CD REVIEWS


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


Winter - Spring 2015:

ADRENALINE RUSH-Adrenaline Rush (Frontiers/PIAS Rough Trade)
A very powerful riff opens this eleven track album by ADRENALINE RUSH. And yes, I can assure you, that the adrenaline will run fast through your veins, when you’ll hear the melodic, powerful rock and metal by ADRENALINE RUSH. In about forty-five minutes, this female fronted band runs through eleven songs with a very catchy vibe. The blonde vixen behind the mike is called Tave Wanning and her voice is powerful, yet warm and exciting. Sweden is a good home for melodic rock and when you’ll listen to opener “Black ‘n’ Blue”, you know what to expect here. In “Change” there is no change at all in the fast feet forward sound and with the great leads by Ludvig and Alexander, you’re in for another treat. The beat on “Generation Left Behind” will give you a flashback to the sound of the West Coast hair metal bands, that ruled the scene in the eighties with their catchy music and very colorful video clips accompanying them. “Girls Gone Wild” must be autobiographical. If you don’t feel the adrenaline pumping right now, it will never happen at all. Just listen to the guitars crying out loud here. It’ll do you good. “When We’re Gone” has got a more balladesque sound without getting too mellow. While “I Want It All” could very well be on any EUROPE album. And a more catchy vibe is caught on this silver disc in “Too Young To Die”. It never gets too heavy and fans of EUROPE, VIXEN or early BON JOVI can dig in easily. The songs are easy on the ears and I think that they could also gain a hit single in their home country without much trouble. Just try to stop singing along to “Oh Yeah”. It has got that rhythm and familiar feeling, you know the song by heart from the very first moment on. The mood change at the end is very subtle and a nice introduction leads to the fiery climax. Raise your fist and yell to “No, No, No” and while doing that, enjoy the great guitar part in this ballsy track. For a second you’ll think, that you’re listening to GARY MOORE’s “Over The Hills And Far Away” at the beginning of “Playin’ To Win”. It’s that catchy. Finally, it’s one more time to rock it out real loud with “Hit You Like A Rock”, which sounds a bit like the mighty WASP. And you know, that a wasp can sting real badly! This will only get the adrenaline flush a bit faster. A nice release, that will easily please many melodic rock fans. ADRENALINE RUSH consists of Tave Wanning on vocals, Ludvig Turner on guitar and vocals, Alexander Hagman on guitar and vocals, Soufian Ma’Aoui on bass and vocals and Marcus Johansson on drums. Website: http://www.adrenalinerush.se. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE AGONIST-Eye Of Providence (Century Media/Universal)
The new album of THE AGONIST contains thirteen brand new tracks, that are worthy of almost a full hour of loud music. THE AGONIST consists of Danny Martino on guitar, Chris Kells on bass, Simon McKay on drums, Vicky Psarakis on vocals and Pascal ‘Paco’ Jobin on guitar. Alissa White-Gluz is missing here of course. She is now fronting ARCH ENEMY, so as a matter of fact this is actually a new start for the band. The album opens with “Gates Of Horn And Ivory” which gives you a good overview of things to expect here. Loud and wild riffs, fast drum rolls, mighty flashing guitars and female vocals, ranging from a normal singing voice to wild and brutal screams, that go over the top and back. Get ready to rock out loud, I would say. “My Witness, Your Victim” is a nice example of this particular mix of normal singing and loud and wild screaming. Topped by some great riffs, it will make you raise your fist immediately. “Danse Macabre” has got a very catchy edge, but it also contains some brutal death metal growls. There is something to enjoy for everyone, but I liked the riffs the most. They sound like a machine gun, that runs down a salvo of bullets. The guitar solo at the end sounds very nice as well. “Endeavour” continues right after that with a lot of brutality going on in the vocal parts. While in “Faceless Messenger”, the normal vocals of Vicky are the biggest ear catcher for me. “Perpetual Motion” is going on without putting much energy in it. I think, that the band is in motion pretty much in this one. Again the normal vocals are the most interesting here. “A Necessary Evil” sounds very brutal indeed, as the title may suggest, but the twists will bring you back to earth. “Architects Hallucinate” leaves a bit of room for the instruments. THE AGONIST is very much a band, that likes to put vocals in their music in every sort and style. While the guitars sound very much upfront here as well. Full speed ahead it is in “Disconnect Me”. Wow, there must have been something in the food last night. What power, what speed! The brutal screaming vocals remain though. “The Perfect Embodiment” sounds rather soft for these heavy rockers. Literally, they sound like a normal rock band, but it fits the band really well in my opinion. Die-hard fans of the band might think different about it, I reckon. It gets even more tender with “A Gentle Disease”, which ends with a bass solo. Imagine that for a second?! The slower moments do not last long and in “Follow The Crossed Line”, the band brutally steps on the gas again with a monstrous heavy sound. See how fast things can change on this album. All in all, it delivers a nice mix of extreme heaviness with a tender touch here and there. “Above, So Below” is the last track on this album and the band wants to pull it all out one more time by showing us what they’ve got. It’s an eight minute showcase, which starts up pretty slowly. The guitars will get this rough rock song going pretty soon. It will rock your world and at the end THE AGONIST takes it to the very last seconds with the bass player in another leading role. If brutal rock and metal with a touch of melody is your thing, then “Eye Of Providence” may be something for you. If you don’t really like modern rock and metal, then you may better leave this for what it is: a good solid modern metal album with great riffs and nice twists. Newer fans may have to get used to the vocal sound of Vicky, but when they do, THE AGONST will surely prove their strength on this new album. Check it out. Website: http://www.facebook.com/TheAgonistOfficial [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ALUNAH-Awakening The Forest (Napalm Records)
Right from the start, the tuning of the guitars is right, the pace is set perfectly and the bass guitar and guitar sounds are felt in the underbelly. Welcome to ALUNAH’s third album and what a great way to be “Awakening The Forest”! They will clear the job in forty-five minutes, which they are dividing over six lengthy tracks. The slow doom drones will remind you of BLACK SABBATH, CANDLEMASS, SAINT VITUS and TROUBLE, but this time accompanied by the female vocals of Sophy Day. The short instrumental interlude somewhere in the middle breaks the song a little in half. “Bricket Wood Coven” is a great relaxing opener, in my opinion. While “Heavy Bough” may bring the speed up a little, but the sound of the guitar is much heavier and it takes a little more space in this song as well. The solo is great and the vocals of Sophie remain dreamy, which fits really perfect to the music. Title track “Awakening The Forrest” is on next and the first deer shows up to see what’s going on here. The instrumental part in this song is really awesome and I also hear some resemblance with THE DEVIL’S BLOOD, although the lyrics don’t have an occult content in ALUNAH. It takes you away from the original sound for a short while and the guitars play a leading role here. “The Mask Of Herne” has got that similar and really awesome doomy riff, that used to make BLACK SABBATH big. Still the dreamy vocals don’t change a bit and remain the only constant factor in the ALUNAH sound. “Scourge And The Kiss” is another lengthy track. Once again, it cuts in the middle, where the band takes the time to dream away. It keeps the listener focused and when they return to the original mood they were in, they sound so damn heavy again. It may not be a catchy album of any kind, but if you like the slow doomy sound of the old masters mentioned in this review, then you will definitely dig this third album of ALUNAH. I think, I’m gonna have to search for “Call Of Avernus”, which they released in 2010 and “White Hoarhound”, which came out two years later. The album closes with “The Summerland”, but I’m afraid the dreamy character won’t make the sun shine anymore. ALUNAH consists of Sophy Day on vocals and guitar, Dave Day on guitar, Dan Burchmore on bass and Jake Mason on drums. Get them black candles out of the closet and do yourself a favor and buy this album. It will get you in a nice, slumbering and psychedelic trance from which you will awake in a more conscious state of mind than you have ever been in. Website: http://www.alunah.co.uk. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AMARANTHE-Massive Addictive (Spinefarm Records)
It’s a huge step from the doom metal of ALUNAH to AMARANTHE’s new album, called “Massive Addictive”. It contains fourteen tracks with a total playing time of about forty-five minutes. This third album opens with the dynamic pounding “Dynamite”. Make sure, that it doesn’t explode in your face. The hypnotizing keyboard beeps mix rather well with the exploding guitar riffs, which are ultra-rough. “Drop Dead Cynical” sounds as powerful as the opener. The mix of brutal barking male vocals of Henrik Englund and the female vocals of Elize Ryd matches very well together. Sometimes the rhythm of the beat tends to lean towards dance, but I’m glad that the guitar riffs make up for that. Just have a listen to the beginning of “Trinity” and hear the balance of those two sounds, that I’m talking about. You can easily say, that AMARANTHE takes the best of the power metal groove and the catchiness of pop music, puts them in a music blender and creates a style of its own. In “Massive Addictive”, we’re even treated to a guitar solo. However, in “Digital World”, we are listening to a computerized vocal sound. The digital world has got the band in its grip here. The sound remains rather catchy though. “True” will bring you down to earth again with its balladesque sound. The guitars start crying again in the energetic “Unreal”. It’s short, but it’s a pure bomb of adrenaline. “Over And Done” will get things really mellow for a while, but that’s fine. Every album may need a short piece of rest. There’s a lot of emotion in this song. And the same goes for the next song. This time, there’s more wild emotion involved and obviously the batteries have been reloaded for “Danger Zone”. “Skyline” is also filled with wild beats and the poppy sound is being put away for a moment. It’s these wild powerful moments, that I like about the band, which may not come as a huge surprise to you, I guess. Another good taste of music is the song “An Ordinary Abnormality”, which storms through your living room with an all destroying power. “Exhale” marks the ending of this album and the band returns to their more catchy sound, that wouldn’t sound bad on the Eurovision Song Contest. The bonus tracks here are acoustic versions of “Trinity” and “True”. Everybody who knows me, will know that I’m not too fond of acoustics, so I’ll leave this for what it is. It might be a treat for everyone else’s ears though. AMARANTHE has got some kind of love ‘em or hate ‘em sound. They sound too modern and catchy for old school headbangers, but they are powerful and melodic with a lot of variety for the metal fans in the new millennium. Just see which category you fit in and if you’ll get the massive addictive about AMARANTHE? The band from Göteborg consists of Elize Ryd (KAMELOT) on vocals, Henrik Englund on vocals, Jake E on vocals, Olof Mörck on guitar and keyboards, Johan Andreassen on bass guitar and Morten Løwe Sørensen on drums. Website: http://www.amaranthe.se. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE AMORETTES-Game On (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)
The game is on, in case you wondered and THE AMORETTES invite you to come along. This all-female band will rock your world in ten song and thirty-five minutes. Already in track one, they have the “Bull By The Horns”. Get ready for some high octane fueled rock and metal in the best early GIRLSCHOOL tradition with influences of KROKUS and AC/DC, at least in this fast and furious opening track. “Fire At Will” keeps stomping. These ladies really know how to rock. It all sounds wild and exciting. It’s the single from this album. “Get What’s Coming” starts with a strange spacey sound, that returns every now and then. The rest is straight forward rock and roll with chanting choir vocals, that will definitely remind you of the heydays of GIRLSCHOOL and ROCK GODDESS. “Hot And Heavy” is a title that needs no further explanation. The lyrics are easy to sing along to and the guitar solo will take care of the rest. “Daddy’s Got Money” is feeling good music. It’s always good to have some money, isn’t it? In “Son Of A Gun”, the guitar introduction is pure AC/DC influenced, which works just great for me. The rest of it is solid rock in the best KROKUS tradition. These ladies know their skills and another fiery guitar solo follows in the middle of this track. Great track to bang your head on with a lot of adrenaline flowing. “Shoot From The Hip” is not a WASP cover. The beginning sounds a bit like RAVEN’s “Don’t Need Your Money”. “Give ‘Em Hell” also isn’t a WITCHFYNDE song, but it sure rocks like hell and sounds very dynamic and heavy. As you can see, these girls like to rock your world and don’t take no for an answer. “Heartbreaker” is not the same as the LED ZEPPELIN classic, but just have a listen to the guitar solo, which yanks and cranks like it was meant to be. The last song on this crazy rock and roll album is called “Rock Me, Roll Me”. Need I say more? I guess not. These three Scottish ladies are very good in playing games, but they’re also good in playing solid rock music. They will set your world on fire. No wonder, they supported a tour with EUROPE and BLACK STAR RIDERS. The band consists of Gilt on guitar and vocals, Hannah on drums and Heather on bass. Website: http://www.theamorettes.co.uk. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANOUK-Paradise And Back Again (Universal Music)
I sometimes ask myself, if it’s still worth to review the music of ANOUK? She is still being considered a rock chick in Holland, but she sounds much more like a disco queen or soul diva these days. Her shows are sold out every time and there is not much rock left in this rock lady, who we saw perform at Waterrock in Leidschendam many, many years ago. But hey, let’s have a listen to this new album, which bears fourteen songs and fifty minutes of music, topped by her golden voice. You can say whatever you want, but her voice (although it doesn’t rock too much nowadays) is still in great shape. “Cold Blackhearted Golddiggers” is a slow one to start with. The feeling is down hearted and it shows us the typical ANOUK sound of 2014. “She Is Beautiful” contains choir vocals and a nice rhythm. It has got soul, but just like “Daddy” it sounds way too poppy to get me excited. “Don’t Wipe Us Out” sounds up-tempo and soulful at the same time. The lyrics go deep and are autobiographical at times, too. “Looking For Love” is what this lady is doing on and on. But I think, that she loves her music and her children most of all. The rhythm guitar sounds rather nice here, I must admit. “Last Goodbye” is another love song. ANOUK knows how to handle these things. “Some Of Us” is another piece of rest, before the hit single “Wigger” comes in. Wigger is a short name for ‘white nigger’. I think, ANOUK sees herself as a white nigger. That’s fine with me and her music goes with that attitude anyway. The sound in that song is rather catchy and up-tempo. “Breathe” sounds very emotional and ANOUK seems to get the notes from out of her toes here at times. “Smile & Shine” opens with some spoken word, until the beat comes in. “Wish I Could See It All” is a dreamy ballad with choir vocals. I think, that these songs will make you aware of the fact, that ANOUK has got nothing at all to do anymore with rock in the broadest sense of the word. “Places To Go” is soul mixed with disco. I never thought I would use these two words in one sentence ever in my life. It’s on the radio on a regular basis however, so it sounds more familiar to me. Still, it doesn’t make me hot for the sound of it, I’m afraid. “You & I” is also one of the more recent hit singles. The best is saved for last. This last track is a more up-tempo song with a catchy vibe. It sounds very pleasant to listen to and if there would be more songs like that on this album, it would have been much easier for me to sit this one out. Once again I must state, that ANOUK is not a bad singer, but it’s the style change that I’m wrestling with over the years. It doesn’t make it easy to write a positive review about her music after all these years. Considering the fact, we are a rock and metal ‘zine, I can only give this two points. However, if I have to look at it from a musical point of view, I could give this album four points. That explains the rating below this review. Please return to a more rocking sound, ANOUK! It would make the world so much easier for me. Visit her website at: http://www.anouk.nl. Last news about ANOUK is, that she will be one of the jury members of The Voice. Also, out of the blue she has recorded a single with singer/songwriter Douwe Bob. It makes the whole story even worse than it already was for the rock level of this once so rebellious rock chick. I think, the rock chick in ANOUK went to paradise……but she never came back unfortunately. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARAPACIS-A disturbing Awakening (independent)
Are you awake yet? Well, go and listen to the new ARAPACIS album. This will wake you up for sure. The first riffs on “A Disturbing Awakening” will crush your skull. And guess what? I’m sure, you’re gonna like it. Fast guitar riffs, heavy drum beats and keyboards go hand in hand in the best DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW tradition. This is heavy metal crossed with seventies rock and that’s exactly the way, that I like it. What a great way to start this fourth album, that contains nine tracks and forty-five minutes of heavy loaded stuff. Have a bite at “Broken Windows”. Not literally of course, or it’ll cost you your jaws, but have a taste of this dark, almost doomy blast, that is on next. The speed change is there at the end and during the last guitar part, the excitement flows right to your brains. “Wanderlust” has got a real seventies feel, because of the organ sound, that gives it a very warm and cozy feeling. But there is a lot more happening here. Shelle’s vocals fit in just perfectly with the slightly psychedelic feeling, that comes with this song. EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER-like keyboards turn this musical carousel go round and round and I think, that the bluesy ending is the biggest surprise, they have in mind for us in this crazy rock experience. “With Ghosts, In Hell I Stand” sounds like a heavy version of MIKE OLDFIELD, especially the guitar sound and the music in the background. The growls in the end are not disturbing and they match quite well with the energy in this song. It asks for something brutal and these growls are the missing link here, I’d say. The growls of Tom "Thodrekr" Guevara along with Shelle sound much more brutal in “Godless”. Is this an attempt to please some black metal fans as well? It matches the title very well though. If you’re without a ‘God’, you will not sound like a bright, white shining angel. You will sound mean, brutal and angry, like they do. As you can see, the musical styles are very different all the time, which makes it a very pleasant trip. In “Tearing The Mist” ARAPACIS calls in the help of legendary keyboard player Don Airey (who has played with every band in the world!). The song opens with some moody acoustic guitars and Shelle’s voice gives it another seventies feeling. When the guitars start, this feeling doesn’t go away. In the middle of the song, the keyboards wrestle with the guitar and again the name of DEEP PURPLE comes to mind. Especially when Don takes over in this undecided battle. It must have been a great experience to have such an all-time hero playing on your album. “Iron Heart” starts off with some acoustics. It’s a dreamy song, that’s being played with a lot of emotion. You probably have been expecting something different here, but ARAPACIS is full of surprises and there’s never a dull moment with this band. “Eyes Of Malevolence” opens with a rare, dark black metal-like sound. It sounds very sphereful and moody at the same time. The song stays instrumental and slowly works itself to a nice climax with loads of nice guitar work. Especially after the speed break, Jerry completely loses his mind and even some blast beats turn up for a second or two. It’s really amazing how an acoustic track can develop into a very powerful and energetic black metal-like track. However, CD closer “I’m Free Now” sounds so much different. I’d rather call this Southern Rock with a bluesy feel. The awesome guitars and raunchy raw vocal of Shelle sound really great here! My mind goes out to bands like POINT BLANK or maybe even MOLLY HATCHET or LYNYRD SKYNYRD, but it’s all done in an ARAPACIS kind of way of course. The variation in music styles and the true craftsmanship of these well-gifted musicians will make you cling to your player for sure. ARAPACIS consists of two official members nowadays and that’s Jerry Fielden on guitar, bass, synths, mandolin and backing vocals and the more than beautiful Shelle MacPherson on lead vocals. They have been assisted by the following guest musicans: Mathieu Roy (guest drums and guitars on "Eyes Of Malevolence"), Tom "Thodrekr" Guevara (guest growls), Brittany Kwasnik (guest backing vocals), Leonardo Fagelli (guest keyboards), Guy Leblanc (guest keyboards - R.I.P. 2015) and Don Airey (guest keyboards). The ARAPACIS website http://www.arapacis.com will give you all the information you need about this Canadian metal band. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

A SOUND OF THUNDER-The Lesser Key Of Solomon (Neptune Records)
This is the fourth studio album by this female fronted metal band from Washington, DC. The ten tracks all together will give you a powerful hour of high class heavy metal, starting with the intro “Nexus Of Reality”. The description of their music is wrapped up in the name of the band. It’s the sound of a raging thunder destroying everything, that crosses their path. “Udoroth” is the storming proof of that. It’s the power of BENEDICTUM mixed with the force of BLACK LACE. In “Fortuneteller” they show us, that they can also put some melody in their sound. The exciting sound of keyboards takes an important place here and it really adds something to the already impressive sound of the band. It adds more DEEP PURPLE and URIAH HEEP influences to their music at times, but it remains heavy and wild, just like you want it. “The Boy Who Could Fly” sounds a bit laid back and balladesque. It shows the more melodic side of A SOUND OF THUNDER. Same goes for the next track, called “Elijah”, which has got a nice groove, but is in fact a love song of some sort. The second part of the song however brings out the best in this band. The song gets wild and changes in style. It becomes the highlight of this album so far. I’d call this a love song with a dark side to it. The screaming vocals sound like Nina is being possessed sometimes. It’s nice to see a band giving their songs something extra, that you wouldn’t expect in the first place. “Master Of Pain” continues with a firm beat. Influences of IRON MAIDEN are in the guitar sound. “Blood From The Mummies Tomb” has more MAIDEN-like guitar work and the guitar solo asks for a lot of attention in this rather lengthy track. It’s another highlight, as far as I’m concerned. A SOUND OF THUNDER has got classic rock blood running down its veins and as they point out here, it comes from the mummies tomb. This sounds like great stuff to me. The keyboards are still there, but it takes a place in the background. “Black Secrets” has got another melodic touch. There is a lot of variety in their songs, but the high class sound of the band always remains. This track has got that recognizable DIO beat in it. Just listen to the great vocals of Nina Osegueda in “The Empty Grave” for example. It’s another wild rocker. The last song is a longer track, which is called “House Of Bones”. The beginning could very well have been on any DREAM THEATER album, but it gets heavier by the minute. It’s a good closure on this exciting release, that will certainly make you long for more. Their rock music could be enjoyed by the masses, but the band also doesn’t rule out to walk off the paved paths, which gives this release a higher score than average. A SOUND OF THUNDER consists of Nina Osegueda on vocals, Josh Schwartz on guitar, Jesse Keen on keyboards and bass, and Chris Haren on drums. The band will tour in the USA in March 2015. Website: http://www.asoundofthunderband.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BATTLE BEAST-Unholy Saviour(Nuclear Blast/PIAS Rough Trade)
