CD REVIEWS


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


Winter 2018 - Spring 2019:

ARAPACIS-Deja Doom (Blackhouse Records)
ARAPACIS has become a well-known name over the years for Metal Maidens. The title of this four track EP already reveals something from the music style that we are about to hear. Mind you, ARAPACIS hasn't suddenly become a black souled slow paced doom metal outfit, but their music is a bit more heading into that direction. The four songs are worthy of around thirty minutes of music, which isn't just value for money, but it also shows that there are some lengthy workouts to be discovered here. The EP starts off with the six minute plus opener "Consequences Of Dreams". There may not be too many female fronted doom metal bands out there, but Shelle Macpherson really knows to hit those notes right. She doesn't only have a nice crystal clear voice, but she also knows how to growl and scream, which is quite essential for this type of music. Jerry Fielden's guitar riffs might be a bit slower here, but they have a lot of emotion, which is a very important factor for doom metal. You just need to feel the pain and the sorrow and he does it exactly right. However, the second six minutes plus song sounds even better in my opinion and it leaves a huge impression on me. The BLACK SABBATH and CATHEDRAL type of instrumental part in the middle gives this song just the right sauce, that it needs to reach far above average. The high vocal lines of Shelle are right the opposite of the low tones that Jerry spreads out and because of that they keep each other in balance. "Drop Of Hope" is indeed a drop of hope for those who thought that doom metal was as dead as a doornail. "The Green Fairy" is just over eight minutes and as the title already suggests, it contains some fairy tale type of vocals by Shelle, but that's only in the beginning, because that will soon change into a more witches kind of sound. It must be said, that ARAPACIS definitely cranks out these doomy tracks in a very authentic way. Names like CANDLEMASS or COVEN could be used as a reference here and I can definitely recommend this EP to all die hard dark doomsters out there, because the high level of the aforementioned bands is definitely reached here. The cherry on the cake is the twelve minute plus "End Of The Line". You can feel the sadness and the sorrow in this song and on top of this all, there is this flaming guitar explosion that will surely give you wings. In your thoughts you can fly to the end of the line after this. The doomy riffs are drenched into subtleness and they bring doom metal back to its roots. You can only understand this when you've reached the end of the line. It's there after thirty minutes or something and I've loved every single second of it. Over the years, ARAPACIS have truly impressed me by doing so many different music styles and with "Deja Doom", they did it again, for I'd never expected that they would deliver a doom metal EP. And I'm so glad that they did it. They even adjusted the artwork to the music style. The bird on the tree (I think, it's a raven) is a very doomy pic to use. Now you know that the sun will never shine again. ARAPACIS consists of Shelle Macpherson on vocals and Jerry Fielden on instruments. Visit the band's facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/arapacis or the official Arapacis website at http://www.arapacis.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCH ENEMY-Covered In Blood (Century Media)
The concept of this CD is hidden in the title. This CD of ARCH ENEMY contains twenty-four cover songs, ranging from TEARS FOR FEARS to CARCASS. Can you think of a much wider selection for that matter? It's a roller coaster ride through the main influences of this very popular metal outfit. And to show you that they really mean it, they start this amazing bumpy trip with "Shout" of TEARS FOR FEARS. In the beginning of this song, you'll hear bits, snippets and pieces from the original version (blurgh!!), but when the grunts and riffs are being added, your head will start banging and the well-known ARCH ENEMY sound has entered your mind. If the band members of TEARS FOR FEARS could hear this, they would curse the day that they released the original version, I think. PRETTY MAIDS' "Back To Back" is a more obvious choice for a band like ARCH ENEMY. It sounds very brutal, because of the growls but the riffs could have been done by the original PRETTY MAIDS guitarists. The song was a bonus track on the Japanese version of the "Will To Power" album. I love the original version of MIKE OLDFIELD's "Shadow On The Wall" and some songs could better stay untouched, but ARCH ENEMY created a heavy version, which sounds dark and slightly doomy with influences of new wave here and there. The guitar part is melodic and the pounding drum beats match very well with it. The cover of "Breaking The Law" of JUDAS PRIEST is a bit too much for me. The brutal growling vocals turn it into a thrash song, while it will always be a metal anthem in my heart. I don't know the original version of "Nitad" of MODERAT LIKVIDATION, a Swedish hardcore punk band, but it sounds extreme, fast, raw and loud and this song goes directly over in "When The Innocent Die" of ANTI-CIMEX, a Swedish crust punk band. Loud, louder and loudest. Fast guitar solos, eight armed drum beats and loud screaming vocals, it's all there. And then some, because the storm ain't over yet. The next song is called "Warsystem" of SKITSLICKERS, another Swedish hardcore punk band. They are being captured a couple of times here, simply because their songs are only a few seconds long. Listen to the fast and furious soundscapes, like "Armed Revolution', "Spräckta Snutskallar" and "The Leader (Of The Fucking Assholes". You will definitely get the message after this, which is not for the faint hearted. "City Baby Attacked By Rats" is a punk anthem, originally written by G.B.H. I think, that MOTORHEAD fans will love this one, too. "Warning", which was originally written by DISCHARGE is the last punk rock song for that matter. Obviously, the influences of ARCH ENEMY didn't stop by the well-known hard rock and heavy metal bands. But that is where we're heading to next with "The Zoo" of SCORPIONS. They give this song a more vicious bite and they actually stay very close to the original, despite the slightly different vocals. Just check out the great guitar solo here. I had to listen very carefully to discover the sound of EUROPE's "Wings Of Tomorrow', which received a very thoroughly ARCH ENEMY make-over here. Another odd choice is "The Oath" of KISS. You can pick hundreds of different songs by KISS. The fact, that they covered "The Oath" makes it a very special one. "The Book Of Heavy Metal" of DREAM EVIL is a more obvious choice. If you know the original version of "Walk In The Shadows" of QUEENSRYCHE (and who doesn't?) will be surprised to hear this version. They covered the song with a lot of respect. Then there's the CARCASS cover "Incarnated Solvent Abuse". I think, that we all know why ARCH ENEMY covered a CARCASS song. The guitar work on this one is simply mind-blowing. The lazy sweat leaves my body during the amazing MANOWAR cover "Kill With Power", in which Angela Gossow screams her lungs out. Obviously, the album doesn't only consists of music of the new line-up, actually it's more a compilation of the cover songs that ARCH ENEMY recorded during their career. The last part of this album contains another lot of classic rock and metal bands, starting with "Symphony Of Destruction" of MEGADETH, where the band stayed rather close to the original version as well. "Aces High" of IRON MAIDEN is some of the older material, which was recorded with original vocalist John Liiva. Another EUROPE cover enters my ear shell next up with "Scream Of Anger", one of my favorite EUROPE songs. Good choice, I would say. JUDAS PRIEST also gets a second chance with "Starbreaker", a classic from the old days. It's always strange to hear such a classic anthem without the recognizable Halford vocal parts. The song remains the same though, if you know what I mean. The instrumental shorty "The Ides Of March" of IRON MAIDEN closes this album. All these songs were recorded with different line-ups and the liner notes of the CD booklet have been written by Michael Amott. Website: http://www.archenemy.net or http://www.facebook.com/archenemyofficial. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BURNING WITCHES-Hexenhammer (Nuclear Blast)
One of the finest all-female heavy metal bands of today must be BURNING WITCHES. They released a killer debut album, which is called "Hexenhammer' which contains fourteen great tracks that run for almost a full hour. We must warn you upfront, because already in the first song you’ll be entering "The Witch Circle", which is not only an intro, but it's also a new world that you're approaching. It's the world, where the burning witches rule. Watch out that they don't put their spells on you. "Executed" is the first attempt to that. If you're not banging your head up and down, you might be cursed already. The band is showing their muscles in a very fast headbanger. In "Lords Of War", they add some catchiness to it, so you'll be able to shout your balls off when shouting along to it. Influences of TWISTED SISTER may be recognized here and there, but I think that BURNING WITCHES is much more true metal. Just check out the fabulous guitar parts here. "Open Your Mind" is a true statement. You definitely must open your mind for this amazing band. Listen to the riffs, the loud sirens of the singer, the heavy drum beats, it's all metal to the max and these ladies will blow your mind and then your speakers. Obviously, there is also some space left for the obligatory ballad. It's called "Don't Cry My Tears" and it's just enough time to recharge the batteries again. "Maiden Of Steel" sounds amazing. It has got that true metal feeling, that only bands like MANOWAR have running through their veins. And only the true metal warriors out there know what I'm talking about. To make the story even better, they called in the help of the guitar player of THE IRON MAIDENS, Courtney Cox, to play the excellent solo on this true metal anthem. The amazing intro "Dungeon Of Infamy" contains thunder and lightning, rain, bells chiming, women screaming, holy fathers praying. Need I say more? It's the ultimate start of "Dead Ender", which is on next. I think, that if the dead ender stands right in front of you, you will fall down on your knees and pray for forgiveness. I really hope that he will be in a good mood today. Even the bravest warrior will stay away from his territory, but these ladies dare to come near him using their guitars as their deadly weapons. Title track "Hexenhammer" continues and once again, this is a song to check out if your head is still making that up and down movement. If not, then there might be something wrong with your neck bolts. It's a true heavy metal anthem, that you must like whether you want it or not. The band truly stands proud among these other true metal bands without saying and prove is given in songs like that. "Possession" sounds a bit faster and if you're not possessed yet, you will be after hearing this. "Man Eater" is a song that frightened me a bit. Sure, I have heard of cannibals before, but females that eat men will definitely scare the shit out of me. Hear them chew in the first seconds of the song. That really sounds quite vicious and mean. Lucky enough, I don't have any juicy meat in me anymore, but still the idea of meeting a man eater will frighten you, too. The band sings 'stay for dinner'....they have humor as well. No one can beat that, a man eater with humor. A female Hannibal Lecter, so you'd better run for your life. Run to the holy waters, it's safe there, because the "Holy Diver" resides there. The band did the DIO cover already on their "Burning Witches Live" album. This is the studio version. If you don't know the original song, then you're reading the wrong page here. After this, we've reached the two bonus tracks, that the band has got in store for us. First of all, there is the somewhat airy "Self Sacrifice", including some mind-blowing guitar parts, and then there is the acoustic version of the ballad "Don't Cry My Tears". The album is highly recommended to old school true metal freaks out there. And aren't we all? I'm also very glad today, that this Swiss metal outfit has got a Dutch link as well. Their new recruit is guitar player Sonia Nusselder. Check out the album, the amazing artwork and the lyrics and you will know that we're dealing with a band that may not be missed in the heavy metal scene of today. The keepers of the sacred weapon are called the "Hexenhammer" . It will definitely strike you and no matter how hard, it will strike you, when you're not prepared. So you'd better be warned, before it gets you. BURNING WITCHES consists of Seraina Telli on vocals, Romana Kalkuhl on guitars, Jeanine Grob on bass, Lala Frischknecht on drums and Sonia Nusselder on guitars. Buy or burn in hell forever. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/burningwitches666. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

DOODSWENS-Demo 1 (Headbangers Records)
DOODSWENS is the Dutch word for Deathwish and this demo contains four brutal, old school black metal songs, released on MCD, limited edition tape with patch and sticker or regular tape. Fans of the old DARKTHRONE sound can dig in blindfolded, but also if you're more into bands like for example IMMORTAL, you're going to be fine with the sound of this band. DOODSWENS consists of two members, hailing from Eindhoven. Fraukje van Burg screams, sings, growls and plays guitar and Inge van der Zon handles the drums of death. The four songs are worthy of about twenty minutes of old school black metal. And although the ladies don't wear corpse paint on the recent pics that I saw, their four bloody black metal rituals are uncompromising, raw and thrilling. 'I' is a fast drummer and 'F' has got a fine screaming voice, like she is being possessed. The songs actually don't have any titles. They're simply called "I", "II", "III" and "IV". On "II" the speed goes up and the maniacal screams of Fraukje match well with the drum parts of Inge, who batters her set like she is being chased by a horde of wildebeests. The sudden speed change at the end of the song is an introduction to a short instrumental part. These switches make you aware of the fact that these two ladies have got a lot to offer. They don't just blast at full speed alone, like in opener "I", but they work with breaks and mood changes too, which adds a special dimension to their intense and very powerful sound. And they don't lose their authentic black metal feeling because of this either. It's just an expansion of the brutal blast parts here. After this short part, the blast beat machine rages on at full speed again. I see a lot of hair propelling in the sky. Faces containing blood thirsty eyes and mean grins. Black metal is serious business for these ladies, who already shared stages with the likes of CARACH ANGREN, LASTER and ORACULUM, to name but a few. In "III", there's another mood change, that comes somewhere in the middle. The song is being introduced by a fast drumming part, in which Inge lets off some steam. The wind at the end of the song is another great effect and is the perfect solution to make a solid turnover to the last song here. One more time the intense drum beats will take control and set the pace for this loud raging black metal ritual. This time the fast energetic song is divided by a spoken word part. It brings some rest for a moment, but a brutal explosion of words is saved for last. Fraukje really sounds like she’s being raped by The Beast. DOODSWENS turns the cross upside down. Satan has the power and the strength and it's in his faith that these two ladies can sound as true as they prove on this first demo. If the real, true black metal underground sound is your passion, then look no further, because DOODSWENS knows their classics and gave this sound a twist of their own. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/doodswens. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO-All For Metal, Live At Rock Hard Festival 2015 (Rock Hard compilation)
Let me be clear to you that this eight track live album is not for sale, but it was a free gift of the German Rock Hard magazine. It's a forty minutes compilation disc of the live show of DORO in 2015 at the festival. This amazing promo album starts with two new songs from the brand new album, that we will review after this, so stay tuned. "All For Metal" is the perfect festival tune, including the great chanting of the choir and the fist throwing part, when the title of the song is being cranked out. DORO really knows how to handle a true festival anthem and she is a real mistress in it. The second new track is the ballad "Lift Me Up", which she sings with a lot of emotion. If you like a good ballad type of song, then you won't be disappointed when DORO cranks one out here. The exclusive part of this CD, which comes in a full colored gatefold cover, starts with a fast live rendition of the WARLOCK classic "Hellbound". Yes, folks, it's time to bang your head to this fast raging classic song. "I Rule The Ruins" is next and it's up to the people in the crowd now to show this metal goddess their singing skills. DORO is a real party animal. Her professionality will always win and she will always remain spontaneous and true to her public, which I adore a lot in her. In "Burning Witches", there is more cooperation from the audience and the hungry crowd knows exactly what to do. The Rock Hard fans must have been really thrilled this afternoon, because there's a lot of great old school stuff from DORO on this exclusive disc. "Metal Racer" is also taken from the early WARLOCK days, when I saw the band live several times. She really remained the same cool heavy metal lady all these years. "East Meets West" is one of the absolute highlights for me. It's another raw banger from that amazing "Triumph And Agony" album. Next to these fast metal songs, DORO also knew to impress me with her softer side as well. The last track is a good example of that with "Für Immer", which has become a solid classic in her live shows for a much longer time now. DORO will rule für immer and it's because of these nice releases, that she will be in our hearts forever. A really nice free sampler by a great metal magazine, that also rules for many years already. The review of the new double CD is going to be next, so stick around all of you DORO fans! [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO-Forever Warriors / Forever United (Nuclear Blast)
