Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Full Length Review: Dio "Holy Diver" (Mercury) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Dio
Location: Manhattan, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Heavy metal
Full length: Holy Diver
Format: Vinyl. Cassette, CD
Label: Mercury
Release date: May 23, 1983
I had taken some time from writing and reviewing—but eventually I felt the desire to put something together. It just so happened that a few weeks before sitting down to write this I ordered myself a CD copy of Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver”. Knowing the impact Dio had on the heavy metal scene and the world as a whole I initially thought there was no point in writing about Dio. I mean…everyone has already heard of him, haven’t they? Even if a person is not a die-hard fan I’m pretty sure everyone that listens to classic metal has had his name dropped into their laps at some point in time. Still…while gathering my thoughts to pen some words I figured “What the hell?” and decided to give this amazing album a few paragraphs.
The title track “Holy Diver” is easily my favorite track on the album—followed closely by “Rainbow in the Dark”. With that said there is not a single song on this CD that is not worth listening too. With 9 tracks in over 40 minutes it follows a similar formula to most 80’s metal greats—but unlike the vast sea of music available from the era this stands out as a true beacon of something deserving of the word “memorable”.
The guitar work is amazing—and the drum work and synths/keyboards are pretty great too! This paired with Dio’s iconic voice makes for many listens that don’t get boring or grow old—and to top that off the cover art is on point and the overall atmosphere presented on this disc is at times ethereal and other-worldly!
In conclusion—this is probably one of the greatest albums from the time it was created—and I’d go as far as to say that (personally) it holds more weight than even Metallica or Megadeth. Not that either of those bands are bad—just that their music has been played so much that at times it comes off as tired or over-used. Holy Diver is something that is well known—but is still obscure enough that when listening to it you don’t feel as if it is something you have heard a million times over.
Dio was a legend—and this album—well…I can say the same thing for it as well! -Devin J. Meaney

Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010): Vocals, keyboards
Vivian Campbell: Guitars
Jimmy Bain (1947-2016): Bass, keyboards
Vinny Appice: Drums

Track list:
1. Stand Up and Shout
2. Holy Diver
3. Gypsy
4. Caught in the Middle
5. Don't Talk to Strangers
6. Straight Through the Heart
7. Invisible
8. Rainbow in the Dark
9. Shame on the Night

Monday, August 28, 2023

Full Length Review: In Loving Memory "The Withering Format" (Funere Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: In Loving Memory
Location: Bilbao
Country: Spain
Genre: Melodic doom death metal
Full length: The Withering
Format: CD, jewel case CD (limited to 500 copies), digital
Label: Funere Records
Release date: January 14, 2022
The surreal cover art of “The Withering” promises an ethereal trip that will intensify certain aspects of doom laden death metal, taking it beyond the physical body's limits. Eight years passed since In Loving Memory released their MCD "Redemption" through House of Ashes Productions (Italy), and during those years Juanma Blanco and Jorge Araiz released one EP with Agoyzen. During their years of inactivity they reinvented themselves and created something spellbinding and panoramic.
In Loving Memory formed in Spain in 2005, releasing a debut demo limited to 100 copies the following year. It was evident even then they were capable of growing, undermining expectations of what doom/death metal should sound like. Not only with regards to their music, but also with their lyrics, which presented images of mortality and darkness beyond death that differed from what's normally associated with underground metal. This went on to become integral to the band’s formula.
“The Withering” is In Loving Memory's first album with musicianship and production value that does justice to the songwriting and ideas they sought to convey lyrically. Not to say there wasn't potential before, but the band enhanced their song structure and lyrical concepts beyond mere refurbishing. The rawness of their music was accompanied by inventive riffs and lead guitars, and hints of atmosphere that suggested something within was trying to escape its confines and move to a new plateau.
In terms of basic style, In Loving Memory can possibly be compared with Hypocrisy, Amorphis, Amon Amarth, My Dying Bride, and Enchantment. This isn't a direct comparison; I remembered those bands when listening to “Tragedy and Moon” (independent, 2008) and “Negation of Life” (Badmoodman Music, 2011). The production was not as remarkable, but the music was slowly coming together over thought out arrangements, rough-hewn musicianship, mellifluence and despondent moods. This made for conceivable innovation presented with alluring qualities.
In Loving Memory's approach on those albums and their MCD developed exponentially after they took so many years off before writing and recording “The Withering”. The rawness and despondency of those moments are redirected through a scenic perspective too beautiful to describe. There is so much going on with this album that anyone listening will become immersed in it regardless of the subgenre or subgenres of metal they most often listen to, not to mention other genres like goth and darkwave.
The band has gone all out to take their progression to a new expressive zenith. Nothing becomes monotonous or tedious during the course of this album. Their controlled energy and heightened thoughtfulness of their writing are necessary to draw attention to each section of every song. Having contained their heaviness has made it more prominent, and the atmosphere added to the production serves to amplify the heaviness and musicality here instead of bogging it down or oversaturating it.
Each instrument operating on equal footing is part of a coinage bigger than the sum of its parts. There is no conflict between the bass and guitar tracks. Each note is tight, without one instrument competing for attention. As precise as the string instruments are, the drums support their presence, which is especially important when the guitar and bass lines complement each other. At times the keyboards support this arrangement, and at times they take center stage, adding depth and color to the songs as needed.
Rather than serving as simplistic death growls, the guttural vocals are as important a component as the instruments. The throaty, jarring vocals are essential to communicate the band’s elucidations of life and death. In the lyrics, the abyss of the afterlife is compared to the indefinite reaches of the universe, where there’s endless blackness but eventually other stellar bodies to discover. Emptiness is present here, but there is also enough introspection to consider what else might be occupying this space. -Dave Wolff

Juanma Blanco: Vocals, lead guitars
Jorge A.: Rhythm guitars
Txerra G.: Bass
Alberto D.: keyboards

Track list:
1. Stellar Runaway
2. Lead Clouds
3. The Dance of Moons
4. Dawn of Misery
5. Fractured
6. Translucid Remains
7. Sun of Ebony
8. Nothing But Pain
9. Reversal
10. Martyrdom of Light

In Loving Memory official site

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Full Length Review: Oxx "The Primordial Blues" (Nefarious Industries) by Dave Wolff

