Anneke Van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest

The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest Cover Art

Anneke Van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest
Inside Out Music
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 41:51
Review by Dark Juan

Alright, me old muck spreaders? It is I, your Northern overlord, Dark Juan, here once again to regale you with tales of derring-do and heroism on the field of battle. Not about me, you understand. If there were ever a time I was required to serve in the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom I’d head straight for the RAF’s recruitment office. You see, the RAF are sensible. Unlike the Army, the RAF sends the officers out to fight their war while all the lower ranks stay home and drink cocktails and occasionally tinker with something expensive and probably explosive. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want old One-Tooth Joe from the Black Bull pub on the corner operating a computer based killing machine worth £100million at supersonic speeds on the frontier of a hostile state. That’s what Wing Commander the Right Honourable Algernon Charles St. John Cholmondeley- Featherstonehaugh is for. One-Tooth Joe can be better employed putting oil in the trucks at the base where the good WingCo will be landing after dropping a thousand pounds of laser-guided explosive death on some miscreants somewhere in the Middle East…

None of which has anything at all to do with what I am supposed to be doing, which is listening to the latest record from the absolutely wonderful Anneke Van Giersbergen. Yes, the estimable and superb vocalist of The Gathering, VUUR, The Devin Townsend Project and many other records has returned with a selection of new music. A warning – if you are expecting the face of Anneke that is the metal queen version, you are going to be gravely disappointed with this album as this is a record that proves the versatility and uniqueness of Anneke Van Giersbergen as an artist in her own right, untrammelled and unconstrained by genre or style. Indeed, the actual music on this record is incredibly sparse, most of the time just some simple percussion, some strings and an acoustic guitar, and the clear and bell like tones of Anneke’s unique voice, sometimes multitracked into some sublime harmonies.

The album is based around the fact that there was a period in Anneke’s life and marriage that involved profound upheaval and heartbreak and this album is her catharsis. To that end, the lyrical content is woundingly personal and honest when discussing feelings and the sense of loss and suffering that she had been experiencing at that time, and the internal discussions she was having with herself. The title itself suggests that in order to get to the sunlit uplands of life you have to go through the black times to appreciate the light. Which, to be fair, during these current times of pestilence and lockdown rules, is a timely reminder that suffering now will bring reward in the future and that you must remain focused on attaining normality again.

Musically, the album reminds me in many places of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper – not because of the voice (because Anneke is quite unlike any vocalist ever) but because of the sheer disinterest in fitting in with any standard or genre. ‘Hurricane’ is the most Bush like of the songs on here, with choppy, unpredictable harmonies and vocals and a strange sounding acoustic riff. It is musically intrepid even with the simple instrumentation and multitracked harmonies and cheerfully stomps all over any notion of fitting in. Talking of stomping, ‘Survive’ does just that, percussion building into an almost war dance while Anneke builds from a soft, lilting vocal into a powerful contralto shout and drive for the survival of her relationship. This is the theme of the whole record – Raw emotion and agonising honesty over music which is just a vehicle for what Anneke wants to say to her husband. It is not a record that was ever planned to be released, in my opinion, but it is a public affirmation of love and a desire to make everything right again and to never stop fighting for her marriage. In that regard, it is one of the heaviest records of all time because of the naked heartbreak and pain on display, but it is by no means a heavy metal record. Not even a little bit.

If anything, it is the aural equivalent of Kintsugi – The Japanese art of repairing broken things with precious metals, because the value and the beauty of the repaired thing and the continued love and appreciation of it only increases. This album is musical Kintsugi and that is its sole purpose. Taking that as a basis for my critique, then, Anneke Van Giersbergen has repaired her relationship and shot it through with veins of silver and gold and made something stronger than ever before and musically has welded those precious metals into the open wounds of suffering she was displaying and sealed them closed with profundity and honesty and gold and silver and made herself transcendental. Therefore, this record is a colossal success on that front.

But, because I am a hard headed and black hearted bastard, I have to remember that I write for a heavy metal website and this ranks among the least musically heavy records I have ever heard. However, one of my scoring criteria is that the music has to be interesting, and Anneke van Giersbergen delivers interest in spades. The lyrical content couldn’t be any heavier if it tried (I’m not talking about dragons and fucking demons and succubi here, I’m talking about the themes of loneliness and suffering and love dying and there being desolation all around you – that shit is heavy as FUCK and if you disagree you’re frankly wrong, mate) and although the music is gentle and sweet, it still holds you in some form of rapture. The sheer beauty and versatility of Van Giersbergen’s voice is amply displayed and flits from soft, almost inarticulate (the kind of sounds an upset child might use to comfort themselves) crooning through to full powered, vibrato fuelled rebellion, and her delivery is never less than utterly flawless. This is not a record to listen to. This is a record to feel, and frankly Dark Juan is fucking disgusted with himself for actually having been affected by this album and discovering that he hasn’t actually purged all human emotion from his twisted black soul. Although that could be because I have adored Anneke Van Giersbergen’s voice since The Gathering released ”Mandylion” in 1995.

I’m extremely conflicted. This album is a work of emotional subtlety and exemplary songwriting prowess and musicianship and deserves a huge score because it is a tumultuous rollercoaster of emotion and pain and redemption, but it is not a heavy metal record. Fuck it, I’ve decided…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Anneke Van Giersbergen 9/10 for a record that doesn’t just tug on the heartstrings, it rips them out and beats you to death with the wet ends. Moving, affecting and utterly captivating, this record is worth the expense simply for the cathartic effect it provides when you want heavy emotion but not heavy sounds. However, I have deducted a mark because it isn’t a heavy metal record and I write for This should not be taken as a demerit, it’s just that Anneke’s album ain’t a metal one although it is heavy as fuck.

