CD REVIEWS


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


Winter 2012 - Spring 2013:

ACELSIA-Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow (Quietude Productions)
ACELSIA hails from Norway and they present their debut album, which contains eleven tracks and runs for forty-five minutes. They play gothic metal with a firm bite and a heavy steady basis. The band consists of Malene Markussen on vocals and Odd Henning Skyllingstad on guitars. Bjorn Tore Erlendsen of ASPHERIUM is their guest drummer, because ACELSIA is officially a duo. You’ll also hear Jorn-Arild Grefsrud on synths and upright bass. Opener “Roads” shows, that the monnicker pop or gothic rock doesn’t do justice to the firm beats and heavy riffs in this track. The vocals of Malene are clear and very nice to listen to. “Stitches” also starts with a firm drum beat and some nice guitar riffs. Vocal wise, I would like to refer to Liv Kristine, only Malene has a bit more balls. The guitar sound in the song has a nice open sound. “Up On The Roof” is slow and it sounds like a passionate ballad with a lot of emotion. While “The Most Important Fight” is a bit more poppy, although the drums give it a heavy twist. This could very well end up in the Dutch charts, I think. “The Mender” sounds like ACELSIA all the way, according to their biography. Heavy yet still catchy, metal but still melodic and in short a song that suits everyone’s taste. I must admit, that my personal taste goes a bit further than this. The beginning of the song really isn’t my cup of tea, but later on it gets better and better and I can understand their point of view. “Blue Knell” also sounds like that and I must admit, that the music of ACELSIA is very nice to listen to. “Haven” brings back a little rest and it’s great to dream away after a hard day at work for example. It sounds very symphonic and fans of THE GATHERING and PORCUPINE TREE would probably enjoy this very much. “Hold My Breath” continues in that same style and so does “Before I Fall”. Still we hear the steady beat and the tight drums, but the speed has gone down a bit and it sounds a little more atmospheric and symphonic. The guitar solo at the end of the song sounds really neat. “Another Day” is an airy, catchy tune that leans very much towards pop music (at least for some of us!), but I like the playful twist here. The mood change in the middle sounds very nice and makes it very exciting what their next step will be. The song becomes heavier after that and it’s certainly one of the highlights on this album for me. The album closes with a song called “Left Alone”, which sounds soaring and atmospheric. There is quite some variation on this album and not everything sounds like music to my ears, but I must admit that I had a good time listening to the music of ACELSIA. The band will be touring in the UK this August and besides Malene and Odd, the band line-up will consist of Morten Granheim, Henning Ramseth and Eski Hakonsen. Website: www.facebook.com/acelsiaband. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARKHAM WITCH-Legions Of The Deep (Metal On Metal Records)
ARKHAM WITCH hails from England and they would have been huge in the NWOBHM era. Nowadays people tend to call this music style old fashioned or out of date and I certainly don’t agree with them. The eleven tracks are worthy of almost a full hour of British metal. Let’s start with the musical part first. After all, that’s what we are here for, I guess. The album opens with “David Lund” and I would like to refer to a band like MANILLA ROAD right away to give a good description of the sound of ARKHAM WITCH. “At The Mountains Of Madness” has got that same retro feeling, but I also hear some influences of BLACK SABBATH or one of the many SABBATH adepts out there. True metal to the max is what you get. While “Iron Shadows In The Moon” contains a riff, that will remind you of “Hocus Pocus” by FOCUS in a way. It’s that catchy. “Infernal Machine” sounds a bit like straight forward punk or hardcore in the chorus, but it’s definitely metal and also has some Eastern influences. “The Cloven Sea” contains some heavy machinegun riffs, that cling to your mind for a long time to come. Bands like MANILLA ROAD and MANOWAR could probably come up with such a riff as well. “On A Horse Called Vengeance” is a killer tune with a true heavy metal vibe. So throw your fist in the air and shout it out loud! The mood changes are nice and the band almost sounds a bit thrashy here as well sometimes. The spoken word part divides the song in half. “Gods Of Storm And Thunder” is as true as you can get on this album. The title alone tells you in which direction we’re heading. ‘Throwing Fists In The Air Metal’, that’s what we are heading for in this track. “Kult Of Kutulu” is a song, that you would expect from a band like POKOLGEP (from Hungary) for example. Just listen to the handclap part, which sounds just like the early POKOLGEP material to me. “Legions Of The Deep” starts out like a solid metal tune, but once it hits the middle theme, they lose track. In this mid-piece they make a switch, that I don’t get, but soon they return to a tight rhythm sound at the end, gladly enough. Leo Stivala of FORSAKEN lends a helping hand in this song. You might think a bit of BROCAS HELM in this song. Just listen very carefully to the rhythm guitar parts to get an idea. During this song, I also took a good look at the really wonderful artwork on this album, which is done by heavy metal record label boss Jowita Kaminska-Peruzzi. She knows the metal business very well, judging by the great releases on her ‘Metal On Metal Records’ label. “We’re From Keighley” closes this heavy metal doom attack by this English band, which is a doom metal party song. If this genre would exist, than this would fit in just fine. The bonus track is not mentioned on the sleeve nor in the CD booklet, but I would guess it’s called “Satan’s Claw”. It’s an acoustic song. ARKHAM WITCH is a name to remember, if doom metal and heavy metal is your thing and you’re into the music of bands like MANILLA ROAD, BROCAS HELM, SLOUGH FEG, PENTAGRAM and SAINT VITUS. The band consists of Simon Iff? on vocals, Aldo ‘Dodo’ Doom on guitar, John ‘The Demon’ Demaine on bass and Emily Ningauble on drums. Website: http://www.arkhamwitch.blogspot.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARKONA-Decade Of Glory (Napalm Records)
The Russian metal band ARKONA pleases their fans with a double live album, called “Decade Of Glory”. It contains at least twenty-one pagan folk metal tracks and it rocks your world for about two and a half hours. When you’re in the mood for a Russian metal party, don’t look any further, because it is here and then some. This double live CD package starts with a short intro, called “Az”, followed by “Arkam” and “Ot Serdca K Nebu”. As you can see, these song titles won’t get you any further. Maybe a short description of this Russian musical party will. There are flutes, accordions, a happy atmosphere and sometimes even some loud riffing guitars. This music will make you feel good. It’s even danceable, if you fancy to move your legs a bit. It’s a good mix of folk and metal and fans of the Finnish equivalent KORPIKLAANI and FINNTROLL or German colleagues IN EXTREMO, may like these happy tunes as well. “Goi Rode Goi!” is on next and contains a steady drum beat and more heavy sounding guitar chords. The Russian choir vocals give it a folky twist, but the beats get heavier and heavier and the brutal sounding male vocals make you aware, that you are listening to a metal band in the first place. The accordion intro of “Leshiy” is rapidly overruled by some guitar riffs and a raw raspy male vocal sound. As you can see, the metal and folk influences only have a very thin line departing from each other. “Zakliatie” sounds mysterious and dark and the cellos softly sing, while the drummer beats it out loud. “Marena” is made to jump up and down. It’s a joyful folky track with some brutal male vocals. The epic sound turns it into one of the more heavy tracks so far and therefore a highlight. “Liki Bessmertrnykh Bogov” is a bit slower and again it has a very heavy drum beat. While “Nevidal” brings back the two worlds of influences together again. “Kolo Navi” contains more Russian choir vocals, which is really the thing why I have a hard time to listen to these songs. They give me a more folky feeling, rather than a metal feeling. “Slav’sja Rus!” has got a very epical touch to it. While “Kupala i Kostroma” invites you to dance and jump along to the music. The world of ARKONA is full of surprises and very diverse and you’ll be jumping from one outer limit to the other. “Odna” is on next and once again we find the guitars next to the bagpipes. In “Sva”, the male vocals grunt even more than before, but also the choir vocals return at the end of the song and give it a very dark atmosphere. The album continues with “Kupalets”, which is a chant to sing along to. “Katitsia Kolo” sounds very heavy and in “Kolyada”, we even hear something, that death metal adepts might like. Just listen to the fast heavy drum thunder and almost black metal like screams in here. “Skvoz’ Tuman Vekov” brings back the magic cooperation between flutes, accordion and danceable rhythm. Also the Russian choir vocals return and the music tends to get a more folky character here. “Maslenitsa” invites you to do a fast Russian folk dance and “V Tsepiakh Drevney Tainy” brings back a more dark sound with a nice epical feel. In “Slovo”, I get the feeling that I’m listening to NIGHTWISH or WITHIN TEMPTATION in the beginning, but when the male grunts start, this feeling completely disappears. “Bol’no Mne” is a blasting death metal song in the beginning, but it evolves into a dark gothic type of song. After a dark interlude, the death metal blasts return at the end. With all these different influences, there’s never a dull moment, because reggae, folk, Russian choir vocals and ska shuffles mixed with guitar riffs are next on the program during “Pamiat”. “Arkona” has got a doomy touch in the beginning and we haven’t tasted this influence yet on this album. Later on, the folk party feeling is getting back, when the flutes and accordion are added to the sound. I’m glad, there’s still room for the guitar here as well. “Po Siroi Zemle” is another highlight to me and listening to the reactions of the audience during the short sing along part, it’s also a crowd’s favorite. “Oj, Pechal’- Toska” is a dark folky outing, but the party is getting really started here with “Yarila” and “Stenka Na Stenku”. Fast drum parts, the playing of an accordion and a firm beat will probably result in a total chaos in front of the stage. “Vyjdu Ja Na Voljushku” makes this wild party complete. The show slowly comes to an end with only two more songs to go. “Rus” and “Zov Predkov” close this double live folk metal attack. “Rus” is a bombastic folk metal explosion, whereas the last track “Zove Predkov” sounds a bit darker. This double live attack from ARKONA might be a bit too much for some of us though. You can probably better absorb this in little chunks. But if you want to throw in a nice party, where people want to feel good and feel the urge to dance in the Russian way, then this album is the perfect way to make it happen. Sometimes the metal level is very low and the party level is high or at other times, the metal level gets back to life again. It’s a mixed world of different influences and I think that the fans will be very pleased with the final result. It marks a ‘decade of glory’ in twenty-one songs. The band consists of Maria Masja (Screamer) Arichipowa on vocals, Sergej ‘Lazar’ Atrashkevich on guitar, Ruslan ‘Kniaz’ on bass guitar, Vlad ‘Artist’ Sokolov on drums and Vladimir ‘Wolf’ Reshnetnikov on flutes and bagpipes. Website: http;//www.arkona-russia.com/en/enews. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACKMORE’S NIGHT-A Knight In York (Sony Music)
York is a wonderful place to be and it’s the perfect place for a live show of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT. It’s an ancient city, in which the medieval music of Ritchie and his wife Candice will sound even better. Everyone who knows me well, will know that I am still waiting for the news to come that Ritchie has resurrected RAINBOW or has become a member of DEEP PURPLE again. Since this is not going to happen in the near future, I keep my memories about these two bands and enjoy the music he is doing now. The live set we hear on this album contains fourteen tracks and plays for the full eighty minutes that is available on a compact disc. The band opens with “Locked Within The Crystal Ball” in a lengthy version, that almost reaches the nine minutes. The audience participates in clapping their hands to the rhythm of the beat. Ritchie takes control of the guitar parts, but he also plays mandolin and hurdy-gurdy at times. Candice does the vocals of course, but she also plays shawms, woodwinds and tambourine. Squire Malcolm Of Lumley plays the drums, Bard David Of Larchmont plays keyboards, Gypsy Rose plays violin and sings background vocals, Earl Grey Of Chimay plays bass and rhythm guitar (and drinks tea, if he serves his name right) and Minstrel Albert adds the sound of shawms and bagpipes on this performance. We also hear Autumn as a special guest. The romantic “Gilded Cage” is on next. “The Circle” brings back a more medieval atmosphere, including the sound of bagpipes. Later on, the song gets heavier and we hear the white Fender of Ritchie do its work the way you could only expect from the master. RAINBOW could do with a song like that for their upcoming album without being ashamed of themselves. This is great stuff!! “Journeyman” is up-tempo and it contains another stunning guitar solo. The band is playing at full steam, if you’d ask my opinion. Just listen to the end section of this song. That’s the sound of an electric guitar and I like it a lot, when it comes from Mr. Blackmore! “World Of Stone” sounds like the perfect song to do some meditation on, but soon it gains more speed when the bagpipes come rolling in. “The Peasant’s Promise” has a nice structure going from romantic to danceable and joyful. Before “Toast To Tomorrow” starts, Ritchie has a little musical fun. The song is a laugh with LADY GAGA and a dark voice of LADY GAGA shows up in the middle of it. Blackmore and humor blends together very well. After that it’s on with the action. Just listen to the impressive guitar intro of “Fires At Midnight”, where the master shows his skills! It simply sounds breath taking. It brings out the best in him for a couple of nice moments. “Barbara Allen” starts with an acoustic intro. It’s a beautiful folk track, which builds up a certain tension but it never reaches the level of a rock song of any kind. “Darkness” stays in that same balladesque style. It’s the tambourine, that gets the leading role here and I guess this is the limit for the fans of loud rock and roll. “Dance Of The Darkness” sounds joyful and may remind you of a band like IN EXTREMO in a way. It’s an instrumental tune, which brings back the party atmosphere, before turning back to the more romantic atmosphere in “Dandelion Wine”. Have a glass of wine, dim the lights and enjoy I would say. It’s a musical toast to all the friends of the medieval sound of Ritchie and Candice. “All The Fun Of The Fayre” brings back the sound that I love from this band, which is a bit more up-tempo and joyful. The balladesque romantic style is nice, but not for a rock and metal fan. I like it as a music fan, but after all we came to rock, right?! The CD closes with another romantic anthem called “First Of May”. I give them the benefit of the doubt for this song, because today (when I write this review) it’s my wife’s birthday and our wedding day as well. You’ll notice, that the album tends to lean a bit more towards the slower and romantic side than the heavy and more joyful side. Still there are a few nice tracks on here, that I enjoyed a lot. The album is also available on DVD, where you can watch the footage from the York show, while listening to the music. Website: http://www.blackmoresnight.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BUTCHER BABIES-Butcher Babies (EP) (independent)