Nitte Valo quit the band in 2012 and it left the future for BATTLE BEAST insecure for some time. However, this beast was made to battle and will resurrect, no matter what happens. The search for a new singer started and they have found a new front lady in Noora Louhimo and with her behind the mike, they recorded another album. “Unholy Saviour” is the title of this third album by these Finnish beasts. It contains twelve tracks and runs for about forty-five minutes. The beast is back, so let’s rip it up! “Lionheart” is the opener on this new raw battle field. It proves that the band is back in business and ready to strike with full force. It’s a catchy tune with a firm beat and ready to sing along to, when playing in a live situation. “Unholy Saviour”, the title track of the album, is on next and opens with a rather moody intro. The vocals are not quite what I’d expected and they are a bit too sweet for my taste, but Noora revenges herself shortly after the beginning. “I Want The World….And Everything In It” sounds greedy, but wait until you hear this vicious ear attack. You’ll know, that the beast is ready to strike and it will eat you alive when it wants to. A ballsy foot stomper with catchy edges is the final result, which will slap you in the face with its overwhelming sound. The instrumental mid part is the most exciting of it all. “Madness” is not dedicated to the British ska band with their baggy trousers, who are always just one step beyond. Instead, it’s a firm basher that will make you throw your fists in the air from excitement. The song is a marriage between the rawness of HAMMERFALL and the riffs of PRIMAL FEAR. The contrast with “Sea Of Dreams” could not have been bigger. This could very well be on any LIV KRISTINE album. Only at the end of the song, the firm beat will manage to wake you up. “Touch In The Night” sounds a bit too happy and poppy for my taste. It confirms the variety in styles of this band though. The icily scream near the end doesn’t make up for that, I’m afraid. “The Black Swordsman” is a short introduction to the instrumental “Hero Is Quest”. “Far Far Away” starts off with some SAXON-like riffs and an ACCEPT structure. While “Angel Cry” takes back some speed and gets the acoustics out of the closet again. Rocker “Push It To The Limit” closes this album. “Unholy Saviour” has got a lot to offer for average metal heads of today. It’s a bit too sweet for an old rocker like me, but there are some very good moments on it, too. The band will tour with DELAIN and SABATON and I guess they will gain a lot of fans then. Great cover art, by the way. BATTLE BEAST consists of Noora Louhimo on vocals, Anton Kabanen on guitar and vocals, Pyry Vikki on drums, Juuso Soinio on guitar, Eero Sipliä on bass and vocals and Janne Björkroth on keyboards and vocals. Get a grip on it, before it gets a grip on you. Website: http://www.battlebeast.fi. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK STATE HIGHWAY-Black State Highway (Hear No Evil)
The seventies are back in 2014 and BLACK STATE HIGHWAY is one of the promising bands, that are on this fast moving bandwagon. The band from Brighton will blow you away with their debut album, that carries eight tracks and has a total playing time of about thirty-five minutes. “Conclusion” will give you the idea of listening to THE BLACK CROWES, RIVAL SONS or SASS JORDAN. Liva Steinberga is the female vocalist with the raspy voice, in case you wondered. The big beat returns in “Ain’t Got Know”, which will make you move your body to the swing of it. It has got a very powerful groove for sure. “Broken” has got the ‘Bonzo’ beat of LED ZEPPELIN and it’s good to hear that new bands can relive the vibe of these old heroes. Just have a listen to the guitar solo here and you’ll get my drift. But you can also have a taste of the dreamy vocal lines in the middle of “Free” to get the same feeling. This is the way that BLACK STATE HIGHWAY likes to communicate with their fans. They deal in pureness and quality. “Sacrifice” is more back to the sound of the Crowes and it may urge you to get into a nice trance-like state of mind. The sudden stop at the end of the song comes as a surprise and the band immediately moves over to the fast “Tekkers” next. The bluesy “Common Man” is one of the highlights on this album for me, which has a HENDRIX-like guitar explosion right in the middle. Before you know it, the album comes to an end with a steaming boogie, called “Trouble”. The trouble will start, when you won’t have a listen to this great album, I guess. When heavy bluesy rock with a groove is your thing, don’t look any further, because with BLACK STATE HIGHWAY you’ll get everything you need. The band consists of Liva Steinberga on vocals, Olie Thretewey on guitar, Gordon Duncan on bass, Joe Crampton on guitar and Harry Bland on drums and more information can be obtained from their website at: http://www.blackstatehighway.co.uk. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLUES PILLS-Blues Pills Live (Nuclear Blast/PIAS)
Let me take you to May 30th, 2014 to Freak Valley in Metphen Deuz. I wasn’t there, because it’s my mom’s birthday. I’m not kidding you. People, who were there can buy a limited edition live CD of one of the crowd pleasers there. The festival was headlined by MOTORPSYCHO and KADAVAR, but I guess that a lot of people came to see BLUES PILLS, who rocked the crowd. Eleven songs with a total length of a full hour are on this colorful live release, which starts with the lengthy “High Class Woman” and includes a nice long instrumental mid piece and some great vocals. BLUES PILLS is one of the bands whose star is rising the fastest of them all. They played at many festivals and became a hype and the reason why can be heard on this live CD. The band plays music, that hippies can relate to. Their roots go back to the late sixties and early seventies. Think about JANIS JOPLIN and FLEETWOOD MAC to name a few of their influences. “Ain’t No Change” opens with a lengthy guitar piece, that will get you in the right mood. We’re on Freak Valley, so the solo gets a bit wild and freaky and then it’s time for Elin to mix the music with her breathtaking voice. “Bliss” contains guitar licks, that could very well come from JIMI HENDRIX and the structure of this song also points into that same direction. The wah-wah pedal is pressed to the metal and works overtime. It will really please all the HENDRIX fans, I guess. “Dig In” sounds bluesy and very relaxed. But there is an exciting speed change at the end of the song, in which the guitar player takes us on a wild ride with a long and impressive guitar solo. The music is wild and exciting and it can easily get you into a trance. “Black Smoke” is being introduced by a short instrumental, that is not mentioned on the sleeve. “Time Is Now” will make you move your body to the rhythm. Don’t try to stand still, because the moves will go automatically. In “No Hope Left For Me” your mind will directly go out to JANIS JOPLIN, I guess and it has some fabulous vocal parts of Elin. “Devil Man” rocks and the band is definitely one of the highlights on this intensive live album for me. Listen to the groove and get carried away to ‘bluespillsland’ with these exciting sounds. “Astralplane” will certainly remind you of “Albatros”, the FLEETWOOD MAC classic from the Peter Green days of this British band. “Little Sun” marks the end of this concert, which shows us that BLUES PILLS is a well-oiled machine, that provides a sound that ranges from wild and exciting blues rock tunes to laid back and modest songs. They’ve got it all and it’s being captured very well on this limited live release. Check it out, while there are still some copies left. BLUES PILLS consists of Elin Larsson on vocals, Dorrian Sorriaux on guitar, Zack Anderson on bass and André Kvarnström on drums. Website: http://www.bluespills.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CADAVERIA-Silence (Scarlet Records)
You really cannot call CADAVERIA’s new album silent in any way. On the contrary, it blasts at full speed from the first notes on. Eleven tracks with a playing time of about forty-five minutes will give you a nice mix of black metal screams and industrial beats, including some groovy heavy guitar riffs. This description also sums up what you get to hear in opener “Velo (The Other Side Of Hate)”. The tone is set after this. It’s time to join the “Carnival Of Doom” now. It doesn’t sound doomy at all and it’s more like a black metal attack. It’s followed by “Free Spirit”, which will get your head turning around. It’s an up tempo track with a sudden silence in the middle to catch some breath. The guitar solo sounds nice, the screams are brutal. Some bombastic beats are starting “The Soul That Doesn’t Sleep”, which has a ripping bass guitar sound and dark venomous vocals. Once again my attention goes out to the guitar solo in this mighty dark rocker with atmospheric gothic soundscapes accompanying it. “Existence” continues in a more quiet mood, but this is only just the intro of the black metal eruption, that follows after that. It’s the sound of the underworld. Things get really wild and brutal in “Out Loud”. But it’s not only the blasting black and industrial heavy metal we get to hear. In “Death, Again”, the band shows their more doomy face, which includes some dreamy vocal lines. A repetitive riff opens “Excercissel”, which shows some black metal influences in the vocal parts as well. A dark doomy march mixed with black metal blast rhythms are to be heard in “Almost Ghostly”. Quite a challenging combination, however it seems to work here. In general, CADAVERIA’s music has become darker and it leans a bit more towards gothic metal at times. “Loneliness” contains some wild growls of Rafaella Rivarollo better known as Cadaveria herself. The closure of the album is called “Strangled Idols”. CADAVERIA sounds still wild, but the band also creates more balance in their material. The band consists of Cadaveria on vocals, Frank Booth on guitar, Dick Laurent on guitar, Killer Bob on bass and Marçelo Santos on drums. And when the jester drops his mask, all that remains is “Silence”. Website: http://www.cadaveria.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CETI-Brutus Syndrome (Metal Mind Productions)
CETI is an old school heavy metal band from Poland and that’s exactly what you’re going to get, when listening to this brand new album, called “Brutus Syndrome”. The ten songs are worthy of forty-five minutes of very powerful heavy metal. When the drum beats start off, my thoughts immediately go out to “Painkiller” of JUDAS PRIEST. The wild riffs, that open “Fight To Kill” are simply amazing and you can tell, that vocalist Grzegorz Kupczyk is one of a kind. Just listen to his wild screams in “Wizards Of The Modern World”. However, their music always stands firmly with both feet in the previous millennium. Just check out the riffs in “Devil Made Me Do It” and you’ll get that old school metal feeling, that this CD is all about. The speed change at the end of the song will definitely make you bang your head from excitement. “Masters Of Dull” takes off in the fourth gear. The vocal lines sound like Bruce Dickinson in his heydays. “The Evil And The Troy” also have these IRON MAIDEN influenced riffs and beats and it’s the heavy metal sound, that everybody can relate to worldwide. Bassplayer Tomasz Targosz decides to take his moment of fame with some breathtaking bass parts like Billy Sheehan would play them. Afterwards, it’s on to a strong beat, opening “The Song Will Remain”. It’s a strong metal tune, which will make you hungry for more. The obligatory ballad is on next, which is called “Somethin’ More”. I hear a slightly VANDENBERG kind of vibe in the acoustic intro. That’s the way such a type of song is supposed to sound, I guess. Then it’s time for something wild and bashing again. Gone is the romance and back are the powerful riffs and a dirty beat in the DIO-influenced rocker “Second Sin”. “Sons Of Brutus” is on next and the wild riffs in this song will get it started right away. The legions of metal can be proud of this album and the sons of Brutus will nod their head eagerly agreeing towards this statement. It’s a bit of a shame maybe, that the keyboards of Metal Maiden Maria ‘Marihuana’ Wietrzykowska is being pushed to the background, but I can reveal that she is still very much part of the band. “Run To Nowhere” is definitely a tribute song to DIO and therefore a very nice song to close this album. CETI consists of Grzegorz Kupczyk on vocals, Maria ‘Marihuana’ Wietrzykowska on keyboards and vocals, Tomasz Targosz on bass, Barti Sadura on guitar and Marcin Krystek on drums. Website: http://www.ceti-gk.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRIPPER-Hyëna (Metal Blade Records)
CRIPPER from Germany presents us their fourth studio album, that runs for fifty minutes and contains eleven bone hard tracks, which will really tear you apart. The album opens with title track “Hyena”, which sounds like a very vicious predator. There is also room for a guitar solo in this wild jungle of thrash rhythms. “Tourniquet” sounds even wilder, if this is possible at all. It sounds like a steam train with no breaks, like an unstoppable force. Britta shouts her lungs out in the beginning of “Bloodshot Monkey Eye” which comes with some fast riffs that reminds me of ANNIHILATOR meets OVERKILL, only this time with wild vocals a la ARCH ENEMY or HOLY MOSES. It’s like a melting pot of brutal thrash and a minimum dose of melody. Although, I have to admit, that the album sounds much more metal and less cross over than their previous releases. “Dime For The Establishment” is even sounding like a black metal attack, accompanied by thrash riffs. The first few songs sound wild, but the band isn’t put off as well to take back some speed, as you can hear in the beginning of “7””, pronounced as seven inches. No worries, the bashing returns later on. The piece, where the spoken word parts come in, gives you a short time to catch your breath. “Animated Flesh” has got a wild beat and a SABBATH kind of guitar riff, that hammers on throughout the song. “The Origin” contains wild screams and leans a bit more towards the dark side of the band. The brutal vocals are the biggest eye-catcher for the band, in my opinion. The polka beats in “Patterns In The Sky” are fast and they prove that wild old school thrash has become their new natural habitat. “The Jackhammer” is also absolute prove for that. Just check out the loud riffs in that one. I think, that CRIPPER’s star is rising very fast and this album will definitely attract a lot of fans. “Patronized” sounds brutal quadruplicated. Just have a listen to the last wild riffs and beats in this song. It’s freaking insane! The album closes with “Pure”, a lengthy track, that sums it all up one more time in about seven minutes. It’s also the track, that bears some traditional riffs and beats. It’s a good closure and the highlight on this powerful album for me, that will make the blood drip from your ears after listening to it. CRIPPER consists of Britta Görtz on screams and vocals, Christian Bröhenhorst on guitars, Jonathan Stenger on guitars, Gerrit Mohrmann on bass and Dennis Weber on drums. Website: http://www.cripper.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KARYN CRISIS’ GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES-Salem’s Wounds (Century Media/Universal)
We know Karyn Crisis for a long time already and this is her new band GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES. The album contains thirteen tracks and runs a bit over an hour. After the intro with vocals, drums and guitar, which is called “Omphalos”, you’d expect a blast of brutal metal. Nope, wrong answer, try again. The dark sounds of “The Alchemist” are something that I didn’t really expect. So be prepared for the unexpected. The male vocals on this dark spell of alchemistry are being performed by Ross Dolan (IMMOLATION). If you’re into witchcraft and dark occult mysteries, then this might be a reason to give this silver disc a spin or two. “Ancient Ways” shows the dark side of this band, which plays a mix of black and death metal with an occult input. This is not for the faint hearted, I can tell you that much. “Aradia” is on next, which has got raw guitars, more chanting choir vocals and some bulldozer basslines. From a song, called “Mother”, you would have expected something lighter. Not with this band. The doomy and outrageous sound rages on and the riffs are loud and unpredictable, while the choir vocals are chanting out dark lyrics. ‘Mother, the witch is burning’ is not the typical love song to sing on mother’s day, so to speak. Let’s hear, what she has to say in “Father” then. Again a dark spell hits upon us. In “Goddess Of Light” there is some space to take a deep breath before falling into the deep darkness. I really liked the twists in “Howl At The Moon”, with its PINK FLOYD-alike breaks, before the dark growls take over again. “Pillars” also has got something psychedelic. The repeating lyrics and dark music sound so much different than the beginning of this album. You may not agree with me, but just lend an ear to “The Secret” after that and there’s no need to deny it anymore. “Salem’s Wounds” sounds like a follow up of the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. Dark bass riffs in a dreamy set-up. Obviously, this record has two different sides. It starts with death and dark metal and loud screams and it closes with a dreamy, almost psychedelic side, that fits the band quite well, too. “The Sword + The Stone” is on next and “The Ascent” closes this nice release. In this lengthy track, the band returns to its dark death and black metal roots once again. The hidden track will drag you to the end of this dark journey through the wounds of Salem. Not everybody can dig the depth of Karyn’s mind, I guess. I am not worthy either, but I really appreciate the effort and hard work this album got together and she did a great job here! KARYN CRISIS’ GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES consists of Karyn Crisis on vocals, Davide Tiso on guitar and bass, Charlie Schmid on drums, Ross Dolan on vocals and Mike Hill on vocals. For the live shows, the band has called in the help of Bob Vigna on guitar. Website: hhtp://www.facebook.com/Gospelofthewitches. Nice artwork, by the way. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DIRTY PANTIES -I’m A Robot (SquidHat Records)
A robot with dirty panties? As a reviewer of Metal Maidens, you’ll bump into the strangest situations and this is certainly one of them. Somewhere down the line, we missed this release from 2012, but we think that the CD by this all-girl Las Vegas punk rock combo is essential enough to be reviewed on these pages. Thirteen songs and thirty minutes of all-female punk rock is what you’ll get on this release. Opener “Confighted” shows us, that we’re dealing with a real punk rock band here instead of an alternative Riot Grrrl band. Short tracks with here and there an aggressive bite would be a good description, I think. “Cheers” must be dealing about alcohol and it has a RAMONES kind of vibe. “Wet” sounds a lot wilder. In the middle, there is a nice speed change, that will keep the listener focused. “Underfeated” sounds a little bit alternative in the beginning. There is some swearing in this, but it doesn’t sound as straight forward as the rest of their stuff. Just wait until you’ll get the crowbar smashed right at your face! “Take It To The Grave” sounds very doomy, but this is a pure punk song of course. While “Cinema Psycho” sounds like it could be on any RAMONES album and I must admit that this isn’t a bad comparison either. It sounds a bit more aggressive maybe, but the vibe is exactly the same. “Money” is a nice cover of the original Barrett Strong tune, that everybody will know. THE BEATLES made it famous, so you might know their version. I knew it from LINK WRAY, but who cares. They really turned it into a DIRTY PANTIES version with some slight twists in it. “Figment Of A Girl” puts the pedal to the metal with some fast punk ear attacks. “Overt” sounds slow and sleazy in the beginning and here and there are some nice switches to a more speedy rhythm. This song has a lot of variation, yet it’s still very short and catchy. “I’m A Robot” has a nice structure, in which they created a robot-like sound, so find out for yourself how they did it, but I think it really matches the rather odd title. “Get Off Your Ass” will bring you back to the real street punk sound. It’s for those, who like it straight at their face! “InTentCity” on the other hand is an odd song very far away from the paved punk rock paths, but I guess it’s a good way of putting some variety in your songs. One more time THE DIRTY PANTIES step on the gas in “Pretty In Pink”. They may play aggressive punk rock, but if you look very closely at the cover art on this CD, then you know that the panties are pink. Are they dirty enough for your ears? Just check them out! It won’t hurt you. THE DIRTY PANTIES consist of Barbara Lenox on guitar, Melanie Ash on vocals, Michelle ‘Lil’ Moe Meyer on bass and Kayley ‘Animal’ Malcolm on drums. If you’re going to Las Vegas in Nevada to gamble… Just walk into that bar, where THE DIRTY PANTIES play live, then you’ll become in the winning mood, that’s for sure. Going to the casino is just for robots. Don’t become one. Just refuse to wash your panties and stay dirty, just like these ladies do. Website: http://www.thedirtypanties.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ELECTRIC WIZARD-Time To Die (Spinefarm/Caroline)
The eight album of ELECTRIC WIZARD is called “Time To Die”. It contains nine tracks and is worthy of sixty-five minutes of doom metal. From the first moment on, that you push the ‘play’ button, you know that something ominous is coming your way. A URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE-like organ is playing along, while the rain is pouring down from the sky. Then a voice-over rushes in and the low-tuned guitar starts riffing. It’s the dark opener “Incense For The Damned”, that will play for over ten minutes, filling up the air with its doomy and dark sound. If WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLACK SABBATH and CATHEDRAL is your thing, then you can also safely buy this release and I think, you will be very pleased. However, you have to get used to the screaming vocals by singer Jus Oborn. Either you’ll love him or you don’t. The guitar solo contains some nice lengthy notes, which will remind you of Tony Iommi in a way. Title track “Time To Die” is a bit shorter and sounds like one lengthy guitar solo, covered with some vocals. The guitar solo will enter your mind immediately and it will only stop at the end of the song. The sludgy metal is bone dry and hard. In “I Am Nothing”, the bulldozer bass sound is very much upfront in the mix. You can feel the bass sound even better than when you hear it, simply because it’s being played so loud. It sounds ultra-heavy, but I have to admit, that it tends to get a bit monotonous along the way as well. It’s a bit over the top in a way. “Destroy Those Who Love God” is a mix of sounds with a spoken word loop running over it. It all sounds pretty mysterious and ominous. It’s the soundtrack of hate against religion and that doesn’t sound real happy, as you can imagine. I hope, they won’t kill me for that. The short religion - hate track is being followed by another lengthy heavy sludge doom track, called “Funeral Of Your Mind”. In fact, this sounds like one big guitar eruption with lots of screams and vocal lines. “We Love The Dead” sounds a bit more traditional, but not too much because ELECTRIC WIZARD is no music for the masses. These are black magic rituals played on music, if you’d ask my opinion. “Sadio Witch” is on next and the fuzzy sound of the WIZARD continues. This black magic spell also sounds very traditional. But the band has got the ability to sound traditional and brutal at the same time. Then they lean towards a more black metal-like style. “Lucifer Slaves” shows, that the statements they make are those they truly believe in. Their dark side is always there and there is not a spark of sunshine in sight for the listener. Guitar player Liz Buckingham takes the lead in this track and somehow it seems to come closest to the traditional sound of the masters of BLACK SABBATH themselves. One small warning though.... Don’t play this record, when you are depressed, because it will make the step to the rope or the shotgun a lot smaller. I am glad my time hasn’t come yet, even after listening to this dark masterpiece. Album closer “Saturn Dethroned” is a short instrumental, in which the organ has a very prominent place. The music of ELECTRIC WIZARD is not for sissies and for those, who like a decent and more polished sound. This is for the underground freak, that wants to feel his music right down his black hearted soul. For others, it’s now “Time To Die”. ELECTRIC WIZARD consists of Jus Oborn on vocals and guitars, Liz Buckingham on guitar, Clayton Burgess on bass and Simon Poole on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/electricwizarddorsetdoom. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

END OF THE DREAM-All I Am (Hardlife Promotion)
