Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Insatia “Memory of a Sapphire”

Photo credit: Sean Mundy

As much as I enjoy scoping out new talent from different parts of the world for this feature each week, I especially love to shine a spotlight on rising stars from my own home country as well. Another rare pleasure is to review a band who are my friends as well.

This week, I get to do all three by reviewing the latest video from Insatia, the Canadian-American symphonic metal powerhouse fronted by the lovely (and super-talented) Zoë Federoff. I have known Zoë since before she joined Insatia, so I know she is not just talented, but a genuinely good person who would much prefer to let her music speak for itself—not to be viewed as some rock star, but as a regular gal who has the good fortune to live her dreams. But she has also used her music to do good; calling attention to causes that are dear to her heart, and actively involving herself in numerous musical projects and charity work. She takes the high praise she receives in stride, and is as generous with giving compliments as she is in receiving them. A down-to-earth mom with a penchant for chai tea, Zoë is the farthest thing from a “diva” as you will ever find, on this scene or any other.

After over 3 years since bursting onto the scene with their debut album Asylum Denied, Insatia's star has steadily been rising; opening for respected bands on the scene such as Delain, Xandria, and the queen of metal herself, Doro Pesch. The band has also seen a lot of changes, with Zoë's personal growth and musical maturity leading the way. Still determined to keep this a band that celebrates the friendly alliance between the U.S. and Canada, Insatia merges the heat of Tucson with the cold of Montreal to produce not just a diamond in the rough, but...well, a sapphire.

Fans have waited a long time for Phoenix Aflame, the highly-anticipated follow-up to their 2013 debut, and let me just say that they will not be disappointed! Insatia's brand of symphonic metal is something that very few other bands in the genre can claim: it is as catchy and hooky as a rock song, but with all the sweeping grandeur and elegance that you come to expect from a symphonic metal band, all within the span of 4 minutes.

The band's choice for their first video, “Memory of a Sapphire” (which features a guest appearance by ex-Arch Enemy guitarist Chris Amott), captures this perfectly. A lone sapphire is shown on the floor, as Zoë walks to it, picks it up, and looks at it for a moment. The quiet is just long enough so that the heavy riffs jolt you, and then Zoë goes from contemplative silence to headbanging all over the place! The entire band is rocking out: bassist Dave Ablaze is swirling his bass around his neck, as hair goes whipping around. If you are not instantly committing the earworm of a chorus to memory, or at least aren't singing along with Zoë's line, “memory of a sapphi-iii-irrre”, then you are just too cool for me; because I had this song stuck in my head after one listen!

The video itself is very straightforward with not many frills: Zoë is wearing a nice blue dress, while the rest of the band is dressed in black, or black-and-white. It consists mostly of performance shots, cutting occasionally to Zoë pondering over her sapphire. Perhaps there is meaning behind this, but the video itself does not tell. The most we see of the titular character is at the end of the video, where it is left where it was originally found, spinning like a top.

For more information on Insatia, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Zoë Federoff and Dave Ablaze.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Aggronymph “I Want You”

Band photo

One of my favorite newer bands on the scene right now, Aggronymph has a new video out and I can't wait to review it!

As I have written in past reviews, this band has a diverse sound to them, merging together all these different styles and fitting them together in such a wonderful way.

In the video for “I Want You”, there are some similarities to their previous video, “Moonlight”. There are shots of the band's hometown of Yichang, China (which has some very lovely scenery, I might add!). This time, there is daytime footage including the band's vocalist, Elain. She looks sad and pensive, matching the mood of the song as she walks down the city streets all alone. As evening comes, we see Elain among the busy city nightlife; sitting alone in a coffee shop, wandering aimlessly through shops, up stairs and down sidewalks, in the futile attempt to ease her loneliness. The video ends with Elain running through an empty field, as an aerial shot pans away to show the lone figure amidst the world that is still moving along.

For more information on Aggronymph, visit the band's official Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Caligatum “Dante”

Band photo

Normally each week, I try to share a video that is fairly “hot off the presses”, or recent enough to check out while it is still new; but every now and again a video will come my way that has been out for a while, that I just have to share anyway.

Opening for bands such as Rhapsody and Dark Moor in their native México, Guadalajara's Caligatum is moving up the ranks in their local metal scene. Citing bands such as Tristania and Draconian as their musical influences, Caligatum's gothic sound and imagery really comes through in the video for their song “Dante”, which was released last year.

The video starts with a full moon and dark clouds, as a woman sits in a candle-lit room, looking over old papers with ancient writing, as a black cat curls up at her feet. The band plays in a dim setting with very minimal lighting. The woman is seen carrying some sort of cauldron, and again reading tarot cards. The exchange of “beauty and the beast” vocals between vocalist Arianna Dheva (who is rocking a very cool-looking headdress!) and the guttural male voice of guitarist Robert Noir is accompanied by imagery of the video's main female character standing in the middle of a pentagram, casting a spell. The video continues to alternate between shots of the band, and the woman standing in the mist, chanting her spell. A man shows up with a giant snake at one point, and things involving this invocation seem to take a bad turn from there! I won't give away the ending, but perhaps the phrase “be careful what you wish for” might come to mind.

For more information on Caligatum, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Demas Miller.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Lighthouse in Darkness “Oceanbliss ”

Photo credit: Janine Buds

A while back, when I was first starting this blog and trying to think of things to write about, I made a list of bands and artists I liked who had not made any new music for quite some time, and hoped to hear from again. One of the bands on this list was the German gothic metal band Flowing Tears, who seemed to suddenly just disappear from the scene.

At the time I wrote the piece in early 2014, the band's website was up and running, but had not been updated since 2009. They had not made an album in nearly 6 years by that point; the last anyone had heard from them was with what many considered their finest work, the 2008 concept album Thy Kingdom Gone. Sadly, about a month or so after my article was written, the band announced that Flowing Tears was disbanding. So that was the end of the hope that one of the bands on my list would return. Or so I thought.

