CD REVIEWS


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


Summer 2014 - Autumn 2014:

AMBERIAN DAWN-Magic Forest (Napalm Records)
We start these reviews with the sixth album by the Finnish progressive symphonic power metal band AMBERIAN DAWN, which is called “Magic Forrest”. A good title, you can get lost there and it gives you a reason to fantasize. Ten brand new tracks, that are worthy of forty minutes of high quality metal music. “Cherish My Memory” is easy on the ears and Capri’s voice is quite stunning. She sounds a bit like ABBA front lady Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad. That comparison is gone, when the band show its metal muscles in “I’m Still Here”, which contains some impressive guitar work. I think, she is a very promising new member of the band, which actually lifts them up to a higher level with her impressive voice. The fairy-tale like orchestration makes you aware that you enter the “Magic Forrest” next. It’s a mysterious track, that will let your imagination do the work of visualizing the forest in your mind. There are KATE BUSH-like pull outs and you will get the idea, that you are being haunted until you leave the forest. Is it a witch, that follows you or some trolls or maybe a werewolf? It’s the perfect soundtrack for a video clip. You can do so many things with the different soundscapes and the bombastic orchestration. “Agonizing Night” continues with some bombastic string arrangements and loud riffing guitars. Your dreams ain’t over yet. They continue in this up-tempo track, that will remind you of bands like VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, XANDRIA and NIGHTWISH. “Warning” contains a heavy drum roll in the beginning and continues as an up-tempo easy on the ears song, just like “Son Of Rainbow”. This track contains a very impressive instrumental mid-piece and rages on at full speed. “I’m Still Here” pounds quite heavy and it is songs like that, that makes the band outstanding from the many no hopers in this scene. The song is compact, but still there is a lot to enjoy and many variation is being spread here. “Memorial” is a duet with Markus Nieminen, but in my opinion his opera voice sounds a bit too much on a metal album. “Endless Silence” is a great metal track with more flashing guitar work and the album closes with the dreamy “Green Eyed”. I don’t know, if Capri is green eyed, but she impresses me a lot here anyway. AMBERIAN DAWN can be proud of this new and very varied album. There is always something on here for everybody. The CD is only a bit short. But better short than that they fill it up with lousy tracks. The band consists of Capri on vocals, Tuomas Seppällä on keyboards and guitar, Emil Pohjalainen on guitar, Kimmo Korhonen on guitar and Jonas Pykälä-aho on drums. Don’t be afraid, just enter that magic forest, you’ll be positively amazed by its beauty. Website: http://www.amberiandawn.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANCIENT BARDS-A New Dawn Ending (Limb Music/Suburban)
This is the third and final part of the “Black Crystal Sword Saga”, which they started in 2010 with “The Alliance Of The Kings” and continued with “Soulless Child” a year thereafter. Now it’s time for “A New Dawn Ending”, which contains ten songs, that runs a bit over seventy minutes. The bards consists of Frederico Gatti on drums, Martino Garrattoni on bass, Claudio Pietronik on guitar, Danielle Mazza on keyboards and last but not least Sara Squadrani on vocals. If this last name sound a bit familiar to you, that might be correct because this lady also sang on the 2013 release of AYREON “The Theory Of Everything”. The album starts with the intro “Before The Storm”, that will lead you to this long story, which will sometimes exist of lengthy detailed songs for which the band really took the time to get it all right. Songs of eight, thirteen and almost seventeen minutes turn this into an album that will grab your attention immediately, starting with “A Greater Purpose”, the first long anthem. The band proves, that they are capable of making lengthy songs, which are nicely build up and have a nice tension chord. The power metal with melodic sidesteps sounds very nice. It’s sometimes bombastic with the use of choir vocals. The bass player demands a short solo spot halfway the song, which makes it very exciting. The band is not afraid to do something special, that’s a fact. “Flaming Heart” continues the pounding rhythm. The voice of Sara has a lot of power, but she can also sound like an angel, which you can hear in the beginning of this song. The choir vocals gives an ancient gothic touch to the sound of ANCIENT BARDS here, but it fits perfectly in this song and the bombastic beat makes it complete. “Across This Life” is a fast rocker with more of these remarkable bombastic choirs chanting the lyrics. EPICA fans will love this, I guess. “In My Arms” is a ballad type of song and it’s time to take a deep breath of fresh air and let your thoughts go. Who do you like to hold in your arms tonight? I know my answer already, but we’ve arrived at “The Last Resort” and duty calls to review this album. The main part of this song is a duet with Fabio Lione of RHAPSODY OF FIRE / ANGRA fame. He has the same vocal sound as Marco Hietala, who also regularly teams up with bands for a duet. Since ANCIENT BARDS is an Italian band, Fabio is a more obvious choice. Then it’s time for a long anthem in “Showdown”, which opens dark and slow. When the choir vocals appear, the band is gaining speed and the power turns this track into a fast head banger. ANCIENT BARDS shows us their muscles here and the excitement of long anthems like that. Because after a fiery explosion of fast riffs and beats, the silence returns and the band prepares themselves for an adventurous instrumental part, in which everybody receives an equal share. For once, they return to a bombastic part with choir vocals, which they’ll turn into a grand finale. The last minute is a piece of rest and the “Showdown” is over. “In The End” is a true race monster, where the band gives it all they’ve got and the guitar player receives a well-deserved solo spot. “Spiriti Liberi” is dominated by keyboard and guitar parts in the middle, which lifts the song up to one of the highlights on the album for me. A very nice surprise comes at the end of this album. It closes with the ultimate ANCIENT BARDS piece of art, title track “A New Dawn Ending”, which stretches out for a bit over sixteen minutes. There are instrumental parts, spoken word parts and even some grunts in here. Simone Bertozzi of EMPYRIOS takes care of the brutal vocal parts. Some people may think it belongs to this kind of music, but for me they could have left it out by all means. However, in a lengthy track like this, in which there is happening so much, it doesn’t really hurt. The spoken word part though sounds bit too much like acting, instead of a spontaneous intermezzo. All in all, I think that ANCIENT BARDS have created a nice ending to this three part saga. Go to their website: http://www.ancientbards.com or http://www.facebook.com/ancientbards for all the latest info about the band. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANIDAY-Aniday (ValentineMusic)
Maria Catharina teams up with Paul Coenradie on guitar, Danny Simons on drums and Alex Mol on bass and together they form ANIDAY. The most well-known band member however would be Robert Kempe, who we also know as ROBBY VALENTINE and plays guitar and keyboards. However, let us focus on singer Maria Catharina, who once was a contender of Idols, because she is the beautiful front lady of this melodic rock outfit. The twelve tracks on this debut album are worthy of fifty-five minutes of melodic rock music with beautiful female vocals. Of course your thoughts will immediately go out to bands like DELAIN, WITHIN TEMPTATION, EPICA, STREAM OF PASSION, AUTUMN and many other Dutch female fronted bands, but I think that ANIDAY tastes different. The band members know their skills very well and the powerful vocals of Maria Catharina are the cherry on the cake here. “Can’t Take No More” is the opener and it already contains the ingredients, that we will hear back on this album. A melodic sound, fiery guitar parts, a steady beat and powerful vocals. “Hole In My Heart” starts with VALENTINE like keyboard sounds, but after the refrain it turns into a nice catchy tune. Put HALESTORM and PAT BENATAR in a blender and ANIDAY will be the result. The guitar solo tastes like more and is the spice in this melodic rocker. “When Loving You Is Wrong” starts with the moody keyboard sound of Robert. The song slowly unfolds itself into a nice, slow rock ballad with some emotional laden vocal lines. At the end Robert takes a lead in the short instrumental reprise of this track. “Buscando La Vida” opens with an Eastern sound and a steady drum beat, which reminded me a bit of “Arabia” by VENGEANCE. The vocals sound very exciting. If you think, that the music of ANIDAY is all laid back and melodic, just lend your ears to “Born Yesterday”. Even the most die-hard metal fan will bang his head from excitement. It rocks like hell and the power is immense and inhuman. I love it!! This musical violence also returns in the mind-boggling guitar solo in “We Belong”. Man, what a power! It lifts this song up to such a higher level and I would like to list it as another highlight. A more modern sound opens “Don’t Fool With Me”, where keyboards and distorted vocals are in front of the mix. Fans of EVANESCENCE might like this approach a bit more than old school rockers. Although the high pull outs of Maria Catharina come close to Ann Wilson of HEART here. “Dream On” is on next and it contains some ear splitting guitar work. Once again, it worked very well to beef up a normal sound with a good dose of guitars. They do this very well. “Not Much Of A Man” is the obligatory ballad and a nice emotional one indeed. While in “Get Funky” the band does just what the title suggests, they get the funk out. And the power ain’t over yet, because in “Leave Me With Your Eyes”, the band gets real groovy. This song may even invite you to make some dance moves to the beat. “Lost The Way” opens like another ballad. The band makes up for one final gun shot, that won’t miss its target anymore. It’s catchy, it’s flashing and it has got hit potential, if you’d ask my opinion. It won’t happen, because the guitar work is there, I know, but once again it proves that we’re dealing with a band that loves it loud and has got a lot of class and style. I think, you’d better remember this name, because hopefully you will hear so much more from them in the future. Go to http://www.aniday.nl for all the latest news about this high-talented melodic rock band. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANOUK-Live At Symphonica In Rosso (Universal)
We missed the latest ANOUK release, because it had nothing at all to do with rock. When you are asked to play at the Symphonica In Rosso concerts, then you are one of the big names in our country and outside, too (STING, LIONELL RITCHIE) and ANOUK appeared there in 2013. The DVD was not good enough for her royal highness I guess, so we have to do it with this double live CD, which contains twenty-two songs. The packaging is worthless. No booklet, just two CD’s with a fabulous live concert and that’s all there is. A major failure, in my opinion, but the musical quality of the blonde diva makes up for it. The bombastic opener “The Rules” tell you all about the rules of tonight’s concert. Rule number one, there are no rules, that’s a good start. “The Good Life” shows how sweet and clear the voice of ANOUK can sound. Sure, it’s no rock, it doesn’t even come close, but it’s all done quite well. The music contains more horns than guitars and the songs in the first part of the show are very suitable for that approach. Just listen to the slow “Are You Lonely” and you’ll know what I mean. “Kill” is another song, that continues in that same direction. The strong voice of ANOUK rules in this fairy-tale like atmosphere created here. “Birds”, the Eurovision Song Contest track, is on next and it fits perfectly in that same atmosphere. It’s a fragile little song that got some great response from the jury that night. Then the band appears and the horns take no longer the lead, although they are still there. “Down & Dirty” and “Woman” are more uptempo and need a little bit more of a band sound than just a set of horns. The tension is build up nicely, that’s for sure. “Modern World” on the other hand received a great bluesy intro. It’s stretched out nicely into a twelve minute track. The vocal improvisation part is followed by a bass solo. Then the band is being introduced and duets are making this highlight complete. Now it’s time to slow things down a bit with “I Won’t Play That Game”, which is a nice ballad type of song. “One Word” is on next and the crowd likes to add their vocal abilities to this song as well. They become one big family on occasions like that or so it seems. “I’m A Cliché” closes the first CD, which contains eleven tracks and fifty-five minutes of ANOUK music. Sometimes, this lady sounds steaming hot, but she mostly creates the music that is suitable for a special night like this, which is a bit more emotional laden, I’m afraid. Still, we have a second CD to enjoy here as well, which also contains eleven tracks and another fifty-five minutes of music. “For Bitter Or Worse” opens with a piano intro to set the pace right. “Pretending As Always” is being performed with a very nice orchestration setting and the choir vocals fit very well in this emotional song. “Three Days In A Row” is another track, that can do with a bombastic orchestra on the side. It sounds very nice this way and you can hear that the music of this gold haired diva was made for an adventure like this. “If I Go” is the moment, where the band is gaining more power and it’s only a matter of time before the girl is going wild in “Girl”, a not to be missed highlight, in which the audience is shouting it out loud again. The switch to the more dreamy “Michelle” is quite huge, but this is how it was meant to be that night. There’s a lot of variation and nothing more. At the end, the band is being introduced one more time. “Nothing At All” is a duet with Trijntje Oosterhuis (ANOUK wrote her contribution to the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, by the way!). Two divas sharing the stage for a moment, which marks another highlight of the evening. “Wigger” is one of the latter singles of ANOUK and it shows that she’s got a lot of soul. Then, she grabs back to another ballad with “Lost”, which is another hit single from the ANOUK jukebox. “Killer Bee” is more uptempo and the horns sound very wild to beef things up. The choir vocals do some awesome vocal parts in the back one more time. The evening is slowly getting to a steamy climax and you can sense it here already. There’s just one song missing and the fans know that the evening will end with “Nobody’s Wife”, the biggest hit single of ANOUK after all these years. The orchestra takes the lead for the introduction. There is some guitar work in here, but the real firework remains in the closet, under lock and key. The DVD would have looked great I guess, especially after seeing some footage on You Tube. However, the live double CD is a nice alternative. The orchestrated versions of the hit singles might please a lot of ANOUK fans, especially if you were at these shows. If “Symphnica In Rosso” would have been called “Symphonica In Rocko”, there would have been a bit more to enjoy, but now the guitars stay in the background. The beautiful voice of ANOUK remains though. Website: http://www.anouk.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARCH ENEMY-War Eternal (Century Media)
If you want to keep a secret, just pass it on to the members of ARCH ENEMY. It’s safe there. They managed to change singers without informing anybody else. Then all of a sudden the sad news came, that Angela Gossow had left the band and was replaced by former THE AGONIST screamer Alissa White-Gluz. Gossow will now become the manager of the band. A thunderstruck on a clear blue sky managed to hit me right in the face. Angela Gossow not in ARCH ENEMY? What would be the consequence for the sound of the band and the sound of the new album? We will soon find out. “War Eternal” is the title of the album, which is a good start. It contains fourteen tracks and runs for fifty minutes sharp. So far, so good. The opener is called “Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude In F Minor)”, which is a short intro with an orchestral bombastic sound and some medieval sounding choir vocals. Hum. “Never Forgive, Never Forget” opens ultrafast and Alissa screams it out loud. Sigh. Not too much has changed, the blonde vixen has disappeared and made room for a blue haired lady, who is screaming blue murder right now in the band. Title track “War Eternal” is on next and the orchestration that appeared in the intro tune has made room for riffing guitars and loud vocal parts. This is how we like ARCH ENEMY best. The melodic but fast guitar solos are still there, too. “As The Pages Burn” contains not only the fast high screams, but also the deep dark heavy grunts. Alissa is a good replacement of Angela, that will definitely please the fans of the band, I guess. I’m glad they found a suitable female singer, otherwise you would have missed this review here and you wouldn’t know that this song closes with some marvelous sounding guitar licks. “No More Regrets” rages on at full speed after that. “You Will Know My Name” could be autobiographical in a way, because after this album her star will be rising very fast and a whole lot of people will be remember her as the singer of ARCH ENEMY. “Graveyard Of Dreams” opens in a somewhat melancholic way, but after the intro it switches to a more ARCH ENEMY like speed metal sound. We have arrived to the next song already, because “Graveyard Of Dreams” is actually not much more than a beautiful instrumental interlude. “Stolen Life” is a short fast rocker, which sounds easy on the ears. “Time Is Black” includes a variation in styles. It opens slow and sober, but develops into a loud rocker with some nice modest guitar work. The final chords are first orchestral, including nice string arrangements, but the heavy beats take over to finally close the song in an ARCH ENEMY worthy kind of way. “On And On” is a great track with more awesome guitar licks. “Avalanche” is a song, in which the string arrangement of the orchestra comes back to life again. The guitar solo is mind-blowing and the atmosphere is dark. Obviously, ARCH ENEMY is still the same band. Perhaps a little less extreme at times, but they didn’t become a sell-out act that only wants to show off because of the name they have achieved over the years. “Down To Nothing” opens dark and mystical, but very soon it turns into the extreme song, that many fans have been waiting for. It contains dark grunting vocals and a fast heavy beat. “Not Long For This World” is the last song on the regular CD version. It’s an instrumental, which could be described as a doomy version of “Nemesis”. My mediabook edition contains one bonus track, which is the black edition of the MIKE OLDFIELD classic “Shadow On The Wall”. What a great way to close this album, which has a great sleeve and many nice drawings in the booklet. The free patch also looks awesome and I think that people will have to get used to Alissa. It won’t take long I guess, because this album continues on the road where the previous album has left off. They may never reach the extremeness of their early work, but this sound may appeal to a broader audience instead. ARCH ENEMY consists of Michael Amott on guitars, Daniel Erlandsson on drums, Sharlee D’Angelo on bass, Nick Cordle on guitars and Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARKONA-Yav (Napalm Records)
ARKONA are the Russian crown keepers of the pagan folk metal and they present their brand new nine track album, that runs for sixty-five minutes. The dreamy fairytale like CD sleeve points to the folky side of the band, which has the upper hand on this album. We will see. They start out with “Zarozhdenie”, a title that leaves nothing to the imagination at all. The Russian titles and lyrics will give you no clue at all, in which direction the lyrics go, so the music has to point out the direction for me. My Russian is not what it used to be anymore. The opener is what I expected though. Folky tunes are combined with some heavier parts. The epic structures of the songs create enough space to switch from a different sound every now and then. “Na Strazhe Novyh Let” is on next and this pushes the metal face of the band forward very strongly. Blast beats, wild screams and war chants start this song, that turns into a dark and folky atmosphere halfway through. It gives you some time to breath, before they return to a more metal sound. This mix is the trademark of ARKONA and they are able to make extreme sound switches from time to time. The beginning of “Serbia” (I know that place!) sounds very epical. Masha sings with a heavy Russian accent here. The song never loses its epic feeling and stays rather slow. After that, the band takes off in a full blasting speed in the unpronounceable track “Zov Pustyh Dereven”, which also contains slower parts with whispering vocals. Folky flutes sometimes appear in this track. “Ved’Ma” is a mix of folky soundscapes and CRADLE OF FILTH like blast beats, including wild screams and a drummer, who is going out of his mind. At the end of this song, the folky parts take over. The music of ARKONA is very varied and I think, that they will please many festival people. If they can keep up with that attention for a long time remains to be seen though. “Chad Indigo” opens with a spoken word part. There are children’s voices and it all sounds very mysterious, especially when the bagpipes turn up here, too. Like before, the folk parts don’t have the upper hand here, but the mix is sometimes a bit too much. It’s hard to decide, if you would categorize this folk metal rather than pagan metal. ARKONA takes care of a unique blend between the both of them. One of the highlights on this album is the rather lengthy and mysterious sounding “Yav”. Here, the sound of ARKONA shows up well and you really must hear this track, if you have the opportunity. “V Ob’Jat’Jah Kramoly” crawls towards the closure of this album. Wild, angry screams whisper in the dark and they make your flesh creep. ARKONA consists of Masha ‘Scream’ Arkhipova on vocals, Ruslan ‘Kniaz’ on bass, Sergey ‘Lazar’ Atrashkevich on guitar, Vladimir ‘Wolf’ Reshetnikov on flutes and bagpipes and Andrey Ishenko on drums. Website: http://www.arkona-russia.com/en/enews. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACK MOTH-Condemned To Hope (New Heavy Sounds)
BLACK MOTH leads us to Leeds. The band was founded in 2010 and they play sludgy doom mixed with metal and rock. The band members are Harriet Bevan on vocals, Jim Swainston on guitar, Nico Carew on guitar, Dave Vachon on bass and Don McCready on drums. Their second album “Condemned To Hope” contains eleven tracks and forty-five minutes of stoner and doom metal. So far the facts, so let’s have a listen to this brand new album here. Serious heavy riffs and a voice, that is very pretty to listen to. This is definitely doom influenced music with a voice that fits perfectly to these sludgy riffs and heavy drum beats. The opener is called “Thumble Weave”, and shows the heavy side of this band. “Set Yourself Alight” sounds more poppy, but at the end we also hear a glimpse of doomy parts and a blasting, thunderous bass sound. “Looner” is on next and especially in the beginning, it will set your mind to the roaring seventies. “The Undead King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” is doom metal with a strong beat. BAND OF SKULLS fans may like this. “The Last Maze” sounds heavy as hell and you’ll get the idea that the sun will never shine again after this one. But first you have to take care that you don’t lose your way in this black labyrinth. The last part sounds very raw and I guess, that the band forgot that they were still recording. “White Lies” sounds happier and it’s beefed up with a nice guitar solo. While “Red Ink” is another catchy track. “Room 13” has got a very catchy seventies feel. And for those, who love it loud and a bit slower, just have a smell at the “Stink Horn”, where JEFFERSON AIRPLANE meets BLUE OYSTER CULT. “Slumber With The Worn” is another seventies styled track with a mysterious sound. It reminds me of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD in a way. The title track closes the album with more very nice pull outs of the guitar players. BLACK MOTH stays in the middle between doom metal and a retro rock, but the band and their second album is definitely worth checking out. I think, I will have to search for their debut album “The Killing Jar” too now. Website: http://www.themothpit.co.uk. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLOODY HAMMERS-Under Satan’s Sun (Napalm Records)
