Album Review – Sepulchre by the Sea / Ratiocination EP (2021)

Bristol, UK’s own Atmospheric Black Metal one-man army returns with a classy new EP inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s famous Ratiocinations detective stories.

3.0rating

sepulchre-by-the-sea-ratiocination-ep-2021Less than one year after the release of the full-length opus Conqueror Worm, the talented Bristol, UK-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Shannon and his Atmospheric Black Metal alter-ego Sepulchre by the Sea are back in action with a brand new EP, entitled Ratiocinations. Recorded during the winter lockdown and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s famous Ratiocinations detective stories, this 26-minute EP brings to our avid ears another round of the dense, dark and absolutely captivating sound carefully crafted by Ash, keeping the gears of Sepulchre by the Sea turning smoothly and providing us a very good indication of the path that the project will follow with its upcoming releases.

A cinematic intro warms up the listener for the darkness that’s about to explode in Ghost of the Departed, with Ash screaming like a demonic entity nonstop while he extracts razor-edged riffs from his guitar at the same time. Put differently, this is classic Atmospheric Back Metal made in the UK, flowing smoothly until its Stygian finale; and Ash fires another dense and incendiary tune titled Beast Made Flesh, presenting elements of Scandinavian Black Metal added to its core. Moreover, Ash is simply on fire with his blast beats, mayhemic riffage and infernal growling, resulting in a more obscure and heavier sound than in the opening track. Lastly, get ready for 12 minutes of undisputed Atmospheric Black Metal in the form of the title-track Ratiocinations, with a gentle intro morphing into a demented feast of blast beats and sick guitar lines by Ash. It’s by far one of his strongest and most detailed creations to date, a multi-layered aria of darkness sounding like three or four songs in one due to all of its unique passages, breaks and variations, therefore putting a climatic ending to the EP.

sepulchre-by-the-sea-logo-2021Ash and his Sepulchre by the Sea are waiting for you on Facebook and on Instagram (and I’m sure he’ll love to hear what you have to say about his music), and don’t forget to also stream all of his first-class creations on Spotify and, above all that, to purchase Ratiocinations from his own BandCamp page or by clicking HERE. It’s always a pleasure seeing different bands and projects drawing inspiration from such important writers and poets the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, and in the case of Ash and Sepulchre by the Sea we can already say it’s getting harder and harder to identify if it’s a metal band inspired by Poe’s undisputed work or if it’s Poe’s poetry turned into top-of-the-line metal music, proving how talented Ash is and, consequently, leaving us eager for another round of his atmospheric creations in the near future.

Best moments of the album: Ratiocinations.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing   
1. Ghost of the Departed 8:24
2. Beast Made Flesh 5:45
3. Ratiocinations 12:00

Band members
Ashley Shannon – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Iron Maiden / Senjutsu (2021)

Behold another masterpiece by the one and only Iron Maiden with its 82 minutes of tactics, strategy, war, resilience and determination in the form of majestic Heavy Metal.

5.0rating

iron-maiden-senjutsu-2021“Have you seen the writing on the wall?”

The wait is finally over. After nearly six years, Senjutsu (or 戦術 in Japanese, loosely translated as “tactics and strategy”), the seventeenth studio album by British Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden, has finally seen the light of day, and let me tell you each second waiting for such masterpiece was absolutely worth it. Marking the longest gap between two Iron Maiden studio albums following The Book of Souls from 2015, Senjutsu is also the band’s second double album, again using their original logotype (with the extended letters R, M and N) like in The Book of Souls, their first studio album since their 1984 cult album Powerslave to have no songwriting contributions from Dave Murray in any way, and the first since their 1998 opus Virtual XI to feature multiple songs written by Steve Harris alone. Once again recorded at Studios Guillaume Tell in Paris, produced by Kevin Shirley, co-produced by Steve Harris, and displaying a formidable samurai version of our beloved Eddie on the artwork designed by Mark Wilkinson (with the name of the album rendered on the right side of the cover art by the actual vertical Japanese spelling of “senjutsu” and on the left side by a font reminiscent of Japanese characters), Senjutsu takes the band back to the darker and edgier sound from albums the likes of The X-Factor, A Matter of Life and Death, The Final Frontier and The Book of Souls, showcasing another brilliant work done by the unstoppable Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain.

Traditional Japanese drums ignite the obscure and introspective title-track Senjutsu, offering us Maidenmaniacs over eight minutes of epicness to properly kick things off with Bruce already mesmerizing us all with his unique voice. Moreover, I love how his vocals walk hand in hand with the guitars by Dave, Adrian and Janick, not to mention the song’s ritualistic vibe (similar to what they did in their previous album with “If Eternity Should Fail”), followed by the already known tune Stratego with its lyrics full of metaphors about how hard it is for anyone to face their own lives (“How do you read a madman’s mind / Teach me the art of war / For I shall bring more / Than you bargained for”), while Nicko and Steve take care of that amazing galloping sound that became the band’s trademark, not to mention the song’s stunning guitar solos. Then we have The Writing on the Wall, the first single of the album which you might have probably listened to countless times already, where a country and southern vibe together with its catchy-as-hell chorus declaimed by Bruce (“Have you seen the writing on the wall / Have you seen that writing / Can you see the riders on the storm / Can you see them riding / Can you see them riding… Riding next to you”) turn it into the perfect option for hitting the road with your loved ones.

