Ratings: 2=crap; 4=poor; 6=average; 8=great; 10=superb!!!

Winter 2022-Summer 2022:

ADIANT-Killing Dreams (MDD Records)
ADIANT are from Styria (Austria) and the band was founded in 2019. Their debut album "Killing Dreams" has ten tracks, worthy of thirty-five minutes of symphonic death metal. The lovely, angel-like vocals of Patricia will remind you of Anneke van Giersbergen for sure, although the brutal male vocals of Felix may take you by surprise. The melodic and symphonic influence in opener "Coronation", which is one of the singles taken from the album, contains a nice bridge to these two different vocals here. Title track "Killing Dreams" sounds definitely more powerful and less melodic. It gives the album a lot of variation. In this particular song, Patricia leans much more towards the direction of a soprano type of voice, whereas the grunts and growls of Felix are much deeper and a lot more brutal and intense. "Hiding Place" contains the best of both worlds, and so the melodic, symphonic death metal fan will be very pleased with this first outcome of ADIANT. "Give Us A Voice" grabs back to the sound of the CD opener and the steady riffs give it a rather powerful face. Background vocals have been provided by Caroline Gschier, by the way. Power and energy take a step back in "Beloved Distance", granting an amazing leading role for Patricia in this emotional song. This is indeed the other side of the band, which really shines on this album and makes sure that the balance is always right. "Lighthearted" is exactly what the song is about in comparison with the previous track. It has got a fast and furious drive, which makes it one of the highlights on this album in my book. "Burning Bridges" contains the well-known combination of fabulous female vocals and brutal male growls. These brutal growls receive a very prominent place here, yet the sound doesn't change or get ultra-brutal because of it. In "Psychosis", the two voices blend together perfectly well and the whispering vocals in the instrumental part near the end sounds really nice. "Insatiable" is on next, which has got a fast drive again and it's a great addition to the brutal vocal sound. "Witches Dance" closes this very short ride, in which all witches that are listening to this album, take over the dance floor. Watch out, they will curse you with a spell, if you are not careful. ADIANT's first steps to success have been made and only time will tell, if they will succeed with that. If you like some decent melodic, symphonic death metal, you will definitely like this album. ADIANT consists of Patricia Gschier on vocals, Felix Gschier on bass and vocals, Rene Stoecklmair on guitar, Lizzy Siebenhofer on guitar and Marcus Kurzl on drums. For more info, go to: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARAPACIS-Suburban Mist (Blackhouse Records)
Welcome to the ninth album of ARAPACIS, worthy of seven songs and thirty-five minutes of varied pieces of music, ranging from progressive rock to psychedelic rock and blues rock. Opener "Cage Of Fog" already captures some of these varied styles. I hear jazz, progressive rock and psychedelic influences in one song. Singer Michelle Macpherson alternates from sensual to jazz and her voice sounds outrageous and wild. In the next song "In Hell, I'm Home" there is an unmistakable touch of the blues, next to the keyboard parts of David Stone, formerly of RAINBOW and MAX WEBSTER. The sound of ARAPACIS will always take you back to the seventies, no matter what influences they are putting in their songs. Just listen to "Music, You And Wine", which will take you back in time, when most of the music was still called innovative and new, while nowadays everything sounds like it has been done before. That innovative side can be found in most of the songs of ARAPACIS. However, "Rural Mist" is of a complete different category. I would like to categorize this one as country rock, mainly because of the way Michelle sings it. There is a guest appearance of DREAM THEATER/SONS OF APOLLO keyboard player Derek Sherinian in "Suburban Mist", a song that has got a progressive twist to it. Not strange at all with a guest player like that, who doesn't go for a place in the spotlight here though. Jerry Fielden, guitar player and band leader claims a leading role in "Unjustified", which sounds like a jam session to me, which has lots of space for the instrumentalists to freak out a bit. The CD closer "Urban Mist" tends to go in different directions. One time it sounds rather dreamy, while at other times the vocal parts could be categorized as black metal. Clearly, there is enough to explore on this album and the many different angles and influences in the songs of this Canadian band are a treat to the ear. "Urban Mist" is the latest single of the band, by the way. Experienced ARAPACIS fans will be flabbergasted with this new release for sure. ARAPACIS consists of Michelle Macpherson on vocals, Scott Haskin on drums, Gwendolyne Krasnicki on violin, David Stone on keyboards, Jean Audet on bass, Gillan Macpherson-Briggs on backing vocals, Jerry Fielden on guitar, backing vocals and mandolin and on "Suburban Mist" there is a guest appearance by Derek Sherinian on keyboards. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARISE-Eon (Thornado Music)
ARISE are hailing from Spain and their music is energetic, powerful and I think that metal core would be the right description here. Their album "Eon" contains nine songs, worthy of about forty-five minutes and it starts off with a song called "Nebula", which includes some staccato riffs and screaming vocals. The fact that they sing in Spanish gives their sound a special element, that you will discover soon. "Deja Vu" is an up tempo song and after listening to it several times I haven't got the idea that I have heard it before somewhere. "Universos Paralelos" sounds quite different. It contains more depth and it's not as straight forward as you may expect from a metal core band. However, the riffs are great and there is some more melody here as well. As a matter of fact, you must be quite open-minded to comprehend this newer style of music, which is not easy when growing up with simple hard rock and heavy metal like yours truly. "Crono" has got a very powerful and explosive start and I've got a much better connection here, if you catch my drift. Estefania screams her lungs out here, while she also uses her more sensual dreamy voice, like in "Ningun Lugar", next to her more expressive screaming voice. It matches perfectly with the wild riffs in the second part of this song. One of the highlights on this album surely is "Hydra", which contains some nice mood changes. It shows that this metal core band has got many faces and that they have got a lot to offer. "Obsolescencia" is on next, which starts with some tribal type of drum beats. Soon, the wild and angry vocals of Estefania take over and after a subtle switch, she sounds very sweet and modest again. "Campos De Inocencia" gives the metal core fan exactly what they need and without a warning we have arrived at the very last song on this album, called "Sangre En La Ciudad". It starts off rather wild and promising and one more time ARISE brings out the best in the world of metal core. Their sound never gets too outrageous or too brutal, yet it's never too sweet as well. This is exactly what the average metal core fan would like to hear, I guess. ARISE consists of Estefania Aledo on vocals, Rafa Esplugues on guitar, Albert Agulles on guitar, Alex Lopez on bass and Carlos 'Charlee' Guardado on drums. For more info, go to: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCH ENEMY-Deceivers (Savage Messiah Music)
This is the eleventh album of ARCH ENEMY, containing eleven songs and forty-five minutes of melodic death metal. From the first notes on, the guitar plays a huge part and that's exactly what I want to hear. The opener is called "Handshake With Hell" and it's like the band has returned back to their roots. The thundering and blasting drum beats, loud barking vocals and the exciting guitar work of Michael and Jeff, it's all there. Their sound is wild, extremely loud and yet still with a melodic twist. That's not the case in "Deceiver, Deceiver" though, because this song is a wild punch in your face from the beginning until the very end. It’s time to let off some steam on this wild bulldozer grinder. I guess, this will get the pit going for sure, when playing live. However, in "In The Eye Of The Storm" the melody is back, whereas the band shows a slower and much darker side, although they never drift away from that well-known ARCH ENEMY sound. The storm is raging on firmly in "The Watcher", where brutality has no borders and in the guitar part there’s even a melodic touch. Unexpectedly, this song floats on in the next ear attack, which is called "Poisoned Arrow" and starts off with a nice intro. It's time to catch your breath. It's extremely dangerous to play with poison, but ARCH ENEMY knows exactly what they are doing. They just put the tip of the arrow point into the poisonous liquid, so they don't spill the dangerous fluid. They don't cover the entire song with poison and only sprinkle it with the nasty stuff. "Sunset Over The Empire" starts off with a bulldozer bass part. Alissa introduces you to the apocalypse and the choir vocals add a bombastic touch to it. Of course there are some tasty guitar riddles in it to complete the song. "House Of Mirrors" is on next. Alissa will show her listeners the way in this maze of mirrors. One wrong step and the mirror cracks and that's exactly what is going to happens at the end. The song quality on this album is pretty high in my opinion and I definitely hear some potential new hits like "Ravenous", "Nemesis" or "Dead Eyes See No Future". It might sound less extreme in a way, however technically it's so much better. "Spreading Black Wings" is very powerful and brutal at the same time. This is followed by a short, instrumental intro, called "Mourning Star". It's a sign to get ready for the final steps in the heavy pounder "One Last Time", while "Exiled From Earth" bashes towards the end of the album with some wild tribal type of drum beats. ARCH ENEMY is Michael Amott on guitars, Alissa White-Gluz on vocals, Sharlee D'Angelo on bass, Daniel Erlandsson on drums and Jeff Loomis on guitars. For more info, go to: or [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

A SOUND OF THUNDER-The Krimson Kult (Neptune Records)
I must admit that the cover of this new A SOUND OF THUNDER album looks really stunning. The ten songs are worthy of fifty minutes of heavy metal with some tasty side steps to other genres. Opener "Orb Weaver" really surprises me with a weird intro leading to a MEAT LOAF type of song, including clear female vocals and the sound of a piano. There are some nice mood and speed changes, although the dark and sober atmosphere is still there. "The Rise Of The Krimson Kult" continues in a very powerful way, in which Nina shows her vocal skills. "Behind The Light" has that unmistakable true metal feeling and this seventies rock song contains some powerful vocal pull outs and amazing guitar work, while "Aoth" starts off in a progressive way with synths and a dark and very mystique sound. The spooky sound you would expect from a dark and krimson kult, where the band refers to. It's a good and well-chosen intro to "Grave Troopers", a heavy up tempo rock song with some fiery guitar work. "The Wizard Of Crow Country" is a beautiful, mainly told, story with a moody acoustic guitar sound, which slowly evolves into a ballad-type of song. The stunning guitar solo definitely lifts it up to a much higher level, as far as I'm concerned. "The Golden Age" is more or less a rock song with a message. Names like THIN LIZZY and JETHRO TULL come to mind, because of the guitar sound. In "Beach Murder Party", you will get a very creepy feeling of a real dark evil cult, especially in the spoken word part. It's impossible to understand what the krimson kult is all about, but it sure delivers some great inspirational songs. "The Fury Of The Anacostia" is a great rock song, which is truly the highlight on this album. Just listen to the amazing vocals of Nina, who sounds like Ann Wilson herself, the excellent guitar work and the firm drum beats, which are very powerful and energetic. Once again we hear a totally different side of A SOUND OF THUNDER, which constantly reinvents itself as a band. This time they show their mystique face with a krimson color and it fits them quite well. A SOUND OF THUNDER consists of Nina Osegueda on vocals and theremin, Josh Schwartz on guitar and keyboards, Jesse Keen on bass and Chris Haren on drums. For more info, go to: or Join the Krimson Kult, it won't do you no harm! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AVATARIUM-Death, Where Is Your Sting (AFM Records)
The brand new AVATARIUM album contains eight songs, worthy of forty-five minute. When Leif Edling left the band because of health problems, they decided to choose their own destination and go on without him. Did it make a huge difference? I can't say that it does. I think, it even lifted the AVATARIUM to a next level. Maybe their music sounds less heavy, but it's certainly a lot deeper and darker than ever before. Just listen to the moody violin part in "A Love Like Ours", starting off the album. I would even like to compare it to FLEETWOOD MAC for example that is also well-known for their high level of intenseness. It continues in Stockholm where there are choir vocals, acoustic guitars and flutes to accompany the story told by Jennie-Ann. Next to that, there is also the threatening doomy guitar sound that we know so well. It's not as dark and doomy as the new CANDLEMASS album, but that's the difference between both bands. AVATARIUM covers a wider range of this genre and they sound less extreme. Just listen to title track "Death, Where Is Your Sting", which sounds airy, yet still dark, in my opinion. "Psalm For The Living" wouldn't sound bad as a Christmas carol. Very subtle the guitar comes in at the end of the song, although it never gets seriously heavy. I think that the band was trying out their borders here. True doom adepts will get their share in "God Is Silent", which is a great title, don't you agree? With all the weird things going on in the world, you would expect a little bit more positive input on the situation of this so-called God. The guitar solo is crying out loud and the drums are pounding firmly. It's definitely one of the highlights on the album for me. What a beauty! "Mother Can You Hear Me Now" is a question that won’t be answered on this CD, but Jenny-Ann almost begs for an answer. And while she keeps on asking, the guitar goes on, until it erupts in a sensitive solo, which matches this sensitive song very well. Heavy riffs dominate "Nocturne", which is an up-tempo rocker with firm guitar riffs and some wild bashing drums. The instrumental song "Transcendent" closes the album, which builds up the tension to a steaming climax. The flame slowly goes out with some more acoustic guitars. If you compare this to their previous stuff, I would say that AVATARIUM has cut down in heaviness a little, but they have made this up with intenseness. The sting of death is there, but it's not lethal. AVATARIUM consists of Jennie-Ann Smith on vocals, Marcus Jidell on guitar, Andreas Habo Johansson on drums, Mats Rydstrom on bass and Daniel Karlsson on keyboards. For more info, go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BABYMETAL-10 Babymetal Budokan (Babymetal Records)
This double live CD captures the Japanese two female metal outfit in the most well-known music venue in Tokyo, Japan, the Nippon Budokan. The backup band of these two lovely looking ladies plays a very energetic live set, topped by the childish vocals of these singers, which works remarkably well, since their star is rising incredibly fast. The intro of this live event is approximately eight minutes long, which contains some spoken word parts as well. It’s called the intro of "Babymetal Death", after which they continue with "Ijime, Dame, Zettai". The female vocals blend together very well with the loud and aggressive fast riffs of the band. Their lovely voices will create a different atmosphere, next to the loud guitars, which is a very good combination and ensures the fascinating success of the band. In "Gimme Chocolate!!", the ultra-fast speed and thrash metal is topped by the fast vocals of these ladies. When listening to the general response of the crowd, you will be really amazed. If you ever had any doubt at all in your mind, this combination of brutal death and speed metal riffs and Lolita-like dressed ladies with childish voices would work, then the answer would be a heartfelt "yes". Prove is given in songs, like "Doki, Doki Morning". "GJ!" starts off with another spoken word part. Just listen to the reaction of the audience here. Then the speed goes down a little, which results in a more intense and doomy sound. After another spoken word part, it’s time for a sensitive ballad. Yes, they also do an occasional ballad, which creates a very sensitive atmosphere. In my thoughts, I can see those cigarette lighters go up during this song. In "Distortion", the band receives a bit of help from Alissa White-Gluz of ARCH ENEMY, who provides some brutal screams as well. The song is short yet very intense. In "Pa Pa Ya!!" another guest singer announces himself. This time it's F.HERO, an Asian rapper who came to scream his lungs out. The eight songs on this first CD are worthy of about forty-five minutes, whereas the second CD has also got a playing time of about forty-five minutes, although it contains only five lengthy songs. "Megitsune" gets some very enthusiastic response from the outrageous audience. These simple shouts are repeated so many times, that you can easily shout along to it after a while. And that's the strength of this band, I guess. "Karate" contains some groovy and brutal riffs, which is exactly why BABYMETAL is filed under heavy metal. "Headbangeeeeeerrrrrrr!!!!!!" starts off with a lengthy intro, including a church organ. The public goes wild and screams for more 'heavy metal', which contains more heavy speed metal elements. I guess, you can only dream about that as a band. I think that "The One" is the first encore, which has been introduced by an instrumental and rather bombastic intro. It's a slower song, in which the 'na-na-na' sing along part is a bit too much stretched out in my opinion. The last song is called "Road Of Resistance", which starts off with another spoken word part. I guess that this break is used for the make-over of the ladies backstage. IRON MAIDEN would do it like that as well. The song closes with some 'over-the-top' constantly triggered fast drum beats. Holy cow, what a great closure! After thirteen songs, this gig, which has been used for a streaming event, is over. Moa Kikuchi (Moa Metal) and Suzuka Nakamoto (Su Metal) are responsible for a great show and they sure know what their fans want to hear. So enjoy this one and a half hour special live set from the Budokan in Japan to the max. For more info about the band, you can go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BAD SISTER-Where Will You Go (Pride & Joy Music)
