Archive for the Alternative Category

Hellsinki Industrial Festival 2019

Posted in Alternative, Festival, Industrial, Live with tags , , , , , , , , on 24th November 2019 by izaforestspirit

Cygnosic, Priest, Blutengel
Nosturi, Helsinki
22-23 November 2019

Helsinki…It’s been a while…The last time I visited the city was for the Memmaker and Zardonic concert back in 2016. Since then I really have not had much time to travel there. I hoped that I would go back someday if there was a reason to go there. Earlier this year the German synth-pop duo Blutengel were announced as the headliner for Hellsinki Industrial Festival. So that was it, my reason to go.

Saturday 23 November 2019

I decided to attend only one day of the festival, Saturday. The venue was Nosturi, which is located by the seaside in the Hietalahti district of Helsinki. I have been there many times before but sadly this festival will be my last time at Nosturi. The venue is due to close by the end of the year and the building will be knocked down to make way for residential premises in 2020.

First up was the Greek dark electro artist Cygnosic. This was one of those cases when it took a live performance for me to notice and really get into a band. I have heard the name Cygnosic before but I never really got round to checking out his music until now. Great show! The music was creepy, atmospheric and very danceable. Just how I like my dark electro. I will definitely check out more of his music.

Next was a Finnish industrial metal band called Fear of Domination – the only metal band in the whole festival line-up. Whilst their show was entertaining to watch, I struggled to get into the music. It sounded like a mish-mash of industrial metal and melodic death metal. They have two vocalists, a man doing the death metal growling and a female singer doing the clean vocals. That worked well enough for most of time but the cacophony of melodeath guitar riffs and the overuse of Pain-esque “disco” synth was a little too much for my liking.

I did like the Swedish synth-pop trio Priest though. The band was formed back in 2017 and the original line-up featured former members of Ghost. There has been some line-up changes since then but the concept remains the same. Three guys known as Sulphur, Salt and the vocalist Mercury came to the stage draped in elaborate gimp-like outfits and masks. Mercury has a multi-faceted and very unique voice. The music was entertaining and fun to dance to. They did a good cover of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out) at the end.

Then it was time for the headliners Blutengel. This was their first time in Finland. Great show. The front-man Chris may not be that used to speaking to a non-German speaking audience. Sadly the Finnish crowd were not that well versed when it came to singing along to the lyrics of ‘Engelsblut’ but that did not stop them from enjoying the show. I certainly did. It was great to hear some of the Blutengel classics such as ‘Children of The Night’ and ‘Bloody Pleasures’ along with the new hits such as ‘Black’ and ‘Morningstar’.

Overall, I am glad that I decided to travel to Helsinki for Hellsinki Industrial Festival. I finally got to see Blutengel live and I discovered Cygnosic. Priest were pretty good too. It’s a shame that Nosturi will be closing this year. Hopefully they will open a new music venue in Helsinki in the future.

Iza Raittila

Rave The Reqviem and Combichrist live in Tampere

Posted in Alternative, Dubstep, Gig, Industrial, Live, Metal with tags , , , on 29th July 2019 by izaforestspirit

Rave The Reqviem, Combichrist
Klubi, Tampere, Finland
28th July 2019

Last night was one of the hottest days of the summer. Normally the only two places that I wish to be on days like this are at home with the air conditioning on or at the nearby lake. But Combchrist were playing a show in Tampere so I decided to go and see them. They are one of the bands, whom I’ve seen live a few times before but I still look forward to their performances. They usually put on a good show. This time the venue was the newly refurbished Klubi.

