CD REVIEWS


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


Summer 2019 - Winter 2020:

LEE AARON-Power, Soul, Rock 'N' Roll, Live In Germany (Rough Trade)
Hail to the Metal Queeeeeeeen!!!!! The glorious days of LEE AARON are long gone, but the memories still remain. Remember those blushing cheeks, when seeing the article in Oui magazine? I also have very fond memories about that show with BON JOVI in Tilburg and the video clip of "Metal Queen". Those were the days. After some flirting sidesteps with pop and jazz, Lee has returned to her one and only true love, the heavy rock. Her brand new live CD "Live In Germany" has captured this quite nicely and contains thirteen rock songs, worthy of about a full hour. And if you like to see what Lee looks like nowadays, you must buy the extensive package, which has the DVD of the same show. To my big surprise, she starts off with the DEEP PURPLE classic "Mistreated". Perhaps she's showing the audience, that she knows her classics very well and this is certainly not half done. She came to rock and rock is what you get here. She may not be near to David Coverdale in his hay day, but I like this version a lot. I guess, it's rather difficult to sort out a decent play list of your whole career. The new material must be there and the old school metal heads want to hear the early stuff, too. "Tomboy" is easy on the ear and very catchy, but I'm really thrilled when the first drum beats of "Rock Candy", made famous by MONTROSE, sound from the speakers. This is another tribute to a great band from the seventies. "Metal Queen" is a true classic and she knows it. I still remember all the lyrics word for word. As far as I'm concerned, this song is surely one of the highlights here, mainly for nostalgic reasons. The guitar work in "Fire And Gasoline" may possibly remind you of JIMI HENDRIX in a way. Sean Kelly is the guitarist, who founded HELIX back in the days. He is now accompanying Lee on this tour. The intro is "Powerline" is based on keyboards, which adds a lot of melody to the very firm startup of this show. Just think of BON JOVI here, whose influences are definitely not far away. In the second part of the song, the band is turning it into another LEE AARON classic for a short moment, when they do "Lady Of The Darkest Night", what a nice surprise. It will really make you smile. "I'm A Woman" is another cover song, this time of BO DIDDLEY and Lee reveals, that she could make love to a crocodile (without any teeth, I guess). Maybe three covers on a total of thirteen songs a bit much too much, but the high level of performance and the beautiful voice of Lee will surely make up for that. "Some Girls Do" is a true rock song. It was written in 1991, which is almost thirty years ago and before she discovered and played jazz music. "Sex With Love" is a sexy and very catchy song and it also belongs to my favorite songs on this live disc. "Barely Holding On" is a showcase of Lee's voice, because it perfectly brings it all together in this emotional ballad, which contains a great guitar solo as well. After that, it's time to sing along, before the band starts off with "Whatcha Do To My Body". I still remember this video clip quite well. It was one of the highlights of the album, stuffed with many catchy rock tunes. And she's a real talent in writing cool and catchy tunes, I can assure you. Just have a listen to "Diamond Baby" to catch my drift. The final song is right up my street, because I still dig the old school LEE AARON sound best and "Hot To Be Rocked" fits right into that very category. Lee is still hot to be rocked. I'd really hoped for a few more oldies from the very beginning of her career, but you can't have it all, can you? In general I must admit, that I had a great time listening to these live recordings. The Fire And Gasoline Tour was in 2017, so these recordings are two years old for that matter. The band consisted of Lee Aaron on vocals and additional guitar, Sean Kelly on guitar and additional vocals, Dave Reimer on bass and vocals and John Cody on drums. On this tour, Kevin 'Toad' Saulner played the keyboards and guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.leeaaron.com or http://www.facebook.com/LeeAaronMusic. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AEGONIA-The Forgotten Song (independent/Metal Message)
AEGONIA hails from Bulgaria and they present their debut album, called "The Forgotten Song". It contains twelve tracks, worthy of about sixty-five minutes and a beautiful mix of gothic, folk, atmospheric and melodic metal. The songs rest upon the book "The Forgotten Song", written by Nea Stand. The album starts off with the sound of thunder and a spoken word intro, accompanied by acoustic guitars and some string arrangements. This may not sound like (heavy) metal at all, but the band switches over to a heavy beat soon, in which the spoken word part continues and the rhythm sounds a lot heavier. All ingredients you would expect are there. In "Rain Of Tears", the band shows what they are capable of in a lengthy and mystical song, that switches from atmospheric folky parts to loud guitar riffs. The overall sound is quite atmospheric though, yet very beautiful. Male vocals and female vocals are mixed with choir vocals. "With The Mist She Came" is on next and because of the acoustic guitars and violin, you might possibly see some figures approaching in the misty Bulgarian landscape. Just use your imagination a bit and visualize what the band is trying to say. The folkloristic instruments get a very prominent place in the sound of AEGONIA. Next to the acoustic guitars and violin, the band also uses a kaval, which is a traditional Bulgarian flute, and bagpipes. In the meantime we've arrived at "Restless Mind", in which the male growls have become a bit harsher yet they match very well with the up-tempo pace. The guitars ask for your attention, too. Obviously, their music contains a lot of variation. "Dreams Come To Me" is a short interlude with some acoustic guitars and male spoken word parts. It's the introduction to "Battles Lost And Won", which builds up to a more epic tale. In "The Offer", the female vocals have the upper hand and sometimes this reminds me a bit of the earlier MOONSPELL material. "The Stolen Song" contains some magic flute playing in this (again) very atmospheric song. It sounds quite moody but very well done. While at other times they throw in some heavy chords to reach the right balance to make it sound more metal. Just listen to "Gone", which is a good example here. There are violins and the magic between the interacting of the male and female vocals and also a more up-tempo part, in which the guitars get an equal share. I really love the angel-like vocals in "The Severe Mountains". It shows that the band are true masters in creating atmospheric gothic fantasy metal. AEGONIA has already shared the stage with the likes of THE FORESHADOWING, CHARM DESIGNER and ANTIMATTER and it would not be strange at all seeing them at one of the many fantasy metal festivals in the Western part of Europe. They have delivered a great album, that's for sure. "A Bitter Fate" is the next song and one more time the band will take you away on their fantasy journey, which breathes the atmosphere of Bulgaria, mixed with the metal of today. "The Ruins Of Aegonia" is the very last and short spoken word track with angel-like choir vocals. It closes this very promising debut album. I think that we will definitely hear a lot more from AEGONIA in the very near future. The band consists of Nikolay Nikolov on vocals, guitar, kaval, Elitsa Stoyanova on vocals and violin, Atanas Georgiev on bass and Ivan Kolev on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.aegonia.com/en or http://www.facebook.com/aegoia. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE AGONIST-Orphans (Rodeostar Records)
The new album by Canadian outfit THE AGONIST contains ten tracks, worthy of forty-five stunning minutes of death metal mayhem. They sound more brutal than ever and just listen to opener "In Vertigo" to be convinced. And if the groovy rhythms and wild growls don't do the trick, you will definitely be blown away by "As One We Survive". Of course the melodic edges are not forgotten here either and these twists will make you wish for more. The vocals of Vicky are really sick and she's truly the next level of Sabina Classen (HOLY MOSES) and Alissa White-Gluz (ARCH ENEMY). Just check out her skills in "The Gift Of Silence", where she presents her regular voice and her other extreme singing voice, so to speak. "Blood As My Guide" continues next and the song has got a more epic feeling. This song also has got some dirty blast beats and some groovy riffs. It sounds sensational and wild without becoming too extreme or too gore. The intro to "Mr. Cold" could very well be on every rock or metal album for that matter, but pretty soon these maniacal screams will manifest luckily enough, as for a moment I thought I was listening to the wrong album. The twists between the emotional and wild screaming parts are still all over, giving it a lot of variety because of that. "Dust To Dust" is another great song for Vicky to do some mean throat exercises, which is really a wild ear attack. "A Devil Made Me Do It" might not be the most extreme song on this album, but it also shows the other side of THE AGONIST. If this one is too much for you and too melodic and you still like the extreme and loud side of the band better, then you don't have to wait any longer. After this, the band explodes into "The Killing I", which contains some fiery guitar work as well. Title track "Orphans" is the perfect song for Vicky, but next to her extreme and wild screaming vocals, there is also room for some melodic parts to keep a nice balance between the two of them. THE AGONIST proves on this album that they can sound brutal and melodic and honest as well. At the end of the CD, there is room for one more song and that's "Burn It All Down". The variety in styles here is huge. The brutality has become more brutal and on the other hand the melodic parts have become a little more melodic. The band is setting out their borders to find out what’s the most suitable style for their melodic death metal sound. At the end of the year THE AGONIST will be touring with JINJER, which is a great package, if you would ask my opinion. THE AGONIST consists of Vicky Psarakis on vocals, Danny Marino on guitar, Simon McKay on drums, Chris Kells on bass and Pascal Jobin on guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/TheAgonistOfficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ASAGRAUM-Dawn Of Infinite Fire (Edge Circle Productions)
There are nine tracks on this pure Satanic black metal album by ASAGRAUM, which will turn your world pitch black in forty-five freaking minutes. Lite the black candles, paint a giant pentagram on the floor, dim the lights down low and turn the cross upside down. When you're getting in the mood already, let the hordes of hell enter your room with the all destroying VENOM-like growls in "They Crawl From The Broken Circle". Add some thunderous blast beats to this and you'll get the most blasphemous and dark black metal attack that you've ever witnessed. There are no speed limits in "The Lightless Inferno", where these three black metal ladies hammer on. Don't try to bang your head to the speeding neck breaker "Abomination's Altar", because it is so brutal and intense and it really rips you apart. After three songs of uncontrolled and wild bashing, there is also time for some melody that these ladies put into "Guahaihoque". You can't go wrong with a song title like that, I guess. It must be the influences of CRADLE OF FILTH that lurk around here and there. They even take down some speed to let the guitar player do her thing in the best possible way, which definitely takes the song to a higher level. However, "Dawn Of The Infinite Fire" will slowly drag you down into the deep underground, where no light comes and brutality rules. "Dochters Van De Zwarte Vlam" is one of the two Dutch songs, simply because there are Dutch members in this gruesome metal outfit, but nobody seems to know or nobody seems to care. Their evil, non-compromising metal is what counts and all the rest is meaningless to these three ladies. And with this in mind, they conquer the huge competition in the black metal scene without much trouble. Is it because we’'e dealing with an all-female outfit or are they all afraid to get doomed forever and they will rot in hell? Whatever reason, ASAGRAUM's star is rising fast and their high quality and dark as the night black metal sounds pure and blasphemous. "Beyond The Dark Vortex" is just another example of how these ladies spit their traditional black metal poisoned tunes at their fans. "Hate Of Satan's Hammer" combines the fast parts with some slow down parts, which gives this song a rather exciting vibe. And when you think you've finally survived this all destroying blackest metal attack, your skull will be crushed in "Waar Ik Ben Komt De Dood", which is another Dutch song that makes the hammer come down one final time, after which the lights go out for good. Don't say we didn't warn you. ASAGRAUM's metal is black as the night and their Satanic Rites will sure make you hungry for more. ASAGRAUM is: Obscura on guitar, bass and vocals and A on drums (ex-SISTERS OF SUFFOCATION). The band is helped during their live shows by Mortifero on bass or Makhashanah on bass and V-Kaos on guitar. This is only for the blackest and darkest souls among us. For more info, go to their Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/asagraum. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

A SOUND OF THUNDER-It Was Metal (Mad Neptune Metal)
Once again A SOUND OF THUNDER knows to blow me away with a new album, called "It Was metal", which contains eleven tracks and almost a full hour of true metal with influences from all the big names in the scene, like for example JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN. Just have a good listen to the fiery opener "Phantom Flight", starting off at full speed. Male and female vocals take turns, guitar solos fly around fast and the tight and firm drum rolls get the beat going. What a great opener of this album, which is stuffed with a giant chunk of true heavy metal. A SOUND OF THUNDER has ever let their fans down and they have a lot of brilliant albums to their name that sound very professional. They spend a lot of time on composing new music and their albums are a treat to your eyes as well, because of the amazing looking covers and artwork. "Lifebringer" starts off in a great way and it could easily become another public's favorite, however the keyboards in the middle give the song a different face, moving it into a more experimental direction. Names like RUSH, DREAM THEATER and even HAWKWIND come to mind here without really losing their true heavy metal feeling. It simply adds another dimension to the song, which makes the band sound a lot more adventurous. "Atlacatl" might be a strange title, but there is definitely a leading role for vocalist Nina, who screams her lungs out in this firm rocker. "The Crossroads Deal" is a short interlude, which sounds like a bluesy intro, including a mouth harp, played by Neal Harren. Very soon, the guitars start doing their thing as well and the title track of the album is about to take off. "It Was Metal" is a tribute song to the music that we all love. It's filled with the great vocals of Nina and a whole lot of guitar solos and this all together makes it an outrageous tribute to heavy metal and a personal highlight in my book. The lyrics are exactly what a devoted heavy metal fan would like to hear. After all, it is all because of metal. "Obsidian & Gold (Desdinova Returns)" is on next and gives the listener some breathing space for a moment. The keyboard parts have been done by Tony Carey, the former RAINBOW keyboard player, but the guitars get a more prominent place first. The keyboards are quite recognizable, if you listen very carefully. This epic metal anthem contains some amazing speed and mood changes and some awesome guitar licks and later on, there is even some more space for Tony to show his skills. "Second Lives" turns up the sound a little and the band rocks louder than before with the ACCEPT type of riffs. The solo sounds magnificent as well, but I didn't really like the fade out here, although this might be a more personal thing. "Els Segadors (The Reapers)" continues and we can definitely conclude, that A SOUND OF THUNDER knows their classics very well and they create a brilliant sound of their own, which makes them very original and not just another band that sounds like all those others. "Tomyris" follows next and the speed changes keep coming, next to the heavy drum beats. In this song, there’s a switch including some stunning bass lines of Jesse, which makes the band sound like DEEP PURPLE or even RAINBOW, if you like. Obviously, their influences cover a very wide range of bands. "Charles II" has the maniacal voice of Nina, who really stands in the spotlight in this one. She screams like she's a victim of a bloody slaughter. Last, but definitely not least is "Fortress Of The Future Race" with some really amazing guitar licks. Now it's time for Josh to step forward and move into the spotlight. This is a real good song at the end of this amazing album, that really knows to impress me big time from back to forth. I suggest to have a listen to it as well and find out for yourself what a magnificent band we're dealing with here. A SOUND OF THUNDER consists of Nina Osegueda on vocals and theremin, Josh Schwartz on guitar and keyboards, Jesse Keen on bass and Keyboards and Chris Haren on drums. Website: http://www.asoundofthunderband.com. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

ASTRALIUM-Land Of Eternal Dreams (Rockshots Records/HLP)