Band: Oxx
Location: Aarhus
Country: Denmark
Genre: Avant-technical metallic hardcore
Full length: The Primordial Blues
Format: Cassette, CD, digital
Label: Nefarious Industries
Release date: August 18, 2023
I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for how left field and eclectic this album was. At first it may strike you as a convoluted mess but eventually it comes across as more cohesive. “The Primordial Blues” is extremely loud, discordant and caterwauling, but this doesn’t negate the ideations involved with coalescing genres that would seem incompatible while writing unanticipated time changes and dissenting improvisational phrases. You can hear how receptive Oxx is to new ideas sans the need to be repeatedly told.
Oxx is a technical/avant garde metal-hardcore band based in Aarhus, Denmark. Their fourth album is described as “a monument to misery and a harbinger of perpetual sadness” and the sonic equivalent of “getting blackout drunk and beating yourself to death with a Thomas Pynchon door stopper”. Despite the fact that both of these descriptions are accurate, I find the album to be far more nuanced. Their origins in the punk and metal scenes at home make them an apt example of how underground bands evolve without consciously trying to make their songs more appealing to the general public.
There is no doubt “The Primordial Blues” wasn’t written to appeal to mainstream audiences or to appeal to radio listeners. Jazz, avant-garde music, progressive rock and rap are fused with metal and hardcore in a concept as schizophrenic and unsettling as the way it’s all arranged. It’s evident the progressions depict mental illness and its effect on one’s everyday surroundings, with perception of reality gradually distorted until disorder sets in. This album is a soundtrack to succumbing to insanity.
It's striking how the arrangements allow one mood to briefly set in, leading you to believe things would progress in this direction, then suddenly shift to a mood that seems unrelated to the previous one. This bait and switch appears repeatedly throughout the recording, and in many ways, right down to the brief and explosive lead guitar excursions followed by another sudden change of direction.
As they’re aesthetically written, the lyrics convey themes of perception gradually unraveling and collapsing, growing more pronounced with the addition of each new gathering of musical influences. Throughout each composition, the listener is already left with the impression of being dragged through the wringer; the lyrics only serve to reinforce these sentiments, offering the listener no respite from the inevitable disintegration of reality we know awaits us at this journey's end. “The Primordial Blues” is brutal and extreme not just in terms of its sound and production, but also its storytelling.
I emphatically recommend checking “The Primordial Blues” out at least once, along with all of Oxx’s previous releases, if your curiosity is aroused enough to experience the sound of sanity breaking down and never quite regaining itself, not for a long time. –Dave Wolff

Alex Bossen: Vocals, guitars, synthesizers, piano, samples, string arrangements
Anders Frodo S. Mikkelsen: Bass
Martin Aagaard Jensen: Drums, samples

Kristine Kier: Violin, viola
Emalia Slusarczyk: Cello
Adrian Christensen: Double bass
Esben Tjalve: Piano

Track list:
1. The Coast
2. The Song of the Rivers
3. The Fishing Village
4. The Lake and Everything Around It
5. The Haruspex
6. The Flagellant
7. The Hypostasis
8. The Primordial Blues

Monday, August 21, 2023

Full Length Review: Мещера [Meschera] "Жатва" [Zhatva] (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: Мещера [Meschera]
Location: Ryazan
Country: Russia
Genre: Blackened folk metal
Full length: Жатва [Zhatva]
Format: Digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: June 8, 2023
“Жатва”, Мещера's debut full-length, captures the sacred feeling so often associated with Russian folk and pagan metal, particularly in vocal arrangements as significant to the musicianship as the musical arrangements themselves. A thirteenth century Finno-Ugric tribe living in the Meschera Lowlands, the Volga and part of what would become Moscow was the inspiration for the band's name. The historical context makes their journey into a forgotten past all the more poignant since you’re being allowed into something entirely personal to the band.
That “Жатва” is written in Russian gives it an additional layer of authenticity. To fully appreciate it I had to translate the lyrics online. Doing so greatly enhanced the listening experience. From the lyrics to the front cover artwork, “Жатва” conveys a sense of a living cinematic production guiding your imagination toward a distant past. Similarly to many bands that are capable of bringing their visions to life through their music, Мещера offers up their visions through captivating, immersive stories making the listener feel as if they’re witnessing the events first-hand.
The album's opening track, “Чёрный Туман” (Black Mist), plunges the listener headfirst into the band's resourcefulness. Listening to this song makes you feel the cold closing in around you, visualize the black hole opening in the night sky and the fog rising from behind a seemingly serene river, touch ashes of forgotten times, and sense an unseen spirit slaughtering enemies in battles long before recorded history. Every song conveys a sweeping sense of ancient civilizations being wiped out and a desire for vengeance, and Мещера persuades you to bear witness to all you witness.
By incorporating a myriad of contrasting themes into the song structure and dual vocal passages, these images are presented with a horrifying beauty that’s old, frigid, majestic, and terrible all at once. The earth is depicted as long dead, long dead but with the dignity of its scorned civilization still intact after all these centuries. There’s a feeling of a civilization that ended before its time, but whose inherent beauty was somehow preserved. This nobility and thirst for revenge merges closer in each passionate hymn to darkness and reserved tribute to nature, finally becoming one.
The pagan spirit personified by Alexandra Sidorova and Dmitry Kokarev's vocals, and the wrath the singers later personify, are fitting additions to the compositions. Мещера draw upon many metal subgenres, incorporating them to tell the story as effectively as the lyrics do. In illustrating the story, the clean vocals are particularly effective, soaring high above the ground and plunging deep into the abyss with equal conviction. Finally the drums push the songs to greater heights, propelling the emotion-driven vocals and contrasting musical influences with breadth as well as depth.
An instrumental version of “Жатва” can be streamed at Bandcamp along with different versions of their “Skazki Chyornyh Lesov” EP and a streaming of their debut single “З​и​м​н​и​м Х​л​а​д​о​м” (Winter Cold). I’d recommend any and all of these if you’re interested in giving them a chance. -Dave Wolff

Alexandra Sidorova: Vocals (clean, extreme), lyrics
Dmitry Kokarev: Composer/multi-instrumentalist, clean vocals, growling, lyrics, recording
Maxim Ayupov: Bass guitar, mixing and mastering
Svyatoslav Krekov: Drums, cover concept art (3D), layout design
Vitaly Karatykhin: Management, organizational help 
Armaada Art: Cover artwork

