Πέμπτη 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2022

February the 3rd, 1990: One rode to Jessheim and the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal.

 One could say that the story of Mayhem is the story of True Norwegian Black Metal even if no one can really imagine how Black Metal would evolve if those "events" wouldn't happen. Still though, no one can really write the complete story of a genre that is more than music until the mid-90s. And since it is "more than music", there are really no rules and guidelines.

Documenting the music, the beliefs, the aesthetic, the people and the events, is something that can't be objectively done, since different people will have a different perspective on different memories and facts, many times distorted by the passing of time. And while the author of this blog tried to write the brief story of Black Metal under the title "The Past is Alive: Gazing into the Void of Black Metal" for Vinylom, which date could be considered as the birth of Norwegian Black Metal? That date is February the 3rd of 1990. Because it has to be a date surrounding Mayhem. And since Deathcrush is not really a "true Norwegian black metal" release, while De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was finally released in a year where many other black metal albums already had emerged from the depths of Hell, we will mark the date that made people witness blood and darkness.


Written by Andreas Andreou


On February 3rd of 1990, Mayhem performed live in the town of Jessheim, and many people claimed to witness that event, but according to Faust (born Bård Guldvik Eithun) as mentioned in the book(let) that accompanies Mayhem's Cursed in Eternity box set (with 4 live shows of 1990), "Several thousand people have in retrospect claimed to be there, whereas the club only holds around 200 people". But Faust was there. And so did a few other people that in the years that followed were among those who shaped Black Metal. That's how important that specific date was, and also Euronymous' influence upon everyone else. Abbath Doom Occulta (born Olve Eikemo) and Demonaz Doom Occulta (born Harald Nævdal) that were previously in death metal bands like Old Funeral and Amputation formed Immortal. Kristian Vikernes, also of Old Funeral, formed his own black metal entity named Burzum, and Samoth (born Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) with Ihsahn (born Vegard Sverre Tveitan) of death metallers Thou Shalt Suffer, formed Emperor. Even Darkthrone who released their debut death metal album Soulside Journey in 1991, changed to black metal. And many of those iconic black metal figures were there, on February 3rd of 1990, witnessing the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal.


I tried to locate someone who was there, but not really one of those musicians and people that became part of the music industry, just one random person who happened to be there. While studying the history of Mayhem and Black Metal, I randomly noticed that from time to time, different people (like Faust and Necrobutcher) mentioned two Greeks who were there. After a research, I located Evangelos Zaoutsos and he shared his story. I was expecting to hear something completely different but Vaggelis (mentioned just as "Vagge" from now on) was very honest and didn't try to sound as an "important part of the history" just like others would do. But his story during the birth of Norwegian black metal has its charm and reveals another side from a person who was really there.


"I had found Øystein Aarseth's address from Metalion's Slayer 'zine", recalls Vagge. "I sent him a letter because I wanted to buy the Deathcrush vinyl, and added US dollars hidden in a silver foil. When I got the record we started corresponding and sending letters to each other". Vagge kept for years most of those letters and a few parts of them will be presented here.


It was the era of "tape trading" and Vagge was mostly into noisecore music, while he also had hundreds of letters from many contacts and bands of the late '80s and early '90s, including Paradise Lost and Marduk from their early years. Euronymous also told him that he liked a lot Rotting Christ from Greece, and Mayhem also had a contact with Rotting Christ who would arrange a Mayhem gig in Greece during 1990, but it never happened because of a miscommunication even if Mayhem were already on the road, finally performing in Germany and Turkey. However, the great overthrow in the discussion between Vagge and myself is the real reason why he went to Norway...

"In the summer of 1988, I met in Crete a girl from Norway and kept contact with her through letters" says Vagge, and he also mentioned her to Øystein. Vagg's girlfriend was from Oslo and he had a crush on her. [Note: the author of this blog knows the name, and also saw pictures of her, but we will keep it private]. Vagge told her that once he will save a few money, he will visit her for a week in Oslo. So, he gathered 150000 drachmas and travelled to Norway in a period where this kind of trip wasn't the easiest thing in the world. "That was the real reason for my trip to Norway", says Vagge. "Øystein wanted to help me find the places as soon as I arrived in Oslo to meet her and he would host me for a few days. It wasn't Mayhem the reason I travelled in Norway... It was my love for this woman".

"When we started corresponding in 1988 no one imagined what would happen after 3-4 years", Vagge adds but to his surprise things didn't end as planned. If there was ever a plan. "When I met her, after 4 days, she told me that she can't do anything for me and I should leave her house... so Øystein told me that I can stay at his place as long as I want, and so I did, until all of my money ended, and I returned back home with expenses of the Greek Embassy in Oslo which I paid as soon as I returned to Greece".