While 2016 had been a huge blow to the music world with so many legendary artists passing away, 2017 has appeared to be a year of growth and rebirth for many bands. One example is Lighthouse in Darkness, a project headed by Flowing Tears vocalist Helen Vogt and songwriter/producer Sascha Blach; a musical collaboration that has been building over the course of 5 years. While it is a far cry from the gothic rock sound of Flowing Tears, Helen's warm, velvety voice is instantly recognizable and pulls you in with that same dreamy charm.

Sound-wise, Lighthouse in Darkness is a blend of soundtrack music coupled with electronica, a touch of jazz, and a little bit of rock. It has this dark, theatric sensibility to it, but at the same time it is calming and relaxing. The duo describes their music as “cinema for the ears”, and it is right on the mark: when listening to their first single, “Oceanbliss”, you can almost envision the smoky clubs, white jackets and ties, and piano playing in the corner just like out of a 1940s movie.

The lyric video also plays into this theme with a record playing, filmed in black-and-white. There is something so old-school and yet so modern, with the hip-hop influences subtly threaded into the many different layers of this tune. If you are into bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode, but also love the old torch songs of the past, Lighthouse in Darkness is definitely worth a listen.

For more information on Lighthouse in Darkness, or more information on their upcoming album The Melancholy Movies, visit their official Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Grim Reaper “Wings of Angels”

Band photo

Over the past several months since I last wrote about Grim Reaper, a lot has been going on with them. Shortly after my blog entry reviewing their last video (“Walking in the Shadows”), frontman Steve Grimmett was performing for fans in South America when he was besieged by pain in his leg so bad that he had to finish the show sitting down. Rushed to the hospital immediately thereafter, a terrible infection ultimately resulted in the loss of his leg, and an extended stay in Ecuador.

However, through all of this, Steve still presses on, and has stated more than once that this will not end his musical career. To prove his point, within weeks of first learning to get around on his prosthetic, Grim Reaper was playing festivals!

Forget these icons of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll, who gain praise for getting shit-faced and banging groupies—all those guys can do that—but those aren't my rock heroes. When it comes to metal bad-assery, as far as I'm concerned, Steve Grimmett leaves them all in the dust. I think it's pretty fuckin' metal to endure that kind of pain to finish a show, lose a limb, go through months of strenuous therapy, and get on a plane to rock out before thousands of fans almost as soon as you are able to bear weight on a prosthetic. If that doesn't win you the lifelong title of a bad-ass, I don't know what does.

To show that they have no signs of slowing down, Grim Reaper has a new lyric video: “Wings of Angels”. The video is very cinematic; with black-and-white animation reminiscent of a 1940s war movie, a fighter plane swoops into view. As the aircraft zooms through the air, we see patchwork fields and ominously dark cloudy skies, as the lyrics scroll across the screen. The plane spins and nose-dives towards the ground as Steve sings the lyric, “out of control in a death roll, until you're slamming into earth”. The flashes of the plane's machine guns blink on the screen as the unseen pilot chases his enemy through the air. The guitar solo starts in, and the pursuit becomes more intense. I probably shouldn't give away the ending, but let's just say a fiery conclusion is involved.

I should also note the little Easter egg: the plane—the hero of the video—is named “Amelia”, which is the name of Steve's wife, his real-life hero! Because behind every kick-ass metal dude is an equally tough metal chick, and Steve makes no secret that Amelia is his inspiration.

For more information on Grim Reaper, visit their official website.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Gary McGrath “Never Let me Go”

Photo credit: Deborah Buffington

If you were to look up the term “prolific” in the dictionary, don't be surprised if you find a picture of Gary McGrath next to the definition. A Grammy award-winning musician, Gary is constantly busy with one of his many musical endeavors: whether he is producing albums, touring with his own bands or seasoned musicians, or directing the Texas State Men & Boys' Choir, Gary knows how to multi-task, and is always focused on the next project.

With huge names like B.B. King, Bon Jovi, and Devo on his professional résumé; touring with rock veterans such as Peter Frampton and Peter Tork; and collaborating with members of Foreigner, WASP, and the Doobie Brothers (to name only a few), it is no wonder Gary's prolificacy is so high. Working with the best in your given profession is bound to raise your own personal standards, and Gary sets the bar pretty high.

Because of this, his music is quite diverse, and cannot really be lumped into one category; such as can be heard in his latest video, “Never Let me Go”. Musically, it is an acoustic blend of country, folk, and just a bit of pop to make it catchy. It is a sweet, simple love song; but aren't those always the best songs? Sometimes a no-frills approach can be the most striking.

Conceptually, the video is straightforward as well: a beautiful woman rises from sleep as Gary sings about hitting the snooze button. She holds a mug in her hands during the line where she drinks her morning coffee. A breeze blows through her hair as we hear the lyric, “listen to the wind whisper”. Interspersed between these scenes are shots of Gary playing his guitar. Sadly, the only lyric that isn't matched with a corresponding scene is the lyric, “hold me in your arms, and never let me go”. The woman and Gary are both filmed separately and we never see them get together in the entire video! I don't know if that was intentional, but it gives the video a sort of bittersweet feel; such a beautiful song and a lovely sentiment, but the characters aren't seen with each other. The video ends with a recap of the woman's day: always seen looking out the window or gazing outward, as if waiting for that special someone.

For more information on Gary McGrath (or any of his numerous musical projects), visit his official website.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Clark's Secret Identity “Opacity”

Band photo

In the past 6 months since I last wrote about Pennsylvanian prog-rockers Clark's Secret Identity, the band has had many positive changes: their debut full-length album has been released and is getting rave reviews. Also, with the addition of keyboardist Thomas Cichon, the power trio has become a mighty quartet (but you will have to either catch a live show or wait until CSI's next album to hear him!). The band has made their album title a self-fulfilling prophecy, and are on their way to many incredible things.

