Album Review – Goatchrist / Odes to the Radiant One (2021)

One of UK’s most talented underground entities is ready to mesmerize us all once again with his brand new Kabbalistic Progressive Black Metal album.

One year after the release of the excellent Apotheosis, Leeds, UK-based Experimental/Progressive Black Metal entity Goatchrist returns to action once again with a Kabbalistic Progressive Black Metal album entitled Odes to the Radiant One, a unique listening experience that will keep you hooked until the last minute. The brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist J. Guilherme (or Jacob Guilherme, if you prefer), Goatchrist nailed it once again with Odes to the Radiant One, containing both the experimental tendencies of Pythagoras and an Orthodox Black Metal basis for composition and, therefore, turning the album into a must-listen for fans of the most experimental side of extreme music.

The short and sweet intro Baruch Atta Adonai… warms up our souls for I, the Lawgiver, with Jacob already delivering crisp, piercing riffs and his trademark devilish gnarls, supported by the clean vocals by D. Tann to give the song’s poetic lyrics an extra punch (“I shall be, / Felled before the promised land art reached, / For of my needs and dreams: / I did not them feed.”). In other words, it’s all we want in Progressive Black Metal, whereas in The Emergence of Tiferet from that Qlipa which Envelopes Binah we’re treated to another round of Jacob’s unique words (“Each oneness can be divided into onenesses. / Each single ‘One’ is dependent on other ‘Ones’: / Whether a thought, or whether some force, / Or whether a glare or a stench or a roar, / All possess multiple ‘Ones’!”) amidst a fusion of Melodic Black Metal and progressive and symphonic elements. Guest D. Tann returns with his clean vocals in Proclamations of the Baal Shem Tov, while Jacob smashes his drums and slashes his axe in a very melodic and enfolding display of Black Metal, with its vocal paradox adding tons of feeling to the overall result.

Then ominous organ sounds are the main ingredient in Interlude, generating a whimsical ambience before we face Of the Sephirot (Which Art the Qlippoth), another solid Black Metal creation by Jacob showcasing his trademark growls intertwined with eccentric background sounds in a hybrid of extreme music and metaphysical theories. After such intense composition, eerie keys are quickly joined by blast beats and visceral guitars in Transcending the Boundaries of Ayin, with Jacob growling and gnarling like a demonic entity until the very last second; followed by A People Embattled (or, A Song for Those Who Wrestle with El), a classic Goatchrist song with a modern twist bringing to our ears Jacob’s unique fusion of heavy and melodic sounds, all of course spiced up by his wicked roars in a lesson in Progressive black Metal. In the second to last aria from the album, titled Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob offers more obscure and sluggish sounds by adding elements of Doom Metal such as damned beats to Goatchrist’s core sonority, sounding grim and dark until the very end. Lastly, Jacob brings to our ears Im HaShem Lo Yivneh Bayis, his own metallic rendition to a traditional Jewish song that means “unless the Lord builds the house”, also known as “Shomer Yisrael” or “Guardian Of Israel”, putting an upbeat and vibrant ending to the album.

In summary, in the very detailed and exciting Odes to the Radiant One, which is available for a full listen on YouTube, Jacob and his Goatchrist continue to explore the Kabbalah and its importance in Jewish mysticism in a very entertaining way without losing the project’s darkened core sound, proving once again how talented Jacob is and how easily he can incorporate non-metal elements to his Experimental and Progressive Black Metal. Hence, don’t forget to pay him a visit on Facebook to keep up to date with all things Goatchrist, and more important than that, to purchase Odes to the Radiant One from his own BandCamp page, showing all your admiration and support to the underground. And may Jacob release more albums like his latest ones in the near future in honor of his own cultural heritage and, of course, in the name of good extreme music.

Best moments of the album: I, the Lawgiver, Proclamations of the Baal Shem Tov and A People Embattled (or, A Song for Those Who Wrestle with El).