First up was a Swedish industrial metal band Rave The Requiem. Ok, maybe calling them industrial metal is a bit too simple of a classification. Their style appears to be a weird mish-mash of dubstep, drum n’bass, industrial metal plus some elements of Gothic metal. Yes, it’s pretty confusing, especially with the two very different singers. I liked parts of the show but I couldn’t really get into their music. 2.5/5

Then it was time for the headliners. There has been a a few line-up changes since the last time that I saw Combichrist live three years ago. They have two new drummers. Front-man Andy LePlegua is and always will be what makes Combichrist special. He really knows how to agitate the crowd. It did not take long before everyone was dancing. It was great to hear some of their hit songs again including Get Your Body Beat, Blut Royale, Scarred, and What The Fuck is Wrong With You? along with songs from their latest album ’One Fire’. The only downside was that their set felt a bit short. I would have loved to hear more. 5/5

In summary, I had a great time and I’m glad I chose to go out in spite of the heat. Another great show by Combichrist.

Iza Raittila

Cellar Darling – The Spell

Posted in Alternative, CD, Folk, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 24th March 2019 by mickbirchy

Cellar Darling

The Spell

Progressive Metal , Folk-Metal, Symphonic

Released: 22nd March 2019

via Nuclear Blast Records

After being really impressed with their 2017 debut album, This Is The Sound, Cellar Darling have returned with their new record, The Spell. After that debut, I was hoping for another record and I was hoping that they would attempt something a little different. Well, they must have heard my wishes because their second record is a very different beast from the first album. The Spell is a much heavier and more progressive album than This Is The Sound. It feels like a lot more care and attention to detail was put into this album. I mean they improve on their sound in every way conceivable here. There is also an audiobook of the album, which offers more context for all of the songs and where the lead vocalist Anna Murphy adds another layer to this album’s meaning.

This album is just a tonne of fun from the first few notes. Immediately hitting you with those sharp tones and sweet melodies that were present on the last release. The production on this album real super slick and everything feels really tight with all of the instrumentation standing out and playing its part. When it all comes in together, it just sounds so grandiose. This sound can only be described as progressive rock with enchanted whimsy thrown in. The beautiful compositions with excellent sound mixing give the album an other-worldly vibe to, what would be, just another progressive folk-metal album. Then you have the immense vocals of Anna Murphy. She just has an amazing presence on this album, it really is a star-making performance. It baffles me how she isn’t usually brought up in the discussion of the best female rock-vocalists by the fan community. She has so much range both, in vocal technique and in, emotional presentation.

There is a really nice variety of musical styles presented here. From eerie and atmospheric to heavy and “in-your-face”. The Spell will captivate and entrance listeners. I immediately wanted to put it on again and again as this album rewards repeated listens as there is a lot you can miss on your first play-through. There are just so many subtle little things in the music that you only catch on repeated listens. I would say the songs that are really worth your time on this album are “Burn” with its excellent riffs and exciting chorus, “Love” & “Love Pt II” also “Death” & Death Pt II” both of these two-part songs make for excellent companion pieces and really show the strength of Cellar Darling’s songwriting abilities. Also, my personal favourite on the record is the haunting ballad “Sleep” which reminds me of those old progressive tunes where the music sounds like random instrumentation but it really perfectly calculated musicianship.

Yep, I would definitely say this is worth your time. I really didn’t know how they were going to follow up that first album but I truly wasn’t expecting this. The Spell is one of those perfect records to accompany your imagination. It’s enjoyable and enriched with wonderful lyrical content. This one gets a big thumbs up from me.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Iza’s Highlights of 2018

Posted in Alternative, Editorial/Opinionated, Industrial, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31st December 2018 by izaforestspirit

It’s that time of the year again! Time for my annual best of list or “highlights” as I prefer to call them. This year I have decided to do just one list rather than two separate ones for metal and non-metal. The main reason for this is that there have not been too many industrial/EBM releases that caught my attention this year. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums of 2018:

1. Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin
Genre: Power Metal
Powerwolf - The Sacrament of Sin

The German power metal wolves are back with a new album. And what an album it is!! I honestly cannot get enough of it. It may not be very profound as far as the themes go but it is hell of a lot of fun. Stand-out tracks are ‘Fire & Forgive’, ‘Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ and ‘Nightside of Siberia’.