Agape (Lyric Video)

01. Agape
02. Hurricane
03. My Promise
04. I Saw A Car
05. The Soul Knows
06. The End
07. Keep It Simple
08. Lo And Behold
09. Losing You
10. Survive
11. Love You Like I Love You


Anneke Van Giersbergen Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Null Cell – Eternally Ill

Eternally Ill Cover Art

Null Cell – Eternally Ill
Machine Man Records
Release Date: 08/12/2020
Running Time: 33:02
Review by Dark Juan

Hello. This is Dark Juan and I exhort thee to listen to my Gospel. There is no God, there is only the Dread Lord Satan and you are all going to be consigned to an endless fiery hell unless you seek His redemption through service to the Dark Master via the means of preaching his twisted faith. Then, and only then will you get to attend the Lounge Bar in Hell where the One That Walks Backwards has kindly assembled the greatest band there has ever been – comprising Robert Johnson and Randy Rhoads on guitar, Keith Moon on drums, John Entwistle on bass and the incomparable Ronnie James Dio on vocals with backups from Amy Winehouse and Layne Staley. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d fucking sell my testicles to see that line up playing…

None of which has, as usual, a damned thing to do with what I am actually doing, which is being wired on French blend coffee, and slowly suffocating to death under a wall of canine flesh, composed of Air Chief Marshal Sir Zeusington Zeus KCVG, VC, MM, DFC and bar, Croix De Guerre and the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover, where they have decided that I am warmer than the frigid environs of West Yorkshire and I don’t actually need to breathe. Thereby, in their mad doggy heads I fulfil two requirements for their survival – warmth until I expire from the gentle releases of poison gas (mainly Igor) and then I will be a viable supplementary food source after my untimely death. Mrs Dark Juan is currently laughing at my lack of comfort and cheerfully inviting me to try and do her fucking job when she is under a pile of silly dogs. But she’s an artist and doesn’t need a comfortably situated computer to write nonsense on.

Again, I digress. It’s the caffeine. I can’t type fast enough to get the thoughts out of my head. You are actually reading this babble so you can be informed about the latest platter of splatter I am listening to, being Null Cell’s “Eternally Ill” album, released last December through Machine Man Records. Null Cell is a one-person project encompassing the sounds of metal, industrial and EBM (Electronic Body Music, if you don’t already know, fact fans) composed of the very annoyingly talented Isabella Chains of Omaha, Nebraska. Now, listening to this music, it makes me think that Omaha, Nebraska (never been there, I’m British and the furthest I ever got was Iceland. Wonderful place and lifelong friends made) is an arctically cold, industrialised wasteland in the arse end of America, filled with slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants and endless production lines, manned by grey skinned, emaciated drones carrying out endless robotic tasks until they drop and are replaced by equally grey faced and clearly defeated humans. Yep, industrial music speaks to me in a manner which a lot of music doesn’t, and as far as I am concerned, it is the musical accompaniment to the machine apocalypse which is going to kill us all…

The album opens with ‘The Rabbit Hole’ which is a distorted and percussive assault on your senses, somewhat akin to being attacked with an automatic and rapidly firing 40mm grenade launcher – mercifully short but goosebump inducing before there is a short pause and then the first track proper kicks in, ‘Texas Chainsaw’ which blends slamming industrial beats with super distorted, chopped up blues rock guitar and screaming, slowly building into an impenetrable wall of sound with heavy as fuck industrial keyboards until the fade. Think ZZ Top being anally violated by Terminators playing Suicide Commando albums. I shall leave you with that mental image. You’re welcome.

Null Cell have successfully gained my attention.

Now, I know I am writing for a primarily metal audience here, but I have to recommend Null Cell to your attention too. Electronic music can be just as heavy as metal and this is not so much an album as an atmosphere with musical additions. Null Cell’s sound on this release could best be described as Skinny Puppy’s pure electronic industrial output combined with Ministry around their “Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” era output, where the guitars and the more metal elements began to creep through. Add this to “Pretty Hate Machine” and “The Downward Spiral” Nine Inch Nails beeps and squelches and you have a rough idea of what this record sounds like. It is rather more electronic industrial than metal, however, relying more on stabbing, shiny keyboards than slashing guitars and dementedly howling vocals. Isabella employs a harsh, almost spoken word style of vocal, which comes across almost like a particularly demented preacher exhorting his flock to follow the right path lest they all perish in storms of fire and brimstone. This level of controlled aggression makes for something rather scarier than some long-haired Herbert hitting notes that cause bats to crash into trees on a regular basis and is somewhat reminiscent of Nivek Ogre in delivery. In fact, the more I listen to Null Cell, the more I find myself comparing “Eternally Ill” to Skinny Puppy’s “Too Dark Park”, “VIVIsectVI” and “Rabies”. This, you will be utterly unsurprised to note, is a Very Good Thing. Especially if you like late 80s electronic industrial music. Track three, ‘Thrashing Creature’ is a particularly virulent song, mixing elements of the sounds of Belgian industrialist pioneers Front 242 and Cabaret Voltaire with the muscular guitar driven industrial metal of Die Krupps. It’s fair to say I haven’t heard a single person’s musical project this virulent since I first heard Unter Null’s “The Failure Epiphany”.

And here we have the usual quandary we face whenever Dark Juan goes screamingly off-piste with his choices from the review list. I am reviewing this record for a heavy metal website and what I am listening to, although it is very extreme music, isn’t really heavy metal, and I am faced with the question of whether I should score it entirely on the merit of the music, which is fucking kick ass killer industrial EBM with plenty to interest the passing metaller if they can get past the fact it is predominantly electronic music, or whether I mark it down for not being metal. The thing is, this album shares the sheer power that metal has and the same sense of not belonging to the mainstream and being alternative. My views on alternative cultures sticking together are well known to you all.

A decision has been made by The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System because frankly it got fucking bored of listening to the writer gibbering to himself and awards Null Cell a thoroughly flagellant 9/10 for an album of music suitable to flog your submissive to vigorously and at some length. An album for the more adventurous fan of extreme music.