ASTRALIUM from Italy started their career as BLACK ROSES and changed their name in 2014, when the new bass player and soprano singer joined the band. Their debut album is called "Land Of Eternal Dreams" and it contains twelve tracks, worthy of a full hour of symphonic metal. They start off with the intro "Remembrance", before heading into the direction of "The Journey", in which you will hear the clear vocals of singer Roberta Pappalardo. The orchestration is slightly bombastic, but it also has enough guitar parts to enjoy a lot of music fans. The band sounds very promising and in "Rising Waves From The Ocean", they even crank up the speed and volume a bit. I don't think, that they will be surprised at all, if we use a reference to the old school sound of NIGHTWISH and WITHIN TEMPTATION here, which they can take as a big compliment. Tommy Johansson (SABATON, MAJESTIC) takes care of the male vocal parts here. The band is not afraid to take a few adventurous sidesteps, which you can hear in the beautiful intro of "My Life Is My Eternity" and shows a bit more of their symphonic side. Just check out the instrumental part in this song. It sounds heavy and adventurous as well. They definitely don't play on safe and the riffs are heavy enough to call it metal. Just check out the fiery start of "Whisper In The Silence" to get my point. The duet between the male and female vocals is good as well, where the male vocals aren't as aggressive as they usually are. The guitarist makes this song a bit rougher because of the fiery guitar solos that he plays. In "Hope Is Gone", the choir vocals are very much up front in the mix and it gives the song a very bombastic feeling. "Breath Of My Soul" is a more melodic ballad kind of song, in which Roberta will definitely touch you with her heartfelt vocals. "A Dream's Elegy" is an up tempo rock song with some great guitar work to spice it all up a bit. "Seven Seas, Seven Winds" is a true masterpiece, including the bombastic and adventurous orchestration, speed changes and even some blast beats, which makes you think of death metal rather than symphonic metal. This is a true highlight, as far as I'm concerned. "Eternal Voices From The Forest" is on next and the angel-like voice expressions of Roberta fit very well to the dreamy atmosphere in this song. In a way, this is the intro to "The World Of Unknown", which follows right hereafter. Then the guitars are being plugged in again and we can also enjoy Roberta's soprano vocals. "Hidden Conspiracy" closes this exciting and adventurous album with some dominated male vocals. ASTRALIVM have positively surprised me and I'm really impressed about this album. The band consists of Roberta Pappalardo on vocals, Salvo Grasso on drums and vocals, Giuseppe Pappalardo on bass and Emanuelle Alessandro on guitars. For more info, go to their FB page at; http://www.facebook.com/astraliumband. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BARBE-Q-BARBIES-Borrowed Time (Dissonance Music/Bertus)
It's BBQ time, folks! Put your speakers on ten and these ladies from Finland will rock your world on their fourth album "Borrowed Time", which contains ten tracks worthy of about thirty-five minutes of hard rock with an attitude. The short "Intro" is over before you know it., while "Diz-Funk-Tional" just breathes their traditional rock sound. Next to that, they also put some pop and funk influences in their sound to put some variation in the songs. A lot of rock and metal fans may find this not necessary but if you're broad-minded, you won't mind at all. "Alive" for example is an airy poppy song, that is easy on the ear and therefore easy to sing along to in the chorus. As time passes by, line-up changes occur and before you know it, the sound of the band changes, too. It's really what has happened here. In "Hangman's Song", the band grabs back to their rock sound and the harsh voice of Niki has put a much rawer mark to this song as well, in my opinion. "Made Of Scars" will make you raise your hands and shout along to the chorus. The rebellious and more punky influences have disappeared and made room for some catchy rock elements and I must admit that these songs still have a high rock level. Just listen to the steady drum beats in "Innocent" and you can tell that their sound might be slightly more alternative these days, but they still rock hard. "Radio" grabs back to their more punky sound and obviously, there is still enough variation to reach out to a wider range of rock fans out there. The guitar solo can't be missed as well, of course. "On And On" rocks without any compromise. Niki's vocals remind me of PINK in a way and the music could be compared to this singer/songwriter from America, too. It has the same high energy level, except these ladies rock a bit louder. As we move closer towards the end of the CD, I think that the songs get more heavy. "Towers" is another loud rock song with ditto guitar work. Title track "Borrowed Time" will show you that the BARBE-Q-BARBIES are still hot to be rocked and fans of PAT BENATAR or PINK can dig in without hesitation. Can someone light up the BBQ again, because these five ladies only like to rock, when it's steaming hot. BARBE-Q-BARBIES consists of Niki Rock on vocals, Niina Klemetti on drums and vcoals, Ekkis Laine on guitar, Minttu Muranen on bass and Heidi Meri on lead guitar. For more info, go to http://www.barbeqbarbies.com or http://www.facebook.com/barbeqbarbies. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BATTLE BEAST-No More Hollywood Endings (Nuclear Blast)
BATTLE BEAST keeps the flame burning. On their new album "No More Hollywood Endings", they present thirteen new tracks, including two bonus tracks, worthy of almost fifty-five minutes. Their music is filled with rocking guitar riffs, a strong beat and a radio friendly sound, that will make you rock until you drop. Just have a listen to opener "Unbroken" and you'll get some idea. This definitely sounds like a hit single, don't you think so? However, there are more potential hit singles for that matter. What do you think of the catchy title track "No More Hollywood Endings", which is also very easy on the ear. Vocalist Noora Louhimo has got a very powerful voice and she really impressed me in "Eden", that also has got some mind-blowing guitar licks. "Unfairy Tales" starts off groovy, which is good for the variation level of the album. "Endless Summer" however is a lot more airy and also "The Hero" sounds rather catchy, but both songs have enough power and heavy guitar riffs and solos to please every metal fan. "Piece Of Me" is an up-tempo song and also rocks on a few occasions. The ballad type of song "I Wish" catches singer Noora at some memorable emotional moments. The orchestration is a bit more bombastic and it sounds less rock. Don't worry, because the next tune will certainly keep all of you head bangers and rockers very busy. "Raise Your Fists" is dedicated to every devoted rocker and will give you a good feeling. It's definitely one of the highlights on this CD. The mix of male and female vocals works really well here. Another firm rocker follows next with "The Gold Horde", which contains some very wild drum beats galloping at high speed. CD closer "World On Fire" shows the battle beast in their safe, catchy rock and metal environment, where the band has established into a real top player over the recent years. BATTLE BEAST has impressed me a lot and "No More Hollywood Endings" has turned out to be a very diverse album, which will surely lease all their fans out there. The bonus tracks are the balladesque "Bent And Broken" and the groovy yet heavy "My Last Dream", which also belongs to my favorite songs. The album doesn't have 'no more Hollywood endings', in case you have been wondering. BATTLE BEAST is: Noora Louhimo on vocals, Janne Björkroth on keyboards, Joona Björkroth on lead guitar, Juuso Soino on rhythm guitar, Eero Sipilä on bass and Pyry Vikki on drums. Website: http://www.battlebeast.fi and http://www.facebook.com/battlebeastofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK LABEL-United In Black (independent)
BLACK LABEL hails from the very southern part of our beautiful country. Their EP contains six rocking songs and a total playing time of about twenty-five minutes. The band has got a very powerful female vocalist in Janine Willms. In opener "Never Sleep Again", she called in the help of Roel Peijs of CRAZY CULT ROADSHOW for a steaming duet, that you will definitely like. Their music style is hard rock with wild guitar parts, dynamic vocals and hard beating drums. You will also find these styles back in "Step Into The Darkside", which contains some guitar pull outs that will initially remind you of Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY), however BLACK LABEL sounds less metal and more rock. During "Scream Of Silence", Janine reminds me very much of Dutch rock diva ANOUK in her heyday, which she can take as a very big compliment. But there's more. Just listen to title track "United In Black", where the riffs are pretty mean and the drums are beating harder than before. After a couple of hard punches in the stomach, it's time for a power ballad, called "Echoes In Time", which has a very nice guitar solo and takes care of some variation. The last song is a very pleasant head banger, which is called "Somebody Get Me A Doctor". And no, it’s not the VAN HALEN cover, although it has the same vibe and energy as that amazing song. I think, I will put this one on my list of highlights. The band is already a well-known guest on the Dutch stages and this EP will probably take the band higher up and give them more fame. BLACK LABEL consists of Janine Willms on vocals, Maurits Colen on drums, Yentl Brandt on bass and Marnix van Agtmaal on guitar. People, who are into some good solid rock with influences of for example GUNS 'N' ROSES and HALESTORM might want to check this band out. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/BlackLabelBand. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK MESSIAH-Black Messiah (cassette) (independent)
The sleeve of this self-titled demo cassette of BLACK MESSIAH has the grim reaper on the cover, who is surrounded by a snake, biting his own tail and he is holding a wooden cross upside down. Need I say more to make it clear that this is a true metal underground release? The band hails from Chile and their influences range from COVEN (female vocals) to PENTAGRAM, ST. VITUS and BLACK SABBATH. The female vocals of Catherine Maureira match very well to the dark and lazy doomy sound of this band. Clearly, they capture the doom metal tradition very well here. Sometimes Catherine combines her singing with talking, which works very well in the slow opener "In The Shadows". This is followed by "The Black Messiah" that will probably please all you metal heads even more. In the speed change, the band really impresses with their dirty, sludgy doomy sound. This is really cool. The lengthy guitar solo is certainly the crowning glory of this title track. And last but not least, the band cranks out a sublime version of the PENTAGRAM classic "Sign Of The Wolf". All the doom metal connoisseurs among us will know enough by now, I guess. BLACK MESSIAH plays pure and honest underground doom metal for the real diehard metal fans. The band consists of Nancy Gomez on bass, Jorge Vargas on drums, Felipe Troncoso on guitar, Rodrigo Echeverria on guitar and Catherine Maureira on vocals. For more info, go to their facebook page on: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Musician-Band/Black-Messiah-Doom-Metal-Chile-292074381387377/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLADE KILLER-High Risk (M-Theory)
BLADE KILLER is new traditional metal band from Los Angeles, California, USA. "High Risk" contains eight songs, worthy of thirty minutes, which will bring you back to the heydays of GRIM REAPER, TOKYO BLADE, ANGEL WITCH, SKULLFIST, NIGHT DEMON and early IRON MAIDEN. But there's more. It's the artwork that also does the trick here. I see two metal fists holding up a knife, dripping in blood. Need I say more? Well, let's talk about the music now. Opener "Lost Angels" is definitely a would-be anthem, because all the ingredients from the book of heavy metal are there. The band has got the power to write short powerful heavy metal tunes that will be hammered into your brain at once. Their songs sound very impressive indeed. Just check out the crying guitars in "Let It Go", which also contains more IRON MAIDEN type of riffs. Same goes for "High Risk", which really feels like a warm bath. The twin leads will bring back great memories from the 1980's NWOBHM era and their sound is so authentic and pure, that nobody really minds. "In The Arms Of The Devil" contains more US metal influences and this is a skill that they know very well. "Midnight Sinner" has some exciting mood changes and clearly, when you like the aforementioned bands in this review, you simply can't go wrong. Their metal train moves on at full speed and gives you no time to breath. The short "Rush Of Thunder" is a real speed killer with some amazing lead guitar work. The fast drum beats do their thing as well. The longest track however is called "Endangered Dreams", which brings the band back to their early IRON MAIDEN roots. The stunning bass parts are from the only metal maiden in the band, Kelsey Wilson, who stands proud between her four male colleagues. The album closes with the catchy "Tomb Of Thoughts" and I must say I'm deeply impressed about this band. This is the way metal sounded like in the eighties and this is how BLADE KILLER made it sound today. Surely, every devoted metal head will absolutely love the album. BLADE KILLER consists of Carlos Guttierez on vocals, Jonathan Rubo on guitar, Kelsey Wilson on bass, Jay Vazquez on guitar and Tommy Fuerta on drums. For more info, go to their page at: http://www.facebook.com/bladekillerheavymetal. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

BLOODY HAMMERS-The Summoning (Napalm Records)
BLOODY HAMMERS present their fifth album "The Summoning", consisting of ten brand new tracks and forty-five minutes of dark and spooky gothic hard rock with lots of keyboard layers providing a psychedelic twist here and there. You can't ignore that the band has been highly influenced by bands like for example 45 GRAVE, BLACK SABBATH, ALICE COOPER, DEPECHE MODE and COVEN. They start off with "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie", which contains all the aforementioned elements. The song has got a very catchy vibe, but watch out for the smell of death, that is lurking around the dark corners. There are some guitars in "Now The Screaming Starts", that is a lot more up-tempo than the opener. The sound of two-some from America tends to lean more towards metal rather than gothic rock here. Sometimes, there's just a thin line between both, because the choir vocals add more bombastic elements to their music and really shows their gothic influences. In "The Summoning" though, the band moves towards the other direction and the keyboards, played by Devallia, get a prominent place. "Fire In The Dark" will definitely brighten up your day and I think that the average horror metal fan will get a damn good feeling here. The dark influences in their music shows up well in "The Beast Is Coming Out", which breathes an ominous atmosphere and you seem to be part of a satanic ritual. The goat will be sacrificed soon. The keyboards in "Welcome To Darkness" show more DEPECHE MODE influences, while the topics definitely sound darker. The drum beats are quite steady. If you like it more heavy, then I'd suggest to have a listen to "Tales That Witness Madness", which contains some real heavy guitar riffs and a whole lot of energy. After this, the contrast is rather huge, when they describe a lot of sadness in "Condemned, The Prisoner", which is a slow and doomy song for all the black souls among us. Obviously, BLOODHY HAMMERS walks on a lot of different paths and that's the reason why they appeal to so many metal heads and music fans in general. Their music is not that extreme, although the lyrics might be too much for the faint hearted, I guess. The next song "From Beyond The Grave" will easily get you on the dancefloor. "Unbreakable" closes the album with some raunchy guitar riffs and a very doomy sound. BLOODY HAMMERS consists of Anders Manga on vocals, guitar and bass and Devallia on keyboards and organ. Go to: http://www.bloodyhammers.com or http://www.facebook.com/bloodyhammers for more information that you need to know about this American twosome. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BURNING WITCHES-Wings Of Steel (EP) (Nuclear Blast)
