Album Review – Heterogeneous Andead / Chaotic Fragments (2022)

A chaotic amalgamation of metal and non-metal styles beautifully brought into being by one of the most creative bands of the current Japanese scene.

Formed in 2013 in the metropolitan city of Tokyo, Japan, the idiosyncratic Symphonic Death/Thrash Metal unity that goes by the curious name of Heterogeneous Andead has just released their sophomore album, entitled Chaotic Fragments, the follow up to their 2018 debut album Deus Ex Machina. Comprised of Haruka Morikawa on vocals and Yusuke Kiyama on the guitars, synthesizers and programming (not to mention drummer Tomoyuki Nakano, who left the band shortly after the recordings of Chaotic Fragments), Heterogeneous Andead play a very unique style of heavy music that can be labeled as “Melodic and Symphonic Electro Death/Thrash Metal”, and it’s quite easy to identify all those elements in their new album, sounding very harmonious but at the same time chaotic, progressive but at the same time violent, and delicate but at the same time energetic.

The band begins a Speed and Thrash Metal-inspired attack entitled The Void Sacrifice, with Yusuke slashing his stringed axe while Haruka alternates between gnarling deeply in an old school Death Metal way and her operatic vocals; and the Anime-like keys and synths by Yusuke will penetrate deep inside your mind in Fragments of Memories, sounding as if you’re placed inside a video game where the soundtrack is ass-kicking heavy music, not to mention how awesome the drums by Tomoyuki sound and feel. Tomoyuki continues to crush his drums accompanied by the wicked riffs and keys by Yusuke in Last Reverie, fast and thrilling from start to finish with Haruka once again being a princess and a she-demon incarnate on vocals. Then close your eyes and succumb to the breathtaking Symphonic and Electronic Death Metal by Heterogeneous Andead in Beautiful Nightmare, also presenting elements from the Black Metal played by Cradle of Filth, or in other words, it’s nonstop adrenaline flowing through our avid ears.

Fission brings forward a fusion of the heaviness and rage of Death and Thrash Metal with the insanity of electronic music, with Haruka stealing the spotlight with another kick-ass vocal performance; whereas putting the pedal to the metal the trio fires the high-octane Mirror of the Lie, with its background keys adding hints of epicness to the demented Death Metal sounds blasted, once again reminding me of the heaviest and craziest Gothic Metal bands from the 80’s with a Black Metal twist. Their second to last explosion of idiosyncratic sounds is offered in the form of Regrettable, where Haruka’s barks make a beautiful paradox with the keys by Yusuke and obviously with her own operatic vocals, all supported by the classic blast beats by Tomoyuki. There’s time for one more round of their striking music with over eight minutes of flammable riffs and solos, sinister keys and massive beats entitled Licking, which despite lacking the creativity of the previous songs still provides a powerful ending to the album.

While Haruka and Yusuke search for a new guitarist, a new bassist and a new drummer to join them in their quest for heavy music, you can enjoy Chaotic Fragments in full on Spotify, as well as follow the band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel. In addition, in order to show all your support and admiration for Heterogeneous Andead, you can purchase their classy new album by clicking HERE, or from Qobuz. You won’t regret succumbing to the chaotic and experimental music brought into being by Heterogeneous Andead, proving once and for all that if innovation is your cup of tea in heavy music, the beautiful Japan will always be your place to go.

Best moments of the album: The Void Sacrifice, Beautiful Nightmare and Mirror of the Lie.

Worst moments of the album: Licking.

Released in 2022 WormHoleDeath

Track listing
1. The Void Sacrifice 4:49
2. Fragments of Memories 8:26
3. Last Reverie 5:24
4. Beautiful Nightmare 6:53
5. Fission 6:05
6. Mirror of the Lie 5:34
7. Regrettable 5:23
8. Licking 8:29

Band members
Haruka Morikawa – vocals
Yusuke Kiyama – guitars, synthesizers, programming
Tomoyuki Nakano – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Haruka Morikawa

A beautiful Japanese nightmare!