Track list:
1. Чёрный Туман
2. Жатва
3. Вечность Белых Январей
4. Зимним Хладом
5. Взор Безликих
6. Страж Сосновых Чащоб
7. Мещера
8. Сказки Чёрных Лесов
9. В Неведомых Топях
10. Тьмою Седых Ночей

Friday, August 18, 2023

Full Length Review: In Vision "Manuscript" (Independent) by Amethyst Wynter

Band: In Vision
Location: Moscow
Country: Russia
Genre: Melodic death metal
Full length: Manuscript
Format: Digital streaming/download, compact disc
Label: Independent
Release date: July 17, 2023
The first thing I noticed about In Vision's album “Manuscript” was the amazing album art. Before even listening to the first song “Insanity side” you instantly get a dark atmospheric vibe. When you see the darkening sky over the changing tree you feel overtaken with wonder of what emotions are going to be triggered? Will you feel a sense of loss? A heartbreak? Will there be a new beginning or perhaps a death?
Fans of H.I.M, 69 Eyes, Charion, End of You and Sinamore will fall in love with the hopeless romantic, gothic tones as well as the Death Metal melodies! The serenading folk style acoustic guitar that bleeds into a black metal style of melt your face off shredding! Oh! and let’s not forget the very impactful rhythmic drumming style in every song!
“My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” is the story of a sultry, sexual fantasy escape! Imagine yourself with two smoking hot babes riding in a 62’ Vette with no worries doing whatever you want to do whenever you want and knowing everyone is looking at you! Sexcapade! We all know confidence is sexy. wink haha. The layered harmonic vocals paired with screams put you in a black light trance!
In Visions “Music Box”! is hands down one of my favorite songs ! I loved the references that were used to show that your mind is the music box. Everyone knows that sometimes your own mind can be a Pandora’s Box. Your mind can sometimes create dark places and uncertainty.
If you are looking for a gothic melodic death metal fix! In Vision's “Manuscript” is definitely for you! Also don’t forget to check out “Get Up” featuring Igor Kapranov from the bands Stigmata! Amatory! And Outcast! Manuscript is packed with talent! To listen to In Visions “Manuscript” & more from IV, check out these links to learn how you can support the journey! -Amethyst Wynter (Amethyst Wynter Promotions) 

Alexey Vinogradov: Vocals, guitars
Nickey Loco: Lead guitar
Robert Rozomashvili: Bass
Artyom Kononov: Drums

Track List:
1. Insanity Side
2. Manuscript
3. Somebody Love
4. Pray
5. Get Up! (Feat Igor Kapranov)
6. My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend [Type O Negative cover]
7. False Mind
8. Music Box

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Interview with December Screams Embers by Dave Wolff

Interview with December Screams Embers by Dave Wolff

The name you chose to represent your band sounds a bit unusual, but not too unusual compared to other bands I've heard. What factors contributed to deciding to make an impression with the name?
Will Jensen Jr. [Rhythm guitar, backing vocals]: To me, (I know it’s a common misconception), but it reminds me of the rumor that suicides are most frequent around the holidays, and cremation, and such. I also picture it as a piece of art and not December literally screaming embers, but December. Screams. Embers. To me it’s three separate words describing travesty and sadness at a time that should be joyous. It represents human suffering that is unjust.
Jordan "Rage" Fjeldsted [Vocals]: For me, December Screams Embers is a reminder of why we are artists, and why we do what we do. We are embers in the cold of December. A primal scream for those with mouths held shut. A reminder that, like embers, you can always reawaken your flame. I want to be a guidepost and a comfort to those who need our flame.
C.J. Cotton [Lead guitar]: I see the band’s name as something representative of us. It’s an unusual band name but we’re unusual people. It’s not something that fits in with the old “Verb-the-Noun” band name formula that was so prevalent in the late 2000’s through the mid 2010’s. If you were to see a poster for an upcoming show at some venue and December Screams Embers was on the bill, it might stand out as odd next to the other bands. I’m not one for the “non-conformist” mentality but I believe that the name “December Screams Embers” doesn’t pigeonhole us to any particular sound, and that allows us to write freely, and play whatever we want without people who’ve never heard our music having a preconceived notion of how we should sound.
Scar Olsen [Bass]: As everyone knows I am the newest addition to DSE, however, I’ve fallen in love with the name. For me the name represents diversity. The band itself is represented by a group of extremely diverse individuals, from all kinds of different backgrounds. That being said even though we are all different we are always one unit, one band. I believe that the name December Screams Embers does not put us in a box or a preconceived notion on what we are supposed to sound like. Giving us the freedom to explore new things and new sounds. For me this gives us the opportunity to have an impact across many different genres and reach people some never thought possible.

Do your diverse backgrounds and influences in music place you in a unique position, not leaning towards either underground or commercial music?
Will: I’d have to say, yes and no. So, me personally; I grew up thinking what a lot of people think, “metal is screamo and noise, and ugly etc…”, but I’ve always had a displacement for pop and rap. My family raised me on country music and my brother liked rap (exception to metal). I geared more towards pop punk like Sum41 and Blink182. I did like some country, like Rascal Flatts, and then I found Linkin Park, and then Avenged Sevenfold. But it was Bullet For My Valentine that managed to open my eyes when I first heard them. After that, I knew this was my dream, and I fell in love with everything from Three Days Grace to Slaughter To Prevail. Post-Grunge to Deathcore. I have always strived to strike a balance between commercial accessibility and individual expressions of an artist. I’ve also always wanted to mix the sub-genres rather than “gatekeep” them. My true dream is to write a heavy song that most metalheads can appreciate but still knocks the popstars off of the charts. It’s a work in progress, but at the end of the day, even if we never reach iconic stardom, I will always make music. So it’s a little of underground and pop status rolled into one for me personally.
Jordan: I would say so. We all more or less grew up with a love of rock and metal. The genre though, has evolved so much over the years that personally I think it makes sense that everyone has a different taste for it. The trick is bringing all of those different “flavors” and blending them into something incredible.
Scar: For me that’s an easy yes. The band as a whole comes from so many different places and I believe that it does greatly reflect in our music. I also believe that because of this we are not stuck on one idea of how we are supposed to sound or look as a band.
C.J.: I don’t really think much about whether something will be received well commercially. When we start writing something it’s more about just making the best song we can with the ideas we have at the time. With the current project Will and I did tell Rage (Jordan) that we wanted him to keep the lyrics relatively clean, at least enough so that they’d get through the radio censors, so that every song could potentially be broadcast. It was less about being commercially accepted and more to do with wanting these songs to be heard, and not getting in our own way.