You must be a giant fish in the pond, where so many small fishes are swimming, when you are able to release a double album, stuffed with twenty-five brand new songs. DORO is one of the biggest fishes in that giant metal ocean and this CD release sounds truly amazing. We will review all of these tracks one by one and will divide this review into two parts. The first CD is called "Forever Warriors". It starts off with a 'shout along and throw your fists in the air' metal anthem, called "All For Metal". And when you see the list of guest stars, that shouted and played along on this amazing metal hymn, you'll know how successful DORO really is. She called in the help of Mille (KREATOR), Johan Hegg (AMON AMARTH), SABATON, Chuck Billy (TESTAMENT), Rock 'N' Rolf (RUNNING WILD), Jeff Waters (ANNIHILATOR), Warrel Dane (NEVERMORE, SANCTUARY), Ross The Boss (ROSS THE BOSS/MANOWAR), De Traktor, Tommy Bolan (WARLOCK), Andy Brings (SODOM) and of course The Ultimate DORO Clan. This will definitely be a possible highlight during their live shows. "Bastardos" is a great fast rocker in the best DORO tradition. There is a certain level of catchiness in there, but it also sounds loud and proud. "If I Can't Have You - No One Will" is a love duet between DORO and Johan Hegg of AMON AMARTH, who brutally growls his lungs out there. "Soldier Of Metal" is a slow metal song, but it's an honest tribute to DORO's passion for metal. "Turn It Up" is another great pounder. It's very nice to hear the beginning of the recording of the song. "Blood, Sweat And Rock 'N' Roll" that's what it's all about and DORO can surely tell you about it after being in this scene for thirty plus years. How great is it to hear, that she can still make incredible rock songs like that?! She really gives all of her heart and soul to heavy metal, which results in amazing tracks like that. "Don't Break My Heart Again" is a tribute to one of the greatest rock singers and frontmen in the rock and metal history, Mr. David Coverdale. This song was great back in the days, but unfortunately it didn't reach the status that it could stay in the set list of WHITESNAKE, like all these other classics did. What a great way to pay tribute to the old DEEP PURPLE singer, who is still very successful with his band WHITESNAKE in 2019. "Love's Gone To Hell" is a bit slower, but it has got that same magic feeling, that DORO songs usually have. It's a love song with a crusty bite. It's a song, where piano and guitars work together to create the right atmosphere. "Freunde Fürs Leben" works best in her own native German language. It's about friendship that will last forever, a subject that is tied very closely to DORO. I think, that friendship is one of the most important things in life for her. "Backstage To Heaven" is a rock song, which contains some saxophone parts as well, played by Helge Schneider, who you might know from UDO LINDENBERG. Each of the two albums contain bonus tracks as well, by the way. On this first CD, there are three, starting with the great rocker "Be Strong", which is short and loud, as we want to hear it and has some nice guitar parts. "Black Ballad" sounds fine, but it's nothing really special, as far as I'm concerned. The title repeats itself too much for over five minutes. The very last song is taken from the movie "Anuk III - Die Dunkle Flut / The Dark Flood". It's a short acoustic ballad, called "Bring My Hero Back Home Again", which will touch you right away. DORO sings it with so much passion and emotion and you simply must like it. The gatefold album covers have different colors. The first album "Forever Warriors" pictures DORO and her 'metal warriors' with a red flag and a skull and on the second album, the flag has the color of blue/green. The second album is called "Forever United" and it contains twelve tracks and is worthy of about fifty minutes. It's more or less a continuation of what we've been hearing so far. No different concepts or topics, but this hard working lady has got so many new songs to share with her fans, that she can easily compile three new albums, I guess. This album starts with "Resistance", which has that Teutonic feeling she knows to create every now and then. Huge choir vocals sing the song title and after a few times, you are shouting along to it for sure. It's simple, but it works very well. She and Udo Dirkschneider are true masters in creating singalong tunes. "Lift Me Up" is on next and it's another rock ballad with a good drive, DORO is also well-known for songs like that. It's heavy and very emotional at the same time, including some outstanding guitar work. The marvelous guitar licks will continue in "Heartbroken", where DORO gets help by guitar wizard Doug Aldrich (DEAD DAISIES, BURNING RAIN and REVOLUTION SAINTS). He is a true guitar hero and in this song he is able to show his skills with some flashing guitar licks. "It Cuts So Deep" is another love ballad, sung with a lot of emotion. Sometimes it's better to move forward after your love is gone, but a broken relationship is also the foundation of so many beautiful love songs. "Love Is A Sin" is a raw rock song and it's a nice balance here. Because of the good balance on both albums, there's never a dull moment and it has got a lot of variation. "Living Life To The Fullest" is another good advice, that we get from this platinum blonde lady. The most magical moment is caught in the very last seconds here, when Lemmy chuckles out some words. It's one of the examples that DORO and Lemmy Kilmister were very close friends. We still miss him very much and a few seconds like that, show it like nothing else could. "1000 Years" is another powerful ballad with some mind-blowing guitar work. "Fight Through The Fire" starts with some raw riffs, which means that it's time to bang your head again. The beat is strong, the riffs are loud and it's a killer song. "Lost In The Ozone" needs no further introduction, I guess. It's a stunning version of the MOTÖRHEAD classic and once again it proves the strong bound between DORO and Lemmy. It's an honest tribute to this magnificent heavy metal band, that will stay in our hearts forever. "Caruso" is the first of three bonus tracks and a tribute to the tenor Enrico Caruso. It's a well-known opera song with a ditto orchestration. "Tra Como E Coriovallum" will continue afterwards, which is a short instrumental track with some amazing guitar work. The second CD closes with a fast rock song, called "Metal Is My Alcohol". I don't drink, but this is a good song to create a wonderful party. DORO is still one of the leading ladies in the heavy metal scene and prove is given on this double CD package. DORO's band consists of Nick Douglas on bass and keyboards, Johnny Dee on drums, Bas Maas on guitar and Luca Princiotta on guitar and keyboards. Go to: http://www.doro.de and http://www.doropesch.com or her facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/doropeschofficial for all the latest information about this sympathetic and hardworking blonde metal goddess. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPICA-Vs. Attack On Titan Songs (Nuclear Blast (EP)
This is not your regular EPICA release. It’s a collection of songs based on the animation movie of "Attack On Titan". Anime and manga is very big in Japan, but in Europe maybe not that popular. A good marketing strategy though, because the Japanese market is still quite huge and EPICA are superstars over there. The eight songs on this second EP are worthy of about forty minutes and musically, this will surely please the many EPICA fans. Their bombastic sound is still there and so are the amazing vocal parts of Simone. The opener is a fast metal track, called "Crimson Bow And Arrow" with heraldic topics and a fast pace. The choir vocals in "Wings Of Freedom" sound overwhelming and once again the band cranks out a furious sounding fast metal track. This time, it has some screaming vocal parts of Marc to give this speed demon more spice. At the end of the song, the choir vocals sound a bit too massive maybe, but it's a good climax of this race monster. "If Inside These Walls Was A House" continues and this song could very well be part of a musical. Simone's vocals are amazing and proof is given that she can sing fast metal tracks, as well as the more modest sounding parts. "Dedicate Your Heart" brings back the fast pace. The band is showing their skills and I must point out that the drum part by Ariën van Weesenbeek sounds very impressive here. The music of the band sounds truly amazing and this shows up well in the following tracks, because what we've heard so far were four songs with the vocals of Simone. Next are the same four songs in an instrumental version. The choir vocals are still mixed in, but the voice of Simone is left out. It shows that the band has got the skills to write great metal songs, that stand proud in their 'undressed versions' as well. Especially the keyboard parts of Coen Janssen are very much worth mentioning here. I think, that the Japanese market will really love this snack a lot and it's also a welcome appetizer for the new album over here in Europe as well. EPICA consists of Simone Simons on vocals, Mark Jansen on vocals and rhythm guitars, Isaac Delahaye on guitars, Coen Janssen on synths and piano, Rob van der Loo on bass and Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums. The album is definitely not alone for the fans of this animeted soundtrack. Visit their website at: http://www.epica.nl/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ETHERNITY-The Human Race Extinction (AFM Records)
ETHERNITY is hailing from Belgium and their second album contains fourteen tracks and is worthy of about seventy long minutes. Their music can be called progressive power metal and the opener "Initialization" is the intro of things to come here. Title track "The Human Race Extinction" follows right hereafter and the pace is high. Fast drum beats, sharp riffs and choir vocals are the main ingredients here and fans of SYMPHONY X and EVERGREY might want to check out these tunes for sure. Francesco shows that he is a gifted guitar player, but also the keyboards earn some space in the spotlight here. "Mechanical Life" has got some 'mechanical' influences and besides that, it also has got some nice musical movements as well. Just check out the fast guitar parts here, while the steady beat goes on. It contains a lot of power and an adjusted amount of melody, wherever this is needed. "Grey Skies" follows seamlessly with heavier riffs and stronger beats. The vocals sound amazing here. "Beyond Dread" has some awesome guitar work and shows the solid side of the band. And it even gets very heavy in "Artificial Souls". In the first few seconds, you think that they will show their progressive side a bit more. Then the radio frequency is changing or at least it sounds that way and the band cranks out some speedy metal riffs, that wouldn't sound bad on a good thrash album. The melody remains very important though, but at times the music sounds fast and loud. I like it, when a band is using a lot of variation in their sound. "Redifined" on the other hand, will bring the band back to their progressive power metal sound and puts the keyboards back in front of the mix. And in "Rise Of Droids" the choir vocals return as well. ETHERNITY is definitely a band with some very gifted musicians, because their music has got a natural flow and contains a lot of craftsmanship from the individual musicians. The high level in their songs is amazing and every time you discover more in their music. "Mark Of The Enemy" is a short interlude. It's there, that the progressive side of the band shows up well. It's a short instrumental track that could very well be on any progressive rock album of the seventies, especially when the big keyboard sound is there and at the very end of the song, when the keyboards slowly fade away. In "The Prototype", the strong vocals of Julie Colin will catch my attention. She really knows to knock you off your feet with her powerful vocals. "Not The End" continues and for those of you who were waiting to catch their breath for a moment, you can tune in to the slower "Warmth Of Hope". It shows, that Julie has a lot of emotion in her voice as well. "Chaos Architect" steps on the gas again right after that. At the end, the groove comes in with "Indestructible", which shows that the band is giving all they've got one more time with some very impressive keyboard parts again. ETHERNITY displays lot of variation in their sound and therefore they will keep you focused, until the last notes have faded away. The CD is produced by DGM guitar player Simone Mularoni. ETHERNITY has shared the stage already with a lot of exciting bands, like HAMMERFALL, VANDENPLAS, EVERGREY, SYMPHONY X, MASTERPLAN and RHAPSODY OF FIRE. The band consists of Julie Colin on vocals, Julien Spreutels on keyboards, Nicolas Spreutels on drums, Francesco Mattei on guitar, François Spreutels on bass and Thomas Henry on guitar. Visit their website at: http://www.ethernity.be. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HALESTORM-Vicious (Atlantic/Warner Music)
The new HALESTORM album doesn't only carry the name "Vicious", but I think that this is also their loudest and most vicious album ever. It’s worthy of about fifty-five minutes and contains fourteen tracks. Mind you, we are reviewing the edition of Wallmart, which features two bonus tracks. Already from the opener "Black Vultures" on, you will hear that HALESTORM is about to wipe away the poppy character that they displayed before. Sure, Lzzy's voice sometimes sounds like PINK but the music is groovy and loud and it certainly makes the adrenaline flow. And although there may be some poppy elements in "Skulls", which follows next, it doesn't sound like the stuff the band presented on "Into The Wild Life" anymore. "Uncomfortable" sounds fast and even punky. And you may or may not believe it, but this song is chosen to be the band's first single from the new album. In "Buzz" your thoughts might go out to a band like SKUNK ANANSIE. It’s groovy at times, but melodic and emotional where needed. The songs still have that catchy feeling, but you have to be a little bit more open-minded now as well. "Do Not Disturb" contains both ingredients and it also has a nice guitar solo by Lzzy. In "Conflicted", Lzzy sounds sensual and sexy, which is of course still a trademark of her. "Killing Ourselves To Live" rocks it out loud and in "Heart Of Novocaine" you will hear the more melodic side of HALESTORM again. The sensual voice, the acoustic guitar, it's all there. The album still needs tracks like that, otherwise the old school fans would probably run away. "Painkiller" will wake you up again. The song has got nothing at all to do with the JUDAS PRIEST classic though. The band has recorded many cover songs, so I wouldn't have been much surprised, but this is just a cool rock song. "White Dress" is a statement that Lzzy is not just a pretty lady in a white dress. We already know that, but this will make it clear for always, I guess. Title track "Vicious" sounds fast and extremely vicious. It proves, that the band wants to rock out a little bit harder on every album. The CD closes with the acoustic ballad "The Silence" on the regular edition. The Wallmart edition however rocks on with a solid rock song, called "Nobody", which is a fine sing-along tune. The final track is called "Letters", which starts off slowly, but then it takes away in the fifth gear. I think, that we can state here, that HALESTORM rocks it out loud on this album. For sure, I wouldn't categorize this as heavy metal, but it has a lot of heavy rock moments. The songs still have that well-known catchy feeling, but the commercial vibe is gone. In January, the band kicked off their recent tour with STONE SOUR. HALESTORM consists of Lzzy Hale on vocals, guitars, keys and piano, Arejay Hale on drums, and backing vocals and Josh Smith on bass, keys, piano and backing vocals and Joe Hottinger on guitar. Go to: http://www.halestormrocks.com or facebook http://www.facebook.com/halestorm for more information about this mega hot act. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART-Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Provogue)
We cover artists in a very wide range of music styles. Blues rock/soul singer, songwriter and musician BETH HART is one of them and she always knows how to fascinate and impress me with her many skills. Sufficient reasons to review her double live CD "Live At The Royal Albert Hall" on these pages. It contains twenty-three songs, worthy of two full hours of some highly enjoyable music. The first CD starts with an emotional a-cappella song, called "As Long As I Have A Song", which I think is dedicated to her mother, who is in her heart and soul. And who actually was in the audience too, tonight. "For My Friends" rocks and has a nice groove. The original version comes from BILL WHITHERS, by the way. The song contains some great guitar work and it's a great opener of the evening. I was already familiar with the song "Lifts You Up" from her first live album, recorded at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. They reworked the song and play it three times faster here. It's almost unrecognizable, but it's still a very fine tune. "Close To My Fire" is a laid back love song, which Beth dedicated to her mom once again. It's a slow rock song with a slight rockabilly sound in the guitar solo. "Bang Bang Boom Boom" is a mix of country and rock and quite easy on the ear. "Good As it Gets" is about the good times that they have as a band. Hanging out with their fans and playing live shows in many cities and beautiful places, like the Royal Albert Hall. It belongs to the list of BETH HART classics for me. "Spirit Of God" is a hip shaking gospel song, which brings back Beth's memories to her visits to church, which she likes to call her first rock concerts. "Baddest Blues" is a love blues song, one of the purest ones you could ever imagine. "Sister Heroine" is also going deep in the emotional feelings of Beth. It's dedicated to her sister Sharon and your flesh will crawl, when you hear the dedication she sings this song. The guitar solo contains a lot of sensitivity and emotion as well. There are a lot of personal tales here. Beth gives a peek inside her heart and this sometimes leads to some very emotional moments. "Baby Shot Me Down" is a bit lighter for some reasons and this lifts up the pace a bit. "Waterfalls" is a rock song and the first CD closes with another tender love song, which is called "Your Heart Is As Black As Night". The second CD starts off with "Saved", which is an up-tempo gospel song with some good guitar riffs. "The Ugliest House On The Block" sure is a song with a very cheeky undertone. "Spiders In My Web" is about the bi-polar disorder. She has a lot on her mind and this is really making her mad. "Take It Easy On Me" is about how to handle this lady, which comes straight from her heart. One of her biggest hits is up next. She is very open-hearted in her lyrics, so just have a listen to "Leave The Light On" and catch my drift. "Mama This One's For You" needs no further introduction, I guess. You'll know what it's all about. Afterwards, Beth thanks the audience from the bottom of her heart, who came from all over the world to see her. "My California" is dedicated to her hometown. "Trouble" is the first encore of tonight and there is a nice audience participation in there. It's a great song to sing together. "Love Is A Lie" is another very emotional love song. The show is closing with "Picture In A Frame" and a lengthy, stretched out version of "Caught Out In The Rain". It's been an emotional ride and this double CD contains a lot of different music styles. BETH HART's band consists of Beth Hart on vocals, piano, acoustic guitar and acoustic bass, Bob Marinelli on bass, Bill Ransom on drums and Jon Nichols on guitars and backing vocals. Website: http://www.bethhart.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE HEARD-The Island (Despotz Records)
THE HEARD consists of former members of CRUCIFIED BARBARA and DEATHSTARS. Their debut album "The Island" is telling you the story about a lady, who moves to an island for a better life. Buy the album and find out what becomes of her. These musical adventures are packed on a solid rock album with a doomy edge. There are some mysterious sidesteps here, like for example in opener "The Island", which starts off as pounding rock song, but closes with a mysterious instrumental part that makes you wonder what is happening there precisely. The album consists of ten songs and tells you the story in approx. forty-five minutes of breath taking music. "A Death Supreme" continues and vocalist Pepper Potemkin really knows to impress me with her good voice, which also sounds very sensual and dreamy at times. "Tower Of Silence" has got a steady rock beat and some doomy influences. There are many groovy riffs, but also a great guitar solo. Mind you, the music of THE HEARD is nothing compared to their former bands. "Sirens" will bring you back to the island, starting off with the sound of the sea. And did I just hear a choir of angels singing there? This is another example of the dreamlike influences in their sound. There aren't any rock element at all and clearly, you must be open-minded and picture yourself on 'the island', too. "It" rocks a little more, however it keeps the mystery going. What exactly is 'it'? "Caller Of The Storms" is a short instrumental interlude with some moody guitar lines. This song could very well have been played by someone like AL DIMEOLA or JAN AKKERMAN for example. "Revenge Song" is a ballsy song with some crazy guitar work. Musically, it refers a bit more to their previous bands and it also takes care of a good dose of variation. "Queen Scarlet" sounds doomy and it has a brilliant speed change in the middle. To me, it's the highlight on the album. The end of the story is being told in the final two songs. Another doomy anthem enters my room during "Crystal Lake". Another name that comes to mind, while listening to this doomy masterpiece is AVATARIUM and especially I'd like to refer to the vocal parts of Pepper, that come very close to AVATARIUM singer Jennie-Ann. On CD closer "Leaving The Island", the separation of the woman's new home on the island is a fact. She will be never coming back. Still, she is leaving with a bag full of intriguing memories and a very tasty album, that contains some remarkable doom metal songs. If you like the eccentric music of a band like AVATARIUM, you will definitely enjoy THE HEARD as well. Check it out, I would say. THE HEARD consists of Klara Force on guitar, keys and mellotron, Ida Evileye on bass, Nicki Wicked on drums, Jonas 'Skinny Disco' Kangur on lead guitar and Pepper Potemkin on vocals. The first three band members mentioned here played in CRUCIFIED BARBARA, while Jonas played in DEATHSTARS, in case you're wondering. For more info, go to their facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/theheardofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELL CITY-Flesh & Bones (Painted Bass Records/HLP)