Lost in a Lost World brings forward another sinister intro to the sound of acoustic guitars that feels like it was taken from one of Bruce’s solo albums, exploding into a fusion of The X-Factor, Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death with a lot of elements from Progressive Rock and Metal added to their core sonority, and with Steve’s bass lines being superb as usual, punching you right in your face, whereas back to a heavier sound we’re treated to the mid-tempo, rockin’ feast titled Days of Future Past, again blending classic Iron Maiden with Bruce’s solo material and displaying an amazing job done by the band’s guitar triumvirate accompanied by the pounding drums by an inspired Nicko. Needless to say, it will sound amazing if added to their live performances. Then beginning in a similar way as The Final Frontier’s “The Talisman”, The Time Machine presents a more cadenced pace with the background keys by Steve complementing the sharp work by the guitar boys, evolving into a sick galloping and diverse extravaganza halfway through it; and the sound of the ocean brings comfort to our hearts before Iron Maiden once again hypnotize us all in Darkest Hour, a somber ballad in the vein of A Matter of Life and Death’s “Out of the Shadows” but with a stronger vibe, all spiced up by their undisputed, soulful guitar solos.

iron-maiden-senjutsu-super-deluxe-boxset

Iron Maiden Senjutsu Super Deluxe Boxset

The last batch of songs from Senjutsu was entirely written by Steve Harris, and let me tell you it’s a flawless lesson in rock and metal music, starting with his undisputed bass lines in Death of the Celts, being gradually joined by Nicko and the rest of the crew. What a bold, multi-layered metal voyage by the band, overflowing epicness, progressiveness and electricity nonstop, spearheaded by the rumbling kitchen by Steve and Nicko, of course. And you better get ready for over 12 minutes of majestic Heavy Metal in the form of The Parchment, once again beginning in a serene, cryptic manner and evolving into a very progressive mid-tempo sound. Bruce’s vocals are utterly imposing and epic from start to finish, with Dave, Janick and Adrian being on total fire with their stringed axes. And lastly, Hell on Earth is a song that gave me goosebumps from the very first second, as soon as I started listening to it, feeling like “The Aftermath” from The X-Factor but at the same time a lot more intricate and powerful, with Steve and Nicko taking the lead while Dave, Adrian and Janick deliver sheer melody through their incendiary riffs, providing Bruce all he needs to flawlessly tell the story proposed in the song until all fades into the unknown in a somber and climatic manner. In other words, thank you, Mr. Steve Harris, for being so awesome.

iron-maiden-2021To be fair, there are no actual words I can choose to describe all the darkness, the energy, the details and the intricacy found in Senjutsu. It’s simply incredible how Iron Maiden managed to deliver such masterpiece without sounding outdated, repetitive or bland after so many decades on the road, leaving us all eager for another studio album, for their next tour, for more Eddies and so on, even knowing all members are in their 60’s already (as a matter of fact, Nicko is almost 70). Not only that, the way they promoted the new album on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube from day one, including the fun ride that was “Belshazzar’s Feast” (a story from the Book of Daniel in the Bible, also known as ​“the story of the writing on the wall”, with the initials WOTW cropping up in a lot of Iron Maiden-related places), was beyond entertaining, proving the band trespassed the barriers of music with Senjutsu. Furthermore, this is also one of those situations where buying the physical album, despite the fact we live in a digital world, is almost mandatory, especially if you go for the Super Deluxe Boxset, or even better, for the FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box, which will deserve its own review as soon as I receive it next week. And now please excuse me, as I need to get back to Senjutsu and listen to it another billion times on a loop for the foreseeable future, just the way it’s supposed to be when the band in question is the almighty Iron Maiden.

Best moments of the album: Senjutsu, Days of Future Past, Death of the Celts, The Parchment and Hell on Earth.

Worst moments of the album: I’m still trying to find one.

Released in 2021 Parlophone/Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG

Track listing 
1. Senjutsu 8:20
2. Stratego 4:59
3. The Writing on the Wall 6:13
4. Lost in a Lost World 9:31
5. Days of Future Past 4:03
6. The Time Machine 7:09
7. Darkest Hour 7:20
8. Death of the Celts 10:20
9. The Parchment 12:39
10. Hell on Earth 11:19

FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box/Super Deluxe Boxset Bonus Disc (Blu-ray)
1.The Writing on the Wall documentary

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Interview – Alex Mancini (Unknown Refuge)

Do you know what it is to grow up in the digital age of expression? Let’s have a chat with Alex Mancini, the talented vocalist and bassist for UK rockers Unknown Refuge, where he talks about that, the band’s debut album From The Darkness, and a lot more.

alex-mancini-unknown-refuge

Alex Mancini (Unknown Refuge)

The Headbanging Moose: Thank you for your time in chatting with us today! Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers and talk a little about the idea behind Unknown Refuge?

Alex Mancini: Hi I’m Alex, I’m the lead singer from Unknown refuge, we originally formed in 2016. The idea Unknown Refuge really came from us needing a band name for our first gig, we looked around where we were rehearsing and I saw a sign that said refuge point which made me wonder where mine was and that’s where the idea Unknown Refuge came from.

THM: You guys have just released your debut album From The Darkness. How difficult was it for the band to record it, and what inspired each band member to write the songs from the album?

AM:   It wasn’t too difficult for the band to record it, it was just difficult in terms of organizing a time where we were all available to pit aside a few weeks. The songs primarily stem from things I come across in my own life and I reflect these themes through use of ideas such as mythology, wars and some of my own personal experiences.

THM: I had a very good time enjoying each and every track from the album, but of course everyone has a favorite song and in my case it’s I’m Not A Bad Guy. I just love the pace, the punch and the lyrics from this specific song. What about you guys? Which song or songs from the album are your favorite ones and why?