This is the third album by German band BAD SISTER. It contains thirteen songs, worthy of a full hour of AOR and melodic rock songs. The album starts off with the first single and video taken from the album, "Lose Or Win", which is a firm melodic rock song with fiery guitar licks and also very easy on the ear and radio friendly. "Feels Like Love" is next up, which contains some sharp riffs. The vocals of Andrea are very clear and musically I’d like to refer to BON JOVI, EUROPE, DANTE FOX, SARAYA or VIXEN to give you some kind of an idea. "Bright Lights" contains some catchy phrases that will probably appeal to many people, while "Don't Need Me" for example will easily catch your attention. The great guitar solo adds some extra balls to this song and lifts it up to a higher level. Clearly, the song quality on this album is high above average. There is a nice groove in "You're Gone", which gives it a THUNDER type of feeling. While "Couldn't Do Right" contains some HEART influences with the forceful pull outs of Andrea. "Confess You Love Me" has got a nice mood change in the middle, giving it a nice twist. The first ballad is called "Could It Be Love", which is still powerful, yet the speed is pulled back a bit and you feel a little more emotion in here. In "Fair Enough" I hear some influences of VAN HALEN's "Panama" in the chorus, if you know what I mean. "She Doesn't Love You" is a ballsy rocker with a rough edge to it. The only real ballad comes right after that with "Moon Woman", so it’s time for some sensitivity. "Some Hallelujahs" and "Got Caught" are the last two melodic rock songs in that well-known BAD SISTER style. They ride the melodic rock path and prove to be the real masters of writing high quality songs with a catchy rock attitude. Hamburg can be proud of this bad sister and brothers. BAD SISTER consists of Andrea Lohndorf on vocals, Sven Lange on guitar, Andreas Lau on keyboards, Jorn Saul on bass and Kai-Ove Kessler on drums. For more info, go to; [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACKBOOTS-Chaos (Big Bad Wolf Records)
BLACKBOOTS are hailing from the low lands and on "Chaos" they present eight tracks, worthy of almost twenty-eight minutes of groovy rock. Opener "The Mule" is not the DEEP PURPLE track, but a song that could have been written by ALANIS MORISSETTE or AMANDA MARSHALL. The vocals of front woman Jantiena Oosterveld are slighty raspy and the instrumentation does the rest. "Frozen Heart" contains some influences of LIVING COLOUR, but then with female vocals. Their 'easy-on-the-ear' rock songs are perhaps not extremely heavy, yet they sound a lot more decent than the crap that you hear on the local radio nowadays. "Back In Force" has got a steady rhythm and also title track "Chaos" could be very suitable for radio airplay in a way. "Gave It My All" has an acoustic intro, which makes your thoughts go out to ANOUK or even ILSE DE LANGE, if you combine the voice of Jantiena here. It's a very sensitive ballad, which gives you some time to breath after the energetic rock songs that you heard so far. "Blackboots Lover" sounds rather groovy and it shows that their music is pretty raw in general. "On My Way" is very groovy too and maybe the riff of HEART's "Barracuda" could be recognized here. It might be the crowd pleaser for people that like the heavier stuff. The guitar solo is pretty hot and the CD closes with the same sound of a music box, where the album started with. BLACKBOOTS consists of Jantiena Oosterveld on vocals, Eize de Bruin on guitar, Jelle Romviel on rhythm guitar, Jose Arriu on bass and Jaap van Hes on drums. The picture on the front cover represents exactly the album title. It's a bit of a chaos, but it might be the start of a good party. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK MASK-Warriors Of The Night (EP) (Underground Power Records)
This is definitely one of the best releases that I've heard in ages. BLACK MASK is hailing from Mexico, but if you would say that these are the previously unreleased demos of ACID, I think you also would believe it. Title track "Warriors Of The Night" starts off with some powerful vocals, fiery guitars, thundering drums rolls and in general the sound of the warriors of the night. This four track EP represents heavy metal the way it is supposed to be. The speed is tripled in "Run For Your Life" and it feels like the band has been chased by a vicious demon or animal here. Obviously, the first song would fit perfectly on the second album of ACID, this speed monster would definitely fit really very well on the debut album of this cult Belgian metal outfit. In fact, it goes beyond all speed limits and therefore, I think it must be categorized as speed or thrash metal rather than heavy metal. On the other hand, I also hear influences of the old school TESTAMENT, so it's definitely heavy metal. No matter what you would call it, I call it high quality metal. "Lightning Knight" sounds a little bit slower. although the epic element of true heavy metal, has been added here for sure. No surprise at all, because there are the real knights at work, who hold their sword up high. Because of the accent of singer Liz, her voice tends to lean a bit towards Doro in her WARLOCK days, which she can take as a big compliment. The final track is the self-titled "Black Mask", which is another speed devil and played in the fifth gear. After fifteen minutes, my batteries are quite empty and I have to lay down for a while to come to my senses. What an awesome adventure, this has been. I'm truly blown away by this EP and I'm so much looking forward to the first full-length album by this Mexican true heavy metal outfit right now. BLACK MASK consists of Isaac 'Wild' Alcantara on guitar and bass, Liz 'Riot' Javier on vocals and Evil Stick on drums. For more information, go to: And remember: we are warriors of the night, we are thunder in the sky! [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK MASK-Queen Of The Beasts (Underground Power Records)
The first full-length album of this Mexican true metal band is a fact. Unfortunately, it's only half an hour long and it contains just eight songs, but this killer album is highly recommended to metal heads, who likes their music loud, powerful and true. BLACK MASK have unleashed the "Queen Of The Beasts", which starts off with a short, instrumental intro, called "The March" and provides some MAIDEN-esque guitar work. Title track "Queen Of The Beasts" takes away in fifth gear, which mixes the best of ACID type of vocals and early HELLOWEEN rhythms. The high vocal pull outs of Liz are truly amazing, whose voice gets very close to Kate, which she can take as a huge compliment. "Spikes And Chains" takes back the speed a few nods and tells you all about the metal outfit of these true metal warriors. They wear their best armor and play with fire and knifes, according to the pictures in the CD booklet. In "La Batalla", the band sings in their native tongue, which makes it more exotic and maybe even a bit aggressive, because there is no language barrier anymore and they can express themselves better. The high speed drum rolls and fast riffs are simply amazing. "Lightning Knight" - a good title by the way - starts as a ballad, but after the lightning strikes, it continues as a true heavy metal pounder. In "Dagon", the speed goes up and I think this will definitely create a huge mosh pit in a live situation. The early IRON MAIDEN influences are back for sure in "Warriors Of The Night", however you can also add WARLOCK and KIM SIXX to that impressive list. The final song "Ancient Times" has been played at breakneck speed, which is what this band is all about. If these five Mexican heavy metal warriors don't win you over musically, then the beautiful artwork definitely will. All the beasts are gathered around their queen, who's holding up a skull in her finest blood red dress. BLACK MASK consists of Andy Slaughter on guitar, Liz Riot Javier on vocals, Philty Lynott on bass, Isaac A. Wild on guitars and Omar K.Night on drums. Website: [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK WIDOWS-Among The Brave Ones (Inverse Records)
The black widow is a toxic spider and this band from Portugal has five black widows, so you'd better watch out or you won't live to tell. A bite of these five ladies, playing brutal heavy metal, could be lethal and very deadly. Their album contains ten songs, worthy of almost fifty minutes, which starts off with "Black Orchid". It's a combination of a raging storm of loud and wild riffs mixed with some operatic vocals and bombastic choirs. There is a lot happening here and it's suitable for those, who like their music extreme and loud, yet prefer a touch of melody as well. "Schizo" has got both elements as well. Loud and extreme growls are mixed with clear, sometimes operatic vocals and some energetic drum beats. Title track "Among The Brave Ones" starts with the sound of thunder and a piano and pretty soon the riffs hammer a way inside your brain and it feels like brutal metal instead the melodic touch that it contained in the first place. "Philosophy Of Fools" is another energetic track, which tends to lean towards the melodic side rather than the witchy and sometimes screaming vocals of singer Rute. "Electrify Me" suits her vocal skills much better, while the riffs are rough edged. These two elements blend very well together, however this band is not easy to categorize in one particular music style and it's uncertain where the next step will go to every time. "I'm A Monster" for example starts as a black metal song, yet it also has some small tender moments along the way. In "Drowning" though, the pace is set to slow that it's time to take a deep breath. "Dead Heaven's Vibe" catches some black metal screams next to operatic vocals, which is a dynamic blend that has been used quite often in their songs. The guitar solo sounds truly amazing here. In "Forgive To Forget", Rute treats the listener to some very impressive vocals. The last song is called "Eden Denied" and it's another summing up of different music styles in one song, including some operatic vocals and the thundering drum rolls standing side by side. If you like a mix of varied styles, then you have to check this one out. If you're more into a band, that has already chosen the path they want to walk on, then I suggest to listen to this first. Be warned though that once they've tasted your blood, they might poison you with their extreme sound. Have a taste and be among the brave ones, it could be your last chance before the fatal bite will hit you. BLACK WIDOWS consists of Rute Fevereiro on vocals, Solange Campos on bass, Marta Brissos on drums, Iris Prado on guitars and Monica Rodrigues on keyboards. Website: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLOODY HAMMERS-Twilight Zone (independent)
The song "Twilight Zone", which was originally written by GOLDEN EARRING in the early eighties, is the perfect cover for BLOODY HAMMERS. They recorded the song in March of 2021 and released it as a digital single. Unfortunately, they stayed a bit too close to the original song and it could have been a bit more adventurous, as far as I'm concerned. On the other hand, it's an honest tribute to the Dutch masters of rock. So follow this twosome called BLOODY HAMMERS and step into the twilight zone, it's good fun out there. BLOODY HAMMERS consists of Devallia on bass and keyboards and Anders Manga on vocals, guitar and drums. For more information, go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BOLLVERK-Heading For The Crown (Metal Message)
This German classic heavy metal band has released their debut album, which is called "Heading For The Crown". It's worthy of nine tracks and forty-five minutes of Teutonic heavy metal from the eighties, drenched with influences of WARLOCK, SCORPIONS, SAXON and ACCEPT. In opener "Ask The Angel, Just listen To The Devil", I hear some influences of ACCEPT in the heavy drum beats, while the voice of Svenja reminded me a bit of Klaus Meine (SCORPIONS). The guitar licks on the other hand have some SAXON influences. "Let's Rise Till Dawn" is a steady rocker with choir vocals and a fast catchy beat. In "Good Morning Rock 'N' Roll", I hear some Lemmy type of vocals and everybody knows, that Lemmy lived and played rock and roll. If you also like rock and roll, then you'd better say good morning to this one. The Lemmy type of vocals return in title track "Heading For The Crown" and it looks like a constant factor in the sound of BOLLVERK. 'The 7th No (Is A KO)" is about turning someone down six times in a row and the seventh time is a knock-out punch, like this pounder. "Master Of Thunder" is loud, wild and heavy, however the guitar solo really makes the difference, which is absolutely mind-blowing. "Live Fast" is not a speed monster at all, it actually slows down the pace for a while. After the intro, the speed goes up and turns it into another metal pounder. Zahn also beefs up "Next Level Of Service" with his raw vocals, which is the right combination, next to Svenja's voice. "Someday We Will Die" has a prophetic message and we all know that it's true as hell. I guess, as long as we are able to enjoy music like this, we're still alive and kicking. This band proves how powerful rock and roll will sound like, when it comes straight from the heart. They still have a long way to go, but they have the right attitude and nobody can stop them. They are heading for the crown and they will grab it, when they can. BOLLVERK is Svenja on vocals, Zahn on guitar and vocals, Raphi on guitar, Tim on bass and Angelo on drums. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CANNIBAL-Fire Meets Steel (Headbangers Records)
Do you want to be eaten alive? Stay away from CANNIBAL, because they will eat you alive for sure. "Fire Meets Steel" was already released in 2020, but somehow we missed it and it sure is essential enough for a review on these pages. The band consists of five band members and the album contains seven tracks and is worthy of about twenty-five minutes. Get ready to be blown away by this Canadian metal outfit in fast opener "The Warlock". Fans of ACID, WARLOCK, MASQUE, TAIST OF IRON or KIM SIXX will be very happy. This is great speed metal with powerful female vocals and a very good first impression for yours truly. "Skulls And Wings" continues and although the speed may not be that high, the intention is the same and it will surely leave a grin on the face of every true metal warrior, I guess. "Gates Of Hell" is another song, that you would expect on an album like this. Fans of early RIOT or OMEN will love this stuff for sure. "On Your Feet" continues in the same speed, but I don't give a damn because the solid true metal spirit stays untouched. The guitar solos cry out loud, the drums hammer away and the powerful vocals are just the way you want to hear it, while title track "Fore Meets Steel" is another fiery heavy metal tune. "After All" is the best of both worlds of IRON MAIDEN (galloping bass rhythm) and JUDAS PRIEST (guitar licks), so what more can you wish for? The final song of this mind-blowing album is called "Catacombs Of Hell", which features some old school SAXON type of guitar cries. If you're an old school true metal fan with a good taste in music, then don't wait any longer and find yourself a copy of this amazing album and bang your head to the seven songs that have been presented here. You won't be disappointed, believe me. CANNIBAL consists of Jo Capitalicide on guitar, Andy Lust on bass, Chris Disappointer on drums, B. Destroyer on guitar and Gretchen Stell on vocals. For more info, go to: [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ELIANA CARGNELUTTI-Aur (independent)
Ten songs, one female guitar player and almost thirty-five minutes of musical pleasure can be found on this CD. Although the opener is short, it proves that Eliana will tear the roof down with this release. Her music is a good mix of rock and blues with some good solid vocals, which is what we hear in opener "Breathe Again", right after the intro "Chaosnero". Knowing that Eliana is also part of the DEEP PURPLE tribute band STRANGE KIND OF WOMEN, it's not strange at all that you will also hear some references to this legendary classic rock band. Not in every song, because "Who Is The Monster?' is a more straight forward rock song of this blonde guitar vixen. It has got a steady beat and a catchy vibe. "I Don't Know" adds some funk to her sound and my thoughts tend to go out to a more groovy version of STEVIE WONDER. The guitar work however is smashing and fiery. Guest player on this song is the amazing Ana Popovic, by the way. "Smoke In Your Eyes" sounds a little bit different than "Smoke On The Water" and there is a slightly touch of reggae in this song. Not really my cup of tea, but if you like to dance, then the rhythm is there for sure. "Love Letters" - how surprising - is a nice love song. The rocking vibe is getting back in 'I Won't Change", which is a good thing. Never change yourself for anyone. The guitar work here is fuzzy and it really adds something here. It's completed by the fiery beat of the drummer, making it a great rock song, which belongs to my favorites on this album. "Diablo's Fire" has got a seventies feeling and it's groovier than the other songs. Check out the amazing guitar work and the reference to DEEP PURPLE won't be too much of a surprise here anymore. "Alone" sounds much slower and the mood is less rocking, yet it's being played with the right feeling. That melancholic touch remains in CD closer "I Swear", which feature some breathtaking guitar licks by this lovely looking blonde lady from Italy. Obviously, this high-skilled musician was also part of the well-known BLUES CARAVAN. Do yourself a favor and check out this album, which covers many different rock and blues styles. For more info, go to: or [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CAUCHEMAR-Rosa Mystica (Temple Of Mystery Records)
Doom metal with mystic elements is what you get on this new eight track album by the Canadian band CAUCHEMAR. The album is worthy of about forty minutes and starts off with "Jour De Colere". Just listen to deep voice of Annick Giroux, combined with the stylish music, which is powerful, doomy and classy at the same time. The lengthy instrumental part will get you in the right mood and so does her voice. This is certainly not an average doom metal band and they belong to the highest ranks in my book. "Rouge Sang" is a bit faster, yet the mystic atmosphere is still there and although the song is in French, you will immediately understand what it's about. Some of these songs even have a slightly religious input. Just listen to the slow and moody "Notre-Dame-sous-Terre", which drags itself to the deepest well of that well-known cathedral in Paris. I even hear a church organ here, but that's only my mind, I guess. "Danger De Nuit" is about the danger that lurks in the dark night. This song has got a slightly NWOBHM twist to it and what about these great guitar parts? Not strange at all, as AUCHEMAR played some shows with PAGAN ALTAR, that is definitely an influence to this band. Title track "Rosa Mystica" is really amazing and the sound of a church organ receives a very prominent solo spot and it surely belongs to one of my personal highlights here. This is the atmosphere that CAUCHEMAR wants to spread out. "Le Tombeau De L'Aube" is fast and the dominant drum beats give it a powerful sound. The dark voice of Annick is the doomy input here. "Volcan" is the next eruption, in which the band proves that their diverse sound covers a wide range of influences. Clearly, the doomy, dark sound is definitely the trademark of this Montreal based outfit. "La Sorciere" is the final track on this abum, which has got the best of both worlds. The slow, dark and doomy start, including some church bells and the change of speed turns it into a powerful song for a moment, before the melancholy finishes it off. Once again, CAUCHEMAR will simply take your breath away, if you already liked the sound of these four doomsters. The artwork looks stunning, too. Check it out. CAUCHEMAR consists of Annick Giroux on vocals, Joel Ladoceur on drums, Andres Arango on bass and Francois Patry on guitar. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CLAYMOREAN-Eulogy For The Gods (Stormspell Records)