HELL CITY's brand new album "Flesh & Bones" is a fact. This band from Belgium presents their second lot of nine songs, worthy of thirty-five minutes of breathtaking hard rock and metal. Intro "Resurrection" starts off instrumental. After two minutes, it is followed by "Playing With Fire", a ballsy rocker with the powerful vocals of Michelle Nivelle upfront in the mix. There are some grunt type of vocals here as well and the beat sounds loud, wild and heavy. I think, when you listen to "Your Darkest Hour" you'll have to admit that the band has become a lot heavier without losing the melodic parts as well. The brutal vocals are combined with the vocals of Michelle and their music will certainly appeal to the fans of for example a band like IN FLAMES or DARK TRANQUILITY. "Kill With Kindness" is another song that mixes the brutal beats and riffs with a good dose of melody. This up-tempo tune builds itself up to a climax, after which the band takes a nice break and closes with a mind-blowing guitar solo. After the death of bass player Michael Konovaloff, it wasn't completely sure if the band would survive and continue their career. Three years later, the band is back, better and hungrier than ever. "Me, My Enemy" has some awesome guitar work and the raw edges are always present as well. "Embrace The Chaos" might start off as a slow doomy anthem, however the power returns quickly and the speed goes up as well. It also includes more grunt type of burls by drummer Tommy Goffin. These growls will surely expand their fan base, so they will possibly reach a broader audience. "Bogus Potus" deals about Donald Trump and the screaming vocals of Tommy are exactly what this high octane fueled speed monster needs. It sounds evil, it sounds vicious and it sounds very angry, just like it should. The band lets out some steam and makes an angry statement. It's one of their shortest tracks here, but it's indeed their most powerful one. "Supernatural" is again the combination of the beautiful voice of Michelle and the growling, screaming voice of Tommy, which does do the trick here. Finally at the end of this second release, the band takes back some speed in title track "Flesh & Bones". It's a moody and doomy track and this time it only has the female voice of Michelle. Definitely, this is high on my list of highlights on the album. After bassplayer Michael Konovaloff passed away in 2015, it must have been very hard for the band to go on, but they picked themselves up and "Flesh & Bones" is the result of this resurrection. HELL CITY consists of Michelle Nivelle on vocals, Sebastiaan Verhoeven on on bass guitar,Tommy Goffin on drums and vocals, Vincent Noben on guitar and Alan Coenegrachts on guitar. For more info and the latest news, go to: http://www.hellcity.be and http://www.facebook.com/hellcityband. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HIGH PRIESTESS-High Priestess (Ripple Music)
Three band members, six songs and forty minutes of heavy psychedelic doom metal is what you'll get on the debut album of HIGH PRIESTESS hailing from Los Angeles, USA. Believe me, when the lights go down low, you'll be in a dream world right away, where the psychedelic sound of this all-female threesome rules. It gives you the chance to sniff up the peaceful envirement, that you will experience on this album. The two different voices will take you to a place where the woolly air around their altar is covered with the heavy smell of essence. The lengthy instrumental parts are just perfect to float around into this other world, where the high priestess is awaiting you. At the end of opener "Firefly", you might think that it was just a dream where you ended up, but there's more. The lengthy instrumental part sounds very psychedelic and doomy and if you take a look at the video on You Tube, you will slide into the right atmosphere at once, even without smoking weed. "Despise" on the other hand is something different. The music is much rawer and I even heard some brutal growls here and there. The fuzzy guitar sound is soaked in a seventies psychedelic sauce, but the growls give it a rather up-to-date touch. "Banshee" starts off very dreamy and slow. The pounding beats afterwards sound a lot harder. The next trip you will end up is called "Take The Blame". Think about GRATEFULL DEAD, JIMI HENDRIX (the Band Of Gypsies era) or the old school sound of MOUNTAIN here and add some twists of the new millennium to it, after all there is nothing wrong with that. The guitar work, including some distortion, is really finger licking good. The groove is there and it sounds amazingly heavy at times. The vocals are sometimes a bit dreamy, which is the perfect way to get you in the right mood. "Mother Forgive Me" follows next in a slow doomy pace. The bass guitar plunders loud and the dreamy vocals take care of some balance. You're about to step into reality again after CD closer "Earth Dive". It's a slow motion dive, which lasts for over six minutes. It's time to let the music do the talking again, so you'd better get ready for another lengthy instrumental part with dreamy guitar lines. These three ladies won't disappoint you. You'll be safe and sound in their world. When the CD stops, the cruel reality begins. It's hell out there in the real world. So press the 'repeat' button and float away to the world of HIGH PRIESTESS again. You will love it there. HIGH PRIESTESS consists of Katie Gilchrest on guitar and vocals, Mariana Fiel on bass and vocals and Megan Mullins on drums. Website: http://www.highpriestessmusic.com or http://www.facebook.com/highpriestessmusic. The artwork for this debut album looks really stunning, by the way. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HITHERSIDE-Blue Lotus (Painted Bass Records / Sonic Rendezvous / HLP)
HITHERSIDE hails partly from America and partly from Belgium. Vocalist Jennifer Summer is the American part and multi-instrumentalist Sam Oerlemans is the Belgian part of this twosome. This is their second album, which contains nine tracks, worthy of about thirty-five minutes. In 2015, the band released their debut album "Hitherside". Before I'm going to review this album, I'd like to mention that they presented by far the best promotion package that I have seen in ages. It's a fourteen pages full color booklet with an interview, a biography, some pics, a gig list and much more. My compliments for that! I'm already very excited and I haven't heard one single note yet. Opener "Unsanctify Me" sounds doomy with some dynamic riffs and loud drum beats, topped by the powerful voice of Jennifer. "Lovely Day To Kill" is dark and mysterious, mainly because of the distorted vocal parts. Some other songs are more straight forward and accessible, like for example "My Prediction", which has got a very catchy edge and a high sing-along quality. Title track "Blue Lotus" sounds more dreamy. "Get It Back" has got Dirk Verbeuren (MEGADETH) on drums. It shows that the band has got a melodic side as well. "Insignificant Other" contains some nice guitar work. It's the first single and video from the album and I think that's definitely a good choice. "Honeydripper" is also very dreamy. Obviously, there is a lot of variation here, because afterwards there's the pounder "Knock 'Em On Back", which has some tribal type of rhythms. The CD closes with "Asked But Not Answered", which contains some alternative guitar riffs and again those beautiful vocals of Jennifer. The thirty-five minutes are over before you know it and clearly, we have heard some very gifted musicians at work here. Live, they will be completed by Stefan Maas on drums, Steve Vanderperren on on drums, Josh Berenblit on bass and Joeri Herregat on bass. Try it, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Go to: http://www.hitherside.com or http://www.facebook.com/hitherside for all the information you need to know about this eccentric Belgian/American outfit. [7,5 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JOAN JETT-Bad Reputation - Music From The Original Motion Picture (Sony Music)
This is the soundtrack of a documentary about JOAN JETT. It covers the long career of this rock chick, that once was the front lady of THE RUNAWAYS. Without being disrespectful to all the other female (hard)rock bands in the seventies, I think that THE RUNAWAYS were the real pioneers for that matter, as far as I'm concerned. The soundtrack contains seventeen songs and about fifty-five minutes of pure rock and roll ranging from THE RUNAWAYS to JOAN JETT & THE BACKHEARTS of course for ninety-five percent of the album. In the end there are some other links to Joan as well. "Fresh Start" is indeed a fresh start of this album. It shows what you can expect here. Some short catchy tunes with the sound of THE RAMONES in mind, because I think that they were a very big influence to the early sound of JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS. Some of the songs on this soundtrack album you've probably heard a zillion times before, like title track "Bad Reputation", but I never get tired of listening because this is JOAN JETT at full steam and catchy as hell. "Rebel Rebel" was originally written by DAVID BOWIE, when he was still in his glam days. I think, you've heard the original version many times before. This is the JOAN JETT make-over of the song, which stays close to the original one, by the way. The most well-known RUNAWAYS song probably is "Cherry Bomb", which is on this compilation album as well. It just wouldn't be complete without it. "Wasted" may not be an obvious choice here. I'm glad this vicious rock song of THE RUNAWAYS is on this album though. "Love Is Pain" kicks off as one of the first JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS classics here. The huge and loud bashing drum beats on "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" are showing Joan's fascination for the glam and glitter sound of GARY GLITTER. The song is still a classic tune after so many years. For sure, "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" is Joan's biggest hit single ever. It's not captured here in its original format, but this version was recorded with former SEX PISTOLS members Steve Jones and Paul Cook. It might be a fine addition to your JOAN JETT collection for those of you, who haven't got all of her music. The original version of this classic is from THE ARROWS, by the way, but they never reached the success that Joan managed to have. "Victim Of Circumstance" is another song that you will easily sing along after hearing it once. "I Hate Myself For Loving You" also hit the charts in our country in 1988. That has been over thirty years ago, but I still love that song. "Crimson And Clover" also belongs on the list of hit singles of Joan. TOMMY JAMES AND THE SHONDELLS wrote the original of this song in 1968. Then we hear a band, that has been highly influenced by Joan, which is BIKIINI KILL and "Rebel Girl", fronted by Kathleen Hanna. "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is a cover by another person, that is also very high on the list of influential musicians and that's IGGY POP. It sounds rebellious and punky. "Fetish" is a lot slower but still sexy. "Change The World" is punky and fast and songs like that always have a dirty guitar solo as well. FEA cranks out "Feminazi", which has many influences of a band like for example NASHVILLE PUSSY. It's dirty, fast and it rocks like hell. The album closes with a laid back version of "Androgynous", performed by Joan Jett, Miley Cyrus and Laura Jane Grace. I think, that this album shows up well when you've also seen the documentary. I really love this compilation of great rock songs. Just play it loud. Website: http:// www.blackheart.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KING WITCH-Under The Mountain (Listenable Records)
I just L-O-V-E traditional doom metal, the way that CANDLEMASS, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, TROUBLE and CATHEDRAL is playing it, influenced by the masters of doom metal, BLACK SABBATH. KING WITCH is one of those bands that stay very close to the sound of traditional doom metal. There are so many sidesteps that you can take, but I will always prefer the traditional way above the rest. That's why I am so very positive about this amazing CD with nine tracks and worthy of forty-five minutes. The band hails from Edinburgh in Scotland and already in opener "Beneath The Waves", they know how to create a dark atmosphere. The female voice of Laura Donnelly fits very well with that dark, slightly depressing sound. The band shot their first video for that one. I must admit that I mostly like the slower parts, but sometimes you just have to let off some steam, like in "Carnal Sacrifice", which is a short piece of adrenaline rush flowing around. The last notes float seamlessly into the next song "Solitary", in which the band displays their craftmanship of writing a good doom metal song. The lengthy instrumental intro is interpolated in this doomy song, next to the excellent voice of Laura. Title track "Under The Mountain" sounds very powerful and this must be a good place to hang out. Hear the high pitched voice of Laura and the innovative drum parts of Lyle, which sound just great. If you think that doom metal is only based on this slow slurry of various tones, then you are terribly wrong. Doom metal fans do have a preference for that particular kind of sound and in "Approaching The End", the next KING WITCH song will be floating into your room. There is grief and sorrow and a whole lot of emotion in Laura's voice. The speed change near the end is really the cherry on the cake. "Ancients" sounds slightly lighter and it contains the great guitar parts of Jamie, who puts his whole heart and soul into these solos. "Hunger" is an adventurous track with a slot of nice surprises. The mid-part of the song sounds like one spontaneous improvisation. However, things are even getting better during the instrumental part afterwards, which includes a great guitar solo. It really belongs to my highlights on the album. "Possession" needs a little warning upfront. You might be getting possessed here as well. The spells are on you, unless you are not doomed. This will easily turn you into a faithful KING WITCH fan and don't say I didn't warn you. "Back Dog Blues" closes this CD, which is not a blues song, but it will certainly get those heads banging. When the air raid goes off, you have exactly ten seconds to push the 'repeat' button again. I could really stay 'under the mountain' forever, life is so good there. Hope you will be there, too! KING WITCH consists of Laura Donnelly on vocals, Jamie Gilchrist on guitar, Simon Anger on bass and Lyle Brown on drums. By the way, the nice artwork for this album was done by vocalist Laura. Follow the band on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/kingwitch. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LIZZIES-On Thin Ice (The Sign Records)
Put on your rocking shoes and enjoy this new album of the LIZZIES. It contains eleven brand new tracks, worthy of forty hard rocking minutes. The catchy vibe of their songs makes it very easy to enjoy the music of these Spanish ladies. Just listen to the opener "Like An Animal". Isn't that a great rock song? "No Law City" sounds uncompromising. It's a slightly sleazy rock song with some raw edges to it. And such a great guitar licks! There is not much breaking the law here, simply because there are no laws in "No Law City". It must be a great place to live there. "I'm Paranoid" sounds just crazy and I must admit that the LIZZIES very much matured since their debut EP. "Playing With Death" is the next song here. I didn't really like the choir vocals, which are a bit too poppy for my taste, but the guitar work sounds really good. Playing with death is a dangerous thing to do anyway, but I guess these ladies know what they're doing. Things go much too far to call "On Thin Ice" a concept album, but all of these songs have got one thing in common and that's the life of a wrestler. "Real Fighter" says it all and you'll find out more clues in the CD booklet. The songs have a certain connection to the life of a fighter in a wrestler game. "Talk Shit And Get Hit" is a more up-tempo song with GIRLSCHOOL type of shouts and ditto guitar riffs. "Final Sentence" sounds ominous and dark, while the last notes of the song are experimental and very progressive. They show us that the LIZZIES are not afraid to experiment a little, too. I didn't expect that at all, did you? "Rosa Maria" is a fast pounder, that will really rock your world and so is "World Eyes On Me". I really liked the sharp edges in the songs of the LIZZIES. They are not completely gone, but have been polished a little on this "On Thin Ice" release. "Love Is Hard" starts off with some very fine riffs. I also hear some influences of THE SWEET. The CD closes with the fiery "The Crown", another heavy pounder with some rough guitar licks and GIRLSCHOOL type of shouts. Here and there, the band is trying to sound a bit more commercial and preys on a hit single, but at other times they rock out real loud. If you're going out on an evening of wrestling, don't forget to play this album or you'll be walking "On Thin Ice". The LIZZIES consist of Elena on lead vocals, Patricia on lead and rhythm guitars, Marina on bass guitar and Vera on drums. For more info, go to their Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/thelizzies. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LORDI-Sexorcism (AFM / Suburban)
I always liked the band LORDI, because they go their own way, no matter what people say. The result was the hit single "Hard Rock Hallelujah", because nobody would ever think they would be going to the Eurovision Song Contest and definitely not with a song like that. Well, they did it and they won. This new album contains thirteen tracks and a full hour of horror driven rock 'n' roll songs and perhaps a wink of an eye to another hit single. Title track "Sexorcism" is a combination of it and the drawing on the cover of this new album will probably raise some eyebrows for that matter. Exorcism isn't really integrated in today's society yet, let alone 'sexorcism' or whatever the meaning of this word may be. There's a hot looking lady with her panties down, screaming it out loud. She must have been stuffed with a whole lot of LORDI. The airy sound of the song will make you laugh instead of shiver. There is always a thin line between the 'tongue in cheek' type of meanings of LORDI and the real horror atmosphere that you might expect of them. "Your Tongue's Got The Cat" continues and once again the ACCEPT type of riffs are covered with a good dose of KING DIAMOND and KISS influenced dark atmosphere. Sometimes, you want to shout along to the song, while at other times the it will give you the chills, which is the force of LORDI. "Romeo Ate Julia" (that title alone - lol) sounds like pure heavy metal and that's the way I like the band most. "Naked In The Cellar" might suggest a horror type of atmosphere. I really like the keyboard parts in this song, which fits perfectly in here and are done by Ms Hella, the metal maiden in the band. Well, at least I think she's female, you never can tell. But who thinks of different genders nowadays and it's the music that counts here. The pounding beat and a constantly repeating song title, that's the way bands like UDO and ACCEPT delivered many hits. The next song is called "The Beast Is Yet To Cum". That makes it even more frightening than you would pronounce this sentence normally. Black humor belongs to music, especially in the music of LORDI. This song remains very catchy though. "Polterchrist" is another excellent song title. Mr Lordi is a real word juggler and he can write some interesting songs as well. "SCG9: The Documented Phenomenon" is a nice interlude of about one minute, just listen to it. "Slashion Model Girls" has some well-known choir choruses, which are made to sing along. "Rimskin Assassin" is another mighty chance to shout your lungs out. I like it, when a song closes in such a catchy way. The last beat is turning into the next song, which sounds much more ominous or heavy. In the next song "Hell Has Room (No Vacancy In Heaven)", it goes both ways. The keyboards have got a prominent part in "Hot & Satanned", which is indeed a smoking hot song. I wonder how it feels to be satanned? Do you get horns and hoofs, instead of feet? The sound of growling animals start off the song "Sodomesticated Animal". Things are getting real gruesome here. The CD closes with "The Haunting Season". Have you ever been haunted? Now is your chance. You don't have to be afraid, just let it go. It's another cheerful and catchy song and at the end the bells begin to chime. Obviously, it's the perfect soundtrack to a horror movie. The thin line between black humor and horror is always there, even as the thin line between catchy rock songs and the dark horror type of atmosphere. That's what LORDI is all about. They can shock you and scare you at the same time. We will meet you on the next album, I guess. LORDI consists of Mr Lordi on vocals, Mr Amen on guitar, Mr Mana on drums, Ms Hella on keyboards and Mr Ox on bass guitar. Mr Ox has decided to quit touring at the end of 2018, so I hope that this is not the end of LORDI and that the band will find a replacement for Mr Ox soon. Website: http://www.lordi.fi. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LOVEBITES-Clockwork Immortality (Victor Entertainment)