Already on their second music video, CSI wastes no time getting down to business and making artistic statements with their music videos. Like myself, a couple of the bandmembers come from the era of MTV and remember when the music video was a huge medium to send powerful messages; whether artistic, social, or political. So I like that they make an attempt to tell stories with their music videos.

In the case of the video for “Opacity”, the artistic statement is literal! Directed once again by Theresa Gaffney, the video begins with guitarist/vocalist Shane Anthony and artist Virginia Clawges are standing side-by-side before a bare wall. The view is blurry at first, but as they begin to each draw on the blank canvas, the picture becomes clearer as the painting unfolds. The two work together, each adding their own touches to the other's work, combining vivid colors and subdued shades until it is a cohesive whole, a lovely image of light and dark, created by camaraderie and teamwork. When the work is done, it is a rendition of the CSI album cover, which is praised with a round of applause. Considering that Shane has said on the band's Facebook page that this song speaks of “the fragility of trust”, I think it's cool that the video's concept showed what good things can happen when we put our trust in one another, working together, and seeing it through.

For more information on CSI, or to purchase their new album The Promise of a Wonderful Future, visit their Bandcamp page.

Special thanks to Matthew Bankes, Keith Horning, and Shane Anthony.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Geezër “Geezër Nation”

Photo by Kevin Roberts

I know it hasn't been very long since the last time I reviewed a Geezër video here; but keep in mind that these guys are close to hitting the century mark, so they work a lot faster than those of us with time to spare. The Geezër guys live quite a busy lifestyle: in-between upgrading their pacemakers, getting fitted for dentures, and early-bird specials at the Golden Corral, it's a wonder that Geezër can find the time to play music—let alone film a music video—but they manage.

Always keeping up with what is cool, Geezër has found a loyal fanbase among the youth of today. Adored by hipsters and idolized by tweens, Geezër's band photos are quickly replacing Justin Bieber posters on adolescent bedroom walls across America. Tapping in to this rise in popularity, Geezër has released two lyric videos, and has now put together their very first live-action video for fans to see.

A most fitting choice for their first music video, the aptly-titled “Geezër Nation” has the band gathering their fans of all ages to join in the fun! Frontman Harvey Geezër shows off his dance moves while grooving with a couple of pint-sized Geezër fanatics; proving he can cut a rug with the best of them. Leonard Geezër and Calvin Sizemore show off their awesome guitars (one of them a very bright neon green), along with a female fan singing the chorus word for word.

For more information on Geezër, visit their official blog.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: MindMaze “Sign of Life”

Band photo

After several weeks of showcasing bands from afar, I am content to look a little closer to home for this week's video, and turn a spotlight on good, homegrown talent right here in the U.S.

Hailing from Pennsylvania, MindMaze is a band I have wanted to talk about here for quite some time, but haven't had many chances, considering their last full-length album was over 3 years ago. But that's all changed; MindMaze has a brand-new album out later this week, and will be hitting the road with Arkona and Sirenia shortly thereafter.

Incorporating the best of what progressive metal and melodic rock has to offer, MindMaze is one of the most promising up-and-coming talents on the scene these days. Their new release, Resolve, is a concept album already being called the Operation: Mindcrime of its generation by some critics. That is quite a comparison, but one that the brother-sister team of Jeff and Sarah Teets can live up to. Their musical foundation was built on those classic albums and influential names, so while it seems like a tall order to fill, MindMaze has proven their worth to be named in the same sentences as those greats.

For the band's first video for Resolve, “Sign of Life”, MindMaze chooses to let the music do the talking and not let the visuals overcomplicate things. It is a standard performance video; the band rocks out in an underground basement of some kind, with lightbulbs hanging overhead. Throughout the near-5 minutes of the video, everyone looks like they are having fun just playing music: whether it is the interplay between guitar and bass, or Sarah whipping her magnificent mane of hair, the entire band looks like they are enjoying themselves. And why not? When your music is this awesome, wouldn't you have fun playing it all the time?

For more information on MindMaze, to order their album Resolve, or check for tour dates near you, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: The Fall of Eve “If Even Angels Fall”

Band photo

For this week's entry, I am a little excited because my musical travels take me to Ayr, Scotland! I have a particular love and appreciation for Scottish culture, though (to my knowledge) I do not believe I can claim any Scottish heritage. From the music of Fish, to the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon—I have a deep respect for the Scots, and it is one of the many places I would love to visit someday.

The Fall of Eve describes themselves as “alternative rock/metal”, but I would also add symphonic/gothic rock or metal to that definition as well. Not much is written about the band on their Facebook page, but it appears they have made an album or two, and now have a brand-new EP to promote.

They also have several music videos on their YouTube channel, but this one that I am reviewing is their most recent. “If Even Angels Fall” fittingly takes place in a church, where we see a woman in white slowly walking down some steps. The song's intro is soothing, like the chimes of a music box. The church looks old and decayed: a dusty piano with missing keys; dried-up, cracked paint peeling off the get the idea. As the band starts to play and picks up the tempo, they are seen at the cathedral altar, with lights strung around the amps reminiscent of Christmas lights, and stained-glass windows in the background. The woman in white is shown breaking apart her rosary beads in a symbolic gesture, as she turns away from the altar.

As the video progresses, she shows more signs of breaking her faith, like tossing a white tunic over a balcony. But she appears to regret her decision, returning back to the altar with her white hooded shawl, hands clasped in prayer. The lyrics of the song conveys the sentiment, “if even angels fall, there's no hope for us at all”. We see the woman in white in the darkened church, holding a lantern as she seeks and finds the music box playing the song's opening notes as we are brought back full circle.

