Metallica 72 Seasons Album Review

Metallica – 72 Seasons

Blackened Recordings

Released April 14, 2023

7.5 out of 10

For whatever reasons when a new Metallica album is released there is a whirlwind of opinions good and bad. This is after all the biggest metal band on the planet, and at this point in their careers the music of Metallica is often quite divisive.

As a fan, you either fall into loving the classic era of the thrash kings up until the release of Justice, or you might be a more recent convert and enjoy their 90’s output and beyond. Either way, both opinions are valid up until a certain point. I tend to fall some where in the middle because I grew up as a thrash loving teen in the 80’s and was there at the beginning of the thrash revolution, but I’m also a visual artist and can appreciate the evolution of artistic vision.

I do understand bands and artists will change, develop and mature over time. So, it happens to the best of us and Metallica is no exception to the rule. Sure, they have evolved over time and yes the modern Metallica has moved well beyond their fist swinging and head banging roots.

So with that being said, what does Metallica sound like in 2023? Well, a new collection of songs are being offered here on 72 Seasons and we need to dive in and see what they have to offer their legion of fans for the twelfth studio album.

To start out my review, my overall impressions are quite positive. I don’t go for all that bullshit about Kirk’s weak solos or Lars’s unorthodox drumming style because I look at music from a larger context of how it makes me feel on a whole level. 72 Seasons has it ups and downs for sure, but it still rocks and more importantly it proves James can still go as a lead vocalist and primary lyricist.

In fact, James is the star of the show in my opinion. He strikes me as someone who still feels and cares about his craft and continues to soar at the ripe age of 59! He’s on point with every track; providing soulful and impassioned vocals; while offering lyrics that reveal his struggles mentally and emotionally. He hasn’t sounded this good in years in my opinion and it’s a refreshing take on 72 Seasons.

I loved his vocals on tracks like “You Must Burn!”, “Lux Aeterna” and “Crown of Barbed Wired”. In the case of “Chasing Light”, there is some strain on his vocal delivery, but the song is stronger for it. He really shines on “If Darkness Had a Son” with callback vibes to Load and Reload era Metallica. Again, I can go on and on about his vocals, but let’s stop for a second to examine the lyrics.

The primary songwriting on ‘tallica records is always credited to Hetfield/Ulrich, but James has stated in recent interviews that he wanted to bring everyone in this time on the writing process. He ‘opened his heart’ as he put it and asked for everyone to contribute on the songs to help make the process open and fun. With that being said, James has also stated that 72 Seasons is about forming your identity in the first 18 years of life whether it be true or false.

But did this ethos succeed musically? Well yes and no.

The opening number “72 Seasons”, is a mid-paced cruncher with average riffs, a descent chorus and a fairly heavy overall imprint. Track number two “Shadows Follow” clings to the familiar thrash palette with no fills from Lars, but a good solo from Kirk that’s bluesy and melodic enough for my tastes. Much of what I said about this song applies to the next track “Screaming Suicide”, however Lars finally has some fills and Kirk’s familiar wah wah’s dominate this number from start to finish. I really liked his soloing here, and coupled with James’ mellifluous voice the song goes together like peanut butter and jam.

I wasn’t taken with “Sleepwalk my Life Away”, however I will point out that we can hear Robert Trujillo’s bass up front in the mix. Good on you Rob! Then “You Must Burn!” blazes my ears and it sounds like it could have easily been a track from The Black Album, but certainly some blatant Black Sabbath worship here included. I think for me the next track “Lux Aeterna” encapsulates the early Metallica sound with fast pick riffing and a straight to the point beat rather perfectly. Some point out that it sounds like Diamond Head, but we all know that bands from the NWOBHM era heavily influenced the boys in the beginning. I must say we need more short and intense songs like this as far as I am concerned!

Probably the coolest song title on this album is “Crown of Barbed Wire”. The chorus is really catchy and my ears detect some nods to Load here. I can accept it as a descent song, but think you might find some better offerings on “Chasing Light”. Lyrically it shines and I do like the chorus here a heck of a lot, although it struggles to push some boundaries song-wise. Also, Kirk’s solo is rather average and nothing new here to whet your appetite. But since we are still on the subject of interesting lyrics, “If Darkness had a Son” fits perfectly in Hetfield’s wheelhouse. I get some serious Justice vibes here and yes Kirk’s solos are meaty and dangerous sounding. I really dig the chorus, along with the lyrics that continue to play up the theme of the struggles between the dark and the light.

The last three remaining songs are a mixed bag. We go back to the well on “Too Far Gone?” that mixes thrash while relying heavily on the well-worn chorus used throughout the album. I don’t mind Kirk’s solo, but the song feels standard here as a whole. I felt the time dragging on “Room of Mirrors” and it really bored me on many levels. Then we get that 11 minute closer in the form of “Inamorata” that offered up some interesting passages, but I’m not sure the guys could musically justify the lengthy run time. I’d say the first four and a half minutes was well performed, but it dips in the middle for this proggy filled percussion-bass combination that felt a bit out of place and then morphs back into a Thin Lizzy tinged finale. I’ve read other reviewers say this is Metallica attempting stoner rock, but I don’t get that vibe from this song. I will give them credit for trying to think outside their comfort zone but this is not “To Live is to Die”, “Orion” and “Suicide or Redemption” level of songwriting for long compositions.