Most Japanese bands are known for delivering high quality music. We already loved the all-female heavy metal/hard rock band SHOW-YA (founded in 1981 and reformed in 2005) and more recently, we discovered LOVEBITES from Tokyo, Japan. The second full-length album of this all-female outfit contains ten tracks, worthy of fifty-five minutes of traditional heavy metal. Opener "Addicted" already says it all. The band has a great powerful vocalist, twin guitar leads, heavy fast drum beats and on top of that, a very steady bass sound. This is the way heavy metal is supposed to sound . The power metal of these ladies has its roots in the eighties. Just check out the overwhelming power and dynamics in "Power Of The Saviour". It's melodic and powerful at the same time. I'd like to refer to SHOW-YA here, as far as their influences go. In "Rising" the orchestration sounds quite bombastic and also they are using the piano in the slower parts. Check out the amazing guitar work in this song. This band really sounds hot and authentic. Maybe their sound has a little bit more melody than SHOW-YA, but I like what I hear a lot. "Empty Daydream" is next up with more amazing guitar work, which sounds just perfect. One of the highlights on this album is the fast and energetic "Mastermind 01". What a powerful piece of music. In "M.D.O.", the ladies press the pedal to the metal. It sounds more like melodic speed metal in my book. And correct if I'm wrong, but it seems that the songs are getting heavier towards the end of this CD. Take "Journey To The Otherside" for example. I think that old school GAMMA RAY and HELLOWEEN fans would enjoy this song a lot. The amazing vocal pull outs and the flashing guitar work sound really amazing here. In "The Final Collision", there is a major role for the keyboards. However, the power remains the same and the guitars cry out loud. "We The United" is next and the neoclassical influences are a bit more upfront. Think of the faster guitar work of Malmsteen here. The only thing that I am still missing on this CD is actually a good solid ballad. Well, my prayers have been heard in the next song, called "Epilogue". This is a pure ballad in the best imaginable tradition. It starts off very slow with a lot of emotional vocals, building up towards a great climax, including some outstanding guitar work. To me, LOVEBITES is one of the next big names in the Japanese metal scene. The only thing that I have to do now is to find their previous full-length album "Awakening From the Abyss" from 2017. The band consists of Asami on vocals, Midori on guitars, Miyako on guitars and keyboards, Miho on bass guitar and Haruna on drums. Mao is the additional keyboard player. For more info, go to the band's facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/LovebitesTheBand. I will give the full score for this release, nothing more and nothing less. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

LUCIFER-Lucifer II (Century Media Records)
This is the follow up to the magnificent album "Lucifer I" (2015) and right from the start, it will blow you away. The renewed threesome drives off in the fourth gear on this second release, which contains nine brand new tracks, worthy of about forty-plus minutes of heavy (magic) rock. Their sound is soaked with some amazing retro riffs, you would expect from a band like for example URIAH HEEP in the seventies. Johanna Sadonis (formerly THE OATH) still takes care of the beautiful vocals. The band could be compared to BLUES PILLS as well, but LUCIFER definitely sounds more heavy. Let alone their name, which is enough to give them victory in this uneven battle. The CD starts off with "California Son", which is an up-tempo rocker. "Dreamer" on the other hand sounds slower and very dreamy, like the title already suggests. Enough reasons to spice this one up a little with some guitars. The groove will get back in the very exciting "Phoenix", that seems to rise up slowly and build itself into a steaming song. "Dancing With Mr. D." is slow and doomy and it creates just the right vibe, that you want to hear in LUCIFER. I don't think, that the original version of THE ROLLING STONES sounds as groovy as this one, but rocks just the same. "Reaper On Your Heels" contains some solid drum parts, awesome guitar work and an instrumental part to keep those heads banging up and down. Don't do it too long though, the reaper might be coming closer and catch you. "Eyes In The Sky" starts off as a slow doom tune, but right in the middle there's a speed change which turns it into a groovy retro jam, including some crying guitars and the sound of a tambourine. It creates a stunning old school feeling. In "Before The Sun", Johanna really sounds like a cross between Ann Wilson (HEART) in her early days and Stevie Nicks (FLEETWOOD MAC). "Aton" on the other hand has got a real rock vibe. I hear some very cool riffs and especially the guitar solos in this vicious rocker sound truly amazing. I have to admit that the band still lives up to the high expectations that I have. One more time the band fires some raw chords at you in "Faux Pharaoh". It will get you in a trance for sure. If URIAH HEEP, BLUE OYSTER CULT or BLUES PILLS belong to your favorite bands, then you might be blown away by this second album of LUCIFER, too. The band consists of Johanna Sadonis on vocals, Nicke Andersson on drums and bass (ENTOMBED, DEATH BREATH) and Robin Tidebrink on guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/luciferofficial. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MAGGOT HEART-Dusk To Dusk (Teratology Sound & Vision)
This is really a coincidence. After LUCIFER, I am now reviewing MAGGOT HEART, the band of former THE OATH guitarist, Linnea Olsson. It contains nine tracks and is worthy of about forty minutes of post-punk and hard rock. The music of MAGGOT is darker than LUCIFER and stands with both feet in the new millennium. Linnea Olsson already proved her skills with BEAST MILK and she continues to play an alternative kind of rock. Just check out opener "The Killing Hand' and you'll get some idea. "Medication" definitely sounds faster and it may even be called punky and rebellious, while "Big Kross" is more emotional and intense. It has a very emotional tone and only just in the final forty seconds the guitar asks your attention. Title track "Dusk To Dusk" is on next, which has some influences of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE in their heydays. The dark side and positive feeling of the band goes hand in hand here. "Scorpion Time" must be about the album cover that has got a giant scorpion on it. I'm really impressed by the long stretched instrumental part in this song. It will definitely give you the feeling that you're listening to the long lasting jam bands from the seventies. "Strange Women" is really to the point and their sound remains dark. The raspy and raw punk influences are back in "Blood Envy", which even sounds like a very early MOTÖRHEAD at times. The drums are beating faster and there is another dynamic in the song, while the spoken word part makes it even more intense than it already is. I think, this song is definitely one of the highlights on the album, as far as I'm concerned. "Pinned Like A Butterfly" sounds forceful and dreamy at the same time. It still has got that very punky and rebellious feeling, but with an emotional touch added to it. The guitars riff hard and they even get a solo spot. "Buried Songs" closes this CD, which is actually a mixture of singing and speaking the lyrics. That's what makes it so dark and mysterious and why it fits quite well in here. I have to admit that the music of MAGGOT HEART is very difficult to categorize. It sounds a lot darker than before, but I guess that if you're already addicted to her former bands, like THE OATH, SLINGBLADE and/or BEAST MILK, you will also like MAGGOT HEART. MAGGOT HEART consists of Linnea Olsson on guitars and vocals, Gottfrid Ahman on bass and guitar and Uno Bruniusson on drums. Website: http://www.maggotheart.bandcamp.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MAX TRIXI-To The Max 1987 / 1990 (Lost Realm Records)
This compilation album contains fourteen songs, which will really blow your mind for a full hour of obscure and soulful heavy metal. Their music is definitely a must have for all the fans of TAIST OF IRON, MALTEZE and HELLION. "In My Dreams" starts off as an up-tempo and catchy rocker with some great guitar hooks. The raw and high-pitched vocals of Kathi Young, catchy yet very powerful songs and screaming guitars are the main ingredients of MAX TRIXI, that formed in 1987 in Karlsbad, New Mexico. "Last Cowboy Ride" is another catchy tune, which also has some really screaming guitar licks. "Plain Jane" starts off with a very emotional introduction. This song will tell you the story of a lady, who sets off for the city and living her fantasy. Too bad it doesn't have a happy ending. Once the guitars start riffing, the song explodes in a true heavy metal anthem. The high-pitched vocals of Kathi Young give this song a special heavy character. Wow, what a throat has this lady! "Comin' Down" reminded me of the band WASP in their heydays and the vocals of Kathi are certainly no kids' stuff. "One More Try" actually starts off like a ballad type of song, but after the speed change takes place, there is no stopping, which turns it into one of the highlights here. Just check out the incredible axe work by Kenney Young in this one. After this amazing interlude takes place, it goes back to a steady pace, but the loud pounding drum beats and high screams will remain. Title track "To The Max" is on next, which is a pure metal song with some great riffs, raunchy solos and a very steady beat. "Helluva Lover" was written by bass player Mike Larivere, who also sings it. The song has got a great KISS kind of feeling. It also shows the wide variation in their songs. "Black Widow" for example has some JUDAS PRIEST influences. "No Way Out" on the other hand sounds very catchy and it's a very nice sing-along song. The drum parts in "Stand Up" are like a gunfire shooting and it fires a mix of loud glam rock at you. Why didn't this band get more famous in the eighties? They are certainly a very good match to all the other huge bands in that particular type of music. Well, sometimes things don't work out the way they're planned, I guess. Anyway, the four bonus tracks are next, starting with "Plain Jane '87", which sounds more like a vicious speed metal song now and much heavier than the version, we heard earlier. These final songs are by far the heaviest on this album. Just check out "Give Me" and if you are not really convinced, the amazing "Hello Death" (listen to the mighty drum intro!) certainly will. I think, that these are the earliest recordings of this amazing band from New Mexico. "Final Sign" closes this very nice compilation disc of MAX TRIXI, which is really a diamond in the rough, if you'd ask my honest opinion. MAX TRIXI really must be discovered by every underground old school metal head out there. I'm sure, they will be over the moon! MAX TRIXI consists of Kenney Young on guitars, Kathi Young on vocals (R.I.P.), Mike Larivere on bass and Javier Valenzuela on drums. Go to their facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/maxtrixi. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MAESTRO-Can't Stop (Thinkin' Bout You) (Metalization) (EP)
It's so good to see, that Orion Roos (VORTEX) decided to get MAESTRO moving again, where they left off. Their material has actually never seen the light of day, at least not on CD. This has finally changed after so many years and right now we are reviewing their four track EP release, worthy of a bit over eighteen minutes. The space shuttle on the cover of the EP has landed and it looks beautiful. The booklet contains a lot of great pics, however it's the music that counts and I think that we're in for a treat here, too. Female vocalist Anne Blouw has got a great voice and these first riffs already show that we're dealing with a melodic metal band here with a very catchy approach. Their sound has some influences of QUIET RIOT ("Slick Black Cadillac") for that matter. The catchy influences are also there in the title track and opener of this EP "Can't Stop (Thinkin' Bout You)" that switches rock with A.O.R. I hear some BOSTON influences here and there, although MAESTRO's sound is not that big. It's more in the details. I also love the very raw guitar work, that keeps the song in balance. The guitar part, that starts "Huntin'" could very well be from Adrian Vandenberg. It sounds truly amazing and you can hardly tell the difference. It's there that the comparison stops though. The melodic rock has got a fine groove and again the guitar parts lift the song up to far above average. There are some progressive parts there, which will introduce you to an instrumental part, including a nice guitar solo. After that, MAESTRO steps into "The Time Machine". The straight forward rock is easy on the ear, yet not that catchy. There are some distorted vocal parts as well, but they fit in quite well here. The slightly fuzzy guitar part by Orion sounds excellent and I love the mood change in this song. The EP closes with the alternate version of "Can't Stop (Thinkin' Bout You)", which is fifteen seconds longer than the other version, by the way. You have to admit that this song is extremely catchy and it will cling to your mind at once for a long time. There is a short piano part added to the song as well. Their full-length album will be released in 2019, but this four track EP is a great appetizer and it will surely make the wait a lot easier, I guess. MAESTRO is back, they'll be playing some live shows in 2019 and there is a full-length album in the making. What more do you wish for? MAESTRO consists of Anne Blouw on vocals, Orion Roos on guitars, Marlon van Balen on guitars, Peter Douwenga on bass and Jahrin Kersten on drums. Website: http://www.bandmaestro.com or http://www.facebook.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MIST-Free Me Of The Sun (Soulseller Records)
This ten tracks full-length album of MIST is a must have for every doom metal adept out there. The slow riffs and depressive vocal lines really fit like a glove in this particular style of music by the almost all-female outfit from Slovenia. The album starts off with "The Ghoul" and obviously, they've gained in quality enormously. I already liked their EP and demo a lot, but this is the real deal. The band is sounding like a real band now. There is much more cohesion in their sound and the vocals of Nina fit just perfectly in here. This is the kind of traditional doom metal you would expect from a band like for example ST. VITUS or TROUBLE. The next track "Ora Pro Nobis" starts off in a completely different way and I hear some native American chants. However, when the guitars start riffing, their traditional doom sound is not long in coming. This alternative approach makes MIST so outstanding, in my eyes. They move very close to that well-known traditional doom metal sound, yet they are not afraid to take some sidesteps as well. "White Torch" is on next and the heavy vocals of Nina stay clear. The riffs are very heavy and of course the influences of the true masters of doom, BLACK SABBATH, can't be denied here either. Clearly, a song, entitled "December", will sound more depressing. Well, this particular song sounds definitely slower and it also contains some moody spoken word parts to give it a very sad feeling. "Altar Of You" has more spoken word parts and I must admit that they really belong here. The dark feeling sounds so much stronger that way. "Disembody Me" is another slow track, which belongs on my list of personal favorites, because of the amazing guitar work. This list goes on in the next track, called "The Offering", which has some amazing Tony Iommi type of riffs. The guitar solo in this song is absolutely mind-blowing and especially in songs like that, MIST rises far above the average level to me. The slow "Demonized" contains some demonizing bass drum parts. The drummer sounds like she's being possessed here. "Delirium" is a state of mind and you won't get it by drinking too much. The state of mind that I'm into right now is called euphoria, because of the great guitar work in this song. It lifts the song up to a very high level, where it deserves a place on my famous list of personal faves. The CD closes with title track "Free Me Of The Sun", which starts with the dark sound of some tribal drum beats and ditto vocals. Then there are the guitar riffs again and the song switches to a doomy rhythm, that will make you wish for more. This song will even invite you to sing along to the final parts. MIST may not be the first band you're thinking of when listening to doom metal, but I bet that after listening to this album, you'll have a very good feeling about the band and you want to hear some more. This album will not only give you a good feeling, it will also free you of the sun, perhaps for eternally. MIST consists of Nina Spruk on vocals, Ema Babosek on guitar, Neza Pecan on bass guitar, Blaz Tansek on lead guitar (the only male members here) and Mihaela Zitko on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/mist.doom. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NASHVILLE PUSSY-Pleased To Eat You (Ear Music)
It's always a pleasure to review a new NASHVILLE PUSSY album. Their songs are very pure and they always add the right dose of rock and roll and groove, but I don't need to explain that to their long term fans here. For those of you, who don't know the band well, I have to say shame on you and now's the time to make up for it. What kind of music is NASHVILLE PUSSY? They are just the right dose of old school MOTÖRHEAD (I think, that you can call them a LEMMY approved rock band), WASP, TURBONEGRO, AC/DC, RAMONES and last but not least TED NUGENT. The new CD contains thirteen tracks and almost fifty minutes of heavy rock songs that you have to play ultra-loud to get the best result. Opener "She Keeps Me Coming And I Keep Coming Back" starts with some MOTÖRHEAD type of rhythm and already from the start, you can sing along to the chorus. "We Want War" is the call for some action, when the situation is getting out of hand. You’d better start marching off to the battle field. A haunting rhythm introduces you to "Just Another White Boy". You just can't keep quiet anymore and in no time your body starts moving to the sound of it. "Go Home And Die" is a message for someone you don't like. You'd better be clear on how you think about people. It's boogie time in "Low Down Dirty Pig". Girls and ladies always go for the wrong men. He's just no good for you but this song rocks like hell. "Testify" is the first cover here. The original version comes from GEORGE CLINTON AND THE PARLIAMENT. Hear the TV preacher start his lecture in the beginning of this song. You want to testify as well? In this particular track, you also hear the first guest musician and that's Keki Andrei on the Hammond organ. "One Bad Mother" contains some mean screams of front man Blaine Cartwright and some amazing guitar riffs by Ruyter Suys. Second guest musician Greg Smith introduces you to some serious slide guitar in the intro of "Woke Up This Morning", which is also the second cover here. The original version comes from the Scottish old school rockers of NAZARETH. Man, this song really blows you off your socks. "Drinking My Life Away" is a great song to play, when emptying another bottle. It rocks and it will make you feel better after a serious hangover. "Endless Ride" has got the feeling of a seventies track. It's a perfect song for driving on the endless American highways and it will definitely make your journey much shorter. After that, it's boogie time again and you can leave that up to these NASHVILLE PUSSY boys and girls. "Hang Tight" is guested by Lee Hammer on harmonica, which is just the instrument that this boogie rocker needs. The guitar of Ruyter has got a more prominent role again and I like it like that. "COKMP' is the third cover and the original was recorded by STEVE EARLE AND THE DUKES. It's a rather sad song, which is perfectly sung by Blaine. "Cocaine Killed My Pain" is not really a nice thing to testify, if you'd ask my honest opinion. The CD closes after nearly fifty minutes with another rough pounder, called "Tired Of Pretending That I Give A Shit", which is about being who you are. No masks or pretending to be the nice guy. You'll hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from these people. After this last track, we get Blaine summing up a short compilation what these thirteen songs are all about. NASHVILLE PUSSY still rocks and this album is another killer in its genre. The band consists of Blaine Cartwright on vocals and guitar, Ruyter Suys on guitar and vocals, Bonnie 'Bon' Buitrago on bass and backing vocals and Ben Thomas on drums. For more info, go to their website: http:// www.nashvillepussy.com. Enjoy your meal and have a firm bite of this tasty diner. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NOCTULUX-From The Shadows (independent / HLP)
