Category Archives: Music

Sorcerer – Lamenting of the Innocent

By Samuel Stevens & Kyle Erickson

Release Date: May 29, 2020

Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal

Label: Metal Blade Records

The Swedish epic doom metal band, Sorcerer have never let the sub-genre define them and continued to stride past it on their third album, Lamenting of the Innocent by incorporating many new elements from other sub-genres of metal to their always evolving sound. Lamenting of the Innocent is best described as a semi-concept album. The members of Sorcerer wanted each individual track on the effort to stand out on their own, which they were successful in doing that such feat. However all the tracks do revolve around the similar themes of witchcraft and the hunting of witches that specifically occurred in the 14th and 15th century. The album draws most of it’s inspiration of these themes from the book, Malleus Maleficarum, which is most commonly translated to Hammer of Witches, originally published in 1487 by German author and inquisitor, Heinrich Kramer, best known by his Latinized name, Henricus Institoris.

Sorcerer have integrated a couple of different elements into the songwriting of this record, which include the experimentation of different tempos throughout the album and the integration of growls into their music, which are provided by the band’s newest addition, Justin Hagel (bass). Justin also contributed to some of the songwriting on tracks such as, “Institoris” and “Age of the Damned,” and helped with some of the lyrical writing on Lamenting of the Innocent. Sorcerer’s previous contributor, Conny Welén returned to provide to the album’s songwriting as well. Lamenting of the Innocent was again entirely produced by the members of Sorcerer, but mixed and mastered by Swedish musician/music engineer, Ronnie Björnström (Bone Gnawer, Paganizer, Revolting). The album’s bonus track, “Hellfire” that is only included on the digipak CD version was mixed by, Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth).

“We had a lot of experience with and without producers, and these days, you can do so much at home,” says guitarist, Kristian Niemann.

Following a minute long, melodic intro track titled, “Persecution,” the album shifts into high gear with the album’s lead single, “The Hammer of Witches.” The track sets the album’s recurring theme in motion with a song about Catholic churches and knights hunting innocent women who have been accused of witchcraft to cleanse villages of Satan’s collaborators. These women would later be put to trial and some even executed by being burned at the stake. It’s stated that the song does not represent the entire effort as a whole. The song is the arguably the fastest track on Lamenting of the Innocent and showcases the band’s ever growing evolution of sound and songwriting abilities. “Tonight determined by glory / A mission so holy / Reveal the disguise / We’re chasing through the shadows in search for a sign / When our fear, we ride / Eradicate the darkness in the search of divine / We will turn the tide / Burn witch, burn.”

“Hammer of Witches is not very representative of the album as a whole. It’s the fastest and most direct song on the whole album, it’s maybe a curious choice for a single, but it’s very easy to get into,” continues Niemann.

The album’s title track, “Lamenting of the Innocent” is about exactly what the title suggests, mourning the loss of the innocent women some 500+ years ago who lost their lives after being accused of being witches. The song, “Institoris” is about Henricus Institoris, the main inspiration behind the album’s theme and his journey through Germany to investigate and write about witches, while overlooking many of the trials of the accused women. While as the song, “Condemned” is about a woman who was accused of being a witch, now jailed and waiting for her execution. It touches on the agony she is feeling while she is looking out the cellar window where she’s being kept, watching the town’s folk building the pyre where she will inevitably be executed upon.

The album’s second single, “Dance with the Devil” brings back the bands haunting and menacing choir background vocals that were prominent on many of their songs on the band’s two previous albums, In The Shadow of the Inverted Cross and The Crowning of the Fire King. The third single, “Deliverance” features both, Candlemass vocalist, Johan Langquist and renowned Swedish cellist, Svante Henryson. “Deliverance” is the most simplest and slowest song on the album, being best described as a heavy metal ballad. The track has no drums whatsoever, it’s all melodic guitars, cello, and a duet vocal performance by Anders and Johan.

The final track on Lamenting of the Innocent, “Path to Perdition” opens with a blistering guitar solo, before the track reveals it’s true form. Lyrically, “Path of Perdition” brings the whole album and it’s theme to a perfect close. The track revolves around the anger of the town’s people forcefully taking the town’s priest from the church to his eventual placement onto a pyre in the town square, as he had done to many innocent women before. Half way through the track, it takes a bit of a turn to describe what the priest is going through himself. The band wanted to contrast the priests divine delusion of grandeur. How he wouldn’t cross into heaven, but rather transcend to a realm of nightmares tailored to his own depravity.