Another band from our own country will present themselves with this nine track full-length debut album, which is called “All I Am”. The band is called END OF THE DREAM and the album is a fifty minute ride through the land of progressive and gothic metal. “Follow The Angels” is the opener. Raw guitar riffs and a slightly bombastic orchestration open this dynamic song, which shows a band, that is trying very hard to enter the long list of successful names like WITHIN TEMPTATION, DELAIN, AUTUMN, KINGFISHER SKY, LA VENTURA and so on. “Away” contains some nice guitar work and proves, that the band is really capable of delivering some exciting music. In “Colder”, the riffs get louder. I guess, that the name of the band was taken from the EVANESCENCE song with the same title. This song definitely points into that direction and if EVANESCENCE is your thing, you can definitely step into this adventure. “Shadow’s Embrace” is one of the highlights on the album for me. Speed changes, mood swings, a technical start, it’s all part of the deal. It even shows a few different sides of the band and especially the guitar work is really breathtaking! And this is only just the beginning of this dream. “Collide” shows a bit more emotion. “All I Am” is a fresh portion of power and bombastic moves with a blasting climax. “Through The Dark” has a dreamy sound with some nice keyboard riddles waving through the song. It matches fine with the guitar riffs and together they create a full sound. The lengthy “Dark Reflection” is another highlight for me on this album. Again the technical sound of the band is a bit more upfront and it’s killer to hear this different side of this band. Speed and mood changes and nice guitar parts are the most important ingredients here. Just listen to the nice changes in the middle of this song. This will get me excited, so please add more of this in the future, please. Micky Huijsmans, the frontlady of the band, gets full attention in the last track on this album, which is called “Gone”. You can feel the emotion in her voice. Then the dream is over and you’ve witnessed the first steps on the ladder of success for this rising star from ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands. END OF THE DREAM consists of Micky Huijsmans on vocals, Armen Shamelian on keyboards, Robin van Ekeren on guitar, Tim van den Hooven on bass and Pim Geraets on drums. Website: http://www.endofthedreammusic.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ETHERNITY-Obscure Illusions (Hardlife Promotion)
ETHERNITY – what a neat name, by the way - hails from Belgium and plays some kind of energetic progressive power metal, that will make you cling to your seat for twelve songs and a bit over seventy minutes. So get ready for some progressive power moments here, starting with “False Lamentations”. It contains all the necessary ingredients, like powerful chords, raging riffs, fast keyboards, heavy guitar fills and some progressive sidesteps topped by some dynamic vocals. It’s a music style, that is open for many interpretations and ways of filling in the available time frames. This opener sums it all up and if the band catches your attention right away, they sure won’t lose it anymore. “Entities” has got the recognizable raw guitar riffs, that mix very well with the powerful vocals done by Julie Colin. She is not just an average singer. She has a powerful voice, that matches very well with the energetic sound of the band and she also knows to stand tall, when the band catches their breath. The guitar parts in this song are good. The band has got a long way coming already, before they started their career in 2000, when Julien, François and Nicolas Spreutels decided that their family bond needed to be extended and a metal band was the only suitable option for that. A good decision, because the Spreutels’ guys are quite talented, which they show in the many songs here. We’re fifteen years later now and it was all worth the long wait. Just listen to the steady and heavy “Shadows On The Wall”, which is on next. Impressive keyboard lines come together with fast haunting drums and innovative guitar lines. It all sounds pretty adventurous and very well done. “Secret Door” continues and it will keep the beat going. At the end, we can witness some more of the progressive ideas, that the band has. The adventurous sound is also shown quite nicely in the beginning of “Never Thought (You Would Let Me Go)”, a melancholic track with nice staccato riffs. “Rancor” will drive you wild at full speed, but this song goes a bit beyond the straight forward rock songs. ETHERNITY digs it out just a little bit deeper and shows the different layers in one song. It’s the progressive quality of the band. “Alone” beats away pretty firmly again. In the middle, a short keyboard segment introduces you to the guitar solo. “Broken Memories” will rock you like a hurricane. This is high octane fueled stuff with here and there a bit of space for some fantastic keyboard lines. “After All Has Turned To Pain” is a piece of rest in the energetic mindset, that this album will put you in. There are some powerful beats and riffs, but the overall sound is different than the rest, where the powerful pounding is the general sound this band creates. This ‘very welcome’ piece of rest is abruptly coming to an end, when the band cranks out another power metal explosion, simply called “XIII”. It closes with another leading role for the keyboards. “Interlude” is a short song with spoken words on keyboards. The spoken word part is being performed by a Spreutels’ member of the family, that we didn’t know before, namely Pascal Spreutels. It’s the intro for the magnificent piece the resistance, called “Obscure Illusions”, in which the bands shows their progressive abilities in a masterpiece, that runs about fifteen minutes. They called in the help from a few big names from the scene and you can enjoy the vocal abilities of Tom S. Englund of EVERGREY, Kelly Sundown Carpenter of BEYOND TWILIGHT, OUTWORLD and FIREWIND fame and Mark Basile of DGM. After seventy minutes, the game is over and we have been introduced to a very promising Belgian band, that showed their most “Obscure Illusions”. ETHERNITY consists of François Spreutels on bass, Julien Spreutels on keyboards, Nicolas Spreutels on drums (who also did the beautiful cover artwork), Thomas Henry on guitar, Gregory Discenza on guitar (lead) and Julie Colin on vocals. Website: http://www.ethernity.be. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DANA FUCHS-Songs From The Road (Ruf Records)
The “Songs From The Road” series are live recordings of mainly blues artists, released on Ruf Records. DANA FUCHS is one of them and this massive sounding live show contains sixteen tracks and plays for over seventy-five minutes. The show has been recorded at the Highline Ballroom in New York City on March 14th, 2014. Are you ready for some blues? Just push the ‘play’ button and you’ll get it. “Bliss Avenue” has got a nice bluesy sound, including the harsh vocals by Dana and a nice guitar solo in the middle. The tone is set, so let’s get this show started. Some nice sounding sidesteps are taken as well. “Handful Too Many” is one of them, in which some country and western influences can be heard. Dana can scream with her heart and soul and it always comes from deep down inside. “Livin’ On Sunday” gets the rhythm going and contains some soul vibes. The choir vocals are good in this one. Then it’s time to get the speed going and the excitement rushes in with “How Did Things Get This Way”, an uptempo rocker. In “So Hard To Move” things get a little bit emotional. Each and every time, you simply need to take a step back and share your emotions during a live show. “Summersong” sounds a bit lighter and contains more soul influences. In some cases, Dana shows some resemblance to Beth Hart and Joss Stone. They also have the raw vocals and a diverse sound with some nice sidesteps to other music styles. “Set It On Fire” is a raunchy rocker, but with choir vocals to give it a soulful touch. “Sad Salvation” is a ballad type of song with a soft touch. “Tell Me I’m Not Drinking” continues in that same direction. It’s a sad song with an emotional sounding guitar solo. It may give you the shivers. “Rodents In The Attic” creates another atmosphere. It’s like horseback riding in the wild west. “Nothing On My Mind” has the same vibe as “Save The Last Dance For Me”. It has got the same melody, only different lyrics. It swings and dancing is for free from now on. Nice guitar solo, by the way. In “Vagabond Winds”, Dana is at her best with raw and wild sounding vocals and a steady performance of the band. “Long Long Game” has got a more country vibe, but it contains enough guitars to call it a rocker. “Keep On Walkin’” rocks it out even more. The bass player takes a short moment to show his skills and the band sounds at its best in this firm steady rocker. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” is an OTIS REDDING song, that marks the closure of this dynamic gig. It’s a song, that sounds like it was made for Dana’s voice. The climax comes, when Dana cranks out the BEATLES classic “Don’t Let Me Down”. It all seems to come together one more time and after seventy-five minutes, the raging storm named DANA FUCHS has left the building. Her band consists of Dana Fuchs on vocals, guitar and percussion, Jon Diamond on guitar, Matt Beck on guitar, Jack Daley on bass, Pete Levin on keyboards and Joe Daley on drums. The choir vocals are done by THE SCREAMING SIRENS (great name!) consisting of Elaine Caswell, Nick Richards and Bette Sussman. On the DVD, you can watch the whole gig again, including one extra track. A great live album from a wonderful talent. Website: http://www.danafuchs.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FYRE!-Missy Powerful (Flaming Passion Music/Rock Inc.)
The artwork of this fourteen track album already asks for your attention. A lady with a glitter flying V, in purple light shouting at the microphone. The fourteen songs play for about fifty minutes and what we hear is an exciting mix of pop, rock and metal. Opener “We Are Here” sounds very catchy and it’s the perfect song to start your show. “Get The Hell Out”, as the title suggests already, sounds a bit heavier, especially in the first riffs. The catchiness of the songs are very surprising. And if I’m not mistaken, I even heard a saxophone for a few seconds. A heavy version of PINK or ANASTACIA would be a nice description. She did a tour with ANASTACIA and the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP at the end of 2014 and I think, that the two of them are a nice match. FYRE sounds a bit more energetic, dynamic and powerful, but she also knows to take a step back and sound more poppy like in “Moonshine”. The raw vocals of Alejandra turn it into a very powerful track. It’s the first single, that was taken from this album. “No Happiness” opens with some violins. Obviously, the poppy elements are there, but it is mixed very well with a steady beat and a loud riff. The loud riff is also to be heard in foot stomper “I Love To Rock”. I’m sure, that Alejandro likes to rock, but she doesn’t put all her eggs in one basket. She’s definitely aiming for commercial success as well and she handles things quite well on this album, in my opinion. The nice mix of ‘easy on the ear’ tunes will please many rockers out there. “Crazy Little Woman” could be autobiographical. But I think, that this crazy little missy powerful has got a lot of nice ideas. In the booklet you can see Alejandro do some impressive fire breathing, which will be a nice gimmick during the live shows of FYRE. “Lost In The Dark” is ready for radio airplay and it’s one of the three bonus tracks, that got on the digipack. “27” has a moody piano sound, but it also contains some nice guitar madness. The balance is just right on this album. It never gets too heavy and it never gets too dull or too poppy either. “Devil Is Me” rocks the hell out of you and it will make your body move to the sound of the music. When the guitars take the spotlight, you can even bang your head. “Eyes Of The World” is a ballad type of song. It’s done with the right dose of emotion here, especially in the guitar solo. “Watch Me Close The Door”, which was originally written by Natasha Cotroneo, gets the motor running again. It’s the second bonus track on the digipack and food for the average rock fan out there. The last bonus track is called “Stay In Bed”, which is a short but sweet song about feeling lazy. “Front Row Kids” is a tribute to the true music fan out there, fronting the stage and shouting their lungs out to their idols. Of course, the kids wanna rock, so it’s kind of the heaviest track on the album here. The last song is “Stairway To Heaven”, the LED ZEPPELIN classic, which is brought in style, but in a much shorter version, that just reaches the five minutes level. Alejandro Burgos does a nice job here. Not only musically, but also as a style icon: tattooed legs, purple pumps and a glitter guitar. It’s all part of a very good marketing strategy, that will definitely put FYRE on the map. The band of Alejandro consists of Sergi Vidal Tomas on drums, Tolo Grimalt on guitar and Lars Ratz (VIVA, METALIUM, ZED YAGO, VELVET VIPER) on bass. Just give the album a few spins, I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised. Website: http://www.FYREofficial.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE GENTLE STORM-The Diary (Inside Out)
There has never been a cooperation between Anneke van Giersbergen and Arjan Lucassen, until now. The project is called THE GENTLE STORM and I guess, that the concept they used isn’t been done before very often as well. They wrote a concept double album and created a gentle version of it and a storm version. The gentle version is on first and contains eleven tracks, worthy of almost a full hour. We are about to sail on the “Endless Sea”, an ENYA and CLANNAD type of musical adventure with Anneke’s marvelous vocals in a leading role. The whole album is being played again on the second disc, but all the arrangements have been changed and adjusted with a whole lot of pepper. It depends in which mood you are, which CD you will take out of the CD box and put in your player. Like I mentioned before, we start with the modest of the two versions and a folky tune leads us to the second track, which is called “Heart Of Amsterdam” with flutes, that will remind you of the good old FOCUS days. The band consists of a lot of huge names, people that know their skills and who can create a certain atmosphere quite well. “The Greatest Love” will take you to the Golden Age for example. You can’t easily listen to this lovely music without getting the idea, that you’re listening to music that was meant to be played in another time frame. This is the strength of THE GENTLE STORM and Anneke’s voice is perfect for a job like that. Her voice is timeless and she can sing very gently, but also scream like a fisherman’s wife, if she wants to. “Shores Of India” takes you over the seven seas to another country with a more exotic taste. After the intro, the sound of India is represented here very well. Anyone fancy a curry dish? I’m all in for it after hearing these sounds. The love story, that the album represents, are in fact letters that were written between the two lovers. They form the lyrics for this whole story. “Cape Of Storms” sounds modest, but very beautiful and it gives me the shivers in a positive way. “The Moment” sounds moody with a sparkle of sunshine at the end. “The Storm” is coming and I think, it will rage at full force on the storm CD on this double CD set. “Eyes Of Michiel” is about Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter, who lived in the Golden Age. Because of the use of folky instruments, like tin whistle, didgeridoo, flute and oboe, your thoughts may go out to BLACKMORE’S NIGHT, but I’m afraid that they will never put so much the effort in writing a concept album like that. “Brightest Light” is perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. It’s a song of hope. “New Horizons” brings you a new kind of music, new visions, maybe a new country. It gives me that feeling anyway, although it might give you something different. The last track is short and is called “Epilogue: The Final Entry”. Now it’s time to change to the other disc and have a listen to the stormy edition of these eleven tracks. This CD also lasts about a full hour. “Endless Sea” doesn’t differ that much to the former version in my opinion, but in “Heart Of Amsterdam” we definitely hear more guitars. The music isn’t really suitable for a real heavy version, but the fact that the beats of the drums are louder and the guitars are more upfront make the difference here. “The Greatest Love” contains lots of violins and some loud drum beats. “Shores Of India” has a slow beat and the Eastern influences can still be sensed. “Cape Of Storms” captures some rougher guitar work here and there, but it remains quite gently as well. The bombastic feeling remains and the beautiful vocals of Anneke are there too, so the difference is not that big comparing to the other versions. Take the previous versions and add some herbs and spices to it and this is what you’ll get. “The Moment” for example remains a romantic song, whereas the guitars add the spicy touch to it. “The Storm” has been used as a good make-over. With a title like that, you will expect a storming version and you’re in for a real treat, if you like things loud. It’s a shame, that they didn’t add a special guitar solo here, in such a suitable song. “Eyes Of Michiel” opens jolly and remains a happy song. “Brightest Light” is being followed by “New Horizons” with FOCUS-like flute playing and more guitar riffs. After a wild start, the song returns to a sober and bombastic kind of sound. All in all, both CD versions are not that different, but the arrangements are sometimes very different. Regarding the mood you’re in, you can now choose to play your favorite version of this fantastic album. When “Epilogue: The Final Entry” starts, the two hours of THE GENTLE STORM are over and it’s time to close your diary. I would like to end this review by giving you just a quick introduction to the band. Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals, Arjen Anthony Lucassen on guitar, keyboards and percussion, Marcela Bovio on vocals, Ed Warby on drums, Rob Snijders on percussion, Johan van Stratum on bass, Joost van den Broek on piano, Timo Somers on guitar (“Heart Of Amsterdam”), Ben Mathot on violin, Hinse Mutter on double bass, Maaike Peterse on cello, Jenneke de Jonge on French horn and Jeroen Goossens on wind instruments. Website: http://www.facebook.com/TheGentleStorm. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GHOST CRIES-Melum Primus (Spiritual Beast)
GHOST CRIES hails from Japan and their debut album contains ten tracks and a bit over forty minutes of extreme metal from the land of the rising sun. Be prepared for a very rough start and an extreme bumpy ride here. It will be a “Ruthless Triumphal Parade” and surprisingly enough, let that also be the opening track of the album. The fast riffs will make you think of a band like CRADLE OF FILTH or THE AGONIST. The ultra-loud vocals by front lady Coco could be compared to the wild growls of ARCH ENEMY or HOLY MOSES, but she can also sing with a tender normal singing voice, which she also does in this opening track. “Volcano” is the song that is about to explode next, which has fast guitar hooks and moody keyboard parts of the second metal maiden in the band, called Yuka. The band themselves call their music ‘dramatic death metal’, which is a good description in my opinion. In “Gardenia” things get really extreme. It’s one of the two songs, that the band released in a digital version in 2013. They became the top two position of the Amazon Japan’s heavy metal best sellers, which says a lot about the popularity of the band and this particular song. The moody keyboard parts slowly bring this fast death metal track to an ending. “Into The Dark Eternity” is on next and it bursts out of your speakers with a big bang. Coco knows to combine this brutal instrumental attack with her normal singing voice, which works fine with me. The keyboards play a leading role next to the guitars in “Redemption”, where fast riffs will burst out into your living room. The speed changes make this song really technically and fine to listen to. “Elegy For The Abnegators” is pushing it over the legal speed limits with blast beats, aggressive vocal outings and violent guitar shredding. It’s the most extreme track so far and once again Coco knows to express her normal vocals next to the brutal growls here. “The Ugliest Meteor Shower” is kind of a weird title, but who gives a damn anyway, when the music is good? Beastly growls mark the vocal parts and the drummer sets another speed record here. “Lunatic Chaos” is the second track, these Japanese metallers released for their fans in 2013. This is another fine example of extreme metal madness. The piece of rest, that you might be looking for, is there too at the end. The song is called “A Cape Of The Prologue” with more leading parts for the keyboards. “The World Is Over” (and this is the apocalyptic soundtrack of it!) closes the album. It has many speed changes and another technical musical approach. It gives away the final touches of this very surprising album. If extreme death metal with a touch of melody is your thing, search for “Melum Primus” and be positively surprised! GHOST CRIES consists of Coco on vocals, Mitchy on guitar, Hiroyuki on bass, Hyodo on drums, Hayato on guitar and Yuka on keyboards. The album is mastered by INHALE guitar player Takahiro Hashimoto, who did a great job. For more info, go to their facebook site at: http://www.facebook.com/ghostcries. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GLITZY GLOW-Glitzy Glow (EAR Records)
Let’s get glitzy glowing: twelve songs are presented here in nearly fifty minutes. This Swedish band will really rock your world. “Now Is Never Later” has got the catchy vibe of classic rock outfits, like BON JOVI and EUROPE with touches of alternative and modern rock. This is only just a first impression of what to come. “Strike The Right Note” opens with some raw riffs and a catching chorus, that asks to sing along to it. I bet, you will after hearing it a couple of times. Just shout out the title of this first single. The sound is sleazy but not too glamourous. “Black And Sunny Day” will make the sun shine, if it was only behind the clouds. The sleazy sound is well-known in Sweden and there are numerous of bands, that create music like that. It’s glam with a bite, because the guitar player does his work right and it doesn’t harm the appealing song, which is the whole idea of it all. Next up, we are officially welcomed to the band in “Welcome To This Glow”. “Dragonfly” is the obligatory ballad, that can’t be missed either. However, in “Leopards Goin’ Wild” we’re stamping our feet again. In the distance you can almost hear these pussies growl. These kittens have got claws, but they will never tear you apart. In other words, the sound of GLITZY GLOW never gets too heavy, in case you wondered. “Evening Faces” sounds slightly commercial with the choir vocals. It’s definitely a BON JOVI thing that I hear and they can take this as a big compliment. I never knew, that I had an evening face and a morning face, by the way. Now you know. “Make Me Feel” has got a great opening riff and some wild guitar chords. To me, it’s one of the most outstanding songs here. Also there are some choir vocals, that will remind you of commercial success bands, but the raw energy is the leading message in this song. Same goes for the first notes of “Running For Love”, which sounds quite exciting to me. It could have been a KISS song in the late eighties. The chorus reminds me of “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by the SCORPIONS though. Yes, it’s that catchy and it has a good sound for driving along the long and lonesome Swedish highways. “Cold Cold Heart” has got the right groove and sounds less depressing, as the title might suggest. In fact, it belongs to my favorite tracks off the album. It has a EUROPE type of guitar solo, which is the cherry on the cake here. “Misfits” is not a tribute to the former band of Glen Danzig. Here it’s a rock song with a steady beat, that sounds easy on the ears. The CD closer “Rebel” is another highlight in my book. Obviously, the glam face of the band is to be heard in the beginning of this album, but later on, the songs tend to get a bit heavier. Therefore, the average sound of GLITZY GLOW could appeal to many rock lovers all over the world. GLITZY GLOW consists of Johnny Roxxy on bass, Daniel Jackzin on drums, Julia on vocals and Wingz on guitar. Website: http://www.glitzyglow.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GUERRERA-To Hell And Back Again (Anger Of Metal Records)