If you're looking for a gothic doomy pop metal band with some nice female vocals, then don't look any further. Just let NOCTULUX take you on a ride for a full hour and eleven tracks on this debut album, entitled "From The Shadows". In many ways, influences of ANATHEMA and THE GATHERING (Anneke era) come to mind here. In opener "Break Me Down", the band takes you back to the nineties with their nice, slightly doomy sound. Sometimes, their songs are a bit airy and move towards a rather pop/rock sound with catchy melodies, like in "Goodbye", which is next. However, at the end of this song, they put more fire to it. They even sound a little moody at times, like in "Broken Record". I would also get depressed and moody, when one of my records broke. In the next song, called "Fear", I'd really like to hear some fear. Maybe there wasn't enough fear, but it sure is a very tasty example of what NOCTULUX is all about. The fiery guitar work and very powerful vocals certainly turned this song into one of the highlights on this album, as far as I'm concerned. "Something More" has some beautiful guitar work by Maarten Langeree, who really lifts this song up to a higher level. The beginning of "Close My Eyes" contains some exciting and the slightly mysterious keyboards of Dennis Tappij Gielen. The keyboards have a very important role, but also the guitar parts receive a well-deserved place in the spotlight. This center piece sounds very exciting indeed. The beginning of the next opus, which is called "Where Darkness Is A Light" sounds really beautiful. Think of GENESIS, PINK FLOYD or maybe even YES. The force of the dreamy keyboard sound is really essential here. The song sounds very powerful and it has some nice up-tempo drum parts by Michiel Nijs. The dreamy keyboards will return again in the last few seconds, which is the perfect song to dream away and to de-stress from a hasty life. "Raindrops" starts off with some angel-like vocals. Just imagine that the keyboard parts are the raindrops falling on the pavement. The vocals are very sensitive here. "Leaves On The Wind" contains more groovy guitar parts and because of that, it leans more towards ANATHEMA for me. "Infected" also has some groovy parts, in which you can picture yourself with long hair waving in the wind, while banging your head. The music of NOCTULUX will never really get that heavy, but it's definitely a very nice balance between pop/rock and metal and the band mostly leans towards the heavier side. The CD closes with "Shadows", which has the good sounding vocal parts of Mirjam. Their high quality doomy influences will definitely find their way to the fans and I must say that I really enjoyed this one hour release from the Netherlands very much. NOCTULUX consists of Ben Bruschke on bass, Dennis Tappij Gielen on keyboards, Maarten Langeree on guitars, Mirjam van der Wel on vocals and Michiel Nijs on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.noctulux.com or http://www.facebook.com/noctulux. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NORTHWARD-Northward (Nuclear Blast)
Just picture yourself a collaboration of NIGHTWISH, REVAMP, AFTER FOREVER vocalist Floor Jansen and PAGAN'S MIND mastermind Jorn Viggo Lofstad and think of what kind of craziness you would get. You will be poised on the edge of your seat with eleven hard rock songs of fifty minutes on this self-titled album by NORTHWARD. The groovy powerful voice of Floor is being combined here with the progressive powerful sound of Jorn, which is expressed in opener "While Love Died", the amazing opener of this great project. In "Get What You Give", the power has been replaced by quality, including some acoustic guitars that add just that extra dimension this song really needs. "Storm In A Glass" also contains the right dose of catchiness and commerciality, that for example would make it the perfect choice for a single. "Drifting Islands" on the other hand sounds very powerful and in this particular song, Floor is getting some help from her sister Irene on vocals. In "Paragon" the band is using a more dreamy approach, which makes the variation even bigger on this album. The heavy parts, on which Floor is shouting it out loud, are never too far away. The sound of NORTHWARD really has the best of both worlds. Just check out the guitar solo at the end of this song. It will blow you away pretty easily, I think. I was also really blown away by "Let Me Out", which contains a lot of power and some great axe work. In "Big Boy", the catchy approach is back and therefore it's very radio friendly. The same actually goes for "Time Bomb", which has got that terrific SKUNK ANANSIE kind of feeling, making it accessible and heavy at the same time and ready to sing along. The guitar solo is good and the song has got that extra power because of it. "Bridle Passion" is an acoustic song with some fragile vocals. It's far too sweet for my taste, but for people who like a short piece of rest in between, it's just what this album needs. "I Need" starts like "Highway Star", and it has got the same power and drive as this long time classic DEEP PURPLE anthem. The CD closes with title track "Northward", on which Floor's vocal parts are getting very close to those of Skin of SKUNK ANANSIE. The guitar parts and nice twists are very different though and especially the guitar solo will definitely make you think different. NORTHWARD may not have provided the progressive masterpiece you have probably been expecting, but it sure has enough quality to impress. NORTHWARD consists of Floor Jansen on vocals, Jorn Viggo Lofstad on guitars, Morty Black on bass, Jango Nilsen on drums, Stian Kristoffersen on drums and Ronny Tegner on keyboards. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/northwardband or www.northward.rocks. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OTEP-Kult 45 (Napalm Records)
OTEP is very angry and the world has to know it. This "Kult 45" album contains sixteen brutal nu metal statements against the system. After the short spoken word opener "Hail To The Thief", she climbs the barricades to spit out her rap and metal lyrics. Firm statements with the message, that there is only one rule and that is that there are no rules. The groovy music will give her shouts and raps even more power. Just listen to "Molotov" and feel the groove. Sometimes Otep Samaya takes back some speed and starts to sound macabre, which will give her lyrics even more strength. Just listen to her speaking voice in the beginning of "Said The Snake" and your attention will be drawn immediately towards the lyrics. Then the groove and power will give the song a rebellious feeling. Musically, your thoughts will go out to LIMP BIZKIT, SLIPKNOT, and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. "Undefeated" is a gangsta rap kind of song, that could very well have been done by EMINEM. Fact is, that after almost twenty years of existence, OTEP didn't temper her anger in her songs at all. I think, they even gained anger and she doesn't fear to use violence to make her point. "Trigger Warning" starts off dark and when you hear that click, you already know that you've been warned. The firing can start any moment now. "Cross Contamination" sounds pretty mild compared to any of the other songs here, but the anger in "Shelter In Place" is almost tangible. "Boss" is a dark sounding rap song and the power returns with the beefy statements in "To The Gallows". That final scream must have been recorded, when they kicked away the chair on which the convicted person was standing. Anyway, it's time for more dark spoken words in "Sirens Calling". "Invisible People" is another rapper's delight and obviously, the variation in different music styles is quite huge on this album. A dreamy song on piano is next up, which is called "Be Brave". I think, when you dare to make political statements like that, you also have to be very brave. People are not always allowed to stand up for their rights and their own opinion. When your opinion doesn't match to the opinion of the masses, you must become very careful, as people might start to hate you very easily. Otep doesn't really give a damn. She loves to kick against holy houses and give her unvarnished opinion about life itself. "Wake Up" is a cover by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and you would probably have guessed it already. It's got RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE written all over it. "Feral Oracle" contains a drum and bass beat, which matches the dark spoken word parts. The CD closes with "The Tribe Speaks", which is a compilation of telephone messages and it contains messages of fans who want to speak out to the artist and let her know what this music means to them. This thirty minute part is far too long though but she probably doesn't give a shit. OTEP consists of Otep Shamaya on vocals, Aristotle on guitar, Drewski Barnes on bass and Justin Kier on drums. For more info, go to http://www.facebook.com/otepofficial. The front cover of the CD is freaking 'cult', by the way. I don't know who the lady on the cover is, but she sure looks hotter than hell! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PORPHYRA-The Starmaker's Prophecy (Nobody's Records)
PORPHYRA hails from Queens, NYC and their new album is called "The Starmaker's Prophecy". It contains ten brand new tracks and is worthy of a bit over forty-five minutes. The band mixes a broad variation in styles, ranging from melodic hard rock to symphonic metal. Opener "City Of Gold" is easy on the ear and it also proves that we are dealing with a bunch of very gifted musicians, including some great female vocals. Singer Elaine Tuttle will immediately attract your attention, at least she did with me. "Always On My Mind" starts with another 'easy on the ear' part and when the guitars start riffing, it's quite obvious that the slightly symphonic input gives the sound of the band a much broader vision. Later on in this song, there is even a true metal feeling going on in this amazing tune. Check out the guitar parts here. "Misirlou" gives away some of the mystery around the band. The musicians are mostly hailing from Greece and this reflects in this Greek titled song, that starts off with some Greek folk elements in it. They match very well with the melodic song structures that we heard so far. The drum outro sounds very powerful. "Forever" could very well be a hit single. It has got the hooks, but it also has got that catchy feeling to sing it along quite easily. The Greek influences will return in the beginning of "St. Basil's Hymn". The male vocals dominate this time and a big part of the hymn is instrumental. Afterwards, a complete instrumental version of this particular song will follow to close the CD. The epic, progressive "The Tale Of Bygone Years" is an outstanding tune and by far the best song on the album. It's another perfect example of the band's diversity in music styles. The subtle twist and mood changes give the album a kick in the ass. The band shows its musical muscles here. "Hook Through My Heart" on the other hand is very open and so much more easy to comprehend, that you can hardly understand that this is from the same band that just cranked out this insane progressive masterpiece. The CD closes with title track "The Starmaker's Prophecy", which is another lengthy anthem that proves the high quality of this band. The sudden mood change near the end sounds truly amazing and it will keep you focused. The very last song is an instrumental version of "St. Basil's Hymn". PORPHYRA already exists for quite some time now and the first musical roots originate from a band, called PHOENIX REIGN in 1998. In 2013, the band was renamed to PORPHYRA and the Byzantine influences have become bigger and bigger. PORPHYRA is definitely worth checking out and this album "The Starmaker's Prophecy" would make a good start to exploring this band. PORPHYRA consists of Elaine Tuttle on vocals, Mike Cotoia on guest vocals, Mike 'Risko' Savvas on guitar, tzoura and additional bass, Billy Chrissochos on guitar, Gregorz 'Greg' Swirszcz on bass, Richard Khuzami on percussion and Tracey 'Tre Boogie' Beavers on drums. Guest appearances on this album are by Jesse Pieper on keyboards in "St. Basil's Hymn", Mike 'Risko' Savvas on bass, Aady Pandit on guitar in "Forever" and our good friend Mark M.E. Edwards of OVERLORDE playing the guitar solo on that incredible "The Tale Of Bygone Years". The beautiful artwork on this CD was done by Billy Chrissochos. Website: http://www.porphyraband.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

RATBREED-Evoke The Blaze (Inverse Records)
RATBREED hails from Finland and their debut album is called "Evoke The Blaze". It contains nine tracks, worthy of about forty-five minutes of (old school) heavy metal with a fast beat and some flashing guitar solos. Singer Jasmin has a very powerful voice, but she can also scream out loud, which she proves in the fast opener "Escape From The Asylum". The band has got much live experience and already supported WLATARI at their 30th anniversary show. "Hunting High, Reaping Low" has got a much darker approach, but the guitars still find their way into the spotlight. The band got together in 2015 and I must admit that their true metal doesn't really sound like the average Finnish band to me. "Decay Of The Mind" has some IRON MAIDEN influences, but overall, the band tries to create a sound of their own. Influences of other bands will always be there with newcomers. Call it inspiration. Almost every riff has been played before. "Blaze From Below" is fast and once again, it has some mind-blowing guitar work. "Gates Of The Underworld" gives you another full dose of adrenaline, including some JUDAS PRIEST type of rhythms and a raw guitar solo. It belongs to my favorite songs on this album. The riffs from "Unhallowed Sleep" have a more ANVIL type of feeling and the solos are energetic, raw and very fast. In "Mad World", there are some nice double guitar parts and truly, every guitar adept is spoiled very much on this album, because every song really contains some amazing solo parts. Just feel the energy flow in "Through The Flames" and before you know it, your head will be going up and down. The influences of RATBREED may be revealed in a stunning version of WARLOCK's "I Rule The Ruins", which closes the CD. You can easily add names like CHASTAIN and HELLION to that list. I was pleasantly surprised by the very high quality traditional old school heavy metal of this band. RATBREED consists of Jasmin Anglen on vocals, Mikko Kaipanen on guitar, Markus Taipale on guitar, Lauri Palmunen on bass and Mikko Toivonen on drums. http://www.facebook.com/ratbreed. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

ROSY VISTA-Unbelievable (SPV/Steamhammer)
It is indeed unbelievable, that thirty years after they split up, the all-female band ROSY VISTA is now back together again and releasing a brand new album. It contains twelve songs and fifty powerful minutes of melodic metal. Opener "Crazy" turns back the clock thirty-some years and the ladies still sound very powerful and ready to rock. Check out the guitar work and great vocal parts in this pounder and you'll be convinced at once. "Sadistic Lover" starts off with some moaning WHITESNAKE type of vocals by Andrea Schwartz. I bet, that many people will be thrilled, when they play this song in a live situation. Influences of for example GREAT WHITE or MR. BIG are never too far away either. I don't want to label ROSY VISTA as a hair metal band nowadays, because therefore, they surely sound much too diverse. "Master Of Control" is very powerful, while the ballad "Too Much Feeling", shows the more sensitive side of the band. Clearly, this is a rather varied album, although it might be a bit too sweet for some of you. Just wait until the "Tables Are Turned" takes off, which has some axe-citing guitar licks. "Until I'm Satisfied" is a pretty much straight forward rock song. When you listen to the high quality songs on this album, you can tell that these ladies are no rookies. After all, the resurrection of ROSY VISTA consists of three former members of the band teaming up again. Three out of four is not bad at all. The next song, called "Hopatina" is very catchy, fast and easy on the ear. It has some Eastern European feeling to it, which will certainly please all the fans from that particular part of Europe. "Poor Rosy" sounds catchy and it's not autobiographical, because this ROSY has got a fruitful future ahead of them. At least I hope so, with a comeback album like that. "Sound Of Your Love" has got some great guitar riffs and I wouldn't be surprised at all, when they would release this as a single, as it's also very radio friendly. "Rockin' Through The Night" is the perfect song to start up your rock and roll party. "Changing My Mind" would not change my mind at all about this truly amazing comeback album by this German all-female metal band from Hannover. This is a killer album from start to finish. The band has already shared the stage with the likes of URIAH HEEP, MÖTLEY CRUE, JOE COCKER and MANFRED MANN'S EART BAND, but I think that's only the beginning and they have the potential to grow a lot bigger, when they will go on tour to promote the album. The song, for which the crowd definitely will go wild is saved for last. It's a cover of STEPPENWOLF's "Born To Be Wild", that will make your rock party complete, I guess. Anyway, this is the glorious comeback album by the long lost band ROSY VISTA and it's really unbelievable! ROSY VISTA consists of Anca Graterol on guitar, Andrea Schwarz on vocals, Marina Hlubeck on drums and newcomer Angela Mann on bass. Be prepared for a whole lotta Rosy on this brand new album, which is a true killer. http://www.facebook.com/rosyvista. Welcome back, ladies! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ROUGH SPELLS-Modern Kicks For The Solitary Witch (independent)
ROUGH SPELLS is hailing from Toronto in Canada and their music could be described as occult rock with some doomy edges. Think about a band like for example BLOOD CEREMONY and you'll catch my drift. The vocals of Sarena are really excellent in combination with their heavy sound. The album contains six tracks, worthy of about twenty-five minutes of doomy occult rock and metal. This vinyl LP starts with the doomy title track "Modern Kicks For The Solitary Witch", which is only just the beginning. The fast guitar riffs will take you to another world, in which the occult spells lurk in the dark. The guitar parts at the end of this great opener are the beginning of "Metamorphosize", where the band shows that they can sound very psychedelic as well. Just listen to the start of this song. It will easily get you in a trance. Singer Sarena is backed by a group of three musicians that give the music a very doomy character to make the picture complete. In this song, they sounds a bit depressed, but like the opener there's enough variation for the band to show up well. The fast riffs at the end of the song will probably remind you of METALLICA in a way, however the witchy vocal parts of Sarena will push the back back into the occult rock corner. "Rope" may sound like an innocent title, but when the rope is around your neck and it's choking you, then it's a slightly different matter. On the B-side, there are three more songs, starting with "Queen Scarlett". This may sound a bit like WOLFMOTHER on 33 rpm, but I also hear some BLUES PILLS influences along the way. The vibe is the same and also the stunning rhythms are very similar. "Confession Of The Dominant Class" contains a more up tempo beat and it gives their sound a bit variation. The LP closes with "Star Reader" which is in the best CANDLEMASS tradition and gives you a very doomy feeling. This is probably one of the highlights on this amazing debut album for me. There is a whole lot of power and energy in this last song. ROUGH SPELLS consists of Sarena Sairan on vocals and guitar, Maija Martin on guitar and vocals, Dave Lucas on bass and Toby Black on drums. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/roughspells [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE SABBATHIAN-Latum Alterum (Svart Records)
The debut full-length album by the Norwegian-American metal outfit THE SABBATHIAN contains seven tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes of slow traditional doom metal and the enhanced bonus CD has three tracks. This is the "Ritual Rites" EP from 2014. However, their sound has pretty much changed since then. Their current music style is much more away from their early doom metal sound and it even flirts a little with folk metal, comparable to ULVER for example. The dreamy vocals on the short intro of "Requiem..." are very sweet and the next song "The Brightest Light" is right up that same street. "Liti Kjersti" shows a more folky side of the band. It is also inspired by a traditional folk song from Telemark. The folk influences are from singer Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen, who once was in NATTSOL and MANDYLION. This 'new' approach may come as a shock to all doom metal adepts, that hoped to hear a more traditional doom metal sound from former HOUR OF 13 member Chad Davis. "Head Of A Traitor" on the other hand leans towards some real heavy pounding doom metal and it contains the guest vocals of Liv Kristine Espenaes (THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, LEAVES' EYES). It sounds really great for that matter, but it's far away from the early days. Still, their music is very intense and when you listen to it open-minded, you will be very pleased by the dark sounding epical folk metal tunes of THE SABBATHIAN. "One Night Of Cruelty" has some beautiful moody harmony vocals on a fuzzy and folky kind of bombastic sound. Is there no doom metal at all on this album? Well, quite frankly I would say maybe a little. Just check out the riffs on "Embrace The Dark", but it may not be the doom metal that you would expected after the band's first EP "Ritual Rites". The lyrics to this song are from "Somnet 127" by William Shakespeare, by the way and it contains some Iommi-type of guitar parts. "Evig Hvile" will bring you into a totally different world after that. Dream away and let the wind bring you to the large Norwegian woods. If this folk piece of music won't do the trick, then CD closer "Libera Me..." definitely will. The latter is part of the Requiem, the mass of the dead. The music of THE SABBATHIAN is not that easy to comprehend maybe, but it still is high class stuff in a way different style than their previous EP, which is on the second CD and contains three songs, worthy of twenty minutes. Their doomy pieces of art will really keep you riveted. Influences of a band like COVEN will come very close here, because of the similar vocal parts. They are dark, doomy and slow. Opener "Ancient's Curse" proves that their early stuff is so much different and "Ritual Rites" shows you that a lot can happen in four to five years. The last song on this enhanced CD is called "Nightshade Eternal", which contains a nice speed change at the end. This is actually what I expected on this new album. It doesn't mean that "Latum Alterum" is bad, but it's different and it needs some time to grow on me. THE SABBATHIAN consists of Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen on vocals and Chad Davis on multi-instruments. For more info, go their facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/thesabbathianband. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SANHEDRIN-A Funeral For The World (Cruz Del Sur Music)
