• Ladies and gentlemen!

    Even an end can be a great start. Shining's ninth regular full length record is by far the most epic, melodic and progressive record of this eccentric Swedish extreme metal quintet. Despite the band's rather depressive and rousing image, this album also includes hopeful and spiritual tones that add a lot of depth and dynamics to this unique listening experience. This record unfolds and inspires me both when I'm feeling balanced and joyous and when I'm feeling exhausted and nervous. "IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends" is one of my favourite releases so far this year along with Moonspell's "Extinct" and Pantommind's "Searching for Eternity". If you are looking for atmospheric, coherent and creative music with depth and don't mind a darkly flowing mood with sparks of liberating lightness, please put your prejudices aside and enjoy this piece of art. I hope you will enjoy both my review and this record.

    Shining - IX: Everyone, everything, everywhere, ends (2015)

    Shining’s “IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends” is by far the most epic, melodic and progressive album of the controversial Swedish quintet around guitarist and vocalist Niklas Kvarforth. The band is not going back to its roots but continues the style of the previous record “Redefining Darkness” instead.


    The album focuses on epic and slow song writing structures that may sound depressive and oppressive at some points but also strangely hopeful and liberating at other moments. While some of the band’s past records sounded really suicidal, nihilistic and depressive, this album is an emotional rollercoaster ride that strangely increases your lust for life because of its imperfect perfection that shows us our existence in all its facets. The record has a beautiful soul and clear guiding line from the beginning until the end. Not one single second is wasted and each song an instant success even though the album gets better and better towards the end. This may be the band’s shortest full length record to date but since it’s probably also the best, the short running time is easily forgiven. Rather than coming around with one or two outstanding tracks like “For the God Below” on the last effort, this album requires to be listened to in one shot as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The album is also a grower that gets better with each spin due to its hypnotizing and memorable melodies that inspire you to dream yourself far away.


    Obviously, there are still a few faster and meaner outbursts with fast guitar riffs, pumping bass guitar sounds and chaotic blast beats which are quite rarely but more efficiently used than ever before. Shining has always had its very own style and labelling this record as a black metal album wouldn’t do this masterpiece justice as it’s far more than this. This record’s emotional balance is supported by the use of riffs that are almost inspired by doom metal and psychedelic rock that one might rather expect from a band like Opeth. On the other side, several tracks include perfectly executed emotional guitar solos that should even impressive traditional metal fans. The guitar solo in “Människotankens Vägglösa Rum” could be considered one of the best melodic heavy metal guitar solos in over a decade if it had been written by Iron Maiden. Mysterious acoustic guitar sounds are taking more space than ever and always fit in. On the other side, the band contrasts these laid back folk sounds with a few gloomy industrial effects here and there. The rhythm section is mostly venturing into dark and low tuned territories. This being said, the outstanding production of this release is crystal clear and dynamical as each instrument really stands out without harming the atmospheric soul of this record. The vocals are better and more variable than ever before. Raw and guttural clean vocals meet almost narrative whispers and unchained harsh vocals. The quintet somehow keeps a perfect balance between traditional and contemporary sounds in all aspects.


    I would highly recommend purchasing the limited edition of this album with two additional bonus tracks. Even though the first six songs form a great unity as the opening tune and the last track perfectly close the circle, the two bonus tracks share the same atmosphere and extend the great listening experience. The decision to cover Rammstein’s laid back and emotional ballad “Ohne dich” is a courageous choice that fits this genre-breaking record. The track keeps the epic melancholy of the original, including decent symphonic arrangements, and adds a slightly noisier tone and low creaking vocals that might even increase the atmosphere. The vocalist’s raw accent when performing German vocals even adds to the track as it sounds majestically authentic and not weirdly amusing. The second bonus track “Black Industrial Eleven” is a reinterpretation of an instrumental song which Shining recorded a decade earlier. It was in fact a reworking of the famous Halloween Main Theme by John Carpenter. The track had already been reworked two years earlier with additional vocals performed by Maniac of Mayhem fame. This third version with Kvarforth’s vocals has a cleaner, more melodic and more refined sound that actually increases the eerie atmosphere of the original version. In my opinion, this third take on the same song is clearly the best.


