CD REVIEWS


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


Winter 2011 - 2012:

ALDIOUS-Determination (Brightstar)
All-female bands make the front of our scope. Especially when they are from Japan. The interview, that we did with SHOW YA / KEIKO TERRADA was one of the highlights in our existence of Metal Maidens. ALDIOUS is such an all-female metal band from Japan and their new album "Determination" sounds great once again. The ten new songs, that are presented here, contain a heavy beat, high speed and some really powerful riffs. At least that's the case, when listening to the mighty fast opener "Disclose". All the ingredients mentioned here are there and this is only the beginning. When you listen to the powerful guitars in "Defended Desire", you know that we are dealing with a bunch of musicians, that know to use their instruments the right way. Sometimes they sound a bit more melodic, but there's always that touch of power that makes it great to listen to. Don't mind the Japanese lyrics, just enjoy the music. Sometimes it's a little bit difficult to write about a certain track, because I don't have all those Japanese characters on my PC, like for example the fifth and the tenth track. They are unpronounceable, but who cares? What I do know, is that I'm enjoying ten high quality melodic power metal songs here, worthy of forty-five minutes of great Japanese heavy metal. "Spirit Black" contains a lot of heavy guitar stuff by Yoshi and Toki, while in "Eternal Delusion" you'll hear a bit more shredding riffs, followed by a nice solo. The Japanese song sounds much slower and could be categorized as a ballad. "Wish Song" sounds a bit more punky and contains these Riot Grrrl type of screams. It's very up tempo though and definitely not bad, but you must like the punk feeling in this song. "Mermaid" sounds more melodic and it has some great guitar solos. "Spellbind" sounds fast and heavy. Just like "Carry Out", that shows we are dealing with some high quality heavy metal here. The tenth track, with the unpronounceable title, is also a ballad. I can understand, that it's much more easier to come up with the right words for a ballad in your native tongue than in English. ALDIOUS will definitely surprise you. They stand proud and show that Japan can deliver the goods in the heavy metal scene in 2012. ALDIOUS consists of Yoshi and Toki on guitar, Rami on vocals, Sawa on bass and Aruto on drums. Check them out! Website: http://aldious.jp/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

AMBERIAN DAWN-Circus Black (Spinefarm Records)
This is the fourth album by the symphonic, power metal band AMBERIAN DAWN, that consists of Heidi Parviainen on vocals, Tuomas Seppällä on keyboards and guitar, Kasperi Heikinnen on guitar, Kimmo Korhonen on guitar, Jukka Koskinen on bass and Heikki Saari on drums. The band takes us out for a day to the circus, but not a regular circus as you might think. On the contrary, they take us to the “Circus Black”. This is also the title song of the opener on this ten track and a bit over forty minutes album. The first song already shows all the elements to expect here. Choir vocals, the impressive soprano vocals of Heidi, a haunting rhythm with powerful riffs and bombastic orchestration, it’s all there. Besides that, the songs have a certain catchy feeling at times, especially the compact tracks like the opener. In “Cold Kiss”, the band called in the help of fellow Finnish metal head Timo Kotipelto of STRATOVARIUS and KOTIPELTO for the male vocals. It gives the music an even more catchy vibe. While in “Crimson Flower” another guest is added to the sound of AMBERIAN DAWN during the keyboard solo, which is done by Jens Johansson of STRATOVARIUS / DIO / YNGWIE MALMSTEEN’S RISING FORCE. Therefore, the second part of this song sounds a bit more like YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN for that matter. “Charnell’s Ball” sounds rather mystique and creates the right atmosphere that belongs to a ‘black circus’, that doesn’t breath joy but mysteriousness and darkness in my opinion. If you add the great guitar solo to this, a real highlight has been born here for me. “Fight” is a very fast track, including a flashing guitar solo. It’s over before you actually know it, but you really get the urge to push the ‘replay’ button again after hearing it. “Letter” sounds a bit like early NIGHTWISH (vocal wise), but the exciting instrumental part including a duel between the guitarists and the keyboards lifts this song up to a much higher level. “I Share With You This Dream” gives you the feeling, that we might be dealing with the first single taken from this album. Listening to the duet, it might be a really good choice indeed. “Rivalry Between Good And Evil” is an instrumental track, that could very well be on any of the early YNGWIE MALMSTEEN albums. Therefore, it receives both thumbs up for me. “Guardian” is a slower, more ballad like track with some very sensitive guitar work. It’s the only song, where the band really cuts down speed, because when CD closer “Lily Of The Moon” starts off, they take away again in the fourth gear. After forty-minutes, the circus director says goodbye to his audience and the tent is closed for the next performance on the next day in the next city. You can see the image on the front cover of the CD, which I liked a lot. “Circus Black” is not a circus, where you would take your children to, but mature people will definitely enjoy the forty minute show, that is given here. You can buy your tickets now for the evening program. Check out the details at http://www.amberiandawn.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANOUK-Live At Toomler (EMI)
Don’t expect a wild live show on this live album of ANOUK. She performs eight tracks in an intimate setting at Toomler in Amsterdam, which was recorded on May 20th, 2011. We hear ANOUK with two guitar players, a backing choir and a bass player. It’s ANOUK’s voice, that will draw your attention most, I guess. The eight songs are worthy of about forty minutes of very soulful music. In opener “Ms. Crazy” we hear the soul in her voice, which has been intensified by the choir vocals. Sometimes the tempo goes up a little, like in “Killer Bee”, which creates a more rocking atmosphere. “What Have You Done” is a tender moment, in which ANOUK shows that she is a good singer and she can sing in a very sensitive way. In combination with the intimate setting, it fits very well together. “Down & Dirty” is a good combination of soul and funk. The SUPREMES couldn’t have done it any better. But hey, if you like the rocking side of ANOUK, I believe that you are listening to the wrong album. This is really an album for the very experienced fan of the diva from The Hague and a nice move to close the interval between the last two studio albums. People, who like the work of JOSS STONE for example, will surely have a good time with the eight tracks presented here. “Been Here Before” shows a bluesy start, but this feeling fades away as the song goes on. Still, the setting is great for a good blues song. ANOUK continues in a more ballad type of style with “Better Off Alone”. One of her more rocking songs “Jerusalem” is also stripped down to the bone and even then it stands tall on this live recording. In “Modern World”, ANOUK gets out the best of herself and slowly, she gets the audience going as well. The live situation comes out very well here. The vocals of the background singers are put up front, which proves that ANOUK only goes for the best. Her backing band consists of Leendert Haaksema and Arie Storm on guitar, Glenn Gaddum on bass and a backing vocal choir, that consists of Shirma Rousse, Jenny Lane and Ricardo Burgrust. I think, that she will please many fans with this record. ANOUK slowly moved towards a more soulful approach, which shows up very well on these eight tracks. I must admit though, that I long back to the days that she sang blues covers during a live show at Waterpop in Leidschendam. But that was a loooooong time ago and her career had just begun at that time. For a very fine and relaxing moment, this CD is a nice way to enjoy her voice, because after all she’s a great singer. Her shows in Holland will contain all the band members, that she has ever played with. I think, that she will rock the house down again. For now, it’s time to enjoy this very intimate live setting at Toomler in Amsterdam. Website: http://www.anouk.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARAPACIS-Netherworld (Ravenheart Music)
Welcome to the third album by Montreal, Canada based band ARAPACIS. They take you on a journey through various styles in nine brand new tracks and forty-five minutes of rock music. “End Of The Line” already shows, that the band very easily mixes different styles with each other. The main ingredient is rock or metal, but some serious side steps are made here as well. The hard core like screams in this opener for example are not really expected by yours truly at all, but they are there alright. The guitar solo sounds great and the riffs are heavy. Lizzie’s vocals remind me of Gigi Hangach (formerly PHANTOM BLUE singer) at times, only less screaming. A similar vocal sound appears in “Horror Show”, that has some very heavy riffs accompanying it. The guitar solo is once again the eye-catcher here and I just love the sound of the cow bell. It gives it a certain retro twist, that I very much like. “Lord Of The Clouds” is a lengthy and epical tale. It starts with some heavy doomy guitars. This is officially the first doom track by ARAPACIS, I guess and a damn good one, too. Some of the grunt vocals are maybe a bit too much, but I think that this song can easily be added among the highlights on this new silver disc for me. “Crisis” feels good, because of the progressive feeling in this song and the keyboards, that fit very well on a song like this. “Unbirth” sounds very catchy and the instrumental part lifts it up to a higher level. In “The Affliction”, Lizzie shows us, that she can scream out loud as well. It mixes well with the heavy groove of the song. Just listen to the heavy riffs in this track. The solo, that Jerry provides here, is simply high class! Then the time has arrived to slow things down a bit for the ballad, which is called “Beautifully Blind”. It sounds very attractive and shows that these people can be sensitive at times, too - in case you doubted this. Jerry however needed to put some powerful guitar explosions into this track and I must say, that I liked this a lot. How huge is the gap, that you have to jump over to soak up a song like “Beneath Me”? This is death metal with grunts and haunting rhythms. Nobody can make an unexpected switch like that, I guess. It’s truly amazing though how they handle a song like that. The fast and fieriness, that they play this song is really amazing and you can hardly imagine that this is the same band, that almost made you cry of deep emotional feelings in the previous song on this album. The last track is called “Dark Days Ahead” and is a very sober and short instrumental outro and completely different from what we’ve heard until now. The variety of songs is endless on this album and I am sure, that everybody will easily find something for his or her taste here. The songs are great and performed by high class musicians, so high five and both thumbs up again for ARAPACIS. I wonder, who is going to open his eyes and make this band come over to Europe for some shows. I think, they will please a lot of people. Until that happens, I will give this album another spin or two and take another trip to ARAPCIS’ “Netherworld”. ARAPACIS is Lizzie Fyre on vocals, Jerry Fielden on guitar, keyboards, bass and mandolin and Matthieu Roy on drums. Website: http://www.arapacis.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ARVEN-Music Of Light (Massacre Records)
I get a warm feeling, when I see that five members of this sextet are ladies. Only the drummer is a (lucky) guy. ARVEN hails from Germany and their debut album contains ten melodic metal songs with a total playing time of about fifty minutes. The violin in opener “Music Of Light” gives this song a folky, medieval character. Singer Carina Hanselmann gives you the feeling, that you’re listening to a sister of Candice Night (BLACKMORE’S NIGHT). The violin returns in the middle of the song, just before Anastasia Schmidt and Ines Thomé take care of the more metal part in this opener with a flashing guitar solo. A very good opener and I am excited even more now. Especially after hearing that “On Flaming Wings” contains some heavy riffing and a steady heavy beat of male drummer Till Felden. The gothic, medieval, folky atmosphere returns in the beginning of “Raise Your Cups”. A flute whistles the intro to this song, but quite soon the band shows that they definitely want to create a more heavy atmosphere with some medieval folk sidesteps. The ‘oh oh oh’ choir parts are typically German and not really my thing, but the band still stands tall in my eyes. “My Dear Friend” is a piano ballad with the beautiful voice of Carina as glorious centre. Time enough to think about some references here, that lead me to names like EDENBRIDGE, BLACKMORE’S NIGHT, LEAVES EYES and NIGHTWISH. On we go with “World Of Hatred” and with such a heavy title, you can’t go wrong, my fellow metal heads. Bingo! Riffing, shredding guitar lines hammer themselves into my head. This is the real deal. The vocal parts may sound a little bit melodic, but the guitars cry out loud and sound really amazing! The part, where choir and guitar meet each other, reminded me of the early WITHIN TEMPTATION sound. In “Dark Red Desire”, you’ll hear more flashing guitar parts and Lena Yatsula shows her skills on keyboards as well. I like the way the guitar solo is played in this track. The speed change at the end of the song also sounds very exciting. And just when you think, that the band is going full speed ahead now and the rest of the album is covered with strong heavy metal songs, the relaxing flute sound is pulled back in “Midwinter Nights”. Don’t worry though, because after a more modest start, they step on the gas out of the blue and throw in a thing or two, that will turn every venue into a big party mess in a matter of seconds. After that, they switch on from passionate slow parts into a blasting party sound. A surprisingly nice song. “Till Death Do Us Part” reminds me of NIGHTWISH in a way, because of the choir parts and the soprano like vocals of Carina. The sensitive guitar solos of Anastasia and Ines are breathtaking. Besides the aforementioned members Carina, Anastasia, Lena, Ines and Till, ARVEN consists of Lisa Geiβ on bass guitar, which I didn’t mention yet. “Ruined Castle” is another great metal track with some heavy guitar work and definitely one of the highlights on this album for me. “A Stranger’s Story” closes the album with the sound of the piano and keyboards. This is the intro for an up tempo rock song with a good guitar solo in the middle. ARVEN surprised me in a very positive way with this debut album, which gives you the perfect mix between ballsy melodic heavy metal and some side steps to gothic, folk and medieval parts. They call this the “Music Of Light” and I’d a great time listening to this marvelous piece of music. Website: http://www.myspace.com/arvenband. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACKSMITH-Strike While The Iron's Hot (Heaven And Hell Records)
We were married for the very first time at the Blacksmith in Gretna Green, Scotland, which has got nothing at all to do with this review. It just came up to me, while listening to this marvelous release by the US metal band BLACKSMITH on Heaven And Hell Records, which is called “Strike While The Iron’s Hot”. This is a compilation CD of their EP “Blacksmith” released in 1986 and the LP “Fire From Within” released in 1989. A huge line-up change occurred after these three years, when female vocalist Heidi Black was replaced by male screamer Malcolm Mania Lovegrove. As a matter of fact, only the first five tracks are with female singer Heidi Black, but because BLACKSMITH is one of the rough diamonds in the metal scene of the eighties, we don’t really care. Almost immediately you will know for sure, that you’ve struck gold, when listening to opener “The Bone March / Tower Of London”. They don’t make songs like that anymore. The whole album creates the right atmosphere, that you want to hear when listening to the metal sound of the eighties. Vocalist Heidi Black melts the iron with a voice, like only she can do it. The guitars cry out loud in a duel, that doesn’t have any winners. The blood-curdling scream of Heidi at the end of the song makes you long for more magical moments like that. Just wait and listen to the next track, that has the appealing title “Rock Hard”. Scream it out loud and you will get the drill. The band had an uncompromising loud and powerful sound, that certainly asks for more, because of the very catchy feeling. You can pretty easily shout along to a song like “Rock Hard”, which is a good thing, if you want to create a metal party. Songs like “Louder Than Hell” can’t go wrong either. At least not, when you have a singer like Heidi in your band. The Blacksmith is at work during its self-titled song, where Heidi seems to pound the steaming hot metal with her bare hands. Please don’t try this at home! “The Beast” is the last song with Heidi on vocals. It’s a tribute to Aleister Crowley, the influential English occultist of all time. To me, this sounds like pure speed metal, what do you think?!? Besides Heidi on vocals, the line-up in 1986 is David Smith on guitar, Michael J. Marino on bass and George Snyder on drums. The next generation BLACKSMITH in 1989 consists of David Smith on guitar, Malcolm Maniac Lovegrove on vocals, Chris Caglione on drums and Chris Madsen on bass. “House” opens, which may give you the idea that thrash metal was making its first moves here. Sometimes the first blue print of a thrashy groove may exist in this song, although the bulk of the sound is definitely heavy metal of course. At other times, I feel like singing “Seek And Destroy” at the end of the song, but that’s only for a few moments. “Louder Than Hell” is available in a reworked version here. “A Castle Of Darkness” is a doomy, slow epic metal ride with King Diamond-like pull outs by Malcolm. When the speed goes up, you will get the shivers running down your spine from excitement. Church bells and the rolling thunder mark the introduction to the 1989 version of “The Bone March / Tower Of London”. What a great song! The CD continues with “Theatres Des Vampires”, that has a spoken word intro and a good solid heavy vibe. The guitar solo is breathtaking and it shows us, that BLACKSMITH was as true as hell! At the very end of the song the band enters “The Hall Of The Mountain King” (SAVATAGE / GRIEG). The high screams and guitar shambles at the end of the song are truly amazing! “Hell To Pay” continues and another amazing killer track develops itself. “Fug It” is a very short blast in the best AGENT STEEL tradition, to name an influential speed metal band here (probably). A guitar solo opens the CD closer “Black Attack”. Thirteen pure gold metal anthems are on this silver disc leaving nothing to desire anymore.... But it even gets better, because the enhanced part on disc two is a DVD of BLACKSMITH containing some rare video footage of this awesome US metal band. Arrgghhhhhh!!!!! [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BLACKTHORN-Codex Archaos (MSR Productions)
BLACKTHORN from Russia are an all-female metal coven, that releases their second album. It contains twelve tracks and shows the progression of five Russian musicians, that came together on All Hallows Eve. The new album runs for forty-five minutes and opens with the short instrumental intro, called “Divination In Blood”. Make sure that you are ready for the first blast, the first punch in the face, the first ear attack, the first musical speed reflex, which is called “Vehemence Came As Anodyne” and brings together the sound of big names like CRADLE OF FILTH and DIMMU BORGIR. If you’re not ready for it, you might faint by the overwhelming swarm of notes, that are spitted out here. “Nemesis Incarnation” is a bit slower and darker and shows more different sound levels. But the first punch has been given already and makes you dazzle on your feet. These ladies want to give you some time to breath as well. “Gorgon The Ascendant” also sounds fast and their drummer is beating the shit out of her kit. The dark soprano voice of Aina forms a nice contrast with the fast rhythms, that haunt you down. The short spoken word part gives the song a rather spooky treatment. Sometimes the music shows some bombastic elements, but the overhand comes from fast black metal blasts and gothic soprano vocals. I really liked the spooky horror intro of “Emptysis Kiss” by Elvira on her keyboard. She also handles the guitar, piano and growling vocal parts. “Arria Marcella” opens with a bombastic choir part. The choir parts are an important ingredient in the music of BLACKTHORN. Just listen to “Posthumous Passion Ephemera” to get the idea. In “Dismalediction And The Remedy”, the ladies step firmly on the gas pedal again. The next track is completely in the Russian language, which gives the dark parts in the music an even more authentic feeling. The low voice of Aina makes the sound darker, by the way. In “Hexshadow Turned To Flesh” we hear the return of the blast beats and a leading role for the keyboard parts. Together with the witchy spoken word part at the end of the song, it’s definitely the highlight of the album for me so far. But we still have a vicious attack coming with “Bestial Satan Of Grotesque Beauty”. The song title alone makes you want to check out this song. It gives you the idea, that there’s something special coming up. And in this haunting track I can tell you, that another highlight has announced itself. The mood change at the end sounds very special and exciting. At blasting speed, they drag the listener to the CD closer, which is called “The Fading Ceremony” and of course a great title for the last song on your CD. It’s a short instrumental ceremony, by the way. I must say, that I’m really impressed by the five ladies from Russia, who already shared the stage with CATAMENIA, BATTLELORE, VESANIA, CHRIST AGONY, HATE, FRANTIC AMBER. They call their live shows rituals, so if these witches come to a venue nearby, make sure that you don’t miss it. BLACKTHORN is symphonic, but also aggressive and you must make sure that you don’t sting yourself on their pointy thorns, when you grab this CD. The band consists of Aina on vocals, Elvira on guitars, keyboards, piano and brutal growls, Greta on bass, Less on violin and Varaska on drums. Moscow can be proud on these five magic witches. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KATE BUSH-50 Words For Snow (Noble And Brittle)
KATE BUSH’s latest album “Aerial” was one of unspeakable beauty. And so the expectations for this new album were very high. Reading the first reviews, I became a bit suspicious at first and then I eagerly wanted to check out for myself if all the rumors were true. This album was said to be so different, that it was hard to sit it out. I couldn’t imagine that at all, after everything I’ve heard from this beautiful fairy with her incredible grotesque vocal sound. The album “50 Words For Snow” contains seven tracks and sixty-five (!!!!!!!) minutes of music, which gives it an average of about nine minutes for each song, which is very unusual for Kate. Of course I gave it the benefit of the doubt and pushed the start button to let the music flow into my room. Opener “Snowflake” is a piano tune with the modest voice of Kate giving me the shivers all over again. A beautiful song to open this album in the first place. No strange twists in her voice, just beautiful chorus lines, that simply belongs to the piano parts. These two become effectively one, when Kate does it her way. Very sober musical arrangements, but who needs it anyway with a voice like that? “Lake Tahoe” continues in the same atmosphere and Kate called in the help of Stefan Roberts and Michael Wood for some male vocal parts. No major parts, but Kate undoubtedly needed them to make this song complete. Again the music part is subtle and almost of an underrated level. Her loving words toward the “Lake Tahoe” area lasts for over ten minutes. And slowly you get the feeling, that the music could almost be categorized as ‘new age’. It would be great music for stressed people to relax and think about nothing at all. Reset your mind in a way. The next song “Misty” sounds a bit less sober and the drum sound is more up front here. In almost fourteen minutes Kate cries out her soul, which is in fact unbelievably beautiful. Later on, you may even be aware of the fact, that Kate slowly builds up to a certain tension, which makes it even more powerful, if you could speak of that at all. “Wild Man” creates a jazzy atmosphere and the title alone predicts the more up tempo rhythm of this certain track. Andy Fairweather Low (AMEN CORNER, ERIC CLAPTON, BILL WYMAN, ROGER WATERS) takes care of some guest vocals on this song. And this is not the only guest, that pops up on this album. “Snowed In At Wheeler Street” turns into a duet with nobody else but ELTON JOHN or should I say Sir ELTON JOHN? You can think about the man whatever you want, but if he shows up for your album to sing a duet with you, you certainly belong to the greatest on the earth. And I think that there aren’t too many people, who can say this. “50 Words For Snow” is, like the title says, a summing up of fifty words for snow. The words are carefully selected by Kate herself and the words are pronounced by Professor Joseph Yupik, which is a synonym for Stephen Fry. He speaks out the fifty words for snow and Kate supports him on the side line, so to speak. It’s a more up tempo song, in which Kate counts the synonyms until she reaches the magical number of fifty. Finally, there’s the CD closer “Among Angels”, which Kate and her piano are humming out the final minutes of this album. It’s a bit strange to hear an album like this with some wonderful emotional moments, but without the so well-known little bit crazy sound of KATE BUSH. Therefore, it is really difficult for me to give this album a good rating. When I am alone, listening to her music and enjoying the tenderness of these songs, she could easily get the full score, no doubt about it. The fact, that the whole album sounds very modest and sober is maybe a bit too much. The final rating is a combination of both put together. But with the conclusion, that KATE BUSH remains untouchable for me. Website: http://www.katebush.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CADAVERIA-Horror Metal (Bakerteam Records)
Since Cadaveria left OPERA IX her career went onwards in her own outfit, called CADAVERIA. It’s eleven years now, since CADAVERIA got launched. “Horror Metal” is her fourth album, which contains eleven tracks and fifty-five minutes of horror metal and is in fact a combination of heavy, death, gothic and black metal. Opener “Flowers In Fire” does the band justice, when CADAVERIA unleashes their dark, heavy sound, showing no mercy for the weak. Heavy drum beats, thunderous riffs and the dark voice by front woman Cadaveria makes the sound complete. Sometimes emotional, at other times blasting at full speed, yet always black as the night and with dark lyrics. “The Night’s Theatre” starts at blasting speed with some heavy drum beats. Italy and horror are a great match and the music of CADAVERIA confirms this statement, because it could very well be used for a good horror scenario, in which the most gruesome and bloody things could take place. “Death Vision” has got a more black metal approach and slows down a pace. A slightly melancholic feeling rushes in, when Cadaveria sings the choir vocals in this song. While the next song “Whispers Of Sin” blasts again at full speed. This crazy madness is just perfect to let off some steam. “Assassin” sounds darker and the guitars cry and riff repeatedly in this one. Cadaveria’s voice creates the right horror atmosphere here. When the speed change comes up, it’s time to get moshing and then suddenly the speed drops immensely and the band continues in a more doomy pace. This song really belongs to one of the highlights here for me, because of these exciting mood and speed changes. Next on is “The Days Of The After And Behind”, which sounds rather dark. Cadaveria roars and growls, but also uses a kind of childish voice, which perfectly matches to the drawing of the child in the CD booklet. In my imagination, it’s the girl in the picture, who sings these lyrics. The hammering and pounding sound in the instrumental part takes care of a very doomy atmosphere, turning it in another highlight for me. “Apocalypse” starts off like a black metal song, but when the guitars start playing the magic spirit of BLACK SABBATH or CATHEDRAL wanders about right away. Cadaveria has a very high squealing voice here, which makes her the female version of Ozzy Osbourne for some reason. The guitar solo in this song sounds quite nice. The song closes with a speed change, taking it back to the original black metal sound. “The Oracle (Of The Fog)” opens with more heavy riffs, but the screaming vocals of Cadaveria turn this into a more black metal oriented song rather than anything else. The song also gets a somewhat mystique character, because of the vocal parts and the instrumentation towards the end. “Requiem” sounds very heavy again with the drums playing at high blasting speed and Cadaveria screaming her lungs out. CRADLE OF FITH fans may choose this one as their favorite song. The choir vocals at the very end have something mysterious and matches quite well to the album title, in my opinion. “This Is Not The Silence” contains many black metal screams and gothic vocal parts. “Hypnotic Psychosis” closes the album in an industrial beat and some heavy riffs supporting them. The song could very well be from Snowy Shaw’s NOTRE DAME, who are the true Scandinavian kings of Horror Metal. Another real highlight, as far as I’m concerned. Cadaveria works very hard to become the queen of Horror Metal, at least in Italy. She definitely convinced me with this great new album. CADAVERIA consists of Cadaveria on vocals, Frank Booth on guitars, Dick Laurent on guitars, Killer Bob on bass and Marçelo Santos (Flegias) on drums. Go to: http://www.cadaveria.com for more information about this exciting horror metal band. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CHRISTIAN MISTRESS-Possession (Relapse Records)
CHRISTIAN MISTRESS easily stole away my heart with their debut album “Agony & Opium”. This brand new album contains nine tracks and I must say, that I have very high expectations about it. Mainly because of the beautiful artwork. It’s the music, that counts though. Okay, here we go. The band starts off with “Over & Over”, which sounds like another great mix of US Metal and NWOBHM. At high speed the great heavy riffs bump against my eardrums. A very good opener, that catches my attention right away. As the title already predicts, “Pentagram And Crucifix”, sounds a bit darker. It’s also the one for which the band shot a video clip. The guitar solo is simply mind-blowing and just when you expect it to be over, it goes even further and further. Great stuff!! “Conviction” sounds like pure NWOBHM to me and it’s even more traditional than the great sound, that they put together on their debut album. The mood change in the middle of the song comes as a real surprise and shows that the band is going much deeper than only playing simple and straight forward rock and metal. “The Way Beyond” is on next with a ballad type of introduction. Check out the flaming guitar solo on this one. It will blow you off your chair! Title track “Possession” sounds dark and the band throws in a couple of doomy parts and rhythms. It fits like a glove and the band will please many fans over here at the Roadburn festival with a song like that. It may not sound exactly like SABBATH or CANDLEMASS maybe, but it’s very seventies and retro and absolutely a real killer track! “Black To Gold” sounds catchy in a way, which I wouldn’t dare to say about the axe explosion in this song. Wow, there goes my stereo set! I just blew up my speakers, I guess! There’s no need to tell you, that CHRISTIAN MISTRESS rules and they know exactly how heavy metal should sound nowadays in my opinion. “There Is Nowhere” continues and the magic goes on and on. A solid rock song with double leads. It’s like putting the twin guitars of THIN LIZZY in a US metal band together. What a great mix that would be! “Haunted Hunted” sounds a bit mysterious and dark and again it has the spirit of LIZZY lurking in the back. The speed change at the end is unpredictable, but keeps people like me focused. “All Abandon” is the band’s introduction towards the Roadburn festival homepage. Again the song starts dark and slightly doomy, but when it explodes, it bangs right in your face with madly guitar craziness all around. Serious people, CHRISTIAN MISTRESS went far over my high expectations with this new album. And I can only reward it with a full score, which is what they deserve. When you listen to the sound of this band, you get possessed by it and I think that they chose the right title for this new release. Warning!!!! There is a possibility, that you might get addicted or possessed by the sound of this new album. If this occurs, just call 911 for immediate help. To me, it’s already too late, I got addicted from the very first notes on……..and I’m damn proud of it, too! The band will also play in Europe with HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE and BLACK BREATH, so don’t miss it. CHRISTIAN MISTRESS consists of Oscar Sparbel on guitar, Ryan McClain on guitar, Johny Wulf on bass, Reuben Storey on drums and Christine Davis on vocals. Website: http://www.christianmistress.com/ [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CRYSALYS-The Awakening Of Gaia (Wormhole Death / Aural Music)
After releasing the EP’s “White Lotus On Acheron’s Shroes’ in 2007 and “…And Let The Innocence Dream” in 2009, here’s the debut album by Italian opera metal heads CRYSALYS. This ten track album contains forty-five minutes of bombastic opera like music and opens with the title track, which already leads the way.. Bombastic orchestral parts, opera vocals, fast drum beats and powerful guitar riffs. The band focuses on the operatic style, but the metal parts are also there of course, so don’t you worry. The powerful sound is quite overwhelming and this song certainly gained my interest in hearing more by these Italian metallers. “Butterfly Effect” continues in a very melancholic way and it has some more modest pieces as well. The high-pinched soprano vocals by Chiara Malvestiti have got a more operatic approach rather than a heavy metal kind of input, so you really must be an opera fan to dig the quality of this lady behind the microphone. “Angelica” creates the atmospheric sound of a lullaby in the beginning. The sound is not as full as the very powerful opener and leaves a bit more room for details, like the guitars in the beginning of the song. It seems to fade away in the cacophony of overwhelming orchestration, but obviously we’re dealing with some great musicians here. “Scarlet Crusade” sounds a bit faster though. It has some nice keyboard and spoken word parts, giving it a more melodramatic touch. “By Stars Revealed” has got the same ingredients, but I liked the orchestral part in the middle the most. The song slows down thereafter and makes it a little less noisy. Noisy works quite well, but sometimes it gets a bit over the top and it helps to have a more modest part as well to keep a natural balance. They did this very well here. “My Will Be Done” is another up tempo track, but a little less noisy as the previous song and definitely one of my highlights, because of the nice guitar solo at the end of the song. The beginning of “When Sirens Sing” (and I mean the part before the orchestration starts!) sounds just great. It shows, that the elementary parts are very well taken care of. This band knows how to rock out loud and I would really like to hear more of this sound on their next work. This time however the album is so full of bombastic orchestral parts, that it’s not easy to stay focused all the time. The mood changes in this song however, are very well done. Of course a name like NIGHTWISH pops up when thinking about references, but I should say that CRYSALYS has created a style of its own, where the operatic style is not entwined into the metal sound, but these Italians do it vice versa. The guitars are still around though. Just listen to the beginning of “Time For Vultures”. It’s one of the heaviest songs on the album with less operatic parts. “Lilium” is also a song, in which the guitars win the battle of the orchestration. It creates a very heavy, almost doomy atmosphere, that I liked a lot. Finally, the metal face of the band gets more shape. “…And Let The Innocence Dream” is not only the title of the second EP, but also the final track on this album. It’s a beautiful last song by this Italian band, that will steal the heart of many fans, who like to hear that magnificent vocal sound. If it will also appeal to metal heads, that’s up to you. If you lost your heart already to bands like EPICA and NIGHTWISH, this might be something for you as well. CRYSALYS consists of Chiara Malvestiti on vocals, Alessandro Camela on drums, Fabio Amurri on keyboards and Giuseppe Cardinali on bass. For more information, go to http://www.myspace.com/crysalysband. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DEVIL’S BLOOD-The Thousandfold Epicentre (independent)
A lot of people were waiting for this to happen. The new album by Dutch psychedelic rock band THE DEVIL’S BLOOD. It contains eleven tracks and almost eighty minutes of music, that will lead the way to another world. First you’ll get into a trance and then you enter the world, that THE DEVIL’S BLOOD has created for you, which has almost nothing at all in common with the world that we are living in today. On the other hand, their world could be the real deal and we could be living in a fake world. Whatever is real is real and you can dream away for eighty minutes to the mighty psychedelic soundscapes of Selim and Farida Lemouchi. I dream away with you, starting with “Unending Singularity”, which opens with a short piece of silence. I think, this is to prepare ourselves for things to come. After a short instrumental interlude, the black mass starts off with “On The Wings Of Gloria”. I really don’t need to explain the musical influences of the band here. I think, we all know that bands like HAWKWIND, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and lesser known gods like BLACK WIDOW and COVEN have a whole lot in common with the psychedelic sound of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD. Their lyrics have got more in common with the last two bands however and the occult input may give you a strange feeling. If the music is good enough for you though, than the lyrics won’t definitely distract you from buying these satanic rites on music. The band slowly builds up a song and once they have created the right atmosphere, they continue to play on this rhythm like they are in some kind of trance. Selim Lemouchi and Rob Oorthuis pour a thick layer of guitar sauce over the song and give it some kind of heavy touch. On we go with “Die The Death”, which is quite short, comparing to the lengthy jam-session kind of tracks, that contain very long instrumental parts. Maybe because of this, it has got some kind of a catchy vibe. Same goes for “Within The Charnel House Of Love”, which is another short track with a very catchy vibe and a seventies mood. The choir vocals of THE MAMA’S AND THE PAPA’S are lurking around the corner, if you didn’t know any better. “Cruel Lover” continues with the heavy sound of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD. The music is conjuring, because of the haunting rhythm and the vocal lines are put more in the background this time. “She” shows the strength of Farida’s voice, who has a leading role in this fast track. At the end, there’s a mood change of acoustic guitars, creating a seamless intro to the next track, which is the title track of this album; “The Thousandfold Epicentre”. Indisputable, it’s one of the master pieces here, which reflects what the band is all about. Great instrumental parts and very strong song writing. This song is one of the key tracks on the album. “Fire Burning” is an up tempo track with a whole lot of power. It has another slight mood change at the end of this track, which leads to the beginning of “Everlasting Saturnalia”. The dark atmosphere, that you would expect from a title like that, is there right from the start. It’s an instrumental tune, that takes you to another dimension for five minutes. It also is an introduction to “The Madness Of Serpents”, which is in fact another psychedelic master piece. The result is, that the listener enters the magic world of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD, which may lead into getting into a trance. But this is nothing comparing to the magical madness, that you’ll experience when listening to the final track, called “Feverdance”. This fifteen minutes ritual brings out the best of the band, that gives you an insight of their world in eighty minutes. It’s a heavy, repetitive motion, which builds up a tension. Once the music stops, the trance is over and all that’s left are fifteen seconds of silence. The magic is gone. The limited CD-book version contains a lot of beautiful drawings with all the lyrics to the songs and some reflections of the ideas by this remarkable band. They also give you ideas of how to experience “Feverdance” the best way possible and how to meditate to this song. Just try it, it won’t do you no harm. Whether you can open your mind to these views or not, that’s up to you. Without any doubt, the band has created an occult and psychedelic master piece in my eyes, that may lead you to a nice dream world, in which you can be yourself for eighty minutes. It’s perhaps a good idea to check out where your borders are with a band like THE DEVIL’S BLOOD. More information about the band can be found at http://thedevilsblood.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