That's a memory also mentioned in Jørn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud's book The Death Archives (Mayhem 1984-94) with a different way. As Necrobutcher states, during the first gig with Pelle (February 3rd), large crowds started showing up in the flat and there was also some visitors from Greece, living there. "We couldn't get rid of them", notes Necrobutcher in his book. "After a while we had to go to the Greek Embassy and plead for money to send those guys home". According to Necrobutcher, they just showed up one day.


During Vagge's staying in Langhus many things happened, including the Mayhem shows that shaped the Norwegian Black Metal. On February 3r of 1990, Mayhem performed live in Jessheim, and that was the first live show of the line-up of Dead (vocals), Euronymous (guitar), Necrobutcher (bass) and Hellhammer (drums). A few weeks later (February 28th, 1990), Mayhem performed live in Sarpsborg. That was the show known from the notorious bootleg Dawn of the Black Hearts that was first released in 1995 by the Colombian Warmaster Records. That specific gig was part of the "Support for Slayer Magazine" festival, organized by Metalion (Jon Kristiansen) of Slayer 'zine. Adding detail to the story, the owner of Warmaster Records was Bull Metal (born Mauricio Montoya Botero) who was a member of Colombian bands like Agressor, Masacre, Typho, and a friend of Euronymoys. The Dawn of the Black Hearts bootleg is known for the cover that has Dead's body after his suicide, photographed by Euronymous after re-arranging some items. Bull Metal got the photo directly from Euronymous since he introduced him to the Colombian extreme metal scene who already had an important act like Parabellum in the '80s, an influential band for early Mayhem. As for the audio of that gig, it is said that Bull Metal got a VHS from Metalion including the Sarpsborg show. Just like Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin, Botero was found dead in December of 2002, commiting suicide.


When Vagge was asked about the first moments he landed in Norway and his meeting with Øystein, he said: "When I arrived, Øystein was waiting for me at the airport. I remember the ice when I entered the new country, we went to a supermarket to get basic stuff and we went to his home. Euronymous drank a lot of Coca-Cola, he was a huge Coca-Cola fan... There were 3 people living in that house, Øystein (Euronymous), Pelle (Dead) and Jan (Hellhammer)... and myself for a while. Before me, there was also a guy from Poland living there for a while but he had left earlier".


January 1990
Euronymous at a Mayhem rehearsal (with Coca-Cola bottles behind him).
Photo by Vagge.


But what kind of guys were Mayhem in their early 20s? "They were OK", Vagge recalls. "Everyone was in his room, several hours all together, just like you're sitting in your home with friends. Only Pelle was spending many hours alone in his room, the room he shot himself. Øystein was writing letters all the time, he never stopped. There was also a rehearsal where I took a few pictures of them. Years later I sold them to a guy from Japan on eBay". Vagge kept seeing those pictures in various blogs and sites, the photos from that rehearsal that were probably spread all over from Euronymous... or after his death when his stuff was also spread among different individuals. Many people claim "memories" and "I-was-there" or "I-was-talking-to-him" things after Euronymous' death and despite the fact that Euronymous was in contact with countless people, no one will probably understand who was really "there". But that's a thing that happens all the time in life, isn't it? 

Still though, Vagge also met Fenriz, Faust, he was in the studio when Cadaver were recording their debut album Hallucinating Anxiety, he met Mortem and many more, but as he adds, "It happened by luck". He was just there for a woman and Øystein helped him because they were pen pals, talking about different things. They even exchanged letters about communism since Euronymous had specific ideas about it and it was just 2 years later when everything started getting wilder reaching the edge of different and extreme ideas leading to the "events". Some ideas poison people and change them. Some people change, others not. Some people regret, others not. Some people use extreme ideas and images just for the sake of their art, others truly believe them, and always, there is a different context and impact to different periods.