For more information on The Fall of Eve, visit their official Facebook page, or subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Special thanks to Terry Thompson.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Osmo's Cosmos “Runnin' Down a Dream”

Photo courtesy of Nestori Lönngrén

This week marks one year since I started this “Hump Day Hot Ticket” segment, and I must say, it has been a lot of fun. It has given me a chance to find new music from all over the world, and to give a platform to bands I have liked for a long time. Yet in all that time, surprisingly, there is one place my musical travels had yet to take me: Finland.

Ah, Finland...the home of more metal bands per capita than any other country on earth. It is said that Finland boasts hundreds of metal bands, and if you have been following metal music at all past the 20th century, chances are you have at least one Finnish band in your music library. (Even if you have not updated your metal record collection since the 1980s, you may still have one Finnish band in your stack of vinyls: Hanoi Rocks.) Stratovarius, Nightwish, HIM, Battlelore, Children of Bodom (to name only a few!)...Finland has become as known for producing top-notch metal music as they are known for saunas, Moomins, and the Nokia phone (in some respects, maybe even more so).

Considering how many Finnish bands I love, it is honestly a mystery to me why I have not featured a band from Finland in this segment already. (Too many bands from Italy?) It has become apparent to me that I need to make this right!

Over the last few weeks, I have come across a Finnish glam band called Osmo's Cosmos, who have been going around Finland since 1996 performing covers of classic rock covers from the ’70s and ’80s. My first introduction to them was the video I am sharing with you now: their cover of  Tom Petty's “Runnin' Down a Dream”.

The band does a pretty faithful rendition of the song; musically, you almost cannot tell the difference, except that this cover has a bit of a heavier punch to it. Vocalist Tipe Johnson has a similar style and tone to Tom Petty as well; but again, his voice is a little more “metal” (because metal is Finland's specialty, after all!).

The video itself consists of the bandmembers rocking out in a warehouse, in front of a stage setup where a couple other bandmembers are seen on a screen behind them, also playing guitar and changing into their rock star attire. For the solo at the end, the entire band completely rocks their asses off, working up a sweat before turning away towards the darkened warehouse.

For more information on Osmo's Cosmos, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Nestori Lönngrén.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Eivør “Into the Mist”

Photo by Sigga Ella

Time for something a little different this, I am not reviewing a band from Italy! All joking aside, that isn't the only thing that's different. Usually I review music that is more rock or metal, but I have been known to delve into other types of music from time to time.

In almost a year since I started this weekly video review thing, I have found music from all over the globe. This week I have found a gem from the Faroe Islands named Eivør, who has apparently been making music since she was 16 and now has 9 albums to her credit, but whom I have only heard about over the past few months. Better late than never, as the saying goes.

That being said, it isn't hard to figure out why I would like Eivør's music: it has that gothic flair to it, that appeals to the musical side of me that loves female-fronted symphonic metal, and the side of me that grew up on poppy yet dark ’80s music like Depeche Mode and Kate Bush. She has a beautiful yet distinct voice, which I like a lot.

This video I am reviewing, “Into the Mist”, is a remake of an older song done in Eivør's native Faroese language, redone in English. Many comments on the video suggest that the original version is better, but I have not heard it yet, because I want to review this video without any bias towards the other version.

The video begins with Eivør standing on a bare, desolate hill, wearing a black dress with a sheer black cape covering her. Reminds me a little of Madonna's “Frozen” video. We see a hillside covered in mist (but of course, “into the mist”), a dark forest, and a rocky landscape. Eivør is seen again, this time wearing a white dress, her face painted in black like a mask. More footage of the scenery, interspersed with shots of Eivør “levitating” in her black dress; or standing by the water's edge in her white dress, the contrast of the black face paint looking very haunting, fitting the eerie vibe of the song.

For more information on Eivør, or to pre-order her upcoming album Siør, visit her official website.

Special thanks to Lou at Partisan PR.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Walk in Darkness “Heavy Wings of Destiny”

Band photo

Here's another band I have written about before: Walk in Darkness, and surprise—they are from Italy! (I sure like writing about the Italian bands, don't I?)

If you remember the last time I wrote about this band, then you already know that Walk in Darkness is a band of musicians who opt to keep their identities a secret by wearing long, hooded cloaks in press photos and in videos (hence the band's name). Their main vocalist is Nicoletta Rosellini, frontwoman of symphonic metal band Kalidia, and guest vocalist on many other projects.

The band has a new album and a new video, “Heavy Wings of Destiny”. The video starts off with dark imagery: ominous gray clouds, crows, and skulls. The Walk in Darkness bandmembers are shown in their hoods with cobwebs around the opening so their faces cannot be seen, while Nicoletta leads the way in a black and gray dress, holding a lantern in the fog. She summons another person to join them: guest vocalist Emiliano Pasquinelli, who is providing the harsh male vocals on this track. More dark imagery: swords being drawn, crows flying, dead one point some lyrics flash on the screen, which is as good an introduction to the band as any: “We walk in dust, but we find music in desolation”. The lyric that follows is a nod to the band’s name: “We walk in darkness, but something shines in our tears”.

For more information on Walk in Darkness, or to purchase their new album, In the Shadows of Things, visit the band's official website.

Special thanks to Nicoletta Rosellini.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: BadAss “Royal Chains”

Band photo

What is it about Italy that keeps producing some of the best music on the metal scene these days? Time and time again, my quest for new music always somehow brings me back there, and I am no closer to figuring out why than I was a year ago when I first started writing these weekly entries.