BLOODY HAMMERS is one of the many retro rock, vintage metal and back to the seventies bands out there, which I really do admire. Why? Because they all have the guts to make real music, influenced on the sound of the seventies. Although this is probably not that original, but I love it anyway. This album contains ten tracks and runs for forty-five minutes, starting with “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”. The guitars are tuned low, the vocals are sober and the pace is perfect for the sound that comes close to bands like PENTAGRAM, BLUE OYSTER CULT and BLACK SABBATH. “Spearfinger” is on next, which opens with some dusty riffs. My mind is gone already. There are no female vocals here. The female input of BLOODY HAMMERS comes from Devalia, who plays the moody instruments like keyboards and organ. They really make the difference in the sound of BLOODY HAMMERS and give it just that extra push into the seventies direction. The guitar solo is nice too in this one. “Death Does Us Part” sounds sinister and black and takes us to the dungeons where the bloody hammers dwell. “The Moon-Eyed People” could be the perfect DIO title. It has that well-known DIO rhythm as well and I think that the master will nod friendly from his throne for this tribute. Maybe it wasn’t meant that way, but to me it fitted just perfectly with this description. “Second Coming” is a rock horror tune on marching speed. The CD has got a great sleeve, that leaves nothing to be desired. It could very well be the poster for a cult horror movie. “Welcome To The Horror Show” would be the perfect link here. Vocalist Anders Manga sounds like DAVID BOWIE here. The keyboards play an important role. Then it’s time for the title track of the album, “Under Satan’s Sun”. The guitar cries and the dark sound of the band makes it feel like they really mean it. Then the speed goes up for “Dead Man’s Shadow On The Wall”, which is a fuzzy rocker, that may urge you to dance to the beat. In “The Last Alarm”, the BOWIE-like vocals are back, although this music sounds a bit too dark for BOWIE nowadays. “The Necromancer” closes the album and when the final chords fade into the dark night, I can only push the ‘repeat’ button to get into this mighty horror trance again. Go to http://www.bloodyhammers.com for more info about this great retro rock band. BLOODY HAMMERS consists of Bill Fisher on guitars, Devalia on keyboards and organ, Anders Manga on vocals and Doza on drums. This kind of music may sound filthy and disgusting, but it’s only rock and roll, and I like it. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLUES PILLS-Live At Rockpalast (Nuclear Blast)
Let me introduce you to the hottest band of 2014. Well, at least one of the hottest bands around at this very moment. We go back to Bonn on October 18th, 2013, when BLUES PILLS hits the stage for a Rock Palast performance. BLUES PILLS consists of Elin Larsson on vocals, Cory Berry on drums, Dorian Sorriaux on guitar and Zack Anderson on bass. On this EP, they crank out four live tracks, that are worthy for a full fifteen minutes of pure excitement. “In The Beginning” is short and it may remind you of FLEETWOOD MAC’s “Albatross” at first, but soon after that, the band explodes in a wild instrumental tune. For the fans of the band, the excitement reaches an even higher level, when Elin starts to sing in “Black Smoke”. Your thoughts might go out to JEFFERSON AIRPLANE for example. The duel between drums and guitar is just a very good example of the high jamming level, that we will experience here. This duel has no losers and BLUES PILLS are the big winners here. “Little Sun” is on next and once again the sound of “Albatross” comes to mind. The song will get you in a very relaxed mood. When the lights are tuned down low, it will create the right atmosphere for a moment, until the last exciting and fast piece rushes in and the band explodes in a wild climax. “Mind Exit” closes this EP with another jamming sound, that could please the many fans of old school SANTANA, FLEETWOOD MAC, ALLMAN BROHERS BAND or other seventies rock acts. This instrumental song will really get you dancing through the night, I hope. Please have a good look at the beautiful cover art on the front sleeve. It brings you back to the times of love, peace and hope with Elin as beautiful center point. It will make life a lot easier, until the next release comes out, which is simply called “Blues Pills”. It will mark the global breakthrough of this amazing retro rock band from Sweden. Website: http://www.bluespills.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLUES PILLS-Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
The four track live EP was only just a pretaster of things to come. This is the first full-length album by Swedish hippie rockers BLUES PILLS, who crank out ten tracks in forty-five minutes. It will get you in a form of ecstasy pretty easily. It’s like a musical drug from the first moment on with “High Class Woman”, in which the sound of DEEP PURPLE, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and JANIS JOPLIN come together. In the same rhythm of the opener, the band continues in the raunchy “Ain’t No Change”, where Dorian takes his chance to play a wild guitar solo. The groovy “Jupiter” is on next and in your imagination you can see wild long hair waving in the wind. It sure invites you to dance to the rhythm. For a moment, you may think that “Black Smoke” is a little piece of rest here, but that’s only in the beginning of this song. Just to start things up. Soon, the band explodes in some nice freaky retro rock sound again, including some fiery guitar work and the raw vocals of Elin. It’s one of the singles off the album, for which the band shot a video. Check it out. You can almost sense the anger and the pain in Elin’s voice in “River”, which is a slow bluesy track with nice guitar work. It’s a trip, that you will like because of its vintage like character or you won’t like it at all, because it’s not original enough. Count me in the first group, because I simply love these retro style rock bands of today, so there’s probably “No Hope Left For Me”. If you’re already feeling desperate and you start to think that nobody loves you anymore, you’re saved by the bell, when the first notes of the heavy “Devil Man” are being played. “Astralplane” reminds me of “Albatross” by FLEETWOOD MAC in a way. I already got the same feeling, when I listened to the live songs on the EP, but here it is again. The band takes revenge by turning this song into a whirlwind of guitar sounds and wild shouting vocal parts. “Gypsy” sounds like a wild and very exciting jam session, where the band likes to give it all they’ve got. The original song was written by CHUBBY CHECKER, the man who invented the twist. He became world famous with “Let’s Twist Again” and “The Twist”, but later on in his career he also played this song. It’s nice to see it back on this marvelous debut album. “Little Sun” is a little piece of rest at the end of a wild ride down memory lane. It builds itself up to a nice climax, where the band likes to give it all one more time. When the music stops, the mighty dream world that you’ve stepped into all of the sudden, stops too and life becomes reality again. If you are a quick buyer, then I would advise you to look for the limited edition set with the live DVD from the Hammers Of Doom festival. The footage is truly awesome and the band plays at their very best. It may take a while before you get it, but if you intensely listen to this debut album by BLUES PILLS, you can tell that this is not an image anymore. These are true retro rockers and they still live in the seventies and I’m loving it! BLUES PILLS consists of Elin Larsson on vocals, Zack Anderson on bass, Cory Berry on drums and Dorian Sorriaux on guitar. Let them turn back your clockwork, too. Website: http://www.bluespills.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRUCIFIED BARBARA-In The Red (Despotz Records)
Do I still need to introduce these wild Swedish ladies to you? I guess not, but I will do it anyway. We have Mia Coldheart on vocals and lead guitar, Klara Force on guitar and backing vocals, Ida Evileye on bass and backing vocals and Nicki Wicked on drums and backing vocals. These four ladies are CRUCIFIED BARBARA and when they plug in their amps, they usually turn their sound “In The Red”, which is another description for ultra-loud, I guess.The eleven new tracks on this album are worthy of forty rocking minutes, starting with the funny titled “I Sell My Kids For Rock ‘N’ Roll”. SMASH! Yep, it’s that loud and exciting dear readers and it will tear you apart. The guitar solo in “To Kill A Man’ makes the song complete. It’s a very groovy track, which will remind you of a band like PHANTOM BLUE for example. However, the beat of “Electric Sky” is more like AC/DC. It has a catchy feeling, which will make you tap your feet immediately. It’s not a surprise, that this song was chosen to be their first single taken off this album. “The Ghost Inside” contains harsh vocal parts and a guitar solo, that makes you beg for more. “Don’t Call On Me” is back to the right ‘in your face’ sound by these four rocking ladies. They are made to rock and songs like that are a good example of what their straight forward sound is all about. And you can say the same thing about “In The Red”. It’s such a great rocker and no one will say no to a stomper like that. “Lunatic #1” is a rocker, that will definitely go ‘in the red’. Wild screams will make you beg for more. And if this wild, ear explosion is not enough, they like to crank out “Shadows” for you after that. It contains a mind-blowing guitar solo, which will easily get these ladies out of the shadow of their competitors, if they ever had one. “Finders Keepers” is another track, that is very easy on the ears. It will get the party started for sure. Just sing along to the words ‘finders, keepers’ and you will be fine. One of the best songs on the album for me was the darker “Do You Want Me”. I really like the guitar part, that has something of a Southern rock feeling with some nice biting parts. The groove is good, too and to me it became one of the highlights on the album. Influences of the good old IRON MAIDEN sound can be recognized as well. CD closer “Follow The Stream” is definitely one of the heaviest tracks here with screaming vocals in the best old school MOTÖRHEAD tradition and a ditto solo. Once again the indicators will go ‘in the red’ on this one. I really liked the artwork of the album, the sound and the skills of the ladies. Another forty minutes well spent “In The Red”. Website: http://www.crucifiedbarbara.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DAWN OF DESTINY-F.E.A.R. (Phonotraxx/Soulfood Music)
DAWN OF DESTINY tells you the story of a girl in a wheelchair, after being hit by a car. Her mother was the driver. She lives a tragic live and the story has been told on this concept album, that contains thirteen tracks and about sixty-five minutes of powerful metal. The band consists of Jeanette Scherff on vocals, Veith Offenbächer on guitar, Jens Faber on bass, Dirk Rackiewicz on keyboards and Julio Pablo da Silva on drums. In opener “And With Silence Comes The Fear”, we will also hear one of the two guest vocalists, that’s on this album, namely Mats Levén of THERION, YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN and CANDLEMASS. It’s a true power metal classic, which will remind you of the old school SAVATAGE material. Bombastic, yet very powerful. “Waiting For A Sign” features the voice of Jeanette in yet another fantastic power metal song. The concept has been cut into four pieces. The first three songs form the ‘Forgotten’ chapter, which is closed by “My Memories” - a duet song. Their music gets closer to SAVATAGE than every other band and with “Innocence Killed”, the ‘Enslaved’ chapter starts. The beautiful voice of Jeanette rules in every song and the bombastic rock sound fits very well with her vocal abilities. The keyboards and piano are great and the guitars are there, when they are needed and don’t ask for a specific role. But when it’s the right time, they grab it with both hands and ten fingers will blow you off your feet! “End This Nightmare” contains more male vocals. Bass player Jens Faber does most of them. Then comes the moment, that everybody has been waiting for. It’s a song called “No Hope For The Healing” and it has a stunning guest role of Jon Oliva of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, JON OLIVA’S PAIN, SAVATAGE and DOCTOR BUTCHER. It’s an epic story on music with all the ingredients, that a good song must have. When the fast track “Fallen Angel” has started, we have entered the ‘Admired’ chapter. “Finally” and “Prayers” are on next. They sound like the early MEAT LOAF songs, which were powerful and bombastic at the same time and they also have male and female vocals next to each other. Even the male vocals sound like Marvin Lee Aday. Just have a listen to “The I Found You” for example. The songs are only more compact than the long epic MEAT LOAF songs, that went into the music charts worldwide. The last chapter is called ‘Released’ and with this we have also explained the title of this remarkable album. This last chapter starts with the amazing “One Last Time”, which lasts for ten minutes. It’s a powerful song, that has got the male vocals in favor now. “Dying In Your Arms” brings Jeanette back to the microphone. It’s another duet song. Slowly, this story comes to the seclusion with “To Live Is To Suffer”, which is one of the most sensitive tracks on this wonderful album. If old school SAVATAGE and MEAT LOAF are on your list of interesting music, than you can dig in blindfolded with this band. The Phonotraxx record label was founded by the guys from AXXIS, by the way. Website: http://www.dawnofdestiny.de. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEADLOCK-The Re-Arrival (Lifeforce Records)
Thirty tracks are on this album, that’s worthy of more than two hours of powerful brutal metal by DEADLOCK from Germany. It will give you a pretty good idea of what the band is all about. If you are a long term DEADLOCK fan, you are also able to enjoy the many previously unreleased demo tracks and three brand new songs. So grab a seat, because this will become a long and bumpy ride. It starts with “An Ocean’s Monument” that shows you lovely female vocals, brutal male screams, musical outings with fast drum beats and loud riffs. Did I forget anything? I guess not. This is the first of three new songs on this compilation double album. “Code Of Honor” continues and has a guest appearance by Marcus Bischoff of HEAVEN SHALL BURN. In “Earthlings” the focus changes to male vocals upfront in the mix. This song is much more brutal and shorter than the previous two. While “The Brave / Agony Applause” brings more brutal ingredients on the table and proves that the band is ready to strike whenever they are hungry. The brutal growls are intense and the vocals of Sabine show some resemblance to Anneke van Giersbergen here and there. “Dark Cell” is on next and the low tuned guitars sound louder than ever. Halfway through, there’s even room for a decent guitar solo. “Virus Jones” continues this long trip through DEADLOCK history. In the slower parts, Sabine’s vocals are very beautiful and she’s easily the biggest eye-catcher there. “A New Era” is also a new song and it has a nice guitar solo. The outro sounds somewhat experimental, but it fits very well to the music of DEADLOCK, which comprises the old school heavy metal sound, but stands with both feet into this new millennium. “We Shall All Bleed” is on next and even a band like NAPALM DEATH could learn a thing or two from the extremely brutal intro. Sabine brings some balance into the rude bashing. The song closes with a weird piece of music, which sounds like the intro to the next track. It flows quite naturally into “Renegade”, but the two songs have got nothing at all in common with each other. “Martyr Of Science” on the other hand has got a very catchy feeling, despite the brutal male growls and the rude sound. The repeating riffs at the end sound very cool. “Awakened By Sirens 2014” is another re-arranged oldie with a firm bite and it has a few modest moments as well, like the new DEADLOCK sound. “To Where The Skies Are Blue” is a true beauty with Sabine in a leading role, accompanied by a piano in the beginning. This is a ballad type of song and certainly a small piece of rest. The next song is called “Htrae” and once again the guitars are plugged in. The drum beats are steady and the atmosphere is quite dark and sober on this one. “End Begins” is a wild bashing party, so don’t be afraid that your black metal heart won’t be fed with wild extremism after a few modest moments. “End Begins” could be a cryptic hint about where to find the new tracks on this first CD, because there is one at the beginning and one at the end of this CD, which is called “The Arsenic River”. I wish you many happy swims in this toxic puddle of fast aggressive metal. The bombastic choir vocals at the end of this song will certainly remind you of NIGHTWISH, EPICA and WITHIN TEMPTATION for a short moment. However, the party ain’t over yet. CD two contains fifteen more songs, which is worthy for another hour of powerful German metal. Let’s take this opportunity of introducing the band to you. DEADLOCK consists of Sabine Scherer on vocals, John Gahlert on vocals, Werner Riedl on drums, Ferdinand Rewicki on guitar and Sebastian Reichl on guitar. “Petition For Mercy” starts off, which is the first of six demo tracks from the “Insist” demo. I’d like to describe this as wild thrash with furious drums and screaming vocals. They sound like a different band, but you can hear the earliest influences of DEADLOCK. “Broken Mirror” is on next and we’re dealing with some very short and powerful tracks here, which just reach the two minute level. “What’s The Use” breaks down that barrier and opens with a slow part, but soon the band gives it all and moshes around like madmen. “Face To Face” is next in line and it’s another raw attack to your ears. I hear someone dying, at least it sounds that way to me. Obviously, DEADLOCK was already aggressive and brutal by then, but in a different and more extreme way. “Ignorance” sounds brutal and very underground and they continue with “Deprivation”, which is the last short track taken off this demo from 1998. “The One Who’s Silent Seems To Consent” is another pure thrash attack from the seven incher, which they released one year later. “Picture” is from that same seven inch. “A Song Full Of Abhorrence In A World Without Feelings…” continues. These are recordings from 2000 and the band sounds very wild and raunchy there. Far away from the sound of the band today, in my opinion. “With A Smile On My Face” sounds like old school Norwegian black metal. My gosh, my ears really bleed after this. “The End Of The World”, which was recorded in 2003, is the first song that comes close to the sound of DEADLOCK today. It’s taken from a split release with SIX REASONS TO KILL. It’s raw and uncompromising, but it also has a bit of melody here and there. The female vocals at the end give this song a very nice twist. “10 000 Generations In Blood” is another black metal earsplitter from 2005. It also contains some nice double bass drum attacks and nice guitar work, and another female voice part, that gives a nice twist to this lengthy metal track. “When Time Runs Out” is a RUNNING WILD cover, which was once on a RUNNING WILD tribute album. I can’t say, if the music of RUNNING WILD was meant to sound like that but they gave it a real DEADLOCK makeover with some dance beats. “Awakened By Sirens” is a slow track to dream away, a ballad type of song from 2011. The last track is also from 2011 and was taken from the Japanese version of “Bizarro World”. It’s the second version of “Earthlings” on this compilation album, which gives you a nice overview of this German band, that has many faces. Website: http://www.deadlock.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEATH PENALTY-Death Penalty (Rise Above Records)
With a name like that, you’ll have my interest right away. The band sure deserves this attention, because DEATH PENALTY is great doom metal band. These ten tracks are worthy of a bit over fifty minutes of wild rock music with a doomy bite, fronted by lady screamer Michelle Nocon. The first few seconds are some kind of intro, in which you already hear the doomy influences, you are about to absorb. It’s called “Grotesque Horizon”. Right after that, the band is “Howling At The Gates Of Decadence”. The heavy Tony Iommi-like riffs make my mouth water and the subtle mood and speed changes see to it that this song sounds highly enjoyable. I even started to howl, simply because I had to. A great opener indeed and I can say, that this album has already lived up to my expectations. “Eyes Of The Heretic” might sound even better. Again some surprisingly mood and speed changes pop up and sometimes it even reminded me of the good old IRON MAIDEN days. These guys (and girl) really know to play a dirty rock sound. Not strange at all, when you know that Gaz Jennings once played the six strings for CATHEDRAL, the English cult metal band. And Michelle used to be the singer of the well-known Belgian doomsters of SERPENTCULT. This was also the former band of drummer Fredrik ‘Cozy’ Cosemans. Last but not least, Raf Meukens plunders the four string bass guitar in DEATH PENALTY. “Golden Tides” is on next and the spirit of CATHEDRAL wanders around very close here. “Into The Ivory Frost” sounds a bit dreamy, while in “Children Of The Night” we hear more Iommi-like riffs. Although the band name strongly points out to the sound of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and the name of Gaz Jennings would be a link to CATHEDRAL, I would personally go for TROUBLE as reference to their sound. We stay in this dream world with the next song “The One That Swells”. We hear the more doomy side of the band, although the beginning could well be from any obscure KATE BUSH song. It sounds like a magical combination to me. One of the highlights on the album for me is “She’s A Witch”, including the spoken word part off the CATHEDRAL track “Hopkins-Witchfinder General”. It starts off in a very dreamy atmosphere, but the instrumental part simply blew me off my feet. This will definitely do your doomy black heart well. The heavy riffs in “Immortal By Your Hand” will prevent you from standing up. It’s like you are leaning against a wall of sound and you can feel the vibrations in your underbelly, which is good. The freaky guitar solo is mind-blowing. This is the real deal. The last track is another one from the book of doomy and gloomy metal. It’s called “Written By The Insane” and judging by the fabulous axe work at the end, it could very well have been written by one of the band members. It sounds insane and dirty and I like it that way. This brings us to the very end of this marvelous debut album, that surprised me in many ways. I won’t give it the full score right now, simply because I expect the follow up to this one to be even better. But nine out of ten isn’t a bad deal. I hope that they can forgive me, before I get the DEATH PENALTY, too. The cover art is simple and effective and it fits really well to the dark side of this band. DEATH PENALTY is a name to remember, dear readers. Website: http://www.facebook.com/DeathPenalty. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DELAIN-The Human Contradiction (Napalm Records)