We are going to introduce you to this amazing doom metal band from Brooklyn in NY twice. We will start with their debut full-length album, originally released independently in 2017 and reissued in 2018 by Cruz Del Sur Music and next up their brand new album, released in 2019. SANHEDRIN plays an exciting mix of classic metal, doom, hard rock and stoner rock. The eight songs on the first album are worthy of about forty-five minutes, starting with "Riding On The Dawn", which is a ballsy rocker with some amazing axe work and a good old school true metal feeling, like it was written in the mid- eighties. While in title track "A Funeral For The World", the band concentrates on a more darker theme. "Demoness" is a killer song, in which singer Erica Stoltz proves that she has got a lot to offer. She also plays the bass, by the way. The slower parts could very well be from any BLACK SABBATH album (Ronnie James Dio-era), while the fast parts and the guitar solo are in best JUDAS PRIEST tradition with some early IRON MAIDEN influences. Well, there you have it. This album just breathes that good old school heavy metal feeling from the eighties. Don't get me wrong, there are still some very good old school metal songs in 2019, but most of them don't reach that same level anymore. SANHEDRIN just gives you the feeling that their music belongs to the eighties, even if they take back some speed like in "Collateral Damage". Erica's vocals hold so much energy and emotion. The speed switch is really amazing and it gives you more energy and loads of adrenaline and the guitar work is just awesome. The screaming vocals in "Faith Healers" remind me of Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN), while musically it leans more towards BLUE OYSTER CULT actually. "No Religion" starts in a way that "Beyond The Realms Of Death" started, when the Priest recorded it in 1977. It's a slower track that builds up to a steaming climax. This will easily become one of your faves on this amazing album. "Massive Deceiver" rocks a little bit more and it has got more fire and fuel for the average headbanger. The guitar solo here sounds fabulous. "Die Trying" is the final statement of the band, which launches them directly into the premier league of heavy metal scene, as far as I'm concerned. There are just killers on this amazing debut album, which saw the light of day after the band only released one demo in 2015. It also has some great artwork that really fits the music of this fabulous band perfectly. In the next review, you can read how SANHEDRIN (remember that name!) has evolved in their career. SANHEDRIN consists of Jeremy Sosville (BLACK ANVIL) on guitar, Nathan Honor on drums and Erica Stoltz (AMBER ASYLUM / LOST GOAT) on bass and vocals. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/sanhedrinband or visit their official website at: http://www.sanhedrin.nyc. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SANHEDRIN-The Poisoner (Cruz Del Sur Music)
The second full-length of SANHEDRIN is called "The Poisoner" and it contains eight tracks, worthy of a forceful forty-five minutes. Their debut album really blew me away and I hope that these brand new tracks will do the same. Opener "Meditation (All My Gods Are Gone)" will again take you back to ancient times, when hard rock and heavy metal was still performed by real musicians. Think of bands such as BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE and LED ZEPPELIN for that matter and exactly those names come to mind, when listening to this song. You can also add BLUES PILLS to that, who have the same vibe in their sound, but their music is slightly heavier. I think the vocals of Erica are quite similar to those of Elin Larsson. The fiery guitar parts remained on this album and also the firm speed in their songs and the amazing vocal abilities of Erica turn this band into a top-notch newcomer. "Blood From Stone" sounds more rough and leans toward metal. Just check out the amazing riffs here. And if the riffs won't do the trick, the solos definitely will. Title track "The Poisoner" starts off slowly and the passion and emotion in Erica's voice is truly amazing. The unexpected speed change will make you hungry for more. "The Getaway" takes off in the fourth gear and makes you realize, that you are listening to a high octane fueled heavy metal band that wants to astonish all the fans out there. What is there not to like about this band? Their sound is fresh and the songs leave nothing to be desired. They are complete, as solid as a rock and they just sound how a metal band is supposed to sound. "For The Wicked" has some IRON MAIDEN influences ("The Number Of The Beast") and it's a short adrenaline bomb. "Saints And Sinners" has more IRON MAIDEN- and HUDAS PRIEST type of riffs and there's even a very short solo part by drummer Nathan. The CD closes with "In From The Outside", another lengthy track, in which the band displays their high qualities. There's even another amazing instrumental part in this song. The band keeps on surprising me and this must be rewarded with the max score. The band line-up is still the same since the last album, so we can enjoy the skills of Erica Stoltz on bass and vocals, Jeremy Sosville on guitar and Nathan Honor on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/sanhedrinband or http://www.sanhedrin/nyc. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SARCASM SYNDROME-Thy Darkness(independent)
Heavy doom metal band SARCASM SYNDROME hails from Innsbruck, Austria and this album comes on blood red marbled vinyl in a hand numbered limited edition of five hundred copies only (we have 170/500). What a good start for an old school rocker like yours truly. I'm getting more excited every minute, when listening to the opener on the 'Thy' side (or the A-side) of this six track album, which is called "Doomed". The songs are worthy of about thirty minutes of some great heavy psychedelic doom metal. Nice speed changes, moody vocals, impressive instrumental parts with great guitar riffs and a doomy atmosphere that could make a rainy day turn into total misery. Despite the fact that it's twenty-eight degrees Celsius outside and pretty hot in my room, it's a real treat to listen to these songs and I guess you can listen to this under any weather circumstance. The instrumental intermezzos make the songs adventurous and you never know what to expect when another mood change comes up. At the end of this song the guitars cry fast and the speed goes up enormously. In "Downfall" the voice of Petra creates a psychedelic touch in their music, which fits just perfectly here and is much groovier. Near the end, the song flows over into the last song and before you know it, you are listening to the title track "Thy Darkness". It marches on at the same pace, however the guitar players also are able to show their skills with some nice solo work. After hearing these first three songs, my references would go out to bands like ST. VITUS and PENTAGRAM, to name but a few. But it wasn't always like that, because twenty-five years ago, when the band was founded in 1991, they started out as a thrash/punk band. In 1993 vocalist Petra Maier joined the band and they switched over to the heavy (epic) doom metal style that you will hear on this record. After the band split up in 1997, they played a reunion show at the Alpine Steel festival in 2017. To celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary, they released this six track album, which continues on the 'Darkness' side (the B-side) with "Through The Night". Watch out for the bitter sweet spoken word part, that gives it a very emotional charge. The next song "Chtulu Rising" flows over naturally and gives the album a constant flow of dark sorrow. The guitars cry out loud, the drums beat fast, the bass guitar rumbles low and above it all, Petra sings her magic spells to the microphone, while Chtulu rises, can you feel the force?!? "Contrasts" closes the album, which is another doomy metal attack with some very strong guitar licks and on top of it, there's that marvelous voice of Petra, which gives it a strong dark feeling. This sounds really amazing to me. Hopefully, SARCASM SYNDROME will have more like this in the near future and maybe even some live shows? Until then, this red marbled vinyl album won't leave my record player for awhile, I guess. The band consists of Petra Maier on vocals, Daniel Bachmaier on guitar, Andreas Elsler on drums (he was the band's first singer, before Petra joined), Matthias Nussbaum on guitar and Roland Wurzer on bass. Website: http://www.sarcasm-syndrome.com or http://www.facebook.com/sarcasmsyndrome. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SCARLET ANGEL-Rise Metal Angels (independent)
We have been axed by the Angel many times. These four rockers are living legends in our book and I was so glad to hear that they have a new album out. The twelve songs are worthy of forty-five minutes of heavenly metal, which comes right from the dark depths of the underground scene. Well, for all the people who have read the reviews in Metal Maidens thoroughly, SCARLET ANGEL is back with a vengeance. Lock up your children, before they will get axed, too. The short opener "Re-Creation" invites you to enter the dark horror related world of the Angel with "The Silence", in which the band shows a diversity of music styles in one song. They start off in a rocking way, then in the middle they switch on to a more progressive sounding part with PINK FLOYD type of guitar licks and they finish with some impressive guitar licks and a very groovy rhythm. The band still knows to impress me with their songs. The CD continues with "Child Of Misfortune", which is a real rough rocker. "Rock You Crazy" is going to take you to the rhythm and will rock you crazy. The part in which guitar player Michelle and bass player Barry go wild is definitely the best part. Barry wrote the music and the lyrics for the next track "1812: The Eagle And The Dove", which also has some mind-blowing guitar work by Michelle. "More Than A Game" contains some raw guitar work and it rocks like hell. It's Abby swinging with her axe, which must be more than a game to her. However, you've been warned. Don't get to close or it will end up on your skull, just like their skull splitting music. Michelle plays the intro "Ritual: Call To The Mountain", which includes some church bells, thunder and lightning and a gong. It's the instrumental intro to "Metal Mountain", a dark song, which contains many speed changes. It belongs to my personal favorites for sure! Another one that got on my list of highlights is called "Summer Lost", which has some really crazy axe work of Michelle. She plays it so rough and raw, you simply must like it. Afterwards, Barry goes wild in an impressive bass solo, called "Pterodactyl". Kim joins him later in this impressive piece of instrumental improvisation. "Blue Angels And Butterflies" sounds like a possible choice for a single and it even has some poppy elements as well. The best is saved for last in "Ode To The Ax". It features the high screams of Abby, some mysterious sounding spoken word parts and the amazing guitar work of Kim, which is really the cherry on the cake here. Wow, I'm very impressed, ladies and mister bassman and this comeback album is a true killer. I hope, that the next SCARLET ANGEL album won't take that long, because we really missed you! I just love this band and their underground rock and metal sound, created by some highly skilled musicians. Welcome back SCARLET ANGEL, although you've never really been away and are always in our hearts! SCARLET ANGEL is Michelle Armiger on lead guitar and vocals, Barry Bergoffen on bass and vocals, Abby Otradovec on vocals and Kim Yates on drums and vocals. Get axed by the Angel too and experience their world. You won't be sorry! For more info and buy the CD, go to their official website: http://www.scarletangelrocks.com or facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ScarletAngelRocks/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOWKEEP-Shadowkeep (Pure Steel Records)
Another band that we welcome back after a much too long absence is SHADOWKEEP. The new (and self-titled) album contains eleven brand new tracks that will be hammered in your brains for about fifty powerful minutes. The instrumental intro is called "Atlantis", the town that drowned under the sea surface. This is followed by a pure old school metal track, which is called "Guardian Of The Sea". HELLSTAR fans will surely love this. Not only because it has been influenced by this Texas metal outfit, but also because SHADOWKEEP is being fronted by HELLSTAR's singer James Rivera nowadays. His recognizable voice fits just perfectly to the very powerful sound of the band. Just check out the amazing Rob Halford type of pull outs in the fast part of "Flight Across The Sand", which simply sounds amazing. Rivera lifts the band up to a much higher level for sure. They already were big in my book, because SHADOWKEEP always impressed me with their true old school metal sound. In "Horse Of War", the guitarists ask for your attention. The speed changes are adventurous and all the ingredients of a good metal song are there. "Little Lion" takes care of some variation. Acoustic guitars, the golden voice of Rivera and a small setting are necessary for a little piece of rest, before the band starts bashing away in the heavy "Angels And Omens". This is like another true metal anthem would be, that will probably appeal to the fans of VICIOUS RUMORS, LEATHERWOLF and HELLSTAR. In "Isolation" the band rocks at full force, however a melodic moment is never too far away for a good balance between metal and melody. And just have a taste of the tender "Never Forgotten", which will touch your soul very deep. Then it's time for the musicians to show their skills in an impressive instrumental track, called "The Sword Of Damocles" in which the band crashes forward and leave nothing more to be desired. This album sounds just amazing and in "Immortal Drifter" they present a heavy pounder to their fans, for those who like it all just a little bit louder. Of course they also added some melodic edges in this remarkable heavy track. The last song is definitely worth your attention. It's a lengthy masterpiece called "Minotaur", which contains high pull outs of Rivera, loud heavy drum beats and the not to be missed double leads. The short mid-piece, in which Rivera starts whistling is maybe a bit over the top but it's the interval to the impressive second part, which contains even more leads and breaks. This ten minute song is certainly the highlight on this amazing comeback album for me. SHADOWKEEP consists of James Rivera on vocals, Nikki Robson on guitar, Chris Allen on guitar, Omar Dayes on drums and Stony Grantham on bass. For more info, go to: http://www.shadowkeepmetal.co.uk or http://www.facebook.com/shadowkeepmetal. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SINAYA-Maze Of Madness (Brutal Records)
Founded in 2010, this Brazilian all-female band is ready to destroy everything and each one of us. In 2013, they already launched an EP and this full-length release contains eight tracks, worthy of thirty-five minutes of brutal death metal. Loud riffs and wild drum rolls are starting off in opener "Life Against Fate", that shows these four ladies are very eager to become the new all-female death metal sensation after NERVOSA from this beautiful country. "Abyss To Death" opens moody and slow but once they press the pedal to the metal, they sound fiery, aggressive and very mean. Influences of SLAYER and ARCH ENEMY (vocal wise) can be heard and especially the wild drum bashes of Cynthia sound truly insane. "Always Pain" has some VENOM influeces, because of the low voice of guitarist/singer Mylena. The band has shared the stage with the likes of EXODUS, PRIMAL FEAR, MASTER, LUCA TURILLI'S RHAPSODY and ZAKK STEVENS over the years and they are ready to tour in Europe. "Bath Of Memories" starts off cautious, however after some speed changes, they soon take off in the fifth gear. "Crowd In Panic" has got more speed changes. The first dark and doomy banging part is very slow and the fast part with the solo sounds really fiery and exciting. "Infernal Sight" has some exciting switches and twists. "Deep In The Grave" is full of cruelty and I think that both SINAYA and NERVOSA are quite equal in brutality. No soft edges or melodic side steps, these ladies sound vicious and mean, without any compromises. The CD closes with "Buried By Terror", which is another death metal ear attack with deep growling grunts and some great guitar licks. This is also the first single/video taken from this debut album. SINAYA is definitely a name to remember if you like your death metal raw and mean with no sidesteps and full of exciting speed changes. Sometimes South American death and black metal sounds quite extreme, but I must admit that this album is a real treat to your ears. It's also very accessible for those, who are not really into the more extreme death metal genre. SINAYA consists of Mylena Monaco on vocals and guitar, Renata Petrelli on guitar, Bruna Melo on bass and Cynthia Tsai on drums. Website: http://www.sinayaofficial.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SIRENHEX-Sirenhex (Demo CD) (independent)
SIRENHEX hails from the City Of Angels (Los Angeles) in California and their logo already urged on buying this four track demo CD. And we were right, you can buy this album without any hesitation, as their music will definitely blow you away. The four ladies and one guy play pure heavy metal with strong riffs, high vocals and a haunting rhythm. Listen to opener "Brujas Del Metal" and you will definitely be devoted forever. The guitar riffs will make you think that you're listening to PINK FLOYD or LED ZEPPELIN, which is good, so don't get me wrong. When the choir vocals are there, their sound is getting darker. Just wait until the loud cries set in and the speed goes up. Yes, all you crazy people, this is old school (speed) metal like it is supposed to sound. "Waves The Scorn" speeds up the beat and makes it even more exciting. The songs are really killer. Think of a great mix between old school IRON MAIDEN, SAVAGE GRACE, old school METALLICA, METAL CHURCH and VICIOUS RUMORS and a thousand of speed monsters more. In "Siren's Calling", the guitar solos keep coming and coming. The band sounds so energetic and fresh, that it's very strange indeed, that we haven't heard of them before. I think, we will be hearing a lot more from them in the near future. In fact, a new two-track demo is in the works right now, called "From The Cove". Anyway, in the final song, which is called "Hexed' the secret is getting out and apparently we've all been hexed. Dark forces have manipulated us all to buy this self-titled four track CD. Well, hexed or not, I think it's absolutely freaking amazing and I would definitely recommend it to everybody, who likes old school bewitched heavy metal. If you don't buy this thing, you're the one that is freaking hexed. And don't call yourself a metal head anymore, do you understand that?!! Where do I get this first demo "Live At The 5 Star Bar"??? It must be out of stock, what a bummer. I will give this one a spin or two more instead. On this four track demo, SIRENHEX (what a great name, by the way!!) consists of Luna Soto on vocals, Bee Sobalvarro on bass guitar, Mars Dimitri on drums, Christine Barbie Fernandez on guitar and Jeremy Encinas on guitar. In the meantime, Jeremy has left the band and they are searching for a new guitar player, preferably female. For more info about SIRENHEX, go to: http://www.facebook.com/sirenhex and buy their stuff at: http://www.sirenhex.bigcartel.com. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SKUNK ANANSIE-25Live@25 (Boogooyamma LTD.)