I’ve been listening to this record for well over a week now and my verdict is simple. Modern Metallica is just okay and there are some descent offerings here to raise an eyebrow or two for longtime fans begging for the return of the classic sound. I am sure some can give you 72 reasons why it sucks and some can give you 72 reasons why it’s great. I can give you 36 reasons about my opinions on this release that is favourable, so again I fall somewhere in the middle. So going back to my opening statements at the start of this review, artists evolve and mature, but as a result you get records like this. Good or bad, this is what Metallica is these days.

At least the pluses here easy to state. James sounds vital vocally and his lyrics on this release are good overall. He’s willing to open himself up and let everyone in regarding his personal struggles and it shows in most of the songs. The music is entertaining, but this is not going to win fans over who loved their first four releases.

I am giving this release a solid 7.5 out of 10 skulls.


Starblind Album Review


Black Bubbling Ooze

Pure Steel Records

8 out of 10

Written by Tim Duran

Four albums and five years is the count and I see no halt in the progression of the classic metal sound that Starblind brings. Four albums and five years is the length of time I have been following the mighty Starblind and their evolution.  I think that’s what the title projects. A title taken from the chorus of a song off their first record (we’ll get to that detail later). 

Two years or so ago, Marcus Olkerud took over vocals as Mike Stark went on to form Stormburner. Mike fronted during the Darkest Horrors and Dying Son days, and Marcus started for their third record Never Seen Again. An album that spoke volumes to me both musically and lyrically.  

Here in the Ooze, Marcus takes a stab at some early Starblind tunes, J.J.’s old band , and a few newly written songs.  

For those of you who are now just hearing of Starblind, their show of force is Marcus Olkerud on vocals, Daniel Yrell on bass, J.J. and Bjorn Rosenblad on rhythm and lead guitars, and ZakariusWikner who is the rumbling destruction in the flow of this Black Bubbling Ooze. 

The record starts with the very groove oriented “One Of Us”. Daniel really lets loose on the bass fills here. This is a song for each and every metal head out there. We’re all the same. Metal knows no colour, race , gender, background, back story, or status. This is a call to come together as one and be one with the music no matter what anyone says, thinks, or proclaims. 

Second song, first stab : “At The Mountain Of Madness” from the first album Darkest Horrors and first with Mike Stark on vocals. Here in these lyrics lye the title to this record.  Marcus expresses a bit of passion and relates well to the song. The band does a little rearranging as far as tempo. It has more of a live feel to it this time around. 

“Here I Am” kicks off speedily. Rhythmically, this one has an early Starblind feel to it. Maybe it’s because it’s from J.J.’s old band, “DANGER”. Tonally, it’s deep as the bass and drums overtake the mid range and beef it up. Vocally, it’s much more. Marcus has more power and more meaning in this performance. The tempo is a little faster and everyone seems to be having fun with this one. 

Fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh song, and last stabs ,starting with “Crystal Tears”. This song is also from the Darkest Horrors record. The arrangement sort of keeps the same time as the original take. Daniel adds a nice down slide in the intro that’s missing from the original. Marcus is a little more breathy in the verses which is soothing to the ears before the bridge comes in and the solo drives the song a bit faster. 

“The Man In The Crowd” and “Room 101” from Dying Son. The second record and last with Mike Stark. Both songs are more up-tempo from the original takes, the mix is better and Marcus takes advantage of both. As on “Mountain”, Marcus relates to these songs and doesn’t treat them as mere “covers”. These are Starblind songs, he’s the vocalist for Starblind, and so sings as though he was part of the writing procedure. I respect that. What I’m trying to say, is, he’s not just laying down vocal tracks just to get them over with. You can hear in his voice that he’s taking the time and effort to do the songs justice. So as for “Man In The Crowd”, it’s well done. As for “Room 101”, I really like the mix on this one over the original mix. Zakarius, thunders through this song a little more aggressively than the original and makes for a live feel as well. 

The last oldie but goodie is “The Reckoning” from the Darkest Horrors record. I really like how the band got together and laid down new tracks for these older tunes. They just didn’t have Marcus sing over old tracks. They really made these songs new.  

I think the only thing I don’t like is the choice of this particular song. I feel when the line, “Now awake the hero from his slumber”, isn’t in the right range. Marcus sings it in a lower tone. I liked the way Mike had a bit of a higher tone when he sang the word, “Slumber”. But everything else is righteous. The backing vocals in the chorus are spine chilling and I can’t get over the lyrics. It’s a powerful, meaningful song that I fell in love with the first time I heard it five years ago.  

The last tune that bookends this record, “The Young Man”, rumbles with a strong bass line as it progresses into the main part of the first verse. It really ends this record off on a good note.  

Downside is “The Reckoning”. Everything is perfect except for that line I spoke of earlier. I don’t know. It just didn’t sound right to me. Maybe I’m just used to Mike’s voice on that one.  

Upside is as I mentioned, new tracks to old songs, fun and purposeful in the performance and vocals; and the two new songs; “One Of Us” and “The Young Man” are intense! Everyone locked in just like on Never Seen Again.  

A few things I would have added would have been “The Land Of Seven Rivers Beyond The Sea” and “Blood Red Skies” from Dying Son, and “The Great Hunt” and “I Stand Alone” from Darkest Horrors. I really want to hear what Marcus can do with those tunes. Mainly because I’d put those puppies under a microscope! 

Overall, I really like Black Bubbling Ooze for what it is. Pure performance. I appreciate that the title is from an early song. That speaks volumes to my heart.  

I give this one a very loud 8. I would have liked one or two more originals to make for a longer record, but even with the older songs, they sounded new purely because they all made them with new tracks that were more lively and beefed up with tone and tempo.  