As we’re getting closer and closer to the end of another year of pure fuckin’ metal, let’s keep banging our heads nonstop to another extremely talented woman from the underground scene, this time hailing from Japan, or as several people like to call it, the “Land of the Rising Sun”. Easily switching between deep, demonic growls and an angelic, operatic voice, our metal lady of the month of November has been making a strong impact not only on the underground scene in her homeland, but her voice has been echoing all over the world and, therefore, attracting the attention of a wide variety of headbangers worldwide. I’m talking about Haruka Morikawa, also simply known as Haruka, the lead singer for Japanese Melodic/Symphonic Electro Death/Thrash Metal band Heterogeneous Andead, and just by the name of the band and the type of music they play you know you’re in for a treat in our humble tribute to such unique vocalist.

Born and raised in Japan, the skillful Haruka has been the voice of Tokyo’s own Heterogeneous Andead since April 2014, when the band’s current style reached its desired shape and form. However, the band was formed a little before that, though, starting as a project named Andead by founder and multi-instrumentalist Yusuke Kiyama in 2012, changing its name to Heterogeneous Andead in 2013 when they started playing some live concerts. Singing about caustic topics such as sorrow, grief and despair, Heterogeneous Andead have already released one EP and two full-length albums in their career, those being their 2015 debut EP Undead, the 2017 album Deus Ex Machina, and now in 2022 the album Chaotic Fragments, which will be reviewed by The Headbanging Moose sooner than you can say “Japan” and is already available for purchasing HERE. In addition to those, the band was also featured in the compilations Fear Candy 150 (Terrorizer Magazine, 2015), 嘘。(BM Records, 2015), Bad Wish (BM Records, 2015), Halloween – Trick Or Treat (BM Records, 2015), Imperative Music Compilation DVD Vol. 14 (Imperative Music, 2017), and Metal Japan Heavy Chains Vol.5 TieUp ConneXion #2 (Metal Japan Records, 2019).

Heterogeneous Andead have been suffering with several lineup changes lately, with guitarist Sho and bassist Takashi Onitake leaving the band in December 2021 and drummer Tomoyuki Nakano also leaving the band in July this year, which means Yusuke and Haruka are currently searching for a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer to join them in their quest for heavy music. I’m sure they’ll find some talented musicians to be part of the band soon, and until then you can enjoy Haruka’s unique vocals in the official videos for the amazing songs Denied, Automaton and Fission, as well as live recordings of the songs Demise of Reign, Flash of Calamity and Denied live at WildSideTokyo on September 16, 2019, and Unleashed live on February 11, 2017 at Shinjuku Head Power. Furthermore, you can always stream all of the band’s creations on Spotify as well.

An admirer of Classical Music, Jazz, Electronic Pop, Brutal Death Metal and Grindcore, the stunning Haruka doesn’t only mesmerize us all with her mezzo-soprano vocals, singing like an angel, and with her guttural growls and screeches, sounding like a devil, but she also makes sure her looks on stage are in sync with the music being played. According to her bandmate Yusuke, the concept of costumes is basically darkness or gorgeousness influenced by Japanese visual kei, a movement among Japanese musicians that is characterized by the use of varying levels of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, often, but not always, coupled with androgynous aesthetics, similar to Western Glam Rock. Simply watch the aforementioned videos of the band, as well as their live performances, and you’ll see the incredible fusion of music and visuals in their creations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Owner of a natural Anime voice (according to the band itself), when asked about how she manages to go from her growls to her mezzo-soprano voice (and back) in seconds without having any sort of vocal issues, Haruka said she has already found the perfect way to switch from one style to another, complementing she has never lost her voice due to that extreme change. In one of her interviews our beloved vocalist said that although she didn’t feel her voice was the most remarkable piece of her identity in the beginning, she now understands and feels the power of her voice as part of her character, saying that it was Yusuke who inspired her to sing both harsh and clean vocals when she first joined the band. It was a challenge for her at first, of course, but Yusuke made sure he adapted part of the band’s style to match with her abilities, resulting in a win-win situation for both him and Haruka as the music by Heterogeneous Andead sounds fantastic nowadays. If you’re in Japan you might be lucky enough to witness them playing live, which occurs only once or twice a month, and despite not filling up big venues yet they certainly have a decent amount of followers that always attend their concerts.