    In the end, this is Shining’s most harmonious, playful and versatile record. The band keeps all its traditional trademarks in form of an eerie atmosphere, extended song structures and extremely emotional vocals but reinvented itself by adding a calmer and more psychedelic tone, a crystal clear production and different genre influences to their sound. Some older fans might dislike these changes while many other people could rediscover this unique band for the same reasons. The only reason why this record didn’t get a perfect score is somewhat ironic. Even though I highly appreciate and encourage the band’s current direction, I’m missing a couple of really unchained black metal passages to perfectly contrast an otherwise perfectly balanced effort.

    Final rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shiningofficial

    Homepage: http://www.shiningasylum.com/

    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialShining

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Here comes a review of an unknown Argentinean rock band I've discovered by coincidence while looking for some new artistic inspiration. The second studio album of these four retro rockers from Buenos Aires has a very hypnotizing atmosphere that invites you to dream yourself far away. Please check out my review and support these young underground musicians.


    Lucuma - Destruye La Ciudad Psicológica (2014)

    Lucuma is an Argentinean quartet that plays a dynamical mixture of heavy metal, doom metal and psychedelic rock. The band was previously known as Loc Lucuma and had released a first full length effort entitled “El No Tiempo” with fourteen tracks in 2010. “Destruye La Ciudad Psicológica” is the band’s second release that features nine songs, including two instrumentals, over a length of about forty-two minutes.

    I would describe their sound as a more melancholic and modern take on bands such as Hawkwind or Led Zeppelin. Most songs are heavy mid-tempo tracks with anesthetic yet slightly dystopian lead guitar sounds that build up most of the atmosphere. The guitar play is technically versatile yet almost unique in its atmospheric tone. The charismatic male vocals are slightly nasal and have a numbing and hypnotizing sound that follows the psychedelic guitar play very well. The lamenting Spanish vocals fit surprisingly well in and don’t distract from the band sound. The whole thing is rounded out with a heavy and tight mid-tempo rhythm section that adds some grounded punch to bring this floating space rock brew back to the ground. The wafting wishy-washy production gives you the authentic impression to listen to an album recorded forty years ago. The amazing cover artwork represents well the musical journey and is one of the finest pieces of art I have seen in this category over the past few years.

    There is no obvious highlight on the album that really works as a whole and grows with each spin as it takes the listener on a psychedelic trip back in time. The music meanders between numbing and relaxing parts in the key of Black Sabbath and more menacing and psychedelic tones that recall bands like Pink Floyd. You could also imagine a heavier version of Baroness and a more rock orientated take on Voivod. The instrumental songs are just as diverse and entertaining as the tunes with vocals.


    If you like psychedelic stoner rock with a strong retro touch, you should absolutely check this atmospheric and consistent grower without any fillers out. Support the Argentinean underground quartet and discover one of last year’s hidden gems.

    Final rating: 8 out of 10 points


    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Bandcamp: https://loslucuma.bandcamp.com/releases

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucuma/81374723729?fref=photo

    Last.fm: http://www.lastfm.fr/music/Los+Lucuma

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    There is a quite controversial hype surrounding Mastery's debut release "Valis" these days. It's definitely one of the most unusual records ever done. Some think it's some sort of radical progressive innovation made by a genre-breaking new genius. Others claim that these forty minutes are just a pretentious atrocity recorded by a dangerous nihilist. The answer lies maybe somewhere in between and this kind of music is probably best analyzed from an objective point of view. One thing is certain: this release will be hated by most, adored by few and isn't suggested for your daily consumption. If you dare, read my review, make up your mind about this one-man experiment and give this nightmarish trip a try. Don't tell me I didn't warn you though...