CLAYMOREAN is the living proof that they still like to rock hard in Serbia. Their fifth full-length album "Eulogy For The Gods" contains eight amazing metal tracks and it's worthy of forty-five minutes. Make sure that you don’t fall off your chair, when the band blows you away in opener "Hunter Of The Damned". The best of bands, such as IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, DIO, RIOT and many other heavy metal bands come together here, topped by the screaming lead vocals of Dejana Garcevic, who is able to reach those high pull outs pretty easily by the sound of it. What a great opener to reach the attention of the listener this way. "Battle In The Sky" is on next, which will make you reach out your sword to go to the battlefield, where the warriors of the world have all gathered around. The epic feeling is there and this powerful song matches perfectly with the great opener. "The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)" will also set your heart on fire. Not only because it's such a good metal song, but because it's the stunning CLAYMOREAN version of the old VIRGIN STEELE song, so you can guess in which direction this is heading to. The epic elements of VIRGIN STEELE are well-dosed and the high vocals of Dejana take over the vocal parts of David DeFeis perfectly well. "Lords of Light" is dedicated to Mark Shelton of MANILLA ROAD, who also wrote the lyrics for this track. There are many metal warriors of this particular epic metal style worldwide, especially in countries like Greece they are true Gods, next to bands like VIRGIN STEELE CIRITH UNGOL, WARLORD and OMEN. The stories told here are so tied to true heavy metal and it's very moreish, although not everybody is into epic metal, which is just a matter of taste, I guess. I must admit, that I actually L-O-V-E it. It definitely adds something to the paved path, in my opinion. "In The Tombs Of Atuan" will grab you like a rolling thunder, the drum beats will crack your ear drums and the guitar parts are skull splitting. There sure is some hidden solid gold in these tombs, hell yeah!! This song is dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin, an American writer of science fiction books. In "Mystical Realm (Deorum In Absentia)" they turn down the speed a little, creating a rather doomy atmosphere. Obviously, epic and doom metal blend very well together and it makes their sound even more intense, so both thumbs up here. The guitar solo is definitely the cherry on the cake for me. "Spirit Of Merciless Time" is next and it's crystal clear to me that CLAYMOREAN is a killer band, that deserves your full attention. The speed changes are truly amazing and although the choir parts are not really my cup of tea, I like this song very much. "Blood Of The Dragon" (what a perfect song title!!), was written by Cederick Forsberg of BLAZON STONE and it’s recorded as an exclusive bonus track for this album. The warrior choir is really my thing. I am really convinced of the strength and talent of CLAYMOREAN, who overwhelmed me with their New Wave Of Epic Power Metal, as they like to call it. I can only agree with this label. CLAYMOREAN consists of Dejana Garcevic on vocals, Uros Kovacevic on guitars, Goran Garcevic on bass guitar and Marko Novakovic on drums. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

COBRA SPELL-Anthems Of The Night (EP) (independent / HLP)
This second EP of COBRA SPELL contains four songs, worthy of eighteen minutes of heavy metal with a lot of power. The first track is called "Addicted To The Night", which is a good example of what to expect here. It's in-your-face and freaking fabulous. I hear influences of for example the SCORPIONS (vocally) and it's a lot catchy than their debut EP. "The Midnight Hour" is their second single and the singer of HITTEN, Alexx Panza, proves that he has got an excellent voice. The fiery guitar work of Sonia Anubis (CRYPTA, ex-BURNING WITCHES) completes their sound. The catchy vibe is also there. The next song "Steal My Heart Away" is even very party proof, I think. It kind of feels like VIXEN has hired Michael Schenker as their guitarist. Anyway, call it whatever you like, but these boys and girls will definitely steal your heart away. The last song starts off with the sound of a car engine, which is called "Accelerate". It has some blood-curdling screams of Alexx and the speed is extremely high. Fact is that if you are gaining too much speed, you might get involved in a car crash and that's exactly what's happening here. So make sure your speed is not over the top, when playing this album. "Anthems of The Night" is highly recommended on a sleazy rock party, which features some red-hot axe work and four great anthems of the night. COBRA SPELL is Alexx Panza on vocals, Sonia Anubis on lead guitar, Angelina Vehera on bass, Esmee van Sinderen on rhythm guitar and Leonardi Cakoli on drums. The session drums have been done by Marco Prij and on additional guitar is Sebastian 'Spyder' Silva. The EP is mixed and mastered by Alejandro Gabasa Barcoj. In the meantime, singer Alex has been replaced by Kristina Vega. More info about COBRA SPELL on: or [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSTAL VIPER-The Last Axeman (Listenable Records)
Polish heavy metal band CRYSTAL VIPER presents their brand new eight track album, worthy of a bit over thirty-five minutes. Title track and opener "The Last Axeman" has some incredible speed changes and harmony choirs, which shows the Eastern Europe influences of the band. This speed metal monster has some references to German metal band WIZARD, while in the next track "In The Haunted Chapel", you will definitely discover some IRON MAIDEN influences and riffs. The guitar solos are steaming hot and it does more justice to their true metal sound than their previous album. Next up is a cover of ARIA, which is called "Ulitsa Roz". Obviously, ARIA could be considered as the Russian answer to IRON MAIDEN, so you know exactly in which direction this is going. The DIAMOND HEAD cover "It's Electric" however stays pretty close to the original song, which is an honest tribute to this NWOBHM band, in my opinion. The last four songs are studio recordings and it starts off with the heavy "The Cult", which grabs back to the early days of CRYSTAL VIPER with the powerful vocals of Marta and some breathtaking guitar licks. From there on, it's moving rapidly in "Asenath Waite". Just listen to the fast pounding of the drums and the galloping IRON MAIDEN riffs. This is true metal to the max. In "Whispers From Beyond" you will even hear a more DIO type of vibe. The song is a little bit slower and has got that well-known rhythm and beat, which put DIO on the map. The final song is called "Flaring Madness", which is fast and contains many vocal chants. It gives it a slightly epic feeling. I have to say, that I really loved this album of CRYSTAL VIPER. The three cover songs are very good and especially these last four songs are truly amazing. Hopefully, CRYSTAL VIPER will go back to their old true metal sound and this is only the kickoff for it. CRYSTAL VIPER consists of Marta Gabriel on vocals and guitar, Eric Juris on guitar, Andy Wave on guitar, Blaze Grygiel on bass and Cederich Forsberg on drums. For more info, go to: [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DAMNATION-Way Of Perdition (Soulseller Records)
Old school thrash metal is back like never before. Brazilian all-female band THE DAMNATION has released their debut album "Way Of Perdition", that will make every old school thrash fan very happy. The album contains ten tracks and it's worthy of thirty-five minutes. The combination of thrash metal and an all-female band from Brazil will make your thoughts go out to NERVOSA. I guess, these ladies must have been of a certain influence for sure. When listening to opener "Before The Drowning", the first thing that struck me is that I could understand the lyrics. The vocals are brutal, yet you can hear what they're singing, which is a surplus factor to me. Next to that, there is the fast and heavy drum beats, the grinding guitar riffs and storming rhythms, which turns it into a great thrash song. The title track follows next, which has some influences of ARCH ENEMY, however without the grunts. In this case, if you don't like grunts that much, it's not a failure. The brutality is terrific. Just listen to "Into The Sun", which also has some nice guitar work. Here and there, their rather rebellious sound has got a punky attitude as well. In "The Pain Won't Last", I hear more influences of ARCH ENEMY and they gave it a typical DAMNATION twist or two. "Grief Of Death" is one of the singles, taken from this album. It may sound a bit catchy, yet it pounds on firmly. The songs are compact and pretty much straight forward, which is probably where this punky attitude comes from, in my opinion. No lengthy instrumental parts, just raw pounding metal. "Random Words" contains all the aforementioned ingredients. At the end we are getting two songs in one, in my opinion. After "Slaves Of Society", the band directly floats into "Rotten Soul", which is the highlight on this album, as far as I'm concerned. The dark spoken word part and the brutal pounding of the drums are really amazing. What a killer song this is by these three rotten souls. The good news in the next song is that there is "Hope Inside". The most brutal song however is CD closer "The Greed", which starts off with the some amazing growls. Maybe THE DAMNATION is not brutal enough for the purists among us, but I'm sure many of you will like these careful steps. The potential to become a worthy successor of the all-female thrash band NERVOSA is there for sure, I think, we just have to give them a chance to grow. THE DAMNATION consists of Luana Diniz on drums, Aline Dutchi on bass and vocals and Renata Petrelli on guitar and vocals. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

D.C. STRUT-D.C. Strut (Heaven And Hell Records)
This is the complete overview of D.C. STRUT, formed in 1989 in Syracuse, New York. The band released this album in 2011 on Retrospect Records, however it's now remastered and compiled with ten bonus tracks of unreleased demos and live stuff, worthy of eighteen songs and almost a full hour of sleazy, sexy, dirty hair metal. Let's take a look at the regular album first, before digging in at the extra goodies. "Strut" represents the group in the best possible way. All they want to do is to strut all day long, nothing more and nothing less. The raspy vocals of Mary and the dirty guitar licks by Roy will give you the absolute kick-in-the-face. It's short yet it's extremely catchy. "Blvd East" is the place to be, if you want to hear more kick-ass rock and roll and Mary will lead you the way. Influences of POISON, GUNS 'N' ROSES, MOTLEY CRUE, L.A. GUNS, WASP and RATT are never too far away, and it's kind of strange that they never reached the same popularity level of the aforementioned bands. "Bitch Pink" sounds just as dirty as all these bands in their heydays. The fact that they have a female singer shouldn't make any difference, when you have such amazing vocal chords like Mary's. The musical skills of D.C. STRUT are fine, too. Just check out the mean guitar licks in "Bad Things Good" for example. Is there anything bad at all? Well, the next song will explain, which is called "No Pu$$y Tonight". You can't have it all, I guess. There is a party going on and you've not been invited, how bad is that??!! The band handed out five knock out punches in a row, which is a very good start. In the next song "Take Me Away" they take back some speed, while "Leave Me Cold" is another cool rock song. "Shock City" on the other hand has some uncompromising MOTORHEAD influences. Just close your eyes, step on the gas and press the pedal to the metal. They will really overwhelm you with their power. The original album is only thirty minutes, however it's the bonus tracks that do the trick and make this an essential buy. First up, there are the demo tracks, which will make you hungry for more. And you will get more in "Had Enough", which has the same high quality and sleazy attitude and would have fitted on the regular album very well. "Shorty Blue" is a bit less dirty perhaps, although it will knock you off your feet for sure. "Little Tattoo" is definitely a treat to your ears, while "Nothing Personal" is very straight forward and it rocks a little bit louder. "Hanging Out With The Boys" is a feel good rock song. It's very suitable to start up a good rock party. Then it's time for the obligatory ballad, called "Still Thinking Of You", which fits perfectly in here. "Suffragette City" is the final previously unreleased bonus track, which is another killer rock song. Next are a few live tracks, recorded in Syracuse, New York in 1989. I think that D.C. STRUT had quite a live reputation back in those days. From the moment on, the band gets on stage, they take the crowd by storm with a song, called "Party Time". This is the way to please your fans, I guess. "Bad Things Good" is on next and I'm really thrilled, that they are able to create the same high quality on stage as well. What a shame there isn't more live footage available of this band. The CD closes with a live version of "Little Tattoo". The line-up of DC STRUT here is Mary B. on vocals (formerly ARDENT), Roy Coston on guitar (formerly ARDENT), Rikk Masters on bass and Kevin Meacham on drums (R.I.P. 2013). For more info, go to their Facebook page at: [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

The legendary cult metal band THE DEVIL'S BLOOD has released four demo songs on one MCD, worthy of about seventeen minutes. I would have loved to hear some live songs on here as well to make it a bit more attractive. However, the intention of putting out something special of this underrated band is highly appreciated of course. Opener "The Graveyard Shuffle" is a definitely cult song and this raw version sounds quite special. "Christ Or Cocaine" is next and it's impossible to choose between these two, so I think I will pass this time. The amazing guitar parts of Selim Lemouchi (R.I.P. 4-3-2014) truly breaths the sound of the seventies. If you don't pay any attention to the lyrics, you wouldn't say that this band would later be one of the biggest occult metal sensations worldwide. Fans of BLUE OYSTER CULT or WISHBONE ASH will even enjoy this stuff, I guess. "The Anti Kosmick Magick" continues and I guess that you will agree with me that it sounds very psychedelic. The guitar parts are outstanding and your thoughts will also go out to some occult elements in the lengthy instrumental piece for that matter. However, musically I would like to refer to BLUE OYSTER CULT or maybe even LYNYRD SKYNYRD for that matter. CD closer "It's On" is rather fast and a bit more extreme. You can even feel more black metal elements in here. too. The lyrics are refering to the occult theme. 'Her eyes are glowing', 'she's the devil's child' aren't exactly the psalms you would sing in church, I guess. Anyway, the bottom line for me is that this MCD is much too short. I would have loved to hear more obscure stuff of this amazing Dutch occult doom metal band. A very nice detail here is, that the word 'blood' in the band name is written in the color dark blood red, yet the name of 'the devil' is written in pitch black. Don't get the wrong idea, but it turned out very well, in my opinion. Another nice detail is that the lady (Farida?) on the cover sleeve is turning the cross upside down. For more info, go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DIGGETH-Zero Hous In Doomtown (No Dust Records)
Fourteen songs, worthy of sixty-five minutes of groovy music are pressed on this silver colored disc. Clearly, these sixty-five minutes represent one of the finest moments in the Dutch metal scene of 2022. And we got to turn this over to a worldwide recognition in the scene. DIGGETH is a threesome from the Eastern part of our country. Founded in 2004 and presenting their fourth full length album here. In my opinion, it is filled with only winners and no fillers. Just judge for yourself and enter this doom town at your own risk. The band calls their music 'metal-n-roll', which is a very good description. Young metal fans might want to categorize this as stoner rock, I guess. The short, creepy spoken word intro of "Freak Flag" is exactly what this song needs to make it special. It's a warning, that you are entering a world, where freaks will cross your path possibly. The sound you will hear is down-tuned, doomy, groovy, heavy and soaked in pure whiskey. However, throughout this CD the band proves that there is much more than meets the eye. Diversity and variety are definitely definitions that come to mind, when listening to this album. Well, let's explore doom town a little closer, because it's almost 'zero hour', the time when this album shows up well. The band presents a good mix of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY in their early days, mixed with the right dose of CANDLEMASS, CATHEDRAL and PANTERA. Other influences are less recognizable maybe, but in general it's a good mix of different groovy styles. Hear the constant pounding drums of Casper in opener "Freak Flag", in combination with the heavy, swampy, dusty, groovy riffs of Harald and the heavy chugging, grinding bulldozer bass riddles of Pebbles. "Soultwister" is a bit more accessible and easier on the ear. The songs that follow each other have some kind of a natural flow and they are arranged in the right way. The variation in styles and different themes give the listener the feeling that they are not constantly hearing the same speed or sound. This is a major fault that many bands tend to make nowadays, in my opinion. "Last Man Standing" is slow, doomy and it feels like a tasteful syrup entering your soul. On the other hand, there is also an ominous sound to be found here. The message is not positive when there is still only one man standing. The last doomy lines, that Harald sings will definitely touch your soul and probably remind you of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY once again. "Acardiac" contains some distorted vocals. It's definitely the same rolling steam train, but it has gained more speed, while flashing its way through your speakers. The song also Includes a brilliant guitar solo and it's the perfect song to lose some sweat. Title track "Zero Hour In Doomtown" is also an up tempo rocker with axe work, that will possibly even please the THIN LIZZY fans among us. "Lights Go Dim" contains some recognizable Zakk Wylde type of pull outs and some nice mood and speed changes. The rhythm is perfect to bang your head up and down, so please let yourself go, I'd say so. The title of the song will hammer into your brain every time, you will hear it. The spoken word part fits perfectly well here. "Stetson Hat" starts off in a rather surprising way, although the heavy sound returns pretty fast, when the song is speeding up. It might remind you of a Southern Rock anthem, which would be the case if you add a doomy twist to it. I actually like the spoken word part in the middle very much. It's an essential part of the song. I'm even thinking of buying a stetson hat too after hearing this one. "Walkin' Man" has got a steady beat and a walking rhythm. It cuts the CD in half and it has got a nice Southern Rock vibe to it. And after this, you are still not getting home. I must admit that the best