What is the level of experience each band member had prior to the formation of December Screams Embers? What are the ways in which you channel that experience into the band?
Will: I would only like to speak for me as to not hold anyone else to a status thing or a biased opinion, negative or positive. I personally entered with eight years of writing experience with lead guitarist, C.J. Cotton, through various means, and I essentially just learned what I wanted to learn, and what I thought was fun, and cool, and made me proud of myself. I do think we were all wet behind the ears when we hit the studio for the first time. I learned exactly how much I lacked without hands on experience. But I’d say my time and effort did reward me with talents essential to this particular band, but make no mistake, being in DSE made me a noteworthy musician, being a noteworthy musician DID NOT make me fit for this band. We all grow and improve with each day and each release. From an E.P. that still makes me cringe, to an album that I’m proud of, to Spooky Noodle that I can’t believe my ears that I had a hand in creating.
Jordan: Personally speaking, my level of experience prior to December Screams Embers was mostly in deathcore. I was not singing clean vocals at all before this band other than to myself in the car, or at bonfires with friends.
Scar: I personally started picking up instruments when I was ten. So I’ve got ten years of experience before joining DSE. Personally, I think because that since everyone in DSE has experience on more than one instrument it makes us more cohesive in the studio, being able to bounce ideas off each other and being able to find new and fun ideas to try out.
CJ: Will and I have been playing together since we were kids. Neither of us ever took lessons of any kind, and being self-taught, we didn’t have any real idea of what a metronome was or how to use one. We had recorded in a studio once, prior to the formation of December Screams Embers, and the engineer must’ve been losing his mind trying to reel in my rhythms. I think the studio sessions for DSE’s first E.P. left us all a little shell shocked. The producer we’d hired was a classically trained pianist and vocalist, and probably the most critical man we’d ever met. Imagine that movie “Whiplash” with J.K. Simmons playing the band leader at a jazz conservatory. Needless to say, we’re better musicians because of that experience.

Do your divergent interpretations of the band’s name extend to the lyrics? Does everyone in the band contribute to the writing of lyrics?
Will: We have spoken of concept albums surrounding the name in a story telling way, but nothing concrete outside of some inside jokes (I have done worse that made our reality more funny than a joke at times) I’d say Jordan “Rage” and I split most songs about 70/30 on writing vocals and lyrics, but depending on the track that ratio can change. I also assist in melody composition. Our lead guitarist, C.J.: Cotton, is a great coach at not letting us be lazy just because something works. He also lends assistance to the process. Vocally alone nobody else really contributes yet, but with our new (and very beloved) member Scar (Bass), and Wyatt (Drums) eagerly seeming to burst out of his comfort zone to do new things, I suspect we may all write lyrics in the next release, who can say?
Jordan: We have yet to make a song based on the name. We plan to, however, in one of the next two albums, or possibly a single. I write most of the lyrics, but usually Will, or C.J. will help in the writing process.
Scar: I believe that the name does play into the lyrics, at least a little bit. The diversity of the band itself plays into the lyrics. Being as, I just joined DSE, I haven’t contributed to the lyrical process, however Rage (Jordan), C.J., and Will all have contributed in some way to the lyrical development of our music.
C.J.: I’m not sure if the band’s name plays much of a role, at least not in my case. I think we’ve all pitched lyrical ideas at one point or another, but generally, Rage (Jordan) writes the lyrics, and we will all work together making changes that we feel make the songs better.

As someone who has broadened my musical tastes since my late teenage years (funk metal, goth, techno, industrial, Celtic, world, etc.) allows me to appreciate bands who push the boundaries of what they can express through songwriting. Are there other genres you consider?
Will: In the vein of side projects or future endeavors, I like pop punk and Alt rock, I’d be willing to give those a whirl. In an ironic sense I’ve also considered comedic rap on the side, but in DSE there are no real limits, if we want to meld genres together, we will.
Jordan: If I did, I probably wouldn’t stray too far. Alternative rock is something I’d consider, maybe some EDM kind of like Skrillex did it. If I’m really pushed, maybe folk punk or the more emotional side of pop, but I couldn’t give up screaming entirely. I enjoy it too much.
C.J.: The funny thing is that I already have a few other things that I’m playing with. I’ve recently gone back to school for music and have been studying classical composition. As a result, I’ve written a handful of pieces that have been showcased in the schools’ recitals. I’ve been recognized by random people as a classical composer more so than a metal musician. Aside from that, I have a handful of other things that I’ve been working on, a blues trio, a pop punk band, some more country or southern rock styled stuff, and a melodic guitar based instrumental album. I don’t know if or when those things will ever see the light of day, just because school, work, and DSE take up so much of my time.
Scar: I think that the band pulls from so many styles and genres that I don’t think we will ever stick to one genre. I, myself, enjoy playing all styles of music. I think that because of this we give ourselves a lot more creative freedom when writing.

Can your approach to songwriting introduce listeners to music they wouldn't normally listen to?
Will: I have personally been told by people who say things like “I don’t even like rock/screamo/etc. but that was awesome!” However, I’m not sure to what degree that can happen. We definitely strive for a fun balance of things, and when we want something to be more “marketable”, we have our ways of doing that. Some people just hate harsh vocals and I’m not sure there is a way to change that, but I won’t quit trying!
Jordan: Oh, definitely. We try to introduce a bit of everything into our music; partially because we love well-rounded music, and partially because we as a band believe that music should unite people. We want to bring in people who may not normally enjoy our style, and we also want to make music that people who are already in the scene will love for years to come! It’s a balancing act that personally, I feel we are great at.
C.J.: I think so. I don’t particularly care for the idea of boxing myself in, more often than not weird out of place ideas fall into our music, it could start with a joke, or in the case of the bridge in our song “Forever” something I start doing to annoy people during rehearsals, or just a goofy idea like the cowbell breakdown in our song “Enemy”. We throw everything including the kitchen sink into our songs if it sounds good. In the case of our new release that’s dropping in October, it’s full of classical orchestration that I feel sounds amazing even standalone. There’s definitely something for everyone in our catalogue, if they’re open-minded enough to give it a chance.
Scar: Absolutely, I believe that when writing music, we write what we want to, and we don’t limit ourselves. I think that in doing that we write a little bit of everything, and that anyone can find something to like from us.