We already reviewed the first vinyl EP by the heavy metal band GUERRERA from Santa Fe, Argentina. Here, they present us their seven track twelve inch MLP, that plays for almost twenty minutes. They will bring you “To hell And Back Again” in a nutshell, so to speak. Opener is the title track “Hell And Back Again”, a real race monster with high screams, which reminds me of Kate of ACID. Speed metal to the max is what you get here, including fast beating drums, fiery guitar riffs and high pull outs. They cross the speed limits and it’s a great opener. The songs are short but good. “Toys To Play” is on next with some choir singing, which is invisible but recognizable and they’re probably raising their fists during this song. The raw guitars do the rest. “Savage And Hungry” contains riffs from which you thought they would only exist in the eighties. “Dead End” has an ACCEPT type of riff. Halfway through the song, the instrumental part makes the excitement even bigger. It proves, that GUERRERA isn’t only there to pound it out loud, but they can also create nice music lines in their songs at times. “Unknown Entity” is an instrumental interlude, which leads us to the JUDAS PRIEST influenced “The Incubus”, which also has a very recognizable PRIEST type of intro. The guitar solo will really blow your mind. At least, it did with mine. Before you know it, you are listening to the last, short track, called “Sounds Of The Insane”. Strange noises are on this one minute song, but I miss the idea behind it. Together with “Unknown Entity”, they would have been better left out for one ‘normal’ track in my opinion. Obviously, GUERRERA is not about loud and hard pounding alone. They try to add influences, that gives them the right to create a style of their own. If they have used the right tools for that is a point of discussion. We already know, that there is a whole lot of good heavy metal going on in Argentina, but I think that nobody plays it as authentic as GUERRERA. The band consists of Metal Maiden and front lady Romi Guerrera on vocals, Nick Banger on guitars, Nikkey Energetic on bass and Steve Breaker on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/guerreraofmetal. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HALESTORM-Into The Wild Life (Warner Music/Roadrunner)
There is no one, who can escape the claws of Lzzy Hale, the vicious front lady of HALESTORM. Their new album will bring you “Into The Wild Life”, capturing fifteen tracks and worthy of almost a full hour. “Scream” is a ballsy rocker with steady riffs and the slightly hoarse throat of Lzzy. It’s a good start, that closes with a fading instrumental part, leading to the second track “I Am The Fire”, which is actually a full shot of adrenaline. The catchy songs are probably too heavy for teenage girls and on the other hand, they might be too sweet for die-hard metal fans. And in between there is a large world of HALESTORM admirers, that are worshipping this band with their good looking front lady. “Sick Individual” is another solid rock track and in “Amen” she has got the groove right. It got my body moving to the rhythm of the beat, which is a good start. “Dear Daughter” is a sweet love song with another nice twist at the end, which is the intro to “New Modern Love”, another romantic love song. The pedal is pressed to the metal in “Mayhem”. What else would you think with a title like that? The balance on the album is good, because after this storming version of “Mayhem”, it’s time to relax a bit in “Bad Girls World”. I love the guitar part in that one. Guitarist Joe gives it a special swing at the end and then the band seamlessly turns the song into the next anthem, which is called “Gonna Get Mine”. It keeps that very cool and catchy KISS beat going. Raise your fists and yell! That’s the only device, I can give you here. “The Reckoning” slows things down a bit. “Apocalyptic” takes care of some rocking again. “What Sober Couldn’t Say” would appeal to PINK fans also, but I guess that the average sound on this album will be too wild for those PINKers. I think, I’d go for modern hard rock as the best description of HALESTORM. A nice ballad between modest, relaxed and soft rock, next to heavy, wild and groovy rock music is what you get here. I like my rock heavy though and with the next song I believe I have a connection with Lzzy and her band. The song is called “I Like It Heavy”. Way to go, wild lady! It has a nice “Nutbush City Limits” guitar intro, by the way. The twist at the end of the song is remarkable and the band bursts into another KISS-like beat in “Jump The Gun”. This will get the rockers going, I guess. The catchy beat has got a jazzy, big band style, but the KISS-like shouting and stomping beat makes up for it. And let’s not forget the guitars in this song! “Unapolagetic” closes this album, which is a safe buy for all the fans of the band out there. HALESTORM is no gimmick and this band wants to rock your world. I think, they deserve a fair chance. HALESTORM consists of Lzzy Hale on vocals and guitars, Arejay Hale on drums, Joe Hottinger on guitar and Josh Smith on bass. If the CD alone is not good enough to satisfy your HALESTORM appetite, then you'd better watch out for the upcoming photo book “To Hale And Back”. That will keep you busy for a while, I guess. Website: http://www.halestormrocks.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HANZEL UND GRETYL-Black Forest Metal (Metropolis Records)
This is not going to be a happy sounding CD for sure. The artwork shows, that we have to fear the worst in the black forest. This album from the American outfit HANZEL UND GRETYL contains eleven tracks and plays for a bit over forty minutes. The ominous opener “Hoia Baciu” is a short intro of things to come. The album starts with title track “Black Metal Forest”. Once you’re lost in there, there is no escape and no way out. You wanted to go there yourself and you know that it can be brutal there with screaming vocals and pounding drums. The guitars cry out loud and the thunderous drums and the evil sounds are roaring through the forest. “Hexenkraft” (good title!) is on next and if brutal black metal is your thing, then you can dig in without hesitation. The nice thing about it all is, that this is actually a parody on the black metal clichés, that can be heard on the different true black metal releases. In “Blood Of My Horns” it slowly becomes a bit more obvious, that we’re dealing with a band that calls their music Tanz metal. It sounds quite brutal, but it’s the beat that makes it loud. The cliché lyrics are over the top and if you play it loud enough, it will give you a true black metal vibe. Just listen to “More Metal Than The Devil”, which contains blast beats to make it sound real. RAMMSTEIN fans might like this, but also SATYRICON fans can put their teeth into this release. In the meantime, we are “Burning Witches For Satan”. If this isn’t over the top, you didn’t get the message. Industrial metal never came so close to black metal than on this release, I guess. “Evil As Fukk” sounds evil and doomy. The intentions are right, that’s for sure. “Mavro Metalliko” is covered with gruesome dark screams like someone is being slaughtered. There is no use in putting a piece of “Peter And The Wolf” in the intro of “Big Bad Kyzrwolf”. It won’t be recognized by true black metallers and tanz metallers. It proves, that the black forest isn’t as evil as it seems to be at first sight. “Pantagram Sky” contains heavy guitars and brutal screams and once again the band is one step away from their Tanz metal image. I think, that this release is something they really wanted to do and they did it just right. Just have a listen to the guitar solo at the end of this track. Does it sound evil or what? It could even appeal to old VENOM freaks. The CD closes with “Grimm Ritual”, in which you’ll hear the sound of the black dark forest, where this whole story started in the first place. The dark doomy sound is topped by horror like spoken word parts. HANZEL UND GRETYL really did their best parody about all the black metal extremities in this particular genre. If industrial metal is your thing, you can try this for sure. However, I think that this is better stuff for black metal fans, who don’t know that Kaizer von Loopy (guitar, programming, vocals) and Vas Kallas (bass, vocals) must have had a blast recording compiling this first class fake black metal album. Website: http://www.hanzelundgretyl.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JO HARMAN AND COMPANY-Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Total Creative Freedom)
JO HARMAN is a blues guitarist and if you can play live at the Royal Albert Hall in London, you really belong to the bigger names in the scene for sure. This BBC recording contains eight live tracks, that plays for almost a full hour. The blonde vixen and her guitar start their show with “Through The Night”. It’s a good opener, in which the keyboard player is in the spotlights. You can hear the joy this band is playing their show tonight. Right after that, it’s time for a moment of tenderness in “Cold Heart”, a ballad type of song with a soft touch for a romantic moment. I would have done this a bit later on perhaps, but it doesn’t do any harm to the beauty of the song. “Ain’t No Love In The City” isn’t or yes it is a WHITESNAKE tune. It’s brought in a slightly different way. Jo has put a bit more soul into this. You’re gonna love it, I tink! “(This Is My) Amnesty” is another slow song. The feeling is right for a pleasant evening with music straight from the heart. “Underneath The River” rocks a bit more. Jo handles this faster stuff very well, too. If ANA POPOVIC and JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR are your thing, than this is definitely something to check out. I’m sure, you will enjoy it from back to forth. To me, this was one of the highlights on the album. After that, it’s time to dim the lights down low for “Sideways”, another lengthy romantic song with beautiful and intense instrumental parts. In the last track, the band pulls it out just one more time in a song that slowly builds itself up to a steaming climax. Jo introduces the band to you and they give it their best shot in “Better Women”. It may never get ultra-heavy, but the intensity these songs have been done will make you enjoy it to the max for sure. JO HARMAN’s star is rising fast and I think this live album will definitely give her career another boost. Website: http://www.joharman.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HEART & FRIENDS-Home For The Holidays (Frontiers Records)
It’s March, the sun is shining and I’m reviewing the live CD of HEART, that contains a few Christmas songs. A strange state of mind comes over me, but listening to this marvelous band still gives me the chills. The fourteen songs are worthy of a full hour of ‘feeling good’ music. The band has called in the help of a few good friends and they play a different set than usual. The opener “The River” is a great ballad with a leading role for Ann, who shows, that she is still capable of pulling out some very high and long notes. The song sounds very emotional and it will become warm and emotional several times during this special Christmas gig. However, there is also room for songs of joy and a few steady rockers later on. “Seasons” is accompanied by acoustic guitars and the warm and tender feeling, that comes from songs like this, is almost noticeable. You feel the urge of settling yourself next to your loved ones and enjoy these beautiful Christmas days, in which family and friends are very important. It’s holiday season and all we want is peace and happiness on earth these days. I’m afraid, it’s still far away, but it’s good that there’s still hope. Shawn Colvin is the first guest of tonight and accompanied by the piano, she sings “Rockin’”, a short lullaby type of Christmas song. “Love Came Down At Christmas” is another shorty to give you a feeling good moment. Ann then takes some time for a spoken word part with a poem, called “On This Good Christmas Day”. Next it’s time for some more music and for another guest. AOR singer, songwriter RICHARD MARX is on stage for the lullaby “All Through The Night”. It’s all done very tasteful and with a good sense of style. However, if I listen to HEART, I also want to rock. Bring Sammy Claus on the stage and you’ll get things started very easily. Sammy Hagar, the red rocker, guests in “All We Need Is An Island”, which is very radio friendly and invites you to sing along to the chorus. “Santa’s Going South” is next and the atmosphere definitely breaks open now. “Please Come Home For Christmas is an old EAGLES classic (and also recorded by BON JOVI), which has a bluesy touch.They perform it with Pat Monahan (TRAIN). “Remember Christmas” makes your mind go out to the good old days, when you were young. At least it did for me. In your imagination, you can almost see the snowflakes falling down from the sky. When the band starts “Barracuda”, you will know that this is the reason why you liked this band so much. The heavy guitar riffs of Nancy and the loud siren by Ann, it made this band very special for many metal heads out there, including myself. “Even It Up” is also taken from the good old days and it still rocks my world. It’s a CD only track for this release, because the gig is also to be viewed on DVD in this package. “Stairway To Heaven” should be one of these songs that may not be touched by anyone else, but when HEART does it, it’s in good hands. They know how to deal with LED ZEPPELIN tunes. The last song is for the whole cast of tonight’s show, namely the BOB DYLAN classic “Ring Them Bells”. Then it’s over and done and the crowd can go home to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. For me, it’s back to reality and the definite closing of 2014. It wasn’t hard to review this Christmas CD of HEART, because they will always belong to my favorite bands. The band consists of Ann Wilson on vocals, guitar and flute, Nancy Wilson on guitar, vocals and mandolin, Craig Bartock on guitar and vocals, Debbie Shair on keyboards, vocals and percussion, Ben Smith on drums and Dan Rotchild on bass. The show was recorded at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle, hometown of the HEART ladies. Website: http://www.heart-music.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELLION-Karma’s A Bitch (HNE Recordings)
This is a five tracker with new HELLION material. You know, the band of Ann Boleyn. It runs for twenty-plus minutes and opens with “Betrayer”. The dark intro will remind you of BLACK SABBATH in the DIO-era. When Simon Wright hits the drums, he hits it hard and you can’t stop banging your head. This is the real deal. The power, the force, the dynamics… Oops, there goes the front window of our house. Well, never mind. Let your neighbors enjoy it, too. If JUDAS PRIEST is your favorite band, then you will love this. It’s US metal written in capitols. The double leads are there as well. What an opener! The fading out could very well come from the metal gods of PRIEST, too. Next up, it’s time for the title track, called “Karma’s A Bitch”, which is more in the DIO style. It sounds a bit melodic with the great vocals of Ann as big ear catchers. The keyboards also play a subtle role in the background. They are being played by yet another former DIO band member, namely Scott Warren. No wonder, that you will recognize some of the influences of the master himself on this new HELLION release. Now, raise your fists in the air and sing along to the mighty chorus of “Hell Has No Fury”. It has that very recognizable sound, which will make you think that you know this song for years already. In “Watch The City Burn”, Ann also plays the keyboards. The intro gives you the idea, that you’re in for something special, something really heavy and something pounding. The guitar solo cranks it up and your head slowly begins to bang. Move it up and down to the rhythm of the beat, baby. The wild drum beats of Simon will get you “Rockin’ ‘Till The End”, which is another great US metal song with an old school vibe. The rhythm is fast, the solos are loud and they will explode from your speakers. HELLION will sure get the old school music back, if nobody else does it. The album sounds like it has been written in the mid-eighties. I think, that the real metal fan will know enough by now. If not, you must be reading the wrong website. A few members of the band are mentioned already in the review, but the full line-up of HELLION is Ann Boleyn on vocals, Maxxxwell Carlisle on guitar, Bjorn Englen on bass, Scott Warren on keyboards and Simon Wright on drums. I really hope, that somebody will get out of his lazy chair and get and this band over to Europe very soon. Do you understand that???? Website: http://www.hellion.us. “Karma’s A Bitch” will receive the full score of course, there’s no doubt about it. Don’t forget to check out the mighty compilation album “To Hellion And Back” as well, for those who want to listen to the old stuff of this phenomenal old school US metal band. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

HIGH FIGHTER-The Goat Ritual (Enorm Music)
Bring on the sound of the desert. Heavy rock, stoner rock or doom metal. Call it whatever you want, but I call it metal with a sludgy, sleazy, dirty vibe, which has been put together by HIGH FIGHTER. The artwork of this five track masterpiece alone is worth every penny. The songs are worthy of a bit over twenty minutes of dirty rock with crusty guitars, wild vocals, and a beat, that makes you wish for more. It will get you in a trance. Just have a taste of opener “2 Steps Blueskill”, if you dare. It will rip the skin from your face. The low tuned guitars will rip you apart, the vocals will get you in a trance and the beat of the drums will go on and on. Once the singing becomes screaming, you already hope that this sound will go on and drag you into a world far outside this universe. Holy shit, what a great sound! A sound, that you can feel better than hearing it. Once you think, that you have arrived back to earth and you’ll open your eyes, you know that you’re not in Kansas anymore. HIGH FIGHTER has taken you on a trip, which is called “Breaking Goat Mountains”. Fuzzy guitars and the wild screams of super vocalist Mona Miluski, who is also the PR manager of Napalm records. Respect lady for what you’ve been proving to us here. The last tones of this faster track are doomy and directly after that the “Black Waters” start to run. The vocals get more dirty and sometimes they sound like black metal screams. The small part, where they take back the power and put in some sludgy doomy soundscapes, makes this song very different from the many other songs that we hear in this particular music style. “Fire In The Sun” sounds dynamic and the vocals range from normal to brutal screams. The guitar solo and the rhythm are really asking for more. Next to the opener, this is an absolute highlight to me. The EP closes with “In Veins”. No blood but metal, I guess. I can feel the bass tones again. What a power! The solo will definitely bring your head in the cloud. If stoner and sludgy metal are your thing, don’t look any further. You’ve come to the right place, when listening to HIGH FIGHTER from Germany. The band consists of former members of BUFFALO HUMP, A MILLION MILES and PYOGENESIS and the band members are Mona Miluski on vocals, Christian ‘Shi’ Pappas on rhythm guitar, Ingwer Boysen on lead guitar, Constantin Wüst on bass and Thomas Wildelau on drums. Website: http://www.highfighter.de. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

IN THIS MOMENT-Black Widow (Atlantic/Warner Music)
The new album of IN THIS MOMENT, one of the best hyped new metal bands, I guess, is out. It’s called “Black Widow” and it contains thirteen brand new tracks and about a full hour of stomping industrial rock and metal. The ominous sounding opener “The Infection” is the intro to the new album and it sounds horror like and scary. Then Maria Brink introduces herself in “Sex Metal Barbie”. I don’t know, if this is autobiographical, but it really matches the title. It has lovely maiden vocals, industrial beats and a slightly horror atmosphere with loud screams, hypnotizing beats and some heavy guitar riffs. Love it or hate it, fact is that the big crowd eats it and this sells like crazy. The dark sounds that follow make you aware that something creepy is about to happen next. Don’t be afraid, it’s just the “Big Bad Wolf” entering the story. He won’t eat you, unless you’re a little innocent pig or little red riding hood’s grandma. This wolf sounds evil too, don’t get me wrong. The last part of the song is a direct rip off from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’s “Killing In The Name Of”, but it sure sounds nice to me. Check out the dirty and sick video for this great track. It will hypnotize you and make you enjoy it even a little bit more. “Dirty Pretty” is the next track here. It has some distorted vocals and a steady beat. Some facts about the “Black Widow” are mentioned in the title track of the album. It’s a venomous spider and all of the other spiders are in great danger of her. The computerized sounds however are not that venomous and powerful than you might expect. I was afraid, that I would be hearing more industrial dance beats, but until now the sound has been quite nice in my opinion. The wild screams of Maria make up for that though. “Sexual Hallucination” is a duet of Maria with Brent Smith of SHINEDOWN. It sounds slightly gothic with some uptempo beats. The fiery beats from “Sick Like Me” are a bit more my cup of tea. The sensual distorted vocals show up well here, while the guitar riffs do the rest. In “Bloody Creature Poster Girl”, Maria sounds very soft, until the break arrives. Then the siren roars loud and uncompromised, the way I like it. “The Fighter” is an epic song, in which the band slows things down a bit. The power remains though. “Bones” is not only the title of a television broadcast, it’s also the title of this thunderous song with some fiery drum beats. The distorted vocals are not really my taste, but some diehard fans of IN THIS MOMENT will disagree with me on this, I guess. “Natural Born Sinner” sounds very much like their single “Whore” or am I mistaken here? It rocks and that’s important to me. “Into The Darkness” has some sensual sighing of Maria. But if you listen carefully to the ‘lyrics’, you’ll find out that there is more to her than meets the eye. It’s a spoken word song about the deepest feelings of Maria. Find out for yourself, but it might hurt you deep inside. After all, there are some true feelings spoken out there. Then we will move over to the next song, album closer “Out Of Hell”, which is in fact a follow up to “Into The Darkness”. It’s an EVANESCENCE type of song and Maria and her piano will touch you deep inside one more time. You may think whatever you like, but emotional moments like that are the cherries on the cake for many people. IN THIS MOMENT consists of Maria Brink on vocals, Travis Johnson on bass, Tom Hane on drums, Chris Howorth on guitar and Randy Weitzel on guitar. Website: http://www.inthismomentofficial.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JADED STAR-Memories From The Future (Sensory/Hardlife Promotion)
JADED STAR has got Maxi Nil in their ranks. She once was the front lady for VISIONS OF ATLANTIS. This doesn’t mean that her new band JADED STAR is a continuation of her career on the same level as her previous band. She teams up with former ICED EARTH drummer Raphael Saini. The music has become more energetic in my opinion, but the melodic touch remains. This album contains ten tracks and forty-five minutes of energetic melodic metal with a crusty bite at times. Opener “The Mask” leads the way into the world of JADED STAR. The melodic touch can be reckoned in “Wake Up” with choir vocals and powerful rhythms. Just listen to the last instrumental part and obviously the riffs could very well be on any ICED EARTH album for that matter. In “Keep On Fighting”, the band made things catchy enough to sing along to it. Touches of EVANESCENCE and WITHIN TEMPTATION with a lot of melody make this song easy on the ears. The melodic touch is still there in “Stars”, but the loud and groovy riffs return in “Into The End Of Time”. The rest of the song stays perfectly between the lines and never gets too heavy or too extreme. “Healing The Inner Child” also received a groovy and wild instrumental approach. “You’ll See” returns to the more WITHIN TEMPTATION and NIGHTWISH kind of style, but again with a much rougher sound. The fine tuning has to be found in the ballad type of song “In Memory”, where the emotion does its thing. A fine acoustic intro with the voice of Maxi starts this emotional ride. “Raining In Sao Paolo” is the perfect mix of melody and groove. When “Innocence” starts off, we have arrived at the last song on this album. The album is so easy on the ears, that it’s over before you know it, but this last track was definitely worth the wait. It has got the groove and on the other hand it has also got the melody, captured in one. Two faces of a band, that likes to keep their sound in balance and makes it interesting for a very broad fanbase. JADED STAR consists of Maxi Nil on vocals, Raphael Saini on drums, Kosta Vreto on guitar and Babis Nikou on bass. Website: http://www.facebook.com/jadedstarofficial. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KINGFISHER SKY-Arms Of Morpheus (Suburban)