BURNING WITCHES' star is rising very fast and this four track EP is a good initiative for the wait until the new album will be released. The EP contains four tracks, one of which is the single and also the title track and the other three songs have been recorded live at Wacken Open Air in 2019. Title track "Wings of Steel" starts off and just for the record, it's not a cover of the tremendous PEGAZUS song with the same title, in case you are wondering. The music style is the same though. This is bone hard heavy metal to the max, so pick up your broom and disappear in the night with these five ladies. Long term fans of the band will already know what to expect here. There's the thunderous sound of the drums, high-pitched vocals and flashing guitars and their sound has been inspired by JUDAS PRIEST and numerous of other heavy metal bands. This energetic song will definitely please all the old school head bangers out there. The live song on the A-side of this vinyl release is called "Executed", which starts with an intro tape, including thunder, church bells and the sound of loud screaming ladies. Yes indeed, it's time for the executioner to do his job and in your thoughts, you will see the gallows in the far distance. The dark intro sounds kind of spooky, but once the drums and guitars rush in, they lift off the roof. Which is impossible at Wacken, but nobody cares, I guess. Just check out the fiery guitar solos of Sonia and Romana. Next to Sonia, the band has got a second Dutch band member now with Laura Guldemond on vocals. When the execution is over and done, it's time to turn over to the B-side of this vinyl eargasm. It starts off with "Open Your Mind" and the raw vocals of Laura. The band sounds like in the early days of WARLOCK here and the fast and thunderous drum beats can be felt in your stomach very well, which is a good sign. The last song on this amazing EP is called "Hexenhammer", which is another sensational live track from that amazing Wacken live show. The band stands really proud and they are the perfect example of an all-female metal outfit, that grabs you by the balls to never let go. Every step they take is better than the previous one and their way to success is dominated with highlights only. I hope, this will continue this way. Their upcoming tour with ROSS THE BOSS will probably turn out for the best, I guess. Until their new album will see the light of day in March 2020, you can torture your ears to the loud metal sound on this one. It will definitely blow your mind. BURNING WITCHES is: Jeanine 'Jay' Grob on bass, Laura Guldemond on vocals, Sonia Nusselder on guitar, Romana Kalkuhl on guitars and Lala Frischknecht on drums. Don't let these witches put their spell on you or you will be possessed forever and devoted to their music, like I am. Website: http://www.facebook.com/burningwitches666 [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

CHASING EMBERS-Beckoning Call (independent / HLP)
CHASING EMBERS hails from Ukraine and they present their debut album, which contains nine powerful rock songs worthy of about forty-five minutes. The album starts off with title track "Beckoning Call", a nice alternative rock song with heavy guitar riffs and beautiful female vocals, that can sound very powerful as well. "Desires And Fears" has some fiery guitar licks, which proves that the band has definitely choose the heavy metal path to walk on. The vocals are easy on the ear and give the songs a catchy atmosphere. When you listen to the next song, called "Spiritual", it's quite clear that this is very suitable for radio airplay. However, there are some extreme growls on here as well, which adds some heavy edges to their sound, while their overall sound is pretty much accessible for the average listener. Another nice example of this is "High Stakes". I really like "Carnage", which starts with some keyboards and vocals, before it builds up slowly to a heavy song and then gets back to where they started off at first. "Silent House" is a lot heavier than I thought it would be. The hard drum beats make it even better. It's the first track, for which the band recorded a video clip and I think they made an excellent choice there. "Drown With Me" sounds a bit melancholic and it receives some heavy guitar edges throughout the song. The highlight on this debut album surely is the heavy "Last Night Tonight", which also contains some loud growls, which come real close to a grunt. The heavy drum beats and loud guitars do the rest. I really would like to hear more of this next time. This first album sounds very good and there are some very fine moments here for sure. Just listen to CD closer "The Moonman", which is a pleasant surprise to me. CHASING EMBERS consists of Vladyslav Pospolitak on drums, July Tallina on vocals, Alexey Hrankyn on guitar, Oleksandr Zahorulia on guitar and Vladyslav Kachanovskyi on bass guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.chasingembers.live or http://www.facebook.com/ChasingEmbersUA. The band also has their own You Tube channel, that you can find at: http:// www.youtube.com/c/chasimgembers, so how cool is that?! [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CHEVALIER-Destiny Calls (Gates Of Hell Records)
CHEVALIER is one of the great promises of the last few years and their star is rising really fast. This heavy metal band from Finland presents their first full-length album and I must say that I'm quite impressed once again, after their previous EP's. The nine songs are worthy of forty-five minutes of speed metal with some true heavy metal hooks. The "Introduction" is only a short instrumental intro and I was surprised to see, that the keyboard parts have been played by Annick Giroux of CAUCHEMAR. In "The Immurement", they press the pedal to the metal and show everybody how speed metal should be played. However, the sound of CHEVALIER goes far beyond the speed metal of ENFORCER and I also hear back some influences of ACID, which makes this band even more special. The additional intros, like in for example "The Curse Of The Dead Star" also gives their music another dimension. This song, by the way, is a reworked version of the one, which ended up on the EP "Chapitre II". Emma's voice shows a lot of resemblance to Kate from ACID again. This speedy metal anthem is mixed with some slower doomy type of parts here though. The drum rolls sound innovative and they are an important ingredient in the sound of CHEVALIER. The ominous introduction with the spoken word part of "Road Of Light" introduces us to a song that is divided into three parts. "The Insight (The Seer Spoketh)", "The Oath" and "The Enlightment" will show you that the music of CHEVALIERS goes much further than the paved path of heavy metal. Next to some doomy parts, they also throw in some progressive influences here and there. This is like for example BROCAS HELM mixed with MANILLA ROAD goes progressive. Are you still with me? True purists among us will be very excited to know, that the gongs have been played by CIRITH UNGOL drummer Robert Garven, to make this beautiful picture complete. "As The Clouds Gather" is another short instrumental interlude, that will bring you to "Stormbringer", which starts with thunder, lightning and a whole lot of rain. So far, the weather forecast, boys and gals (lol). This album is really like (metal)heaven to me and I'm getting more excited every minute. "In The Grip Of Night" starts off with some thunderous drum rolls. It has some nice mood changes and the tasteful keyboard parts also sound great. Kenny Powell of OMEN plays the excellent guitar solo and he does an amazing job. What an awesome song! "Prelude To The End" is exactly what the title predicts here. It's a short instrumental guitar song and the intro to "A Warrior's Lament", which leads to this exciting and lengthy CD closer. The ominous spoken word part forms a break at the end. I think that CHEVALIER can be really proud of this killer album. The final (and tenth) track is not mentioned on the CD inlay, which is a very short acoustic guitar piece. True metal believers have probably bought their copy by now, which you can purchase blind-folded for that matter. The artwork looks smashing as well, by the way. The band logo is really amazing and the drawing on the cover reminds me of a black and white version of PSYCHOTIK WALTZ's "A Social Grace". Need I say more? Obviously, this is a very safe buy for every devoted rocker and heavy metal fan out there. CHEVALIER consists of Emma on vocals, Tommi on guitar and vocals, Mikko on guitars, Sebastian on bass and Joel on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/chevaliermetal. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

LAURA COX- Burning Bright (Ear Music)
LAURA COX is a French guitarist, who lives in Paris. This brand new album, two years after her very impressive debut CD, has ten tracks worthy of a bit over forty minutes of good solid rock with fiery guitar licks. The CD starts off with the up-tempo "Fire Fire", which is very easy on the ear. ZZ TOP would be a good reference here. Same goes for "Bad Luck Blues" which has some ballsy drum beats and once again that Southern rock feeling, that could very well be from a band like MOLLY HATCHET for example. "Last Breakdown" is another great example of this. Laura's voice has got a lot in common with ANA POPOVIC for that matter, but I think that her guitar playing is much heavier. All in all, the album started off quite powerful, although the next track "Looking Upside Down" sounds a bit moderate, yet it still rocks. "Just Another Game" is a more laid back bluesy kind of song, while in "Here's To War" the link to BETH HART is not far away, which is not a bad thing, although HART's music style is very different. Halfway through the album, there is a sudden change. In "Freaking Out Loud", COX takes back to a more heavy and groovy sound with references to LED ZEPPELIN for example. The guitar solo sounds quite freaky, so I guess the song title fits really well here. "As I Am" is like HENDRIX meets GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, can you dig that?! Laura sure is one hell of a guitar player and after the speed change near the end, she proves that she really knows how to handle things. It's definitely one of the highlights on this album. The catchy song "River" is on next, which has a lot of influences of THE BLACK CROWES. It has got a nice flow and the guitar solo is very much in service of the song. The album fades out with "Letters To The Otherside", which is a sensitive ballad with some lovely guitar parts. I guess, that many guitar lovers will be really pleased with this new album by LAURA COX, who has put a lot of variation in her songs and sounds very fresh, because of it. Her band consists of Laura Cox on guitar and vocals, Matthieu Albiac on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Antonin Guérin on drums and François C. Delacoudre on bass and backing vocals. Website: http://www.lauracoxband.com or http://www.facebook.com/lauracoxofficial [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KARYN CRISIS' GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES-Covenant (Aural Music)
Karyn Crisis is back with her outfit GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES. The new album "Covenant" has twelve songs and is worthy of almost fifty minutes of occult metal. The variation in songs is a very important factor here. Opener "Womb Of The World" starts off quite extreme and brutal, however the dreamy and very intense "Drawing Dawn The Moon" is a totally different song. GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES has got many different faces. Clearly, Karyn is focused much more towards the content of the music rather than the image. She only creates songs that she likes. One time, the music will be heading into a more dreamy direction, like in "Stretto Di Barba", while at another time, it will result into a short track, like "Silver Valley" or to a more powerful song like "Great Mothers", which also has some brutal vocal growls. Karyn decided to move to Italy at one point and this might have caused her musical views. Sometimes the old flame starts burning again, like in the aforementioned song, which goes back to the musical roots of Karyn. The Italian influences can be heard best in a song like "Benevento". Not only the title is Italian, but it also contains a dark DEATH SS kind of atmosphere in the choir singing. This occult type of song is definitely one of my favorites here. "Dea Iside" sounds a bit lighter and the occult influences are still there, only in a more dreamy way. "Janara" will probably make the heart of every occult metal fan beat faster than ever before, while "The Hours" might get you into a trance or if you don't be careful, in a deep sleep. You must really like the occult scene to understand it, I guess, as not all the songs are heavy. "Diana Hellifica" moves more into the direction of a band like JINJER for example and it has got a nice beat to it. "Circle Of White Light" is fur for the occult music lover and the album closes with "Blood Of The Mother", which has a deeper meaning. I am afraid that people, who know Karyn from her previous work, may not have the power and force to reach out to this last song. Therefore her music is much too different and too specific. I must admit, that it touched me in a way, but not as much as the old and more brutal stuff, which I actually had expected here. I do like occult metal, but the diversity of these songs is very huge and they float away from the metal side much too often. KARYN CRISIS' GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES consists of: Karyn Crisis on vocals, Davide Tiso on guitars, Ross Dolan on bass and vocals, Bob Vigna on guitars and Larry Burns did the sounds. Website: http://www.gospelofthewitches.com and http://www.facebook.com/gsopelofthewitches [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

. CHERIE CURRIE & BRIE DARLING-The Motivator (Blue Elan Records)
The days of "Cherry Bomb" have been long gone, but the career of former RUNAWAYS front lady CHERIE CURRIE has moved on and on this new album Cherie collaborates with Brie Darling. Brie was the drummer of that other all-female outfit from the seventies, FANNY. The album contains twelve rock songs, worthy of about forty-five minutes, nine covers and three originals. Let me take you back to the days of real rock and roll and jump forward to the music of the new millennium here and there, too. Opener "The Motivator" has originally been recorded by T-REX, the outfit of Marc Bolan. It starts with strong bass lines and a steady disco type of beat. The T-REX vibe is still there, but the ladies gave the song a kind of make-over. "Gimme Shelter" is of course a ROLLING STONES cover and you simply can't get a good song down. Once again, they gave the song a 2019 make-over, however they stayed very close to the original. "Gimme Some Truth" is from the other icons, besides the ROLLING STONES, and then I mean THE BEATLES and as a matter of fact, their guitar player and singer John Lennon. The LENNON vibes are definitely there and many people will easily get a nostalgic feeling, while listening to songs like that. Oh, and of course they didn't forget to pay tribute to THE KINKS with "Do It Again", a song that sums up the sound of the eighties. In the background vocals we hear Katt Lowe, a singer that we have featured in Metal Maidens some time ago. In "Get Together", we have arrived to the psychedelic sound of the late sixties. It was written by Chet Powers (Dino Valente, in real life) of THE YOUNGBLOODS. The song contains some string arrangements, that give it a special feeling which fits really well in the time frame it was originally released. "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" is another classic from the early days, originally performed by THE HOLLIES. A beautiful song with emotional vocals and a ditto guitar solo. It's also a piece of rest here with the gospel-like choir vocals. It shows the many different faces and influences of these two ladies. "This Is Our Time" is one of the three originals and it definitely rocks out loud here. Melancholic tones come from another own penned song, called "Too Bruised", which contains a nice guitar solo. It's very suitable to listen to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. "I'm Too Good, That's Just Too Bad" is the last original track with GARRY GLITTER type of drum beats starting this one up. The guitar work tastes delicious here. After that, it's time for some good old rock classics again and in case you missed THE WHO, your prayers will be heard with a nice version of "Something In The Air". The band simply can't be missed here. "For What It's Worth" is another classic, that you will recognize at once, when you hear it. The original version is by STEPHEN STILLS. The guitars in this version are from Brie's former colleague in FANNY, Patti Quatro and yep she's the sister of SUZI QUATRO. What a nice collaboration. The last track is a steaming hot cover of STEVIE WONDER's "Higher Ground", that I also know of THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and JURASSIC PARK, who are a Dutch metal band and also covered "California Paradise", when they were still called FRANKENSTEIN. Finally, the 'throwback in time party' is over and I must say that it was less heavy than THE RUNAWAYS and FANNY in a way, but it's definitely a nice collaboration by these two ladies. Maybe they are the motivator of things to come in the near future. They may have inspired you to listen to the original versions. At the end of this review, I also have a theory about the artwork of this CD. Cherie is standing on a long road that goes towards the future. A destroyed doll with her silver high heels and corset from her days with the RUNAWAYS lies down on the ground. She's leaving those days behind. That was the past and the picture with Brie is the present and the road ahead is the future of this former frontlady of THE RUNAWAYS. Next to Brie and Cherie, we hear Brie's husband Dave on guitar and bass, Paul Bushwell on bass, Phil Parlapiano on piano, Dave Schulz on piano and Rory Berry Bishop on drums in many combinations. Website: http://www.cheriecurrieandbriedarling.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DIRTY DENIMS-Ready - Steady - Go! Part 1 (EP) (Handclap Records)
