This Canadian Symphonic Metal band is back in action with an exciting new EP, written and composed from a place of love and vulnerability.
From headlining performances as well as supporting slots for some of the biggest bands in the metal since their inception in 2012, Ottawa, Canada-based Symphonic Progressive Metal band Sovereign Council is finally back with a brand new EP titled World On Fire, the follow-up to their 2015 full-length album Laniakea. Produced by the band’s own guitarist Joe Moon, mixed and mastered at Silver Wings Studios, and displaying a classy artwork by Martin Trottier, World On Fire was written and composed “from a place of love and vulnerability” according to the band itself, showcasing all the talent by Lisa Thompson on vocals, Joe Moon and Chris Thompson on the guitars, Shaun Vanhooser on bass and Brandon Schneider on drums, being therefore recommended for fans of Delain, Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil, just to name a few.
Gentle and ethereal keys ignite the title-track World On Fire before Lisa begins declaiming the song’s poetic lyrics (“There’s a part in everyone that is broken / All it takes is one moment / To set you back, and relive the pain / Forever chasing the smoke from the remains of what you thought you were / Now all has fallen”) in a great display of modern-day Symphonic Metal; whereas Joe and Chris extract electricity and epicness from their axes in The Wait supported by the classic bass lines by Shaun, all of course embraced by Lisa’s delicate vocals. Then we have Aberration, highly inspired by the current Symphonic Metal scene but also presenting elements from Groove Metal added to their sonority, with Brandon dictating the pace with his pounding drums accompanied by the rumbling bass by Shaun. Supported by the backing vocals by Joe, Lisa once again distills her serene vocal lines in Breathe You In, with their guitars sounding extremely melodious while at the same time bringing heaviness to their music in a solid depiction of Modern Melodic Metal; and lastly, the band delivers a more visceral, in-your-face sound in Of The Ashes, with Lisa’s vocals walking hand in hand with the drums by Brandon, putting a stylish ending to the album while living up to the legacy of bands like Xandria and Within Temptation.
“This is the first release for us since we decided to alter our lineup and adjust our musical trajectory. We feel that the sound we have created here is still at its core very ‘Sovereign Council’ but has matured and developed into something greater. We are extremely proud of this new sound and cannot wait to see how people respond to it. We have another set of songs nearly completed as well; these new songs continue our new direction and add another new edge as well as a heavier feel. You’ll have to stick around for the next release to find out what that edge is,” commented the band about their new EP, and you can show all your support to them by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, by subscribing to their YouTube channel, by streaming their music on Spotify, and of course by purchasing World On Fire from their own BandCamp page, as well as from Apple Music. Furthermore, this is pure Canadian metal music, made entirely by Canadians (under what’s called MAPL), which means if you want to know how the Canadian metal scene is, you should definitely take a listen at the new album by Sovereign Council, a band that proudly carries the flag of heavy music wherever they go and that’s moving towards a very interesting direction with their new release.
Best moments of the album:World On Fire and Of The Ashes.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2023 Independent
Track listing 1. World On Fire 4:43
2. The Wait 4:24
3. Aberration 4:00
4. Breathe You In 3:34
5. Of The Ashes 4:13
Lisa Thompson – lead vocals
Joe Moon – lead guitars, backing vocals
Chris Thompson – rhythm guitars
Shaun Vanhooser – bass
Brandon Schneider – drums
One of the pillars of Finnish heavy music returns with a fantastic album of first-class Melodic Power Metal, proving they’re still standing strong after almost 40 years on the road.
At long last, after several years waiting for new material from the one and only Finnish Melodic Power Metal institution Stratovarius, the band has finally unleashed their new album, the excellent Survive, following up on their also great 2015 effort Eternal. Produced by the band’s own guitarist Matias Kupiainen, mixed also by Matias at 5 by 5 Studio and Estúdio Eiffel, mastered by Ermin Hamidovic at Systematic Productions, and displaying a classy artwork by Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsák, Survive has all elements we learned to love in the music by Stratovarius without sounding cheesy or outdated, showcasing vocalist Timo Kotipelto, guitarist Matias Kupiainen, keyboardinst Jens Johansson, bassist Lauri Porra and drummer Rolf Pilve on absolute fire from start to finish and, therefore, placing the album as one of the best of 2022 hands down.