It’s inhuman how fast the star of DELAIN is rising and I’m sure that they will gain even more fans because of this new album. They simply can’t be stopped. The new silver disc contains nine new tracks and a bit over forty minutes of the best symphonic metal from Holland. The vocals by Charlotte Wessels alone will impress you in opener “Here Come The Vultures”. And once you have gained success, there will be more and more of those to slam you down, because of your commercial success. But you can’t turn a good band down and this song captures the strength of DELAIN. The songs have a slightly commercial and catchy character, but they also show that bombastic soundscapes and brutal riffs go very well together. A mighty opener, that makes you long for more. “Your Body Is A Battleground” is a short firm rocker with a guest appearance by Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH / TAROT), whose recognizable vocal sound can be detected blindfolded. NIGHTWISH could be seen as an influence for the overall sound of DELAIN, but they have developed a sound of their own over the years. The catchiness remains in “Stardust”, and I would even consider “My Masquerade” as a poppy track. The dark male voice can’t be denied, but the song could very well be in the national charts if you count the times they repeat the title of the song. “Tell Me, Mechanist” is a brutal headbanger with a guest appearance by George Oosthoek (ORPHANAGE). In “Sing To Me”, Marco returns for a second time. “Army Of Dolls” has got a steady beat. It contains powerful riffs but above all a very catchy refrain that will hammer itself inside your mind. Charlotte uses a more sensual voice at the beginning of “Lullaby”. It’s a lullaby with a heavy touch and you will sing along to it at once, even after hearing it for the first time. Before you are getting the hang of it, the last song announces itself with “The Tragedy Of The Commons”. Here the band teamed up with Alissa White-Gluz of ARCH ENEMY. She takes care of the brutal growls, which will put a dark, black and gore accent on this nice CD closer. Alissa’s input may not be huge, but it sure puts more power in their sound that is sometimes nice and laid back. I guess, that the band will tour a lot to promote this new album. The digipack version contains a bonus CD with nine more tracks and almost forty more minutes of DELAIN happiness. “Scarlet” is a beautiful track with Charlotte’s vocals upfront and sober instrumental parts. “ Don’t Let Go” is on next and starts with fairy-tale like keyboard sounds before the drum beat takes over. It’s a firm rocking song, which should have been used on the normal version of the album in my opinion, simply because it is such an outstanding track. Next there is a live part containing five tracks, starting with one of the new songs, called “My Masquerade”. Nice. This is followed by a golden oldie called “April Rain”, which shows a different DELAIN. The band sounds much more symphonic and less poppy here. Same goes for “Go Away”, that has bombastic keyboard parts and wild guitar pull outs. The old sound is so much heavier and it makes the shivers run down your spine. “Sever” is from the first album and once again the bombastic soundscapes will make you thrill from excitement, especially if you like the sound, that is influenced by the early work of EVANESCENCE, NIGHTWISH. WITHIN TEMPTATION and EPICA. The last live track is called “Stay Forever”. After that, you’ll be able to enjoy two instrumental, orchestral versions of “Sing To Me” and “Your Body Is A Battleground”. I think, that the complete picture will please a whole lot of fans out there. DELAIN will rock your house the next few months, no matter what. The band consists of Charlotte Wessels on vocals, Timo Somers on guitar, Sander Zoet on drums, Martijn Wesselink on keyboards and Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije on bass guitar. Website: http://www.delain.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DIABULUS IN MUSICA-Argia (Napalm Records)
DIABULUS IN MUSICA release their third album which is called “Argia”. It contains thirteen symphonic metal tracks, that run for about fifty-five minutes. The sober intro is called “Et Resurrexit (Libera Me)”, which builds itself up to a climax with choir vocals closing this moody piece of music. The heavy riffs and pounding beats start off the bombastic “From The Embers”, where angel-like female and brutal male vocal stand side by side. Because of the bombastic choir vocals, your mind will go out to bands like NIGHTWISH, XANDRIA and EPICA, but I think that in the heavier parts the name of DARK MOOR might come to mind as well. “Inner Force” contains some beautiful vocal parts of Zuberoa Aznárez, who also plays the flute parts on this album. When the pounding starts, the choir takes over. The Spanish influences can be heard in the melancholic sounding “Furia De Libertad”, in which they get some vocal help by Ailyn Giménez of SIRENIA. “Maitagarri” reminds me of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT in a way. The medieval sound, that soon gets a more symphonic twist when the band adds some powerful beats to it. The bombastic choir vocals can’t be missed, too. “Spoilt Vampire” is heavy and pounding and the male vocalist demands the microphone for this one. “Eternal Breeze” is a very dreamy song, whereas the fast and furious “Mechanical Ethos” will make your adrenaline flow again. Another guest appears during “Encounter At ‘Chronos’ Maze”, when Thomas Wikström (CANDLEMASS, BRAZEN ABBOT, THERION) adds his vocal parts to this song. “Indigo” takes back some speed and puts down a sober atmosphere. While “Healing” takes “Argia” to an end. Once again Zuberoa shows her magical operatic voice next to her normal voice and the band presses the pedal to the metal. The final vocal pull out sounds amazing and the choir voices come in one more time for the final chords. The short “Horizons” closes the CD. Besides the beautiful Zuberoa, the band consists of Gorka Elso on keyboards and male vocals, Alexey Koligin on guitar, Odei Ochoa on bass guitar and David Carrica on guitar. Website: http://www.diabulusinmusic.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DICTATED-The Deceived (Metal Blade Records)
Let me introduce you to York Keijzer on vocals, Sonja Schuringa on guitars, Jessica Otten on guitars, Henri Sattler on bass and Michiel van de Plicht on drums. This bunch of wild animals from Holland call themselves DICTATED. Despite the fact, that the last two mentioned here are session musicians, they still make a whole lot of noise on this second album, which contains ten tracks, that is worthy of thirty-five minutes of brutal death metal. The album starts with a short instrumental track, called “Forced Into Dismay”. Doomy, low tuned guitar riffs are accompanied by fast, triggered drums. The cage is open and the wild animal is ready to be unleashed in the brutal “This Is To All” with blast beats, aggressive growls and nice guitar riffs of the two female axe swingers. Before you know it, the band has already started “No Absolution” in the same gear as the previous track and it’s at least as aggressive. “The Basher” leaves nothing to desire. The title just says it all. They bash along, because the day is still young and the night is still long. HOLY MOSES fans or old school ARCH ENEMY fans will love this, although this might even be a bit too brutal for them. If you know IZEGRIM, you may also be interested in this brutal attack. NAPALM DEATH fans may have a taste, too. One thing’s for sure, the band has “No Mercy For Cowards” and they wrote a song about it too, what a coincidence. “Dispossession” is another raging bull. You’d better run fast before getting hit by its horns. Title track “The Deceived” is on next and for some reason I think I’m still listening to the first or second track. The variation level is very low. They’ll have to switch more in the future to keep the listener focussed, because the tone and speed are the same to me the whole time. “Stonebreakers Rising” follows and the full blasting speed makes my neck hurt. The doomy end of this song is a real relief. “They Live, They Suffer, They Die” contains some nice guitar salvos. With the “Rail Of Dead”, the DICTATED leave the arena. The wild animal is slaughtered. The city can go to sleep now. Website: http://www.dictatedmusic.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DIRTY DENIMS-High Five (Handclap Records)
If you have a good listen to “Fit In Stand Out”, then you’ll soon get the idea what THE DIRTY DENIMS are all about. Their sound is as close to AC/DC as you can get. The balance is there with two female members and two male members in the band line-up. You can add the RAMONES and THE DONNAS to their list of influences as well, as far as I’m concerned. The album contains eleven tracks and plays for about thirty-five minutes. “Famous” is the ultimate goal of the band. They don’t only want to sound like AC/DC, they also want to be as famous as these Australian rockers. With a nice debut album like that, they should come very far indeed. “Even When I’m Wrong I’m Right” is next. I think, it’s written from a woman’s point of view. And if they don’t get their right, they just are gonna scream louder, like at the end of this catchy rocker. “Bad Habbit” contains more beat and rock and Mirjam plays the philicorda here. It’s a small organ, that adds a rocking sixties or seventies sound to the music. “Dirty Job” is about life in a band. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. The guitar solo bursts out and the band is rocking the joint here. “I Believe In Rock ‘N Roll” is a true statement for the band. They believe in what they are doing, which lifts them up to a higher level. “Hard To Get” is a real rocker with a fast pace. The ‘hey hey’ vocal parts give it all a slightly punk feeling and a RAMONES kind of taste. “Black Cross” is definitely AC/DC influenced. Just listen to the opening riff. “Going Out” is about having a good time and I’m sure you’re gonna have a good time listening to these firm rockers. “Make Up Your Mind” is another dirty rocker for people with dirty denims. The philicorda takes care of the ancient sound. The closing song on this short CD is THE ROMANTICS cover “What I Like About You”. It’s a crazy rock tune, that swings in best THE DIRTY DENIMS tradition. Live, this band is a firm rock outfit, that sounds much more fierce than they present on this album. I already liked their early work, but I think that I’m gonna like them a little bit more since I’ve heard this debut album. THE DIRTY DENIMS are Mirjam Sieben on vocals, guitar and philicorda, Jeroen Teunis on lead guitar, Sabine Biesbroeck on bass guitar and Thomas Spauwen on drums. Wanna throw in a party? Don’t look any further. High five for this Dutch dirty denim rockers. They’ll get the party started. Website: http://www.thedirtydenims.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO-Raise Your Fist/Powerful Passionate Favorites (30 Years Anniversary Edition) (Nuclear Blast)
The first disc of this ‘30 Years Anniversary Edition’ package of DORO is called “Raise Your Fist”, which has been reviewed on this page earlier. So I just add that review at the end of this review. If you have read it, it is just to refresh your mind. Therefore, I will strictly concentrate on the second bonus disc, called “Powerful Passionate Favorites”, which plays for forty-five minutes and contains never before released songs. “It Still Hurts” may not be that powerful, but it’s cool to hear Lemmy crank out another fantastic ballad type of song with DORO. The two should form a couple together, if you listen to the passion in this duet. Then it’s time to practice your foreign language a bit with the French version of “Raise Your Fist”, which is being translated to “Leve Ton Poing Vers le Ciel”. Then the treats are coming up, starting with a passionate version of the LED ZEPPELIN song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”. However, I was not too fond of the version of “Nutbush City Limits” by IKE AND TINA TURNER, to be quite honest. It sounds like it was recorded in a big empty hall. But her revenge is sweet with the KISS cover “Only You”, which is one of their best songs from the album “The Elder”. DORO shows up well, when she does true metal songs, because also the DIO cover “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” sounds amazing and leaves nothing to be desired. METALLICA’s “Nothing Else Matters” may be an obvious choice, but it fits perfectly with her style and voice. “Warfare” on the other hand is not fooling around and it’s made to shout out loud. This song is recorded for the upcoming movie “Anuk III, Die Dunkle Flut”. The last song is something special indeed. “NYC Blues” is a blues song with a laid back style, which is perfectly for getting that late Saturday evening feeling. DORO can also sing the blues. That’s for sure. The song was recorded at her apartment in New York City. Both thumbs up for DORO! To make this review complete, I’ve added the review of “Raise Your Fist” here as well. We already know the title track of this new DORO album, because it’s the first single, taken from this album. This is the full-length album, which is worthy of fifteen songs in the good old DORO tradition and it has a playing time of a full hour. You can’t deny, that the title track sounds catchy yet heavy and suitable to sing along to in a live setting. The steady beat and nice guitar solo turns this song into another classic in the making, as far as I am concerned. But will the other fourteen tracks sound as good as this great opener? We will know that in a little while. “Cold Hearted Lover” sounds very catchy and you can sing along to it, once you’ve heard it. “Rock ‘Till Death” has a firm beat and the guitars may remind you of the ZZ TOP sound on their “Eliminator” album. It rocks hard and that’s what we want to hear. In “It Still Hurts” we hear DORO do a duet with Lemmy of MOTÖRHEAD. It sounds a bit similar to “Close My Eyes Forever” of LITA FORD and OZZY. At least it has got the same vibe, but this time with the very recognizable vocals of Mr. MOTÖRHEAD instead of the Madman. “Take No Prisoners” is a real speed monster, that opens with the sounds of sirens. A true headbanger for the purists among us. And there is no time to catch your breath, because another guest announces himself in the hard riffed “Grab The Bull (Last Man Standing)”, which features some axe grinding guitar work of Gus G from the OZZY OSBOURNE band. Another great tune! “Engel” is a real DORO ballad (sung in the German language), in which the chorus is being repeated maybe a little too much, but the intensity and the emotion in this song makes it highly enjoyable. “Freiheit (Human Rights” has got an industrial vibe and once again it has German lyrics. This will definitely work out well on the German festivals later this year. “Little Headbanger (Nackenbrecker)” is short yet heavy and that same style carries on in “Revenge”, which sounds like a real neckbreaker to me. Maybe they incidentally switched the song titles. Listen to that double bass beat, which sounds just awesome! “Free My Heart” slows things down a bit and it’s time for another emotional ballad. Some people think, that this is too much, but DORO has got a good voice for singing ballads and they simply fit very well on her records in my opinion. What would a DORO album be without any ballads? “Victory” has got some industrial touches, but it’s a nice entertaining song. “Hero” is a power ballad, which starts off slowly and then unfolds itself into a nice foot stomper. Next, we have already arrived to the two bonus tracks on this album. “Sealed In Blood (Human Rights)” is a song that has some very important lyrics. It has a positive message. While “Strong And Proud” ends the album in the well-known ‘fist in the air’ heavy metal attitude. The circle is being closed this way. I think, that this is one of the best DORO releases ever. It contains a lot of variation and you can rock until you drop on this one. The energy and the power, that she spreads after so many years is simply unbelievable. So, I raise my fist in the air for DORO and her band, consisting of Nick Douglas on bass, Johnny Dee on drums, Bas Maas on guitar and Luca Princiotta on guitar and keyboards. Nice CD cover, by the way. I like it a lot and it makes the whole package complete. Website: http://www.doro.de. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ELVENSTORM-Blood Leads To Glory (Inferno Records)
I feel an ELVENSTORM coming up, so close the windows, shut the curtains and turn up the sound of your stereo. Eleven tracks in fifty minutes will blow your mind. ELVENSTORM hails from France and consists of Laura Ferreux on vocals, Michael Hellström on guitar, Will Duclos on bass and Felix Börner on drums. “Sanguis Ad Glory” is only a short intro. It’s the silence before the storm on this second release, that starts off with “Reign In Glory” a Teutonic speed metal track with great powerful female vocals and fast riffs. The werewolves cry in the first seconds of “Werewolves Of The East”. The fast metal contains more flashing guitar work and I think, that fans of bands like PARAGON, WIZARD and female fronted bands like CRYSTAL VIPER and RAMPART will have a good time with this band, that has got old school metal running through their veins. “Temple Of The Sun” is a good foot stomper with nice vocal pull outs by Laura. “Rules Of The Night” is a speed banger extraordinaire, which can’t be topped and has touches of IRON MAIDEN in the rhythm parts. The guitar solo sounds flabbergasting and it marks this song as the highlight on this album for me so far. “Black Hordes” is a wild ear destroyer. “Fallen One” will make your head go up and down, no matter what. The wild power metal is ultrafast and merciless. “Sirens Of Death” is about the phenomenal voice of Laura, I guess. “Where Angels Dare To Die” is built upon a great riff and it reminded me of the good old days of MANOWAR in some ways. Fists in the air and go for it! “Mistress From Hell” is a song, in which the band called in the help of Martha Gabriel of CRYSTAL VIPER. You will expect an ultrafast speed killer track and that’s exactly what you’re gonna get! And if this fast headbanger isn’t enough, they also crank out a wild version of the old SAVAGE GRACE classic “Into The Fire”. This last track will rip the flesh off your bones. ELVENSTORM will take you by surprise and don’t let go, before the last notes have faded away. You are warned. The wind lies down after this last track, the ELVENSTORM is over, unless you push the ‘repeat’ button again. This album contains high class material!! Website: http://www.elvenstorm.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ENKELINATION-Tears Of Lust (independent)
This band consists of Elina Siirala on vocals, Shadow on guitar, Alasdair on bass and Ben on drums and they call themselves ENKELINATION. They hail from Finland and their album “Tears Of Lust” contains eleven tracks and forty-five minutes of melodic hard rock. The album opens with the title track “Tears Of Lust”. A steady beat, melodic vocals, that sometimes sounds a bit operatic and a nice guitar rhythm are the main ingredients here. “Higher Ground” shows, that a more up tempo pace fits the band better. Of course your thoughts might go out to NIGHTWISH, but this comparison would be wrong, simply because this band rocks a bit more. “Never Ending” contains a nice guitar solo for that reason and this song will definitely get the crowd going in a live setting. In “Lullaby”, they turn down the speed for a beautiful ballad type of song. “Insane” is a state of mind, in which I prefer to be. It’s an up tempo rocker, that makes you move or dance along to the sound. “What Have You Become” makes sure that we’re dealing with a band that is capable of playing catching songs. It’s easy on the ears and followed by “Reborn”, which has some nice heavy riffs. The melancholic sounding vocals will make the fans melt. In “Chumeras”, you will sense the opera like voice of Elina, while “Changeling” will get those heads banging. In “Abyss”, you will definitely enjoy the thunderous drum beats. The music changes from catchy to heavy and from melodic to very sphereful in CD closer “Last Time Together”. It will bring tears to your eyes. “Tears Of Lust”, that is. The band has already supported VAN CANTO, but I guess that this is only just the beginning of a long and very fruitful career. Website: http://www.enkelination.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPICA-The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast)
No, I will not do it!! I will not bore the hell out of you with the background of the quantum physic theories, so let’s leave this up to someone else. I’d like to spend some words on this new album by Dutch pride EPICA, which contains fourteen tracks and seventy-five minutes of epic metal. The second CD contains four acoustic tracks, but more about that later on. The intro is called “Originem” and contains all the ingredients, that you are about to receive. Bombastic orchestral parts, bombastic choir vocals and an epic setting, in which the music of EPICA will show up very well. While in “The Second Stone” they add fast drums, loud guitars, a stunning rhythm and the beautiful voice of Simone Simons to it. The bull is running, nobody can hide from this frivolous ring anymore and the game is on. Oh, and let’s not forget about the ultra-brutal grunt vocals. “The Essence Of Silence” contains the nice vocal parts of Simone, who sounds so fragile next to the loud blasting brutal vocals and the overwhelming choir vocals. The mix of these vocals and the flashing guitar riffs categorizes EPICA in the highest ranks of the symphonic metal scene. “Victims Of Contingency” proceeds in the same pace. It’s like a natural flow of constant drum beats and guitar riffs. A short piece of rest follows after the intro of “Sense Without Sanity – The Impervious Code”. The input of the choir vocals is huge, but the voice of Simone has a small leading role here and proves that she has one of the mightiest voices of all. A deep bow for this lady, who is in charge and will never let her fans down. The booklet of the album is a fold-out poster, that visualizes the whole quantum enigma theory in a beautiful colorful drawing. On the rear side, the band has printed the ‘thanks to part’ and the lyrics of the songs. After this lengthy epical tune, it’s time to “Unchain Utopia”, which has another leading role for the choir. Again, Simone catches a small moment of fame. The busy orchestra pauses for a while and those sensitive moments turn songs like that into something really special. “The Fifth Guardian – Interlude” is a short instrumental break in this musical madness. It sounds slightly medieval and could very well be part of a fairytale-like movie. “Chemical Insomnia” breaks the magic spell and continues the story. “Reverence – Living In The Heart” contains some of the most crazy drum parts by Ariën. He must have felt his muscles for days after these sessions. The blast beats are sometimes sounding like serious craziness under all the pompous and bombastic soundscapes of the orchestra and the choir. However, EPICA must have a big sound filled up with all that stuff, otherwise the picture just isn’t complete. It must be total madness. Just listen to the duel between the keyboards and the guitar here. This is awesome beyond believe. “Omen – The Ghoulish Malady” continues with another leading role by Simone. The bombastic sound has been fading away a bit on this one and the fantastic speed changes of the very fast blast beats is simply mind-blowing! It’s the variation of styles, that makes this music so fantastic and energetic. “Canvas Of Life” is only a bunch of acoustic guitars, a piano and a human voice. Very beautiful indeed! Fast keyboards are presented in the blasting part of “Natural Corruption”, that easily switches from speed to mood and back and also contains a beautiful guitar solo. Title track “The Quantum Enigma – Kingdom Of Heaven Part II” is on next and this masterpiece has been spread out over almost twelve minutes. Grab a chair and enjoy what you hear, I’d say. This song is easily the highlight on the album. It’s the complete picture of what EPICA is all about in 2014 and a true masterpiece by this Dutch symphonic power metal outfit. The bonus track is called “In All Conscience”, which leads us to the closure of this CD in a real victorious way. The story doesn’t end here though, because if you’ve bought the digipack version, there is a second CD with four acoustic tracks, that will expand the state of mind you are in right now. So take that moment to switch CD’s and enjoy the magical world of EPICA even more for about eighteen minutes. The undressed versions of these four songs will show you, that the band is capable of capturing that magic in acoustics, too. “Canvas Of Life” is the first prove of that. A string orchestra, acoustic guitars and the voice of Simone, that shows some resemblance to Candice Night (BLACKMORE’S NIGHT) here, in my opinion. Piano and keyboards are presented in “In All Conscience”, in which Simone shows that she also has a quite forceful voice combined in an acoustic setting. It sounds very beautiful. “Dreamscape” is on next and it builds up real nice from a lullaby song to a much more up-tempo track with bombastic choir vocals. “Natural Corruption” is the last in line and it contains the sound of an accordion, an instrument that you actually don’t expect in an EPICA song, I guess. It gives the song a very happy feeling though. EPICA consists of Mark Jansen on guitar and vocals, Coen Janssen on synths and piano, Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums and vocals, Isaac Delahaye on guitar, Rob van der Loo on bass guitar and Simone Simons on female vocals. She’s the one, who also has the awesome looks. Website: http://www.epica.nl. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART AND JOE BONAMASSA-Live In Amsterdam (Provogue)