is yet to come. "For The Sake Of Rock 'N' Roll" could easily have been written by MOTORHEAD for that matter. When you hear the first notes, you will catch my drift right away. MOTORHEAD has always stated that they play rock and roll and this is a pure MOTORHEAD type of rock anthem to me. Then it's time to shout your balls off during the very first single, taken from this album. Just scream and shout "Wuda Cuda Shuda" as loud as you freaking can. Don't mind your next door neighbors. Even better, just ask them to join you here to create more volume. It also gives Harald the chance to show his skills on some solo guitar playing. It's finger licking good and fast. And what about the bulldozering bass parts of Pebbles near the end? It sure feels like she's pile driving her bass into the swampy grounds. The bass beast has lost her mind, so you'd better beware and don't get too close when this lady is in a mood like that. Anyway, we keep on swinging to the second single taken from the album, which is called "Bonafide" and a great song to start a party. Make sure you have enough booze in the house and don't forget to light the BBQ on time. "Stand Straight" is the song, in which many of you rockers out there will recognize the riffs that turned "Walk" of PANTERA into a cult rock anthem. You will almost sing the words to it, when you didn't notice that it's the DIGGETH make-over of this amazing song. There is also a slower part in this song though, so you may not be mistaken. The woodchopper drum beats of Casper here are mind-blowing, too. "The Riff That Killed Elvis" isn't just a funny title alone, but these sure are some killer riffs. It's an instrumental track in which the musicians give themselves some time and space to jam and create a riff that could even kill the biggest rock icon in the world. And just pay some special attention to the last song, that almost clocks in at ten mighty minutes, which deals about "5 Stages Of Grief". It's a masterpiece, that contains many mood and speed changes. It starts in a happy kind of way and then slowly goes in a more moody atmosphere with sensitive guitar parts. When you are able to create a lengthy piece of music like that, which clings to your mind to not let go, you are simply beyond the stage of being an average rock band, as far as I'm concerned. Because of the diversity, the sixty-five minutes of music are over before you know it. Zero hour in doomtown is gone and you have absorbed so many impressions, that it's impossible they've completely entered your mind after only one hearing session. Every time you will hear the album, you will be blown away again for sure. The intensity, that these songs have been played will make you push the 'repeat' button over and over again. This album will grab you by the balls or by the throat, just pick whatever is appropriate to you and it won’t let go. No matter how hard you try. In the end you can only admit, that was even better than having sex. That's the impact this album has on you. And in a live situation, the songs are getting even more intense and better, in my opinion. Believe me, I’ve been there, DIGGETH gave me goosebumps at places, I didn't realize that it was possible to get it there. Don't say we didn't warn you. And in the meantime: just don't stop diggin'... DIGGETH is: Harald 'Big H' on guitar and vocals, Natasja 'Pebbles' on bass and Casper 'The Chief' on drums and backing vocals. For more info, go to: or [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DIRTY DENIMS-Raw Denim – Recorded Live (Handclap Records)
If you want to rock out loud, just call THE DIRT DENIMS. They rock until they drop on this amazing live studio album, which is worthy of fifteen songs and a full hour. Just feel the sweat pouring down, when they crank out "Ready Steady Go", what a great opener. "Fit In Stand Out" is based upon a riff that AC/DC couldn't do better. You know in what direction this is heading to. If you like the dirty sleazy sound of old school AC/DC, then this is something for you. No need to hesitate, because this band really kicks some serious ass. "Dirty Job" is another kick in the face and I think that they are not afraid to do a dirty job or two. "Better Believe It" keeps the rock flow going with some mind-blowing guitar work of Jeroen. "Last Call For Alcohol" is a serious warning. If there wouldn't be alcohol, there won't be rock and roll. Fortunately, there is enough alcohol, because the rock and roll level is extremely high in this dirty rock song. "Gotta Run" is next up and they gain some speed on this one. I guess, the band is in a hurry. You'd better get out of their way, because they will run over you if they need to. The guitars are fuzzy and rough and in the beginning of "Even When I'm Wrong I'm Right", I hear some influences of "Whole Lotta Love" of LED ZEPPELIN. Then again, I might be wrong and it's just in my head. "Going Out" very shortly refers to "Baby Please Don't Go" from the mighty uncle Ted (NUGENT). This is the perfect music for a night out on the town. "Creatures Of The Night" rocks on and it doesn't stop. The vibe is amazing and it feels like a rock tsunami is coming over you. The organ receives a prominent place in the next song, which is the very first time I ever heard this instrument on a DIRTY DENIMS album. Listen fast, because it's over before you know it. The song is called "24-7-365", which is all day and all of my life, that I want to rock. "Roll The Dice" is for all the gamblers among us. I'd rather spend my money on something else. Well, I'm not the judge here and there's enough rock in this song not to love it, don't you agree?! "Make Us Look Good" contains another AC/DC type of riff, which is a great song to rock the house. "Loud Stuff" is never loud enough for me, but this band definitely knows how to do things right. If you like THE DONNAS, JOAN JETT, AC/DC, NASHVILLE PUSSY and many other cool rock bands, then you can safely also add THE DIRTY DENIMS to this list, because they like it loud, too. Otherwise they would never support big names such as the GOLDEN EARRING, CHEAP TRICK, SLASH or WHITESNAKE, would they? "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" takes you to the last song on this live studio album, which is called "Famous". It states that they want to be famous. Well, mission completed, because the name THE DIRTY DENIMS is on everyone's lips, when you talk about pure, dirty, sleazy, hot, wet and dripping with sweat rock and roll. The album was recorded at the Popei studios in Eindhoven on July 3rd 2021. THE DIRTY DENIMS is: Mirjam Sieben on vocals, guitar and organ, Jeroen Teunis on guitar and vocals, Marc Eijkhout on bass and vocals and Suzanne Driessen on drums and vocals. For more info, go to: No ballads have been recorded on this pure rock album, which is sounding steaming hot!! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO - Triumph And Agony Live (Rare Diamonds Production)
If you already liked the "Triumph And Agony" album of DORO, then you don't have to think twice and just listen to this amazing live album. Eleven songs, worthy of fifty minutes of heavy metal, the way it's meant to be and DORO as the central figure. That is what you get and more, because there is also a special enhanced blu-ray disc of this gig, a documentary and the story behind "Triumph And Agony". "Legacy" starts off here, which is nothing more than an introduction. "Touch Of Evil" is the amazing opener, which has some JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN influences. "I Rule The Ruins" is on next. DORO rules the ruins for many years now and her popularity is still huge and growing. She can't be stopped with classics like that. "East Meets West" is an energetic song, which shows up very well, in my opinion. Back in the days when the original album was recorded, there already were some political issues between East and West. For a while, things went fine, but nowadays the song title is extremely relevant. The recordings are taken from various sources, like Sweden Rock, Graspop Metal Meeting and the Rock Hard festival, all renowned festivals to make sure that the sound quality would be absolutely perfect and crystal clear. The song "Three Minute Warning" is very intense, fast and heavy, which naturally lasts only three minutes. "Kiss Of Death" is a straight forward metal tune and next there's the very sensitive ballad "Fur Immer". It's really beautiful and the words are straight from the heart. DORO knows exactly to hit the right notes. That's what the crowd deserves and what they will get at her live shows. Doro is completely in charge and after this sensitive ballad, she easily switches over to a raw rock song like "Cold, Cold World". "Make Time For Love" is a bit slower, which is a song with a positive message. I think, that we all agree, that Doro always goes for a positive sound. After all that positivity, we have been invited for the "Metal Tango", which is another classic from the book of this blonde metal vixen. Last but not least, there's some audience participation in set closer "All We Are", which is a real crowd pleaser and not be missed in every DORO live show. I remember very well seeing this heavy metal icon in her early days with WARLOCK, making her first steps to her impressive career, leading to some amazing releases like this, about forty years later. DORO still rules the ruins and this album demonstrates it once again. Long live Doro Pesch! For more information, go to: or or or [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

ELF QUEEN - Breathe Out Fire (independent)
ELF QUEEN will really appeal to those people, who dig the sound of SIRENIA, HALESTORM and/or EVANESCENCE. The five songs on this EP are worthy of twenty-five powerful minutes. It starts with "Become Gods", where Kelsey shows that her godly voice is very capable to match with the energetic guitar riffs and heavy drum beats. The guitar solo receives a prominent place here and therefore it's a splendid opener on this release. "The Darkest Side Of You" might be less heavy and perhaps a little bit darker, yet it has got a more open and catchy character, next to some little progressive elements in the instrumental parts. "Seven Tears In The Ocean" is another up tempo track with some groovy riffs, giving it a special rough edge. It makes their music vivid. "Summer" has some influences of for example FLYLEAF and it's very modest. By doing this, they created more variation and make their music available for a much broader audience. Same goes for title track "Breathe Out Fire" which has some influences of THE GATHERING with Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals. The guitars are heavier than expected, which makes it highly enjoyable for those, who like a more spicy sound of ELF QUEEN. The band consists of Kelsey on vocals, Uncle Hauk on guitar, backing vocals and keyboards, Chuck Peterson on drums and Dylan Cronin on bass. For more information, go to: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPICA - Omega Alive (Nuclear Blast Records)
The symphonic power metal of EPICA has developed to the very best in this scene. During lock down, they created a show around their latest album "Omega" and currently there is a double CD available of this amazing live show. Fifteen songs, worthy of one hundred minutes of music is what you get here. After opener "Alpha – Anteludium", you will enter the "Abyss Of Time – Countdown To Singularity". There is a good balance between the heavy, bombastic orchestration, the brutal and soprano vocals mixed with the epical choir vocals and the heavy and powerful and more laid back moments. The only thing that's missing here is the interaction with the crowd, which is essential in live situation for me. "The Skeleton Key" is on next and although their sound is amazing, it would have been awesome to see the band live on stage, too. When looking at the various pix in the CD booklet, you can only guess what this must have been like. The children choir gives the song a bombastic feeling. In "Unchain Utopia", the choir vocals have a rather dominant place in the mix. "The Obsessive Devotion" starts off like a speed monster with brutal vocals, heavy guitar riffs and some thundering drum rolls. Every corner of symphonic metal is being explored and this song is definitely one of the highlights here. "In All Conscience" puts the spotlights on Simone. Her voice is powerful and crystal clear and whether she is upfront or in the background, she always has a very enjoyable sound. No matter how symphonic or bombastic the sound of EPICA is, there is always some space for blast beats and brutal speed and death metal parts as well. Just have a listen to "Victims” Of Contingency" and you will get the point. It's brutal and angry from back to forth. The first CD closes with the lengthy and epical "Kingdom Of Heaven Part 1 - A New Age Dawns Part V", in which the band gives it all. It starts off rather mysterious and the musical path this thirteen minute track walks has many ways. It even contains a short Zappa-esque piece, including a xylophone in here. The overall sound always remains EPICA of course, but these short side steps will make their music even more adventurous than it already is. The bombastic choir vocals, the beautiful soprano voice of Simone and the great sound of EPICA makes this song one of the many highlights here. The story continues on the second CD with "The Kingdom Of Heaven Part 3 - The Antediluvian Universe" that starts with the serene sound of a flute or even a pan flute for that matter. I really don't know. As the song evolves, it gains more energy and it's getting louder and rougher. Fast and galloping riffs, thundering drum beats, angry male vocals, it's all there. Slowly, it works itself up to a nice climax with a very nice closing theme. "Rivers" is being performed a-capella and only accompanied by some choir vocals. It's a short piece of rest, next to the dynamic and full sound of the other songs here, so to speak. In "Once Upon A Nightmare", the focus is on the guitars, especially in the beginning and the intro is amazing. "Freedom - The Wolves Within" is another up tempo track with the brutal male growls and the majestic voice of Simone. Next up, there is something special, because EPICA plays their first written song, called "Cry For The Moon". It's also the one and only song, in which Simone actually talks to the crowd in the introduction to this nice surprise. "Beyond The Matrix" closes this show, which contains a nice guitar solo. All in all, my conclusion is that this live album sounds really amazing. The only minor detail, that I can think of is that there's not a live DVD included here. It would have been so much nicer to see the show as well. Anyway, there is a lot to enjoy here and the band is in a great shape, so thumbs up for EPICA. EPICA is: Simone Simons on vocals, Isaac Delahaye on guitars and vocals, Coen Janssen on keyboards, Rob van der Loo on bass and Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums. For more info, go to: or [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPINIKION - Inquisition (independent)
This band hails from Belgium and this twelve song album contains sixty-four minutes of symphonic metal. The bombastic intro of "The Council Of Troubles" already tells you which way this is going to. When the church bells start to chime, title track "Inquisition" starts off. I hear beautiful clear female vocals, choir vocals and a slightly bombastic symphonic sound with enough guitars to make it interesting. The guitar is getting a prominent place in the mix, although in "Love So Sublime", the bass player takes over and introduces this airy song to you. The vocals of Eleonora Damiano are quite appealing and the songs are easy to listen to. I hear a lot of energy in "Welcome To The World Of Jealousy". "Stand Up And Fight" has some male vocals but I have to say that I like the vocals of Eleonora much better. Just listen to the smooth way she sings "In The Drink Of Despair". Her angel-like voice is really stunning here. In "In The Middle Of The Night", the guitars are again in front of the mix, which takes care of a good variation between the heavy and more airy tracks. Next up, is the symphonic "Sail Away", which is a great introduction and because of the amazing guitar licks and speed changes, this is surely one of the highlights on the album for me. It covers the overall sound of EPINIKION and shows a very gifted band and will keep you focused to their exciting sound. Sometimes it's poppy, while at other times it’s symphonic or slightly progressive, yet I would like to call this song outstanding for many reasons. "False Faced Demon" starts in a modest kind of way and slowly builds itself up until it has gained enough energy. "If I Could Turn Back Time" shows how fragile the band can be at times, too. It's focused around Eleonora's voice and a point of rest, while in "Strangers In The Dark" Eleonora sounds a lot like Sharon den Adel during the high pull outs. In CD closer "The Courage To Chance" there are some brutal male vocals too, but I believe that the music of EPINIKION isn't suitable for those kind of sidesteps, to be honest. I think, their symphonic sound suits them much better on this album. EPINIKION consists of Renate de Boer on keyboards, Robert Tangerman on guitar, Eleonora Damiano on vocals, Levent Gasgil on guitar and bass. In a live situation the band is completed with Rico Snel on lead guitar, Rusad Hasan on bass and Joeri Warmerdam on drums. For more info, go to: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SAMANTHA FISH - Faster (Rounder Records)
There are twelve songs on the new album of blues guitarist SAMANTHA FISH, which is worthy of about forty-five minutes. People who like blues, rock, pop and soul must lend an ear to this for sure, because Samantha captures it all. ANA POPOVIC and JOANNE SHAW TAYLORE would both be a good reference here. Opener "Faster" is not as fast as the title would suggest, although there are a few hot guitar licks in this bluesy song. Sometimes, the poppy influences are the foundation of a song, like in "All Ice No Whiskey", where you would not directly think of a groovy blues theme. However, underneath the beat, there is a certain groove, which you are looking for. I hear some influences of SHANIA TWAIN, as it rocks and yet it's danceable. I would like to refer to ZZ TOP here, but this is even more radio friendly. "Twisted Ambition" is slower and it has got a catchy beat. It might even urge you to move to the rhythm and lose control of it all. Then there are those short magical moments, in which Samantha will let herself go on guitar. It's short and fiery and her sound is much more spicy, believe me. "Hypnotic" starts off with a minimalistic beat and some slow vocals, before a dynamic guitar part will follow, which gives this song just that little something that it needs. After this short eruption, it gets back to the minimalistic beat. The short burst out just did the trick to lift it up to high above average. "Forever Together" is a jolly and catchy love song and nothing more and nothing less. "rowd Control" has got a bit more of the guitar work that I hoped to hear on this album. And in "Imaginary War", the vocals of Samantha go towards ALANIS MORRISSETTE, who has also got nice voice to listen to, as far as I'm concerned. "Loud" starts rather lazy and I immediately think that this is not for me. Then the twist rushes in here and I hear some loud guitar riffs. Wow, what a nice surprise! The guest rap of TECH N9NE is definitely not my cup of tea and in the scene, in which Samantha operates, it's a very tasty move, that I do understand. "Better Be Lonely" is another bluesy and groovy song and it's definitely one of the highlights on the album, as far as I'm concerned. The guitar is the main focus in this musical arrangement. "So Called Lover" is a fresh up-tempo rock song with more flashing guitar licks, which marks the second highlight for me. "Like A Classic" is a decent rock song and the album is closes with a melancholic ballad, called "All The Words". The album contains all elements that I expected to find here. If you don't mind the side steps, she takes on this Kansas City rock CD, you will like it, too. The sexy way she licks her guitar on the album cover will make your decision to buy this silver disc for your collection a lot easier, I think. The band consists of: Samantha Fish on guitar and vocals, Diego Navaira on bass and Josh Freese (THE REPLACEMENTS/NINE INCH NAILS/GUNS'N'ROSES) on drums. For more info, go to: or [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SUE FOLEY - Pinky's Blues (Stoney Plain Records)