Matias wastes no time and begin his riff attack in the title-track Survive, kicking off the album on a very high note while also displaying a fantastic vocal performance by Timo and the unstoppable Power Metal drums by Rolf, and more of their striking Melodic Power Metal comes in the form of Demand, presenting their always inspiring lyrics (“Feel the fury / And demonstrate the pain / Show them your anger and despair / Fear the future / For fighting is in vain / It comes for you, unbearable, unthinkable”); whereas the unrelenting Jens adds a touch of magic to the music inBroken, while Timo declaims the song’s powerful words flawlessly. Firefly, one of the first singles of the album, exhales classic Stratovarius with Lauri delivering sheer groove from his bass accompanied by the pounding beats by Rolf, and keeping the album at a very pleasant level of energy we have We Are Not Alone, where once again Matias and Jens are in absolute sync with their respective riffs and keys. Then in Frozen in Time we face a less “power” and more rhythmic, melodic tune by Stratovarius, presenting a great job done by Rolf on drums while overflowing intricacy and groove.
It’s then time for the first single of the album, the absolute banger World on Fire, where Timo is the one on fire with his soaring vocals while Matias delivers an amazing dosage of stamina through his riffs and solos; followed by Glory Days, where Timo beautifully sings the song’s powerful words (“We are the war / We are the storm / A lightning that lights up the sky / We are the wind / We are the rain / We are the howl in the night”) while the music is a fusion of the band’s past and present sound, feeling absolutely thrilling until the very last second. They tried to be more symphonic than usual in the power ballad Breakaway, which is not bad, but it lacks the same punch as the rest of the album; then raise your fists to the imposing Before the Fall, with its background vocals bringing even more electricity to the overall result while Matias kicks ass on the guitars and Rolf doesn’t stop crushing his drums. Lastly, get ready for 11 minutes of serene passages, melodic riffs and blasting drums as the icing on the cake with Voice of Thunder, where Jens takes the lead with his futuristic keys while his bandmates enfold us all in a Melodic Power Metal voyage, flowing smoothly and majestically until it’s classy finale.
Survive is available in all of its glory on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course you should purchase a copy of such amazing album by clicking HERE or HERE. The unparalleled Stratovarius, who are waiting for you on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube, might have taken seven years to release a new album, but the wait was absolutely worth it as Survive not only brings forward everything we love in their music, but it also presents a band that’s sharper, tighter and more focused than ever, brilliantly surviving in a genre that’s considered oversaturated by most people. Are Stratovarius the best band to ever arise from Finland? In my humble opinion, yes, no doubt about that, but even the ones who don’t agree with me have to admit that they’re indeed one of the most solid bands of the current metal scene, and Survive is another clear example of how strong and relevant the band still is and will forever be.
Best moments of the album:Survive, Demand, World on Fire and Glory Days.
Worst moments of the album:Breakaway.
Released in 2022 earMusic
Track listing 1. Survive 4:39
2. Demand 4:03
3. Broken 4:57
4. Firefly 3:38
5. We Are Not Alone 4:34
6. Frozen in Time 6:43
7. World on Fire 4:26
8. Glory Days 5:06
9. Breakaway 4:28
10. Before the Fall 4:15
11. Voice of Thunder 11:10
Band members Timo Kotipelto – vocals
Matias Kupiainen – guitars
Jens Johansson – keyboards
Lauri Porra – bass
Rolf Pilve – drums
Guest musicians Ari Sievälä, Petri Aho, Hepa Waara, Mikko Herranen, Anssi Stenberg, Viljami Holopainen, Mikael Salo, Heikki Mäkäräinen, Antti Lappalainen & Jani Liimatainen – vocals (choirs)
A Stoner Rock and Metal lone wolf highlights the illnesses that doom today’s society in his debut opus, paying homage to the early sounds of 60’s and 70’s rock.
Conjured by Imran Manaff (aka Azrael, the multi-talented vocalist and instrumentalist of Singaporean one-man Black Metal band Funeral Hearse) in 2020 during the Covid-19 global pandemic, the newborn Stoner Rock and Metal beast that goes by the name of Witches Coven is set to release the project’s debut opus, entitled World on Fire, paying homage to the early sounds of 60’s and 70’s rock the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Cactus infused with elements of Japan’s Church of Misery and Sweden’s Monolord. Produced by Imran himself, recorded at Hellblaze Studio, and mixed and mastered by Sonicmonk, all embraced by the sinister cover art by Pedro Rey, World on Fire showcases seven original songs loosely inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s infamous poem Howl while highlighting the illnesses that doom today’s society.