DIABULUS IN MUSICA-The Wanderer (Napalm Records)
DIABULUS IN MUSICA hails from Spain and presents us their second album. Their debut album “Secrets” was recorded and released in 2010. The twelve songs are worthy of almost fifty-five minutes of solid gothic metal. The intro “A Journey’s End” sounds at once, but it’s only the beginning of this musical journey, that takes off with “Ex Nihilo”. The bombastic orchestration, haunting rhythms and soprano vocals are the right ingredients for gothic music of this caliber. And the brutal male voice is also present on this first fast track, that is highly influenced by bands like EPICA and/or NIGHTWISH (old style). You can’t deny, that we’re dealing with a very powerful opener here, which will surely raise some heads from excitement. “Sceneries Of Hope” also has some electric beeps from the keyboards. It shows, that they also dare to put new ideas into the well-known concept. The bombastic, operatic choir pops up in every song, but gives it a special aspect. Just listen to “ Blazing A Trail” for example, which even contains some grunt vocals by Mark Jansen of EPICA, by the way. The short intro “Call From A Rising Memory” sounds quite beautiful, leading you to “Hidden Reality”, in which the band slows things down a bit. Influences of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT are there, because of the voice of Zuberoa Aznárez. Besides this lady, who is gifted with a beautiful voice, the band consists of Adrián M. Vallejo on guitars and wild screams, Xabier Jareño on drums, Gorka Elso on keyboards and grunts and Alejandro ‘Alex’ Sanz on bass. The choir is given a leading role at the end of this song. The return of these choir vocals may lead to a comparison with THERION as well. Now it’s time for my highlight of the album. A stomping rhythm and war sound opens the mighty “Shadows Of The Throne”, that has some male vocals up front in the mix. This could very well be a LORDI song for that matter. Catchy, but still heavy and it simply asks to raise your fists in the air and scream out loud. “Allegory Of Faith, Innocence And Future” is also heavy, but it leans more towards the sound of CRADLE OF FILTH mixed with bombastic choir vocals. It’s nice to hear, that the band is trying all different kind of styles, which gives the album more pleasure to listen to. “Sentenced To Life” however is not exactly my cup of tea. It’s a duet with John Kelly, which is a bit over the top. Once the band reinforces with the two vocalists, things get better, but in my opinion they could better leave this one out. “Oihuka Bihotzetik” contains a very heavy beat with some grunting male vocals. Another highlight is for “No Time For Repentance (Lamentatio)”, which is a lengthy track, that almost clocks at nine minutes. Screaming vocals, blast beats, but also some slower pieces. It simply is one of the most outstanding tracks here, in which everything can and will happen. And even better, they all happen in those nine minutes. It’s at least the most adventurous track of them all. Spoken word parts, choir vocals, bizarre mood and speed changes, it’s all there and more. The album closes with “The Wanderer”, which even could be called serene and may remind you of the slightly medieval sound of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT, especially in the beginning. I think, this album will definitely appeal to the many fans of EPICA, NIGHTWISH and THERION, which has got more that meets the eye for those of you, who can hear between the lines. The artwork of the album is also very beautiful, by the way. Website: http://diabulusinmusica.com/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ECHOTERRA-Land Of The Midnight Sun (independent)
ECHOTERRA presents their second album, after releasing their debut in 2009 and an EP in 2010. It is called “Land Of The Midnight Sun” and it contains eleven tracks. The band consists of Melissa Ferlaak on vocals (VISIONS OF ATLANTIS / ASMA DAEVA), Jonah W. on keyboards, Yan Leviathan on guitar, Adam Sagan on drums and Sam van Moer on bass guitar. The symphonic metal of the band is taking the genre a little bit further than the average bands do. The symphonic aspect does do justice during the instrumental parts and the band doesn’t focus on making catchy music alone. This goes a bit deeper than in opener “After The Rain”, where the instruments get enough room to express themselves. “The Best Is Yet To Come” has got an overwhelming keyboard sound. Melissa shows, that she has gained a lot of experience in VISIONS OF ATLANTIS and ASMA DAEVA. Her voice is a real treat to listen to, next to the very impressive instrumentation. “Midnight Sun” is fast and a bit more straight forward than the first two tracks. The part, where the guitar starts to play, is a nice moment to move your head up and down. Let those hairs wave to the rhythm of the music. “The Ghost Within My Heart” has a melancholic vibe, including the piano and violins. “All The Lies” brings back the guitar riffs and heaviness. However, even Jonah demands a fair share with his keyboards and gets a short solo spot in this song. The strange end of the song tells you, that we’re dealing with a band that dares to do something unexpected as well. Just listen to the beginning of “Unleash The Flood”, which has a slightly Eastern character in the very first seconds. It’s different and still not too different, that it would disappoint the average listener. “A Different Story” (although the title might indicate something else) is not too much different from any other song that you’ve heard so far. The keyboards are right in front of the mix this time as well. “Welcome My Friend Of Misery” is on next and again it’s what you might expect. “Memories Of Another Time” gives the keyboards more space and that lifts the quality of this song up again. “From The Gutter To The Throne” is a fast rock song, which sounds very exciting to me. The album closes with a song, called “Genes Of Isis” which lets you enjoy the perfect interaction between the voice of Melissa and the keyboards, where the keys get room for the final chords. These eleven tracks give you a good overview of what this well-talented symphonic metal band is all about. They provide you just that little bit more that other bands simply don’t dare to do or want to. Therefore, this band is highly recommended. Let them take you to “The Land Of The Midnight Sun”, because for many people this will become a very exciting ride. Website: http://www.facebook.com/echoterra. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ELECTRIK EMILY-Stiletto Rock (independent)
ELECTRIK EMILY hails from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and she fronts a one-woman band, that has just released her album “Stiletto Rock”. Eleven tracks will rock the house from opener “Cock Rockers” until the last notes fade away of title track “Stiletto Rock”. Emily sure knows how to rock and her music is a good mix of rock, punk and Riot Grrrl influences. Because she is the only member in the band, things may sound a little static at times, but you’ll have to decide for yourself to enjoy the album to the max. “Cock Rockers” is a nice juicy opener with a stint of THE RUNAWAYS in the far distance. “Rain City Queen (If I Can’t Love You)” comes next and sounds less rocking, but it still has got that touch of magic, which gives her the benefit of the doubt. Think about some of the later material by PAT BENATAR, that didn’t sound as loud as in her early days, but still rocked enough to enjoy it. “Going Out!” is very keyboard dominated and it also has some hot guitar licks at the end of the song. “Secret Weapon” is a nice rocker, however “Since I’m The Girl” rocks it out just a little harder. In “Addiction”, Emily takes back some speed and the song gets a real GOLDEN EARRING make over. “Going To The Run” by this Dutch rock band sounds very much alike, for example. “Does Anyone Ask?” has got that PAT BENATAR approach, which she can take as a compliment this time, because her voice sounds very sensual on this track. “Mean Mean Man (Don’t Wanna)” reminds me of THE GOSSIP in their early days and “My Guitar” really rocks like hell. I think, that Emily has got her motor running here. “Not 4 $ale” rocks out loud as well and Emily even cranks out a guitar solo on this track. She sure sounds like a rocking machine here. The album comes to an end with some raw riffs in “Stiletto Rock”. It’s very brave to make an album on your own and yourself being the only band member. What you get here is the purest form of ELECTRIK EMILY, that you can think of. This lady proves to be a good rock musician and she has got a lot more on her sleeve. Emily has got a home recording studio, she is a disc jockey for Women Rock Radio and she is also a regular visitor of various Girls’ Rock Camps, because she wants to help young musicians to find confidence through music. This album is another good example of her work. The pointy “Stiletto Rock” style will be a good example for all the girls out there, that want to rock out as loud as Emily does here. Visit http://www.electrikemily.com for more information about this rock machine from Pittsburgh. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPICA-Requiem For The Indifferent (Nuclear Blast Records)
Many people have been looking forward to the new album by Dutch metallers EPICA. The waiting is over and I think, that people will be pleased with the final result of this fourteen track and seventy-five minute album. At least, if you bought the limited digibook version, like us. “Karma” starts off, which is a one and a half minute intro, followed by the haunting rhythm of “Monopoly Of Truth”. Choir vocals, fast riffs, brutal male vocals, bombastic orchestration and beautiful female vocals. It’s all there and so much more. This is EPICA in a nutshell and a lot of fans will embrace this as pure EPICA magnificence. “Storm Of The Sorrow” is on next. The band takes back speed and Simone’s voice is more up front in the mix. In comparison to “Monopoly Of Truth”, this sounds very laid back. Later on though, the brutal growls return, but they fit quite well in here. “Delirium” starts with a very moody combination of Simone and some keyboards. The best way to enjoy this is in silence with dipped headlights. A great ballad is created here, before the band explodes right after that. The very powerful “Internal Warfare” has got all the ingredients mentioned in the beginning of this review. Brutal male vocals lead you to a great instrumental part with good teamwork of the keyboard player and the guitarist. A great example of what EPICA is all about. Then it’s time for title track “Requiem For The Indifferent”, which opens with some Eastern influences. The song is jam-packed with interesting mood changes and the brutal male vocals have another prominent role as well. The short song “Anima” divides the album into two parts. The interlude contains a moody piano piece. The short but catchy “Guilty Demeanor” is on next and it proves that a good symphonic metal tune can be played within a time limit of let’s say four minutes. Which sounds like a job well done to me. After this, the band slows things down a bit in “Deep Water Horizon” and they give Simone a chance to show, that she is one of the better front women in this genre. Then, the speed goes up and the brutal male vocal are there again. In my opinion, they sound a bit misplaced here, but hey, maybe I don’t get it. The song closes with a thrash metal rhythm and builds up a certain tension, so to speak. “Stay The Course” creates a prominent place for the male screams of Mark. While “Deter The Tyrant” is another powerful ear attack, including some Eastern voices to create the right atmosphere. For sure, this is one of the highlights on the album for me. “Avalanche” is another complicated, symphonic master piece, where the band proves that they are simply one of the best in their territory. Sometimes the guitars remind me of AC/DC, which may sound odd in a way, but it sure has got the same vibe as some of the riffs in “Thunderstruck” for example. The regular album closes with a long epic song, called “Serenade Of Self-Destruction”, which is a very appropriate title in my opinion. The ten minutes are the perfect example of EPICA’s ability and they really made something special out of this song. The instrumental part in the middle, the spoken word piece, it all adds something special to this great masterpiece. If you have bought the limited digibook, then you can have a listen now to the bonus track, which is called “Nostalgia”. It contains the very emotional voice of Simone and belongs to one of my favorite songs on this new album. EPICA proves, that they belong to the world rank of today’s symphonic metal scene and I think that this album will only make their position stronger. The only question, that keeps me busy, is about the picture of Simone on the CD booklet holding an iron mask. Is that the same mask from the QUIET RIOT “Metal Health” album? I guess not, but it’s nice to think that it is. EPICA consists of Simone Simons on vocals, Mark Jansen on rhythm guitar and brutal vocals, Coen Janssen on keyboards and piano, Isaac Delahaye on guitar, Yves Huts on bass and Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums and grunts. Not long after the release of this album though, Yves decided to step out of the band and he has been replaced by Rob van der Loo. Website: http://www.epica.nl. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