Well done, my friends! 

As for the readers, I challenge you to hear the evolution of Starblind, and hope that you just don’t hear this record all on its own. There’s Darkest Horrors, Dying Son, and Never Seen Again to be heard and enjoyed. 

Check them out and buy stuff at 

Hear them on Spotify …. But buy stuff at and Amazon. 

Eternal Champion Ravening Iron review

Eternal Champion

Ravening Iron

(No Remorse Records)

9 out 10 Skulls

Written by Kenneth Gallant

The highly anticipated sophomore release from Eternal Champion is finally on the horizon and boy does it ever pack a punch! More importantly they deliver above and beyond the original template that started with 2016’s The Armor of Ire; delivering 8 tracks of battle slogged anthems. If you enjoy the fantasy works of Michael Moorcock or even Robert E. Howard, then you will fancy the unabashed love affair this band provides with a dose of epic heavy metal. 

Hailing from Austin, Texas and taking their name from Moorcock’s Eternal Champion; the band brings the power and triumph of steel in a thunderous way. Often taking the listener back to the fictional universe of the Eternal Champion; a hero largely reincarnating over and over in a bid to defend and keep the balance of the forces between law and order. It doesn’t get any better than that and for those who love this literary type of fantasy and sword & sorcery your appetite will be satiated immensely. 

Ravening Iron starts off with a bang as the opening number “A Face in the Glare” begins with the sounds of the blacksmith forging the steel; then giving way to the blistering lead; kicking off the heaviness in a big way. The guitar work of John Powers/Arthur Rizk is superb and it’s a satisfying number to start out the proceedings. The title track “Ravening Iron” follows and the high-octane pace thuds along to a harmonic-filled sing-along chorus that brings to mind Iron Maiden. The song details the plight of a village torn apart from a sword battle and the after effects of an attack. I couldn’t help but think about the opening scene in Conan when as a child his village was raided and plundered by a renegade barbarian hoard.

My favorite track breaks out next with the start of Rizk’s war chime on the drums and the thunderous bass of Brad Raub kicking in for “Skullseeker”. Arguably, the strongest number in these set of songs – Skullseeker fires up the metallic engine and lets the heavy sounding guitars do their thing. I also loved the little nuances that singer Jason Tarpey brings in with the Tom Gabriel-like ‘ohs’ to give that added extra touch to the song. There’s also a wonderful solo that starts at around the 3rd minute mark capping off what I believe to be is the perfect song on this album.

” War at the Edge of the End” gallops along, approaching Iron Maiden like rhythms and guitar harmonies that were satisfying to my ears. “Coward’s Keep” starts out with a Thin Lizzy-soaked harmony then crashes into Arthur Rizk’s furious drumming to really drive the rhythm section and start us off on the right foot. The pace and energy (from the guitars) build up nicely into a song that describes the fears of going into battle and there’s definitely a nod to J.R.R. Tolkien here lyrically. The song also fades out into an acoustic guitar outro that closes off quite nicely. 

I love how kick-ass sounding “Worms of the Earth” starts out and roars for about 4 minutes. It’s the kind of song you can definitely utilize when working out, or when bike riding. The thunderous sounds in this little ditty will raise the thrash meter up to the highest point and it never lets the down the pace. Then we get a little interlude with the majestic sounding “The Godblade”; utilizing synths in a short instrumental arrangement. It’s atmospheric and it brings to mind those long forgotten 80’s B movies like Beastmaster and The Sword and the Sorcerer. Finally, we end off with the doomy laden “Banners of Arhai”. The pace here slows down quite a bit, so there’s some time to catch your breath and take in this powerful dirge. Jason’s vocals are superb and on point the moment the first note is struck.  I liked how the band gave this track the proper due it needed to breath; layering over ethereal sounds to cap off a great sophomore release.

The Ravening Iron is a strong second outing and forges ahead in a different way than what was established on The Armor of Ire. The production is beefy and the guitars will bludgeon the listener over the head with a bountiful selection of tasty riffs. I found the pace on this release much more to my liking, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the debut. Both records each have a charm all their own, but The Ravening Iron is a statement defining release and let me tell you – the band is ready to take the world by storm! There’s not a band song in the bunch and often I thought that it was like listening to Iron Maiden on crack. It’s all so wonderfully recorded and packaged into a set of galloping riffs and leads that left me wanting more as the last note fades out. 

Tarpey’s vocals felt like they got an upgrade here and his lyrics continue to dazzle these metalhead’s ears. The other neat fact about the Ravening Iron is the release of Tarpey’s new book The Godblade; coming out as a companion to the album. As soon as I heard about the fantasy novel, I ordered if off Amazon and I am eagerly excited to read about the further continuation of Tarpey’s “Vengeance of the Insane God” short story first published in Swords of Steel by DMR books. The Godblade is a novella, following the exploits of warrior Raenon in his journey to uncover the tomb of the god Farick. Many of the songs written on the Ravening Iron are direct inspiration from the fantasy world of Arginor and will be detailed in the book.

If you are into bands like Iron Maiden, Visgoth, Manilla Road and Steel Aggressor then give this record a try. It won’t disappoint; and if you enjoy Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery this band will do the trick and quench your thirst for forged steel. 

