Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα Eternal Champion. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων
Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα Eternal Champion. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων

Πέμπτη 15 Σεπτεμβρίου 2022

When passion, talent and shining souls unite: A study on Sumerlands' "Dreamkiller".

What do most musicians think nowadays when they're recording new music? There are many answers but let's put this aside for now. What do I believe Sumerlands had in mind when they recorded Dreamkiller? "Let's have a record that will stand the test of time". And so they did.

written by Andreas Andreou



You can go as far back as possible (literally many decades) and still can find things and techniques that inspired Dreamkiller's sound. Sometimes, the basic and old recording techniques can be the most important base to build up your sound. The automatic double tracking effect and chorused guitar signal, the synthesizer technology, even walking around the studio and the recording place in order to find the best sounding spot to place the drumkit and the mics. Everything is important, including of course the equipment and how you can use it. Once you have the songs, you always need the proper sound. The recordings also need air and space, they need to breathe, and modern recording technologies should not drink the blood of your art. Just like in life, there has to be a balance.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Arthur Rizk (with additional engineering by John Powers), Rizk, the most important and talented new producer out there nowadays, produced an album that will stand the test of time in all terms. While having a skillful usage of textural sound design, Arthur is also based in a production and recording style rooted in all-things classic (rock, hard rock, heavy metal) techniques, adding a strong work ethic and discipline. Every idea and opinion is welcome and every reference can be used. Old and new methods, doubling vocals, bass coming from everywhere, synths, lots of guitar riffs (Fender guitars only!) and melodies. Nothing is weird and crazy, everything can be placed somewhere for a reason. A couple of years ago, this site hosted a feature about the future that belongs to the brave with Arthur Rizk on top of that list, foreseeing somehow the future. Brendan Radigan was also there.

When the band was working on Dreamkiller's songs, the news of the passing of best friends Riley Gale (Power Trip) and Wade Allison (Iron Age) within a few days, broke Arthur Rizk into pieces, just like all of their common friends and circle. That happened when Eternal Champion's Ravening Iron album was already completed and scheduled for release but for a while, Dreamkiller was put on hold after Riley's and Wade's passing in late August and early September of 2020. The album’s songwriting was probably already completed by the summer of 2020, but upon listening to Dreamkiller now, you can feel a strong vibe of melancholy on it.

Eternal Champion's highly acclaimed second album Ravening Iron was released on November 6th of 2020 and Sumerlands' sophomore album took its final shape, sharing a few common members with Eternal Champion besides Arthur. The recording line-up of Dreamkiller is Brendan Radigan (vocals), Justin DeTore (drums), John Powers (guitar), Brad Raub (bass) and Arthur Rizk (guitar/synth).

Brendan Radigan replaced previous (legendary) singer Phil Swanson and just like Phil, Brendan is also a veteran underground singer with a strong background and a notable history of many different bands including Magic Circle, the cult heroes Stone Dagger, the iconic Pagan Altar, Battle Ruins and more hardcore bands, often with Justin DeTore who is also known for his hardcore background and also drumming for traditional doom metal outfit Solemn Lament, fronted by... Phil Swanson! Both bassist Brad Raub and guitarist John Powers are also part of Eternal Champion.


Sumerlands' debut album of 2016 was an artistic success, one of the best albums of the 2010s according to the author and you can read a brief review written for Iron Fist UK upon its release HERE.

Six years is a long time though... September 16th of 2022 is the street date of Dreamkiller and the 35-minute album that will be released by Relapse Records in various formats is a strong candidate for Album of the Year. But let's leave aside for a while the "Album of the Year" tag. Forget also the "Top" lists you're going to see (or not going to see) including (or not including) Dreamkiller. Just listen, feel and experience that album, because it's happening NOW. This is a future classic and you don't want to ignore it NOW.

Just like 2016's debut album, the opening track "Twilight Points The Way" also starts with a guitar solo part following the main riff and when the vocals are coming in, it sounds different and yet familiar. The guitar solo part after the bridge of "fading shadows covered by the light / such memories lost from sight" sounds like a bittersweet memory of names time forgot but you're trying to preserve.

"Heavens Above" is the first song of the album that was presented in public, part of the Ageless Life single that was also released as a limited edition cassette tape by Sword Worship, including the Fleetwood Mac cover of "I'm So Afraid". The vibes from the debut album are stronger here and the first song we listened to from Dreamkiller sounds like the perfect link and continuation to 2016 while the vocal melody also brings in mind the way Phil Swanson handles his vocal lines and words. Starting also with a beautiful guitar solo part when the chorus hits, you listen to this guitar riff that brings in mind Jake E. Lee during his Ozzy Osbourne Ultimate Sin era, something that is an important inspiration for the album and Sumerlands so far.

In the third track and the first video clip of the Philly band, "Dreamkiller", they deliver an up-tempo track with a mid-section of classical Johann-Sebastian-Bach-inspired guitar harmonies, an Yngwie-Malmsteen-vibe and Ozzy-fuelled vocals. "Night Ride" that follows has the most suitable title for its music. A perfect night ride song in an empty highway with the stars above you, with a rhythmic background that could be the soundtrack of Snake Plissken's last night-time walk before escaping from New York. Brad Raub's bass line is the heartbeat of little gain and many losses, the pulse of an uncertain tomorrow. It's extraordinary how perfectly each instrument and performance is placed within the songs in order to give life to the songs and create images for every listener. Not everyone will "see" the same things but everyone can feel the life of the songs.

"Edge of the Knife" is one of the album's highlights with the Jake E. Lee riffing style (is "Bark at the Moon" the greatest heavy metal riff?) meeting George Lynch of the '80s Dokken era while they're listening to In Solitude's "To Her Darkness" after a drunken '80s Scorpions night party. Another highlight that links Dreamkiller with the debut album and besides the massive chorus power, we need to mention the incredible work Rizk and Powers have done in the guitar solo parts. Each and every song has the most suitable and inspired solo (and there are many of them!) in this masterful guitar-driven album.

"Force of a Storm" starts with synths followed by a specific aura and style that bring an AOR and '80s hard rock touch to its metal. Once again, we have a thick and rich sound, and it’s the time to praise Brendan's beautiful vocal lines and phrasing. He is also the lyricist and just like the best ones out there, he finds the exact words to fit the vocal lines and the music, something that's very important but sometimes we're missing it from many new bands. You don't have to scream all the time, cut or pull out the words... Just find the suitable ones, the words that will also be a part of the music and Brendan shines in this part. But it's not just that, beneath the lyrics of Dreamkiller, you can feel a wider idea of hopes and dreams that in the end are crushed by reality and the fact that nothing lasts forever. That song is huge. A hit that should be included in modern series like Stranger Things or Cobra Kai, the perfect soundtrack watching Maverick touching the sky, or Lieutenant Cobretti hunting villains in the streets of Los Angeles.

"The Savior's Lie" is another example that Sumerlands can add a variety in their songwriting without losing their cohesion. In that specific song I get a Ritchie Blackmore's '70s Rainbow era touch, an imaginary Perez-and-Edling jamming, and some mid '80s Tony Iommi's Seventh Star meets Eternal Idol vibes. And while I can hear the word "badlands" in the lyrics, an instant thought of Ray Gillen comes to mind, adding another connection to Jake E. Lee and a possible influence for Brendan's performance in Dreamkiller.

Closing track "Death to Mercy" is definitely one of the best songs here with its Spector Sound. That song is huge! And there is also the line, "Warlords have gathered their soldiers..." and after a while at 2:40 you can listen to a Warlord / Lordian Guard inspired passage that's Arthur's tribute to William J Tsamis, bringing shivers to those who feel it. And you can feel the songs once you will close your eyes. You will feel them touching your soul, and you will feel them moving your body. This albums moves you!

I don’t drive, so I need around an hour to get from my home to the headquarters of No Remorse Records where I am working. I get on a bus and then I change to the urban rail transport until I reach the center of Athens. And when I return home, I also need another hour. I have the album since a few weeks, so I uploaded it on my phone and I am listening to Dreamkiller four times every day for almost a month. Two times until I reach my work, and two times until I’ll return home. The perfect album to start your day and the perfect album to finish a hard-working day. This album moves me. Physically too. It makes you shake your body. It really does. And people watching me with the headphones, moving my feet and hips but I don't care. But most important though, this album is already part of my DNA and I can say that for just a handful of records released the last decade, including Sumerlands’ debut, Agatus’ The Eternalist and the albums of Eternal Champion, Atlantean Kodex and Crypt Sermon.

Dreamkiller has its own character. It's the songs but it's also the players, the sound and the production. It's not like all those same-sounding albums from bands coming even from different genres but still sound alike, with the same drumsound and the same settings that are digitally drowning.

The performance of each member is ace! It's like a team of players where everyone is pushing and pulling each other to bring their best out. They know what they can do, they know that they can do it well, but they're not stopping there. They evolve, they're on the top of their game and they're getting even better.

Finally, you can have a great singer or a virtuoso guitarist but if you don't have the songs, you have nothing. Sumerlands have the songs and Dreamkiller is an album with a monumental songwriting. Your band is not just as good as your singer or guitarist or bassist or drummer is. Your band is as good as your songs are and how good are the performers for those specific songs. And Sumerlands, is one of the best, modern heavy metal bands, releasing one of the best albums one can listen to over the last many years. And the years that will follow.

Those dreams are not killed. Listen to this album. Now.  



Photos by Jaclyn Woollard.