That being said, if you are going to name your band “BadAss”, you'd better have a good reason for it, or plenty of evidence to back your claim. In the case of this Italian heavy metal quartet, their individual résumés read like more like an elite VIP guest list, with all the impressive names these gentlemen have all worked with. From legends like Yngwie Malmsteen, Alan Parsons, and the Purple One himself, the late Prince; to current stars such as Babymetal, the members of BadAss are aptly named just by their musical pedigrees alone. It stands to reason that the collaborative efforts of such seasoned professionals would live up to its potential.

The band's combined talents are apparent in their video for “Royal Chains”. Within the first 30 seconds of the song, you hear a mix of groove metal, progressive rock, melodic metal, and straight-up hard rock. Visually, there is not much to the video besides the band playing in a darkened room with a single spotlight to illuminate them; and occasionally the screen will take on a glitchy look, similar to an old VHS tape that has been played too many times. In all honesty, the music speaks enough for itself to where it needs no elaborate visuals!

For more information on BadAss, or to pre-order their upcoming album More Pain, More Gain, visit the band's official website.

Special thanks to Alberto Rigoni.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Bendida “Land of Perun”

Band photo

As promised, this week I have a new band to introduce (or, at least, new to this page). Hailing from Sofia, Bulgaria; Bendida is a self-described “symphonic-fantasy metal band” who, like many of their contemporaries in the scene, incorporate lyrical themes pertaining to fantasy. However, Bendida appears to infuse fantasy into their entire sound, as opposed to making reference to it.

You can hear this from the moment the opening notes begin on the song “Land of Perun”, their latest video. Violinist Vyara Grancharova sits on a rock, and her melancholic playing immediately hearkens visuals of a time gone by. The camera pans over broken pillars or columns in an empty field, zooming faster until we approach the band, playing in the midst of the stone columns. The music is very reminiscent of something that would feel right at home in a Zelda or Final Fantasy game, or on The Lord of the Rings soundtrack (which is clearly the sound they are going for).

Playing the role of the “Red Pagan Priestess” is Bendida frontwoman Kremena Nikolova, as she and her trusty steed gallop across the land, as mysterious figures in black pursue her on horseback (definitely reminiscent of Lord of the Rings here!). Dismounting her horse and running through the forest, the cloaked villains continue to give chase. Running up some steps, she finds an enigmatic symbol carved on a stone. While the bad guys continue hunting her down (passing by the same stone), the Red Pagan Priestess finds a cave. As she makes her way deeper into the cavern, she finds what appear to be the remains of an ancient warrior. She notices that he is wearing a pendant just like her own, both bearing the symbol carved upon the stone. Placing the two pendants together, the warrior (Perun) comes to life just in time to scare the living hell out of the evildoers.

For more information on Bendida, visit the band's official website.

Special thanks to Jason Drue Keith.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Geezër “Boom Chick-a-Pop”

Band photo

The time has come once again to review a new video, and this week we are checking in at the most happenin' senior center in America to see what's new with our favorite elderly punk rockers. That's right, we're catching up with Geezër once again, who have found time to make a new video in-between bingo, field trips to the medical supply shop, crochet lessons, and Matlock reruns. The poster children of the AARP, Geezër is living proof that life starts at 70!

Case in point: the new video, “Boom Chick-a-Pop”, is all about Geezër's swinging lifestyle as rock star oldsters. In this lyric video featuring graphics of the bandmembers' skulls, and the word "Boom!” flashing across the screen, Geezër proceeds to tell a story about picking up chicks at Wal-Mart. (Sure, it doesn't sound very rock-and-roll, but where else do you expect to find groupies in suburban central Florida?) Apparently she's quite a catch: she not only cooks eggs for her man in the morning, but she's down for accompanying him to the sock hop at night. No wonder the Geezër guys have the vitality of a 50-year-old! Lyrically, there isn't much to the song except for repeating the title over and over. But, after all, these are guys pushing the century mark—we can't expect them to remember a bunch of lyrics!

For more information on Geezër, check out their blog!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Master Sword “Isle of the Sky Spirits”

Band photo

If you are a fan of The Legend of Zelda video game franchise, as I am, then the month of March is an exciting time. Breath of the Wild, the first new Zelda game for a major console in over 5 years is just days away. Another event that is just as exciting but isn't getting nearly as much press: the video premiere of “Isle of the Sky Spirits”, the first single from Master Sword's upcoming full-length debut, Shadow and Steel.

Who is Master Sword? If you are new here, then you probably don't know that I have written about them before. Master Sword is a power metal band from Maryland that pays tribute to The Legend of Zelda in their music: either by writing lyrics pertaining to Zelda lore, or composing metal versions of beloved Zelda themes. It is clear that the band has strong knowledge of the games and understands the material in ways that only the most hardcore Zelda fan could (and they can get pretty intense!). Most of all, you can hear the love and respect they have for the games and their creators. Master Sword seeks to take you on a journey through Hyrule (and all its parallel universes), encouraging listeners to step inside of Link's green tunic and live out his adventures with him.

So then, it stands to reason that for the band's first video, they want to do exactly that, and not only bring the familiar sights and sounds of the Zelda universe to fans who already love and enjoy the series, but also to share this world with the metal fanbase who may not necessarily know about Zelda or video games. It's quite a fine line to walk: you want the references to be detailed enough for the biggest fans to instantly recognize, but also simplistic enough to where the most casual observer can still follow along.

Master Sword manages to strike this balance perfectly. The video begins with a shot of waves gently lapping on the shore, and the band instantly kicks into a heavy jam of the Dragon Roost Island theme, an integral piece of music from The Wind Waker—a Zelda game whose story centers on a world submerged in water, and the few islands that rose from the flood to sustain the lives that remained.

If you have read my previous reviews about Master Sword, then you will know that their first EP featured vocal duties from several different singers, including Thrillkiller's Rob Bradley, and Nina Osegueda from A Sound of Thunder. If you know what powerful voices those two have, then you know that whoever the band chose to recruit for a full-time vocalist had to be someone who was really gonna knock your socks off, because they are a tough act to follow!