01. The Rabbit Hole
02. Texas Chainsaw
03. Thrashing Creature
04. Wonderland
05. Dead Skin
06. The Ceremony
07. Hardware
08. Cruel
09. Missing Moments
10. Boiling Point


Isabella Chains – Fucking everything on this record including the production, mate. Multi-talented people get right on my tits because I can’t even do writing right! Bet Isabella is spectacularly good looking as well just to REALLY rub it in. No head like an amusingly shaped ice cube for Isabella, I bet…


Null Cell Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara – Full Spectrum

Full Spectrum Cover Art

The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara – Full Spectrum
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 65:55
Review by Dark Juan

Greetings and salutations, friends and confidants of all known sexes and preferences! It is I, Dark Juan, and I have returned safely and without incident from a shopping trip that could only be described as mildly taxing. You all, dear friends, know that I am famously misanthropic and having to wait in queues to get into fucking Pets At Home and have strangers talking to me is somewhat difficult, especially as it is my want to nod and smile politely whilst entertaining the goriest fantasies of dismembering the motherfucker being nice to me in the most gruesome of ways. Yes, a very polite young gentleman engaged me in benign yet banal conversation about 22 grown men in shorts kicking an inflated pig’s bladder around a field and my mouth was on autopilot while my imagination was consumed with the flash of keen blades and the comforting flow of blood around my wrists while his football loving heart is carefully removed from his chest and displayed in front of his staring, pain-filled eyes as the life slowly leaves them, fading gradually to grey silence as the blood pools in his torso where until recently his vigorous heart pumped life around his frame…

Sorry. I don’t like shopping very much. Anyway, I am safely ensconced back in Dark Juan Terrace with alcohol, sleeping hellhounds around me and the latest offering from The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara rattling what’s left of my brains. TCOMAS are a London based duo from Italy and Singapore. In their own words: “TCOMAS take inspiration from Tool and Kraftwerk, as well as the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Jim Morrison, TCOMAS continues to fill a gap in music by bringing literature, art, and history together into a space where rock and metal meets electronic. Their musical and lyrical themes are very much rooted in the duo’s interests in classical literature and theatre, as well as in the fields of philosophy, history, and psychology.”

The album is composed of previously released singles and five new tracks and opens with ‘Atoms’ composed of spoken word vocals in the form of an oratory on the nature of man and life and the creation of the universe and its subsequent destruction and veers wildly from some chunky metal riffing, industrial and trance. It is an eclectic melange of sounds indeed. The guitar sounds fucking huge, though, when the band let rip. Second track ‘Psychopath’s Monologue’ begins with the spoken word poetry of Daphne Ang over a slowly building electronic industrial soundscape, beginning with just Daphne’s voice and a slight bass hum and the sounds of a woman achieving ecstasy. This song is based on the events of Dante’s Inferno and apparently the lyrics (deliberately fragmented in nature) are composed of seven sonnet poems written over a ten-year period.

It is ridiculously complicated to even attempt to quantify TCOMAS and their sound as it appears that they are absolutely hell bent on welding as many disparate influences together and unleashing this kind of highly polished chimera on this unsuspecting planet, just for the sheer hell of seeing what the fuck the world makes of it. Take track three, ‘Deus Ex Machina’ as an example – Heavy metal guitars and more spoken word beguile you into thinking you know where this song is going. You’re absolutely fucking wrong though. The lyrics tell the tale of Oedipus Rex and the guitars segue in and out of a segment played by a Persian tar before returning to gut slamming power. The same eclecticism is amply displayed on the fourth song, entitled ‘Mata Hari’. This time, the sound references the 80’s and modern synthwave with lush analogue synths and choppy, heavily produced MIDI guitar sounds over an ethereal vocal dripping with effects, giving the song a new wave/new romantic feel added to a modern, propulsive sensibility. It sounds like Georgio Moroder and Gary Numan in his “The Fury” era got hold of modern equipment and were allowed to go absolutely bonkers in an LSD filled studio. ‘The Descent’ begins with a sound that immediately references the start of a “The Fragile” era Nine Inch Nails track as the metal guitar torturously builds until bongo drums and mechanical buzzes slip beneath the deceptively simple electric guitar lick that repeats until the drums kick you in your fucking arse and the guitar work reminds you that this is a metal band playing here with little stabs of Rammsteinesque keyboards driving the song forwards to the fade…

‘Message For The King’ is an interlude where the band appears to have totally lost their shit and perform a humorous skit complete with bizarre kid’s Bontempi keyboards and sound effects of horses neighing. Clearly, TCOMAS are madder than Mickey “Mad Dog” McMad from Madsville.

Things take a decidedly apocalyptic bent on ‘Love In A Time Of Pestilence’. Deliberately released as a single at the time of the second lockdown, this song takes a Tool-esque intro into a bleak, quasi-industrial metal before taking a hard left turn into black metal vocals and speed before slamming back out of gear into a guitar solo that Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis would be proud of before returning back to Tool’s noodling and another build to the power of heavy fucking metal over more spoken word detailing past epidemics and the present day pandemic and the public response towards it. Timely doesn’t even begin to cover the lyrics of this song. The interest and the bizarre mixing of disparate influences continues with the soft classical piano overlaid with electronic keyboard intro to ‘TCOMAS S01 E01’ (detailing the story of The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara using the original script that was originally going to be a script for a manga book series) which suddenly has a techno beat growing over the softly spoken poetry of Daphne Ang. Then we are in the realms of full-on hard techno in the vein of Ultraviolence and there we stay with a wah soaked guitar enhancing it. Next track in is ‘Full Spectrum’, which is where pure metal fans might find this album too challenging for their musical sensibilities as it is a 16-minute instrumental with its base in experimental psychedelic trance and wild, flailing, dissonant guitar cutting in and out of the music at unexpected moments – think The Orb and Tangerine Dream getting mixed with Disturbed and Prong and bits of Ozric Tentacles and you get a sort of an idea of the sound I am experiencing. Although so far this record has denied me a chance to give you all a kind of overriding description of it all, hence the verbose ramblings about individual songs. It is the only way I can impart any form of sense about this album to you. It is so wide ranging, experimental and out to fucking lunch it defies any attempt for this ridiculous, barely literate idiot to, coherently and cogently, make any bastard sense of it…

‘At The World’s End’ is the utterly obsidian black final song. This is far and away the most metal song on the record, being progressive me(n)tal with the odd electronic bleep and bloop. And then TCOMAS throw every effect they have in an extraordinarily capacious arsenal at some spoken words that they have managed to render totally unintelligible and have given it a title, ‘The Great News’.