EPYSODE-Obsessions (AFM Records)
I think, that nobody has ever heard of EPYSODE before. Me neither and that isn’t a shame, because this is a totally new project of Samuel Arkan, who may be known for his guitar work with VIRUS IV. He decided to start a solo project for which he recruited several interesting guest members. He recorded an album, called “Obsessions” and surprised many people with this outstanding performance. First let’s have a closer look at the people, who contributed to “Obsessions”. On vocals there’s Kelly ‘Sundown’ Carpenter of BEYOND TWILIGHT and DARKOLOGY, Oddleif Stensland of COMMUNIC, Rick Altzi of AT VANCE and THUNDERSTONE, Magali Luyten of AYREON, BEAUTIFUL SIN and VIRUS IV and Liselotte ‘Lilo’ Hegt of AYREON, DIAL and VALENTINE. An impressive list, if I may say so. We also have a short list of instrumentalists for you, who are on this fourteen track debut album, that runs for sixty-five minutes. Check out the skills of Kristoffer Gildenlöw of PAIN OF SALVATION and DIAL on bass, Christophe Godin of MORGIBL TRIO on lead guitar, Leo Margarit of PAIN OF SALVATION on drums and Julien Spreutels of ETHERNITY on keyboards. Great names indeed, but what about the music by this collective, I can almost hear you say?! Well, read on, because I’m going to tell you right now. The intro of “File 41807” opens the album. It’s mysterious and urges you to listen to the rest of it. “Silence Of Dawn (Poetry)” is in fact a second intro, if I may call it that way, but this time it has female vocals supporting it. The first ‘real’ song is called “First Blood”. The direction, in which we are heading, is the progressive metal side of bands like EVERGREY, KAMELOT and SYMPHONY X. Melodic, here and there a heavy touch, but also a nice progressive feeling and never dull at all. There is always something happening here. Title track “Obsessions” starts off with a short call for ‘Help’ before attacking your eardrums. It’s an adventurous track with some mind-blowing guitar work. The real fire starts to burn here for me. “Invisible Nations” sounds very strong as well and especially the heavy intro kept me glued to my chair for a moment. Then the band goes back to the more KAMELOT type of sound, including vocals that get very close to the average SYMPHONY X album. They have a strong character and keep you focused, because they are catchy, adventurous and show a lot of variation. Next up is a ballad type of tune, called “Gemini Syndron”, which has a piano part and some female vocals. After the female intro, the song turns into a duet between male and female vocals. Unfortunately, it never really gets the power boost, that I was hoping for and it keeps dragging on and on and never explodes for a single moment. A missed opportunity in my eyes, which could have been so much better with a powerful part at the end. “Fallen’s Portrait” sounds very bombastic and could very well refer to the early SAVATAGE material in a way. The mysterious mid-part brings it to a higher level for me. “Season Of Redemption” has a nice guitar solo and just when I think they will build it out into a long progressive masterpiece, that is in the very last seconds when the keyboards join in, the song comes to an end. Nonetheless, it’s a good track, but I’d expected a little bit more. “The Other Side” contains another duet. “Shadow Lord” has got some heavy riffs in the beginning and again the female and male vocals work together in this track. Keyboards are up front in the mix and the powerful male vocals are very much worth checking out here. When piano and keyboards start “One Chance”, another mysterious intro is born, which is one of the highlights on the album for me. The male vocals supply the SAVATAGE influences, which are really very nice to listen to. Mind you, this is not a SAVATAGE rip-off, but it has definitely got that same magic vibe. “Divine Whispers” has another great intro, something the band has got the hots for, I guess. It gives you the urge to wait of what is going to be next. What follows is another great melodic track with some wonderful female vocals. “March Of The Ghosts” (great title!) slowly introduces the final part of this remarkable CD. It’s a powerful track with a great guitar solo and a tribute to all the dark spirits out there. Slowly, we’re heading towards the end of the CD with “Last Sunset”. The icy screams and creepy outro gives it just that little bit to become something special. The very atmospheric “Last Sunset” closes this very atmospheric melodic prog rock album, which has many nice surprises. We’re already waiting for a second EPYSODE. Website; http://www.epysode.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FEED FORWARD-Upstream (Nightmare Records)
Let me introduce this Dutch progressive metal band to you. They are called FEED FORWARD and they present their second album called “Upstream”, which is the follow up to their debut album “Barefoot & Naked” from 2007. Back then, they had a female vocalist in their ranks, who was called Biejanka. However, Biejanka moved to Finland and was replaced by a lady called Patrice for the recordings of this second album. “Upstream” has nine tracks and contains about fifty-five minutes of melodic progressive metal. The first two minutes is an instrumental intro, called “Ahead Of Echoes”. Then they kick off with “Deepest Thoughts”, where we hear the voice of Patrice for the first time. She has a very pleasant voice to listen to: no screams, growls or yelling, but just a pleasant singing voice. She is surrounded by Mario on guitar, Jan on bass, Pi on drums and background vocals and Job on keyboards. “Deepest Thoughts” is a nice song, including a good instrumental mid-part, where the guys show their skills and they do a very good job. “Thin Ice” is on next and again some adventurous mood changes and instrumental interludes will keep you focused. Just listen to the last part, where the band puts the music into the fourth gear. That’s what I call an exciting moment. It’s there, when you least expect it to be. Therefore it gets some special credit. “As Time Goes By” sounds perhaps a little bit less adventurous, but it also proves that we’re dealing with a good band in many ways. “Relevant” sounds very nice too with some incredible drum parts and nice mood and speed changes somewhere in the middle of the track. Then we get to the part, where the songs were still co-written by Biejanka. It’s a trio of songs, that are called “As One”, “Promises” and “Give”, taking care of a little blast from the past. Not that the overall sound and song structures of the more recent material is so much different, but the information is just to get the record straight. “As One” starts off like a ballad, and so does “Promises”. They both sound like good tracks, which is mainly the benefit of Patrice’s vocal parts. In “Promises”, the musicians also get their share, which actually sounds outstanding. “Give” is the shortest of them three and the one, that sounds least exciting or adventurous to my ears . The very last track, which is called “For Now” promises a lot, if you look at the amount of time that they took for it. It clocks in at about twelve and a halve minutes, so you might get very excited prior to things that might be taking place in the next moments. This lengthy song however never really gets over the top or something like that, but it still keeps your attention until the very end. Unfortunately, the magic is not there and if you’re looking for long instrumental parts or strange mood swings, then you might become a little bit disappointed. Anyway, FEED FORWARD has made a huge step forward and when you are into melodic progressive music, this may definitely be the release that you are looking for. Website: http://www.feedforwardband.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

FIST FIGHT IN THE PARKIN LOT-Fist Fight In The Parking Lot (Innervenus)
The title of the CD and the band name already gives me the idea, that I’m not dealing with yet another gothic metal outfit. These rockers hail from Pittsburgh, PA and they present their debut album, which has got a groovy stoner rock sound. I think, that people might stumble over the long name, but on the other hand it’s the music that counts and I think that you may be surprised to hear these ‘fist fighters’ rock out loud here. “S&M” opens the nine track CD, that runs for thirty-five minutes. Groovy riffs, changing rhythms, harsh vocals, giving you the urge to move your body to the swinging rhythm of the beat. “Make Progress, Walk Away” is a bit faster and gets a seventies atmosphere, because of the handclapping along the rhythm throughout the song. Besides that, it’s a very groovy song with the right fist on your nose attitude. “Side Steppin’ Ninja” sounds like JOAN JETT joining QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE on stage. What a nice combination that would make, I think. Perfect music on long desert highways. Let’s take a closer look at the line-up of this band with the remarkable name, while the guitar player cranks out a fuzzy solo. We have Chris Ruane on drums (MOJO FILTER, VENUS IN FURS), Johnnie McCallough on bass, Jason Sichi on guitar and Abby Kizner on vocals (MOTORSPYCHOS). “The Long Gunman” starts with some great drum work of Chris, who sets the pace for this song, that has got an adventurous instrumental mid-piece, including some screaming guitars. I think, that’s why this song belongs to one of my highlights on this album. “Eternal Embrace” has some influences of THE BLACK CROWES and SOUNDGARDEN. THE BLACK CROWES in the rhythm parts and the crazy guitar solo and SOUNDGARDEN in the lazy vocals and more grungy setting. “Three Legged Duck” (what a hilarious title!) has some MOTÖRHEAD influences and in combination with the groovy sound, a band like CORROSION OF CONFORMITY will come to mind as well. In “Dr. Ugula”, Abby sings with distorted vocals. Not that she needs to, but it goes very well here . I never see the need of distorted vocals, but in this case it sounds quite alright. “Sloth” is another groovy song, that will get your body moving, while the guitarist cranks out another solo. Before you know it, we’ve already come to the last track of this album, which is called “Blue Jesus”. This is the odd one out here. It has got some kind of seventies psychedelic character in the beginning. Then the groove rushes in and the pace is set. A very doomy march rhythm unfolds itself with some mysterious sounding lyrics. A gloomy closing of an album, that rocks out loud and a band, that really calls out for more. Can’t wait to hear more of this great new outfit. Website: http://www.fistfightintheparkinglot.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THE DANA FUCHS BAND-Lonely For A Lifetime (Antler King Records)
DANA FUCHS could be categorized with the likes of BETH HART, NIKKA COSTA, old MELISSA ETHERIDGE and JANIS JOPLIN, to get the idea in which direction this new CD is going. “Lonely For A Lifetime” contains ten tracks, that are worthy of forty-five minutes of groovy rock songs. Title song “Lonely For A Lifetime” is a great opener, that rocks from the very first second until the last. Dana has got a very pretty voice to listen to and the band has got the groove, that goes with it. Think about THE BLACK CROWES (old style) here to get an idea. “Strung Out” sounds a bit more laid back, but the retro atmosphere remains and you’ll get the idea that these songs were already written in the seventies. It goes on a little bit lighter with a song called “Fading Away”, which has a catchy feel and sounds easy on the ears. “Songbird (Fly Me To Sleep)” has got the right groove again and contains a nice guitar solo. To me, this sounds very much like ‘feeling good’ music, which can be enjoyed in a concert hall or at a bar while drinking your beer or just on a lazy Sunday morning. It’s every day’s music, so to speak. “Tell Me I’m Not Drinking” however is a sad song about an alcohol addict. It’s about the feeling you get, when leaving someone you love and the bottle of whiskey is the only friend to rely on. I’m glad I’m not having that feeling anymore after seventeen years of a happy marriage. But I’m sure that a lot of people can relate to the lyrics, which are sung with the right, kinda sloppy attitude. Great song, but a bit sad. “Bible Baby” is a gospel song, that was already on Dana’s live CD. It will make you dance to the rhythm, whether you like gospels or not. The country-like guitar solo fits perfectly with the character of the song. Another highlight for me. “Bad Seed” sounds heavy and groovy and it has a cool guitar solo in the middle. While “I Know You Know” is a ballad type of song, which may not be missed on this album of course. “Hiding From Your Love” is a slow but very soulful song, which slowly prepares the listener for the last track of this album. This is called “Sad Salvation” and it only contains Dana on vocals and Jon Diamond on the acoustic guitar. A beautiful song and a very emotional way to close such a good album by this great American rock vocalist. Sometimes sentimental and emotional, at other times rocking and grooving. I enjoyed that mix of various styles very much. Website: http://www.danafuchs.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN-Everything Is Changing (PIAS)
What can we tell about this female singer, that hasn’t been written before? That she has released a new album maybe, so that should be the topic of this review. The album is called “Everything Is Changing” and this goes for Anneke as well. She changed from being the front lady of THE GATHERING to her solo adventures in ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN and AGUA DE ANNIQUE. This new album appears under her own name and contains fourteen brand new tracks, which run for forty-five minutes. I like Anneke’s voice very much, but I also have to point out that her music is not really metal. It sounds more like pop music should sound: fresh and catchy. “Feel Alive” is a good example of a good pop song, topped by the magic voice of Anneke. Followed by a more rocking track in “You Want To Be Free”. The catchy vibe is still there, but it rocks a bit more, like Dutch band KREZIP did for example. Title track “Everything Is Changing” takes back some speed and sound a bit dreamy. It is one of the effects in the revolution in Anneke’s life from being a front lady in a metal band to being a solo artist. She now gets the time to write dreamy tunes like that. “Take Me Home” sounds poppy and happy again. “I Wake Up” opens with a drum intro, that you would expect in a dance song. “Circles” takes the pace down again and Anneke gets accompanied by the piano here. While “My Boy” is up tempo and has got a powerful beat. As you can see, there is a lot of variation here. “Stay” might even be categorized as being heavy. At least, it has got a heavy beat and good riffs. “Hope, Prey, Dance, Play” is another more poppy outing. “Slow Me Down” is a very nice kick ass song, at least when comparing it to the average material, that Anneke has released so far. Obviously, this album brings Anneke a bit closer to her more heavier work. Her voice remains untouchable and it sure is a pleasure to check out this new album. With “Too Late” and the moody “1000 Miles Away From You”, it comes to an end and I must say that I enjoyed it to the max. If you like Anneke’s voice, than this album is really a must have. Otherwise, it might be a good starting point, because there are some good rocking songs on this album. Everything is changing, most of the time not for the best, but this album is a very good exception to that rule. Website: http://www.annekevangiersbergen.com. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