It's time for some mean rock and roll on this six tracker by Dutch rockers THE DIRTY DENIMS. And not only the denims are dirty, also their guitars sound dirty and the loud, female vocals rock hard, too. Title track "Ready Steady Go!" contains a nice overdose of AC/DC riffs and beats on this twenty minute plus EP. Clearly, the rock and roll party has started and THE DIRTY DENIMS are your perfect host. When the party is over and done, there is the "Last Call For Alcohol", but for now the band is still rocking it out loud with no compromise, including a nice guitar solo that is being stretched out as long as possible. The speed goes up in the fast and punky "Too Much Information". Not only the guitars get the right attention, also the wild organ is very recognizable here. "Thunder From Down Under" is a very well done tribute to their favorite band and main influence from Australia, AC/DC. Surely, they can add ROSE TATTOO, JOAN JETT, THE DONNAS and THE RAMONES to that list as well. If you listen very carefully to the lyrics from this song, you will recognize many AC/DC song titles. And if you want a good dose of AC/DC type of riffs, you'd better tune in to "Turn Off The Radio", which will bring back the heydays of this fantastic band, only this time with a thick DIRTY DENIMS sauce over it. The EP is a good initiation for the fans to make the long wait for a new album a more pleasant one. The title says part one, so who knows there will be a part two soon after this? It's always welcome and there is never enough DIRTY DENIMS. When the party is over, there is only one thing left and that's the "Last Call For Alcohol". This is the acoustic version and it got the subtitle of 'Hangover Version' . The EP was signed by the whole band and we got number 39 of 300. I think, everybody will have a good (rocking) time, listening to this nice quickie. THE DIRTY DENIMS is Mirjam on vocals and lead guitar, Jeroen on guitar, Marc on bass and Suzanne on drums. Rock it out loud and find all the information that you need to know on http://www.thedirtydenims.nl or http://www.facebook.com/thedirtydenims. I think I will give it another spin and have another drink....or two. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DOOL-Love Like Blood (EP) (Prophecy)
This EP contains only three songs, one cover and two live songs, but I'm sure that this release will please many DOOL fans out there. The EP runs for sixteen minutes and it captures DOOL in all her pride in the best possible way. The cover is an original song of KILLING JOKE, which matches perfectly with the dark doomy sound of DOOL. "Love Like Blood" was originally recorded in 1985, now thirty-four years ago. Ryanne and her guys reworked it a bit in the well-known DOOL tradition and turned it into a new millennium classic. The live songs have been recorded at the Rock Hard Festival in 2018. Both songs are from their debut album "Here Now, There Then", starting with "She Goat". You can feel the power and high energy in these songs. The guitars are raunchy, the dynamic rock sound is much more overwhelming and the public's reaction gives it just that little bit of extra that it needs. "In Her Darkest Hour" is from the same sessions and DOOL is in perfect shape here. The morbid looking CD cover matches very well with the dark atmosphere, that DOOL is creating. The naked granny with the skull on her belly laying in a bed of roses might not be the main reason of buying this EP, but the music definitely makes up for that. DOOL consists of Ryanne van Dorst on vocals and guitar, Micha Haring on drums, JB van der Wal on bass, Reinier Vermeulen on guitar and Nick Polak on guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.allthosewhowanderaredool.com and http://www.facebook.com/allthosewhowanderaredool. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO- Backstage To Heaven (EP) (Nuclear Blast)
Ihis four track EP of DORO is worthy of about twenty minutes. The new single track "Backstage To Heaven" starts off in a very catchy way. It has been released on the same day the second leg of her world tour started, which can’t be a coincidence. Like always, DORO delivers the goods the way we want it. Special guest on this catchy rock song is Helge Schneider, a rather well-known jazz musician. "Heartbroken" is another cooperation and this time the master of the guitar, Doug Aldrich of THE DEAD DAISIES, provides a guitar solo on this firm semi-ballad. You can leave that up to him. The other two songs are live tracks, starting with the 'throw your fist in the air and sing along' rocker "Blood, Sweat And Rock 'N' Roll", This is DORO as we know her: powerful, heavy and true to the max. For the last song another guest turns up, which is Johan Hegg of AMON AMARTH, who does "If I Can’ Have You, No One Will". The live atmosphere can't get any better than that, I guess. Although I'm not too fond of grunts, this duet is definitely worth checking out. I think, that every devoted DORO fan and metal fans in general can be pleased with this great four track EP. For more info about the German metal queen, go to: http://www.doromusic.de. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DREAMS IN FRAGMENTS-Reflections Of A Nightmare (Rockshots Records/Metal Message)
This is the debut album by DREAMS IN FRAGMENTS, which contains ten tracks, worthy of around forty-five minutes of melodic metal. The band hails from Switzerland and they start off with 'Everytime", a nice melodic rock song with some surprisingly mood changes halfway through, followed by a heavy part, including some male growls. Besides the melodic elements, the band also adds enough heavy guitar partsto their sound, which will certainly please every metal fan. These ingredients together create a dark atmosphere. Just listen to "Nightchild" where metal and melody blends very well together. Seraina's voice puts the melodic element in here, while occasionally the male growls take care of the metal part. It's like yin and yang is coming together and will keep it in balance. Seraina's voice doesn't really move towards an operatic soprano voice, which is good, because there are enough bands around that already do that. In "The Maze", the sound of a piano gives this song a special melodic touch. And during "Incomplete", the male growls are back again, however it never gets too extreme. Maybe that's the whole idea. The band moves between the paved path and comes out of their comfort zone as well. "Prologue" is a short instrumental intro, which turns into "Defy Every Storm" and contains some nice guitar riffs. It's one of the highlights on the album, as far as I'm concerned. The band has found the perfect balance and the metal influences really stand out here. In "Falling With A Crown", the metal influences also come off well and the male growls of guitar player Christian are very much upfront in the mix. "Little Red" ensures you more melodic excitement, while "In Flames" is the second highlight in my book. They definitely saved the best for last. The strong instrumentation creates a high class melodic rock song and the bombastic feeling works really well. The album closes with the fantastic "Unireverse". The bombastic orchestra is combined with some exciting guitar riffs, topped by a slightly operatic voice of Seraina, who does a great job here. Of course the male growls are there, too. This is the complete picture of a band that hopefully stands at the beginning of a long and very fruitful career. The first steps have been made on this nice debut album and I'm very curious what their next step will be. DREAMS IN FRAGMENTS consists of Seraina Schöpfer on vocals, Christian Geissmann on guitar, male vocals and orchestrations, Jan Thomas on bass and Frank Fritschi on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/dreamsinfragments or http://www.dreamsinfragments.ch. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EDENBRIDGE-Dynamind (Steamhammer/SPV)
We're celebrating the tenth studio album of the Austrian symphonic metal band EDENBRIDGE. I think that the fans will love it. The ten new songs are worthy of fifty-five minutes of symphonic metal, starting off with the ballsy "The Memory Hunter", in which guitarist Lanvall shows his skills. Clearly, the band is still an essential player in the symphonic metal scene. This catchy track with the great female vocals of Sabine Edelsbacher sounds truly amazing. "Live And Let Go" is one of the songs for which the band has made an official video. The mix of symphonic influences and metal riffs are in a good balance here. Another great example of Lanvall's raunchy metal riffs is the next song, "Where Oceans Collide". "On The Other Side" however contains some Irish flavors, which fit perfectly to their sound. "All Of Our Yesterdays" is a nice up-tempo track with enough power to give you a good time, while "The Edge Of Your Word" has more nice guitar work. The combination with the orchestral parts provides the album a good dose of melodic power. Also, there are some exciting mood changes, which give the song a progressive touch. The great guitar licks are the cream on top of it. Surely, this is definitely one of highlights in my book. "Tauerngold" on the other hand sounds very melodic, while "What Dreams May Come" switches to a more dreamy part halfway through. This emotionally charged instrumental is followed by a faster and more progressive part and even a band like DREAM THEATER would look pale here. It closes very surprisingly. The next song "The Last Of His Kind" also has a great mood change in the middle. The instrumental break reminds me of PINK FLOYD in their heydays and it's another great example of the exciting changes that turn up in each song. They are definitely on my list of highlights here. Title track "Dynamind" closes this tenth studio album of EDENBRIDGE, which is a short track, that gives the album a very worthy end. EDENBRIDGE brings out the best of symphonic, melodic metal and they are masters of the game. The band consists of Sabine Edelsbacher on vocals, Lanvall on guitar and keyboards, Dominik Sebastian on guitar and Johannes Jungreithmeier on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.edenbridge.org or www.facebook.com/EdenbridgeOfficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EGERIA-As Night Falls (EP) (independent / HLP)
EGERIA from Holland are presenting their new EP, called "As Night Falls" and I must say that we are positively surprised. The five songs, worthy of about twenty-five minutes of symphonic melodic metal are of a very high quality. This follow up to their first EP "Requiem Of Shadows" starts off with "A Night At The Mansion". People say it's haunted, so do you dare to go there?!? The symphonic influences are definitely there, but their sound is also dynamic and sometimes operatic and bombastic at times. Their music has got a catchy hook, yet they also rock loud and sound adventurous at times. This is a good opener for this band that was founded in 2013. "What Lies Beneath" is on next and the song reminds me a bit of U2, but then with more guitars. The beautiful voice of Nicole de Ruiter is definitely the biggest eye-catcher here. Together with the choir vocals and the bombastic instrumentation, they make up the main ingredients in this song. "The Rise Of The Fallen Queen" has a lot of variation and parts of it could very well be used as a soundtrack for an adventurous thriller. My personal favorite song on this EP is "Shattered Mirrors" which starts off like a romantic ballad with the beautiful clear vocals of Nicole. After the mood changes, it becomes a more adventurous symphonic metal track with innovative sidesteps, that will excite every fan of this particular genre. "Dawn Breaks" contains a lot of more bombastic influences, but also a fantastic guitar solo, which brings it all in balance. The EP cover looks a bit mystical and I think that is exactly what they want people to hear in their music. It may not be too easy to comprehend at times, but it definitely leaves something to wish for. I think, that they succeeded very well with that. EGERIA consists of Nicole de Ruiter on vocals, Maurice Schepers on guitar, Max Vijgen on keyboards and Joris Janssen on bass. Fans of EPICA and WITHIN TEMPTATION will have a good time with this nice CD, I guess. For more info, go to: http://www.egeria-band.nl or http://www.facebook.com/egeria.official. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ELUSION- Singularity (Art Gates Records / Rock Inc / HLP)
I hear angel-like voices, I hear bombastic orchestration and I hear some guitar riffs. I get an ominous feeling this could very well be the soundtrack album for an exciting movie. Then the vocals of Evy Verbrugge cut the tension and I will start to realize, that I'm listening to the full-length album of ELUSION from Belgium. Domingo Smets of ANCIENT RITES is the founder of this melodic symphonic rock band. Their debut album contains ten tracks, worthy of fifty-five minutes, starting off with "Choices And Changes" that will excite you for sure. There are also some wild growls in this opener, but I wouldn't call them brutal. Wild is perhaps a better description. The wild screaming vocals return in "The Tales That Trees Tell", which contains a nice combination of wild screams, clear vocals and bombastic choirs in the background. Besides the vocals, the instrumentation sounds adventurous and there is a lot to discover. Just have a listen to the intro of "The Strive", which changes to a heavy, up-tempo symphonic rock song, when the guitars start to riff. There are even haunting blast beats with some demonic CRADLE OF FILTH type of vocals here. Would you expect that on a symphonic melodic metal album? I guess not, so the adventurous listener will be in for a real treat, where a lot of unexpected things are happening. "Lovelorn" is a duet and the first song for which the band has made a lyric video. Because of the symphonic and slightly epic feeling, a band like BLIND GUARDIAN comes to mind. "In Eternity" slows things down a bit, which is the perfect song for Evy to show her skills. The spoken word part fits in perfectly here. When the dreaming is over, the guitars demand a place back in the sound. Seamlessly, the song moves over to the rawer "Reconcilation Of Opposites", which is once again a duet of male and female vocals. In the next track "My War Within", the loud riffing guitars get a leading role, which will really keep you focused. ELUSION is able to please the average symphonic metal fan, but also the fans who like it a bit louder will enjoy their music. These two sides will come together really well in "Crystal Doubts", that starts off in a symphonic way and switches over to a more up-tempo track, where the guitars rule, topped by the great vocals of Evy. Also, don't forget to check out the incredible guitar solo here. "Anamnesis" is probably the lengthy epical tune, that you all have been waiting for and Evy has got a few more vocal pull outs for you. Dream away by the orchestral part at the end of the song and you will realize that ELUSION is really something else. They dare to go beyond the paved path and excite until the very last moment. A name like XANDRIA may come to mind as one of their influences and they've already shared the stage together in the past. The CD closes with "Elusion The Strive (Spankraght mix)". I hear computer drum beats and electronic beats, so what the f*** went wrong here? Don't do this anymore please, your music is exciting enough to let in strange elements like that. I forgive them this time. ELUSION consists of Evy Verbruggen on vocals, Domingo Smets on guitar, Stijn van Perborgh on guitar, Kristof De Greef on bass and Frederik van Mieghem on drums. For more info, go to; http://www.elusion.be or http://www.facebook.com/elusionmetal. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ENCHANTRESS- Power (independent)
The Belgian outfit ENCHANTRESS rocks it out loud and on this debut full-length album, you can bang your head to seven tracks, worthy of thirty-five powerful minutes. When you hit the 'play' button on your device and "Power" starts off, then you know that all systems are on 'Go'! The heavy drum beats, the great heavy guitar riffs and the siren vocals are blasting at full speed and at the end of this song, there is even a part that will remind you of AC/DC, so what more can you ask for? Other influences might be from IRON MAIDEN and RIOT, judging by this opener. "Change" is a heavy pounder with a nice mood change further down. The guitar sounds raw, which surely makes the difference for a true metal band like ENCHANTRESS. "Architects Of Fear" has got a catchy hook, that will make you sing along to it once you've heard it. I would like to refer to a band like DOKKEN here, including the great guitar sound of course. People, who dig the sound of the eighties, will be really thrilled and who doesn't? I don't know who "The Lost Soul" is, but he can definitely play some mean guitar. "Time Will Tell" is another moment to shout it out loud. I just love the double bass drums kicking off by the only metal maiden in the band, Elizabeth Gjurova, who sounds like Denise Dufort (GIRLSCHOOL) in her heydays. In "Cradle Of Life", the band adds some more exciting mood changes. Influences of CRIMSON GLORY and/or QUEENSRYCHE could be recognized in the vocal parts maybe. This great CD closes with the incredible cover of RANDY's "The Beast". The female drum-beast starts this song with a loud bang, which is originally from this cult metal band from Denmark. The focus is on the guitar players here. I hear some influences of ACID here, but a lot of the credits go directly to RANDY and ENCHANTRESS of course. We watched the band live at Very 'Eavy a couple of years ago and I can tell you that they are also capable of putting a remarkable and powerful show on stage. The true metal scene in Belgium can be marked as safe with this release of ENCHANTRESS from Kortrijk. ENCHANTRESS consists of Tim Naessens on guitar, bass, synths and organ, Elizabeth Gjurova on drums, Vincent Audoore on guitar, Sven Baelen on bass and Jochen Mouton on vocals. For more info and to order this CD, go to: http://www.facebook.com/enchantressmetalband. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ETHEREAL KINGDOMS- Hollow Mirror (Mighty Music)
