Münster, Germany, and having as a very special guest musician Shir-Ran Yinon (Krayenzeit, Haggard, Eluveitie and New Model Army) on violin, After Earth will take the listener to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery, which combined with the band’s imposing musicality and the album’s crisp and vibrant production will fully captivate your senses, making you eager for more of the music by this talented German squad. In other words, simply hit play, close your eyes, and let Once guide you through the exciting lands of After Earth.

Like the intro to an epic movie, Act 1 (Overture) invites us all to join Once in their musical journey starting with the imposing and symphonic Awake, a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal led by the classic keys and piano by Frank, with Alina living up to the legacy of stunning vocalists like Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen. Then even more symphonic than its predecessor, My Masterpiece showcases another excellent performance by Frank with his keys while Marco brings passion to the music with his riffs and solos, as well as Alexander and his thunderous beats; followed by The Allure, presenting guest Shir-Ran Yinon and her whimsical violin in a beautiful feast of symphonic and melodic sounds and tones. Furthermore, Alina is magnificent on vocals, while Marco creates a very interesting paradox to the tenderness of the violin with his heavier-than-hell riffs.

Again featuring Shir-Ran Yinon, Distorted Smiles is a serene ballad where Alina smoothly declaims the song’s classy lyrics (“Winter’s fingers creeping chillingly / Across the rusty window bar / Through the stormy blizzard rings / A weary melody coming from afar”) before their crushing Symphonic Metal strikes again in The Hour of Eden’s Fall, presenting stylish words (“Images of a bursting sanity / Are turning into a lost reflection / Of the eternal bond of our affection / Painting the moment as a memory / Once my only world was your embrace / Now my heart is buried and erased”) and incendiary performances by Marco and Alexander, bringing rage and electricity to the music with their harsh growls, cutting riffs and nonstop beats. After such powerful display of symphonic music, a cinematic bridge titled Act II (Intermezzo) builds an imposing and adventurous atmosphere for the power ballad My Fairytale, with Alina stealing the spotlight with her fiery vocals while Frank and his keys and orchestrations add tons of electricity to the overall result, being perfect for fans of Epica and Nightwish.

Spiced up by a stunning work done on the piano by Frank we have Phenomena, a metallic symphony of sounds that feels like the soundtrack to a dangerous but thrilling adventure, with Marco carving the word “metal” onto the musicality with his Melodic Metal riffs and bass punches, connecting instantly with the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Sins of Saints, keeping the ambience vibrant and exciting with Frank and Marco being on absolute fire throughout the entire song, slashing our senses and dragging us to their fantastic world of heavy music. Then in Insane Schemes of Sanity an ethereal start morphs into a classy and gentle Symphonic Power Metal extravaganza, flirting with Folk Metal at times thanks to its pace and breaks, as well as Frank’s keys and Alina’s storytelling vocals, whereas in The Final Stage, where Shir-Ran Yinon embellishes the musicality once again with her magic violin, we’re treated to over 10 minutes of first-class Symphonic Metal led by Alina’s gorgeous vocal lines, all embraced by vibrant, stunning orchestrations and boosted by Marco’s deep roars, flowing flawlessly for our total delight until its grand finale, before Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) concludes this album of symphony, melody and epicness in a beyond enfolding and theatrical way, mesmerizing our senses for over six minutes with its gentle piano notes and orchestral background elements.

It’s quite impossible to stand still or unemotional while listening to Once, especially if you’re a longtime fan of stylish, epic and heavy orchestral music, and in order to show your appreciation for such distinct band go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of After Earth, a gorgeous lecture in Symphonic Metal, from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from MBM Music By Mail, from the NEH Records webstore, from iTunes, or from Amazon. Once will certainly take you on a fantastic musical journey with After Earth, showing you how relevant Symphonic Metal still is nowadays, and how inspiring it can be in your everyday life.

Best moments of the album: The Allure, The Hour of Eden’s Fall, Phenomena and The Final Stage.

Worst moments of the album: Insane Schemes of Sanity.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act 1 (Overture) 2:04
2. Awake 4:19
3. My Masterpiece 3:40
4. The Allure (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:59
5. Distorted Smiles (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:52
6. The Hour of Eden’s Fall 4:45
7. Act II (Intermezzo) 2:12
8. My Fairytale 3:55
9. Phenomena 4:35
10. The Sins of Saints 3:57
11. Insane Schemes of Sanity 4:31
12. The Final Stage (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 10:18
13. Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) 5:51

Band members
Alina Lesnik – vocals
Marco Paulzen – guitars, bass, harsh vocals
Frank Wypchol – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alexander Hey – drums

Guest musician
Shir-Ran Yinon – violin on “The Allure”, “Distorted Smiles” and “The Final Stage”

Album Review – Derdian / DNA (2018)

Get ready for over one hour of top-of-the-line Symphonic Power Metal, courtesy of one of the most prominent and skillful bands from the Italian scene.

Hailing from the always fun and vibrant Italian city of Milan, a global capital of fashion and design, here comes one of the most important and most consistent metal acts from the European scene, Symphonic Power Metal squad Derdian, back with another vibrant and well-balanced album titled DNA, the seventh full-length release in their beyond prolific and interesting career. In an era where most renowned bands tend to release only a handful of songs per album, Derdian go against the tide by offering fans of their fusion of symphonic elements and Heavy Metal nothing more, nothing less than over one hour of first-class music split into 13 original songs, proving once again how much they love what they do.