To purchase the album – buy here Music | Eternal Champion (
To purchase The Godblade – buy here The Godblade — DMR Books

The Godblade — DMR BooksThe warrior-smith Rænon, after witnessing the return of Brakur the Insane God, has returned to his homeland in Aelbrond. Now he must seek the tomb of the dead god Farick for the remains he needs to pyre-forge The Godblade, the only sword that can kill Brakur and stand against the nefarious cult of

AC DC Power Up Album review


Power UP

(Columbia Records)

8 out 10

Written by Kenneth Gallant

The first new AC DC song, since Rock or Bust was released in early October. The single “Shot in the Dark” came out on the heels of the horrible news of Eddie Van Halen’s untimely passing. I think most rock fans needed something to ease the pain of losing Eddie and to get past the shock of it. But this new song did the trick for me, assuaging my sorrows and hitting a sweet spot in the process.  The boys then announced they were back in business and the classic line-up of Angus Young, Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd (along with nephew Stevie Young) made it official with album number seventeen.

Cliff Williams came out of retirement and Brian Johnson seemed fit as a fiddle and was able to overcome his loss of hearing issues; even Phil Rudd was getting past his criminal charges. The time away from the spotlight energized both musicians, and the thought of picking up to continue the AC DC legacy was far too appealing not to be involved again. Maybe the troublesome times during the Rock or Bust tour are far behind them and with Axl Rose vacating the guest vocal spot, the time for Brian, Cliff and Phil to step back in made the most sense.

Power Up (due out on November 13th) is chalk full of meaty riffs and accompanied by that all so familiar rock swagger we have come to know and love about the band.  I totally understand the sentiment by some bemoaning that well-worn template bores the heck out of you, but not with me. We need this type of album right now, and the titans of rock deliver on all cylinders with a steady batch of rock tunes to perk up my ears. 

I’m still digesting the album on a whole, but upon first listen the steady as you go approach applies here. The opening track “Realize” is short, but packs a good fist-sized punch to the gut. Brian’s vocals are sharp as ever and he’s definitely on point straight out of the gate. The harmonizing back-up vocals help to fuel that 80’s vibe and I’m pleased first song in. The second track “Rejection” fits in nicely like a well-worn glove and there’s no mistaking that beautifully sounding Angus-riff. We’re two songs in and that swagger is in full-swing! Then when we get “A Shot in the Dark” and they let it rip like nobody’s business; I really dig this song!

The album does dip a bit with the melancholic “Through the Mists of Time”, but picks up with “Kick You When You Are Down”. I love the riff in the middle section and its vintage Angus Young. I started getting the ‘feels’ on “Witch’s Spell”; especially when there’s a nice sing-along chorus to get that ardent AC DC fan singing it for many days after; plus, Brian kicks into high gear on the vocals. “Demon’s Fire” is a real toe-tapper and arguably the stand-out track on this release. 

The remaining numbers like “Wild Reputation”, “No Man’s Land”, “Systems Down” and “Money Shot” don’t advance the formula in anyway, but plays it by the books and sticks to the classic sound. We do end the album off with the edgy “Code Red” and thanks to Brian’s extra vocal snarling and Young’s prolific riffing, the song brings it all into focus and perfectly encapsulates the swaggering rock anthems we come to expect from AC DC. Again, the band stick to their guns and that’s admirable in my books.

I know there are a lot of detractors out there who will say this is boring as hell, but it’s a comforting sound that I still love and appreciate. AC DC will never reinvent the wheel at this late stage, but they provide a musical template that makes me happy as a pig in shit. What is even more remarkable is how at their age they can remain as vital sounding as ever and you need to consider this: Brian is 73, Angus is 65, Cliff is 70, Phil is 66 and Stevie is 63. What more can I say about a group of musicians who still give it their best to deliver an album that can still rock. 

God bless you all boys!

Classic Alien Invasion Music Review

Classic Alien Invasion
Badass Yogi Productions
Released 10/19/2020.
9 out of 10 Skulls
Review written by Kenneth Gallant

You have to love bands that erect their banner under a central theme like Horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Coming across my desk recently, is a band called Classic Alien Invasion and let me say they pay homage to many sci-fi films and time-honored cinematic tropes to tickle your fancy bone beyond all reproach. 

Helmed by Tom Edwards on lead guitar/vocals and rounded out by Dan Clay (rhythm guitar), John Harper (bass) and Jeff Trent (drums); these 4 dudes got it down pat with a style that is visceral and full of complex melodies. Musically, the band are all over the map with compositions ranging from hard edged metal, to upbeat groovy rhythms and a few proggy elements sprinkled in for good measure.  It all comes together in a satisfying way for this reviewer and I was hooked from the very first song and onwards. 

There are elements that bring to mind bands like Rigor Mortis and Rush and the logo certainly reminds me of Joel Grind’s Toxic Halocaust. But there’s so much to appreciate in their core sound, so let’s start out with the vocals of Tom Edwards. He’s extremely adept at channelling a gritty L.G Petrov vibe on the opening track “Gaaab” and that caught my attention right away, not mention how the song pays tribute to 50’s Z-grade movie master Ed Wood! The second track “Alien Number One” goes for the quick tempo often found in later releases from Entombed A.D., but the best part is the harmonious middle section. Again, this track totally had me hooked and it’s also a homage to Ridley Scott’s Alien!

“Alienphoboia” is a greasy low-vibe track that again brings to mind Entombed, but more specifically how Tom delivers the vocals in a quick guttural style a-la-L.G. Petrov. The next track “Mars Blast Waves” goes full tilt into the adventurous side of the musical spectrum. The guitars get spacey and my first thought was Rigor Mortis and again I don’t want to pigeon hole the band, but it brought to mind the Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth album. Tom’s vocals teeter a bit into the Bruce Corbett camp and it works for me.