BUTCHER BABIES want to please their fans by releasing a four track EP, which contains almost fifteen minutes of BUTCHER BABIES metal. The babies consist of Heidi Shepherd on vocals, Carla Harvey on vocals, Henry Flury on guitar, Jason Klein on bass and Crissy Warner on drums. The two female vocalists are pictured on the front cover with some dead head skulls and an axe in their hands. It looks like you don’t want to invite these ladies to come to your summer swimming pool party. They’re out for blood and they’re going to get it, no matter what. The prediction I made is right, because the massacre starts already in the very first song with “Axe Wound”. A dark horror-like intro and after that a fast beat will shred your flesh to pieces. The brutal attack can’t be missed and the heavy riffs will split your skull right away. These ladies are out for blood and they won’t take no for an answer. Then a good friend of the band suddenly appears. It’s “Mr. Slowdeath” who’s on next and another groovy eardrum attack unfolds itself. The band even made a video clip for this song, so check it out I would say. “Jesus Needs More Babies For His War Machine” has some references to ALICE COOPER. It’s horror, it’s creepy, but it’s also a little tongue in cheek. Their final track here is groovy and heavy and it’s called “National Bloody Anthem”. And especially that bloody gives it the BUTCHER BABIES touch. This band’s star is rising pretty fast and I know that the image of the ladies will probably help them a lot. But it’s the music that counts here and I think they won’t disappoint the average rocker with these groovy songs. When they slaughter on a silver disc, they won’t do you no harm, I promise. I think, I’ll give it another spin or two, just to please Heidi and Carla. You never know where it’s good for. Website: http://www.ButcherBabiesOfficial.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DEMONA-Metal Through The Time (Dying Victims Records)
DEMONA hails from Chile and they present their 2012 album “Metal Through The Time” here, which consists of twelve tracks and about forty-five minutes of no-bullshit heavy metal. The CD starts with a strange childish kind of giggling, after which the band rushes in at full speed for a short instrumental introduction, which is simply called “Introduction”. “Pay For Your Sins” is the first track with the high pitched vocals of singer Tanza, who also plays guitar. I like their furious speed metal sound very much and her vocals match very well to it. Sometimes you can discover a slight touch of death grunt in her voice as well, but I’m happy she basically keeps singing in a normal voice. Speed metal is very popular in Chile and although this is not as extreme as what you sometimes hear from that country, their sound is not for the faint hearted too. The residence of Tanza these days is Quebec in Canada, but they are able to deal with speed metal very well. I just have to name bands like RAZOR and EXCITER and you’ll come close to some of the influences of DEMONA, I guess. “The Apocalypse” is on next and the band gives it full power. Just listen to the marvelous axe work of Tanza and Gabrihell (great name!). They are killing with power. “Attaque De Locura Homicida” sounds Spanish to me and this is not a strange thing, since Tanza originally hails from Chile. She is the daughter of the old guitar player and Chilean metal head DISTORSION. So her father is to blame for all her influences and good taste in music and we’d like to thank him for that! The Spanish lyrics are no problem at all and they fit well to the extreme underground feeling, that the band tries to create here. “Earthquake” isn’t destroying everything it comes across, but it has got that mighty fine power. It sounds like a steam train, that is thundering through the city at full speed. At breakneck speed DEMONA continues with “Solo Existe El Metal”, which can be translated into something like ‘completely metal’. No comments here. The title of this song speaks for itself. “Nightmare” has got some great riffs and because of the shirt of the guitar player on the inlay of the CD, your mind will go out to German speed metallers WARRANT every now and then, when you listen to the dynamic, energetic and powerful sound by these Chilean headbangers. But also bands like SABBAT and AGENT STEEL come to mind. “Llagas” leaves you no time to take a breath of air and marches on at full speed. While in title track “Metal Through The Time”, you’ll hear some male vocals and a devlish bass sound, that will make your windows burst out. During this song, the band called in the help of several other musicians from WARDANCE, RIOTOR, DESTRUCTOR, POLTERGEIST, TAURUS, MEDUSA and even METALUCIFER. Eleven guitar solos divided equally over eleven musicians… This is a real true heavy metal guitar orgasm to my ears! “Poisoned” is on next, which contains more ultra-fast guitar work. This is simply mind-blowing! And the solos get even more ear splitting in “Tormenta”. Nothing is going to stop these Chilean speed devils, so much is for sure now. The CD closes with a cover of the German metal band WARDANCE, called “Don’t Play With Fire”. Think about this song, when you are going to lit some fire crackers on New year’s eve. DEMONA brings out the very best of the Chilean heavy metal scene. The band consists of Tanza on guitar and vocals, Gabrihell on guitar, Jeff on bulldozer bass and on this album we hear Hugo ‘Witchhammer’ Uribe from WITCHTRAP on thunder drums. Website: http://www.demonametal.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DHARMA-Dharmageddon (Hammerworld / Nail Records)
DHARMA are from Budapest in Hungary. This is the band’s fourth full-length album, which contains ten tracks and runs a bit over thirty-five minutes. Let’s introduce the band to you first, before we’re going to review their music. The band consists of Ani Ritzel on vocals, Gergõ Kelemen on bass, András Kõmives on drums and László Gurka on guitar and keyboards. The album opens with “Varanasi”, which shows you that we’re dealing with a gothic metal band, that has some links to progressive music as well. The sound is easy on the ears and very suitable for many metal heads out there. The first comparison could be with bands like WITHIN TEMPTATION, LEAVES EYES and AVRIL LAVIGNE. “Encoded In Fire” has got that same catchy vibe. A song, that you want to sing along to, once you hear it, and with a steady beat as a solid basis. The sound of a rolling thunder in the beginning may be a bit easy, but somehow it always works for me to create the right atmosphere. “Apocalypto” contains a firm riff. “Mirror On The Wall” could very well be the gothic metal version of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. At the end of the song the mirror is crashed. “Sex, Blood” opens with an Eastern sound, that made me think of Turkish music, but the heavy guitar riff makes up for that really soon. The guitar solo sounds nice and the catchy vibe remains. The music might be danceable, but the heavy riffs make sure that the rockers among us will have their fun as well. “Pain & Pleasure” contains a firm foot stomping industrial beat. “Tonight” has got the LAVIGNE touch a bit more and vocalist Ani sings a duet here with a male singer. “Final Destination” sounds a bit darker and contains touches of WITHIN TEMPTATION (earlier work). “The World To Me” has some impressive bass riffs and a surprising mid-piece of the keyboards in a leading role. The song closes with some firm guitar riffs. “One By One” is already the CD closer, which opens with a steady beat. All in all, we can say that DHARMA brings music with a catchy vibe on their fourth full-length album. For people, who don’t like their music too loud, but still want to rock out, I think this would be a good recommendation. Website; http://www.facebook.com/dharmaofficial. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DORO-Raise Your Fist (Nuclear Blast)
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, it makes the whole package complete. Website: http://www.doro.de. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EMPHASIS-Into Infinity (independent)
EMPHASIS hails from Estonia in the Baltic States. After two years of existence, their debut album is a fact. It contains seven tracks and has a playing time of around thirty-five minutes. The band consists of Anet Vaikmaa on vocals, Pavel Korotajev on guitar, Katya Gritskova on bass, Max Spiridonov on guitars, Sergei Struts on drums and Vsevolod Chelepeace on keyboards. Now that’s a lot of information, but what about the music of this Estonian band? “Intro Infinity (Intro)”, which is a short intro, doesn’t give me any clue at all. I hear a lot of electronic beeps and a female voice and I don’t have the idea that I am dealing with a metal band of any kind. However, when the first tone of “Running Man” starts off, I have to change my mind and I am completely focused on things to come. What we hear is progressive rock with a firm beat and some touches of gothic metal. The instrumental parts sound exciting and the vocals are very clear and nice to listen to. “Hate Is All You Left For Me” is a bit darker and slower. It sounds very melancholic, as the title suggests already. “Blind Faith” shows the progressive side of the band, especially in the short instrumental part in the beginning of this very energetic song. I like the sound of vocalist Anet, but I must admit that the DREAM THEATER-like instrumental part in this song is the highlight of this song for me. It really sounds powerful and very exciting. “Death Itself” sounds more sober, but it contains some nice mood changes later on. “Getting Bitchy” is marked as a bonus track. The haunting keyboards after the intro sound quite exciting and powerful. The rest of the song is easy on the ears, but it has some nice mood changes and speed twists. “Along With Memories (Outro)” closes the album. It’s the longest track on the album and totally instrumental. It reminds me a bit of MIKE OLDFIELD, only with keyboards in the leading role instead of the guitar. The constant repeating sound of the keyboards make you dream away into infinity, along with all your memories. What a nice way to end this review. If you’re more into the progressive music, this may be exciting enough for you to check out. For more information about this Estonian band, go to: http://www.facebook.com/EmphasisEstonia. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FACE OFF-The Colour Of Rain (Maple Metal Records)
The colour of rain is the topic of today and the only thing I can say about it is, that it seems to be colorless for me, but it’s wet and sometimes it can be very refreshing. A strange way to start the review of this Serbian metal band, but hey they started with this title of their debut album. The nine songs together run for almost forty-five minutes and the first song and title track already attracted my attention. Groovy guitars are the biggest eye-catcher, next tothe crystal clear voice of Marja Kovacevic. Her voice has got the color of Anneke van Giersbergen but it contains a little bit more power, and so does the music. After this promising start, we enter the “Dream Chamber”, which is another groovy and rocking song with a nice lengthy guitar solo, that makes you feel that you’re listening to a seventies band here. “Close Enough” shows, that the band has got a whole lot of influences of THE GATHERING in their sound, but the groove is harder and they sure rock harder, too. With “War Against War”, you would expect a heavy tune and that’s what you’ll get. So far, so good and a very nice start for this band from Serbia. During “The Innocence”, we hear a more straight forward gothic like sound with some heavy riffs, that will not really surprise you at all. The positive thing is, that the guitars are very much up front in the mix and the riffs are very loud. “Voices” starts with a machinegun drum roll and contains a very nice guitar solo. In every song, the band knows to impress me. The dark start of “Fragile” actually doesn’t lead to a dark song, but it has got a nice groovy sound, topped by the bit more sensitive vocals of Marja. While “Lost In Translation” sounds very much in the gothic style again. Then we have come to “The End”, which opens in a pure heavy metal way. Loud guitars, groovy drum beats and a dark atmosphere mark this song. MANOWAR would be proud of it. The vocal parts of Marja are spooky and creepy and lean towards a better version of KATE BUSH in the very first part. After that, she uses a more normal voice. I still haven’t got a clue, which colour the rain has and all I know is, that I liked this album a lot. FACE OFF is a name to remember. The band consists of Marja Kovacevic on vocals, Stefan Vitasovic on guitars, Aleksandar Djordjic on guitars, Stanislav Stanojevic on bass and Zoltan Simon on drums. Let them impress you as well, in rain and in shine. Website; http://www.facebook.com/faceoffonline. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FLAMES OF FURY-Flames Of Fury (EP) (independent)
FLAMES OF FURY hails from New York City and consists of Jason Perez on guitars, Lu Hernandez Centti on bass, Ivan Romero on guitars, Angel Cotte on drums and Angelica Vargas on vocals. This EP contains five songs and about twenty minutes of a powerful mix of different metal styles. Already in the first track they “Take It To The Limit” with a mix of power and speed metal topped by the powerhouse vocal lines of Angelica. It’s a delight for every devoted metal head out there, I guess. “Save Yourself” has got a steady, heavy beat. It’s got a slightly epical feel and it rocks like hell. “I Burn” has got heavy metal written all over it and it will probably remind you of the earlier material by DORO. Nothing to be ashamed of, I guess. The MANOWAR type of bass lines make it sound even more powerful. This is real stand proud and fists in the air, hair waving in the wind heavy metal……if that expression already exists?! “No Mercy” is on next and it starts with some thunderous fast drum beats. Together with the screaming guitar parts your thoughts might go out to bands like HAMMERFALL and JUDAS PRIEST, but the singer is screaming (for vengeance) in a slightly different way. The EP closes with another mighty footstomper called “End Of The Road”, which surely makes your head go up and down again. Classic heavy metal in the best way imaginable. After that it’s over and done and you’ll have to push the ‘repeat’ button again to relive these powerful tracks. Website: http://www.flamesoffury.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GIRLS WITH GUITARS: DANI WILDE/VICTORIA SMITH/SAMANTHA FISH-The 2012 Blues Caravan (Ruf Records)
Three wild ladies pick up a guitar and jam together through the night. Can you imagine that? If not, then you’d better check out this live album of three wild ladies jamming together on blues rock music. If yes, then this is a safe buy for you without a doubt. DANI WILDE, VICTORIA SMITH and SAMANTHA FISH team up for tonight’s concert and this is captured on CD and DVD here. The audio part runs for a bit over a full hour and contains twelve rough blues tracks. Opener “Bitch” already shows what to expect here. It has a firm tempo, some great guitar work and some wild bluesy female vocals. I am more than ready for it. Since I know people like ANA POPOVIC, my whole world has changed and made a positive twist. Women can play the blues as no other. Just listen to the sound of “Don’t Go Making Me Cry”, which sounds swinging and bluesy at the same time. I already know about some great female blues singers of course, but these ladies can handle the guitar as well and I just L-O-V-E the sound of the blues guitar like no other. “Red Blooded Woman” sounds sleazy and lazy and it fits the ladies well, because they let their instrument do the talking. “I Put A Spell On You”, originally written by SCREAMING JAY HAWKINS and made famous by CREADENCE CLEAR WATER REVIVAL is perhaps not a real blues track, but these ladies prove, that it can very well be transformed into a blues classic, the way they play it. “Leaving Kind” is a soulful foot stomper with a very danceable beat. “Money To Burn” is played in a very lengthy version here, which clocks over ten minutes. It doesn’t come as a big surprise, that a lot of time is being reserved for the guitar parts. The song is performed with quite some emotion, which you can easily leave up to these ladies. At the end of the song, there’s even some room for improvisation, when they do a short piece of LED ZEPPELIN’s “Kashmir”. Very well done ladies, my compliments! “Juice Me Up” is on next and gets the motor running again with its up tempo speed. While “Who’s Loving You” is a slower type of blues, covered with tonz of emotion. The lyrics match very well to the music. It’s made to make you laugh and feel good, but it can also make you cry sometimes. “Down In The Swamps” delivers the goods, as the title already suggests. This is swamp music, played low, down and dirty by these three bluesy ladies. “Mississippi Kisses” is a nice shuffle, which invites you to dance to the swinging tones of the music. “Runaway” is another lengthy song, in which the ladies warm up their fingers to the strings of their guitars. The last song is a surprising one for me. It’s a nice version of STEVE MILLER’s “Jet Airliner”. Another track that you won’t expect to hear and a very nice surprise by these three steaming hot ladies, that have given me a good time……musically speaking of course. The DVD plays for almost ninety minutes and gives you a few bonus tracks by three ladies and their guitars, which is such a marvelous combination! [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART-Bang Bang Boom Boom (Provogue)
