CD REVIEWS


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


Spring 2021-Summer 2021:

LEE AARON-Radio On! (Big Sister Records)
I put the radio on and what do I hear??!! Unfortunately, it's not LEE AARON working hard on a comeback with live shows, a live album and new studio material. This Canadian singer, who once was the one and only metal queen, has got a lot of competitors these days, but any new material of this beauty is really special to us. The twelve songs on this new album "Radio On!" are worthy of about forty-five minutes of some good Canadian metal. If it's also radio friendly is something we will find out soon. The first riffs in "Vampin'" are very promising already. Canadian bands like TRIUMPH, APRIL WINE, GODDO and FRANK MARINO cross my mind, while listening to this energetic opener. "Soul Breaker" on the other hand could be categorized as radio friendly, but when the guitars start crying, I guess this would be too much for national radio. Lee hits the high notes really well and the high level of energy remains untouched in this one. "Cmon" sounds a bit airy, however it still has got a firm beat going. "Mama Don't Remember" is the perfect song for a long ride on the Canadian highways, while the road is disappearing under your wheels. Title track "Radio On" is very catchy and a name like SHANIA TWAIN comes to mind here, yet it's a bit heavier of course. The choir parts in "Soho Crawl" may sound a bit cheeky, yet the rocking character of the song easily makes up for that. "Devil's Gold" slows things down a bit and I think we can safely call this a ballad. A name like HEART comes to mind, while listening to it. "Russian Doll" swings at full speed. It's a pure rock and roll song, like the ones from the fifties. Lee is still hot to be rocked and the guitar solo sounds crazy indeed. "Great Big Love" is about the differences between a lady and her friend. The love remains unharmed though. "Wasted" starts off like any other ballad, before the speed rushes in and turns it into a real rocker. "Had Me At Hello" is a very groovy rock song. The second ballad is called "Twenty One", which is the final song on this album. "Radio On!" sure rocks to the max, however it doesn't sound heavy enough to label it metal. The songs are too heavy for radio airplay either. This lady still knows how to rock though and on every album she sounds heavier than before. Hail to the queen of rock! LEE AARON's band consists of Lee Aaron on vocals, Sean Kelly on guitar and piano, Dave Reimer on bass and John Cody on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.leeaaron.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARAPACIS-Waterdog (independent)
A 'waterdog' might be another word for a seal or a rat. By judging from the drawing on this eighth full-length album of Canadian rockers, it looks like a normal dog, who lives under the surface of the water. What an interesting new specie, discovered by Jerry Fielden and his band ARAPACIS. On this new album, former RAINBOW keyboard player David Stone is lending a helping hand, ain't that something?! "Waterdog" contains eight songs and forty-five minutes of solid rock, which starts off with "The Champ". What strikes me right from the start are the warm keyboard layers, that will immediately take you back to the old days, when RAINBOW and DEEP PURPLE ruled the scene. The raspy sound of Michelle Macpherson matches very well with the up-tempo speed in this song. Add to this the tasty guitar work of maestro Jerry Fielden and a great opening tune is born again. The backing vocals on this one are by Gillan Macpherson-Briggs and the violin by Gwendolyne Krasnicki, by the way. After that, they go for a more progressive approach in "Return Of The Light", which has a lengthy instrumental middle part and there's also a leading role for Jerry's guitar playing. The influences of for example RAINBOW or DEEP PURPLE are never too far away, however ARAPACIS is definitely not a copycat. They just like to give their own twist to it. "Pallor Rider" has got a more epic feeling and it could be described as a mix of PINK FLOYD and JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, whereas Michelle’s voice sounds quite aggressive and screaming at times. Bass player Jean Audet definitely deserves some special credits here, because of his slightly psychedelic input in this. Clearly, ARAPACIS is not afraid of blending different elements and styles together. In "Groovaquan", the spotlight is on guitarist Jerry Fielden again, but the keyboards of David ask for some special attention as well in the lengthy instrumental part that dominates this groovy piece of music. The vocal parts would fit in nicely in any dark black metal song, and they sound dark and mysterious at times. "Breach of The Humanoids" sounds very dark, but the musical sidesteps of the band will easily drag you through these darker parts. When Jerry pulls his strings, sparks of sunlight will enter your room and makes you happy. "The Mold" is next up. This song has got a more gothic approach and some progressive sidesteps plus another impressive instrumental part. "Back At The Gate" on the other hand is a totally different piece of art. The song is bluesy and it has got that slow Southern rock kind of feeling. It's a very nice surprise and an unexpected twist after these previous six tracks, in my opinion. However, there’s more to it than meets the eye, because at the end of the song there's a more jazzy part, which gives it an extra twist, you didn't expect. The final track is called "Elliptical Choice". It's the longest track and it clocks in at seven and a half minutes. David Stone's keyboard parts are very much upfront in the mix here and the band grabs your attention with their amazing experimental soundscapes throughout this song. The band never disappoints me, because of their great creative input and their craftsmanship. Well done, guys and can't wait for your next effort! ARAPACIS consists of Jerry Fielden on guitar, mandolin and drums, Michelle Macpherson on vocals, Jean Audet on bass and David Stone on keyboards. For more info, go to: https://www.arapacis.com or https://www.facebook.com/AraPacis. The album is digitally released on Bullseye Records of Canada Inc. and physically on Blackhouse Records. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARSENIC ADDICTION-XIX (independent)
This album of ARSENIC ADDICTION contains thirteen tracks and it's worthy of fifty-five minutes sharp. They are hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah and started their career in 2006. This is their third full-length release and we can categorize the band as vaudeville gothic horror metal or something like that. Just try to describe their music without following the paved path and you won't succeed. Anyway, don't be afraid to listen to opener "As Above", because it's only the introduction of things to come. The steady beats will introduce you to "Moon & Sun", which gives you more or less an idea of what this band is all about: black metal with many sidesteps. A regular singing voice takes turns with some screaming black metal type of vocals and this is accompanied by the subtle sound of keyboards. Think in the direction of DIMMU BORGIR or CRADLE OF FILTH going gothic. Some of the band members wear corpse paint, which could refer to their black or gothic metal roots, but there is definitely a lot more where that came from. "Air" is quite folky and it's a nice instrumental track, which shows the many faces of ARSENIC ADDICTION. "Tomb Of Sleep" starts off with some screaming vocals and thunderous drum beats. This fast and aggressive song is more black metal oriented and it's perfect for headbanging. "Spirit" is really food for your soul and to dream away upon. It's another instrumental track, that prepares you for a more doomy part in "Summons'. The black metal type of screaming vocals give this doomy song a real dark twist. "Ash Of The Earth" contains some THERION influences, because of the choral vocal parts. The spoken word part gives this song a special boost. "Water" is also an instrumental tune. It's a good concept to add some instrumental tracks between the up-tempo and more aggressive tracks. It definitely adds some balance between the songs. "Amethyst" is a fast song. It could very well be a public favorite at their live gigs, because of the catchy vibe of the chorus. "Fire" is certainly the most aggressive element of matter in science. It's also one of the most aggressive songs on this album. "Maleficium" has some loud screams and ditto sounds. The contrast to "Earth" couldn't be bigger. It sounds very atmospheric and sober and it's like you're listening to a different band. After that, the circle is almost closed, when the final song "So Below" announces itself. Remember the first track was called "As Above"?!? The choir vocals in "So Below" make your thoughts go out towards THERION again, I guess. All in all, this album feels like a melting pot of music styles. The black metal influences are not totally black, the gothic input isn't gothic alone and that is what makes this album so exciting to listen to. ARSENIC ADDICTION has already shared the stage with the likes of DEATH ANGEL, SEPULTURA, KRISIUN, LAMB OF GOD, GENITORTURERS and SOULFLY to name but a few and more big names will definitely follow after the release of this album and the ability to go on tour again. ARSENIC ADDICTION consists of James Kessler on guitar, Dylan Givens on bass, Lady A (Haley Grow) on vocals and keyboards and Nate Dahlquist on drums. For more info, go to their FB page at: https://www.facebook.com/DoseOfArsenic. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

A SOUND OF THUNDER-Parallel Eternity - The 10th Anniversary Orchestral Collection (Mad Neptune Records)
I actually never expected that a band like A SOUND OF THUNDER would team up with an orchestra on this best of re-recorded album, which contains eleven songs and seventy-five minutes of powerful heavy metal, accompanied by a full orchestra. Just imagine that a band like METALLICA, DEEP PURPLE or WITHIN TEMPTATION would do the same thing. I guess, that a mix of true metal with horns or violins would not be something that would come up in my mind. Anyway, after listening to it, I must conclude that it worked out quite well. This proves the big talent of A SOUND OF THUNDER from Washington DC. Opener "A Sound Of Thunder" contains a lengthy intro and when you think that you will only get to hear these orchestrated songs, the band starts to rock out loud. A haunting speed, thundering drum beats, dazzling guitar work and the loud screaming vocals of Nina prove, that we're dealing with one of the hottest metal bands around. And when you are wondering, if the orchestra doesn't distract their heavy metal sound too much, I can tell you that the answer is no for sure. The next piece of art is called "Explorer", which runs for about thirteen minutes. It has a lot of speed changes and there is plenty of room for the guitar and bass. The expressive vocals of Nina make this song complete at the end. "Walls" is a fast song, in which the band cranks out a great heavy metal song, while "The Burned Truth" sounds completely different because of the orchestral introduction. In "Discovery", the match between solid heavy metal and the orchestration really creates a magic atmosphere, which gives it another dimension. The guitar solo here is breath taking, by the way. A comparison to for example WITHIN TEMPTATION or EPICA might be not obvious, because A SOUND OF THUNDER is definitely much more heavy metal. Just check out the great guitar work in all the songs. The input of the orchestration works quite well in the lengthy (ten minute plus!) track "Time's Arrow". It sounds exciting and experimental, like you're watching a movie, including some spoken word parts and a leading role for the orchestra. While in "Queen Of Hell", there is a leading role for the fast drum beats, which is a great epic sounding true metal track. "Udoroth" is another fantastic mix of the orchestral parts and the heavy rock. 