Alex: My favourite is Journey because it depicts a lot of my life and I really enjoy playing it.

Morgan Deveney (drums): I’d say Battle Hymn  is my favorite I just love the energy behind the riff and the drums.

Jack Tracey (lead guitar): I really like playing Palace Walls, I quite like the breakdown and think it gives it a really good feel.

Harry Skinner (rhythm guitar): I’d say my favorite is To The Light,  I just really enjoy that opening riff.

THM: Who are your main idols in music and in life in general, and how much do they influence the band’s style and lyrical content?

AM:   I’d say we take a lot of influence from old metal bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slash and we try and incorporate that with new ideas to form what we believe is a new style of Hard Rock/Metal.

unknown-refuge-from-the-darkness-2021_150x150

Album Review – Unknown Refuge / From The Darkness (2021)

THM: You might be tired already of answering questions about the effect of COVID-19 to the music scene worldwide, with of course a huge negative impact on the shows and events industry. How has this pandemic been to you guys? As you’re a fairly new band, do you think you’re suffering more or less than established bands out there?

AM: We’ve definitely been suffering less than bands that completely rely on that income. Fortunately we have jobs on the side as this isn’t our full time career; however it has presented its own struggles with trying to produce new music and get people interested whilst no gigs are available.

THM: When Unknown Refuge was formed back in 2016, you were still teenagers in your 15’s. How have you guys managed the balance between Unknown Refuge and your studies since the band’s inception? Apart from touring, of course, what else in your student’s life is let’s say hampering your work with the band?

AM: Music is something that we all love deeply and I believe that no matter what we’re doing outside of that we’ll always try and make the time to progress our musical careers as much as we can.

THM: All band members are really young and were pretty much born already in the digital era. However, I would like to know your opinion on illegal downloads, on streaming services such as Spotify versus buying the physical copy of an album, and so on. And taking all that into account, how do you envision the future of the music industry in the coming years?

AM: That’s a tough one, I personally love physical copies of music, I do not agree with illegal streaming or downloading and I think places such as Spotify and streaming services like that are slowly killing the music industry. I know that that’s how people consume content nowadays, I can’t see that changing, but for me personally I think physical copies will always hold a place in my heart as that’s what I was around whilst growing up with rocker parents.

THM: Let’s have some fun now and talk about what could be considered a “dream tour” for Unknown Refuge. If you could choose 2 or 3 bands to tour with for one year, who would those be and why?

AM: I’d say Alter Bridge, Volbeat and Iron Maiden would be absolutely amazing. We are all huge fans of these and to play with bands that we admire so much would be a dream come true.

unknown-refuge

Unknown Refuge

THM: What’s next for Unknown Refuge? Now that you have already released your first album, which is the most important milestone for any band, what else do you have planned for the band in the short and long term?

AM: As soon as we are able we are going to get out and gig as much as possible, beyond that hopefully we will have new material written and be looking at recording a second album soon.

THM: Once again, thanks a lot for your time and for letting us know a little more about Unknown Refuge! Keep on rockin’, and please feel free to send any final messages you want to our readers.

AM: Thank you for having us, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, and if you haven’t then please checkout our website and Facebook for updates as to what we have coming up!

Links
Unknown Refuge Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify | BandCamp | Big Cartel

Album Review – Unknown Refuge / From The Darkness (2021)

Get ready to rock to the debut album by four young musicians hailing from the UK, offering us all ten electrifying songs dealing with the struggles of growing up in the digital age of expression.

Formed early in 2016 by Alex Mancini, then aged 15 as lead singer, and four friends from the Music and Performing Arts Service in Salford, a large English town directly west of Manchester city center, Bolton-based Hard Rock outfit Unknown Refuge offers an accomplished, mature sound and performance that will set your fillings on edge despite the young ages of its members, those being the aforementioned Alex Mancini on vocals and bass, Jack Tracey and Harry Skinner on the guitars, and Morgan Deveney on drums. Now in 2021 it’s time for such promising act to unleash upon us their debut album, entitled From The Darkness, a 10-track electrifying opus showcasing forward-thinking from those young rockers and demonstrating laser-sharp musicianship accompanied by thoughtful songwriting, telling the evolution of a songwriter’s life growing up as a teenager, the personal interests during those years as well as capturing some of the struggles faced while growing up in the digital age of expression.

The cinematic, obscure intro From The Darkness sets the stage for the quartet to kick some ass in To The Light, where Jack already fires a sick guitar solo as his welcome card, accompanied by the classic vocals by Alex and the rhythmic beats by Morgan, blending the most incendiary elements form Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll and old school Heavy Metal. Then with Alex’s menacing bass and Morgan’s heavy beats generating a thunderous ambience, the band fires the old school feast titled Kicked To The Floor, highly recommended for fans of the modern rock and metal music crafted by Alter Bridge; and it’s time for the boys to put the pedal to the metal and blast a Motörhead-fueled rockin’ tune titled Battle Hymn, showcasing slashing riffs by Jack and Harry while Alex leads his crew with his straightforward vocals and thunderous bass punches. And Shadows is another great composition by Unknown Refuge, bringing elements from the music by Volbeat and Godsmack to their core Hard Rock, with Morgan pounding his drums mercilessly nonstop.