What a great CD sleeve! I would already buy this CD for the front cover alone. BETH HART dressed in a very sexy outfit and posing in a very sexy way. What publicity to catch the buyer’s attention. But can she also impress the people with her music on this new album, that contains eleven new tracks and about fifty minutes of blues rock music? The cooperation with JOE BONAMASSA was already a great pre taster, but her solo albums tend to move forward towards soul music at times. Opener “Baddest Blues” already give you a hint, that we will start with a slow blues tune, which is a good sign. “Bang Bang Boom Boom” is the title track of this album and it sounds like a jolly nice feel good blues track, that is easy on the ears. While “Better Man” has got a nice groove and a good mid tempo beat. Then it’s time for some sensitivity with “Caught Out In The Rain”, which is a long slow ballad. “Swing My Thing Back Around” would be very suitable for one of the nightclubs in cities like Paris, New York or London, where the lights are turned down low and a big band plus piano are taking care of the musical part. It’s a song to take your partner to dance one more time that same night. Most of the time, such a swinging tune goes over into a more sentimental piece of music, which brings back that romantic feeling in a flash. Anyway, that romantic feeling is caught in the next song, which is called “With You Everyday”. All in all, we hear a whole lot of variation from many different music styles on this album. “Thru The Window Of My Mind” sounds like emotional pop music to me. It has the nice voice of Beth, but without the raspy edge this time. “Spirit Of God” could be categorized as a gospel, including the horns. A bit bluesy, but with a lot of soul and all for the love of God. “There In Your Heart” sounds bluesy and is a very nice song in my opinion. The guitar solo is being played by JOE BONAMASSA, which makes it very interesting of course. “The Ugliest House On The Block” is easy on the house and ready for radio airplay, if I may say so. The CD closes with another melancholic track, called “Everything Must Change”. In my opinion BETH HART doesn’t need to change anything at all. Good CD cover, good looks, good music, so what more can you ask for? Website: http://www.bethhart.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HEART-Strange Euphoria (Epic)
A well-chosen title for this great compilation CD / DVD set of HEART, which contains three CDs of miscellaneous songs ranging from the very beginning of their career to the more recent stuff and a DVD from a show in 1976, when I reached the age of thirteen and started to get interested in hard rock and heavy metal. The DVD plays for a full hour, but we focus on the three CDs here. The first one contains seventeen tracks and a bit over seventy minutes of HEART rock music. “Through Eyes & Glass” is an acoustic song recorded by ANN WILSON & THE DAYBREAKS. They have been digging very deep into the vaults to find this one, I guess. Everybody knows “Magic Man”, but I guess that not everybody has ever heard the demo version, which is on next. It’s a ‘naked’ version of the original that we know so well. Including some acoustic guitars, it shows the very first steps on the ladder to success for the two sisters and their band. “How Deep It Goes” and “Crazy On You” are from the same demo, I guess. “Dreamboat Annie” has always made my skin crawl for some reason, that I can’t easily explain. The version here is an addition to the song, that we already know and it provides an alternate version of this fantastic song. “Love Alive” has got the same relaxing feeling. It’s a nice song to listen to and it shows the strength of HEART, because in my world they are one of the very few bands, that know to impress me with acoustic music, next to LED ZEPPELIN and RORY GALLAGHER. The mandolin returns in beautiful versions of “Sylvan Song” and “Dream Of The Archer” and with “White Lightning & Wine” we get a rare live recording of HEART at the Aquarius. I gotta have more cowbells! (lol). It shows the sound of the seventies: groovy rock played in the ZEP way. “Barracuda” might be one of the most well-known HEART classics and it’s captured here in a live setting recorded from a BBC radio concert. They really kick some serious ass here. “Little Queen” has got the HEART vibe captured very well here. They never really played super heavy rock maybe, but it always had a certain vibe, that knows to touch me somehow. Add to this the wonderful voice of Ann and the rocking guitar licks of sister Nancy and you have a wonderful combination. “Kick It Out” is a nice rocker, in which the adrenaline runs nicely. Just listen to the great guitar solo in here. “Here Song” is played in its demo form and it’s another nice and relaxing warm HEART song, followed by the rocking demo version of “Heartless”. What would HEART be without a ‘heart’?? I enjoyed “Dog & Butterfly” with my eyes closed. It’s such a fantastic song. It’s got that magic HEART feeling, that makes this band so special. But also the foot stomper “Straight On”, which is on next, shows the powerful other face of the band. A band, that could paint many different pictures, because they have many faces. Sometimes breakable and subtle in the acoustic songs and the love song and ballads, while at other times they just put the volume knob on ten and rock it out loud and everything in between. It turns this band into a multiple rock band, that easily can handle all the material in the whole wide range of rock music. The first CD closes with “Nada One”. Bring out the acoustics again for the best result. The second CD contains another seventeen songs and sixty-five minutes of heavy HEART rock. They start off with another one of my favorites, called “Bebe Le Strange”, which rocks my world. “Silver Wheels II” is on next and “Even It Up” brings out the best of HEART again. Never mind the horns, both horns up for this track! In “Sweet Darlin’” we also hear the power in Ann’s voice. She sings this tender love song so nicely and sometimes she pulls it out, exactly how I like it the most. “City’s Burning” shows the first shape of their adoration for the band LED ZEPPELIN. They were already there, I agree, but this song is heavenly influenced by the big four and nobody can deny it anymore. The drummer must have destroyed four to five tom skins while recording this song, I guess. What an amazing power! “Angels” is another really beautiful and dreamy track, just like “Love Mistake” that is next, which contains more power. Here and there, you might get the feeling that you are listening to PINK FLOYD. “Lucky Day” is captured in its demo version here. “Never” is a live version with mandolins and a LED ZEPPELIN bass player as a guest star is on next. Any more suggestions? This is what you get on these three CDs, which is a nice collection of cherries, that belong to many different cakes. “These Dreams” is one of my personal faves of the later HEART era. Mainly because of the catchy song structure and the high pull outs of Ann. There’s no one else in this world, who can sing this song, the way that Ann performs it. “Nobody Home” captures some steaming hot guitar licks in another amazing track, that shows you once again how good this band is. Another goose flesh moment is for “Alone”. Just listen to the power in this powerful love song and those high pull outs of Ann Wilson, which really sound amazing to me! “Wait For An Answer” sounds heavy and I like it, when the band starts to groove. “Unconditional Love” is captured here as a demo, just like “High Romance” and “Under The Sky”. In the meantime, I have some time left to browse through the beautiful booklet, that comes with this package. A booklet, that is covered with excellent pictures and the story that goes with each song played on these three discs, told by Ann and Nancy. At the end of this second disc, “Desire Walks On” is being captured here in the ‘Beach demo version’. The third CD contains another seventeen tracks and almost sixty-five minutes of wild and exciting HEART music. But not just HEART music, because the first three songs are reserved for THE LOVEMONGERS, the acoustic side project of the Wilson sisters. They kick off with “Kiss”, followed by a great live version of “Sand” and “Everything” from the same session. “She Still Believes” is captured in a live version and “Any Woman’s Blues” calls in the help of the SEATTLE BLUES REVUE HORNS. “Strange Euphoria”, the title track of this great compilation is also captured here and it brings back the sound of the seventies, but in a very strange way. The title didn’t give away too much, but it’s the odd one out here in my opinion. It sounds experimental and you wouldn’t guess that you are listening to HEART in this song. “Boppy’s Back” is a demo and once again a very strange song in a way. It could be a lullaby, assisted with the flute playing of Ann. “Friend Meet Friend” is another live track of THE LOVEMONGERS. They continue with some live material like the bluesy “Love Or Madness”. “Skin To Skin” sounds a bit like AEROSMITH in the beginning. This is the newer sound of HEART, but it still has got that catchy edge, that made this band famous. While in “Fallen Ones”, it’s Ann’s voice that attracts the most attention. Just listen to the high pull outs after the groovy intro. “Enough” is HEART like we all know them. Catchy with a slightly romantic edge to it, yet still groovy. “Lost Angel” is added here in a live version, including a raunchy guitar solo. It’s one of the best songs on this third CD for me. “Little Problems, Little Lies” is a solo track by Ann, including the sound of the acoustic guitar. While “Queen City” is a song to play in your car stereo, while driving on one of the endless roads in America. “Hey You” is a feel good sing along song and this last CD closes with a very short reprise of “Avalon”. After that, you’ve heard it all. All that’s left to do is to view the live DVD from 1976, that comes with this package. There are many heavy tracks on this compilation package. The sound of HEART however has so much variation, that you’ll move from style to style on these three CDs. Still, the acoustic guitar is a very important ingredient in their music and sometimes it lacks a bit of loud guitars. This is only a minor detail though and I know for sure, that true HEART fans will ignore this comment and enjoy this package to the max, just like I do. Website: http://www.heart-music.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HËSSLER-Bad Blood (EP)(independent)
This American heavy metal band introduce themselves with a 2011 EP and a bit further on, you will also find a review of their 2012 full-length debut album. HËSSLER hails from the U.S.A. and this seven track EP plays for almost half an hour. The band from Chicago has got a nice true metal sound and opens their EP with “Shark Attack”, which will remind you of a mix between early IRON MAIDEN, WASP and LITA FORD. “Crash ‘N’ Burn” has got nothing at to do with the PAT TRAVERS tune of the same title. It leans more towards LITA FORD again, maybe because of the female vocals. The song has got a good beat and sounds easy on the ears. “Windy City Wild Child” contains a firm drum beat and a catchy chorus, which you can sing along to, after hearing it once (or twice). “Kamikazi” opens with a great guitar intro, followed by a NWOBHM type of song, which contains more power than ten tonz of TNT. “Scarlett” opens with an acoustic guitar and evolves as a ballad. But this one is beautiful and it gives me the shivers down my spine for a moment. This little piece of rest is only for one song and the band presses the pedal to the metal in “C’Mon”, which is a firm foot stomper with some raunchy guitar riffs. The best is saved for last on this debut EP and it’s a monster heavy track called “Bad Blood”. HËSSLER definitely is a name to remember and I am very curious about their debut full-length. Don’t worry, the review of that CD comes up next. HËSSLER consists of Igz Kincaid on guitars and vocals, Erik Michael on bass guitar and vocals, Lariyah Daniels on vocals, Marcus Lee on drums and backing vocals and Frankie Snakes Sripada on guitars and vocals. Go to their website at: http://www.hesslerchicago.com for more information about this outstanding metal band (and read our interview with Lariyah elsewhere on this site!!!) [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HËSSLER-Comes With The Territory (independent)
This is the full-length debut album of Chicago based metal heads HËSSLER. It contains ten tracks and about forty-five minutes of power heavy metal. The band kicks off with “Waste Away” in the fourth gear. It contains some monstrous guitar licks and great vocal parts of blonde vixen Lariyah. What a killer opener! “Rising Sign” will raise all those fists in the air. “Who Will You Run To” contains some great screaming vocals, loud bashing drums and again some very nice guitar work. I think, that I’m going to like this band a lot. There is a bit JUDAS PRIEST in their sound and they give it their very best shot. “Confessions” might take away their speed a little, but definitely not the intensity of this song. A great power metal song unveils itself here. “Gone Away” is another good ballad, just like the one on their EP. Every good rock album needs one and this one has got some great vocals and a very good guitar solo. The band goes all the way here. “All You’ve Done (Nothing Is New)” is a straight forward rock song with some choir vocals. While in “Wicked World”, we also hear some male vocals up front in the mix and the song gets a more punk feeling this way. The guitar solo is definitely metal though. The choir vocals in “Taste The Lips” reminded me of ANTHRAX for a moment, which isn’t a shame of course. In “Million Lights Above”, the band added a second ballad to the album, which might be too much for the average listener. The way the band performs it though is so good, that it doesn’t bother me at all. The band knows to play a good heavy metal tune, but their ballads are very much worth checking out as well. “Hate Me, Leave Me” is another ‘balls to the wall’ metal song that closes this album. So there you have it: Chicago metal at its very best. HËSSLER delivers the goods and they truly sound like any old school metal band from the burning hot eighties. They can be proud of this and I think we will definitely hear more from them in the near future. Also, check out our recent interview with singer Lariyah, elsewhere on this site. Band website: http://www.hesslerchicago.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ISSA-Can’t Stop (Frontiers/Rough Trade)
ISSA’s second solo album contains twelve AOR classics and she gives her own twist to it. This works remarkably well and maybe they even sound a little better at times. The twelve songs are worthy of fifty-five minutes of classy AOR with lots of emotion and a feel good sound. Opener “Can’t Stop” is the perfect opener, which translates it all in a nutshell. An up tempo beat, easy on the ears, some marvelous guitar work and ISSA’s lovely voice on top of it all. The original comes from TOWER CITY. “Power Over Me” is another foot stomper, that could be recorded in the heydays of PAT BENATAR. The original version of this powerful song comes from MISTER MISTER. “Wherever You Run” is from REGATTA and comes from 1989. While writing this review, I look back at the original video clips by the original artists. Do it yourself, it makes this album even more complete and you’ll enjoy these magic AOR songs even more. “Just A Wish” is from 21 GUNS, the AOR band fronted by Scott Gorham (THIN LIZZY). No wonder, that there’s a breath taking guitar solo in this one. The sound leans a lot towards a good HEART ballad, to get some idea for those of you, who are not familiar with 21 GUNS. “If You Ever Fall” is originally done by another female artist. Nobody else but TONE NORUM did this song already, but maybe ISSA’s voice has got a little bit more skills and power. Especially the last part is quite heavy and very well done. “Do You Ever Think Of Me” is another classic tune. This time the original is from UNRULY CHILD with Mark Free on vocals. The song reminds me a little of “Just Take My Heart” by MR BIG, which is one of my favorite ballads from that band, so I think this is another outstanding choice. I don’t know who picked the songs for this album, but hey they did an amazing job here! From this ballad type of song, we go on to a more up tempo tune, called “Dream On”. It’s a nice song, that I didn’t know yet. The original version was recorded by BOULEVARD. “Stranded” was originally recorded by another female singer in the AOR genre, namely JAIME KYLE. This is a great AOR song. I think, that ISSA accomplished a great mission here to bring AOR music back to life again. “Heat Of The Night” sounds very radio friendly and this is another song that I didn’t know yet, originally recorded by WORRALL. “I Won’t Surrender” is the second TOWER CITY cover, but this one is less catchy than opener “Can’t Stop”. It contains some ballsy guitar licks though. “State Of Love” is on next and AOR fans will know the original song from MARK FREE very well, I guess. And so we end this trip through AOR memory lane with a song called “These Eyes”, originally recorded by 21 GUNS, so expect more great guitar work. I can’t stop listening to great songs like that, but I hope that ISSA will come with some own penned material again next time. Still, it’s great to hear these classic songs passing by and ISSA stayed very close to the original versions, too. The band of ISSA (real name: Isabell Oversveen) consists of Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards, Mario Percudani on guitars, Anna Portaluppi on bass and Alessandro Mori on drums. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES-Jess And The Ancient Ones (Svart Records)