'Can't Go Back" contains an amazing guitar solo. "Els Segadors (The Reapers)" is definitely another highlight on this album, as far as I'm concerned. The album closes with a stunning duet between Nina Osegueda and Mark Tornillo of ACCEPT in "Phantom Flight". It rounds off this terrific album, filled with metal with orchestral sidesteps, which are not interfering the metallic sound in any way. There is even a second enhanced album included with twelve bonus tracks with orchestral versions, classical songs, acoustic songs and alternate takes, worthy of another full hour of A SOUND OF THUNDER mayhem. The orchestra takes a bigger part of the cake here. "Elijah" starts off this next adventure. And even with the extra orchestral input these songs stand tall. The speed changes are there the whole time and they keep the excitement level high. Next to the violins, there is also enough room for the guitars. "Too Late" is an acoustic version of this BLACK SABBATH cover, that appeared on the 'Dehumanizer" album and it contains some nice vocal pull outs of Nina. The up-tempo "La Preso Del Rei De França" is a very nice but short instrumental, which was recorded live. It will make you happy for sure. "Phantom Flight" (remember the duet with Mark Tornillo?) is next in a classical setting. "Els Segadors (The Reapers)" continues in a classical setting and it gets a more pompous sound, because of that. Same goes for the next song ,the instrumental classical version of "A Sound Of Thunder". "Can't Go Back" is a bit over the top, I think. It's a mix of wavy dance beats and computerized rhythms. Well, press F7 and delete, I would say. 'Udoroth" has received the same make-over in general and here's a bit of advice. Just listen to this, when you're completely open-minded to listen to some experimental A SOUND OF THUNDER songs. "Kill That Bitch" will not make you happy. The rock level is hardly there. "Discovery" may possibly appeal to fans of BLACKMORE'S NIGHT, as it has got a very mystical and medieval make-over. Same goes for "I'll Walk With You", where Nina sounds like the twin sister of Candice Night. The second CD closes with "Reign Of The Hawklords". It's very well done and don't get me wrong. I really admire their passion to do something different, but clearly it's too far away from metal and rock. I rather stick to the original versions and the heavy metal approach of A SOUND OF THUNDER. I will judge the band by CD one alone this time. A SOUND OF THUNDER consists of Nina Osegueda on vocals, Josh Schwartz on guitar and keyboards, Jesse Keen on bass and keyboards and Chris Haren on drums. Brad Charles was responsible for the orchestration. For more information and the latest news, go to: https://www.asoundofthunderband.com [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT-Nature's Light (Ear Music)
The man in black has penned ten new songs for a brand new BLACKMORE'S NIGHT album. After a short time out with RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW, the minstrel is back in the spotlight and this new CD is worthy of forty-five minutes of the finest folk rock. The album cover pictures a lot of bright colors and the sun shining high in the blue sky. All the more reason to write some shiny happy music and that's exactly what they did in opener "Once Upon December", which includes a tambourine and the amazing voice of Candice Night. The folky happy rhythm continues in "Four Winds". The medieval influences, that we are familiar with in BLACKMORE'S NIGHT, return in "Feather In The Wind". This is also an up-tempo song, only this time with a slightly different sound. The guitar work by Blackmore doesn't really have a prominent place, but the night is still young. The next title is quite obvious, when you hear it. It's called "Darker Shade Of Black", but you can also read "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" here, as it's nearly the same. It could be a disguised tribute to PROCOL HARUM. This song is instrumental however, but it builds up just the same way as the old PROCOL HARUM tune. "The Twisted Oak" brings you back to ancient times. You will get that feeling right from the start. Title track "Nature's Light" floats on in the same atmosphere, including some horns and big drums in the chorus. King Nature is sitting on his throne and the medieval band of minstrels play a song in his honor, that's the feeling I get while listening to this song. People, who prefer a more heavy approach of Blackmore from his RAINBOW and DEEP PURPLE years, are served well with some great licks in "Der Letzte Musketier". This beautiful instrumental track features some some amazing Jon Lord type of keyboards, steady drum beats and some bluesy guitar riffs by the maestro himself. It's definitely one of the highlights on this album. If you have bought the 1997 album "Shadow In The Moon", you might know the song "Wish You Were Here", that is next up. Fourteen years later, they recorded a re-worked version of this beautiful love song with the sensitive guitar picking of Mr. Blackmore. Anyway, back to the joyful and happy songs now. After all, the sun is shining and it's the perfect weather for "Going To The Faire", so clap your hands and dance along with me. The album closes in style with a slow song and some brilliant guitar work, which is called "Second Element". This eleventh album contains some happy songs, a few ballads and some instrumental tunes and therefore, it's a good balance and there is something for everybody.. In fact, every BLACKMORE'S NIGHT album is always a real treat to listen to. BLACKMORE'S NIGHT is: Ritchie Blackmore on guitars, hurdy gurdy, nickelharpe and mandola, Candice Night on vocals and tambourines, Bard David of Larchmont on keyboards and backing vocals, Earl Grey of Chimay on bass and rhythm guitar, Troubadour of Aberdeen on percussion, Scarlet Fiddler on violin and Lady Lynn on background vocals. For more information and the latest news, go to: https://www.blackmoresnight.com or https://www.facebook.com/blackmoresnightofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BONEYARD-Oathbreaker (independent)
This is the debut album by the Canadian metal band BONEYARD. The band was launched in 2015 and the members bring a lot of experience from previous bands, such as TYRANT, SEPTIMUS, POWERSLAVE and NEKROSKOPE. Their solid hard rock and heavy metal is being captured in eleven tracks and worthy of fifty powerful minutes. "Fates Warning" is the opener on this CD and it has got nothing at all to do with the band that carries the same name. The music of BONEYARD leans more towards a band like for example IRON MAIDEN for that matter. This song is also the first single. Rock and metal alternate each other on this album and "Gone" is a more rocking song with an excellent guitar solo. The catchy song "Evil Ways" is spiced up with some nice guitar work. Some may even have the potential of being voted as a hit single and this is an example of one of these songs. "Smoke The Sky" has got a far too heavy riff to reach that status though. However, it's very suitable to bang your head upon, which is something that I would rather do. Title track "Oathbreaker" has got that same hit potential feeling, which is packed in a more balladesque style this time and with some great axe work. To keep the album in good balance, it's time for a more ballsy rocker again in "Rat Race". You'd better run and hide and don't say we didn't warn you. The growl announces "Monster", which is on next. And no matter how and when, it will definitely grab you. Same goes for one of the highlights on this album, which is called "Born Again". The speed goes up and the song is rawer than the rest and that’s why it touches me even more. "Hope", so the title says, has got some sensitive influences and I would really like to call it a ballad. Every good rock album needs it, so why not this one. The last two tracks are up-tempo again. "Tune Attack" is loud and "Catch Me If You Can" rocks the hell out of you one more time. I think, this is a fine debut album of these Canadian rockers from Alberta and I look forward to hearing more in the near future. BONEYARD consists of songwriter Pamtera on vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, Dennis Cooke on bass and rhythm guitar, Jeff Cunningham on drums and Grant Tarapacki on lead guitar. Go to: https://www.boneyardrocks.ca or https://www.facebook.com/boneyardyeg. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BURNING WITCHES-The Circle Of Five (EP) (Nuclear Blast)
This is the EP, before "The Witch Of The North" was released. It contains one new track and three acoustic jams and runs for twenty minutes. Opener "The Circle Of Five" is somehow autobiographical, I think. These five ladies explode in an old school ACCEPT type of foot stomper, which is the way I like them best: dynamic and full of energy. The acoustic songs are pretty cool, too and very suitable on a lazy Sunday morning. The band proves that they really can play and make something beautiful out of every music style. Well, at least that's what they do in opener "Black Magic". I have to admit, that "We Eat Your Children" sounds a bit too aggressive for a spontaneous live jam, which probably makes it more special. "Dance With The Devil" closes this EP and the message at the end is quite clear: stay metal!! BURNING WITCHES consists of Laura on vocals, Romana on guitar, Larissa on guitar, Jay on bass and Lala on drums. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/burningwitches666. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BURNING WITCHES-The Witch Of The North (Nuclear Blast)
The brand new BURNING WITCHES album contains fourteen new songs, including one cover song and intro and a full hour of powerful heavy metal. These five ladies stand proud in the premier league of heavy metal and they have got a reputation to hold up high, which they surely do here. The album starts off with the intro "Winter's Wrath" and title track "The Witch Of The North". I hear influences of for example SAXON, MANOWAR, GRAND MAGUS, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and many other true metal bands with an epic feeling. Laura Guldenmond is now the only remaining Dutch band member, since Sonia Nüsselder decided to form COBRA SPELL and left BURNING WITCHES. In "Tainted Ritual", the speed goes up and the both guitarists are high in the spotlight with some dazzling guitar solos, which won't be the last. "We Stand As One" is a song for all warriors out there that are one big community. Together we are one and we can't be beaten. It will definitely make your heart beat faster, when you are a true metal head. "Flight Of The Valkyries" receives both thumbs up for the title alone. It starts off as a ballad, but soon the mood and speed changes rapidly and the result is a fast metal pounder. This is definitely one of the highlights on this album, I think. "The Circle Of Five" is the single taken from the album, which mixes influences of ACCEPT with IRON MAIDEN and GIRLSCHOOL, which is exactly what BURNING WITCHES is all about. Next to the heavy pounding and fast beats, there is even room for a bit of sensitivity. Just check out the wonderful ballad-like "Lady Of The Woods", in which the witches call in the help of male opera singers Meinolf Kalkuhl, Alex Arthur and Sonja Arthur. They don't have a leading role, although they do add something valuable here. "Thrall" sounds very powerful and fast and I really like the short interlude "Omen", which serves as an intro to the dynamic "Nine Worlds". "For Eternity" contains some great riffs and it also has some great screaming vocals. "Dragon's Dream" is fast and it has got the soul of ACCEPT. The guitar riffs are done by another guest player, called Damir Eskic, who you might know from DESTRUCTION. Not strange at all, as the man was also responsible for the album mix with his buddy Schmier of DESTRUCTION. "Eternal Frost" is another short interlude, which will literally give you a very cold feeling. Last but not least is their performance of the SAVATAGE song "Hall Of The Mountain King". The ladies received some help of guitarist Chris Caffery who plays the guitar solo, which might make the difference for some of you and I must say that they really did a splendid job here. Clearly, BURNING WITCHES is one of the leading heavy metal bands in the scene right now. Add to this, the variation of songs, the great artwork and the perfect market strategy of these five great metal ladies, who stand very proud in a male dominated world. What else can you wish for? If you buy the special box set, then you will get the "The Circle Of Five" EP (both items are personally signed by the band), five patches for on your jacket, stickers and a signed card for free. This is only for quick deciders though, because this band is so much hotter than hell. They are the witches of the north, so you'd better beware!! BURNING WITCHES is: Laura on vocals, Romana on guitar, Larissa on guitar, Jay on bass and Lala on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/burningwitches666. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CATHUBODUA-Continuum (Massacre Records)