I’m always very proud, when a band releases a live CD, recorded at a venue in Holland. BETH HART did it before and now she does it again and this time with blues guitar wizkid JOE BONAMASSA. The two are a good combination, because they both are able to capture many different styles, ranging from gospel to soul, from blues to rock and even easy listening ballads and almost everything in between. The perfect match and great for a wonderful night out in the city. The opener on this twenty-one song album and a little less than two hour live concert is called “Amsterdam, Amsterdam”. It is a short salute to the city, where this show has been recorded. The first CD contains twelve tracks and fifty-five minutes. If you already liked their two previously recorded CD releases “Seesaw” and “Don’t Explain”, then you’re in for a real treat. The live feeling has been captured really well here and there’s much more atmosphere than on the studio recordings. “Them There Eyes” has got that big band feeling with a touch of Dixieland but with some nice guitar work of course. Joe didn’t come over to see Beth sing and tap his feet. Even in jazzy songs like that, his playing is in front of the mix. The reaction of the audience and the applause is turned down, which is a shame. It takes away the enthusiasm and the live spirit. |However, it’s the music that counts here and that’s pretty much alright with “Sinner’s Prayer” being up next. I really like this bluesy sound. But also in a more gospel song like in “Can’t Let Go”, they can’t go wrong. Jazz bands walk through the streets of New Orleans dancing to music like that, which sounds awesome and swings like crazy. It makes you happy. At least, when I listen to it. The guitar work on this one sounds really awesome. “For My Friends” is groovy and sounds like the good old MONTROSE in his heydays. Heavy drumbeats by Anton Fig (ex-ACE FREHLEY) create the right atmosphere here, while Beth adds the soul to it. “Close To My Fire” is a lazy Saturday night tune, but I bet it will also work on a relaxed Sunday morning. The horn section contributes to the romantic atmosphere. “Rhymes” has got soul and the horn section is upfront in the mix, while Joe delivers the goods here. “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” is another glory hallelujah like gospel, which will make your hips turn round. Then another piece of rest comes up, called “Your Heart Is As Black As Night”, which has some laid back guitar work by Joe. It gets a nice reaction of the crowd. Doing the mazurka on a night like this may not be appropriate, but things are changing, when these musicians crank out “Chocolate Jesus”, which was originally written by TOM WATTS. And when the nice guitar solo is being played, it will definitely put a smile on your face. Then it’s time for a real tender bluesy tearjerker in “Baddest Blues”. BETH HART has a leading role on this one and her beautiful voice says it all. This is a true highlight, but it gets even better when Joe does the same in the next song. When he sings the FREDDIE KING cover “Someday After A While (You’ll Be Sorry)", it makes my skin crawl! The second CD starts with “Well Well”, which is a duet and contains some exciting guitar work from the master. “If I Tell You I Love You” sounds a bit like “Chocolate Jesus”. It’s a very exotic song and the right guitar moves are making it highly enjoyable. “Seesaw” is the title track off their first CD together. The horns are upfront and the band swings it out, before they calm down a little in “Strange Fruit”. Joe cranks out another groovy guitar solo, before the band starts to swing in “Miss Lady”. They are at full steam now and it looks like they’re in for some improvisation as well. Spotlights are on for Anton Fig on drums. After that, the audience is getting wild one more time, before the band leaves the stage. What an awesome atmosphere - I can tell you that much! “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” brings back the blues in the house. I guess, that these are the encores, starting with a slow blues and Joe taking the lead again in an amazing solo. “Nutbush City Limits” is definitely a crowd pleaser and known all over the world. Come to think of it, they could easily do an IKE & TINA TURNER tribute. This twosome would be the perfect match, only fifty years later. Anyway, we slowly move towards the end, when the band explodes one more time in the classic tune “I’d Rather Go Blind”. Beth’s voice fits in just perfectly and makes the shivers run down your spine rather easily. She reminds me of JANIS JOPLIN here, because of the way she sings this song, in which Joe pulls the strings while they’re still hot. It’s a magnificent closure of an amazing set, that closes for real with the “Antwerp Jam”, where they turn it up loud one more time. I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce the band to you, because besides Beth and Joe, the band consists of Anton Fig on drums, Carmine Rojas on bass, Arlan Shierraum on keyboards, Blondie Chaplin on rhythm guitar, Lee Thorneburg on trumpet and percussion, Ron Dziubla on saxophone and percussion and Carlos Perez Alfonso on trombone and percussion. One more drink and Amsterdam can go to sleep after that. This city will never sleep though, but I think they were amazed by the excellent performance of these musicians. The show is also available on DVD, so you can watch the city go wild to the music of BETH HART AND JOE BONAMASSA. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HEART-Fanatic Live From Caesar’s Colosseum (Frontiers Records)
HEART on stage can’t be beaten. They have such an amazing back catalogue of hits and strong rock tunes, that it’s always good to see this band perform live. The almost seventy minutes of hard rock songs on this live CD / DVD prove that. Fourteen tracks are played and they will all rock your world. Get ready for a rollercoaster ride from the HEART jukebox. It starts with “Fanatic”, the title track of the fifteenth studio album by this Seattle based band, released two years ago. I won’t think about the title of the next track. What would the world be, if it was HEEARTless?? I’m glad, that we still have HEART in our midst and “Heartless” is a nice uptempo song with the heart in the right place. Ann’s vocals are very recognizable and sister Nancy is still rocking it out on guitar. The rest of HEART consists of Craig Bartock on guitar and vocals, Debbie Shair on keyboards, vocals and percussion, Bem Smith on drums and Dan Rotchild on bass. For these particular live shows, they also use a string quintet consisting of Ben Mink on violin arrangements, Svetlana Mondrusov on violin, Molly Hughes on violin, Roman Kosarev on viola and Lusine Petrosyan on cello. With this team, they rock it out loud and next on the list of tonight’s show is “What About Love”. It’s one of the hit singles, that you will probably sing along to word for word. “Marshallah!” is a newer track, but it has that nice ZEPPELIN-like groove. “Even It Up” rocks the house and even so many years later, this song stood the test of time pretty easily. The band mixes the old songs with newer stuff, like the rocking “59 Crush”. It has that remarkable HEART sound, that makes it part of the HEART jukebox without saying. A lot of people want to hear the old material. I could be one of them, but I’m always open-minded about the new songs. However, a song like “Straight On” is another one, that you can sing along to right away. The high pull outs are reached still, even after all these years. “Dog And Butterfly” is a nice piece of rest in the typical HEART kind of way. These songs always know how to touch my soul. It’s really unbelievable, that these classics have been written almost forty years ago. “Walking Good” is in the same pace and Ann is playing the flute here as well. HEART was one of the very few bands, that made the flute an unmistakable part of their music, next to bands such as FOCUS and JETHRO TULL. “These Dreams” is another flashback in time. This marvelous ballad will make your flesh crawl. No wonder, songs like that easily made the charts back in these days. “Alone” sounds very romantic and although it lacks a heavier part, it still manages to get me silent for a while (and the audience, too). “Dear Old America” gets the groove back and prepares the crowd for a steaming closure of this set. “Crazy On You” in an acoustic setting sounds nice. While crowd pleaser “Barracuda” has been saved for last. That riff can’t be topped. The CD is over and done now, but hey we still have the DVD to watch. Website: http://www.heart-music.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HEAVY TIGER-Saigon Kiss (High Roller Records)
HEAVY TIGER is an all-female band from Stockholm, Sweden, consisting of Astrid Carsbring on drums and vocals, Maja Linn on guitar and vocals and Sara Friendin on bass and vocals. The album, which I have here on vinyl (of course) contains nine tracks and starts with the title track “Saigon Kiss” on side A. They sound like the perfect mix of KISS and SUZI QUATRO. Catchy songs, an easy on the ears vibe yet with enough guitars to rock you to the ground with your fist in the air. Heavier than the DONNAS and with some nice guitar work. “Chinatown” is not a THIN LIZZY cover, but just another rocking track from these Swedish sweeties with vicious claws. The rhythm of this song may bring some memories of THIN LIZZY to mind though. “I’m Alive” is rocking in a more DONNAS kind of style with a touch of JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS to it. Obviously, these ladies have their heart in the right place. “Seven Days A Fool” closes side A as another catching rocker. We move over to side B and start there with “Mover”, a rocker that will make your body move. Okay, let’s name THE RUNAWAYS here as an influence too, because there is definitely some resemblance to these queens of noise. The song is played in that same seventies style, which gives the right mood to the songs. “Robber Of Love” is rocking hard, but once again it has got a bit of that old fashioned style, that you will expect from JOAN JETT in her early days. “Girls Got Balls” opens with the sound of a cowbell and a raunchy guitar. The drummer goes wild in this one and not only on the cowbell. “Little Sister” is also easy on the ears. The girls never go too extreme and therefore this album is a safe buy, if you like your rock hard without too much extreme sidesteps. “Talk Of The Town” closes this nice rock album with another catching track. Can you say no to these three hot looking ladies from Sweden? I guess not, but watch out, because kittens got claws, too. At least that’s what David Coverdale sings. If JOAN JETT and THE DONNAS are your taste in music, it’s time to add HEAVY TIGER to that list as well. In the near future, they might become a well-known Swedish brand, just like IKEA, who also started to sell their stuff to a small bunch of people first. Get one of the chosen ones and buy this “Saigon Kiss” to start with. Website: http://www.heavytiger.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HELLION-To Hellion And Back (Cherry Red)
This double CD will bring back some fine memories by all the HELLION fans out there. BITCH and HELLION were the most important female fronted bands in the eighties and after their reformation in 2013, HELLION releases a new mini album in a very short period of time. Before this happens, we see the release of this anthology double CD, called “To Hellion And Back”. It contains twenty-six songs and over two hours of pure metal mayhem. And if you’re not convinced yet, just turn up the sound and listen to “Backstabber”, which opens this essential compilation. “Driving Hard” is a great rocker, in which you hear that the music of HELLION was built upon that old school sound of the seventies rock. “Don’t Take No For An Answer” has got the same effect on me, mainly because of the choir vocals. It’s 1983 here and because of this approach, the band is getting an inspiration for many bands to come in the future. At the moment of recording the band consists of Alan Barlam on guitar, Ann Boleyn on vocals and keyboards, Sean Kelley on drums, Ray Schenck on guitar and Bill Sweet on bass. “Break The Spell” is perhaps one the best examples of that well-known HELLION sound back in those days. It’s made to shout your balls off. The other anthem “Up From The Depths” is the last one from that timeframe. “Run For Your Life” is taken from a demo, that was produced by Ronnie James Dio. It has some astonishing guitar work and a JUDAS PRIEST groove, you just can’t miss. “Get Ready” is from the same session and all this pounding metal material was being recorded only one year after the release of their debut album. The line-up remained the same on these recordings. “Witching Hour” is also a demo recording, but then from a year later. With this line-up, they will record the “Screams In The Night” album. The vocals of Ann are getting stronger, higher and heavier and the band easily gains popularity all over the world. In the meantime they have recruited Alex Campbell on bass, Greg Pecka on drums and Carl Thompson on guitar. From this aforementioned second album we hear five tracks next, which were released in 1987, and title track “Screams In The Night” is on first. “Upside Down Guitar Solo” is the perfect title for this short instrumental, which is in fact exactly what the title suggests it is. “The Hand” is a track, in which I recognize the hand of Ronnie James Dio being an influence to Ann Boleyn and her band. The groovy sound and guitar work are some of the points of recognition here. “Bad Attitude” is in the JUDAS PRIEST tradition. The razor sharp guitar solo says it all and makes my metal heart pound harder. “Tower Of Air” closes the first CD here. And we ain’t even halfway here. Loud pounding drums opens the second CD with “Nevermore” from the 1988 “Postcards From The Asylum” release. Next on, they crank out the JUDAS PRIEST classic “Exciter”, which needs no further introduction, I guess. With the kind of lungs that Ann has, she is simply qualified enough to sing an anthem like that. “The Evil One” is slow and pounds like there is no escape anymore. It’s a real surprise to see the comeback of some old band members to HELLION on this release, by the way. Alan Barlam is back on guitar, Sean Kelley pounds the drums and Ray Schenck is back on guitar, while Dave Dutton is recruited to play the bass. The “Black Book” album is represented here with five tracks, of which “Breakdown” is a short spoken word intro, followed by “The Black Book”, which contains some flashing guitar work. “Living In Hell” sounds like pure heavy metal. Mind you, it’s 1990, when this was being released and the grunge scene was ready to take it over. HELLION is not to blame for that, because they still believed that metal wasn’t dead and they were one of the true survivors back in those days. And if you’re not convinced at all, “Stormrider” will make you find out soon. “Demon Attack” is the last song of this lot of five. Rex Tennyson plays bass on this one and there are special appearances on guitar by Kenny Kannowski, Chet Thompson and Ray Schenck. Then we’ve arrived in the new millennium on this nice overview with the “Will Not Go Quietly” release. This is the essential metal attack for my ears! It doesn’t make any concessions and it tears down the walls pretty easily. Don’t mind your neighbors and just turn up that freaking sound! “Shit (Is Gonna Hit The Fan)” is on next and although it’s released in 2002, it still rocks like hell. HELLION didn’t change their style too much over the years. They just became heavier and louder, that’s all. “Dead And Gone” is a bit more in the DIO tradition. “Dream Deceiver” sounds a bit spooky in the beginning. Do you think you can handle that? Ann Boleyn, Ray Schenck and Chet Thompson are the members of the band at that time. The last song is a pre taste of the upcoming album. It’s another great rocker with the title “Hell Has No Fury”. We will review this album, when it comes out of course. The line-up of the band consists of Ann Boleyn on vocals, Maxxwell Carlisle on guitar, Bjorn Englen on bass, Scott Warren on keyboards and Simon Wright on drums. They sound as great like never before and it’s a promise that the story will be continued very soon. Until then, have a flashback to the past with “To Hellion And Back”, a must have for every devoted metal head out there. Special attention please for the nice booklet, which is covered full of colored pictures and flyers from the good old days. It’s very nice to see this back. Website: http://www.facebook.com/Hellionofficial [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

HOLY MOSES-Redifined Mayhem (Steamhammer)
Urgently in need of thrash metal? Don’t look any further, because HOLY MOSES has redefined mayhem and pressed it on a silver disc. Thirteen songs in forty-five minutes will satisfy your hunger for thrash, that’s for sure. Prove is given in opener “Hellhound”. Groovy riffs, fast beats and most of all the loud burping and screaming of Sabina Classen leave nothing to be desired. Oh, you like fast guitar solos? Well, you’ve got it. The speed goes up a little, the screams get louder and the solos are getting longer in “Triggered”. No, the drums are not triggered, these guys simply play that fast. “Undead Dogs” contains some biting lyrics shouted out by Sabina. Just make sure, you won’t get rabies! “Into The Dark” is slow and spooky. The darker sound also reflects on Sabina’s vocal parts, which still sound insane, but lower and a bit darker. The title of this track has been chosen very well here. “Sacred Sorrows” is pounding on with heavy drum beats. “Process Of Projection” is a torture for your neck muscles. For guitar fans, it’s also a technical wild ride experience, which goes much further than the average loud thrash riffs. In the beginning of “Fading Realities”, the band continues this technical playing, but soon they switch over to a more thrashy polka beat. “Liars” is one of the highlights on this album for me. It contains an uncompromising thrash metal sound. “Redemption Of The Shattered” continues this brutal pounding. While in “Whet The Knife”, you can shout along to it. This might become a crowd pleaser during their live shows. If that won’t do the trick, then “Delusion” will definitely succeed. Just scream ‘Delusion’ real loud at the right time and throw your fists in the air. Just freaking growl it like you mean it or you will be “One Step Ahead Of Death”. The dark sound proves one more time, that HOLY MOSES is one of the leading bands, that captures all the bloody aspects of a good thrash sound. It’s a cold world out there and they won’t make you any happier, but they sure know how to play a brutal sound. “This Dirt” is a nice closure for those of you, who like it extreme to the max. I think, that this is the song, in which Moses destroys the stone table, which he is holding above his head on the front cover of the CD booklet. It’s over the top and maybe we must see the joke of it. Do with it whatever you want. It’s part of the way how HOLY MOSES redefines mayhem. Sabina’s voice will not remind you of former ARCH ENEMY vocalist Angela Gossow, but when you look at the pictures in the CD booklet, you will have to look twice to see if they’ve printed the right vocalist here. The two look very much alike in my opinion. Anyway, the band is compiled by Peter Geltat on guitar, Thomas Neitsch on bass and Gerd Lucking on drums. Website: http://www.holymoses.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

INDICA-Shine (Nuclear Blast Records)
Five ladies from Finland will make you “Shine” with the release of their sixth album. At least, if you like alternative rock with a touch of melodic and symphonic music. The twelve songs are worthy of about forty-five minutes of melodic rock. The album opens with “Mountain Made Of Stone”, which slowly builds up to a nice raunchy climax. Don’t be afraid, these gals won’t play too rough, they temper their sound and add melody in it for a good balance. “Uncovered” is on next and this might please fans of TORI AMOS or KATE BUSH more than the average rock fan out there. In “A Definite Maybe” the band creates a folky atmosphere and spread a lot of happiness, which is actually very nice to hear. In “Goodbye To Berlin”, they add a jolly keyboard to their sound, which makes it sound a bit more rocking, but don’t expect a too much rock attitude or loud guitar sound here, because you will be very disappointed. “Run Run” is an acoustic ballad, beautiful and very sweet indeed. “Here And Now” is based upon a steady beat, but it doesn’t deserve anything more than the predicate of poppy rock in my eyes. “Missing” contains a beefed up sound, which can be categorized as rock, of some kind. “Hush Now Baby” is a lullaby kind of song and you really have to force yourself to stay awake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very open minded, but if you’re a true metal head, don’t punish yourself with this album. If you’re more of a symphonic rock fan or A.O.R. addict, then you can try this new album. I just don’t want you to get disappointed. These ladies can play some nice music, but it’s much too soft for the average rock fan out there, I guess. “Behind The Walls” is very A.O.R minded. The first heavy track with an up-tempo beat is called “A Kid In The Playground” and you can’t stop tapping your feet to the rhythm of the beat on this one. “War Child” is melodic and it’s the last track on the album. The limited digipack contains the bonus track “Humming Bird”, which is indeed a very nice addition to the album, because of its happy sound. INDICA will never belong to the premier league of the heavy metal scene, but every now and then, they can do the magic and will turn a smile on my face. Nothing more, nothing less though. INDICA consists of Johanna ‘Jonsu’ Salomaa on vocals, Heini Säisä on bass and vocals, Sirkku Karvonen on keyboards and vocals, Jenny Julia on guitar and vocals and Laura Häkkänen on drums. Go to: http://www.indica-music.net or http://www.indica.fi for all the latest news about these Finnish ladies. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JUNKYARD LIPSTICK-The Butcher’s Delight (EP) (independent)