Welcome to this rock and roll ritual by JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES. Let them take you back to the seventies with their magic sound from that roaring time. Be ready for thick keyboard layers, a rocking guitar sound and a female voice that will remind you of someone like Grace Slick (JEFFERSON AIRPLANE) for example. The album contains seven tracks, that will keep you focused for about fifty-five minutes. They start their ritual with a “Prayer For Death And Fire”. It’s a fast opener, in which we will hear all the above mentioned ingredients. Then we move on to “Twilight Witchcraft”. You won’t be surprised that witchcraft, magic, rituals and occult stuff are the main topics of this Finnish band from Kuopo. The guitars in the second song might remind you of JIMI HENDRIX and ROBIN TROWER for example, but for the younger fans, I would like to refer to a band like THE DEVIL’S BLOOD to give you some idea of what it sounds like. “Sulfur Giants (Red King)” starts dark and sober, but it evolves into a magic carpet ride with an alchemist background. Sulfur is the element, which is mostly combined with the name of Satan. They both have the same smell. This song really brings out the best of the band. The lengthy instrumental interlude and the refreshing solo parts are breathtaking and they will get you into a long trance. “Ghost Riders” is another up tempo track with some nice guitar work and once again the keyboards are up front of the mix. It gives the song a somewhat DEEP PURPLE kind of twist, only this time with female vocals. The CD sleeve matches very well to the music. The ancient magic signs and the color purple already gives you an idea, that the music will sound magic as well. “13th Breath Of The Zodiac” grabs back to their sound, that is a mix of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD and JEFFERSON AIRPLANE. “Devil (In G Minor)” sounds a bit jazzy and it also has a middle section on piano. “Come Crimson Death” is the last track on this retro rock album. The band gives it their very best shot in a lengthy track, which opens very dreamy with the sound of keyboards whispering in the dark. Slowly, the song gets more powerful and the guitars sound really breathtaking! This long ritual will definitely bring the fans of the band into a trance, that is not easy to break, until it stops quite suddenly. All good things must come to an end, I guess. I did have a very nice time listening to this album and I’m sure that it will find its way to the fans, too. The occult rock and metal genre is very booming nowadays, so JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES rolled in just in time, I think. The band consists of Jess on vocals, Thomas Corpse on lead guitar, Thomas Fiend on lead guitar and backing vocals, Von Stroh on rhythm guitar, Fast Jake on bass guitar, Abraham on keyboard and Yussuf on drums. Website: http://www.jessandtheancientones.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KAIPA-Vittjar (InsideOut Music)
I really love the sound of KAIPA. It brings back some very good memories about long lost progressive rock bands like GENESIS and especially YES. To be as complete as possible, I will start with the line-up of this Swedish prog rock band, which consists of Hans Lundin on keyboards and vocals, Per Nilsson (SCAR SYMMETRY) on guitars, Morgan Ågren (MATS & MORGAN, ZAPPA) on drums, Jonas Reingold (THE FLOWER KINGS, KARMAKANIC) on bass, Patrik Lundström (RITUAL) on vocals and Aleena Gibson on vocals. Guest players are Fredrik Lindqvist (RITUAL) on recorders and whistles and Elin Rubinsztein on violin. The eight tracks are worthy of about seventy minutes of progressive rock. The opener is an instrumental, called “First Distraction” and I already get the feeling that I’m in for something special, which is good. “Lightblue And Green” is the first real song and it brings back the best of GENESIS, QUEEN and YES, but newer fans can also read TRANSATLANTIC, FLOWER KINGS and DREAM THEATER here. The almost twelve minute long track is full of points of recognition and will definitely put a big smile on the faces of many progressive rock fans out there. Lengthy keyboard parts, vocals that are a mix of Peter Gabriel and Freddy Mercury in his very early days, instrumental twists and turns and huge guitar extravagance get together this one time, keeping me in suspense and waiting for another unexpected move to appear. At the end of this trip down memory lane, they also throw in some of their YES influences along with some classy choir vocal parts. This sounds so fabulous f*cking fantastic and it’s only just the beginning, I guess. The next track “Our Silent Ballroom Band” runs for about twenty-two minutes and opens as a kind of lullaby, where Aleena is doing the lead vocals, who sounds a bit like Candice Night in the beginning. Shortly, the keyboards take over and a long progressive rock journey starts off. It’s totally madness after that with some lengthy instrumental parts, choir vocals and such in the style of YES, which tastes extremely cool. When you think that this long progressive rock ride is over and dome, the band starts yet another guitar solo to please you even more. It’s the final long pull out of this third track, which leads you to title track “Vittjar”. The contrast couldn’t be bigger, because this is a short track sung in the Swedish language. It adds a slightly folk influence to the already existing melting pot of music styles. “Treasure-House” is another progressive rock dream come true with main influences being DREAM THEATER and Peter Gabriel. Especially the beginning of this track will remind you of “Solisbury Hill” by the former GENESIS frontman. “A Universe Of Tinyness” is on next and it opens with the lovely voice of Aleena and some KANSAS like violin parts. The rest of the song has got that same pompous feeling, which KANSAS always knows to create so well. The last song is called “The Crowned Hillsides”, which sounds like a DREAM THEATER type of song and gets a bit dreamy in the end. The circle is finished, when the band closes this fantastic album with the short instrumental “Second Distraction”. KAIPA is certainly a name to remember for those people, who love progressive rock music in the widest sense of the word. Website://www.kaipa.info. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KATANA-Storms Of War (Listenable Records)
Throw your fists in the air, while listening to the thunderous guitar intro of KATANA’s brand new album “Storms Of War”. This band from Sweden shows you how to play heavy metal in the best old school way possible. Opener “The Reaper” sounds like a magic pact between JAG PANZER and JUDAS PRIEST. Ten songs will go by in about fifty metal minutes. The male vocals make you aware of the fact, that this Swedish metal outfit is not fronted by a girl, but the female input comes from the four stringed metal lady Susanna Saminen, who handles the bass guitar parts here. “Wrath Of The Emerald Witch” is IRON MAIDEN pur sang and you don’t have to be a heavy metal freak to recognize this sound. But you can also read names like TOKYO BLADE or RAVEN here, to get the picture. It rocks like hell and if you don’t think back to the heydays of IRON MAIDEN, while listening to “Khubilai Khan”, then you’re reading the wrong review on the wrong website, my friend. This is all about war, ninjas, samurai swords and evil attacks taking you by surprise, just like the awesome music, that you’ll hear on this album. “The Samurai Returns” is another example of what you’re about to witness here and will put the band right next to their colleagues of ENFORCER, WOLF and RAM. “City On The Edge Of Forever” sounds like a bit more straight forward heavy metal, but the band takes their revenge during “No Surrender”, which is an epic heavy metal track ready to sing along to with your fists thrown in the air of course. In the song “In the Land Of The Sun”, KATANA displays the more epical side of IRON MAIDEN in their music. The instrumental parts will exactly tell you, what I mean by this. It sounds good and it proves, that KATANA knows how to pay tribute to their forefathers very well. “The Gambit” continues this true metal attack with fast guitar riffs, thundering drum rolls and a spoken word mid-piece, that MANOWAR would be proud of. “Modesty Blaise” is anything but modest and it blasts out some firm metal beats. With the IRON MAIDEN influenced “The Wisdom Of Edmond’s Field” we have come to the end of this great old school metal album by KATANA. The band consists of Patrik Essén on guitars, Tobias Karlsson on guitars, Johan Bernspång on vocals, Susanna Saminen on bass and Anders Persson on drums. A must for all true heavy metal fans out there!! Website: http://www.facebook.com/KatanaOfficial [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LA VENTURA-White Crow (Hardlife Promotion)
Stop searching for any new female-fronted melodic metal bands, because it won’t get any hotter than LA VENTURA this very moment. They bring you exciting drum beats, raunchy riffs and melodic female vocals on their new album called “White Crow”. A white crow sounds like a rare bird to me and the talent in LA VENTURA could also be categorized as a rarity. This second album contains ten brand new tracks and runs for forty minutes, starting with the groovy rhythms of “Falling Down” and “Human Vanity”. Two up tempo tracks with all the ingredients mentioned here earlier. Loud guitar riffs, steady drum beats and the nice voice of Carla van Huizen make you long for more. A nice mix of EVANESCENCE, NIGHTWISH, EPICA and LACUNA COIL . In “Close To You” the band takes down the speed a little. The song sounds slightly romantic and a bit darker, but still it has the same aspects mentioned before. The guitar solo at the end is highly enjoyable. “Song For An Idiot” sounds very up tempo and catchy. How nice that they wrote a song especially for me (lol). The catchy refrains could bring a song like that in our national charts maybe. It has a natural flow and yet it still rocks, because of the groovy guitar sound. Title track “White Crow” is on next and it brings out the best of the band. In my imagination, I can see long hair waving up and down in the air, when they pull out another guitar riff. “Drowning” brings out the more progressive side of LA VENTURA and clearly this band has got many different faces, that are very close to one another. This album is very easy to listen to, because each song has a lot of variety. The only thing missing here is the presence of a real ballad, although I have my doubts whether a real metal head would agree with me here. Anyway, LA VENTURA knows to surprise me in many different ways. “Time And Time Again” is again easy on the ears. “Neverending Story” contains some raw guitar beeps and things get really rocking here alright. LA VENTURA consists of Carla van Huizen on vocals, Sasha Kondic on guitars, Mike Saffrie on bass and Renzo van Poecke on drums. The last two songs are coming up now, which starts with the heavy crunchy “The Only One”. It contains more groovy guitar parts and the breathtaking vocals of Carla, followed by CD closer “Watch Me Go”. “The Only One” definitely belongs to one of the highlights on this album for me, but I’m sure that you can think of some highlights for yourself. “White Crow” is definitely worth checking out, because there is some serious new talent on the move here. Website: http://www.la-ventura.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LORDI-To Beast Or Not To Beast (AFM Records)
Loud screams and sirens… Mothers, watch your children, because LORDI is back with a new album. It plays for forty-five minutes and contains eleven new foot stompers. The mayhem starts with “We’re Not Bad For The Kids (We’re Worse)”, which has got a sense of humor in the best LORDI tradition possible. The song is ready to sing along from the very beginning. Same goes for “ I Luv Ugly”, which will get those fist up in the air for sure. The speed is high and LORDI is ready to rock your world here. In “The Riff” we’ll hear the keyboards by female member Hella (which is a remarkable name for a LORDI monster!) up front in the mix, but the guitars roar out loud as well. The bell tolls, when they start “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, which slows down the pace a bit. The lights are turned off and the growls are getting lower and lower. LORDI is still a branch in the horror metal tree, remember? Although their music sometimes leans towards the happy sound of TWISTED SISTER and ACCEPT. “I’m The Best” is a short song, where they reveal the name of their most favorite band. Of course it’s LORDI, because they are the best, according to this song. “Horrifiction” is a well-chosen title. It contains some filthy guitar work by Amen and also an ACCEPT kind of beat. Sometimes Mr. Lordi even sounds like a low growling Udo Dirkschneider. Humor is a very important factor to the band, next to their horror image, that they want to spread out. Just take a good look at the title “Happy New Fear”. This is not a case of shock rock, this is simply called an ultimate marketing stunt. These people just know what to do to become immortal in this scene. They mix horror with humor and heavy foot stomping rock and it sells like hell. And I bet, that a happy 2013 has started for this new album by LORDI. “Schizo Doll” is on next and the doll they bought you for Christmas wasn’t that innocent and sweet as she looked. It could be dedicated to Chucky. “Candy For The Cannibal” is sung with a stuttering voice. Besides this minor disturbance, it’s a good rocking song with an evil background. They’ll never learn. “Sincerely With Love” is just another humorous title. You don’t get it? Just listen to the lyrics and compare it to the song title and then you’ll know. The last track is dedicated to the band’s late drummer Otus (Tonmi Lillman), who died last year. It’s called “SCG6 Otus’ Butcher Clinic”. It doesn’t come as a surprise, that this song is a live drum solo, in which they honor their deceased friend and former band member. LORDI sure knows how to rock my world and although the album is a very safe buy without any major surprises, it’s still a very nice listen. If Shakespeare would have lived in the twenty-first century, he would definitely be a fan of the band. LORDI consists of Mr. Lordi on vocals, Amen on guitars, Hella on keyboards, Ox on bass and Mana on drums. Website: http://www.lordi.fi. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LOVELORN DOLLS-The House Of Wonders (Alfa Matrix)
LOVELORN DOLLS walks on the thin line between gothic, electro rock and metal on “The House Of Wonders”. The CD contains fourteen tracks and runs for fifty minutes sharp. It starts off with the title track, which is in fact not more than a short instrumental intro. The real deal however starts, when the band cranks out a dark symphony of gothic metal, some sensual vocals, loads of keyboards and a rocking guitar sound in “After dark”. The next song “Purple” starts off a bit mysterious and the poppy beat sounds very joyful and up tempo. The vocals are from Ladyhell (Krist(h)ell Lowagie; ex-SKEPTICAL MINDS, ex-VALKYRE), which contain a certain touch of sensuality. Corpus Christi (B. Daubresse; ex-FREE LAUNCH) takes care of the guitars and the production. The band is completed by Hindi Rose on bass and Gabriel Arkangel on drums. The music is danceable for those, who dare and could attract a public, that is balancing between gothic rock and metal and maybe even some industrial music. “Save Me For Yourself” adds a touch of THE GATHERING (with Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals) to their sound. Kristell does sound very much alike her in this song and gives me that same feeling. “Mother Of The Universe” is a song, where you can dream away in the darkness of the world when the bats come out at night. While “Frozen Inside” might give you a cold feeling, when you’re not into the music of LACUNA COIL or EVANESCENCE. “Aux Dieux” is a French song. Not strange for band from Brussels in Belgium and it suits the band really well, I think. “No-Life” is easy on the ears and it contains some nice keyboard and loud riffs to find a balance between metal and rock. There’s only a thin line between these two, you know. For example “Feel Myself With You” sounds very much like a rock song, but when the loud guitar riffs appear, it suddenly moves towards the metal side. It pleases both ways in fact. There are some male vocals in this song, too. “Inside My Head” has got a great groove and “Euphoria” moves towards the end of this LOVELORN DOLLS album. It sounds catchy and dark at the same time, but it lacks that magic feeling, I am looking for. It sounds too average for a metal head, however you can add an extra point, if you are into the gothic rock scene. “In Your Room” sounds very sensual and almost erotic, like some SKEPTICAL MINDS songs used to do. “Rats” sounds like THE GATHERING in their very early days and the “Final Curtain” (what a great title!) closes this album. Just listen very carefully before buying, if you’re a die-hard metal head. If you like the more gothic side of the scene, than this album would be more than an essential buy. The limited carton box edition of this album contains a second album with eleven bonus tracks. Website: http://www.lovelorn.info. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MAXINE-Back To The Garden (Max Volume)