Sorcerer were originally set to have an album release show in Germany, but because of the events currently happening around the world, they had to resort to a live stream event on Facebook last weekend on Saturday, May 23rd instead. Regardless of the events currently having live music on hold, the band is eager to get on the road, rather that is this fall or some time in 2021, but do have some plans in place to provide content for the fans online until they can get back out on the road.

We were supposed to have a release gig in Germany…and then do a couple shows in Germany and Holland, and then Sweden Rock Festival, but of course, all of that is on hold now. In the fall, who knows now, because people are starting to think that maybe 2021 is when touring will continue, so who knows? …If we don’t have any gigs to play we’re probably gonna try to get as much stuff out on Youtube as we can, like playthroughs or stream through the rehearsal room, where we put the camera up and play the songs, we’re gonna do stuff like that,” says Niemann.


Read Kyle Erickson‘s full interview with Sorcerer’s Kristian Niemann here.


Check out more from Sorcerer:

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Palaye Royale – The Bastards

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: May 29, 2020

Genre: Rock, Hard Rock

Label: Sumerian Records

The Juno nominated, Canadian/American rock band, Palaye Royale consisting of the three brothers, Remington Leith (vocals), Emerson Barrett (drums), Sebastian Danzig (guitar), and now official members, Daniel Curcio (bass) and Andrew Martin (guitar) who after being long time touring members with the band, are finally set to release their massive third full length album, The Bastards this week, after a eleven month long tease. The band wrote the album in various places around the world, renting out spaces to song write, however the band recorded majority of The Bastards in the house of Ashton Irwin, the drummer for the pop punk/pop act, 5 Seconds of Summer. While Irwin was on the road touring with 5 Seconds of Summer, he let the members of Palaye Royale and crew to use a completely blacked out room that’s located in the crawlspace of his house that they used to cut some tracks for the album.

The Bastards could be seen as a partial concept album, set in a place that is a reflection of their own lives, but in a mythological sense. The album takes place on an island titled, Obsidian, set in the year 1888. Obsidian is in a world that started off with the intentions of free thinkers and artists to amalgamate together. Eventually this fictional world created by the band becomes overwhelmed with political power and evil toxicity across the land. If anyone wants to remain a true individual in this society of Obsidian, you must wear a gas mask. The band, specially Emerson have been working along side the Swedish artist known as, XOBillie, who was originally just a fan of the band, on a graphic novel for The Bastards. Some of XOBillie’s recent art for Palaye Royale can be seen in the band’s music video for their single, “Little Bastards.”

Musically for the band, The Bastards is a tremendous step up for the members of Palaye Royale, showcasing a new enthusiasm, as well two new members that joined the fray to contribute to the songwriting. The band swayed into a new era from their self described, fashion rock on their two part album, Boom Boom Room (Side A) and Boom Boom Room (Side B) to display a little heavier side to their music, blurring the lines into a more hard rock version of themselves with various elements from other genres scattered throughout the effort. Lyrically on The Bastards, the band went with an honest and open approach by addressing plenty of significant issues that are frequent in today’s youth. Rather it’s the struggles of mental health, the gun violence epidemic, substance use as a mean to escape a strenuous reality, or parental abandonment, the band cover it on The Bastards‘ whopping fifteen tracks.

The Bastards opens up with one of it’s eight singles, “Little Bastards,” one of many that have been released over the course of the last eleven months. The song is about the frustration and anger towards individuals that are meant to be friends, but end up not being there when you need them the most. The track exhibits the band’s new direction right off at the start of the album, for just a taste at what the other fourteen tracks have in store to it’s listeners. “Fake friends all around / They watch while I drown / No one is there to help me.”

Following, “Little Bastards” is the boisterous and almost punk rock-esque song, “Massacre, The New American Dream.” This is one of the heavier songs lyrically on the album, touching on the gun violence epidemic prevalent in America. “Generation Y, Generation why are we / Why are we so casual ’bout these casualties? / (Come on) All you killers on your killing sprees / (Come on) A massacre’s the new American dream / (Come on) And all the kids on the murder scene.”