Presenting hints of 80’s Heavy and Progressive Metal, which only proves how versatile the band is, Palace Walls is slightly darker than its predecessors, with Jack and Harry showcasing another awesome job on the guitars, not to mention how smoothly Alex’s vocals flow from start to finish, whereas razor-edged riffs ignite the also fun and vibrant Wall Of Lies, once again blending the past and present of rock music and with its thrilling pace being led by the rhythmic drumming by Morgan. Following such entertaining song, we face another round of their kick-ass modern-day Hard Rock in If The Gods Be Good, with Alex being supported by the band’s classic backing vocals, therefore being perfect for hitting the road or raising your horns on the dance floor. And speeding things up a bit, the quartet fires the Godsmack-inspired extravaganza I’m Not A Bad Guy, offering a hybrid of Alternative Rock and Metal with old school thrash the likes of Metallica, also with Jack and Harry being on absolute fire from start to finish. And last but not least, old school, epic riffs kick off the closing tune titled Journey, with its headbanging rhythm and dense atmosphere being exactly what Alex needs to declaim the song’s pensive words, putting a climatic ending to such powerful album of Rock N’ Roll.

It’s quite easy to join the boys from Unknown Refuge in their quest for Rock N’ Roll. All you need to do is follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, stream their music on Spotify, and above all that, grab your copy of From The Darkness from their own BandCamp page or Big Cartel (where by the way you’ll find an amazing bundle containing a CD, a charcoal grey Unknown Refuge shirt and four beer mats), or from Apple Music. Growing up as a teenager anywhere in the world nowadays is a true pain in the ass, but there’s nothing better than our good old Rock N’ Roll to guide us through such difficult times, just like what Unknown Refuge did in their debut album. That being said, how about hitting the dance floor to the high-octane music found in From The Darkness? It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or a grown-up, that will definitely make your day a lot better.

Best moments of the album: To The Light, Battle Hymn and I’m Not A Bad Guy.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. From The Darkness 1:09
2. To The Light 5:09
3. Kicked To The Floor 4:56
4. Battle Hymn 5:04
5. Shadows 3:32
6. Palace Walls 4:46
7. Wall Of Lies 3:23
8. If The Gods Be Good 3:14
9. I’m Not A Bad Guy 3:10
10. Journey 5:16

Band members
Alex Mancini – vocals, bass
Jack Tracey – lead guitar
Harry Skinner – rhythm guitar
Morgan Deveney – drums

Album Review – Maverick / Ethereality (2021)

The unstoppable “Balfour Brothers” are back in action with another explosion of old school, electrifying Hard Rock and Heavy Metal from their ethereal new album.

After three years in the making, including delays in the recording process due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ethereality, the brand new album by Belfast, Northern Ireland-based Hard Rock group Maverick is ready to see the light of day, bringing to our avid ears all of the trademark elements that helped the “Balfour Brothers” David (vocals) and Ryan (guitars) to conquer the hearts of admirers of old school rock and metal music from all over the world. Combining the catchy, hookline oriented songwriting from their 2016 album Big Red with the heaviness of their 2018 opus Cold Star Dancer, and featuring a beautiful artwork by Ukrainian artist Cardaan, Maverick is indeed an ethereal album of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, resulting in the strongest effort to date by David and Ryan together with their bandmates Ric Cardwell on the guitars, Richie Diver on bass, and newcomer Jason-Steve Mageney on drums.

Falling already kicks off in full force to the piercing vocals by David in a stunning display of classic Hard Rock by Maverick, reminding me of the golden years of Skid Row, Def Lepard and all of our 80’s Hair Metal heroes; and Ryan and Ric keep slashing their strings in great fashion in Thirst, another very melodic and electrifying tune with Jason kicking some ass with his old school beats, being perfect for any Rock N’ Roll party from all around the world. Never is a thrilling song for hitting the road with your loved ones, showcasing the always soaring voice by David supported by his bandmates spot-on backing vocals, while Richie and Jason are in total sync with their respective bass jabs and stylish beats, whereas in Switchblade Sister we’re treated to old school Glam Metal lyrics (“I know / I’m never number one when you need someone to hold you / But I’ll do just fine / Can’t help / But laugh when I hear your excuses / Can only think of me as a list of uses”) boosted by a vibrant sound crafted by all band members. And piercing guitars ignite the Melodic Rock tune Bells Of Stygian, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline while Jason continues to pound his drums nonstop.

It’s time for more of their 80’s-fueled hybrid of Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal in the form of Angels 6, where the entire band kicks some ass with their sharp instruments, with David and Ryan stealing the spotlight with their top-of-the-line vocals and crisp riffs and solos, respectively, whereas classic guitars permeate the air in The Last One, a well-crafted semi-ballad that can be played on any radio station worldwide, despite not being as exciting or detailed as the rest of the album. Then in Dying Star the band gets back to a more rockin’ sound, overflowing electricity with the band’s stringed trio providing David all he needs to shine on vocals once again, including a sick guitar solo, while in Light Behind Your Eyes, another ode to traditional Hard Rock and Heavy Metal by Maverick, Jason’s intricate and rhythmic beats dictate the song’s pace while Richie brings thunder to the music armed with his metallic bass. And lastly, the quintet blasts one final round of their undisputed Hard Rock in Ares, with David’s vocals sounding truly inspirational while the band’s riffs and beats keep the atmosphere as vibrant and harmonious as it can be.