    Mastery - Valis (2015)

    Mastery is a one-man extreme metal project from California that just released its first full length record in ten years of existence. Please read on before you skip this review since this album is far better than your usual raw black metal or grindcore noise recorded in a shady basement by a depressive loser that has no friends and releases twenty demos each year. “Valis” comes in fact closest to the definition of a musical nightmare itself. It’s pitiless, turbulent and unpredictable. Imagine an ultrafast avant-garde bastard of the early chaotic years of American extreme metal band Absu, the weirdest material of Norwegian avant-garde band Shining and the most dystopian songs of Canadian progressive thrash metal innovators Voivod and you might get an approximate idea what to expect from Mastery. Mastery may also be described as a more extreme take on French avant-garde black metal band Deathspell Omega. The only other extreme metal band I know which is as hard to digest as Mastery is the surrealist British project Ebonylake. This boundary-breaking kind of music is so inhuman, radical and repulsive that it suddenly becomes addicting, innovating and mysterious again.

    The three challenging main tracks feature fast and unchained screams that are surprisingly present throughout the entire record that features a lot of lyrics. The songs are carried by discordant, loud and noisy guitar tones and unchained blast beat rhythm sections. There are also some really mean breakdowns that are even more disturbing than the usual maddening speed. On the other side, some songs also have short breaks with calmer drum patterns, laid back acoustic guitar passages and reduced vocal efforts. The two other tracks are short transitional instrumentals that can be described as restrained industrial ambient tunes. They deliver two very short and highly welcome breaks from the unbearable forty-minute long madness that must be experienced in one shot to work efficiently if you are brave enough. Despite the overloaded wild mixture of genres, instruments and noises, the production of this record is surprisingly clean, modern and solid.


    Who listens to this kind of music? There might be emotional people who like to find extreme sounds that confuse, torment and scare them. There might be open-minded experimental listeners who want to test their own boundaries of tolerance for radical arts. There might be a few courageous weirdoes that were curious to discover what is probably the most controversial extreme metal record since Morbid Angel’s mixture of industrial music, death metal and dark wave on “Illud Divinum Insanus”. Is there a philosophical message behind this project? Does it want to show us the deviant downfall of our society? Does it try to reveal the predictability of social media trying to uncover funny sensations like these? Does it parody the ridiculousness of the extreme metal genre itself? Is it simply a weird kind of trolling humour? Is this just a weird fun project without any meaning at all? Might there be a seriously twisted mind behind this rollercoaster ride? The lack of answers, background information and different interpretations make this release even more intriguing and enjoyable. Some people are fascinated by the unknown, others scared. I belong to the first category and in a weird way, I quite liked spending some time on this odd experiment. Even though I’m most certainly not going back to this very often, I can only recommend this to open-minded artists. If you want to join the discussion or simply make up your own mind about this phenomenon, get prepared for a disturbing, radical and wicked listening experience.

    Final verdict: 8 out of 10 points


    Please support the band and check out the following link:

    Bandcamp / Label: http://theflenser.bandcamp.com/album/valis

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  • Dear readers of my blog!

    From time to time, I like to discover some really unusual bands with original sounds that come from exotic places. Indonesia is a diversified country with many interesting subcultures and this diversity is also present in their music. From traditional folk bands over commercial pop artists up to a growing number of rappers, the country has started to explore genres and styles from all around the world. This open-minded sense of discovery is also present in the national metal scene. Indonesia has an elevated number of death metal and grindcore bands, a constantly growing gothic metal scene and a small but really strong melodic power metal community. Fanasia is one of these new gothic metal bands that has decided to add a symphonic touch to its sound and to focus on epic and almost progressive song writing. The quintet from Wonosobo Regency in the province of Central Java exists since 2008. The band has released its first studio effort last year and played a couple of local festivals. Since the band really stands out among the elevated number of new metal bands from Indonesia, I decided to support the quintet as much as I can by spreading its name and writing a review of its first studio album after letting it grow on me for several months. If you are a fan of this kind of music, please give the band a chance and support the quintet on their different social media presences. Enjoy my review and their music and let me know what you think about Fanasia in the comment section. 