GIRLSCHOOL-Hit And Run Revisited (Wacken Records)
I am not a follower of trends of any kind, but what I do see happen is this. When metal bands exist over a long period of time, they re-record their most successful album with the line-up of today. Or they perform a whole album live, because it was twenty-five years ago or something, that they recorded it. This is the revisited version of “Hit And Run” by GIRLSCHOOL, including a new line up, that is only consists of one real new member and that is Jackie Chambers. The production is up to date and the songs sound even more flashing than they did thirty years ago. The snoring sound in the beginning is a fake start, because the band starts very loud with “C’Mon Let’s Go”. I think, it was meant as some kind of alarm to shake everybody awake. “The Hunter” is on next and it sounds so much clearer than the original version. I guess, that you are all familiar with the original album?!? When you hear the new version of “(I’m Your) Victim”, you will at least hear the difference in production. This song will tear the wall paper from your bedroom walls. It’s that destructive! “Kick It Down” contains even harder drum beats by Denise, than in the past, if that is possible at all. “Following The Crowd” is still a ballad type of song and to me, it’s the weakest track on the original album as well. I miss the groove and the filthy sound, that GIRLSCHOOL always carried out in the early days. Later on, they showed their more modest and polished songs as well, but in the early days GIRLSCHOOL was in fact the female version of MOTÖRHEAD, whether you liked it or not. “Tush” is a well-known song, originally recorded by ZZ TOP, but GIRLSCHOOL still tends to play it during their live shows. It fits the band very well and they made a very good version of it. “Hit And Run” is the title track and it remains one of the crowd’s favorites during their live shows. “Watch Your Step” is the one, in which Denise destroys her drum kit again. Listen to the firm beats in the beginning to catch my drift. The rhythm part at the end of the song is different, showing that they don’t want to copy the album one on one, but they want to make something special of it. The drum beats on “Back To Start” are probably even meaner than the ones on “Watch Your Step”. The song itself is a bit slower and shows more emotion. “Yeah Right” has always been one of my favorite songs of the band. Nothing changed my opinion after hearing this version. Especially at the end, when Denise uses the double bass drums, it sounds so firm and heavy that I can listen to it over and over again. Then we’ve reached the final original track on “Hit And Run”, namely “Future Flash”. The production of this revisited album sounds so damn good, that it makes it well worth checking out. To make the album last a bit longer, they’ve also added two bonus tracks, starting with an all-demolishing version of “Demolition Boys” and “Hit And Run”. Now, I hear you think, that this song was already on the album. Yep, you’re totally right. But in this reworked version DORO gets together with GIRLSCHOOL as special guest. The metal ladies join forces to become stronger than ever before! The thirteen songs on this album are worthy of almost forty-five minutes of some the purest heavy metal mayhem imaginable. The booklet is covered with great pix, that will make you relive the good old days and make you long to see the band play live at a venue nearby. That’s what will happen, when you have a listen to this revisited disc. It hits you in the face and makes you run to your local record store to buy another copy and another one and another one. Website: http://www.girlschool.co.uk. [FULL SCORE - 10 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE-17th Street (Metal Blade)
This new album by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Their star is rising very fast and they really show to be some outstanding musicians on every album, that they’ve released so far. “17th Street” is no exception to that rule. The nine songs on this album are worthy of about fifty minutes of heavy rock music. Just listen to the mighty opener “317”, and you’ll immediately get the idea of what this band is all about. Call it stoner rock, call it doom, call it retro. I call it quality. They continue this masterpiece in three minutes with title track “17th Street”. After a bit of a weird intro, the keyboards and the rhythm starts and the keyboards set the pace. The haunting force gives the song a retro vibe, but with a wink to today’s sound. The riffs are sharp as a dagger and the band proves to be in perfect shape here. HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE consists of John Cobbett on guitar, Leila Abdul Rauf (SAROS, VASTUM, AMBER ASYLUM) on guitar and vocals, Joe Hutton (THE WORSHIP OF SILENCE) on vocals, Sigrid Sheie on keyboards, Max Barnett on bass and Chewy Marzolo on drums. Recently, the band toured in Europe with CHRISTIAN MISTRESS, another band that walks on the thin line between metal and retro, doom and stoner with their great sound. “The Grain” takes back speed a little and gains in length. There are harmony vocals and the guitar solo will give you an emotional feeling, if you’re open for it. The beginning of “Staring (The 31st Floor)” is freaking heavy and could very well be on every CANDLEMASS album and be one of the outstanding tracks there. You wouldn’t expect a fast and jolly intro, when calling your song “The Day The City Died”, but this is how the band knows to surprise us in many ways. Think about a band such as SLOUGH FEG, who also tends to change its sound constantly and always knows how to positively surprise people with their new creations. What would you expect from a song with a title like “Romance Valley” for example? A ballad, I guess. Well, it does start out as a ballad, but after a couple of moments, it transforms into a fast headbanger with some very exciting mood and speed changes. That’s what I mean. You never know what to expect with this band, which makes it a real pleasure to sit this one out. “Summer Tears” is on next and opens with the sound of a piano. Judging by the sensual guitar tones, we are dealing with the emotional ballad here or something like that. Sometimes, the music sounds a bit spooky though, especially at the end of the song. “Grey Wednesday” has been reviewed on a grey and rainy Wednesday. Not that it makes any difference and it’s just coincidence. The song has got a touch of old school JUDAS PRIEST over it with the haunting rhythm going. The vocal sound is quite different of course. After that, we are at the last track on the album, which is called “Going Somewhere”. It starts with a moody intro and then goes through a couple of interesting and exciting speed and mood changes. The keyboards give it a retro feeling and the vocals might remind you of the old DEEP PURPLE sound. Then a faster piece makes you erase that thought right away and with another mood swing coming up, you get the idea that this could also be on any early JETHRO TULL album. The repetitive riffs at the end of the song may give it a more JUDAS PRIEST-like sound though. It doesn’t sound old fashioned or retro enough, but the influences of old school metal and rock bands are definitely there and you will always hear a lot of variation on this album. “17th Street” is a trip down memory lane, but with the sound of really something new and refreshing. However, you have to be open-minded to dig this at all. Website: http://hammersofmisfortune.com/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

BETH HART & JOE BONAMASSA-Don’t Explain (Provogue)
A remarkable combination, that has joined forces here. BETH HART and JOE BONAMASSA teaming up together for a whole album of blues classic and personal favorite songs. If that isn’t going to work out, I’ll eat my hat. The eleven tracks contain fifty-five minutes of steaming blues and rock music. Starting off with “Sinner’s Prayer”, originally recorded by RAY CHARLES in1967. By the way, do you know how they called him, when he lost his first love?? They called him BLU RAY, he was the inventor of it all? Just kiddin’, I guess he was just feeling ‘blue’! “Chocolate Jesus” is an old TOM WAITS song, that has a bit of a jazzy feeling over it. It could very well be played at a nightclub as an encore, when everybody is already gone and the performer is pouring himself a very last glass of whiskey, before walking home in the night in the pouring rain. Yep, I made up that idea myself, but that’s the vision I get when listening to that song. Same actually goes for “Your Heart Is As Black As Night” and for that song there’s probably even more to tell. It was originally recorded by Melody Gardot. “For My Friends” is another nice cup of tea and I’m sure that the rockers among us can definitely relate to that one. The song is drenched in a huge LED ZEPPELIN gravy and was originally recorded by BILL WHITHERS. The drum parts could very well be from Jason Bonham, but it is nobody else but Anton Fig (LINK WRAY, ACE FREHLEY), who handles the sticks here. Besides Anton, we also hear Blondie Chaplin on guitar, Arian Sheirbaum on keyboards, Carmine Rojas on bass and The Bovaland Orchestra on the album. The guitar solo in this song sounds really amazing, by the way. “Don’t Explain” was originally recorded by BILLY HOLIDAY, who has been an example and influence to many female singers. This is a very laidback song, where the orchestra has their moment of fame before the guitars are plugged in again for “I’d Rather Go Blind”, which is an ETTA JAMES tune. Feel the emotion in this song, it really touches your soul. It’s in this song that both musicians give it all they’ve got and lifts this performance up to something really special. “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” is definitely a continuation of this concept, but then a little more up tempo. It starts out very bluesy, but explodes into a nice swinging gospel kind of soul tune, also originally from ETTA JAMES. The keyboards get a place in the first ranks here and the guitar solo shakes it all up. “I’ll Take Care Of You” is a slow blues tune and I thought about this title, when browsing through the CD booklet. If you look at the love these people compiled the album and the pictures inside the booklet, this very phrase could have been said by Beth to Joe or vice versa. It’s like these two people have found each other. And judging by the songs, they are the perfect team, that knows to make a joyful album, jam-packed with a lot of various styles and songs coming from so many different backgrounds. Oh, by the way: BROOK BENTON wrote the original version of “Well Well”, which is a duet between DELANEY & BONNIE in its original form, but translated into a 2012 version of this classic here. While “Ain’t No Way” is another ARETHA FRANKLIN song, covered with loads of emotion. Check it out, if you dare. Last but not least, there’s a second version of “Take Care Of You”, but then as a radio edit. I think, the average music fan will love this cooperation, but die hard metalheads should have a good listen first, because this is surely something different than the stuff that Joe is doing with BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION. If you like good soul and blues music though, you’ll have a great time with this one, because not all songs here may be obvious choices. They are the choices of the musicians themselves, which marks the strength of the songs even better, I guess. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HUNTRESS-Spell Eater (Napalm Records)
HUNTRESS hails from California and with this album they want to make sure to become one of the many successful newcomers in the heavy metal scene of today. In front lady Jill Janus they already have a beautiful eye-catcher, while the band proves to be great musicians, which makes a wonderful combination. Jill started her career as an opera singer, which you can hear in the vocal lines of title track “Spell Eater”, the opener of this album. The album contains eleven tracks and runs about forty-five minutes. The music sounds a bit thrashy at times and Jill has a very powerful voice, that covers about four octaves. “Spell Eater” is already a pleasure to listen to, which is a good sign. “Suicide” is on next and contains some black metal like screams and thrashy riffs, but the overall sound is pure heavy metal with a more than average interest for the occult in the lyrical contents. “Sleep And Death” continues with some beautiful dark growls of Jill here and there and black metal-like screams as well. But these are just tiny fragments in the metal sound that the band creates, which makes it completer in my opinion. The speed change later on is very exciting and comes unexpectedly. In your mind, you’ll see long hair propelling in the air, when they play the first riffs of “Snow Witch”, that has some great spooky screams by Jill. The drum beats in this one are very firm and slightly doomy. Jill cranks out a few firm screams as well. Therefore it slowly became one of my favorites. “Eight Of Swords” has been released as a vinyl single. It’s a very powerful and speedy track with some icy high screams of Jill in the beginning. The guitar part on this one is quite extensive and breathtaking with more great screams near the end. What a great song! “Aradia” is the next in line, which sounds very powerful. What strikes me the most is, that these songs have got a great heavy metal feeling and never sound boring. There’s always something exciting happening to keep you focused. The crazy vocal sound effects at the end sound very weird and they are just that little bit of special, that I was talking about before. “Night Rape” sounds darker and slightly more melodic, but it also contains some sick screams. What else would you expect from a front lady like that? “Children” contains some very brutal growls, which are not suitable for children under a certain age, so you’ve been warned! The guitar attack opens very vicious. “Terror” is a JUDAS PRIEST-like headbanger and it’s also the flipside of the aforementioned “Eight Of Swords” seven inch, but this time it’s the demo version. This one is definitely another highlight for me, because of the ever destroying power in this track. “The Tower” is a more catchy song, which sounds easy on the ears and contains more JUDAS PRIEST influences. The CD closes with a bonus track, called “The Dark”, which has some more great riffs. HUNTRESS proves, that they are ready to enter the premier league of the heavy metal scene. Besides the wonderful Jill Janus on vocals, the band consists of Blake Meahl on guitar, Ian Alden on rhythm guitar, Carl Wierzbicky on drums and Eric Harris on bass. Be prepared, when the HUNTRESS walks around in your neighborhood and check out the clubs where the band plays, you might be pleasantly surprised! Take some time as well to have at least a good look at the great cover artwork of the CD. Maybe this will help you decide to enjoy this album even more. Website: http://huntresskills.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HYSTERICA-The Art Of Metal (Black Lodge)
HYSTERICA made an almost perfect debut album in my eyes. It’s time to judge the band on their second album, where they’ll let us hear “The Art Of Metal”. They have added a keyboard player to their ranks and they got rid of their second guitar player. That’s blasphemy in my book, but I won’t judge the book by only looking at the cover. Let’s run through these forty-five minutes of new music, divided over ten songs here. Opener “Breaking The Walls” gets both thumbs up, for it’s a powerful opener which rocks out loud. I don’t hear too much difference with the debut album. “Fighters Of The Century” contains some brutal growls and later on some more harmony vocals. The keyboards are a bit more up front in this song. Also, you can easily sing along to the title of the song, which would be cool in a live situation. “Live Or Die” has a keyboard intro and a great driving beat coming right behind it. The slightly commercial sound of the song may not appeal to everybody. While “Spirit Of The Age” also has the keyboards in a leading role at the end of the song. The heavy growls of the vocalist sound dark and the guitar work is excellent as well. All in all, the band really rips down the wall paper off your bedroom walls, but the heavy metal feeling, that lurked around on their debut album sounds a lot different and less open than before. “Message” is a dark, doomy tune, which will give the creeps to the faint hearted. The Ritchie Blackmore-like guitar work sounds great. The death growls are maybe a bit too much, but they sure do match very well to the gruesome topic of the song. “Fear Of The Light” starts with a great beat and some heavy riffs, but these f*cking death growls destroy the great feeling of these first riffs and beats. The metal part in the song sounds almost perfect, but again I must state that the death metal growls just don’t fit in here. “Force (Of Metal)” is a great headbanger with ACCEPT-like lyrics and rhythm. This is true old school metal stuff and it’s easy to sing along to it as well. “Heels (Of Steel)” (good title!) is on next and it rocks like hell. While in “Hysterica”, the band introduces themselves to you in a very heavy track. They simply blow your head off with a blasting sound like that! The CD closes with “Daughters Of The Night”, which is again a great metal track, that will appeal to all them metal heads out there. The death growls are sometimes a bit disturbing, the catchy sing along metal anthems have gone, but what’s left is a very solid heavy metal band, that stands proud among the thousands of other metal bands that walk around on this planet. At least the band shows, that they still have the true metal spirit, no matter if they use keyboards or not. The new HYSTERICA line-up consists of Sat Anica on bass, Anni De Vil on vocals, Bitchie on guitar, Marydeath on keyboards and Hell’n on drums. These ladies really know about “The Art Of Metal” and they like to show it here. Website: www.hysterica.se/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

INNER FEAR-First Born Fear (independent)
INNER FEAR present their seventh album in their fifteen years of existence. “First Born Fear” contains ten tracks and fifty minutes of dark metal. The line-up of the band today consists of Serg on male vocals, Vic Anselmo on female vocals, Khopec on guitar, Serhio on bass and Marthus on drums and keyboards and orchestration. After intro “I.N.T.R.O.” the band moves away in the fourth gear with “Fear Proclaimed”, which made me think of CRADLE OF FILTH right away. An obvious choice perhaps, because drummer Marthus played in this English band before he joined forces with INNER FEAR. Nonetheless, he knows to keep an important part of his old band’s legacy and transformed it into new music here. The angel-like voice of Vic sounds very sweet, next to the filthy screams of Serg and she gets enough space to profile herself here. “Imprisoned Om Forgotten Dungeon” contains blast beats and sick vocals. “Lustmistress” sounds faster than fast and the bombastic orchestration adds a melodic touch to the music. The lustmistress herself takes some time off on this track and the vocals are done by Serg alone. “I Watch The Blood Forever” sounds brutal too, but it also contains a more melodic and slow mid-piece, where Vic profiles herself herself. “Inner Fear” is stuffed with many keyboard sounds and shows the band in optima forma. Vic’s part is mainly at the end of the song. “Love Is A Poisoned Cunt” shows the extremity of the lyrics. The PMRC won’t like this, but I think that the band don’t give a shit. “Our Crimson Deeds” shows some exciting mood changes and becomes one of the highlights on this album for me. The two longest tracks on the album are saved for last. First, we have “Akhu”, which sounds very mysterious and dark. It’s not the blasting kind of metal, that you already heard in the other songs, but this one sounds spooky and dark and that’s more the way I like it. The very last track is the longest of them all and it’s called “Secrets Holder”. It’s here, that the band cranks out their last breath of energy on this album, that will definitely appeal to many extreme metal fans out there. Check out the fast guitar solo. INNER FEAR is fast and blasts your soul away, if you let them. Website: http://www.innerfear.org. [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ISSA-The Storm (Frontiers/Rough Trade)
ISSA’s previous album was a real pleasure to listen to. Easy on the ear pop rock music with a slightly commercial background. Her new album “The Storm” contains twelve tracks and opener “Looking For Love” is a very radio friendly tune, that also rocks big time. It has become the first video clip taken off the album. The same catchy sound applies to “Please Hold On”. These songs could be played every minute of the day and they would never ever sound dull. Easy to listen to, sometimes poppy, yet with enough guitars to be called a rock song. Many A.O.R. bands of today sound like this and people, who are into bands like TOTO, HEART or PAT BENATAR will have a good time listening to these tracks. ISSA hails from Norway and her voice sounds clear and melodic with a slightly raspy edge to it, which makes it a bit more rocking than CELINE DION, who is mentioned in the bio of this Norwegian rock nymph. “Take A Stand” has some HEART influences, while “Invincible” is a ballad-type of song. “Two Hearts” is a ballsy love song with enough guitars to call it rock. In “Black Clouds” and “You’re Making Me” there are some nice guitar solos included, that even sound a bit heavier than usual. While “Gonna Stand By You” is more keyboard oriented, but the catchy vibe remains. “We’re On Fire” sounds heavier and it has a nice but short guitar part. The real obligatory ballad here is called “Too Late For Love”. “What Does It Take” is a catchy up tempo track, which takes us to the grand finale on this album. It’s the title track “The Storm”. This album will definitely make its way to the fans. It’s easy to listen to, every hour of the day and definitely another step forward on the ladder to success. Besides Issa (Isabell Oversveen) on vocals, the band consists of David Sivelind on guitar, Johnny Trobro, Daniel Sivelind and Daniel Flores on bass guitar. Daniel Flores also provides the drums and keyboards. Website: http://www.myspace.com/isabelloversveen. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