The Texas blues always has a lot of guitars. And Sue Foley definitely plays some cool Texas blues here on her pink colored guitar. As far as I know, she is not related to the former MEAT LOAF singer ELLEN FOLEY, but she sure knows how to rock. The twelve songs here are worthy of forty-five minutes of groovy Texas style blues, starting off with the instrumental title track "Pinky's Blues". When played on her pink guitar, this is simply the right title for this song. I hear some influences of the great and late JOHNNY WINTER here, if you listen very careful. And this is only the beginning, because whereas SAMANTHA FISH, who I just reviewed earlier, focusses herself on the songs, the bluesy guitar of Sue receives the biggest attention here. "Two Bit Of Texas Town" takes back to her Texas roots with memories of MUDDY WATERS and such. "Dallas Man" is a great shuffle and I bet you’re getting ready for the dance floor, after hearing this. The variation comes with the Latin orientated "Southern Men", which is also very danceable. That is when you have got the dance moves, which belong to this sound. Tenderness is coming your way in the slow blues tune "Say It's Not So", originally written by Angela Strehli. You've got to feel the pain and sadness, when listening to a song like that. "Hurricane Girl" must definitely be autobiographical, because Sue rages on like a hurricane on this album and this is yet another smoking hot shuffle that she likes to crank out. "Stop These Teardrops" is definitely not a tear-jerker or a ballad either. On the contrary, it's another steaming hot uptempo blues rock song with ditto guitar licks, although you might expect something else with a title like that. "Boogie Real Low" continues fast, you'd better clear the dancefloor right away. Sometimes you have to get down real low to get the best out of yourself and this song proves just that. The tear-jerker in "Think It Over" contains the moody Hammond B3 organ solo of Mike Flanigin. Obviously, the album covers a wide blues spectrum. After this short and slow intermezzo, you are treated to the fast and rocking "Okie Dokie Stomp", including many fast and hot licks. It's party time. "Someday" is a great blues song in the best STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN tradition. Not strange at all, when you know that Chris 'Whipper' Layton of DOUBLE TROUBLE is Sue's drummer. This great album closes with "When The Cat's Gone The Mice Play", which is in fact the SUE FOLEY version of "Messin' With The Kid". When you like the Texas style of blues, then don't look any further. SUE Foley's band consists of: Sue Foley on guitar and vocals, Chris 'Whipper' Layton on drums, Mike 'The Drifter' Flanigin on Hammond B3 organ and Jon Penner on bass. For more info, go to: or [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FORGET-ME-NOT - Forget Me Not (AOR Blvd Records)
This British band provides some cool AOR and melodic rock. The twelve songs on this CD are worthy of fifty minutes of AOR music, mainly because of the great voice of Jane Gould. Check out opener "Fire In Wonderland" and you will know what I mean. This could very well be the successor of DANTE FOX's amazing debut album. Just think in that direction to get the catchy sound of FORGET-ME-NOT. "Darkness Into Dawn" has got some catchy hooks and you can almost sing or hum along to this song right away. I even hear some influences of CHER or BON JOVI in "Dangerous". The first ballad is called "For Both Of Us" and it sounds so sweet, because of the great voice of Jane. It is almost too good to be true. A good ballad would burst the glacier layers from your teeth and this one certainly does the trick. "Move Mountains" is very radio friendly and easy on the ear, while "Shoot For The Heart" is based upon a catchy riff. The guitars are modest where it should be, although sometimes guitarist Stephen adds some spice to this to be in the spotlight. Jane's voice lacks the power that for example Ann Wilson of HEART has, but the fragile touch in her voice matches so well to the AOR sound of FORGET-ME-NOT. I hear plenty of guitar solos in "Maybe I Believe", which is simply unbelievable but true. "I Pretend" is the second ballad on this CD. Then it's time to take a break in "Time To Let Go", which contains some amazing guitar licks. Clearly, this song is very suitable to play on national radio, don't you agree? The title track is up next. "Forget Me Not" is a statement that isn't necessary anymore, because once you have experienced the high quality melodic rock of this band, you will never forget their name. Check out the raw voice of Jane here, which sounds magnificent. The third ballad on the album is called "Everytime I See Your Picture" and I would like to compare this one to the later work of BRYAN ADAMS. The very last song here is called "Don't Be Afraid Of Your Dreams", which is a very poppy tune. I think, that most AOR fans will enjoy this stuff, because of the variation in music styles and the high quality. FORGET-ME-NOT consists is Rob McEwen on drums, Steve Newman on bass, guitars and keyboards, Stephen Chesney on guitars, Soren Kronqvist on keyboards, Dave Bartlett on backing vocals and guitar solos by Neil Fraser and Justin Larner. Jane Gould provided the vocals on this album. Buy it here: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MARTA GABRIEL - Metal Queens (Listenable Records)
Steaming hot metal queen Marta Gabriel pays tribute to her colleague metal queens on this eleven tracks and forty-five minute album, which she recorded under her own name. Instead of using the name of her band CRYSTAL VIPER. These amazing cover songs prove that all these ladies deserve a place in the highest ranks of the overcrowded metal scene. Join me on this trip through the world of the metal maidens that rule the scene, like in opener "Max Overload" of ACID. Kate is definitely one of these ladies that my thoughts go out to when mentioning a metal queen. Especially that very first ACID album was quite essential for me in my youth. Marta gives the song even more speed and power and by doing so, it gets a second life. I guess, it must have been on her list of personal favorites, while watching Kate perform it at one of the Keep It True editions. It's a great opener here. Back in the early days, there was only one woman stating that she's the 'Metal Queen', namely LEE AARON and this song is next. It has always got a magic touch, which remained in this version as well. Same goes for "Call Of The Wild" of BLACKLACE, the band fronted by Maryann Scandiffio. Marta added some speed to this heavy monster and plays it in fifth gear, instead of the fourth gear, it was originally recorded. Marta received some help of vocalist Todd Michael Hall (RIOT V) here. Leather Leone is quite essential on this album, too. The original singer of CHASTAIN is honored here with "Light In The Dark" from the album "For Those Who Dare". And once again a guest vocalist is being added here to beef up the sound. The vocal God of the underground scene Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin (JAG PANZER/SATAN'S HOST) screams his lungs out on this one. "Rebel Ladies" is a title, that is very well chosen. This ZED YAGO song was co-written by Jutta Weinhold, one of the grand ladies of the German metal scene, who deserves to be honored here with great respect to the original version. Next to GIRLSCHOOL, there was this band called ROCK GODDESS in Great Britain that was the perfect example of how metal ladies rocked the world of all those headbangers. "My Angel" is being captured here, including a third guest role by legendary bass beast John Gallagher of the athletic, three musketeers of RAVEN. The name of Barbara Malteze probably may not ring a bell to you, however the band MALTEZE is on the lips of everyone, who thinks outside of the box. "Count Your Blessings" is a true all-time metal classic and it's performed with a lot of flair and power here. WENDY O' WILLIAMS is a legend that passed away much too soon. Front lady of her own outfit W.O.W and the cult shock rock band THE PLASMATICS, she sure deserves to be on this album. "Goin' Wild" is a good choice of one of the raw and wild songs that this lovely lady wrote in her fruitful career, which sometimes shocked many people. HELLION never received the respect they earned so much. The band, fronted by Ann Boleyn, had a "Bad Attitude" and I guess that's the main reason why these women are being captured here. Besides that, Ann is a great singer and song writer of course. Just listen to the amazing power and anger in the last notes of this song, which is incredible. The riffs in "Reencarnacion" are flashing, fiery and forceful and that’s exactly what this SANTA song needs. SANTA is another great band from the underground scene. In their home country Spain this band was mega huge and top of the bill. Unfortunately, a reincarnation of the band is out of the question, no matter how hard we will try. The CD closes with another German metal queen, nobody can't deny, namely DORO. From her WARLOCK days, the song "Mr Gold" is being added here. After all, these were the heydays in the metal career of Doro Pesch. I think that every devoted metal head will love every second on this album. You can argue, if there aren't any bands missing here, like KIM SIXX or BITCH, but there is always a change to come up with a volume two of this amazing album. I can only reward this album with a full score. Turn up the volume LOUD and bang your head all day and all night long. The band of MARTA GABRIEL consists of Marta Gabriel on vocals and bass guitar, Eric Juris on guitars and Cederick Forsberg on drums. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

GALLIA - Obscura (independent/HLP)
GALLIA is hailing from Belgium and right from the start, the clock is ticking on this album, which is worthy of fifty minutes and twelve songs. The ticking of the clock is part of the intro, which is called "Aperture". You will hear some influences of early WITHIN TEMPTATION, NIGHTWISH and XANDRIA on "Return Of Time", but hey, look what has become of those bands over the years. They became million sellers with their sound. The crystal clear vocals of Elyn are very easy to listen to, next to the choir vocals. "Blackout Queen" starts off with some horns and the riffs in this song are brutal, vicious and heavy. The mix of operatic metal and groovy rhythms are a good combination, which is the foundation of GALLIA. "Mirage" could very well be the opener of a musical fairytale. It almost sounds classical, especially when the bombastic choir vocals are there. The vocal lines will tell you the story, instead of singing. It sounds rather mysterious and I really like it that way, I must admit. Think of KATE BUSH here or maybe ROBBY VALENTINE and VALENSIA in their heydays. Now I know why they call their music style 'cinematic metal'. In that particular song, the heavy influences are actually at the end of this song, which brings it in balance. Then its time to wind up the playing box, when they start "Reflection". Once again, there is a mysterious vibe in this song, which makes it highly enjoyable. It's these small details that make the difference between average and excellent to me. "Path Of The Nomad" is introduced by bombastic choir vocals and some adventurous drum beats and it contains the awesome vocals of Elyn. "Free Me" is a short folk song, which could have been written by BLACKMORE'S NIGHT for that matter. Better judge yourself, if I'm wrong or right. It gives the band time to wake up in the "Spirit Of The Sea". The song contains a nice dark instrumental part before the grand finale starts. "Chaos" is not as chaotic as the title might suggest. The Eastern mood change here is quite spectacular, especially when it's mixed with some loud guitar riffs. "Euphoria" is an up tempo song, which contains more Eastern instrumental parts. One of the highlights on the album is called "Tears Of Gold", which is also the longest track. The cinematic metal title is a good description here, especially when you don't hold back. There is a nice ballad at the end of this amazing debut CD, which is called "New World". The choir vocals are intense and this final touch is exactly what the album needs. All in all, a stunning debut from these Belgian cinematic metallers, that consist of Elyn Vanderwijngaert on vocals, Yannick Malis on guitar, Laurens Vandebroek on bass and Ties Jenoul on drums. Website: or [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GIA G - Cosmic Wave (independent)
This instrumental three track EP of guitar wizard Gia G will most definitely rock your world in twelve minutes. Think of SATRIANI, think of VAI, think of the unthinkable here. These references come to mind when listening to the up tempo opener "Cosmic Wave". "Reminiscing" has got the same class and style, only in a more modest way. It shows the diversity of these three songs. Gia G is the name that Gia Federico gave to this project. Let the wind blow through your hair, while driving on the highway for hours. It will distract you from pressing the pedal to the metal and speeding up the gear. The third song is called "Intricate Fusion" and as the title already suggests, it goes a bit towards the direction of fusion, like for example TONY MACALPINE. Gia is hails from Boston and she's a real classy guitarist. Luckily, she is not showing off and a musician that wants to prove that she can play a zillion notes in only one minute. For more info, go to: or [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART - A Tribute To LED ZEPPELIN (Mascot Music)
BETH HART already recorded the LED ZEPPELIN cover "Whole Lotta Love" on her album "Live At Paradiso". This time she throws in nine covers of ZEPPELIN on one CD, which is worthy of fifty-five minutes of powerful rock and her incredible voice as shining star. Beth didn't just go for the most well-known songs. Instead, she made a good selection of songs that perfectly matched the sound of her voice, which is a good thing. Obviously, she starts off with the classic "Whole Lotta Love" here. Her raw and raspy voice sounds amazing and the groovy guitar work turns it to a heavy rock anthem that you just have to listen to. Luckily, the experimental and instrumental mid-part is kept lengthy, like the original song, simply because it belongs here. Horns and strings were being added to the beef it up. "Kashmir" is next and the bombastic orchestration sounds extremely powerful and close to perfection with Beth's raspy voice on top of it. This is in no way inferior to the original, at least it sounds just as intense. I must admit that, no matter how well this lady sings, her version of "Stairway To Heaven" doesn't get close to the original song. It lacks the magic blend between the voice of PLANT and the guitar work of PAGE. The orchestration could also use some more guitar. "The Grunge" is groovy and fits very well to her voice again. Same goes for the not too common song in the ZEP collection, namely "Dancing Days'. Here it's combined with another classic tune, called "When The Levee Breaks". What a remarkable combination, which works very well. This perfect sidestep is a very well thought of idea. "Black Dog" sounds as groovy as always and it's quite remarkable that Zep addicts like BETH HART and for example HEART record or play this song during their live shows. This heavy version sounds really great and the abrupt end is her alternative take here. After this, there is another match of two songs that have been glued together. This time the moody "No Quarter" has been tied to "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". It really sounds like magic. Next up is "Good Times Bad Times" and once again I have to admit that the sparkling moments are not there. Sometimes her songs stand out, but this time it lacks the spontaneous BETH HART input, that the other songs do have. The last cover song is called "The Rain Song", which is brought again with a lot of dedication. Beth did a great job here and I guess that even dedicated Zep fans will agree with me here. The band consists of; Beth Hart on vocals, Chris Chaney on bass, Rob Cavallo on guitar, Tim Pierce on guitar, Jamie Muhoberac on keyboards. For more info, go to: or [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELLFOX - The Call (Egea Music)
HELLFOX is an all-female metal band from Italy that combines alternative metal with melodic death metal. The angry and growling vocals are mixed with regular singing. Greta takes care of the melodic input, while Priscilla is responsible for the brutal growls. The album contains seven songs, including a reworked version of "Dead Star" and it's worthy of about thirty-five minutes. Opener "Haunted" contains all the aforementioned ingredients and it has a melodic and a very explosive death metal side to it as well. As you will probably know, I'm not really a fan of brutal growls, but in this case it provides some variety to the amazing clear vocals. "Our Lady Of Sorrows" starts off with some groovy riffs and melodic vocals. When the song is gaining speed, the angry growls come back again. The tribal drum beats at the end are truly amazing and much too short, as far as I'm concerned. "Raisins" has got a catchy edge to it, yet the brutal death metal influences are present as well. The distorted vocals towards the end are a nice bonus here and the clear vocals of Greta are of a very high quality level. It belongs to one of my favorite songs on this album for sure. "Nothing Really Ends" is next. It starts off with a keyboard part and some steady drum beats. This song leans a lot towards the art rock (references to for example THE GATHERING) and it lacks the brutal vocals. Same goes for the mainly instrumental "Rebirth', which contains some short spoken word parts. It sounds very experimental rather than death metal. These side steps will keep the listener focused though. The brutal parts get back in "Your Name", but it also proves that HEEFOX's sound is pretty varied. The keyboards have a huge impact in their sound in general, while in "Bleeding Machine", the guitars are back up in front of the mix again. In closing, there's a remastered version of "Dead Star", which contains brutal growls and some catchy and melodic vocals. The catchy vibe in this song turns it into another highlight in my book. HELLFOX consists of Greta Antico on vocals, Priscilla Foresti on bass and voclas, Gloria Capelli on guitars and Federica Piscopo on drums. Website: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELLZ ABYSS - Blow (House Of Hellz)