Let’s move over to South Africa for the long awaited mini album of JUNKYARD LIPSTICK, which contains six bone hard songs, that play a bit over twenty minutes. Your ears are tortured by a mean mix of punk, rock and hardcore, that will make you bleed. “Bioterror” was already a pre-taster, which was added to their previous release and it was definitely the finest track. It already tasted for more back then. “DNA” has got the same groovy structure with a hard bite and it rages on at full speed. This is really a nice step forward and even when the speed goes down a bit during the beginning of “Size Zero Death Match”, the rawness remains. Title track “The Butcher’s Delight” is being introduced by a spoken word part. The polka beats in this hardcore tune will make you move, but the icy screams will make your flesh creep. This one is not for the faint hearted. And if this isn’t loud enough for ya, they are even willing to turn up the sound a bit more in “House Of The Holy”. Brutal vocal outings will make you fall off your chair, if you’re not prepared for this. “Protest And Pudding” (which is also the last song here) is made to MOSH! And what a brutal violent mosher this one is! However, before we go, the sad news has reached us, that this will be the last release of JUNKYARD LIPSTICK in this line-up. Singer Tanya has moved on and chose for a future without the band. What a shame, but if they will find a suitable replacement, I’m sure they will continue to please the butcher by ripping someone’s bleeding heart out. The line-up on this EP is Tanya Markowitch on vocals, Lucinda Villain on drums, Louise ‘Gore’ Gorman on guitar and Jacky Roodt on bass. Get butchered, no more questions asked! Website: http://www.junkyardlipstick.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS-High Priestess (Spinefarm Records)
I think, that the previous album of KOBRA AND THE LOTUS was just the beginning of their success. Ten more songs are being added to their oeuvre, which have a total running time of about forty-five minutes. Already with opener “Warhorse”, you’ll get the point. If the third album has to impress people, then you’d better press the pedal to the metal. They did this quite convincing and I’m really overwhelmed with the power, they spread around in this great opener. I’m ready for more. “I Am, I Am” is another mean rocker with a steady beat and some heavy guitar riffs. Think of JUDAS PRIEST here with a sound, that is made for the new millennium. A little bit more polished maybe, but definitely loud enough to make you scream. BENEDICTUM fans will love this for sure, especially when the guitar solo cries its way to your eardrums. I feel sorry for them. For the time of one “Heartbeat”, I was afraid they’d lost it. But when the guitars come crashing in, I can take a deep sigh. “Hold On” puts more melody into their sound and holds back some speed. The drums keep pounding though. “High Priestess” is the new title of the album. If Kobra Paige deserves this title remains to be seen, but she is indeed one of the very few ladies to watch closely in the near future. Her high pitched vocals are breathtaking and that’s a fact. “Soldier” is a song for the warriors out in the field. Raise your fist high in the air and your sword firmly to hold it. It belongs on a metal album like this. They also shot a video for this one, check it out. In the “Battle Of Wrath”, they crush it out firmly and they prove that they mean it. The MANOWAR-like structure will make you sing along to this warrior hymn. “Visionary” sounds catchy and airy. “Willow” however has been welded by metal and with “Lost In The Shadows” the album closes with a good power ballad. I think, that this album is a giant step forward for KOBRA AND THE LOTUS. I hope, that they will stay true to this style, because it suits them well in my opinion. The band consists of Kobra Paige on vocals, Jasio Kulakowski on lead and rhythm guitar, Brad Kennedy on bass, Bones Elias on drums (guest) and Jake Dreyer on guitar (guest). There is still a long and winding road ahead of this band, but they made some firm progression here. Website: http://www.kobraandthelotus.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LACUNA COIL-Broken Crown Halo (Century Media)
The groovy opener will get you in the mood for this new LACUNA COIL album. It’s captured with raw energy, but it has also got a very catchy side. The dark male grunts are maybe not fitting in quite perfectly, but I’m glad that the band didn’t float away from their heavy roots. The song is called “Nothing Stands In Our Way” and it’s followed by “Zombies”. Well, I’m glad that I’m not followed by zombies instead. I guess, that this explains the haunting sound with nice rhythms and a fine guitar solo here. “Hostage To The Light” sounds darker, but Christina’s voice always knows to touch me somehow. “Broken Crown Halo” contains eleven tracks and runs for forty-five minutes. The variation is all over and with “Victims” we hear a more uptempo track with a gothic laid back sound. The different songs will please many fans out there and that’s why LACUNA COIL is still gaining success all over the world. It’s that exciting combination of male and female vocals, that does do the trick. It will please both camps. Same goes for the overall sound. One time, they sound dark, gothic and maybe even spooky or depressed, while in the next song they can overwhelm you with heavy riffs and beats. Just check out the fast pace of “Die & Rise”, which will catch you by surprise for sure. “I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)” is a song to sing along to during their live shows. It’s the catchy side of the band, which also comes by in some of the songs here. “Cybersleep” has got that gothic vibe again with touches of DELAIN and WITHIN TEMPTATION. But the album also contains vibes and influences from bands like PARADISE LOST, EVANESCENCE and maybe even THE CURE. “Infaction” rocks with nice riffs and a catchy vibe. “Burn In You” sounds sober and it’s Andrea, who is in front of the mix here most. I think, the fact that both the drummer and guitarist announced, that they will leave the band after the release of the album after a long term involvement, has reflected on the sound of the band. It’s so much darker than on their previous album “Dark Adrenaline”. The adrenaline still flows, but the color is darker. “In The End I Feel Alive” is possibly and hopefully a peak into the future of the band’s career. In the end, they will certainly survive, but right now they will have to search for a replacement of these long term band members. “One Cold Day” reflects the mood, in which the band seems to be today, but tomorrow the sun will hopefully shine again. The album is still recorded with Chris ‘Pizza’ Migliore on guitar and Cristiano ‘Criz’ Mozzati on drums. Right now, the line-up of the band consists of Andrea Ferro on vocals, Christina Scabbia on vocals, Marco ‘Maus’ Biazzi on guitar and Marco Coti Zelati on bass. A band like LACUNA COIL will survive. They’re touring all over the world and nothing can stop them! On http://www.lacunacoil.it, you can check the latest news and touring plans about these Italian rockers. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MERKABAH-Ubiquity (Maple Metal Records)
The band name and the title of the album are almost unpronounceable, but that mainly gained my interest in this band. Where are they from and how will they sound? Good questions! The band hails from Quebec in the beautiful country Canada and their music is folded out in eight tracks, that play for about fifty-five minutes. Their first two albums were self-released and this third release brings us a mix of melodic power metal with a symphonic touch. At least that’s how I would describe the first track “Mythomania”. As you can tell by the song titles, their music may not be too easy for the average metal fan, but with an open mind you’ll come very far. Jacinthe Poulin, who fronts the band on vocals, has a pleasant voice to listen to and this opener is nicely topped by a surprisingly keyboard solo at the end. The riffs in “Divine Sparks” sound exciting, but not too brutal. “Red Letter Days” is a mix of emotion and catchy vibes and it has some IRON MAIDEN influences in the guitar sound here and there. It’s the first single taken from this album. “Circles Of Despair” creates the same atmosphere and puts the guitar players in the spotlights. “Brothers From The Seed Of Cain” is a more epical track. It doesn’t make the excitement less than before. “Deadly Prophets Of The Printed Page” is on next and adds some melody and choir vocals to their sound. The guitar solo is the cherry on the cake here. In “Agartha”, we’re getting a piece of rest. It can’t be seen as a real ballad and it’s just a step back from the more uptempo stuff, that they presented us until now. The fast mid-piece will cheer things up for a moment, but at the end the band returns to the slower pace again. The true highlight of this album is saved for last with a lengthy version of the title track, that will make you cling to your stereo set for about twelve minutes. It’s an instrumental tune with many mood and style changes. The classy symphonic elements will surely excite the average music lovers. Even DREAM THEATER fans might like this instrumental extravaganza piece of art. It’s the definitive highlight off this album, among the other beauties, that are on there. MERKABAH - just try to remember that name. The band consists of Jacinthe Poulin on vocals, François Vachon on guitar, Raynald Bronchu on guitar, Louis Doyon on bass and Nicolas Bilodeau on drums. Check them out if you dare. Website: http://www.merkabah.ca/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOUNT SALEM-Endless (Metal Blade Records)
It’s time to climb a mountain and we’re going to do that real slow. MOUNT SALEM’s album “Endless” contains some doomy, psychedelic beauties, that will touch you deep down inside. At least, it did with me. The female fronted psychedelic doom ensemble consists of Emily Kopplin on vocals and organ, Cody Davidson on drums, Mark Hewett on bass and Kyle Morrison on guitar. The eight tracks here are worthy of about forty-five minutes of slow, sludgy, groovy songs with a psychedelic background. The music you would expect from a seventies rock band. “Good Times” is already a good start with a slow pace, the nice voice of Emily and groovy thundering bass rhythm parts. Think of the old sound of BLACK SABBATH, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, PENTAGRAM and ST. VITUS to know where this is going. The female voice is getting more and more space in the doom influenced music of today. I’d like to refer to bands like ALUNAH and DEATH PENALTY, which come close to this band, but they have their roots in the new millennium. The fuzzy guitars in “The Tower” are slow and they sound like a good doom band should. “Lucid” is a more standard track in the best BLACK SABBATH tradition. However, the female vocals are the cherry on the cake for readers of Metal Maidens. The sound of MOUNT SALEM is a lot heavier than BLUES PILLS by the way, who also have their roots in the seventies. MOUNT SALEM sounds much darker and haven’t got that hippie image clinging to it. They sound a bit more obscure and I think it’s therefore that I prefer the sound of MOUNT SALEM to BLUES PILLS, no matter what other people say or think. “Full Moon” is another song, that you have to sink into at the fullest. It sounds so exciting and intense. The short “Mescaline” is instrumental and in some way it’s the intro to “Mescaline II”, which pounds like an old steam train. Every word is shouted out so well, it has to reach your soul right away. It’s that intense. “Hysteria” contains some exciting instrumental parts and you can hear the perfect mix of doomy underground music and the addition of that magic psychedelic feeling. The guitar solo is mind-blowing and it marks the fact that we’re almost on top of the mountain. There’s only a short way to go now. Although the album is called “Endless”, the final track is called “The End”. I think, there will be more like that on the next album. “The End” marks the end of a long, dark, sometimes dreamy road with some amazing music. Chicago already proved to be a good soil for doomy bands, just think of TROUBLE, dear friends. MOUNT SALEM will bring these doom fans in a very good mood. It’s a bit too early to say, that this band will get a smile on their face, but that’s the way I’d like to put it. The euphoria is huge. This is a must have for the fans of female-fronted doom metal with a thick psychedelic sauce poured over it. Absorb it, while you can. Website: http://www.facebook.com/mountsalem. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

MYSTICA GIRLS-Gates Of Hell (independent)
The MYSTICA GIRLS hail from Spain and their album “Gates Of Hell” contains twelve tracks and forty minutes of heavy rock. The CD starts with an instrumental intro, titled “To Be Open…..”. I think, it’s about the gates of hell, that will open up for you after this. “Gates Of Hell” is the first track, that unfolds itself from here and I’m glad that singer Mon uses her regular voice here. No grunts, a wild beat and a galloping rhythm is what you get. The underground metal spirit is really there. This differs a bit with the stomping beat of “The Boogie Biker” which is on next. It will appear twice on this album, because at the end of the album there is also an instrumental version of it. The band started their career as MYSTICA in 2005, but two years later they changed their name to MYSTICA GIRLS. It’s a catchy track with a nice boogie beat. “No More!” starts with a bulldozer bass riff to open the song. These ladies can really be wild and there’s no doubt about it. The bashing drums are really loud, but sometimes you’ll hear, that these ladies still have a long way to go. The will to become great rock stars is there and the nice musical ideas will surely find a way to my hungry metal ears. “The Spirit Has Won” is next and they step on the gas here. A nice guitar solo pops up in this track, by the way. “Tiny Blue Dot” could be categorized as a real highlight to me. It contains some nice guitar work and the girls really impressed me there. “The Conquest” has got a far more heavy approach and sounds raw and very exciting, too. “Sweet Pickery” is a nice instrumental, in which Cinthya shows her skills on guitar. Fans of Vinnie Moore, Tony Macalpine and Ritchie Kotzen might like this. No wonder, that the band is endorsed by Jackson Guitars. In “Why Should We Need”, I hear back some more emotion. There is a bit of tenderness in the guitar solo and also in the vocal parts. It’s not a ballad though. The girls just show their soft side here. In “New Awakening”, we hear another instrumental ear attack with a leading role for guitar player Cinthya. Doomy “Spooky Cookie” is on next with mysterious dark sounding vocals by Mon. It doesn’t mark the end of this surprisingly nice album though, because as I announced earlier in this review, there’s an instrumental version of “The Boogie Biker”, which seems to sound heavier than the version that we heard with vocals. Maybe the instruments have found its way easier to my ears right now. MYSTICA GIRLS consist of Cinthya Blackcat on guitar, Mon Laferte on vocals, Yolanda Moreno on drums and Kathy Whitewolf on bass. Website: http:// www.mysticagirls.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NASHVILLE PUSSY-Up The Dosage (SPV Records)
A church organ starts the new NASHVILLE PUSSY album and you’d better get ready to rawk and roll here! Because right after the church has started, the groovy rock rhythms are hammered inside your head with filthy opener “Everybody’s Fault But Mine”, the opposite of the famous LED ZEPPELIN track, so to speak. NASHVILLE PUSSY has recovered after bassplayer Karen Cuda left the band, who is being replaced by Bonnie ‘Bon’ Buitrago. The new album, that puts the rock and roll dosage up, contains fifteen high octane fueled, high energy rawk and roll tracks, that are good enough to put a smile on your face for forty-five minutes. “Rub It To Death” is a fast foot stomper. And what you have to rub to death, you will have to find out yourself, you freak! “Till The Meat Falls Off The Bone” is on next. It’s the perfect song for a rocking BBQ, don’t you agree? Ruyter still makes the fire coming from her strings in a hot sauced guitar solo, that will make this one burn. If you like it faster, then I suggest to take a bite of “The South’s Too Fast To Rise Again”. What a great song titles! “Before The Drugs Wear Off” is some kind of swamp rock and roll and perfect for a late night campfire. The dark voice of Blaine is just perfect on this one. Ruyter takes the lead in the beginning of the fast “Spent”. Yeehaw, step on the gas here! “Beginning Of The End” is a nice boogie with some chorus vocals and a wild guitar attack in the middle. Title track “Up The Dosage” is next here and it contains all that a good rocker needs. It’s short but it sure sounds very catching. “Takin’ It Easy” is even shorter and sung by Bonnie. A lot of raw energy is spread around here. “White And Loud” is what NASHVILLE PUSSY is all about. In “Hooray For Cocaine, Hooray For Tennessee”, they take out the ukulele and sound like a raw version of RORY GALLAGHER. “Pillbilly” is loud again and with a nice guitar solo by Ruyter. It will make you swing and there’s no need to stand still here. It’s the raw hillbilly sound you will expect with a title like that. “Pussy’s Not A Dirty Word” is next. I suspect ‘beaver’ is then. The nice bluesy guitar sound fits the song pretty well. It’s the final song of the album, which brings my rock level back to normal again. The bonus tracks are “Begging For A Taste” and a different produced version of “Before The Drugs Wear Off”. So you can rock on for a couple of spare moments. Beware of an overdose of rock and roll, but I think you can never taste enough music like that. NASHVILLE PUSSY rocks my world and I’m glad they still know how. There’s Ruyter Suys on lead guitar, Blaine Cartwright on guitar and vocals, Jeremy Thompson on drums and Bonnie ‘Bon’ Buitrago on bass. Find out some extra pussy dosage on http://www.nashvillepussy.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NERVOSA-Victim Of Yourself (Napalm Records)
Twelve songs will get you into metal ecstasy for forty-five minutes on this debut album by Brazilian headshakers NERVOSA. The first track “Intro” is just what it’s meant to be, an intro to the first real track, which is called “Twisted Values”. Loud repeating riffs will get your head shaking. Aggressive vocals are added and a stunning beat makes your body move to this TESTAMENT like track, that will be daggered into your mind by these three ladies. “Justice Be Done” is on next and it sounds like a big steam train is rolling into your living room. When the fast riffs start, the game is on. Brutal vocals, ultra-fast guitar parts and a steady polka beat will make your skin crawl. “Wake Up And Fight” is darker and slower and contains a good guitar solo, that matches very well to the brutal beats and loud bashing sound. Be careful, when you want to mosh and jump on the next track, because you might get a “Nasty Injury” on this fast thrasher. The brutal thrash riffs leave nothing to be desired and as far as the riffing goes, it even reminded me of SLAYER for a moment. “Envious” is what you expect from three Brazilian thrash metal addicted ladies. A brutal track with some parts, that are particular suitable for shouting your balls off. Man, what a brutal force do they express here! And the speed goes up for “Morbid Courage” with OVERKILL-like vocal lines. “Death!” is always a touchy subject, but not for this combo. They will shout it, until you like it. Simply shout along to the words “Death, Death Death!” and raise your freaking fist in the air. It’s simple as that. “Into Moshpit” takes away in the fourth gear . Try to keep up with the incredible speed on this brutal mosher, I bet you won’t succeed. “Deep Misery” rocks it out loud, but if you thought you had it all, then just lend your ears to title track “Victim Of Yourself”. What an amazing track full of brutalness and raw energy. I bet, that you can’t take anymore after this. There is so much power to absorp in forty-five minutes. But if you’ve still got some energy left in your poor body, you’ll definitely loose in in the last one and a half minute. It’s the encore which is called “Urânio Em Nós” that will split your skill in a short fragment of time. NAPALM DEATH-like blast beats will drag your soul out of your body and leave you behind in a lifeless situation. You’ve become a “Victim Of Yourself”. Just like it has been predicted by the title of this goddamn awesome album. Who is responsible for so much violence, I hear you say. Well, that’s Fernanda Lira on bass guitar, Prima Akaral on guitar and Pitchu Ferraz on drums. Become a “Victim Of Yourself” and don’t be afraid. It won’t hurt, he said with a sarcastic smile. I suggest, do yourself a real favor and loose some sweat on this one, here’s the URL to go to the website of these wild ladies: http://www.nervosaofficial.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NIGHTQUEEN-rEvolution (Wildgame)
NIGHTQUEEN presents their new album and these Belgian musicians hope to cause a real “rEvolution” with it. These nine songs are worthy of a bit over fifty minutes of powerful metal. Opener “The Hunter” has many ZED YAGO influences. Steady, heavy beats and the powerful vocal chords of Keely Larreina are the main ingredients here. The bombastic tones match very well with the mighty sound of the band and the song is topped by a nice guitar solo. Shortly, this is a very good and powerful opener on this important second full-length album of NIGHTQUEEN. “Love After Life” is the first single taken off this album, which is accompanied by a video clip. Don’t forget to check it out. Bombastic string arrangements open the song. Once again, Keely’s voice shows some resemblance to JUTTA WEINHOLD and because of the catchy sound, they made a good decision to pick this as a single. Besides Keely, the band consists of Rex Zeco on guitar, Neil Gray on guitar, Steven Steele on bass and Ed Scarlatti on keyboards. The spoken word intro of title track “Revolution” marks the beginning of an epic foot stomper. Apart from the guitar solo, this song could even be welcomed by fans of MANOWAR and MANILLA ROAD. It’s the sound of true warriors who fight for revolution. “Rain Of Blood And Fear” is some kind of sequel to “Revolution”. It’s another epic master piece and a reflection of things that could happen during a war. You can almost hear the fighting warriors in the song. They stand proud, swords held high in the air, caught in an iron fist. The guitar solo sounds like magic. “Beyond The Gates Of Heaven” opens with keyboards and to nobody’s surprise a good power ballad unfolds itself. Maybe the choir vocals are a bit over the top here though. However, the choir vocals in “Scream In The Night” are quite nice and the band displays a nice piece of brute energy in this song. The “Still Of The Night” (WHITESNAKE) instrumental part before the short spoken word interlude fits very well in the song, which is topped by a nice MALMSTEEN-like guitar solo. Any resemblance to the good old RAINBOW classic “Gates Of Babylon” can’t be denied as well, but I’ll forgive them. “Demoncracy” is a very well chosen title for a nice up-tempo song. The distorted vocal parts are the introduction to more mind-boggling guitar solos by Rex and Neil. “The Watcher” sounds very powerful indeed with thundering drums, that seem to come from a machine. The last song is a ten minute story, which is called “Queen Of The Night”. Is it the autobiographical story of Keely? It is at least a musical dream come through for the symphonic power metal freak out there, that digs NIGHTQUEEN. It is at least the masterpiece on this album in many ways, but I think that you have to find that out for yourself. If you like epic power metal with a strong female voice, then this album would be a good choice for you, I guess. Otherwise you’ll have to start your own “rEvolution”. Website: http://www.nightqueen.be. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE OATH-The Oath (Rise Above Records)