Raw, dirty guitars and sluggish beats ignite the opening tune Reason to Believe, evolving into a Stoner and Doom Metal feast the likes of old school Black Sabbath with Imran also firing his raspy vocals to make things even more infernal, whereas featuring excerpt from Consumption & Consumerism by Joseph Patrick, Shackles of Desire is even more demonic and grim. Put differently, it’s one of those Doom Metal compositions perfect for darkening the skies where Imran is ready to crush our souls with his riffage and beats. And Imran keeps hammering his sonic weapons and delivering ass-kicking Stoner Rock and Metal for our total delight in Waiting for Time, feeling like Imran is simply jamming with himself, sounding very organic and thrilling form start to finish.
Then drinking once again from the same obscure fountain of bands like Black Sabbath, Pentagram and Celtic Frost, it’s time for the dirtier-than-hell tune Blinded by Lights, with the inebriate vociferations by Imran walking hand in hand with his wicked riffs and rumbling bass lines; and let’s keep banging our heads like true bastards to the sound of Falling Through, another Sludge Metal extravaganza by Imran and his Witches Coven that will please all lovers of the most damned side of music. Imran shows no mercy for our necks and souls in Blurring the Lines, with his low-tuned bass jabs and sharp, crude riffs generating a reverberating vibe that penetrates deep inside our minds, and last but not least, Imran’s menacing bass returns in full force in Dawn of the Morning Star, a song that will block all light coming from the sun, therefore leaving us in pitch black darkness with the cryptic vocalizations by Imran sounding demented and hopeless until the very end.
The unstoppable Imran Manaff and his Witches Coven are waiting to darken our hearts and minds on the official Facebook page for Funeral Hearse (simply because Witches Coven doesn’t have its own specific page, or at least not yet, and because we can consider both bands as Imran’s alter-egos), and if you want to show your support to such hardworking and skillful lone wolf, you can purchase a copy of the excellent World on Fire from the Spy Satellite Records’ BandCamp page. May the hands of doom touch your soul through the infernal and piercing music blasted by Witches Coven, and may the energy and mystery of 60’s and 70’s rock and metal music keep flowing in the air for centuries to come thanks to awesome musicians from the independent scene such as Imran, who will surely bring forward more of his wicked music in the nearby future with both his Funeral Hearse and Witches Coven.
Best moments of the album: Reason to Believe and Blinded by Lights.
Worst moments of the album:Falling Through.
Released in 2022 Spy Satellite Records
Track listing 1. Reason to Believe 8:11
2. Shackles of Desire 8:15
3. Waiting for Time 6:25
4. Blinded by Lights 4:45
5. Falling Through 6:41
6. Blurring the Lines 8:26
7. Dawn of the Morning Star 7:56
Imran Manaff – vocals, guitars, bass, synth, drums programming
The fans at Heavy Montreal will always be thankful to the almighty Slayer for their final and utterly devastating concert in Quebec.
INTRODUCTION: Alive and Kicking 10 Years On
The 10th anniversary of Canada’s biggest and most important metal festival, our beloved Heavy Montreal, couldn’t have been celebrated in greater fashion than what metalheads from all over Canada and from several other countries were able to enjoy at the always beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau. Although this was just my second time at Heavy Montreal, not counting the two editions of Heavy T.O. in 2011 and 2012, I must say the overall organization this year was a lot better than in 2014 (check our reviews for both days of the 2014 edition HERE and HERE), with a better layout, better access and exit, better facilities, food trucks, washrooms and so on, which was reflected in the happiness and good vibes flowing from all fans that were literally burning under a merciless sun in a (finally) scorching hot Canadian summer. As I was only able to attend day 2 of the festival, I’m not going to talk about any of the Saturday attractions, so if you’re curious to know how that day was go check the festival’s official Facebook page. And if you’re a hungry metalhead visiting Montreal for Heavy Montreal next year or any other metal concert, I highly recommend Il Focolaio for a delicious pizza or calzone to recharge your batteries before slamming into the circle pits.
Let’s begin with the first band I saw on Sunday, American Christian Hard Rock act SKILLET, who began their fun but not-so-heavy performance at 4:05pm when the sun and the temperature were hotter than the fires of hell. John Cooper, Korey Cooper, Seth Morrison and Jen Ledger put on a pretty good concert during the 45 minutes they had, with songs like Legendary, Sick of It and Hero receiving a very warm feedback from the crowd. I honestly had no idea they were a Christian band, but who cares? They might not be as heavy as most attractions of the festival (or maybe they’re too heavy for less extreme festivals), but they play with a lot of passion and energy, and I guess everyone who was watching their performance noticed that and showed a lot of respect for the band. Not only John is a great frontman, but the two girls Korey (who’s John’s wife) and Jen kicked ass on the guitar, piano, drums and vocals, bringing an amazing feminine touch to the entire festival. In a nutshell, if a heavier-than-usual (but not too extreme) version of modern-day Rock N’ Roll is your cup of tea, I’m sure you’re going to have a very good time watching Skillet live.