    Fanasia - The Death Sin and Black Symphony (2014)

    Fanasia is a gothic metal quintet from Indonesia that released its first full length effort “The Death Sin And Black Symphony” six years after its foundation in 2014. The band really stands out among similar artists due to several elements. First of all, the band writes quite long tracks with a lot of atmospheric, epic and progressive structures, including fluid changes of pace and playfully extended instrumental sections. Second, female lead singer Chesta has a really unique voice that is really high and squeaky but her unusual vocals somehow fit as counterpart to the powerful male growls. Third, this band has a talent to combine mysterious and almost floating keyboards sounds with gripping and low riffs and a fast and powerful rhythm section. Fourth, the band has definitely a lot of song writing talent since even the most complex tracks have impressive melodies and catchy choruses. A fifth element that adds to the band’s charm even if it’s maybe an undesired side effect in the first place is the direct and raw demo sound. The limited production really adds to the dark tone of the release and is a welcome change to the polished efforts of many Western genre leaders.


    The opener “Mad Girl” is already an incredible effort and never gets boring despite a challenging length of over nine minutes. Atmospheric keyboard sounds and a playful rhythm section give the song an almost sacral tone before a vivid up-tempo section combines unchained male harsh vocals and elegant female clean vocals. It takes four minutes before the song comes around with the chorus but this one hits really hard and won’t get out of your mind anytime soon. I don’t understand the entirety of the vocals due to the high pitched vocals and the singer’s accent but I always feel like singing along to this track. The middle part comes around with atmospheric nature sound samples, whispered narrative vocals and uneasy high vocals that add to the mysterious tune of the record. The track is rounded out with a solid mid-tempo guitar solo and atmospheric keyboard sounds supported by an up-tempo rhythm section that leads slowly back to the unforgettable chorus. This is a perfect opener and I simply wish it never ended.


    The rest of the record doesn’t quite reach that elevated level again but there is no filler on this consistent output either. All songs are entirely enjoyable if you get used to the high-pitched vocals and the rather raw sound. A highlight on the record is definitely the catchy mid-tempo half-ballad “Games of Heart” that features symphonic keyboard sounds that seem to be inspired by the popular English carol “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” in the opening. One of the best vocal efforts can be witnessed on the power ballad “My Angel Heart” that gets gradually more emotional, heavier and more melodic towards the end. The atmospheric album closer “Mydian” convinces as one of the darkest tracks on the record with a great use of symphonic elements and ends a really good album on a great note.



    These days, there are more and more interesting metal bands from Indonesia. Apart of the popular death metal and grindcore scenes, the gothic metal scene is the most interesting one and Fanasia is one of the most promising newcomers of this genre. With a better production and more promotion, this band has the potential to attract larger audiences and get more attention from fans of the Western world as well. If you like what you hear, please support the band on social media networks and spread their name.


    Final verdict: 8 out of 10 points



    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Fanasia.GothicMetal

    ReverbNation: http://www.reverbnation.com/fanasiagothicmetal

    Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIXNpWX8ufFb66mZJASTK5w

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Apocalyptica is back! The legendary band from Finland is going to release its first studio album in almost five years in North America next Tuesday. This is definitely a new beginning for one of the most original bands of the last twenty-five years. Check out my review below, open up your mind and support this great band.

