Tag Archives: Metal

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:





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.”

Check out more from Shrapnel:




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:





August Burns Red – Guardians

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: April 3, 2020

Genre: Metalcore, Metal

Label: Fearless Records

The Pennsylvania metalcore quintet, August Burns Red, return with their impressive, continuously catchy and melodic ninth studio album, Guardians. The band has been going strong for the last seventeen years with a majority of original members still intact and after the success of their previous album, Phantom Anthem, that garnered two Grammy Award nominations, the band continues to deliver their melodic metalcore stylings for their ever growing dedicated fan base on these eleven tracks that is now known as, Guardians.

August Burns Red took a different approach to the writing and recording of Guardians as the band hunkered down in the studio during periods throughout 2019 to write and record the album in a few parts, rather than in one singular cluster, resulting in the most time they’ve taken to complete an album. Purposely trying to create their best work they could possibly write. August Burns Red wrote and recorded the album in York, Pennsylvania at Think Loud Studios with their longtime producers, Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland.

“After the first session, we had months to think about what we might want to change. We never had this much time and liberty for production. It enabled everyone to be more critical and think about putting an individual stamp on the songs. Think Loud, was also the nicest facility we’ve ever tracked in. We had tons of room to work and be creative. We’re super proud of the final product. Dustin and I collaborated more than we have in the past as well. Typically, one person will write a whole song and send it to the band. We all got to contribute here,” says lead guitarist, JB Brubaker.

Throughout the entirety of Guardians, it features the loose underlying theme of being there for another person who’s reaching out for help. A concept that drummer, Matt Greiner, wanted to write about on one or more tracks on the album. This theme was also an idea that recurred for the members of August Burns Red as they put the album together as a whole over the various stints within the studio throughout the last year.

“Bones,” which is the albums second track and also coincidentally the second single off Guardians starts slow at first before becoming a fast, catchy, yet melodic track that follows the subject matter of how certain acceptable (and unacceptable) traits of a person are etched within a human beings soul or bones. “It’s in our bones to be benevolent / It’s in our souls to be of service / It’s in our bones to be benevolent / It’s in our souls.”

“Defender” is the fourth track on Guardians as well as the albums lead single. The track was one of the first tracks written for, Guardians. It’s the main track of the album that really hits the hammer to the nail on the loose underlying theme previously mentioned, of somebody being there for another person who’s reaching out for help. “I need a defender / A voice that shakes to calm the quake / I need a defender who bends and breaks in my place.”

“Lyrically, I wanted to write about being able to reach out to someone. We all need a person who can take the punches for us when we need them to. We need a defender who bends, so we don’t break. The music matched perfectly.” Says drummer, Matt Greiner.

“Lighthouse” is another catchy tune on the eleven track effort that touches on the topic of helping others who need a helping hand and how one can be a good Samaritan for a person in need. “Take another look around / There is so much lost to be found / People everywhere are hurting, even though they’re counted out / There is so much lost to be found.”

A couple stand out tracks worth mentioning are “Bloodletter,” which notably is the album’s heaviest track, if not one of August Burns Red’s heaviest tracks to date. As well, Guardians comes to it’s culmination with the track “Three Fountains.” The track is a near six and a half minute epic with the most excellent feel to end off, Guardians on a high note.

While the band did take a different approach than previous albums on Guardians, it proved effective as August Burns Red hit it out of the park with what is the perfect collection of music for the bands fans and metal fans alike. While it draws the same vibe from all their previous albums, Guardians maintains constant catchy choruses throughout, display a slightly slower side of the band at times, and certainly keeps the high octane energy from beginning to end.

“We just want the fans who have been supporting us year in and year out to feel like we put out the best possible record we could make. I hope they sit down and smile when they listen to it—and want to see it [performed] live.” Concludes guitarist, Brent Rambler.

North American Crusade 2020: Black Label Society, Obituary, & Lord Dying

By Samuel Stevens

North American Crusade 2020 featuring, Black Label Society, Obituary, & Lord Dying

March 10, 2020

Burton Cummings Theatre

Lord Dying - Erik Olson
Lord Dying. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Obituary - John Tardy
Obituary. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Black Label Society - Jeff Fabb
Black Label Society. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.