THE OATH would have been a real promise for the future. It’s a shame, that their bubble did burst almost right after the release of this album. The two female members were separated from each other and THE OATH simply disbanded way too soon after their birth. What we have here is the true legacy of a very good doom metal band. Nine songs and forty-five minutes of high quality music. Opener “All Must Die” already proves, that Johanna has a very nice voice to listen to, while Linnéa is a good guitar player. The line-up of the band is compiled by Simon Bouteloup on bass and Andrew Prestidge on drums. Henrik Palm helps out on guitar for the solo parts. The two ladies however were the face of the band. And took away all the attention and motion there was around this band. The high quality doom metal continues on a “Silk Road”, which is definitely not the road, that this band followed. Don’t expect the very slow sludgy doom sound though, because the speed level is quite high at times. However, when the break comes, their doom face is full in the spotlight. “Night Child” even has a slightly catching sound. In “Leaving Together”, we hear the dark, melancholic sound of THE OATH. The song slowly builds itself to a nice climax, where the darkness is gone and closes with a sunny shiny guitar solo. “Black Rainbow” (nice title, by the way!) is on next and it sounds very lively for a rainbow without colors. I hear influences of CANDLEMASS and the instrumental part is definitely the cream on top here for me. “Silver And Dust” is bringing the melancholic feelings back. In “Death Delight” they press the pedal to the metal. The guitar work is quite nice and the ladies prove, that they know how to rock loud. “In Dream”, as the title already suggests, is a short dreamy lullaby kind of ballad. The final piece is another real highlight. Where fellow doomsters TROUBLE wrote their “Psalm 9”, THE OATH goes for “Psalm 7”. Who cares about numbers? It’s the intensity, they crank out this doomy psalm, that has some links to BLACK SABBATH’s “N.I.B.”. Obviously, these ladies had their black heart at the right place. Linnéa has teamed up with BEASTMILK and Johanna seems to have started a new band, called LUCIFER. The story of the ladies isn’t over yet, but THE OATH will possibly never return again. It’s sad, but that’s how things go, I’m afraid. I’m glad, we still have this nice debut album to listen to. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OKER-Culpable! (Warner Music Group)
In Spain, they really know how to play good heavy metal. THE LIZZIES are already a nice example of the way Spanish heavy metal will sound in 2014. You can easily add OKER to that list. The ten songs on their album are worthy of forty-five minutes of full power heavy metal. Just lend your ears to “Volvere A Resurgir” for a moment and you’ll be awake. It has got the power, that you are searching for in a heavy metal band. It’s the second full-length album by this band, that pays tribute to the traditional heavy metal sound. Double bass drums, sharp lead guitars, high screaming vocals and an uptempo beat. Oh and don’t forget the well-known ‘fists-in-the -air’ mentality, that goes with it. Title track “Culpable!” continues with choir vocals, that crank out the title of the song. Just shout along to it, it won’t hurt you. The guitar solo sounds flashing and is exactly what an air guitarist like me wants. “Heavy Metal” opens with drum beats, that you might remember from JUDAS PRIEST’s “Living After Midnight”. The song is a duet with a stomping beat. Especially the part where they scream out ‘heavy metal’ is very easy to shout along to. “Nunca Lo Fuiste” is another catchy track with mind-blowing guitar work. “Que Mas Da?” slows things down a bit, but the screaming voice of Xina gives the song that metal feeling it deserves. The band can easily compete with their colleagues from WILD, SILVER FIST and THE LIZZIES and maybe they are even the most old school sounding of them all. The PRIEST-like drum beats of “Prejuicio” must appeal to every devoted metal head out there, I guess. If this won’t do the trick, Xina’s raspy voice will work, I think. If you are looking for the obligatory ballad here, don’t look any further, because it’s on next. It’s called “Ultimo Adios”, a song of farewell. It has got a steady beat though, so the farewell won’t be too hard. The speed change comes as a surprise and even I didn’t expect it. PRIEST-riffs open “El Rugido De Los Convictos”. My Spanish is not that well, but some words aren’t too difficult to translate and you can possibly see the one, who was convicted behind bars on the front cover of this CD. It’s a speedy instrumental tune, which contains the finest axe work of the whole album. Go for it, guys!! “Corre” has got a firm rhythm and riffs that could belong to bands like AC/DC and KROKUS. The drummer impressed me at the end of this song with his fast double bass beats. The album closes with a song called “Vellecas”. The song start out as another ballad, but soon the heavy beats drop in, the speed goes up and a nice power ballad unfolds itself, including some heartfelt, emotional guitar sounds. It’s the closure of a very solid metal album, that needs to be checked out, if you like old school, traditional sounding hard rock and heavy metal. OKER consists of Xina (Carmen Martinez) on vocals, Lolo VK (Lolo Hevorro-Vallekas) on rhythm guitar, Alvero ‘Destroyer’ on lead guitar, Luiso Ligero Lopez on bass and José Andrés Rodriguez on drums. You can still rock in Spain and OKER proves that on this album. Although the album was already released in 2013, we thought it was essential enough to review it here. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE PRETTY RECKLESS-Going To Hell (Razor & Tie)
THE PRETTY RECKLESS are pretty hot and they have played at many festivals the past year. We review the Japanese edition of their latest album, which contains a few bonus tracks. The sixteen songs are worthy of a full hour of ballsy rock, which starts with “Follow Me Down”, in which they show what they’re really worth. The song has a stomping beat, heavy riffs, shouting vocals and a very catchy feeling. That’s exactly what you will get in the following title track, which has some flashing axe work and again the very powerful voice of Taylor Momsen as striking eye-catcher. The mood swings are nice and short, before the riffs take over again. A last powerful explosion and then they’re off to hell. “Heaven Knows” is on next and for sure the band knows to put heaven and hell next to each other pretty easily. This is my first experience with the band and they really know to touch me with their energetic music. The drum beat has been inspired by “Take On The World” or “United” of JUDAS PRIEST, whereas the choir vocals have been influenced by “Another Brick In The Wall” of PINK FLOYD. Are you still with me after explaining these weird styles?? Don’t blame me, when you’re not. “House On A Hill” could be the title of a horror movie, but it’s actually the title of a dreamy song, that could even please PINK fans out there….and I don’t mean PINK FLOYD now. Many youngsters though may catch up with the band and check out the rest of the material, so they might gain a few fans. The rockers among us will rather go for the steady sound of “Sweet Things”, which doesn’t sound as sweet as you may think. Taylor’s voice shows some resemblance to PINK, but the raunchy band sound will make a comparison unnecessary. Somewhere in the middle of the song, the track turns over into a duet, that’s where the sweet part starts. It’s over before you know it though and a guitar solo explodes in your face almost right after that. Bear with me, because there is so much happening here, that you might lose control. “Dear Sister” is a short piece of rest and a tribute song to a sister. I only have a brother, I’m afraid. “Absolution” is on next and the band has created another song with a steady beat here. In “Blame Me”, the sound of PINK wanders around again. They are that catchy, that they sometimes could be picked up by national radio. In Holland, they succeeded with “Heaven Knows”, which actually didn’t really have that much potential in my ears, but I’m glad they picked it up anyway. “Burn” is an acoustic song with a lot of emotion. It’s short but sweet. Then it’s time to rock it out loud. Just think about it with a title like “Why’d You Bring A Shotgun To The Party”. It’s time for a bloody mess, ladies and gentlemen. You can hear the salvos of the shotgun fire. “Fucked Up World” is a middle finger to the world of today. It has a steady beat and heavy riffs. And pretty easily the band switches over to a sweet love song with “Waiting For A Friend”. Be prepared and dim the lights down low. Soon you’ll be rocking your world on the beat of “Kill Me”. Talk about variation here. Next track is “Going To Hell” in a live, acoustic version, which is followed by another acoustic version. This time it’s “Sweet Things” that is getting a make-over. “Only You” sounds a bit alternative, but it mixes well with the rest of the material on this album. THE PRETTY RECKLESS will probably not blow you off your chair, but they know to deliver some remarkable stuff on this CD. Taylor Momsen is the biggest eye-catcher of the band, but she can’t do it without the help of her other band members. THE PRETTY RECKLESS is Taylor Momsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Ben Philips on guitar and backing vocals, Mark Damon on bass and Jamie Perkins on drums. Go to: http://www.goingtohell.me for more information on this band, that will tour with NICKELBACK in 2015. Well done! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KARI RUESLÅTTEN-Time To Tell (Despotz Records)
Kari is one of the three ‘Sirens’, who got on tour with each other recently. LIV KRISTINE and ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN being the other two sirens. The solo album of Kari, who you may also know from THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL, is in my CD player right now. It has eleven tracks and contains forty minutes of atmospheric music. Title track “Time To Tell” starts off and from there on, you will know what to expect. “Time To Tell” is actually a very short introduction to “Hide Underneath Bridges”. This song switches from piano (with a lot of TORI AMOS influences) to acoustic guitars in the second part, which is a duet. I’d like to refer this as singer/songwriter material with not too much links to rock in the broadest sense of the word. If you like the solo material of Anneke van Giersbergen, than you will have a great time with this album. “Hold On” sounds a bit livelier and much more happy. What remains is, that Kari has a very pleasant voice to listen to. Think about TORI AMOS or KATE BUSH and you’ll get the idea. Not your first pick, if you want to listen to a rock or metal sound, but broad-minded people will surely dig this. “Paint The Rainbow Grey” (nice title) is on next with fragile vocal moments by Kari. “Rainy Days Ahead” is a song with a true statement. At least, when I’m looking out of my window right now. Will it never stop? That feeling grows on you, while listening to the song. Then it’s time to introduce the first single from the album to you. It’s titled “Why So Lonely” and Kari called in the help of NIGHTWISH keyboard player Tuomas Holopainen on piano and keyboards. It’s always nice to have a name like that on your album. “Shoreline” could very well be a song of Liv Kristine. It’s the sound of a Norwegian shoreline in the fog. It’s a beautiful sight, but you have to open your mind to see how beautiful this is. “Waltz Across The Sky” is indeed a waltz and it’s turned into a duet song once again. Are you getting in a romantic moon? It’s time to put on your dancing shoes now. “Wintersong” urges you to put the temperature up a little. It’s Kari and her piano. Nothing more and nothing less. “Stay Right Here” is a more up-tempo song. It’s just to get a bit warmer, I guess. However, I really ask myself this question. Will the average metal fan really dig an album like that? The answer will probably be in the very last song. “Only You Know” closes this album. I reckon the average heavy metal fan will not be too happy with stuff like this and that’s an understatement. However, if you like the music of ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN, LIV KRISTINE, TORI AMOS and KATE BUSH, don’t hesitate any longer and grab yourself a copy. Kari’s band consists of Jostein Ansnes on guitar, Rune Asnesen on drums, Trygve Brøske on piano and Eirik Øien on upright bass. Website: http://www.karirueslatten.com. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SAVN-Savn (Intergroove Records)
SAVN is a new star on the horizon, but not as new as you might think. Band members have popped up in other bands before, like THE SINS OF THY BELOVED and MIDNATTSOL. The eleven tracks on this debut album run for fifty minutes and they sound like a nice mix of folk metal, gothic rock and metal. Just have a taste of opener “Musical Silence” and you’ll get an idea of what to expect. Folky sounds beefed up with guitars and the use of a melancholic sounding keyboard, topped with the beautiful voice of nobody else but Carmen Elise Espenaes, sister of LIV KRISTINE, who we will hear later on in a guest role. “Hang On” calls in the help of a flute, which adds a special folky aspect to the music of SAVN. The link with THE SINS OF THY BELOVED comes from Stig Johansen on vocals and guitar and Anders Thue on keyboards. If you think, that they went on a more folky road, then you might be right. But there is also room for rock of course. Just check out songs like “The Demons In Me” and “Longing For Love” right after that. The guitars are in front of the mix and in my mind I can see the long hair waving in the wind already. In “The Demons In Me”, the band is joined by Michelle Darkness of END OF GREEN. I hear some flashing guitars in “I Am Free”, in which LIV KRISTINE appears to join her sister. The two sisters have the same angelic voices and it’s the first time that they get together to perform a self-penned track by Carmen. “Sorrowful” is on next, which contains some bombastic choir vocals. The band is now accompanied by the LINGUA MORTIS ORCHESTRA. We’re about halfway the album now and you can say, that SAVN comes quite close to the sound of THE SINS OF THY BELOVED, but if you like STREAM OF PASSION, TRISTANIA, THEATRE OF TRAGEDY and SIRENIA, you can lend your ear to this album as well. You will be pleasantly surprised. “All I Want” sounds catchy and the whole album has got a very happy vibe. Things are getting a bit darker with the brutal grunts in “Now Or Never”, but they’re only there in the beginning. “Lengselens Hand” is a very romantic song and a nice sensitive touch gets the upper hand. A very soft ending of an album, where the folky sound is usually upfront in the mix, but where the guitars are there when they’re needed. And they are needed in the last two bonus tracks, which are growling grunting versions of “Hang On” and “The Demons In Me”. With these two additions, they make this debut release a bit more interesting for the loud headbangers out there, I guess. At their live shows, the band will be helped out by Arild Christensen on guitar and Jan Cato Traa on drums, who we also know from THE SINS OF THY BELOVED. Although a reunion most likely seems to be impossible, this definitely comes very close to it. Besides the musicians mentioned in this review, I’d like to add the names of the fiddle players, Dag Bjørkedal and Lillian Hodne, to get the story complete. Website: http://www.savn-official.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SCARVED-Dynamite (Sleaszy Rider Records)
After the three track EP, here’s finally the full-length release of the Belgian hard rock band SCARVED. The CD contains eleven tracks and about fifty-five minutes of high octane fueled rock and metal with a touch of melody here and there. The heat is on in opener “Masquerade”. The interesting foot stomper contains the line “I’m A Survivor”, where singer Caro hits the nail right on the head. The guitar solo destroys my mind and without noticing, I turn up the volume to a much higher level. This is really great stuff! The groovy beat and riffs will easily enter the mind of the younger fans, too, I guess. “Devil In Disguise” was already on the EP. The groovy rhythm reminds me of bands such as THE FREE and LED ZEPPELIN or if you’ve grown up in this millennium, a band like BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION gives you an idea, where this groovy train is heading to. Bang your head to the rhythm of the drums. You will feel the adrenaline running through your veins in every beat. “Dynamite” is on next and the title says it all. It’s like a stick of TNT exploding right in your face. It creates a terrible mess in your room, but it has so much power, you just can’t do without it. The album title has been chosen very well, I think. The sound of SCARVED is explosive and has the power of “Dynamite”. The song starts with a mind-blowing IRON MAIDEN bass line and contains some thunderous drum rolls. “Valley Of Gloom” however sounds a bit freaky. It starts off very mysterious with the noise of a talking box, telling you that this is something completely different. The bashing is gone for a while and this one is strictly for connoisseurs only. Obviously, the band doesn’t care for fast rockers and loud guitar riffs alone. They let the musicians do the talking and it proves that the capability of SCARVED is huge and quite impressive. “Vampire’s Tale” is an ‘easy on the ears’ rocker with flashing guitar riffs after the ‘Hit It’ signal, that Caro gives. The drive is just perfect on long distance highways. Once again, here’s more food for connoisseurs with the lengthy “Eastern Treasures”. It starts off with Eastern sounds and melodies and has got a nice grinding groove. The instrumental mid piece is moody and gives you the idea, that you seem to be in one of these particular Eastern countries. The groove could be described as the one you know of a song like “Kashmir”, the ultimate LED ZEPPELIN tune with Eastern influences. “Eternal Rush” is on next, which is a heavy rocker with a killer guitar solo to make it complete. In the middle, there are some progressive twists in this adventurous musical piece, which makes it even more exciting for the listener. “Silence” is a typical rock ballad on a long hot summer night, when the sun is down and it’s time for another drink. The guitar solo will make your mouth water. “Payback Time” is another fast rocker and these scarved Belgians surely rock out loud with a nice guitar solo being the highlight here. “Army Of Wheels” has got an IRON MAIDEN drive in the beginning, because of the bass line, before they take away in the fourth gear. The instrumental fight between guitarist Luc and bass player Wim ends in a draw. It sounds very exciting though and that groovy feeling makes the overwhelming sound really complete. I did have an excellent time with this full-length album, especially since this was just a promo copy. The last song is called “Brainfog” and was also on the EP. It sounds like a nice PAT BENATAR-like rocker. And just for the record: there’s nothing wrong with PAT BENATAR, I can tell you that much! The guitars reminded me of BOSTON here and there and they are very high rated in my book, so they can take this as a big compliment. In summary, SCARVED consists of musicians, that earned respect in bands like ORACLE and TAILS BLUE. This band is a new chapter for them and if it would be up to me, a very successful chapter, because the potential is definitely there. Hard rock without any compromises and a whole lot of balls is their thing and I love it! SCARVED is Caroline Verboven on vocals, Luc van Dessel on guitar, Wim Wouters on bass and Geert Mariën on drums. Website: http://www.scarved.be. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SEVENTH SIN -When Reality Ends (independent)
Let’s introduce you to new Dutch talents SEVENTH SIN, who present their brand new album “When Reality Ends”. SEVENTH SIN consists of Wiro Geerlings on drums, Bart Joosten on bass, Vincent Reuling on synthesizer, Ruben Smeets on guitar, Roy Geelen on guitar and grunts and Monique Joosten on vocals. Their album contains eleven tracks and a bit over fifty minutes of female-fronted metal. I was already impressed, when the band released the EP “Darkest Of All Dreams” in 2007. “Hysteria” opens the new album with twinkling keyboard sounds and a heavy pounding beat. Monique’s vocals are crystal clear and match very well with the music of the band. Her voice meets the likes of Sharon den Adel, Myrthe van Beest and Simone Simons. The music contains a touch of power metal, a touch of gothic metal and some symphonic parts as well. In “Alone Again” Roy adds some mean grunts to the track, which sound pretty evil in my perception. Monique is not affected by the angry voice of Roy and she stays her calm self, whispering that she is alone again, accompanied by a nice string arrangement. At the end of the track they crank up the speed and Roy starts to scream louder and louder. I like that kind of mean aggressiveness. After this duet, the band flies away on the “Wings Of Despair”, a nice bombastic track. “The Well” opens with a romantic feel with beautiful angel like vocals of Monique and an orchestral input beefs up the sound a bit. Together with the band they work this song to a nice closing. “Bitter Taste Of Victory” opens with war sounds. Too many men were killed during wars in this world, that will give you a bitter taste. The war parts return after the great instrumental part in the middle of the song, where Vincent takes the leads. When the war is over, we hear “The Choice”. The guitars riff play loudly in the beginning of the track. In your imagination, you can see some hair waving in the air during the first wild introductions. It’s only for a short moment, because the band takes back speed every now and then during this track. The stunning riffs, that accompany the deep dark grunts of Roy show us the heaviness of SEVENTH SIN in optima forma. Old School WITHIN TEMPTATION and NIGHTWISH fans are going to love this stuff for sure. “Silent Tears” starts off as a ballad, but it becomes an innovative song, in which the musicians show us their ability to improvise and provide you with some instrumental action. Therefore this track becomes one of the highlights on this album for me. An album, that will appeal to many rockers out there. In the meantime, we’ve arrived at “Like A Blazing Flame”, in which they take us by storm with a flashing version of this song. Obviously, we’re dealing with a new loot on the Dutch gothic metal tree here and there’s no hiding anymore. “My Honor” has a leading role for Roy’s brutal vocals. At the end it’s almost as if Sharon den Adel sings the final chords herself. The resemblance is that striking. Then it’s time to dim the lights down low for a nice piano ballad or lullaby, called “Just An Ordinary Day”. This is very nice indeed. “The Screams” is the final anthem on this silver disc. It’s nice to hear that the band stops promptly, when Monique is singing the line ‘……makes them stop’. A short silence follows, very well done! It’s just an example of the adventurous input, that the band likes to spread out. The album is a nice mix of bombastic and heavy outbursts. The spoken word part in this last song makes it very outstanding for me. The last furious instrumental parts lead this one to an end and you can only reach for the ‘repeat’ button to experience this magic ride one more time. Website: http://www.seventhsin.nl [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SONIC SYNDICATE-Sonic Syndicate (Nuclear Blast/Warner Music)