This recent album of CATHUBODUA from Belgium contains fifteen tracks, worthy of a full hour of adventurous symphonic metal with a folky twist. Yep, this band presents you the best of both worlds. The bombastic intro "Dawn" features orchestral twists and choirs and I hear the first guitar chords, too. We're not far away from opener "Abyss" now. The album is divided into four sections called cycles and the first one is the hero's cycle. "Abyss" has the beautiful clear voice of Sara Vanderheyden, besides the choir vocals and the melodic symphonic metal sound of the band. Clearly, influences of like-minded bands, such as NIGHTWISH and EPICA, are not far away in the pounding rhythm of "Hero Of Ages". However, in "Hydra", the band gets to it and sounds really heavy. Watch out and don't get caught in the arms of this animal. It will strangle you for sure. Enjoy the fast drum beats and great high pull outs of Sara, next to the nice mood and speed changes, which really turns this song into something special. The sound of thunder is roaring in "The Tempest" (Interlude), where Sara's voice is again the main focus. Also, there's the stunning guitar solo of Kyron afterwards, which is really breathtaking. This short track sounds truly amazing. Next we have reached the forest cycle, which starts off with "The Fire". The folky influences of the band are also lurking around the corner. You won't tell by the blast beats of Ricardo, but the violin parts and the orchestral moves will surely take care of it. In "My Way To Glory", the band takes away at full speed. Once again you will hear some subtle folk parts here and there. This cycle closes with another short interlude, called "The Chasing Horde". Coming up is the city cycle, which starts with "A Treacherous Maze". Obviously, the band is not afraid to take a new adventure, when moving on from hydras to mazes. In this maze, you will hear some Eastern instruments mixed with elements of folk and blended by some dark male grunts and clear female vocals. It's a nice combination, because the grunts are not dominant at all and just give it a rawer sound. "Legends" contains the sound of the violin and the pixie type of choir vocals also matches here very nicely. The folky input makes it possible for the band to play at metal festivals and fantasy fairs as well. In "Nightfall", the drum rolls are roaring fast again. The operatic voice of Sara sounds amazing too, which is a clear example of this. The last part is called the snow cycle, which starts with the breathtaking "A Tale Of Redemption" and will make you hungry for more. It actually feels like a movie soundtrack, so just close your eyes, when the tale unfolds itself. The brutal "Deified" is up next, which keeps the album in balance. I guess, the variation of music styles will really keep you focused. The album closes with one of the longest tracks here, called "Apotheosis". It's dark and sober, until Kyron jumps in the spotlight with a skull splitting flashing guitar solo. That's how quickly things are changing. This epic masterpiece closes with the sound of a piano and keyboards in the final instrumental track "Dusk". Well, there you have it and the cycle is completed from "Dawn" to "Dusk". If you are into symphonic metal and folk, then this is definitely something for you. CATHUBODUA consists of Kenny Callebaut on rhythm guitar, Ricardo Lievano Flores on drums, Peter Thielemans on bass, Katrien van den Hurk on violin and symphonies, Sara Vanderheyden on vocals and Kyron Vanuffelen on lead guitar. Go to: https://www.cathubodua.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

COBRA CULT-Second Gear (GMR Music)
Let's pass on the baton to COBRA CULT, so they can blow you away on "Second Gear". The eight tracks by this Swedish outfit are worthy of almost twenty-five minutes of solid hard rock. In opener "Sell Your Soul", you will hear the double bass drums and a fast rhythm, packed in a solid rock sound. Comparisons to for example GIRLSCHOOL, LUNACHICKS and L7 are easy but understandable. I'd also like to add HYSTERICA to this list. The high speed rock songs keep coming with "The Devil's End". The exploding guitar solo in "Run For Your Life" really turns this song into one of the highlights on this album. While in "Mean Machine", the band slow things down a bit and the nice melodic guitar licks are breathtaking. Johanna's vocals are clear and it matches very well with the sound of the band. These songs have a certain grade of catchiness and it could well be a nice crowd pleaser in a live situation. "Hey" sounds punky and fast and therefore it's also perfect live material. In fact, the band already got a nice live reputation after playing on the bill of Sweden Rock in 2019, which must have been an awesome experience. "Dust On My Boots" is a straight forward rock song with a kick ass mentality and the catchy attitude is there as well. The album continues with "Beat The Demon", which contains a pretty heavy instrumental mid-part. The CD closer on the other hand definitely has some references to THE LUNACHICKS. The punk attitude of "Hit The Stage" turns this song into another highlight on this album. This is absolutely no second gear and it sounds more like fourth or fifth gear to me. I think, that the band is ready to go to the next level, as far as I'm concerned. COBRA CULT consists of Johanna Lindhult on vocals and guitar, Thomas Jonsson on bass and backing vocals, Carl Johan 'Sillen' Sillén on drums and Anders Martinsgård on guitar. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/cobracultband or https://www.cobracult.se. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

COBRA SPELL-Love Venom (EP) (independent)
Do you want to be injected by a legal dose of love venom? Don't hesitate and just take a shot, it will really make you feel good. The songs on this first EP are worthy of about seventeen minutes of solid rock and metal. This is the music you want to hear. It's soaked with eighties riffs and beats and contains four songs, that you want to cry and scream until your lungs hurt in a full sweaty hall. Glass is breaking and then there's that icy scream, which is a good begin on this mini album. "Come On Tonight" starts off with a catchy vibe, but it also contains some brutal guitar work. Just sing along to the chorus and be astonished by the raw guitar licks at the end of the song, which has got the best of both worlds. I hear some references of the old school IRON MAIDEN sound in the opening riffs of "Poison Bite". The galloping rhythm is topped by the powerful voice of Alexx. The guitar licks in this song are really breathtaking and it gives it some extra spice and a very crusty bite. "Love Venom", the title track of this album, has got a catchy chorus that you just want to sing along to. And it also has some incredible axe work. After hearing this track, I know for sure that you will stand in line to receive your dose of love venom as well. The ballad type of approach is not dominant at all and it has got some balls as well, if you know what I mean. "Shake Me" is fast and heavy and the perfect closure of this four tracker. I think this material will appeal to every devoted metal head out there. COBRA SPELL is surely a name to remember. The band consists of Alexx Panza on vocals, Sonia 'Anubis' Nusselder (ex-JACKAL, ex-BURNING WITCHES, CRYPTA) on guitars, Angelina Vehera on bass, Sebastian 'Spyder' Silva on guitars and Mike 'Lucas' Verhof on drums. Go to: https://www.cobraspell.com or https://www.facebook.com/cobraspell. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYPTA-Echoes Of The Soul (Napalm Records)
CRYPTA is a new all-female outfit from Brazil, which features the busy bee and only Dutch member Sonia 'Anubis' Nusselder on guitar. Their debut album features ten brutal songs and is worthy of about forty minutes of death metal with influences from the old school sub-genres. "Awakening" is a short introduction, before they take off in fourth gear with "Starvation", accompanied by the screaming voice of former NERVOSA member Fernanda Lira, who also plays the bass guitar. This band will certainly show up, when you need a good reference, however the guitar eruptions of Sonia will change your mind for sure. Drummer Luana Dametto was also in NERVOSA, by the way. Because of her drum sound in "Possessed" and the vocal spells of Fernanda, my thoughts rather go out to NOTRE DAME (remember them?) without the horror themed lyrics but with a more death metal approach. Do you know what I mean? In "Death Arcana" we hear polka beats and again the amazing guitar work by Sonia. Their sound always stays brutal, yet her guitar playing adds some melodic aspects to it as well. "Shadow Within" contains some fast polka beats and the blood-curdling screams of Fernanda, who also performs some dark, low growls here. "Under The Black Wings" starts dark and slow, before it turns into a heavy monster again. The drum rolls in "Kali" sound innovating and the polka beats are very energetic, too. Most of all, you will be blown away by the flashing axe work of Sonia, I guess. "Blood Stained Heritage" contains some more maniacal screaming vocals by Fernanda. "Dark Night Of The Soul" might refer to NERVOSA once again. The CD closes with the first single taken from the album, called "From The Ashes" whereas "Starvation" is marked as the second single release. The closing part of "Dark Night Of The Soul" has a twist, that you may not expect at first. The sound of CRYPTA is very brutal, yet melodic wherever needed. I think, that many death metal fans will be blown away by this adventurous debut album. CRYPTA consists of Sonia 'Anubis' Nusselder on guitar. Fernanda Lira on vocals and bass, Luana Dametto on drums and Tainá Bergamaschi on guitar (ex-HAGBARD). For more info, go to: https://www.cryptaofficial.com or https://www.facebook.com/cryptadeath. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSTAL VIPER-The Cult (Listenable Records)