Regarding the metal scene in Japan and how well their unique type of Extreme Metal is accepted in the country, Haruka mentioned during an interview that she can see metal bands having issues playing in countries or regions where the catholic church is very strong, but that’s not a problem in Japan as most of the Japanese population doesn’t follow any religion (or at least they don’t follow it blindly, I might say). What’s interesting is that Haruka is a Protestant Christian herself (and she mentioned only 1% of the country is Christian, by the way), but fortunately music and religion are not connected in any particular way in Japan. She also said that because she follows a Christian way of living she believes she can better express herself when singing with Heterogeneous Andead, externalizing all the sorrow and grief from the lyrics in great fashion.

You can watch a few fun and informative interviews on YouTube with Haruka, who’s by the way a big fan of our beloved monster Godzilla. For example, you can enjoy this nice interview to Antichrist Magazine in 2018 where Haruka and Yusuke talk about their previous album Deus Ex Machina; and this one to the Argentinian webzine Territorio Rock, also in 2018. And last but not least, anytime you watch a live performance by Haruka with Heterogeneous Andead you’ll certainly notice her movements are very theatrical, adding an extra touch of finesse to the overall result. The reason for that is that not only Haruka was part of plays and musicals when she was a student, but she also practiced Aikido, a modern Japanese martial art that is split into many different styles, during her childhood, allowing her to improve the visual effects of her personal performance while singing at the same time. In other words, don’t mess with Haruka or you’ll get your ass kicked, got it? Simply relax and enjoy her unique vocals to the fullest, proving how much Japan is and will always be one of the most creative countries in the world when the music in question is Heavy Metal.

Haruka Morikawa’s Official Twitter
Heterogeneous Andead’s Official Facebook page
Heterogeneous Andead’s Official YouTube channel
Heterogeneous Andead’s Official Twitter

Album Review – Vampiric / Supernatural Tales (2020)

Phoenix, Arizona’s own lone wolf returns with more of his blood-soaked Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal in a tribute to darkness and the supernatural.

Arising from the depths of his lair less than one year after the release of his debut full-length album The Magic of the Night, the Phoenix, Arizona-based one-man army Nik Williams, the mastermind behind Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal entity Vampiric, is back with more of his blood-soaked, dark and captivating music in his brand new opus entitled Supernatural Tales, bringing to our ears more of his fusion of extreme and symphonic sounds while singing about vampires, wolves and other creatures of the night. Not only that, Nik once again did everything by himself, including all music, lyrics, artwork and so on, proving how passionate he is about heavy music and vampirism, and how his undeniable talent allows him to unite those two distinct topics into a collection of dynamic and obscure compositions.

Phantasmagorical synths and a stench of blood permeate the air in the opening track Endless Night, where Nik generates a bold atmosphere with all instruments, also firing both harsh growls and cryptic clean vocals and uniting Black and Thrash Metal in the name of darkness. In Bloodthirst we’re treated to sheer brutality, with Nik barking the song’s vampiric lyrics manically (“Do you hear it? / Does it not sound like the shadows calling your name? / At midnight’s strike, piercing the dark / Calling to you as if in dream / His presence made known / His shadow crawls across the wall”) while the music brings a fusion of Second-Wave Black Metal with classic Bay Area Thrash, all spiced up by its background keys; and blasting a more straightforward and rockin’ sonority, Nik offers us all the dark and dancing tune The Wolves Of Winter, showcasing slashing riffs and massive beats and bass punches, being tailored for admirers of Gothic Rock and Metal from the 80’s and 90’s with a more venomous twist. Then Nik continues to blast his drums and extract sheer malignancy from his guitar, resulting in a hybrid of Blackened Death Metal and Symphonic Black Metal entitled Heart Of Fire, where our lone wolf sings about how fear sometimes controls our lives (“Rise from the fire whose flames burn you not / Become the fire / It matters not the fear that lives inside of your heart / But how you go forth and face that fear / Times of turmoil beget times of peace”).