From the moment that Master Sword's frontwoman Lily Hoy opens her mouth, her voice roars out and makes it apparent that not only can she hold her own with either of the aforementioned singers, but her vocals are so powerful that the speakers on my little phone can barely handle it! She is dressed in a green ensemble of her own, and her eye makeup is painted in the design of the Sheikah tribe, the protectors of Hyrule's royal family, and keepers of the monarchy's darkest secrets. (This reference will have meaning later.)

Meanwhile, we see a hooded figure in a green tunic and the trademark Hylian Shield, and we know it is Link walking along the sandy shores. The other bandmembers are wearing pendants of the Hylian Shield to further emphasize the reference. Most of the video alternates between shots of the band performing, and quick glimpses of “Link” wielding his sword, or standing very hero-like by the shore. We never see the two parties meet, but as Link walks along, we see the bandmembers (minus Lily) standing on a hill, dressed in hooded cloaks just like the Seven Sages that guard the Sacred Realm, where Hyrule's main center of power resides: the Triforce. As the Link character approaches closer, the music turns to a more faithful rendition of the Dragon Roost Island theme; a more classical sound reminiscent of merry minstrels and wandering troubadours. When Link reaches the cloaked figures and doffs his own hood, my inner Zelda geek rejoices as I see the trademark blue Ocarina of Time. As Link takes the Ocarina and holds it to his lips, Master Sword saves the best surprise for last by making reference to the greatest Zelda plot twist in the franchise's history.

For more information on Master Sword, or to purchase Shadow and Steel, visit the band's official website.

Special thanks to Matt Farkas.


*This review is dedicated to the memory of Zellie Blake: 1982-2010.*
“Whenever there is a meeting, a parting shall follow. But that parting needs not last forever. Whether a parting be forever or merely for a short while...that is up to you.”
—The Happy Mask Salesman, Majora's Mask

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Signum Regis “Damnatio Ad Bestias”

Band photo

I'm back this week with another band I have featured in the past. Yes, this is going to be a trend over the next couple of weeks—I promise I have new music to share—but there is a lot of great new music from quite a few of these “past guests”, and I can't pass it up.

Slovenian power metal band Signum Regis is back with new material, and they have a very cool-looking lyric video to accompany the first single, “Damnatio Ad Bestias”—which translates loosely as the act of feeding the Christians to the lions. Signum Regis makes no effort to hide that they are a Christian band, and as a fan of power metal and the storytelling style that gives the genre so much of its identity, I see their recanting of Biblical tales as no different than similar songs about mythology, fantasy, or other historical events. Power metal lyrics are steeped in such themes, so the subject matter that Signum Regis touches upon does not seem so out of place to me. As long as the lyrics can convey a sense of imagination and an ability to open up a world through song, the subject matter can be about anything, as far as I am concerned.

Musically, this song is a lot heavier, and vocally more “brutal” than the song I reviewed here previously. The vibe matches the lyrical tone of the song, which is a vivid description of the ancient form of capital punishment. As the lyrics scroll across the screen, we see animation of gladiators running for their lives as the wild animals chase them, and the crowd makes sport of their fate. “Beasts can eat our flesh, but they cannot kill our souls”, a lyric proudly proclaims. To be honest, describing a death by way of getting torn limb from limb by lions...does it get more metal than that?

For more information on Signum Regis, or to pre-order their upcoming album, Decennium Primum, visit their official website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Overtures “Go(l)d”

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Although it's been a few weeks since the last time I wrote about a band previously featured here, there is a lot of great music coming out from these bands, and they are generous enough to share their music with me and to allow me to write about it. And anytime I can share good music with someone, that is an opportunity I will always take!

One of the many talented bands from Italy that I discovered last year, Overtures has a sound that would appeal to fans of Kamelot, Dream Theater, or Seventh Wonder.

In the band's latest video, the theme seems to be centered on acceptance and “fitting in” at any cost. We see three different scenes as the video progresses; each one very different, but all of them sharing this theme.

The first scene is of a woman standing at her mirror, alternating between constantly checking her cell phone and obsessively preening in front of the mirror as she puts on an abundance of makeup, fixes her hair, and takes selfies. We see a little bottle of pills among the makeup and hair products, with a label on them that looks like a Facebook thumbs-up, clearly symbolizing the girl's addiction to social media and the attention she receives. Yet through all of this, she is visibly unhappy: as she reaches into the last “dose” in her pill bottle, she goes into a panic as she searches desperately for another Like; another hit of approval. Tears streak the perfectly-applied makeup down her face as the stands there despondent, staring off into space. She succumbs to her addiction, pops the last pill, and slides to the floor in defeat.

The second scene shows three children at a desk, each of them drawing pictures of a house. Two of the children draw very run-of-the-mill, typical childish depictions of a house, while the third child presents an elaborate, artistic reproduction of a lovely mansion. His picture is rejected, crumpled into a ball, while the other two children's pictures are praised, as they stand in front of the class proudly holding up their pictures and showing off their sameness.

The third scene, and one which is shown more subtly (yet is clearly the darkest) is of a priest at the pulpit, while a woman stands before him with money in her mouth, as if taking communion, symbolizing the desperation to enter the kingdom of heaven by giving away one's self-worth. At the end of the video, we see a crumpled-up bill in her wallet, leaving us to wonder if she has found her worth after all.