HELLZ ABYSS is from Australia and this twelve song album is worthy of forty-five minutes of groovy and greasy rock. Opener "Don't Blow" contains that groovy and slow beat, where the guitars crunch and groove, the way you want it. It's dark and yet you want to hear more and that is what "Don't Blow" is all about. The slow and heavy beats continue in "Kings For A Day", which almost sounds industrial. The voice of Lisa Perry is powerful and dark and fits in really well. You feel like wandering around in the underground and gloomy gutter, where only a selected group of people have been invited and where no one dares to go. They are the ones that only come out at night. Influences of for example IN THIS MOMENT are appropriate here. "Bad Intentions" sounds airy and it's even danceable, if you like. The beat is a lot faster. "Bleed" is very groovy again and it proves that HELLZ ABYSS is not an average rock band and they rock like hell. The journey continues with a warning from the band, called "Don't Lie To Me", so don't say we didn't warn you. The guitar of Dean Miliaresis doesn't stop screaming here and it will definitely knock you off your feet. Dean is letting off a lot of steam. In "Exit", the dark atmosphere and vibe are back again and the hot guitar work sounds really amazing. In "Freedom Phobia", I hear some cool rap influences, next to the guitar riffs. I would like to refer to SKUNK ANANSIE here. The groovy sound remains in "Grettle", next to the additional keyboards. The dirty "Smegma" still holds the dark sound of the underground. "Trouble" is what you get next, which rocks and is also slightly catchy at the same time. You must love the beat in the fast rocking "Wanna Play", when you managed to sit this album out so far. Only the dirty freaks will enjoy this underground party, which is still going on. In CD closer "Cover And Run", there is a mind-blowing guest spot for ROB ZOMBIE guitarist Riggs. After that, the party is over, until you press the 'repeat' button. HELLZ ABYSS is dark, dirty and greasy and the band is definitely worth checking out. Don't hesitate and just visit the dark Australian abyss, as the doors are wide open. The band consists of Lisa Perry on vocals, Dean Miliaresis on guitar and Daryl Holden on drums. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HUNGRY - Hungry For Your Love (No Dust Records)
Six songs are on this AOR, melodic rock album, worthy of thirty minutes of steady rock. HUNGRY is hailing from Germany and they have Nicky Gronewold behind the mike. Melodic rock lovers will possibly remember her from her more recent outfit NIKKI PUPPET. "Believe In Me" is a catchy rock song, that will remind you of a band like for example DOKKEN. It has got a solid rock sound with a heavy input, a catchy hook, some fabulous guitar work and a great singer. "Hungry For Your Love" has some references to WHITESNAKE's "Still Of The Night". HUNGRY is not a copycat at all and this is only a point of recognition, as far as I'm concerned. "Lonely Soul" sounds catchy again, so put on your dancing shoes and move your body to the sound of it. It's done with a lot of class and style and I have to credit this band for writing first class melodic rock songs like that. In "Waiting For Another Century", the band takes back a little speed, but they will astound you with their strength and power. The powerful drum beat, combined with short guitar parts and that heavenly voice turns this into a killer song with an amazing guitar solo. I'd like to refer to Y&T here for obvious reasons, it's that good. And although it's a classy rock song, it still gives you a dark and ominous feeling, don't you agree? If you like it loud and you're into a fast pounder, then "Scream" is the one for you. There are no speed limits here and it will make you scream....for joy, for sure. The vocals of Nicky are getting very close to the loud screams of Ann Boleyn (HELLION) here. Now that was fun and I guess it's time for a little point of rest. The final song on this album is called "Cry Me A River". There is a small explosion with a minor speed change here, although everything stays within these limits and the tenderness wins of the small powerful part in this song. All in all, HUNGRY proves that they were an amazing band around 1988-1989. Somehow, they never got the recognition that they deserved so much, until now. Nicky moved on and formed the band NIKKI PUPPET. Other band members played in bands like STEVE LINK, EASY ROCKER and CRYSTAL STEEL. HUNGRY is "Hungry For Love" and they will definitely make you 'hungry for rock' on this album. HUNGRY consists of Jorn Kadtler on drums, Steve Link on guitar, Nicky Gronewold on vocals, Christos Mamalitsidis on guitar and Arno Kadtler on bass. For more information, go to; [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IRON KINGDOM - The Blood Of Creation (independent)
The new IRON KINGDOM album contains eight songs, worthy of almost forty-five minutes of pure heavy metal with references to IRON MAIDENS, JUDAS PRIEST, the SCORPIONS and RUSH. This is their fifth studio album, which starts off with a folky intro, including some acoustic guitars, mixed with the sound of the sea. The intro is called "Tides Of Desolation". Just hold on, because you will be surprised when they kick off in opener "Sheathe The Sword" in fifth gear. The thundering drum rolls and fast riffs will make you fasten your seatbelts immediately. Think of early HAMMERFALL and then a bit faster maybe. This song has got a lot of power and sounds quite impressive. Next up is "Queen Of The Crystal Crown", which is a bit slower and more epical. There is some space for a longer instrumental part and the song contains some very impressive vocals, too. "Hunter And Prey" also starts fast, however once the fast bullet has been launched, they slow down a bit, when the wild bashing goes on and on. I hear some influences of IRON MAIDEN in the guitar sound, while in the faster parts my thoughts tend to go out in the direction of STRATOVARIUS. "Witching Hour" raises the expectation with a title like that. It might have the same content and title as the VENOM classic, yet this one sounds more like IRON MAIDEN meets GAMMA RAY with a BLACK SABBATH type of twist near the end, when they take back some speed. "In The Grip of Nightmares" is fast and it contains an impressive lengthy instrumental part, in which the guitar players show their skills. The lengthy title track "The Blood Of Creation" closes this pure metal album with a mix of steady heavy metal and screaming vocals. The lengthy instrumental break cuts the song in half. HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY are definitely some references of this almost fourteen minute piece of music, which also contains spoken word parts and some nice double leads. Finally, it closes with an acoustic guitar outro. IRON KINGDOM consists of Chris Osterman on vocals and guitar, Leighton Holmes on bass, Max Friesen on drums and Megan Merrick on lead guitar. For more information about IRON KINGDOM, go to: and [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FLOOR JANSEN - Fire (vinyl single) (Record Store Day.NL)
This seven inch single has been pressed on gold colored vinyl. Floor Jansen is very well-known as the vocalist of AFTER FOREVER, REVAMP and of course she is also the front lady of NIGHTWISH since 2013. However, Floor has got a very impressive solo career as well and this song "Fire" sounds really great. No matter where and in what band she performs, Floor always stands tall and proves her high quality skills. "Fire" may not be heavy enough for the average hard rock fan, but the orchestration and piano parts here prove that Floor can handle every music style and make something special of it. Her voice is operatic, clear, powerful and dynamic and "Fire" displays the 'commercial' side of Floor, yet it still has the same high quality that you would expect from her. The general public was being introduced to Floor on national television, where she did a duet with musical star Henk Poort and they blew everybody away. Since that day, she is a huge celebrity in our country and in the picture all the time. A live version of "The Phantom Of The Opera" (not the IRON MAIDEN classic!) has been put on the flip-side of this single for Record Store Day 2022. It's recorded at the AFAS live in Amsterdam. A nice detail is that well-known Dutch singer Rob de Nijs appears on backing vocals here. The soprano voice of Floor sounds truly amazing and I have to admit that the voice of Henk Poort also takes your breath away. What a nice release on this special day, where many vinyl lovers look forward to every year. On the A-side we hear Gordon Groothedde on drums, bass, guitar and keyboards and Wouter Hardy on strings, piano and keyboards. On the live recording, there is the Marcel Fisser Band, featuring Marcel Fisser on guitar, Martijn van den Berg on drums, Serge Bredewold on bass, Gregor Hamilton on piano, Will Maas on keyboards and next to Rob de Nijs, you will also hear Lesley van der Aa on backing vocal. For more information, go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LADY BEAST - Omens (Reaper Metal)
LADY BEAST has unleashed their new demo, which is called "Omens". It captures five tracks, worthy of almost twenty minutes of melodic US metal, which is strictly meant for connoisseurs of this particular music style. "The Poisoned Path" will give you a good mix of bands such as BITCH, HELLION, CHASTAIN, TAIST OF IRON or even WARLOCK, if you like. It's a nice pounder that immediately will get you in the right mood, if the amazing artwork on the CD didn't do the trick. The speed is average, the vocals of Deborah Levine are powerful and the guitar riffs will cut through everything. What a killer opener. "Reaper" captures the dynamic riffs, which put JUDAS PRIEST on the map. When the speed change is there, I can't stop banging my head and it sure feels like I'm eighteen once again. The guitar solo cranks it all up and this feels like rock and roll heaven for a little while. No matter how evil he will be, I don’t fear the reaper anymore. The maniacal laughs towards the end could have been more evil, as far as I'm concerned. "Blood For Blood" pushes the speed up a little bit further. The band is out for vengeance and it's an eye for an eye. This is LADY BEAST at its very best. To my surprise, they do a cover of RAINBOW's "Kill The King" next up, which is a lot more heavy than the original. You can't turn a good song down and this is surely one of my favorites. So raise your sword to this awesome track. The final song is called "The Fool's Journey" and one more time they press the pedal to the metal. I think that every true metal fan will surely love these five songs. Well, let's go back for a moment to the artwork on this five track CD. Out of the head of a long bearded man grows a stone tower, which is cut in half, because it's been struck by lightning. Out of the long bearded man with hollow eyes are growing little skulls, by the way. This is a very odd description maybe, but I’m sure you will be amazed. The colorful pentagram in front of a small altar looks very spooky and stunning at the same time. Well, there you have it, five firm metal songs to chew upon. LADY BEAST consists of Deborah Levine on vocals, Adam Ramage on drums, Chris Tritschler on guitar, Andy Ramage on guitar and Amy Bianco on bass. Website: [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LANA LANE - Neptune Blue (Frontiers Music)
LANA LANE and Metal Maidens have a long history together and we have always enjoyed her music and that of hubby Erik Norlander. After quite a long absence, Lana is back and better than ever with a new album, worthy of eleven tracks and a full hour of progressive metal and symphonic rock. It's called "Neptune Blue" and you can tell right away, that this is the new LANA LANE album. The fantasy landscape will remind you of the Cotswolds in southwest England, which also features these picturesque houses. When you enter one of these tiny houses, you will hear a church organ starting up the first song, which is called "Remember Me". The main focus is of course the highly recognizable voice of Lana, however their progressive sound deserves some special attention as well, like the guitar part halfway through. "Under The Big Sky" is very up tempo track, yet it also contains some influences of jazz, A.O.R. and pop. The keyboard parts receive a very prominent place in "Really Actually", while "Come Lift Me Up" is a nice feel-good song, like most on this album. They give you a good mood and a very good feeling. This laid back song is really nice and it has some beautiful guitar work. "Bring It On Home" starts off with a JIMI HENDRIX type of approach. The rhythm invites you to dance and move your body to the beat. It will definitely be a crowd's favorite, when playing live. The instrumental part gives it a progressive twist. "Don't Disturb The Occupants" is an airy song with good guitar work and a slightly progressive twist to it. It's so good to hear the high quality musicianship of this band in three minutes. Next up is the story about "Lady Mondegreen (She's So Misunderstood)". I hear some influences of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD going progressive with a leading role for the bass guitar. Add to this the jazz influences in the guitar sound, which makes it a very interesting track. "Miss California" is definitely not about those lovely ladies winning this election once a year. Instead, it's about missing your country (or state) after being on the road all over the globe. Clearly, Lana has seen many countries and cities all over the world in her very impressive career. The variety of music styles on this album is really huge, because "Someone Like You" has got a slightly bluesy touch for that matter. "Far From Home" is up tempo and once again it has some breathtaking guitar licks and a nice layer of keyboards on top of it. As a matter of fact, you can't go wrong with this CD, because the material of LANA LANE is always of a very high quality. In closing, there's the title track "Neptune Blue", which ends with a very lengthy instrumental part. The balanced symphonic influences will make you riveted to your seat until the last notes have faded away. I think, this song will be my highlight of the album. The band of LANA LANE consists of Lana Lane on vocals, Erik Norlander on keyboards and vocals, Jeff Kollman on guitar, Mark McCrite on guitar, bass and backing vocals, Don Schiff on NS Stick, Greg Ellis on drums and John Payne on backing vocals. For more info, go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LAURENNE/LOUHIMO - The Reckoning (Frontiers Records)
Netta Laurenne (SMACKBOUND) and Noora Louhimo (BATTLE BEAST) joined forces on this album and they combine their strong voices on ten melodic, powerful metal songs, which is worthy of forty-five minutes. Powerful and melodic are the two main keywords you would like to use, when describing the sound on opener "Time To Kill The Night", which also includes some good guitar work by Mikko Kosonen. The dense rock songs are easy on the ear and exactly what you would expect from these two lady singers. "The Reckoning" starts off slowly, yet the fire will start to burn after a little while. I really like the stunning riffs in the DIO influenced "Tongue Of Dirt", although the female vocals give a different twist to it. "Striking Like A Thunder" is another solid ear attack with a more straight forward sound. It also has got a catchy edge to it, which makes it easy to listen to without getting too commercial. It will strike you like thunder. "Bitch Fire" rages on like a thunder storm. You don't want to get caught in the bitch fire, although you're addicted to this powerful song, before you know. It’s one of my personal favorites, because of the heavy guitars and the loud pounding drums. Then it's time for a moment of rest with the ballad type of song, called "Hurricane Love". It feels like a hurricane and could destroy your life forever. "To The Wall" starts with a mechanical sound and then it explodes with a powerful and dynamic beat, some riffs and great guitar work. There is a lot of tenderness inside the "Viper's Kiss". Make sure that these are just kisses and that the viper doesn't bite, because that would be a fatal mistake. Dynamic is the description of "Walk Through Fire". You must have nerves of steel to do that, I guess. The energetic sound will definitely help you to do the trick and give you a good feeling about it. The final song on this very diverse album is called "Dancers Of Truth", which is slightly epic and I hear some LED ZEPPELIN influences here and there. It's melodic yet powerful, energetic but also intense and sometimes even emotional. It's all there and more. Check the album out, you won't be disappointed. Next to Noora and Netta, we hear Sampo Haapaniemi on drums, Pasi Heikkilla on bass, Nino Laurenne on rhythm guitar, Teemu Mantysaari on guitar, JC Halttunen on guitar, Vili Itäpelto on keyboards. For more info, go to: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEATHER - We Are The Chosen (Steamhammer Records)
RUDE GIRL, MALIBU BARBI, SLEDGE LEATHER, CHASTAIN, LEATHER, they all deliver raw, pure and uncompromising heavy metal fronted by the same front lady, LEATHER Leone. Her new solo album "We Are The Chosen" contains ten new songs and forty-five minutes of pure heavy metal. The album starts off with the speedy "We Take Back Control", in which Leather proves that her voice is still amazing and powerful and the metal sound of her backing band does the other half. Fast drum beats, flashing guitar parts, the speed level in fourth gear, what can go wrong? I guess, with Leather's voice in front of it, not much. In "Always Been Evil", the speed is still there, including the triggered drum beats and an extensive guitar solo, which is even better than the opener. In "Shadows", the band takes back some speed and you will also hear one of the main influences of this hard rocking lady, which is the late Ronnie James Dio. The vocals and rhythm of this song breathes the legacy of this huge musician. "Off With Your Head" is another treat to all you metal heads. LEATHER kills on this album with a constant power and energy, which definitely reflects to the listener. The title track of the album is next and luckily we're the chosen ones. Once again your thoughts will immediately go out to DIO. It's not strange at all, that Leather dedicated this song to the man on the silver mountain himself. "Tyrants" is fast and aggressive, because of the hard beating drums. It's really striking that every song reflects such a dynamic and energetic feeling. For me, one of the highlights on this album is the slow and intense "Hallowed Ground". It has some amazing guitar licks and a stunning beat. Besides that, it will creep under your skin and enter your soul, where it belongs. This song will make you proud to be a metal head. The next track is called "Dark Days". It will grab back to their heavy and fast sound, where speed dominates, which is what we want, right? Well, you can't go wrong on this album, as a matter of fact. "Who Rules The World" is up next and again the repeating pounding of the drums will be hammered into your brain. The fast guitar work will do the rest. "The Glory In The End" closes the album in full speed, like it started. What can I say? This lady still rocks firmly and stands very proud in the heavy metal community. I can only reward this high quality heavy metal album with the full score. Leather Leone performs all the vocal parts here and she was helped out by her partner-in-crime Vinnie Tex. Both musicians can be proud on what they’ve accomplished and put together here. Let LEATHER rock your world, because you are the chosen one. For more information, go to: or [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LOVEBITES - Heavy Metal Never Dies – Live In Tokyo 2021 (JPU Records)