The new SONIC SYNDICATE album is simply called “Sonic Syndicate”. I think, it will be warmly welcomed by many metal fans out there. Long term metal heads like me will have a good listen first. It’s the sound of the new millennium, you know and that’s rather new for old farts like me. The pounding riffs in opener “Day Of The Dead” make me smile, which is in general a good sign. The eleven tracks are worthy of forty-five minutes of blasting metal with raw riffs, pounding beats and aggressive vocals. And there’s always a catchy refrain included to let the fans sing along to the songs, that will cling to your mind pretty easily. The next track is called “Black Hole Halo”. It has more raw screaming vocals and a pounding beat. Part of that beat is provided by the metal maiden in the band, who is called Karin Axelsson and plays the bass guitar in SONIC SYNDICATE. Fast polka beats dominate “Long Road Home”, which is a good practice for your neck muscles. “My Revenge” is a dark and spooky song. At least the first few seconds are. In general, it’s an aggressive nose puncher, which becomes easy on the ears during the chorus. “Before You Finally Dream” is a fast metal core track in which the band calls in the help of Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid of SOILWORK. This will please even more fans, I guess. It’s the most metallic track the band has ever recorded and if you put these songs next to those on their debut album from 2005, you can definitely see a giant step forward for these Swedish rockers. “Catching Fire” takes back some speed but the aggression remains. In “Unbreakable” the emotions are getting the upper hand. It’s not a real ballad type of song, but the atmosphere is very different and it might even become a hit single, because it’s very suitable to play on national radio. This will bring you back to the early days of the band. When “It Takes Me” blasts out of your speakers at full speed, it’s time to wake up. While “See What I See” is, despite of the heavy beats, also very suitable to make it in the charts. It has got that heavy NICKELBACK feeling, that makes it easy on the ears for the average rocker out there. “So Addicted” continues and sounds again very catchy. Don’t get me wrong, but after ten songs, they all sound the same. The improvement is certainly there, but I can’t get addicted to this band. The album closes with “The Flame That Changed The World”, a fast pounder with loud screaming vocals. This bashing finale will undoubtedly find its way to the many fans out there. No doubt about it, that it will be very successful. Like I mentioned earlier, there is definitely a musical improvement, but it’s a bit too early yet to light the victory torch. It now has a little burning flame at the office of Metal Maidens. SONIC SYNICATE consists of Karin Axelsson on bass, John Bengtsson on drums, Robin Sjunesson on guitar and Nathan J. Biggs on vocals. Go to http://www.sonicsyndicate.net for more information about these Swedish rockers. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

STREAM OF PASSION-A War Of Our Own (PIAS/Rough Trade)
Only the top of gothic rock and metal bands originate from Holland and I believe, that STREAM OF PASSION are truly one of the pioneers in this business. Their new album is called “A War Of Our Own” and it contains thirteen brand new tracks and a full hour of passionate gothic and symphonic metal. “Monster” opens the album, which doesn’t sound spooky or horror-like at all. It’s just a title. The keyboards, the energetic riffs and bombastic orchestration take care of the perfect sound of the vocal parts of sparkling central figure and singer Marcela Bovio. Marcela also sparkles in title track “ A War Of Our Own”, which is exactly what you would expect from this new STREAM OF PASSION album. In “The Curse”, the guitars take over and put a bit more power in their sound. While “Autophobia” is bringing back the emotional side pf STREAM OF PASSION and you can leave that up to Marcela. Despite the pounding beat, she knows to put the emotional touches in a song like this. It is totally different from the up-tempo beginning of “Burning Star” with grimy sounding guitar riffs. I like the middle part with the dark heavy riffs very much. “For You”, as the title might suggest, is a little piece of rest here. In “Exile”, Marcela sings out in her native language Spanish, which is probably the best way to express yourself. Strings and piano assist her to the end of this warm song. “Delirio” continues in this foreign language. It might be the strength of this band. It makes their field a little bit more international than it already is. The Spanish language is a good way to express your deepest feelings. And the two songs here contain a lot of that emotion. “Earthquake” sounds a little rawer and the guitars return up-front. From the various styles that the band creates, the general moniker would be passionate gothic rock. The earthquake caused by this song is a only small one and luckily, no one was harmed. “Secrets” has a nice drive. It sounds dark and mysterious and it easily grows out to one of the highlights and surprises on this album. Just listen to the lengthy instrumental part at the end, which sounds quite exciting to me. It’s the strength of STREAM OF PASSION. You’ll have to focus on different angles to get the whole picture. The last heavy riffs make the highlight complete. “Don’t Let Go” contains a lot of emotional vocal parts by Marcela, but also the guitar work is fabulous on this one! “Out Of The Darkness” is one of the heaviest tracks on the album. The whole band sounds passionate and they feel destined to bring out their very best one more time. The digi book version contains one bonus track, which is called “The Distance Between Us”. A nice extra for the dedicated fans of this band. STREAM OF PASSION stays high on top of the gothic rock and metal scene. Next to Marcela Bovio, the band consists of John van Stratum on bass, Eric Hazebroek on guitar, Stephan Schultz on guitar, Jeffrey Revet on keyboards and Martijn Peters on drums. The band shows once again that a little country like Holland can be big at things, too. Website: http://www.streamofpassion.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA TURUNEN-Left In The Dark (earMUSIC)
Fancy something special? Fans of TARJA TURUNEN should check out “Left In The Dark”, that’s all I can say. It’s full of demo material, live tracks and rough versions of this great vocalist. The ten tracks on this album sound incredible. Just have a listen to the great opener “Victim Of Ritual”. It opens with the rhythm of a march and it contains raw guitar work and marvelous vocals of the lady herself and finally, it’s topped by some bombastic orchestral parts. The perfect set up for a great sounding opener. “500 Letters” is recorded here in a live version, taken from a session on Vorterix radio. While “Lucid Dreamer” is added here as a demo. Maybe it’s not much different than the original version, but it’s so nice to have a peak in the different recording stages of this great voice goddess. The mysterious instrumental mid piece with raw roaring guitars are great too. They lift the song up to far above average. She leaves all the competition far behind. “Never Enough” is another demo version, as well as “Mystique Voyage”. What you hear is an instrumental version, in which TARJA added some vocal parts, but no real lyrics. It’s the basis of a song in progress. “Into The Sun” is added here as studio version. Great orchestration and the pure sound of what TARJA is meant to sound like. Big orchestral parts, bombastic string arrangements and then that beautiful voice on top of it all. Her solo albums go much further than the music she made with NIGHTWISH. NIGHTWISH is music for the masses, in my opinion. This is for the connoisseurs among us. “Deliverance” is included here in an instrumental version. The purest form or the naked version of something, that needs to be completed by a human voice. While “Neverlight” in the orchestral version sounds very different. Another track from the live recording session in the Vorterix studio is on next. This time we can enjoy “Until Silence”. The fifty-five minutes peak in the kitchen of the TARJA TURUNEN recording world closes with a solo version of the lengthy “Medusa”, which is definitely another highlight for me. Please don’t see this as a bunch of leftovers, because it isn’t. Just have a listen to it as if it’s her new album and you’ll be touched by its beauty even more, I guess. It’s a nice bonus for the true TARJA fan out there. Website: http://www.tarjaturunen.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA TURUNEN & MIKE TERRANA-Beauty & The Beat (earMusic)
You like heavy metal. You like classical music. You like the combination of both. Don’t look any further and let MIKE TERRANA and TARJA TURUNEN do the talking here. This is the high school class of classical music with some raw edges of rock added to it. Mike starts the album with a firm beat on “Concert For Violin & Oboe”, which was originally written by Bach. Obviously, you must be very open-minded to listen to something like that. Tarja is on next with more Bach in “Blute Nur”. The formation is entirely based upon classical music. Just listen to Tarja’s version of “Zueignung Opus 10 No. 1” from Strauss. It’s a classical piece with Tarja’s vocals as the cherry on the cake. Mike takes over after this with a rebellious version of Rossini’s “Barber Of Seville”. Of course his drum sound is in front of the mix. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know, both albums were recorded live. The package contains twenty-one tracks and runs for almost hundred minutes. I think, it’s a very nice idea and the performance was very well done, too. “New World Symphony” of Dvorák sounds less pounding, but I think that it will please the more classical music fans. You have to search for a nice balance here. Tarja’s vocal performance in Dvorák’s “Song To The Moon” is really outstanding, whether you like classical music or not. The “Vilja Lied” of Franz Lehar is on next. Tarja shows, what she is capable of and fans that love operatic voices will be really flabbergasted. Puccini is next with a well-known song, that is being used in commercials on the Dutch television. It is called “O Mio Babbino Caro”. After that, it’s time for something completely different with a more lighter track, called “Can-Can”. Of course this is also a classical track in its original form. Now you can hear it in every club in Paris, but the original piece was created by Offenbach. Mike adds some powerful drums to it. From here on, things are getting a bit more recognizable and it’s a real pleasure to hear all these classical themes passing by. “I Feel Pretty” is taken from the musical “Annie” and written by Leonard Bernstein. It all fits in just perfectly. Rossini is on next with the “William Tell Overture” and Mike will take care of this of course. Then we go back to Strauss with “Mein Herr Marquis”, in which Tarja shines very bright. My personal fave comes next with Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”. What a beautiful piece of music that is!! It closes this first CD, but there is more. This gives me the opportunity to tell you, that this concert was recorded at the Kongresové Centrum in Zlin, Czech Republic on April 4, 5 & 6, 2013. On the second CD, Tarja kicks off in “You Take My Breath Away” of QUEEN. There is a thin line between classic rock and classical music and both music styles blend very well together. This QUEEN cover for example sounds very classical and has not much to do with rock music whatsoever. “The Reign” continues, which is a song performed by Tarja and Mike and written by Tarja. A bombastic masterpiece, followed by another Tarja track, called “Witch-Hunt”. This is a real masterpiece, in which Tarja & Mike and the orchestra really bring out the best they’ve got. After that, it’s time to rock and roll with a LED ZEPPELIN medley. The Zep is is perfect for a classical interpretation and we’re treated to a few snippets of LED ZEPPELIN classics put together in a medley. Then the ending comes near and Tarja takes back to her NIGHTWISH days with a performance of “Swanheart”. The FRANK SINATRA cover “Fly Me To The Moon” is quite a surprise, but hey, why not? It’s a crazy evening anyway. The last two songs of the evening are for the Tarja songs “Into The Sun” and “I Walk Alone”. A nice closure for all the Tarja fans of a nice and exciting evening packed with classical music with a slight touch of rock and vice versa. This is the double CD, but you can also buy the double DVD, where you’ll be able to watch the whole live concert as well. Where Tarja is the beauty and Mike delivers the beat, you simply can’t go wrong. Enjoy, and don’t forget to play it loud! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TERMINATRYX-Shadow (Flamedrop Productions)
I never heard of TERMINATRYX, before this second studio album “Shadow” reached our office. The band hails from South Africa and provides real raw industrial beats combined with some heavy riffs. The eleven tracks on this album play for about forty-five minutes and the first track is an instrumental, called “Metropolis”. Here you already get a good idea of what to expect next. In “Holy”, the beat gets firmer and you hear the nice vocals of Sonja. I like her voice very much. She sounds a bit mysterious, which fits really well with the music. “Scars” is on next. The industrial sound isn’t too extreme or too cold, while the use of keyboards make the sound a bit warmer and easier on the ears. It’s the work of Paul, who also plays guitar and bass. The band uses sound effects as well, like the sound of thunder in this song and the cry of a siren at the end of the opener. Yes people, this is not your regular metal band. They sound a bit more new fashioned, which is in many cases deadly for my ears. Think of RAMMSTEIN, ATROCITY or CREMATORY, when looking for influences and you’ll get the idea. “Masjien” is the South African pronunciation of ‘Machine”, as you may have guessed already. This sounds like ATROCITY to me. Dry beats, keyboards and the cold voice of Sonja turn tis track into an industrial foot stomper. While in title track “Shadow”, the warmth returns and a touch of gothic is added here. Nice riffs and a keyboard melody, that could come from ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK, which is quite a combination, if you’d ask my opinion. The music may appeal to fans from different sources. Rockers, gothic vampires and even people, who dig the industrial, electronic or dance scene can take a bite, when they’re open-minded. “Gone” is loud and contains a lot of wild guitars. Samples of the various songs could very well be used for horror movies and the band has a link with the horror theme, too. They are a regular player at the Horrorfest. “Purifire” is a fast rocker with an aggressive beat and biting vocals. It will get the crowd really wild, I think. “Nothing” has got that mysterious sound of Sonja again. It could easily scare people off. “Outcast” is an instrumental, in which the band gets their piece of the cake. Paul has been introduced already, Ronnie plays the drums and Patrick plays guitar. “Medusa” is another nice pounder. At the second half of the CD, the average sound of the band becomes heavier in my opinion. Besides the last track, which is a re-recording of title track “Shadow”, only this time in the ‘Industreizone’ remix. This is not for the faint hearted though and your heart will pump in your throat after hearing this. If you like the sound of the bands mentioned in this review, then I think you’ll definitely have a good time with “Shadow”. H.R. Giger would have loved the sound of TERMINATRYX, that’s for sure. Don’t be afraid and just try this South African industrial rock machine. http://www.terminatryx.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TORMENTRESS-Operation Torment (Inferno Records)
TORMENTRESS hails from Singapore and they are an all-female thrash band, that cranks it up on their debut album “Operation Torment”. The album contains twelve tracks and runs for about thirty-five minutes. TORMENTRESS consists of Neez on vocals, Mas on guitar, Gwen on guitar, Aniz on bass and Tuty on drums. After the short instrumental “Intro”, we hear “Denied”, which is a fast mix of KREATOR, SLAYER, DESTRUCTION and HOLY MOSES. If you like the German thrash metal scene, then you will dig the sharp sound of these five ladies, which is topped with a brutal growl. “Mutilator” proves, that we’re not dealing with soft pussies here. These ladies came to thrash and once you get into their claws, you simply can’t escape. The polka beat is fast and the guitar solo is the cherry on the cake here. The song ends with a very fast drum beat, which will make your head spin. No time to waste and another flashing thrasher unfolds itself in “Thrash & Torment”. It’s the old school sound from the mid-eighties thrash scene, on which they have founded their music. And while a new thrash metal band like MORTILLERY gets their influences more from the Bay Area scene, TORMENTRESS has been influenced by the more brutal approach of the lively German thrash metal scene of that area. They sounds rawer, faster and definitely much more brutal. “The Great Oppression” has got a bit more of that Bay Area sound and contains some fine breaks. However, the speed goes up in “Seven Feet Under”, which is one feet deeper than the American thrashers of SIX FEET UNDER. Talk about extremity here! In “Infinite Oneness”, TORMETRESS sound more like HOLY MOSES, so heavy and extreme and with an underground feeling. “Dead At 27” could be dealing with the many rock musicians, who die at the age of twenty-seven. There are a lot of them, but they didn’t all die a violent and vicious dead, so I guess that this is more a coincidence. “No Remorse” is on next and that’s a real fast head banger and contains another very fine guitar solo. “Materialistic War” is a loud basher, but I’d rather go for the wild “Why” as being one of the highlights of the album. What a fast thrasher with some nice riffs! The final track “Tormentor” is yet another highlight on this fine release. Operation Torment has succeeded and I think that old school thrash fans of the German scene will have something to get their hands on. You can still rock in Singapore, that’s for sure. Website: http://www.facebook.com/tormentress666. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRIPTYKON-Melana Chasmata (Century Media Records)
If you’re afraid of the madness of TRIPTYKON, then don’t even think to listen to this, because Tom Warrior sounds more brutal than ever. On “Melana Chasmata”, we hear nine tracks (the Japanese edition contains “Into Despair” as bonus track) with a running time of almost seventy brutal minutes. The first track is an almost eight minutes lasting ear attack, called “Tree Of Suffocating Souls”. It sums up what we are about to witness here. Brutal fast drum beats, downtuned riffs, violent loud screams, a brutal grunt here and there and a mix of doom, thrash and black metal, that makes your worst enemy fear, because it’s soaked in dark mysterious and hellish nothingness. It’s the sound of the apocalypse, a story with a bad ending. When you’ve survived this first track, then you’ll arrive at the “Boleskine House”, where tribal drums await you, followed by wild screaming vocals and a subtle addition of female vocals. Listen very carefully, it’s there. The ultimate soundtrack of a bloody horror movie is being unleashed, including the dark brown voice of Tom, topping the slow doomy syrup. “Altar Of Deceit” is a piece of darkness, in which the instrumental part is long and Tom screams it out loud. Many bodies must have been sacrificed there, creating a bloody mess. “Breathing” starts with a mysterious doomy intro. When the speed goes up, the black metal screams of Fisher drill into your skull, leaving behind a scar that will never go away. Brutality has taken possession of you after hearing this. The second part sounds much lighter and could even appeal to ANTHRAX fans in a way. That’s what they call variation and playing many different styles. Don’t worry, they will be back with a darker sound in “Aurorae”, but first we have to absorb an eardrum splitting guitar attack at the end of “Breathing”. “Demon Pact” sounds very doomy and I must admit, that I love to feel the bass sound even more than hearing it. DEMON PACT is not only the name of a NWOBHM band, the sound that Tom liked so much in his youth. Here, it’s a sometimes industrial laden horror attack, which makes you suffer and wish for more. “In The Sleep Of Death” contains more extremity than you can possibly bear. It deals about a lady called Emily, a sad story that I won’t reveal. Judging by the title, it doesn’t really have an happy end. Is there any sunshine on this album? What do you think, when you call one of your songs “Black Snow”. Come on, people. TRIPTYKON doesn’t like to share happiness with people. And with each beat of the drums, the speed goes down and it gets dirtier and heavier than before. At the end of the longest track on this album, the constant repeating lyrics will give you the idea that life will never be the same after this. It will get you in a depressive mood. The female vocals on the last song “Waiting” are moody and this downtuned song also marks the perfect end of this new TRIPTYKON album. Fans of CELTIC FROST and HELLHAMMER can step in without a doubt. Other black hearted metal heads don’t have to hesitate as well. If your world only consists of bands like NIGHTWISH, STREAM OF PASSION and THE GATHERING, then I’d suggest to have a good listen first before buying. TRIPTYKON consists of Tom Gabriel on vocals and guitar, V Santura on guitars and vocals, Norman Lonnard on drums and Vanje Stajh on bulldozer bass. Website: http://www.triptykon.net. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRITTON-Face Of Madness (independent)
TRITTON hails from Mexico and consists of Lorena Cabrera on vocals, Yohann Torres on drums, Enrique Torres on guitar, José Gómez on guitar and vocals and Victor Varas on bass. The nine tracks on this debut album will rock your world for almost forty minutes. It starts off with “Martyr”, in Holland the name of one of the most successful heavy metal bands. What a nice coincidence. What we hear is a nice mix of heavy metal, power metal, speed metal and a touch of thrash metal. While “Wanton War” will make your head go up and down from excitement. Same goes for “Face Of Madness”, which continues in the same speed. The vocals of Lorena are a bit monotonous, but she takes revenge in “Insurrection”, which sounds very different. I’m glad, that there’s some variation involved. The guitar solo is quite nice on this one, I have to admit. One of the highlights on the album is the instrumental tune, that comes next. It’s called “Flash Of The Beast” and it’s definitely a tribute to the sound of IRON MAIDEN. “Asphyxia” is next and I must admit that this track also got me off my chair. The fast drum beats and flashing guitars makes the excitement big and TRITTON is definitely a fan of the old school heavy metal. “33 Degrees North” also captures the sound of the first two MAIDEN albums. Especially the final touches with high screams are really breathtaking. The album closes with a song, called “Mártir”, which is the first track but now in the Spanish language. Here and there I hear a small grunt, but it’s not annoying. It’s just to make their music a bit more aggressive and they can have it, while traditional heavy metal is the main sound of TRITTON. The addition of the last track, that lasts about one and a half minute, was not really essential. They could have left it out for me, because Lorena sings something that is really unidentified. The first steps are always the most difficult, but I’ve had a good time listening to this Mexican metal attack. Website: http://www.facebook.com/TrittonMetalBand. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE UNHOLY-The Unholy (Underground Power Records)