The first two singles, “Fucking with my Head” and “Nervous Breakdown” are essentially a two part song. “Fucking with my Head” touches on emotional abuse put on someone, by someone else and the lasting scarring it can do to the human mind. While, “Nervous Breakdown” covers the aftermath of leaving the toxic person in the past. “Lonely,” is another heavy lyric based track about the mental and physical abuse vocalist, Remington Leith endured as a child, centered around an acoustic guitar, light drums, and a haunting string arrangement. “Tonight Is The Night I Die” is a magnificent Bond theme inspired type track. While the song, “Doom (Empty)” is a heavy bass driven track with an almost sludge metal bass line.

For anyone who has, or hasn’t been been keeping up with the band’s previous eight singles that have been released over the last year before the album releases, May 29th, these singles are just highlights of the entire album. While these eight tracks are showcasing the bands new direction, when all fifteen tracks are listened to as one whole, it all falls into place for a masterful piece of work from Palaye Royale.

The Free Label – M.I.A

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: May 29, 2020

Genre: Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop

Label: Independent

Toronto based, genre defying, and self-described boyband supergroup, The Free Label, have continued to solidify their musical path with the release of their debut album, M.I.A. The album’s eight tracks hit you with numerous amounts of positive vibes, if it’s from The Free Label’s endless catchy lyrics, or their at times melodic, groovy, experimental, genre defying, and electrifying sound leaving you with what might be the soundtrack to your summer. The Free Label originally formed in 2017 as a funk cover band, before evolving into what you may know them as now, a multi-instrumental powerhouse comprised of four charismatic Canadian boys: Josh Daniel (vocals), Mathew Fantini (bass, vocals), Malik Mungo (guitar, vocals), and Cole Méndez (keys, vocals), who all sing and rap, in addition to playing their respective instruments. M.I.A was entirely self-produced by The Free Label, however it was mixed and mastered by Gabe Galluci, who has previously worked on albums from, Shawn Mendes and Francesco Yates to name a few.

Two years ago in the Summer of 2018, The Free Label had an extremely successful single, “All Night,” that lead the band to head out on the road on a four month long tour throughout South America and Europe, which was followed by the release of their three track debut EP, Lift You Up. Within the last few weeks, The Free Label released, Quarantoonz Vol. 1, a mixtape in a series which was created and recorded throughout the months of March and April, while the band and all of us practiced social distancing in the comfort of their own homes. The band used this as an opportunity to flex their creativity and try something new.

M.I.A focuses on the subject of transition, touching on relationships ending, complicated situations changing, and remaining focused on the future. This effort is a reflection of what The Free Label are capable of comprising as artists. The album opens up with it’s melodious title track, “M.I.A (Money Isn’t Available),” a track full with a resonating guitar line, a catchy chorus, and mesmerizing beat. “M.I.A (Money Isn’t Available)” sets itself up as a party, feel good anthem and is just a taste of what’s yet to come on the remaining seven tracks. “We just want to do it for the money / So we can even turn up on a Sunday / Ladies all around us sweet like honey / We don’t need to wake up on a Monday.”

The strident tune, “Oreo,” is the album’s one and only full hip-hop track, while the track, “Up In Flames” also stands out on it’s own as one of the tracks with the slowest tempo. “Up In Flames” also features the sultry vocal performance from bilingual (English, Spanish) Toronto indie pop artist, Oleyada. The two tracks, “Let Me Find A Way” and “Without You” are centered around groovy bass lines and will most certainly make you want to get up and move. However the track, “You Ain’t Got No Reason” while also being centered around a massive bass line and hypnotizing synths, it takes the band back to their musical roots with a funky, and groovy anthem with elements that are something that resemble the likes of Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars.

The Free Label did not want to leave their successful 2018 celebratory anthem and highly catchy single, “All Night” off the effort. The track suits the entire project extremely well and is the perfect culmination for what the previous seven tracks on M.I.A touched on. M.I.A may have the possibility to be the soundtrack of this upcoming summer and “All Night” itself stands out to be the contender to be part of it, if not the entire album. Since the original release of, “All Night” the song has surpassed the monumental achievement of 550,000 streams on Spotify. “Cause we’re ridin’, we’re drinkin’, we’re smokin’ / And we don’t give a fuck / We elated, sedated, cross faded / And we be keepin’ it up all night.”