True metal warriors watch out, it's time for the new CRYSTAL VIPER album. The eleven songs are worthy of forty-five minutes of warrior metal. "Providence" is the introduction, which leads you to a perfect dose of MANOWAR, VIRGIN STEEL, MANILLA ROAD and OMEN-influenced metal with title track "The Cult". Yes, that is what we want to hear. This is pure classic metal with great riffs and fast pounding beats. "Whispers From Beyond" is a bit slower, yet still very heavy and with some nice melodic guitar parts. "Down In The Crypt" sounds wild, loud and bashing, while "Sleeping Giants" has got that epic feeling that some metal heads are searching for. DIO fans in particular will possibly like this epic gem a lot. Watch out for the fiery guitar solo in here. Every devoted rocker will be pleased with this monstrous release that brings the band back to their roots. Just have a listen to the riffs in "Forgotten Land". They will without a doubt remind you of the godly riffs in "Forever" of OZZY OSBOURNE. Whereas "Asenath Waite" mixes the best of DORO and ZED YAGO, with even more hotter guitar work. "The Calling" is the perfect song to shout along to, when playing live . This Polish invasion continues at full blasting speed in "Flaring Madness", which will definitely take you by surprise. Just listen to the cranking guitar solo and the constant pounding of the drums. In "Lost In The Dark", you will also hear the influences of old school IRON MAIDEN. I wish, that these British metal heads still sounded that fast and fresh. I know, this is wishful thinking, so I am glad that there are bands out there willing to take over the crown. The last song on this album is the cherry on the cake. The bonus track "Welcome Home" of KING DIAMOND is added here with a lot of respect for the original song. The maniacal vocals are amazing and the guitar work is simply mind-blowing. No wonder, because Andy La Rocque (on second guitar) proves that he is still able to deliver the goods. If you have bought the LP version, you are one of the lucky ones to enjoy the other cover they recorded, which is SATAN's "Trial By Fire". CRYSTAL VIPER is back to where they started and I'm very glad about that. The band now consists of Marta Gabriel on vocals and guitar, Andy Wave on guitar, Eric Juris on guitar, Blazej 'Blaze' Grygiel on bass and Cederick Forsberg as their new drummer. Go to: https://www.crystalviper.com or https://www.facebook.com/crystalviperofficial. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPICA-Omega (Nuclear Blast)
It's unbelievable how well this band takes care of their products. They treat their fans with respect and each new album is filled with tons of extras and the CD is jam-packed with new music. This time we hear twelve tracks and seventy minutes of new music, including a second disc, which contains four acoustic tracks, worthy of another seventeen minutes. It's the ultimate experience to dig deep into this album, which is called "Omega". The album starts off with a bombastic intro, including an orchestra, choir and the introduction to the heavy material that you have all been waiting for, which got the nice title "Alpha" ("Anteludium"). "Abyss Of Time" ("Countdown To Singularity") is next, which starts brutal with some loud barking grunts, a heavy and fast beat and the crystal clear voice of Simone Simons. Of course there is plenty of room for the orchestral movements, choir vocals and loud guitar riffs. All ingredients you are expecting from a new EPICA album are there. In "The Skeleton Key", the vocals of Simone are the main focus. The song is a lot more melodic, but it also contains some rawer parts. This time the band used a children choir at the end and on top of that is a nice guitar solo to make this magic song complete. "Seal Of Solomon" continues and the brutal male vocals and choir vocals are dominant here. "Gaia" is one of the first highlight in my book. This heavy piece has some flashing guitar work, next to the bombastic feeling that you want to chew upon. The Eastern influences in the beginning of "Code Of Life" will take you to the desert, somewhere in another world far away from here. The children's choir is here to stay, however it has been pushed to the background a little more. "Freedom" ("The Wolves Within") is an energetic song with a catchy vibe and some raw brutal edges from the male growls. Then it's time for the lengthy masterpiece, called "Kingdom Of Heaven Part III" ("The Antediluvian Universe"), which will hold your attention for over thirteen minutes. There are many speed and mood changes in this song and this adventure makes the center of this magical new CD. I must admit, that I like the next song quite a lot. It’s in contrast with the dynamic feeling of the previous song. The melodic elements are a bit more upfront in "Rivers", and topped by the amazing vocals of Simone, it belongs to my personal favorites for sure. 'Synergize" ("Manic Manifest") is filled with a whole lot of energy. The sudden stop of adrenaline flow will seamlessly take you to the next song, called "Twilight Reverie" ("The Hypnagogic State"). This one has got that magic touch and a high dose of catchiness, so let's hear those voices. Mind you, this is definitely not suitable for radio airplay or the national charts, but it doesn't include the orchestral bombastic parts and twists. There are some brutal male vocals in there, but there's also a female spoken word part and some great guitar work. This is another highlight, as far as I'm concerned. The CD closer is called "Omega" ("Sovereign Of The Sun Spheres"), which won't be much of a surprise title, I guess. The epic intro changes very soon to another speedy bombastic masterpiece of seven minutes. The four acoustic bonus tracks are on the enhanced second disc. I really love the opening track "Rivers - A Capella" from this CD, which got the well-picked title "Ωmegacoustic". The next song sounds more like a folky influenced tune. It's the acoustic version of "Abyss Of Time", which feels more or less like BLACKMORE'S NIGHT are reworking an EPICA track. It's so much different than the album version. "Omegacoustic" is next up and this song really knows to amaze me. Somehow the 'naked versions' are so much easier to comprehend, yet they also stand quite tall. "El Codigo Vital" has got a South American salsa vibe and maybe it's the odd one out here. However, it also takes care of some variation on this amazing new album. EPICA consists of Simone Simons on vocals, Mark Jansen on grunts and rhythm guitar, Isaac Delahaye on guitars, Coen Janssen on synths and piano, Rob van der Loo on bass and Arien van Weesenbeek on drums. For more info, go to; https://www.epica.nl or https://www.facebook.com/epica. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EVERDAWN-Cleopatra (Sensory Records / Hard Life Promotion)
Everything that wasn't told before about Cleopatra can now be found on this new album by EVERDAWN, which contains eleven tracks and almost fifty minutes of epic symphonic progressive metal. The band started their career as MIDNIGHT ETERNAL and toured under that moniker with bands such as THERION and QUEENSRYCHE. The album starts with the up-tempo "Ghost Shadow Requiem", which has some powerful guitar work, spoken word parts, symphonic influences and the beautiful voice of Alina Gavrilenko. Of course your thoughts will immediately go out to bands like XANDRIA, NIGHTWISH or early WITHIN TEMPTATION, but I do think that EVERDAWN definitely sounds a bit heavier. Just have a listen to the short "Stranded In Bangalore", which contain some raw riffs. It might be the influence of new bass player Mike LePond from SYMPHONY X, who has joined their ranks. Title track "Cleopatra" continues and you will hear a bit more of the operatic voice of Alina, who is really the shining star in this song. The artwork of the CD is very well done, by the way. It gives Cleopatra the status she deserves. The drawing was created by Gyula Havancsák. The high pull outs of Alina continue in "Your Majesty Sadness", which is also very easy on the ear. "Infinity Divine" is a duet with THERION singer Thomas Vickström, which turns the speed down a bit. In "Pariah's Revenge", the focus is once again on the amazing vocal parts of Alina. Her voice can be powerful, tender, operatic and rocking. Just listen to the firm pull outs that she does in the adventurous sounding "Lucid Dream", which contains some exciting keyboard parts as well. 'Heart Of A Lion" has more instrumental fireworks and just check out the fabulous guitar work here. It will really astonish you. "Toledo 712 A.D." is a short, yet exciting instrumental, which shows that the band is not just tied to catchy melodic symphonic metal and rock alone. I think, that they really broaden their horizon and bring some variation into their sound by doing that. "Riders Of The Storm" sounds energetic and the band is at full speed with these powerful chords. In CD closer "The Last Eden", the band creates one more powerful song in honor to Cleopatra. I have to admit, that the album gets stronger near the end, so you'd better be prepared for that. EVERDAWN consists of Alina Gavrilenko on vocals, Mike LePond on bass, Dan Prestup on drums, Richard Fischer on guitars and Boris Zaks on keyboards. Go to: https://www.everdawnofficial.com or https://www.facebook.com/EverdawnOfficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HAND OF KALLIACH-Shade Beyond (independent / Metal Message)
John and Sophie are not only married, they also form the band HAND OF KALLIACH from Edinburgh in Scotland. Their music style is a cross between black and death metal. And if you think, that two individuals can't make such a lot of noise, than you’d better think twice. Opener "Fáilthe" has got an epic and folk kind of approach and the vocals are more like a loud whispering instead of singing, but it fits quite well with the brutal sound of the band. The storming drum beats and haunting rhythms makes the song complete. In "Fathoms", the vocals are more like singing or brutal kind of screams, whatever you prefer. In the next song "In Tempest Wrought", Sophie is spreading her long dark spells over the listener. The folk influences are back and I hear some Scottish influences as well. It’s not that they use bagpipes or something, but the sound feels rather similar at times. "Overwhelm" sounds very basic and pure and sometimes I hear some CIRITH UNGOL influences in the vocals. The song is less death metal and has a more traditional metal kind of approach. The voice of Sophie is very much up-front in "White Horizon". The song sounds less extreme at first, but it changes quickly, when blast beats are galloping out and one of the most extreme instrumental parts with maniacal screams will appear near the end of the song. This great mood change really shows how brutal these two people may sound. Hand Of Kalliach is; John on vocals, guitar and drums and Sophie on vocals and bass. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/HandOfKalliach. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELLZ-We Want Rock (single) (independent)
HELLZ is Lisa Perry times four. Just watch the video for "We want Rock" and you will be convinced of her many talents. If you like to rock, be sure to check out this two-track single. It's groovy, it rocks and it is extremely catchy. What more do you want? The second song "Live A Lie" is perhaps even better, in my opinion. The guitars are a little more up-front in the mix and have a prominent place here. This sing-along song is also very catchy. That's the best strategy to promote your single. Create a good video, write a catchy rock song and it will reach many rock fans for sure. Once again for the record: Lisa Perry played all the instruments by herself, so HELLZ is just one person and not a whole band, like you would think. It's that well done. Just push the 'repeat' button and have a great party with this Australian rock lady, called HELLZ. By the way: the songs are worthy of almost eight rocking minutes. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/hellzabyss or https://www.houseofhellz.com. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hISdMm2sWbA. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IN HUMAN-In Human (independent / Hard Life Promotion)