Maxine Petrucci just released her third solo album, called “Back To The Garden” and it will really blow you off your feet! The album has a playing time of forty-five minutes and contains ten breathtaking pearls and the awesome axe work of Maxine. Once being a member of MADAM X with her sister Roxy Petrucci (who went on to play drums for the all-female band VIXEN), now with her own band MAXINE for several years already. She’s helped out by drummer Pat DeLeon this time. Let’s go through these new songs very quickly, starting with opener “WTF”, which sounds absolutely jaw-dropping. A fast speed monster unfolds itself here, in which Maxine will warm up her fingers. My mind goes out to the eighties, where legendary guitarists like MARTY FRIEDMAN, TONY MACALPINE, JASON BECKER, CACOPHONEY, RITCHIE KOTZEN, CHASTAIN and VINNIE MOORE ruled the scene with their instrumental masterpieces. Title track “Back To The Garden” starts off with a strange a capella kind of singing followed by a mysterious story, that closes with another great guitar solo by Maxine. This does sound a bit strange and creepy in a way, but it’s good enough to hold your attention. In “Out Of Whack”, Maxine’s fingers do the talking once again. It’s a groovy tune and it has some amazing guitar work in the instrumental part near the end. The mystery stays lurking in the background and I think it’s part of the concept here. Maxine sure knows to convince me with her guitar work. “Assassinate” sounds fast and will roll like thunder through your head. The songs may not be really catchy, but they are somehow easy on the ears and pretty accessible. “Wicked” is on next (which was written by Maxine's brother Remo, by the way) and it may relate to some of the songs on this album. It starts with some flute playing, performed by Maxine. Elves are dancing around the big oak tree in my mind. It’s a musical fairy tale with a folky twist and a wicked groove. While “Pink Angels” might give you the idea, that you are listening to some of the old HEART material. After listening to the flute playing in the previous song, HEART already came to mind, but now I dare to say that this band may have been a big influence to MAXINE. The ‘lalala’ part might be a little over the top, but one way or another it does fit quite well. “Youth Gone By” sounds dark and groovy and the guitar licks sound a bit more like Zakk Wylde here, but he would probably play it a little bit wilder (lol). The guitar solo sounds crystal clear though and it shows the variety in styles, that MAXINE creates. In “Ginger Man”, you’ll hear Pete Hopersberger on keyboards, who also shows up in “Out Of Whack” and “Harsh My God”, the CD closer on “Back To The Garden”. “Ginger Man” has got a rocking attitude. Just listen to the part, where Maxine sings ‘talking about my generation’, which is obviously dedicated to THE WHO and a subtle hint to the forefathers of rock. “Sacred” is on next and this is another rocking song. Slowly, we move on to the end of this marvelous record with “Harsh My Gig”, which sounds like STEVE VAI, slightly experimental, but with a flawless solo at the end of the song. MAXINE is back and her current band members are Pat DeLeon on drums, Bryan Paxton on bass and Rachel May (What a big surprise - hello Rachel, how’s life?! formerly BROADZILLA) on guitar. Of course Maxine Petrucci plays lead guitar and sings. Come to her garden and experience the mysterious and amazing world, that she has created there for you. Website: http://www.maxinepetrucci.net/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MELDRUM-Lifer (Reversed Records)
After the death of Michelle Meldrum, I must admit that it was over for MELDRUM as well. Good news is, that there were still some songs on the shelf, that were already recorded, which have been released now under the name of “Lifer”. Ten tracks in forty minutes will rip the flesh of your bones and will leave you behind with a smile on your face. This is heavy shit and a great obituary for this late ex-PHANTOM BLUE guitar player. “Lifer” consists of Michelle Meldrum on guitar, Michelle Madden (TOURETTE) on vocals, Laura Christine (WARFACE) on rhythm guitar, lead guitar and bass and drum beast extraordinaire Gene Hoglan, who also plays bass and rhythm guitar. Opener “A Toast To Romance” leads you to the overall sound on this album, which is blasting at full speed, ultra loud, groovy and brutal. Backed up by some great guitar work, it will wake you up with a big bang and prepare you to run through these bone dry riffs and songs, that are drowned in influences like BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and PANTERA. “Blackened Blue” continues this sound and in the background lurks a dark sauce, that is slowly poured over here. It’s a well of darkness, that is sometimes used in the grunge scene as well, but it matches quite well to the groovy kind of music. “Paid” sounds more vivid and Gene beats the crap out of his kit again. He’s really not from this earth and gives the song another powerful dimension. “68 Blonde” contains a rather high voice in the beginning, which doesn’t really match to the thick riffs that are being used. This is only in one song, because “Money Shot” is another dangerous speed machine with haunting vocal lines. “Walking Point” contains some bestial growls and has got some grungy groovy parts. In “Inamorata”, the ambience gets a bit darker and the growls sound really heavy. It leans towards death metal sometimes. Clearly, “Lifer” is not meant for the faint hearted, but it has become a bone hard CD. “Home” sounds very groovy with a surprisingly sudden stop in the middle. “Mayhem” has some touches of SOUNDGARDEN mixed with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and extremely brutal death metal like growls. Like the title already suggests, this is one of the most brutal songs on the album. “Greenlee” is a slower album closer and perhaps also a career closer for MELDRUM. I really don’t know, if the book is closed forever, but they can indeed be proud of this posthumous album of the band. It’s a brutal but honest salute to Michelle Meldrum and her music. R.I.P. Michelle!!! [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MORTILLERY-Origin Of Extinction (Napalm Records)
I already liked this band’s debut album “Murder Death Kill” a lot and right now I’m listening to the successor of this album called “Origin Of Extinction”. It contains thirteen tracks and almost fifty-five minutes of thrash metal mayhem. The album opens with a short instrumental song called “Battle March”, which sounds like some kind of introduction to “No Way Out”. The people, who already liked their debut album, can dig in blindfolded, because the band continues in the same direction. High speed riffs, polka beats, growling vocals and songs that will remind you of the early days of thrash metal with influences of bands like SLAYER, EXODUS, TESTAMENT and MEGADETH. “Cease To Exist” is fast and sounds like TESTAMENT in their heydays. This sounds maybe even more authentically than the original Bay Area scene today. Both thumbs up for MORTILLERY! Another point of attention is the very colorful CD cover, which catches your eye immediately. It screams out: ‘Buy Me’ and it backs up this release nicely. “Creature Possessor” sounds filthy, mean, speedy and heavy. “Seen In Death” contains screaming vocals and a nice guitar solo at the end of the song. “Feed The Fire” sounds a bit more like the early ANTHRAX, because of the loud bashing drum beats. “The Hunter’s Lair” feels like a comfortable warm bed for thrash metal fans. The speed even goes up a little bit more and it contains some nice aggressive vocal parts. Maybe their sound isn’t quite original, but they make up for that minor detail the way they handle things. It sounds so good, that you simply must like it, no matter if these riffs have been played before or not. “F.O.A.D.” is a true highlight to me, because of its brutality and the ‘in-your-face’ approach. You can’t escape the brutal force of MORTILLERY here. “Maniac” is a good song, yet another highlight comes up in “Sunday Morning Slasher”, which sounds extremely adventurous. This track also closes this great thrash metal album. However, if you have bought the digipack version, you are in for another treat with three great covers. “Evil Invaders” by Canadian thrash metal legends RAZOR is the first one and this sounds like a killer version to me. “Madhouse” by ANTHRAX is on next and another true classic metal tune unveils itself. An odd choice for a thrash band is the last song, which is “Angel Witch” by ANGEL WITCH. I hear many of you say: a NWOBHM tune, performed by a thrash metal combo? Why not? Expect the unexpected, because MORTILLERY performs a very nice version of this all-time classic. Let’s not beat around the bush here, whether you like this band or not, they sound mighty great and they let you eat thrash metal from the beginning until the very end. They may not be original, which you don’t hear me say, but let’s face it, dear readers: who is these days?!? I think we are dealing with a killer thrash album, which kept me focused for nearly one hour and I loved it! MORTILLERY consists of Alex Scott on guitar, Alex Gutierrez on guitar, Kevin Gaudet on drums, Miranda Gladeau on bass and Cara McCutchen on screaming brutal vocals. If you don’t like this kind of shit, I’ll send the Sunday Morning Slasher to your house for a visit, so be warned! Website: http://www.mortillery.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MOTORPSYCHOS-Sheppard’s File (independent)
The MOTORPSYCHOS are back with a bang! Consisting of Pam Simmons on guitar and vocals, Amy Bianco on bass and vocals and Dennis Brown on drums, they pour out eight new songs over you in almost forty minutes. “1000 Eyes” prepares you for some action with a sludgy, dark, doomy sound, so you’d better watch out that there’s no escape anymore after this. “Victim” sounds loud and brutal and has some very loud screaming vocals. But with those loud brutal riffs played here, I would gladly like to be a victim. “Marionette” brings back the slow doomy sound. It’s topped by a nice guitar solo, which shows that there is more than just a simple riff for this band. “Scratch Flight” sounds dark and spooky. The dark brutal growls don’t make this song any happier, but it sure sounds really amazing to me. The pictures of the front sleeve and the inner sleeve breathe that exact same atmosphere. You don’t feel happy, but after hearing the songs you will feel very satisfied indeed. Don’t believe it, just try it and find out yourself. “Shunned” is on next and it grooves like hell. The last scream seems to come from the tip of Pam’s toes. “Protocol” has got the same vibe that a band like BLACK SABBATH or VOI VOD exudes. It might sound extremely simple, but it never misses a target. “Binks” has got some heavy riffs, backed by some kind of NWOBHM guitar sound this time. The most aggressive tune is saved for last. You could almost categorize this as pure thrash metal, my friends. This will come as quite a shock maybe, but I already warned you from the start, that this band is back with a bang and the bang is the CD closer. There’s never a dull moment ,when listening to the music of MOTORPSYCHOS. People, who like music that contains a lot of spicy pepper and salt, can dig in easily. Nerds better leave this thing alone. Website: http://www.motorpsychosrock.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MYSTERY BLUE-Conquer The World (Road Show Production)
MYSTERY BLUE from France brings you pure heavy metal and now they’re ready to “Conquer The World”. This new album contains eleven brand new tracks and almost fifty-five minutes of pure mayhem and steel. Check it out, because otherwise you will burn in hell. Opener “Conquer The World” is a classic in my book already. I raise my sword and sing along to the words, that are delivered here. Massive drum beats, flashing guitars and a great female voice are the main ingredients and I start to prepare myself for this huge ear attack. “Innocent Crime” contains some massive pounding drum beats and a haunting rhythm. It stands proud like a warrior on the battle field: fists in the air and ready for action. The drum beats will give you a JUDAS PRIEST feeling and so does the lead guitar. In “Running With The Pack”, the band called in the help of Andreas Babuschkin (PARAGON) and Uwe Lullis (ex-GRAVE DIGGER, REBELLION). During the chorus, you’ll get some kind of UDO / ACCEPT feeling. It’s easy to shout along to yet catchy at the same time, but heavy as hell. “Evil Spell” starts with some evil growling of the beast. Better be aware, you’re bitten before you’ll know it. High pitched screams make the dark growls sound even more evil than they already did. You have to admit, that the pure heavy metal level is quite high until now. “Cruel Obsession” is another highlight to me. The high speed, astonishing guitar work and the Rob Halford-like voice make this great track totally done. “Ticket To Hell” starts off with an AC/DC kind of beat. The rest of the song breathes a more ACCEPT kind of atmosphere, including some stunning guitar work. “Keep On Dreaming” is a piece of rest. You know, that every good metal CD needs a good ballad, and this one is no exception to this golden rule. The song is slower, but it also contains a heavy beat. While “Road Of Despair” brings back the JUDAS PRIEST influences in the heavy pounding drums. Is there someone out there, asking for more?! The filth hounds of Hades roar “Behind Those Walls” and they’re hungry for more. Listen to their blood thirsty growls. It’s time to raise your fists or get destroyed by these animals. “Guardian Angel” is a more epical tune and once again I raise my sword for MYSTERY BLUE! However, be prepared for the bonus track (in the French language), called “Accroche-Toi A Tes Rèves”. Another ballad type of song announces itself here. MYSTERY BLUE is Frenzy Philipon on guitars, Vince Koehler on drums, Matt Gabnai on bass and Nathalie Geyer on vocals and they really convinced me again on this new album. I’m ready to pull out the full score for them. Website: http://www.mysteryblue.com. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

OTEP-HYRDA (Victory Records)
I believe, that this might be the last OTEP album, because she wants to express herself in different ways than just singing and screaming. She wants to write a book, so I am told. Anyway, this new album “Hyrda” cranks out thirteen tracks and plays for a bit over seventy minutes, which is quite long. After a slow, but very threatening start of short opener “Rising”, the first brutal outings are being carried out in “Blowtorch Nightlight”. Brutal riffs, stomping beats, loud aggressive vocals, this is nu-metal made to play ultra loud. “Seduce & Destroy” takes back some speed and aggression, but the message that Otep Shamaya spits out remains crystal clear. “Crush” sounds dark and after this musical trip, the album continues with some horror kind of stories. Well, at least it more or less sounds like that with songs such as “Hematopia”, “Necromatic”, “Quarantine” and “Voyeur”. “Apex Predator” is on next, which contains a beat and a rhythm and sounds a bit dark. This really gets me focused, before “Feral Game” rushes in and displays some killer riffs. The anger is being unveiled and I have the feeling that I’m listening to a heavy metal album again. The statements in the previous songs might be important for her and they are being performed in a very intense way, but I doubt whether they’ll reach the average listener, who is hoping to hear music instead. “Livestock” is another spoken word part, followed by “Hag”, which is an enormous heavy ride, with some very loud screams and wild brutal heavy metal. Now that’s what I want to hear! Especially that last shout will hit you right in the heart. It comes from the very tip of her toes and seems to hold on forever. The album closes with “Theophagy”, a story that has a dark computerized beat underneath. You could start to search for a hidden track, that’s really there after more than fifteen minutes of nothingness, but all you’ll hear is a long hard scream. One: I didn’t know that bands still use hidden tracks every now and then. Two: it’s not worth to wait for a scream or search for a scream. After the last beat, you just push the ‘stop’ button and start to listen to a CD with some real music. I might be a little bit too serious, but after listening to an album like this, I’m glad this lady has decided to quit music. Next time, you’d better read the book or have a look at her film. It’s very brave to record an album, that sounds like a soundtrack, but this won’t get you very far. Maybe it is better to write a book next time or tell your stories in a movie. I’ll give this a very low score here, mainly because what I hear musically sounds rather neat, but the spoken word interludes, no matter how spooky they sound, are a bit over the top for me. The band line-up on this CD is: Otep Shamaya on vocals, Aristotle on guitar, Collyn McCoy on bass, Ulrich Wild and Aristotle on programming, Tristan Wallace on programming. Website: http://www.facebook.com/otepofficial [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