Worst moments of the album: Transcending the Boundaries of Ayin.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Baruch Atta Adonai… 0:22
2. I, the Lawgiver 6:32
3. The Emergence of Tiferet from that Qlipa which Envelopes Binah 4:48
4. Proclamations of the Baal Shem Tov 6:56
5. Interlude 1:22
6. Of the Sephirot (Which Art the Qlippoth) 6:22
7. Transcending the Boundaries of Ayin 4:03
8. A People Embattled (or, A Song for Those Who Wrestle with El) 5:14
9. Jacob’s Ladder 4:52
10. Im HaShem Lo Yivneh Bayis 3:48

Band members
J. Guilherme – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
D. Tann – clean vocals on “I, the Lawgiver” and “Proclamations of the Baal Shem Tov”

Album Review – Hand of Kalliach / Samhainn (2021)

Behold the debut full-length album by this rising metal duo, offering us all dual concepts of benevolence and malevolence, all against the backdrop of the history, mythology and land and seascapes of the Scottish islands.

Melding a passion for metal music with traditional Scottish folk elements, Edinburgh, Scotland-based Atmospheric Celtic Metal duo Hand of Kalliach (a name that comes from the legend of the “Cailleach”, a Scottish witch god of winter) has just unleashed their globally awaited debut effort entitled Samhainn, focusing on dual concepts of benevolence and malevolence, all against the backdrop of the history, mythology and land and seascapes of the Scottish islands. Mixed and mastered by Wynter Prior at Sphynx Studios, and displaying a stylish artwork by Brazilian artist VHummel (aka Vinicius Hummel), the album is a lecture in Scottish metal by the couple formed of Sophie Fraser on vocals and bass, and John Fraser on vocals, guitars and drums, drawing  inspiration from the rhythms, time signatures and patterns used in folk music and adapting them for distorted guitars. “We’re both extremely excited to be releasing our debut full-length, Samhainn. Named after the ancient Celtic festival of winter (pronounced “Sah-win”), this album represents a huge gear change in our writing and production from our initial work, bringing a darker and more aggressive energy to our hybrid sound of Melodeath and Folk Metal,” commented John about the duo’s newborn spawn.

The opening tune Beneath Starlit Waters is atmospheric and enfolding form the very first second, with Sophie mesmerizing us all with her gentle vocals before John comes crushing with his deep roars and blast beats in a more epic version of Melodic Death Metal. Then in Solas Neònach we face sheer poetry flowing from the song’s lyrics (“Wake / From dreaming / The warmth departs these shores / From eightfold crones the chants are heard / The sand inverted once again”) while John slashes his stringed axe in great fashion, supported of course by Sophie’s ethereal vocalizations, followed by Each Uisge (roughly pronounced “eyach oosh-keh”), which translates to “water horse”, a demon from Scottish mythology that disguises itself as a horse before binding its flesh to a rider and galloping into the sea to drown and devour them. Musically speaking, it’s another stunning musical voyage showcasing a breathtaking vocal duet, a galloping bass and blast beats for our total delight. John continues to growl like a demonic entity in Roil, a lot more inclined to contemporary Melodic Death Metal, with Sophie embellishing the airwaves with her clean vocals; whereas adding elements from Viking Metal to their core essence it’s time for another epic onrush of sounds by the duo titled Cinders, where Sophie and John are thunderous with their respective bass and drums.

Arising from the depths of the underworld amidst a serene and melancholic ambience, The Lull Of Loch Uigeadail presents a more tribal side of the duo filling our ears with Celtic sounds and tones, bringing peace to our hearts before all hell breaks loose in Ascendant, leaning towards classic Melodic Death Metal while Sophie and John make the perfect metal couple throughout the entire song, resulting in a hybrid of pure rage and madness with smooth and hypnotizing sounds. Òran Na Tein’-éigin brings forward a stunning vocal attack by both Sophie and John, with its visceral drums creating a beautiful paradox with all background elements, and the duo keeps hammering our souls with their Atmospheric Celtic Metal in Trial Of The Beithir-Nimh, a solid, headbanging composition presenting metallic bass lines by Sophie intertwined with the flammable riffage by John. Finally,  get ready for one last round of poetic words (“Lost / On waves / Of an endless sea / Under starlit skies / It returns to me”) in Return to Stone while the music sounds a lot heavier and more doomed than all previous songs, feeling like the band’s farewell and, as a consequence, putting a pensive conclusion to the album.

This beautiful and absolutely atmospheric album made in Scotland can be better appreciated in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if you want to show your utmost support and admiration for such talented duo you can purchase a copy of Samhainn from the band’s own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream the album), and don’t forget to follow Hand of Kalliach on Facebook and on Instagram to know more about this up-and-coming Scottish entity. As the festival of Samhainn marks the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or “darker-half” of the year, there’s nothing better than listening to an album that perfectly depicts that change from light to darkness and all of its nuances, and we must thank Sophie and john for being able to generate that album with such high level of passion and musicianship.