As soon as Skillet’s performance was over, it was time for German Power Metal masters GAMMA RAY to fill the airwaves of the festival with some true old school Heavy Metal, especially because the band comprised of the iconic vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen, bassist Dirk Schlächter, guitarist Henjo Richter, drummer Michael Ehré and second (or first) vocalist Frank Beck was the only attraction of the entire festival who played that type of music. I’m a longtime fan of Mr. Hansen’s music and I was very happy I could witness them playing at Heavy Montreal instead of another Alternative Metal band, but I don’t think most of the attendees had the same reaction when the band hit the stage. I mean, there were still countless fans banging their heads and raising their fists to classics like Master of Confusion, Heavy Metal Universe and Send Me a Sign, but there was something missing to make the show memorable. And to be fair, I still don’t understand why the band needs Frank Beck; he’s a good vocalist, but he doesn’t bring any real value to Gamma Ray’s performance. His microphone was lower than Kai’s, he didn’t sing most of the songs, and the songs he did sing were just OK. I think putting that crazy dude that was all wet dancing samba (and several other rhythms) nonstop on the gray mud to dance on stage would have been a lot more fun than Frank’s performance, don’t you agree?
There was no time to breathe as, the second Gamma Ray were over, we were all able to witness a fantastic and very theatrical performance by the stunning Maria Brink and her henchmen (and henchwomen), collectively known as American Alternative Metal/Metalcore band IN THIS MOMENT. The aforementioned Maria, who I dare to say looks and feels like an evil (and of course improved) version of Lady Gaga, together with Chris Howorth on lead guitar, Randy Weitzel on rhythm guitar, Travis Johnson on bass and Kent Diimmel on drums, plus the two sexy masked dancers who worked as some sort of “mirrors” to Maria, delivered a truly hypnotizing concert, with their music being a blend of the blasphemy and anti-religiousness of Marilyn Manson and Cradle of Filth with the insanity of Slipknot and Ghost. The final result was obviously fantastic, with my two favorite songs of their setlist being by far the demented Big Bad Wolf and the closing song Whore, where Maria’s dancers entered dressed up as characters from the excellent dystopian novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, holding sings with the words “SHAME” and “WHORE”. In the end, In This Moment kicked some serious ass without a shadow of a doubt, leaving all fans at Heavy Montreal extremely satisfied and eager for more of the music by metal’s favorite “whore” in a not-so-distant future.
When the next attraction from the Apocalypse Stage started, American stoner metallers Clutch, I went for a walk as I needed a break and some water. Terror and Demolition Hammer were on fire on the Forest and Garden stages, respectively, but I decided to watch the last wrestling show of the festival in the area called HEAVY MANIA, featuring wrestlers of the International Wrestling Syndicate like The Green Phantom, Sexxxy Eddy and Tabarnak De Team. The name of the fatal-four battle I was able to watch was “Le Cauchemar D’Oppenheimer”, and it was so fun I even missed the beginning of Slash’s concert. Well, it was definitely worth it, with Sexxxy Eddy winning the match amidst some trash talk and a few destroyed tables, just the way we like it in underground wrestling.
Back to the Heavy Stage, it was time for the one and only SLASH, accompanied by Myles Kennedy on vocals, Frank Sidoris on the guitar, Todd Kerns on bass and Brent Fitz on drums to bring old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock to our avid ears. It was still very hot in Montreal, but because the show started at 7:15pm the sun was already lower and we were able to enjoy the concert without sweating like pigs. Myles Kennedy, who looks like a rocker version of Kevin Bacon, is such a great singer to the point I even forgot it was Slash on the guitar at times, showcasing all his refined skills in excellent songs like Anastasia, World on Fire and, of course, their cover version for one of Guns N’ Roses biggest hits, Nightrain. Slash was precise as usual with his unmatched riffs and solos, not to mention how happy he looked on stage, making me wonder if he’s only playing with Guns N’ Roses nowadays to have enough money to fund his solo career. Well, I’m actually happy he’s in both bands, so I can’t complain about that at all. Anyway, at this point of the festival we had already had several subgenres of heavy music, as you can see, except for our good old Thrash Metal. Guess what happened next?