2. Lord of The Lost – Thornstar
Genre: Dark Rock/Gothic Industrial Metal
Image result for lord of the lost thornstar
I absolutely adore this band. They combine the best of dark rock with Gothic metal and Deathstars-like industrial metal. ‘Thornstar’ has to be their greatest and most complex album to date. In order to fully understand the concept, I would recommend that you download the 21 paged ‘Thornstar backstory’ from the band’s website. It’s a fascinating read that offers some insight into Pangaean history and culture. Alternatively you can simply enjoy music. Stand-out tracks are ‘On This Rock I Will Build My Church’, ‘Haythor’ and ‘Black Halo’.

3. Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
Genre: Blackened Death Metal

Behemoth are back with their long-awaited new album. As I mentioned in my review, this is not ‘The Satanist part 2’ but rather a mixture of both old and new Behemoth styles. It takes a few listens but once you get into it your patience will be rewarded. Stand-out tracks are ‘Wolves ov Siberia’ and ‘Bartzabel’.

4. Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura
Genre: Melodic Black Metal/Oriental Metal
閃靈 - 政治 / Battlefields of Asura
My favourite oriental metal band are back. Their latest album might not be a memorable as ‘Bú Tik’ but it has its moments. Music-wise it offers more of Chthonic’s unique blend of melodic black metal, death metal and oriental folk music with the addition of some choirs and guest vocals from the Cantopop singer Denise Ho. Stand-out tracks are ‘A Crimson Sky’s Command’ and ‘Millennia’s Faith Undone’.

5. MONO Inc. – Welcome to Hell
Genre: Gothic Rock/Dark Rock
Image result for MONO INC WELCOME TO HELL cover
More Gothic rock…’ Welcome to Hell’ is my favourite MONO Inc. album to date. Their music is essentially melodic hard rock but it also has this wonderful, eerie Gothic feel. Stand-out tracks are ‘Long Live Death’, A Vagabond’s Life’ and Reign of Rats’.

6. Grimner – Vanadrottning
Genre: Folk Metal/Viking Metal
Grimner - Vanadrottning

I had the pleasure of reviewing this album earlier this year. It’s been a long while since I’ve heard any folk metal that was this good. I would recommend this to fans of Finntroll, Ensiferum and Månegarm. Stand-out tracks are ‘Vanadrottning’ and ‘En Fallen Jätte’.

7. Monstrosity – The Passage Of Existence
Genre – Death Metal
Monstrosity - The Passage of Existence
My kind of death metal and my favourite death metal album of 2018. It is hard to pick out a stand-out track since in all honestly I like them all but ‘Kingdom of Fire’ and ‘Maelstrom’ are the ones that stuck in my head the most.

8. Hanzel und Gretyl – Satanik Germanik
Genre: Industrial Metal/Groove Metal/Extreme Metal
Hanzel und Gretyl - Satanik Germanik
‘Satanik Germanik’ is Hanzel und Gretyl’s heaviest and most metal album. As mentioned in my review it is darker and more serious than the material from the “Fukken Über’ era, much like its predecessor ‘Black Forest Metal’. Luckily that does not make it any less fun. Stand-out tracks are ‘I Am Bad Luck’ and the party song ‘Trinken Mit Der Kaizer (Die Bierz From Hell)’

9. Scandroid – The Darkness
Genre: Synthwave
Image result for scandroid the darkness
One of the few electronic releases that made it to my top 10. ‘The Darkness’ is the third album from Klayton (Celldweller/Circle of Dust)’s synthwave project Scandroid. Delightful retro synthesizer tunes, a little guitar and melodic vocals all with a futuristic feel. Stand-out tracks ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Red Planet’.

10. Auger – The Awakening
Genre: Darkwave
Image result for auger the awakening
A new discovery for me. I really enjoyed Auger’s show at Lumous Gothic Festival 2018. This British dark wave duo combine the best of darkwave and Gothic rock. I would recommend their debut album to fans of Blutengel, Gothminister and The Vision Bleak. Stand-out tracks are ‘Monster’ and ‘My Guardian’.