Best moments of the album: Solas Neònach, Each Uisge and Ascendant.

Worst moments of the album: Cinders.

Released in 2021 Trepanation Recordings

Track listing
1. Beneath Starlit Waters 5:56
2. Solas Neònach 4:53
3. Each Uisge 5:01
4. Roil 3:28
5. Cinders 3:02
6. The Lull Of Loch Uigeadail 3:49
7. Ascendant 3:13
8. Òran Na Tein’-éigin 4:10
9. Trial Of The Beithir-Nimh 3:49
10. Return to Stone 5:21

Band members
Sophie Fraser – vocals, bass
John Fraser – vocals, guitars, drums

Album Review – Bouquet of Dead Crows / Hemispheres Part 2: Cerebral EP (2021)

The second half of Hemispheres is finally among us, showcasing a more Post-Rock side of one of the most interesting names of the current British scene.

When two become one. That’s the story behind the EP’s Hemispheres Part 1: Celestial, released last year, and Hemispheres Part 2: Cerebral, recently brought into being, which together form a single entity named Hemispheres by Cambridge, UK-based Sci-Fi Alternative Rock and Metal act Bouquet of Dead Crows. Originally written as one album but released in two parts mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hemispheres combines big riffs with big melodies and shifting time signatures, with Celestial showcasing a more punkish and upbeats vibe, while Cerebral leans towards Post-Rock. Recorded at the Parlour Studios, produced by Neil Haynes and displaying a classy artwork by Stewart Harris from Stewart Harris Designs, just like the 2020 EP, Cerebral continues to showcase all the talent and attention to detail by vocalist Antoinette Cooper, guitarist Neil Bruce, bassist Karen Gadd and drummer Andrew Coxall, putting a dark and very melodic ending to Hemispheres that will please all fans of our good old rock music.

Neil begins extracting serene notes from his guitar accompanied by the steady beats by Andrew in Idle Thoughts before Antoinette delivers her trademark, smooth vocals for our total delight in a great display of Post-Rock with progressive elements; then putting the pedal to the metal the band fires the dancing and heavy tune Standing at the Precipice, bringing forward their Alternative Metal vein with Neil and Karen being on fire with their respective riffs and bass lines, not to mention how visceral the drums by Andrew sound. In One More Sunrise the band gets back to a more gentle and enfolding sonority, presenting a charming atmosphere crafted by all four band members spearheaded by the stunning vocals by Antoinette, followed by The Longest Road, a fantastic ballad where they invest in a more melancholic sound by blending their core Alternative Rock with Post-Rock nuances, and with Neil doing a beautiful job on the guitar as usual. Lastly, get ready for over nine minutes of classy Rock N’ Roll in the form of Somewhere in the Static, where Antoinette sounds majestic supported by the strident guitars by Neil and the rumbling kitchen by Karen and Andrew, flowing smoothly and flawlessly until the very last second.

The second part of Hemispheres can be better appreciated in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, and of course if you want to add Cerebral (and Celestial) to your collection of rock albums you can purchase it from their own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, or simply grab the full Hemispheres album by clicking HERE or HERE. In addition, don’t forget to give Antoinette, Neil, Karen and Andrew a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their stylish music. Now that Celestial and Cerebral are finally united and Hemispheres has reached its final shape and form, I’m eager to know what’s next in the career of one of the most interesting names of the current British rock scene, and based on what they have already offered us with their latest releases I’m sure their next endeavor will be just as awesome.

Best moments of the album: Standing at the Precipice and Somewhere in the Static.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 German Shepherd Records

Track listing
1. Idle Thoughts 4:20
2. Standing at the Precipice 2:29
3. One More Sunrise 4:17
4. The Longest Road 5:36
5. Somewhere in the Static 9:48

Band members
Antoinette Cooper – vocals
Neil Bruce – guitars
Karen Gadd – bass, backing vocals
Andrew Coxall – drums, synths, programming, backing vocals

Album Review – Carcass / Torn Arteries (2021)

It’s time to wake up once again and smell the bloody and melodic new album by one of the most important bands in the history of extreme music.