When the band itself mentioned Ethereality is their strongest effort to date, well, they were not kidding at all. This is one of those precious gems of the underground that deserves our full attention and admiration, playing it on an endless loop in the name of our good old Rock N’ Roll. Hence, if you want to know more about Maverick, their music, tour dates and plans for the future, I highly recommend you start following them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their Youtube channel, stream more of their awesome music on Spotify, and of course buy a copy of Ethereality from their own BandCamp page or Big Cartel, or from the Metalapolis Records’ webstore in regular CD format or as a very special black vinyl + CD bundle. The album title says it all as the word “ethereal” means “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world”, with my only adjustment to that would be on the “delicate and light” side, because what Maverick did in their new album is beyond heavy and electrifying, exactly what we all crave in old school rock and metal music.

Best moments of the album: Falling, Switchblade Sister and Angels 6.

Worst moments of the album: The Last One.

Released in 2021 Metalapolis Records

Track listing
1. Falling 4:07
2. Thirst 3:49
3. Never 3:55
4. Switchblade Sister 3:53
5. Bells Of Stygian 3:57
6. Angels 6 3:44
7. The Last One 3:55
8. Dying Star 3:48
9. Light Behind Your Eyes 4:00
10. Ares 4:28

Band members
David Balfour – vocals
Ryan Balfour – guitar
Ric Cardwell – guitar
Richie Diver – bass
Jason-Steve Mageney – drums

Album Review – Wolvencrown / A Shadow Of What Once Was EP (2021)

The new EP by this UK Atmospheric Black Metal entity depicts a time when the primeval forest swathed their homeland in arboreal splendor, enfolding the listener in layers of dream and memory.

Following up on the success of their 2019 critically acclaimed album Of Bark And Ash, Nottingham, England-based Atmospheric Black Metal horde Wolvencrown returns with a three-track EP titled A Shadow Of What Once Was, building upon the dynamic melodies and rich atmosphere of their debut opus. Showcasing a stunning artwork by Spanish illustrator Joan Llopis Doménech (Lustre, Sojourner, Ruadh), A Shadow Of What Once Was enfolds the listener in layers of dream and memory, summoning the scent of fallen leaves, the touch of evening mists and the howl of the pack upon the cold night breeze, all accompanied by the enthralling sounds crafted by vocalist and guitarist Nick, guitarist Jack, bassist Reece, keyboardist Will and drummer Matt. In other words, this is a release to be cherished, a dark treasure to uncover, a chance meeting upon a midnight path with long dead kings whose shades are swift of foot and sharp of tooth.

And they don’t waste a single second and begin blasting unfiltered, no shenanigans Atmospheric Black Metal in A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.1, with Nick roaring and slashing his strings at the same time accompanied by the Doom Metal beats by Matt, not to mention the phantasmagorical keys by Will while also presenting elements from classic Norwegian Black Metal. Then we have A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2, the second part of this multi-layered extravaganza that is just as imposing and grandiose as its first act, with Will and Matt darkening the skies with their wicked keys and beats while Nick, Jack and Reece make an infernal stringed triumvirate, resulting in a captivating fusion of obscurity and madness with beautiful and atmospheric passages. Last but not least, get ready for over seven minutes of ethereal instrumental Atmospheric Black Metal made in the UK in Coming To An End, bringing forward a sinister Cradle of Filth-inspired vibe led by Will’s classy keys and the minimalist, tribal beats by Matt, therefore feeling like the soundtrack to a creepy horror movie.

After listening to their debut self-titled EP, to Of Bark and Ash, and now to A Shadow of What Once Was, I must say it’s truly impressive what the guys from Wolvencrown are capable of offering us fans of extreme and atmospheric music without sounding outdated or cheesy; quite the contrary, those UK metallers are always reinventing themselves and surprising us with new sounds, elements and nuances added to their core Atmospheric Black Metal. Hence, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook, and to grab your copy of A Shadow of What Once Was from their own BandCamp page or from Clobber Records in CD or cassette format or as a special bundle that comes with their 2017 debut self-titled EP. For some bands an EP might represent a stop gap release, a time filler between the serious business of full-length albums, but for this skillful UK band A Shadow of What Once Was represents a doorway to new visions, a fresh opportunity to explore and create something vital, alive and utterly essential, depicting a time when the primeval forest swathed their homeland in arboreal splendor.

Best moments of the album: A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Clobber Records

Track listing
1. A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.1 5:22
2. A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2 5:44
3. Coming To An End 7:04

Band members
Nick – vocals, guitars
Jack – guitars
Reece – bass
Will – keyboards
Matt – drums

Album Review – The Machinist / I Am Void (2020)

An ambitious opus that runs a gamut of genres, featuring haunting synths and grinding guitarwork by a ruthless Blackened Industrial Metal outfit hailing from the UK.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Born earlier this year in the city of Manchester, UK from the ashes of a band named NekroDrako, Blackened/Industrial Death Metal outfit The Machinist has just released their debut full-length album, entitled I Am Void, an ambitious opus that runs a gamut of genres, featuring haunting synths and grinding guitarwork backed up by a psychotic twin vocal approach, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the music by Anaal Nathrakh, The Berzerker and Aboyrm, among others. Summoning all the terror of the eternal, inevitable night, the abyss that waits to swallow us, consuming our dreams, our arrogance and our misplaced certainty of our own importance, I Am Void will explode your senses with a fusion of blasting Black Metal and machine-driven Death Metal, dark visions and confrontational opposition born of absolute self-belief, showcasing all the sonic poison and devastating violence by Scott Walton on vocals, T and Kieran Mackinnon on the guitars, and John Thompson on synths, drum programming and vocals.