People talk highly about those Mayhem ‘90s shows, their vibe and the electric atmosphere. For people that later were part of bands such as Emperor and Immortal, seeing Mayhem live in 1990, was a life-changing experience. Vagge's memories from the live shows weren't exactly what you would expect to hear. "What I remember from the show is that Pelle cut himself in front of us and I didn't like that... The show was a typical live gig like those you could see in Athens. Loud with mosh. That's what I remember". But that first show, on February 3rd of 1990, can really be considered as the birth of the Norwegian Black Metal, with a sound that others found life-changing, others a chaotic mess, Dead cutting himself, the corpse painting, the blood, and the pig heads on stakes. Mayhem was already a legend in 1990. According to "album release dates", it is often said that Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky (March 1992) is the first true Norwegian black metal album with Burzum's debut album released a few days later, but nothing would happen without those Mayhem shows when people listened for the first time a chaotic live black metal sound of songs like "Funeral Fog", "Freezing Moon" and "Buried by Time and Dust". A sound that was completed by Snorre W. Ruch (using also the stage name Blackthorn) and the Grymyrk tape of his band Thorns that created the Norwegian guitar sound we all know. Grymyrk was actually 6 tracks of guitar and bass only, recorded in 1991 by Snorre and bassist Harald Eilertsen, so the other two members of ex-Stigma Diabolicum, singer Marius Vold and drummer Bård Eithun (Faust) could listen. Euronymous was heavily inspired by that recording and more or less, Blackthorn and Euronymous sat down and created what is known as the tremolo-picking Norwegian black metal riffing style.


As noted in the beginning of this article, someone could say that the story of Mayhem is the story of True Norwegian Black Metal and no one can really imagine how Black Metal would evolve if those "events" wouldn't happen. When Vagge was asked about those "events", he said: "I stayed in Norway for 35 days during January and February of 1990. I remember I learned about Dead's suicide by a letter but after that I exchanged just a few letters with Øystein and then we got lost. Around 1992 things started getting wild... When Øystein was killed, I lost my interest in black metal. I never listened completely to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and I sold my copy. I sold my records because I needed money... I know it is not right but I needed that money. I sold my 2 copies of the original Deathcrush pressing for 2000 US dollars each... As for now? I guess I am a wussy and I only listen to pop, synth, industrial, dark electro and bands like Depeche Mode. And always Celtic Frost".



Left picture: Euronymous' personal Norwegian-English dictionary, sent to Vagge in 1989. Euronymous was willing to learn more from other languages, and also suggested that to other people too.

Right pictures: Pelle's favourite Swedish tobacco. Ηe used to put it on his gums so he would not smoke.


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.



Κυριακή 2 Ιανουαρίου 2022

2021 - THE BEST OF METAL: The albums we enjoyed most in 2021... And a review of the year's top releases.

Once again, the usual prologue would be that no one can say that they have listened to almost everything that was released during 2021. Everyone who claims that is wrong, so we will speak just about our favourite releases and the albums we enjoyed mostly in 2021. The "best" albums of 2021 according to Crystal Logic, and a wider review of another covid-year in metal music. Note also, that this time we won't include any hard rock, AOR or melodic rock albums like previous years and everything you will read below, are releases that can be found in physical format. "Releases" that were available only digitally, are not included. Sorry Kenn Nardi, you're also delayed to deliver the album within 2021. Also, Cauldron Born's Legacy of Atlantean Kings rules, but we won't also add re-recordings.  

Another difference is that everything you will read below was written within a few hours. Actually this morning. It is not filtered or worked within a bigger time frame of days or weeks. Simple and out of my mind at that exact time. The Top-20 list was already completed in late November since it was asked from Metal Hammer magazine in Greece (where the author of this blog is also a scribe) but there are also a few changes that my Greek friends will notice if they will compare the magazine's list with this one. Sorry, but since printed media are asking so early for the top lists, we might miss a few December releases and one of them was Funeral Mist's Deiform that appeared out of nowhere (or straight from Hell) and made us look silly. Damn you guys! Lists shouldn't be published or requested so early! Talking to you Decibel too, who presented them in mid November missing albums such as 1349 and Deiform...

written by Andreas Andreou

Let's start with those "mini" releases, name them demo, EP, split. Ten of them ruled, including a few new bands that are going to be huge. Check them and catch those names from now.


1. TALES OF MEDUSA - Antiquity (demo)
2. SOLEMN LAMENT - Solemn Lament (tape EP)
3. SPIRIT ADRIFT - Forge Your Future EP
5. EZRA BROOKS / SERPENT RIDER - Visions of Esoteric Splendor (split)
6. CIRITH UNGOL - Half Past Human EP
7. MACE 'N' CHAIN - Upon the Anvil Formed (demo)
8. RAGE AND FIRE - 1986 + 35 (demo)
9. SANDSTORM - Desert Warrior EP
10. TOWER HILL - Fighting Spirits (demo)

Not much to add here, the mystery of Tales of Medusa continues, and we're looking forward to the debut albums of bands such as Solemn Lament, Mace 'n' Chain, Rage and Fire. Check those releases and you will discover bands that are going to occupy your time in 2022 and/or 2023. Ezra Brooks and Serpent Rider joined forces delivering arcane metal, and Udo Dirkschneider alongside Peter Baltes and Stefan Kaufmann brought us back the spirit of the melodic side of Accept.

