• Mono Inc. - The Book of Fire (2020)

    German gothic pop quartet Mono Inc. has become one of the country's most popular groups of the so-called dark culture. Previous record Welcome to Hell went all the way to the second position in the German album charts. It wouldn't be surprising if the band's eleventh studio record The Book of Fire went all the way for the pole position.

    The elements that made the predecessor so successful are still exactly the same on its follow-up. Imaginative lyrics meet smooth vocals, melodic guitar play, harmonious keyboard partitions and stoic rhythm section. Title song ''The Book of Fire'' opens the album on an ambitious note with its numerous changes and intriguing storytelling through seven and a half minutes. Epic, majestic yet tight ''Shining Light'' features Tilo Wolff of Lacrimosa fame on guest vocals which adds some welcome diversity. ''Where the Raven Flies'' is the record's second long tune with dreamy keyboard sounds and inspired sound samples to keep transitions intriguing despite an overall very smooth pace and length almost cracking the eight-minute mark. ''The Last Crusade'' convinces with epic choirs and sound samples of ringing bells. ''Right for the Devil'' features medieval electronic rock band Tanzwut and incorporates bagpipe sounds as well as danceable electronic elements which make for one of this record's most creative tunes.

    While The Book of Fire features the band's charismatic stylistic trademarks focusing on smooth pace, marvelous melodies and fluid flow, it is quite obviously very predictable and ends up sounding somewhat redundant, formulaic and boring. Only the longer tunes and tracks with guest musicians and vocalists add something new to the formula. Numerous tracks simply copy and paste melodies and songwriting patterns already used in the past. The most obvious offender is acoustic guitar and piano ballad ''Nemesis'' whose refrain sounds exactly like the one of ''A Vagabond's Life'' on immediate predecessor Welcome to Hell. Another problem throughout the record is the lifeless drum play that could also come from a computer instead of Katha Mia. At least her exchangeable vocal performances are less present on this release than on some previous outputs. Regarding those weaknesses, Mono Inc. should have simply taken a little bit more time to develop its songwriting and add a more dynamic production to prevent the repetition of its smooth stereotypes.

    In the end, Mono Inc.'s The Book of Fire isn't a bad record but if you already own, know and appreciate the very similar and clearly superior predecessor Welcome to Hell, you simply don't need this fluid but somewhat uninspired successor. Only avid collectors and fans should pick up this new record while everyone else can refer to previous outputs. Perhaps a greatest hits record would also be a welcome alternative and appropriate idea the band could work on to celebrate its twentieth anniversary this year.

    Final rating: 65%

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  • Annihilator - Ballistic, Sadistic (2020)

    Annihilator's Ballistic, Sadistic might be the band's most relentless record ever. There are no ballads, experimental tunes or fun anthems to be found as songwriter, lead singer, lead guitarist, bassist, producer and engineer Jeff Waters offers ten mean thrash metal tracks with sinister riffs, angry shouts and occasional bleak radio play passages involving sounds of gunfire on a battlefield and similar elements.

    Some people might claim that Jeff Waters rehashes some lyrics, melodies and riffs from the past with the most obvious offender being the dynamic ''Lip Service'' that recalls band classic ''Knight Jumps Queen''. However, the ten songs on this album are executed with so much conviction, energy and grit that those repetitions barely matter. Your heart will be racing and your skin will be sweating while listening to and digesting this incredible album.

    The production could also be better even though it isn't as bad as some of the band's worst offenders from the nineties. The drums sound too clinical as if they came from a computer. The riffs sound cold and lack dynamics. The overall production is much too loud. However, all these elements fit the record's atmosphere, concept and direction. Ironically, those flaws can be interpreted as strengths on this particular output.

    Jeff Waters has gone through quite some changes over the past few years. He left his home country Canada because he felt menaced and moved into a completely new environment in the United Kingdom domineered by heated Brexit debates these days. All those challenging experiences have been channeled into the band's most aggressive album ever. 

    ''Armed to the Teeth'' opens hostilities without any introduction and immediately shifts into overdrive. ''The Attitude'' sounds as pissed as it gets and adds a considerable number of swear words to underline a negative mindset. ''Psycho War'' is perhaps this record's catchiest tune but it keeps a very aggressive tone, frantic speed and simplistically violent songwriting structure. ''I Am Warfare'' leads us onto a battlefield that one can visualize perfectly during the bleak middle section. ''Lip Service'' is the record's most experimental and melodic tune but not in a progressive and harmonious way but in a frantic, gloomy and menacing manner that fits with the rest of the album.

    Ballistic, Sadistic might not be easy to digest for those who are looking for melodic, innovative and creative songwriting. However, this album is a wrecking ball that grabs you throughout forty-five intense minutes and ten hostile songs. Few people would have expected veteran Jeff Waters to be able to deliver such a pitiless record thirty-five years into his career. One certainly can't listen to this album all the time but if you are craving for a frantic ride, there isn't any better choice than this. If you like Exodus, Razor and Slayer, you can't get around this album.

    Final rating: 80%

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  • Dévoilement des drapeaux du Collège Nouvelles Frontières et de l'Arsenal

    Dévoilement des drapeaux du Collège Nouvelles Frontières et de l'Arsenal

    Dévoilement des drapeaux du Collège Nouvelles Frontières et de l'Arsenal

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  • Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    Black winter day in Gatineau and Ottawa

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  • Purchase the band's brand new final record Reburn:

    Ladybaby - Reburn (2020)

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