Nine songs, worthy of forty-five minutes of symphonic metal are on the "Hollow Mirror" album of ETHEREAL KINGDOMS from Denmark. Clean vocals meet angry wild screams and the orchestral parts decide in which direction their sound will be heading. Their symphonic side is being captured very well during opener "Distance". Of course you can't ignore their influences of NIGHTWISH and EPICA for some reason, but the theatrical part in ETHEREAL KINGDOM plays a very important role too, as you will notice. In "Beginings", you will also hear some male vocals. The metal fans will be very pleased with the brutal sounding "Ashes Within", which contains mean growls and a crazy heavy beat. The dialogue halfway through brings out the theatrical character in this song. It's like going blindfolded to an opera or musical. You will hear the sound but you must make out what happens on stage for yourself. The violin part at the end of the song is beautiful and very mystical. "Heatchamber" continues and it has that magic violin again. Sometimes, the music switches really fast from 'over the top' fast blast beats in "Endings" to a more symphonic kind of approach, that will remind you of (for example) a band like NIGHTWISH. The brutal growls sound even more aggressive, as a matter of fact. There are some choir vocals as well, but the blast beats keep coming. What a smashing combination! In "Silent Dance", the beautiful voice of Sofia Schmidt is really the key figure here. "My Kantale" starts off with acoustic guitars. It's a very sphereful song, in the BLACKMORE'S NIGHT tradition, including the acoustic guitars and choir vocals. The grunts are from a different kind though. The vocals of Sofia have that KATE BUSH kind of feeling all the way. The song has got a more folky character at times, but the grunt parts don't match too well, in my opinion. "Embrace Me" is a ballad type of song with a dreamy atmosphere to it, especially when you put it next to all the others. The violin and orchestration, in combination with the vocals, give it another dreamy sound, which fits in here pretty well. The male spoken word part is well-chosen, too. CD closer "Apparition" brings back all the aforementioned ingredients in this review in an even more extreme form. The blast beats are much faster and it sums up one more time, that ETHEREAL KINGDOMS is not a regular symphonic metal band, but they use more unexpected twists in their music. The hidden track is an ambient song with minimal orchestration and the beautiful vocals of Sofia. A band like HEILUNG could have done something like that, too. It would be very nice, if they would do something like that more often on their next album. It would definitely give their sound more variation. ETHEREAL KINGDOMS consists of Sofia Schmidt on vocals, Christian Rasmussen on guitar, Jakob Holm on bass and Jon Elmquist on drums. Go to: http://www.etherealkingdoms.com and http://www.facebook.com/EtherealKingdoms. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FOREVER STILL- Breathe In Colours (Nuclear Blast)
Besides dreaming in colors, rock band FOREVER STILL from Denmark is also breathing in colours, which is a totally new experience to me. Their new album has twelve tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes. It's safe to say, that their long term fans will like these new songs as well. Opener "Rewind" takes you back in time and when you compare it to the songs on their album "Tied Down" from 2016, it feels like time stood still. Sometimes, the band sounds very dynamic and groovy, while at other times they are more dreamy and sentimental. It has got a vibe that comes close to WITHIN TEMPTATION, only without the operatic vocals. "Fight" contains the same ingredients, although it's much more groovy and powerful. The vocal parts of Maja Shining are amazing and she really knows to impress the listener. Her clear, powerful screams and pull outs make all the difference. I also like her more dreamy and fragile singing parts, like in title track "Breathe In Colours", which get more powerful later on in this song. In "Is It Gone", that you will find back twice on this CD, the voice of Maja is getting really close to Anneke van Giersbergen's, which she can take as a compliment. "Survive" has a lot of energy and it belongs to the highlights on the album for me. "Do Your Worst" contains some distorted vocals by Maja, which is not my thing, but it fits very well here. I still don't know whether to like this or not. "Pieces" is another high quality melodic rock song with some angel-like vocals by Maja, next to her regular clean singing voice. Later on, there are some powerful screaming parts, which proves that FOREVER STILL has put a lot of effort and variation in this song, which seems to fly from here to there. "Rising Over You" is next up. It has a rather surprising heavy middle part, which sounds like it doesn't belong there, but it would have been odd, when they left it out. "Say Your Goodbyes" sounds very melancholic and it moves towards their old sound. I must admit, that "Breathe In Colours" sounds a lot more heavy than they ever were. "Embrace The Tide" is a very up-tempo track. Then we have arrived at the two bonus tracks. The first one is the acoustic version of "Is It Gone". Maja sounds fragile and beautiful here and is accompanied by the sound of a piano. The final track is the LOU REED cover "Perfect Day", which closes this rather mature and versatile album. FOREVER STILL has toured with the likes of CHILDREN OF BODOM, LACUNA COIL, CELLAR DARLING and more recent the FMV tour with SIRENIA and LEAVES EYES. With "Breathe In Colours", they have a bigger pallet of colors on display during their live shows. FOREVER STILL consists of Maja Shining on vocals, Rune Frisch on drums, Mikkel Haastrup on divers instruments and Partsch on guitar. Website: http://www.foreverstill.dk or http://www.facebook.com/foreverstill. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FRANTIC AMBER- Bellatrix (GMR Music)
If you like your music a bit more extreme, then you'd better tune in to the new FRANTIC AMBER album "Bellatrix". The nine bone hard death metal tracks are worthy of forty-five minutes of death warrior metal of the furious kind. The first notes of the intro to "Warrioress Overture" are being followed by massive drum beats, fast guitar riffs and the brutal grunts of these five warriors, that will split your skull in half in "Scorched Earth". This speedy ear attack will destroy your living room in five minutes and turn it into a bloody battlefield. The song features Boudica, the queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe. There's the explanation of the Celtic influences, which are tied up in this fiery opener. "Lagertha" follows the path of this Norwegian warrior that continues in a more ARCH ENEMY type of direction. The blast beats are a bit more extreme though and they would not sound strange on an album by CANIBAL CORPSE or CRADLE OF FILTH for that matter. "Joshitai" brings in some Eastern influences, actually Japanese influences, to be more precisely. The subtle hints to the Japanese culture shows up well at the very end of this song. The mysterious "The Ghost That Kills" starts off as an intro. When the flashing riffs have arrived, you will see some hair waving in the air and it's time to bang your head to the sound of the music. The growls are still brutal and extreme, but you won't deny that there is also some more melody to be found in this track. "Khutulun" sounds dark and it has some great guitar work. The speed goes down a bit and the variation factor comes around the corner here. Not for long though, because in "Hunted" the polka beats and blast beats are following each other in a never ending speed rhythm. "Crimson Seas" has more fiery guitar work and the heavy pounding beats in this song sound truly amazing. The best is saved for last with a stunning version of "The Black Knight", in which you will hear some exciting mood and speed changes. The loud and brutal roars give this CD closer another brutal dimension. "Bellatrix" has everything that a true warrior wants to hear. So become a warrior on this battlefield and chose your weapon to attack. The weapons used in this album have been handled by some real Swedish death metal warriors, namely Elizabeth Andrews on vocals, Mio Jäger on lead guitar, Milla Olsson on rhythm guitar, Madeleine Gullberg Husberg on bass and Mac Dalmanner on drums. Website; http://www.franticamber.com or http://www.facebook.com/franticamber. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GALLIA- Everflame (EP) (independent/HLP)
The EP of GALLIA actually feels like a full-length album, simply because it has six additional bonus tracks (all orchestral versions), bringing it up to a total of twelve songs and fifty-five minutes. GALLIA hails from Belgium and their symphonic metal contains some raw edges to please all the metal fans, as well as the fans of symphonic rock. Opener "Rain Starlight" is a good example of what this band is all about. Raw guitar riffs, a powerful and clear female voice, a haunting rhythm and firm drum beats topped by a fine orchestration and a catchy sound, all in all the perfect song to please the listener. "Devil's Cry" starts off with the beautiful vocals by singer Elyn. When the band adds some folky rhythms to their sound, it gives the song a catchy and somewhat Irish character, while the orchestration makes it all sound a little more bombastic. Elyn is an experienced classical rock singer, who also sang in musicals, so her voice will definitely please a large audience. The cover "Over The Hills And Far Away" of GARY MOORE is on next. I expected more brutality but it sounds happier and less Irish than this classic tune. But hey, perhaps the devil isn't such a bad guy at all. "Rise Of The Fallen" starts off with the sound of a flute and church bells, which creates a moody atmosphere. It goes over into a happy and catchy song, where the folky influences of Ireland are still lurking around the corner. However, there's also room for a steady beat and a nice guitar solo. The abrupt ending may sound a bit odd though. "Papercuts" contains some haunting orchestral parts, which makes the song darker and heavy at the same time, in combination with the guitar riffs. For a bit more emotion, you have to listen to "Fight Of Fools", which will surely please every symphonic metal fan. It shows the many faces of this band. I also hear some musical influences back in this song, which takes care of the nice variation between the songs. The final song on this official EP is called "Frozen Sun", which starts with some heavy riffs. This Eastern orientated song proves again that they have a great singer in Elyn, who gets some company from a male vocalist here. Obviously, we’re dealing with a very promising band that has a very bright future ahead of them. By the way: if you listen very careful to the bonus tracks in the orchestral versions, you can tell that they could be used very well for a movie or a musical. They are very nice as background music with the fine string arrangements, lovely bombastic sounds and great choir vocals. GALLIA consists of Elyn Vandenwyngaert on vocals, Yannick Maris on guitars and orchestration, Davy Coningx on guitars, Laurens Vandebroek on bass and male growls and Dieter Vantilt on drums. Website: http://www.officialgallia.com or http://www.facebook.com/GalliaOfficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JANET GARDNER- Your Place In The Sun (Pavement Entertainment)
Janet Gardner pursued a solo career, when she left VIXEN a long time ago. With "Your Place In The Sun", she marks her recent status in the music scene with an album which is packed with twelve songs, worthy of almost fifty-five minutes of steady rock. Her voice will always have that typical VIXEN trademark, but if you listen to the first powerful riffs of title track "Your Place In The Sun", you can tell that she didn't stop rocking, after leaving VIXEN. Prove was already given on her self-titled solo album, released in 2017. Two years later, she still rocks out loud and this opener is definitely one of the wildest songs here. Her husband Justin James joined forces with Janet and their team work resulted in these twelve songs that you will hear here. "Assassinate" is a good example of a flirt with the music of today. If you like it more the VIXEN way, then you can tune in to "Standing", with its powerful and catchy refrain. It could very well be on any VIXEN album, in my opinion. It rocks, it's catchy, so what more can you ask for? "Try" is on next. This is more like a 'feel good' song, which reminds me of the 4 NON BLONDES in a way, but hey I guess that's part of the variation on this album. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, otherwise she could have stayed with VIXEN for that matter. Gardner proves that she still has got a good voice with that little raspy edge to it. "Web" received some electric beeps that give it a more up to date sound and in combination with the wild guitars, it makes sense and gives the sound a more futuristic touch instead of hanging around in the past. My mind goes out to the sound of ALDO NOVA, who also did that on their new album and it sounds really phenomenal. "Kicks Me Back" rocks on steadily and the guitars give it some crunch again. I hear a lot of HEART influences in "A Way To Your Heart" and perhaps even better, they could have had a hit single with this as well. VIXEN fans will definitely like it and the futuristic touch in it matches mighty fine here. Could this be a hit single for Janet? It sure has got the potential. "Should Have Known" is another wild rock song and "Unconditionally" received a more commercial and catchy touch. The different music styles on this album really suit Janet and her band just fine and also the hard rock influences are never too far away. Just check out the track "You Said" to get my point. "Without You" has got a catchy edge and a nice guitar solo. "Flame Thrower" is the final song on this second solo album by Janet. We go out with a bang on this great foot stomper, which is a worthy closure of a good solid rock album by the former front lady of one of the biggest all-female metal bands of the world, VIXEN. I'm sure, you will be very pleased with this solo release, when you're a VIXEN fan. The line-up here is Janet Gardner on vocals and Justin James on guitars. What a great combination! Website: http://www.janetgardnermusic.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART- War In My Mind (Provogue)
BETH HART has got the voice to impress you in no time and she also knows to hit a nerve right away with her emotional songs. Besides that, she also has got a good feeling to write a catchy bluesy track. She is a centipede and she can do whatever she wants to do. Her new album contains fourteen tracks, including two live songs, worthy of a full hour of BETH HART experiences. The album kicks off with the up-tempo "Bad Woman Blues", a song that will get you in the right mood from the first moment on. And although the song is about a bad woman, it sure feels like a feel good song to me. Title track "War In My Mind" is on next and of course the mood is changing right away. Beth accompanies herself on the piano, another thing she does with a lot of passion and feeling. Like I mentioned already, this woman really is a human centipede that profiles herself in many different ways. The passion and emotion she sings and plays this song is definitely outstanding. Perhaps I must warn every true metal head of Metal Maidens here, that not everything this lady presents here will be suitable for the average rock and metal fan. The general music lover will really dig it, there is nog doubt about it, but if you're not broad-minded, then a song like "Without Words In The Way", no matter how beautiful it is, may sound a bit tough and not really the cup of tea that rockers would prefer. This easy-listening and jazzy track is very emotional and really beautiful indeed, but it would be a bit too soft for a real rocker. "Let It Grow" is on next and I would describe it as a gospel song in the new millennium. "Try A Little Harder" mixes soul with blues and is very easy on the ear. "Sister Dear" is a beautiful and emotional love song, dedicated to all sisters in the world, but you can think of your brother instead, if this would be suit you better. "Spanish Lullaby" doesn't really sound like a lullaby to me, but it swings and is up-tempo, while I expected a more dreamy song for your children to go to sleep. What's in a title? In "Rub Me For Luck", Beth sounds a bit like Adele. "Sugar Shack" is not a sweet song, but it's an up-tempo song on which you could dance, if you would like that. "Woman Down" is another song that fits just perfectly to Beth and her piano. It's covered with emotions and she knows to perform it, like no one else does. "Thankful" is next and for a very short moment my thoughts go out to BETTE MIDLER's "The Rose", which is also such a beautiful song, although this is only in the beginning. "I Need A Hero" is another piano type of ballad and the last song before we go to the bonus tracks. The two live songs have been recorded at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam 2018. The first track is called "Love Gangster", which is a sensual bluesy song, in which Beth's voice really shivers. The guitar solo sounds just great here, which you perhaps are missing a bit on the album. The second one is a ballad called "Fire On The Floor" and it also carries a nice guitar solo. It's from the same live show. BETH HART's new album is qualitative good and there is a war in my mind, too. However, for the real heavy rockers among us, better beware and listen to this first and distract two points from the final score. Website: http://www.bethhart.com or http://www.facebook.com/officialbethhart. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HESS- Harpokrates (Cult Metal Classic Records)