Let Morpheus take you in his arms with this new album by Dutch gothic rockers KINGFISHER SKY. The eleven tracks are worthy of a bit over forty-five minutes, starting with the exciting “Hypnos”. Do you feel the trance, in which you will arrive soon, already? The popularity of this band is growing with every album and the bombastic orchestral moves blend very well with the guitar parts here. A good opener is a good start and it will ask you to focus on things to come like “At Least You Tried”. The vocal parts may remind you of Anneke van Giersbergen in a way, for what the sound is concerned. “King Of Thieves” is in general gothic metal with a good taste for melody. “Open Eyes” is a bit more uptempo and with a slightly Eastern atmosphere in the orchestral parts. The string arrangements have a very prominent role, especially at the end where they may close this pretty song. “Insomnia” shows, that Judith Rijnveld is a great singer. Not only in slower tracks, but also in the more powerful songs like “I’m Not Alone”, in which she shows some powerful pull outs. “Strength Of The Endless” creates another Eastern sounding atmosphere. Play the beginning of this song in Marrakech and nobody will look up surprised and think it sounds strange or different. The guitar solo in this song sounds nice and once again I am impressed by the sound and progression of this band over the years. Just have a listen to the intensity of how they play “Heather” for example. You’ll be astonished. “The Morrigan” is a definite highlight, because the string arrangements in the beginning of this song are just what it needs to make it outstanding from the rest. They’re frivolous and exciting at the same time. I think, it’s the hand of Maaike Peterse, that gives this song the right touch to turn it into a rough diamond. Both thumbs up for this!! “Mercy On This Wounded Heart” sounds very emotional again and it gives balance to the album. You can let your hair wave to the beat of the drums by banging your head. It’s the perfect timbre for it. While “Maddy” is comprised of chorus vocal parts, tribal drums and it builds up slowly. It’s a nice closure on this good album by a well-talented band from Holland. KINGFISHER SKY consists of Judith Rijnveld on vocals, Maaike Peterse on cello, Ivar Graaf on drums, Edo van der Kolk on guitar, Chris Henny on guitar, Nick Verschoor on bass and David Gutiérrez Rojas on keyboards. Website: http://www.kingfishersky.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LIV KRISTINE-Vervain (Napalm/PIAS Rough Trade)
LIV KRISTINE’s new album is called “Vervain” and it contains ten new tracks and about forty-five minutes of gothic metal. She opens with the steady rocking “My Wilderness”. The song sums up in a nutshell what the gothic metal scene is all about. Beautiful female vocals, rough guitar riffs and a dreamy atmosphere, in which the melodic parts easily find their way to the listener. A very good opener, I think. Michelle Darkness is the singer of END OF GREEN, who teams up with Liv in the duet “Love Decay”. To me, it leans a bit too much to the new wave, but the biography sees it as a soon-to-be gothic hit. It’s very emotionally charged and the singing is indeed done with a big feeling for passion. Title track “Vervain” is on next with raw riffs and the fairytale like voice of Liv, which forms a nice combination. The result is a good uptempo track. Then, the second duet comes along with “Stronghold Of Angels”, helped out by metal queen Doro Pesch. It has a slightly doomy touch, which makes it real easy to enjoy. It’s nice to hear the two blonde nymphs together. There is also a video recorded for that song. An outstanding track, as far as I’m concerned. “Hunters” is a firm rocker, that might also appeal to the fans of DORO, because of the steady and heavy beat. “Lotus” on the contrary sounds soft and gentle in the beginning, but nicely builds itself up to another fine gothic rock track. “Elucidation” could almost be categorized as gothic, industrial metal. Let’s say, the best of both world is captured nicely here. The beats give it an industrial feeling. “Two And A Heart” brings some tenderness. Same goes for “Creeper”, which is on next. These last two songs will make you think back to the legendary THEARTRE OF TRAGEDY days with Liv, at least they did with me. They created the same melancholic atmosphere. “Oblivious” is a great closer of this very fine album, on which Liv really gives her very best. The spoken word part fits in perfectly and matches very well with the tender atmosphere in the song. It’s a beautiful closer of this very fine album, that will please many gothic metal freaks out there. If LEAVES EYES is your thing, then this might be too loud for you. However, if THEATRE OF TRAGEDY is your thing, then you’ll be pleased so much more, I guess. All in all, with Liv Kristine herself behind the mike, what can go wrong, anyway?! The latest news about this blonde gothic vixen with the beautiful voice can be found at: http://www.livkristine.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LEAH-Kings & Queens (Inner Wound Recordings)
LEAH presents her fans an eighty minute plus third album with fifteen songs. Call it value for money, if you are into symphonic and progressive rock with influences from the gothic and Celtic rock. It’s a melting pot of styles with vocalist Leah as shining star in the middle of it all. The album starts with “Arcadia” a lengthy song with choral vocals, bombastic rhythms and a symphonic type of sound, topped by beautiful vocals. Leah hails from British Columbia, Canada and already received raving reviews for her previous albums. “Save The World” is slowing things down a bit and you can hear that folk and world music belong to the influences of this lady. Something, that she likes to proceed in “Angel Fell”. It could be the perfect background music, when reading a book or when having a romantic evening. But then the heavier parts may kill that moment, which isn’t really clever. The guitars always stay in the background, but when you listen carefully, you will hear that they are a very important part of LEAH’s sound. “Enter The Highlands” is the next track, which will be the first single of the album. It’s one of the more heavy tracks here with rough riffs, that will make your head go up and down. There are many speed and mood changes here and it’s one of the highlights so far for me. “In The Palm Of Your Hands” sounds more like ENYA or CLANNAD, who we can mention as big influences for the softer and slower parts on this album. The bombastic beat is there too, but it sounds quite modest at times, which is good to keep the balance. “Alpha Et Omega” is also a way to define a balance between things. It’s a beautiful song, in which the vocal parts receive the status magnificent in my eyes. “Heart Of Poison” continues with a steady beat and it has another ENYA-like approach. Same goes for “Hourglass”. At the end of the CD, the timbre is slowing down. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, because the band steps on the gas at the lengthy “Palace Of Dreams”. Just check out the guitar parts here. They will really blow your mind. I was even more pleased about the speed change at the end of this track. What a killer song! The variation of styles will make this a very pleasant album to listen to. “The Present Darkness” has got a steady beat and you’ll hear that the musicians, that Leah hired, are top notch players. Sander Zoer (drums, DELAIN), Timo Somers (guitar, DELAIN) and Barend Courbois (bass, BLIND GUARDIAN) are part of it and these names ensure a very high quality, I can tell you that much. “The Crown” leans towards WITHIN TEMPTATION with some nice guitar work after the intro. “Remnant” continues and once again the fairy tale-like vocals will appeal to the most to you, although the guitars have received a more prominent place in this song, too. The bombastic ending fits this track very well. The chorus vocals start “There Is No Farewell”. But there sure is and it’s called “Siúil A Rún”. It’s there in two different versions, namely a rock version and an acoustic version. The rock version did please me more, but hey, you know me. There can be never enough guitar on a good rock song. LEAH proves, that ENYA type of song structures can match very well with heavy rock. EVANESCENCE proved that already, but I think that LEAH provides the perfect blend, if you’re more into the heavy side of both worlds, like yours truly. Check out http://www.leahmusic.net for more information about this very gifted lady with the magic voice. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LORDI-Scare Force One (AFM Records/Rock Inc./Bertus)
Another monstrous album has been released by the Finnish FRANKENSTEIN fan club, called LORDI. The band knows to keep up with their image very well. Monster making and monstrous music is their thing. Well, at least their music always has got a lot of variation and there’s never a dull moment. And you can say the same thing about their live shows. “Scare Force One” kicks off with “SC G7: Arm Your Doors And Cross Check”. What’s in a name, I would say. This is only a one and a half minute intro. The album contains thirteen tracks and plays for almost fifty minutes of scary moments. After the intro, the band continues with the title track of the album. Some songs have a tongue-in-cheek title with a horror background, like the catchy “How To Slice A Whore”. Funny, but still a lot of people will sing along to this crazy subject in no time in a live situation, I guess. The fun fair intro of “Hell Sent In The Clowns” sounds creepy. Many people are afraid of clowns and with this creepy sound, I can imagine why. “House Of Ghost” has got a kind of ALICE COOPER feeling to it. Same goes for “Monster Is My Name”, as they are catchy songs with a title, that is being repeated. It makes the song easy on the ears and ready to sing along after hearing it once. “Cadaver Lover” has got the same catchy beat. “Amen’s Lament To Ra II” is a short instrumental interlude and some kind of intro to the sick “Nailed By The Hammer Of Frankenstein”. “The United Rocking Dead” gets the pace down and doomy and only in the chorus, the song will sound a bit more catchy and recognizable further on. “She’s A Demon” starts with moody keyboard sounds and they already seem to create the right creepy, horror atmosphere, that every LORDI song seems to have somehow. It’s the song title alone that might give you the creeps. In general, the music of the band isn’t too scary and horror-like, but sometimes it gets really close to it. “Hell’s Kitchen” continues. It’s a short tune with singing children, which sounds sad. The album closes with “Sir Mr. President Sir”, another anthem that invites you to shout along. The horror part is being pushed to the background a little and the catchiness of the songs is high, but I guess that every devoted LORDI fan will enjoy this new album of ‘Scare Force One’. Go to http://www.lordi.fi or http://www.facebook.com/LordiOfficial for more shocking information. Be warned, that this information is not for the faint hearted. LORDI consists of Mr. Lordi on vocals, Mr. Ox on bass, Mr. Amen on guitar, Mr. Mana on drums and Ms Hella on keyboards. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LYRIEL-Skin And Bones (AFM/Rock Inc./Bertus)
LYRIEL hails from Germany and their Celtic influenced gothic metal is firmly based in this new millennium. Their fifth album is called “Skin And Bones” and it contains thirteen tracks that play for fifty-five minutes. “Numbers” is the catchy opener, that will grab your attention right away because of the easy on the ears atmosphere, that the band creates. Melodic songs with catchy vocals and a great stomping rhythm to it. “Falling Skies” captures the cello playing of one of the two metal maidens, Linda Laukamp, which sounds a bit more upfront in the mix. The other female band member is singer Jessica Thierjung, by the way. The title track sounds fast and quite heavy for a band, that likes to present themselves as folky and gothic rock. “Black And White” is a song, that is being captured here in two different versions. The first version comes with brutal growls and normal voice of Christian Älvestam (SCAR SYMMETRY, SOLUTION 45), next to the angel-like voice of Jessica. “Days Had Just Begun” is a sweet love song. “Your Eyes” and “Dust To Dust” shows the more gothic side of LYRIEL. Think of bands like XANDRIA, WITHIN TEMPTATION and DELAIN to get the idea. “Der Weg” is with German lyrics, which gives the folky aspect a special boost for some reason. “Astray” sounds sweet and gentle. It’s a beautiful soft spot among the louder tracks on the album. Just have a listen to the moody sounds of the cello in this one. Don’t they match just perfectly with that sweet voice? “Worth The Fight” is a nice foot stomper, that gets things going after this short piece of rest. “Running In Our Blood” captures the wild guitar adventures, that this band has in store for you. The catchy side remains, but there are more rough edges and guitar solos in there. This is definitely a highlight for me, next to the softer moments in “Astray”. “Dream Within A Dream” is a ballad type of song with an uptempo mid-piece. It fits really well to the rest of the songs, as it only slows things down a bit. “Black And White”, in the so-called ‘second skin version’ closes the album. This version sounds a bit less brutal than the original one and lacks the brutal growls of Christian. Maybe I even like this version better, because it matches more with the rest of the material. LYRIEL consists of Jessica Thierjung on vocals, Linda Laukamp on cello and vocals, Tim Sonnensthul on guitars, Markus Fidorra on drums, Joon Laukamp on violin and Oliver Thierjung on bass. Website: http;//www.lyriel.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MARMOZETS-The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets (Roadrunner Records)
This is the debut album of young alternative rockers MARMOZETS from England. It contains thirteen tracks and plays for forty-five minutes. It kicks off with “Born Young And Free”, which is a rough and wild punk rock song. “Why Do You Hate Me” sounds even more brutal and bashing with front lady Becca shouting her lungs out. In “Capicate You”, the alternative face of the MARMOZETS is getting involved. In “Is It Horrible”, the band sounds a bit like a noisy garage rock band and gets very close to BABES IN TOYLAND. Becca screams it out loud and the fuzzy guitar parts do the rest. “Cover Up” continues in that style. It gets dirtier and rawer in “Particle”. Just listen to the instrumental parts and wild screams. “Cry” is a sensitive ballad type of song with moody piano sounds in the beginning. We’ve experienced the weird sounds of the band, now we’re reaching the wonderful moments here. “Weird And Wonderful” sums up the two faces of the band and with “Vibeteen”, we get some weird music on our plate. Distorted bass, wild screaming vocals and fast speed changes turn this track into something really special, at least when you’re open-minded. If you like things a bit wilder, then you might want to listen to “Love You Good”. While in “Hit, The Wave”, Becca sounds very similar to Alecia Beth Moore (PINK). Things get more wild and alternative in “More, Shake, Hide” though. The CD closes with the alternative rocker “Back To You”. It will rock your world, I guess. MARMOZETS sound very wild and exciting and I think, that they can rock your world very much, too. The band consists of Becca Macintyre on vocals, Sam Macintyre on guitar and vocals, Jack Bottomley on guitar, Will Bottomley on bass and vocals and Josh Macintyre on drums. The band will support MUSE on their Psycho Tour, so try to catch them there, if you can. Website: http://www.marmozets.co.uk. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MASTERCASTLE-Enfer (De La Bibliotheque Nationale) (Scarlet Records)
MASTERCASTLE hails from Italy and this is their fifth album already. The band consists of Pier Gonella on guitar, Steve Vawamas on bass, Francesco La Rosa on drums and Giorgia Gueglio on vocals. The new album “Enfer” contains ten tracks and is worthy of forty minutes of power metal. It opens with “The Castle”, which contains some rough riffs and the beautiful vocals of Giorgia. She also takes the leading role in “Let Me Out”, which contains some catchy power metal with a symphonic touch. “Naked” has some electronic touches, but it has a good guitar solo. It captures the best of both worlds. “Pirates” also sounds catchy, but the exciting instrumental mid-piece turns it above average. Add to this, the good guitar solo of Pier Gonella and you can give this song a highlight status, in my opinion. Title track “Enfer” is on next. It slows the pace down a bit, but it also puts more depth into the sound of MASTERCASTLE. The guitar work is great again and the sound is still catchy. “Straight To The Bones” opens with a moody orchestration, but it receives more power in the instrumental mid-piece, where the speed goes up a little. “Throne Of Time” is a very powerful track with some good MALMSTEEN-like guitar licks and a neo-classical touch, which fits very well in this fast power metal track. “Behind The Veil” contains the same neo-classical guitar parts, but this time in a much slower pace. The sudden fade out in this song sounds a bit odd to me. “Venice” is another nice up-tempo song and Pier works his way into the spotlight with the finale song “Coming Bach”, which is an exciting instrumental with some phenomenal guitar work, inspired by Johan Sebastian Bach, I guess. MASTERCASTLE may not be the top of the crop, but they’re definitely worth checking out. For more information about this band, please check out http://www.mastercastle.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MERKABAH-Ubiquity (Maple Metal Records)
“Ubiquity” contains eight tracks and runs for about fifty-five minutes. Their music could be described as symphonic power metal with references to bands, such as WITHIN TEMPTATION and XANDRIA. Opener “Mythomania” contains powerful vocals, fast guitar riffs and a symphonic orchestral intro. A nice listing of what this Canadian band is all about. “Divine Sparks” opens with guitar riffs, that could very well be used on any of the latter ICED EARTH songs. “Red Letter Days” is the first single taken from this album. It contains some very exciting mood swings. Due to the slightly complex character of the song, it may not be the wisest choice, but it’s a brave decision of a band that wants the fans to know that there is more to enjoy than just another catchy tune. “Circles Of Despair” is a longer track, where we also get to hear some male vocals. With the male vocal input, they definitely point into the direction of METALLICA, but this is only for a short while. Don’t go away, because the guitar solo in this song will blow you off your feet. “Brothers From The Seed Of Cain” has got the contours of a ballad but it’s definitely powerful and here and there more up-tempo. The symphonic character of the band returns in the lengthy “Deadly Prophets Of The Printed Page”. The choir vocals and the guitar work in the second half of the song make it powerful and very intense. I think, that a song like that brings out the best in MERKABAH. “Agartha” has a slow start, but works itself up to a wonderful climax, which contains a lot more power. The best is saved for last though with the lengthy (think about twelve minutes here!) instrumental roller coaster ride, that shows you what MERKABAH really has got to offer and that’s quite a lot. It all comes together in this last unique moment, where the band lets their instruments do the talking. This title track serves you the best of best. Just make sure you are prepared for a long but exciting experience. MERKABAH consists of Jacinthe Poulin on vocals, François Vachon on guitar, Raynald Brochu on guitar, Louis Doyon on bass and Nicolas Bilodeau on drums. Their website can be found at http://www.merkabah.calen/. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOONLAND FEATURING LENNA KUURMAA-Moonland (Frontiers Records)
Hands up for those of you, who still remember VANILLA NINJA! If this name sounds familiar to you, you must be a long term Metal Maidens reader. Their music was probably more pop than rock, but they sounded very promising and fresh. The band even entered the Eurovision Song Contest, where they reached the eight place for Switzerland. Now one of the members of this band from Estonia surprised us with this melodic rock / AOR album, called “Moonland”. It contains thirteen melodic rock songs with a total playing time of fifty-five minutes. The CD starts with the firm “Heaven Is To Be Close To You”. A very catchy track with nice guitar parts. I like a sound like that. It is radio friendly, heavy at times and catchy as hell, just like melodic West Coast rock and AOR should sound. Think of ISSA, think of FIONA, think of ROBIN BECK and now think of MOONLAND. Just listen to the vibe in “Open Your Heart”, which invites you to sing along right away. Lenna is a very well-known TV personality, but I’m glad she decided to pursue her musical career, too. These songs are really nice to listen to and they are able to turn a smile on your face. Just listen to the recognizable riff of “Crime Of Love”. Great stuff! “Poison Angel” contains more fiery guitar work. This material is a lot heavier than all of the VANILLA NINJA stuff together. “When Love Is Gone” starts in a way, you’ve probably heard it before in a good AOR song. Riffs, that could come from bands like HEART, ROXETTE or maybe even the much underrated SURVIVOR, who are the kings of AOR to me. The slightly distorted voice in “Out Of Reach” doesn’t do any harm to the progress of the song. It’s the first new fashioned part, that I’ve heard so far and it’s only very short. “Live And Let Go” is a ballad type of song with a piano part in it. Not really heavy, but very warm and beautiful. The album just can’t do without it. “Cold As Ice” has got nothing at all to do with the same titled FOREIGNER song. In this one, the band cranks it up to the max. It’s a fast rocker with in the middle some great axe work. “Over Me” sounds melancholic and proves, that Lenna is a great singer, who is very capable of singing in many different styles. Together with her band, she performs one classic to be after the other here. In “Over Me” she teams up with a male vocalist at some point. “Heart Made Of Steel” is inviting you to sing along to the chorus. It could be another Eurovision Song Contest winning song, because of the very catching vibe. “Look At Us Now” has got that magic opening riff, which makes it ready to rock. “Another Day In Paradise” is also very catchy, but the song title might be too repeating at times. Still it’s a killer uptempo AOR track. The ballad “Live And Let Go” closes the CD and this time it’s being played in an acoustic setting. I have no problems to hear it again and it’s a good way to close this great AOR album. MOONLAND will astonish you, when you like good melodic rock and the sound of solid West Coast AOR. The band consists of Lenna Kuurmaa on vocals, Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards, percussion and backing vocals, Francesco Marras on guitars, Bruce Gaitsch on guitar, Anna Portolupi on bass and Alessandro Polifrone on drums. Check Lenna out on: http://www.Facebook.com/Lenna-Kuurmaa-Fanpage. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTHER’S FINEST-Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts (SPV Records)
MOTHER’S FINEST keeps on releasing new stuff once in a while and they still know to impress me. Since the late seventies, they have showed that you can mix rock, metal, funk and soul without losing the groove. This new album contains ten brand new tracks that play for about forty minutes. So polish your blue suede shoes and get ready to become filthy again, while moving to the groovy beat of some of the finest music that these mothers have to offer you. When you’re on board, the band starts things up with a track, called “Angels”. The groovy rock is still there and to create a balance they’ve also added some soul and funk to it. The mix sounds groovy but danceable. I must warn you that this is not “Another Mother Further” or “Iron Age”, but with “Shut Up” they still know how to rock. The guitar solos stay between the lines though, but they’re there, even as the powerful and soulful vocals of Joyce ‘Baby Jane’ Kennedy. “She Ready” sounds darker and Doc (Glenn Murdock) teams up with Joyce behind the mike here. “Cling To The Cross” gives Doc a bit more space. He performs this song in an almost jazzy way.. It all sounds quite relaxed and laid back without getting over the top. The guitars get more space at the end of this song, but they’ve been cut off a bit too abruptly in a way. “Another Day” brings the two vocalists together and here you can hear that MOTHER’S FINEST is one big happy family, that just wants to create some good music. Joyce is touching a soft spot with her many fans, when doing “Tears Of Stone”, which is a romantic moment created for her beautiful voice. Doc’s rap here comes as a real surprise, but fits in rather well, if you ask my opinion. “All Of My Life” sounds lighter and it has a catchy chorus. It’s a bit too happy in a way, but I don’t mind. Luckily, there is also room for the guitars here. Hey, “I Don’t Mind” is also the title of the next track. What a coincidence! Doc is in control behind the mike. Although he really liked to rock in the seventies, he keeps it more steady in the new millennium. You must really put the sound of MOTHER’S FINEST in the world of today. Please don’t compare them to the early days. Just put this album in today’s perspective and you’ll be alright. “Take Control” has got a good drive and this could very well turn out to be a crowd’s favorite in a live situation. I think, that the long term fans of the band will like this sound most. “My Badd” is also a very cool track, that might remind you of the old days. That was then, now is now. In a live situation MOTHER’S FINEST will still blow off the roof at your local rock club. On CD, they still rock out, too and prove is given on “Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts”. The band consists of Joyce Kennedy on vocals, Glen Murdock on vocals, John Hayes on guitar, Moses Mo on guitar, Wizard Seay on bass and Dionic on drums. Website: http://www.mothersfinest.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTOR SISTER-Ride (Metal Blade/PIAS)