When you say SKUNK ANANSIE, you think of a great dynamic band, who deliver a high dose of energy, a whirlwind of live performances during festival season and of course their bold headed vocalist Skin, who's the front lady of the band. This energy has been captured on a double live CD, containing twenty-five live tracks, recorded at different locations and worthy of about one hundred and seven minutes of solid rock. Just hear the variety of songs on these two silver discs. Sometimes they sound heavy and all-destroying, while at other times they sound really fragile and are covered with shitloads of emotion. Opener "Charlie Big Potato" is a great classic to start off the show. It's quite obvious, that they have got the potential of a big name like LED ZEPPELIN, THE WHO or any other related band you would love to see on a festival. They have got the power to take the audience by surprise and give them the time of their life on a sunny day. There are many great moments here to enjoy, sing along or dance or maybe just want to move your body. "Intellectualise My Blackness" sounds powerful and shows the band, as we know them, full steam ahead and without any restrictions. And the reaction of the crowd is just amazing and they will follow the band anywhere for that matter. Just listen to "Because Of You", where the music is powerful and the vocals of Skin are very emotional. "I Can Dream" will definitely keep the party mood going. Then there´s that very moment you´ve all been waiting for. The band puts a lot of emotion into "Charity", which is a really beautiful song and it proves how easy Skin can switch over. The short stop after her long-held notes makes the band even more genius in my opinion. "My Love Will Fall" is a good follow up to that and it has some nice male harmony vocals. The audience is not forgotten as well. Skin loves to interact with the people and her announcements are quite spontaneous. The soft and very serious love song "Death To The Lovers" is a moment of rest, which is dedicated to the guys in the audience. The wild song, dedicated to all the ladies today, will follow later on in the set, Skin promises. "Twisted" has always been one of my personal favorites and you can start up any party you like with this one. "My Ugly Boy" must be about me, but I forgive her. Just kiddin´(lol). It´s another catchy song and ready to sing along to. Then there´s a short part with a couple of hit singles, starting with "Weak" and continuing with "Hedonism", who could ask for more? It´s time to show the audience that these songs might be mainstream but also very exciting at the same time. "Hedonism" is definitely one of these songs that you can easily find on anyone´s list of personal favorites, I guess. "I Hope You Get To Meet Your Hero" is an anti-hero song. Skin asks the crowd, if everything is alright out there? What do you think??!? Things simply can´t go wrong with two hands full of high quality songs, can it? The second CD starts with "Love Someone Else", which is followed by a track that is dedicated to all the motherf*ckers out there, called "This Is Not A Game". They are not afraid to make a statement, that´s for sure. "God Loves Only You" is a good mix of energy and emotion. In that context "(Can't Get By) Without You" is in that same vibe. "Secretly" slows things down a bit. "Over The Love" is another slow one, however in "Spit You Out" the adrenaline starts to flow again. "Yes It´s Fucking Political" will definitely help with that. And in "Selling Jesus" the band is steaming things up for the vibe, where Skin is at her very best. The band steps on the gas and Skin follows easily although they haven´t played this song for ages. "Little Baby Swastikkka" is next and this is from the days that SKUNK ANANSIE hadn´t reached the status they are into nowadays and they were still an underground band and found very controversial by many rockers out there. So much has changed over the years, luckily. "Tear The Place Up" is an all destroying set closer. This killer track stops for a short while to start all over again and this time a little bit slower yet more groovy then before. When everybody has been knocked down from this adrenaline rush, it´s time to chill out with the emotional "Squander" and the last song "You Saved Me". After this last song, Skin asks the crowd if they want them to do just one more. You know what the answer will be, but then the party is over and CD two stops. SKUNK ANANSIE is and will always be your ultimate festival band and the live atmosphere they create on this double live CD is being captured here just perfectly and I will give them a well-deserved full score. SKUNK ANANSIE consists of Skin on vocals, Ace on guitar, Cass Lewis on bass and Mark Richardson on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/officialskunkanansie or their official page at: http://www.skunkanansie.net. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

STEEL SNAKE-First Contact (EP) (independent)
With a name like that, I guess you can't go wrong. STEEL SNAKE hails from Mexico City and their download album contains seven songs and twenty-five minutes of heavy metal. The opener is a short intro, called "First Contact With The Devlish One". In "The Negation", you will hear a metal band that surely knows to spread some power and excitement in their music. Fast drum rolls start this song and fans of RIOT, ANNIHILATOR, VICIOUS RUMORS, GRIM REAPER and IRON MAIDEN can dig here in safely and have a taste of this magnificent opener. "In Hardest Duels" starts off in a very spacey way. It contains a lot of great raw guitar work and the powerful vocals of Andrea, who's a perfect match here. "Al Alba" might be an exotic title, but the song simply rocks you off your feet with some JUDAS PRIEST type of riffs. It's quite obvious that STEEL SNAKE plays some exciting old school heavy metal. Just listen to the first riffs of "Silver Fire And Chains" and you'll be sold. This might be the first contact that we have with this great band, but if it's up to me it will definitely not be the last one either. I really hope that they will continue this way. The band stays true to the old school heavy metal sound and they also know to write some good catchy songs. "Heavy Mezcal" starts with some wild drum beats, followed by some low tuned BLACK SABBATH type of riffs (DIO era). "As The Rage" leaves some space to sing along during the chorus. It might be a real crowd pleaser for that matter. I guess that STEEL SNAKE is on the right way to big success. At least they stole my heart with these seven tracks. STEEL SNAKE consists of Andrea Rufin on vocals, Omar Barreto on guitar and chorus vocals, Rodrigo T Fonseda on drums and synths and Diego Camacho on bass guitar. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/SteelSnakeMX. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STORMWOLF-Howling Wrath (Red Cat Records/7hard)
Don't expect any pop music, when calling your band STORMWOLF, which is a mighty fine name, as a matter of fact. This band hails from Italy and this eleven track CD is worthy of about fifty-five powerful minutes, starting with "The Phoenix". I must admit that after this, I have already fallen in love with the heavy but crystal clear vocals of Elena Ventura. The guitar solo are awesome, too. "Winter Of The Wolf" has epical harmony choir vocals and some JUDAS PRIEST type of guitar riffs. I hear some old school WHITESNAKE type of riffs in "Marathon", when the white serpent was still playing that bluesy type of rock. The guitar solo in this song is once again awesome, by the way. Francesco Natale is responsible for it and he is also the song writer of the band. Clearly, the band is not focusing on one particular music style only. They are spreading their chances, which is good and they will be able to reach a broader audience that way. Same goes for their live shows. They already opened for LACUNA COIL, but also for death metal pioneers NECRODEATH. Next song is called "Fear Of The Past", which shows that they don't have any fear of music from the past. And if you like your music a bit heavier, just listen to the dynamic start of the "Swordwind", which has a more MANOWAR kind of approach. It's also the title of the promo that they send out to the press in 2015 with five own penned songs and three cover songs. It sounds very epical and I like it a lot. For the song "Lightcrusher" the band shot a great video. The vocals of Elena remind me a bit of Kate from the Belgian band ACID (their debut album) and together with the raw guitar sound, this is an amazing combination. After this firm head shaker, it is time for an instrumental interlude with "Thasaidon". Guitar fanatics among us will love it, because it sounds really awesome. It starts off with the sound of a didgeridoo (??) and it goes on for a short while, but when the PRIEST type of riffs start, you know that there is no escape. Just absorb the wild bashing drum beats of the second metal maiden in the band, Tiziana 'Titti' Cotella, who puts down a very strong and heavy beat here. There are the unmistakable influences of MAIDEN, PRIEST and SCHENKER and also pay some extra attention to the passionate bass sound by Francesco Gaetani here. What's going to happen next?? You tell me. Death metal screams are starting off "Soulblighter" and as a variation to their true metal approach, it's nice to enjoy a more brutal side of the band as well. The song isn’t about any death or black metal at all though. The guitar sound is typically heavy metal, but it's the brutal male growls that make the difference here. This is a very interesting sidestep, I must say. The CD officially closes with a cover of the DORO classic "All We Are", which will please a lot of fans in a live situation, I guess. The best however is saved for last. The two bonus tracks are two covers by LIZZY BORDEN, who is a god in the book of heavy metal. "One False Move" sounds like it was especially made for Elena to sing. The band plays this awesome track in the original way, through which it becomes something special. The other (and final) LIZZY BORDEN cover is called "Me Against The World". Hats off, boys and girls!! STORMWOLF is definitely a name to remember. They breath the classic old school metal and this debut CD must be heard by all the old school headbangers out there. STORMWOLF consists of Elena Ventura on vocals, Francesco Gaetani on bass, Dave 'The Brave' Passarelli on guitar, Tiziana 'Titti' Cotella on drums and Francesco Natale on guitar. What an awesome CD cover, by the way. You'd better run and hide, if you meet this sucker. Our thanks go out to our good friend Dennis Samokiszuk for introducing us to this amazing band. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/stormwolf.it/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NITA STRAUSS-Controlled Chaos (Sumerian Records)
If you have been following ALICE COOPER these past few years, you may have noticed that the shock rocker has got the hots for female guitar players. He did have guitarist Orianthi in his band for a while and now there is the blonde vixen, called NITA STRAUSS. You may also know her from her former bands, THE IRON MAIDENS and FEMME FATALE. Nita presents her solo album "Controlled Chaos" here, that contains eleven tracks, worthy of almost forty minutes and is completely instrumental. "Prepare For War" is the first ear attack, which only lasts for a few powerful seconds. "Alegria" is in fact the first real song, in which Nita flies over her fretboard like crazy and her shredding reminds me a bit of MARTY FRIEDMAN's solo work. Check out the powerful and fast drum beats. Nita proves to be a fast shredder and her guitar playing is constantly in the spotlights, whereas with ALICE COOPER her solos need to be more in service of the songs. She does a marvellous job though. Just listen to her fast playing in this one and in "Our Most Desperate Hour", which follows thereafter. In "Mariana Trench", the name of JASON BECKER also comes to mind, but you can think of STEVE VAI as well here. He's the man who pushed Nita towards a solo career. The closing of this song sounds melodic and has a very nice twist. In case, you are wondering what is the story behind Mariana Trench? Well, I'm afraid, I don't know and you will never find out either. You can make up your own story here, I guess. Well, it is time now for the emotional ballad type of song, called "Here With You", which will probably remind you of JOE SATRIANI in a way. The drummer is going out of his mind in "The Stillness At The End". Short piano parts are turning up in the beginning of "The Quest" and somebody like TONY MACALPINE used to do things like that. You will definitely create the attention of the listener this way and after that you can go full speed ahead again. I love it! The keyboards have got a major role in this inspiring duel, but also the drums are being involved in the great mid-piece of this song. "Hope Grows" is another piece of rest in between the loud and wild shredding parts. "Lion Among Wolves" sounds quite heavy and because of the ultra-fast drum beats, it even leans towards CRADLE OF FILTH or DIMMU BORGIR for a very short moment, but these raw edges will disappear very soon. In "Pandemonium 2.0', Nita destroys every f**king speed limit, if there is any. The last song on this great instrumental guitar album has been reserved for a cover of the QUEEN classic "The Show Must Go On". As long as Nita and her boyfriend Josh Villalta are in charge here, the show will definitely go on. If you like to listen to some insane guitar licks, be part of her 'controlled chaos' and play this very LOUD!!! Website: http://www.facebook.com/NitaStrauss. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STRYKER-Stryker (Heaven & Hell Records)
Florida based STRYKER are presenting the re-release of their self-titled album, which contains eight songs, worthy of about forty minutes. Originally, these songs only ended up on a vinyl record in 1985, but now we can finally listen to it on CD. Opener "Plastic Man" shows that we're dealing with a true old school heavy metal band, including wild guitar riffs and some great energetic vocals. That's the way I like it. Their traditional power metal will most likely appeal to all the music lovers that listen to authentic heavy metal from the early eighties. Think of bands like RIOT, BLACK LACE, WARLOCK, TAIST OF IRON, KIM SIXX and ACID for that matter. For example have a tasty bite of "Raider Of The Senses", which rocks very loud. "Vengeance Will Be Mine" is pretty much straight forward and very powerful indeed. This short-lived band is relatively unknown and even after the release of this amazing album, they just didn't manage to get established in the metal scene, although the band did have a large following in the region of Florida. Their music certainly has got a lot of potential, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way. Just have a listen to "Nightmares", which starts off with some weird sounds, but once the song gets hot, it has some magical guitar moments and wild drum rolls, topped by the great vocals of front lady Sarah. "Deceiver" is another firm pounder and I really don't understand why this band never really made it. "Take Me Away" is more or less the obligatory ballad on this album. "Rock This House" is a sing along tune with a very catchy chorus. The guitar riffs in "Long Time Coming" are in that typical JUDAS PRIEST style and so are the harmony vocals in the chorus. It's definitely one of the highlights on this CD. The speed change at the end of this song sounds freaking fabulous. Actually, I can't think of any weak moments on this CD at all. It's a very nice walk down memory lane of a short lived metal band that could have been huge, if they would have continued that way. Which is not the case unfortunately, but there's always this great CD. STRYKER consisted of Sarah on vocals, Lynn Baker on drums, Larry Farmer on guitar, Steve Maitland on guitar and Jerry Young on bass. For more info, go to: http://www.heavenandhellrecords.bandcamp.com/album/stryker. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

SUBSTRATUM-Permission To Rock (Divebomb Records)
We are going to introduce you to SUBSTRATUM in two parts here. The first part is this CD, while the other CD will be reviewed next. SUBSTRATUM is a traditional old school metal band from Seattle. Their music sounds dynamic and energetic and their old school heavy metal songs are heavy as hell. This album contains ten tracks that will knock you off your feet in forty-five minutes. Opener "Rough Rider" will blow you away right from the start with its JUDAS PRIEST type of sound. "Cemetery Of State" stands proud and it will remind you of bands, like ZED YAGO and HELLION. The great speed change at the end of the song sounds very surprising. It's where the instrumental part starts. "Locked And Loaded (You'll Never Live Again)" sounds more straight forward. The PRIEST influences will return in the very dynamic "No Nothing To None". This is followed by the title track, well sort of it, as the title of the song is actually "Exxtremer", but the subtitle is called "Permision To Rock". It actually screams to shout out loud and some mean guitar work will complete this song. "Zero To Infinity' starts with some spacey sounds and IRON MAIDEN type of bass parts. It takes off in the fourth gear. The guitar licks will rock the wallpaper from your living room in this one. To put some variation on the album, there's a short acoustic theme, which is called "Vulpecula'. It's a short moment to spice up your batteries before the heavy pounder "The Source Of All Creation" takes off, which might be one of my personal favorites here, because of the slightly innovative and adventurous song structures. "Triangulum" is yet another acoustic piece, that will introduce you to the last song on the album, which is another JUDAS PRIEST type of headbanger, called "Up On Wheels". Seattle may be well-known for the grunge scene, but SUBSTRATUM proves that there is a lot more and you can also rock out loud there. The album "Permission To Rock" is highly recommended to the old school rockers out there. They have my permission for sure after hearing this. SUBSTRATUM consists of Amy Lee Carlson on vocals, John Haynes on guitar and vocals, Max Nazaryan on guitar, Matthew Vogan on bass and Eric Smith on drums. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/substratumseattle. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SUBSTRATUM-Stratosphere (Divebomb Records)
If you already liked the full-length CD "Permission To Rock" by Seattle based metal band SUBSTRATUM, then I invite you to have a listen to this six tracker "Stratosphere" as well, which contains more hot rocking metal songs by this amazing band from the town, that captured so many grunge outfits in the past. SUBSTRATUM proves that there's more than meets the eye on these two albums. This is part two, which contains six other killer tracks and about thirty-five minutes of old school metal, starting with the fast and furious "Night Sweats". If you already liked their previous album, you will definitely dig this release as well. Just check out the icy high screams of Amy Lee in "To Tame The Burning Blade" to get some idea. The song has got a more epical feeling but I must admit that I liked it a lot. "Sun Rider" starts off slowly, however after the speed change halfway through, the instrumental piece will really rip you apart. The high-skilled musicians are showing their musical abilities here and because of that, it's very high on my list of personal favorites. "Cast My Spell" is a real pounder and I guess that when they play it live, this would be a real crowd pleaser. It's a cover of the NWOBHM outfit SATANIC RITES. Heavy metal fanatics among us may know enough by now. They know their classics and prove is given here. It's catchy yet still very heavy. The JUDAS PRIEST influences will return in "Deadly Will". The air raids are warning you that there is musical violence in this powerful track, which will grab you by the throat to never let go. This six track album closes with the lengthy "Lost Shores", which builds up nicely, starting with an acoustic intro. After that, the speed changes will bring them back to their heavy metal roots. So there you have it, six more songs to explore from this amazing band from Seattle. The bad news however is, that SUBSTRATUM has disbanded, when guitar player Max decided to leave the band. Good news is, if you like the straight forward metal approach of this band, check out SÖLLICITÖR with Amy Lee on vocals and Matthew Vogan on bass. They have released a demo and more recently, an EP on Sword And Chains Records. You won't be disappointed! SUBSTRATUM consists of Amy Lee Carlson on vocals, John Haynes on guitar and vocals, Max Nazaryan on guitar, Matthew Vogan on bass and Eric Smith on drums. For more info, go to: http://www.facebook.com/substratumseattle. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA-Act II (Ear Music)