OTEP-Sounds Like Armageddon Live (Victory Records)
This is a live recording by OTEP. The band line-up here is Otep Shamaya on vocals, Ari Mihalopoulos on guitar, Eric Tisinger on bass and Chase Brickenden on drums. It contains eleven tracks and almost a full hour of OTEP live mayhem. If you’ve read my review of the latest studio album of OTEP, then you’ll know that this lady really has to prove herself here. The band sounds much different in a live situation and prove is given in the raw and wild “Battle Ready” with a wild rapping Otep and a very energetic backing band. When the sirens fade away, the war is on and all guns are blazing! At the end of this song, Otep calls for a circle pit and according to the raw power that’s being unleashed here, this really has happened during the recordings. “Fill Thee” is on next. This is the kind of nu-metal, that we like to hear best in full power. I like the power and energy very much, which sounds like pure hell to me, although I have nothing at all in common with this kind of music. Without any notice, OTEP drags you into “Crooked Spoons”. Asking if we want more is useless. Of course we want more metal!! And we will get it in an awesome version of “Blood Pigs” and the slow but heavy “Confrontation”. In between the songs, Otep outs her messages short and I think this is the way to do it. It’s confession time afterwards with “My Confession”, which is topped by a raw and fast version of “Rise Rebel Resist”. Another mosh pit has been created, I guess. It would have been nice to have a DVD included here of this show as well, because the band sounds so f*cking awesome, angry, rebellious and energetic here. “T.R.I.C.” is on next and sounds dark and doomy at first, before the warning comes that The Revolution Is Coming. “Ghostflowers” takes back some speed in the beginning for Otep’s statements and introduction. An OTEP live show is the way to reach a whole lot of people and she uses this very well. “Fists Fall” is very powerful song with screaming distorted vocals. I had a blast listening to this live album, which really sounds like freaking Armageddon. The CD closes with a NIRVANA cover, called “Breed”. It’s the final song of an outstanding performance, which asks for more. OTEP takes revenge after her rather weak solo album “Hyrda”. I think, that I’ll give this another spin or two instead. Australia can go to sleep safely now, after the ‘Destroy To Create Tour’ hit their ground. Prove is being delivered here in its full shining glory. Turn up the sound really loud, because this is gonna hurt. Website: http://www.facebook.com/otepofficial [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PANNDORA-Behind The Crime (EP) (Purkott)
PANNDORA hails from Brazil and they are an all-female outfit, in case you didn’t know that yet. Four ladies raising their swords for heavy metal, you don’t see that too often. We have Adrismith on drums, Taise Bijora on bass, Renata Paschoa on vocals and Luana Bomb on guitar. The four ladies are pictured in their best metal outfit, including leather, belts and studs. I can’t wait to have a listen to these three tracks they’ve released on this fifteen minute metal EP. The first song I remember from seeing this great video clip, that they made for it. It already shows the very powerful image of the band. “Cold Eyes” has got the same vibe, that I hear in bands like THUNDER RIDER and MANILLA ROAD with a touch of epic metal. The guitar solo sounds great and in the video, Luana looks a bit like the evil twin sister of the late Jeff Haneman. She may not sound as thrashy as Jeff, because she has got a more classic metal approach, but she sure knows to hit the right notes. “Partners In Crime” has got that same epic metal feeling and they really know to crank it up. Sometimes you’ll hear some choir vocals but mostly it’s the powerful voice of Renata, that really sounds like the perfect front lady to me. The sound of IRON MAIDEN can also be traced here. Just listen to the guitar sound of Luana and you’ll know to which music she has been listening to, when she was still a young Luana. “Uranie” is the last track here and it invites you to sing along to it. The guitar solo is there too and I raise my fist for this Brazilian all-female metal band. I’m really curious who has got the guts to bring these ladies over to Europe to show their skills on European soil? I think it must be awesome to see these ladies in a live setting. When epic classic metal is your thing, then you surely can take a bite of PANNDORA. You will be positively surprised, I am sure about that. Website: http:// www.panndora.net. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PINCHER-Killing Machines (independent)
Crossover metal from Moscow comes from PINCHER. The eight songs on this album kick you right in the face and make your head turn round for a bit over twenty minutes. “Mortal Kombat” is a short introduction, loud but proud. Title track “Killing Machines” is nice and contains some mean guitar work. Punk and metal walk on a thin line next to each other, but the power is the main ingredient here that counts. And another mean guitar solo is being unleashed, so you’d better watch out. “The Who” sounds brutal and punky with a SEX PISTOLS kind of energy. The spoken word part sounds a bit odd maybe, but the guitar part later on, makes me forget about it. “Kill ‘Em All” has got some METALLICA styled riffs, which is not really a surprise of course. It even has a punk kind of beat and the last message that these ladies have for us is ‘I Kill You’. Then it’s time for a bit tongue-in-cheek message with ‘A Woman’s Place Is In The Kitchen’, which is a short, raunchy statement by these Russian ladies. “I Don’t Care” is a punk statement with raw, brutal growling vocals and some choir shouting. Clearly, these ladies really don’t care very much and it’s the pleasure that counts. “Untitled Boogie” is in fact the title of an untitled song. Or am I thinking too much here? The song actually isn’t a real boogie, but it swings the hell out of you and hopefully that counts, too. The mini album closes with a cover by MOTÖRHEAD, called “Bomber”. It rocks you all the way and it really puts a smile on my face. PINCHER’s music is easy on the ears and this powerful debut album works very well for me, ladies. PINCHER consists of Mana Gerzen on drums, Jannet Tabuldinova on bass and vocals and Tamara Nechepaeva on guitar and backing vocals. Website: http://www.facebook.com/pincherband [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

RAMPART-A Tale To Cold (Infernö Records)
Bulgarian true metal legends RAMPART have released a five track mini album, that runs for twenty loud minutes. It starts with the pounder “Metal Spell”, I hope, that you are ready to raise your fists in the air and shout along to it real loud. This sounds like a true metal attack to me. Firm drum beats and screaming guitars, topped by the powerful voice of Maria, that’s what you’ll get here. And if the opener won’t do the trick, then “Stronghold Of The Sun” will do it. The rhythm, the beat, the power of Maria, it all sounds really amazing to me. Title track “A Tale To Cold” is on next and in this particular track Maria sounds very much like Jutta Weinhold of VELVET VIPER and ZED YAGO fame. The song is just slightly slower, but it does have the power, that I like so well. The production of the HELLOWEEN cover is different and more clear than the other four tracks. The band chose to do “Just A Little Sign”, which is a good choice. It’s much better than any other, more obvious song. It’s striking though, that this song has got the highest happy metal level of all songs. In the meantime, I am paying attention to the beautiful artwork on this mini CD, which looks pretty amazing again. The CD closes with “Dans Un Rȇve”, sung in the French language. Odd maybe, but it proves that it really doesn’t matter in which language you speak, you all speak the language of heavy metal. As a nice bonus you’ll get to see the “Metal Spell” video, when you put this CD in your PC. It’s the cherry on the cake, so to speak. A must for all true heavy metal fans out there, so buy, buy, buy! Website: http://www.facebook.com/RAMPART [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ROOFTOP REVOLUTIONAIRIES-Resolute (independent)
A revolution breaks out in Los Angeles and we have been witness of this. The eleven track album by the ROOFTOP REVOLUTIONAIRIES gets steamrolling in my room at full speed with “Complicity” and leaving the same room after the last tones of “Gotta Move On” after almost forty steamy minutes. The high octane fueled sound in “Complicity” gets you tapping your feet, no matter if you want it or not. It’s catchy yet loud and it grabs you by the balls without any further introduction. It’s there without you noticing it. “Save Us” has got the same power and the great vocal sound by front lady Eleanor Goldfield are really ear-catching. After two songs of wild bashing power, it’s time for “Row”, where the band takes back a little speed. After this wild and exciting stormy ride, I can finally catch my breath and have a good listen to the influences of the band, but I have to admit that I can’t find any. Mainly because my knowledge of bands from this new millennium isn’t that big and it all sounds surprisingly fresh to me. Band names mentioned in the biography don’t ring a bell to me and all I can say is, that it all sounds in your face and very fresh to me. “Folk Devil” is on next and it has Eleanor talking to us with a whispering voice. Soon after this though, the speed goes up and the power is back again. There is even some space for a guitar solo in the groovy rock jukebox. In “Chains”, we hear some distorted vocals by Eleanor in the beginning, but this is not for long. The last pull outs by this lady could be called very impressive indeed. “Fortunate Son” is a cover by CREEDENCE CLEAR WATER REVIVAL, which is turned into a groovy rock track. It rocks even more than the original song and it really stood the test of time. “Portrait” rocks again loud. I must say, that I don’t really hear a weak song on this album. It may not be hard rock or heavy metal, but it’s ‘easy on the ears’ rock and it will definitely find a way to music fans, I guess. “I Am A War” sounds dark and “Run Away” is a bit slower than the average material here. After listening to the whole album, I would like to refer to names like HOLE, BETH HART or SKUNK ANANSIE. “Don’t Call Me Baby” sounds energetic and it has some distorted vocals again. “Gotta Move On” is the CD closer and it’s the closest to what we would call a real ballad. It has got the right vibe and sounds very nice and laid-back after all the violence in the other ten songs. I really like the emotion in this song. I had a great time with this album by ROOFTOP REVOLUTIONAIRIES, that consists of guitarist Brian Marshak, next to the aforementioned Eleanor Goldfield. Check it out, because I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed here. Website: http://www.rooftoprevolutionaries.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SERENITY-War Of Ages (Napalm Records)
SERENITY hails from Austria and they presents their fourth album here. The album runs for fifty minutes and unfolds ten new tracks capturing some powerful metal with bombastic and gothic sidesteps. Georg Neushauser (lead vocals) and Clementine Delancy (the female counterpart to Georg, who joined the band in 2012) are the singers of this band. Georg could very well be the front man of KAMELOT or RHAPSODY OF FIRE and prove is given in opener “Wings Of Madness”, a great up tempo power metal track. “The Art Of War” continues in that same style and that’s why I think, that SERENITY will be embraced by the many fans of this genre. It sounds very well done, contains a lot of power and the flashing guitar and keyboard sound is all over the songs. Clementine comes from a band called WHYZDOM - a French metal band, by the way. “Shining Oasis” captures some flashing guitar work and once again both singers team up for a duet. They also do that in the ballad “For Freedom’s Sake”, which is a bit too much in my opinion. It could be a love ballad for a musical and it sounds sickly sweet. “Age Of Glory” starts very bombastic with full orchestration, but suddenly it takes off in the fourth gear. What we get is a powerful, symphonic metal attack at full force, which is very well done. “The Matricide” and “Symphony For The Quiet” are also quite powerful and suitable for fans of AVANTASIA and KAMELOT. The musical skills of the band are undeniable professional and the sound of SERENITY is great. They will certainly gain a lot of popularity with this new album and they really deserve it. “Tannenberg” sounds melodic, while in “Legacy Of Tudors” the band steps on the gas again. The CD closer “Royal Pain” takes back some speed, sounds melodic and sums up all of the above. Maybe it’s a bit too sweet again, but I think that the fans of the bands I mentioned earlier won’t mind this all. SERENITY is a save buy and “War Of Ages” is a must have, if you like melodic and powerful metal. Georg impresses more than Clementine in my opinion, but the final result is a product that can definitely compete against the load of other releases in this scene. Besides Georg and Clementine, the band consists of Thomas Buchberger on guitars, Fabio D’Amore on bass, Mario Hirzinger on keyboards and Andreas Schipflinger on drums and vocals. Website: http://www.serenity-band.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SISTER SIN-Now And Forever (Victory Records)
SISTER SIN provides us with eleven new tracks, that will knock you off your feet for about forty minutes. After the short instrumental introduction “MMXII” all hell breaks loose in “End Of The Line”, a very catchy foot stomper with loud guitars and wild female vocals, so who can ask for more? Industrial beats and loud guitar riffs match very well together and the beat is danceable, too. I like the SAXON and ACCEP riffs in “Fight Song”. The first lines are like a well meant punch in the face and it captures the brutality of bands like WASP and TWISTED SISTER. “In It For Life” also leaves nothing to desire anymore. Explicit lyrics, but now you know what SISTER SIN stands for and I can tell you, that this band is not for sissies. “Hearts Of Cold” sounds very exciting and flashing with some brutality of course. “The Chosen Few?” sounds very powerful and in your face and keeps me focused with my fists in the air, shouting it out very loud. “Hang ‘Em High” is catchy, but still loud and brutal. The list of influences is expanded, because with “I’m Not You” we can add KISS to this list. The influences of this band are also there in “Running Low”. The steady drum beat in combination with the catchy chorus makes it suitable to play in the big arenas. This is classic rock with a whole lot of power. “Shades Of Black” is suitable for the big stadiums as well. This album breathes the rock and metal vibe from the eighties from back to forth and on and on an album like this, you simply can’t forget a good ballad. It’s captured here as well as the CD closer and it is called “Morning After”. To me, this mostly comes with seas of black coffee (lol). SISTER SIN is here to stay for sure after listening to this album for “Now And Forever”. The band consists of Liv on vocals, Jimmy on guitar and vocals, Strandh on bass and vocals and Dave on drums. On their website http://www.sistersin.com , you can read all the information that you need to know about this incredible band from Gothenburg, Sweden. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TO-MERA-Exile (Illusionary Records)