Κυριακή 9 Ιανουαρίου 2022

Metal Nerdism Vol. 10: BLOOD & STEEL - 20 EPIC-er METAL songs to make you raise a sword.

It's not the best ones or the greatest ones, even if a few of them are undeniable champions. It is the 20 EPIC-er METAL songs to make you raise a sword (or an axe... or a hammer) according to Crystal Logic. There is just ONE RULE: One song per band. We don't want to present a list with 20 songs written by Quorthon or the Shark.

by Andreas Andreou

 


It is said that there are no specific rules to define Epic Metal and even if the correct term is Epic Heavy Metal, there are still bands, albums and many songs that are simply Epic Metal. A few of them will be found below. So, what's Epic (Heavy) Metal? The number 1 song in the list below sums up everything but it is more. Lyrics are also a part of it. You know them, name it battles, warriors, fantasy, sword & sorcery, mythology (even folklore), historical events, ancient times, mostly things that offer escapism. Epic Metal though has also the deep and academic approach of modern bands such as Atlantean Kodex and their unique lyrical approach that gives to this so-called sub-genre a quality that requests a devotion in order to approach it and understand it. At the end of the day, Epic Metal can be something more than simple "escapism" and it doesn mean of course that you should go out in the streets wielding a sword!

Roots? Many. It is about bands but mainly songs, and also the visual aspect. The roots in the '70s heavy and rock don't have many differences than the ones of Power Metal, so let's just add songs like Rainbow's "Stargazer" and Ronnie James Dio lyrical approach, Black Sabbath's "Supertzar" and the galloping rhythm of "Children of the Grave", Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", a few more '70s songs of Uriah Heep, Judas Priest, Rush and Scorpions, the imagery of cover arts from bands such as Dust (Hard Attack, 1972) and Molly Hatchet (Molly Hatchet, 1978), and this is just the top of the ice cube, since there were more less known bands here and there. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal leading to the '80s and Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell was the foundation upon which bands like Manilla Road and Manowar shaped part of their characteristics.

The first ones? I guess we all agree that bands such as Manilla Road, Manowar and Warlord can claim the "Epic Heavy Metal" term as the leaders without adding any "proto-metal", "proto-epic", "proto-whatever" this thing is, bands. When was this term firstly used? We will discuss it in the last songs of the list below.

A few diverse and controversial choices are a must sometimes, so the list goes like this:


20. BATTLEROAR - Hyrkanian Blades

For us, old fans of Battleroar the debate for the best album was always Age of Chaos or To Death and Beyond... but I was always with the later since there was one of the greatest epic heavy metal openers ever ("The Wrathforge") and songs like "Hyrkanian Blades". Huge band in the underground epic metal scene back then, but it was never the same after the third album. It was just a different act.

Check also: RAVENSIRE - Drawing the Sword


19. SOLSTICE - To Ride with Tyr

I am always trying to find ways so I can add something from Solstice in every list. This wasn't very difficult this time, so Mr. Rich Walker is here, with this epic (doom) metal masterpiece from Halcyon EP. "We die as brothers, and ride with Tyr".

Check also: ISEN TORR - Mighty & Superior


18. TWISTED TOWER DIRE - Axes & Honor

Taken from the third album of one of the best bands of the true new wave of traditional heavy metal movement that took shape a few years before bands like Enforcer led the way, "Axes & Honor" is a glorious anthemic epic heavy metal song. Grab an axe and held it high!

Check also: CRUSH - Kingdom of the Kings


17. DOMINE - The Aquilonia Suite

That song could be higher in the list but having also the music of Basil Poledouris heavily added it would be unfair for all the rest. Conan the Barbarian is the key element here and Domine more or less offer us their epic heavy metal take on the John Milius' film with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leading role. Perfect from start to finish, the 11-minute epic is a highlight in Domine's impressive catalogue.

Check also: IRONSWORD - Cimmeria


16. CIRITH UNGOL - Nadsokor

"Mighty warrior raise your sword against the seething chaos horde" is the first line and the voice of chaos brings an archaic and mystical aura that only Cirith Ungol had in specific moments of their albums. One Foot in Hell is definitely not the best Ungol album (that one is King of the Dead for all of the older Ungol fans) but "Nadsokor" is one of their epic-er songs that's also has been covered in the debut album of the following band in No.15.

Check also: STONE DAGGER - The Siege of Jerusalem


15. DOOMSWORD - Heathen Assault

DoomSword is one more of the bands that can be labeled simply as "Epic Metal". They have the doom element in their music (and name) but this is just pure epic metal because playing slow metal music doesn't really make you doom metal. "Heathen Assault" sums up the essence of the band. The band's music is forged in tales of steel and battles, the triumph of the conqueror and the blood of the conquered.

Check also: BLOOD COVERED - Memories Through Centuries...


14. WRATHBLADE - God-Defying Typhoeus

Wrathblade is the most underrated epic heavy metal band ever. Everyone, more or less, has taken the credit it deserves but Wrathblade still haven't. Following the band from their early years and having seen them live numerous times (almost everywhere) before even releasing the debut album Into the Netherworld's Realm (2012), I was confident that this album was going to rule. And it did. The opening track "God-Defying Typhoeus" was a live favourite (just like "Reins of Doom") before even the album was released, among the few fanatics of the Athenian legion. A different kind of lyrics, epic but different and unique, the most suitable voice for their epic music, huge riffs and an excellent rhythm section, a lack of guitar solos and keyboards that adds an archaic and barbarian feeling, and the perfect production for their stuff. Wrathblade is the real epic heavy metal deal.

Check also: TALES OF MEDUSA - Bade the Myrmidons


13. ATLANTEAN KODEX - The Atlantean Kodex

There are many songs you can add here from Atlantean Kodex, but this anthemic epic heavy metal track is the hymn of the Kodex battalions and having seen live many times the German epic metal armada, it is also a live favourite. Atlantean Kodex is a very special epic metal band, the greatest one of the new era alongside Eternal Champion, but their approach differs and makes them really unique. It is the overall aesthetic element of the music, the lyrics, and the band's physical products. The band is already considered as one of the greatest in epic heavy metal and in the years to come, the new generations will view them as masters of their game. Still though, don't get fooled, the music of Atlantean Kodex is not a game, it is a form of art and at the same time, pure and regressive metal. Behold the fire, behold the force.

Check also: SCALD - A Tumulus


12. ETERNAL CHAMPION - I Am the Hammer

What Eternal Champion did with The Armor of Ire is bring back the way one album could change the scene instantly. That was the underground metal scene of course, but it really changed. Instantly. It was the moment where people thought "I can do that, too!". No one really did it so far but many tried. Others failed, others came close but still to this day, Eternal Champion stands as the greatest modern epic heavy metal band. A band with a songwriting and sound that influenced many and brought back to the USA a new generation of fans wanting traditional metal. The album's opening track "I Am the Hammer" is a modern totemic epic metal monument.

Check also: SMOULDER - Ilian of Garathorm


11. LORDIAN GUARD - War in Heaven

"And lo, Michael with sword in hand, he leads the Lordian Guard to slay, to damn"... that one, was the line that stuck in my head the first I listened to this song. It was during the pre-internet era where there was a rumor that "Bill Tsamis is coming back with Warlord". It wasn't Warlord though but the shock of listening to that album was one of the biggest in my life. It still has a very special place in my heart and adding blasphemy to the Christian themes Tsamis was dealing with back then in his lyrics, I listened more often to Lordian Guard than Warlord nowadays. Nothing really bothers me in Lordian Guard and I can't imagine those songs with another voice, arrangements, even "drums". "War in Heaven" is one of the greatest songs Tsamis ever wrote. And no, the version in Warlord's Rising Out of the Ashes is not a better one. The way William has added the keyboards in the Lordian Guard version is unmatchable and perfectly suitable with his guitars, plus Vidonne's theatrical voice sounds like descending from the sovereign sky forth God's command.

Check also: BLACK SWORD THUNDER ATTACK - Evil Sorcery


10. YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN - I Am a Viking

Speaking of the roots of power metal, what Yngwie Malmsteen did with his first two albums, is one more of the most important steps to the evolution of the genre alongside the early years of Europe. And while in Sweden you have Heavy Load standing at the top of what we're talking about here, "I Am a Viking" is just a pure epic heavy metal masterpiece coming from one of the greatest albums ever made. When maestro Malmsteen was writing music for a line like "I'm a Viking, I'll walk all over you and by my sword you will die", he definitely felt like the ruler of this world. He probably still feels like that even if there aren't any vikings in Florida.

Check also: HEAVY LOAD - Singing Swords


9. BROCAS HELM - Fly High

You can't understand Brocas Helm if you weren't raised with underground metal. And if you joined the epic heavy metal wagon and the underground scene in a later age during the social media, you still can't understand the true essence of underground metal. Sorry, but that's true. Brocas Helm is the ultimate underground metal band. It's not the best, but it's the essence of everything underground metal stands for. Among their catalogue, "Fly High" stands as the ultimate anthem of epic heavy metal with the insane opening lead and its galloping riff. The galloping riff, the riff that sounds like horses riding is one of the elements that makes a song "epic heavy metal" as long as it has the suitable lyrics too. There you go! You have another definition too!

Check also: STEEL ASSASSIN - Spartacus


8. RUNNING WILD - Conquistadores

Running Wild are mostly known for their pirate era, often labeled just as a Heavy Metal band but they really have played almost everything between heavy, speed, power and epic metal until the mid '90s with an unmatchable sequence of 10-rated-out-of-10 albums. And while their heavy metal from 1989 up to 1995 is more "power metal" than the majority of American bands labeled as such, they always had a few raise-fisting epic power metal hymns like "Conquistadores" with its anthemic chorus and the powerful leads that put to shame most of your favourite bands. If someone considers bands like Fifth Angel as "power metal", then Running Wild is ultra power metal. So what's our beloved German band? The ultimate soundtrack to hooliganism, one of the few bands that makes you raise your fist (and sword sometimes) in the air all the time and breaking stuff. Any kind of stuff. "Conquistadores" is an epic heavy metal hymn.

Check also: JAG PANZER - The Moors


7. VIRGIN STEELE - The Burning of Rome (Cry for Pompeii)

Often labeled as the bigger rival of Manowar in the '80s, Virgin Steele that decade didn't really have the "total" epic heavy metal album but they definitely had the songs! Released the same year with Manowar's Kings of Metal, Age of Consent didn't even come close but among a few others it had "The Burning of Rome (Cry for Pompeii)", one of the greatest Virgin Steele songs ever, coming from an uneven album that became better with its 1997 re-release and the addition of bonus material such as the "Perfect Mansions (Mountains of the Sun)" song. While David DeFeis' band met its bottom by entering the '90s with the album Life Among the Ruins and its suitable title, the following albums established them as one of the greatest American epic heavy metal bands. Still though, no one can deny that if you'll make a short list with the best Steele songs, there's a strong possibility most of them coming from the '80s, including the one mentioned here in the top.

Check also: BLACK KNIGHT - Warlord's Wrath


6. OMEN - Teeth of the Hydra

The 3-out-of-3-row-of-albums Battle Cry, Warning of Danger and The Curse is one of the greatest in the field of epic heavy and power metal. The excellent songwriting, the A-male voice of J.D. Kimball, the master riffing and the pounding rhythm section pretty much sum up that advert used to promote The Curse writing "Tired of bands that are better looking than your girlfriend? We have the answer: Omen. True Metal returns to L.A." Having once more the term "true metal" used since the '80s already, The Curse is the better sounding Omen album so far including also one of the best metal drum sounds ever, even if most of the people will give to one of the two previous ones the "best Omen album" tag. No argue with that. Still though, "Teeth of the Hydra" is one of the strongest candidates for "best Omen song". And you can't argue with that, too.

Check also: OVERLORDE - Keeper of the Flame


5. WARLORD - Deliver Us from Evil

There weren't so many metal musicians in the '80s so unique and talented like William J Tsamis. Since the early Warlord songs you always had a different kind of approach in melody and lyricism that's weird how it didn't create a legion of bands influenced by that style. A truly ahead-of-its-time guitarist and composer with an unmatchable guitar tone and style recognizable at once. Huge part of the Warlord's music was always drummer Mark Zonder too, something you can easily understand by listening to "Deliver Us from Evil", one of the most iconic Warlord songs, and Epic Heavy Metal in general.

Check also: AGATUS - Perils of the Sea (Pt II) 

 


4. MANILLA ROAD - The Veils of Negative Existence

Mark Shelton is one (if not The One) of the most important key figures of epic heavy metal. The third Manilla Road album Crystal Logic (1983) is one of the cornerstones of this so-called sub-genre and Manilla Road is the band responsible for all those epic (heavy) metal bands formed over the last 20 years. The line "I will never put my sword down, I will never run away" is so effective that stuck in your head for eternity from the very first moment. And every time you're listening to one of those classic '80s Manilla Road albums, you rediscover the essence of epic heavy metal. Mark Shelton was always a person that never stopped following the metal scene and always was listening to new bands and albums. From the early Rush-and-Sabbath influenced albums, to the Angel Witch and NWOBHM influence you can catch in Crystal Logic, the Shark never stopped breathing metal, just like that "Metal is dead so I've heard but not while I'm still above ground" line in "Dig Me No Grave" from 1990's The Courts of Chaos. Most bands that were changing in the history of metal music from 1980 onwards, were just getting "softer" and less aggressive, while Manilla Road (with the addition of drummer Randy Foxe) echoed the changes and were getting more aggressive leading to the almost-thrashy Out of the Abyss album of 1988. "The Veils of Negative Existence" is another mythical song in the band's catalogue, that became extremely influential for many bands, including the one you will see in Number 3...

Check also: THUNDER RIDER - Blackwing


3. CANDLEMASS - A Sorcerer's Pledge

Have you ever thought that the album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is probably the first official time where you see the origin of the term "Epic Metal"? This is definitely the birth of Epic Doom Metal (that wasn't widely used until the '90s) but most likely, it is also the moment when Epic Metal made its first appearance as a term. We're in 1986, Manowar have already started their "Death to False Metal" crusade and since there is "false metal", there's also "true metal" (whatever that means), right? The "true metal" term has also been used in metal magazines and fanzines in the mid '80s but has the term "epic metal" been used before 1986? Is it written anywhere?

We used to keep terms since their first appearance but sometimes this is blurry. For example, Possessed used the "Death Metal" term for their same-titled demo in 1984 and the "Death Metal" song also appears in the Seven Churches album of 1985, so we use to have this as a starting point but already in 1983, editor Bernard Doe of Metal Forces magazine writes, "Hellhammer take the meaning of Death Metal it its extreme" reviewing (burying actually) the Triumph of Death demo of Hellhammer. So, this term is already used. Might happened with Epic Metal too, but it wasn't widely used until Greek Metal Hammer's editor and shady character Charis "Sun Knight" Prasoulas started using that term and later it was spread from Greek metal fans influenced by his texts, around the globe through letters and tape trading, so after a while, you could see this term also used in Italy, Germany and more countries, leading to a whole new underground movement and later, even bands that described their music as "Epic Metal".

Candlemass' Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is the beginning of Epic Doom Metal, but the closing track "A Sorcerer's Pledge" can also be described as one of the greatest epic metal songs ever. A dramatic song separated in three parts. Starting with the acoustic first part that sets the atmosphere, the second epic part of "a tyrant that will conquer, so spoke the wise, of the day when the sorcerer will rise" and the third part that brings the atmosphere of the opening part with the exceptional use of keyboards and the ethereal female anthemic chanting sealing those ancient halls.

Check also: SOLITUDE AETURNUS - Opaque Divinity


2. BATHORY - Song to Hall Up High / Home of Once Brave

There are many Bathory songs you can add here and even if we're talking about two tracks, this will always be one song. Quorthon has managed to shape different metal sub-genres and has been called innovator of both Black Metal and Viking Metal. But his "viking metal" is actually what we can call "Epic Metal" in its purest form. This is not epic heavy metal or epic black metal, this is just Epic Metal. He did it with his albums Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods, Blood on Ice and both parts of Nordland. So, if viking metal nowadays is something you can call bands such as Amon Amarth, then Bathory is definitely something else, even if Quorthon created this sub-genre.

Music is a form of art. Art has many forms and ways of expression. Art can be a mirror of life, art can be escapism, art can just be the expression and feelings of the artist. The artist's will and/or need to express specific ideas, visions, feelings. And just like there are no boundaries in art, there are also no rules and/or guidelines of how an artist should express its art. Not everyone can understand that a few of the greatest forms of art were created through the feelings and the need the artist wanted to express. Art is not about only following a specific guideline of how you "must" sing, perform, write, paint, act, dance, paint, create. There is not only one way. And Quorthon was a unique artist that never really followed the way you "must" follow, that's why his art will remain forever, creating legions of bands and musicians influenced by him and the sub-genres he shaped. A true artist that surpassed his imperfections with a remarkable epic metal songwriting that breaks the boundaries of simple "songwriting" and becomes a wormhole to an age long gone. 

Check also: ZEMIAL - In Monumentum (Stone of the Ages)

 


1. MANOWAR - Secret of Steel

The epitome of Epic Metal.



 

 

Δευτέρα 29 Νοεμβρίου 2021

The greatest metal debut albums of 2000 - 2020.

It's already 20 years since the turn of the new millennium and Crystal Logic thought to present you the greatest metal debut albums of 2000 - 2020. For start we will have a brief look of how metal music has changed and evolved over the years, reaching the present day and the recent years where those albums are part of. And then, you'll have the albums!

written by Andreas Andreou

Chapter I: The evolution and changes of heavy metal music and industry through the decades.

The '70s were the years where giants shaped heavy music. It was the decade where record labels' executives gave a chance to everything new or everything they couldn't understand. The albums of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Rainbow, Scorpions and Uriah Heep (to mention a few) shaped what we learned in the '80s as Heavy Metal. Just within a year in the '80s (the year 1980) you already had the albums that completed the template of heavy metal music. Albums like Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Judas Priest's British Steel set new standards, even in terms of the "sound" (production) thanks to producers like Martin Birch. And it took no long for heavy metal to even reach the top of Billboard Charts with Quiet Riot's Metal Health in 1983, in a time where charts really mattered.

During the '80s, there were just a few metal genres and the melodic and glamorous part of it dominated the charts, the radio stations and MTV. Still though, even more traditional metal acts like Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne had a huge commercial and artistic success. An industry was formed around (that new then) metal music, with record labels specialized in all the genres of heavy metal, magazines and festivals.

Repeating once again Warrel Dane's line "so ends a decade now what will the nineties hold" from Sanctuary's "Future Tense" track of the 1990's album Into the Mirror Black, the page actually turned a year later even if we were already in the '90s. During September of 1991, Nirvana's Nevermind was released and suddenly, many record labels that used to release metal albums, turned into the grunge scene and alternative rock music. You still had a couple of major '80s acts ruling over the industry and selling millions (like Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, even Queensrÿche with Empire) but in its majority, metal music also followed different paths and changed. The '90s was the period of changes.

Traditional heavy metal remained mostly in the underground, power metal met success in Europe and Japan, Dream Theater with Images and Words (1992) established progressive metal, the new face of Pantera with Cowboys from Hell (1990) brought something new with their groovy heavy and thrashy metal that dominated the decade, while Sepultura's change with Chaos A.D. (1993) and mostly Roots (1996), was a main influence for Nu Metal. At the same time, Doom Metal actually became a subgenre since in the '80s there were just a handful of bands and not even a scene, and many new subgenres appeared. Different things where you can place many bands like Paradise Lost, Therion, Type O Negative, Tiamat, Nightwish and countless more. The tags vary depending each band's period, even album, but subgenres like Gothic Metal, Doom/Death Metal, Symphonic Metal, Atmospheric Metal were there and shaped in the '90s, while the (old) spirit of Heavy Metal could mainly found in the second wave of Black Metal, that also dominated the '90s.

In the 2000s, there was everything. Not everything had a huge success, but you had everything and even more. So much more, that sometimes you couldn't properly describe a band and suddenly, there was a new generation of fans that didn't care how someone would label a band. A few bands even evolved to something that didn't have a connection with heavy metal (like Anathema and The Gathering), and they didn't care, just like a few of their fans, even if they were mainly marketed by metal media and labels.

During that decade, the music industry started to change rapidly, just like technology's evolution. The more technology was evolving, the more the music industry started losing power and the decline of the physical formats was already there. Physical sales were already low and digital became the new standard in the music industry. And that was in general during the new years of technology and mobility. It wasn't just the actual music, but everything. Printed media were selling less and in the years to come many of them didn't manage to survive, and the internet was the new face of everything, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

In the 2010s though, the underground and the traditional metal scene became more powerful. The festivals became stronger, older underground metal bands were already reformed and were relevant again, media started covering all of them, new labels were formed, older labels felt more powerful and during the digital years, physical products started selling again. Definitely not like 20 years ago, but better than the recent (then) years. That brought a few more changes in the music industry. The charts didn't matter. Actually, they were no longer subjectively correct and the physical sales have many different faces. The top bands of a mid-range metal record label can sell many more copies than the mid-range bands of a major metal record label. And you might not see these sales in "charts" (since the "charts" don't really include everything, therefore they're not "real"), but you can definitely understand it by their impact on the fans. Or simply by checking online sites like Discogs where you can see those bands of mid-range labels having more different formats of each album already (meaning more sales and represses), than other bands of top labels that might "chart" but you can still find their first-1000-copies vinyl pressing everywhere.

At the moment you're reading these lines, the music industry has changed so much that vinyl factories are working with overcapacity, something that looked impossible 10 years ago. In the end, everything is coming in circles and besides the morality and the inexplicable changes in the music industry we wrote for the first time in this blog a few years ago, a few bands have become masters of their music and more and more bands deal with record labels on their own terms. That's another important change in the music industry. Of course, not everyone can make it, and a few bands might underestimate their will and power over the music industry, but many of the established ones deal in their own terms. For example, bands like Dream Theater, even Triptykon, release their albums in record labels like Century Media, but those albums are "under exclusive license to Century Media" and bands retain both copyright and publishing. Bands don't really care about joining a "powerful" record company as they were known in the '90s, since most labels don't offer tour support anymore.

What does a band really need? A professional label with people they can communicate easily, a label with a proper distribution and promotion. A label that really "exists", and you can really see it all the time. You can find its releases in record stores and distros worldwide, printed media, festivals. And then, the band should build the tour campaign themselves or with a booking agency. If they're signed to a professional label and the albums are widely available, it will help them more. You don't have to be on a "major" label, whatever "major" means nowadays.

In 2018, Believe (formerly Believe Digital) from France, acquired a majority stake in Germany-headquartered metal record label, Nuclear Blast. Just a few days ago (November 2021), Nuclear Blast founder Markus Staiger with two former Nuclear Blast employees (Florian Milz and Markus Wosgien) launched a new record label called Atomic Fire. Bands like Helloween, Opeth, Meshuggah and Michael Schenker Group will be released (effective immediately) with the new label. In the end, all that the artists need is professionalism and people who know their business, not a "brand name". That's how the music industry works today. And that's what new bands need to look for.

Most of the "greatest" debut albums you're gonna read about below didn't owe everything to the labels that released them. The main factor was the music itself while in the "old" days, the record label was a major factor for the album's success (whatever "success" means).
 

Chapter II: The greatest metal debut albums of 2000 - 2020.

It's not just new bands but debut albums. And there are new bands too. A few of them had a huge impact in their genre, others instantly, others over the years. A few of them include iconic musicians in a new beginning, others are just a new beginning by passionate youngsters. These are the Top-10 greatest metal albums according to Crystal Logic.

Additionally, you will find 10 more albums noted (listen also), and a third chapter is next, with 3 more debut albums from each year during 2000 - 2020. That means that Crystal Logic offers you a database with 83 metal debut albums released during 2000 - 2020 and worth checking out.

Let's go!

10. HALFORD - Resurrection (2000)


The wizardry of Roy Z meets the spells of the Metal God and his saints, putting to shame the Ripper-era of Judas Priest, just like Bruce Dickinson did to the Maiden's Blaze-era with Accident of Birth. And while fans still remembered the failed 2wo project and the later Fight stuff (War of Words rules) Emperor Dickinson joins for a duet at "The One You Love to Hate" while later the vultures who spitted all those small deadly spaces, voyeurs and skunkworks would praise both returns to their throne. That was indeed a resurrection, a return much needed, a great modern traditional metal album with highlights such as the same-titled track and "Silent Screams".

Listen also: RIOT CITY - Burn the Night (2019)
You might have the future of priest-trad-maiden metal here. Over the top, screaming, wild heavy metal.
 

9. LOST HORIZON - Awakening the World (2001)


There are a few European power metal albums that put our beloved USPM to bed with nightmares, and one of them is the debut album of the intergalactic bringers of metal salvation. Their human form came from Sweden but their music and that album have a cosmic power that's not really appreciated by the masses. As for the voice of Daniel Heiman, it still sounds unbeatable. No fate. Only the power of will.

Listen also: SHAMAN - Ritual (2002)
Leaving Angra and its guitarists in 2000, Andre Matos, Luis Mariutti and Ricardo Confessori recorded more power metal magic.
 

8. JACOBS DREAM - Jacobs Dream (2000)


We've said that there are a few European power metal albums that put our beloved USPM to bed with nightmares, but there will always be albums like the same-titled debut of Jacobs Dream that put things in order. That's a huge and perfect US power metal album with massive songs like "Kinescope" and "Funambulism", that was probably released at the wrong time and still remains unappreciated. The album is full with majestic riffs, bittersweet melodies, an amazing rhythm section, a godlike voice, a matched use of keyboards and excellent lyrics. Just listen to "The Bleeding Tree" that combines all those elements creating pure perfection. One of the greatest power metal albums ever recorded!

Listen also: SACRAL RAGE - Illusions in Infinite Void (2015)
There aren't many bands out there creating and performing the technical and powerful kind of metal, Sacral Rage do. They're at the top of their game.
 

7. ATLANTEAN KODEX - The Golden Bough (2010)


Following the Kodex since their early Hidden Folk and Pnakotic Demos years, meeting them and seeing them live many times here and there, there is no doubt that they create and perform the kind of epic metal that the subgenre needed in order to be relevant again. Having a deep knowledge of the story and the myths of Europa, they combine the best lyrics the subgenre has to offer with music that dwells in old Manowar, the Asatru period of Bathory and Solstice, offering the best epic metal albums of modern times. Even if the "modern" word is crushed by the invincible puritan blade.

Listen also: CALADAN BROOD - Echoes of Battle (2013)
The epic and atmospheric black metal of Caladan Brood is based in the Malazan Book of the Fallen and their Summoning-like music is already an underground classic.
 

6. CRYPT SERMON - Out of the Garden (2015)


What the Philly band really did with Out of the Garden (and the follow-up album) is offer us the best doom metal of the 2010s. Sounds bold? It's not. Actually, the Crypt Sermon albums can look in the eye many doom metal classics, and they're even better than a few of them. Flawless songwriting and the best performance you can get by the genre. Songs like "Byzantium" and "Into the Holy of the Holies" could be placed into the greatest doom metal albums you can think of. Really. Yes. Crypt Sermon's alchemical epic doom metal is a "paradox" of a modern release that's better than most of the classics you know.

Listen also: KRUX - Krux (2002)
Somewhere between the 13th Sun and the second coming of the Monk, Doomfather Edling is joined by a team of diverse musicians releasing the album that contains "Omfalos",  "Pococatépetl" and doom metal weirdness.
 

5. SUMERLANDS - Sumerlands (2016)


The visionary Arthur Rizk is spinning Ozzy's The Ultimate Sin and brings the underground legend that is Phil Swanson to sing about the seven seals, guardians, blind eyes and splinters of lucidity, creating a modern classic heavy metal album. Perfect from start to finish, Sumerlands' debut album is a celebration of traditional metal in its full glory. An exciting modern classic deeply rooted in pure talent and passion. If you haven't heard this album yet, you're missing your modern favourite metal album.

Listen also: HOUR OF 13 - Hour of 13 (2007)
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with singer and lyricist Phil Swanson created a spectral occult doom metal album with a ghastly power. That's the sound of darkness.
 

4. THORNS - Thorns (2001)


There are no borders in black metal. It's the most evolving and wide metal genre. The phenomenal frenziness of the Thorns debut album is a mechanical adrenaline shot of futuristic blackness right to the neck. Snorre Ruch might (co-) created what we know as "black metal riffing" but there isn't any standard black metal formula in Thorns. It was the turn of the new millennium when Thorns embraced a new black metal world and offered us a glimpse of a cyberfuture we haven't reached yet.

Listen also: TRIPTYKON - Eparistera Daimones (2010)
Thomas Gabriel Fischer formed Triptykon when he left Celtic Frost (the band was laid to rest) and continued creating and performing cold, deathly and dark art, as a true originator of extreme metal.
 

3. ETERNAL CHAMPION - The Armor of Ire (2016)


Mostly in the '70s and the '80s, but in the '90s too, there were albums that upon their release, it was like pressing a button and instantly the next day, you had bands influenced by them. At once. On a smaller level, Eternal Champion's debut album is a modern classic that achieved the same. One of the Top-20 metal albums of the decade according to The Encyclopaedia Metallum (Metal Archives) poll, was a turning point transforming fans of Mastodon to fans of Manilla Road and swords & sorcery. At once. Other and new bands started sounding like Eternal Champion even if the reincarnating hero had just one album released at that moment, but what an album! The album that established them along with Atlantean Kodex as the pioneers of "modern" epic metal. The Hammer!

Listen also: WRATHBLADE - Into the Netherworld's Realm (2012)
Original and true, the epic heavy metal of the Greeks remained deep underground but their followers are few in number, huge in passion!
 

2. HELL - Human Remains (2011)


The story of Hell from England is one of those legendary yet obscure, unknown chapters in the book of heavy metal. One of the greatest heavy metal stories. Formed in 1982 and disbaned in 1987 when singer Dave Halliday commited suicide, without releasing any album. Hell were reunited in 2008 thanks to producer and guitarist Andy Sneap who was a huge fan of the band and also learned to play the guitar thanks to Dave Halliday, who was also young Andy's mentor in the early '80s. The remaining members, with Andy Sneap (who also funded the project on his own) and David Bower, a professional actor and voiceover artist on vocals, recorded all those old songs, presenting the best classic heavy metal album of the 2010s.

Listen also: HEAVEN & HELL - The Devil You Know (2009)
Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice and the Old Nick. Just the Devil you know.
 

1. REVEREND BIZARRE - In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend (2002)


When the debut album of the Finnish band was released, it shook the traditional doom metal community. It was the essence of doom metal, that according to their guitarist Peter Vicar, as once said at Crystal Logic, is "The traditional Sabbathian riffing, clean vocals, full of intensity and power. It’s music that will, if done right, shake your foundations." And so it did. The archaic deep accent of Sir Albert sounded like echoes from an ancient past. He feels each and every word and every song sounds personal. Even if the lyrics look like something that cannot be personal... He makes them personal and deeply emotional. Darkness, biblical themes, misery, when you listen to "In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend" for the first time, there is a feeling of sin. The tone and behemoth riffage, the low frequencies, the crushing drums of doom, the Lovecraftian atmosphere of decay and slumber, everything sounds like sin; like something that is forbidden and opens the gateways to Hell and sorrow. Reverend Bizarre isn't an easily accessible band but no one said that true doom metal is easily accessible for everyone. Shocking album.

Listen also: LORD VICAR - Fear No Pain (2008)
After hammering the final nails to the coffin of Reverend Bizarre, Kimi Kärki (Peter Vicar) followed his vision of a new doom metal band and brought to life Lord Vicar, joined by the mighty Christian "Chritus" Linderson on vocals. Doom metal is alive and well, even if it smells rotten at times.



Chapter III: More and more debut albums (3 more per year).

2000: IOMMI - Iommi, PAGAN'S MIND - Infinity Divine, SHADOWKEEP - Corruption Within

2001: AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera, GRAND MAGUS - Grand Magus, ONWARD - Evermoving

2002: DREAM EVIL - DragonSlayer, FIREWIND - Between Heaven and Hell, ZOOL - Zool

2003: CIRCLE II CIRCLE - Watching in Silence, MASTERPLAN - Masterplan, ORODRUIN - Epicurean Mass

2004: CANS - Beyond the Gates, EVIL MASQUERADE - Welcome to the Show, FEINSTEIN - Third Wish

2005: COMMUNIC - Conspiracy in Mind, ISOLE - Forevermore, RAM - Forced Entry

2006: BULLET - Heading for the Top, CRESCENT SHIELD - The Last of My Kind, I - Between Two Worlds

2007: BLAZE - Blaze, BLOTTED SCIENCE - The Machinations of Dementia, CRYSTAL VIPER - The Curse of Crystal Viper

2008: DEAD CONGREGATION - Graves of the Archangels, ENFORCER - Into the Night, IN SOLITUDE - In Solitude

2009: FUTURES END - Memoirs of a Broken Man, SINISTER REALM - Sinister Realm, VEKTOR - Black Future

2010: BRITON RITES - For Mircalla, GHOST - Opus Eponymous, WHITE WIZZARD - Over the Top

2011: ARCH/MATHEOS - Sympathetic Resonance, DEMONAZ - March of the Norse, HIGH SPIRITS - Another Night

2012: AIR RAID - Night of the Axe, PALLBEARER - Sorrow and Extinction, TRAIL OF MURDER - Shades of Art

2013: AVATARIUM - Avatarium, BLACK TRIP - Goin' Under, POWER TRIP - Manifest Decimation

2014: CROSSWIND - Vicious Dominion, DÄNG - Tartarus: The Darkest Realm, DOOMOCRACY - The End Is Written

2015: NIGHT DEMON - Curse of the Damned, TERMINUS - The Reaper's Spiral, VISIGOTH - The Revenant King

2016: ASSASSIN'S BLADE - Agents Of Mystification, TAROT - Reflections, THE TEMPLE - Forevermourn

2017: LUNAR SHADOW - Far from Light, PAINFUL PRIDE - Lost Memories, SANHEDRIN - A Funeral for the World

2018: GATEKEEPER - East of Sun, MANACLE - No Fear to Persevere..., WOLFTOOTH - Wolftooth

2019: IDLE HANDS (changed name to UNTO OTHERS) - Mana, SMOULDER - Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, TRAVELER - Traveler

2020: LORD OF LIGHT - Morningstar, SACRED OUTCRY - Damned for All Time, STYGIAN CROWN - Stygian Crown


What's your favourite debut albums in metal music during 2000 - 2020?



Κυριακή 3 Ιανουαρίου 2021

The albums we enjoyed most in 2020... And a review of the year's releases.

The usual prologue would be that no one can say that they have listened to almost everything that was released during 2020. Everyone who claims that is wrong, so we will speak just for our favourite releases and the albums we enjoyed mostly in 2020. The "best" albums of 2020 according to Crystal Logic, and a wider review of the covid-year in metal (mainly) music.


Everything you will read below, are releases that can be found in physical format. "Releases" that were available only digitally, are not included. You will read more words and comments, even full new written reviews and opinions related to the music industry that will probably disappoint a few people that can't handle the truth.

2020 was a hard year but at the same time, it was a year with a LOT of music. It was a year with many diverse releases. Epic heavy metal, US power metal, Lovecraftian black metal, retro hard rock, progressive metal, technical death metal, comeback albums of classic '80s bands and anything else you can imagine and we listened to, while we revisited the Rush, Van Halen, UFO, Quiet Riot, Power Trip, Iron Age and Uriah Heep albums when we mourned the passing of Neil Peart, Eddie Van Halen, Pete Way, Frankie Banali, Riley Gale, Wade Allison, Lee Kerslake and Ken Hensley.

Actually, I think that in almost every year we write "... was a difficult year" but honestly, 2020 was probably the shitiest gloryhole someone can force you in, so let's forget for a while everything else and remember the music. And don't forget to read Rob Halford's Confess and Snowy Shaw's The Book of Heavy Metal.

Written by Andreas Andreou



1. ETERNAL CHAMPION - Ravening Iron (No Remorse)


It's been a while since the TOP album of a year was so obvious. Eternal Champion's sophomore album is a force d'être modern traditional metal classic reaching both artistic and commercial success that breaks the boundaries of underground and epic heavy metal, reaching the second position of the 2020 best albums according to Decibel magazine in the USA, the third position of the 2020 best albums according to Metal Archives, and many top lists of media around the globe.

Jason Tarpey, Arthur Rizk and Co. grow so fast that even the 4-year period that separates the new album from the (already) classic debut The Armor of Ire didn't affect anything, just helped the band to raise the metal banners higher. Being the truest, hardest and best of their kind, the legion of Eternal Champion offered a colossal album that just like the debut will grow to a legendary status in the years to come. A grower that with every listen will reveal layered details that are much more than the legacy of the olde.

From the first moment the "Ravening Iron" track was unleashed, many talked about the Warlord vibe (that actually is Lordian Guard/Lordian Winds) but beneath of that touch lies a huge inspiration from Greek music that influenced the band during their visit in Greece with Arthur Rizk staying for more days, visiting different places. Meanwhile, in "Worms of the Earth" you can locate a Mystification-era Manilla Road vibe, in "Banners of Arhai" they revisit "Shade Gate" (the closing instrumental of the debut album) and the "NOW DIE!" part could be a stand-out moment even in the greatest epic heavy metal albums ever.

At the same time, despite being a solid offering of 8 tracks, fans over the world have different preferences revealing a diversity that many won't recognize from the beginning. American fans love mostly the opening cut ("A Face in the Glare'') while in Europe fans mostly prefer other tracks like "Ravening Iron" and "Worms of the Earth''. Production wise, the wizardry of Arthur Rizk, the most important new musician according to the author of this blog, is perfect for the genre and already has established a sound of his own, influencing a huge part of the scene. But what really makes Eternal Champion a groundbreaking band is not only the fact that they have their own distinguished sound, they are the "heavy metal" band that many fans of different (extreme) genres listen, without actually being "metal fans", and we're talking about the crossover and hardcore scene of the United States. "You will be an outcast if you're living in Texas and don't listen to Eternal Champion", could be written in an engraved iron inscription close to Austin, while there could be another similar one somewhere in Philly.

As for the controversial cover art, an album like this needed a legend to visually represent it and the one who was reached is no other than Ken Kelly (Kiss, Rainbow, Manowar). After a few months of work and in close cooperation with the label's executives and band, Kelly managed to capture everything the band wanted (also based in singer's and lyricist's Jason Tarpey story, The Godblade) adding all the elements that made his art recognizable and at the same time representing what sword-and-sorcery visual art was (and is) about over the years.

Eternal Champion's Ravening Iron is history in the making. Be part of it.

Check also: While Eternal Champion raised their banner higher than everyone, IRONSWORD with Servants of Steel confused most of the lists since their album has "2019" written on the CD format but it was available mainly in the first days of 2020. In 2020 though, the year of great comeback albums, CIRITH UNGOL's Forever Black got a huge anticipated exposure. Some people loved it, others expected more but with a total duration less than 40 minutes Forever Black has a nice flow including excellent tracks like "Stormbringer" while the band tried to capture vibes from all of their albums.

An enjoyable album we loved listening to, is definitely THRONE OF IRON's Adventure One. Real victims of Covid-19, they were trapped in the air, flying from the United States to Greece in order to perform at the last-minute postponed Up the Hammers festival. Their first adventure is a dungeons-and-dragons metal album created with pure passion and fun with the video of "Lichspire" makes you just wanna love them. Do you lift?


2. HITTMAN - Destroy All Humans (No Remorse)


Hittman managed to come full circle returning to the days of great songwriting and sounded fresh at the same time. Catchy, melodic, powerful and inspired, with 8 tracks in the spirit of the best albums of US metal, the guitar duo of Jim Bacchi and John Inglima offers everything that their same titled debut album also did 32 years ago. Singer Dirk Kennedy sounds better than ever in the comeback album that starts with the Savatage -"The Dungeons Are Calling"- similar opening track (using a similar skull-cover), moving to the total US power metal riffing worship of "Breathe", the melodic "The Ledge" and closing with the Queensrÿche vibes of "Love, The Assassin" and those excellent guitar solo parts. How many times have you listened to a new album with excellent guitar solo parts? They're getting less over the years but this is not the case; Destroy All Humans is an album full of inspired and greatly performed guitar parts. The best comeback album of 2020 by a band that returned and is here to stay with more new music and not moving on as a legacy act.

More classic US metal to check: What a refreshing heavy metal sound ARMORED SAINT have in Punching the Sky! And they definitely have one of the best drum sounds you can get out there today. Armored Saint is one of the most confident and solid heavy metal bands, a monster on stage and in the latest album you still get "punches" of great heavy metal. Working again with producer Bill Metoyer, TYRANT added Robert Lowe in vocals and returned with Hereafter, a magnificent album including killer tracks like "Dancing on Graves" and "Pieces of Mine".


3. PSYCHOTIC WALTZ - The God-Shaped Void (InsideOut)


It's like not a day passed since Bleeding, the fourth album of Psychotic Waltz, released in 1996. Just like pure artists, Devon Graves, Brian McAlpin, Dan Rock, Ward Evans and Norm Leggio, didn't try to recreate what they did with A Social Grace or Into the Everflow. The latest album is a progressive metal redemption full with exceptional melodies, one of the best guitar performances of 2020, a singer that deserves a place among the greatest ones and the best lyrics of any album during that year. You just have to FEEL the album in its entirety.

The modern-age social-media passion of "stuck like flies, this web worldwide will swallow, make hollow" is an important element of the album. How the world has been evolved with each individual self-committed to digital institution through his cell-phone and the world-wide-web, just like a few of the patients of Miloš Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest film, that could leave at any time, but are too afraid to do so. Addiction is the disguised fear of the modern world, where each individual has a different presence in reality (looks afraid) and another one in the digital world (looks dominant).

The actual songwriting and performance is not complex and poly-rhythmic, you still get vibes from Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and the early Ozzy years plus everything the band members have done since 1996. The melodies are addictive and songs like "Sisters of the Dawn" stand at the top of 2020. And if you will FEEL the album, you will get answers to unanswered questions while at the same time, you will have questions even for simple things like, why "Sisters of the Dawn" got that title and not "Fathers of Creation", "Children of the Fallen", or "Children of the One"? In the end, we're just spellbound by that album and that word never sounded better.

Check also: LEVIATHAN Words Waging War.


4. LORD OF LIGHT - Morningstar (No Remorse)


In the end of 2019, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Nicklas Kirkevall from Sweden uploaded his music on a few digital platforms introducing Morningstar and not later than a few days, it reached a few record labels and fans with an enormous positive response. A multi-record deal was offered and Morningstar was officially released a few months later in 2020 getting excellent reviews. With the idea to continue as a full band, Lord of Light's music is heavy metal, it is progressive metal, it is prog power and everything in-between having a strong melodic approach. It will bring in mind '90s prog metal, late-Savatage, even Royal Hunt, and yet you can feel that there are elements that have a certain uniqueness. "I think there is much to be done within the world of metal that hasn’t been done already", Nicklas said to Crystal Logic. "Sometimes it can feel like there aren’t any more uncharted waters to explore, but I sincerely hope we get the opportunity to prove otherwise in the coming years. I know we’re not the only ones, but I think we have the chance to contribute something really meaningful." Just listen to this beautiful album.

Check also: MASTER MASSIVE Black Feathers on Their Graves.


5. FATES WARNING - Long Day Good Night (Metal Blade)


How can they ever fail? It just can't happen. Fates Warning's music is like an old friend that grows with us and even if at the first listen Ray Alder's voice sounded "tired" to our poor ears, we just didn't properly listen to what he said, or we mistakenly tried to compare the album with past FW releases. Alder is not tired, he is just performing sad and bittersweet lyrics in a very mature way. Home, changes, regrets and sorrow. The rain and the sun, scars, new beginnings and altered pages.

Fates Warning's music is a huge book where every album is a chapter that's re-written over the years, while we revisit every album in a different age and era. Most of the reviews written in just a few days (even hours for unprofessional "critics") after a new FW album fail to catch the essence of it. Albums like Long Day Good Night are albums we're going to stay with for a long, long time.

Jim Matheos wanted to leave behind all of the pages with a handful of doubts but we're still following him even if he asked us not to, three decades ago. We never kept that distance. Thank you Fates Warning for always being there, and through the change we still remain after the rain, because deep inside we know YOU wait for us under the sun.

Check also: SONS OF APOLLO MMXX.


6. ERIC CLAYTON - A Thousand Scars (Independent)


What a story! Eric Clayton's life is a life full of scars and those scars are the wounds that have been finally healed. This album is his confession, his revelation, his scars. Eric Clayton and the Nine create melancholic and spiritual music based on the scars of a man who found again his soul through music and love. A deeply personal album, a narrative where you can't really personally relate with just like other albums but you can FEEL it just like watching an emotional film if you will give your full attention. An album, a story and a spiritual journey that deserves your attention.

In the music industry part, a part that has left a few scars in Eric Clayton's life, Eric Clayton and the Nine decided to release A Thousand Scars independently starting a fund campaign with an overpriced album pre-order many months before its release. Fans that wanted to support directly the artists pre-ordered and pre-paid for music that wasn't even recorded; a sign of the times. However, not all pre-orders were finally delivered including the author of this blog. There might be scars from the music industry but sometimes the industry knows better how to handle a release.  

In the end, this is Eric's redemption and maybe this is the only thing that matters for the man but also the people that were always supporting and thinking of him even when he was lost between the darkness and the night. We embraced his return and now we are waiting for the future.

Check also: If Saviour Machine's Legend (unfinished) trilogy is the soundtrack to the Apocalypse, ANAAL NATHRAKH's Endarkenment is the soundtrack to the sickest ending of the world. An experimental pig hybrid with cocks in its eyes, industrial metal in its heart, black metal in its soul, grindcore in its mind and a diverse vocal delivery. It has nothing to do with A Thousand Scars but its wound is always open because every listen is a razor coming back to flesh.


7. SACRED OUTCRY - Damned for All Time (No Remorse)


The best power metal album of Europe for 2020 came from Greece and has a long history behind it. 20 years ago, Sacred Outcry was formed with influences vast and passion great, inspired by artists like Manowar, Warlord, Domine and Basil Poledouris. The first recordings took place in 2001-2003 but not a voice was heard since then. Still though, that album never left the mind of the band members, especially bassist's George Apalodimas who never gave up his dream to finally see that album finished and released. The recordings were completed between 2015-2018, orchestral arrangements were added, editing, mixing and mastering was finished in 2019 and Sacred Outcry finally presented us the first chapter in The Sacred Chronicles under the title Damned for All Time.

Every instrument sounds crystal clear, the bass sound is beyond awesome, guest vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (ex-Wardrum, Beast in Black) is at the top of his game and every detail seems to have been perfectly arranged in order to complete an album that will be a modern reference for its style. Songs like "Where Ancient Gods Are Still Hailed" and "Damned For All Time" are up there, in the top of the best European power metal tracks of this millennium.

Check also: It seems that Greece and Cyprus did it very well in 2020. DEXTER WARD returned in the days of Epic Metal with the third full-length album simply entitled III, a massive statement of pure epic heavy metal worship from fans for fans. In the same attitude, SOLITARY SABRED released By Fire & Brimstone the best US power metal album that hasn't been released by an American US power metal since Solitary Sabred's previous offering to the altar of the metal gods.


8. WYTCH HAZEL - III: Pentecost (Bad Omen)


Colin Hendra and Co. did it again, just two years after the magnificent II: Sojourn. An album like this one can only come from England and Ireland, nowhere else. No one can write and perform this kind of epic hard rock better than the places of Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy.

Do you believe that this would sound better with a singer that has a wider range? Do you find a few of the lyrics cringy? Well, lines like "Why should that demon have all the glory? He was only Archangel at the start of the story" lack the depth of "the Gods are crying bombs" and what Psychotic Waltz did, while they are probably closer to Stryper's "Jesus makes me want to sing" since Wytch Hazel are devoted to the Light and Christianity. And if these are disadvantages, at the same time these are advantages since the "better" vocalist couldn't perform better in those songs. This is not a comparison as strong as Ozzy's vocals are in his songs since no "better" singer can replace him but you know what I mean. As for the lyrics, Wytch Hazel's music sounds very positive, so simple and catchy lines like "Spirit and fire show me the way" is all that is needed in this feel-good daddy-rock that's beautiful and catchy, sounds honest and humble and at the same time as epic as it needs with medieval themes, and inspiration from the British music legends.

In the next mixtape you're going to make, add "Sonata" after Fates Warning's "Under the Sun".

Check also: HIGH SPIRITS' Hard to Stop is probably their best album since 2011's Another Night and one of the most feel-good and enjoyable albums of 2020. Let your spirit shine!


9. OPIUM WARLORDS - Nembutal (Svart)


There aren't (true) doom metal fans who don't know who Sami Albert Hynninen is. The Witchfinder of many diverse projects and bands returned in the roots of Reverend Bizarre's doom metal with the nearly 20-minute opening track of Nembutal entitled "A Heavy Heart" but other than that and the closing track "Xanadu", everything in-between is abstract and disturbing. In the end, the complete album is nothing else than a droned apocalyptic offering of a "yellow jacket'd" hypnotic memoir about death.

This not-easy accessible and grotesque album demands your full attention, just like many forms of art. Each side of the vinyl version is a separate entity and in the end they all make sense, even if in the beginning I was listening only to Side A until I moved forward... in Hell. When Sami sings "The silent pilot comes at last: death!" you get that heavy Thomas Gabriel Fischer vibe; an artist who built his career in the meaning of death, and total darkness where there is no hope and everything ceases to exist. From the first cut's line "there is cancer in the wind" to the closing's cut line "breathe / breathe / breath / death", the lungs are filled with the smoke of wisdom and death at the same time.

Check also: ATRAMENTUS' Stygian is a haunted album created from misery, anger and anxiety. It dwells in bad mentality and depression, drowning in an infinite void, having also one of the best cover arts for 2020.


10. OZZY OSBOURNE - Ordinary Man (Epic)


Anything you will say about this not-so-ordinary-man will never justify his real personality, his persona, the music, his legacy and his acts. He is anything you believe for him and everything you don't know about him. Right or wrong, Ozzy's music will always remain in eternity while all opinions will fade like footsteps in the sand. And that's the most important and only thing that really matters.

When Tony Iommi and Bill Ward reached the guy who put that famous advert, "Ozzy Zig requires gig, owns his own PA", things didn't even look good. Later Ozzy and Geezer Butler visited Bill Ward asking him to join them in a new band but Bill wanted to stick with Tony. Then, they all decided to try to work together. That's how it all began and more or less, you all know a part of the story that followed; the story those four created. Together. No one crossed the other's way by luck. Fact.

While history roller-coasters on, Ozzy started his successful solo career using his talent to find the most talented partners and new musicians in the likes of Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde that became legendary after working with Oz. With the music industry adding its hand, the madness and talent surrounding Ozzy's band in the '80s, created a heavy metal prototype as iconic as the other four-or-five most important acts of metal music.

When the '90s entered, Ozzy kept the '80s flame with No More Tears, a multi-platinum commercial success while other metal monsters were lost under the new era. And from that point on, with the exception of Ozzmosis, one of his most personal albums, Ozzy was laid completely in the hands of the industry. When we reached 2020, Ozzy returned to an early era of "everything can happen just for music". Ordinary Man is an album created because Ozzy just wanted to perform again without any rush or forced to offer something "specific". He just happened to be in the studio with good company and respected musicians (not new talents he found), including friends and people who respect him from different generations, like Andrew Watt (producer and guitarist), Duff McKagan (bass), Chad Smith (drums) and guests like Slash, even Sir Elton John, creating a few beautiful songs like "Under the Graveyard" and "Ordinary Man", songs we're going to listen more often than songs from better records released the covid-year.

In the end, Ordinary Man is an emotional album of an "old-man" that grabs his harmonica again, joined by people of different ages, generations and genres, feeling again just like a boy but at the same moment he understands time goes by. "Don't forget me as the colours fade". How could we, Ozzάκλα μου?

Check also (the legends): AC/DC returned with Power Up (or PWR/UP), recorded in mid 2018 to early 2019, paying tribute to Malcolm Young and bringing back those rhythms that make you shake your body and feel like a kid again. At the same time, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, the boss of American classic rock writes a Letter to You, a sad and gray album, an emotional reflection of the past.


11. GLACIER - The Passing of Time (No Remorse)

This is actually the first full-length of Glacier and it is as close to the band's underground classic same-titled 1985 EP, as close was the 8-track demo tape that followed in 1988. In the end, Glacier is a name of many people who used it over the years with one common result: Awesome Metal. In The Passing of Time you will find singer Michael Podrybau of the 1985 EP along with new musicians who know very well their craft and also original members of the band adding their contribution connecting Glacier with their past and all eras, offering an album that balances between US and European heavy / power metal.

Check also: FIREWIND Firewind, SATAN'S FALL Final Day.


12. STYGIAN CROWN - Stygian Crown (Cruz Del Sur)

Doom Metal suffered in 2020. Very few releases and even fewer that deserved our attention but the debut album of the US-based pact of Stygian Crown came forth offering salvation to our doomed souls.

Check also: BLACK REVELATION Demon, BRITON RITES Occulte Fantastique, GODTHRYMM Reflections.


13. ESOCTRILIHUM - Eternity of Shaog (I, Voidhanger)

Esoctrilihum's mastermind, Asthâghul, did it again. This is an intense black metal album with a variety of influences, from obvious ones (death metal) to a diversity of soundscapes (psychedelia, prog-rock, folk) that complete the Lovecraftian soundtrack of god Shaog who is imprisoned in a parallel universe.


2020 Black Metal highlights: ABIGOR Totschläger (A Saintslayer's Songbook), AKHLYS Melinoë, HAVUKRUUNU Uinuos Syömein Sota, HORN Mohngang, ODRAZA Rzeczom, STORMKEEP Galdrum, UADA Djinn.


14. CREATURE - Ex Cathedra (I, Voidhanger)

Raphaël Fournier is the closest thing to a genius I can think for 2020. Ex Cathedra is an ambitious and thrilling album of progressive black metal with a completely out-of-the-box songwriting that is a combination of early Covenant music with a Dødheimsgard approach (in lack of a better description).

Check also: ULCERATE's Stare into Death and Be Still will probably dominate many TOP lists for 2020 just like the album of Eternal Champion and this diversity in various TOP lists is an example that there are many different listeners all over the world, and a few of those albums can change the face of the current scene. Unlistenable for a few, unpredictable for others, Ulcerate is here to destroy the norm. However, you can't even imagine what you're going to hear in NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM's Éons.


15. HAIL SPIRIT NOIR - Eden in Reverse (Agonia)

Hail Spirit Noir's evolution (progress) is mesmerizing and you don't know what to expect with every album. The black metal themes are nearly audible in the latest album that has the futuristic sound of the past. Are you confused? Just imagine the Blade Runner movie that was filmed in 1982 with a plot based in 2019 but in the real-life-2020, it is now a (retro) film in the past with a (retro) futuristic world that has nothing to do with the current reality. Sharp creativity in reverse with a surrealistic aura.

Check also: HUNTSMEN's Mandala of Fear is a post-whatever-metal-sludge-thing with a post-apocalyptic concept, an ol' prog touch and Hulk-strength riffing. Excellent!


16. WHITE CRONE - The Poisoner (Independent)

There are always times when out of nowhere appears a heavy metal album that sounds fresh, inspired and addictive, with excellent songwriting and performance. White Crone’s debut album is one of those, composed and arranged by the super talented Lisa Mann. Inspired by '80s Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, combined with Lisa's musical background, Bruce Dickinson-like female vocals, excellent dual guitar parts and ideas, prog elements, a powerful rhythm section with bass guitar dominating the record, a doom-y and mystical aura, a short visit at the Seven Gates of Hell and a guest appearance of legendary drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio), make this album one of the most refreshing traditional metal releases of 2020.

Check also: We've missed Ol' Rusty even if we had his Hermit alter ego offering music we never stopped to listen. THE WIZAR'D's Subterranean Exile is a magnificent piece of Arcane Metal that is labeled as heavy or doom or Pagan Altar-inspired by many others.

Breaking the borders of black metal, MALOKARPATAN from Slovakia released Krupinské Ohne mixing Master's Hammer, Bathory, "proto-black" and heavy riffing, acoustic parts and stories from forgotten woodlands.


17. KING WITCH - Body of Light (Listenable)

Mix Black Sabbath, ol' blues and an ol' Motörhead vibe, the heaviest of heavy metal, British and early US doom metal when Doom Metal wasn't even a name for the genre, adding a powerful female voice and you have the Body of Light; A perfect blend of Sabbathian heavy and doom metal. Obey the Riff.

Check also: WOLFTOOTH's Valhalla is the last album of the Sabbathian pact before entering a major label and we will just wait for what's next. Meanwhile, as we wrote again two years ago for the tattooed bearded Richmond wolves: this is too groovy for the regressive doom metal fan, too epic for the stoner fan, too awesome for the rest.


18. SPIRIT ADRIFT - Enlightened in Eternity (Century Media)

You gotta love Nate Garrett. Nate loves heavy metal. And Spirit Adrift's latest album is a pure love for all-things-heavy-metal; The doom-y heavy metal. And "Astral Levitation" is the best tribute you can offer to '80s Black Sabbath.

Check also: LORD VIGO's Danse de Noir, the fourth album of the German doom metal band, is a step forward. And just like Spirit Adrift, "At the Verge of Time" is another great track-tribute to '80s Black Sabbath. We all love '80s Sabbath, don't we?


19. BIFF BYFORD - School of Hard Knocks (Silver Lining)

It's Biff. There is only one Biff. Of course and there are many moments that bring to mind Saxon. It could be a late '80s - early '90s Saxon album and there is nothing wrong with this. Because it's Biff. We love Biff. We love Saxon. And you can't really beat nostalgia and a feel-good album.

Check also: Trevor William Church's HAUNT released two albums in 2020. In the vein of the early '80s heavy metal bands, both Mind Freeze and Flashback sound fresh with the same-titled track of each album being a hit reminding glorious '80s Ozzy commercial moments.


20. ECCLESIA - De Ecclesiae Universalis (Aural)

This heavy / power metal album with those doom metal vibes brings upfront the aura of Tad Morose and Swedish power power metal, plus the power metal moments of doom bands like Candlemass and Memory Garden. Enjoyable and heavy, with a great sound and a pure power metal voice that's extremely suitable, it reminded me that we need a new Fvneral Fvkk album, since their carnal confessions are the true dark gospels of the church.

Check also: SORCERER returned with Lamenting of the Innocent, remembering once again the Tony-Martin-Sabbath-era and adding neoclassical guitar solos in their happier-than-others epic doom metal.


Best EP of 2020:

BLACK SWORD THUNDER ATTACK - March of the Damned (No Remorse)

At last. One of the most cult and obscure acts of underground epic metal finally made it to an official release... Even if it is a 4-track EP. We've been waiting for many years, so I guess it's better than nothing! Despite the obvious Warlord / Lordian Guard worship that is stated in every review I've read, the band with one of the most cult epic metal names offers the most addictive music you're going to listen in 2020 and yes, behind Bill Tsamis' influence, I personally can locate a spectacular and distinguished style that is just BLACK SWORD THUNDER ATTACK. March of the Damned could be the best underground metal release of 2020.


About EPs: From the music industry side, an EP is a kind of release that most record labels avoid in the recent years. A record label will pay the same amount of money for a CD or vinyl, either it is 15 minutes long, or 45 minutes long, but they definitely can't easily sell the EP with the same price as an album. And if they will (because they actually paid the same manufacturing cost, let aside any additional royalties), a few fans will complain for the price, adding many more marketing, promotional and distribution issues, a regular fan can't understand.

A band might say that EPs are "rounded well" and that's not always a lie, but mostly if you want to sell one hundred copies to your friends and a specific underground circle of fans, and get a few reviews from specific online media that's also running from people you're familiar with. Under these circumstances, you can easily release it on your own or find a one-person label that's running his business from his home. But that will never take a band to the next level, unless the band just wants to keep moving like this.

Quality is always better than quantity but since there are people who complain for 35-minute albums, I can't imagine what they will think of EPs, especially when retail prices are close. The music will always reach those who will like it and if a band wants to release music just for a few people it is OK to do it through EPs if their artistic expression is limited to 15 minutes. But if a band wants to keep moving and reach the "next" level, it would be better to present a full album and maybe they will escape the "15 minutes of fame" in a specific underground metal scene. It might take longer to complete it but it will be for the better. For everyone: The band, the record company, the fans.

Off to more albums now, since they were so many in 2020, and there is a huge list of notable mentions.


Best Live Album of 2020:

TRIPTYKON with the Metropole Orkest - Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019) (Century Media)


Risen from the ashes of Celtic Frost, Thomas Gabriel Fischer comes full circle releasing Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019) including "Rex Irae (Requiem, Chapter One: Overture)", "Grave Eternal (Requiem, Chapter Two: Transition)" and "Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale)". Celtic Frost's requiem was originally begun in autumn of 1986 and its first part, "Rex Irae", originally appeared on Into the Pandemonium album. "Winter" originally appeared on Monotheist album and Fischer started writing it in 2001. It was supposed that the requiem should be concluded once Celtic Frost recorded the second part but in the end, requiem was presented in its entirety by Triptykon with the Metropole Orkest.


The Best, the Rest and More - 2020 Unmasked

The Heavy, the Epic, the Power [and a touch of Prog], the Speed Metal Rites:

AMBUSH Infidel, BLACK SOUL HORDE Land of Demise, BLAZING RUST Line of Danger, CLOVEN HOOF Age of Steel, DARK FOREST Oak, Ash & Thorn, DEATH DEALER Conquered Lands, ECHOSOUL The End of Darkness, FORTRESS UNDER SIEGE Atlantis, FURY The Grand Prize, GREYHAWK Keepers of the Flame, HROM Legends of Powerheart: Part II, IRONFLAME Blood Red Victory, KRAMP Gods of Death, MEGATON SWORD Blood Hails Steel - Steel Hails Fire, OLD MOTHER HELL Lord of Demise, POSSESSED STEEL Aedris, RAVEN Metal City, ROADWOLF Unchain the Wolf, SHOK PARIS Full Metal Jacket, SÖLICITÖR Spectral Devastation, STÄLKER Black Majik Terror, TRAVELER Termination Shock, WHITE MAGICIAN Dealers of Divinity, WOLF Feeding the Machine.


Melodic, rockin', hard 'n' heavy metal:

ALCATRAZZ Born Innocent, ARCHON ANGEL Fallen, BADD KHARMA On Fire, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT The Symbol Remains, STAN BUSH Dare to Dream, FM Synchronized, H.E.A.T. II, MAGNUM The Serpent Rings, NORTHWIND History, PERFECT PLAN Time for a Miracle, PRIDE OF LIONS Lion Heart.


and retro heavy rockin' attitude from the heart of the olde:

DEAD LORD Surrender, FREEWAYS True Bearings, LUCIFER III, NIGHT High Tides - Distant Skies, REZN Chaotic Divine, SPELL Opulent Decay, VESTAL CLARET Vestal Claret.


Under the Sabbathian Spell and the Iommic Magick:

ANCHORITE Further from Eternity, MOUNTAIN WITCH Extinct Cults, PALE DIVINE Consequence of Time, PALLBEARER Forgotten Days.


The "Black Sabbath" of 2020: V.A. Vol. 4 (Redux), V.A. Best of Black Sabbath (Redux), ZAKK SABBATH Vertigo.

Magnetic Eye Records' redux series gathered a pact of Sabbathian artists including EARTHLESS, HIPPIE DEATH CULT, THOU, GREEN LUNG, SPIRIT ADRIFT, THE OBSESSED, HIGH REEPER and more, covering Black Sabbath, while Zakk Wylde with ZAKK SABBATH covered the album that started everything in its entirety, celebrating Black Sabbath's debut album 50th anniversary.


Thrashing maniacs and screams from beyond:

BÜTCHER 666 Goats Carry My Chariot, DEATH COURIER Necrotic Verses, EVILDEAD United $tate$ of Anarchy, EXARSIS Sentenced to Life, HEATHEN Empire of the Blind, HELLSPIKE Lords of War, INCANTATION Sect of Vile Divinities, MIDNIGHT Rebirth by Blasphemy, NAPALM DEATH Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, NECROPHOBIC Dawn of the Damned, SODOM Genesis XIX, TEMPLE OF VOID The World That Was, TESTAMENT Titans of Creation.


The rest, the ethereal, the prog, the black, the sick, the soul of the outcast:

ARS MAGNA UMBRAE Apotheosis, AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD Through Doors of Moonlight , EMYN MUIL Afar Angathfark, ENSLAVED Utgard, MY DYING BRIDE The Ghost of Orion, MYSTRAS Castles Conquered and Reclaimed, ORANSSI PAZUZU Mestarin Kynsi, HENRIK PALM Poverty Metal, PANZERFAUST The Suns of Perdition - Chapter II: Render unto Eden, PARADISE LOST Obsidian, PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS Viscerals, EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU May Our Chambers Be Full, KARI RUESLATTEN Sørgekåpe, THY CATAFALQUE Naiv, WAYFARER A Romance With Violence.