At that point, the insanity ends. How the fuck do I summarise this Frankenstein’s Monster of a record for you all? It’s progressive to the point of almost parody. It just manages to stay on the right side of parody, however. Metal purists will fucking hate this album so much it will cause them considerable pain and suffering. More adventurous music lovers may find the sheer lack of attention to boundaries, style and genre equally galling, because there are points on this record where the music does not gel as well as it could as the influences and styles being used are simply not compatible, not matter how hard you beat them together. If you are an intrepid listener, however, and someone to whom genre and style are words that mean nothing, then I have a new favourite band for you. The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara are superb, but they will have an extremely limited audience because of the free ranging nature of their music and the lack of singing – Daphne Ang’s poetry and spoken word offering a narrative style rather than song and Andrea Papi electing to only open his throat sparingly. I could even say that TCOMAS are TOO complex for the casual music fan to understand and this will be to their detriment, if you view success in sales. Others might claim that TCOMAS are a band trying too hard to be different, and edgy, and unique. If you view success as creating a magnum opus of wholly original, impossibly complex music that defies genre and gleefully tramples over any form of traditionalism with a big shit eating grin on its face and a total disregard for the rules, then TCOMAS are for you. In my opinion, TCOMAS have transcended music and have created aural art. They create visual soundscapes that you can wander and get lost in.

Well, I’m blown away, frankly. I have this rule when I am scoring the music I review, which is that the music has to be interesting. TCOMAS has that covered in magnificent style. But is it metal? In all honesty, yes. It’s metal twisted and welded into shapes with impossible geometries utterly unfamiliar to people, but the basics are there. There’s heavy metal guitars and bass playing and the lyrics are thought provoking, suitably apocalyptic and rivet the attention. Which is no mean feat considering I have the attention span of a mentally deficient fish.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is massively conflicted. On one hand, TCOMAS have not delivered a true heavy metal record, but on the other they have given us something futuristic and shiny and uncompromising and based in metal. Fuck it, 10/10 for a sublime work of genius that will only have an extremely select and adventurous audience. Expand your minds, metal pilgrims, expand your minds. This album is perfect late night driving music when you’re miles from anywhere. Possibly the most prog thing I have ever heard.

01. Atoms
02. Psychopath’s Monologue
03. Deus Ex Machina
04. Mata Hari
05. The Descent
06. Message For The King
07. Love In The Time Of Pestilence
08. TCOMAS S01 E01
09. Full Spectrum
10. At The World’s End
11. The Great News

Daphne Ang (Samara) – Vocals, Lyrics, Piano
Andrea Papi (Manimal) – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals


The Chronicles Of Manimal And Samara

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Various Artists – Sounds Of Hell Volume II

Sounds Of Hell volume 2 Cover Art

Various Artists – Sounds Of Hell Volume II
Sounds Of Hell Records
Release Date: 29/12/2020
Running Time: 66:11
Review by Dark Juan

Greetings, salutations, hello, good afternoon and welcome, my dear acolytes and denizens of the world. I trust I find you all hale, hearty and eagerly grasping the somewhat limited opportunities that lockdown life offers you? Good, good… Always remember to look after yourselves and those closest to you, no matter how irritating the fuckers are being considering you have basically been under house arrest with them for nearly a year and the steak knives have been tactically removed for reasons of safety and you never signed up for this because you expected the bastards/ bitches to actually occasionally go to fucking work or something instead of eating their own body weight in Maltesers and re-watching Blade Runner for the four millionth time simply because they like Roy Batty (if they were something of a Sean Young fan, that would be an entirely different kettle of fish. Sigh…) Doubtless there are some of you who might like to kick Roy Batty’s bottle blond arse right through the Tannhauser Gate and watch attack ships on Orion glittering c-beams at his fucking peroxided square head, the pretentious twerp.

I’m sorry. I had my COVID vaccination yesterday. It’s kicked my arse to be frank. I can’t eat anything and only Yorkshire tea appears to be an acceptable beverage. Yes, there is beer in Dark Juan Terrace that lies unconsumed. This is such an unusual state of affairs I have the BBC news round at 4pm to report on it. I’ve fallen asleep 27 times just writing the above paragraph and have the same level of concentration as a 14-year-old boy doing online schoolwork who secretly has Pornhub open on another tab. Long division is much less interesting when there’s ladies having sex. I am desperately hoping that the mighty and puissant power of metal might keep me awake long enough to give you my opinions on this compilation record from Sounds Of Hell Records. As this is a compilation of the artists on the roster of this label, I’m going to dispense with my usual verbose style and tortured metaphors (370 words in and nothing about the music so far. So Much for curtailing the verbose style) and just write a short paragraph on each song… All of the bands on this compilation are either Dutch or Belgian, so it will be most interesting to see how they compare to the French, Greek and Italian metal scenes. Obviously, The Netherlands have given us the utterly wonderful The Gathering (with the glorious Anneke Van Giersbergen – I’ll be reviewing her latest soon too), the equally wonderful Within Temptation and the tour de force that is Floor Jansen. So, the Dutch have pretty much sewn up the gothic operatic metal scene, but what have the Belgians done? Well, they gave us one of the greatest industrial/ EBM bands there has ever been in Front 242 and also melodic deathsters Ancient Rites (who I actually saw live supporting Cradle Of Filth one time, and whose vocalist amused me greatly by doing his between song raps in exactly the same voice as his singing in a classic case of trying much too hard).

So, let’s crack on then… I’m going to put whether the bands are Belgian or Dutch next to the titles.

Malfested – Masked With The Skulls Of The Fallen (Belgium)

Gothic tinged death metal encompassing a sneaky black metal vibe in the middle eight with an absolute beast of a vocalist. Punchy, aggressive and fast and mightily pleasing to the ears of your favourite speaker of absolute nonsense. Worth checking out.

Cathobodua – Hydra (Belgium)

Operatically trained female singer takes on Luca Turilli influenced power metal. Think a less polished and considerably more speedy Nightwish while holding the image of Floor Jansen fronting Rhapsody in your mind. Actually, that sounds negative because this is a bloody good song of several parts and by god Sara Vanderheyden can fucking belt out a tune. They have my interest, and they should have yours…

Ashturn – Changes (Belgium)

When nu-metal meets the modern version of metal. Derivative and uninteresting unless you like Slipknot’s less manic moments. Imagine the polish of Avenged Sevenfold’s later releases with the aggressiveness of Slipknot and Unearth, complete with wholly overdone roaring and the obligatory breakdown in the middle. Sounds like every band did in 2015. I could literally predict everywhere this song was going to go. Unimpressive apart from their fucking excellent drummer who’s wasted on this band.