This all-star line-up was formerly known as MOTHER SUPERIOR. Now being reformed under the moniker MOTOR SISTER, they take another ride on their new album that contains twelve classic rock songs, worthy of forty-five minutes of hard rock. They start off the engine with the rawker “A Hole”, where they press the pedal to the metal. It’s a mix of MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams” with the guitar work of THIN LIZZY’s “The Rocker”. “This Song Reminds Me Of You” is another good example of how arena rock should sound with a good dose of old school GARY MOORE, SAMMY HAGAR, TED NUGENT and MONTROSE. The guitars are breathtaking and you can hear that we’re dealing with a bunch of professional musicians. “Beg Borrow Steal” has got a groovy beat, that will knock you off your socks. The track contains a lot of wild power. Same goes for the beginning of “Fool Around”, but after a few beats this track turns into a power ballad, that could very well be from people like FRANKIE MILLER, a very underrated Scottish rock singer, who could also sounds sensitive and heavy at the same time. I think, it’s a great song! “Get That Girl” kicks some serious butt. It will get the energy and adrenaline flow going. “Head Hanging Low” is pure rock, that could even appeal to fans of THE BEATLES, I guess. It contains bit more power, but underneath that power it breathes the sound of the sixties. “Fork In The Road” has got a more punky approach. Brute power and another huge load of energy is being spread to the listener. Just listen to the sick pounding drum beat. The sudden mood change sounds exciting and surprising at the same time. “Little Motor Sister” follows the road of MONTROSE and SAMMY HAGAR. If you know your classics, you will definitely have a wonderful time with this album, because it will make you feel like being reborn again with music that sounds familiar, but on the other hand mighty new as well. “Pretty In The Morning” rocks and has got the same influences as “Little Motor Sister”. “Whore” is short and sounds a bit more like glam rock to me (in the best old school SLADE tradition of course). Glam rock with a brutal stomping beat and raw guitars. If you don’t like the album by this description by now, then you’d better leave it for what it is. It is an honest tribute to the old school rockers, that could fill arenas with hundreds of thousands of fans. “Doghouse” has got a ZEPPELIN beat, including a wah-wah solo, that makes it complete. The odd one out here is the final track. Well at least, the acoustic beginning is ‘different’. It’s called “Devil Wind”. MOTOR SISTER consists of Jim Wilson on vocals and guitar, Scott Ian (SOD, ANTHRAX) on guitar, Joey Vera (ARMORED SAINT, FATES WARNING, ARCH//MATHEOS) on bass, John Tempesta (EXODUS, TESTAMENT, THE CULT, HELMET, PRONG, THE DEAD DAISIES) on drums and Pearl Aday (daughter of MEAT LOAF and Scott Ian’s wife) on vocals. All of your favorite classic rock bands are being united in one band here. Let the party begin and just push the ‘repeat’ button. Website: http://www.facebook.com/motorsister. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

NEOPERA-Destined Ways (EAR Music)
In the land, where opera and metal get together, you will find NEOPERA. The band originates from the area of Hamburg in Germany and with “Destined Ways” they present us an album, that contains twelve tracks and plays for a bit over fifty minutes. In opener “The Marvel Of Chimera”, you’ll hear a mix of metal and opera. As this has been done before, you’ll know what to expect. Brutal riffs, loud screaming vocals, soprano vocals and occasionally some bombastic orchestration. The male vocals sometimes sing the opera-like parts, like in the beginning of “A Call To Arms”. Whereas the opener is like a raging storm, this sounds more modest and shows the operatic side of the band. “Remote” captures the best of both worlds. Wild screams are combined with Latin lyrics sung by a choir. The orchestration is wild, which takes care of a good combination. Title track “Destined Ways” is next. The female voice of Nina Jiers is upfront here and makes a fine combination with the baritone voice of Thorsten Schuck. The guitars are there to accompany both singers. A short piece of rest follows in “Falling Water”, where Nina sings with the help of a piano and later on with some more orchestration. In “The Greed”, the band sounds sober and dark and the orchestra takes the lead. “Error” contains some nice guitar riffs and a good dose of heavy rock. The operatic voices form the classical input, but the wild screams are here as well. It contains a great deal of rock, where the next track “Last Pantomine” captures the more operatic side of the band, but it also has a good guitar solo in the middle. “Equilibria” sounds very wild at times and contains rock explosions and haunting rhythms. “Requiem” is of course a piece, in which the operatic side of NEOPERA has been spread out completely. It’s only a short track. After that, the balance needs to be repaired and “Song Of Revenge” is by far the most brutal and extreme song on this album. It includes some classical choir vocals, but still it sounds very brutal and heavy. If THERION is your thing, then you might enjoy a piece of NEOPERA as well. The last song is called “The Unspeakable”, and it brings back some rest. NEOPERA doesn’t really sound innovative, but they build a nice bridge between heavy rock and classical music. I like the artwork of the old opera building a lot, by the way. NEOPERA consists of Nina Jiers on soprano vocals, Thorsten Schuck on baritone vocals, Michael Gluschke on screaming vocals, Mikis Trimborn on guitar, Jörn Schubert DARK AGE) on guitar, Dirk Schlächter on bass and Thorsten Harnitz on drums. Website: http://www.neopera.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NIGHTWISH-Endles Forms Most Beautiful (Nuclear Blast)
The new NIGHTWISH album is very important to the band. Floor Jansen is their new singer and they have to prove themselves again with their new material. The album contains eleven tracks and almost eighty minutes and as far as I’m concerned, I think it contains the best material, that they have ever done. The band sounds stronger than ever and prove is given in the very powerful opener “Shudder Before The Beautiful”, that rages into your room like a troop of ‘wildebeests’. What a great opener! It contains some mighty fine riffs, bombastic orchestration, the powerful voice of Floor, that can’t be topped by any other singer and a rhythm, that makes your body shake from excitement. It’s the NIGHTWISH you always wanted them to sound like and this finally happened. It’s the complete picture, taken at the perfect moment. “Weak Fantasy” brings the wild stream into a milder flow and gives you some time to gasp a bit of air. The music is still breathtaking, but not as overwhelming as the opener. “Elan” is the first single taken from the new album, which has got a very folky feeling. To me, it matches very well with the old material. It might sound a bit different, but the refined touches in this song have more connection to the old NIGHTWISH sound than you would think of at first hand. In “Yours Is An Empty Hope”, the band grabs back to the bombastic orchestrations and the loud guitars. The choir vocals at the end of the song sound creepy, but it adds just that little something, that makes it so special. “Our Decades In The Sun” proves, that Floor is being able to handle every kind of vocal style and they are really incredible here! “My Walden” has got that very catchy feeling, which makes you want to sing along to it. It also has a nice folky twist to it, which is another genius idea every fan out there will surely like. Title track “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is on next. This is an up-tempo song with brutal guitar riffs and these ingredients turn it into another classic NIGHTWISH anthem. The band gives it two hundred percent and the choir pulls out the very best, they have got. When you talk about a ballad type of song, it must be “Edema Ruh”, which features some fine keyboard parts from the maestro himself. I believe, they have become more like a real band, a steady unity, since Floor came aboard, but the real genius behind their music must be Tuomas Holopainen. “Alpenglow” shows some different vocal abilities of Floor. You’ll hear her sing from a normal voice to a sensitive one and she even sounds rather maniacal here. Those differences come together and you just have to listen very carefully to hear her change the sound constantly in this one. In “The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula” we also hear a lengthy but impressive instrumental track, which opens with a moody piano sound. This moody atmosphere remains and only some choir vocals have been added in the background. The last song continues perfectly after this one, because it also opens with the same sound, the same piano and the same moody atmosphere. However, there is so much more to discover on this twenty-four minute magnum opus. It consists of five different chapters “Four Point Six” being the first one, followed by “Life”, “The Toolmaker”, “The Understanding” and “Sea-Worn Driftwood”. What a great song, in which Marco Hietala adds some additional singing lines. The track is covered with mood and speed changes and it’s so complete, that it could very well be the best NIGHTWISH song ever recorded. It’s not an easy song to comprehend and I guess it won’t be an easy song to play as well, because there is so much happening in it. Go and find out for yourself and do yourself a big favor with this remarkable piece of art. NIGHTWISH consists of Floor Jansen on sublime vocals, Marco Hietala on bass and vocals and acoustic guitars, Emppu Vuorinen on guitars, Tuomas Holopainen on keyboards and piano, Jukka Nevalainen on drums and Troy Donockley on whistles, Uileann pipes, bodhran, bouzouki and vocals. On this album the drums is being played by Kai Hahto, by the way. Website: http://www.nightwish.com. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

NUBIAN ROSE-Mental Revolution (Funklord Dynasty/Rambo Music)
The new NUBIAN ROSE album is a fact. It contains ten brand new tracks, worthy of forty-five minutes and it is called “Mental Revolution”. These Swedish rockers will sure make your world rock again. At least, they did to me, especially in opener “War”. This is a great metal song, which will leave you behind astonished and with your mouth open wide. What a great power is being unleashed in the first few minutes! “Time Again” has got a steady beat and some great axe work. “Illuminated Within” has got a more catchy vibe and a great stomping beat. Listen to the great vocal screams of Sofia. I bet, she will really impress you. You better believe it, because you don’t want the two lions from the album cover chasing you by telling our readers, that this album isn’t worth listening to. “The Eye” is a good, straight forward rock song with a firm bite. “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” is the perfect marriage between KISS (start of the song) and LITA FORD (rhythm and vocals). I could think of worse combinations. And the message, that ‘the Rose’ spreads here is quite true, I guess. If I consider myself as one of the tough guys, then the title is true as hell. If I would start to dance, I would break both my legs in a couple of seconds, I’m afraid. “Break Out” will make your body move, which is something different than dancing in my opinion, but I couldn’t keep still, while listening to this great rocker. “Higher” is a rocker too and with a catchy vibe. After that, it’s time for a bit more sensitivity with “You Will Never Walk Alone”, a classy power ballad with a firm touch. While the next song “(Taking This) Further” pokes up the metal fire again. This has got a fine LITA FORD vibe again, a classic foot stomper that will get the party going wherever you are. “All Of Your Love” is a feeling good rock song, which is really perfect to sing along to. It has been made for playing in full arenas, something that will hopefully happen in the near future. The ‘mixed in’ audience at the end would be able to make so much more noise than that, I guess. “Mental Revolution” sounds so much better than their previous release and that’s a true statement. No need to release these wild lions, Sofia, as we really dig this very much! NUBIAN ROSE consists of Sofia Lilja Åkerlund on vocals, Christer Åkerlund on guitar, Simeon Liljegren on bass and Thomas Weijnesjö on drums. Website: http://www.nubianrose.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ONMYO-ZA-Raijin Sousei (King Records)
Dark metal from the land of the rising sun. It sounds like a contradiction, but the result is in my CD player right now. Two releases from this Japanese metal band have finally reached our office and they both sound really well. “Raijin Sousei” contains twelve tracks and plays for a full hour. Opener “Raijin” is pure ONMYO-ZA, including a dark sound and a doomy song structure. The male vocals take care of this. The female vocals in “Tengoku No Ikazuchi” bring some sunshine into your house. The heavy riffs show, that ONMYO-ZA is still a band that knows to impress people. They play metal of the new millennium and do this with a great taste of bands, that did this before them in the eighties and nineties. The female vocals are also in front of the mix in the next song “Chihayaburu”, which has a fast beat and some flashing guitar licks. Just have a listen to the last high notes in this song, which I really like. “Hitokabemaru” is on next in a firm up-tempo rhythm. The vocals sound brutal though and this is the variation, that you’ll get by this Japanese band. They sometimes sweep from one style to another. This sounds like a brutal war anthem to me. With “Yoaruki Kawarabotan”, the female voices are back upfront and some pure heavy metal re-appears. Check out the guitar solo in this one, it will leave you breathless. “Kanari Ninpouchou” sounds sensitive and it proves, that ONMYO-ZA has also got a tender side. While in “Tenguwarai”, the band even sounds happy, which might be hard to comprehend. However, in the different music styles, the band spreads out, this can’t be missed. I believe, that the band doesn’t sound as extreme any more as in the beginning of their career. “Seiten No Mikazuki” even sounds like how an average European metal band would sound right now, but then with Japanese lyrics, male and female in this case. In “Kasane” we hear back the sound that is a bit familiar, when we think about the music of ONMYO-ZA. It’s an epic, dark doomy track, that runs for almost thirteen minutes and contains a sober but definitely heavy sound and atmosphere. It’s maybe strange, that there is also room for a lovely happy piece of music in here, but when the brutal growls are there, the haunting beat starts and the sound is being bended towards more extreme heavy metal. The highlight on this album must be this strange mix of different styles in “Kasane”. The last part is traditional heavy metal with a crusty bite. “Higurashi” is a ballad, tender and slow. It’s a short piece of rest after the extreme metal ride that we had and it will bring you back in balance again. Japan is the world of Yin and Yang, you know. The last songs are two fast rockers, called “Shikoushite Ugokukoto Raitei No Gotoshi” (What’s in a name?) and “Raibu”, that will also blow you off your chair. ONMYO-ZA takes care of a lot of variation in their sound and if you’re into that, than their music is a safe buy for you. ONMYO-ZA consists of Matatabi on bass and vocals, Kuroneko on vocals, Maneki on guitar and backing vocals, Karukan on guitars, Dobashi Makoto on percussion and drums and Abe Masahiro on keyboards. Website: http://www.onmyo-za.net/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ONMYO-ZA-Fuujin Kaikou (King Records)
The second album by ONMYO-ZA from 2014 is another twelve tracker with a playing time of fifty-five minutes. It opens with a bombastic instrumental piece, called “Fuujin” and just like the previous album, it’s part of the album title. “Kamikaze” follows next and as the title suggests already, it’s a furious metal tune with some flashing guitar work. “Saredo Itsuwari No Okuribi” starts in an up-tempo rhythm, but with the beautiful voice of their female singer the song tastes a lot sweeter. Oh, but you like it much louder? Then check out the next track, which is called “Ichimokuren”. It will make your head go up and down for sure. This is pure metal with a thrashy background. “Hebimiko” sounds so much different. It almost leans towards pop music, but the great guitar solo makes up for that feeling pretty easily. It also gives you some time to breath in deeply before the explosive sound of “Tsumujikaze” will reach your ears. “Mufuu Ninpuchou” opens with more flashing guitar work, which gives it a NWOBHM twist in a certain way. It definitely sounds catchy and that is not something you can say about all ONMYO-ZA songs. But this track could very well be from any other European metal band in my opinion. The lengthy “Yaobikuni” sounds like a ballad type of song with some nice guitar work of course. In “Manazashi” we hear acoustic guitars in the beginning. It is the start of another short moment of rest. Time to sharpen the knives, I guess. “Kumo Ha Ryuu Ni Mai Kaze Ha Tori Ni Utau” is next and it opens with a dark intro. It turns into a very powerful song with a fantasy touch. “Yue Ni Sono Toki Koto Kaze No Gotoku” breaths power metal all the way with the male and female vocals doing a duet together. Then we arrive at the CD closer, which is called “Haru Ranman Ni Shiki No Mau Nari”. It’s another firm rocker, which will take you back to the sound of the seventies. Just check out the intro and see what I mean. Both CD’s were released in September of last year. The reason for that is quite unclear, but it was good to listen to those two hours of exciting Japanese metal of this great band. ONMYO-ZA consists of Matatabi on bass and vocals, Kuroneko on vocals, Maneki on guitar and backing vocals, Karukan on guitars, Dobashi Makoto on percussion and drums and Abe Masahiro on keyboards. Website: http://www.onmyo-za.net/. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ORDAINED FATE-Demo Anthology (Stormspell Records)
ORDAINED FATE is a name to remember, if you’re interested in the underground scene of the US metal. This CD is part of the well-known ‘Red, White And Heavy” series, which consists of a good collection of demos and unreleased tracks from the sound of the underground. ORDAINED FATE started their career as CRYPTIC AXE, a good name for a band, as far as I’m concerned. They changed names and had their most successful moments by the name of ORDAINED FATE. The Christian lyrics show, that we’re dealing with a religious band here, which is no big deal. There are plenty of bands singing about black metal, Satan and crosses, that are being turned upside down and this band took the opposite path. This doesn’t make them any different, because their ‘white metal’ sounds really excellent to me. The band consists of Pam Scott on guitar and vocals, Annette Cvengros on guitar, Marge Curtner on bass and Terry Cvengros on drums. The thirteen songs on this compilation are worthy of almost sixty-five minutes of heavenly metal and they kick off with “Minions Of The Adversary”. High pinching guitars start this fast rock song, which also captures some nice high vocal pull outs of Pam. The first two tracks were taken from the demo, they made as CRYPTIC AXE and the band wasn’t a Christian band yet. “The Pit” is a wild head banger, which explodes after a slower intro. The speed change at the end sounds very exciting. It proves, that we’re dealing with a very talented metal band here. Two songs (“Mask Of Fear” and “Temptation I”) from that demo are lost. It’s a shame, they couldn’t find the master tapes for those songs. The next song “Midnight Exodus” sounds rough, epic and raw. The intro for “The Light Bearer” sounds mysterious and once again I get the idea, that I’m listening to a very special band here, who were always searching for a different sound, which wasn’t in particular straight forward. Just check out the mighty guitar solos in this one. Aren’t they breathtaking?!? “Sweet Dreams” sounds dark, too. Thunder and lightning introduce the song, that contains more fiery guitar licks. The demonic male vocals make this song dark. “Trick Of The Night” starts with a moody acoustic guitar sound, which is being accompanied by a soloing electric guitar. The high pitched screams marks the speed change, that will get this rock song going. Check out the mighty guitar work, it will leave you breathless. One of the wildest tracks is called “The Election”, which also has a speed and mood change somewhere in the middle. It’s being introduced by horns. But the wild and rough intro is what I like so much about this band, who are always ready to reset their borders, as you can hear. “Mystic Wind” is the last song off the second demo by ORDAINED FATE. This is a firm rocker with an epic feeling and a mind-blowing guitar solo. The third demo opens with “Let’s Make A Deal”, which sounds more thrashy, than they did before. “No Death” continues in that same style and it also has a spoken word intro. “The Hunted” is a lengthy and epic rock song with some firm guitar work. This third demo was being recorded one year after the second demo, in 1990. “Temptation II” is a lengthy instrumental track, in which the band shows their musical skills one more time. This compilation CD closes with “Wonderful Love”. Clearly, ORDAINED FATE is definitely worth checking out. The material, they made thereafter, is exciting enough to search for it too, but I’m glad that I’ve finally found their demos on this nice compilation disc. Although the band has split up, the band members are still in touch with each other. Who knows what the future might bring them? Website: http://www.facebook.com/ordainedfate. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

REASONS BEHIND-The Alpha Memory (Maple Metal Records)
The ten track album “The Alpha Memory” runs for forty minutes and it brings you some exciting progressive power metal. “A Broken Melody” is the opener on this album, which makes you think of a dusty attic, where you’ve found a music box that will bring back a lot of good memories. “Under The Surface” contains the first exciting progressive influences by this Italian band. Their very powerful sound has many exciting sidesteps. Just listen to “The Chemical Theater” for an exciting view in their musical kitchen. Biggest earcatcher is singer Ely, who has a marvelous voice. In the lengthy “With Your Light”, you’ll hear some mood changes and of course the beautiful vocals of Ely. The song sounds mysterious and shows us a band, that definitely doesn’t want to ride the paved path. Of course names like NIGHTWISH and WITHIN TEMPTATION will come to mind, while listening to “Starlight In The Shades”, but their melodic, symphonic sound definitely sounds different than the music of these big names and the music of REASONS BEHIND sounds a lot more powerful as well. “On Butterfly Wings” is a beautiful shorty, in which Ely shows her best vocal abilities, accompanied by the sound of a keyboard. Maybe not a heavy track, but still very impressive. “The Ghost Under My Skin” is fast and shows the great skills of this Italian band. If you’re still not impressed, then you will be with “1000 Fading Lives”. It has the soprano vocals of Ely upfront, surrounded by thick layers of keyboards. This is really great stuff! In title track “The Alpha Memory”, the band grabs back to a ballad type of song. The moody atmosphere, slow pace and the beautiful vocals by Ely turn it into a very nice song. The band closes their musical box with “In The End” and put it away. It’s time to leave the attic now. For those, who like the sound of this musical box, feel free to return to the attic or buy the album and have a listen to REASONS BEHIND. You won’t be sorry. The band consists of Ely on vocals, Gabri on guitars, Dige on keyboards and piano and Enrico Goya on bass. Website: http://www.reasonsbehind.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

RUBY THE HATCHET-Valley Of The Snake (Tee Pee/Bertus)