I think, it's kind of odd to start your show with 'Hello, we are inhumane!', but this band from Belgium and founded in 2020 will probably get away with it. Their debut album contains eleven tracks, including an intro and it's worthy of forty-five minutes symphonic metal. The instrumental "Intro" rocks and it contains, next to choirs and orchestral parts, several maniacal shouts and screams and loud guitar riffs and some steady drum beats. In title track 'The Chosen Cancer" you will hear a lot of powerful male vocals, next to the usual choir vocals, although female vocalist Eline really proves what she is capable of. The symphonic metal sound of INHUMAN is very melodic, but also raw and energetic at times. The brutal male vocals go arm in arm with the clear female vocals, which is topped by the choir vocals, like for example in "Clockwork In The Past", where the band also cranks out a fast beat. "Unfolded" is a more brutal track, including some blast beats and groovy riffs. Next to the usual guitar riffs, Romain and Eerik also play some rather impressive guitar solos. Just check out the MOONSPELL influenced song "The Day I Died", which sounds brutal at times and also melodic and intense wherever needed. Clearly, in "Unbearably Human", the groovy riffs and melodic rhythm blend together very well. The song slowly builds itself to a climax. "For The Life Of Me" starts off like a speed monster, including some furious blast beats. It's a very energetic part. "No Bullet Required" sounds very energetic, while "Lullaby" ("Casus Belli") is more or less a short piece of rest. Although "Casus Belli" sounds a bit messy at first, it's probably the best song on this album, in my opinion. A bit experimental perhaps, but the instrumentation sounds really amazing. A final eruption, including the bombastic orchestration and blast beats in "Home", are closing this self-titled album, which shows a lot of variation and a band, that is not afraid to think out of the box. INHUMAN consists of Dietwin on vocals, Eline on vocals, Astrid on keyboards, Romain on guitar, Eerik on guitar and Yuki on drums. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/InHuman.metal or https://www.inhumanmetal.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JANINA JADE-Heart Of Rock 'N' Roll (GMR Music)
Swedish rocker JANINA JADE received the help of JENNIFER BATTEN on her new album "Heart Of Rock 'N' Roll'. Both ladies know how to rock and prove is given on these ten brand new songs, worthy of a bit over thirty minutes. Opener and title track "Heart Of Rock 'N' Roll" swings and rocks along. The role of Jennifer on lead guitar is not too prominent here and it's in service of the song. The raw edges in the voice of Janina make sure that it comes straight from the heart. You can hear this in for example "The Darkness Of My Soul". In "Before My Time Runs Out", Jennifer gets a much bigger part of the cake. She lets her guitar do all the work in this jolly rock song. While the next song, called "Holding On" is packed with a lot of melancholic feelings. In fact, the whole album is covered with that, because of a hard life. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry, but these feelings are not made up, they are for real. Check out songs like "How Long How Long" and hear that there is also a lot of joy going on. Artists like Patti Smith, Johnny Thunders and Iggy Pop come to mind here. This is uncompromised rock and roll straight from the heart. I really enjoyed the great shuffle "Trouble", which is next. It made me smile, which is a good thing. This emotional rollercoaster is brought to you in each and every way, because "Exiled Within My Mind" sounds so much more soulful again. While in "Breathless Breathing", the lady rocks it out again. In fact, this album is done with so much honesty, which makes it outstanding. There are real emotions involved and just think of an artist like Melissa Etheridge in this context. "Ghost With No Name" and "Last Chance Saloon" round off this album of Janina, a Swedish rock lady that has got a "Heart Of Rock 'N' Roll" and wants to share it with everybody. The band line-up is Janina Jade on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jennifer Batten on lead guitar and Tobhias Ljung on drum and bass. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/janinajadeofficial. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JINJER-Alive In Melbourne (Napalm Records)
There is only room for eighty minutes on a regular CD, so JINJER choose to use a bit over seventy-nine minutes to promote their brand new live CD. It's been recorded in Melbourne on March 5th 2020, just before the whole world went in lock down and it contains seventeen tracks. Can you believe that? I call it value for money and I can tell you that JINJER is very hot at the moment. The "Intro" will not reveal any details of what to expect here. It sounds like the start of a movie, but you haven't got a clue, what the movie is all about. This will change soon though, when "Teacher, Teacher" starts, which is a groovy ear attack with the brutal raspy voice of Tatiana and blast beats controlling the speed, when it goes up and down. In "Sit Stay Roll Over", the band takes off in fifth gear and plays at breakneck speed. The brutal female vocals are a bit more upfront in the mix and you will hear the enthusiasm of the public, that is blown away by the dynamic sound of the band. Believe it or not, but if you're not familiar with JINJER, the brutal grunts have been done by Tatiana as well. I have a lot of respect for this lady for putting on so much energy and the ability to change from clear vocals to maniacal screams in only a wink of an eye. "Ape" has got an overwhelming kind of energy. Clearly, the audience also needs some time to take a deep breath and the band takes care of that in the reggae type song, called "Judgement (& Punishment)". It doesn't take long, when the blast beats and brutal screaming will take over again. Yeah baby, you're in a rollercoaster of emotions and music styles on this live album. "I Speak Astronomy" is a public's favorite for sure and the hardcore sound of the band has got many faces. It's diverse and a new brutal song is being catapulted at you with "Who Is Gonna Be The One". This heavy, fast and very brutal song also contains a sudden twist, turning it into a reggae part that you just didn't expect. In "Noah", Tatiana shows that she has also got a very beautiful clear voice, besides the brutal screaming parts that she's known for. I definitely hear some influences of CRADLE OF FILTH in "Retrospection", which sounds so heavy and dirty, that you almost forget you're listening to a hardcore or nu-metal band. While in "Perennial", there is another unexpected speed change and another slow motion part, which fits very well in here. In 'On The Top", there is some audience participation. It really must have been a very sweaty and overwhelming night in Melbourne. I think, that "Pit Of Consciousness" contains the most deep and brutal growls of Tatiana, in fact it will tear you apart. The wrecking crew from Ukraine gave the crowd a night to remember. You may have doubts about "Inhale Don't Breathe" to be included here, but I think the audience was very pleased with "Home Back". There is also a funky part introduced by Tatiana, but I think I've missed it because the band is pounding it out very loud. "Words of Wisdom" is a real speed monster and after that, two more songs will follow. The band thanks the audience and then goes wild one more time in "Pisces" and the fast and furious "Captain Clock". The "Outro" is being used to take a picture with the audience and thank them one more time. This was truly a night to remember and the fans can relive the show by listening to this energetic live document. JINJER surely knows to reflect their energy on this live album, that can only be enjoyed by playing it as loud as hell. JINJER consists of Tatiana Shmailyuk on vocals, Roman Ibramkhalilov on guitar, Eugene Abdukhanov on bass and Vladislav Ulasevich on drums. Go to: https://www.jinjer-metal.com or https://www.facebook.com/JinjerOfficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JO BELOW-No Control (EP) (Inverse Records)
JO BELOW is from Finland and this EP contains five tracks, worthy of almost twenty powerful minutes of hard rock. Their sound is also very catchy and poppy, which makes "Ms Death" very easy to listen to. I would call it radio friendly rock with a crunchy bite. "Where Are You Now?" continues in that same vibe and since I'm from Holland, I would like to draw the comparison to the catchy rock sound of KREZIP. "Another Dimension" sounds more alternative, which doesn't mean that this by no means less good. "I Confess" is also a bit more alternative, yet it still rocks out loud. I guess, that JO BELOW must have gained some popularity in their home country, since the release of their debut EP "By The Rules" and this will probably contribute to a greater fan base. The EP closes with an acoustic ballad, which is also the title track of this new release, called "No Control". If this isn't the perfect formula for success, I will eat my hat. JO BELOW consists of Johanna Kari on vocals, Roni Seppänen on guitar, Jonne Lindqvist on bass and Olli Vartiainen on drums. Go to: https://www.jobelow.com or https://www.facebook.com/jobelowband. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SASS JORDAN-Rebelmoon Blues (Sony Plain)
If you like blues rock in combination with raspy female vocals, then you've come to the right place on this new album by SASS JORDAN. The eight songs are worthy of about thirty-five minutes, which starts off with "Leaving Trunk". This is what the blues is all about. You can almost feel the whiskey or beer dripping from the smoky walls. The mouth harp, the subtle guitar playing, her raspy voice, it just sounds brilliant. "My Babe" was originally written by WILLIE DIXON and to me this sounds like a forgotten classic, in which the vocals of Sass are just what this song needs to make it perfect. Influences of zydeco and Cajun music are present here to and just listen to the laid back version of "Am I Wrong". Handclaps and the sound of an acoustic guitar is all it needs. On "One Way Out", my thoughts go out to the ALLMAN BROTHERS, LYNYRD SKYNYRD and DICKY BETTS, because of the rhythm and the nice guitar sound. It's not in the frontline, but in service of the song and yet it's very dominating. 'Palace Of The King", written by LEON RUSSELL and made famous by FREDDIE KING is on next. It contains some choir vocals and great guitar work. This is music for the soul and it feels good. It's the kind of music you would like to hear when you're going for a night out in one of those cozy brown cafes in town. 'The Key" is self-penned material, which stands tall among all these other classics so far. The last two songs are a bit more well-known to your truly and many others. "Too Much Alcohol" is a song that I know of blues guitar legend RORY GALLAGHER. You must be God to be able to top that, but Sass gives it a very good shot and because of the nice slide guitar work, it worked out very well. The last song is a real classic from the blues years of GARY MOORE, called "Still Got The Blues". Maybe it would have been better to leave it like this. Anyway, judge yourself, as Sass hits the right notes here with her great voice and the guitar part is also really good. I think, that a lot of blues fans will have a good time with this amazing album. Sass Jordan is a great singer and her band THE CHAMPAGNE HOOKERS consists of Chris Cadell on guitar, Jimmy Reid on guitar, Derrick Brady on bass and Cassius Perreira on drums. Mouth harp was played by Steve Marriner and Jesse O'Brien played keyboards on the album. For more information, go to: https://www.sassjordan.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KRAMP-Gods Of Death (Raf Child)