Beyond that, songs like “Cosmo Family Values” is an infectious romp of cascading rhythms and “Classic Alien Invasion” goes full out instrumental bringing to mind Joe Satriani and Rush. I love the proggy elements and soaring melody that drives the song and it won’t disappoint those you loved 80’s instrumental metal. 

The song “Tractor Beam” provides filtered vocals in the vein of Rigor Mortis’s Bruce Corbett and as stated in the band’s song notes – this is a psychedelic journey to take the listener on a spacey wave out into the stratosphere. I dug it for the most part, and that led us into the final track “Live Damage Special Edition”.  The vocals are spit out in rapid succession and there’s a groovy drive with some added fuzz to the overall guitar tone. It’s definitely a toe-tapper with the quick tempo and it’s a solid song to end the album on a high note.

As for the album on a whole, it’s hard to classify a specific style. Surely, you will hear some prog and industrial-tinged thrash elements; not to mention the spacey-groove metal blended in. For my tastes, I dug it for that very specific reason and you won’t go wrong purchasing this album. It will be interesting to see how they develop this musical template on future releases, but count me in. I’m onboard with Classic Alien Invasion, so fellas let it rip and let the space travel begin!

You can purchase Classic Alien Invasion through this link at the band’s website:

Holding a Grudge Episode 1


Hey folks,

HMS is proud to present a special episode of the Horror Metal Cast to discuss the Grudge with Managing Editor Stevie Kopas and Horrorshow scribe Robin Thompson.

Here are the details on the show:

Stevie and Robin discuss the Netflix Original J Horror series Ju On Origins, a prequel to the well known Ju On (also known as The Grudge) franchise. Check it out as we discuss our thoughts on episodes one and two in this brand new series! Make sure and subscribe so you don’t miss out on future content!

Interview Mike Stark of Stormburner

An Interview With A Stoic

Mike Stark of StormBurner

By Tim Duran

For over five years I have been in long distance contact with Mike Stark. He is Sweden’s screamer; I am Nevada’s nomad; although miles between us, we found ourselves confiding in one another, growing in friendship and kinship.  With that being said, it’s a joy that he kept me up to date in his musical ventures. Once he was frontman for Starblind, now he heads up the new heavy hitters of heavy metal, StormBurner.

He gives Horror Metal Sounds an inside look into the making of their first release, “Shadow Rising”; a dark spark of Viking heritage, epic battle songs, and Norse pride. Although I am Native American, I felt like a Viking when I heard the record. So the album pulls you in and places you within the storyline.

It’s been a long road for Mike and the journey is only begun.

Mike Stark

HMS: It has been a few years in the making of StormBurner. Can you give us an idea of what you had in mind for the sound and direction you wanted to pursue with this new band?

Mike Stark: Hi Tim, first I would like to thank you and HMS for taking the time to have a chat about Stormburner, it is very much appreciated by us. The sound and direction was basically set by myself and Tommi even before we formed the band with the permanent members. We had a very similar idea on what we wanted to sound like and what we wanted to achieve with this band. We never hesitated; we just agreed on what to do and did it.

HMS:  Did you already have in mind who you wanted on the instruments or was it a journey to find the right bunch of guys?

Mike: Well, it was somewhat a journey in contrary to what we first believed, and we had a really hard time to get musicians wanting to audition after we posted a few ads. In this struggle, I got to think of Stefan Essmyren who I knew since many years and I checked with him and he was the perfect fit.  At this time we were missing the bass and the lead guitar player and we started to write songs together as a trio. After a month or so Tommy Jee joined, he is an old bandmate and friend of Stefan and we just hit it off straight away and everything felt really good. Now we were just missing the lead guitars but we were in no hurry has we had a stable foundation and we could write songs this way as Tommi is the main song writer. We tried to convince Mats Hedström to show up for a jam for maybe 3-4 months but he was already in a band and kind of reluctant. When he finally showed, heard the songs and jammed with us he committed straight away, now his only band is Stormburner and he has also contributed greatly to the making of insane riffs.

HMS: The last couple of years, you have kept me updated on most things concerning StormBurner. Let the readers in on the process of my favorite song, “Men At Arms”. Start to finish, this song is heavy and relentless in its delivery and arrangement.

Mike: This was one of the very first songs that we wrote, Tommi had the melody for the chorus and I started to sing it, he then added a harmony to as he is a skilled singer himself and it just sounded great. Chorus was done and the other riffs came fast after this.

HMS: I’ve read a few reviews on the record “Shadow Rising”. Some say it has a big Manowar feel to it. To me, it has a more classic metal feel with hints of thrash. I know you’re a big Manowar guy, but who else influenced the music for this record?

Mike: Yes, this is very different from review to review. Some say it is a lot of Judas Priest and DIO in the music whilst others hear a lot of Manowar. I don’t listen to our songs this way. I basically focus on the melodies and the riffs and sure, I have listened to Judas Priest, Manowar, Saxon, KISS, since I was kid and from my teens also on a lot of bands like Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Rhapsody, Primal Fear and more recently bands like Sabaton have inspired me a lot personally. The others also share some of these influences but Tommi and I both have a special place for Manowar as the greatest band that has ever walked the earth, period.

HMS: There seems to be an underlying theme to the record. Songs like “Ragnarok” go hand-in-hand with “Demon Fire”, “Rune Of The Dead”, and “Ode To War”, along with a couple of others. It brings the Norse ways and beliefs to another light.