    By the way, you can still listen to a free and legal stream of the entire release for the next few days only:


    Apocalyptica - Shadowmaker (2015)

    Apocalyptica has always been a diversified yet unique band. In the past five years, the band has released a video game soundtrack, recorded a commercially successful regular album and gone back to its classical roots inspired by Richard Wagner for a couple of sophisticated concerts that were recorded for a great live release. “Shadowmaker” also tries out something new as the line-up includes a regular singer for the very first time in Apocalyptica’s career. Franky Perez has a powerful and versatile voice even though he isn’t the most charismatic and impressive singer. Still, his continuous presence on the record adds a coherent flow and Apocalyptica sounds like a real band rather than a project that invites a couple of random guest singers as it was the case on the previous efforts. Another thing that keeps the album together is its atmosphere somewhere between melancholy and mystery.


    Fear not, old fans, for the band still includes a couple of great instrumentals on the album plus a few epic songs where the instrumental passages add much more to the listening experience than the vocals. The menacing bonus song “Reign of Fear” would be a perfect tune for a horror movie. In the beginning, the track sounds disturbing, heavy and slow and by the end it sounds dramatic, epic and fast. This is the best instrumental track the band has done in a while. “Riot Lights” is another outstanding instrumental track based on hypnotizing and rather fast cello sounds but it features an elevated amount of electronic samples and some weird background noises that give the song a quite unique identity. This is definitely the most courageous track on the new album. Those who want to hear some calmer and purely classically inspired material should appreciate the epic album closers “’Til Death Do Us Part” and “Dead Man’s Eyes” even though the latter one has some noticeable lengths and fails to end the album with a bang.


    In general, the useless short opener and the unfocused closer are the weakest parts of the album and fail to kick the record off on a high note and end it in a glorious way. The only other track that I don’t appreciate on a personal level is “House of Chains” which sounds a little bit like a commercial metalcore song on cellos that could also come from Bullet For My Valentine or Trivium. I know a couple of great metalcore bands but the mixture of classical music and this kind of modern metal just sounds odd and reminds me of the track “Repressed” from Apocalyptica’s greatest hits record. The track feels alien on this album.


    All other songs with vocals work quite well. “Cold Blood” is really catchy and features great cello riffs, intriguing background noises and truly soulful vocals. The song has the most promising commercial potential along with the compact bonus track “Come Back Down” which sounds a little bit out of context on the album but that convinces with an experimental drum play and a chorus that I would describe as chaotic beauty.


    The gloomy title song “Shadowmaker” goes in a very different direction as it sounds really epic and mysterious. I immediately liked this courageous first single choice that never falls off despite a challenging length of eight minutes. “Slow Burn” is another really melancholic song that could have found its righteous place on Apocalyptica’s amazing self-titled effort ten years ago. “Sea Song (You Waded Out)” has a similar approach but has a more elegiac yet hopeful tone that should please to those who liked Apocalyptica’s “Reflections” release twelve years ago. It’s not just because of the title that the song sounds like Apocalyptica’s own take on Rammstein’s melancholic ballad Seemann.



    The great thing about this release is that almost all tracks have grown on me after four or five spins. At first contact, I wasn’t all that impressed and missed Apocalyptica’s old classical and emotional style. This album is still not as consistent and profound as “Cult” or “Apocalyptica” but the record has convinced me with a balanced mixture of Apocalyptica’s old classical style and more recent commercial efforts, a fusion of a clear guiding line in form of a mostly melancholic and mysterious atmosphere and an elevated number of short experiments, a potpourri of extended instrumental parts and solid vocal performances by the same versatile singer. My first advice to fully enjoy this effort is to buy the limited edition of this release and to always listen to the record as a whole. My second advice is to give the album time to grow on you. Don’t give up after one or even two tries. Let the album work on you in different situations. I’m sure you will get rewarded for your patience at a certain point. It’s great to see that Apocalyptica has shifted away from more accessible music and delivered it most profound studio record in ten years. This album can be seen as a new beginning for the band and I’m curious to see where the band goes from here.

    Final verdict: 8.5 out of 10 points

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Apocalyptica

    Homepage: http://www.apocalyptica.com/en/

    Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ApocalypticaVideos/videos

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