Wicked vociferations from the underworld suddenly explode into a demented fusion of Death and Industrial Metal in the opening track Extinction Event, where Scott is a beast on vocals while the synths and drum programming by John live up to the legacy of the genre, and continuing their path of devastation the quartet offers the also metallic and thunderous Skin Is Not Enough, sounding as if Deicide and Ministry had a bastard son, and with the pulverizing guitars by T and Kieran penetrating deep inside our skin mercilessly. Then putting the pedal to the metal they blast the insane The Sky Has Opened, with the infernal screams by Scott being nicely boosted by the crushing riffage and beats by his bandmates, resulting in an amazing option for breaking your neck headbanging nonstop; followed by Approach, a Rammstein-inspired interlude that sounds like taken from a horror flick, warming up the listener for the hard-hitting extravaganza Bleak Affirmations, where T and Kieran deliver a hybrid of Black and Death Metal through their fierce riffage while the atmospheric synths by John add a touch of dementia to the overall result.

Bringing forward elements from Technical Death Metal, Depopulate is as venomous as it can be, with both T and Kieran firing infernal sounds form their guitars while Scott roars and gnarls in a beyond devilish manner, whereas Death Cults Of Abraham offers the listener another round of their industrialized madness, this time with John’s programmed drums sounding as organic as a real drummer. Put differently, this is a phantasmagorical creation by The Machinist feeling doomed and grim from start to finish, while strident riffs and anguished growls are the main ingredients in the hammering onslaught titled Magnificent Desolation, perhaps the song with the strongest Industrial Metal roots, also presenting tons of progressiveness, rage, and endless breaks and variations throughout its unrelenting six minutes. After such insane metal attack, we’re treated to Departure, another utterly Stygian and futuristic Fear Factory-infused bridge that sets the stage for the band’s boldest and most detailed spawn entitled Schwarzschild Radius, starting as wicked as its predecessor while also offering our avid ears dark and metallic sounds, deep, beastly vocals and Doom Metal beats, feeling like a hybrid of Industrial Metal and Blackened Doom at times (not to mention John’s vampiric keys), flowing infernally until its gruesome and otherworldly finale.

If you think you have what it takes to face over 52 minutes of ruthless and vicious Blackened Industrial Metal brought forth by The Machinist in their debut album, you can stream such disturbing opus in its entirety on Spotify and purchase it from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, and The Machinist are also waiting for you on Facebook and on Instagram to show you more of their amazing music, their plans for the future, tour dates and everything else surrounding such distinguished UK horde. As aforementioned, I Am Void is indeed a devastating barrage of sonic violence, as The Machinist are a poison that will elevate or destroy, which means you should simply hit play on their new album, immerse yourself in their harsh truths, and finally find the strength to evolve.

Best moments of the album: Extinction Event, The Sky Has Opened and Magnificent Desolation.

Worst moments of the album: Bleak Affirmations.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Extinction Event 6:39
2. Skin Is Not Enough 5:27
3. The Sky Has Opened 4:57
4. Approach 2:32
5. Bleak Affirmations 4:15
6. Depopulate 3:49
7. Death Cults Of Abraham 5:48
8. Magnificent Desolation 6:13
9. Departure 2:17
10. Schwarzschild Radius 10:34

Band members
Scott Walton – vocals
T – guitar
Kieran Mackinnon – guitar
John Thompson – synths, drum programming, vocals

Album Review – Helestios / Your Pain Tastes Good (2020)

Drawing upon ancient mythology while at the same time looking at the current state of the world, this newborn multi-cultural metal act is ready to attack armed with the fusion of melody and fury from their debut release.

Combining the melodic approach and broad appeal of Metallica with the ferocity and thematic invention of Sepultura, Basingstoke, UK-based Power/Thrash Metal outfit Helestios is ready to conquer the world of heavy music with their debut album titled Your Pain Tastes Good, a reminder of how metal stays true to itself and its fans, reflecting the reality of life and urging people to think for themselves and move forward positively. Formed in early 2020 by Henrijs Leja on vocals and guitar, Stelios Aggelis on lead guitar, Agnis Aldiņš on bass and Ian den Boer on drums, all skillful musicians hailing from Latvia, Greece and Netherlands, Helestios are both the power and the fury we need to inspire us, with their new album offering our ears both traditional metal riffing and melodic structure as well as more aggressive and atmospheric tones, and with its lyrics drawing upon ancient mythology while at the same time looking at the state of the world around us right now.

Wicked vocalizations and the slashing riffs by Henrijs and Stelios ignite Helestios’ metal machine in Sacrifice, blending the fury of the Groove Metal by Lamb of God with the Power Metal by bands like Gamma Ray and Primal Fear, whereas Black Storm, a churning sea of riffs and tales told in the ancient mythologies of Syria and Egypt, sounds and feels as modern as the opening track with Ian dictating the rhythm with his classic beats accompanied by the thunderous bass by Agnis and the deep roars by Henrijs, keeping the album at a high level of animosity and rage. And  let’s keep banging our heads together with those four metallers in Downgraded World, presenting another amazing job done by the band’s guitar duo with their incendiary riffs and solos and all spiced up by the powerful vocal performance by Henrijs; and Back to Where it Starts offers us all more of their solid fusion of Thrash and Power Metal, albeit not as exciting as its predecessors. It still showcases a great work done by the stringed trio with their venomous riffage and rumbling bass, though.