Mike : Well, these songs were not really written with the intention of being  “a concept”; however, they were all written in “chapter two” of the bands history and as we all share the love of our Viking heritage and that we based most songs on this theme, we just kept going. The songs you mention were basically written within a short time span of one another so this is probably why they have the conceptual feel. I agree with you on this. I was unsure if Into the Storm was good enough to be on the album but it ended up being at least my personal favourite.

HMS: Tell us about the artwork on the album. Who came up with the concept, and for those who don’t know, tell us how you got such an amazing artist to make it all happen?

Mike: The concept was discussed within the band and all had their say, I think everyone contributed to the idea of the cover. After we did this we started to discuss who could help us create this. We made a wish list and Ken Kelly was of course at the top being the foremost Heacy Metal Cover Art artist of all time. I then decided to contact him and we ended up having a long chat over the phone and he got to listen to the “Men at Arms” song which he really enjoyed so we agreed to do this.

HMS: When performing live, do you plan on revisiting tunes from Starblind? I would personally like to hear what you guys can do with “Sacrifice” and “Seven Rivers”? I guess I ask because those two songs in particular, I cannot hear any other voice (As they are still my faves from Dying Son).

Mike:  I can promise you this Time; Stormburner will never perform a cover on any band in a live performance. We focus on our own band and on our own songs. I had a great time in Starblind and I do love the guys but these songs are for them to perform.

HMS: For the video, “Demon Fire”, who came up with the concept, and did it get a little too close for comfort during the fight scene inside with the fire and everything?

Mike: The concept was originally the idea of Tommi if I recall correctly and it was first intended to be for the song “Metal in the Night”, however this was changed at the last minute, probably because of me, hahaha.

HMS: “Eye Of The Storm” is musically and vocally intense. The bridge breakdown before the solo is insane. The machinegun rhythms that match the vocals is outrageous! For that part alone( at minute 2:10 through 2:30) who was the mastermind behind that bridge section? (In this song, this bridge stands out for me above some of the others. It’s like what Rob Halford does.)

Mike:  Thank you for those words Tim, much appreciated to hear this from you. I believe this bridge was created by Tommi and Mats, I am of course the guy behind adding the crazy vocals, hahaha.

HMS: As far as the recording, was it layered, or was it recorded live in the studio? As for the amazing vocal tracks, how long did it take to get all the harmony parts down?

Mike: The recordings were layered and we recorded one instrument at a time, the same with the vocals. It wasn’t very time consuming in the studio. I did 3-4 hour sessions and in this time I would basically complete a song, this was basically the same for all songs. We finished one song at a time adding all the harmonies and choirs before moving on to the next. It might be worth mentioning that there are no guest vocals at all on this album so all choirs and harmonies are done by myself and this is what took a lot of time adding overdub after overdub on some parts where there is big choirs or big gang vocals and also the different harmonies on these.

HMS: When I first heard the finished take on “Men At Arms”, I knew the record was going to be brutal. Upon hearing the finished project, I was blown away about everything this record offers. Does the next StormBurner record promise to be just as brutal, or will there be a little show tune action?

Mike: I surely hope so, I felt very confident having these great musicians and song writers in the band. Tommi is the best song writer I have ever worked with in my entire life. He has this thing for catchy melodies. Then we have Mats on lead guitars who is a riff master writing these brutal riffs, solos, melodies etc. The next album will make ears bleed and electronic equipment to melt, I am sure of it!

HMS: For years I have admired your voice. On this record, it’s more powerful and passionate. How did you prepare, both mentally and physically, as you rehearsed to lay down these tracks? There are so many voices on each song, all very different from one another, and all very unique in their own way.

Mike:  Thank you Tim, I started singing at the age of 35 in 2014 with Starblind, We recorded the first album when I had been singing for 6 months so there was a lot of will and passion but it was also greatly lacking of technique and vocal ability. After this first Starblind album I started to practice a lot, this basically made it worse as even though I improved in a lot of ways, I tried to do things I was not really capable of so the 2nd Starblind album ended up as it did. I am not able to listen to any of these records today: it makes my ears bleed as I cannot stand my vocals. The songs and the music are great but I truly despise my vocals on these albums.

So what happened after this is that I basically decided to stop doing vocal practice, to stop doing warm-ups and just try to sing in the most relaxed way possible to try to find my true inner voice. This resulted in myself improving greatly as a singer by not doing any vocal practice except singing to songs at rehearsals. At this time I really evolved in my ability to just hit the right notes and also make up and do vocal harmonies with ease and not thinking too much. When we recorded this album I didn’t prepare the vocal arrangements at all before hitting the studio. I just went there and did it; sure Ronny Hemlin who produced the album also came up with a lot of good ideas on the vocal parts but we were very relaxed in this. There was no tension or stress at all.

HMS: Another favorite of mine is the title track, “Shadow Rising”.  What made this song the title track for this album?

Mike: Mainly because of the song title which we all liked very much. Not so much for the song itself but we wanted the right song title on the cover to be honest. However it turned out great as we all like this song very much. It is not so heavy as a lot of the other songs but the message and the emotion of the song is great.

HMS: Just one last question that has been on my mind for years, but too afraid to ask you… The American television program, The Muppet Show had a character named The Swedish Chef. Did that character ever rub you the wrong way? Or do your chefs really throw things and cook unconventionally?