If you have a craving for bloody, raw Extreme Metal, get ready to be stunned by Torn Arteries, the brand new opus by Liverpool, UK-based Grindcore masters Carcass, unleashing hell, violence and gore upon us all mere mortals. Recorded at Ghost Ward Studio and The Stationhouse, mixed at Ghost Ward Studio, mastered at Fascination Street Studios and featuring a beautiful artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew Bielak, Torn Arteries is not only the band’s seventh studio album, but their first in eight years since the majestic Surgical Steel, released in 2013, and the wait was absolutely worth it as vocalist and bassist Jeff Walker, guitarist Bill Steer and drummer Daniel Wilding are on fire from start to finish, showcasing all their refined skills while blending the aggressiveness of extreme music with their trademark melody and visceral lyrics.

Daniel kicks off their splatter show with the title-track Torn Arteries, with Jeff’s sick gnarls sounding better than ever for our total delight. What a pulverizing start to the album I might say, not to mention the demented riffs and solos by Bill, and it’s time to crack your neck headbanging to Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B), less violent but extremely melodic and sharp with Bill stealing the spotlight with his unmatched riffage, whereas a wicked guitar solo ignites another Melodic Death Metal and Grindcore extravaganza titled Eleanor Rigor Mortis, accompanied by the always raw and vile growling by Jeff while Daniel’s drums dictate the song’s old school pace. Then we have Under the Scalpel Blade, the only song to feature in their 2020 EP Despicable (and we already know how infernal this tune is), while more of their putrid, acid metal music is brought into being in The Devil Rides Out, again proving why they’re a reference in both Melodic Death Metal and Grindcore, with Bill’s riffs and solos being awesome as usual.

Carcass Torn Arteries Limited Box Set

As heavy and aggressive as its predecessors, Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited is a fulminating tune where Jeff is not only bestial on vocals but his bass also sounds hellish, being the perfect option for banging your head like a maniac together with the band throughout its almost 10 minutes where savagery and harmony collide in a vicious way, therefore offering our ears a unique metal voyage. The groovy beats by Daniel once again ignite a Grindcore attack entitled Kelly’s Meat Emporium, with Jeff and Bill being in absolute sync with their respective bass lines and riffs, inviting us all to slam into the circle pit, whereas in In God We Trust a sinister start quickly evolves into a rhythmic and heavy-as-hell sound spearheaded by Daniel’s classy drums, all spiced up by Bill’s undisputed, sharp solos. Then paying homage to themselves, the trio blasts the headbanging tune Wake Up and Smell the Carcass / Caveat Emptor, showcasing another awesome guitar job by Bill while Jeff continues to haunt our souls with his demonic gnarls. And their last breath of insanity and gore comes in the form of The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing, where Jeff, Bill and Daniel smash their sonic weapons in great fashion offering us all another solid tune to close such austere and melodic album.

As Carcass are not only an awesome band but also a group of very nice gentlemen, they’ve made the full album available on both YouTube and Spotify for our vulgar delectation, but of course let’s support the masters of Melodic Death Metal and Grindcore by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and by purchasing a copy of their bloodthirsty new album from Nuclear Blast by clicking HERE or HERE, and if I were you I would go for the sick Torn Arteries boxset limited to 2,000 worldwide, including the album on CD and veggie splatter vinyl, a 24-page booklet, and a porcelain plate with a stainless steel fork and knife dinnerware set. It’s time to wake up and smell the carcass to the sound of Torn Arteries, knowing that as long as Carcass remain active, their smell will continue to be a thrilling fusion of metal music, blood, speed and violence.

Best moments of the album: Torn Arteries, Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited and Kelly’s Meat Emporium.

Worst moments of the album: Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B).

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Torn Arteries 4:00
2. Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B) 4:29
3. Eleanor Rigor Mortis 4:14
4. Under the Scalpel Blade 3:56
5. The Devil Rides Out 5:22
6. Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited 9:42
7. Kelly’s Meat Emporium 3:24
8. In God We Trust 3:57
9. Wake Up and Smell the Carcass / Caveat Emptor 4:36
10. The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing 5:20

Japanese Edition bonus track
11. NWOBHEAD 3:03

Band members
Jeff Walker – vocals, bass
Bill Steer – guitars, backing vocals
Daniel Wilding – drums

Guest musician
Tom Draper – guitars (live)
Per Wiberg – organ, piano
Fredrik Klingwall – keyboards

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.

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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.

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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