Check out more from The Free Label:

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Shrapnel – Palace for the Insane

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: May 15, 2020

Genre: Thrash Metal

Label: Spinefarm Records

The Norwich, England based thrash metal group, Shrapnel, have returned with their third full length album, Palace for the Insane. This album relentlessly bombards you with blistering riffs, shredding leads, hammering rhythms and above all, ferocious vocals throughout it’s entirety. Shrapnel’s extreme aggression, which is an absolute trademark of their sound, remains a cardinal part of their newest record. The band showcase more dynamism, versatility, and a different take on songwriting this time around on this twelve track effort. Palace for the Insane marks the first record for Shrapnel to be produced by Samuel Turbitt of Ritual Sound Studios.

After a stint that led the band to take go on hiatus following the release of what was a critically praised -but briefly toured- album, Raised on Decay, the band regrouped last year and returned for the first time as a four-piece after many line up changes. Also last year, Shrapnel began to get back on the road stronger than ever before alongside bands such as Gama Bomb, Wolf, and Acid Reign. Notably, with the recent line up changes of bassists and vocalist within Shrapnel for the last little while, the band is now joined by one man to fill both duties, Aarran Tucker (ex-Terebos, ex-Sathamel).

Palace for the Insane opens with the near seven minute long track, “Might of Cygnus,” which divulges Shrapnel’s striking new direction right out of the gate. “Might of Cygnus” starts with an intro inspired by Kreator and leads up to it’s explosion into a fast and riff filled blast. The track covers themes of space exploration and human mortality that are intertwined by their dramatic riffs and intricate arrangements, until the tracks builds to it’s ruinous climax.

The album’s lead single, “Salt The Earth,” detonates immediately with a chuggy riff before Aarran Tucker hits you with some devilishly haunting vocals. “Salt The Earth” has one of the arguably strongest and catchiest choruses on Palace for the Insane. While Shrapnel tackles complex subject matter in the lyrics of their songs, the band still manages to honour their old-school thrash metal roots. The album’s title track, “Palace for the Insane,” preserves the band’s fury and leaves a taste of old, while showcasing Shrapnel’s maturity.

The melancholic six minute track “Begin Again” exhibits Shrapnel’s slower side, but still gives you an intensely groovy riff throughout. “Begin Again” is dedicated to the band’s friend Dave, who was a beloved character in the UK thrash scene. Shrapnel wanted to celebrate his life while probing some of the issues of mental health, depression, and suicide. These themes also tie into the album artwork of Palace of the Insane, which were handled by graphic designer and illustrator, Costin Chioreanu (Opeth, Exumer, Arch Enemy, Ghost). His eye catching artwork examines the experience of mental health issues, and manifests them in a hellish backdrop of towering spires and daemonic voices.

Comparing Palace of the Insane to the Shrapnel’s previous album, Raised on Decay reveals yet another stylistic evolutionary leap for the band. The most extreme elements of Shrapnel’s sound on Palace for the Insane clearly remain the addition of Aarran Tucker to the roll of both vocalist and bass guitarist which opens the band up to more experimentation with their songwriting as a group on this effort. Some of the speediest and technical songs on Palace for the Insane are the three tracks, “Bury Me Alive,” “Infernal Choir,” and “The Mace.”


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A Conversation With Sorcerer’s Kristian Niemann

By Kyle Erickson

Photo by Jon Alexandersson

Kristian Niemann, guitarist of the epic doom metal band Sorcerer, is thrilled that the band is about to release their third album Lamenting of the Innocent, on May 29th via Metal Blade Records. He graciously agreed to an interview with him to talk about the new album, and so I video-chatted with Kristian from his home in Stockholm, Sweden.

Sorcerer was formed in Sweden in 1988, however disbanded shortly afterwards in 1992 after recording a few demos. Then in 2010, Johnny Hagel (bass) was asked to perform a set at Hammer of Doom in Germany. Enter Kristian Niemann.