KRAMP is hailing from Spain and their powerful metal sounds fresh and exciting. Their new album "Gods Of Death" contains eleven songs and about forty minutes of traditional heavy metal. Mina on vocals and Sara on guitar are the two metal maidens in the band and the first track, called "Underground Rebellion" starts off with an IRON MAIDEN meets JETHRO TULL kind of approach. The speed change near the end shows that we're dealing with an adventurous and very innovative band. Just listen to the unexpected acoustic guitar part, which completes this song. There are also some real speed monsters on this album. "Night Witches" is a good example of this, which has no compromises at all. "End Of The World" has some influences of the old school IRON MAIDEN ('Transylvania" on 33 rpm with vocals), which they can take as a huge compliment. "Deorum Mortem" on the other hand sounds like a strange phenomenon and it's like a church choir is singing a Gregorian religious song. I must admit, that it is done very well, but it definitely remains the odd one out here. However, for every open-minded (heavy) metal fan, it's certainly no punishment to listen to it. It creates a certain atmosphere and takes care of a very welcome piece of rest before the band moves on with title track "Gods Of Death". The dazzling guitar work has got a high MAIDEN-level in the riffs and a very catchy vibe. "Dare To Face Your Fear" has got a more folky rhythm and the guitars take care of the right metal influences here. "Assault" is a bit heavier. It's like a song for real warriors and it has got a nice mood change in the middle part, which turns it into a real highlight, as far as I’m concerned. "Speed Of Light" is exactly that what the title suggests. It takes away in fifth gear and gives it all a bit more extra power. "Walkyrie" also contains a sudden twist, which makes it so much more special than the average metal band. "Leather Warrior" however is another speed killer. The CD closes with the slower 'Preserved In Time", which has a killer guitar solo and nice speed change at the end. KRAMP is surely a name to remember, because these Spanish warriors really know how to rock my world. I think, that the alchemist on the CD cover is the 'God of death' himself. I won't drink one of his brews, not for a thousand Euros. KRAMP consists of David Rubio on guitar, Lap on bass, Mina Walkure on vocals, Sara C. on guitar and Albert von Krow on drums. Website: https://www.krampofficial.com or https://www.facebook.com/krampmetal. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEATHER WITCH-Leather Witch (Steel Shark Records)
LEATHER WITCH is hailing from Colombia and their debut album contains eight tracks and a bit over thirty minutes of pounding old school heavy metal. The first guitar riffs make me think of "I Don't Know" of OZZY OSBOURNE, but this sounds a little bit meaner. After that, the fast drum beats will destroy your ears with a deafening sound, so you will know that it's time to start to bang your head to the sound of "Pull The Trigger". If you like solid old school hard rock and heavy metal, you must definitely check this one out, which contains songs that would not look bad on any album of JUDAS PRIEST, ANVIL, old RIOT, THE RODS or RAVEN, to name a few. "Stronger Than Death" is very energetic and the raspy voice of Tania fits perfectly to the heavy metal sound of the band. The speed goes up in "Day Of Glory' and you can almost feel the energy out of your speakers. It will definitely get the adrenaline flowing through your veins even faster. "Murder Ride" is even more aggressive with that massive drum sound upfront in the mix and the dazzling guitar licks completing the job. "No Pain No Game" slows things down a bit without sounding less heavy. It also gives you time to fasten your seat belt for the speed monster "Fast Killer", which takes away in the fifth gear after this. "Do It For Money" will give you one more chance to lose some sweat. I really love the energy and the power, that LEATHER WITCH puts in their music, which never gets too thrashy. The album closes with "Leather Witch", where the band kindly introduces themself to their fans. This is the purest heavy metal, that you can find these days and the drawing on the cover will already catch your attention for sure. From there on, you will already know that this is a safe buy for every devoted metal head out there. So if you dig the sound of female-fronted head banging metal, like ACID, BLACK LACE or old school CRYSTAL VIPER, than you can now add LEATHER WITCH to that list as well. LEATHER WITCH consists of Tania Soulstorm on vocals, Jose Uribe on bass, Pablo Meza on lead guitar, Fredy Loaiza on guitar and Juan 'Chamo' Hurtado on drums. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/leatherWitchBand. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LILIAC-Queen Of Hearts (Liliac LLC)
LILIAC is the next big thing from Los Angeles, USA. These five young musicians play music for the (old school) rock and metal fan. Their debut album contains thirteen fresh tracks, worthy of a bit over forty-five minutes. The album starts off with "Nothing", which is an up-tempo track and a mix of influences of BON JOVI, HALESTORM and MELISSA ETHERIDGE. It has got that catchy edge to it. LILIAC is Romanian for ‘bat’, which doesn't necessarily mean that there are any gothic influences in their sound and maybe it's just the way they are dressed. "Crazy Nights" has got a nice rhythm and contains some great guitar hooks. The beat in 'Redo" will get you moving to the rhythm right away. This is very suitable for an outdoors festival and it will also make you feel good at the same time. It's catchy without sounding too cheesy. "Let Me Go" continues and the fast up-tempo beat is still really powerful. "Dear Father" shows the rough side of the band. The riffs are much rawer and although the song is still catchy, it rocks a bit more, too. "Sail Away" starts off as a ballad type of song, but before you want to turn it off, I think you'd better give it a good listen first. The mood change in the middle gives it a nice unexpected twist, in which you can tell that LILIAC is not just a thirteen in a dozen band. They dig a little bit deeper than the average rock and metal band. The sound of the ocean is not far away here. "World Comes Down" continues, which is another 'easy on the ear' tune. 'Wild One" displays the diversity of LILIAC. This pounder has a steady beat. "We Are The Children" has got a bit of a DIO feeling, at least in the slower parts with the long pull outs of vocalist Melody. "Vertigo" is a bit faster and I would like to compare Melody's raw vocals to a heavier version of PINK here. The guitar solo is something you won't hear in a PINK song though. The instrumental part near the end gives it just that little more. Title track "Queen Of Hearts" is inferior to that, although you won't find this song back in the charts that easy, because it's much too heavy. The heavy thundering drum beats, the fast rhythm, the powerful vocals, it's all there and more. Finally, the more rocking and powerful tracks will round this CD off. Just have a listen to the very powerful and heavy "We Fight, We Fall", while "Mystery" proves why the star of this band is rising so fast. The songs are very easy to listen to and yet they have enough power to make the heart of every rocker beat faster. Clearly, the band is becoming a real hype in their country. After their EP "Chain Of Thorns", this album will possibly contribute to their definite breakthrough and I must admit that they deserve a big audience. LILIAC consists of Melody on vocals, Samuel on guitar, Abigail on drums, Ethan on bass and Justin on keyboards. For more info, go to: https://www.liliacband.com and https://www.facebook.com/liliacband. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LOST DIVISION-Cuts And Scars (Inverse Records)
LOST DIVISION is from Finland and the band was founded in 2015. They present their album here and the ten songs are worthy of about forty minutes of catchy hard rock songs. "Cuts And Scars" starts off with "In Memoriam 2.0" and I have to admit that I didn't really expect such a happy song with that title. The female vocals sound clear and fresh and the guitar work is spot on. Sometimes their rock sound dominates here, next to some poppy influences. Songs like that are very suitable for radio airplay in a country like Finland, where rock music is a bit more common on the radio there. "Trapped" continues in the same happy style, that they opened the album. This is their second released single. "Stay" is easy on the ear, too and the guitar solo lifts it up to high above the level of an average rock song. After that, it's time for a bit more in-depth in "I'd Rather Die". This song feels like a more matured version of the first three songs. It still sounds very catchy, yet a bit different. "No God" is a bit more alternative, rawer and groovier. The message is clear, too, 'there is no God'. The band created a video clip for "The Queen", which is on next. The catchiness returns and a name like for example SKUNK ANANSIE comes to mind here, because there's also a certain dose of alternative rock in their songs. "The Killer" has got a steady beat and "Lovely Day" will most likely put a smile on your face. This feel good song has got some nice guitar work, yet it never gets heavy. I really liked the nice guitar work in "Insanity". This album could really do with more of that, as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure that LOST DIVISION will do very well at the many outdoor festivals, which will hopefully take place again in the near future. "Mayhem" closes the album and once again I would have expected a much more heavy sound with a title like that. The song writing is rather impressive and the songs are definitely not bad at all, but with a little more power in their sound, it would definitely make the difference for me. LOST DIVISION consists of Maija Vaisanen on vocals, Antti Ovaska on rhythm guitar, Jaako Korpi on guitar, Mikael Luukela on bass and Juha-Matti Sipola on drums. You can easily sit this one out without cuts and scars, because the music of LOST DIVISION is rather harmless yet very catchy and melodic. https://www.facebook.com/lostdivisionband. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

METAL WINGS-A Whole New Land (independent / Hard Life Promotion)