KITTIE-I’ve Failed You (Massacre Records)
Apparently, the original line-up of KITTIE will reunite for a couple of shows in the near future. Good on them! In the meantime, they have released a new album, that is called “I’ve Failed You”. Well, they’ve never failed me, that’s for sure! The new release contains eleven tracks and runs for only thirty-five minutes. But better thirty-five minutes of quality music than another fifteen minutes of second-class shit. Opener “I’ve Failed You” is a brutal track, in which the band shows that they’re still able to play some good powerful music. A great opener is the result. “We Are The Lamb” is very melodic when the solo is about to start, but before and after that moment it sounds like another brutal nu-metal attack. “Whisper Of Death” sounds a bit darker, which fits the song title very well. The mid-piece with the guitar solo sounds just great, but the vocals in the second part are not really convincing. “What Have I Done?” sounds slow and melancholic. After that, we hear a song that is chopped in two parts: “Empires Part 1” and “Empires Part 2”. The first part is some kind of short acoustic interlude and an intro to the second part which is fast, brutal and very powerful. It kicks away in a rather brutal way. “Come Undone” continues this brutal bashing and closes with a horror-like final scream. You can bang those heads in “Already Dead”, which is stuffed with sick screams, but it also has a very good guitar solo. The whipping rhythm is perfect to practice your neck muscles on. “Never Come Home” shows the more emotional side of the band. No this is not a ballad or a tear jerker, but slightly melancholic and more laid back than the other songs here. “Ugly” is not as bad looking, as the title might suggest. As a matter of fact, it is another speed monster with some brutal screams. At the end of the song, I can’t control myself any longer and even an old school metal head like me feels the urge to bang that head up and down... The album closes with “Time Never Heals”, which takes back some speed and brutality. This rather doomy track slowly goes towards the end, but not before the band cranks out another great guitar solo. I really liked the new album by these four Canadian kittens. It has a lot of variety and sometimes they even dare to show their softer side as well. Of course they will never play A.O.R music, but here and there a bit of emotion pops up, which isn’t a shame at all. KITTIE consists of Morgan Lander on vocals and guitar, Mercedes Lander on drums and vocals, Tara McLeod on guitar and Ivy Vujic Jenkins on bass. Website: http://www.kittierocks.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LACUNA COIL-Dark Adrenaline (Century Media)
I’ve never been a huge LACUNA COIL fan. This Italian gothic metal band just isn’t my cup of tea, but I’ve always tried to give them a fair chance with every new album. This is their sixth album, which should take care of some dark adrenaline flowing through my veins. Let’s see what happens this time. The album contains twelve songs and runs for forty-five minutes. LACUNA COIL consists of Andrea Ferro on vocals, Cristina Scabbia on vocals, Cristiano Migliore on guitar, Marcus ‘Maus’ Biazzi on guitar, Marco Coti Zelati on bass and Cristiano ‘Cris’ Mozzati on drums. They start with “Trip The Darkness”, which has been the first single taken off this album and was already released long before the album came out, because it’s part of the soundtrack for the movie “Underworld: Awakening”. The well-known ingredients are there from the very start. Angelic female vocals, loud male vocals, a groovy guitar sound and a firm beat, songs ready to be absorbed by the hungry metal loving youth, even possible to move or dance on. Easy on the ear tunes, that will tear you away from your nine to five job or your dull school days. “Against You” is an up tempo track with a firm beat and a good, melodic guitar solo. “Kill The Light” shows the more gothic side of the band. Cristina’s voice is nice to listen to and the beat is catchy as well. I can understand, that this sound will appeal to the many rock fans out there. With “Give Me Something More” and “Upsidedown”, the band keeps playing in the up tempo rocking mode, but with “End Of Time” they slow down a bit. “I Don’t Believe In Tomorrow” is one of the highlights on the album for me. It’s the unleashed power here, that attracts me. Just listen to the groovy part, right after where Cristina is singing in some kind of whispering voice. “Intoxicated” displays the catchy vibe, that LACUNA COIL has been famous for. References to EVANESCENCE might pop up, but this song gets everybody moving, like it or not. Another highlight for me. “The Army Inside” is another firm up tempo track and catchy enough to get you moving one more time. “Losing My Religion” is a cover song, originally recorded by R.E.M. I already disliked the original and this version doesn’t really change my point of view. No headbanger on this f*cking planet is waiting for stuff like that, but that’s my own personal opinion. I think, that many people will disagree with me here. “Fire” is a fast rocker, that invites you to jump and dance around some more. “My Spirit” closes this album. It’s the longest track on “Dark Adrenaline”. The gothic vibe returns one more time and will please many black bats, who love their music dark and sober. Note: the special edition contains a bonus track, called “Soul Inmate”. I won’t suddenly become a LACUNA COIL fan after hearing this album, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised this time. Mainly because they wrote an album, that is easy to listen to with a good heavy vibe and enough gothic influences for the older fans to enjoy. Website: http://ww.lacunacoil.it/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LANA LANE-El Dorado Hotel (Think Tank Media)
After a short period of silence, we finally hear again from LANA LANE. We know what happened in-between. She stayed at the El Dorado Hotel to write her new album. An album that contains ten brand new tracks and a full hour of powerful symphonic rock music. Let’s walk through the new album song by song here. It opens with the wonderful (and lengthy!) “A Dream Full Of Fire”, which starts with an exciting instrumental part. Powerful parts and slower, more emotional parts take turns. There are Eastern influences in the instrumental mid-piece, there are violins, it all sounds very exciting what is happening here in this track. The band catches your attention right away. At the end of the song there is enough room for the guitar players to spread their wings as well. “Maybe We Will Meet Again” is a song of hope. You don’t find a hot spot for bass guitar very often, but there’s one on this track, followed by a Michael Schenker-like guitar solo. The keyboards at the end sound like trumpets. It’s the sound, that celebrities like EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER used to display on their records. “El Dorado” starts with some Eastern sounds and acoustic guitars. The song creates a laid back atmosphere. An atmosphere, in which there’s no stress and no pressure. It’s the kind that belongs to a name like El Dorado, I guess. “Darkness Falls” is another easy listening tune, that will get rid of the last bit of stress, that might have been left. Turn the lights down low for the total effect, this song may have. “Hotels” is short and also laid back with trumpets and horns. “Believe” has got a nice groove, but once again there’s that laid back background, on which the song is founded. The guitar solo however will please many rock fans out there. “Life Of The Patty” is rocking out loud and it will remind you of wonderful classics such as “Barracuda” by HEART for example. The guitars are very much up front here and a real treat. “Gone Are The Days” sounds melancholic, but it’s very much up tempo as well. The spoken word part fits very well to a song like this. “Moon God” opens with a very modern sound, that you won’t expect on a LANA LANE album in the first place. However, it changes very soon to the well-known symphonic sound by this American singer. The long pull outs of Lana at the end of the song sounds very impressive indeed. “In Exile” closes this CD. It’s another lengthy song, that lasts for almost twelve minutes. After a four minute introduction, the song really gets going with a great instrumental mid-piece section, in which the guitarist gets full attention. After that, the keyboards get more attention. Even more away from the original part is the one, where the bass player gets in the spotlight. PINK FLOYD fans might like this a lot, I guess. Because of this beautiful instrumental part, the song easily becomes the highlight for me, next to the opener. The overall sound on this new LANA LANE album is a bit more laid back, but it also displays some fine symphonic and melodic moments. Lana’s band now consists of Erik Norlander on keyboards, John Payne on vocals, Mark McCrite on guitar, Bruce Bouillet on guitar, Neil Citron on guitar, Freddy DeMarco on guitar, Guthrie Govan on guitar, Don Schiff on NS/Stick, Mark Matthews on bass and Jay Schellen on drums. Website: http://www.lanalane.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LYRIEL-Leverage (AFM Records)
This German heavy metal band has released their fourth album. It contains ten tracks of symphonic/gothic metal with some folk influences. After the short instrumental opener “When It’s Coming To An End” , title track “Leverage” starts off. It’s a very joyful and catchy song with a powerful beat. LYRIEL has also filmed a video clip for this exciting song, that you can watch on You Tube, if you like. “Parting” is on next, which starts with some joyful violin playing, that reminded me a lot of the medieval/folk sound by fellow countrymen IN EXTREMO. This is one of the two songs (the other one is “The Road Not Taken”) on this album, that’s based on the lyrics by Robert Frost and Charlotte Brontë, by the way. You’ll also hear some violins in “Voices In My Head”, but the sound stays more gothic than medieval in that one. The overall mood is cheerful and happy, which makes this album very easy to listen to. And it has a really catchy vibe as well. While in “The Road Not Taken” the band slows things down a bit, the first ballad has been born here. Next song “White Lily” is something else. It invites you to dance or to move along in a different direction. The song has an appealing beat, despite the industrial beeps that you sometimes hear. Then we hear two songs, that are in the German language. First, there’s the folky “Aus Der Tiefe”, which has some really groovy riffs and some violin playing. The next song is a ballad type of song, called “Wenn Die Engel Fallen”. It’s a duet with Thomas Lindner of folk metal group SCHANDMAUL. As this is not really my cup of tea, I lost my interest along the way, to be honest. However, “Side By Side” managed to gain it back, because of the catchy vibe of the song. The sudden conclusion might sound a bit odd here, but there’s nothing to worry about, I guess. “Repentance” closes the album in style, after only thirty-five minutes. For people, who have bought the extended edition, there is also a version of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”. If you are searching for some joyful gothic metal with here and there a sidestep to folk metal, than don’t look any further and buy “Leverage”. You won’t be disappointed. LYRIEL consists of Jessica Thierjung on vocals, Linda laukamp on cello and vocals, Joon Laukamp on violin, Oliver Thierjung on guitar, Tim Sonnenstuhl on guitar, Steffen Feldmann on bass and Marcus Fidorra on drums. Website: http://lyriel.net/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MASTERCASTLE-Dangerous Diamonds (Lion Music)
This Italian heavy metal band release their third album after “The Phoenix (2009) and “Last Desire” (2010), which contains twelve new diamonds and plays for about forty-five minutes. They open quite firmly with “Another Flower”, which comes close to the early YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN material, but this time with female vocals. This powerful metal continues in “Alone”. The guitar solo will make you think of Malmsteen again, but the song itself may sound a little more powerful in a way. This neoclassical sound fits very well with their record label Lion Music. “Time 4 Lovers” takes back some speed and we are able to enjoy the beautiful sound by vocalist Giorgia Gueglio. The song has got some catchy edges, but once again the guitar solo is truly breathtaking! The guitars in “Icy Moon” sound a bit like JOE SATRIANI, which fits very well to the character of the song, I guess. While “Au Premiere Coup” is a very catchy track with more Satch-like guitar playing. “Dangerous Diamonds” is a speed monster with a monstrous guitar sound. The drummer has a firm and fast beat here and the guitar solo sounds magnificent again. “Take Off” takes the band back to their more neoclassical style, while “Blue Diamond” is the only instrumental track on the album. It’s not an ego-trip for the musicians or whatsoever - just a song with a steady beat and a little experimental character. The guitar solo here (which has some CHASTAIN influences) is just awesome though! “Lovin’ Me” is the obligatory ballad here. You wouldn’t really expect this, but it’s a nice song and the sensitive guitar solo is worth listening to. After that, there’s no holding back. We want speed, we want power and we got it in “Sixth Sun”, which is a great song to let off some steam. The CD closes with the groovy rocker “Bitter & Sweet”. Well, this album only delivered sweet for me, because of the great guitar work. I didn’t find any bitter or bad songs on it. MASTERCASTLE is highly recommended for the fans of firm guitar work and catchy, sometimes neoclassical rock tunes. The band consists of Giorgia Gueglio on vocals, Pier Gonella (NECRODEATH, WILD STEEL, ex-ODESSA, ex-ATHLANTIS, ex-LABYRINTH, ex-SYNTHPHONIA SUPREMA) on guitar, Steve Vawamas (ANGELS IN BLACK, ATHLANTIS, TRAGEDIAN, ex-SHADOWS OF STEEL, ex-THE DOGMA) on bass and Alessandro Bissa (ATHLANTIS, LABYRINTH, SCREAM, VISION DIVINE, ex-SILENT VICTORY) on drums. Visit http://www.myspace.com/mastercastle for more information about the band. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