Mike: That is not true at all, that sounds more like British Chefs. (just a little dig at Gordon Ramsy)

HMS: I would also like to say, that it’s always an honor to keep in contact with you. You have always shown the utmost of kindness to the HMS crew. I wish you and the StormBurner family, Godspeed.

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Stormburner Album review


Shadow Rising

(Pure Steel Records)

Written by Tim Duran

10 out of 10

ST Rider 2

It’s been a few years in the making for Mike Stark and company, and much anticipation on my part. For quite some time, Mike has been keeping me up to date on the formation, songwriting, and progress of everything StormBurner. From sound bites to video clips, everything he sent has added more and more excitement to the finished project that is StormBurner! To the band, I extend my utmost gratitude for letting me into your circle as you allowed me to hear and see the process and progress.

Let me say that I have been taken by the hand of Odin on a journey through Valhalla. I have seen heroes stand in victory, men with armor fighting together for truth, and they all raise their voices in unison in the courtyard of Asgard.  On this sojourn, the soundtrack that played was the melodic and majestic metal of StormBurner!

As the music played, visions danced like demented sugar plums in my mind when I closed  my eyes! So when you hear this record, your imagination will take you places that you’ve only seen in The Lord  of the Rings.

Fronted by metal madman Mike Stark, whose vocals range from deep, then high, then angry, then smooth, until he grabs you by the throat and tosses you through a brick wall! Over the last five years, this is the best Mike has ever sounded; strong range, piercing screams, and indestructible power. This new direction into classic heavy metal with thrash overtones is just the niche I think he needed.

There’s no denying that the dynamic duo on guitars, Tommi and Mats, are very well versed and versatile. Stinging rhythms abound and vicious solos can be found around every corner of this record. That leaves us with a monstrous rhythm section found in Tommy Jee on bass and Stefan on the explosives. His drumming can only be described as bombs being rained down on the enemy.

The opening song, “We Burn” is the perfect tune to set things off. Big suspended chords ring out before a shattering scream breaks the tension into mayhem. The sound is heavy on the classic sound of yesteryear.

“Metal In The Night” is a fantastic voyage of just what the title ensues. The vocal harmonies are all done by Mike. Different ranges from alto, falsetto, and screamo, he does it all and throughout this audio venture.

You hear the Reaper laugh at you as “Shadow Rising” pile drives its way through your speakers into your head. As the chorus shouts, “Shadow Rising”, it sounded like he was saying, “Terror Rising”. It reminded me of that old Lizzy Borden song.

“Demon Fire” strikes down like a smite from below. The tempo here is about two beats slower, but the tones are a little darker and ominous.

The Valkaries ride and the war of the gods begin. “Ragnaröc” is a punishing little ditty about death and battle. Just the thing you need for an evening by the fireplace.

“Men At Arms” is a most epic and triumphant song. The verses are likening to that of a leader’s words to those about to go into battle. The chorus into the guitar solo is the fight. This was the first song that I had the honor to hear upon its completion a few months ago. It’s a song that can make the weakest person rise and conquer anything that opposes him. A masterpiece of composition and arrangement.

Keeping pure to the classic metal mania, complete with the sinister laugh and outright power vocals (especially at the 2:14 mark and thereafter), “Eye Of The Storm” is a category 6! The rhythm section works overtime and the guitars trade solos pretty vehemently.

From the “eye” and now “Into The Storm”, we push against the wind, trudging forward in the thickness of tone and intensity.

“Rune Of The Dead” has that beautiful Ronnie James Dio feel, both musically and vocally. For me it’s sort of a tip of the hat to the Man. It’s so magical in its presentation and deliverance.

As I said before, the epic overtones of this whole disc never stops. And it won’t stop. “Ode To War” is the ultimate anthem. The mellowest tune on here, but it is the perfect ending to a perfect story. Though it is a mellow tune, it’s rich in rhythm and beat.

I can’t say enough how much this record is a journey, an adventure, a joy to listen to. I play every record I review at least three times all the way through to get a meaning, to get an understanding, a feeling. I have to let the music sink in – in order to give you a taste of what I feel about whatever I write about. It keeps me honest with you and myself.

So with that, I can honestly say I was utterly and completely blown away by StormBurner and their album “Shadow Rising”. I’m giving this a 10 and anything less would be an insult to the band. You have to hear it for yourself, over and over again.




The Saturday Metal Review


Eternal Dark

(Backdoor Records)

Released in 1983

Rating: 8/10

I love going back and hearing classic heavy metal from different countries; in particular anything from the early to mid-1980’s will always do the trick to quench my taste. As we dig deep into the Saturday Metal review, I’ve selected one of the first Dutch heavy bands as our point of interest, so let me introduce you to Picture.

They hail from the Netherlands and the band released Picture (1980), Heavy Metal Ears (1981), Diamond Dreamer (1982) and in 1983 Eternal Dark. I thought we would review Eternal Dark for a few reasons – namely the striking album cover art and of course the 9 tracks of pure molten metal.

So let’s start with the album cover. I bring this up because it stood out to me when I was rifling through a Google image search of classic heavy metal covers. The ghoulish image of a nearly decomposed skeleton head with one eyeball still in the socket stopped me dead in my tracks. I love images like that, but sadly I have no idea who painted this.

Regardless of who the artist was, I thought the image perfectly represented the songs found on this release. The album’s title (Eternal Dark) surely proclaims this to be taking everyone on one hell of a ride and it did not disappoint my ears. I think what you get here is nine solid tracks that fall into the Accept-Judas Priest category that pack a big punch.