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

20. NECROMANTIA - To the Depths We Descend...

A farewell. Blood and darkness. To death and beyond. The last Necromantia album is the closing chapter of a book that sealed the history of black metal.

Check also: MARE COGNITUM - Solar Paroxysm, WODE - Burn in Many Mirrors, YOTH IRIA - As the Flame Withers


19. WOLFTOOTH - Blood & Iron

If you're following this blog, you will remember that each Wolftooth album had a mention every year it was released. What makes you think it will change now? One more cool album, more "epic" than the previous two, still with swords, still heavy, still great. The wolf bites again.

Check also: APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE - Until Darkness Goes, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY - Doom Crew Inc.

18. CRIMSON FIRE - Another Dimension

The third album of the Greek (once, traditional metal) band combines elements that made their music much more addictive, adding keyboards and a strong melodic touch, releasing a few of the unsung hits of 2021.  

Check also: HITTEN - Triumph & Tragedy, POUNDER - Breaking the World


17. TERRA ODIUM - Ne Plus Ultra

Looks insane that this album came out by Frontiers Records, the home of sugar music, countless projects, a few legends of AOR and hard rock and the similar sound to all of them. With a line-up including Steve DiGiorgio on bass and other members of bands such as Spiral Architect and Manitou, this is a heavy as fuck and skillful as MacGyver, classy progressive metal debut album, opposed to the wankery of most modern prog bands.

Check also: I guess that when DREAM THEATER releases a new album we should include it, so you can also check A View from the Top of the World. They're not there, but they were once.

16. WHEEL - Preserved in Time

While I wasn't a huge fan of their second album Icarus (2013) but I enjoyed the 2010's same-titled debut, Preserved in Time caught me by surprise! Maybe because of that huge Solitude Aeturnus vibe since we're missing the Texan epic doom metal legend. But don't take the third album of the German doomsters as a copycut, it's just the kind of doom that makes us headbang (we did it in Keep It True Rising!) and raise the fist in the air. Classy!

Check also: NEKROMANT - Temple Of Haal


15. THE SONIC OVERLORDS - Last Days of Babylon

The lads from Sweden play a cool heavy/doom metal in their debut album that brings in mind one of the greatest heavy metal styles you can think of: What Iommi was doing with Black Sabbath in the mid to late '80s. Oh yes, they even brought Tony Martin as a guest singer for the bonus track "Pass the End of Time", that's actually the album's "Sands of Time". And what a great song it is! Something that could even be in Sabbath's The Eternal Idol! That album deserved to be higher in this list since it is one of the year's releases I listened to mostly. Performance is excellent, Marcus Zachrisson Rubin sounds as the most suitable voice for this material, Per Soläng is a groovy pounder, Daniel Ramírez uses his bass as a star and fills with the best possible way everything low-heavy-and-beyond, and Morgan Zocek sounds as a true riffmaster; Lord Iommi would be proud of him. Opening track "Utopia" has a Spiritual Beggars vibe, follow-up "In My Darkest Room" is a doomy cut with a nod to American doom metal and overall The Sonic Overlords have also a classic (heavy) rock feeling in their music. You can listen to it at "Fools" and "Shine" which is the best hit you probably didn't hear in 2021 if you passed this album. Grab it and listen to it!

Check also: THE NIGHT ETERNAL - Moonlit Cross


14. LAMP OF MURMUUR - Submission and Slavery

That riffing at the 8th minute of the 11-minute "Reduced to Submission and Slavery"  opening track can put to shame the traditional heavy metal etnhusiast that believes "everything here is just noise" since a few of his/her favourite metal releases of 2021 might lack of the authenticity this American hyped outfit has. The overall authenticity can be questioned though by the anti-hype hunters but Lamp of Murmuur dwell in the past of black metal and at the same time they walk in paths of post-punk, the goth rock ways of Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death, even Dead Can Dance. Mysterious, charming and dark, Submission and Slavery is another chapter in the floodland of modern underground black metal. It's commanding and true.

Check also: MYSTRAS - Empires Vanquished and Dismantled. The new project of Spectral Lore's Ayloss is medieval black metal against empire and aristocracy. Anti-imperialism, anti-fascist and anti-nationalist, Mystras' second album keeps the lo-fi aesthetic and sound adding traditional instruments (such as Turkish ney and santoor) in separate folk pieces and interludes, while keeping the raw black metal harshness in most of the rest. 

13. MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY - Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb

With more than 100 minutes, the one-man project of Dis Pater from Australia delivers a genre-breaking and grandiose release that's what you can call once you will mix: ambient, dungeon synth, symphonic black metal, progressive, atmospheric black metal. Are you confused?  Don't be. Just listen to songs like "Dawn-Bringer" and "Rise of Thunder", two of the best tracks of 2021. More than impressive, with rich and brilliant arrangements, beautiful synths, and a bright sound, Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb is a goldmine of inspiration that any real fan of quality music should listen to.

Check also: ESOCTRILIHUM - Dy'th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath. Just a year after the magnificent Eternity of Shaog (that was included in 2020's list) Asthâghul returns with one more experimental and atmospheric black metal album, bizarre and beautiful, different and multi-dimensional.


12. GREEN LUNG - Black Harvest

You listen to this album and instantly understand that it's coming from the United Kingdom, with a warm sound that dwells in the '70s but brings to us something that's also fresh. But let's put away for a while any comparisons and don't mention the band names you probably expect to read. Black Harvest has the riffs, the organ, the perfect voice chanting about old gods, folklore, leaders of the blind, altars and thy satanic majesty. But don't get fooled, Green Lung is not just a band praising the goat, this is a beautiful art that requires your attention and time. Give it to them and you might find a new favourite band. Brilliant!

Check also: HOUR OF 13 - Black Magick Rites


11. SILVER TALON - Decadence and Decay

You definitely read many times about US power metal blah blah blah but actually, the Portland-based band featuring past and present members of acts such as Spellcaster and Unto Others is something more. And while the Nevermore vibe is more than obvious, Silver Talon's metal is more technical than the average NWOTHM or a modern screaming USPM band, and in Decadence and Decay you can locate a songwriting influence by King Diamond (guitarist Andy LaRocque is also a guest) while the spirit of Judas Priest is all over too. Let's put away the "progressive" term for a while and bring on the "modern technical power metal" that it is. Riffefficacious and skillful metal for those who need deeper music than radio hits.

Check also: CHEMIKILLED - Aftermath


10. WARRIOR PATH - The Mad King

Guitarist and main songwriter Andreas Sinanoglou had a specific vision of a heavy/power metal band in his mind for years. He probably didn't care about commercial success and he just needed to materialize this vision. Finding multi-instrumentalist and producer Bob Katsionis (solo, Outloud, ex-Firewind, etc,) in his way is the key that unlocked the doors to his vision. After 2019's same-titled debut album the return marked the recruiting of singer extraordinaire Daniel Heiman (ex-Lost Horizon) and the result is an album that brings back the glory of European '90s and '00s heavy/power metal. Note that this album isn't an underground "true metal" thing, this is a high quality release that could be released by bigger labels if the band wanted. Name them No Remorse Records (that did just the vinyl version) or Napalm Records, they could do it if they wished, and they could definitely sell a few thousands copies more. Everything a fan of European heavy/power metal needs is here and if The Mad King would be kinda squeezed if it was released in the late '90s to early '00s between all those HammerFall, Lost Horizon, Stratovarius, Kamelot etc. releases, in the 2020s it simply rules and it's the master of its game.

Check also: ANCIENT EMPIRE - Priest of Stygia, BLAZON STONE - Damnation, BRAINSTORM - Wall of Skulls, CLAYMOREAN - Eulogy for the Gods, CRYSTAL VIPER - The Cult, HELLOWEEN - Helloween, PALADINE - Entering the Abyss


9. PHARAOH - The Powers That Be

Professor Black's Pharaoh is back bringing again the powers of the great songwriting and the force of the riff. Excellent from start to finish, Pharaoh's fifth album has all the elements that made US power metal what it is. And if the band looks more of a "miss" in "hit-and-miss" in terms of recognition in the wider scene, one can't really argue about their high quality and that's what you should keep in mind. While Professor Black wrote Dawnbringer's Into the Lair of the Sun God (2012) in the key of H (Headless Cross, Heaven Forbid, Hammerheart, Hail to England, Holy Diver...), The Powers That Be looks like written in the key of R regarding bands, and you can spot the Running Wild influence in "Freedom" or an overall vibe of Riot. The quality of songs like "Dying Sun", "We Will Rise" and "When the World Was Mine" is unmatchable. Do yourself a favor and don't let this band pass you by.