HESS is hailing from Argentina and the band combines classic metal with operatic vocals. The band started out as EUPHEMYA, but changed their name into HESS, after singer Melani Hess. Starting out as a tribute band with covers of SABBATH, MAIDEN and PRIEST, the band developed a music style of their own and their second album "Harpokrates" contains nine brand new tracks, worthy of almost a full hour. The album starts off with the song "King Aiwass". I hear a lot of IRON MAIDEN influences and just check out the very powerful guitar riffs. It's never over the top though and because of the female vocals, your thoughts will probably go out to a band like ZED YAGO here. The songs have been stretched out and "God Of Silence" has an amazing guitar solo. It's raw and unpolished and it matches very well with the powerful sound of HESS. "Thoth" is an epic master piece that will blow you away, mainly because of the great vocals by Melani. The very epic character of the song and the great guitar work are an eye-catcher here as well. "The Outsider" is easy on the ear and takes the song to a higher level, because of the incredible guitar solo. While in "Heroes", I hear these typical IRON MAIDEN influences back again. Needless to say, that this song has become another epical tale. The guitar solo is raw and energetic. The guitar licks of Diego Schmidhalter remind me a of Brad Gillis of NIGHTRANGER who could also play like his fingers were possessed, it sounds awesome. From the operatic voice of Melani there is not too much to be found back on this album, although the song "Battle Of Maldon" has got some different vocal lines that match a bit more with the operatic style she once practiced. "Chaos At Uruk" is one of my personal faves, it's the fast and aggressive atmosphere of the song that I like so much I guess. I prefer the more dynamic and energetic songs here. "Atlantean Dreams" is again a track with a more catchy edges and definitely a great guitar solo. HESS will please many classic metal fans out there. The CD closes with another amazing and powerful track called "Hagalaz", which is actually also the title of their first full-length album, released in 2014. It's another good example of the strength of HESS. They write powerful songs that may have got a bit of MAIDEN riffs at times but they also show a face of their own. Sometimes loud and fast, sometimes epic, but always with high quality. "Harpokrates" is highly recommended by yours truly. HESS consists of Melani Hess on vocals, Ariel Schefer on guitar, Martin Biengino on drums, Eric Knudsen on bass and Diego Schmidhalter on guitar. Website: http://www.hessheavymetal.com or http://www.melanihess.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JOANovARC- Joanovarc (Renaissance Records)
JOANovARC has just released a brand new self-titled album, which contains eleven tracks and about forty minutes of catchy rock and metal. Just listen to opener "Burning" for example. It's easy on the ear, has a steady beat and a very catchy refrain that you simply must sing along to. What a good start! I think that the band will be able to reach a bigger audience this way. "Waiting For" is also up-tempo and once again it will stick to your mind pretty easily. The choir vocals make it highly suitable for a possible hit single of this British quartet. They already shared the stage with bands, such as BAD COMPANY, MARILLION, GIRLSCHOOL, SLADE, BONNY TYLER and TOTO, to name but a few, so I guess they are on the right track. Their music has got that same catchy feeling. The next song, which is called "Down By The River", is a more traditional radio friendly song, while "People Coming Up" contains a lot of influences from THE DOOBIE BROTHERS. It rocks, but it never gets too extreme for that matter. It’s louder than THE BANGLES, but not as loud as GIRLSCHOOL or ROCK GODDESS, although the choir vocals in "Take It Out" tend to lean a lot towards these last mentioned two bands. It's a pounding rock song with a high party-time level. The obligatory ballad on this album is called "When We Were Young", but that's too far gone for me and I simply can't remember these days anymore. These young British ladies still have a long future ahead of them and they have got the future of rock in their hands. "Try It On" has got some nice guitar licks, although it's all done in service of this happy song. "Jane" sounds like a 'feel good' tune with some firm drum beats. It also contains a nice yet short guitar solo, that lifts it up to above average and could be categorized as a real highlight here. The second guitar solo even blew me away as well. I would love to hear more of this on the next album, please. "This Way" is a decent rock song, while in "Slipping Away" the band puts a little dose of reggae guitar in the intro. This up-tempo track changes quickly into the type of rocker, that I expected though. In CD closer "Go Home", the band gets out their acoustic gear on this rather melancholic track, before they say goodbye. These four ladies really know to catch your attention pretty easily and they are also very capable to write a decent rock song, that will stay in your mind for a long time. I think that they are a real promise for the future of rock in Great Britain. JOANovARC consists of Shalley Walker on lead guitar and vocals, Laura Ozholl on vocals and rhythm guitar, Ellie Daymond on drums and Keira Kenworthy on bass and vocal. Website: http://www.facebook.com/joanovarcofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS- Evolution (Napalm Records)
KOBRA AND THE LOTUS' new album contains ten new songs, worthy of about forty minutes. Opener "Evodem Evolution" starts off with some groovy riffs and heavy beats and I'm glad that the band is still moving in the hard rock and metal angle and they rock with a capital R. In the next song, called "Burn!", the band combines hard beats and heavy rhythms with some sidesteps that will most likely appeal to the average rock and metal fan of today. It's the first single, that was taken from this CD. This feeling is confirmed on "We Come Undone", which has some SKUNK ANANSIE influences here and there. The intonation of Kobra Paige sounds very much alike Skin at times. The groovy rhythms really strengthen that feeling. Same goes for the high and long pull outs that she knows to press out of her lungs. "Wounds" is heading in that same direction, which is no shame at all. It sounds very powerful and honest and the songs are really strong and dynamic. "Thundersmith" has got a very groovy beat, which is in the middle of SKUNK ANANSIE and PINK, but because of the loud guitar riffs, that accompany this beat, I would rather go for the first option. "Circus" is a firm rock song and in the ballad type of song "Wash Away", there's a little piece of rest. This screams for radio airplay, I guess. Influences of HEART could be recognized here, especially the way Kobra sings it with a lot of emotion in her voice. "Uar" is a more ballsy rocker and the heavy riffs in "Get The F*ck Out Of Here" really prove that the band is still a true heavy rock band. The CD closes with the powerful rocker "In The End", which makes you wish for more. KOBRA AND THE LOTUS prove why they are still a very inspiring band in today's rock scene. This album and their upcoming tour will definitely secure them a well-earned place in the highest ranks. Check out their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/KobraAndTheLotus or visit their official page at: www.kobraandthelotus.com and find out all the latest information about this amazing American rock outfit, that consists of Kobra Paige on vocals, Jasio Kulakowski on guitar, Ronny Gutierrez on guitars, Brad Kennedy on bass and Marcus Lee on drums. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LIV SIN-Burning Sermons (Despotz Records)
We're listening to the 'burning sermons' with a "Blood Moon Fever" and bid you welcome to the second album by LIV SIN. The song is heavy, easy on the ear and is a worthy opener. The band also shot an official video for "Blood Moon Fever", which is actually the second single, taken from this album. "Chapter Of The Witch", which follows next, is the third single from this album. It's definitely louder and has a lot of fast riffs and singer Liv Jagrell's very recognizable screaming vocals are there as well. In my thoughts, I see myself banging on this one for sure, without the hair unfortunately, but the nods would be there for sure. Besides the band, we also hear some orchestration parts back in the songs. Just check out "Hope Begins To Fade", which has some METALLICA kind of riffs in the beginning. The male vocals here have been done by Bjorn Strid of SOILWORK. "War Antidote" is fast and furious and you can easily sing along to the highly accessible lyrics. "At The Gates Of The Abyss" contains some nice slower parts with a modest guitar part, however when the speed goes up in the solo, they really get the bull by the horns. The modern beeps and sounds in the intro of "Slave To The Machine" are not really my thing. It's the first single from the album, which was launched four months before the actual album came out. Besides that, "Slaves To The Machine" is a great straight forward metal song, just like the short "The Sinner", which has some fiery guitar riffs and PRIMAL FEAR type of vocals. The highlight for me here is "Death Gives Life Meaning". It has some amazing heavy guitar riffs and powerful vocals, which reminded me of the days, when Liv was still a member of HYSTERICA under the name of Sinderella. I still have some great memories of their live shows here in Holland, by the way. The next song "Ghost In The Dark" has some influences of the darker songs of OZZY OSBOURNE, which the band can take as a big compliment. "Dead Wind Intermezzo" closes this ten tracks and forty minutes heavy metal album, which sounds fast and aggressive because of the fast and heavy drum beats and ARCH ENEMY kind of guitar parts. When the song fades away, the sermons are over. This album is a good follow up to the debut album "Follow Me". LIV SIN is: Liv Jagrell on vocals, Patrick Ankemark on guitar, Per Bjelovuk on drums, Tommie Winther on bass and Chris Bertzell on guitar. I just love the artwork of this second album, by the way. For more info, go to: http://www.livsinofficial.com or http://www.facebook.com/livsinofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LORDI-Recordead Live - Sextourcism In Z7 (AFM Records)
What about these sexorcists? This double live CD package by Finnish hard rock monsters LORDI, also includes a DVD of the same show in Switzerland, plus some bonus stuff. It’s too good to be true. Twenty horror charged metal tracks with a catchy feeling are there with a total playing time of about ninety minutes. Opener "Sexorcism" is the perfect song for an evening of LORDI madness. It is a catchy track with heavy beats, strong guitar riffs and that well-known LORDI sound that grabs you by the balls to never let go. The game is on and the band is ready to throw a big party that you will never forget about. "Would You Love A Monsterman" is next up and asks for some audience participation. The crowd just loves this hit single and starts to sing along right away. "Missing Miss Charlene / House Of Ghosts" follows then, which has a child choir in the background and some ghostly sounds from a real ghost house. You can leave that up to LORDI. The moody keyboards ensure the right atmosphere in "Your Tongues Got The Cat". This great pounder makes it possible to sing along to it pretty easily. "Heaven Sent Hell On Earth" is a true statement and it rocks quite firmly. "Mr Killjoy" on the other hand is very easy on the ear and extremely catchy. That's typical LORDI . Just check out "Rock The Hell Outta You" and you'll get the idea. Here and there are some spooky parts, like for example the intro of "Bloodred Sandman" and pretty soon, this moves over to another 'sing-along' part. In between these songs, there is also time for the weather forecast in "It Snows In Hell", which has a great outstanding guitar solo. I think, the best way to enjoy these songs is to watch the DVD at the same time. This will make the songs more alive, I guess. The first CD closes with "She's A Demon", another song with that typical catchy LORDI feeling. The second CD kicks off with "Slashion Model Girls", where the monstrous guitar player is standing in the spotlight. Then we catch the band "Naked In My Cellar" and you don't want to know what's going on there. Clearly, the "Rock Police" is visiting the stage as well. They also want to know what's going on. When the rock police is gone, the party continues with the catchy "Hug You Hardcore". There is however some time preserved for a ballad-type of song and tonight the band opted for "Evilyn", which has a nice guitar solo and some very emotional lyrics. "The Riff" is another fast rocker. It must have been a helluva party at the Z7 that faithful night. "Nailed By The Hammer Of Frankenstein" is another fast and furious epos and it has got an important role for the female monster in the band, Hella (what’s in a name??!!). "Who's Your Daddy?" continues the monstrous show of these Finnish shock rockers. But there is no time to take a good breath, as the band already explodes in "Devil Is A Loser". Of course the whole venue is waiting for that moment when the band is playing that monster hit they won the Eurovision Song Contest. And that moment has arrived now. It's a moment where the fans go crazy for sure. "Hard Rock Hallelujah" is a great song, which is the crown on LORDI's head. Without this song, there would possibly never have been a double live package like this. Watch the DVD of this amazing horror metal band, that is practicing some serious sexorcism here. Beware that this party may not be suitable for little children and old farts. Don't say, we didn't warn you. LORDI is: Mr. Lordi on vocals, Amen on guitar, Hella on keyboards, Ox on bass and Mana on drums. Website: http://www.lordi.fi. By the way: no animals, children or grannies were being harmed during the making of this album, the band has assured us. Let there be light, let there be sound, let there be guitar, let there be LORDI. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

L7-Scatter The Rats (Blackheart Records)
It's about twenty years ago, since we last heard of L7 and now a new album sees the light of day. "Scatter The Rats" contains eleven songs, worthy of a bit over thirty-five minutes. When you listen to opener "Burn Baby", you will immediately recognize the sound of the band. It's alternative, yet it still rocks and it has a catchy vibe. The guitars have that raunchy underground feeling and they rawk instead of rock. Just listen to that raw sound in "Fighting The Crave", that will do it very well in a live situation. Just shout out the title at the right moment and raise your fist. It's that catchy JOAN JETT type of feeling, that will make things right. "Proto Prototype" reminds me a little of "Death Wish". It's groovy and I think this is what the average L7 fan would like to hear. The band still sounds fresh and the songs get close to the sound that we know them for. Sometimes it's alternative, sometimes a bit dark, sometimes airy and it's even quite heavy at times. "Stadium West" would be a proper example of an airy song. I would even like to call it 'feel good' music, as it has the strength to make you happy. The distorted closure is part of the rebellious image of the band, which makes this album so great to listen to. It can go in so many different directions, yet it always stays L7. "Murky Water Café" sounds very alternative. The bluesy sound of the guitar riffs really make it a typical L7 song. The spoken word part is giving it a more alternative twist at the end. "Ouija Board Lies" is next and the vocals of Donita will easily turn back the time to twenty years ago. It sounds so recognizable, yet it's all new material. "Garbage Truck" will make you rock. It's a wild basher that is one of the highlights on this album for me. It's the shortest song, but also the most intense one. "Holding Pattern" sounds more alternative and it takes care of a nice varied sound all over the whole album. "Upping The Ice" contains some nice guitar licks by Suzi. "Cool About Easy" sounds cool and is easy on the ear, but that really won't be the explanation of what this song is all about, I guess. L7 fans can be very pleased that their favorite band is back together again. The CD closes with title track "Scatter The Rats", which is a nice addition to all the grungy rock songs, that L7 wrote in their impressive career. Their sound has been upgraded to the new millennium and as far as I'm concerned, the band is able to please many grunge, punk rock and alternative fans out there with this new release. Welcome back ladies, we've been waiting for you. L7 still consists of Jennifer Finch on bass guitar and vocals, Suzi Gardner on guitar and vocals, Demetra Plakas on drums and vocals and Donita Sparks on vocals and guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/L7theband [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARA LYNCH-Evil Enough (Tarasuz Records)