MY RUIN-A Southern Revelation (website download)
This album is not for sale (yet), but you can download it for free from the band’s website http://www.myruin.net. Let’s see, if we can make our fan base a little bigger, they must have thought. The new MY RUIN album contains ten new tracks and runs for forty minutes. The music didn’t change a bit and they start off with the ultra-heavy “Tennessee Elegy”, that shows the band in optima forma. Brutal screams, groovy guitars and a heavy beat – this sure tastes like pure gold. “Highly Explosive” is another high octane fueled song. It contains BLACK SABBATH-like guitar solos and a haunting rhythm, including some dark horror type of vocals by Tairrie B. “Walk Of Shame” sounds more catchy and I even see a small opportunity to sing along during the chorus. The speed goes up in “Deconsecrated”, which has got a very punky edge to it. It’s a wild and brutal basher with groovy guitar work. Tairrie screams her lungs out on this one. In the spoken part intro of “Middle Finger”, she sounds like Dee Snider. It’s about hate and it reveals all the anger that is inside Tairrie. In “Vultures”, there’s a leading role for guitarist Mick Murphy. Tairrie’s vocals sound as black as the night and the song has another spoken word part in the middle. At the end, the well-known BLACK SABBATH ghost wanders around again. In my opinion, this new album is a huge step forward. The band sounds inspired and fresh and above all, they prove that they still have a lot of anger and brutality to fill a whole stadium. “Seventh Sacrament” is doom metal in its purest form. Just listen to the slow beat and the retro guitar solo here. The anger returns in “Reckoning”, where Tairrie disperses more emotional laden brutality. “The Soulless Beast” is a dark, horror type of doom song, that has an exciting speed change halfway, including a fast guitar solo. This is how we like it! The last track on this great new album is the VAN HALEN cover “Mean Street”, where Mick plays in the best Eddie van Halen tradition possible. The final part sounds like pure VAN HALEN only with a female singer, which is just magic. This album proves, that MY RUIN is still in a perfect shape and we can only welcome this. The band consists of Tairrie B on vocals, Mick Murphy on guitar, new drummer Isaac Lee and Chris Lisee on bass. http://www.myruin.net gives you all the information that you might need about this awesome band and while you’re there, don’t forget to download this magnificent new album. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NEMESEA-The Quiet Resistance (Napalm Records)
NEMESEA can easily be seen as one of the most promising bands in Holland and prove is given on this third album. "The Quiet Resistance" contains fourteen new tracks and is worthy of fifty-five minutes of musical enjoyment. The short spoken word and opener "The Quiet Resistance" leads us to the very first highlight. "Caught In The Middle" sounds very catchy and shows what we are about to hear on this album. Melodic, alternative rock music with a lot of catchy stuff, that will cling to your mind, once you've heard it. Sometimes backed by a heavy groove or a more sensitive touch, but always topped by the great voice of front-lady Manda Ophuis, who really plays a leading role in this first song. Her voice sounds very powerful and the chorus is so catchy, that you can almost sing along to it right away. A terrific opener in my opinion. "Afterlife" is build up the same way, only this time it contains more groovy guitars. However, in "Whenever" the band takes down some speed and show another face. I have to admit that after the intro, when the band starts to play the louder chorus part, my mind directly goes out to WITHIN TEMPTATION. Musically, everything has been done before, so it¡¯s not strange that some songs may sound alike sometimes. "Whenever" could be seen as the "Ice Queen" by NEMESEA, if you listen very carefully. The album continues with the ballad like "If You Could". A ballad, that wouldn't sound bad on national radio and I liked it a lot. "High Enough" shows the more alternative side of NEMESEA and it also features the first guest vocalist here, namely DELAIN¡¯s vocalist Charlotte Wessels. "It's Over" sounds even more experimental and Marcus Klavan on vocals and Matt Litwin on scratching turntables are guesting on this track. Besides catchy, the band can sound experimental and alternative as well, which they prove here. Both guest musicians are from the band BULLETPROOF MESSENGER, by the way. "I Live" is a good, solid melodic metal song with a very nice guitar solo in it. While "Stay With Me" is another ballad type of song with a solid basis and a nice groove. "Rush" opens with a steady beat and slowly develops into an experimental track with some very exciting moves. And the experiments continue with "Release Me", which has some drums sounds, that seem to come from a computer. Besides that, the song has got a very catchy vibe and is ready to sing along to. Another highlight comes along by means of the longest track on this album, called "2012". If this doesn't sound experimental, I don't know. The song consists of radio flashes, keyboards sounds, dance beats, street sounds and more sounds, that could come from anywhere but a metal band. It also contains no catchy or any lyrics at all, but it sounds very fascinating to me. The album closes with a German song, called "Allein". It's not only sung in the German language, but it even features the last guest performer on this great new album. This time we hear Heli Reissenweber of the German RAMMSTEIN tribute band STAHLZEIT, in a song that sounds in the best RAMMSTEIN tradition possible, closing this very fine album in a really nice way. Last but not least is, that Joost van den Broek co-produced, mastered and mixed the album and he did a fine job. NEMESEA pleases the people, who like the catchy side of the band and want to fill up the gap, that WITHIN TEMPTATION left behind with their change of style. And on the other hand they also please the fans, who like their more experimental and alternative approach. For sure, my definite highlights on this album are "Caught In The Middle" and "2012" and I think "The Quiet Resistance" is a giant step forward on their way to (international) success. NEMESEA consists of Manda Ophuis on vocals, Hendrik Jan de Jong on guitar, Sonny Onderwater on bass, Frank van der Star on drums and Lasse Delbrugge on keyboards. Website: http://www.nemesea.com.
[8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NIGHTQUEEN-For Queen And Metal (Massacre Records)
We visit our neighbors in the south to cross swords with NIGHTQUEEN. Their new album “For Queen And Metal” is out now, so get ready to be rocked by these Belgian warriors of steel. The album contains eleven tracks and fifty-five minutes of heavy metal. “Into The Night” is an instrumental opener, which is followed by “Nightfall”. Vocalist Keely Larreina shouts like Ann Boleyn of HELLION in her heydays and the guitar solo comes from guest player Marcel Coenen, who also provided the solo for “Screaming For Mercy”. This is how heavy metal is supposed to sound like, dear ladies and gentlemen. The epical metal sounds like it was made for these Belgian knights. “Mystical Night” show us the power of the band with blonde metal vixen Keely as biggest eye-catcher. Just listen to her powerful singing in title track “For Queen And Metal”, which is another great epic metal warrior chant and breathtaking guitar solo. The last part of this song reminded me of ZED YAGO, because of the chanting harmony vocals. “Lady Fantasy” stands proud, because of the great guitar solo. The band recorded a video clip for this song as well. “Nocturnal Thoughts” takes back some speed and turns it into a power metal ballad. “Secret Of The Blind Man” is dedicated to all the blind people in the world. It starts with a keyboard part by Daniel Kells. His keyboard playing stays a bit more in front of the mix at first, but later on the guitars appear for a wonderful solo spot. A true epic metal gem. Don’t try not to bang your head at the beginning of “Majesty”, because you simply won’t succeed. The groovy sound of the guitars touches you right at your soul. Yes, the true metal spirit floats through the veins of these Belgian knights, that’s for sure. Just listen to the mighty guitar solo in this one. “Rebel To Rebel” has got the keyboards and guitars lined up in the front rows. ACCEPT and ZED YAGO come to mind, when listening to this track. “Screaming For Mercy” is fast and brings out the best of the band. Marcel Coenen provides his second guitar solo in this one. The album closes with a lengthy song, called “Dark Fairy”, which opens with some kind of a short mini play. The band starts off furious and Keely screams it all out one more time. NIGHTQUEEN is definitely one of the better novelties in the true metal scene of today and they certainly deserve that status with the eleven new tracks provided here. If true epic power metal is your thing, then you’d better grab one of the best available with this one. NIGHTQUEEN consists of Keely Larreina on vocals, Rex Zeco on guitar and background vocals, Steven Steele on bass and backing vocals, Alex Rawson on guitar and background vocals, Daniel Kells on keyboards and backing vocals and William Blodyn on drums. For more information, go to http://www.nightqueen.be. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NIGHTWISH-Imaginearum (Nuclear Blast)
The release of a new NIGHTWISH album is always quite an occasion. You constantly hear the rumors on the internet about what it will sound like and comparisons are being made every time with the old sound and the solo albums by TARJA TURUNEN. Be wise, judge for yourself and don’t let previous NIGHTWISH albums nor TANJA TURUNEN solo material guide you in your judgment towards this album. Listen to it as if it was just another release from any other band. Only then it will get a fair chance in my opinion. This double CD looks like a masterpiece already. I love the artwork, which is a good start already. Yesterday I had my first preview of the album by playing the instrumental second CD first, to get a fair opinion of what to expect. It’s the CD with choir vocals in its naked form, so to speak. What stroke me was, that the bombastic orchestration is very much upfront and the guitars are there too, but a bit more in the background. Today I will listen to the regular version of the album and everything will hopefully fall into place. Botch CDs contain thirteen tracks and about seventy-five minutes of folky gothic metal with some bombastic orchestration. Value for money. Opener “Taikatalvi” is a good start already. It has male vocals and a nice introduction to the catchy opener “Storytime”. This is where the story begins with a song, that is ready to sing along to. All the ingredients, that you are looking for are there. Bombastic orchestration, the sweet voice of Anette Olzon, the gothic, fantasy character and of course the catchy hooks and song sturctures. It certainly asks for more. “Ghost River” is probably even a better. The catchy hook has gone and a duet between Anette and male vocals tells you some horror story about the ghost river in ghost town. These words tell you more than enough and its creepy mindset would fit very well to the old ALICE COOPER sound. “Slow, Love, Slow” is a jazzy tune. Yeah I know, you won’t expect this here at all, but the unexpected can taste sweet as well, because you’ll get some time to absorb the previous song a little better this way. There are also some male vocals in this slow jazzy track. In fact, it sounds so slow that it almost becomes doom metal with a jazzy touch. The song ends with the ticking of the clock. Violins open the lighter sound in “Want My Tears Back”. It’s a jolly nice folky track with a good combination of violins and guitars. You’ll hear the male vocals only in the chorus in this one. In the next “Scaretale”, you’ll hear a children choir sing the first lines, but it’s not a happy song at all. The reason, why these children aren’t that happy is told in this scaretale, that Anette is singing about in this track. It doesn’t sound like a real pleasure to have a look in the ‘Circus De Morgue’, but this creepy scenery has been interpreted very well with instruments and singing and the song is a real highlight to me. The story unfolds itself to you, when listening very carefully to the story. “Arabesque” is an instrumental interlude with some African drum beats. It’s an introduction to “Turn Loose The Mermaids” which is a short piece of rest. It has some BLACKMORE’S NIGHT influences, because of the laid back atmosphere. While “Rest Calm” shows bass player Marco Hietala in the role of vocalist next to Anette . The children choir in this song creates a very spooky atmosphere, while it should be the other way around and create a lovely, peaceful atmosphere instead. Well, the opposite is true, I can tell you that much. “The Crow, The Owl, And The Dove” is the second single taken off the album, after “Storytime”. It has got this really catchy feeling, which indicates that it’s very suitable to be a worthy next single. The dark atmosphere has gone for about four minutes as well. Be prepared for the “Last Ride Of The Day” after this. Don’t be afraid of the spooky atmosphere in this song, that this whole album rests on. Also the speed goes up in this one. It is one of the very few tracks, in which there is a leading role for guitar player Emppu Vuorinen. The absolute highlight of the album is a song, called “Song Of Myself”, which is cut into four segments, namely “From A Dusty Bookshelf”, “All That Great Heart Lying Still”, “Piano Black” and “Love”. This thirteen minute master piece is a musical mini play and brings out the best of NIGHTWISH. Think about a song like “The Poet And The Pendulum” for example. And this is the only comparison I would like to draw with the old NIGHTWISH in this review!! There is so much happening in this song, that you’d better find out for yourself, what it’s all about. In between, I’d like to introduce the band to you. There’s female vocalist Anette Olzon, male vocalist and bass player Marco Hietala, guitar player Enppu Vuorinen, drummer Jukka Nevalainen and mastermind Tuomas Holopainen on keyboards and piano. Looking at the pictures of the band members, I think, that the picture of Enppu is the most striking one in the booklet. It really fits perfectly with the horror concept. The drawings in the booklet are perfect as well and you can read the whole story of the concept of the album there, which is very well done. It’s like a fairytale in a fantasy world, but with a black, spooky edge attached to it. The last song on this album is an instrumental and the title track of this magnificent new release. If you are a fan of the band or not, you have to admit that this new album has become a real masterpiece. The band have worked their asses off to realize this amazing album and they’ve made a true work of art here. It would be a bit over the top to give it a full score, therefore I miss too much heavy guitars to call it a real heavy metal album. But I would really recommend to have a good listen to this new album, because it is definitely one of the best NIGHTWISH albums in their whole career so far and that’s my final statement. Website: http://www.nightwish.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ONMYOZA-Kishi-bojin (King Records)
Try to find one of the albums by this Japanese band and you will probably end up with nothing at all. Most of the stuff we have is from Ebay or directly imported from the land of the rising sun. The band releases a new album almost every year (and in between a dvd or a single) and we now present you “Kishi-bojin” which contains twelve tracks and runs for a full hour. The title means as much as ‘mother of devils’, just to give you an idea. With their last few albums, the band presents a much more accessible sound, which makes their music better to comprehend for the average metal head. The album opens with “Shuushuu”, a short instrumental tune. This is followed by the uptempo “Samayoi”, which could be ready for radio airplay and to sing along to, if only we would know what the band is talking about. They sing in their native tongue and the names of the band members and the lyrics are all in Japanese and my Japanese is still not that well after only one trip to this beautiful country. So I’m really sorry for not being able to give you much details here. The last beats of this track are also the first of “Ubugi”, which is on next. This song slows it all down a bit, but the guitar solo is very nice. The lead vocals are performed by the female singer in the band. “Namasu” is with the male singer on lead vocals. Well, at least you can hear him most of the time. He pulls out some brutal growls, which makes it sound more dark and aggressive because of this. The thrashy riffs and wild beats makes it highly enjoyable. “Oni Kosae No Uta” starts off rather folky with a children choir, but it soon changes into a riff, that could be the intro of “Welcome To The Jungle” (GUNS’N’ROSES). Whoever expects a song in that style will not be amused, because it sounds so different. The chants are loud and aggressive and the massive beat makes it stronger each time. I think, they are not singing about love and understanding in this one, that’s for sure. Which might be different in “Gekkou”, that opens with some very sensitive female vocals. The song is quite emotional and could be categorized as a ballad, I guess. “Zakuro To Jubaku” also starts in a more sensitive way, but this time it’s the male singer, who is doing the honors. The change comes, when the female singer takes over and it turns into a lighter, more uptempo track. After a guitar solo and another vocal part of the female singer, the male part takes over and the song gets back from scratch. “Kishi-bojin” is the title song of the album and the longest track here. It starts with a bombastic orchestration, but soon explodes into a fast headbanger with a heavy pounding beat. The instrumental mid-part sounds very impressive and therefore it’s my absolute highlight here. “Urami No Hate” is on next and this is another nice uptempo song. It’s quite difficult to define the music of ONMYOZA, which actually means the gathering of ying and yang. Good and bad come together, which is meant symbolic, but look at the variation of music styles that they play and it all falls into place. A lot of the songs are based on the Japanese folklore tradition, so they are a bit hard to understand for our Western people sometimes. Musical related bands are difficult to name, because of this. In the meantime I’m enjoying the next track already, which is called “Michi” and is another fast track, in which the two vocalists get their equal share. In “Kourui”, the female vocals are very much upfront in a ballad type of song. It also has a sensitive guitar part and closes with a singing choir. Then we are at the last track, which is called “Kikoku”. It’s fast with some firm beats and the female vocalist has a leading role. The flashing guitar solo leads you to the final tones of this album. ONMYO-ZA consists of Matabi (which means ‘flash fire’) on bass and vocals, Kuroneko (which means ‘black cat’) on vocals, Maneki (which is the name of the well-known ‘welcome cat’, which you see in many Japanese or Chinese restaurants) on guitar, Karukan (which means ‘hunter’, but it’s also the name of a brand of some cat food, which could refer to the cat related band names as well?!?) on guitar. Additional members are Tomotaka Ishikawa on drums and Abe Masahiro on keyboards. The music of the band may be hard to find, but please check them out while you can. They may not astonish you, but they will at least give you a very good feeling. At least they do that to me every time. On to the next album I guess, which might be available sooner than you expect. Website: http://www.onmyo-za.net/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

PANNDORA-Heretic’s Box (Wind Of Fate Records)
PANNDORA hails from Brazil and they are an all-female true heavy metal band. They started their career under the name WIND OF FATE in 2000, when heavy metal was as dead as a doornail here in Europe. Their album “Heretic’s Box” contains twelve tracks and runs for about forty-five minutes. After “Panndora”, which was released in 2007 on LP, this is the band’s second album so far. Quite obvious, it starts with “Intro”, which is short and instrumental. “Killing Yourself” shows, that the band stands musically with both feet in the eighties. Names like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN and WASP come to mind, when listening to the first notes of this song. I think I’m gonna have a great time reviewing this album. The awesome guitar riffs, the perfect headbanging speed, the constant beat of the double bass drums, it’s all there. “Nightmare Of My Essence” has got the hooks of IRON MAIDEN and the slightly whining vocal lines, that could be from a band like MANILLA ROAD. The double leads sound just great. “Prisoner” is a fast rocker with a link to JUDAS PRIEST. Just listen to the moment, where they start the guitar solos. “Black Sky” is another track from the box, that has a very catchy MAIDEN vibe to it. As you can see, these ladies know their classics very well. Brazil is a country, where heavy metal is still very much alive, as well as many other countries in South America. I very much liked the speed change, that they used in the middle of “My Heretic Lips”, where the guitar solo starts. It reminds me of the way, that MAIDEN suddenly changes their speed for a solo or something like that. “Choose Your Side” has got some mighty fine riffs and some nice guitar solos. It’s also the title of the very first demo, that these ladies released in 2003. “Wild Battle” shows a more powerful approach, that could very well be from a band like JAG PANZER or SATAN’S HOST. “Other Life” has got another exciting speed change at the end of the song. Again, it shows the nice true metal character of the band. I was searching for any kind of a new sound here, critical as I am, but I couldn’t find any. “Devil’s Man” is PANNDORA’s version of “The Trooper”. Well, at least the song sounds very much alike. “Control My Mind” has got a very firm drum beat and although the influences may sound a bit obvious, there is still a lot of variation going on. The way, that Rebecca sings this song, backed by a choir, sounds very much like JAG PANZER to me. It also has an exciting speed change and a wonderful guitar solo. This sounds like total magic to me. These ladies just seem to have a good nose how classic true metal should sound like. The last track on this album is a RUNNING WILD cover, called “Prisoner Of Our Time”, in which the band pays tribute to these German true metal pirates. After twelve tracks, it’s all over and done. All you have to do is to push the play button again to relive these magic moments again. PANNDORA is a band, that needs to be checked out by every devoted metal head out there. The band consists of Adrismith on drums, Luana Bomb on guitar, Camila Castanho on guitar, Rebecca Rastelli on vocals and Taise Bijora on bass. Some of the songs here however are sung by the original vocalists Natália Ferlin and Aline Rizatto. I would highly recommend every metal head to have an “Heretic’s Box” of their own. Go to: http://www.panndora.net or http://www.myspace.com/panndoraband for more information about this Brazilian all-female band. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

ANA POPOVIC-Unconditional (Eclecto Groove records)
No need to introduce ANA POPOVIC to you, I guess. Her new album contains twelve blues tracks and runs for about fifty minutes. She opens with a nice shuffle, which is called “Fearless Blues”. Her guitar solo is the cherry on top of the cake. The magic has started. “Count Me In”, that’s just what I wanted to say. This is a much faster song with a rather filthy approach and some magic guitar work by Ana. Jason Ricci shows some magical moments on the harmonica. Just listen to the duel with the guitar at the end of the song, which makes this picture complete. The title track of the album is on next and slows things down a bit. It’s a laid back jazzy track and the best way to enjoy it is, when the lights are down low. “Reset Rewind” has got a soulful vibe, including an organ upfront in the mix. SONNY LANDRETH plays the slide guitar in “Slideshow”, which is a well-chosen title for such cool music of this kind. It’s an instrumental, in which the guitar players are having some musical fun together. “Business As Usual” contains a lot of musical enjoyment as well. And from the blues, we return to the more soulful approach in “Your Love Ain’t Real”. Call it any way you like, the guitar work in this song is simply mind-blowing, that’s for sure. While “Work Song” is another killer foot stomper with a leading role for the guitar. Ana becomes rawer on each album and I think that is a good sign. Sometimes she holds back speed and shows a more sensitive side of her as well, like in the funky “Summer Rain”. In general, I must admit that I really love the raw blues side of Ana. “Voodoo Woman” is the sound of a jazz band marching through the streets of New Orleans, only this time with a guitarist walking next to them filling the solo spots. “One Room Country Shack” is the slow blues, that we’ve all been waiting for. There’s no blues album without a proper slow blues tune for me. The album closes with “Soulful Dress”, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over now. When the horns section rushes in, a party starts, that will last until the very next day. I just love this album from the beginning until the end. It has soul, jazz, blues, a touch of funk and a lot of power, but it also contains sensitivity and emotion. It’s the total picture of what ANA POPOVIC is all about nowadays and there’s still a whole lotta shaking going on there, I can tell you that much. I think, I’m going to have a good time and let this album spin another couple of times. Maybe this is nothing at all for you metal heads out there, but if you are a music fan to the core, you must definitely take a bite in this one. Website: http://www.anapopovic.com. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SUZI QUATRO-In The Spotlight (Cherry Red Records)
SUZI QUATRO is still around after all those years. And with her new album, she’s definitely “In The Spotlight” again. Eleven songs and forty minutes of music prove that she still rocks big time and her music has easily stood the test of time. In the mid-seventies, I discovered bands like SUZI QUATRO, GARY GLITTER, SLADE, SWEET and MUD. So she is one of my first connections to rock music and that’s why she’s still one of my heroes back from those days. Suzi still rocks, that’s for sure. Just check out opener “A Girl Like Me”, which is a foot stomper that sounds like it was recorded in the mid-seventies. At least, it has the same vibe. Sometimes her sound has been freshened and it’s a bit more modern than her early hits, but the foundation stays the same. “Whatever Love Is” is a real love song, for which we know Suzi very well also. “Spotlight” sounds melancholic and deals about being in the spotlight without wanting it. It sounds as sweet as candy and that’s sometimes the basic assumption of her songs nowadays. Sometimes they rock like in the good old days, while at other times they sound too sweet for a broader audience. There is a good balance though between rockers and sweet love songs, because “Strict Machine” sounds like rock and roll again. The drum beats still sound the same and they could very well have been used on the very early albums by this female rock and roll machine. The keyboards give the song a slightly modern effect and another good rock song has been born here. “Breaking Dishes” is a new style rock and roll song and so is “Rosie Rose”, although they get both thumbs up from me. This is not really the case with “Hurt With You”, which sounds much too reggae in my eyes, including the horns, that are a double fault in one song for a rock fan like me. However, after a “Hot Kiss”, this has all been forgiven and forgotten. Suzi sounds raw and hot again and that’s exactly how we want it. “Turn Into” is an acoustic track with a very sensitive feeling. While “Hard Headed Woman” is mainly old school rock and roll, dedicated to the fifties. I believe, that I’ve heard this song before by ELVIS. CD closer (and bonus track) “Singing With Angels”, pays tribute to the King one more time. The song is build up by singing song titles of ELVIS and it has THE JORDINAIRES on backing vocals, who were the backing group of ELVIS. A very warm tribute to this rock and roll legend. It’s a true fact, that Suzi still rocks after all these years. Sometimes she sounds more laid back and takes some sidesteps, but she is still in the spotlights and there aren’t too many people from those days, who can say the same. Her band now consists of Nat Allison on guitar, Jez Davies on keyboards, Owen Martin on drums and Mike Chapman on backing vocals. And on bass guitar……well of course she still handles the four stringed monster herself. I truly hope, that this lady can be in the spotlight for a long time to come. Website: http://www.suziquatro.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SHADOWSIDE-Inner Monster Out (SHP Records)
Another band from Brazil calls in. After the all-female band PANNDORA, it’s now time for SHADOWSIDE, who present their third album in a row. The album contains eleven tracks and runs about forty-five minutes. “Gag Order” starts off with some wild beats, a heavy riff and the pleasant voice of Dani Nolden. It will keep you focused for sure. The fading sound at the end of the song are like a siren in the night. It’s a good kick ass song. In “Angel With Horns”, I hear some awesome heavy riffs, that are maybe even better. Maybe this is better than the opener. “Habitchual” sounds more catchy, but it has enough guitars to keep you focused. “In The Name Of Love” sounds like a nice title for a ballad. Wrong, my dear friends, because the level of brutality rises in this song and I turn up the volume a bit more. The band wanted to make something special of the title track. Therefore “Inner Monster Out” ended up into a monster jam, featuring Björn ‘Speed’ Strid (SOILWORK), Mikael Stanne (DARK TRANQUILITY) and Niklas Isfeldt (DREAM EVIL). The different voices sound very exciting, which turned out really well. Then it’s time to bash out hard and heavy in the intro of “I’m Your Mind”, a brutal track with loud screaming vocal parts. In case the people are getting bored, this is the moment where they will all start moving, no doubt about it. “My Disrupted Reality” sounds brutal with a sense of melody to it. The guitars cry out loud though and the riffs remain ultra-tight. The distorted vocals here are a bit unnecessary for me. “A Smile Upon Death” and “Whatever Our Fortune” both sound pretty straight forward and they will definitely appeal to the many new metal heads out there. “A.D.D.” pokes up the heat with firmer beats and heavier vocal lines. The guitars in this song are breathtaking and therefore it’s one of the highlights on this album for me. Last but not least, we hear “Waste Of Life”, which is the CD closer on the copy, that I have here. I know, there’s also a version that contains the MOTORHEAD cover “Ace Of Spades” as a bonus track. MOTORHEAD are also one of the influences on this last song, which sounds like a steam train rolling in. The train is still gaining speed, when moving along with full force to the end. Finally, after forty-five minutes we have the inner monster out. SHADOWSIDE is really hot nowadays and I can see why. High octane fueled metal is what you get on this album and the band is very driven in what they are doing. Just to get the record straight, I provide you with the line-up of SHADOWSIDE here. We have Dani Nolden on vocals, Raphael Mattos on guitar, Ricardo Piccoli on bass and Fabio Buitvidas on drums. Website: http://www.shadowside.ws. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SIN 7 SINS-Carnival Of No Tomorrow (S7S Records)
After “Perversion Ltd.”, SIN 7 SINS present us their second album, called “Carnival Of No Tomorrow. The eleven songs run for forty-five minutes and show us that the band has grown enormously these past two years. Let’s run through these new exciting tracks here, because in opener “Brimstone Ignition” we already hear a mix between sensual sounding clear female vocals and male brutal vocals, next to a steady beat and raw guitar riffs. It’s the power of this song, that will grab you by the balls. Front lady Lotus has a lovely voice, which you can listen to pretty easily and the brutal vocals of guitar player Gen Morphine isn’t a real death growl in this opener, although it contains enough anger to call it brutal, that’s for sure. The up tempo rhythm continues in “Sick Of You”. The little instrumental parts are suitable to bang your head up and down or you can act like you’re a helicopter by propelling your head around. At least, the catchy vibe invites you to get in action and move around and let off some steam. “Pornstar Love” opens with a keyboard sound, that fits very well to the slightly pervert song title. It sounds a bit obscure and gets the song going quite well. This is gothic metal like it should sound in my opinion, powerful and exciting. “Shadows & Dust” takes back some speed and it asks for some special attention. Listen to the way Lotus sings here and you will hear the emotion in her voice. First-rate material, if you ask my opinion. “Carnivores At Carnival” contains choir vocals in the back, but Lotus shows her more sarcastic voice in this one, of course helped out by the loud bellowing male vocals. The instrumental part creates a very creepy atmosphere, because of the childish voice of Lotus in it. At least, that’s what I felt. “Pain Induced Craze” is a catchy up tempo song. When “As Romance Dies” starts off, the band will definitely get your attention. A power boost enters your room in this duet between Lotus and Mark Jansen of EPICA, that has got the force of ten energy drinks. The guitars riff louder than ever and Mark growls like the flesh was ripped from his bones in this song. Not only the romance will die then, I guess. “Cyanide Symphony” is something really special here. It’s another duet, but now with Swedish metal legend Dan Swanö, who sounds like DAVID BOWIE at times. It’s a very emotional duet and I had to think about two songs, when listening to it. First of all, I was very impressed by Lotus’ voice in the beginning. Then she sings the word ‘dying’ in a way, that THERAPY would sing the title of their song “Diane”. Later on, it returns and my thoughts about that song became stronger and stronger each time I heard it. The second song, that I was thinking of is “Jeanny” by FALCO. This is because the songs sounds very much alike and the way, that Dan sings his lines in a very dark and creepy way, made me draw this comparison. Find out for yourself what you think of it, but this is the ultimate highlight on this album for me. “Revolt Tonight” wakes you up from the dreamy atmosphere, that was created before by this beautiful song. The steady beat is back, next to the brutal vocals of Gen and a leading role for bass player JD ACID in this track. In “Jenkins Nightmare” SIN 7 SINS shows her gothic face again in a splendid gothic metal tune. Lotus sounds very much like Anneke van Giersbergen here and I think that the gothic metal fans will be very pleased by the way she performs in this nice track. The last track on the album is called “March To Ruin” and it’s an instrumental closure of a very good album. As a matter of fact it also sounds like a funeral march. In your imagination, you can see the band march away into the misty night not knowing that they are walking a march to ruin. I really liked this new SIN 7 SINS album. Look at the interesting cover, which displays a mix of lust and perversity in a creepy background. The naked lady doesn’t show her real face and hides it behind a mask. The knife in her hand doesn’t predict any good news either. Maybe you’ll have any other ideas about it? I don’t think, we will get much arguments about the music on this album though. This is high quality Dutch gothic metal. The band doesn’t walk the paved paths and is not afraid to walk the lanes, where no one else dares. But watch out following them, because you also get entangled in a carnival of no tomorrow. SIN 7 SINS consists of Lotus on vocals, Gen Morphine on guitar and vocals, Tristan Hex on guitar, JD ACID on bass and Heresy 101 on drums. Website: http://www.sin7sins.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