Check also: IRON FATE - Crimson Messiah


8. UNTO OTHERS - Strength

After changing the name from Idle Hands to Unto Others, the lads from Portland, thankfully, didn't lose their momentum and the second full-length album is here with us, through a bigger record label. Let me add just one note about this change. It's always great for a band to be in the roster of a label such as historical and big like Roadrunner but in the modern era of the music industry, once a label can offer the same things in terms of royalties, distribution and promotion, you probably need to check only how easy or difficult the communication and co-operation can be. What do I mean? Unless it is a band choice, having the CD version of Strength already released in September and vinyl not yet out, looks like something "wrong" or something just not planned well for a label such as Roadrunner, let alone the lack of proper distribution in specific territories where Unto Others have a strong fan base (talking about Greece). Pre-ordering like half a year earlier, is not something the fans really like too. Back to the album, Gabe and Co. delivered a brilliant release that just lacks the element of surprise Mana had. It happens many times in music history and this is an unavoidable trap. The new album has one of the best sounds of any album released in 2021. What an amazing production this is! Courtesy of Arthur Rizk's wizardry and settings, Strength has the SONGS and a beautiful bittersweet feeling that after a few listens it becomes addictive, with all those excellent hooks and melodies. Still though, Strength needs its time to dwell its melancholy within you but in the end you will be rewarded.

Check also: LUNAR SHADOW's Wish to Leave is an album you're gonna like too. Actually, Max Birbaum's band is not really doing what Idle Hands (now Unto Others) did, since you  already had the magnificent "Roses" track in The Smokeless Fires album that was a hint for the future, let alone that all "this thing" was already in the scene here and there, and Lunar Shadow was always a diverse band with an enormous variety of influences, bands from any genre you can think but also inspiration from life, night and everything Max could breath, hear, see and feel. The album is not as negative as it may sound in the first place, it has an excellent sound opposed to many overproduced metal albums and Max understands that not everyone needs to ride that train to the end, but he'll stay a little while longer and see where it takes him. We're aboard with him.


7. IRON MAIDEN - Senjutsu

When the first song "The Writing on the Wall" was published, I didn't like it at all. I still don't, even if the guitar solo part sounds great, but in the album's flow it doesn't bother me.  The most negative issue I noticed at that specific track was Bruce Dickinson's performance, the production and the songwriting itself. Let's take them one by one and see how different they can be when the physical copy is on your stereo.

Bruce sounded a bit tired on that first track and like a vowel singer more than ever. When I used to listen to older Maiden tracks, I could understand every word without needing to read the lyrics (even if that completes the listening experience). However, in the new album it doesn't really happen. That means something. Well, the man was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and he beat that. And he still sings in the Heavy Metal Empire so he is a hero. But, sometimes it sounds like there is a problem with the pronunciation of the "s" letter or his joint but weird enough, this comes and goes and it is not something you listen to the complete album. Iron Maiden are recording in the way the songs should be performed live, so I guess that the songs that will be included in the setlist intentionally have some "imperfections" or it just happened.  

Jumping to production, the album also has the live feeling, just like most of the Maiden albums after Dickinson's and Smith's comeback. But how's the sound? It depends on the format and where you're listening to the album. If you believe that everywhere it is the same, sorry but you're wrong. Or you just don't know correctly about how a new album should be mastered. And that's because a new album should have three different masterings, one for the CD, one for vinyl and one for digital outlets. So, you have three different "sounds" plus it always depends where you're listening to the album. The album is not perfect in terms of production but never forget that this is also a matter of taste, let alone the fact that one can't ignore what the artists really want for their art. Let's say that digitally the limitations are stronger, CD is just... CD, and vinyl sounds much better with a warm analogue sound that sounds more outspread. So, if you want a better sound experience for Senjutsu, I suggest the vinyl format. Instruments? Bass guitar is loud as always, the three guitars don't always justify the "there-are-three-guitarists!" and the days of the glorious Smith/Murray dual masterwork and Birch-sound of the '80s is a long past. If someone believes that current producer Kevin Shirley is not a good one, oh lord, you are so naive! He is a top producer but here you probably have what Cap' Steve wants and asks for. What I really enjoyed about this album's sound is the drum set. Organic and nice, a thing I am missing sometimes in the era of all those Sabaton-whatever overproduced albums where everything is red-locked, triggered and sampled.