Melodic guitars ignite the also frantic and obscure The Embrace Of The Vampire, with Nik growling and gnarling while at the same time generating a truly wicked ambience with his Phantom of the Opera-inspired keys, also presenting some elements found in the music by the almighty Cradle Of Filth, whereas an exciting ride through the lands of Rock N’ Roll, Black Metal and symphonic music is condensed into the multi-layered The Darkness Reborn, where Nik does a superb job with all instruments, in special with his demonic riffage and vicious roars. A Descent Into Madness is a visceral, in-your-face Extreme Metal tune where the bass sounds are absolutely metallic and thunderous, making a solid paradox with all the ethereal keys in the background, while Fall From The Sky leans towards the rawer musicality from his 2019 album, also bringing forward a spot-on balance between aggressiveness and melody while the drums sound as Black Metal as they can be. It’s a bit lengthy, though, despite all of its breaks and variations, but nothing to worry about, before the cinematic outro The Dawn Is No More puts a melancholic and at the same time epic conclusion to this bloodthirsty album.

Not only Supernatural Tales represents a healthy and interesting step forward in the career of Nik Williams and his Vampiric, but it’s also a solid statement that Nik is an unstoppable force of the underground, always working on new material and always eager to release original music to fans of that more extreme side of metal, having released so far two excellent albums in less than one year, and I’m not even counting his debut EP Death Tore Through, also released in 2019. Hence, you can show your support to such up-and-coming, hardworking artist by following him on Facebook, by subscribing to his official YouTube channel, and obviously by purchasing Supernatural Tales sooner than you can expect from his own BandCamp page (where you can by the way take a listen at a couple of his new songs already, as well as his previous releases). In a nutshell, in praising darkness and the supernatural with his new album, Nik is also carving his name in the metal underworld, leaving us eager for more of his vampiric tales and extreme sounds until the end of days.

Best moments of the album: Bloodthirst, The Wolves Of Winter and The Darkness Reborn.

Worst moments of the album: Fall From The Sky.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Endless Night 5:28
2. Bloodthirst 2:50
3. The Wolves Of Winter 5:40
4. Heart Of Fire 4:51
5. The Embrace Of The Vampire 5:31
6. The Darkness Reborn 3:36
7. A Descent Into Madness 3:20
8. Fall From The Sky 6:22
9. The Dawn Is No More (Outro) 2:31

Band members
Nik Williams – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Dragonlord / Dominion (2018)

Exploring themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, here comes Eric Peterson’s fantastic Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.

After long and excruciating 13 years, San Francisco, California-based Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal horde Dragonlord, the brainchild of Testament’s own Eric Peterson where he’s able to showcase his darkened side, is finally back with a brand new opus, titled Dominion. Serving as the long-awaited follow-up to their 2005 release Black Wings of Destiny, but taking the fantasy and storytelling to a whole new level, Dominion explores themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, and things that have come to pass. In addition to Eric Peterson on vocals, guitar and bass, Dominion features the musical talents of Lyle Livingston (Psypheria) on orchestrated keys and pianos, Alex Bent (Trivium) on drums, and notable fantasy metal singer Leah McHenry (Leah) on female vocals and choirs, who has performed and recorded with members of renowned acts like Blind Guardian, Nightwish and Delain, among others.