Comprised of Ivan Giannini on vocals, Enrico Pistolese and Dario Radaelli on the guitars, Marco Banfi on bass, Marco Garau on keyboards and Salvatore Giordano on drums, which is the same extremely talented and focused lineup from their previous releases such as their 2014 album Human Reset and their 2016 release Revolution Era, Derdian keep blasting their usual sonic extravaganza full of symphonic layers, epic passages and endless electricity in DNA, all embraced by a crystal clear overall production that enhances the impact of their music even more, turning the experience of listening to DNA a musical orgasm for admirers of the genre.

Abduction, a symphonic-cinematic intro that sounds and feels very serene, sets the stage for Derdian to kick some serious ass with the title-track DNA, a fast and very melodic Power Metal feast inspired by the golden days of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, with Ivan showcasing a superb performance on vocals while Marco Garau and Salvatore have a healthy “duel” of delicacy versus stamina with their instruments. After such powerful start the band offers a top-notch Melodic Metal tune for the masses titled False Flag Operation, with its conspiracy theories-inspired lyrics (“It flies along the blue skies / No one knows what’s gonna happen / New York city will have / The right punishment to be / A nest of worms without a faith / Greedy hawks vultures and jackals / Soon the west will got a / Nice surprise to share with me!”) and sheer epicness flowing from the guitars by Enrico and Dario, followed by Never Born, where a smooth start evolves to a feast of harmonious and delicate sounds, but still bringing the traditional electricity of Melodic Power Metal. In addition, this is a great song to sing along with Ivan and the guys, with Enrico, Dario and Marco Banfi giving a lesson in intricacy, melody and feeling with their stringed weapons.

The next track in DNA, called Hail to the Masters, presents a fun fusion of Symphonic Power Metal with Epic and Folk Metal, considerably different from their traditional sonority, with Ivan singing like a true minstrel and with Marco Garau dictating the rhythm with his whimsical keys; while in Red and White, a perfect example of what Melodic Metal is all about, the band gets back to their old school musicality, which means fast and melodic riffs, nonstop drums and another great vocal exhibit by Ivan, flowing smoothly form start to finish. Then we’re treated to a prancing mid-tempo composition entitled Elohim, led by the rhythmic beats by Salvatore and feeling almost a hundred percent Folk Metal at times, before morphing into a Jazz-infused feast of bass punches, keyboard solos and an upbeat vibe. It’s indeed a fantastic and unique side of Derdian, but if that is not entertaining enough for you, we have another powerful tune named Nothing Will Remain for your avid ears, blending elements from classic and symphonic music with modern Progressive Metal, with highlights to the spot-on guitar solos by both Enrico and Dario.

While Fire from the Dust brings what’s perhaps their most aggressive lyrics (“Like a snake crawls out from the rocks / We go out from …this fucking hole / Let the hate becomes a fire / Fire from the dust! / Take the weapons, annihilate them / They are not machines! / Like a snake crawls out from the rocks  / Fire from the dust!”), musically speaking it’s a Symphonic Metal extravaganza tailored for diehard fans of the genre, with the solos by the band’s guitar duo and especially by Marco Garau adding even more electricity to the overall result. Then in Destiny Never Awaits a gentle piano intro evolves into a decent power ballad by this Italian six-piece squad, presenting pleasant guitar lines and potent vocals, but unfortunately never reaching the same electrifying vibe of the rest of the album; whereas in Frame of the End the band delivers a heavier version of their Symphonic Power Metal (it can even be considered a more symphonic and metallic version of the music by Dream Theater in my opinion) spearheaded by Ivan and his passionate and flammable vocal lines, with Stefano also having a precise and groovy performance on drums, not to mention all of the song’s nice breaks and variations. Marco Garau once again kicks things off in a vibrant feast of Melodic Metal titled Part of This World, where not only Enrico and Dario are in total sync with their riffs, but you should also pay attention to how they meticulously add several elements from classical music to their Power Metal. And lastly, as a “bonus” the band offers us a Spanish version for “Nothing Will Remain”, translated to Ya Nada Cambiara, bringing an extra dosage of epicness and an fresh kick to their Symphonic Power Metal.

If you’re not familiar yet with the symphonic and electrifying world of Derdian, you can get more details about the band, their tour dates and their music on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase a copy of DNA directly from their webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. In a nutshell, DNA is more than just another ass-kicking, thrilling album by this Italian squad that lives and breathes Melodic and Symphonic Power Metal, but a beyond recommended option for anyone who admires some good old Heavy Metal with a precise amount of symphonic elements and an epic aura. Some bands are comprised of talented musicians while others work their asses off to provide good music to the listener, but in the case of Derdian we can say they combine the best of both worlds, with DNA being the perfect depiction of the beautiful thing that happens when you put undisputed talent together with endless amounts of hard work.

Best moments of the album: DNA, Never Born, Elohim and Frame of the End.

Worst moments of the album: Destiny Never Awaits.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Abduction 1:12
2. DNA 5:27
3. False Flag Operation 5:00
4. Never Born 5:43
5. Hail to the Masters 4:27
6. Red and White 5:04
7. Elohim 5:26
8. Nothing Will Remain 5:31
9. Fire from the Dust 6:21
10. Destiny Never Awaits 5:41
11. Frame of the End 5:00
12. Part of This World 6:05
13. Ya Nada Cambiara 5:31

King Records Edition bonus track
14. Never Born (Japanese version) 5:41

Band members
Ivan Giannini – vocals
Enrico Pistolese – guitars
Dario Radaelli – guitars
Marco Banfi – bass
Marco Garau – keyboards
Salvatore Giordano – drums