Los Fantasmas – El Rey (Belgium)

This is more like it. A bizarre mix of rock and psychobilly taking on a classic instrumental tune and making it their bitch. Quite, quite mad and fucking brilliant. However, there is a slight concern that Los Fantasmas may be a bit of a one trick pony as playing Mexican music when you’re from one of the Benelux Countries might be an odd choice limiting your fanbase.

Bacon Fat – 110% (Belgium)

Band wins award for best band name on this compilation. Bluesy, hard edged Southern Rock with elements of Volbeat, Kyuss and Down to their sound. As a song, it’s competent and enjoyable but it would come into its own on a hot summer night when you’re on a four hour drive to see your girl/ boy/ significant other for the weekend. A song that would exceed the sum of its parts in certain circumstances with a too long, drawn out ending that ruins the vibe of the whole thing and would have you scrabbling for the skip button at the end.

Bullet N’ Arrow – Heaven And Hell (Belgium)

I’ve always fucking hated that “n’” thing that bands do. Just fucking say “and,” you shitbags!!! Bullet N’ Arrow are interesting as the music is modern (even though they say they are 80’s influenced) but the powerful female vocal appears to have emanated from the general area of 1987-1993, being very kind of Robin Beck, Lita Ford and Doro Pesch-esque. A curious song that attempts to weld two distinct styles and times of rock and metal with a limited degree of success. Even the solo is an anachronism. I love Astrid Laekeman’s voice though. I could listen to her all day. The song is two minutes too long.

Demenzia Mortis – Antikult (Belgium)

Dialling up the heaviness again, Demenzia Mortis appear to have taken early 2000’s Rotting Christ as their blueprint for the start of this song before kicking up into high gear with some extremely primal black metal, and we are off into high-speed savagery, although the production does eschew the usual black metal wasp in a jam jar in a soundproofed room four miles away from the 70p microphone sound we normally enjoy from BM bands. Very Emperor and early Dimmu Borgir in sound and execution. Rather good.

Ars Veneficium – Devour The Light (Belgium)

More super primal black metal but of an order of magnitude heavier than Demenzia Mortis. This is fucking superb black metal very reminiscent of Anaal Nathrakh’s sound on “When Fire Rains Down From The Sky Mankind Shall Reap What It Has Sown”. I like this song. A LOT. Utterly murderous and uncompromising.

Instriumae – Ab Initio (Belgium)

Oooh. Instrumental metal with violins. Even though I am sure that Instriumae are capable of arranging a song better than this because the arrangement of the music is frankly all over the fucking place it’s still jolly good fun and goosebump inducing. Metal needs more fucking violin solos!

Fat Bastard – Blood, Sweat And Beer (Belgium)

Bacon Fat don’t have the best name, as it turns out. In other news, hello Belgian Motorhead. I need say no more. Damn good rock and roll bringing back the memory of the Lord Our God Lemmy. Raise your Jack and Coke high.

Ossebolle O – Den Ouwe (Netherlands)

Dutch old school punk rock reminiscent of 70’s Britain, but sung in their own language. Clash-esque and of marginal interest to a metal fan unless you like repetitive shouting in the background of your music. Strictly average and about as frightening as a teddy bear.

Odd Obsessions – Mistify (Netherlands)

There appears to be a kind of obsession with 80’s power metal in the Benelux region. This song could have been written by Helloween as long as they had Adrian Vandenberg and Rudolf Schenker on guitar. Gang vocals, extended lead lines and a desire to “fuck you up” (try it you long haired jessies, I’ll smear your pansy arses all over the wall.) Epic, in a super 80’s way. Old men in denim cutoffs wearing original Accept t-shirts will adore it.

Valkyre featuring Liv Kristine – Buried Alive (Belgium)

As soon as you look at the band name and who’s guesting on this record, you know what it’s going to sound like. Did you guess Nightwish mixed with Epica and Leaves Eyes? Well done, have a fucking cookie because I can’t eat them right now. Good, because I like symphonic gothic metal with operatic female vocals but absolutely unoriginal. However, the band has a drummer whose mind appears to have cracked, judging by the amount of time he spends either double bass drumming or skipping merrily along at the gait of a galloping horse.

Carrion – Supreme (Belgium)

Let’s play guess the genre again with this band. Did you guess old school death metal? WRONG! Give me back my fucking cookies. Instead, Carrion play technical melodic death metal and appear to worship at the shrine of shiny Scandinavian melodic death, and especially at the chapel of At The Gates. Good, solid tune but another style of music that dearly needs some innovation injecting into it. It sounds like every other melodic tech death record done in the past ten years. Uninspiring.

Exoto – Absolution In Death (Belgium)

Another band whose drummer appears to fucking adore cardio day at the gym. Exoto offer us an unusual fusion of blackened death, thrash and the odd proggy element which is very good indeed. A good, fun, fast slab of solid metal and a fine closer to the album.

So, there we have it. The best of two thirds of the Benelux in one compact package for your perusal. Standouts for me on this record were Cathobodua, Ars Veneficium and Instriumae with an honourable mention for Bullet N’ Arrow, strictly because I like Astrid Laekeman’s voice so much as it transports me back to when I was a mere teenage neophyte and had a VHS videotape, “Kerrang! Ladykillers”, which had Vixen (Jan Kuehnemund was a young Dark Juan’s crush), Romeo’s Daughter (so was Leigh Matty), Femme Fatale, Saraya, Robin Beck and Lisa Dominique among others on it.

Belgium and The Netherlands appear to have a rich and varied metal scene encompassing many different styles, then, and aren’t just the homes of electronic industrial and gothic symphonic metal. This is a worthy and well-priced compilation CD at a paltry 7.50EUR and is obtainable through the label or featured bands’ sites, and it is well worth your time and effort to acquire.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Het gepatenteerde Dark Juan-classificatiesysteem voor bloedspatten OR le système breveté d’évaluation des éclaboussures de sang Dark Juan – I’m sorry, I don’t know Flemish and neither does Google Translate. I checked) awards this Sounds Of Hell compilation 7/10. When it’s good it’s very very good but when it’s bad it’s rubbish! Fare thee well. May ye gang faur and fare waur. I’m returning to my bed of pain and suffering.