From Philadelphia, we present you to RUBY THE HATCHET and their new album is called “Valley Of The Snake”. It contains six tracks and is worthy of forty minutes of power rock with a psychedelic touch to it. You can dream away to their sound or maybe we should call it getting in a trance. Just check it out. The album opens with keyboards and the nice voice of Jillian Taylor. I think, her voice will bring you back to the early seventies, don’t you? “Vast Acid” might be the name of the tranquilizer you probably would absorb, while listening to the dusty sound of RUBY THE HATCHET. They sound more psychedelic than BLUES PILLS will ever be, but also less occult than THE DEVIL’S BLOOD for example. However, their music might be a good blend between the both of them. Their sound gets a bit more doomy and lazy in “Tomorrow Never Comes”. Of course it captures a nice speed change to a faster pace in the best BLACK SABBATH and CANDLEMASS tradition, but to call it a rip off of these bands wouldn’t do justice to the music itself. “The Unholy Behemoth” will make you crawl on the floor from excitement. Their sound gets even more fuzzy and the raw power, that is being spread out, shows up well in the guitar parts here. It’s a raw deal, that will take you by surprise once you’ve heard it. “Demons” will have a good time during this next track. The guitar cry and the band will hold your attention, until their last breath. They’ll seduce you with their demonic spells and then eat you alive. That’s what demons do, if you don’t pay attention. These five hatchet rockers close their CD with the flower power tune “Valley Of The Snake”. It has some influences of “Landslide” – the good old FLEETWOOD MAC tune. The same atmosphere is being created here with the acoustic guitars. Jillian’s voice has even got a little bit of the dreamy voice of STEVIE NICKS in here. The venomous bite of a snake rushes in, when the guitars are doing their thing. At the end, a short flute playing starts, which gives youthe feeling that you are listen to BLACK WIDOW for a short moment. After that, everything is laid down to rest. I hope, that they won’t bury the hatchet after this, because this bitter sweet sound sure tastes for more. RUBY THE HATCHET is a name to remember. The band consists of Jillian Taylor on vocals, Johnny Scarps on guitar, Sean Hur on keyboards, Mike Parise on bass and Owen Stuart on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.co/rubythehatchet. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SAVAGE MASTER-Mask Of The Devil (Skol Records)
SAVAGE MASTER is very hot these days. I don’t tell you anything new, if you’re a true metal fan, like we are. If you take a good look at Stacey ‘Savage’ Peak, your thoughts will go out to Kate of ACID or Maryan Scandiffio of BLACK LACE. Her hooded friends are the band and they’ll make you hungry for rock. It’s a bit of a shame, that the album has only got eight tracks and thirty minutes of pure heavy metal. But better this than nothing at all. The album starts with the cool head banger “Blood On The Rose”, where you can taste the power of this incredible US metal band. Their raw power will not leave you unharmed. Check out the twin leads here. Not convinced yet? Just check out the first riffs in “The Mystifying Oracle” and feel the power, that’s within SAVAGE MASTER. PRIEST-like guitar riffs and the heavenly high voice of Stacey will make you scream for more. Title track “Mask Of The Devil” pounds on and the power is quite sensible. You can raise your fist in the air and sing along to the words quite easily. It sounds very recognizable and has some evil backward messages near the end. “The Ripper In Black” shows the high voice of Stacey, although she’s not a screamer. Her voice has got a slight taste of horror to it. Think of Tim Baker from the cult metal band CIRITH UNGOL here. The guitar players Adam Neal and Larry Myers are in the spotlight as well and ask for your attention in this killer metal track. Listen to “Kill Without Warning” to get a good taste of Stacey’s vocal capacities. The scream, at the beginning of the song “Mary The Wolf”, sounds really amazing and simply can’t be topped. I wish, that I was a wolf, when Stacey shouts it out. At the end of the song, the wolf cries it out loud. I would do that too, if Stacey would marry me, but lucky enough I’m happily married again. “Altar Of Lust” is the perfect taste of a black mass on music. It opens a bit slower than the songs we’ve heard so far, but there is a surprising speed change at the end of the song. ‘Hail Satan’, this is the perfect music for a nude dance around the pentagram. The band presses the pedal to the metal and goes full speed ahead in the last song “Death Rides The Highway”. Watch out, before death kills you. After thirty minutes the ride is over and the only thing you want to do is to push the ‘repeat’ button on your player. If true metal with a good taste of old school JUDAS PRIEST guitar riffs and some high female vocals are your thing, then it’s time to take a good bite of SAVAGE MASTER. I can’t wait to see these MENTORS lookalikes at the Keep It True festival in Germany in 2016. I’m afraid, that my eyes will be completely focused on Stacey Savage Peak, especially when she’s all dressed up in leather and chains. Both thumbs up and I raise my metal sword for this true metal band from Louisville, KY. SAVAGE MASTER consists of Stacey ‘Savage’ Peak on vocals, Adam Neal on guitar, Larry Myers on guitar, Zach Harris on drums and Brandon Brown on bass. Website: http://www.facebook.com/savagemaster. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SERENITY IN MURDER-The Highest Of Dystopia (Spiritual Beast)
Watch out for this Japanese death machine, that is coming out to get you. They’ll slay down a whole population in just a blink of an eye. Their most recent album is called “The Highest Of Dystopia”. It contains eleven tracks and a running time of a bit over thirty-five minutes. But it will be the most intense thirty-five minutes, starting off with a short, bombastic “Overture”, which is a warning before death calls. What a blast of power is coming from your speakers with “Noticed This Is The Betrayal”! Can you believe, that this is a lady singing? Emi really shouts her lungs out. “All Behind You Are Enemies” is a short interlude with moody piano parts, before they explode in another powerful anthem, called “Hurt Of Virtue”, a short eruption of brutal mayhem. The violent attacks are short but very brutal. Just check out “Martyr For An Age”, which is a knock-out punch in two and a half minutes. In “Nocturnal Damned” the symphonic influences are getting in sight and your mind will directly go out to ARCH ENEMY old school style, but I think that SERENITY IN MURDER sounds a bit more extreme than their Swedish colleagues. The guitar solo in this one is of the same high quality though. “Malefic Religion In Our Abyss” also contains some symphonic sidesteps. The keyboards are upfront in the mix and create a dark, horror-like atmosphere. In the second part though, the speed goes up and the guitars announce themselves. “Await Me Your Oath” leaves no time to take a breath and it will grab you in an ominous storm of death and destiny. “Under The Spell” contains very bone hard growls, but also some very innovative keyboard parts. If you like the symphonic touches in this raging storm of death metal mayhem, then I urge you to check out “The Highest Of Dystopia” at the end of this whirlwind of death metal madness. One more time, they crank it out in “The Rule” and then it’s all over. The storm has had a huge impact. There have been no survivors reported, I’m really sorry for that. This is no food for the faint hearted. This is for blood thirsty bone gnawers only. SERENITY IN MURDER consists of Ryuji on guitar, Shohei on drums, Shuntaro on synths, Emi on vocals, Olly on bass and Freddy on lead guitar. Go to: http://www.serenityinmurder.jp or at their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sim.jp for more information about this symphonic death metal typhoon. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR-The Dirty Truth (Axehouse Music)
Not only her music sounds perfect, the guitar lady does look great, too and that’s the dirty truth. The brand new album by this blonde axe slinger contains ten tracks and a bit over forty minutes of steaming hot blues rock music. Check out opener “Mud, Honey” and you’ll be convinced pretty easily, I guess. A fast blues rocker with a dirty greasy guitar solo and a nice traditional blues part at the end of the song. Title track “The Dirty Truth” comes right thereafter and contains more killer axe work. The voice of Joanne has got a lot of soul and could be compared to BETH HART and DANA FUCHS. Perhaps she has a little less power, but she makes up for that with her great guitar riffs. “Wicked Soul” contains a lot of soul, which the title predicts already. It’s a nice laid back song and perfect for the long hot summer nights to come. “Fool In Love” contains some nice choir vocals, which gives the song a sensitive touch. When the “Wrecking Ball” swings around, the party is just getting ready to start. “Tried, Tested And True” has some JEFF HEALEY influences (“Angel Eyes”), which is good. A touch of the hand of STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN could be heard in the impressive guitar sound in “Outlaw Angel”. Joanne really gets the swing of it here. While “Shiver And Sigh” sounds more romantic. Dim the lights down low and let yourself go, I should say. The guitar work will get the party going. Things get really rough and raunchy in “Struck Down”. Just listen to the final part of this song. If this marvelous axe work doesn’t get you going, then probably nothing will. “Feels Like Home” closes this CD in a more HENDRIX kind of way. Remember the sound of “Manic Depression”? Think in that same direction, but this time in that sensitive JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR style. After about forty minutes, it’s all over and you’ve got the truth, the whole truth and even “The Dirty Truth” all over you. I bet you will be impressed? The band of Joanne consists of Joanne Shaw Taylor on incredible guitar playing, Dave Smith on bass, Steve Potts on drums and Rick Steff on keyboards. Website: http://www.joanneshawtaylor.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHOW YA-Glamorous Show (EMI Japan)
Eleven covers have been selected for a SHOW-YA make over treatment, which leads to an exciting album with fifty minutes of the most glamorous Japanese all-female heavy metal. The first two songs have a Japanese title, that I can’t pronounce properly, if I wanted to. The first song is a cover from the band X-JAPAN, called “Kurenai”, who have many followers in Europe. It starts out as a ballad, but when the acceleration comes, you will get the right SHOW-YA feeling, I guess. “Niji” is from the lesser known L’ARC~EN~CIEL and contains a sensitive spoken word part and a ditto guitar solo. “However” was originally recorded by GLAY and it shows a more poppy side with reggae twists, which takes care of the necessary variation on the album. The fast “Marionette” of BOOWY is so much different, that you have to deal with mood swings all the time, which is in fact pretty nice and takes care of some great variation. After that, we get a taste of “Jam”, originally recorded by THE YELLOW MONKEYS. It’s a sensitive song with a bluesy touch. I hear people think, what about the more well-known and regular metal bands then? Well, you have to wait for the cue, which is right now. “Crazy Night” is one of the most well-known LOUDNESS tracks and I simply can’t stop singing along to it. Just raise your fist and yell as loud as you can. Pianos will start “Friday Night” (or “Arashi No Kin Yobi” if you like) of HOUND DOG, who are another lesser known band from the land of the rising sun. And if that first metal attack of LOUDNESS isn’t enough for you, there’s an EARTHSHAKER classic right after this, called “More”. I can only say, that I went totally nutz on this one. “Hageshi Ame Ga” is a cover of THE MODS. “Runner” is a fast rock and roll song of BAKUFU SLUMP (who doesn’t remember them??) and the CD closes with “Rosier” of LUNAR SEA, which is a full power song and contains some nice guitar work. Maybe it’s an odd choice by this wonderful band to play covers on their new CD, but with their talent they can play almost everything. Visit http://www.show-ya.jp for all the information on the band, that consists of Satomi Senba on bass, Miki Tsunoda on drums, Miki ‘sun-go’ Igarashi on guitar, Miki Nakamura on keyboards and Keiko Terada on vocals. I wonder, if they ever will come over to do one of their ‘glamorous shows’ in Europe. That would be a dream come true. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SIN7SINS-Purgatory Princess (S7S/Suburban)
SIN7SINS are holding on and release their third album, which contains ten brand new tracks and a bit of over forty minutes of exciting rock and metal. The album is called “Purgatory Princess” and starts with “Heart Of Stitches”. It opens with a steady beat, fast riffs, brutal male vocals and the lovely voice of the purgatory princess Lotus. “Stronger” sounds heavy and proves, that SIN7SINS is not compromising in any form of commerciality now their star is rising fast. “Take Your Hands Off Me” is not a request, it’s an order. You can almost call the song catchy, if it didn’t sound so powerful. Speaking of powerful, the dark blasting voice of Gen Morphine blends perfectly well with the more gentle way of singing, that Lotus spreads on “Say What You Want”. I would say, that this is a nice song. “No Tears Left”, then you can stop crying now. It puts some sensitivity into the music of SIN7SINS without turning it into a ballad or a tear jerker, which wouldn’t actually help, because there are no tears left anymore. “Bittersweet Dreams” opens with the sound of a piano. You’d better run for the nearest light switch and dim the lights down low for this romantic four minute song. After the romance has gone, it’s time for more power in “The Great Illusion Of Control”. What I do sense is, that the extremeness that was so much more present on the first two albums, has got less space than it ever did before. “Jerusalem” gets the two voices of the band together and adds some vicious blast beats to them. “Different Place, Different Stage” must be about the life on the road of a well-known band like SIN7SINS. They drive from town to town and present themselves to so much different people every weekend. Not strange, that it sounds like a happy song. The symphonic touches in their sound have taken over from the previous gothic touches and to me this is a big step forward and it also takes care of a more catching whole. The album closes with “Touch Of Pandora”, in which the groovy guitar riffs rule once again. After that, they close this box of Pandora, ready to tour at different places and different stages. An exciting new album of SIN7SINS, that consists of Lotus on vocals, Gen Morphine on guitar and vocals, Corbin Crow on bass and Tristan Hex on guitar. Visit their website http://www.sin7sins.com or http://www.facebook.com/sin7sins for all the information about these gothic sympho rockers from Holland. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SISTER SIN-Black Lotus (Victory Records)
The sticker on the plastic CD box tells me, this is the real heavy metal album of 2014. SISTER SIN hails from Sweden and the nine songs on “Black Lotus” are worthy of a bit over thirty-five minutes. More is less, I guess, but it’s the quality that counts here. A lot of power has been spread already in opener “Food For Worms”. Raw energy fills the room with fast guitar riffs, a haunting drum beat and the raw vocal sound of Liv in front of the mix. The fast pounding beat continues in “Chaos Royale”. It will keep your fists swinging in the air. “Au Revoir” means ‘goodbye’ in French, but we’ve just started up this album. The influences of MOTÖRHEAD are sensible and those of ALICE COOPER as well, two bands that SISTER SIN has shared the stage with already. “Desert Queen” could be a COOPER song, by the way. It’s a steady rocker with a very catchy beat. “Count Me Out” contains some clear messages, which say that you have to ‘stay the f*ck away from me’. There is no word of Swahili in there. “Stones Thrown” blasts at full speed. It has some influences of PRIMAL FEAR and HAMMERFALL, so with a touch of catchiness you can sing along to it, while throwing that fist in the air. “The Jinx” is the obligatory ballad and piece of rest here. Liv cranks it out accompanied by an acoustic guitar. “Ruled By None” is a typical arena rock song, which could be sung by a crowd of thousands. SISTER SIN really knows to rock your world, that’s for sure after hearing the first eight tracks. In the last song, they “Sail North”, back to Sweden, I guess. The chorus on this one is made to sing along to and the guitar work will do the rest. Excitement all over on this album, but to call this ‘the real heavy metal album of 2014’ is one step too far. SISTER SIN consists of Liv on vocals, Dave on drums, Jimmy on guitar and Strandh on bass. Visit http://www.sistersin.com or http://www.facebook.com/sistersin for more information, that you need to know about these Swedish metallers. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SKEPTICAL MINDS-Run For Your Live! (FYB Records)
This is a live album, recorded at the tenth edition of the Metal Female Voices Fest in the Oktoberhalle in Wieze, Belgium. The set contains ten gothic rock songs with a total playing time of about forty minutes. The recognizable sound of SKEPTICAL MINDS unfolds itself in opener “Inertia”. The dark gothic sound of the band contains some heavy drum beats and shows the great vocals of Karolina Pacan upfront in the mix. On we go with “Skeleton Key”, which continues in the same gothic flow. “Rotten Fruit” was taken from the first album and it has some nice riffs by Michael Stiakakis. The band has become even more an international company now with a Polish singer, a Greek guitar player, a French bass player and an Italian drummer. Music is a global language and SKEPTICAL MINDS likes to use this concept very well. “The Dictator” is a steady new song with a hard beat. It’s time to clap along to this one, which blows up the great atmosphere. “Alcohol” will also help to create a good atmosphere. The industrial beeps on this one are very recognizable for the sound of SKEPTICAL MINDS throughout the years. There has also been some kind of an industrial beat to their sound, which either you love or hate. “Madness” sounds very sensual and sexy to me. It contains a certain tension, you just can’t explain and it fits quite well to the gothic side of the band. “No Way Out” is from the second album and I hear some influences of KATE BUSH from Karolina now. In “Broken Dolls”, the band welcomes a guest on stage in Iliana Tsakiraki (MEDEN AGAN), who has a great soprano voice. The band is at their very best now and continues with “Someone New”. However, the most exciting song of this evening is set closure “Living In A Movie”. It has a great beat, some monstrous riffs and you can almost feel the sweat dripping down the wall. The short pieces “Hall Of The Mountain King” of Grieg is a point of recognition. After that, the audience is being thanked and the band takes some time for a picture. It’s as live as you can get and the excitement of this live show can be sensed on the CD as well. A great live registration by a great band on a great festival. What more can you ask for? SKEPTICAL MINDS consists of Karolina Pacan on vocals, Michael Stiakakis on guitar, Patrice Brugneaux on bass and Benjamin Lazzano on drums. Website: http://www.skepticalminds.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SLEATER KINNEY-No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)
SLEATER KINNEY have turned into a full grown all-female rock band and they’re back with a big bang. Their new album is called “No Cities Love” and contains twelve garage rock songs with a crusty bite, that run for forty minutes. The bunch of flowers at the front cover have had their best days, but their music will please you for many more years to come, I guess. “Price Tag” is the opener on this new album. It’s a fast rocker, which reminded me a bit of “Everyday I Work On The Road” by Dutch band VOICST, with whom they’ve got nothing at all in common, besides this small point of recognition. “Fangless” sounds happy and is very radio friendly. In “Surface Envy”, we hear some more distortion and a rawer guitar sound, that probably could even be categorized as punk. They sure crank it out loud here. Title track “No Cities To Love” is on next and contains some nice harmony vocals throughout the whole song. “A New Wave” rocks and has got nothing at all to do with ‘new wave’ in the music sense of the word. What did you think of, SLEATER KINNEY? They may have grown older, but they still have got the garage rock attitude, which they already had, when they started the band. This is actually their new single and it shows, that their previous influences, such as PJ HARVEY, THE PIXIES, SONIC YOUTH or maybe even THE PRETENDERS are still there. “No Anthems” starts with the firm drum beats of Janet Weiss. The songs leans more towards BABES IN TOYLAND, but not quite as extreme as that. “Gimme Love” is short and joyful. “Bury Your Friends” is a metal tango. You’d better start digging, if you have a lot of friends. “Hey Darling” could really deserve some radio airplay with a catchy chorus like that. “Fade” is by far too dark and too down tuned for that, but it pleased me even more, to be honest. More greasy sounding rock in “The Fog And Filthy Air” with some distortion, this time on the vocals. The guitar rocks it out loud and your thoughts will probably go out to BABES IN TOYLAND again here. To me, the ultimate highlight on the album. The album closes with “Heavy (When I Need It)”, which is another killer track from this all-female garage rockers from Portland. SLEATER KINNEY consists of Janet Weiss on drums, Corin Tucker on vocals and guitar and Carrie Brownstein on bass and vocals. You can obtain more information about their album from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sleaterkinney. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THUNDERMOTHER-Rock ‘N’ Roll Disaster (Warner Music)
THUNDERMOTHER isn’t a rock and roll disaster. They only gave their new album this title. The ten new tracks are worthy of thirty-five minutes of some cool rock music. The band hails from Stockholm, Sweden and if you like AIRBOURNE, BULLET and/or AC/DC, then you sure can buy this one blindfolded. “Man With Blues” starts off like any other AC/DC song would. A fat rock and roll riff, steady beats, a constant pumping bass guitar and soar vocals, which make your feet stomp on the ground, while your fist searches for a nice place up in the air. It’s completed with an Angus Young-like solo. Yep, it really rocks my world, like the Aussies still do. The only difference is, that we’re dealing with an all-female outfit here, while AC/DC consists of all blokes. Who sees the difference, when you turn up the volume of this CD? And that is needed urgently to get the party going with “Deranged”. They turn up the speed with “The Dangerous Kind”. I don’t know, if these ladies are dangerous at all, but I do know that they know how to play some catchy rock tunes. When the shouting choir vocals rush in, a name like GIRLSCHOOL comes to mind, but then with a more boogie-like sound. Are you ready to shake those hips? Title track “Rock ‘N’ Roll Disaster” is on next and like I mentioned before, this sure is no disaster at all. It sounds like the right kind of music to my ears, ladies! “Thunderous” slows things down a bit, but remains in the same style. While storm and thunder are approaching, the ladies keep playing despite the warning on the radio. They’re not called THUNDERMOTHER for nothing, these ladies fear nothing. “Please Me” crosses the speed limit by far. That’s the way, I like it. “Shoot To Kill” has got nothing to do with the AC/DC song, that has nearly the same title, “Shoot To Thrill”. And where AC/DC only wants to scare you off, these ladies want to see blood instead. “One For The Road” is a slow start for this great fast speed rocker, called “Cheers”, which reminded me of NASHVILLE PUSSY, where the adrenaline flows steadily too always. I can imagine, that these ladies want to have a beer at the end of this rawking CD. “Saturday” closes this firm rocking disc with another foot stomper. Saturday is, when the weekend starts with heavy rock and roll. Call the girls of THUNDERMOTHER and I’ll bet, you will be alright. The band consists of the blonde and wild front lady Clare Cunningham on vocals, the vicious guitar tandem Giorgia Carteri and Filippa Nâssil, the constant pumping Linda Ström on bass and the loud bashing Tilda Stenqvist on drums. Website: http://www.facebook.com/thundermother. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TYRANEX-Unable To Tame (Black Lodge Records)
After “Extermination Has Begun”, we waited a long time for their next album, but I’m glad to announce you that “Unable To Tame” is a fact and it’s the second album by these Swedish speed and thrash metal kings and queen of TYRANEX. It’s also good to see and hear, that they can’t be tamed. Prove is given in the very impressive opener “Bloodlust And War”. It’s the perfect opener to show you what TYRANEX is all about. Brutal speed riffs, violent wild screams and a repeating pounding drum sound, that will make your eardrums bleed. There are also some nice speed changes here. Linnea screams it out roughly and the guitars cry. What more can you ask for? It’s a great opener of this new album. Title track “Unable To Tame” is on next, It has got wild VENOM-like structures and venomous guitar licks, that will make you long for more. The drum intro is wild and will make your neighbors think, that there is a war going on. The sore voice of Linnea Landstedt might remind you of Dawn Crosby of FEAR OF GOD in a way, but the music of TYRANEX leans more towards DESTRUCTION, VENOM and MEGADETH. “Chasing Death” is an ominous track with some dark corners. Because of Linnea’s voice, the band might appeal to black meal fans as well, but I think it’s a bit too melodic for that. Just check out the mighty sounding “Witches Gathering” with the awesome guitar work. They must have had a great time recording this by judging the intensity of this song. Or what do you think of the all destructible “Take The Torch”? That sound will really grind you down. The most evil song on this album might be “Invasion Of Evil” with its innovative breaks, speed swings and mind-blowing riffs. Linnea screams out her lungs and her throat sounds even more sore than ever before and the band blasts at full speed. The invasion of evil comes as unpredictable as the Spanish Inquisition and the final result is almost as confronting. The most exciting song though would be “Victims” which is speedy as hell and contains some raw screams by Linnea, whose sore voice matches perfectly with the wild riffs of TYRANEX. It’s unclear though how many ‘victims’ this song has created. It must have been thousands… Aaaaarghghgghgh!!!!! The final part of the song will make your head propeller of excitement. This short but very exciting album closes after eight songs and about thirty-five minutes, but not before they take you for the final time to “Into Darkness”. Another speed metal attack enters your room with the intensity of KREATOR and HOLY MOSES and the speed of AGENT STEEL. The guitars keep riffing and it’s a real pleasure to your ears. Great artwork, great sound and another pleasure to give such a high score to this new TYRANEX album. The band consists of Linnea Landstedt on vocals and guitar, Per Lindström on bass, Johannes Lindström on drums and Nino Vukovic on guitar. Website: http://www.tyranex.net. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VANITY BLVD-Wicked Temptation (Noisehead)