The title-track Your Pain Tastes Good begins in an ominous manner before exploding into another round of Helestios’ infuriated metal music, again bringing forward a nice mix of harsh growls and clean vocals while Ian adds tons of progressiveness and intricacy to the music with his beats. Then it’s time for a metal onslaught spearheaded by the flammable guitars by Henrijs an Stelios in All Attack, a modern-day Thrash Metal extravaganza with hints of Death and Groove Metal written in support of the Belorussian people who have spent recent months fighting to overthrow what many see as one of the last tyrannies of Europe. Put differently, it can’t get any heavier nor darker than this, I might say.  And the quartet continues to slam their instruments in great fashion in You Are Free, where its headbanging rhythm is nicely boosted by Ian’s massive drums while also bringing forward very melodic lines exploding from their guitars and vocals. And last but not least, hypnotizing guitars kick off their final breath of Thrash Metal entitled Return to Baalbek, with Henrijs sounding truly demonic on vocals, therefore resulting in the perfect soundtrack for slamming into the circle pit in an amazing hybrid of sheer aggressiveness and soulful melodies.

In a nutshell, although Helestios might be a brand new name in the metal community, each band member know exactly what they are doing in Your Pain Tastes Good, sounding as polished, professional, focused and aggressive as any of the big names of the Thrash and Power Metal scene. Hence, don’t forget to show this talented, multi-cultural metal act your support by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, by streaming more of their powerful music on Spotify, and by grabbing your copy of their top-notch debut album from different locations sooner than you can say the word “pain”. Helestios’ fusion of melody and fury will surely please all fans of Heavy Metal in general, leaving us eager for more of their thrilling creations and, of course, putting a huge smile on our faces for knowing underground metal music in the UK is alive and kicking as usual.

Best moments of the album: Sacrifice, All Attack and Return to Baalbek.

Worst moments of the album: Back to Where it Starts.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Sacrifice 4:46
2. Black Storm 3:08
3. Downgraded World 4:05
4. Back to Where it Starts 3:39
5. Your Pain Tastes Good 5:45
6. All Attack 3:57
7. You Are Free 3:44
8. Return to Baalbek 5:11

Band members
Henrijs Leja – vocals, guitar
Stelios Aggelis – lead guitar
Agnis Aldiņš – bass
Ian den Boer – drums

Album Review – Goatchrist / Apotheosis (2020)

One of UK’s most innovative underground acts returns with a multi-layered and very experimental concept album representing a hugely-modified musical retelling of the Books of Enoch.

One year after the release of the excellent Pythagoras and after unleashing upon humanity a series of non-metal albums in 2020, those being Revelations of the Gnostic Christ, The Philosopher’s Hand and more recently Goatchrist, Leeds, UK’s own vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Guilherme (or J. Guilherme if you prefer) and his Experimental Black Metal alter-ego Goatchrist are back with another imposing opus entitled Apotheosis, a concept album representing a hugely-modified musical retelling of the Books of Enoch, apocryphal magical texts from antiquity. Following the story of Edris, who leaves his hometown due to his perception of its absolute wickedness in order to find a city of divinely-acting inhabitants, Apotheosis showcases once again the undeniable talent of J. Guilherme, this time accompanied by D. Tann and guests A. Billingham and R. Shipley providing several different voices to give life to all characters involved in the story, inviting the listener to join Goatchrist in another detailed and very entertaining musical voyage.

Stygian guitars permeate the air in the cryptic intro Prologue – From a People Lost… while Jacob begins declaiming its cryptic words, warming us up for the absolutely experimental and progressive Chapter 1 – …unto the Wilderness, Seeking the City of Divine Beings (מַלְכוּת), where its lyrics couldn’t have been darker and more poetic than what they already are (“I am born from great evil, / My mind has dwelt in sin. / I have not mind or heart, / As awakened cantors deep within.”), blending Progressive Metal with heavier sounds and non-metal styles and, therefore, turning it into a beyond amazing ride for fans of all types of rock and metal music. And continuing his path of experimentations and metaphysical philosophies, Jacob and his Goatchrist offer another epic composition titled Chapter 2 – Hark! Appeareth (מֶטָטְרוֹן), where all guitars, drums, keys and orchestrations generate a bold ambience for his demonic gnarls, resulting in a progressive and sharp hybrid of Cradle of Filth and Opeth. Then a very theatrical start kicks off the 11-minute aria Chapter 3 – Five Archangels, bringing to our ears classic piano and keys, deep guttural vociferations and sluggish, Doom Metal-inspired beats, also presenting Jazz-y moments, endless breaks and variations and an enfolding atmosphere from start to finish, not to mention the amazing job done by guest R. Shipley as the voices of Gabriel and Michael.

Chapter 4 – I Am That Which Is Called ‘I Am’ (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה) brings forward another round of Goatchrist’s wicked words (“[0] “No-thing” is that which exists, / And at the start, is that which is. / But from “thing-ness” it is disjoint, / And thus contracts to a single point.”) while the music is once again an explosion of countless rock, metal and other distinguished styles, with Jacob firing classic bass lines, soulful guitar solos and his trademark growling. Put differently, it can’t get any more experimental, multi-layered and dynamic than this. Or maybe it can, as Chapter 5 – Reborn unto Paradise (כֶּתֶר in Microcosm) blends elements from Ambient, Shoegazing and Atmospheric Black Metal to Goatchrist’s core Experimental Metal, resulting in a musical voyage where all voices by Jacob, D. Tann and A. Billingham make the whole experience even more enthralling and detailed. Furthermore, it’s interesting how Jacob meticulously added tons of idiosyncratic sounds in the background while at the same time keeping the whole song very cohesive and smooth, growing in intensity until its visceral and beast-like grand finale.