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Black Pyramid – Black Pyramid Reissue

Black Pyramid Cover Art

Black Pyramid – Black Pyramid Reissue
Labyrinth Of Thoughts Records
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 55:21
Review by Dark Juan

Good afternoon, you handsome and beautiful bunch of painted and pierced misfits! It is I, Dark Juan, and it’s fucking freezing up in the North of England. I’m reclined upon my chaise longue, replete with a substantial breakfast that was considerably enhanced by the addition of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, although my lower intestine begs to differ in that regard. Having quelled the rebellious beast that is my digestive system with copious cups of Yorkshire Tea (all other tea is not real), I have reached into the extensive archives of metal at my disposal and carefully selected another platter to consider and offer my opinions on, seeing as I’m not permitted out apart from to work and therefore my Ministry of the young and nubile virgins of the local area has come to a temporary halt. There are some in West Yorkshire, you know. You just have to do a bit of digging to find them… However, the police took a dim view of my Ministry and tried to fine me for being out without permission. They did not succeed, so they got me for speeding instead, the bastards.

Today’s offering (as you probably no doubt have ascertained already seeing as this piece of nonsense you’re reading is titled) is from American (Northampton, Massachusetts) stoner stalwarts Black Pyramid and is a reissue of their self-titled album, originally released in 2009, and long out of print. Greek label Labyrinth Of Thoughts have created 100 neon orange vinyl LPs and 200 brown vinyl LPs for you to purchase via their page or the band’s Bandcamp.

So what do Black Pyramid offer, I heard literally no one ask? The band themselves describe their music as “psychedelic war metal”. I describe it as sub-Sabbathian stoner metal with psychedelic influences. Yes, boys and girls and all other genders, we have returned to riff nirvana after an extended hiatus plumbing the depths of just what death metal bands are capable of. We have returned to melody, extended jams and the desire to get screamingly high on many party treats and sit there and be beguiled by stoner metal done right. The album is a bit of a surprise to be honest. I was expecting mogadon slow, drawn out riffing and the kind of vocal performance that only happens when you have drunk a bottle of Jack and have been smoking the weed for a long, long time. Instead, the vocals and the music are not afraid of picking up their metaphorical skirts and getting a bloody move on, ‘No Life King’ being a prime example of this and also being a fucking good heavy metal song into the bargain. Vocalist and guitarist Andy “Dinger” Beresky has an engaging voice, not employing the ultra-guttural, whiskey-soaked delivery of other stoner vocalists and instead opting for an interesting mix of Ozzy and John Garcia actually singing. I mean, you all know I love extreme metal but there are times that I get sick to fucking death of vocalists grunting like a hippo on its vinegar stroke or the kind of howling that normally comes from a particularly frantic, cocaine and amphetamine fuelled coupling of a banshee and a werewolf. It’s nice to hear actual words and singing for a change and Dinger is a bit of a tasty riffmeister into the bargain, giving it full beans and no mistake on instrumental track ‘Macedonia’, hammering the fuck out of his guitar until the middle eight kicks in and we are treated to the kind of wah soaked, fuzz-fuelled psychedelia that gets this hellpriest very excited indeed. The sex wee is already flowing…

What is it about wah and phaser that makes it so compelling? The intro to ‘The Worm Ouroboros’ is a drifting, metaphysical thing of beauty before the fuzz and distortion kick you right in the head with dirty great hobnailed boots and keeps on stamping. This song is probably the most stoner song on the record, as it meanders into realms of mist filled, mysterious swampiness in the middle before returning to the righteous path of the riff. The riff is everything… The central riff on ‘The Cauldron Born’ is just sublime. Album closer ‘Wintermute’ does lean a little heavily on ‘Planet Caravan’ on the intro though…

Production wise, this is pretty good. Although the drums sit too low in the mix, they are easily heard and even when tubthumper Clay Neely is leaning hard on the floor toms they don’t overpower the sound. And joy of joys I can actually hear the bass drum properly. The cymbals are crisp and organic sounding and the bass heavy and fuzzy enough to rearrange internal organs and crush bones to jellylike slabs without making the band sound like a giant buzzing hornet an inch from your ear. The guitar is masterfully produced – heavier than several London buses being applied directly to your spine but retaining fluidity and switching effortlessly between distorted violence and fuzz phaser and phaser wah induced psychedelia.

In conclusion then – This is a mighty fine record, even though it brings nothing new to stoner or psychedelia. It’s a combination of actors that just works – good songwriting, excellent riffage, the right mix of psychedelic influences and raging metal, enjoyable vocals and a well-produced and mixed record makes for a wholly satisfying listen.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Black Pyramid 8/10 for a masterful stoner metal record. Well done, chaps.

01. …And The Gods Made War
02. Visions Of Gehenna
03. Mirror Messiah
04. No Life King
05. Celephais
06. Macedonia (Vinyl Bonus Track)
07. Twilight Grave
08. The Worm Ouroboros
09. The Cauldron Born
10. Wintermute

Andy “Dinger” Beresky – Vocals and guitars
Dave Gein – Bass
Clay Neely – Drums


Black Pyramid 2008-2011 Line-Up
2008-2011 Line-up

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Interview with Madeleine Liljestam of ELEINE

Interview with Madeleine Liljestam of ELEINE
By Dark Juan

Hello, dear friends. It is I, Dark Juan. I trust I find you well and all preparing yourself for the festival of the birth of the False God’s equally false son? Anyway, I have been a good little soldier and behaved myself in my past few reviews, so our Lord and Master, mighty smiter, metal king and surprisingly tolerant editor (when faced with my rantings he is never less than gracious and understanding, notwithstanding just how many times I use the word fuck. Which is a lot) Sir Richard Tilley has taken off my leash and allowed me to emerge, blinking and shellshocked from his basement into the drab and reedy light of a gloomy British winter day. After several fortifying cups of Yorkshire’s finest brew, I immediately have cast about for devilry to commit, preferably indoors because this Hellpriest doesn’t like the cold, and I have been permitted to (in flagrant disregard of the panic and fear I caused myself the last time I spoke to somebody famous and popular – I am famously misanthropic and awkward around people. Clearly Rick and I have learned NOTHING from the previous experience) interview Swedish symphonic metal stalwarts Eleine, who have recently released an absolute STONKER of an album in “Dancing In Hell”. Add the fact it appears that I am suffering from puppy paralysis as the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover (no, there WON’T be more of that later) has settled happily next to me and is snoring gently and emitting the kind of smells that should be banned under the Geneva Convention and you will understand that this has made me utterly unable to move and has led to a period of lightheaded, bonehead confidence due to oxygen starvation (but pleasingly NOT paradoxical undressing)  which has led in turn to this collection of questions, of which the fabulous Madeleine Liljestam from the Scandinavian symphonic superstars is now obliged to answer.