This double live CD from the Japanese all-female heavy metal band LOVEBITES contains nineteen songs and runs for about two full hours. It was recorded on March 26th 2021 in the Tokyo Dome City Hall in Japan. The high quality heavy metal will make you think of SHOW YA and I guess, you could call them their younger sisters or the successors to that band for that matter. They definitely have the same connection, when listening to their own penned songs here. The double CD starts with an intro, called "Run For Vengeance", where you will hear horse riding and weapons cling to each other, until the first song takes off, which is called "Where Destinies Align". Think of GAMMA RAY, DRAGONFORCE or FIREWIND here for example: high speed power metal with ditto guitar solos. The steam train rolls on during "The Crusade" and you will recognize other influences as well. Although the energy level is rather high, the speed goes down a little, too. When they reach their "Golden Destination", I even hear some early IRON MAIDEN influences in the guitar parts. The band continues their show to "Set The World On Fire", which is another furious high octane fueled speed monster, that simply can’t be topped. They play it fast and very tight. "Shadowmaker" is on next, which is another fast power metal song, although it doesn’t break any speed records this time. "Today Is The Day" rocks again loud with a leading role for the amazing guitarist. "Winds Of Transylvania" starts off with a short piece of Beethoven first, before the band steps on the gas and takes care of the next power metal explosion. "Spellbound" will probably give you some energy, while the keyboards get a very prominent place here. Even the solo is being reserved for the keyboards, which fits the song really well. One of the highlights for me is "The Unbroken", which contains some heavy and fast drum beats. It will bring you in ecstasy one more time, before going to the second CD that starts off with the melodic and very emotional song "A Frozen Serenade". There is even some acoustic guitar included in the mid-piece. The speed goes up after the guitar solo and I hear gentle steps to power metal. In "Swan Song", the ladies go full speed ahead again. Although the chorus vocals are not really my cup of tea here, they're not disturbing either. At the end of this song, there is an emotional speech of the singer, but since my Japanese is not what it used to be, I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about. Bottom line is that they press the pedal to the metal again in "Glory To The World". "The Apocalypse" starts with a short but very impressive piece of solo singing, before the next speed monster explodes. Looking for some real energetic metal? Well, don't look any further, because you've found it here. The next song "M.D.O." has got a bit more IRON MAIDEN kind of approach for that matter. "Don't Bite The Dust" and "Holy War" ramble on. It’s amazing where they find the power and energy to play at that constant level and high speed. The sound of thunder will bring you to the first encore, called "Thunder Vengeance", which is another speed race monster. The band closes with the song "Under The Red Sky". I am sure, that after this two hour concert, the fans will be very pleased indeed. Two hours of high quality power metal from the land of the rising sun. LOVEBITES is: Asami on vocals and piano, Midori on guitars and backing vocals, Miyako on guitars, piano, keyboards and backing vocals, Miho on bass and backing vocals and Haruna on drums. For more information, go to: and [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LUCIFER - Lucifer IV (Century Media)
The new and fourth album of LUCIFER contains eleven tracks and forty-five minutes of retro rock. The fuzzy and seventies sound in "Archangel Of Death" feels like you've been thrown back in time almost fifty years ago. I even hear some influences of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE in here. The next song "Wild Hearses" has got a very dark and occult type of approach, which is right up their street. It matches the CD cover quite well, where a lady hangs on a cross covered in blood. This picture even comes to life in the third song, called "Crucifix (Burn For You)". The blood-curdling laughs are exactly what you hoped for in this up-tempo vintage rock song. Their dark side probably reflects more in the song titles rather than the music. The next song got the terrifying title "Bring Me His Head", which doesn't sound like a nice party at all. "Mausoleum" starts off with a moody organ and the voice of Johanna matches perfectly to this rather macabre song. The instrumental part is really amazing. Next up is a short instrumental interlude, called "The Funeral Pyre" on acoustic guitar. It chops the CD in half. The guitar riffs go wild in the slightly doomy "Cold As A Tombstone". It's definitely one of the highlights on this album for me, next to "Louise", which sounds pretty heavy because of these riffs. "Nightmare" also contains some heavy guitar parts, but it closes with a very moody part. Obviously, the sound of LUCIFER is going more to retro rock and the seventies than ever before. References to a band like BLUE OYSTER CULT are never too far away. The lazy voice of Johanna will make you dream away during "Orion". The CD closes with another heavy anthem, called "Phobos", in which the instrumental part will do the trick. The tambourine even takes the atmosphere a little bit higher than it already does. This excellent fourth album will bring you in higher and sometimes much darker grounds. LUCIFER is: Johanna Platow Andersson on vocals and keyboards, Nicke Andersson Platow on drums, keyboards and guitar, Linus Bjorklund on guitars, Martin Nordin on guitars and Harald Gothblad on bass. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LUCID'S GRAVE - Cosmic Mountain (Electric Valley Reco)
The debut album of Danish five-piece psychedelic doom metal band LUCID'S GRAVE is worthy of forty-five minutes and six tracks. Their songs are drenched in blackened stoner rock with a punky edge to it. It's slow, it's heavy, yet it's very intense. Once they caught you in their hairy claws, they sneak you into the dark, lurking sound of the "Cosmic Mountain", where only they know where the entrance is. There is a labyrinth of soundscapes inside it, which will make you hungry for more. Gothic waves, ominous doom beats, howling vocals and a seventies twist are the main ingredients in this opener. Names like THE DEVIL'S BLOOD and MOLASSES come to mind, when they turn up the speed a little in "Old Spirit". The older the spirit, the better it tastes, they say. The power metal in this song won't let go, until the last notes have faded away. The wild "I'm Still High" will get your body move to the rhythm of it. It sure feels like you're in some kind of trance. It must be the old spirit lurking around the corner. The next song is called "I Feel The Fire", where the magic continues. In "Stay Away" there is a more mystique atmosphere growing. It's like they give you a warning not to come too close. In the vocal parts, there is definitely some resemblance to Farida Lemouchi of MOLASSES and THE DEVIL'S BLOOD. A dark tsunami of doomy riffs and ominous sounds will conclude this album by another nine minute spell, called "Curse Of The Crows". Make sure this will never ever happen to you, because you will never see the light of day after that. When you come crawling out of this "Cosmic Mountain" you will feel like life has moved on for a zillion years, because you’ve lost every sense of time. The time warp you've been in did this to you. How long did the constant repeating riff and beat at the end of this song hammer into your brain? Maybe you will never know the right answer to that question. LUCID'S GRAVE consists of Malene on vocals, Jon on drums, Alex on bass, Casper on guitar and synths and Kriller on guitar and synths. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MANDRAGORA SCREAM - Nothing But The Best (Music For The Masses)
The title will probably say it all. This is a 'best of' album by the Italian goth industrial metal band MANDRAGORA SCREAM. It's worthy of seventeen songs and almost seventy-five minutes, including two previously unreleased tracks and three brand new songs. Well, let's start this journey right away with opener "Nightwish", which will take you away on a carpet of keyboard sounds and guitar riffs, topped by the vocals of Morgan Lacroix. The band has got five full-length albums to choose from plus several singles in between. "Jeanne D'Arc" is the first previously unreleased track here, which contains their catchy yet heavy industrial beat, next to the whispering vocals of Morgan. And to be honest with you, the industrial beats and computerized sounds are not really my cup of tea as a true metal fan. "The Time Of Spells" starts off like a soft ballad, before it evolves into a mix of short wild eruptions and dark slower parts. For all the connoisseurs among us, I do hear some influences of LED ZEPPELIN in the instrumental parts. Obviously, the band will slowly cast their spell on you. "Crying Clouds" feels like it's been raining and because of that you will feel gloomy. I guess, that's the intention of these dark gothic bands. After the rain is gone, the rainbow shows up, which is good news for the "Rainbow Seeker" that is on next. It contains a nice guitar solo, by the way. I want more of that, please. The wild screams in "Dark Latern" will get you in the right mood. Besides the gothic and industrial atmosphere, the band also shows its melancholic side in "Ghost Of Swan", which is a beautiful ballad type of song. It's performed with loads of emotion and just the way it's meant to be. The band shows many different faces, although the intense "Blight Thrills" is a bit too much for my metal heart. "The Circus" is very dark and the clowns are creepy and vicious instead of funny and joyful. "Breakin Down" contains a bit too much keyboards for my taste. "Lamia" hammers on and the stomping beat will set you on fire. "Hekate En Erebos Phos" and "Medusa" have a lot of new wave influences. And did American singer-songwriter Billy Eilish copycat "The Devil Owns My Heart Now" for one of her hit singles? You would almost think she did. "In The Dark" is a new track, It's dark but it matches quite well to the other songs. And so does the other new track, called "Baby Blue". CD closer "Spiritual Leadin" is almost completely instrumental, except for some whispers and sighs. I think that all the dark ravens and wavers can easily dig in here, although this is far too much over the top for me. I like the artwork on the album, which made me curious to hear it. Sometimes you have to broaden your musical horizon quite a lot to see the beauty of it. MANDRAGORA SCREAM is: Morgan Lacroix on vocals and Terry Horn on guitar. For more info, go to: or [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MANORA - Brave The Storm (independent)
MANORA originates from our native country, the Netherlands. We have quite a reputation in the symphonic metal scene and this is yet another branch on the crowded tree. In a full hour, newcomer MANORA will provide you with some steady material on this debut disc, worthy of twelve songs in total. Opener "System Shotdown" may sound like an ordinary symphonic metal tune, although the high quality it carries out feels very strong here. This maintains while the speed goes up in "The Traveler", which is next. The vocals of Mirte van der Ham match very well with the sound of the band. I’m glad they don't use any growls or grunts and instead choirs and harmony vocals, like in "Break Your Fall", where the band proves their instrumental skills as well. I hear some influences of WITHIN TEMPTATION, because of the long vocal pull outs of Mirte, but also EPICA because of the bombastic harmony choirs in "Weird To Obey". In "Pull The Strings", the choir vocals also get a rather prominent place, which makes it a lot more bombastic and sometimes even operatic in a way. "Endgame" is very symphonic, whereas "Another Destiny" sounds pretty heavy and speedy. There is a lot of variation here, as you can see. The balladesque "The Heavens (Are A Picture Frame)" is really beautiful, while in "Symphony Of Lies" the rock level goes up and it even turns into a real head banger. "Dreamshape" has got a high rock level and again I hear some Sharon den Adel like influences in the vocals. "The Sacrifice" contains some choir vocals and it has a very bombastic sound. One of the highlights on this album is "A Beautiful Tragedy", which has some tasty guitar work and a short spoken word part, which fits very well in here. The power of this song is really incredible and it shows the great talent of this band in a nutshell. The use of a children's choir takes care of a magnificent seclusion on this album, that stands proud in the overcrowded symphonic metal world. MANORA consists of Mirte van der Ham on vocals, Ivo Visser on guitar, Arthur Stok on keyboards, Tomasz Kisielewicz on bass and Tijn Scholte on drums. For more info, go to: or [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MARY'S BLOOD - Mary's Blood (JPV Records)
The all-female band MARY'S BLOOD are from Tokyo, Japan and most of the time this stands for high quality music. Their album contains eleven tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes of power metal. Opener "Last Daybreak" is only a bit longer than one minute and the intro to "Without A Crown", a high speed, high octane fueled power metal track with heavy riffs and clear powerful vocals. The next song "Blow Up Your Fire" is perhaps even better. It's a bit slower in general, but it contains some mind-blowing guitar work that is well worth checking out. The songs on this album are powerful and steady and the lyrics are printed in English and in their native Japanese in the matching booklet, which comes with the CD. The songs are performed in Japanese though, as you will hear in "Joker", which is another power metal song that lives up to its expectations. "Be Myself" is a bit more average and in "Umbrella", the band shows that it's natural to play with more feeling as well. The bass parts are great in that one. A name like SHOW YA definitely will come to mind here. Same goes for "Ignite" that will set your mind on fire with fast drum beats and some amazing rhythms. "Hunger" on the other hand contains some very strange sidesteps, that you probably wouldn't expect, which turns it to one of the highlights of this album, as far as I'm concerned. "Let Me Out" sounds fast and aggressive and it has a lot of power as well, just like "Mud Lady", which even takes the adrenaline level a bit higher. To me, it sounds amazing and it gives me a lot of energy. That's what music can do to you. It will hit you with a hammer made of pure steel and sometimes it might be a velvet hammer as well. It depends on the song of course. I think, I will put this song on my list of highlights as well. The CD closes with the more melodic "Starlight", yet it also contains a fast rhythm. MARY'S BLOOD sounds absolutely great and if you like for example SHOW YA, then you can’t go wrong with this release. MARY'S BLOOD consists of Eye on vocals, Saki on guitar, Rio on bass and Mari on drums. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTOR SISTER - Get Off (Metal Blade Records)
Are you ready for some high octane fueled rock songs? "Can't Get High Enough" kicks off at the new album of the Los Angeles based hard rock band MOTOR SISTER, which contains twelve brand new tracks in a bit over forty minutes. This is only just the beginning, because the album continues in the fifth gear with "Coming For You". The band has become so much more cohesive and this reflects on their solid sound. MOTOR SISTER has become a well-oiled machine with references to a band like NASHVILLE PUSSY, just to give you a good example. In "Right Here, Just Like That", you can feel the explosive expression of their music with the aggressive guitar solo pointing right in your eye. In "Sooner Or Later", the band takes back some speed and I would like to refer to GRAND SLAM and THIN LIZZY, especially vocalwise. You can feel the emotion here, which is a different mood than for example the next firm rock song, called "Excuse Me, Your Life Is Exposed". The "Lion's Den" is not exactly the place where you want to be, but this is where MOTOR SISTER holds up. That is what this band is all about. They walk on the path that have not been paved yet and go at places that no one has explored yet. No matter how dangerous they are. "1,000,000 Miles" is on next and drummer John Tempesta cranks out a firm beat here. There is also a sensitive and emotional moment on this album, namely the ballad "Pain". After that, they press the pedal to the metal again in fifth gear in the speed monster "Bulletproof". The AC/DC type of riffs will start “Bruise It Or Lose It", which is another pounder for you to explore. "Time's Up" is one of the final songs here, but hey just wait because there is still one more song after this. This song was written as a tribute to KISS and I think that every fan out there will find itself in that comparison. The very last song is a cover, as a matter of fact. It's called "Rolling Boy Blues", originally recorded by MOTHER SUPERIOR, the band of vocalist and guitar player Jim Wilson. What power has been expressed here!! It will break away and let it all go. That's the way I like it. MOTOR SISTER consists of Jim Wilson on vocals and guitar, Pearl Aday (the daughter of Marvin Lee Aday, a.k.a. MEAT LOAF - R.I.P.) on vocals, Scott Ian (the son-in-law of MEAT LOAF and member of S.O.D. and ANTHRAX) on guitar, John Tempesta (WHITE ZOMBIE/THE CULT) on drums and Joey Vera (ARMORED SAINT and FATES WARNING) on bass. For more info, go to: So you know what to do now. Get off your lazy butt and buy the g**damn thing!! [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MYSTIC STORM - From The Ancient Chaos (Ironoxide Records/Skol Records)
MYSTIC STORM hails from Saint Petersburg in Russia and they come up with nine songs on this new album, worthy of forty minutes of stormy thrash metal. To some of you this may sound like a nightmare and that's exactly the title track of the opener here. "Nightmare" starts off with slow, doomy riffs and some hard pounding drum beats, while in the back the church bells are ringing. When the speed goes up, the actual song begins and you will hear some influences of for example DETENTE or the later HOLY MOSES, yet the doom elements will stay as well. After the mighty opener, you will hear the "Clang Of Swords" and it's quite obvious that we're dealing with real heavy metal warriors here. Sometimes they sound quite doomy and mysterious, which gives their music an epical kind of feeling. When the acoustic guitars are starting to play, the song goes over into "Riddle Of Steel". Clearly, their thrash metal is not as straight forward as you might expect. The epic influences, different layers and sometimes dark soundscapes are unmistakable there. "Beheaded" has got an impressive instrumental part with some awesome guitar licks. The guitars in "Ritual" are also mind-blowing and the mighty riffs make it very powerful. "In The Throes Of Evil" starts off very dark, when some mysterious whispering follows. There are some nice speed changes and the guitar work really lifts it up to a much higher level. I really like the incredible speed of the solos so very much. "Along The Coast Of Stygia" continues this amazing trip with an instrumental track, which mainly consists of a guitar solo of Kostya. "The End" is the very short and last track on this CD. Don't get the CD out of your player just yet, because otherwise you will miss the gorgeous DETENTE cover "Vultures In The Sky" and that would be a big shame. MYSTIC STORM has got so much to offer than the average thrash band, so please check them out. The band consists of Anna on vocals, Artyam on bass, Kostya on guitars and synths and Alexy on drums. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NASHVILLE PUSSY - Eaten Alive (MVD Audio)