This double live CD contains almost two hours of TARJA and her band in full action. Those people, who bought her previous double live album will definitely have to buy this one as well, because TARJA really stands for high quality symphonic metal. The first CD contains ten songs, whereas the last song is a medley of several songs, bringing it to a total playing time of fifty-five minutes. They start off in an attractive way with the song "No Bitter End". The band is feeling the atmosphere and the crowd is enjoying the first vocal outings by this lady, who easily switches from the accessible parts to the high soprano parts. In "500 Letters", the first guitar licks are flying high up in the air. The band is about to explode and TARJA is making contact with her fans. "Eagle Eye" is next up and when "Demons In You" continues, it's quite obvious that the band is already at full steam. The first highlight is a fact. Just listen to the nice intro here, where the band sounds like one spontaneous jam. And halfway through the song, they get another opportunity to jam out some more. This makes it very special. Also listen to "Lucid Dreamer". The regular studio version sounds great already, but this live version with the great mid-piece sounds really awesome beyond belief. This is the strength of TARJA and her voice sounds marvelous as always. The choir is a nice bonus here, but she actually doesn't need a big choir, in my humble opinion. "Shameless" takes care of the variation that a concert like this needs. It's a nice sing-along tune and the Italian audience just do what it needs. The recordings are taken from a gig at the Teatro Della Luna, Assago, Milan in Italy on November 29th 2016, just to get the record straight. Then it's time for a piece of rest with the beautiful "The Living End", where the choir vocals are taking care of a very bombastic entity. This song seamlessly flows over into "Calling From The Wild". What an amazing version and definitely another highlight! The band plays another stunning instrumental part near the end as well. In "Supremacy", TARJA shows what she is capable of, which is very impressive. The bombastic feeling returns and obviously she likes that a lot. The first CD closes with a medley of "Tutankhamen", "Ever Dream", "The Riddler" and "Slaying The Dreamer", which is a nice retrospective of her NIGHTWISH days. Let's not forget that it was TARJA, who put this band on the map. The second CD contains a full hour and another ten tracks of symphonic metal madness. It starts with a nice surprise, namely the song "Goldfinger" from the JAMES BOND movie, originally sung by Shirley Bassey. It could have been written for TARJA and her star is really shining, when performing this one. "Deliverance" is on next and the lengthy version is another good example of how great her music really is. What sometimes can't be reached in the studio sounds so much better live, including the full orchestration, improvisation and choir vocals creating this immense atmosphere. A flashback in time follows with another medley, consisting of "Until Silence", "TheReign", "Mystique Voyage", "House Of Wax" and "I Walk Alone". There is a nice mystical atmosphere here and it brings back some great memories. "Love To Hate" continues, which has some groovy riffs. "Victim Of Ritual" is another bombastic masterpiece with a classical undertone. This is definitely a TARJA classic and the reactions of the audience are really something. Clearly, the bombastic and operatic songs are further down the CD, whereas the show starts a bit more symphonic. However, there are a few obligatory songs and "Undertaker" being one of them, while "Too Many" is more or less a symphonic metal highlight that will pull out all the stops. "Innocence" starts off with keyboards and especially in the beginning I hear some RUSH influences, before it gets to sound more symphonic and bombastic once the song gets going. "Die Alive" is slowly moving towards the end of this gig in Milan. The final number of the show is "Until My Last Breath", which is another masterpiece of this amazing Finnish singer. Well, there you have it, a two hour stunning performance by TARJA and her band, captured live in Milan in 2016. TARJA's band consists of: Timm Schreiner on drums, Kevin Chown on bass, Alex Scholpp on guitars, Julian Barrett on guitars and Christian Kretschmar on keyboards. Website: http://www.tarjaturunen.com or go to her FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/tarjaofficial. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THOUGHTLESS-Imperfection (independent)
THOUGHTLESS are a solid (thrash) metal band from Alkmaar, founded at the end of 2015 by Axel and Ivo of DEAFANING. This brand new six track EP will tear down your house for sure. The energetic opener "Lost" shoots away in the fourth gear, after a small introduction. The vocals of front woman Rebecca are very powerful and clear, which I like a lot. I’m not that keen on growls and grunts, as some of you might know. The guitar solos are really amazing and the production of this EP is quite powerful and crystal clear. There are enough raw edges in here though and sometimes it even leans towards the old school US metal sound, because of the very solid riffs. "White Shepherds" contains more thrashy riffs that sound pretty groovy and mean. The solid beat of Axel Dullemont keeps the pace going and on top of that is the marvelous voice of Rebecca, who definitely makes you smile and is a great asset for the band. As a matter of fact, I think their music is very suitable on any outdoor metal festival, so get off your lazy asses and put this band on your bill, bookers! I hear some influences of ANTHRAX in the beginning of "Hide Your Fears", but they disappear, when the vocal parts start. This ballsy song has got some great guitar work. The mid-piece has a marvelous instrumental part, in which the guitarists and bass player do some serious business. They don't have to hide their fears for anybody. "Freezing Blood" has a lot of thrash influences and some great guitar riffs, which lets the energy level grow immensely. I think this is by far the loudest thrash metal song on this EP. In "Rain" - what a moody title! - THOUGHTLESS proves that they also stand proud, when playing a slow song. And even after this, they keep the variation going and you don't have to worry. There is still enough to enjoy and when the speed goes up and the guitars take over, the band gives all they've got. THOUGHTLESS is not a band for ballads, although Rebecca shows that she can handle it all. Her voice can sound sweet and tender at times, but her strength is in the powerful and energetic parts. The thundering drum beats will lead you to the harder second part of this song. I think, this song is definitely one of my highlights here. "Drown" closes this thirty minutes six track EP and Rebecca is spreading a lot of the power in here, next to those wonderful thrashy riffs. Her voice is truly amazing and I guess that in a live situation, the band will sound even more powerful. Wow, we really have to check that out, when the band supports LEATHER in September at Mario's birthday Fest. Anyway, I will give this song another spin or two and I will add it to my list of highlights. THOUGHTLESS is definitely worth checking out, so you'd better start running to your local record store (if there is any) and buy this "Imperfection" EP. Nobody's perfect, but I'm quite impressed here and you will be amazed by the talent of these five Dutchies as well. THOUGHTLESS consists of Arno van de Reep (MINDBEACON) on guitar, Ivo Smits on guitar, Axel Dullemont on drums, Daniel Lutgerink on bass and Rebecca Duin (ex-JACKAL) on vocals. The artwork of this mini album looks great too, by the way. Both thumbs up for THOUGHTLESS. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/thoughtlessmetal. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VIXEN-Live Fire (Rat Pack Records)
VIXEN still rocks after their reunion in 2012 and the loss of founding member and lead guitarist Jan Kuehnemund (R.I.P) shortly afterwards. I'm really glad that they didn't throw in the towel. These ladies rev it up on this live album, which also contains two studio bonus tracks. "Live Fire" is worthy of fourteen tracks and a bit over a full hour of solid metal. Just listen to opener "Rev It Up", which makes you feel good and is a great throwback in time. Yes, yours truly also started to sing along to this classic. In the next song, Roxy introduces you to "How Much Love" and once these ladies start cranking out their classic tunes, they can't be stopped. Another shout-along tune follows in "One Night Alone". Their songs are very catchy and of course there is always room for the flashing guitar licks of Britt Lightning. "Cryin'" invites the crowd to sing along to this tender love song. Hold back your tears, you rockers, because afterwards they will introduce the band members to you in a short interlude, called "Meet The Band". Roxy accompanies it with some firm drum beats until they continue with the catchy rocker "Rock Me". It's another moment to raise your fist in the air and shout it out loud. Yes, you can do it and I bet you will like it. It also has a nice part, in which the bands starts jamming and plays a part of DEEP PURPLE's "Perfect Strangers". DEEP PURPLE once took the band on tour, and I guess that this is their way to say thanks. After this short interlude, it's time for the audience to shout out some "Rock Me's' at the band. "Streets In Paradise" continues their stunning live performance, which is a solid rocker, that will easily please all the fans. Then bass player Share Ross will take over the vocals of Janet Gardner in the WASP/HUMBLE PIE classic "I Don't Need No Doctor". She puts on a real show here. Yes, this lady is a mean rocker. Next up is definitely one of the highlights of this show. The band pays tribute to original guitar player Jan Kuehnemund, who died of this terrible disease in 2013. You sure can get your public quiet with a song like "Love Is A Killer', dedicated to Jan. "Love Made Me" picks up the good time feeling of this amazing live show, recorded at the legendary Arcada Theater in Chicago 2017 during the group's successful tour, by the way. Britt takes this song as an opportunity to pull out another great guitar solo. And in "Big Brother", she is forced to play another one. Yes, VIXEN is hot to be rocked and they sound exceptionally well. The show stopper is "Edge Of A Broken Heart". Talk about classics here. I think, that after the show the crowd has left the venue with a very good feeling. This killer live registration contains two studio bonus tracks, starting with the firm rocker "You Ought To Know By Now", which has some great guitar work. The very last song is an acoustic version of "Edge Of A Broken Heart", which remains a beautiful song. "Live Fire" is a must for every VIXEN fan from all over the world and it's also a good addition to your CD collection, if you're not really sure if VIXEN is your thing. You sure will be pleasantly surprised. VIXEN consists of Janet Gardner on vocals and guitar, Share Ross on bass guitar and vocals, Britt Lightning on guitars and vocals and Roxy Petrucci on drums and vocals. Tyson Leslie plays the keyboards on this live album. Website: http://www.vixenofficial.com. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

WITCHCRYER-Cry Witch (Ripple Music)
I would like to ask your attention for WITCHCRYER, a new band from Austin, Texas that plays old school doom metal. Think of ST.VITUS, PENTAGRAM or BLUE OYSTER CULT here, but also a new band like LUCIFER would be a good reference here. The nine songs on this debut album will take you on an exciting musical journey of about thirty-five minutes. The album starts with the up tempo title track "Cry Witch", which is a nice introduction. The first riffs of "Ricochet" have some influences of the good old sound of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and they also sound like a ricochet. In your thoughts, you can see those bullets fly around your head. The adventurous speed change at the end makes it perfect for me. If you like the stuff of THE SABBATHIAN (as reviewed earlier), you've come to the right place. If you like it much slower, then you'll have to wait until the next song "The Preying Kind" which is as slow as syrup and will stick to your mind, because of the amazing and catchy sound. At the end, the all destroying bass sound of Marilyn takes over, but there's more. She starts a pulverizing bass intro in "Ma Kali", where you hear a very overwhelming instrumental part. I was already flabbergasted by the amazing voice of Suzy Bravo, but I'm also very impressed about the instrumental jam-like part in this one. The mystical sounding "Embryo (Instructions)" is an experimental mid-piece, that stands on its own but it's also a nice introduction to "Great Divide", which includes a lot of LUCIFER and DEATH PENALTY influences. It really moves towards the doom metal sound of today, while "For The Slaves" definitely turns back the time again. I must admit that I like the latter a bit more, but that's my own personal taste. The variation in different doom metal styles really makes this CD adventurous and quite innovative. Then it's time for (aaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!) "Witchfinder General". Purists may have their doubts, if this is blasphemy or just an honest tribute to the real masters of doom. After listening to this classic anthem a billion times before, I definitely go for the second option. The cover is done with so much love and respect to the original version, that you're going to love it, if you want it or not. Suzy's voice really sounds awesome to me. The best part is the very short giggle of Suzy, before the song starts off. It shows how pure this band operates. The CD closes with a very moody song, called "Lapis Philosophorum", in which Suzy is being accompanied by acoustic guitars, a cello and a violin. It's the ultimate soundtrack to a pagan rite. In my imagination, I see druids and elves dancing around the fire and I haven't eaten any mushrooms lately, can you imagine that? Anyway, I really L-O-V-E-D every single second of this amazing debut album and I think it's a must for every devoted doom metal fan out there, whether you're old school or not. WITCHCRYER consists of Jason Muxlow on guitar, Javi Moctezuma on drums, Marilyn Monroe (what's in a name!!??) on bass and Suzy Bravo on vocals. Go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/witchcryer. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION-Resist (Universal Music)
WITHIN TEMPTATION is a very huge name in the Dutch music scene. They were the founders of the fantasy metal genre but they are so far beyond that stadium. Their latest album is called "Resist" and I have the so called deluxe version, which contains two CD's. The new CD has ten brand new tracks, worthy of about forty-five minutes. CD opener "The Reckoning" has got a strong beat, a catchy vibe and I must say that the male vocals of Jacoby Shaddix are very prominent in the mix. The guest appearance of the PAPA ROACH singer gives this song a very groovy and catchy vibe. What a pleasant surprise, I must say. The song is also the first single of this seventh album, which may be a good choice. If you expected a major role for the vocals of Sharon den Adel on this new album, then you have to wait for "Endless War", which grabs back to the early sound of the band, including the bombastic orchestration and big choir vocals. The computerized spoken word vocals at the end of the song give it a slightly spacey character, but the overall sound is the well-known fantasy metal style that put WT on the map. On "Raise Your Banner", you will hear the second guest appearance out of three with Anders Friden of IN FLAMES taking care of the brutal male vocal parts. The guitar solos sound fiery and they are mixed with moody cello parts for the contrast. "Supernova" contains more bombastic choir vocals, but this time it's a male vocal choir, which fits the supernova better, I guess. The catchy feeling is there and this might be a crowd pleaser, when playing live. "Holy Ground" has got that same catchy vibe, which turns these songs into a sing-along tune that can easily be added to the giant WT jukebox, the band has created over the years. The songs are easy on the ear and so easy to sing along to. Sometimes the progressive and symphonic aspects are being added to the songs, but the catchy vibe is always there. "In Vain" comes next and it keeps the flow going. Then the third guest appearance shows up, which sure is one of the highlights of the album, as far as I'm concerned. "Firelight" has the guest appearance of Jasper Stevelinck (ARID, THE GUILT MACHINE). This cooperation has led to a song that you probably wouldn't expect on a WT album, because it's very experimental and it sounds a bit out of the box with references to old school material of PINK FLOYD in a way. "Mad World" however is again in the old familiar WT style. It has the right beat and the right catchy vibe. The next song "Mercy Mirror" shows that the sound of WT has matured a little and it moves towards the standard of the new millennium. The overall sound stays very close to the original WT sound though. Just listen to the firm CD closer "Trophy Hunter" to catch my drift. The stomping beats, the choirs, the firm guitar riffs and phenomenal bass sound and on top of that, the recognizable voice of Sharon den Adel. Not that much has changed, however the album will definitely be the start of a new time frame in the band's career. At least, I was pleasantly surprised by the great sound of it. But wait, there is more to this in the form of a bonus CD, when you have bought the deluxe version of "Resist". It's worthy of about sixty-five plus minutes and it contains fifteen single edits and an instrumental version of the album. The five single edits are "Raise Your Banner", "Endless War", "Firelight", "Mad World" and "Supernova". Although some of these single edits don't differ too much from the original album versions, "Firelight" is very different indeed. The ten instrumental songs won't give you too much new insights either. In some cases you miss the vocals, while in other cases the songs stand proud, even without the very recognizable vocals of Sharon. That's the strength of WITHIN TEMPTATION, I guess. Can you resist their sound? WITHIN TEMPTATION consists of Mike Coolen on drums, Martijn Spierenburg on keyboards, Jeroen van Veen on bass, Ruud Jolie on guitar, Stefan Helleblad on guitar and Sharon den Adel on vocals. Website: http://www.within-temptation.com or www.facebook.com/wtofficial. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

XANDRIL-The Vision Of Rotting Darkness (HMH Records)
Come with me to the underground scene of the German speed metal. It's the mid-eighties and we would like to introduce you to the rumbling speed metal sound of XANDRIL. They released a double CD with three EP's, two demos and a rehearsal tape from various line-ups. The name of this release is a combination of the names of their three EP's and briefly this release is worthy of twenty-six songs and two full hours of stomping heavy metal. It's a must, when you dig some good solid speed metal. Just listen to the amazing opener "Terminal Breath" and you will get some idea that there was something happening, when the band released their first EP called "Rotting Paradise" in 1986. You can hear some influences of ACID and HOLY MOSES and a band that was very eager to become the next big name in this scene. "Lost In Paradise" is on next and besides their great speed metal sound, you can also hear some double leads and the harsh screaming female vocals of Bettina. In "Little Lady", it's quite obvious that this band is not only playing boundless speed metal. The use of acoustics in this song, which starts off as a ballad, is a nice example here. Don't be afraid, because there is a speed change in the middle, after which a true guitar orgasm starts. "I Believe" is also a Valhalla for those of you who like fast guitar explosions. This is a constant repeating element in their music, next to the icy high screams and fast drum beats. And of course sometimes the band also thinks out of the box a little. Just listen to the futuristic and ominous intro to "Guide The Wind". "Avalon" is an uncompromised head banger, which closes this first six track EP. Enjoy the high screams of Bettina, who really impressed me a lot and the guitar salvos are really mind-blowing here as well. The band line-up remained unchanged after that and another three track EP was released in 1987, called "The Vision". The three tracks on this EP are a good continuation of what the band has showed us before. Maybe the vocals of Bettina are sounding more harsh, but the music has some nice speed changes, like in opener "Labyrinth". Don't get lost in there, because it has many exits. The big question remains why the band never got any bigger in the rest of Europe. They sure did have the potential. Just listen to the steady beat and great intro of "The Bleak". "Holocaust" is a real speed monster and again it has some of the most fast and amazing dirty guitar work. XANDRIL remained true to their speed metal roots and in 1988 they released another EP with three tracks on it, called "Perfect Darkness", on which guitar player Jörg Schrör was replaced by Stephan 'Daffy' Fleischmann. Fleischmann is not exactly new to the band, because he also sang on their first two demos. Already in title track "Perfect Darkness", you can hear that other influences have been used here as well. The intro could very well be from a more technical metal band, such as MEKONG DELTA or WATCHTOWER, but their speed metal sound remained. "No Hope" is a speed metal song from the book, however in CD one closer "Nearly Dead" the rumbling speed metal of XANDRIL gets a message cling to it. The band was nearly dead and left for dead soon after that. Bettina joined MEDUSA and Jörg Schrör was often to be seen on stage with GAMMA RAY. MEDUSA also included some other XANDRIL members, but they only released a few demos. Bettina and bass player Andre Philipp got married, but unfortunately André died in 2018. They left behind a great legacy. When we dig deeper in the vaults, there are also early recordings of two demos from 1983 and a rehearsal from 1985, which you will find on the second disc. Unfortunately, there are no ladies involved here, so this part may not be interesting for the average Metal Maidens reader and we will only review it shortly. The first demo contains two songs, the unknown track "Killer" and "Lost In Paradise", the title track of the first EP. On vocals we hear Stephan 'Daffy' Fleischmann, who later became the guitar player in the band. Christian Cholewa played drums on this first demo. The second demo also has two tracks, namely "Panic In The Sky" and "Deep In The Shit". I must admit that the demo material sounds very rough and it has a lot of punky edges. It wasn't until 1985, when the band changed their sound into fast speed metal and with new singer Mathias Lemcke, they put down nine amazing tracks on a rehearsal tape, that would become the blueprint of their three EP's. Enjoy the underground speed metal sound of this amazing band from Hamburg. The songs on the rehearsal tape are "Terminal Breath", "Guide The Wind", "Little Lady", "Lost In Paradise", "Killer", "I Believe", "I.F.B.", "Panic In The Sky", "Best Wishes" and "Xandril". XANDRIL consisted of Bettina Paschen on vocals, Stephen Philip on guitar, Jörg Schrör on guitar, André Philipp on bass and Marlon Erdmann on drums. The CD booklet contains lyrics, pictures and a biography. I think, this is a must for all underground speed metal fans and German heavy metal adepts. For more info, go to their FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/XandrilHamburg/ or HMH records at: http://www.facebook.com/hmhrecords/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: July 16, 2019]

-->MORE CD REVIEWS.......