Featuring a stunning artwork painted by Berlin-based Israeli artist and designer Eliran Kantor (Testament, Iced Earth, Sodom), Dominion is a dark fantasy fan’s musical dream, exploring everything from Nordic history to Lord of the Rings, with its eight songs creating a deep and heady musical journey rife with meaning and menace, from the blackest and loudest recesses of Eric Peterson’s mind. If you’re a fan of the superb work done by Mr. Peterson with Thrash Metal titans Testament, you might be surprised by how visceral, epic and imposing his guitar sounds with Dragonlord, not to mention his devilish gnarls, turning Dominion into a must-have for fans not only of the Symphonic Black Metal genre, but also for anyone else who admires high-quality and vibrant extreme music.

The always mesmerizing sounds of thunder and rain open the gates of the underworld in the intro titled Entrance, before Eric comes ripping with his ass-kicking guitar, all embraced by an epic atmosphere and suddenly exploding into the fantastic title-track Dominion, presenting insane keys and an imposing background choir, while Alex proves why he’s one of the most talented drummers of the current metal scene and Eric sounds bestial with his enraged roars. Put differently, this full-bodied and very detailed lesson in Symphonic Black Metal is what Dimmu Borgir should be doing, and their sonic onslaught of piercing and Stygian metal music goes on in Ominous Premonition, getting faster, more demonic and absolutely amazing, with the keys by Lyle being a thing of beauty while Eric not only growls like a demon, but his riffs and solos are also majestic as usual.

In Lamia it’s quite impressive how Eric’s riffs and Lyle’s keys and orchestrations blend so perfectly, with guest vocalist Leha providing a touch of delicacy and passion amidst all devastation blasted by the rest of the band; whereas epicness and lust beautifully flow from all instruments in the stunning Love of the Damned, a Symphonic Black Metal ballad where Eric’s vocals get more introspective and deep (and I would simply love to see them performing this song live). Then it’s time for a journey to the mighty North in Northlanders, with the bitterly cold riffs by Eric and the gripping keys by Lyle being enhanced by Alex’s precise and potent beats, while the ambience remains as epic as possible in a flawless hybrid between Black Metal and Symphonic Metal.

Dragonlord Dominion Ultimate Dragonlair Merch Bundle

Then featuring Tilen Hudrap (Vicious Rumors, Wartune, Thraw) on bass, The Discord of Melkor is perhaps the most Black Metal of all tracks, a dark symphony of classic and vibrant metal music that sounds very dense thanks to the brutality blasted by Alex on drums, whereas Serpents of Fire, the last song in Dominion, is just as fantastic as the rest of this very detailed and thrilling album, with Eric growling and gnarling demonically while Alex and Lyle generate a massive wall of symphonic and violent sounds, resulting in over eight minutes of a captivating and bold sonority for our total delectation, not to mention how its climatic ending gets closer to the Thrash Metal by Testament, therefore adding an extra pinch of adrenaline to the overall result.

If you think that my words are not enough to describe the music in Dominion, I highly recommend you go watch “The Making of Dominion” video series on YouTube (split into parts one, two and three), and in order to get more details about Dragonlord simply go visit their official Facebook page. In addition, from all album versions and bundles available in the market, apart from the digital options you should definitely take a look at the physical combos available from the Spinefarm Records’ webstore, especially the beyond superb “Ultimate Dragonlair” merch bundle, featuring the LP gatefold version with a large-size 20-page lyric booklet, the CD digipack, a copy of the unparalleled “The Burner” comic book, and a stylish T-shirt. But be aware that, once you enter the dangerous dominion of Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal ruled by Eric Peterson and his Dragonlord, there’s no turning back.

Best moments of the album: Dominion, Love of the Damned, Northlanders and The Discord of Melkor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Spinefarm Records

Track listing
1. Entrance 2:34
2. Dominion 5:36
3. Ominous Premonition 4:40
4. Lamia 4:15
5. Love of the Damned 5:21
6. Northlanders 6:45
7. The Discord of Melkor (feat. Tilen Hudrap) 7:09
8. Serpents of Fire 8:09

Band members
Eric Peterson – vocals, guitars, bass
Lyle Livingston – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Leah McHenry – female vocals, choirs
Tilen Hudrap – bass “on Discord of Melkor”