How important is it for the band to strike a balance between expanding their horizons and remaining on the "safe" side of airability? What is your experience with shopping your material to mainstream radio versus independent radio (such as podcasts)?
Will: The truth is we write what we want to write while keeping in mind what makes it the best song it can possibly be. The only thing we try and limit to be “safe” is swearing for radio play and accessibility, but we still swear if we think it works for the song.
Jordan: To be completely honest, the only thing we do to remain on the safe side of airability is to avoid cursing if we can. Though I’d love to throw in an F-bomb or two, they kind of automatically disqualify a song from mainstream radio, but we try to work with that. We choose a few songs that we’d like to get airtime, and think would do well in the mainstream, and we make those songs more accessible. As for independent radio, I honestly prefer them. Because on those we have complete artistic freedom in every way. (I get to say “fuck”) Aside from cursing though, why limit yourself? If Queen can get “Bohemian Rhapsody” on air, why should we limit ourselves musically?
C.J.: I think we really only cater to the radio censors but that’s not always the case. Our insanity is part of our sound and even though we try to write good hooks in our songs, we don’t really care enough about mainstream airtime to rack our brains over it. If something is already sounding like something in the mainstream then we may just edit our lyrics to allow for it to be broadcast on the radio, otherwise we get most of our airtime through independent radio.
Scar: For the most part, a good chunk of our music is “safe” other than the one off “F-bombs”. But I mean, we are constantly searching for new innovative fun music to play/put out. Independent radio definitely gives more leeway for what can and can’t be played, but like I said, most of our music can be played on mainstream radio without alterations to the music.

How are Rage's lyrics made easy to relate to for listeners, and what generally influences them?
Will: Rage generally has a very relatable theme to his lyrics for people who have had struggles, as well as people who have overcome, or wish to overcome their struggles. Rage is usually very poetic and “Oxford” in raw lyrical cuts, and for heavier songs it’s usually just fine. When it feels like a bit too much, C.J. or myself usually step in and help change some things into catchier simpler terms. But ultimately, it’s relatable because we are either writing about pain, or we are making a concept, or story song, and everyone loves a good story!
Jordan: Generally speaking, my lyrics are heavily influenced by my life experiences, metaphor, and poetry. My raw lyrics sometimes go over people’s heads, but that’s why we have Will and C.J. I send them the raw lyrics and they make things more digestible. We edit them into a final product. Sometimes edits aren’t needed, but sometimes they are. It’s a pretty well tuned system.
C.J.: I think most of the lyrics that he writes are about universally understood experiences in life. Things like anger, heartache, heartbreak, and a general discontent with the things everyone deals with at one point or another. He does try to get poetic more often than not, but Will and I try to rein him in when his similes and metaphors will likely go over most people’s heads, or just get too wordy.
Scar: I think for everyone in the band, our personal life experiences get reflected in our music and I don’t think that stops with Rage. For me it’s easy to see or hear that his life experiences are written into our lyrics. Because of this, I believe that it is easy to reminisce with our music and our lyrics.

Between F bombs and Rage’s subject matter, are your lyrics sometimes considered too intense within your fan base? What is your concern about being considered offensive, or do you put more energy into writing what you feel and connecting with listeners who can relate to you?
Jordan: Well, that’s the point, I generally try to avoid using any form of cursing. Though occasionally I’d really like to. We’ve never gotten a complaint of being too intense, but if there was a song where I thought we pushed the envelope it’d be “#SAVEOURCHILDREN”. Not because of cursing but because of how directly we tug on the audience’s heartstrings.
C.J.: We haven’t really run into an issue of being offensive, at least not that we’ve been directly told by our audience. I think we try to rein things in during the writing process so as to avoid pushing things too far. I think the closest we came to being over the top was when we recorded “#SAVEOURCHILDREN”, there was an additional vocal during the breakdown that Jordan and I made an executive decision to take out. Will’s nephew had dubbed the breakdown vocals and it sounded gut-wrenching. Despite the fact that it really drove home the point we were trying to make, it just sounded too much like real time child abuse being recorded. It may have just been because Jordan and I have kids of our own, but we couldn’t listen to it, and we couldn’t, in good faith, release the track with I.
Scar: I don’t think that our lyrics, or our music itself is too intense. I think that we all write what comes from our heart and whatever we feel at the time. Our goal is never to be offensive you know, and that up to the listeners interpretation, but you know we make music for us and if someone resonates with that, then they do.
Will: I personally don’t feel like our lyrics are too intense, while we have used “F bombs” before, and specifically “Reaper” comes to mind as our song with the most of them; We generally try to avoid being offensive, but we aren’t afraid to really be direct and tackle hard subjects without euphemisms.

Professional vocal coaches have appeared on social media and released instructional DVDs that demonstrate how to handle harsher vocals without damaging your vocal cords. One DVD is Melissa Cross' "The Zen of Screaming". Do you think this could be helpful?
Jordan: I think vocal training is an incredibly useful tool in any regard. I’ve taken vocal lessons myself, though I’ve never taken any that were specifically for harsher vocal styles. Both of our guitarists have watched “The Zen of Screaming” and can attest to its usefulness.
C.J.: I love that it’s becoming a topic of further study and discussion among professional vocal coaches. It’s finally being treated as technique rather than noise, and that’s an amazing thing. When Will and I were growing up and trying to figure out how to do harsh vocals we made a lot of mistakes. There was no real instructional or helpful information available and that led us to commit to some terrible techniques to achieve the sounds we wanted. I know Will developed this terrible technique that wound up causing him to split his soft palate. The technique I used is probably the reason that I’ve had to relearn how to sing. It worked for several years but was always detrimental to my voice, and would leave me sounding like I had laryngitis, until one day I just couldn’t use it without gagging and coughing. I admire Melissa Cross for coming out with the “Zen of Screaming” DVDs. I can’t say that they were a true guide to figuring out how to scream safely, but they were helpful, and using what I learned, I was able to work on a new technique that is painless and doesn’t feel like it has a time limit on it.
Will: I personally have watched a lot “Zen of Screaming” and found it helpful, but in truth, finding my own ways of screaming that work naturally for me have been the best sounding over specific techniques. I also like to play and invent my own sounds.