The intro of this METAL WINGS album sounds very impressive. The symphonic, instrumental title track "A Whole New Land" contains operatic vocals and many adventurous instrumental parts, which are more innovative and varied than any EVANESCENCE or NIGHTWISH clone number so much. The eleven songs on this second album are worthy of approx. seventy minutes of symphonic gothic metal. In "Monster In The Mirror", the band proves that they are not afraid to show their unpolished side as well with blast beats and brutal male vocals, next to the female voice of singer Stela Atanasova. In "Like A Willow Without Tears" we hear various music styles, showing the versatile influences of these musicians. Sometimes it's symphonic or progressive, sometimes it's neo-classical or they rock out firmly, yet it always done in a very classy and highly enjoyable way. "I See Your Power" contains some sudden speed and mood changes. The song starts off as a ballad, yet it also has some speedy parts where the instruments will do their thing. The progressive parts in "Silence" are truly mind-blowing. The drum beats are fast, while the keyboards give it a more melodic twist. It's like the best of both worlds are being put together. The tender moments are sometimes impressive as well though. Just feel the tenderness and sensitivity in Stela's voice in "Still Believe In Us". It may not be that heavy at all, still it sounds very beautiful to me. In 'Killer Of The Angel's Love', the band sounds a bit mysterious. This song could be the perfect soundtrack for a video clip somehow. The sound of the viola has got a more prominent place in the instrumental part, which is once again breathtaking. The song slowly fades away during the piano part near the end, until a final climax explodes after that. It feels like a phoenix is rising out of the ashes and it gives it a very impressing boost. The next song 'Wonders Of Life" contains more mood changes and it has also got some fantasy type of parts. The melodic atmosphere is never too far away though. "Passengers Between The Rails Of Life" swings in several ways, yet the operatic soprano vocals of Stela are the sparkling focus here. While you will hear the train steaming away into the far distance, it's time for another ballade type of song in "Seccond Chance". Stela definitely puts a lot of passion and style in her singing there. Same goes for the CD closer "Milo Moe Libe", which sounds more like a romantic love song. What a nice way to close this adventurous album. METALWINGS will perhaps not blow you away, although they will definitely introduce you to a whole new land. This land mixes progressive rock with symphonic metal in a very decent way. Bulgaria has gained a lot of popularity in the heavy metal scene, because next to RAMPART, who I still see as the main heavy metal band coming from this country, we can now also rely on METALWINGS for some solid melodic metal. METALWINGS consists of Stela Atanasova on vocals, viola and keyboards, Nicola 'Blackie' Ivanov on drums, Vlad Enev on bass, Martin Emilov on rhythm guitar and Angel Kitanov on keyboards. Go to: https:// www.metalwings.eu or https://www.facebook.com/metalwingsofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MIDNIGHT DICE-Hypnotized (MCD) (Underground Power Records)
This mini album contains five amazing high quality tracks, worthy of about twenty minutes of classic heavy metal. We would like to introduce to you MIDNIGHT DICE from Chicago, a foursome that you might hear more from in the near future. To make sure that I get this right, you probably have heard about them before. When they were called SATAN'S HALLOW, they already received a raving review from us and we also interviewed the band. When Von Jugel left the band, they changed their name to MIDNIGHT DICE. Their sound remained the same though. This five track CD starts off with the short instrumental "Farewell". Obviously, they know the ropes and they like to show it. The next song is called "Starblind" and the heavy drum beats will certainly take you by surprise. If the fast rhythm doesn't really convince you, the guitar solo and the great vocals of Mandy definitely will. I hear some influences of ANVIL in the powerful drum sound of Rüsty, so you know in what direction this is going. Solid, old school heavy metal without any compromises is what you get here. In "Speed City", they push the 'turbo' button one more time and a name like EXCITER may come to mind here. The guitar solos will definitely blow you away and tear you apart. I'm stunned already with two more songs to go. It's the ultra-cool guitar solo, that stands far out in the next title track and it really 'hypnotized' me for sure. When you think, it's all over and done, they even take it a little further and make it sound all-destroying. "Lazer Tears" closes this mini album with a bit more melodic sound, but because of the great axe work and the powerful voice of Mandy, the song rises far above average. I put my vote on this band to become huge in the world of heavy metal, if their line-up remains stable and they don't change names too often. This is how heavy metal should be in my opinion. MIDNIGHT DICE consists of Jose Salazar on bass, Rüsty on drums, Steve 'Lethal' Beaudette on guitar and Mandy Martillo on vocals. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/midnightdicerollon. [10 points - FULL SCORE!!] (Toine van Poorten)

MIDNIGHT DICE / HITTER -Precious Metal / 29 Levi Slim (vinyl single) (Underground Power Records)
There is some cool old school heavy metal going on in Chicago these days. Have we just introduced you to MIDNIGHT DICE here, now we find this band back on this amazing looking seven inch, in yellow and grey vinyl. Actually, it's a split single with HITTER, another gifted and talented heavy metal band. Let's take a look at it. MIDNIGHT DICE is on the B-side of this single, which has a live picture of ROD STEWART on the cover, dressed up in a pink suit. The fast riffs and heavy drum beats in "Precious Metal" give it an ACID type of feeling, mixed with influences of ACCEPT and JUDAS PRIEST. I just love the dazzling solo and again I'm blown away by the very high quality of this band, which was formerly known as SATAN'S HALLOW. This surely asks for more, I think. On the A-side there's HITTER with their rendition called "29 Levi Slim". It sounds very energetic and powerful too and I think that a band like NASHVILLE PUSSY might be a good reference here. It's pretty much straight forward rock without compromises and a real killer track. MIDNIGHT DICE already stole my heart and they are the real winners on this single, if I had to pick one. HITTER is definitely a very good runner up for this position. MIDNIGHT DICE consists of Jose Salazar on bass, Rüsty on drums, Steve 'Lethal', Beaudette on guitar and Mandy Martillo on vocals. HITTER consists of Ryan 'Wizkid' Wizniak on drums, Madalyn 'Maddog' Garcia on bass, Hanna Hazard on vocals and Adam 'Lucky' Luksetich on guitar. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/midnightdicerollon and https://www.facebook.com/hitterchicago. [10 points - FULL SCORE!!] (Toine van Poorten)

MILLENNIAL REIGN-Carry The Fire Again (MCD) (Underground Power Records)
MILLENNIAL REIGN is a Christian metal band from Texas and a side project of ASKA guitarist Dave Harvey. This four track CD is worthy of about twenty minutes of solid yet melodic power metal. It also shows a band that still carries the metal torch. References would be Y&T, DOKKEN and STRYPER and I think by now you know what to expect here. I hear thundering drums, a great melodic sound, amazing guitar licks and the crystal clear and very powerful voice of Tiffany Galchutt on top of it all. Opener "Way Up High" is a good example of it. If you’re not convinced yet, just listen to "Millennial Reign", where they find the perfect match between the heavy and fiery metal and melodic parts, topped by some great axe work of Dave. Tiffany's voice is powerful and clear and stands tall against the instrumental violence this band has got to offer. "Innocent Cry" starts off rather mysterious, although it has got a groovy vibe. I also hear some Eastern vibes in the instrumental parts. The guitar work sounds truly amazing. This is what you would call high class melodic metal. Just feel the power in "Men Stand Alone", when the guitars and heavy drum beats are starting a joint venture to impress the listener. Very soon Tiffany joins this explosion and she does a great job here, too. MILLENNIAL REIGN has gained a lot of experience in the live scene and they already shared the stage with the likes of SONATA ARCTICA, DELAIN and JOE LYNN TURNER, to name but a few. I think that more people will discover this band and this is only the beginning. The high quality songs on this MCD are a useful leg up to a new full-length album and it will definitely create more chances to play at live shows and festivals. MILLENNIAL REIGN is Tiffany Galchutt on vocals, Dave Harvey on guitar, Neil Bertrand on bass and Steve Nichols on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.millennialreign.com or www.facebook.com/millennialreign. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SAEKO-Holy Are We Alone (Pride & Joy Music)
This is the third of SAEKO, after "Above Heaven Below Heaven" (2004) and "Life" (2006). The ten songs are worthy of about fifty minutes of hard rock with an exotic Japanese twist. This is good food for the readers of Metal Maidens. The spoken word intro of "Circle Of Life" proceeds into "Japan: In My Dream", which is the first song on this CD. The songs take back to different countries and there's not a better way than to start with her home country Japan. The vocals of SAEKO may remind you of a few other Japanese metal singers from the eighties, like MARI HAMADA and CARMEN MAKI. The guitar work sounds really great and the subtle flirt to reggae give this song a very adventurous feeling. The high pitched vocals of SAEKO are quite impressive. Obviously, some exotic Asian instruments are implemented in here, too. The next trip goes to Syria and the song is called "Music, My Love". It has got a heavy beat and ditto riffs and is played at fast speed. The UK bound "Never Say Never" also contains some folky parts. There's even the 'what shall we do with the drunken sailor' part, which is a nice point of recognition here. SAEKO's innovative song writing continues in "Rebellion Of Mission" (Germany), where you will hear her operatic voice next to her clear metal voice. It gives the song another adventurous twist. While in "Farewell To You (From Father To Son)", you will hear some folkloristic elements. It could very well be an Indian sitar, because the song is tied to India. "Splinters Of The Sun" continues with a heavy beat and some MALMSTEEN type of licks. The melancholic "Farewell To You (From Mother To Daughter)" (Hawaii) includes a short part of "Aloha Oe". This is maybe the odd one out here, although please prepare yourself for a dynamic pounder, called "Heroes" (Russia). This song takes off at breakneck speed and the dazzling guitar licks are the cherry on the cake for sure. The CD closes with the short spoken word part "Holy Are We Alone", which is accompanied by an acoustic guitar. If you already liked the previous work of SAEKO, then you can dig in safely on this one. SAEKO consists of Saeko Kitamae on vocals and keyboards, Guido Benedetti (TRICK OR TREAT) on guitars and keyboards, Alessandro Sala (RHAPSODY OF FIRE) on bass and Michael Ehre (PRIMAL FEAR) on drums. Guest roles on this album are for Lars Ratz (METALLIUM) and Derek Sherinian (SONS OF APOLLO). For more information, go to: https://www.saekometal.info or https://www.facebook.com/SaekoIronEmpress. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SCARVED-Flashback (Sleaszy Rider / Hard Life Promotion)