Honourable mentions:

Xentrifuge – Desensitized Parallels, Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods, Psyclon Nine – Icon of The Adversary. All good albums but with only a few outstanding tracks they missed out on a space in my top ten list.
IAMX’s latest album ‘Alive in The New Light’ also came out of the start of this year. While it didn’t make my top ten I did enjoy it, especially the track ‘Mile Deep Hollow’.
Check out the video here:

Best live show of 2018: Helloween live at South Park Festival in Tampere.
Biggest New Discovery: Auger
Most anticipated albums in 2019:
Blutengel – Un:Gott
Blue Stahli – Obsidian
Also hopefully new albums by Helloween and Rammstein.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Iza Raittila

DC4 – Atomic Highway

Posted in Alternative, CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , on 22nd October 2018 by mickbirchy

DC4

Atomic Highway

Hard Rock, Classic Rock

Released: 21 September 2018

via Highvol Music

With over 40 releases under their belts combined, it’s really easy to expect a lot from these bonified legends of the industry. DC4 are a supergroup formed by brothers, Jeff, Shawn & Matt Duncan with their brother-in-metal Rowen Robertson, who between them have appeared in such bands as Armored Saint, Odin, Killer Bee & the legendary Dio. So their rock n roll pedigree is far from in question. We know they can do the job. The question is this, are they any good? My answer, in a word, yes. It’s all the great aspects of classic hard rock and none of the fluff. Their new record, Atomic Highway is an enjoyable experience that will get any rocker’s mojo going. If the talent on display didn’t impress you, then know that Bill Metoyer produced and mastered the record. With bands like Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion of Conformity and the aforementioned Armored Saint under his belt. You can bet the album is going to sound as good as it can possibly be.

This album gives you everything you expect. Powerful riffs, gut-busting solos, commanding vocals and grooves for days. The band sounds so good, with strong songwriting and well-executed performances all around. It’s amazing how this automatically feels like a classic record with those familiar guitar sounds that you could swear you’ve heard before. The band just rides the groovy riffs and then go wild during the solos, whilst still maintaining that great control of the rhythm. No one member feels more important than the other, everyone plays their part beautifully. Sure, the rock style may be formulaic, but at this point, it’s a tried and tested formula of rock n roll and it guarantees that people keep listening and enjoy the songs. The impressive guitar solos are what sell this record for me. When the guitar is let loose, I can feel goosebumps shiver through my body. The precision and skill, blended with a wonderful rhythm section make the solos pop and really stand out.

Jeff Duncan’s vocal performance is great as well. He has a dynamic singing voice that ranges from powerful with a rough edge, to tender and well toned. When he sings, his voice sores above the production. The music matching the lyrical subjects really well and the squealing guitar contracts well against his vocal style. I really don’t think there is a dull moment of the album. A real shock for me came with their unique cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Reily”. Although it’s not a flawless cover version, this song is a beloved favourite of mine. So anytime I get to hear it, a smile comes to my face. It also comes with cameo appearances from Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Dizzy Reed on the keyboard and John Bush (Anthrax, Armored Saint) on guest vocals. So that was pleasant and made the song more whole then if the band just tried to do it outright.

In all honesty, you get what you pay for with this record. It’s meat and potatoes rock n roll. If you love your classic rock and that old school flair, then this is for you. As a kid who grew up thumbing through his dad’s old albums, this album is right up my alley. It’s familiar and new in all the right ways. It doesn’t beat you over the head with nostalgia. It simply feels like a record right out of the past with newer production. Atomic Highway is a solid album that will please people who love unapologetic rock music. Let me tell you, I’m having a ball listening to this record.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Soul Desire – Ignite

Posted in Alternative, CD, Rock with tags , , , , , on 1st August 2018 by mickbirchy

Soul Desire
Ignite
Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
Released 13 July 2018
Self Released



I was quite interested to listen to Soul Desire. Formed this year, and already armed with an exciting and well-executed EP. I can’t say I knew much about their previous band, One Last Run, so I’m not really going to touch that. However, Ignite is the first taste that we’ve got from Becky Jade (Vocals), Rob Leach (Guitar) & Chris Smith (Bass) in this new project and I am thoroughly impressed. The sound is good, the melodies are catchy, the lyrics are well written all leading to a great debut for them.