And finally, what about the songwriting, the thing that matters most? If you don't like what the British legend is doing over the past years, this album won't change your mind. But if you liked The Book of Souls you're loving this one already. It is that simple, but damn... who needs one minute of waves and seagulls at "Darkest Hour" or the ten minutes of "Death of the Celts" that could be cut down to seven? And there's more to cut, including parts of those long intros but anyways, this album has "Hell on Earth", one of the best Maiden songs of the past 30 years, "The Parchment" and "Darkest Hour" that brings back the glory of the last three solo Dickinson albums. By the way, Bruce sounds so awesome on this track, like it's a different session from "Stratego" and a few other songs. Like this will be a studio-only track so he doesn't care how it will sound live. If you think that I mentioned too negative things in an album that's so high in the list, it's Iron Fuckin' Maiden and the empire strikes back.

Check also: SKYEYE - Soldiers of Light


6. THRONEHAMMER - Incantation Rites

7 songs, 75 minutes. Damn you sludgers, that's epic! Just by that, you can understand what to expect. And it won't fail you. The UK/Germany based band features past and present members of many underground acts, and delivers crushing ultra heavy doom metal with a sludge vibe alongside an epic feeling and lyrics. Confident vocals with an excellent emotional performance, huge riffs, an insane guitar tone, huge riffs, a monolithic and suitable rhythm section, huge riffs, a strong '90s British doom (and doom/death) metal vibe and huge riffs. Tracks like "A Fading King" and "Of Mountaintops and Glacial Tombs" simply rule.  This album is a beast. An earthquake. Heavy as Godzilla marching.

Check also: WORM - Foreverglade


5. SEVEN SISTERS - Shadow of a Fallen Star Pt.1

That album is dominated by the art of great songwriting and the lost art of great vocal lines. Damn, I miss that thing! Well, there aren't many out there that can do what Shadow Gallery did, but we're missing even the basic stuff. Not many people understand that the most important thing in a song, is the songwriting, and part of it, is also the vocal lines. A few of the greatest songs in metal music were arranged around a vocal line, just like a few of the early Ozzy Osbourne albums where Oz had the vocal line, the song title and a few words here and there, and then the band built the song around it. Or what Dio was doing in his solo career. How important is the vocal line? Very, very much! Like a song within a song, the thing that stays with you, the melody you sing. The thing that's missing in KKs Priest's debut album Sermons of the Sinner that was out the same period with Seven Sister's third album. Having the better singer doesn't mean you will have the better songwriting, or the better vocal lines, or the better performance, and in the end, you don't have the better album. And one can say that Tim Owens is a better singer than Kyle McNeill and no one will fight this opinion of course, but does it really matter when we're talking about music? In the end of the day, Owens rips his throat screaming here and there, but for the year 2021 and those albums, McNeill is a performer while Ripper is a screamer. And Tim's problem, just like many singers that "can hit the note, can keep the tone, can blah blah blah" is that he can't write good vocal lines. And as it seems, no one in KK's Priest did it for him, while Seven Sisters' Shadow of a Fallen Star Pt.1 is full of great vocal lines and a better songwriting. The youngsters from the United Kingdom put to shame many older bands, many better singers, many better musicians, many better "put-what-you-want-here" because they have the SONGS. Sorry, but you can have the better singer or the better guitarist but if you don't have the songs, you have shit. Shadow of a Fallen Star Pt.1 rules. It's full of great hooks, great melodies, great guitar parts, great vocal lines, GREAT SONGS.

More heavy, clean or dirty, metal to check: BLACK SOUL HORDE - Horrors from the Void, FORTRESS - Don't Spare the Wicked, HEAVY SENTENCE - Bang to Rights, HERZEL - Le Dernier Rempart, KONQUEST - The Night Goes On, LUCIFER'S HAMMER - The Trip, PORTRAIT - At One with None, TOWER - Shock to the System, TYRANN - Djävulens Musik, WANTON ATTACK - Wanton Attack


4. FUNERAL MIST - Deiform

It came out of nowhere. One of the best black metal releases of the past years will be the paradox of the years to come since you won't see it in most of the "top lists" of 2021. Why? Check the prologue. But who cares about lists besides the fun of making them since they (maybe) only represent the moment? Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and satanic voice, Daniel Rostén (using the name Arioch in Funeral Mist, also known as Mortuus in Marduk) delivers another different album in Funeral Mist's dark catalogue. From the chanting of the "Twilight of the Flesh", to the child choir in "Children of Urn" and the doomy "Deiform", Arioch added an atmosphere and parts of a melodic lunacy that showcase his many talents redefining Funeral Mist. You still have the Marduk-like ultra speed but Funeral Mist is Funeral Mist, a different beast releasing different albums of orthodox and unorthodox black metal that rips your spirit. I didn't expect such an album, ravenous and atmospheric, a milestone for the years to come, capturing the old essence of black metal. To catch up things, Rostén is not the regular guy you will see often in interviews and has a shady character that will be brought upfront in a few cases. If that's an issue, you don't have to listen to Deiform and you will survive the spiritual violence. Otherwise, here's a modern black metal masterpiece for your black soul.