This is the debut album by female guitar shredder Tara Lynch, who asks herself, if she is "Evil Enough". The album contains ten tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes. Title track "Evil Enough" starts off, in which Tara's guitar playing is in service of the song. It is quite a firm and catchy rocker, including the powerful vocals of Mark Boals. Tara also does the lead vocals on this album. Just tune in to "Antidote", where she sings in a rather rough way with a slightly raspy voice. Her guitar playing is really excellent here. Tara is not the lady, who constantly plays in the spotlight though, so the album feels more like a group project. However, in some songs I hear loads of riffs flying around, like in the instrumental "Exit The Warrior", which more or less sound like a mix of MALMSTEEN, SATRIANI and VINNIE MOORE, especially the keyboards lean towards the MALMSTEEN kind of way. Tara called in the help of some befriended musicians on this album, which makes it even more pleasant to listen to. I'd like to refer to the craftsmanship of guest performers like Vinny Appice (BLACK SABBATH / DIO / HEAVEN AND HELL), Tony Macalpine (PLANET X / TONY MACALPINE), Phil Soussan (OZZY OSBOURNE), Mark Boals (RING OF FIRE / YNGWIE MALMSTEEN), Glen Sobel (ALICE COOPER) and Björn Englen (QUIET RIOT / YNGWIE MALMSTEEN). "Kringeworthy" is next and it's a nice rock song based on personal feelings. "Banishes From My Kingdom" is a more personal song and I hear some HEART influences in it. Just listen to the vocal and choir vocals. The drum beats are heavy and the speed change makes it sound more than fantastic. Then it's time to let the instruments do the talking in the instrumental "Gui-Tara Rise", a well-chosen title for such an amazing piece of craftsmanship, that never gets over the top when soloing. It fits very well to the rest of the material. "Unbreakable" is a continuation of the 'kringeworthy'-theme, that keeps coming back on the album. This song has another great speed change and also more HEART type of vocal lines, which Tara can take as a big compliment. "Enigmatic" focuses on Tara's guitar playing and it's another instrumental tune. The fast and powerful "Trustless" is next up and it proves that Tara is definitely more than just an average guitar player. Check out the fiery guitar solo, that she cranks out here. It sounds truly amazing! The CD closes with the groovy sounding "Feckless Lock". TARA LYNCH might be a newcomer in the scene but she sure knows to impress with her solid rock songs, outstanding guitar work and an impressive guest list. Gui-Tara will definitely have a very fruitful career ahead of her. Maybe not only as a solo artist, but who knows which band will be interested in her guitar playing in the (near) future. They all know now what she is capable of. She is a self-taught multi talent of which we will hopefully hear more after this nice debut album. Website: http://www.facebook.com/TaraLynchOfficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MADNES-Die With Your Beer On (Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records)
This is not the MADNESS of "One Step Beyond" and "Baggy Trousers". This is the Russian/German thrash and punk metal outfit MADNES with one S at the end. This threesome plays at full heavy speed and the album contains eight tracks, worthy of about twenty-five minutes. A warning upfront might be very useful, because some of you wild rockers will possibly get the urge to bang their head against the wall, when listening to the romantic love song"App", which marks this all destroying silver disc. "App" stands for 'Anti Posers Patrol'. Another warning follows right after, because this album is definitely not for wimps and posers and listening to it is at your own risk. The punky "Could You Play With Madnes" is on next and the aforementioned warning is still applicable here. Their underground concrete punk sound hammers on without any compromise and the band is like a steam train at full speed. In "Aura Noir" front lady Dara Kaos barks her venomous lyrics into the microphone, while the band haunts her at full speed. Metal fans will remember the intro of the title track "Die With Your Beer On" very well, because it's a sound file of IRON MAIDEN's "Die With Your Boots On". The song starts off slowly, but the speed change works like magic and in your thoughts you will see the slam dance in front of you, when they crank out this uncompromising fast ear attack. "FFF" is short and bone hard, while in "Outsider" I will get the idea that listening to an alternative intro of 'We Are The Roadcrew" of MOTÖRHEAD for a moment. The fast thrash riffs are linked to some hardcore and punk influences and it kills and rips the wallpaper from your bedroom wall. "Wild Force" starts with some raw guitar riffs and a steady beat. The brute growls of Dara sound rather metal here and there is something in here for fans of punk, thrash and death metal as well. The CD closes with "Old Time", which is in fact one big tribute to MOTÖRHEAD and their song "Dance" from the "Ace Of Spades" album with a different title. It's a bonus track under the section of 'In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll' and an honest tribute and great closure of this great and very dynamic album, which needs no other words. The pure and honest songs will speak for itself. MADNES consists of Dara Kaos on vocals and guitar, Paul Violence on drums and vocals and Mike on bass. Get your copy and FOAD. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/MadneSThrash/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MASQUE-The Dead Of Night (No Remorse Records)
This is the extended version of "The Dead Of Night" of MASQUE from Leicester in the UK. Now the CD contains eleven tracks instead of five, worthy of forty minutes. The heavy metal sound of MASQUE is as pure as it can be. I have been introduced to this amazing band by my penpal Woody, who was their roadie. He also gave me a copy of their vinyl album many years ago. His father played in a jazz band, called the FEARLESS HISS AND BOO BAND, that performed in my hometown Breda in the early eighties and we exchanged albums and tapes back then. This album is a real rough diamond. Just listen to the fast opener "Twisted Tales", which starts with the sound of a music box. Very soon the incredible voice of Jo Phipps will take over, before it explodes into an incredible heavy metal song, which easily can compete with the best of WARLOCK, CHASTAIN and BITCH. "Confined Insanity" is a short ballad, that actually is the intro to the fast rocker "Back With A Vengeance". Go ahead and shout it out loud, like I did just now. Title track "The Dead Of Night" still gives me the shivers. The ominous feeling of this song is really incredible. It could easily get the label of 'doom metal', which was actually just invented as a sub-genre of heavy metal. The exciting speed and mood changes will make your head go up and down, like you're possessed from one moment to another. "No Light To Die By" is on next and it shows that the band had gold in their hands with songs like that. Every devoted metal head knows these songs by heart, I guess, but the bonus tracks are probably not that well-known by the majority. They are actually from the first demo of the band, which starts off with the short and pounding speed metal song "Confined Insanity", that was also on the "A Rather Nasty Dream" compilation from 1989. The demo songs are recorded without the rhythm guitar player Simon Turner, but the rest of the line-up is the same as on the mini album. Hear the guitars cry on this fast basher. These demo songs match very well to the ones on the original mini album. Why they never did that in the first place will always remain a big question, I'm afraid. I think, it must have been a money thing. Anyway, we move on to "Watch The Children Play", which is another good example of how excellent this band really was. Just check out the amazing speed changes, the high voice of Jo and the great guitar riffs. This is heavy metal at its very best and how it's supposed to sound. 'No Light To Die By" is next and this time it's the demo version of this track. "The Tell-Tale Heart" follows thereafter and when you listen to the guitar solo, you will be in music heaven. Add to this, the amazing voice of Jo, who hits the high notes pretty easily and you will start asking yourself why this band never became any bigger than the underground scene. "Running Wild" is a wild pounder that would fit just fine on that one mini album, too. The CD closes with the short instrumental "Dream Stalker". MASQUE was one of a kind. They just missed the boat to be labelled NWOBHM, but that label would have been very appropriate, although I would rather go for heavy metal instead. The band resurrected not long ago and they even appeared on the bill of the prestigious Keep It True Festival. As they don’t sound like in the old days anymore, their name was scratched from the bill afterwards. From the original line up, only bass player Pete Jensko is still active in the band. What a shame, the other well-talented band members chucked it in. The line-up of MASQUE was: Pete Jensko on bass, Jo Phipps on vocals, Lee Russel on guitars, Simon Turner on rhythm guitar and Chris Hyde on drums. I would say that this CD is a very essential buy. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

METALITE-Biomechanicals (AFM Records)
Does a mix of power metal with electronic elements from the trance era work out? When you listen to the album of METALITE, you may possibly find out, because that is exactly what METALITE is trying to do. The band from Sweden released their second album, which contains eleven tracks and fifty minutes of modern power metal. "Far From The Sanctuary" starts off with fast guitar riffs and heavy beats and the electronic beeps and rhythms are tied to it. It sounds exotic and you must be open-minded to really dig it. Sometimes it can work, but not always. On a festival it could be very exciting, but if you're not open to these modern trance influences being mixed up, this could be a hard struggle for you. The drum beats on "Apocalypse" are not firm and they sound electronic and much softer. Vocalist Emma Bensing has left the band in the meantime and is now being replaced by Erica Ohlsson. The guitar solo in this one doesn't sound distorted and it adds a metal vibe to the song. Title track "Biomechanicals" is next and the electronic parts are really annoying me, but the harder parts sound just fine. Sometimes they take the lead, like in the beginning of "Warrior" and I simply feel the urge to skip the song, but with a title like that it must also have a heavy side and that's what's not bad at all. The songs are catchy and the power metal of a song like "Mind Of A Monster" really explodes in your face. However, when I listen to "World On Fire", I must say that this is not really my cup of tea. I'm having different thoughts the whole time and it constantly changes. Sometimes they are even different in one song. The heavy metal scene has changed so much over the years though, that I think this will eventually deserve a place there. "Eye Of The Storm" follows thereafter and the dynamics are there for sure. Once you've heard many songs like that, you get used to the sound, although they don't really stick to your mind. The obligatory ballad on this album is called "Breakaway" and you are able to enjoy the beautiful voice of Erica to the fullest. She is a great singer for sure. "Social Butterflies" sounds very dynamic, whereas "Rise Of The Phoenix" has got a bit too much electronic elements again for my taste. You decide for yourself. METALITE definitely has all and everything for the metal head of the twenty-first century, but if you're stuck in the hard rock and heavy metal from the middle ages, like I am, you might go and look for something less modern. The metal riffs however and the energetic and powerful side of METALITE might sound just fine for you. The album closes with "Victory Or Death", which is exactly what we've discussed here at the end of this review. There is at least a victory for the great guitar solo in here, that's for sure. You might want to call this album a victory or a bomb. I'm stuck in the middle of it, but I like to give them the benefit of the doubt. METALITE consists of Erica Ohlsson on vocals, Edwin Premberg on guitar, Robert Örnesved on guitar, Robert Majd on bass and Lea Larsson on drums. Website: http://www.metalite.se or http://www.facebook.com/metalitemetal. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOONLIGHT HAZE-De Rerum Natura (Scarlet Records)
MOONLIGHT HAZE is hailing from Italy and their debut album "De Rerum Natura" contains ten tracks, worthy of about fifty minutes. Their symphonic power metal sounds quite alright and prove is given in opener "To The Moon And Back". References would be NIGHTWISH, EPICA and DELAIN maybe and they can take that as a compliment here, because these are actually the leading Dutch bands in this particular genre. The bombastic influences of EPICA are noticeable in "Ad Astra", whereas the opener sounded much more catchy and accessible. "Odi Et Armo" has some nice orchestration parts, however the vocals are the most exciting thing here, simply because Chiara Tricarico has got a great voice, who sounds clear and powerful at the same time. Another reference here would be TEMPERANCE, where Chiara and drummer Giullio played in, before they joined MOONLIGHT HAZE. "The Butterfly Effect" is next and it's there that we hear the more powerful side of Chiara's voice. In "Time" we hear some guest appearances by Mark Jansen (MAYAN, EPICA) on grunts and Laura Macri (MAYAN) on vocals. It's a fast symphonic metal song with a hammering beat and some operatic vocals, which reminds me of EPICA in many ways. The intro of "Dark Corners Of Myself" takes you to some kind of a Middle Eastern atmosphere, but that's as far as it goes. The speedy guitar riffs are really excellent here. Then all of a sudden, this Middle Easters feeling returns at an unexpected jazzy part at the end of the song. I would really like to select this as one of the highlights on this album. This Middle Eastern feeling returns again in the beginning of "A Restless Mind", which is in fact a regular symphonic rock song. In "Deceiver", the vocals of Chiara are the main focus here again. She really makes the difference between an average band or just another fraction higher. Just listen to the beautiful ballad "A Shelter From The Storm", which is on next. The fast and pounding "Goddess" closes the album, which includes another mind-blowing guitar solo. It's a speed monster from the best category. MOONLIGHT HAZE is a nice addition to the symphonic power metal scene. The band consists of Chiara Tricarico on vocals, Giulio Capone on drums and keyboards, Marco Falanga on guitars, Alberto Melinato on guitars and Alessandro Jacobi on bass. Go to: http://www.moonlightmaze.com or http://www.facebook.com/Moonlightmazeband for more information about this Italian outfit. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOLASSES-Molasses (EP) (Van Records)
It's 2017, when THE DEVIL'S BLOOD disbanded. Two years later, in 2019, MOLASSES released their two track self-titled EP "Molasses" with Farida Lemouchi behind the microphone. Because of her typical vocal sound, the name of THE DEVIL'S BLOOD can't be left out in this review. However, there is more than meets the eye here, as the two songs contain a nice mix of psychedelic and alternative rock and metal with a dark approach. On the A-side of this blue colored marble vinyl pressing, we find "Mourning Haze" which is an up-tempo track, in which the vocals of Farida are very much upfront in the mix. The music style is mainly psychedelic rock, but it has also got some jazzy influences. The instrumental part is lengthy and exciting and it's like one spontaneous jam, in which the freaks have everything on their side. You could call it the 2.0 version of THE DEVIL'S BLOOD, simply because MOLASSES consists of almost all of the former members of this outrageous band. On the B-side is a song called "Drops Of Sunlight", that will definitely be warmly welcomed by all the fans of Farida's former band, too. The sound of MOLASSES is a bit warmer, but it has got the same strength to drag you away to a far distance in your mind. In this song, there's also a lengthy and exciting instrumental part, which will make you float away on the rays of the sun. It's good to know, that MOLASSES is a new outfit that carries the torch. They don't copy the sound of THE DEVIL'S BLOOD and I'm sure that they will please many fans of this band by creating a sound, that comes close to that, mainly because of the recognizable vocals of Farida. MOLASSES is Oeds Beydals on guitar, Ron van Herpen on guitar, Job van de Zande on bass, Bob Hogenelst (BIRTH OF JOY) on drums, Matthijs Stronks (DONNERWETTER) on keyboards and Farida Lemouchi on vocals. Mind you, this is not a reunion of THE DEVIL'S BLOOD! Fans of THE DEVIL'S BLOOD and people, who like bands such as DOOL and GOLD, who are from the Netherlands as well, will have a good time with this awesome looking EP. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MYSTERY BLUE-8Red (Massacre Records)
MYSTERY BLUE is one of the defenders from the French heavy metal scene and "8Red" is the title of their eight studio album, which you pronounce as 'hatred'. "Hatred" starts the CD, which has fast rhythms, great guitar work and on top of that, the powerful voice of Nathalie Geyer. This energetic heavy metal song will definitely make the fans very happy. "8Red" has eleven tracks, worthy of about a full hour. After this fast opener, you're soaked into a darker and slower track, called "One Shot", which still sounds heavy and groovy. "Killing Innocence" is a great song and Nathalie rules with her high screams, but the fading end is perhaps a bit weird here. The guitar solo is also excellent. "Throwaway Society" proves that the band is able to turn their hand to almost anything. MYSTERY BLUE is an all-round band, so to speak and you will hear that back in the variety of songs. Nothing sounds like the previous song, which is great. The ultra-fast "Vikings Of Modern Times" is more or less a song about warriors, while in "Final Flight", the focus is really on the fine guitar work by string pullers Frenzy and Sylvain. Their guitar riffs are always in service of the songs. Just check it out and listen to the mind-blowing guitar part, in which they take the spotlight. This is truly amazing. "Legions Of Metal" is what this band is all about. They are one with their fans and they defend the true heavy metal feeling. They have shared the stage with many big names, such as VIRGIN STEELE, WOLF, GIRLSCHOOL, PARAGON and POWERWOLF, to name a few. They know their strength, which is playing heavy metal for the true believers and they don't go for any commercial success or any trends. Just listen to the very fast and powerful pounding beats and riffs in "Beast Within" which will make your heavy metal heart beat faster. The speed change in this song is breathtaking and exciting at the same time. In "Earth Without Humans", the musicians take turns to impress the listener, especially the innovative drum parts of Vince sound quite impressive here. Then it's time to slow things down a bit in the slower track "Introspection". The double leads are still there and they are very impressive indeed. However, the best is saved for last. In the lengthy bonus track "Rock Heroes Ride Loud", the band gives it all they've got one more time. The intro reminds me of "Fast Of A Shark" of Accept, where a dusty, cracking record is brutally being pulled from the record player and then the band takes it over. The speed changes, guitar solos and impressive vocals, it's all there. It's a great way to praise your rock heroes and MYSTERY BLUE does all of that and a lot more. Don't be hatred, just buy and listen to this amazing French metal attack for yourself, you will be truly amazed. MYSTERY BLUE consists of Nathalie Geyer on vocals, Frenzy Philippon on guitar, Sylvain Ebersoldt on guitar, Florian Trug on bass and Vince Koehler on drums. For more info, go to their website at: http://www.mysteryblue.com and facebook page at; http:// www.facebook.com/officialMysteryBlue. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MYSTIK-Mystik (I Hate Records)