This live album of one of the hottest bands on earth contains nineteen smoking hot songs, worthy of almost seventy-five burning minutes. It starts off with "Kicked In The Teeth" – yep, the AC/DC cover. After every live album from this band, this is the real deal we all have been waiting for. It is one helluva party, including a whole lot of dirty guitar work, hunting rhythms and it will give you the feeling that you were there from the beginning until the very end. Their mix of AC/DC and MOTORHEAD type of songs will take care of the hottest party you have ever been to. Besides that, the album contains a lot of steaming sex 'n' roll, too. Just listen to "Piece Of Ass", written by Rick Sims, which is an ear orgasm back to forth. You won't be able to take a deep breath, because right after this fast rock song you are already on the "Wrong Side Of A Gun". This album is freaking dangerous, I will tell you that much. No shit, man!! "Pilbilly Blues" is a Southern rock song of the new millennium. Blaine's granddaddy made moonshine back in the days, his daddy grew weed, so he says and he is well-known for playing some freaking hot rock and roll. "We Want A War" might sound a little bit inappropriate nowadays, but they get what they want after all. "Rub It To Death" isn't about a cat, but it could very well be about a pussy, if you know what I mean. How do you write about this without getting too offensive for the average readers? NASHVILLE PUSSY ain't that sensitive, their lyrics are about life itself and they come straight from the heart. When they sing "Go Home And Die", it simply means that you're not a friend of the band in my opinion, what do you think? The fans just love what they are doing and if you like their honesty, you will love them as well for sure. "She Keeps Me Coming And I Keep Coming Back" starts with a fiery drum intro and then takes off in the fifth gear. Another speed canon ball is fired right at you. "CCKMP***" is on next and I think the title stands for 'Cocaine Can't Kill My Pain'. It's a slow, bluesy track, which sounds as pure as life itself. The original version was written by STEVE EARLE. What you hear is what you get, no borders, no limits, just pure rock 'n' roll. What would you do, when you only have "5 Minutes To Live"? Have a listen to this song and you will know what the band has in mind for you. It's loud as hell, you mf***rs! "Low Down Dirty Pig" starts off with a lengthy drum solo by Ben Thomas. It's the introduction to the band. If you have survived this dripping sex, drugs and rock and roll song, then go for another classic from the huge NASHVILLE PUSSY back catalogue, called "First I Look At The Purse", originally recorded by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers of THE CONTOURS. Old school rockers (like me), may also know it from THE J. GEILS BAND. After breaking all speed records, they will slow down with another Southern rock anthem, called "Go To Hell". It's right in the dump. that we live in nowadays, believe me. The speed change is really amazing and why wouldn't you rock and roll in hell. "I'm So High" (I Gotta Look Down To See The Sky) is up next. Take a deep breath and a zip from your cigarette or drink. "I'm The Man" continues and although these recordings are from 2018, it gives you a good idea of what NASHVILLE PUSSY has to offer live. The songs have been recorded in England, Scotland and Wales for that matter. "Why, Why, Why" ensures you a good time. Just listen to "Kiss My Ass" of TED NUGENT and hear the resemblance on this one, but who gives a sh*t anyway. While "Strutting Cock" will make you lose more sweat than you already did. If you still don't know why you are enjoying this album, this song will exactly tell you why! "Till The Meat Falls Off The Bone" is about getting high and besides that, it's also about a BBQ. Well, at least that is Blaine's explanation here. After approximately seventy minutes, the moment you all have been waiting for is finally there. "Go Motherfucker Go" will close this full score CD. If you want sex, it's here! If you want drugs, it's here! If you want rock and roll, it's here. What else do you need? NASHVILLE PUSSY is: Blaine Cartwright on guitar and vocals, Ruyter Suys on guitar and vocals, Bonnie Buitrago on bass and vocals and Ben Thomas on drums. For more info, go to: So, what are you waiting for???? Just push the f*cking 'repeat' button! I need more of this! [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

NOCTURNA - Daughters Of The Night (Scarlet Records)
The line-up of the Italian NOCTURNA contains two daughters of the night, who both sing in this symphonic power metal five-piece. Their debut album contains ten songs, worthy of about thirty-five minutes, which starts off with the dark intro "Spectral Ruins". The first song is called "New Evil" and it gets the album going. I hear fast drum beats, heavy guitar riffs and especially the clear vocals of the two ladies, which is a very nice opener and much heavier than I expected it to be. Title track "Daughters Of The Night" sounds very bombastic, although the riffs are much more furious, in my opinion. It shreds like a chainsaw through a block of wood. "The Sorrow Path" starts off with some moody keyboards. The slow and dark mood throughout the song gives it a gothic touch. "Sea Of Fire" also starts with some keyboards. It's a nice up tempo song with a good guitar solo in it. "Blood Of Heaven" is fast and it's definitely one of the highlights on this album. It's a powerful explosion in three minutes. "In This Tragedy" continues and both singers are getting the chance to shine in here. The song has some very tasteful moody and dark parts, too. The sound of NOCTURNA never gets too brutal or too sweet. It's accessible for every metal fan and the female vocals really make the difference here in a positive way. Just listen to "Darkest Days" to get my point. The short instrumental "Nocturnal Whispers" includes some choir chants, which goes on to CD closer "The Trickster". It has some operatic vocals and the powerful vibe is there as well. This album is a lot heavier than I thought it would be and both thumbs up for NOCTURNA, that consists of Grace Darkling on vocals, Rehn Stillnight on vocals, Hedon on guitars, Antares on bass guitar and Deimos on drums. Federico Mondelli on guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ONYRIA - Feed The Monster (independent)
This album of the French/Italian band ONYRIA contains ten alternative rock and metal tracks, worthy of almost thirty-five minutes. The band has already released two independent albums on their label Onyria Records and I would like to refer to NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION or EVANESCENCE here, as far as their influences go. The album starts off with "Denial", including the whispering vocals of Helena, who sounds mysterious, yet sometimes also slightly distorted and wild. "Living The Lie" is another up tempo rock song that will immediately crawl under your skin after hearing it. This airy song would be very suitable for radio airplay as well. "No Obedience" is powerful and the heavy drum beats and steady riffs make it even heavy at times. On the contrary, the next song "Be Yourself" is pretty laid back and down to earth. Obviously, there is a lot of variation on this album, which makes it easy to listen to. In "Drowning", the vocals are quite wild, although the instrumental parts are rather modest. The distorted vocals are not really my cup of tea, still it's very short. "Insane" will drive you nuts. Just play it loud and let yourself go. It works, I will tell you that much. "Little Man" is not about a giant, but it cuts the speed down a bit. "Blind Nation" is again fast and furious and I must admit that the album is a lot heavier than I expected at first. Just listen to "Still Here", which captures the band in full action. "Price Of Souls" closes the album with more great stomping beats and awesome vocals. ONYRIA plays modern alternative rock and metal and their songs are compact and easy to listen to. The band consists of Helena on vocals and Simon J. Gilman on guitar, vocals, bass, drums and keyboards. I hope you will excuse me now, because I have to "Feed The Monster" now.... For more info, go to: or [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ORIANTHI - Live From Hollywood (Frontiers Music)
Orianthi Penny Panagaris was born in Adelaide, Australia to Greek parents. She was the guitarist from MICHAEL JACKSON and ALICE COOPER and also as a solo artist, she released some highly respectable albums. This live album contains eleven tracks, worthy of fifty minutes and recorded in January of 2022. Opener "Contagious" already gives you an idea of what to expect here. Raunchy rock songs with the mind-blowing guitar work of the blonde guitar player, whose solos are always in service of the songs without any ego tripping. There are some small sidesteps to the blues at times, while in "Sinners Hymn" she sounds rather groovy, slow and heavy. Her guitar playing is quite amazing here and she really blew me away. Same goes for the easy on the ear song "Heaven In This Hell", in which the guitar work will tear you apart with a certain rawness, comparable to for example STEVE VAI and with the same long and open notes of somebody like JOE SATRIANI. "Think Like A Man" invites you to move your body to the rhythm of the beat without using any words. It will really happen, trust me. Carmen Vandenberg joins the band during "You Don't Wanna Know". I guess, that you do want to know it. Carmen is a talented guitar player that exchanges some licks with her good friend Orianthi here. She really is a great guitar player too, I can tell you. The short "What's It Gonna Be" rocks it out firmly. "Courage" is only on the DVD of this two disc set, while "Blow" is a much slower track, which gives you some time to breathe. I hear influences of for example Zakk Wylde here. It's groovy, yet within the borders this song can take. "Impulsive" starts off with a wild guitar intro and the guitar solo in this particular track is just a little bit louder to let some steam out. After that, the lengthy "Blues Won't Leave Me Alone" is up next. It's a slow blues tune. You have got to take some more time for it and Orianthi just knows what to do. The song builds itself up to a nice climax with some steaming hot guitar licks, just like it was meant to be. "According To You" is a fast rock song and before you know it, we have arrived are at the very last song of this impressive live album. "How Do You Sleep" is another lengthy bluesy song, where the guitar parts are a mix of Steve Vai and Carlos Santana, another guitar hero she had the privilege of working with. The bluesy influences are from GARY MOORE as well. A short thank you and goodbye and the fifty minutes are over. ORIANTHI the band consists of Orianthi on vocals and guitar, Glen Sobel on drums, Michael Barden on keyboards, Nick Mayfield on guitar, Justin Andres on bass and Carmen Vandenberg on guitar. Website: [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PLUSH - Plush (Pavement)
PLUSH plays melodic heavy rock without any boundaries. This all-female outfit is hailing from New York and these thirteen songs are worthy of about fifty minutes of groovy rock. CD opener "Athena" is the second single taken from this album. The groovy guitar parts will make your alternative rock heart beat faster, which is completed by firm drum beats and some heavy powerful vocals. The album contains some songs with a very catchy vibe as well. For example "Champion" will possibly give you the urge to sing along to the chorus. It even could be a crowd pleaser, because of the 'we are the champions' part. "Hate" starts off with some dirty riffs. It's the first single from this album. It sounds rather groovy and I think it's a good choice to launch this to the world as an introduction to PLUSH. "Found A Way" sounds very alternative in a way. I must admit that I liked the rock song "I Don't Care" much better. The mid part contains some JOAN JETT type of riffs, although the overall sound is very groovy. "Sober" is a ballad type of song, which continues in a quiet pace. "Better Off Alone" is another easy on the ear track. It never gets really heavy, but it sure will put a smile on your face. Think of PAT BENATAR or even a band like HEART here, so you will know in what direction this is going. "Sorry" is on next. The song isn’t mentioned on the CD at all, which is kind of strange. I guess, that's why they called it 'sorry', so apologies accepted. The song sounds rather intense and the lyrics are coming straight from the heart. "Why Do I Even Try" has some Ann Wilson type of vocals and for a moment I thought it was more adventurous but unfortunately it's not. These songs are in general very radio friendly and sometimes a bit heavier than the average rock song. "Bring Me Down" is just another example of a good commercial rock song, as far as I'm concerned. "Don't Say That" is a typical post-grunge song, which tells you that it's better that you don't tell her that you love her, so let this be a warning. "Will Not Win" rocks a bit harder and it's also more groovy. The short instrumental mid-part lifts the song up to a much higher level. In "Walk Away", the band finds a moment to rock and they prove that they are a very nice rock band to listen to. PLUSH consists of Moriah Formica on vocals and guitar, Brooke Colucci on drums, Ashley Suppa on bass and backing vocals and Bella Perron on lead guitar and backing vocals. or Website: [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE PRETTY RECKLESS - Death By Rock And Roll (Fearless Records)
The new album of THE PRETTY RECKLESS contains twelve tracks and it rocks your world for about fifty minutes. The band's star is rising very fast and this album is definitely a step in the right direction. "Death By Rock And Roll" starts off here, which sounds darker than expected, but it has got a nice rock vibe to it. As the title suggests already, it's not funny to die because of rock and roll and it must be a real tragedy. In the next song, vocalist Taylor Momsen will show you that there is still a way out. "Only Love Can Save Me Now" has also got a dark vibe. The rock level is much higher though and it also contains some amazing guitar work. Matt Cameron (PEARL JAM/SOUNDGARDEN) and Kim Thayil (SOUNDGARDEN) are guesting on this particular track. Think in this direction musically, and you won't be too far away from the truth. "And So It Went" sees the input of another guest musician, which is Tom Morello of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. His uncontrolled moves on the fretboard are a nice addition to this dynamic and more powerful track, which also contains a children's choir at the end. "25" is next up and the powerful and energetic voice of Taylor is the main focus in this song. For a little while, she sings with a bit more emotion, which gives the song a nice balance. "My Bones" on the other hand sounds mysterious and the screams of Taylor contain a lot of anger. The mood change takes care of a nice musical surprise here. "Got So High" is drenched in a sixties or seventies kind of feeling. It's a nice song to dream away at the campfire late at night. "Broomsticks" is all about witches and it's a nice and short, yet slightly creepy intermezzo and an introduction to "Witches Burn", which is on next. All you witches out there, better run and hide or you might end up at the stake. "Standing At The Wall" starts off acoustic and has got a ballad type of sound. "Turning Gold" rocks a little more and the hoarse voice of Taylor fits in very well here. "Rock And Roll Heaven" is a trip down memory lane for Taylor. It's a vision of her as a child getting in touch with THE BEATLES through the records of her parents. "Harley Darling" closes this new album. The rock level on this album is not always high, still fans of for example THE FOUR NON BLONDES will have a good time checking it out. THE PRETTY RECKLESS consists of Taylor Momsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Ben Philips on guitar, keyboards and piano, Mark Damon on bass and Jamie Perkins on drums. Additional musicians on this album are Kim Thayil on guitar, Matt Cameron on drums, Tom Morello on guitar, Sara Hallie Richardsong on vocals, Anna Lombar on vocals, Isaac Philips on harmonica, David Pointbriand on sitar and tanpura and Duncan Watt on keyboard, organ and piano. Website: [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

RAGE OF LIGHT - Redemption (independent)
RAGE OF LIGHT is hailing from Switzerland and this second full-length album is called "Redemption". The nine songs are worthy of forty-five minutes of progressive, melodic death metal. Opener "Iciness" will lead you the way and after a sober and dark intro, the song continues in a wild and enthusiastic way. Martyna Halas is the new singer and she is helped out by the aggressive vocals of Jonathan Pellet. His synthesizer playing also receives a prominent place in this dynamic opener. The dance beats dominate in "2.0" or is it the metal beat of 2022? There must be a thin line between both of them. The aggressive and angry vocals are showing that this is supposed to be metal, but I am rather confused after hearing this heavy metal 2.0 version. "Crusade For The Sun" contains a lot of keyboards again and the mix of angry screaming vocals and clean female vocals turn it into a good mix of both worlds. The screaming vocals will point into the direction of ARCH ENEMY, however the input of the keyboards instead of guitars undo that completely in my opinion. The dance beats near the end of this song are a bit too much for my poor soul. "Lead The Riot" on the other hand should make you jump at the barricades and I think they succeeded very well with this mission. The band is marching into battle and raising their fists in the air. I can see it happening in my thoughts. Let's have a riot here. "Chasing A Reflection" is one of the highlights on the album, as far as I'm concerned. The prominent place of the guitars is making their sound definitely heavier than ever before. The drums are ultra-fast and the vocals are loud, wild and aggressive and without a great solid guitar sound, it's not the real deal for me. Also in the next song, called "Exploder", the guitars of Noé are in front of the mix, especially in the beginning. It's a short yet heavy piece of music with more loud screaming vocals. "Breaking Infinity" is also on my list of highlights, because of the great, groovy and heavy riffs. "Aspiration" has some The ARCH ENEMY type of riffs, which also contains a massive guitar sound. "Beyond" is the final song on this album, which starts off with some angel type of vocals. It's a beautiful closure and I must admit that I didn't really get the powerful last minute. If they had left it out, the song would have been much better, in my opinion. Less is more here. The metal level on this album is too low for me to give this a higher score, but the good intentions are there for sure. RAGE OF LIGHT consists of Martyna Halas on vocals, Jonathan Pellet on synthesizer and vocals and Noe Schupbach on guitar and bass. For more info, go to: or [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: May 23, 2023]