Needless to say, Jacob and his always electrifying Goatchrist managed to surprise us one more time with the high quality of the music and the exceptional concept found in his new album Apotheosis, and after so many top-notch releases in a row and in such a short period of time one can never know where the project will go from now on, which lands and storylines Jacob will explore, nor what types of music styles will be incorporated into his unique compositions. Hence, don’t forget to follow Goatchrist on Facebook, to listen to more of the project’s music on Spotify, and to purchase a copy of Apotheosis from Goatchrist’s own BandCamp page or from Amazon, keeping in mind the BandCamp download will also include two publications, one called “The Magical Key to Understanding the Album ‘Apotheosis’”, and another one titled “Third Book of Enoch”, just to give you an idea of how focused and detailed-oriented Jacob is whenever his mind begins paving the next step in the career of Goatchrist. Are you curious to know what happens to Edris in Apotheosis? Well, why don’t you let Jacob tell you that through the very distinguished music by Goatchrist? I’m sure you’ll get addicted to all of his sonic experimentations, just like what he has to offer in Apotheosis.

Best moments of the album: Chapter 1 – …unto the Wilderness, Seeking the City of Divine Beings (מַלְכוּת) and Chapter 5 – Reborn unto Paradise (כֶּתֶר in Microcosm).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Prologue – From a People Lost… 2:12
2. Chapter 1 – …unto the Wilderness, Seeking the City of Divine Beings 9:53
3. Chapter 2 – Hark! Appeareth 7:13
4. Chapter 3 – Five Archangels 11:23
5. Chapter 4 – I Am That Which Is Called ‘I Am’ 9:41
6. Chapter 5 – Reborn unto Paradise (כֶּתֶר in Microcosm) 17:11

Band members
J. Guilherme – all instruments, narration, voices of יהוה, Uriel, Raphael and Lucifer
D. Tann – voices of Edris, מֶטָטְרוֹן and Lucifer

Guest musicians
A. Billingham – voices of Sophia and Lucifer
R. Shipley – voices of Michael and Gabriel

Album Review – Bròn / Pred Dverima Noći (2020)

Embark on an atmospheric voyage to the mysterious and untamed nature of Serbia’s wilderness adorned with enthralling, majestic soundscapes and endless streams of melodies and harmonies.

Through the cosmic mists it descends upon us, Pred Dverima Noći, the new (and fifth) full-length album by Atmospheric Black Metal/Ambient act Bròn. Formed in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2014 as a sonic chronicle of the wanderings of New Zealander KG (from Barshasketh), but currently based in Belgrade, Serbia, Bròn (which by the way means “sorrow” in Gaelic Scottish) has already released a handful of ambient, down-tempo albums exploring life within a sprawling urban expanse since the project’s inception, but now with the addition of drummer GH (from A Forest Of Stars), Bròn has permanently left urbanity behind and has returned to the mysterious and untamed nature of Serbia’s wilderness in Pred Dverima Noći. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Sonorous Studio, and featuring a grim artwork by Khaos Diktator Design, Pred Dverima Noći is adorned with enthralling, majestic soundscapes and endless streams of melodies and harmonies, propelling the listener into the vast expanses beyond the conscious mind throughout its three sprawling tracks, all clocking in at over 15 minutes, being therefore recommended for lovers of the music by Limbonic Art, Evilfeast and Darkspace, among others.

The atmospheric keys by KG grow in intensity in the opening track Dverima Noći, darkening the skies and preparing our senses for an onrush of Stygian and captivating Black Metal spearheaded by KG’s devilish gnarls and the fulminating drums by GH in a 16-minute journey through the bitterly cold lands of extreme music, changing its shape and form as the music progresses while showcasing stunning keys intertwined with venomous riffs. If that wasn’t complex enough for you, Bròn offers us all Usnulu Zlobu Razbudi, which already begins in full force like an infernal tempest, filling our ears with scorching riffs, vicious blast beats and endless obscurity while once again presenting elements from classic Black Metal, Atmospheric Black Metal and even Symphonic Black Metal for our vulgar delectation. Moreover, KG sounds like a true beast with his hellish roars and riffage, supported by the talented GH and his unstoppable drums in this full-bodied, dense and very detailed aria. And the third song from such grandiose album, entitled Zastore Skrai, brings forward more of Bròn’s thrilling and epic fusion of heavy and austere sounds with the finesse of atmospheric music, also presenting elements from Blackened Doom and Depressive Black Metal to make things even more somber. In addition, GH pounds his drums slowly and steadily while KG keeps gnarling with tons of anguish and pain, flowing darkly and embracing our souls majestically until the very last second.

In the end, after the three songs (which offer an impressive combined running time of over 52 minutes of music) from Pred Dverima Noći are over, you’ll definitely feel trapped in the vastness of the Serbian uncharted lands forever and ever, going back to the start to savor every second of such imposing album of Atmospheric Black Metal again and again. Hence, don’t forget to follow KG and his cryptic Bròn on Facebook and to purchase your copy of Pred Dverima Noći from his own BandCamp page (or you can also click HERE or HERE and select your favorite version of the album), inspiring the wanderer KG to keep exploring the most desolate, uninhabited and serene regions of the world armed with his idiosyncratic music, bringing a paradox of peace and violence to our souls just like a feral creature trying to survive in the cold and dark nights out in the wilderness.

Best moments of the album: Usnulu Zlobu Razbudi.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nordvis Produktion

Track listing
1. Dverima Noći 15:57
2. Usnulu Zlobu Razbudi 19:31
3. Zastore Skrai 16:56

Band members
KG – vocals, guitar, bass, keys
GH – drums