Shall we dive in? After you…

Dark Juan: Greetings and salutations. I am Dark Juan, incumbent enfant terrible of Please do tell whom I have the pleasure of addressing today?

Madeleine: You are talking to Madeleine, the vocalist and one of the founders of ELEINE.

DJ: Thank you for consenting to be part of the nonsense I write and congratulations on a spectacular and wide-ranging record. Could you please tell me about the process of writing and recording the album? Who writes the lyrics and does the music come fully formed from the mind of one person or is it all a group effort? Also, even though it is a bit clichéd and overdone, who are your influences and musical heroes?

M: Thank you, and thank you for reaching out, it’s a pleasure. I’m glad to hear you enjoy our new album. I am very proud of its early success. You can never really know what to expect when releasing something new. But what you can do is create what feels true to you, and that’s the important part We write what we know, what we see and what we feel. There’s a huge piece of ourselves in this album, so it really warms our hearts hearing how appreciated it is.

Rikard and I write all the music/lyrics and we’re influenced by many various things. Games, movies, life. We get this question a lot and never seem to be able to give something short like naming a band or two. There are many bands that inspire us. I feel that good music is good music….and we listen to good music.

DJ: When I listen to Eleine’s music, although it is in keeping with the gothic/symphonic metal genre, I find it much more exciting because it appears to have a much harder edge (Rikard’s guitar work and vocals especially) than Nightwish, Within Temptation, After Forever and the like. Is this a conscious decision of the band or are there members who harbour a (possibly not so) secret love of extreme music?

M: Who said that symphonic metal can’t be heavy or even extreme sometimes? As I mentioned before, we only write and create what feels true to us. We’re going with the vibe we have during the time of writing, you know? I’m glad you like it, thank you very much. Yes, there is a heavier sound on “Dancing In Hell”, and it’s really not a surprise since we like heavier music. I mean, it’s certainly no secret that I myself enjoy listening to black and death metal. I would also like to add that although many seem to believe so, we don’t listen to other bands in our genre and try to write like them. That would be redundant and pointless since they have their sound and we have our own sound.

DJ: It appears to be becoming more and more difficult for bands to draw attention to themselves, especially during this current COVID unpleasantness, and to make a living from their music. What does Eleine do differently, in your opinion, which makes you stand out from the crowd?

M: I don’t think we’re the ones to answer that question, the fans and you should, right? We continue to work the way we’ve always done and I take it as a compliment that you actually ask that!

DJ: As I write this, I am watching Eleine videos, which are richly filmed and produced in a very lush fashion. How important is the visual aesthetic to Eleine, and who comes up with the concepts for videos, and does this transcribe easily to your live shows?

M: Very nice, thank you! We produce, direct, film and edit all of our music videos on our own. Rikard does most of the camera work and when he needs to be in frame it’s often I who film him. In editing it’s all Rikard with cutting things together and creating that extra depth with his mad editing skills. I of course also help out when he gets stuck and needs a second pair of eyes. The visual aspects are very important for ELEINE. I, myself, visualize so much in both stills and moving pictures when creating music. This extends into live performance and also music videos. Everything you see with ELEINE, is an extension of ELEINE and what we do. Choosing to have the sunset behind us in ‘Ava Of Death’ wasn’t a coincidence. Choosing to have the fire and some subtle facial expressions in ”Dancing In Hell” wasn’t either. there’s so much thought behind it all and I’m glad you like them.

DJ: Madeleine, obviously, you are a woman fronting a heavy metal band and the visual focal point of Eleine. You may not be aware that there has been something of a scandal involving a British produced heavy metal magazine recently displaying outrageous levels of misogyny regarding female musicians and using language and terms which a lot of others, myself and the ENTIRE staff of included, found totally unacceptable. What are your experiences of reading or hearing about yourself in the wider press and have you found anything unacceptable or outright sexist? Have there been occasions where you have not been treated with the same respect as a male musician? How did you deal with them and what can us writers, reviewers and interviewers do to improve our coverage of women in metal?

M: That’s terrible! I am aware that idiots rage the earth, but I haven’t heard of that specific idiot. Well, since you bring it up – I do not appreciate reading that ELEINE is a ”female fronted metal” band. What the hell is that? It’s not like every band with men as fronts are called “male fronted metal” bands, right? “female fronted” isn’t a genre. I FULLY get the idea why you’d want to empower women. There is a lot of shit going on. But we are all humans. Sure, we can’t claim other than it’s a mainly man dominated world of metal, but at the same time it is so incredibly wrong to hear that some festivals book 5 bands with female front figures just because they need to hit their quota of equality. Bands should be booked because of their music and delivery when performing, not because of what’s between their legs.

A band is a band. Metal is metal. No matter sex, skin colour or whatever. Don’t judge a band before you’ve actually listened to their music. I can’t count the times I’ve recently heard: ”I usually don’t listen to bands with a female vocalist but hey, I was recommended to listen to ELEINE and now you have a new fan”. It’s GREAT that people go out of their comfort zone and listen to new music. It’s like I’ve said before…good music is good music, and crap music is crap music.

I stand up for humans and animal rights. Regardless of gender. We need to be equals in this. It really pisses me off to be put in a box that says ”Female fronted metal” and not even being given a chance to show what we got. Don’t get me wrong, you can of course call a man a man and a woman a woman etc. But instead of “outing” it with labels such as “female fronted”, just call them metal bands and add the actual genre.

But, as always, I know what we have, I know what we do and I am proud of it. Instead of seeing myself as a victim I’ve always chosen to switch it up a gear instead and make sure I make myself and our fans happy.

DJ: What news are you receiving about the reception of your latest album? I personally rated it as 9/10 and “Sumptuous, richly produced, expansively written and an essential purchase if you enjoy the beauty of female vocals offsetting metal power.” Are you getting many positive reviews?