The album opens with their lead-in single, “Rapture” and it automatically sets the tone for the EP, which is rocking hard and clearly enjoying it. I like the sound of the guitars and the bass which chug away and the riff is a great one to open with. It really feels like that sound that I have been listening to for a long time, with bands like Papa Roach, Skarlett Riot and Firewind. So points there and the same can be said across the EP. It has that really clear and defined tone that just punches you right in the gut. Also, the songs “Dark Light” and “Ignite” were brilliant headbangers as well. From the production standpoint, this album is great to listen to and catches the ear just right.

My only problem with the EP is that it reminds me too much of other bands out there. In all honesty, there’s not much in this genre anymore that you can make original without co-opting other musical influences. Whilst the lead vocalist, Becky Jade, certainly brings her own charm, energy and personality to the music, the overall sound is something I’ve heard a lot of. Not so much a problem with the band it’s more the genre itself. However, they do suffer from it. I would have liked some other musical ideas or just something to put meat on the bare bones. Maybe some backing tracks, electronics or other instrumentation, but that’s just me spitballing.

I will admit it’s a fine EP. It has some very strong production and beautiful lyrics. I particularly liked the ballad “Falling Apart”, it broke up the EP and showed that they’re not just a one trick pony. I would definitely like to hear more from them as they’re very talented musicians. I also would really be interested in hearing them in a live setting. Ultimately I’m giving this EP a thumbs up. If you’re into you alternative hard rock then I would recommend giving them a listen.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Lumous Gothic Festival 2018

Posted in Alternative, Festival, Industrial, Live, Rock with tags , , , , , , on 15th July 2018 by izaforestspirit

Novus, Auger, Terrolokaust
Dog’s Home and Klubi, Tampere, Finland
13-14th July 2018

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to attend festivals. Lumous Gothic Festival is the biggest Gothic event in Finland and it just happens to take place in the city where I live. I’ve been attending this every year since 2012. The music ranges from Goth rock, darkwave, neo-folk to various forms of industrial and EBM.

Friday

This time I was mostly interested in the Saturday line-up. There was however a free show happening at The Dog’s Home (a pub next door to the main venue). So I went to check it out. I did not know anything about the band except their name – Chaos Research. It turned out to be a mixture of neo-folk, neo-classical, darkwave and ambient. Eerie operatic vocals, electronic with some additional instruments such as an electric cello and drums. Their show produced a relaxed atmosphere in the venue. 3/5

Saturday

The main day of the festival. I was mainly interested in the industrial rock band Terrolokaust but I checked out the rest of the line-up as well. First up was a British electronic duo called Novus. I quite enjoyed their show. It was fun to dance to. So a good start to the night. 3.5/5

I really liked the next band, Auger – darkwave and also from the UK. Their music sounded like a mixture of Blutengel with the Gothic horror atmosphere of The Vision Bleak. Very theatrical performance, powerful vocals, haunting keyboards and good guitar work. Great show! I really want to check out some of their music. 4.5/5

Then it was time for the night’s headliner – the industrial rock band from Cataluña, Terrolokaust. I’ve seen them live once before at Resistanz Festival in 2016, so I pretty much knew what to expect. They played a very energetic show featuring a mixture of old and new material from all their albums. My personal favorites included ‘El Mundo Sigue Girando’, ‘Reasons’ and their cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Spitfire’ which they played as an encore. 5/5


In summary I had a great time. Terrolokaust was my favorite performance of the night. I also made a new discovery in the form of Auger. I really liked their show. Lumous Gothic Festival was pleasure as always. See you next year!

Iza Raittila