“John said he’d check if he could find some guys, because it had been a long time since they went their way. He had kept up with Anders [Engberg, vocals], and then they asked a couple of us to do it, to fill out the formation, so we just did a couple festivals and then we decided we should probably decide to make an album. We had such a good time playing together and great chemistry, and here we are. We’ve had a couple lineup changes but yeah, this is the third album in five years now,” says Niemann. He describes the band’s sound as “slow, groovy, melodic, heavy metal with big choruses and a lot of hooks.”

Niemann, best known prior to Sorcerer as a member of the bands Therion and Demonoid, is no slouch on the guitar. He credits his dad showing him a live video of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” as the inspiration to pick up the instrument in 1985.

“When I saw that video, I was like, holy cow! That was the catalyst; That was the moment where I was like, shit man, I need to play!” He hasn’t stopped since. Following a two year stint in Los Angeles to study jazz guitar, he returned home to Sweden and joined Therion shortly thereafter.

Now in Sorcerer, Niemann is ready to bring their music worldwide with the release of their upcoming album, Lamenting of the Innocent. He is joined on guitars with Peter Hallgren, with new additions to the lineup Justin Biggs (bass) and Richard Evensand (drums) rounding out the outfit. The lead single from the album, “Hammer of Witches,” is available now. Niemann describes the song as the “fastest and most direct song on the album, very easy to get into,” but he does point out that it’s “not very representative of the album as a whole,” as they wanted to continue expanding upon their sound and adding more elements to Lamenting of the Innocent. “There’s more of everything; more layered guitar, more keyboards, the drums are a bit bigger,” he says, “We have some growling on this album for the first time as well, so that’s another new thing. More is more, as the English say [laughs].”

Lamenting of the Innocent was almost entirely self-produced, which Sorcerer has done for all of their albums. The band knows what they like, Kristian affirms, and they are confident they can deliver an album that will sound good. “I think it’s because we’re all old guys now [laughs]…we had a lot of experience with and without producers, and these days, you can do so much at home.”

Kristian and Peter both write their song parts separately and do extensive demoing, then send them off to Anders for vocal mixing. “For the most part, my songs are my songs and Peter’s are Peter’s”, he says, “for the next record, we are actually hoping to write songs together more, especially with Peter and I. That would be fun, we want to try that.” After sending a demo off to Anders, Anders adds vocal melodies and rearranges the song structure. It’s a balancing act between everyone involved to figure out how to best make the song shine.

Niemann is especially proud of the title track on Lamenting of the Innocent. It was one of the first songs written for the album and when the song came together, it was a promising sign. Hoping to ride the wave of the critical success of their previous album, The Crowning of the Fire King, Niemann was pleased that they managed to produce something so dynamic in the early stages of writing. “The chorus was just so epic,” he told me excitedly. “When I first heard it, I was like, ‘Holy shit, if that’s the level we can produce right now, this will be a good record.’ I knew we were in good shape. That’s a special one.”

Sorcerer were supposed to have a short tour run in Germany that started on May 29th, the day the album is set to be released, but with the present global pandemic, all tour dates are currently postponed. The band will instead seek to do some playthroughs of the album on Youtube, as well as videos interacting with fans or seeing the band in rehearsals until the all clear. “We’re just taking it day by day,” Niemann states.

When I asked Kristian what some of his proudest career moments were, he was quick to list several moments with a big grin on his face. In his previous band, Therion, they had played at Wacken in front of 60,000 people. They also once performed the Russian national anthem to a large crowd in Moscow. Those moments definitely resonated with Kristian. However, he considers Sorcerer getting signed to Metal Blade Records and the fan interactions he’s had over the years as the things that make him the proudest. “We didn’t think it [getting signed] would happen when we recorded our first album, and then we got hooked up with Metal Blade, and that was just amazing, because that’s a legendary label.”

With just a few weeks to go until the release of Lamenting of the Innocent, Kristian is eager for people to finally hear the band’s hard work. “Everyone’s really excited and trying to do their thing to push the band forward, we’re really trying to get some momentum going with the band…we have some great chemistry in the band, and that really helps, too.”

I had one final question for Kristian to finish the interview: What inspires him? His answer was simple, and the best one I could have asked for.

“Just a profound love of music. It’s the last thing I think about at night and it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up.”


Check out more from Sorcerer:

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