Is taking some of the advice from “Zen of Screaming” and inventing techniques of doing harsh vocals improving your practice sessions in any way? What is the frequency of band practice within a certain period of time? When it comes to sharing ideas, how does a typical practice proceed?
Will: Well, inventing techniques and trying stuff out is more of a “studio” brainstorming thing that happens once we have a solid foundation of what we have written and we’re able to hear it in a clearer way. Before Covid, most of our songs were written by jamming together or using riffs and ideas that CJ and I came up with on our own and building on them. We often use a program called Guitar Pro to help us lay out song structures correctly so we can avoid making scratch tracks and demos. Then we self-produce, or have our studio engineer produce to kind of add extra magic to the songs that we didn’t imagine in a “jam room” setting. Band practice was originally held every Sunday for five to six hours, and that time was used to rehearse and practice the finer details of our performances. However, when Covid hit practicing as a group became nearly impossible, so we have been writing over the phone, email, and in groups of two to three at a time to bring this album to life. We are resuming our original practice and writing methods this year.

Has your full-length album, “You Think You Know”, been well received since its release? What prompted the band to sign with Selfmade Records, and how successful has the label been in promoting it?
Jordan: Personally I haven’t seen “Zen of Screaming” but I know that constant innovation in our own respective areas has been key to our growth as a band, and as individuals. Generally speaking, we practice every Sunday, but attempt to do more if we can fit it in. Band practice is for practicing the songs. If we have ideas we can stop and present them to the other members, but generally speaking we go to practice knowing what we need to do and what the song is supposed to be. Practice is for becoming tight as a unit.
Will: We are signed through PR and distribution services more so than being a band signed to a label at this time. I can say that they have been excellent and have raised our listeners and subscribers by 100% or more in a very short time, and I expect great things to continue with their services.
“You Think You Know” has had some degree of small-time success; I blame it mostly on us not having a way to get in as many ears as possible. The album was reviewed across a few platforms and magazines (physical and digital), and we are mainly known as a band to look out for, or a band with potential to rise. I think our new material blows our old material out of the water, but I still think that the first album is very special and will get more attention as we grow.
We decided to go with SelfMade because we had worked with Erick previously under his old label “Misanthropik Records”, but Covid-19 brought a lot of good things to an end. When Erick approached us, ready to get back in the saddle, we knew that it would be a wise investment, and that he was great to work with.
Jordan: We think it was received pretty well for being our first full-length album. We signed with Selfmade Records because we believe in their message and trust Erik to deliver on his promises. Thus far he has done wonders for promotion. We’re happy to be here.

Could you explain to the readers what the songs on "You Think You Know" are about and how the lyrics were derived?
Will: I’ll try and keep it short and sweet, but I’ll probably fail if I need to be detailed. Songs are written usually starting with a riff or rhythm either CJ or I write, and we build on them together. A hand full of tracks were songs CJ and I had written together before meeting the rest of the group and forming, and we brought them to life and then improved upon them on the album after a shotty demo version of a few were made. Without breaking down the exact detail of every person’s contribution I’ll just say:
“Last line of defense” started as a really cool riff, and is about putting your foot down, and no longer allowing people to take advantage of you.
“Forever” is about fighting the coward in the mirror, killing your old self so you can become who you were always meant to be, accepting responsibility for your problems, standing up and changing them.
“Addiction I never had” uses drugs as a metaphor, as well as musical success despite us only dipping our toes in the sand at that, but is essentially about being addicted to someone you’ve never really had. A tragic tale of an estranged love.
“Reaper” is a concept song inspired by and from the perspective of “Itachi Uchiha” and “Sasuke Uchiha”’s tragic tale in the “Naruto/Naruto Shippuden” anime series/manga.
“Hesitating to fire (in a British accent) [you’re just supposed to say the name in the accent] is again about being cheated on and emotionally abused by a lover. The line “Pulling the trigger” is a metaphor for finally leaving the situation as your love becomes hate. The name is a nod to CJ and I cutting our teeth in the genre to metalcore legends “Bullet For My Valentine” who are Welsh, and we spent a fair amount of time poking fun at the way some things were pronounced.
“Times lost” is portrayed as a lost love, but can be about many things, it’s basically about all the time you had with a loved one being gone forever, and you don’t know where the hell they’ve gone, and you don’t know how to cope” Be it death, or a person changing, etc.”
“Promises” is another break up song, it’s basically about the real stuff in a relationship. From him/her stealing your French fries, to them making you promises to be better that they were never capable of keeping in the first place because they are too damaged from past trauma.”
“Enemy” is a song about the world being against you, like being an outcast or a metal head in a sea of pop music and societal norms. But rather than destroying your enemy, the song is about changing the world, making the enemy your friend by influencing it in the right ways.
“Dogs of war” was written to be thrashy and heavy, it’s a song about the struggles of opposing sides in a war, and how people die for conflicts that aren’t theirs.”
Finally “transformations” is a concept song based on the concept of having a monster or beast inside, the song uses mental illness and a Werewolf as its means of conveying, it does have a “Beauty and the beast-like” ending to the story, but it’s probably the closest thing to what we are doing now. A horror story turned into a song.
Jordan: “Last line of defense” is a song about a failed relationship. The other person hasn’t quite let go, and is still trying to get at the person whose point of view I’m describing. They tried everything, and it had finally reached a breaking point. This is their last line. They’ve left they’re not coming back, and if they get chased even still, they’re no longer biting their tongue, or holding back. It’s an end. And it will be devastating.
“Promises” is about the couple that get together, and split, only to do the same next week. They make new promises, new vows, but we all know they won’t be kept. Their ghosts haunt every corner, and they’ve gotten so resentful that even the small things like losing some French fries, set them off.
“Reaper” was inspired by the brothers Sasuke and Itachi in the anime Naruto/Naruto Shippuden. We simply thought it’d make a good song lol.
“Forever” Is about finally standing up for yourself. Refusing to be less than you are. It’s about leaving abuse behind. It’s about becoming something more than you’ve ever been.
“Addiction” uses drugs as a metaphor for being addicted to a person. Specifically this song was about my off and on HS fling/girlfriend/crush? Danielle. We spent ten years back and forth wasting our time. I always called her “darling.”
“Times lost” the meaning is in the name. It’s about the time you mourn losing when you lose someone. Be it to death or any other reason.
“Hesitating to Fire (in a British Accent)” is another relationship song. Essentially about the moment when you’re wondering whether you should flee or fight. Should I pull the trigger? Or do I sit tight, and weather this? Ultimately the choice is to pull the trigger. “Transformations.” Is about acceptance, someone seeing you for all your nitty gritty bullshit, and still choosing to love you. It’s also about taming that inner monster for that one person who understands. But being afraid of that monster still, and afraid of what it will do when it gets out. This song uses being a werewolf to metaphorically bring this point across.
“Enemy.” Is a me vs the world song. It’s seeing all the dark of the world and wanting nothing more than to fix it, but slowly realizing that it’ll never happen. The world is the enemy, and I’m gonna glass it over. Start again. Cleanse my world. At least for me. There are many ways of looking at it and I feel art is left to the imagination of the one experiencing it. “Dogs of war” Is about both sides of a war. Thinking they’re right, but knowing they’re dying for choices they haven’t made. Honestly this song is a tragedy. Just like a tragedy; it is laced with screams.