TO-MERA releases their second album and I must admit that I like what I hear. Let me first introduce the band members to you, before we’re going to talk about their music. TO-MERA consists of Paul Westwood on drums, Mark Harrington on bass, Richard Henshall on keyboards, Thomas MacLean on guitars and Julie Kiss on vocals. The new album “Exile” contains eight tracks and runs for about sixty-five minutes. The intro is an instrumental, that is called “Inviting The Storm”. The real deal however starts in opener “The Illusionist”, where we’ll hear Marcela Bovio (AYREON, STREAM OF PASSION, etc.) play the violin. Richard Hearne plays the tuba here, but this is only a small role on the side. It’s a progressive masterpiece with many mood and speed changes and a lot of exciting instrumental moves, topped by the beautiful voice of Julie. It’s the progressive versatility that you will hear in bands like DREAM THEATER and PORCUPINE TREE. “The Decent” is on next and Stephan Forté helps out the band on vocals this time. The voice of Julie is being used in many ways. Sometimes she has an angel type of tone, sometimes she whispers, but above all she always leaves behind a great impression. Also in “The Decent”, we’ll hear many mood and speed changes. One time it’s up tempo and the next moment it’s almost like you’re listening to a completely different track. It keeps the listener focused and especially when the speed goes up, usually somewhere in the middle, a name like DREAM THEATER will come to mind. It’s keyboard player Richard, who takes the lead however and they even throw in some blast beats and the aforementioned death grunt screams by Stephan. They run through the whole musical style collection in eight minutes here. At the end, all that is left behind is the voice of Julie and an acoustic guitar, before the bombastic last moves take place. And all this happens in one song. This is simply amazing! “Deep Inside” is on next, which starts doomy and slow. There is a bit more room for the guitar player here with his dark riffing sound. The solo sounds quite nice. The songs have been stuck together seamlessly, so the album sounds like one long musical story. In the meantime, we’ve reached “Broken”, the first track out of three, that breaks the ten minute barrier. The instrumental part in the middle sounds mystical and this short moment is long enough to keep your attention. A good guitar solo follows after this magical moment. The vocal sound of Julie could be compared to Marcela Bovio and Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly THE GATHERING, now solo) and that’s surely a big compliment. At the end of this long track, the speed goes up for a last instrumental pull out. “End Game” continues and it starts off very up tempo and brutal for a short moment, but later on the band returns to their progressive sound. The blast beats return for a short while, but they are suddenly taken over by a more progressive keyboard attack. As you can see, the variation of styles is enormous at times and there might be listeners, who think this is a bit too much for them. The last two songs are both ten minutes plus, in which a lot is bound to happen, so be prepared. “Surrender” is on first, which starts with an acoustic guitar intro. The various music parts sound again very diverse, ranging from a samba orchestra to more death metal like blast beats. What a magnificent rollercoaster ride this is! The last track is called “All I Am” and for a change, they start this one up with the sound of a piano. Very soon the DREAM THEATER like influences are back and a variety of different styles unfold itself in the upcoming moments. Although this album has been a long ride, I could have listened to more songs very easily, because their music has so much variation and you’ll never get bored. TO-MERA gets a very high score because of that. This is progressive rock the way it should be played. Oh, and before I forget: the artwork has been done by vocalist Julie Kiss. She did a wonderful job here and all the more reason to mention it here. Website: http://www.to-mera.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TYRANNY OF HOURS-Tyranny Of Hours (independent)
Power prog/symphonic metal band TYRANNY OF HOURS hail from Portland, Oregon in the USA. Let’s first give this band a proper introduction before we’re going to talk about their self-titled eleven tracker. The band consists of Don Graham on guitar, Larry London on drums, Jordan Harrington on bass and Michelle Mattair on vocals. “What Is Free” is a very short introduction to the actual album, that runs for about forty-five minutes. “Above The Salt” already shows the progressive side of the band, that puts a lot of power in their music as well. “Amber” follows and this is the first single the band released before the album saw the light of day. It already received raving reviews and it captures that magic catchy feeling, that can turn an average song into one that could be categorized as far above average. Just listen to the impressive pull outs by Michelle and the breathtaking guitar work of Don here. It’s one of the highlights on this album for me and that’s why I want to call out an ‘Amber alert’ for those of you, who are going to have a listen to the album as well. “Legacy” is on next and it turns back the speed a notch and puts more melancholic touches into their sound. A sound, that already captured a lot of melody, which the band is really proud of. It’s part of their brand. The guitars ask for a premier spot at the end, which they get of course. “Breath With Peace” sounds like a new age kind of intermezzo, that blends “Legacy” with “The Hapless Wand” together. This is a more melodic track, but don’t worry because things get much wilder in the nice instrumental “Transvaal Spare”. “Vain Hope” continues with more vocal action. It opens in a very strange way, but it fits like a glove to the progressive sound that is being displayed by TYRANNY OF HOURS. The final instrumental part of this song sounds very impressive indeed. “The Warm” is a short kind of interlude, which also includes some vocals this time. It’s the perfect introduction to “The Path That Lies Apart”, which has some swinging bass grooves and some nice guitar riffs. The album closes with “Dark Symphony”, which is another impressive song with a progressive feeling and some groovy riffs. This last song is definitely one of the highlights for me. I have to admit, that I really liked this album of TYRANNY OF HOURS. It’s not easy to find the right connection with other bands from that same progressive power metal scene, but I would like to refer to bands like LANA LANE, SYMPHONY X or STRATOVARIUS, whose music comes very close to the sound of this band. Website: http://www.tyrannyofhours.net. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VALFREYA-Path To Eternity (Maple Metal Records)
VALFREYA hails from Montreal, Quebec in Canada and brings us some blasting heavy metal or viking metal, as the band likes to describe their music. Their first full-length album is called “Path To Eternity”, which runs for fifty minutes and contains ten brand new tracks including an intro and outro. The intro is called “Path To Eternity” and it’s partly spoken word. It already gives away in which direction their ship will be heading: brutal and heavy and black metal. Just listen to their CRADLE OF FILTH type of opener “Deity’s Grace”: wild screams, blast beats and some very impressive brutality. “Inferno” walks the same path and contains some bombastic horror like parts in the end of the song. While in “Beyond Illusions”, it’s obvious that this Canadian band isn’t afraid to put some melodic touches in their music as well. The keyboard parts draw a comparison to DIMMU BORGIR’s earlier stuff more than realistic. “Ocean’s Assault” sounds a whole lot more melodic and it has some slow parts, in which the vocals show up very well. At the end, the bombastic parts switch places with the more blasting beats. The viking folk parts do justice in “Confront Immensity”, in which the band sounds a bit like the Russian folk metal legends ARKONA. Responsible for this raunchy folk metal attack are Crook on vocals, Graz’zt on guitar and vocals, Karfu on guitars, Shark on keyboards, Pinch on bass and Mawhjey on drums and vocals. “Condemned World” contains a bombastic beginning with a broad and very heavy orchestration. Later on, the guitars take their place and the folky parts appear as well. In “Alefest” you’ll hear the more folkloristic side of VALFREYA. Obviously, their music contains a whole lot of diversity in their sound. “My Everlasting Star” could even be categorized as epic heavy metal in some way, but the blast beats and the folky input keeps lurking around the corner. The CD closes with “Glorious Death”, which is the outro of this viking folk metal album. VALFREYA already shared the stage with the likes of KORPIKLAANI, ARKONA, MOONSORROW and TYR, but I think that more festivals would like to have them after listening to this nice album. Website: http:// www.valfreyametal.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VARIOUS ARTISTS-Queens Of Steel Volume 1 (download only)
Eighteen female fronted bands is what you get on this download only album, called “Queens Of Steel Volume1”. The bands are in alphabetical order and they are from every corner of the wide rock and metal scene. I would never have come up with so much information like this compilation collected for us. It’s so detailed, that you can hardly read all the enhanced text within the time each song plays. So you actually have a book and a double CD all in one, which contains ninety minutes of raw, hard and heavy female fronted metal. Let’s browse through all the material here and see what’s on it, starting with “Flowers In Fire” by CADAVERIA. The introduction could very well be taken from a horror movie. Then we’ll hear Cadaveria sing in a soft voice, before the groove and the madness starts. The music spread here is a weird mix of death, black and gothic metal. At least, it sounds very brutal to me. There’s a lot of darkness in her music and not a tiny spot of hope, but that’s how the fans like it best. At the end of the song, some mean growls are coming from Cadaveria’s throat and the guitar solo takes over. She’s burning the flowers right now, I assume. The real closure is the sound of a heartbeat. CADAVERIA consists of Cadaveria on vocals (also DYNABYTE), Frank Booth on guitar, Dick Laurent on guitar, Killer Bob on bass and Marçelo Santos on drums. Website: http:// www.cadaveria.com. On we go with DERKETA and their “Goddess Of Death”. This Pittsburgh PA based band plays doomy laden death metal and contains the screaming voice of Sharon Bascovsky. The slow doom march starts with a long instrumental intro. The band takes ten minutes plus to impress us, but I was already convinced from the very start. The storm, the thunder, the bells, I melt when I hear that. Then the SABBATH like down-tuned guitar riffs rush in. Wow, this all sounds like magic to me. The guitars are being played by shred mistress Mary Bielich. DERKETA was the goddess of death of a blood drinking cult. Maybe that’s why I draw this comparison. A great addition to this wonderful compilation. Besides Mary and Sharon, the band consists of Robin Mazen on bass and Mike Laughlin, who replaced Terri Heggen, on the drums. A full-length album of DERKETA seems to be in the making. Website: http://www.derketa.com. DÉTENTÉ is on next with “Holy War”. With “Decline” (2010) in my personal top ten, this band can’t be missed in the femme metal scene. Dawn Crosby, Ann Boleyn and Tiina Teal were the former singers of the band. This lengthy track shows us, what this band was all about: extreme heavy metal with a thrash-laden basis. The song, although written in the eighties, is still very much a topical subject. Dawn’s voice is shaped with razor blades. And the guitar solo is getting faster and faster. “Holy War” is a true metal classic, which was already on the second demo of the band. Dawn Crosby is still missed a lot by her fans, but with a tribute like this, she would be very pleased, I guess. DREAMING DEAD is on next with “Into The Depths”, a thrash metal attack with the high screaming voice of Elizabeth Schall, who also plays guitar in this band. We are driving at an hundred miles per hour now. Don’t you like a roller coaster ride like this? I certainly do. Touches of black and death metal are also there and with her long high pull outs Elizabeth gives you her very best performance here. The guitar solo will split your skull and more of this aggressive outings of violence can be found on their debut album “Midnightmares” (what a great title!). Besides Elizabeth, the band is completed by Mike Caffell on drums, Juan Ramirez on bass and newly welcomed member Chris McCarthy on guitar. Website: http://www.dreamingdead.com. The speed goes down and things start to sound ultra-brutal now with FUNERAL WHORE. Low toned, growling vocals and a thundering bass sound are the main ingredients in the sound of this Dutch band. We’re riding through a “Wasteland Of Corpses” right now. This isn’t just another party band, this is violence and intended to be that way, too. The neighbours will leave their house soon, I predict. Kellie is the metal maiden in this Dutch band, that needs no further introduction in the underground scene, but I’m glad that someone took the opportunity to introduce them to a wider public now. This shit is evil and blonde vixen Kellie is a true doom death metal hero for me. Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Funeral-Whore/162850173791403. And if you thought it couldn’t get any harder and louder after this, you haven’t heard FUNERUS yet. The earliest carnation already came from the very early nineties. The song captured here is called “Death Of A God”. Low toned, growling vocals and a thundering bass captures the sound of this band, that is brutal to the max. A comparison to a band like GRAVE would be suitable here. FUNERUS now consists of Jull McEntee on bass and vocals, John McEntee on guitar and Sam Inzerra on drums. Website: http://www.funerus.com. HOLY MOSES, fronted by Sabina Classen, was one of the first thrash metal bands and is now one of the most well-known bands in this scene. It would be a shame if she and her band would have been left out on a compilation like this. “Borderland” is the song that is featured here. Yes, this is a lady singing here and a good looking one as well. It’s almost thirty-five years ago since the band was founded in 1980 and they’re still going strong. No need to spend too many words on these German metal warriors. The death growls of Sabina simply can’t be missed and this lady paved the path for many bands out there. HOLY MOSES consists of Sabina Classen on vocals, Oliver Jaath on rhythm guitar, Thomas Neitsch on bass, Gerd Lücking on drums and Peter Geltat on guitars. Website: http://www.holymoses.net. JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES is a relative new band from Finland. Their occult laden dark rock music is being loved by many fans from that popular style and they are featured with “Twilight Witchcraft” here. It’s a dreamy song covered with psychedelic influences and the sound of the seventies. Excellent music for a nightly séance, in my opinion. A touch of JEFFERSON AIRLPLANE or the early JETHRO TULL is what I hear in their sound. Although the band was founded in the new millennium, they manage to relive the seventies with their mighty spell. Line-up: Jess on vocals, Thomas Corpse on guitar, Thomas Fiend on guitar, Von Stroh on rhythm guitar, Fast Jake on bass, Abraham on keyboards and Yussuf on drums. Website: http://www.jessandtheancientones.com. JEX TOTH is on next and as the title already predicts, she is a “Warrior Woman’. A dark and doomy sound starts this mighty slow march. The band started their career as TOTEM and their doom metal with psychedelic side steps will easily draw a comparison to bands like THE DEVIL’S BLOOD and BLOOD CEREMONY. This warrior doom metal witch is slowly becoming a cult name in the occult doom metal scene. This black magic rite is a great example of what JEX TOTH is all about. Website: http:// www.jextoth.net. On we go with KELLS and “Furytale”. This French band plays groovy and powerful metal. They belong to the top of the French metal scene, in my opinion. They also throw in a melodic touch at times and even some classic rock riffs can be heard on this “Furytale”. Virginie has got a strong voice, that could be compared to Dutch metal queen Sharon den Adel. France adds a great contribution on this compilation with KELLS and besides vocalist Virginie, we find Laurent on bass, Patrick on guitars and Julien on drums. This is definitely a band, we will hear more from in the very bright future they have in front of them. Website: http://www.kellsofficial.com. Then we go to the second CD of this two CD pack. It opens very fast and we actually go to Spain for this furious opener. The band, all dressed up with spikes, studs and leather call themselves KORGÜLL THE EXTERMINATOR after a song by VOÏ VOD. Well, the sound of their song “Dogs Of