SLEDGE LEATHER-Imagine Me Alive (Metal Up Records)
What do you get, when you put Sandy Sledge and Leather Leone in one band? You will get SLEDGE LEATHER and right now we have the band’s debut album for reviewing on Metal Maidens. “Imagine Me Alive” contains eleven songs and runs for only just an half an hour. Besides the two former RUDE GIRL members, the band consists of Mathias Weisheit on guitar, Scott Warren (ex-DIO, KEEL, HEAVEN AND HELL, TYPE O NEGATIVE) on keyboards and Jimmy Bain (ex-WILD HORSES, RAINBOW, DIO, WWIII) on bass. Of course we all know Sandy Sledge on drums of RUDE GIRL, MALIBU BARBI and WARBRIDE fame and Leather Leone on vocals of RUDE GIRL, MALIBU BARBI, LEATHER and CHASTAIN. Let’s have a listen to the music, they are presenting here on this album. “Imagine Me Alive” is not only the title of this debut album, it’s also the album opener. Sledge pounds it out loud and Leather’s voice shows to be in a excellent shape. The heavy sound shows that these ladies want to rock loud, that’s for sure. What strikes me the most is, that five of the songs are under two minutes, which is very short, to be honest. And so the album opens with a very cool head banger. “Torch” is a short track with Leather on vocals and Sledge on piano. There is a crack in the sound, as if it was recorded a long time ago and we are listening to an old vinyl recording. Nicely done, but it takes away the speed of the album somehow, which continues in the fourth gear with “The Guy Upstairs Lied”. This song starts as a ‘barroom version’, that pretty soon explodes in a more thrashy version of the same song. The powerful voice and fast drum beats are the perfect combination again. “Illusions Opus 1” is a short instrumental interlude, which is tied to the next track on the album, called “Her Father’s Daughter”. The pace, in which this song flows, carries the spirit of DIO. It sounds slightly creepy, because of the bells throughout the song. The guitar work in this one is excellent and the speed change sounds very exciting, too. It’s followed by another instrumental interlude, called “Her Father’s Daughter-Reprise”. This is a short piece of music played on the piano and an introduction to “A Taste Of Night”, which is another powerful track with DIO influences. We all know, that Leather has been highly influenced by Ronnie James Dio and we definitely hear this back in the sound of SLEDGE LEATHER. It’s no big secret. Just have a look at the line-up of the band and you’ll know what I mean. “One Glimpse” is an emotional ballad. After that, the band explodes in a fast heavy metal speed monster, called “Fast Forgiveness”. It only lasts half a minute or something and is more or less an introduction to “The Lost Forgiveness”. Listen to the mystical high siren-like vocals and you’ll get the shivers all over. The keyboards have a leading role here. The CD closes with “Sisyphus”, which is some kind of an outro, where more keyboards perform a leading role. The one final conclusion, I’d like to make, besides the fact than that this CD is far too short, is that SLEDGE LEATHER has made a very powerful debut album, which will hopefully mark the start for a long and fruitful career. A DVD of their show at the Keep It True festival in Germany will be released soon, so people who have seen this show can relive these magical moments again. Website: http://www.sledgeleather.com [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THUNDERKRAFT-Totentanz (Svarga Music)
THUNDERKRAFT hails from the Ukraine, where our national football team will play in the European Championship this summer. However, this has got nothing at all to do with the second album by this black, death and folk metal band. They released their debut album in 2005, which was called “The Banner Of Victory”. “Totentanz” contains nine new tracks and fifty minutes of black and death metal with a somewhat folky background. Starting off is the lengthy “A Time Will Come”, which displays all the aforementioned elements. Black metal rhythms combined with death metal riffs, topped by elements from the folk metal, such as flutes and violins. This may seem like a strange combination, but it works pretty well in my opinion. The line-up of THUNDERKRAFT consists of Master Alafern on guitar, violin and vocals, Ann on keyboards and flute, Sigurd on bass, Munruthel on drums and vocals and Amorth I.M. on vocals (in a live setting). In “Mass Defect”, we hear a more brutal sounding vocalist, who uses some kind of light version of a death grunt and doesn’t get close. In “Dance Of The Dead” (or “Totentanz” if you like), we’re treated on a computerized dance sound with some heavy drum beats and an industrial sounding rhythm. Can you still follow me? This is not what old school metal heads are waiting for. Somewhere in the middle of the song, some DIMMU BORGIR-like metal takes over, but the industrial back beat remains. You definitely have to be open-minded to be able to absorb this all and put it into place. “Death Won’t Separate Us” starts off like a folk song, including some flute playing. It could very well be categorized as ‘easy listening’ music. The Ukrainian vocal lines are a spoken word part, that fit well to the folk background. A slower track unfolds itself with some sensitive guitar work. “The Future World” continues with loud screams and heavy riffs, including the keyboards of Ann in front of the mix. The black metal speed blasts near the end sound evil, but this is definitely not your every day black or death metal. It goes beyond the paved path and therefore I think it won’t appeal to the average metal fan out there. “A Crumpled Story” is a speed monster with the violin in a starting leading role. The strange mid-piece gives this song another dimension, which you might like or you don’t. The screaming vocals are louder than the instruments at times. The next song has got the beautiful title “Where The Dream Flows As Moisture From Eyelashes”, but you don’t write a good song by the title alone. It’s a short track with heavy riffs and dark sounding spoken word vocals, combined with wild screaming vocals. Sometimes a band like MOONSPELL comes to mind, but they sound a lot more straight forward than the music by these Ukrainian ‘Totentanzers’. “Towards A New Dawn” is a short epical tune with more spoken word vocals. Once again, it shows the folk aspects of the band. The CD closes with “The Creator Of Life”, in which typical folk instruments, such as the violin and the flute are more upfront in the mix. THUNDERKRAFT released an album, that will not easily appeal to the average metal fan. If you like folk music next to powerful death and black metal outings, than you might want to have a listen to this album. I’m afraid that I can’t dance, so I leave this “Totentanz” for what it is. It’s not a bad album, but I’m afraid that I will pass, because there’s so much other stuff to choose from that does make my metal heart beat faster. Website: http://www.myspace.com/thunderkraft. [6 points] (Toine van Poorten)

THUNDERSTICK-Echoes From The Analogue Asylum (Heaven And Hell Records)
Look out, THUNDERSTICK has left his cage and he is coming to get you! Barry Purkis fulfills the role of his alter ego THUNDERSTICK again on his new album “Echoes From The Analogue Asylum”. In seventy-five minutes and sixteen tracks, he proves that NWOBHM is still very much alive, no matter what other people say or think. Well, as a matter of fact “Echoes From The Analogue Asylum” isn’t really a new album. It’s a compilation album on which we hear the “Beauty And The Beast” album, the “Feel Like Rock And Roll” EP compiled with five previously unreleased tracks. Listening to opener “Heartbeat (In The Night)” is like being pulled back into the early eighties and listening to a fast old school GILLAN track. Superb! Jodee Valentine’s vocals are great and powerful enough to make your eardrums burst. And if she can’t do it, THUNDERSTICK’s drum beats will. “Rich Girls (Don’t Cry)” has some cheesy choir vocals, but it also bears some untouchable guitar licks and heavy beats. Again you might trace some GILLAN influences here. “In The Name Of The Father / Echoes From The Analogue Asylum” is not only the beginning of a well-known prayer, but it’s also the title of this mystical song, which sounds more like an interlude to me. It’s kind of like a soundtrack to a short three minute horror movie. At the end, the guitarist takes his moment and we move on directly to the title track of the album, which makes this a two song in one. “Long Way To Go” shows, that the band also puts a lot of humor in their music. Sometimes your thoughts will go out to early THE TUBES or FRANK ZAPPA with Debbie Harry of BLONDIE on vocals. Can you dig that?? And I must admit, that I actually love that approach! “Contact Angel” has got the guitars crying again. And also THUNDERSTICK bashes it out loud here. The rock and roll feeling of this song makes it all that enjoyable just a little more. I love the voice of Jodee: it’s high, clear and very powerful and it fits perfectly with the songs presented here. “Afraid Of The Dark” might refer to the sometimes spooky character of the songs. It’s a fast track with a choir singing the final piece of this rocking song. “Another Turnaround” is a lengthy track and while the children are playing in the background, the band bashes out another wild rock song. THUNDERSTICK’s drum attacks sound like cannon balls or like Thor banging with his hammer on a metal plate. The sudden stop halfway the song is very well chosen and the song ends really hilarious. “Feel The Rock And Roll” is a swinging anthem with great bass parts by Ben K. Reeve and some breathtaking guitar work by Wango Wiggins and Chris Martin. “Alecia” is another fast rock and roller with great guitar work. “Runaround” continues in the same rock and roll vibe and it has the same uptempo rock and roll rhythm. While “Burried Alive” shows the horror and roll side of the band once again. On the “Feel Like Rock And Roll” EP, the vocals were handled by Anna Marie Carmella Borg, by the way. Her voice sounds a bit lower than the high vocals of Jodee Valentine. The five bonus tracks are rare outtakes of songs, that you probably know already. Starting with the instrumental version of “Heartbeat (In The Night)”, which sounds similar like “Unchain Your Brain” by GILLAN, which is a huge compliment of course. Then there’s another instrumental song, called “Afraid Of The Dark”, which is highly enjoyable. “You Get Me In Pieces (Love Letter To Jack)” is next. And when they talk about Jack, they definitely mean Jack The Ripper. To write him a love letter is a nice example of the ‘sick’ humor of THUNDERSTICK, the band. We’ve heard “Feel Like Rock And Roll” before on this album, but this is an alternate version of the title track of the EP. The CD closes with a reprise of “Long Way To Go”. The bonus tracks may not sound all that exciting, but in general everything is done very well, including a nice biography and some great pictures in the booklet. A lot of new rockers may not see the beauty of the beast in his cage, but as a huge SAMSON and NWOBHM fan, you might want to check out this fine product, even if you have the original versions of the two albums in your record collection. Maybe just for all time’s sake or to throw a good old rock and horror roll party! Website: http://www.thunderstick.co.uk/ [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TRILLIUM-Alloy (Frontiers Records)
Have you ever seen the dark side by Amanda Somerville? I guess not. You’ve probably heard her lovely sweet voice with AVANTASIA, EPICA, KISKE-SOMERVILLE and/or EPICA and there she mainly showed her modest side. Her new project TRILLIUM sounds very different though. It’s much darker and obviously, she seems to be quite comfortable with that music style as well. The debut album of TRILLIUM is called “Alloy” and it contains eleven tracks with a running time of about fifty-five minutes. An alloy is a combination of two metals together. Metaphorically spoken, it’s a mix of the best of both worlds put together in a new style. “Machine Gun” (not the SAXON or HENDRIX song) opens the album and shows that this is not the sound, that we might know of Amanda. The bombast has disappeared and she is dressed in black instead of white, so to speak. Hear the dark mid-piece, including the sirens wailing and the guitars sounding a lot heavier than you might expect. Needless to say, that Amanda’s voice is spot on and that I personally like this sound of her much more. The horror like mid-piece in “Coward” sounds just perfect in combination with the slightly different way, that Amanda sings the song. She even sounds a bit sarcastic in my opinion. “Purge” has got some pointy hooks and it doesn’t sound as polished, as you might expect. The electronic bleeps in the background are a bit too much maybe, but they are not really disturbing. “Utter Descension” is an emotional song with a melancholic touch. “Bow To The Ego” contains some heavy beats and loud screams. Amanda unveils her black soul here. “Mistaken” takes back some speed. In “Scream It”, she calls in the help of Jorn Lande for a duet, which really works out just great. For a moment, you may think that the bombastic sound has returned, but this is only the intro. The song is a powerful DIO-styled track with a leading role for the two vocalists. Definitely one of the highlights on this album for me, next to the beautiful opener. “Justifiable Casualty” is a slower track with great vocal parts by Amanda. She performs this song emotional and strong and it has a firm beat. The speed change somewhere in the middle is very exciting and gives it some power, while the guitarist takes advantage of that with a nice solo spot. Sometimes it’s good to walk the paved paths. Amanda likes to do it differently, which she shows on this very album. She is always open to try something else, something that may not be an easy choice. “Path Of Least Resistance” is about this subject. Sometimes you tend to make an obvious decision for the very reason no questions will be asked. The path of the least resistance is easy and comfortable. “Into The Dissonance” is another melancholic song with a heavy sounding mid-piece. The passionate way, Amanda performs this song, is very well done. The last track of “Alloy” is called “Slow It Down”, which she does immediately. It’s the obligatory ballad, which shows another face of Amanda Somerville-Scharf. The bonus track on the digi-pack is called “Love Is An Illusion”, which is an uptempo rock song with a nice guitar solo in the middle. I guess, this wasn’t an easy album to come up with, but it shows the variety of styles this lady can handle as a real professional. The list of musicians, that worked with her on this album is quite impressive. To make this review complete, I’d like to end with a run-down of these people. “Alloy” is not as heavy as JUDAS PRIEST or IRON MAIDEN, but it definitely shows the darker side of Amanda, which starts with the creepy horror-like picture on the front of the album. Amanda’s band consists of Sascha Paeth on guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, Sander Gommans on guitar (HDK, KISKE-SOMMERVILLE, AFTER FOREVER), Michael ‘Miro’ Rodenberg on keyboards (AVANTASIA, AINA, VIRGO, KAMELOT, LUCA TURILLI), Olaf Reitmeier on acoustic guitar (VIRGO, RHAPSODY, KAMELOT, EPICA, AINA), Simon Oberender on keyboards (RHAPSODY OF FIRE, AVANTASIA) and Robert Hunecke on drums (AVANTASIA, LUCA TURILLI, VIRGO, AINA, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, KAMELOT, AVALON). Whether TRILLIUM will be touring or playing live is still unknown, but I guess that you will find out soon enough, if they do. Website: http://www.amandasomerville.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