For more information on Overtures, visit their official website.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Hydra “Between Two Worlds”

Band photo courtesy of CrisVain Photography

Ever since starting this feature, my musical journey has taken me to many places—China, Slovenia, and all the way back to my hometown of Los Angeles—yet, in all my travels, I have not ventured to Germany; which, considering the genres of metal I particularly write about, seems a bit unusual. After all, many metal experts seem to agree that power metal was, if not invented in Germany, at the very least perfected there. With bands like Accept and The Scorpions laying down the groundwork for what power metal would become, along with Helloween ultimately kicking it into the stratosphere and Blind Guardian defining those power metal characteristics we recognize today, Germany's mark on metal music cannot be denied.

Germany also has not only a knack for producing their own talent, but scoping out good talent from other regions before the rest of the world catches on. As one of the first countries to fully embrace the female-fronted symphonic metal scene when it first hit Europe in the late ’90s, when bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation experienced their first bit of success outside the borders of their home countries, Germany has made itself known as the place to look when you're seeking out metal's next big thing. So you would think that by now, Germany would have at least hit my radar sometime among all this musical exploration.

In the realm of femme-metal, Germany has always been a heavy hitter. From the undisputed metal queen Doro Pesch all the way to original Arch Enemy frontwoman Angela Gossow, German women could rock right alongside the men.

For my entry this week, I came across Hydra, a German symphonic metal band fronted by the hypnotic voice of Lisa Rieger. What might come as a surprise to many that hear her stunning vocals is that, unlike many of her contemporaries in the scene, she is not a classically-trained vocalist! But she has a mighty voice all the same. Musically, the band reminds me a bit of early Nemesea, and could possibly appeal to fans of Epica, Xandria, or Leaves' Eyes.

In the video for the song “Between Two Worlds”, we see two contrasting images: one of Lisa in a dim setting, but her look is strong and confident; her hair flaming red, dressed in a beautiful gown as she dances to the music; the other in a bright, daylight backdrop, but the raven-haired woman in these scenes is shown here as confused and lost, dressed in dark colors, as she attempts to navigate her way through tunnels and stairwells. Obviously this is in keeping with the theme of the song title. Ultimately, the woman finds a crystal sphere throughout her travels, which glows brightly at the end of the video as she smiles, representing the strength and confidence she has now.

For more information on Hydra, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Demas Miller.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Dream Spectrum “Even So”

Band photo courtesy of Priore Photography

One of the most fun things about writing this feature every week is that sometimes, I do not know from week to week what I will be reviewing. Part of the fun is never knowing what I will come across. Today's entry could be rock, next week's entry could be thrash metal or electronica. Whatever I find that piques my interest, I will write about it. Sometimes, as is the case with this week's band, I came across them by way of a random ad on my Facebook feed. I find a lot of bands this way, but I haven't written about too many of them here. Over these past few months, however, I cannot recall if I have ever come across an instrumental rock band. (Feel free to correct me in the comments section if I have.)

Hailing from Buffalo, NY, Dream Spectrum got their start in 2013, and have been making a name for themselves on the local scene. Earning the respect of Goo Goo Dolls' Robby Takac (a local boy done good, to say the least), and opening for bands such as Molly Hatchet and Jackyl, Dream Spectrum's progressive-infused, lightning-rapid riffs and jazzy rhythms are a melodic blending of musical genres packing a heavy punch.

In the video for their song “Even So”, Dream Spectrum plays upon the old saying, “looks can be deceiving”. The band rocks out in a wintry forested area, all of them dressed up in crisp white shirts, ties, and hats. The upbeat rock sound gets your toes tapping, but before you can write them off as another typical group of hipsters, the music floats off into harmonic, art-rock goodness with plenty of progressive melody and a pinch of power metal riffing. If you enjoy the clean, soaring harmonies of Joe Satriani, then Dream Spectrum is a band you should check out.

For more information on Dream Spectrum, visit the band's official website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Aggronymph “Moonlight”

Band photo 

It's been a while since I've done a “repeat performance” featuring a band I have written about here before, but this has been a relatively slow week, and this video is still fairly new so I thought now was as good a time as any to do a write-up.

The last time I wrote about Aggronymph, their brand-new video “`Til Life Sets us Apart” had just premiered, and this video that I am reviewing now (“Moonlight”) had been released shortly before that. With all the attention and promotion the band wanted to give to “Life”, “Moonlight” tended to get lost in the shuffle, so I thought I would let a little time go by before picking it up and giving it some attention.

As I mentioned before, Aggronymph's style is a melting pot of genres ranging from electronica to gothic metal to pop; with enough melodic sensibility to ensure that the music never gets overwhelmed by too many differing sounds piled on at once. That's a tricky balancing act for even the most accomplished artists to pull off, so it says a lot about Aggronymph's talent that they can pull this off with such panache.

Visually, however, the “Moonlight” video is opposite from the band's overall sound: it is is a basic 5-minute journey through busy city nightlife. The buildings are illuminated with neon lights, while the moon hangs unobtrusively above, almost invisible. A camera captures the shuffling feet of people walking to and fro, as we view them from upside-down. The bright headlights of cars and buses whiz past us as they race through the city streets. All of these sights make the lyrics more profound: “Gaze at the moonlit sky, it is the most divine of sights...This beauty of the moonlit sky is my only source of light”.

For more information on Aggronymph, visit the band's official website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Death Dealer “K.I.L.L.”

Band photo

When you put a band together consisting of bandmembers from Into Eternity and Lizzy Borden, then add some other musicians who have worked with such vocal legends as Udo Dirkschneider and Rob Halford, throw in Sean Peck, known as “the man of a thousand voices”, and then top it all off with none other than ex-Manowar's guitarist “Ross the Boss”—you have all the components for a kick-ass metal band. That metal band is called Death Dealer, and while “supergroups” have become common in the music world these days, you would be hard-pressed to find anything common about Death Dealer.

Fusing together their respective musical genres such as thrash and speed metal, Death Dealer is bringing back traditional metal in a big way, but never sounding outdated or predictable. This is metal brutality that makes you pump your fists, bang your head, and kick some ass.