War” could be compared to the very early version of this Canadian band maybe, but also names like GEHENNAH and the Japanese SABBAT come to mind. In the middle of the song, an instrumental interlude, you’ll hear the dogs of war howl. Well, at least that’s my imagination. If you like it brutal, then this must be for you. The band consists of Lilith Necrobitch on vocals, screams and an occasional dog sound maybe, Steel Maniac on bass, Joe Bastard on drums and Mark Wild on guitars. Website: http://www.facebook.com/KORGULLTHEEXTERMINATORAXETHRASH. Germany makes another entrance with MY INNER BURNING and their song “Masquerade”. Their sound is less extreme and brutal than what we just heard. I think that gothic metal would be a good description of their music. It’s rock, it’s pop, it’s wave, it’s gothic, it’s danceable, it’s MY INNER BURNING. The band consists of Becky Gaber on vocals, Torsten Sauerbrey on guitar, Jörg Janssen on guitar, Pietrzak on bass and Niklas Kahl on drums. Becky is the queen of the masquerade here, because her sexy voice makes this masquerade ball complete. Website: http://www.myinnerburning.de. In the eighties there was a British band, called ROMEO’S DAUGHTER and I’m glad to see that they are captured here as well. The song is from their new album “Rapture” and it’s called “Keep Walking”. They sound even more powerful than in their early days and their sound is comparable to the better rock bands of the eighties from England. It’s catchy, but it also has got a very groovy vibe. It’s what you would expect from a great comeback CD of ROMEO’S DAUGHTER. The band consists of Leigh Matty on vocals, Craig Joiner on guitar, Ed Poole on bass, Tony Mitman on keyboards and Andy Wells on drums. If they keep on playing like this, they easily can go on for another decade or two. Website: http://www.romeosdaughter.co.uk. Wow, the next entry is so ultra cool! SACROFAGUS from Finland is a cult band, that exists for many years already. Every now and then they get together to record and play at a festival here or there. This song is called “Life By Proxy”. The lengthy track contains thunderous drum rolls, a keyboard sound that is very much up front in the mix and a slightly occult sounding female vocal line, that gives you the idea that you’re listening to something interesting. And you are, I can tell you that much. SACROFAGUS rules and maybe this is one of the most underrated bands from the land of the thousand lakes?!? Anyway, this song certainly asks for more. The obscure music sounds like a weird mix of BLACK SABBATH, URIAH HEEP, VENOM, THE DEVIL’S BLOOD and DEEP PURPLE. All kinds of everything and then some created in a style of their own. It’s a bit hard to describe, so you better just listen to this weird mix of heavy sounds yourself. The line-up of the band consists of Kimmo Kuusniemi on vocals and guitar, Tanja Katinka Karttunen on vocals, Esa Kotilainen on keyboards, Juha Kiminki on bass and Anssi Nykänen on drums. If you can’t find their cult releases “Envoy Of Death” or “Moottorilinnut / Motorbirds”, then you might try and find their new releases “Core Values” or “Back From The Valley Of The Kings”. At least you must have heard this band once and on this compilation you get the chance, dear readers! Website: http://www.sarcofagus.com. SEVERED HEAVEN is on next and that’s a totally different piece of cake. These five brutal ladies made me get rid of my hemorrhoids in no time. What a brutal attack they have in mind with this “Desolation”. Yes, this is a lady singing in this death metal quintet. If you are into bands like GALLHAMMER, you’ll know what to expect. Low, brutal growls, a fast and haunting rhythm, bloody riffs and violent screams, that sound like they’re coming from someone who’s tortured to death. SEVERED HEAVEN hails from Leeds and their contribution here will even shock the deaf. The band consists of Charlotte Bleasdale on bass, Leanne Warren on guitar, Lena Abé on guitar, Shaun Taylor – Seels on drums and Satanica (what a great name!!) on vocals. Not for the faint-hearted, they’d better skip this three minute hemorrhoid destroyer. Oooooohhhhhh, auch!!!! That hurts!!! Website: http://www.severedheaven.bigcartel.com. Time to let out my bat now. They only come out at night, you know and they’re thirsty for blood. No, I’m not going insane…..at least not yet. THEATRES DES VAMPIRES is on next and their track is called “Vampires Camilla”. Sonya Scarlett is the front lady of this vampire collective from Italy. They mix gothic rock with horror and add a touch of erotic sounding vocals to this. It all sounds quite interesting and it tastes for more. It’s like listening to a black and white horror movie, if that exists already. Violins and a lot of bombastic sounds are added here to create a catchy feeling and with the perfect looks of Sonya, your interest and focus will be caught pretty easily. One of the best vampire metal bands in this scene. Website: http://www.theatres-des-vampire.net. WYKKED WYTCH doesn’t need no further introduction, I guess. Demoness Ipek is an icon in our book already. The band is captured here with “When The Sleeper’s Rise”. This extreme metal outfit from Florida is in my darkest soul for a long time already. Think about ARCH ENEMY here, but think away every touch of melody that this band adds to their music. There’s no place for that in Ipek’s witchery spells. Together with partner in crime Nate Poulson she will pierce your eardrums with this one. Besides them, WYKKED WYTCH consists of Kevin Talley on drums (Weston Stone plays drums, while being on tour!), Kenny on bass and Salvatore LoPresti on keyboards. Dark screams and thundering drums, that will make your stomach hurt. Life will never be the same after hearing this. Website: http://www.wykkedwytch.com. The last band on this wonderful fabulous fantastic awesome compilation is XANDRIA from Germany. Their symphonic melodic sounding metal is a giant contrast to the absolute violence that we heard a while ago, but that’s what makes this compilation so wonderful. It’s interesting for everyone, who has an open heart for female-fronted outfits. Manuela Kraller is the front lady of XANDRIA nowadays, after changing singers a couple of times. Musically, you can think of NIGHTWISH here, just to make it easy for the average rock fan. You won’t hurt a band by comparing them with names like that. The bombastic orchestration, the flair they are playing this song, the operatic voice by Manuela, it’s all there and more. It will definitely please the fans of the more melodic metal scene. Website: http://www.xandria.de. “Queens Of Steel Volume 1” is a wonderful compilation, from which I hope more will follow soon. If so, you’ll be the first one to know and read about on these pages. I give full score for this amazing overview and the enormous amount of information given from all the bands on this great double CD. [10 points - FULL SCORE] (Toine van Poorten)

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS-Ethera (Napalm Records)
VISIONS OF ATLANTIS present their new album, which contains eleven brand new tracks and plays for forty-five minutes. “The Ark” shows us, what we will get here. Melodic rock with sharp edges, topped by male and female vocals. Mario Plank and Maxi Nil take care of the vocal parts. They have almost the same color of sound, which marks the foundation of the perfect harmonization in the vocal sound of the band. “Machinage” sounds a bit industrial at times. Not that we want to use the term ‘industrial’ to describe their music, because this would go a bit too far, but there are some electronic sounds in this second track. The duets between Mario and Maxi are the trademark of VISIONS OF ATLANTIS and you don’t hear that too much anymore these days. Mostly we hear brutal male voices, but that’s not the case here. “Avatara” is another up tempo track with a catchy vibe. The sound of VISIONS OF ATLANTIS is very open and I think that they will appeal to many readers, because of that. It never gets too wild or too soft. “Vicious Circle” is something different. Most of the songs we’ve heard so far focus a lot on the vocal parts, but this time the outstanding instrumentalists are in the full spotlight. The song includes a very nice guitar solo, which sounds far above average to me. After that, it’s time to get “Hypnotized” in another catchy tune with some nice pull outs by Maxi, followed by another nice guitar solo. The guitar work is much in service of the song, and it is not really used as a tool to impress the virtuosity of the band. In “Tialuc’s Grace” we hear a more progressive approach and again the band shows a high class performance. “Burden Of Divinity” sounds powerful and wild and in the balladesque ”Cave Behind The Waterfall” we hear the more emotional side of VISIONS OF ATLANTIS. “Aeon 19th” is on next, which is another up tempo melodic metal track. Slowly, the band gets to profile themselves more and the album gets stronger and stronger. In “Bestiality vs. Integrity”, the band shows their emotional side for the second time in a ballad type of song. The last track on “Ethera” is called “Clerics Emotion” and it contains the well-known duet choir by Maxi and Mario. People, who are into the sound of EDENBRIDGE, WITHIN TEMPTATION or LACUNA COIL can dig in here blindfolded. The symphonic melodic metal of the band may appeal to many people out there and I think that this fifth album will bring them one step further upon the ladder of success. The band will also play at Metal Female Voices Fest 2013, where they will promote this new piece of work. VISIONS OF ATLANTIS consists of Mario Plank on vocals, Maxi Nil on vocals, Cris Tian on guitar, Martin Harp on keyboards and Thomas Caser on drums. Website: http:// www.visionsofatlantis.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VOODOO VEGAS-The Rise Of Jimmy Silver (independent)
Try not to think too much of W. Axl Rose, when you listen to this self-released live album album by VOODOO VEGAS from Bournemouth in the UK. When you’re through this, you’ll still get the idea that you’re listening to GUNS N’ ROSES every now and then, but hey don’t worry because these people rock like hell. The speed change at the end of “King Without A Crown” sounds really marvelous, although it may remind you of “Paradise City” in a way. The album “The Rise Of Jimmy Silver” opens with a short “Intro”, by the way. “Bullet” rocks it out loud and your mind will go out to GUNS N’ ROSES, ACDC and AEROSMITH. It’s high octane fueled, no nonsense rock and roll with a slightly sleazy attitude to it, which I like a lot. The band consists of Ash Moulton on bass, Matt Jolly on drums, Lawrence Case on vocals, Nick Brown on guitar and metal maiden Meryl Hamilton on guitar. “No More” is the perfect foot stomper. Imagine yourself on a huge festival with a cold drink, while listening to this song. I bet you won’t be able to sit still and will feel the urge to move, dance or at least move some parts of your body?! For “What I Pay” they unpack the acoustic guitars for a song, that is highly suitable for a BBQ by campfire. The short “Interlude” is on next, which is more like a short, dark piece of guitar music. It’s some kind of intro to “Mary Jane”, which is another fast rocker. “Ferry Song” contains some nice mouth organ, which gives this track a little bit more of an AEROSMITH touch in a way. “Lost In Confusion” tells about a runaway bride, which is a heavy story that is put to music. A brave decision to record such a ballad like this. “So Unkind” is another nice rocker, but this is nothing compared to the fast and heavy “Jimmy Silver” which almost captures the heaviness of a band like ROSE TATTOO. Having shared the stage already with bands such as FOZZY, THE WILDHEARTS, URIAH HEEP and GLENN HUGHES is only just the beginning of a hopefully fruitful and very long career for these British rockers. Jimmy Silver and VOODOO VEGAS both stand for pure rock and roll, and nobody’s going to stop them. The album contains eleven tracks and the only minor details is, that it runs for about thirty-five minutes, which is too short. But it rocks like hell! Website: http://www.facebook/com/VoodooVegas [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WILDE STARR-A Tell Tale Heart (Scarlett Records)
The second album of this band sounds real killer, dear friends. If you still had any doubts after hearing the debut album “Arrival” of WILDE STARR, don’t wait any longer and go searching for “A Tell Tale Heart”, because it will tear you apart. I just listened to the first notes of opener “Immortal” and I was sold right away. Ten new tracks and a running time of about forty-five minutes will give you the time of your life. Just listen to the heavy screams and high-pitched vocals in this opener and you’ll notice that vocalist London Wilde has gained a lot of power and this song is just the beginning. The heavy beat continues in “Transformis Ligea” with some breathtaking double lead guitar work. Loud bass sounds and a heavy drum beat introduce us to “A Perfect Storm”, in which London sounds like one of her big examples Geoff Tate in my opinion. The guitar solo is once again amazing. In the time between the debut album and this one, Jim Hawthorne left the band and was being replaced by Josh Foster, who is beating the skins now. While in “Valkyrie Cry” London shows more impressive vocals. The song is a bit slower, but the killer metal feeling remains. Then the story of the “Last Holy King” continues and a more epic track unfolds itself. “In Staccata” opens with an icy high scream and a steady fast beat. Dave Starr, who handles the guitar and the bass, makes me think back of the early days of VICIOUS RUMORS in this one with his great guitar sound. Topped by the high-pitched vocal chords of London, it becomes one of the highlights on this album for me. “Not Sane” is a synonym for ‘insane’, but here it’s a firm pounding metal track with more great guitar parts. That’s the strength of WILDE STARR. They pay tribute to the true metal feeling and create a great sound, that covers all the different segments from the heavy metal scene. Fast rockers, ballads, epic songs and with this variation they keep the listener focused. “Seven Shades Of Winter” is another slower track’, which may even show a gothic metal influence to the lot. “The Pit And The Pendulum” might remind you of a song with the same title by a band called HAWAI, but this is completely different. It also contains high screams though. The PRIEST type of guitar riffs turn it to another head shaker. With “Usher In The Twilight” we’ve arrived at the final track on this great metal album, that contains a good portion of classic metal topped by female vocals. A must have for every devoted metal head out there! Website: http://www.wildestarr.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ZEPHYRA-Kämpaglöd (EP) (independent)
ZEPHYRA hails from Sweden and present their six track EP, that consists of thirty minutes of high class metal mayhem. The band line-up is Åsa Netterbrant on growling and normal vocals, Tony Netterbrant on guitar and vocals and Tobias Oja on bass and background vocals. The EP opens with the extreme “Route 611”, which has some brutal growls and thrashing guitar riffs. Sometimes the vocals switch to a normal singing voice, but they mostly sound pretty aggressive and screaming. It’s a great opener, that will draw everybody’s attention pretty easily. The guitar solo sounds very melodic in comparison to the more brutal black or death metal like sound of the rest of the song. I think, this is what they call variation, dear readers. “Forced Family” opens with another killer thrashing guitar riff. Once again we’ll hear both vocal sides of Åsa. It also adds a certain variation to their sound. Something sweet mixed with something evil. The growls are getting more brutal in “Pessimist”. It would be weird to sound jolly and happy in a song with a title like that, wouldn’t it? The more normal voice of Åsa in this track sounds a little creepy, almost evil, which fits very well. And the staggering guitar riffs eventually turn into a good guitar solo. The anger in “Release My Anger” is being released by some angry growls and fast drum beats, but there is also some space for a melodic touch in this track. And that’s how they keep their listener focused. “Imprisoned Queen” is on next and it’s the longest track here. It starts with an instrumental intro. The song shows the more epical side of ZEPHYRA. Mind you, there is still a lot of extreme power going on here, but the band likes to show their other side as well here. Title track “Kämpaglöd” closes this EP, which is an instrumental tune. It starts off with some loud guitar riffs, but it also sounds a bit odd and slightly melancholic at times. Clearly, the whole spectrum of metal is widely covered by ZEPHYRA. A good start for these Swedish metal heads, that’s for sure. Website: http://www.zephyra.net. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

[Updated: August 25, 2013]

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