We gotta be, where the action is and that’s on ‘Vanity Boulevard’. This new album will rock your world in forty-five minutes, divided over eleven brand new tracks. Watch out, because there are rats on the boulevard too and this is mainly the “Dirty Rat” starting the album in a LITA FORD kind of way. Anna Savage her biographic song is on next, “Miss Dangerous” is about a vixen that might be dangerous. Well, Anna will rock you till you drop, simply because she can’t stop. The sleazy rock is captured with a fiery guitar solo, that will please many fans for sure. “Do Or Die” has got choir vocals just like BON JOVI, but parts of the main riff could be from LED ZEPPELIN’s “Whole Lotta Love”. VANITY BLVD knows their classics, but because of Anna’s vocal sound, your thoughts will go out to LITA FORD most of the time. “Hot Teaser” is next and opens with a more AC/DC kind of approach. The guitar players take their chance to do some nice solo work here, too. “Had Enough” starts out as a ballad, but evolves itself into a sleazy footstomper with ditto guitar work. “Soulshaker” will get your head shaking. It could become a crowd pleaser in a live situation. “Scream Out” for vengeance continues and gets the sleazy vibe going on. “Thrills In The Night” might get you singing along to the words, while the dirty beat goes on. Party metal might sound a bit too easy maybe, but the music of VANITY BLVD is perfect for that and this song may remind you of the good old sound of MOTLEY CRUE. “Falling Down” is a moment of rest in the party minded camp of these Swedish rockers. With a “Desperate Heart”, they will get the rock flame burning again. Influences of HEART and WHITESNAKE are there and I guess, that this band is giving you some good melodic rock with a perfect dose of melody and a touch of sleazy dirtiness. The last chunk of dirty rock and roll can be heard in “Dirty Action”, where the LITA FORD type of voice of Anna is all over next to great guitar work, that will put the flame awake one more time. VANITY BLVD is the place to be for a good glam and sleaze party. The BLVD is here, there and everywhere, whereever there’s a party. The band consists of Anna Savage on vocals, Traci Trexx on guitar, Pete Ash on bass and Jens Gebb on drums. Visit their website at: http://www.vanityblvd.com or go to http://www.facebook.com/vanityblvd for more info about this band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WHITE EMPRESS-Rise Of The Empress (Peaceville Records)
WHITE EMPRESS hails from Minnesota and today you’ll witness the rise of this white dominator in twelve tracks and fifty-five minutes. The rising lasts exactly two and a half minutes and it’s also the title of the intro, that the band uses here. It’s impressive to hear how much noise she makes while rising. Choir vocals, wild orchestral parts and a tension, that builds itself up until “The Congregation” starts with its wild CRADLE OF FILTH type of screams. Their music has a lot more melody than the British black metallers though. “A Prisoner Unleashed” captures more extremity, especially in the male vocals, while the female vocals are within the borders of this. In “Darkness Encroaching”, there is also a touch of gothic in the beginning of the song, but don’t be afraid because the rest of the song will make your wall paper come scrolling down. The choir vocals also add a gothic touch in here though. “Sven’s Tower” is a speed racer of the first kind, but also here the gothic influences are not far away. Just check out the female vocal parts for example. In “Erased And Rewritten” many different voices are shouting and screaming. It opens with a cacophony of noises. Same goes for the beginning of the next track, called “The Ecstatic And The Sorrow”. It starts with an industrial kind of feeling, which disappears completely, when the extreme brutal black metal growls appear. “Dethroned” contains maniacal screams, but also spoken word parts. It’s an orgy of black metal madness, in which the empress will lose her throne. “Obsession With The Empress (Human To Devine)” sounds dark and mystical, but evil and raw at the same time. “Ours To Burn” mixes industrial (music) with melody (female vocals), which creates a good sound. If you think, that the empress would exit, then you’re ever so wrong. In “Exile (The Empress Return)”, the opposite story has been proved and the musical madness goes on at full speed. When the extreme wild screams appear, your thoughts will go out to CRADLE OF FILTH again, I guess. The album closes with “Fall Of The Old Guard” with more breathtaking female vocals of the white empress herself. Empresses may come and go, but the white empress impressed me the most of all. It’s not strange to see the name of CRADLE OF FILTH so much in this review, because Paul Allender is the former guitar player of this British outfit, who started a band of his own right now. He didn’t change his musical attitude that much and shows that he’s able to stand on his own two feet with his new band WHITE EMPRESS, which consists of White Empress on vocals, Chela Harper on bass, Paul Allender on guitar, Zac Morris on drums, Will Graney on keyboards, Jeremy Kohnmann on guitar. Make sure you don’t miss the rise and fall of this white lady. Go to http://www.whiteempress.com and http://www.facebook.com/whiteempress for more details about this wild American gothic black metal outfit. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITCHES-Aggressive Symphony (vinyl) (Emanes Metal Records)
Talk about cult releases here. Anybody remembering our magazine from the good old days, must remember this French band called WITCHES. Their old demos are now put out on vinyl and this sure smells awesome to me. The first demo on side A was recorded in 1988 and opens with the instrumental intro “Lycanthropy”. The band then consisted of Nath on guitars, Iza on bass, Sibylle on guitar and vocals and male witch Alex on drums. Their sound is fast thrash metal with death metal-like vocal growls in “Lessive Aggressive”. “Fight Till The Beginning Of The End” (get it?) is next. It’s fast and contains some speed changes. Alex must have had a hard time sometimes to keep up with the furious speed in the beginning. The witch-like creepy growls tell you the story, that also has got a message. Just check out the lyrics sheet, that comes with this vinyl plaque. “Moments Of Distraction For Deep Sleepers” is on next. It’s a nightmare on music, literally. “Pool Of Running Blood” sounds very extreme and shows a more technical approach of these WITCHES. It’s an instrumental track, that has some impressive speed changes. The inner sleeve contains a lot of great live pics and the lyrics to the witches spells, that are on this album. Side A closes with “In The Name Of God”, recorded with the same line-up in the same year. It’s the longest track here and it shows the technical expertise of the ladies (and guy!) in some impressive instrumental parts. Don’t think of RUSH, YES or DREAM THEATER right away, but more into the direction of DEATH and other thrash metal bands, that put some technical touches in their brutal music. Have you ever been attacked by a piece of soap? Soap can make things slippery, but here we’re dealing with “Aggressive Soap”, their 1988 demo, that starts with “Thrashing Witches”. Bass player Iza is being replaced by Ariëlle and the technical details have remained on this track, that was recorded half a year later after the first demo. “Silly Symphony” continues with the witches growls of Sibylle up front. Wait until those ladies are starting to thrash here. They’re really giving Alex a hard time. It’s not a shame, that he’s sometimes on the edge in keeping up with the intense speed of these witches with their overpowered brooms. In “Baby’s Rebellion”, the speed goes over the top one more time, but the rough edges remain. “Pool Of Running Blood” was also on the first demo and if you liked that version, this instrumental piece of art will please you too, I guess. Short instrumental “Lycantrophy” leads to “Lessive Aggressive”, which blasts away at full speed. These songs were also on the first demo. The last song was there as well. In fact “Moment Of Distraction For Deep Sleepers” closes this B-side. WITCHES still exists and if they’ll ever record something new, then you’ll be the first to know. Go to: http://www.witches.fr or http://www.facebook.com/witches.fr for more information about this thrash metal band formidable. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION-Let Us Burn (Nuclear Blast Records)
This set includes a double live CD and a DVD of WITHIN TEMPTATION. The double live CD is being reviewed here. It captures almost eighty minutes of mighty fine gothic symphonic metal, each disc containing sixteen live tracks. It’s a good overview of “Elements” and “Hydra” in a live setting, so to speak. We start off with “Run”, which is a fine way to open this gig. Set the sound right and the people will be able to sing along to this song, because it sounds catchy enough. This is the well-known main ingredient of a good WITHIN TEMPTATION song. The audience in Antwerp, where this live CD has been recorded, is in for a real treat. “In The Middle Of The Night” presses the pedal to the metal. The crowd loves it, by judging from the reactions of the wild screaming audience. The excitement grows with the chart buster “Faster”. While “Fire Andice” is a short piece of rest in between. It’s time to light the cigarette lighters in the audience. “Our Solemn Hour” opens with the well-known spoken word part of Sir Winston Churchill. “Stand My Ground” doesn’t need any introduction at all, I guess. I think, it’s one of the biggest hit singles by this fantastic Dutch band. “Angels” is another chance to sing along with the band. “Sanctuary Intro” is next, an instrumental piece before “The Last Dance” starts. It’s where the vocal parts of Sharon have a leading role. “Say My Name” continues in the same pace, which sounds moody. “Candles” brings some brutal male voices back in the sound of WITHIN TEMPTATION. “Sinead” is another catchy tune, that asks for some singing and clapping. It ended high in the Dutch charts and by listening to it now, you really know why it did. The chorus is so damn catchy, that you can’t sit still on this one. “The Promise” is a lengthy, epic metal song with a leading role for Sharon. Then we slowly reach the seclusion of this show: one of their biggest hit singles. “Mother Earth” is being played in a very good version, including a nice choir vocal piece at the end of the song, building up a great tension, after which the band explodes one more time. “Ice Queen” being the second big hit, that they crank out, another WITHIN TEMPTATION anthem that may not be missed here. With “Stairway To the Skies”, we’ve reached the very last song on this first CD. The band is being introduced and they thank their audiece, who can’t stop clapping along to the music. But there’s so much more to enjoy after this. The real WITHIN TEMPTATION fan will be pleased with so much amazing new material of their favorite band. The second CD contains another sixteen tracks and they kick off with title track “Let Us Burn”. Of course there’s a lot of overlap between those two CD’s, but you can say that the live set differs quite a lot and so you’ll hear a nice overview of two different periods in the career of WITHIN TEMPTATION. “Paradise (What About Us)” is coming right thereafter. It shows the dynamic force, that WITHIN TEMPTATION has become in the past years. They started out as a gothic metal band, but now they are so much more and you can feel the excitement during their live shows in songs like that. Just listen to the power at the end of this track. It sounds really amazing. Tarja Turunen is a guest vocalist on this one. At least, she is on the video. “Faster” is a real crowd pleaser or is this just in my imagination? “Iron” keeps up the tension and the pace slows down a bit with “Edge Of The World”. The variation between the many songs is well chosen and with “In The Middle Of The Night” a more powerful song comes up, in which the band can express themselves to the fullest. “Dangerous” continues the heavy ear attack with male vocals forming a duet with Sharon here. It’s Howard Jones of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE fame, who jumps onstage for a jam. “And We Run” continues the show, which sounds like a long chain of greatest hits and chart busters. “Stand My Ground” will test the singing skills of the crowd and they do just fine. After a nice introduction to tonight’s show and a thank word from Sharon to her dearly beloved fans, the band continues their show in Amsterdam with “Covered By Roses”. The instrumental intro of “Mother Earth” is completely sung by the crowd, which must give the band a big thrill. It remains a great song after all these years. In “What Have You Done”, the band gets more help by Keith Caputo of LIFE OF AGONY, who’s better known as Mia Caputo after his sex change. The guest vocals are taken from the video again. Robert Westerholt screams his lung out on “Silver Moonlight”, which is another powerful adventure, that makes the excitement even bigger and bigger. At the end of the show, the band takes out the acoustic guitars for a rendition of two songs in a more intimate setting. First we hear “Whole World Is Watching” and after that a more surprising acoustic version of the more recent “Sinéad”. Then they take the crowd by storm one more time with “Ice Queen”, where the whole audience is singing, clapping and dancing to the rhythm of the song. Need I say more? If you are a WITHIN TEMPTATION fan, this is a real must have. But also if you’re not a big fan and you want to check them out, then this might be the ultimate chance to get a load of this fantastic symphonic metal band from Holland, who dare to take many sidesteps and is not afraid of overwhelming their audience with amazing stage props, as you can watch on the DVD, that comes with this package. WITHIN TEMPTATION consists of Sharon den Adel on vocals, Ruud Jolie on guitar, Stefan Helleblad on guitar, Jeroen van Veen on bass, Martijn Spierenburg on keyboards, Mike Coolen on drums. On the first CD, which covers the “Elements” period, we hear guest appearances of Robert Westerholt on guitar, Martijn Westerholt on keyboards, Michiel Papenhove on guitar and George Oosthoek on vocals. On the “Hydra” show, there are guest performances by Robert Westerholt on guitar, Tarja Turunen on vocals, Keith Caputo on vocals, Howard Jones on vocals and Xzibit on vocals. Website: http://www.within-temptation.com. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

BROKEN LINGERIE-Lying Words (MCD) (independent)
This mini CD contains five songs and about nineteen minutes of raw rock and metal from this all-female outfit, that call themselves BROKEN LINGERIE. They must have lingerie, that is made of porcelain or glass. Anyway, the ladies hail from Madrid in Spain. Next to THE LIZZIES, a second all-female outfit from that same country. The mini CD opens with raw riffs and pounding drums in “Crucified Decay”. A catchy song unfolds itself with a steady beat and that nice raw rock and roll feeling, that this no-nonsense music can give you. The choir vocals have something in common with GIRLSCHOOL in a way, but BROKEN LINGERIE sounds a bit more polished in this one. “Mile 69” is on next with its dirty bass sound and rough riffs. Again my mind goes out to GIRLSCHOOL and ROCK GODDESS. Title track “Lying Words” is really a heavy footstomper and obviously, these newcomers of BROKEN LINGERIE have already shared the stage with the like of HEAVY TIGER (Sweden) and THUNDERMOTHER (Sweden). These ladies are real loud rock and roll bashers and in this given track, I even hear some PANTERA kind of riffs at the end. Way to go, ladies! “Confessions” has got a strong beat and Raquel pounds her drums real loud here. The last track is called “Lose Control” and that’s exactly what these ladies are doing. They’re going out of their mind. The Enid Williams type of vocals are very recognizable and the choir vocals also to tend to move towards comparisons with GIRLSCHOOL or possibly even the more punky sound of THE DONNAS. BROKEN LINGERIE is the perfect band for a wild party. I bet, they will raise the roof and make your wild pumping heart sweat. The band consists of Raquel Diaz on vocals and lead guitar, Sara Pérez on bass and vocals, Ale Adán on lead guitar and vocals and Raquel Palomo on drums and vocals. Website: http://www.facebook.com/brokenlingerierock. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DRAKONIS-Ravens Fuel The Sky (EP) (independent)
We don’t get to hear female (fronted) bands from Northern Ireland that much, but here we have DRAKONIS. A black and death metal band, that presents us their six tracker “Ravens Fuel The Sky”, that runs for about half an hour and opens with title track “Ravens Fuel The Sky”. The band has a female bass player and I can tell you, that she will make your windows burst with her bulldozing bass sound. The black metal sound of DRAKONIS in this first track contains some nice mood and speed changes, which makes it very enjoyable. They will make your mind go out to pioneers, such as DIMMU BORGIR, CRADLE OF FILTH and IMMORTAL. In “Fear Of The Wretched”, they blast at full speed and show that they can sound brutal as hell. The fast triggered drums of the four legged drummer sound like a machinegun. The heavy riffs are loud and the vocals of Cass are dark, brutal and aggressive. There is room for guitar solos though in this cacophony of sounds and the solos are the cream on this black metal cake. The title “Bonegrinder” is very well chosen and the aggressive riffs are bone hard. The track opens with a segment from a movie, after which the band erupts. Wild slashing and morbid visions will come up after hearing the first bonus track “Skeletons”. The apocalypse of the earth will probably sound like that. Their sound reminds me more of MAYHEM this time. The three new (bonus) tracks are wilder and lack any sense of melody. “Unleash The Night” continues in this mood and we can definitely say, that the newer sound of DRAKONIS sounds far more brutal than the black metal, they originally played. The band uses corpse paint and this also gives them a more underground feeling in my opinion. They’re getting a bit more extreme because of it, next to their wild type of music. I guess, the most wicked and evil black metal fans will surely like this change of style. The dark screaming vocals in “Beneath The Storm” might remind you of bands like EMPEROR, who have that same sound like if they’re standing in a big empty hall. It might be the hall of the mountain king, but I’m afraid that nobody will ever really know. DRAKONIS is for wild black metallers with a death metal affection as well. The band consists of Cass Cassidy on vocals, Saul McMichael on guitar and backing vocals, Tommy Hewitt on guitar, Lee McCartney on drums and Stephenie Dickey on black monstrous bulldozing bass guitar. Website: http://www.facebook.com/drakonisofficial. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FOREVER STILL-Scars (EP) (independent)
Let’s move our asses to Denmark for the first EP of female-fronted Danish rockers FOREVER STILL. Let the music do the talking here on this three track EP, called “Scars”, where they mix wild riffs with a more alternative vocal sound. You’ll hear influences of BLACK SABBATH and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY at times, but in the wild vocal parts there’s some SLIPKNOT and SOUNDGARDEN, too. The song has got balls and it’s catchy. It’s the perfect festival song, that might please many fans on a hot sunshiny day. It’s title track “Scars” you’re hearing here. “Once Upon A Nightmare” sounds darker and less groovy. The vocals make your thoughts go out to EVANESCENCE this time. The last song also leans in that same direction, which makes the first track the most outstanding song for me. “Miss Madness” could very well be on any LACUNA COIL album for that matter. The vocals of Maja are easy on the ears and she really knows to impress me with some of her pull outs. You must realize, that these three songs with a total running time of about ten minutes are only just the first weapon fact of FOREVER STILL. Who is interested in the band, must read on for a review of their second EP, that was released in the same year. This EP will probably not leave you with any scars, but the opener might give you some bruises instead. FOREVER STILL consists of Maja Schønning on vocals, Mikkel Haastrup on bass and vocals, Dennis Post on guitar and Jens Berglid on drums. Go to http://www.facebook.com/foreverstill or http://www.foreverstill.dk for all the information on the band. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FOREVER STILL-Breaking Free (EP) (Ravenheart Music)
And the bands played on. After the three track EP, FOREVER STILL released a second EP, which contains five tracks and runs for about sixteen minutes. “The Key” shows, that their sound has matured in a couple of months and the band still knows to create a catchy tune, that would easily get in the charts. A touch of WITHIN TEMPTATION is added and the groove, although not as heavy as in the title track of the previous EP, is back, too. Just check out the maniacal screams at the end of this song. It really sounds exciting to me. “The Last Day” is next and LACUNA COIL also gets back to mind. I must admit, that the songs on this EP sound so much better to me. That little piece of aggression in the wild screams here is just that little touch of extra and makes it highly enjoyable to listen to it. “Towards The End” sounds a bit sweeter. It’s more goth rock, but the power is still there, which is a good sign. “The Last Day” is here for a second time too, but now in a live and acoustic version. People, who know me well, know that I’m really not the man to approve acoustic stuff, but here it sounds sensible and almost romantic. Dim the lights down low and enjoy, I should say. “Scars”, the groovy opener of the self-titled album is being added as a bonus track. It matches well with the more powerful songs on this EP. I think, that “Breaking Free” is a big step forward and it will definitely put FOREVER STILL on the huge map of female-fronted metal bands. FOREVER STILL consists of Maja Schønning on vocals, Mikkel Haastrup on bass and vocals, Dennis Post on guitar and Jens Berglid on drums. Go to http://www.facebook.com/foreverstill or http://www.foreverstill.dk for all the information on the band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE SABBATHIAN-Ritual Rites (EP) (Svart Records)
This EP only contains three songs, but it rips the flesh of your bare bones. The name of the band already predicts, which direction you should think of. And with opener “Ancient’s Curse” your thoughts are being secured. Twenty minutes of BLACK SABBATH type of doom is what you get here. The CD sleeve is already cult. A red pentagram with a black lit candle on each corner of the pentagram with a lady in a red cape behind it. Let the rite start. Of course BLACK SABBATH is a reference, but THE DEVIL’S BLOOD and CATHEDRAL could be mentioned here as well. Chad Davis is the big name behind this rather new band. He once was a member of HOUR OF 13 and he continues his musical career in this band, after HOUR OF 13 drowned and disbanded. In “Ritual Rites”, we hear the vocal abilities of Annette Uvaas Gulbrandsen even better. The BLACK SABBATH influences become more visual, too. People, who recently bought music of bands like PILGRIM and BELOW (both not with female voices) might want to have a taste of this ritual. “Nightshade Eternal” closes the EP with another fine taste of doomy rock in the best early BLACK SABBATH tradition. The guitar player cranks it out one more time, before the speed explosion comes falling in. After twenty minutes the ritual is over, but I guess I’ll give it another spin or two. THE SABBATHIAN consists of Joey Downs (ALTAR BLOOD) on guitar, Chad Davis on bass, guitar and drums, and Annette Uvaas Gulbrandsen on vocals. Website: http://www.facebook.com/thesabbathianband. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: August 15, 2015]

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