In their video for “K.I.L.L.”, the band rocks their asses off in a rehearsal space, as confirmed by a Google Earth-type navigational system (the term “target acquired” reiterating that whatever is going on at this place is of interest to us). Simultaneously, at another location, there are two “hot chicks” in bikinis, hanging out in a hot tub, rubbing lotion on each other, and tanning on lounge chairs—whom, at the beginning of the video, are identified by the navigational system as “agents”. But that is easy for some of our viewers to forget once the lovely ladies are on-screen!

As the video progresses, one of the women receives a text message: “They're a threat—take them out!!!” The two women give each other a knowing glance, and before you know it, they are dressed in sexy black uniforms, and hit the road in their sleek black sedan. As the band rips into a killer guitar solo, the women are packing heat. Without revealing the video's ending, I will simply say that the band has quite the sense of humor when keeping to the song's title.

For more information about Death Dealer—currently working on their upcoming 3rd album—visit their official website.

Thanks to Benjamin at Lords of PR.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: The Silent Wedding “A Dream of Choices”

Band photo

In my weekly quest for music from across the globe, it seems that certain regions have been producing talent in a given genre at quite the impressive rate. Last year, I discovered many bands from Italy in the melodic metal style; but not too far behind them was Greece, who was also churning out their fair share of top-notch music. From symphonic/gothic metal such as Fallen Arise, power metal such as Wardrum, or progressive metal such as Black Fate; just to name a few—Greece has made their presence known on the world map of metal.

Over the last decade, one of the many talented bands hailing from Greece is progressive metal band The Silent Wedding. Working behind the scenes with some of the same people as Kamelot, Opeth, and Rhapsody of Fire—among the most respected names in their genre—this quintet has gotten off to a good start and now, with their second album, promises better things to come.

For the album's first single, the band joins forces with another highly-respected name on the scene, and someone I have mentioned here before—Evergrey's Tom Englund, who generously shares his voice with anyone who asks. And why not? Tom is an amazing vocalist and anything he adds his voice to is just going to sound that much better.

The song, “A Dream of Choices”, starts off with slow, melancholic pianos that builds to an atmospheric burst of symphonic-influenced gothic melodies. The video itself is a lyric video with images of dark clouds, withered trees, and black birds flying across the screen as the words scroll past. The vocal interplay between Marios Karanastasis (the band's singer) and Tom Englund is quite complementary to each other: Marios' impassioned, pleading vocals in contrast to Tom's husky, tortured voice further emphasizes the emotional content of the lyrics.

For more information on The Silent Wedding, or to purchase a copy of their latest album, Enigma Eternal, visit the band's official website.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: The Rue “Third Time”

Photo courtesy of Lucky Shot Studios

Happy 2017, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful New Year. I look forward to bringing this weekly feature into 2017 and having a full year of new music to share.

My first entry for 2017 is a musical duo called The Rue, whom I briefly wrote about here when I made my list of favorite albums back in 2015; but I really haven't had the opportunity to write about them too much here on this blog. The Rue is an acoustic “father/daughter music project”, as described on their site. Hailing from Seattle, this musical pair consists of vocalist Rylie DeGarmo—a talented young lady in her early twenties with a very “old soul” quality to her voice (citing legends such as Billie Holiday to be among her main influences); and her father, Chris—whom, if his name seems familiar to you, then congratulations! You have visited this blog before. (But in all seriousness, Chris is an accomplished musician in his own right and if I need to list all of his credentials here, then you do not visit this blog nearly enough, nor do you spend much time at a place called Wikipedia. See there, I even provided a link for you. Onward...)

Now, that being said, if you visit here regularly enough or even pay attention to some of my most-read posts, I do not try to hide or deny that I am a longtime fan. I make no bones about it—I openly admit the impact DeGarmo's music has had on my life; I even credit it for saving my life (because it totally did).

However, if you have read previous reviews I have written about The Rue, I try very hard not to let this cloud my judgment or make this the only point of reference when discussing the music, because I like the music for itself. I do this because I think this is not only unfair to both parties, but also because I think Rylie is a fantastic vocalist and I will keep on listening to her no matter what she does or who she collaborates with in the future. I think she is a bright talent of her own and do not think she should constantly be overshadowed by the past of her dad, who happens to be her bandmate (for that matter, I do not believe he should be overshadowed by his past efforts, either). I would not even address this in such detail were it not for the fact that I have written extensively about the music from his past, so to not bring it up now would only be too obvious that I was trying to avoid it (and I am just not that cunning). So, now that I have gotten all the disclaimers out of the way...

The Rue's latest video is for a new song called “Third Time”, a track which will be on an upcoming release scheduled for sometime this year. Now, what I like about The Rue's music is that it's very relaxing and mellow. Their chill, laid-back ambiance needs no accoutrements, and is melodic perfection in its simplistic loveliness. Much as I love the over-the-top bombast of symphonic metal, or the intricate virtuosity of progressive rock, I can also appreciate music that is stripped-down and needs little more than a clear, pure vocal and a clean acoustic guitar to create an atmosphere. Sometimes less is more, and The Rue pulls this off with finesse.

The video itself also matches The Rue's musical motif: filmed in black-and-white, very minimalistic and straightforward; the video features Rylie walking around a house in a flowing white dress (or is it a nightgown? Fashion has never been my strong suit!). Musically, it has this bohemian feel to it, and I love the fluctuating of high and low that Rylie does vocally here. There is not much more to the video than this, other than some photographs on the wall or on desktops and tables, that we see vaguely as she makes her way to the front door at the end of the video to patiently wait for someone (obviously the subject of the song and the person in the photos). Can I just say off the subject for a minute that I really like Rylie's arm tattoo?

For more information on The Rue, visit their official website.