Most of the tracks will titillate yours ears – fast paced songs with a nice polished sound to boot. The opening track “Eternal Dark” starts up and delivers a catchy sing-a-long chorus and provides a Black Sabbath infused solo. Then you get a speedy number like “Griffons Guard the Gold” which is very reminiscent of Saxon in my humble opinion.

The strongest tracks slot right in towards the middle of the album. “Make you Burn” is the closest they get to sounding like vintage Judas Priest and it rocks big time! The twin axe attack of Chris van Jaarsveld and Henry van Manen trade off well and provide the sonic attack. As does the next piece “Battle of the Universe”; which provides the jet fuel for a quick paced number that high tails into first gear and never let’s up. There’s also a flourish of classical guitar riffing and it might be the highlight of the whole album. I can say the same thing for “The Blade” coming at you with a meaty mixture, coupled with the shrill sounds of vocalist Pete Lovell proclaiming – “no man can take the blade,” in the lyrical department.

As we get closer to the end of the album, the remaining tracks move along at a nice clip. Both “Flying in Time” and “Into the Underworld” segue well into each other, before the plodding “Tell No Lies” nearly halts the proceedings. But as luck would have it we end things well on a spirited number like “Down and Out”, so have no fear for those who think this might be tough to get through.

There are some who consider this album to be a rather bland affair when you prop this up against the previous release Diamond Dreamer, or even Heavy Metal Ears. Yes both albums felt more vigorous at times and a tad more lustful in the approach – but Eternal Dark is tight where it needs to be and adventurous enough in the sonic department. The guitars still have that vitality and it soars along with a strong production job to keep me happy.

I am giving this release a rating of 8 out of 10. It’s a polished record with a bevy of prime metallic offerings that will keep you going throughout the thirty-five minutes of running time. My favorite tracks are: “Eternal Dark”, “Griffons Guard the Gold”, “Make you Burn” and “Battle for the Universe”.

Album review – Entombed A.D.

Entombed A.D.

Bowles of Earth

(Century Media)

Written by Kenneth Gallant

8 out of 10

Entombed Bowles of Earth


I feel like Lars Goran Petrov still has something left in the tank. He’s back behind the mike and spitting verbal razors with a vengeance; while sticking to the tried and true formula of the band. Despite adjusting the band name after the custody battle with Nicke Andersson and company, Entombed A.D. forged ahead with most of the line-up that recorded Serpent Saints. They released Back to the Front (2014) and Dead Dawn (2016) – to varying degrees of success, and now they return with their latest offering Bowles of Earth here in 2019.

We do have a minor line-up change though on this one, as bass guitarist Victor Brandt is replaced with incoming axe grinder Guilherme Miranda. It looks like Tobias Cristiansson is playing bass on the live tours, so all is not lost on the bass guitar front. The addition of Miranda on guitar has given them a bit more push in the riffing and solo department; allowing for a fresh take to my ears. Often I am hearing elements of Uprising and Serpent Saints bellowing through the tracks; but still maintaining the death ’n’ roll approach adapted into their modern sound.

The first four tracks are brutal and ripping affairs; harking back to the muddy production and fierceness of their classic period. It’s like they decided to take a trip down memory lane and I’m not complaining one bit, since this is way more engaging than the previous two albums. The opening track “Torment Remains” pounds and thuds hard, while “Elimination” sounds awfully close to that classic 90’s death metal platform we all have come to know and love. “Hell is my Home” finds the relentless chug slapping you in the face and the riffing is fresh as hell here. The title track “Bowels of Earth” pulls back into that all familiar creepy intro (we’ve heard before), and then the sledge hammer attack of the guitars pounds you into submission. This track could really be slotted into Serpent Saints quite easily; plus Petrov’s vocals really sell this one to me. It should also be noted that the solo is sounding more like traditional metal, giving the listener something new to digest.

But this isn’t a full-on return of the halcyon days of the band either; when you get to a track like “Bourbon Nightmare” which falls into the mediocre approach of the previous two albums. The same with “Fit for a King” and “Worlds Apart”; sort of bring down the rabid tone somewhat; even plodding along at times. The lull doesn’t hurt the album on a whole because the next track picks up the pace again.

“Through the Eyes of the Gods” sears into your senses and lays down a meaty portion-filled riffing attack, assaulting your ears once more. Then you get this peculiar cover version of Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never get out of this World Alive” that doesn’t sound anything like the original version. I actually had to go onto Youtube to hear the original to compare and I see no resemblance of the Williams’ twang whatsoever. Perhaps the doomy lyrics are what drew the band to cover this tune in the first place, but I’ll never know what their reasoning is here. The last song to close out the proceedings is “To Eternal Night” and it didn’t move me at all; partly because it resembled the tone of the first two albums and it was the slowest track on this album.

This is also the shortest Entombed A.D. record so far, clocking in around thirty-six minutes, so pulling back and streamlining the brutality makes sense. I think you can hear the band gelling more as a unit and just going back to the original Entombed template is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t Left Hand Path or Clandestine, nor is it even close to Wolverine Blues – so don’t pick this record up and expect that.

I feel like the album wants to make peace with all the silliness and drama from the past and roll out a record with those familiar sounds we’ve grown to love about this band. There’s plenty of the death metal chug, and greasy rock ’n’ roll/punk vibe to fill out the hysterics and yet offer some new variations like the more metallic edged solos and riffing. It’s not a bad thing at all, so check ‘em out and give this new offering a chance.