From 8:15pm on, Heavy Montreal became Thrash Montreal, with Anthrax and the almighty Slayer leading us all the way into the eye of the circle pit. First, it was American Thrash Metal institution ANTHRAX who revved up our engines with their punk/hardcore-infused thrash, blasting classic moshing hymns like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and Antisocial for our vulgar delectation, as well as their already classic tribute to the deceased Dio, Lemmy and Dimebag with the beautiful In The End. Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante were unstoppable during their short but extremely vibrant performance, inspiring all fans to raise their fists and horns in the air and mosh like there’s no tomorrow. Moreover, I don’t know why but the festival organization decided it was a good idea to throw more cold water on the crowd when it was already nighttime, making some people run away from the stage due to that. Maybe they were trying to calm down the more excited fans who were crushing their skulls into the circle pit, who knows. What I know for sure is that I love Thrash Metal, just like Scott Ian asked us all, and I was more than happy to be able to witness one of the bands of the Big Four once again in my life.
Lastly, the moment everyone at Heavy Montreal was waiting for. The heaviest, most evil and most demonic band in the history of music, Thrash Metal titans SLAYER, took the province of Quebec by storm for one final time before calling it quits by the end of this year, which is something I still cannot believe but that makes total sense taking into account their age, everything that has happened to the band in the past decade, and the humongous amount of energy needed to play their music at the required (and insane) level. Although the opening acts might not have been as demolishing as their 2018 concerts in Canada, when Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God opened for them like their pulverizing concert at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph were beyond possessed during their incendiary performance at Heavy Montreal, proving once and for all why you can play Black Metal, Death Metal or any other type of extreme music, but you’ll never be as badass as Slayer.
If their 2015 album Repentless was indeed their last studio album ever, let’s say they’re retiring in style, as the intro Delusions of Saviour plus the frantic thrashing hymn Repentless were everything they needed to set fire to Heavy Montreal. After that insane start it was pure Armageddon, with old school classics such as Evil Has No Boundaries and Mandatory Suicide being intertwined with newer songs like World Painted Blood and Payback (as Mr. Araya said, “payback is a bitch, motherfucker!”), and even songs they haven’t played in a while such as Gemini, Temptation and Born of Fire. By the way, Slayer played nothing more, nothing less than FIVE songs from Seasons in the Abyss, including of course the battle hymn War Ensemble (where Mr. Araya kindly asked us all to scream “WAAAAAAAAAR!” together with him), the serial killer-inspired classic Dead Skin Mask, and obviously the album’s flawless obscure title-track, or in other words, half of their 1990 masterpiece for our total delight. Furthermore, it was absolutely amazing witnessing all fans at the festival screaming “SLAAAAAYYYYEEEERRRR!”, “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!” and even “OLE OLE OLE OLE! SLAYER, SLAYER!” at the top of their lungs before, during and after the concert, showing a beautiful connection with the band as they masterfully played an avalanche of Thrash Metal classics amidst the flames burning on stage, ending with the all-time classic Angel of Death, including Mr. Araya’s famous demented roar at the beginning.
Gary Holt was once again fantastic on the guitar (needless to say, I can’t wait for the next Exodus album), Paul Bostaph couldn’t stop smashing his drums and our skulls, and Kerry King was the usual beast incarnate shredding his guitar chords manically from start to finish while all fans slammed their souls into the never-ending mosh pits. However, it was Tom Araya who stole the show with a perfect vocal performance, and after everything was said and done he didn’t leave the stage until he could thank each and every fan at the festival for our passionate support through the years. We could clearly see he was very emotional, very touched by our love for Slayer, and we were able to read his lips when he said “I’m gonna miss you, guys…” while tears fell from his eyes. Well, we’re going to miss his screams too, if that’s actually going to be the end of Slayer. Kerry King didn’t cry but he simply raised both fists in the air and roared like a wild beast, as the “demonic machine of Thrash Metal” he is. Maybe that’s his way of saying “thank you!” and crying tears of joy? At least that’s what all fans kept doing while returning from the festival on the subway, screaming SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! nonstop. And that’s what we’ll keep doing forever and ever, even if Quebec, the rest of Canada and any other part of the world never see the band playing live again after this farewell tour is over. Thank you, SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYEEEERRRRR! Heavy Montreal loves you!
Setlist Delusions of Saviour Repentless
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death
Band members Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums