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Δευτέρα 19 Δεκεμβρίου 2022


2022 was just like the previous year: It had countless albums! Everything is easier and everyone can record an album easier. It is easy to release it also, even if many of them sell just a few hundred copies. Everyone can become a "recording artist" and the music industry has changed a lot over the past two decades. And keeps changing.  

Everything you will read below was written within a few hours or something. This is not filtered or worked within a bigger time frame of days just like other features, just the first things that come to mind.

The Top-20 list was already completed in late November since it was asked from Metal Hammer magazine in Greece (where I am also a scribe) but let me add one short comment: No one really cares of what's added in place 18 or 19. In this list or any other list. It's all about what's in and what's not, but this also can be somehow "wrong". You know why? Because almost everything that's from 10 to 20, might change in a few years and one could add something that didn't make it to the list. For example, on a second thought, I really like a lot SAVAGE MASTER's Those Who Hunt at Night and I should add it, while the song "The Pilgrimage" from SAXON's Carpe Diem is better than most of the songs in any 10 to 20 albums of that list. Go figure...

However, the Top-5 albums on that list, are really TOP-5, 9/10 albums, with the first two ones (sharing the TOP spot) being future classics, possibly 10/10 albums. These are the best of the best, albums that we will mention many times in the future, albums that will take place in future "best of" lists.

Among the rest (most of them 8/10 albums) there are albums I really enjoyed, albums I listened to countless times, albums that I am going to listen to for a long time in the future too, and of course I bought all of the albums in that Top-20 list, plus the majority of the rest that are mentioned.

Let's go to Crystal Logic's Top-20 (plus many more you should check also!)

written by Andreas Andreou

20. FRIENDS OF HELL - Friends of Hell

Looks like a dream team including Master Tas and Albert Witchfinder. The debut release of the international group, named after the classic WITCHFINDER GENERAL album, is traditional Sabbathian doom with one of the most iconic doom metal figures on vocals, that will attract fans of early CATHEDRAL, doom-y NWOBHM and PENTAGRAM.

19. ACHELOUS - The Icewind Chronicles

From the cold winds of Olympus to the flames of war, the Mediterranean epic heavy metal of ACHELOUS is praised by the underground metal hordes.

18. MIRROR - The Day Bastard Leaders Die

Master Tas strikes again with a grower that will be appreciated more in the future. MIRROR's third album is their most "metal" one, including killer songs such as "Souls of Megiddo", meeting also Arthur Rizk's approval of a great album.

Check  also: CLARENT BLADE Return Into Forever : That's a special case that starts with the best epic metal song of 2022 most people won't listen to! It's probably because of the vocals and I can't blame them for that but the songwriting here is ace. This is something that can be huge. Remember the name.

17. SAKIS TOLIS - Among the Fires of Hell

During the covid months and lockdown days, Sakis Tolis of ROTTING CHRIST wrote an album that brings in mind late '90s vibes of his main band.

16. WHITE WARD - False Light

When multi-instrumentalist, composer and guest musician in False Light Mykola Lebed was asked to describe the art of WHITE WARD in his own words, the reply was:

"I would describe it with a picture: it is like you are strolling through the woods in the mountains while the storm is becoming more intense and harsher. But all this happens inside of you. The themes of their lyrics are resonating with me very much. It can be a song about personal feelings, about the grace of nature, or also about Kateryna Handziuk – the activist from Kherson - who was killed by an acid attack."

WHITE WARD is definitely one of the most innovative bands in the wider field of black metal, mixing experimental black metal, blackgaze and dark jazz.

15. SONJA - Loud Arriver

Often mentioned as "sounds like" UNTO OTHERS (former IDLE HANDS), this is actually a zero-fucks-given heavy metal album with an all-around-mentallity filled with different moods. Strong candidate for best debut album of 2022.

Check also: SANHEDRIN Lights On


14. KONQUEST - Time and Tyranny

In the debut album they sounded like modern day HEAVY LOAD but now they managed to add a strong MAIDEN's somewhere-in-time guitar sound. Just listen to the majesty of "The Light that Fades Again". A beautiful and a feel-good album!

13. GARGANTUAN BLADE - Gargantuan Blade


12. BLOOD TYRANT - Codex Cruor

The blackest and truest black metal album of 2022. The spirit of black metal dwells in those songs. Just for the few; the brave ones, the black souls.

11. CAULDRON BORN - Cold Steel for the Necromancer

Master Bentley returned after many years with new CAULDRON BORN music and maestro's sword is still sharp. Poserkiller, true US technical power metal.

10. DAEVA - Through Sheer Will and Black Magic

Evil and blackened thrash metal with CRYPT SERMON members can't go wrong.

9. LUZIFER - Iron Shackles

"Free yourself from iron shackles!" is one of the most addictive lines and songs of 2022! The German lads sound like '80s Swedish kids that moved to England.

8. PHANTOM SPELL - Immortal's Requiem

SEVEN SISTERS' Kyle McNeill heart is all over an emotional album coming from the depths of his soul. Beautiful melodies, a warm sound, excellent songwriting.

Check also: IRON GRIFFIN Storm of Magic

7. OZZY OSBOURNE - Patient Number 9

Teaming again with old friends, Ozzy recorded a few of the most emotional and best songs of the year, including "No Escape from Now" (with Lord Iommi), "One of Those Days" (with Eric Clapton) and "Mr. Darkness" (with Zakk Wylde).

Check also: A-Z A-Z, TONY MARTIN Thorns, SCORPIONS Rock Believer

6. GRAVESPAWN - Scourge of the Realm

Battles, swords, demons in the mist, the impaler and blood. The best black metal album of 2022 is probably the epic black metal release you ignored and need to listen to. Perhaps you think you listened to better black metal albums this year but you definitely didn't listen to more epic ones or more suitable guitar solos in a black metal album.

Check also: CIRKELN A Song To Sorrow, KARMANJAKA Gates of Muspel

5. THE TEMPLE - Of Solitude Triumphant

The DOOM METAL MANIFESTO of 2022. The purest, the truest, the saddest, the deeper. True Doom Metal.

4. SMITH & SWANSON - Smith & Swanson

Crystal Logic admires Phil Swanson. The iconic performer is teaming up again with his old friend from SEAMOUNT, Tim Schmidt, and they deliver a heavy Sabbathian doom metal debut album that obeys the RIFF. The most riff-driven album of 2022, a favourite one that will be revisited forever.

Check also: EARLY MOODS Early Moods, ERIC WAGNER In the Lonely Light of Mourning

3. DOOMOCRACY - Unorthodox

This is art. A deep concept and music worked in every detail. Technical power doom metal, not your REVEREND BIZARRE style of doom, but the one that's written and performed just by a few. Simply because just a few can record this kind of music that has an epic doom metal heart but it's not regressive and allows elements from US power and progressive metal filtered by the band's character creating something new. Do you want name dropping? SOLITUDE AETURNUS, MEMORY GARDEN, MEMENTO MORI, CONCEPTION playing doom, even SAVIOUR MACHINE vibes.

Check also: DISHARMONY Gods Made of Flesh

1. SUMERLANDS - Dreamkiller

There is a lengthy feature written for this album already. This is a classic, best album of 2022 part one.

Check also: SPLINTERED THRONE The Greater Good of Man

1. RIOT CITY - Electric Elite

Best album of 2022 part two. Everything is on fire here. The blood of a legendary classic metal album runs in Electric Elite. One of the most praised classic heavy metal albums of 2022, from both underground and mainstream media, a speed metal mayhem, an electric power metal vengeance. Many claim to be the next big thing but don't get fooled by false prophets. This is the real thing.

Check also: EVIL INVADERS Shattering Reflection

More heavy, trad, epic, doom, power and a bit of thrash metal too: AFTERIMAGE II: Beyond Horizons Infinite, AMKEN Passive Aggression, CANDLEMASS Sweet Evil Sun, FER DE LANCE The Hyperborean, FLAMES Resurgence, FALL OF THE IDOLS Contradictory Notes, INCURSION Blinding Force, INFINITY DREAM Memories, KNIGHT & GALLOW For Honor and Bloodshed, KREATOR Hate Uber Alles, MEGADETH The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!, MIDAS Midas, MYTHOSPHERE Pathological, QUEENSRYCHE Digital Noise Alliance, SACRAL NIGHT Le Diademe d'Argent, SAVAGE MASTER Those Who Hunt at Night, SAXON Carpe Diem, SORDID BLADE Every Battle Has Its Glory, SPELL Tragic Magic, SPITFIRE Denial To Fall, STRAY GODS Storm the Walls, SWORD III, VALIDOR Full Triumphed, WITCHSLAYER Witchslayer, WOLF Shadowland

More black metal: AARA Triade II: Hemera, DOLDRUM The Knocking, or the Story of the Sound That Preceded Their Disappearance, GAEREA Mirage, GEVURAH Gehinnom, GLEMSEL Forfader, MIST OF MISERY Severance, NEGATIVE PLANE The Pact..., WATAIN The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain

Κυριακή 30 Αυγούστου 2020

The future belongs to the brave: 10 (+10) names to look for the future.

Long prologue: Falling off the edge of the digital era.

There will always be people in the music industry for the wrong reasons. Some of them professionally, some of them parasitic; they're just there, trying to gain their 15 minutes of fame, most of the time without doing something significant or working/creating something that will leave a mark and be part of the music industry and/or music.

Trying to stay in the music part of things, there are a few people that are doing their job the way it should be: with passion, vision, hard work. Most of the time, they already know their abilities and are aware of their talent in specific things, so they're not look like fools. Or they just don't care what you're saying.

You can easily spot them because others will talk about them. Most of the times, when someone is doing exactly what needs to be done (correctly and professionally + passionate and true, to his music/art) there will always be the people that can't do anything alike, so they're going only to "star" in social media while others will star in real life. A post on Facebook, in a forum or whatever, will be forgotten very soon, just like footprints in the beach. However, a successful work of art will always remain and all the people involved (musicians, producers, labels) will have a huge or small part to share about it. No matter if there's also commercial success or just artistic.

The iconic bands and musicians that brought heavy metal to that point of today, will soon be gone or they're already "gone" but can't do anything else. Don't get me wrong, I have the highest respect for all those and I can't imagine heavy metal without Judas Priest or Saxon, but just like Black Sabbath or Motörhead, soon they will all stop, so we must think about the future without them... It is just that most of them don't know when to stop or they just CAN'T stop because they don't know what else to do. This is their life, don't forget that.

So, underneath all those names, there are a few "new" musicians/people that most of the time are focused on their music and job. They're already here, a few of them from the late '00s, and a few of them are already part of great albums that during the new, digital era didn't all of them get the proper attention. After all, even if Rising, Heaven and Hell, Diary of a Madman, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus or Operation: Mindcrime would be released in 2020, there would be people saying "naaah", "mediocre", or a few of them would just pass by with a quick listen on YouTube. But wait... In the new, digital era, there are already people and fans in heavy metal music that think those albums might be "mediocre" or "bad" according to the "matter of taste".

So finally, there is probably a "matter of taste" if someone can't understand the importance of a few albums and musicians of the history of heavy metal. With that in mind, I don't expect everyone to agree, but Crystal Logic will present you 10 (+10) "new" musicians that are already on the frontline, and a few of them are going to be more important in the near future. They're already here.

The future belongs to the brave.

                                                                                                    written by Andreas Andreou

1. Arthur Rizk
Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer/audio engineer.
Related acts: Eternal Champion, Sumerlands.

Probably the hottest "new" name out there, with already one modern classic album under his belt (Eternal Champion's The Armor of Ire), the second Eternal Champion album Ravening Iron completed and on the way to immortality shortly, and having already offered in just a few years, producer/audio engineer/mastering duties to bands like Sacred Reich, Cavalera Conspiracy, Cro-Mags, Crypt Sermon, Power Trip, Smoulder, Tomb Mold, and Cirith Ungol among others, plus the bands he's playing with, of course: Eternal Champion and Sumerlands.
Speaking of Sumerlands, the debut same-titled album that brought in the new millennium the Jake E. Lee Ozzy-era with the underground all-father icon Phil Swanson on vocals, is one of the best heavy metal releases of the previous decade and Arthur is already working on the follow-up.

Starting from the depths of the late '00s US crossover scene with War Hungry, Arthur Rizk evolved to an all-around metal musician and producer with a strong influence in the wider US underground metal scene, and his studio in Pennsylvania is going to have a leading role in the years to come, let alone his presence in Eternal Champion and Sumerlands.
Arthur Rizk is the definition of "the future belongs to the brave". There is no luck here, just pure talent and hard work.

Next in Line: Olof Wikstrand
Singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer/audio engineer.
Related acts: Enforcer.

Starting with Enforcer in the mid '00s, it was 2008 the year when the debut album Into the Night was released just to be followed by Diamonds two years later. At that time, Enforcer was the absolute hyped traditional heavy metal newcomer, something they also proved with their live shows. But truth to be told, even if they are labeled as "one of the leading forces of New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal", even if we're using that term too, I can't really tell how valid the term is. More albums and live shows followed and Olof Wikstrand became a solid member of the (underground) metal scene, offering also mixing, mastering, audio engineering or producing duties in a few highlights of the previous decade, including releases from bands like Manacle and Tribulation. Olof is not exactly like most of the other musicians presented herein (or the long prologue), since he is very active (or "complaining", if you prefer) on social media, and someone might add that Enforcer "already did what they could do". I don't think so.

2. Gabriel Franco
Singer, guitarist, bassist, songwriter.
Related acts: Idle Hands.

One of the most talented musicians of today, is a youngster that has a specific "one-way" vision in his mind: commercial and artistic success with his new band, Idle Hands. Previously a member of Spellcaster, he was on the right way but other forces within the band led them to nothingness, so at that point, Gabriel decided that it would be his way, only. With Idle Hands and the best possible members he could get, their 2019 debut album Mana (that followed the EP Don't Waste Your Time) was one of the best releases of that year; maybe of the decade too.

Playing more live shows than almost any other band with musicians of his age during 2019, he ended supporting the US tour of King Diamond, performing the "heavy metal-meets-gothic and everything in-between" bittersweet music in front of a wider audience and gaining more attention. The quarantine months during the COVID-19 outbreak, besides the negative impact on the music industry, was probably a good opportunity for Gabriel Franco to plan his future with Idle Hands, check closely the label offers he has and of course, write a few more songs that we're going to sing in the years to come.

Next in Line: Jeff Black
Guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter.
Related acts: Gatekeeper.

It took a few years to the Canadian epic heavy metal armada of Gatekeeper to establish a recording and touring line-up but up to that point, they already had established their name in the underground epic metal scene, so they only needed a full-album to move to the next step. That next step was reached in 2018 with the release of their debut album East of Sun. Jeff Black (also known as Geoff Blackwell) is the driving force behind Gatekeeper and with the right people next to him, he is going to release the best Gatekeeper album in the years to come. We will probably see him also performing more dungeon synth.

3. Jarvis Leatherby
Singer, bassist, songwriter, promoter, manager.
Related acts: Night Demon, Cirith Ungol.

That dude owns the game. The leather boy from Ventura, California, formed Night Demon two decades after the last show of Cirith Ungol in his hometown and he managed to bring the entity known as Cirith Ungol back from the depths of time.

After the Night Demon same-titled EP in 2012, it took Jarvis and Co. a few more time in order to present a more than excellent full-album in 2015 under the name Curse of the Damned and an equally awesome follow-up in 2017 named Darkness Remains. Just like the Swedish force of power (Enforcer), Night Demon ruled the stage and that was an important element for their success and how fast they spread their name touring worldwide. That raw live power can be found in the Live Darkness live album but I am sure that most of the readers have already seen them somewhere. Night Demon played almost everywhere!

But Jarvis is something more than a "bass player who sings". He is also the organizer of Frost and Fire festival that takes place in his hometown, he is a super fan of NWOBHM and also holds the mic for Jaguar, he is the man behind the Cirith Ungol reunion and he finally took the bass role in the legendary American band. Additionally, he also started Iron Grip management, currently working with Cirith Ungol, Visigoth, Midnight and Satan. That's a lot of work, don't you think?
Music is the life of Jarvis Leatherby and he is an important part of the heavy metal scene nowadays. And I believe that there's more to come besides more Night Demon albums...

Next in line: Sarah Ann Kitteringham
Vocals, journalism, vlog, swords.
Related acts: Smoulder.

Based in Canada, Sarah Ann is fronting Smoulder that released Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring album in 2019, a strong album combining the best elements of classic epic heavy metal and doom metal legends. Smoulder are going to keep us hot in the future but you're going to read and see more about Sarah Ann in Decibel and BangerTV. Smoulder also include a few extraordinary gentlemen like Shawn Vincent and Collin Wolf, names you're also going to see a lot of times in the future of underground metal.

4. Jason Tarpey
Singer, author, hammer & anvil.
Related acts: Eternal Champion, Iron Age, Graven Rite.

I keep saying that you don't have to be a Geoff Tate singer in every band. There are bands that need a "specific" voice in their songs, a voice that fits perfectly and it is used as an instrument. When Jason was a boy, he was deeply into fantasy, reading Conan comic books and watching similar films, like Conan the Barbarian, Krull and Beastmaster. Later, he was introduced in H.P. Lovecraft and his circle, while he also discovered Manilla Road. When he joined Iron Age, a crossover band in Austin, Texas, he brought similar lyrics creating the iconic underground album The Sleeping Eye. His voice was perfect for Iron Age but later he decided to form an epic heavy metal band with clean singing. In the beginning there was Graven Rite and then Eternal Champion. When Eternal Champion released The Armor of Ire in 2016, it was an instant classic and it was more than obvious that this band was going to dominate the underground metal scene, and so it happened. Four years later, Jason Tarpey has a successful business an a blacksmith artist hand-forging steel and ironwork in the Texas hill country (Hammerhall Forge), he is writing about sword & sorcery and he sings songs you won't forget in the upcoming Eternal Champion album, Ravening Iron. With the most suitable voice you need, singing in a way that makes you repeat his every word and line.

Next in Line: Brendan Radigan
Singer, multi-instrumentalist.
Related acts: Magic Circle, Stone Dagger, Pagan Altar.

Brendan Radigan is a very special case. A person with a huge background in many diverse bands from hardcore and crossover to black metal, and from doom metal to epic heavy metal. And while he is currently the lead singer of Pagan Altar, the moment when Stone Dagger's debut album will be released, the world of underground metal will be shocked.

5. Cale Savy
Guitarist, singer, songwriter.
Related acts: Riot City.

When I first listened to the Livin' Fast demo of 2014, I knew that Riot City is going to be the energetic heavy metal band that will rule in the years to come. When the debut album Burn the Night was released in 2019, their screaming heavy metal was a shock. Judas Priest, spikes and leather! Riot City offered an amalgam of ripping and hot heavy metal, created in pure and youthful madness. Cale's vocals in Burn the Night are over the top but he stepped out of the mic for the coming tour and the next album, while he kept delivering energetic and powerful guitar mayhem. The next album is (probably) going to be released in 2021 and we expect nothing less than pure over-the-top heavy metal.

Next in Line: Jean-Pierre Abboud
Singer, metal enthusiast.
Related acts: Traveler, Gatekeeper.

JP Abboud started as the singer of Borrowed Time but probably the underground metal scene wasn't ready for them... Thankfully, Jeff Black in Gatekeeper and Matt Ries in Traveler didn't leave his amazing voice gone by so he is recording and touring with both of them while he is also part of Syrinx. JP is here to stay and we're going to listen many times to his awesome mid-range voice screaming stuff like "when the blade of Cimmeria drinks the life from their veins" and "the street machine can't fight back the winter".

6. Sebastian Silva
Related acts: Idle Hands, Silver Talon, Cobra Spell.

Talent. You always need to have passion and skills, you always must practice but talent is what's making the difference. Sebastian Silva has plenty of it as a guitarist. He had joined many bands like Spellcaster, Leathürbitch and Silver Talon, but Idle Hands is the band that's making the difference. Sebastian "Spyder" Silva toured all over the world with Idle Hands and I've seen them twice, in a huge venue (festival) and also in a small club with 100 people. They delivered the goods both times and Sebastian is a great guitarist with a perfect stage presence. During the COVID-19 year, Sebastian also formed a band with...

Next in line: Sonia Anubis (Sonia Nusselder)
Guitar, YouTube, Instagram.
Related Acts: Burning Witches, Crypta, Cobra Spell.

Born 50 years after the birthday of Alice Cooper, it was the summer of 2019 where Sonia and Sebastian Silva of Idle Hands decided to form a band together. When the guitar duo met Alice Cooper, he advised them to follow their dreams of making music together, so they formed Cobra Spell! Sonia has a strong presence in social media and she was a member of Burning Witches but Cobra Spell sound as the ideal band for her, influenced by the golden era of the '80s and bands like Dokken, with hook-driven songs and guitar extravaganza. Cobra Spell will release later this year their debut EP, Love Venom.


7. Chris Black 
Multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, record label owner, "heavy metal is the law".
Related acts: High Spirits, Dawnbringer, Aktor, Pharaoh, Professor Black.

Chris Black from Chicago, Illinois, is older than most of the musicians presented herein, but he is still young; actually one year younger than the author of this blog. However, his discography is unbelievable and impossible for many. This guy is a writing machine that sometime in the mid '90s he formed Dawnbringer releasing albums like In Sickness and in Dreams, Nucleus, In the Lair of the Sun God and Night of the Hammer among others, he formed Pharaoh performing drum duties and writing also a few songs for them, and then he also formed High Spirits that this year released a new album (Hard to Stop) mixed by Dan Swanö whom Chris met during his visit in Sweden in order to locate people and places that would be included in his upcoming book about Quorthon and Bathory!

But this is not just that. Chris is also running Planet Metal record label having released stuff from Bible of the Devil, Quicksand Dream, Züül and more, and he is also running more bands like Aktor, MetalUSAfer and Professor Black. And there are even more! This guy is a legend and he will never stop because heavy metal is the law.

Next in Line: Chad Davis
Singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter.
Related acts: Hour of 13, The Sabbathian.

Still older than most of the others herein, I just can't imagine writing an article like this one without including Chris Black and Chad Davis. I don't know what the future will hold for Chad, but he is an iconic underground metal songwriter, mostly exploring the dark side of things. Anu, Mountain of Judgement, Seven Foot Spleen, Olde, The Sabbathian, The Ritualist, Set, Profane Grace, and of course Hour of 13 (now using the Hour of Thirteen name) which their same-titled album of 2007 is one of the best albums of the '00s. This year, Chad is back with The Crooked Whispers and Satanic Melodies.

8. Trevor William Church
Singer, guitarist, bassist, record label owner.
Related acts: Haunt, Beastmaker.

Trevor was born into music. His father, his uncle and other members of his family were known musicians performing with known bands and artists like Montrose, Sammy Hagar and Van Morrison, just to name a few. His family, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne are just a few notable influences but it seemed that he would be involved with music no matter what. Based in Fresno, California, his first great stuff was released with Beastmaker recording countless songs and in 2017 he formed Haunt, one of the leading traditional heavy metal bands at the moment, with already a few awesome albums while in the beginning of 2020 they released Mind Freeze and before the year will end, another album is already out, Flashback! At the same time, Trevor is running Church Recordings, releasing now his own music and also gathering a few cool newcomers like Hysteria and Saber, other acts we're going to have in mind for the next few years.

Next in Line: Marios Petropoulos
Guitarist, songwriter.
Related acts: Sacral Rage.

There aren't many bands playing that perfect technical heavy speed metal of Sacral Rage. Actually, maybe there isn't any at the moment performing something so damn cool and metal as a mix of bands like Helstar, WatchTower, Annihilator, adding a few Mercyful Fate/King Diamond elements and the brain of Rush. Marios has that excellent guitar talent and no matter if the next album of Sacral Rage will meet commercial success, it will be an artistic mountain with a top unreachable by many.

9. Will Fried (known as The Hermit, Ol' Rusty, Will Spectre)
Singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter.
Related acts: Tarot, The Wizar'd.

Born in the golden year of 1988, Will is also the owner of Heavy Chains Records and that was my first contact with him sometime in 2014. He had already released The Wizar'd albums but didn't know that he was also Ol' Rusty, at least not before Tarot's The Warrior's Spell fell into my hands. In the marvellous year of 2016, the year of Agatus' The Eternalist, Eternal Champion's The Armor of Ire, Sumerlands' same-titled album, Khemmis' Hunted and The Temple's Forevermourn, Tarot released Reflections that was made of dreams, eerie landscapes and poetry. This year, The Wizar'd returned with their arcane metal and the album Subterranean Exile, and we're also waiting for Tarot's return...

Next in Line: Tucker Thomasson
Singing, lifting, playing guitar and Dungeons & Dragons.
Related acts: Throne of Iron.

The dude. Throne of Iron's debut album Adventure One is one of the most enjoyable albums of 2020 including every cliché we love and even more. There are better albums released in 2020, I know, but we can't resist a call to adventure and we're looking forward for more of them. As for the video of "Lichspire", that's definitely the best of 2020:

10. Colin Hendra
Singer, guitarist, songwriter, artist.
Related acts: Wytch Hazel.

When the Sarlacc's CD version of The Truth fell in my hands back in 2014, little I knew that this was going to be such a great band. Wytch Hazel's evolution is simply amazing and Colin Hendra is fully aware of this. Starting with Prelude in 2016 and with II: Sojourn in 2018, the British band established a strong name in the scene delivering a beautiful blend of classic heavy metal and hard rock rooted in '70s inspired by bands like Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath of course. Wytch Hazel's music is dominated by melodies, acoustic parts, great songwriting and a heartful performance, having also a Christian vibe. In 2020 the band will deliver the third full-album III: Pentecost and the mystical aura is now combined with a rich, sumptuous, anthemic late-night drivetime vibe, passionately embracing the most high-end smash-hit classic rock and metal of late '70s.

"Music is created for all, it’s a common grace for everyone" Colin said, "which is why the music that shows the glory of God the most, in my opinion, is not music created by Christians. It’s Black Sabbath!" You have to love them!

Next in Line: Joseph Tholl
Singer, guitarist, bassist, songwriter.
Related acts: VOJD, Black Trip, Enforcer.

Enforcer was a major step for Joseph but somewhere between, the two Black Trip albums was something bigger for him. In 2016, Black Trip changed its name to VOJD and released The Outer Ocean in 2018 without meeting the same success. Last year, Joseph released his solo album Devil's Drum and we're going to expect even more from him and VOJD. Or any other band he's going to be in.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Riley Gale of Power Trip.

Δευτέρα 20 Ιανουαρίου 2020

The albums we enjoyed most in 2019... And beyond.

The usual prologue would be that no one can say that have listened to almost everything that was released during 2019. Everyone who claims that is wrong, so we will speak just for our favourite releases and the albums we enjoyed most in 2019. The "best" albums of 2019 according to Crystal Logic.

Everything you will read below, are releases that can be found in physical format. "Releases" that were available only online, are not included. LORD OF LIGHT's "Morningstar" is going to be released physically in 2020 and the Spotify or YouTube tracks won't be added as an album in 2019. When this amazing album will be released, it will definitely be among the best of the year, but we're going to talk about it shortly...

There were few more great "releases" that can be found online but cannot considered "equal" to what we are talking about. For example, you can find on YouTube only (not even bandcamp) SMITH & SWANSON "Sanctuaries" that consists of three amazing songs in the vein of SEAMOUNT, HOUR OF 13 and BLACK SABBATH, while there is also the case of HRMÜLJA and MAGNABOLT, but as mentioned, let's just stick to what we're talking about. 
I believe that you need to check the physical format so you will have the complete experience of an album, and not just having a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. We love that. And we love lists. Any kind of lists. We are posting later than most media and websites our list, because there were so many great albums released during December or even November and we needed to have a proper listening. 2019 was not just more interesting than 2018 but it was probably one of the best years of the decade. Especially for fans of Doom Metal.

1. CRYPT SERMON "The Ruins of Fading Light"
(Dark Descent Records)

We have a winner. Along with their previous album ("Out of the Garden", 2015) we have the greatest epic doom metal albums of the decade. That's a bold statement, I know it, but that's already a classic. Nothing more to add. Number 1 is number 1. Pure perfection. Black iron gnosis.
Check also: SMOULDER "Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring". The Canadians fronted by sword woman Sarah Kitteringham, nailed it with an album that is balanced between epic metal, doom metal and pure passion. Sometimes, being a fan yourself, is the greatest element to create and perform passionate music.

2. ATLANTEAN KODEX "The Course of Empire"
(Ván Records)

We've been there for ATLANTEAN KODEX since day one; the very beginning. The first time I saw them live was at Up The Hammers festival 2010 and since then, many more times followed in Greece and Germany.
The first time I did an interview with the band was in 2011, before the second ATLANTEAN KODEX show in Athens, organized by No Remorse Records and Iron on Iron. That interview was done with Manuel Trummer for Cloak & Dagger 'zine (that exists no more, and was operated by Elina Kefala, that became one of the biggest supporters and friends of KODEX, "who reads the pathways of the stars").
Since that old interview can't be found anywhere anymore (online or printed) allow me to bring on surface a short part:
A.A.: Distant echoes from early MANOWAR, the Asatru period of BATHORY and writings of R.E. Howard, bound among others, the ATLANTEAN KODEX ethos. All this concept that steams from the Hidden Folk, is something that is part of your personality and your beliefs? How do you see the modern man?
M.T.: Well, I actually sometimes feel a little lost in this modern world. I often think that this isn‘t really my time and place. There‘s a huge lack of spirituality, of traditional ways of living and of identity in the modern world. Everything has to be as efficient and fast as possible. But this also makes things very superficial. "The Hidden Folk" is actually a very romantic song in a way. The longing for a better and distant past (which probably never existed) and the will to leave this world behind can be a huge emotional and atmospheric force, which can really take you away to a distant place, away from modernity‘s shackles.
A.A.: You believe that the history of Europe, is a history of immigration, right? So, there has to be a cultural diffusion of many different ideas and diversity. An acceptance for all the different people of Europe of today. So how important are the roots and the traditions for the man of 2011? And where do you draw a line of where these roots start?
M.T.: This is an interesting, but also a very difficult question. Where to draw the line? Let me start like this: yes, the history of Europe is of course a history of immigration. Everyone but the Basques, who were the first modern humans to conquer Europe, 35.000 years ago, is an immigrant in these lands. Speaking of Germany, the last 4000 years saw the last Stone Age people, they were driven to the hills and forests by the Indo-European Celtic tribes. The Celts were conquered by Roman troops, who dominated German lands from the Alps to the North Sea coast for almost 300 years. Then again the Romans were driven back by the barbarous Germanic tribes. Of course there were also the Slavs, who played a lead role in medieval times in eastern Germany... Each of these tribes left their marks on us as modern Germans, as well genetically, but most of all culturally. I guess this shows how shallow and how short-sighted concepts like "nation" or "race" really are. I consider myself a European, looking back on 10000 years of European heritage, sharing history, culture, genes and religion with my fellow Europeans from the boiling geysers of Thule to the walls of Hagar Q‘im, from Albion‘s shores to Attica‘s white temples. In a globalizing age, traditions are more important than ever. They provide us with a means of orientation in these fast-moving and confusing times. Family, home region ("Heimat" in German) and our European heritage is what defines us, tradition is what unites us.
Manuel visited more times Athens, not only for live shows. "The White Goddess" was released, more live shows followed, Europe and society changes and eight years later from that interview, I reached one more time Manuel and ATLANTEAN KODEX, this time for an interview for Metal Hammer magazine (Greece). It is always a pleasure to listen and read what bands like ATLANTEAN KODEX have to say about a new album, music, the lack of knowledge in modern society, social media, and tradition.
"The Course of Empire" is a triumph. A classic album. And ATLANTEAN KODEX is a unique band. It is not just about the music, but also the lyrics, the artworks, the aesthetics, the atmosphere, the symbols and metaphors they use to transmute the world.

3. IDLE HANDS "Mana"

From the first moment I listened to IDLE HANDS when they privately released "Don't Waste Your Time" EP, I was sure that this band is going to be huge. It is still early, but after their first full-length album "Mana", it seems that they can DO IT. They played nearly 100 gigs since the release of that EP and that's a huge achievement. Actually it is a miracle, if you will think about it deeper. "Mana" is a diverse album that sounds addictive, fresh and original. A highlight of 2019. A highlight of the decade. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a legend. Gabriel, prove me right!

Check also: LUNAR SHADOW "The Smokeless Fires", ENFORCER "Zenith", TANITH "In Another Time" and MOON CHAMBER "Lore of the Land".
Diversity is the magic word for the latest albums of LUNAR SHADOW and ENFORCER, but both of them combine different elements.
Three years ago, I did an interview with Max, guitarist and main composer of LUNAR SHADOW for Iron Fist (UK) and he said, "We play epic and melancholic heavy metal with tons of twin guitar leads. A strange amalgam of DISSECTION, WISHBONE ASH, old IN FLAMES and JUDAS PRIEST", when he was asked to describe his music to someone that is not familiar with the band. But his music is more than that. JUDAS PRIEST brought him into heavy metal, but his music is something more, something more personal. Loss, struggle, downfall... And then, you have the new album.
"The Smokeless Fires are our passions. The things that drive us one, deep within ourselves. All the love, hate, ambition, sorrow, joy and despair. That’s what all the songs on this album are about, in one way or another. It’s up to you to find out in which ways", said Max at Metal Squadron (an excellent interview you can read HERE). "The Smokeless Fires" is a personal album, created at a period where Max was looking for something else than "traditional heavy metal" and he came up with a diverse, emotional and great album. And even if he doesn't really like IDLE HANDS, "Roses" might be a song that connects these bands.
ENFORCER did something different. They added more melody in their traditional heavy metal and that worked really great. However, it seems that many fans didn't accept that change, but the album has few amazing songs like "Zenith of the Black Sun" (reminding Dio-era BLACK SABBATH), "The End of the Universe" and "Forever We Worship the Dark". You can't write similar songs every day...
MOON CHAMBER's debut album was created by Marta Gabriel of CRYSTAL VIPER on vocals (and bass on recordings) and Rob Bendelow of SARACEN on guitar and songwriting. In addition to Marta and Rob, keyboard duties are handled by Paul Bradder of SARACEN, and the driving percussion comes courtesy of PAGAN ALTAR’s Andy Green. In "Lore of the Land", you can listen 10 songs deeply rooted in the classic rock and heavy metal of the '70s and '80s, whilst drawing inspiration from the wealth of English folklore, history and legend. "Only" is probably the most beautiful song of 2019, while "Knight Errant (My Son)" is an amazing epic track.
As for TANITH, their debut album "In Another Time" is a passionate vintage hard rock that harks back to the glory days of THIN LIZZY and URIAH HEEP. However, while such influences resonate through the band’s music, TANITH never derivative, having a strong musical identity and forging their own sound.

4. ARCH / MATHEOS "Winter Ethereal"
(Metal Blade Records)

Oh that voice! When I saw for the first time John Arch performing live at the stage of Keep It True festival in 2012, I couldn’t believe that this guy hasn’t sung live since ages and yet, he nailed it! What a performance! Eight years since the debut ARCH / MATHEOS album “Sympathetic Resonance”, the guys we love returned with an even better album! Can you imagine that? Songs like "Wanderlust ", "Pitch Black Prism" and "Kindred Spirits" are standing among the highlights of the FATES WARNING legacy & "family". Soul, passion, variety and very well-written lyrics (something that is missing from metal nowadays). As for Jim Matheos, I can’t really add much about his amazing songwriting skills, and while we are waiting for the next FATES WARNING album, I hope there will be also another ARCH / MATHEOS album in the future…
Check also: HORIZON'S END "Skeleton Keys", ZONDER / WEHRKAMP "If It's Real".

5. RIOT CITY "Burn the Night"
(No Remorse Records)

Screaming heavy metal from Canada cannot fail. Album of the month in Deaf Forever magazine from Germany and one of the absolute highlights of 2019. These guys combine all the elements we love and they definitely "play on 10". Just imagine the most important influences a new traditional metal band must have and add the energy of passionate fans and professional musicians. Then you have “Burn the Night”. And the best is yet to come… 

Check also: HAUNT "If Icarus Could Fly", SABÏRE "Gates Ajar", TRAVELER "Traveler".
Singer and guitarist Trevor William Church, does something really amazing with HAUNT. He has worked on 3 albums and few EPs in just 3 years and looks unstoppable! On the other hand, Scarlett Monastyrski of SABÏRE was creating his acid metal slowly over the years, until that day of late December 2018 where he unleashed those songs on bandcamp. It was a matter of time for a proper release and shortly, the sound of true resistance was properly available on CD (via Skol Records) and vinyl (via No Remorse Records). SABÏRE from Australia, were also invited to perform few shows in Europe during 2019 and "Rise to the Top" sounds like the ultimate ‘80s retro metal song! And then, you have TRAVELER, the mates of RIOT CITY from Canada, releasing their debut album, full of anthemic songs, metal passion, blazing riffs and one of the best voices of our times. JUDAS PRIEST must be proud of their legacy.
6. GÉVAUDAN "Iter"
(Private release)

Privately released, this came to my attention by luck, but thank God it did! You need to be patient with music, so while the first 10-minute track was OK, someone who listens to music like visiting a burger house fast food could switch to something else. I didn’t. And then, you have two of the best doom metal tracks of 2019: "Maelstrom" and "The Great Heathen Army". CANDLEMASS might have Astorolus, the Great Octopus, but GÉVAUDAN have the Lords of the ocean, the Great Demons of the sea. So, who do you think will swallow the Earth? This private release is amazing and having Mike Exeter producing, is another highlight since Mike has worked with Tony Iommi and BLACK SABBATH, and that huge sound is present.
Check also: ALUNAH from England released their fifth album, "Violet Hour". Mesmerized performance by singer Siân Greenaway, hypnotized and heavy, this is definitely an album under the spell of the Iommic Magick.
It’s been a while since the mighty "Epicurean Mass" album of 2003 and ORODRUIN from the United States returned with "Ruins of Eternity", a bold statement in the current traditional doom metal scene. Solid, heavy and emotional, I only hope the next album won’t be released around 2035.
DOOMSTRESS hailing also from the United States and the album "Sleep Among the Dead" has "Your God Is Blind", one of the most catchy and addictive songs of 2019; one of the best songs of the year.

7. GOTHIC STONE "Haereticus Empyreum"
(Black Widow Records)

The voice of DOOMSWORD’s debut album, Italy, spooky atmosphere and organs, epic doom metal, and a lyric "You will die in the eve of Candlemass". You had me from "hello". GOTHIC STONE’s debut album passed unnoticed but do yourself a favor and check it as soon as possible. These guys managed to mix things that can sound familiar, with a very inspired way.  
Check also: IRON GRIFFIN "Curse of the Sky", THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG "New Organon"

8. CHEMIKILL "Edge of Wasteland"
(Tonalite Records)

Formed in late ‘80s, it took them "a while" to release an album, but CHEMIKILL did everything on their own and finally, an album titled “Edge of Wasteland” reached us! Somewhere between myth and reality, the album was recorded sometime in the ‘00s but the master tapes were lost and no recordings were saved. So here, you have all those tracks finally recorded and released. Classic US power metal with solid riffs and everything you love from American power metal.
Check also: ASSASSIN'S BLADE "Gather Darkness", QUEENSRŸCHE "The Verdict"

9. FVNERAL FVKK "Carnal Confessions"
(Solitude Productions / Bleeding Heart Nihilist)

You might laugh with the band’s name but you won’t laugh with the music itself. And you will definitely won’t laugh with the concept and imagery of FVNERAL FVKK’s ideas and songs. If you are into doom metal, here you have your next obsession. A dark doomy gospel forged in the crimes and atrocities of the people of the church. A bold and sinister album that cannot have commercial success. But who cares? Just listen to those carnal confessions.
Check also: LORD VICAR returned with "The Black Powder", so doom metal is alive and well, even if it smells rotten at times. Featuring members that performed or performing with bands like REVEREND BIZARRE, COUNT RAVEN and ORNE, this is pure traditional doom metal, dark, magickal and… slow. Just like it should be. And next to that, THRONEHAMMER released "Usurper of the Oaken Throne". These albums are not for the faint of heart. Enter the cave of doom metal with your own will, but be sure that if the demon of doom will possess you, it will be with you forever.

10. TWISTED TOWER DIRE "Wars in the Unknown"
(No Remorse Records)

This is a great comeback! We were expecting a new TWISTED TOWER DIRE album for a long time and they didn't fail us. Actually they never did, but their last studio album "Make It Dark" (2011) was considered as a disappointment by many, that also didn't really like WALYPRGUS' "Walpyrgus Nights", released in 2017 featuring TWISTED TOWER DIRE members. We like all of them, but "Wars in the Unknown" stands above them. This band is a true legend of the '90s and '00s underground metal and stood on their feet despite difficult times.

Check also: RAVENSIRE "A Stone Engraved in Red", TERMINUS "A Single Point of Light", WARRIOR PATH "Warrior Path".
RAVENSIRE hold the banner of underground metal high. And they will do until the end of times. TERMINUS are no longer a live act and their debut album, "The Reaper's Spiral" (2015) was a masterpiece. The latest album, "A Single Point of Light", is a grower and in the times of fast food, fast posts on social media and fast forward "listening" to an album, you really need to LISTEN. 

The Best, the Rest and More - 2019 Unmasked

Heavy, Epic, Power Metal Rites: ANCIENT EMPIRE "Wings of the Fallen", BLAZON STONE "Hymns of Triumph and Death", CHEVALIER "Destiny Calls", DARKLON "Rise from Death", GATEKEEPER "Grey Maiden", GRAND MAGUS "Wolf God", IRONSWORD "In The Coils Of Set", LEGENDRY "The Wizard and the Tower Keep", MANOWAR "The Final Battle I", MIRROR "Pyramid of Terror", MYSTIK "Mystik", RHODIUM "Sea of the Dead", SANHEDRIN "The Poisoner", SANGREAL "Sangreal", SAVAGE MASTER "Myth, Magic and Steel", SKELATOR "Cyber Metal", SOLICITOR "Sölicitör", STARBORN "Savage Peace", STORMBURNER "Shadow Rising", THE NIGHT ETERNAL "The Night Eternal", VULTURE "Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves", VULTURES VENGEANCE "The Knightlore".
Under the Sabbathian Spell and the Iommic Magick: ALTAR OF OBLIVION "The Seven Spirits", CANDLEMASS "The Door to Doom", CAPILLA ARDIENTE "The Siege", CARONTE "Wolves of Thelema", GREEN LUNG "Woodland Rites", IN AEVUM AGERE "Canto III", ISOLE "Dystopia", OGRE "Thrice as Strong", MAGIC CIRCLE "Departed Souls", MONASTERIUM "Church of Bones", SCARECROW "Scarecrow", SPIRIT ADRIFT "Divided By Darkness", THE SABBATHIAN "Latum Alterum", TROLL "Legend Master".
Melodic Lines: ECLIPSE "Paradigm", FOREVER "Forever", FORTUNE "II", GATHERING OF KINGS "First Mission", WHITESNAKE "Flesh & Blood", WORK OF ART "Exhibits".
Thrashing Maniacs and Screams from Hell: ACID DEATH "Primal Energies", AGGRESSIVE PERFECTOR "Havoc at the Midnight Hour", BLOOD INCANTATION "Hidden History of the Human Race", DEATH ANGEL "Humanicide", DIABOLIC NIGHT "Beyond the Realm", EXUMER "Hostile Defiance", FLOTSAM & JETSAM "The Age of Chaos", NILE "Vile Nilotic Rites", POSSESSED "Revelations of Oblivion", SACRED REICH "Awakening", SUICIDAL ANGELS "Years of Aggression", TOMB MOLD "Planetary Clairvoyance", WHITE WARD "Love Exchange Failure", XENTRIX "Bury the Pain".

What do we expect from 2020? 
The studio return of KING DIAMOND with the album "The Institute" is something we're looking forward to! That's a huge thing and King never dissapoints.
2020 will be the year of Epic Metal since DOOMSWORD might be back and ETERNAL CHAMPION will unleash their second, mythical, studio album. And if "mythical" is something that sounds "too much" for a new release, then an official release by the underground Epic Metal legend of BLACK SWORD THUNDER ATTACK, will shake the depths of underground metal.
If you want to go to the "surface", PSYCHOTIC WALTZ are already on the way, ERIC CLAYTON AND THE NINE are currently in the studio recording the album "A Thousand Scars" with Devon Graves of PSYCHOTIC WALTZ producing, SUMERLANDS are working on new songs, and HITTMAN will finally return with a new album.
In few days, we will have in our hands OZZY OSBOURNE's new album, "Ordinary Man", and even if you find it too mainstream or modern, OZZY will always be the Prince of Darkness.