There are five songs on this vinyl release of the debut album of THE UNHOLY from Portugal. As a matter of fact, this is the first demo of the band, compiled with two extra live tracks. THE UNHOLY consists of Sara Steel on vocals, Nuno Nightmare on guitar, Alex Animal on drums and Joe Dalton on bass. The A-side consists of the three demo tracks, that run for almost twelve minutes. “Open The Gates” starts it all up and from the first notes on, you know that traditional US metal is the main influence of THE UNHOLY. I hear QUEENSRYCHE mixed with SAVATAGE, LEATHERWOLF and VICIOUS RUMORS and the high screaming vocals of Sara match very well with that sound. The guitar sounds great and I can tell you that this is the real deal, I’d like to hear. A second guitar solo announces itself. What a great way to start. But we’re just getting this thing started. “She Comes From The Grave” opens with some vicious guitar work and high screams make you want more. “Queen Of Thunder” (what a great title!!) is another heavy metal ear attack, that is impossible to deny. This must be heard, if you like it loud and uncompromising. One final scream at the end of this song and we turn to side B for two cover songs, recorded live at the rehearsals. The first one is from a band called SCRATCH and it’s called “Dying To Live”. It breathes the old atmosphere. The song is taken from the band’s only demo “Beyond The Fear”. If you’re not yet convinced by the strength of this Portuguese metal band, then the last one will absolutely make you aware that we’re dealing with a true metal warrior band. It’s their version of “Rage Of Angels” of LIEGE LORD. A deep bow from your truly. When you choose this song to cover for your debut album / EP, then you know how the game must be played. I’m really looking forward to seeing the band play live at Keep It True in 2015. It will be a blasphemous and unholy gig with me in the front rows. Both horns up for this ultra cool true metal band. Website: http://www.facebook.com/TheUnholy. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

WITCH CHARMER-The Great Depression (Argonauta Records)
The very first note of this full-length debut album already caught my attention. That’s a good sign on most occasions. The title of this album “The Great Depression” matches well with the slow sludgy doom sound, that enters my ear drums. The vocals of Kate McKeown are really perfect and matches very well with the bulldozer sound in opener “Suffer”. She gets some help by a male vocalist, which makes it even more joyful. “The Cull” continues in the same direction. A low tuned bass sound, a slow drum beat and a voice, that hits me right in my soul. Again the vocal parts are shared with male vocals, but it’s the female vocals of Kate, that make my skin crawl. Think of bands like CANDLEMASS, PENTAGRAM, SAINT VITUS, CATHEDRAL and WITCHFINDER GENERAL to describe the sound of this English band from Sunderland area. The five songs are worthy of a bit over forty minutes of some fine filthy doom. In “A Watching Of Wolves”, the male vocals get a bit more attention, but the doom sound remains. The instrumental parts are good and not annoying long. They focus on the vocals and riffs mainly. Just listen to the marvelous “…To Death (I’ll Drink), to get the picture. It’s the intensity this has been done, which makes it easy to enjoy. The finale is a song called “Stare Into The Sun”. It has a slightly psychedelic touch, but it will still reach your inner soul quite easily. Watch out, because at the end is a short hidden track. It’s an acoustic song with a spoken word part woven into it. Don’t get depressed too much, but enjoy the great sound of these British doom masters. WITCH CHARMER consists of Kate McKeown on vocals, Dave McQuillan on drums, Len Lennox on guitar, Adam Clarke on guitar and Richard Maher on bass. Website: http://www.facebook.com/witchcharmerband. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITCH MOUNTAIN-Mobile Of Angels (Profound Lore Records)
While I’ve just been recovered from the dirty slam in my face by WITCH CHARMER, I’m knocked out by another doom metal band, called WITCH MOUNTAIN. They’re also fronted by a female singer, who knows to handle this dark, sludgy stuff very well. Five songs are on this album, that runs for almost forty minutes. WITCH MOUNTAIN hails from Portland, Oregon, USA. They kick off with “Psycho Animundi”. As a reference, we can opt for the same bands as WITCH CHARMER, but let me add names such as TROUBLE, COUNT RAVEN and BLACK SABBATH to this, to get the whole story right. The fuzzy guitar sound asks for more attention here and of course this first song is topped by a crazy solo. At the end, the band creates a more melancholic atmosphere by changing the singing style of Uta. “Can’t Settle” is another lengthy track, in which Uta sounds a bit more brutal than in general. The doomy spirit remains and in “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour Your Hymn)” the speed goes down and the atmosphere gets darker and blacker each second. The essence has been lit and we flow into a ten minute trance, where the sound of the seventies gets a dark and doomy treatment. Title track “Mobile Of Angels” takes us back to the early 70’s, the days of hippies and drugs. The band sounds like they are in a rather weird trip on acid here. The album closes with “The Shape Truth Takes”. What once started as doom metal gets a seventies sauce, slowly dripped over it. This album sounds more diverse than WITCH CHARM, but this American band is also well-worth checking out. It will be good food for your black soul. The band line-up has slightly changed after the release of this album, because vocalist Uta Plotkin recently left to return to school. The remaining members are Nathan Carson on drums, Charles Thomas on bass and Rob Wrong on guitar and vocals. I hope, that they will soon find a suitable singer for the band, preferably a women, so we can keep on supporting WITCH MOUNTAIN. Check them out at http://www.facebook.com/witchmountain. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WITHIN TEMPTATION-Hydra (BMG)
I always look forward to hearing a new WITHIN TEMPTATION album. After all, they are one of the most successful Dutch bands and even abroad, they’re still gaining a lot of popularity . “Hydra” is another step into the evolution of this band, that paved the way for many other successful Dutch bands. Their symphonic metal sound changed a lot over the years and got much more accessible. This evolution continues on “Hydra”, that contains ten brand new tracks and about fifty minutes of music…. and an enhanced CD, about which we will talk a little bit later on. Let’s first roll through the first disc, starting with “Let Us Burn”. A very catchy tune, that will really get the live audience going. Steady drum beats, heavy guitar riffs and a catchy refrain are the main ingredients here, topped with the recognizable voice of Sharon den Adel. The album also contains some guest appearances and in the second track “Dangerous”, we hear one of them. Howard Jones of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and BLOOD HAS BEEN SHED screams his lungs out here, turning it into a very powerful duet because of his input. While in “And We Run”, there is even time to experiment a little, which I really disliked. I can see the urge to develop and it’s a good marketing strategy maybe, but to add rapper XZBIT to this song is a bit too much for me. Don’t get me wrong. The fans will dig this maybe, but I personally don’t. ANTHRAX plus PUBLIC ENEMY was a ‘thanks, but not for me’ already and the same goes for AEROSMITH and RUN DMC. I’m afraid, that I’m not too keen about the combination of WITHIN TEMPTATION and XZBIT. Revenge is sweet in “Paradise (What About Us)”, where TARJA TURUNEN is giving a helping hand to the band. This is another catchy track, that could very well end up in the charts. Two rock singers teaming up together is always nice, each individual with their own remarkable and recognizable style. Then we make a journey to the “Edge Of The World”, which sounds heavy and mysterious and contains some nice instrumental parts that lift it up to a higher level. In “Silver Moonlight”, it’s time to move your head up and down. After a nice intro, the band delivers some heavy fireworks, that will make your body move to the sound. It’s brutal and even contains some angry male vocal parts, that are being pushed away in the back a little, but hey, they are there. “Covered By Roses” is a typical WITHIN TEMPTATION foot stomper, that will please the average fan a lot. No funny side steps, just pure rock with a good guitar solo giving it the highlight status, as far as I’m concerned, without any doubt. “Dog Days” is in the same style and obviously, this new WITHIN TEMPTATION CD is a safe buy for the long term fans of the band. “Tell Me Why” is a firm track, which leads towards the end of this CD. This CD shows a lot of variation. The average sound remains, while the side steps are a part of the evolution of the band. The very last song is another duet song that could easily reach the charts. It’s entitled “Whole World Is Watching” and the guest vocalist is called Dave Pirner. Many people will still know him from SOUL ASYLUM. The official album closes here, which is a ‘must have’ for every rock fan out there. The digi book version contains a lot of great black and white pics. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Like I mentioned before, it also contains a bonus disc with eight songs and a bit over thirty-five minutes of bonus stuff. It starts with “Radioactive” a cover of the IMAGINE DRAGONS. “Summertime Sadness” is also a cover, originally recorded by LANA DEL REY, which fits the band perfectly. “Let Her Go” sounds quite familiar from the radio in Holland. Never knew that this was from PASSENGER, but the WITHIN TEMPTATION makeover sounds really cool. The piano and bombastic orchestration fits the song quite well. The last cover is called “Dirty Dancer” from ENRIQUE IGLESIAS, a joyful track with a steady beat. The guitar solo is very well done and it certainly lifts the song up in my oppinion. Then we go to the factory, straight into the WITHIN TEMPTATION kitchen. The song “And We Run” is being featured on this album in many different stages of recording. You can hear the song grow and the snippets give you a little inside information. For the real WITHIN TEMPTATION fan, this is a very nice peak in the various recording sessions. The same thing has been done with the songs “Silver Moonlight”, “Covered By Roses” and “Tell Me Why”. Utterly, “Hydra” is a real must, no matter which form you order. It proves, that WITHIN TEMPTATION is still at the very height of their success. WITHIN TEMPTATION consists of Sharon den Adel on vocals, Ruud Jolie on guitar, Jeroen van Veen on bass, Martijn Spierenburg on keys, Stefan Helleblad on guitar and Mike Coolen on drums. Website: http://www.within-temptation.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

XANDRIA-Sacrificium (Napalm Records)
Having seen XANDRIA in Leeuwarden didn’t change my opinion about this band. They are definitely very successful and they grow with each album they release. Just listen to the ten minute opener on this new album “Sacrificium”. It’s the title track, in which the band shows what they are capable of. Bombastic orchestration, choir vocals, heavy riffs, a steady beat and the beautiful voice of Dianne van Giersbergen turn this opener into a must for every fan of this progressive symphonic metal band. “Nightfall” goes in the same direction, only this time they made their sound a bit more compact. Dianne is the beautiful rock princess. She is the sparkling eye-catcher of the band and really impresses me with her vocal abilities here. Just listen to the first vocal lines of “Dreamkeeper” and you’ll know what I mean. Her crystal clear voice is the perfect match for the music of XANDRIA. The guitar solo on top of that fits very nice, too. “Stardust” is a powerful track and the speed goes up here. The guitar players riff and solo as though it’s their last hour, while Dianne hits some very high notes. The climax of this track sounds absolutely superb. Then it’s time for a more sober atmosphere in the lengthy track “The Undiscovered Land”. It starts out quite moody, but builds up a certain tension that makes you cling to your stereo set to get the whole picture. Obviously, XANDRIA’s music goes a bit further than the average female-fronted symphonic metal band. “Betrayer” sounds raw and uncompromising and has some spoken word parts. It also shows, that the band is no longer a gothic metal band with a symphonic touch. This album definitely brings them one step further. “Until The End” sounds a bit lighter and keeps up the balance of this album. No need to be all that serious and mind-blowing the whole time. There is still enough happening. Speed changes, a capella vocal parts and threatening drum beats are creating a dark atmosphere. Altogether, it definitely turns it into another great song here. While “Come With Me” sounds more radio friendly and a little less complex. The soprano vocals sound good too and Dianne can handle this, believe me. “Little Red Relish” is on next and is a nice up-tempo song. In “Our Neverworld”, the speed goes down and a ballad type of song unfolds itself, in which Dianne takes the lead in some breathtaking vocal parts. One of the highlights on this album must be “Temple Of Hate”. Despite the title, it’s not a very heavy song but the guitar riffs are loud and the fast speed gives it an exciting twist, which I really like a lot. “Sweet Atonement” closes the album. An album, that brings XANDRIA much closer to the top of the hill. Don’t say, they cannot achieve this, because they’re almost there. Just a few steps more. This is definitely a good album, that you must check out. To me, it’s their best album yet and not just because of their gorgeous looking frontlady. XANDRIA consists of Dianne van Giersbergen on vocals, Philip Restemeier on guitar, Marco Heubaum on guitar and keyboards, Steven Wussow on bass and Gerit Lamm on drums. Website: http://www.xandria.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

XENOTAPH-Rock Is The Force (Non Nobis Productions)
XENOTAPH is a traditional sounding heavy metal band from Argentina and this debut album contains eight tracks with a total playing time of around thirty-five minutes. “Countess Of Salem” starts off with flashing riffs and a speedy beat. The female vocals might remind you of bands like BLACK LACE, BITCH and HELLION. The speed goes even more up in “Time To Leave”. It can’t get be any more old school metal than this, I’m afraid. It’s like being thrown back in time for about thirty years. “Rock Is The Force” is the title track of this album. Frontlady Danielle Benvenuti sounds a lot like Kate of ACID here. Her vocal sound is almost the same as this Belgian frontlady. However, in the next song “Hot Blood”, she sounds very different and more screaming. The instrumental part at the end of that song has a lot of IRON MAIDEN influences (DiAnno era). I just love the following song title “Curse Of The Black Witch”. The title alone is worth mentioning in every heavy metal bible. “Aztec Serpent” sounds brutal and forceful, just like any old school heavy metal song should sound. The climax is breathtaking and it proves, that this band has got their heart at the right place. The last round is a “Fight With The Beast”, which is another furious head shaker, that hits your eardrums very hard. Of course these XENOTAPHs survive the fight with number 666 and this is all because “Rock Is The Force”. This album may not be missed in your collection and I would recommend it to every devoted metal head out there. The CD came out on the Non Nobis Production label, but if you want the vinyl version, then you must go to the French Cryptic Visions Arts label. Pick your choice and enjoy it at the fullest, I would say. XENOTAPH consists of Danielle Benvenuti on vocals, Eric Lancon on guitar, Emillano Ottaviano on guitar and Gustavo Quiroga on drums. On these recordings the bass was played by M. Gandulfo and the Moog synthesizer by A Bonelli. Website: http://www.facebook.com/xenotaph. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HESSLER-Ghost Dance (EP) (independent)
Care to dance? HESSLER invites you to dance to the music of this six tracker, that runs for twenty minutes. I’m afraid it has to be a ghost dance. Still ready to move your feet? Opener of this six pounder is title track “Ghost Dance”, which sound like IRON MAIDEN (Dickinson era). The same furious sound unfolds itself, which is not really danceable. I guess, that wasn’t the idea of it after all. “Darker Secrets” is on next and the ‘whoohoohoo’ singing part will remind you of MAIDEN once again. The speed change after that sounds really surprising and I take the opportunity to turn up the sound a little. That’s what music is all about. “Last Alive” is a title, that is being repeated here many times, but the sound is still very old school and in your face. “Stuck On You” shows, that HESSLER is able to provide some good old school rock and metal and this EP is definitely a tribute to the good old days. The exciting speed change comes as a surprise, but again I must admit that they repeat the title track a bit too much sometimes. “The Cure” is on next and it doesn’t refer to that English band with the same name, thank god. This sounds so much more like true heavy metal. The final screams come from the catchy “Never Lost My Way”, which sounds very easy on the ears. “Ghost Dance” is a nice EP and hopefully a good pre taste of things to come. HESSLER consists of Igz Kincaid on guitars, Frankie Sripada on guitars, Erik Michael on bass and David Spiteri on drums. The female vocalist of the band quit HESSLER recently, unfortunately. Website: http://www.hesslerchicago.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MANDRAGORA-First Attack (7 inch vinyl single) (Inkas Noize Records)
Two songs are on this first vinyl single by MANDRAGORA, who are from Nuevo Chimbote in Peru of all places. After a hectic, spooky intro, the band takes off in the fourth gear. Fast beats, flashing riffs and a female singer, who impresses me a quite lot. “Lady In Black” has got nothing at all to do with the URIAH HEEP song. This is the sound of old school heavy metal. Fans of JUDAS PRIEST, old school SAXON, RUNNING WILD and WARLOCK will have a blast with this great opener. The second song is called “Snakebite”, which is another great title with an amazing old school metal sound. The single comes with a lyric sheet, some flyers and a sticker and plays for approximate ten minutes. This “First Attack” is a great introduction to MANDRAGORA and will make you hungry for more. I’m afraid we’ll have to wait for 2016, before the first full-length release will be a fact. Until then, I’ll give this a few more spins. MANDRAGORA consists of Fátima Natthammer on vocals, Herman Gers on guitar, Paulo Rocket on guitar, Abel on drums and Jorge Mandrágora on bass. Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MANDRAGORA/100570339997012. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PANNDORA-Cold Eyes (7 inch vinyl single) (Supreme Music Creations)
What a beautiful release this is! A seven inch single with two songs pressed on deep blue sea vinyl. The all-female outfit PANNDORA from Brazil cranks out two songs there. Side A starts off with the sound of the sea, but soon this will be disturbed by loud riffs and a heavy drum beat. The band cranks it out loud on this wild basher “Cold Eyes”. It refers to the staring eyes on cover of this seven inch. The WARLORD influences might surprise some old school metal fans, I guess. These ladies are giving all they’ve got and the MAIDEN-like guitar solo sounds awesome, especially when they play a double lead guitar solo halfway through the song. Side B contains the song “Partners In Crime”. Another great banger, which actually sounds more up-tempo than the first track. This will definitely raise some fists in the air! This is true metal and in Brazil they really know to appreciate good old school heavy metal. The fact, that it’s being played by an all-female outfit makes it even more interesting for the readers of Metal Maidens. The guitar parts in this song are again breathtaking and both thumbs up for this amazing release. PANNDORA consists of Adrismith on drums, Luna Bomb on guitars, Ronata Paschoa on vocals and Taise Bijora on bass. Go to http://panndora@panndora.net for more information to order this essential item. The inlay contains a picture of the ladies and the lyrics to these two songs. Buy, buy, buy!! [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TARJA TURUNEN-Victim Of Ritual (EP) (earMusic)
This EP contains four tracks from the “Left In The Dark” sessions, that has been reviewed on these pages as well. The four songs together are worthy of twenty minutes of music. Opener “Victim Of Ritual” is the album version. A mix of loud guitar and bombastic orchestration is what you’ll hear. It opens very catchy like Ravel’s “Bolero”, but it changes soon into a typical TARJA song, which is a real treat to your ears. After that, you’ll hear the same song in the demo version, which isn’t very different from the album version. The two other songs on this EP are live versions of “I Walk Alone” and “Underneath”, recorded at the Luna Park. “I Walk Alone” sounds a bit spooky and you can hear the audience singing along to the chorus, which is very impressive. In short, these are beautiful recordings with a great live atmosphere to it. Same goes for “Unearth”, which contains a bit more emotion. The two live songs feature TARJA at her very best, which is in a live situation. These two songs alone make it worth to buy this EP. Become a “Victim Of Ritual” too. Website: http://www.tarjaturunen.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WHITE EMPRESS-Erased And Rewritten (EP) (independent)
Are these the leftovers of the full-length album, that first were being erased and then rewritten for this EP? This could very well be the case. WHITE EMPRESS will certainly appeal to all the fans of CRADLE OF FILTH and other brutal black metal bands of that same genre, like for example DIMMU BORGIR. The biggest difference is that WHITE EMPRESS is fronted by a female vocalist, called Mary Zimmer. The four tracks on this EP are worthy of twenty minutes of brutal and blasting metal. The EP opens with the title track “Erased And Rewritten”, which sounds like a ranging storm. The vocals are not that extreme and the music sounds less chaotic than CRADLE in a way. “Exile (The Empress Returns)” continues and opens in a furious pace, that sometimes even contains some blast beats. The vocal lines are still good to understand. Later on, a choir is being added in a more bombastic part. The wild drum parts remain throughout the whole song though. “Fall Of The Old Guard” slows things down a bit, but there are some brutal vocal parts in this song. It’s not really out of the blue, that I mention CRADLE OF FILTH as a reference to the sound of WHITE EMPRESS, because guitar player Paul Allender played in this band for several years. “Obsession With The Empress” closes this EP with a brutal blast. The male growls sound amazing, but it’s the female vocals, that impresses me the most. WHITE EMPRESS is everything that you want to hear, when you are looking for a female fronted version of CRADLE OF FILTH. WHITE EMPRESS consists of Mary Zimmer on vocals (ex-LUNA MORTIS), Paul Allender on guitars (ex-CRADLE OF FILTH), P.J. Gunnarson on guitar, Will Greaney on bass, Chela Rhea Harper (the other female member) on bass and Zac Morris on drums. Website: http://www.whiteempress.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: January 30, 2015]

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