Female fronted rock band SCARVED from Belgium released their third full-length album, called "Flashback". Their powerful heavy rock will take you back to the seventies and early eighties, when this type of music still ruled the scene. Just listen to opener "Fly" and you think you've stepped back in time and MTV television was still a hit. A name like for example DEEP PURPLE comes to mind here and it contains some stunning bass guitar parts and breathtaking guitar licks. Title track "Flashback" reminds me of the 2021 version of "Pictures Of Home" from those rock dinosaurs. The only thing that's missing here is the Hammond organ of Jon Lord. The next song "Schizofrenia" is beefed up with some talk box guitar parts, comparable to bands such as AEROSMITH and PETER FRAMPTON. Mind you, SCARVED doesn't sound old fashioned in any way. They know exactly how to give the kiss of death to their songs and make them sound fresh again by using old and well-known elements the right way. "Nightshift" is next, which is a bit slower. The powerful riffs are energetic and the sudden speed change turns it into a pure heavy metal attack. "Poison Kiss" is a raunchy pounder that I would like to call first order 'feel-good' rock. The vocals of Caro are clear and powerful. Maybe she could have sounded a little bit rawer, but that's only a minor detail as her voice matches very well with the powerful sound of the band. Check out "Head Over Heels" to catch my drift. The awesome guitar work will definitely change your mind, if you were not convinced about the strength of this band yet. "Rising Soul" has got a terrific instrumental mid-piece that I liked a lot. Think of the improvisation talent of a band like DEEP PURPLE (yes, that's right) for example. I must admit, that I wasn't too keen about the ballad "Lost In Space", but that's my own opinion. A good reference would be the SCORPIONS, but I would love to hear a bit more emotion here, which is missing. "Lockdown" however is a very groovy song. The title will probably give many readers a lot of bad vibes and yours truly as well and hopefully this is over soon. CD closer "Catch Me Offline" has some influences of CHICKENFOOT ("Soap On A Rope"), which is a good thing. SCARVED is an amazingly talented band and this album is proof of that. It's a very cool flashback to the music in my youth, wrapped up in the sound of today. Hats off! SCARVED consists of Caro Verboven on vocals, Luc van Dessel on guitar, Vincent de Laat on bass and Kjell de Raes on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.scarved.be or https://www.facebook.com/scarvedband. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOW WARRIOR-Cyberblade (Ossuary Records)
Let me introduce you to this Polish metal band, which present their debut full-length album containing eight songs and thirty-five minutes of true heavy metal. The album starts off with title track "Cyberblade", which contains some powerful vocals, a haunting rhythm and a catchy chorus. Just shout along to 'Cyberblade' and let the adrenaline run through your veins and hit the ceiling. Your mind will be gone, when the guitar solo starts. This is no nonsense heavy rock without compromises. The samurai warrior on the sleeve will split your skull in two with his pure steel sword. The pounding rhythm continues in "Demolition Hammer". This power metal song is being played at top notch speed. "Iron Hawk Rising" is easy on the ear and the innovative drum rolls make your head spin round. "I Am The Thunder" continues this powerful ear attack with thunderous drum beats and fiery guitar work. Think of ACID, BLACK LACE and numerous other metal outfits here with outrageous female vocals, The instrumental part in this song is extremely heavy. "Squadrons Of Steel' is pure speed metal and you can really feel the beat of the drums. It thunders on like the end of the world is near. The bass parts here will make your windows crack. The anvil is forged in fire at the beginning of "Demon's Sword" and it will decapitate the enemy without hesitation. The slow distinctive DIO type of beat is amazing and so are the all destroying drum beats. The doomy pace this song will enter my room makes it worthy to bow deep for this band. Anna's icy high screams make you think that she has already been executed by the sword. The instrumental part sounds heavy and it will make you proud to be a metal head. The troop of "Headless Riders" will start the engines in the next song. They're heading out to the highway to hell. They ride their horses of steel and they're proud of it. With a speed like that they might get a speeding ticket for sure. The last song on this amazing album is called "Flight Of The Steel Samurai". It has a slight reference to IRON MAIDEN in the very beginning, but this doesn't do any harm to this song. I can only give this killer metal album the full score and highly recommend it to all the fans of NWOTHM. SHADOW WARRIOR stands really proud in heavy metal and they are the true defenders of the faith. You have to cherish bands like that. SHADOW WARRIOR consists of Anna Klos on vocals, Marcin Puszka on guitars, Krzystof Aftyka on guitars, Karol Zmaczynski on bass and Zdzislaw Krzyzanowski on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/ShadowWarriorPL. [10 points - FULL SCORE!!] (Toine van Poorten)

STREET LETHAL-Welcome To The Row (Fighter Records)
Be prepared for a straight forward metal attack with the six songs on this album by STREET LETHAL. This Spanish metal band takes off in fourth gear and they breathe heavy metal. Dazzling guitar solos, thundering drum rolls, high pitched vocals and a steady rhythm will blow you away from the first notes on in opener and title track "Welcome To The Row". The eighties will relive in the sound of this band and nothing reminds you that the songs were written in 2020. Twin guitars are ruling here and you don't hear that too often anymore. Then all the more reason to cherish this band from Barcelona. Check out "Roll Racing" and hear a fabulous mix of WARLOCK, RIOT and JUDAS PRIEST. "Searching The Wild" has some influences of "Burning The Witches" and you can't blame them for that. This is one of the better true metal songs of a female fronted band for many years now. And almost forty years later, it sounds fresh again, like true heavy metal has reborn again. The wild guitar moves in this song are truly amazing. It feels like a horde of wild animals will run you over without warning. "Rulers Of The Underworld" is a song about warriors, that stand brave against their enemies. Don't come near them, because they will behead you with a swing of their sharp blades. The guitar work on this song sounds vicious and mean at the same time. The drummer is in the spotlight at the beginning of the fast and furious "Tyrants". The sound of a machine gun will definitely tear you apart. My thoughts go out to a band like ACID here, because of the very high speed. It's really cool to have such a real speed devil among these songs. "Into Your Mind" is the last powerful ear attack of these Spanish warriors. It really feels like going into their mind. These five Spanish metallers worship old school heavy metal and drummer Eric even demands a short solo spot to introduce the harmony vocals here. This is top notch material for an old school metal fan like me and I will give this CD the well-deserved full score. STREET LETHAL proves that they have their metal heart in the right place and that they are gods on this authentic old school heavy metal album. STREET LETHAL consists of Hell Rose Lethal on vocals, Criss Lethal on guitar, Dann Atomic Lethal on guitar, Guilty Lethal on bass and Eric Killer Lethal on drums. For more info, go to: https:// www.facebook.com/streetlethalheavymetalband or go to their You Tube channel to watch some videos: https://www.youtube.com/c/StreetLethalOfficialchannel. [10 points - FULL SCORE!!] (Toine van Poorten)

VELVET VIPER-Cosmic Healer (Massacre Records)
VELVET VIPER has had a long and successful career, which goes back to 1990, when they released their first album. Hopefully, they will go on for many more years to come. The new album "Cosmic Healer" contains eleven tracks, worthy of fifty minutes of melodic metal. Their music is soaked in Teutonic true metal, created for the brave warriors of heavy metal. Just check out opener "Sword Sister", which starts off with the clinging sound of swords battling each other. How much more metal do you want? "Let Metal Be Your Master" is the slogan you would expect from someone like Jutta Weinhold, who was already active in the seventies and is always to be found on the barricades for heavy metal. Title track "Cosmic Healer" will convince you of that, when Jutta is screaming it out from the top of her lungs. Her voice is powerful and she is very serious in what she is doing. "Holy Mother Snake" is no exception to the rule, which must be about the snake on the front cover, I guess. "Voice Of An Anarchist" is exactly about what I mentioned before about jumping on the barricades and let your voice do the talking. Spread the word. "Sassenach" is a powerful song with a dynamic feeling. Let the rhythm touch your soul as it touched mine, which feels good. "Osiris" is not just the name of a great Dutch band, it's also the name of the next song, which has an amazing guitar solo. "On The Prowl" is nothing more than a warning. Better beware, because when Jutta gets a hold of you, she is going to rip you apart and eat you alive. The message is clear: you better run and hide and turn up the sound of this dynamic rock song. And although "Long Shadows" may not be the classic heavy metal song that you would expect, the powerful voice of Jutta still turns it into something very special. "Darkness Of Senses" goes into the same direction and is a bit heavier. The album closes with an acoustic version of "Götterdämmerung", which comes from the opera of Richard Wagner "Ring Of Nibelungen", another masterpiece of a totally different music style. It matches very well with the Teutonic style of VELVET VIPER though. Tons of power and at the end a touch of tenderness, it's all there on this new VELVET VIPER album. The band consists of Jutta Weinhold on vocals, Holger Marx on guitar and vocals, Micha Fromm on drums and Johannes Möller on bass. For more info, go to: https://www.velvet-viper.de or https://www.facebook.com/VelvetViper. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VICTORIA K.-Essentia: Live Isolation Concert (DVD) (Rockshot Records)
What would you do in pandemic times? Perhaps record a live concert, while being in isolation? That's exactly what VICTORIA K. did and this album/DVD is the result of it. Ten tracks recorded live and worthy of thirty-five minutes of solid rock. Opener "The Haunting" is fast and catchy at the same time. The growling vocals are lurking in the background and do not receive a prominent place in their sound. The music leans towards NIGHTWISH, EVANESCENCE, WITHIN TEMPTATION and LACUNA COIL, as you will hear in "Mist Filled Sky" for example. However, the growls also get the necessary space here and there is also room for some brutal blast beats. These influences get even more attention in "Forsaken", which is next. Clearly, the band also shows its sensitive face with a fragile song like "Humanity", which takes care of some variation as well. In "Surreal", the band added a lot of Eastern influences. "Freaks" is the first song for which the band also shot a video. The song ends with the sound of a music box. In "Shroud Of Solitude", the band shows their more melodic face again, which comes close to the sound of for example a band like EVANESCENCE. And where will your thoughts be going to, when a band calls a song "Lacuna"? I must admit, that these thoughts are right. Not as obvious as you might have thought maybe, but still the influences of LACUNA COIL are there for real. In "Freedom Unchartered", the brutal growls are back. The song is groovy and in your thoughts you will see the hair of a head banging crowd waving in the air, when this is being played in front of a live audience. What a shame it wasn't reality. Obviously, the feeling with the public is missing here, which makes these live recordings a bit incomplete perhaps. In the closure "Matrix" , the band pulls out all the stops. You can see this as a huge thank you very much to all the fans of this Australian band. Hopefully, they will be able to do it 'for real' very soon as well. "Essentia: Live Isolation Concert" is now available on DVD. VICTORIA K. consists of Victoria K. on vocals, Sheri Vengeance on growls and grunts, Julia Mammone on guitar, Martin Kawaler on bass and James Davies on drums. For more info, go to: https://www.facebook.com/victoriakofficial. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: January 23, 2022]

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