Check also: FLUISTERAARS - Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking, SPECTRAL WOUND - A Diabolic Thirst, UNGFELL - Es Grauet



The best doom metal album of 2021 comes from Sweden and that's not a surprise. It took them a while but the power-doom masters known as Memory Garden offer us their best album since Mirage (2000). With a crystal clear production and a masterful sound, 1349 is a conceptual album and the storyline covers both fact and fiction, taking place during the pandemic years of the black plague, released the years of a modern pandemic. A classy album in the vein of the fewer albums and style you can think of, the one of previous Memory Garden albums and also Candlemass' Chapter VI and the milestones of Memento Mori. Power doom metal, skillful and technical (do you want to add the "progressive" term?) with excellent melodies, huge riffs and really great guitar solos, something that's missing from modern metal releases. Bring us back our solos! Don't put one just because you have to, write the one that the song needs! Just like Memory Garden! There are so many highlights here that makes no sense to separate a few parts but let's just add that singer Stefan Berglund is an underrated vocalist with a voice that's an iconic part for Memory Garden. I don't think it is necessary to add how great guitarist Simon Johansson is, right? He is a master of his craft and a part of what I call "the Scandinavian metal style" that includes the likes of Hank Shermann, Michael Denner, Andy La Rocque and Mike Wead. That specific Scandinavian guitar metal style is very heavy, suitable for power metal bands (but not the US power metal bands or the Helloween-style bands), doom bands with power metal elements, it is technical and there are always many solo parts. That's one thing that you will find in 1349. Listen to the album and you will find more if you're looking for a high quality doom metal release.

Check also: SERVANTS TO THE TIDE same-titled debut album is a melancholic, dramatic, and melodic doom metal offering influenced by bands such as Atlantean Kodex and While Heaven Wept, and it sounds as the beginning of greater things to come.


2. STORMKEEP - Tales of Othertime

Isaac Faulk is a youngster born the year of Black Sabbath's Headless Cross and Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, also known as the drummer of Blood Incantation and Wayfarer, here using the (complete) stage name of Grandmaster Otheyn Vermithrax Poisontongue, handling vocals, guitars and additional key sorcery, writing also the majority of the album. With a company of other counts and lords, they created one more hyped awaited underground black metal record following 2020's highly-acclaimed Galdrum EP. "Stormkeep represents medieval fantasy, ancient legends and magick exclusively" is written in the booklet of the album, with its first pressing in both CD and vinyl format sold-out within a few days. What do we have here? Here is what we can call "epic black metal" (or "symphonic black metal", that once was called "majestic black metal") with its melodic parts, the dungeon synth and the fantasy lyrics. There are so many things that make this medieval black metal (you can also call it like this) cool: the riffs, the interludes and synths, the adventurous spirit, the storms and the dragons, but most importantly, the brilliant songwriting. And the Top-2 album of 2021 can go hand in hand with...


1. MORGUL BLADE - Fell Sorcery Abounds

The hyped debut album that will pierce your flesh is something really outstanding. Epic heavy metal with a nod to second wave black metal, clean and harsh vocals, and lyrics about Nazgul, magick and might, forlorn battlefields, heroic deeds and beings of unlimited power. If it sounds cool and nerdy, it's actually much greater. The 4-piece from Philadelphia, PA, USA presents something unique. It is not "epic black metal", it is not like all those Bathory-inspired acts and definitely not like those "blackened heavy metal" or "blackened thrash metal" bands you already know. And even if the band also loves Malokarpatan, it's still not the same. Fell Sorcery Abounds brings something new and actually it is epic heavy metal with huge riffs ("Sons of the Night" is the year's ultimate banger!) and each song has the vocals it needs. Name them evil, or the Witch King's voice, or the sound of demons' walk amongst men. And then, you have a voice that appears like an oak in the mist, or a voice that will light the flame. They know it or not, there's also a strong vibe of Hellenic black metal therein, and Morgul Blade's Fell Sorcery Abounds was equally loved by the underground metal fans and by band members of acts such as Smoulder and Lamp of Murmuur. We don't know where the second album will take us, the band members keep digging and following the current underground metal scene while they're also establishing themselves in the top of the current best newcomers. But this album is a breakthrough. It rules, it's a banger, it's Nazgul Metal!

Hopes and wishes for 2022? Freedom! We hope this pandemic-thing will end.