What is the amount of material that the band has gathered during the time when your group practices were curtailed by the pandemic? Do you believe that you have had sufficient time to contemplate and reflect on what you have composed?
Will: I have reflected on things I wish we’d done differently, but I ultimately remain proud of our music. As far as content, we have a lot of targeted ideas that get pushed to the front, like the upcoming spooky noodle, but we have riffs and concepts to last a very long time and we keep writing on our own at least from my side of the fence.
C.J.: I lost my job right at the beginning of the pandemic and due to hiring freezes was not able to find another until January of 2021. I spent the majority of 2020, due to lock downs, quarantines, and local curfews, holed up in my house and writing new music. I think by the time things started to open back up I had five or six E.P.s worth of instrumentals. I’d spent the time experimenting with different sounds and ideas, so we wound up with a ton of diverse material that would allow to explore several different underlying themes, or styles.
Jordan: We have hundreds of hours of material from our absence during the pandemic, and our sound has evolved in many ways after reflection, and through hours/weeks/months/years of improvement.

Is there anything you are thinking of lyrically for your next album? In what timeframe will work on it begin and how will your new material expand the band's range?
Will: We aren’t sure what our next album direction is going to be yet, it really depends on how spooky noodle is received. We all have our wants and ideas for what can possibly come next in the form of an album or EP, but we haven’t decided which path comes first just yet.
C.J.: There’s discussion of a part 2 if "Spooky Noodle" does well, and maybe even if it doesn’t. I think we had a lot of fun with Spooky Noodle and because there’s so much source material to draw from, we may do it anyways. Like I said before, we have several things in the vault to draw from at this point so anything could possibly be our next release.
Jordan: Our next album "Spooky Noodle" will be out late October. It is based off of creepy pastas. We are expanding into the horrorcore listeners with this.

How would you like the band's contributions to music to be remembered in the future?
Will: I’d like us to be remembered as the band that knocked down the gate and united music lovers of all genres together, the band that brought metalcore to the table as a household genre. It may be a pipe dream, but it’s mine.
C.J.: I’d like our music to be something that people enjoy. If we become a household name, then great, but if we only maintain a small cult following then that is fine too. I enjoy writing and playing music, so as long as people are willing to listen then I think we will keep writing.
Jordan: We want to be remembered for being diverse. Not afraid to push boundaries, or mix genres. We stand for unity no matter the differences.

-Dave Wolff

Monday, August 14, 2023

Full Length Review: December Screams Embers "You Think You Know" (SelfMadeRecords L.L.C) by Amethyst Wynter (Amethyst Wynter Promotions)

Band: December Screams Embers
Location: Allen, Texas
Country: USA
Genre: Progressive rock/metal
Full length: You Think You Know
Format: Digital
Label: SelfMadeRecords L.L.C
Release date: January 31, 2022
Upon first hearing December Screams Embers I instantly felt a call to war! A sense of power to make a difference! The emotionally driven lyrics make you want to start a battle within the universe!
December Screams Embers' opening song "Last Line of Defense" speaks volumes with its empowering message to say no and have the courage to stand up for yourself! It teaches anyone who has trust issues because someone tried to take advantage of you that they don’t have the power over you that they think they do! You are the one in control of YOU!
The album "You Think You Know" is revenge-driven brutality at its finest! Slaying guitar riffs! Intense drum hits! A mix of screamo-style vocals melting into a rebellious choir boy’s anarchy rock anthem! The fans of DSE hear a mix of Linkin’ Park to Breaking Benjamin with elements of Dio paired with A7X.
December Screams Embers uses their music to bring awareness to topics of human trafficking, child sex trafficking, sexual abuse, online predators, and the fight against sexual exploitation of children all over the world! They are proud supporters of THORN. Join December Screams Embers to scream awareness to #saveourchildren!
I was personally blown away by the album “You Think You Know” from the beginning to the end! I loved how the message to stand up for oneself is put out there very clearly. I believe from teens to adults, this album both really pulls at the heartstrings and empowers one's soul to never give up in any type of battle in life. One of my favorite songs is “Dogs of War” and don’t forget BITCH YOU STOLE MY FRYS!!!`
To listen to December Screams Embers check out these links and learn how you can support.
Stay tuned for the newest album! Coming Soon! Spooky Noodle! –Amethyst Wynter

Jordan “Rage” Fjeldsted: Vocals
Will Jensen Jr.: Rhythm guitar, backing vocals
CJ Cotton: Lead guitar
John Mitchell: Bass
Wyatt Loftus: Drums

Track list:
1. Last Line Of Defense
2. Forever Play The Victim
3. Addiction (I Never Had)
4. Reaper
5. Hesitating to Fire
6. Time Lost
7. Promises
8. Enemy
9. Dogs Of War
10. Transformations

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Full Length Review: Imperial Age "New World" (Atlantean Records ltd.) by Dave Wolff