TYRANEX-Extermination Has Begun (Inferno Records)
Have you ever been hit on the head with a hard, blunt iron rod of steel? Ready to go through this? TYRANEX will take care of it right away, when you hit the ‘play’ button on your stereo set. After that, the extermination will start. TYRANEX hails from Sweden and this is their debut album. Their ultra-fast thrashy speed metal sound hits you hard on the head with opener “The Weak Strike Back”. “The Curse” continues in the same hard hitting speed. Think about bands like ENFORCER, CAULDRON or SKULL FIST. You might get the same indelible impression, while listening to this eight tracker. TYRANEX sounds slightly more thrashy though and mixes this old school metal sound with a touch of TESTAMENT and DESTRUCTION. Just listen to the driving beat in “As The Cross Crumbles”. It will definitely make your old speed metal heart beat faster from excitement. “Dreamland” is not the short piece of rest you might expect from a title like that. Instead, it’s another speed monster going at full blast. Responsible for this evil eardrum attack are Linnea Landstedt on vocals and guitar, Stefan Thylander on bass and Johannes Lindström on drums. The first singer of the band was called Paloma Estrada and with her the band only released one demo. “None So Cruel” is a slower song, but at least it does sound as heavy as the rest of the material. Linnea’s voice is brutal, yet not as loud and grunting as for example Angela Gossow of ARCH ENEMY. She is more a traditional screamer and shouter. “Tormentor” is wild, fast and evil, as the title already suggests. It really rips out your spine! “Awakening The Dead” is a fat neck breaker and with “Road To Damnation”, which sounds very ‘easy on the ears’ and superfast title track “Extermination Has Begun”, we have already come to the end of this great album. The band has already played at the well-known Metal Assault Festival and left behind an astonishing audience, that was positively amazed by the violent attack of these vicious Swedish metallers, if I have to believe the reviews, that I’ve read so far. TYRANEX is a true speed metal monster with some thrashy influences and they show, that Sweden really knows how to play good metal. The extermination has begun and I’m glad it did. Highly recommended by yours truly. Website: http://www.tyranex.net. [9 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VOICES OF DESTINY-Power Dive (Massacre Records)
VOICES OF DESTINY is a German symphonic metal band, that has just released their second album “Power Dive”. Their debut album from 2010 was called “From The Ashes”, by the way. We are treated to eleven new tracks and fifty minutes of symphonic metal music. The short opener is nothing more than an intro to the title track of the album, which is called “Prologue”. “Power Dive” shows the operatic voice by front lady Maike Holzmann, who sounds crystal clear and very impressive. In “My Separation”, the band combines power metal with symphonic parts. A fast version of WITHIN TEMPTATION may come to mind, when you have to describe their sound, but the brutal male vocals do not fit that description totally. These brutal vocal parts are from keyboard player Lukas Palme, which is a situation that you don’t see that often. The instrumental parts are very impressive and powerful and prove is given in this particular song. Heavy riffs and rhythms and bombastic sidesteps complete it all. “Dreams Awake” has got a computerized intro, followed by some bombastic orchestrations, that would fit the early NIGHTWISH material very well. “Kami” has some riffing guitars again and some heavy drum beats. The brutal male vocals are in front of the mix and they perform a leading role in the beginning of this song. The band takes some bombastic sidesteps and there’s a leading role for the keyboards this time. There is a nice balance between the bombastic start and the heavy ending of the song. “Untouchable” is another duet between the brutal and angel-like vocals, but this time it’s the female voice that takes the lead. “Being Worth” starts out as an atmospheric ballad type of song with a leading role for the beautiful voice of Maike. The orchestration is very bombastic and sometimes the brutal male voice shows up as well. Fast, nervous violins and steady drum beats mark “Dedication”. The orchestration sounds like as they are followed by a ghost or a vampire. My thoughts go out to NIGHTWISH or WITHIN TEMPTATION once again. Same goes for the uptempo “Your Hands”. “Red Winter’s Snow (Prophets Doom)” slowly moves towards the end. In the middle of this song, there’s a sudden mood change, which makes it very exciting. It slows down for a while, but finally they take away in the fourth gear. This song is definitely one of the highlights on the album for me. The album closes with “Power Dive (Reprise)”, which looks back at the title track of the album. It only contains some piano playing. “Power Dive” is a safe buy for every fan of symphonic gothic metal and people, who like WITHIN TEMPTATION, EPICA and NIGHTWISH. I know, that there are plenty of you on this globe. VOICES OF DESTINY consists of Maike Holzmann on vocals, Lukas Palme on keyboards and vocals, Chris Gutjahr on guitar, Jens Hartwig on bass and Erik Setz on drums. Website: http://www.voices-of-destiny.de/ [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

WYKKED WYTCH-The Ultimate Deception (Goomba Music)
Red-haired wytch Ipek has signed a deal with Goomba Music and presents her first album there. I really hope, that the title will not become reality and she won’t let us down. The album contains ten tracks and runs for forty-five minutes sharp. They choose “Birthing The Beast” as opener, which is a very lengthy and brutal song, where the elements of WYKKED WYTCH are stretched out. Monstrous brutal vocals, horror like death metal lyrics, ultra-fast drum beats and guitar riffs, all taking the death metal into the exxxtremeness. Just listen to the sick lyrics in this opener, which reminded me of NOTRE DAME sometimes. At the end, there’s a sudden stop and the keyboards fade away, after a lot of violence has been spread out all over you. The beast is born, welcome to planet earth! Title track “The Ultimate Deception” is maybe even faster. Just listen to the fast drum beats of session drummer Kevin Talley (DAATH, SIX FEET UNDER, CHIMAIRA). Even for the guitarist, it’s difficult to keep up with his speed. The sick vocals of Ipek sound like she has been slaughtered to death. And at the end, she squeals like an evil wytch. I think, she growls and grunts louder and more brutal than her female colleagues Angela Gossow (ARCH ENEMY) or Sabina Classen (HOLY MOSES) do nowadays. “Serpents Among Us” has more extreme vocal lines and loud bashing drum beats, as if the wytch is stamping her feet on the floor. The guitars cry out loud in this song, too. Fans of CARCASS may like this approach a lot, I think. The ‘regular’ choral vocals at the end sound really surprising. While in “Despised Existence” Ipek uses three different vocal ranges from deep dark growls to a more regular voice and you can even hear some high screams in this song. I think, it’s simply amazing, that this all comes from one and the same singer. The song ends with a large sigh. “Prayers Of The Decapitated” starts with a movie clip and takes away at high speed with some lengthy high screams. Halfway the song, it’s time for a surprising moment, when Ipek uses her ‘normal’ voice. This is only the introduction to an even more extreme piece of music. Wow, what a power! “When The Sleepers Rise” is a horror metal kind of song, where we hear haunted ghosts sing. Well, at least in my imagination. A link to NOTRE DAME might be in place again, although WYKKED WYTCH sounds a lot more extreme than the Snowy Shaw outfit. “Ecstasy” is a short interlude, a movie clip, that’s at the same time the introduction to a cover. It’s the WYKKED WYTCH interpretation of METALLICA’s “Fade To Black”. Because of the slow start, it sounds like the odd one out here at first, but then the blast beats start and the recognizable WYKKED WYTCH sound returns. I wonder what Hetfield and co think of this version. “Abolish The Weak” follows and if there ever was a sixth gear, it would be for this song. The vocals range from high screams to deep dark growls again and the guitarist shows his skills in the best way possible. The album closes with “Eyes Of A Vulture” which is another brutal speed monster. The new WYKKED WYTCH album certainly didn’t become a deception. Instead, it’s a new start for the band at a new record company. Responsible for all this extremism are Ipek on vocals, Kevin Talley on drums, Salvatore LaPresti on keyboards and Nate Poulsen on guitar. If an extremely brutal metal sound with references to CRADLE OF FILTH and CARCASS is your thing, then you might want to check out this new album. You could also be curious of how METALLICA sounds in a death metal setting, then this is also your chance. Ipek hosts a radio show, called ‘Wytching Hour’, that broadcasts exclusively on http:// www.metalmessiahradio.com. Here you can listen to more extreme metal mayhem. For more information about the band, you can check out http://www.wykkedwytch.com. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

XANDRIA-Neverworld’s End (Napalm Records)
XANDRIA from Germany consists of Philip Restermeier on guitar, Marco Heubaum on guitar, Nils Middelhauve on bass, Gerit Lamm on drums and Manuela Kraller on vocals and they are back with a new album, called “Neverworld’s End”. Twelve new tracks are presented here, that are worthy of fifty-five minutes of gothic symphonic metal. The album opens with the lengthy “A Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall”, in which we hear the drive where they composed these new songs. Everything, that leads to building a good song is there. Bombastic orchestration, choir vocals, soprano vocals and exciting instrumental parts with breathtaking guitar parts and heavy riffing. Need I say more?! I like the guitar solo and the mysterious spoken word part in this song very much, that lifts it up to a higher level. Of course we can’t forget about the well-known references to bands like EPICA, NIGHTWISH and THERION, but it goes a little bit beyond this all in this song. “Valentine” has also got some loud riffing guitars and the beautiful voice of Manuela, who can easily compete with names like Tarja Turunen and Simone Simons. An up tempo heavy track unfolds itself here. The symphonic aspect is mainly based upon the music, that has got some interesting moments indeed, like the instrumental part in “Forevermore”. The orchestration is mixed with metal, which sounds remarkably well here. “Euphoria” is fast again and very powerful, because of the heavy guitars. While “Blood On My Hands” takes the choir vocals a bit more upfront. Things get even better with the heavy “Soulcrusher”, where the guitarists show their skills in an adventurous and sometimes mysterious sounding track. I think, that we can definitely mark this one as one of the highlights on this album for me. “The Dream Is Still Alive” is the obligatory ballad here. The album continues with the more exciting rocker “The Lost Elysion”, where the band takes another shot at an exciting instrumental part. It lifts the song up for me and makes it to highlight number two. The almost neo-classical part in the middle is good already, but the short guitar solo is the cherry on the cake here. In “Call Of The Wind” we hear some folky sidesteps, mainly because of the use of the violin. Only some parts sound that way, but in general the song stays up tempo and symphonic. “A Thousand Letters” is the second ballad here, which takes back some speed. “Cursed” sounds dark with slow, doomy riffs and ditto song title. It’s a good track with a very catchy vibe to it. And the sudden speed change, including some mind-blowing guitar work sounds just awesome! The last track is one of the most exciting on this new album. It’s the lengthy “The Nomad’s Crown”, which contains the very bes, that XANDRIA has got to offer in nine long minutes. A bombastic, symphonic masterpiece marks the end of this CD, which has got a lot of variation and goes much further than EPICA and NIGHTWISH dared to go. The long break they took after their last album became very fruitful and “Neverworld’s End” is the excellent result of this. Website: http://xandria.de. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CAUCHEMAR-La Vierge Noire (EP) (independent)
CAUCHEMAR hails from Canada and this is their five track EP, that is worthy of about twenty minutes of old school doom metal. The spirit of BLACK SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST wanders around in opener “Le Voile D’Isis”. The Ottawa-based band opened at the well-known Keep It True Festival in April 2012 and they kicked some serious ass there. Front lady is the well-known Annick Giroux. She has an angel-like voice, that sometimes sounds a bit monotone, but really fits within the doom genre this band plays. “Magie Rouge” contains influences of bands like WITCHFINDER GENERAL and SAINT VITUS topped by the cursing voice of doom metal elf Annick. The guitar solo sounds dusty, as it was meant to be. A doom metal sound with a crystal clear solo just wouldn’t make sense. “Valse Funebre” sounds like Annick is figuring out another magic spell in her ivory tower in the dark castle upon the hill. The speed change to a fast head banging rhythm at the end of the song sounds really surprising to me. While “Les Aisles De La Mort” has got a sense of NWOBHM. I think, it’s the rhythm in combination with the guitar sound, that is responsible for that. The EP closes with “Le Gardien De La Terre”, where the slow, doomy atmosphere returns. CAUCHEMAR is a brilliant old school doom metal band and they’ve released a splendid debut EP. If doom metal is not your thing, then you might want to check out Annick ‘Morbid Chef’ Giroux’ cooking book called “Hell Bent For Cooking”, in which she shares delicious meals and drinks for the hungry head banger. CAUCHEMAR consists of Annick Giroux on vocals, François Patry on guitar, Jo Capitalicide (IRON DOGS, BASTARDATOR) on bass and Patrick (ASILE, BASTARDATOR) on drums. This band will participate at the Rites Lunaires tour in Europe in spring 2012. Website: http://www.myspace.com/cauchemarmetal [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

CAWL-Inner Transition (EP) (independent)
CAWL are from Finland. The band plays raunchy rock with some alternative edges, yet they’re also standing with both feet in the new millennium. This three song fourteen minute EP sounds very dynamic and catchy, as you can hear on opener “Sun Of Rage”. Influences of DREAM THEATER and PAIN OF SALVATION come up and the instrumental part sounds really fine in my opinion. The catchy vibe gives it a rocking feeling, but it also prevents the song from sounding too radio friendly. “Black Pearl” starts off slow and this somewhat ballad type of song shows a more darker side of CAWL. The band name, by the way, is derived from the Welsh language and means something like ‘delicious and dedicatedly boiled stew’. It makes me hungry already. In the meantime, the song is heading off in second gear and near the end, you’ll hear a guitar solo. Last track is called “Dead Ends, Bitter Ends”, which captures some atmospheric parts and more up tempo parts next to each other. Once again, the rocking edge of the song makes it a little too heavy for radio airplay, but it also shows that this band is very capable of writing catching songs with exciting hooks. The speed change in the middle of the song is such a nice exciting twist for example. We already know, that there are a lot of talented bands in Finland, but this time we can add CAWL to this impressive list as well. The band consists of Noora Korppi on vocals, Vesa-Pekka Juutlainen on guitar and vocals, Pirkka Maksimainen on synths and backing vocals, Otto Forsberg on bass and Juha-Pekka Kaartinaho on drums. For more information about this Finish metal band, go to http;//www.facebook.com/cawlband [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

HUNTRESS-Eight Of Swords (7 inch) (Napalm Records)
HUNTRESS are a new metal promise from the USA, California to be a bit more precisely. The band has recorded a seven inch, orange vinyl single with two songs on it. The A-side starts with “Eight Of Swords”, which is a dynamic and very powerful metal attack with the high screams of Jill Janus, the front lady of the band. The fast rhythm and energetic drum beats makes them sound even more exciting. Biggest eye (and ear) catcher however is Jill Janus, who provides some very high screams in this song. And of course there is a breath taking guitar solo in this song as well. HUNTRESS’ influences come from the more traditional sounding metal bands like JUDAS PRIEST and the old school metal warriors of MANOWAR, but they even sound faster at times. The B-side of this orange colored monster single is a demo version of another album track, called “Terror”. The demo doesn’t differ that much from the original album version. Jill pulls out more high notes and the brutal instrumentation takes care of some serious head banging moments at our home again. Both thumbs up for HUNTRESS for releasing this single on vinyl. The color might be interesting for the many soccer fans out there. So in case you don’t like music, but you are a fan of our national soccer team, this seven inch is a good buy too, if it’s only for the color of the vinyl it’s pressed on. Cool release and a must have for every HUNTRESS fan out there, vinyl freak or not. Website: http://huntresskills.com/ [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

LADY MAGGOT-Umbra (EP) (independent)
LADY MAGGOT presents their debut EP, which contains five tracks and twenty minutes of dark rock and metal. The band hails from Ireland and the two members are originally of Polish origin. We have Piotr ‘Niemiec’ Niemczewski on guitars and Martyna ‘Moyra’ Halas on vocals and they are helped out by Dariusz Halas (ex-LORD VADER) on guest vocals in the very last track. Opener “Penumbra” is nothing more than a one minute instrumental intro. It’s followed by “Eclipse”. Don’t forget to put on your UV protecting glasses, when looking into the sun to watch this phenomena. But where was I? Oh yeah, LADY MAGGOT is a twosome from Ireland, that plays some experimental alternative sounding rock and metal. The guitars may remind you of people like Tom Morello (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE) or Reeves Gabrels (IGGY POP, DAVID BOWIE, TIN MACHINE). However, in general they sound a bit less heavy than the aforementioned artists, but their music has a very catchy vibe. “Love” is something completely different. Blast beats, heavy riffs, noisy screams…. What the heck? The band suddenly explodes into an angry kind of vibe. But later on in this song, they seem to restore their more experimental and alternative approach. “Love” sounds a lot more exciting to me than “Eclipse”. “Mysterons” is on next, which sounds darker and carries the same experimental atmosphere as the previous two songs. The freaked out guitar solo sounds fine and the drums beat fast and loud. This song sounds quite nice, although metal might not be the right description for it. The five tracker closes with title track “Umbra”. This is the most experimental song on the EP. Its Eastern rhythms give the song a very alternative approach. “Umbra” mostly derives from the rock and metal sound, which makes this band interesting to us. Clearly, you have to be very open-minded to enjoy this EP at all, but if you like the guitar players mentioned in this review and you are open for a slightly different approach, then “Umbra” might be just the thing for you. Check it out. Website: http://www.facebook.com/ladymaggotband [7 points] (Toine van Poorten)

NEMHAIN-The Murder Mile EP (download only) (independent)
NEMHAIN hails from the UK (London) and consists of Amber Erlandsson (a.k.a. Morrigan Hel) on vocals, Adrian Erlandsson on drums, Lisa Dickinson on bass (a.k.a. The Witch), Sam Astley (a.k.a. Sam Hain) on guitar and Lakis K on guitar. This four track EP runs for sixteen minutes and starts off with “Natural Born Sinners”. They step on the gas right away and influences range from NASHVILLE PUSSY to MOTÖRHEAD. No nonsense rock and roll with a catchy vibe is what you see and that’s what you get as well. “Seriously Ill” sounds kind of groovy and with the raspy voice of Amber, the song gets a special rocking vibe. It sounds slower and darker than the opener, but it still rocks, you know?! “Love 4 Death” contains some punk influences and it really gets the high speed going. It does remind me of the many Riot Grrrl bands, that I’ve been reviewing over the years. The EP closes with a cover of CREEDENCE CLEAR WATER REVIVAL. The band choose to do their own version of one of the most well-known songs by this American band from the seventies, namely “Bad Moon Rising”. You may not recognize it right away though, because it received a real NEMHAIN make over. Meaning, that they turned this once so jolly tune into a very slow doom monster, that sounds as dark as the English nights in winter time. This EP is meant to make your appetite for a full-length album even bigger. It’s a pre taste of things to come in the hopefully near future. NEMHAIN already proved to be a well-talented band on their debut album “From The Ashes” and this EP shows, that their talent hasn’t gone and they are still able to surprise us with their sludgy, sleazy, rock and roll sound. Visit http://nemhain.com or http://www.facebook.com/Nemhainband and find all the information, that you are looking for. [8 points] (Toine van Poorten)

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS-Maria Magdalena (EP) (Napalm Records)
VISIONS OF ATLANTIS from Austria have been paving their way in the symphonic metal genre for twelve years now and very successfully indeed. After an extensive tour in the US in 2007 with EPICA, the band went through some line-up changes and saw (among others) singer Melissa Ferlaak (now in ECHOTERRA) go. However, the tide has been turned with the addition of the Greek singer Maxi Nil (MOONSPELL, ELYSIUM) and the release of their fourth album "Delta" (read the review elsewhere on this site). The band still delivers a mix of epic power metal with some very emotional parts, but sounds really mature and much more of an unity in 2011. This six track MCD offers five brand new tracks and one re-recording of "Last Shut Of Your Eyes" (the original version being with singer Nicole Bogner, who died on January 5th at the age of 28). It starts off with their version of the eighties pop song "Maria Magdalena" (SANDRA). VISIONS OF ATLANTIS give the song a very nice symphonic twist and the musical duet of Maxi Nil and Mario Plank sounds very good! The next three songs "Melancholia", "Change Of Tides" (my highlight here) and "Distant Shores" reveal the band's orchestral input, which surely sounds very impressive indeed. The EP rounds off with "Beyond Horizon" (the sequel to "The Poem" on their 2007 album "Trinity"), a very dreamy and typical ballad in its genre. All in all, this is a very nice disc (and twenty-six plus minutes of music) for all the fans of NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION, EPICA, etc. and symphonic/gothic metal fans in general. Band line-up: Maxi Nil- vocals, Mario Plank- vocals, Cris Tian- guitars, Martin Harb- keys, Thomas Caser- drums. Website: http://www.visionsofatlantis.com/ [8 points] (Rita van Poorten)

[Updated: June 29, 2012]

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