MYSTIK is hailing from Sweden and they are playing speed metal in the old school heavy metal tradition. When you listen to this debut album, you will know what I'm talking about. Their album has eight tracks, worthy of thirty-five minutes. In opener "Into Oblivion", I hear a lot of influences from ACID. The vocals of Julia sounds very much alike Kate's and the fast rhythm and flashing guitar solos show a lot of resemblance to this Belgian cult metal outfit. "Nightmares" is quite speedy as well and don't forget to listen to the high vocal pull outs here. It's really amazing how true metal this band actually sounds. Another band that comes to mind is the all-female outfit ORIGINAL SIN, who also had the same vocal range and created a speedy metal sound on their one and only album "Sin Will Find You Out". After these nice songs, MYSTIK fires another bullet from their gun, ready to hit its target. This time it's "Ancient Majesty", which sounds all-destroying again. "Gallows Hill" is powerful and names like BITCH and OMEN also come to mind. In "Lake Of Necrosis", the band shows that they have a lot more on their sleeve than just playing uncompromising speed metal. This song has got a nice intro and may sound slower and it also has got a lot of exciting moments, that every devoted true metal fan will like a lot. It proves, that the band doesn't stick to one music style only. "Hellish Force" is driving at full force again with many fast riffs and ditto vocal lines. One of the highlights on this album for me is "Bleed For The Night", where the band shows so much power. The extra dose of dynamics turns this song into a real heavy metal anthem. The CD, that lasts much too short as far as I'm concerned, closes with title track "Mystik", which is another mighty heavy metal anthem. These three ladies and one guy really know how to stand proud among the many competitors in this scene. I think, that MYSTIK will come out as a real winner here, because this debut album has just winners. Full score for this Swedish outfit, that will make you devoted to speed metal again. MYSTIK consists of Lo Wickman on rhythm guitar, Beatrice Karlsson on lead guitar, Julia von Krusenstjerna on bass and vocals and Sven Nilsson on drums. For more info, go to their facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/mystikswe. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

NIGHTQUEEN-Seduction (independent)
I think that this Belgian outfit is going to seduce you with their brand new album. It contains twelve tracks and is worthy of a full hour of symphonic power metal. Well, that can be arranged and just get ready to be rocked. In the short instrumental intro, they stick a needle in your arm for a "Power Infusion", which starts with the amazing and fast and pounding "Energy". More of that, please! Their sound is very overwhelming and will give you energy right away. In "Seduce Me", the band proves that they're not only capable of winning the old school metal fans, but the new generation of metal heads is not left out either. Names like JUDAS PRIEST and HANMMERFALL come to mind, while listening to the powerful "Wall Of Sorrow". This is power metal from the book and that's why a good powerful ballad really belongs in here. Just tune in to "Fuel By Fire" and you will exactly get what you're looking for, including nice guitar solo. "Nightmares" will take you back to a more powerful song, in which the vocals of Hellen may not be missed. Especially in this track she shows what a miraculous voice she has. It's powerful, high and also very dynamic. She is also able to deal with some very emotional vocal lines. Prove is given in "Silence And Tears", a duet with Peter Evrard, who was a candidate of the Belgian Idols competition in 2003 and now the vocalist in 10ROGUE. It turns into a great powerful duet with more exciting guitar eruptions. "Termination" is another great and very dynamic song. I must admit that NIGHTQUEEN really knows to astonish me, especially through their energetic sound, which reminds me of ZED YAGO sometimes, because of their slightly bombastic sound. "Name Of The Gods" starts off with the sound of a piano, which soon is being accompanied by some guitars as well. The name of ZED YAGO comes to mind again here. The sound of the guitars is amazing and the guitarists put themselves into the spotlight in "In Flames". After that, the sound of birds will introduce you to the bombastic "Return To Wonderland", which could very well be used for a musical. The amazing vocals by Hellen will surely knock you off your feet. "Nightfall" closes the album, which is another fast basher. Well, here you go, a NIGHTQUEEN that is seducing you with some great and powerful songs, that really sound amazing. There is something here for everyone and I think and hope that this is only the beginning of a long and very fruitful career. NIGHTQUEEN is Hellen Heart on vocals, Rex Zeco on guitar, Cosi Matrigiani on guitar, Andy Herman on drums, Paddy Lee on bass and Gio Zuccari on keyboards. Visit their facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/nightqueenmetal. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OLATHIA-Snake Charmer (independent)
OLATHIA is hailing from Cleveland, Ohio and their album "Snake Charmer" contains nine tracks, including a bonus track, worthy of about forty-five minutes of melodic thrash metal. Opener and title track "Snake Charmer" starts off with an acoustic intro, after which the groove will take you away on a road, where you're treated to powerful and clear vocals, steady drum beats and fast guitar parts. At the end, the speed goes up and for a moment I thought that a fast blast beat would come up next, but it stopped rather quickly. "Martyr" must be a tribute to one of the longest existing heavy metal bands from Holland with the same name. I'm only joking here. It's a very intensive loud bashing thrash song with a fast rhythm and ditto guitar work. I must admit that I really like the vocals of Chris, but the screaming part at the end is a bit over the top for me. Her regular clear voice fits much better in here, no matter how extreme it will get. "Isolation" continues and after a slow start, they blast away at full speed. Clearly, there are some references to IRON MAIDEN, which they can take as a big compliment. Just listen to the guitar riffs and you will know what I mean. The mood change at the end is really marvelous and OLATHIA sound very innovative here. I like the machine gun riffs in "Victory", which is a fast rocker. And there is another fast metal track coming right there after, called "Black Widow", where the drummer hits it off into the sixth gear. "RoToG" sounds quite extreme. It's obvious, that besides melodic metal influences, OLATHIA likes to search for boundaries in this music style. In "Torn Apart", the male and female choir vocals/shouts are very much upfront. It sounds quite aggressive and fast. "American Dream" is the final song on this second album. It includes some blast beats and an amazing guitar solo. They really know to impress me here and prove that there is a fine line between melodic and aggressive metal. The CD closes with a nice bonus track of the CHILDREN OF BODOM cover "Punch Me I Bleed". I love those groovy rhythms and the guitar solo puts a cherry on this tasty snake pie, which is best served at very high volume. OLATHIA is definitely worth checking out and also the artwork on this release looks marvelous. OLATHIA consists of Chris Ernig on vocals, CJ Langmack on guitar, Greg Gruben on guitar, Terry Johnson on bass and Brian Donahue on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/olathiametal. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PANNDORA-Uranie (Inferno Records)
This amazing all-female Brazilian heavy metal band PANNDORA stands proud for metal. They present their brand new album, called "Uranie", which contains eight tracks and forty minutes of amazing heavy metal. They start off with "Shout It Out", where the band shows that they like their music in the traditional way. It balances on the thin line between rock and metal, yet it sounds energetic and quite powerful at the same time. Title track "Uranie" is easy on the ear. The guitar solo is amazing and it proves that PANNDORA knows to deliver high quality music with a good feeling for melody. Just have a listen to "False Excuses", which is next up. Again the guitar solo is really the highlight here and the choir vocals are great as well. It’s the melody that makes sure this band sounds far above average. In "Cold Eyes", the ladies go really wild and turn up the speed. The wild galloping rhythm is a nice balance with the more melodic parts. "Death Is Not The End" is a powerful ballad, in which the band takes back some speed, however there's a nice speed change in the middle, which introduces the guitar solo. The guitar riffs remind me of JUDAS PRIEST, which is definitely one of the main influences of the band. While "Partners In Crime" is a mix of influences from the old school metal bands, such as IRON MAIDEN, WARLOCK and JUDAS PRIEST. The fast beat and exciting rhythms are great and I think this is one of the highlights on the album, as far as I'm concerned. Next up is a tender ballad, called "The Moorland". I guess, every good metal album needs one. The album closes with a very special treat. The fact that these Brazilian ladies cover "Electric Eye" of JUDAS PRIEST really proves that these ladies are heavy metal through and through and there's no doubt about it! PANNDORA brings a great mix of melodic metal and heavy metal and hopefully they will be able to reach many people from all over the world with this new album. Buy it or be sorry!! PANNDORA is Renata Paschoa on vocals, Luana Bomb on guitar, Adrismith on drums, Taise Bijora on bass and Rebeca Rastelli on guitar. Website: http://www.facebook.com/panndoraband. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PERSEPHONE'S DREAM -Anomalous Propagation (Melodic Revolution Records)
Eleven tracks and seventy-five minutes of progressive rock (or symphonic neo-prog, as the band likes to call it) is what you get on the new album of PERSEPHONE'S DREAM. In opener "Redlight Syndrome" the band is showing their progressive side right away and I hear many influences from the early GENESIS days, only this time with a female vocalist. The long instrumental parts are interesting and also the experimental sidesteps are very exciting. There is a lot going on here, which keeps the listener focused. I hear high-pitched choir vocals, spoken word dialogues and yet there are even some amazing instrumental parts to dream away. In "Surveillance", the dreamy parts are still there and just listen to the great angel-like choir vocals as well. In general, this song is a bit more up-tempo and maybe a bit less progressive. "Despoina's Dagger" starts off with drum and bass parts and it develops into another experimental masterpiece, in which the band lets their inspiration run away. The inspiring bass parts are being accompanied by dreamy vocals, sometimes jazzy rhythms and innovative vocal parts, which will bring you to a world, where the music will catch you by surprise, rather than sounding really heavy. The vocals in "Queen Of Fools" are great, while in "Rhizomatic Horizon", the many speed and mood changes and instrumental parts will catch your attention. The band has put so many nice musical ideas in here and you have to listen to it several times to realize what's going on. Think of a band such as DREAM THEATER, RUSH or LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT for that matter, when talking about adventurous sidesteps. It never gets really heavy, but if you're open-minded and appreciate any of the aforementioned bands, then you'll be in for a real treat. Just check out the amazing parts in "Deep Web". I guess that the DREAM THEATER of today can still learn a lot from these experimental mood changes, which has a leading role for the keyboards this time. Don't get caught in their web, if these experimental soundscapes are not your thing. You might get strangled in them and before you know it, you can't get out anymore. Connoisseurs and true believers of progressive rock will be longing for more after every song. "Translucent" sounds a little darker, but it's adventurous enough to keep you focused. Guitar lovers can definitely tune in to "Defenestrated", where a Steve Hackett type of guitar solo is being presented, which is beefed up with a rather dreamy element. "Love" is not a real love song. It's a duet and it's actually the most accessible song on this album, I guess. "Candlelight" is next, which contains more interesting musical ideas. The album closes with the relatively short "Principle Amot". This song is in a jazzy kind of style with the spotlight on the drummer, but there is still enough to enjoy here. All in all, there is never a dull moment in your 'Persephone's Dream' and when you wake up, all you gotta do is to relive this magic moment of excitement and push the 'play' button again. PERSEPHONE'S DREAM consists of Heidi Engel on vocals, Rowen Poole on guitars/synths, Chris Siegle on bass/synths, Laura Martin on pianos/keyboards/synths/vocals, Jim Puskar on drums/percussion and Jason English on guitars/vocals. Robin Hasenpflug plays cello as a guest musician. http://www.persephonesdream.com or www.facebook.com/persephonesdream. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WRAITH-Revelation (Cargo Records/Ice Rain Records)
WRAITH is the band, where former PHANTOM BLUE bass player Kim Nielsen relocated to after this fabulous band collapsed. The band's new album is called "Revelation" and it contains ten tracks, worthy of approx. forty minutes. The band plays some high octane fueled hard rock, that will definitely get your party going. Check out this great band in "Lifeline", which will blow you off your feet for sure. I hear some cool guitar work, steady beats, a fast rhythm and the thundering bass sound of Kim, who will hit you right in your face. Don't say we didn't warn you. Because of the harsh vocals of Ryan, my thoughts immediately go out to LITA FORD in the firm rocker "Dream Steeler". Their energetic rock also has some old school MOTLEY CRUE influences here and there. The catchy chorus takes care of that, just listen to "Into The Fire". There are also some guest musicians on this album. To my big surprise, I hear Pete Way (ex-UFO) playing the bass guitar on "Under The Hammer". It's good to hear that this legendary bass giant hasn't retired yet and he is still rocking it out loud. The spotlight is also on the guitar solos in this song, which are truly amazing. Pete also appears in the next track "Leaving Me Again" with some bass tricks. This song has got Tony Mills (R.I.P) (ex-SHY, ex-TNT) on vocals. Tony will also be on another song at the end of this CD. Tony's input gives this song a more melodic feeling and you know where that comes from. He also adds a little more emotion to it. The choir vocals are perhaps a bit over the top or my taste, but they fit quite nicely in here. I guess, that even fans of DEF LEPPARD might like these refrains very much - get it?!? "No Respect" will start off with some wild bashing again. Clearly, the good mix of wild, energetic songs and melodic stuff will definitely touch your soul. "Invasion" on the other hand contains some groovy riffs. It stays very catchy though. All in all, WRAITH has released a very fine album here. The intro of title track "Revelation" is a spoken word part, after which it explodes into a fiery rock song, called "Human Hater". Think of TWISTED SISTER or any other DEE SNIDER solo related band here, when you talk about influences. It has got a full score for being a hot rock song in my book. If you don't like songs like that, then you're reading the wrong page, I guess. The demo bonus track "Hunted", closes this magnificent album of WRAITH. It has Ryan Coggin on vocals, although Tony Mills has got another guest role here as backing vocalist. This time there is no space for any melodic feelings though. I also would like to add the name of ALICE COOPER as influence, as he crossed my mind a few times, when writing this review. The album contains ten cool rock songs and you will definitely have a great time listening to it. Kim has recorded two albums with WRAITH and she is married to BELLADONNA drummer Adam Parsons. Nice detail is that this well-talented lady also played in ASIA on the "Silent Nation" album. WRAITH consists of Ryan Coggin on vocals, Gregg Russell on guitars, Dieter Schänzer on guitars, Jay Graham on drums and keyboards and Kim Nielsen on bass. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/UKWraith [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: February 14, 2020]

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