Location: Antalya
Country: Turkey
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Full length: New World
Format: Album, live Blu-ray/DVD
Label: Atlantean Records ltd.
Release date: August 27, 2022
Many reviewers have praised Imperial Age's third effort “New World” for its scope and brilliance... is it really deserved? Upon listening for myself, I was immediately struck by a wall of sound that transported me to a long journey across the ocean. Not just one ship, but an entire fleet of them extending across the horizon as far as the eye can see. Dawn is breaking over the horizon and gods of war are watching from somewhere in the universe. A search for enlightenment unlike any other I’ve undertaken.
“New World” is a work of huge songwriting, musicianship, and production... conceived by the band amid natural disasters, pandemic issues, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In light of the outbreak of war, the lyrical concept, arranged months in advance, seemed to be somewhat prophetic. The band persevered in releasing the album despite these obstacles together with a sudden change in their lineup. That they received endless acknowledgments for their efforts shows they’ve been well rewarded.
It seems there hasn’t been an album of this magnitude, extravagance, and variety since Elend released “Les tènèbres du dehors” in 1996. “New World” features classically tinged traditional instruments, imposing keyboards, dramatically theatrical musicianship, and orchestral, choir-like performances from three vocalists. “New World” will appeal to listeners of Nightwish, Epica, and Powerwolf; while these are excellent bands they don't appear to come close to this talent, intensity, and imagination.
Though most of the songs are between three and four minutes, they seem much longer due to everything crammed into them. The songs each contain a different theme without deviating from the concept and aim to expand far beyond their boundaries from within. With enough hooks so it’s easily catchy and remains with you long after, this album is a perfect example of a band reaching beyond their niche with little more than the resources they have, finding new ways to express the growth potential inside. It’s near impossible to do “New World” justice with these descriptions; it's truly something you need to experience firsthand.
Following the release of this album, the band released a live DVD/Blu-ray entitled "Live New World" from an online performance on December 26, 2021. While I have not yet seen this, I imagine it will be similar to watching a live orchestra. –Dave Wolff

Alexander 'Aor' Osipov: Vocals, keyboards
Jane Odintsova: Vocals, keyboards
Anna 'Kiara' Moiseeva: Vocals
Dmitry Belf: Bass
Manuele Di Ascenzo: Drums

Track list:
1. Windborn
2. Legend Of The Free
3. The Way Is the Aim
4. Shackles Of Gold
5. The Wheel
6. To the Edge Of The Known
7. Distant Shores
8. Call Of The Towers

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Full Length Review: Fabio Frizzi "Zombie: Composer's Cut" (Cadabra Records) by Dave Wolff

Composer: Fabio Frizzi
Country: Italy
Genre: Soundtracks, horror
Full length: Zombie: Composer's Cut
Format: Vinyl album
Release date: July 28, 2023
It has been forty-four years since the release of Zombie (or Zombie 2 or Zombie Flesh Eaters, depending on where you're from) and people are still discussing it as one of the best indie horror/gore films ever made, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, The Evil Dead and Cannibal Holocaust. All ground breaking classics in their own right.
Developed by Lucio Fulci following the success of Dawn of the Dead, it provided a far different take on zombie horror from George Romero's vision. While the walking corpses were likewise sluggish and laggy, effects/makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi created the impression of earth-caked decay. Zombie possessed a gritty atmosphere and a creepily minimalist soundtrack that set it apart from other movies of the zombie craze he and Romero began.
Long celebrated by horror fans and extreme metal bands, this film has been given a fresh perspective by co-composer Fabio Frizzi who has recorded albums for distribution by Cadabra Records for quite some time. As opposed to the typical horror and slasher soundtracks of the time, Frizzi and Tucci provided a mosaic taking the viewer into Fulci's resolutely funereal world of isolated islands, forbidden voodoo rites, and mad, prepossessed doctors.
Described as euphoric, mournful and exciting, violent and mysterious, his score captured the unseen devilry that brings the dead to life as much as the horrid deterioration and excessive gore on screen. The contrast between the beautiful and the gruesome is blurred in a way that has resonated with so many over the years and in such a unique way.
In an effort to expand on that mosaic, "Zombie: Composer's Cut" enriches the minimalism of the original 1979 soundtrack. Movies aren’t made the way Fulci envisioned them anymore, and it’s possible that what works in film and creates the appropriate atmosphere may not be captured in soundtrack form. But there’s the question of reintroducing a classic without completely changing it.
This special cut bridges the gap between old school horror and today’s higher-tech recording, expanding upon the film’s haunting melodies with traditional instruments, synthesizers, and strings to tell the story we cannot watch in the theater. The integrity of the first recordings is preserved while the newer themes woven into the tracks will allow you to discover facets you may have missed before. The result is not nostalgia, nor is it completely abandoning Frizzi’s old vision.
After a few listens, this expanded soundtrack begins to sink in and resonate with you, and you may be surprised at how well it blends with the newer compositions inspired by them. When and if remaking an old cult horror movie, directors should take inspiration from Frizzi's arrangements on this album. There is little if any need to cram as much activity into every "scene" in order to convey the slow intensity and sudden scares provided here. Just a need to keep it simple.
It is by adding just a little something different to each track on the album that allows the listener to gain a deeper understanding of the characters and the unearthly events unfolding all around them. As with radio presentations of old, it allows you to visualize everything that is happening in the privacy of your own mind. This is, after all, the most important factor when appreciating a horror movie.
“Zombie: Composer's Cut” commemorates the theatrical release of the film with a complete uncut score that is available on multiple color variations of vinyl as well as a deluxe heavyweight gatefold jacket containing artwork designed by Jeremy Hush, movie artwork, and essays written by Stephen Thrower and J. Blake Fichera, and liner notes penned by Frizzi. –Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. The Boat Can Leave Now, Tell The Crew
2. Paula's Eye
3. Cut Off From The Rest Of The World
4. Zombie vs. Policeman
5. Zombies Wake Up And Walk
6. Afraid Of Voodoo
7. The Door Of Menard's House
8. Cemetary For Spanish Conquistadores
9. Gruesome Banquet
10. Zombie vs. Shark
11. Blood Under A Microscope
12. Brooklyn Bridge (end credits)
13. These Islands, Voodooism, Zombies...
14. Main Title