M: What a great rating, thank you very much. The reception has been absolutely fantastic. I am deeply grateful for this. As I mentioned earlier, this album is a huge part of ourselves. I can’t thank everyone enough for buying it, appreciating it and sharing it <3

DJ: What do we have to look forward to from Eleine in 2021, assuming all the COVID restrictions are done with? This year has truly, truly sucked for live music and surely it has affected Eleine as well as everyone else involved with live music. Are you going to tour sooner rather than later or are you going to wait a bit longer for the sake of increased safety?

M: TOURING! My unholy Satan, I’m starving here. 2020 was rough for everyone and we need to work together to get through it. Even though the year was dark, there were shimmers of light. One very good thing was the release of “Dancing In Hell”, both for us and for our fans. It has been an absolutely devastating year in so many ways, but we will make it. From everything there’s something to learn. I’ve learned to have way more patience than I’ve ever had.

We will tour when it’s safe and allowed, of course. We care about our fans

DJ: Do you have anything to say to your fans and people just discovering Eleine? This is your chance to say whatever you wish about whatever you like!

M: We are aware that we wouldn’t be anything without the beautiful fans we have. We are grateful for each and every one. We have a really close contact with our patrons and our Patreon has also helped us out tremendously. Thank you all so very much, keep on buying music from your favourite artists and we’ll see you soon.

DJ: Please allow me to thank you very much for agreeing to spend your time answering these questions, and may I wish you every success for the future. I truly hope your new record brings you an outrageous amount of success. The only reason this wasn’t done through Zoom was because I am far too much of a coward, having scared myself rigid the last time I did that! Tack så mycket för din tid, jag hoppas att vi snart ses på en brittisk turné och lycka till och framgång för er alla. God Jul!


Read Dark Juan’s album review here:

Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Argorok – Usurpator

Argorok – Usurpator
Release date: 20/11/2020
Running Time: 48:02
Review by Dark Juan

Hello, minions. I no longer know what day it is. The days just merge into one long constant grind interrupted only by the joyous inky blackness of sleep. I’m completely sober (there is an unopened bottle of whiskey sitting in the kitchen, which is fucking unheard of at my gaff) and I am just seated upon my couch, staring into the ineffable darkness and contemplating a life well wasted. Not because I have been disporting myself in a genial and self-destructive fashion as is my wont of a Yuletide, but more because I’m fucking shattered from work. Two consecutive 96-hour work weeks, followed by an upcoming third and the running around that normally happens around the False God’s illegitimate son’s birthday have wiped me out, hence the reason why I have not been quite so productive and cheerful as I usually am, for which I can only profusely apologise, not least to our esteemed Editor, Metal Monarch and all-round good egg Richard “You Had Better Write Something Soon Or I’ll Tear Your Nipples Off” Tilley…(The bloody cheek – Rick)

Note: Mrs Dark Juan just asked who I was writing about and looked confused when I said Argorok. She said Aga-Rock? Do they sing about large country homes and equally large stoves? I will take care of her later…

In other news, 2020 has been a bit of a motherfucker hasn’t it? Can’t wait to see the back of the twat, to be honest, but it has been a vintage year for underground metal. I’ve not been this excited about the music for a long time and it just seems to be getting better and better. May 2021 see the back of this unprecedented pandemic (it will happen sooner if you all JUST FOLLOW THE FUCKING RULES FOR A BIT) and we can actually go out and have gigs again.

So, having dragged the ancient and recalcitrant magic electronic box of tricks from the dank cupboard of its semi-retirement, I am listening to the stylings of a new German beat combo named Argorok. The estimable Rick added this to my review list because he thought I might enjoy it, as I am somewhat of a fan of Neue Deutsche Härte and the German language, being as Argorok’s style can best be described as the result of a filthy, perverse drunken liaison between death metal and Neue Deutsche Härte, having been egged on to do so by folk metal and industrial. Then power metal stopped for a quick look before shuffling off home, disgusted but also desperate for a frenzied wank. So it is an eclectic mix of styles – obviously there is a large element of Neue Deutsche Härte, with the mid paced marching tempo – immediately I am reminded of Eisbrecher, Rammstein and Megaherz with the industrial perfection of the riffing and with the frequently staccato keyboards stabbing through the heavily produced guitar sound, but they differ from those three NDH luminaries by veering off piste into the black runs of power and folk metal – the middle eight of ‘Königin der Asche’ being a notable and very groovy demonstration of this. The keyboards are of note because they frequently add a second line of melody and gorgeousness beneath crushing heaviness – more often than not there are lovely little piano melodies hiding in darkened corners and the keys also act as a second rhythm instrument in concert with the guitar – a fine example of this is on ‘Kalter Stein’. ‘Katharsis’ is also interesting as it contains a short sitar passage. Yes, a fucking sitar!

The vocal is also interesting to your erstwhile correspondent, as it is a full-blooded death metal roar in the classic style, but utilising the German language. Now, those of you that frequently follow the bollocks I write, and appear to keep getting away with against all the odds, will note that I am something of a fan of the German language, regarding the guttural nature of it as a perfect fit to the industrial base of Neue Deutsche Härte. I am pleased to report that it sounds absolutely fucking uncompromisingly murderous when you hear a death metal vocal sung in German – vocalist Boa has a set of lungs and a throat seemingly constructed from angle iron, gorse bush thorns and sulphuric acid which only enhances the experience for he is a fine vocalist, capable of singing cleanly with a gravelly deliver y or full-on bowel shaking churn. Bassist and programmer Bill also has a very appealing death scream which underpins the main vocal nicely…

So, we are being unremittingly positive here, aren’t we? We can’t possibly have that for too long and there are some faults that need rectifying – The sequenced drumming sounds far too artificial and soulless on the metal passages, although it is a bonus for interesting patterns on the more outlandish parts of the record, for example ‘Meister Der Lügen’ which appears to take the form of a nursery rhyme before going to some very dark places indeed. And there are times when the guitar overwhelms everything else. There are also other times when the Neue Deutsche Härte overpowers the more interesting parts of the music. That’s a shame because Argorok have a LOT of potential to be even better than they are already. Don’t get me wrong – I love this band because I love industrial, NDH and interesting influences and German vocals but they could be even BETTER if they dialled back the metal and went to more experimental places. The Machinist and Fractal Generator have a lot to answer for regarding this as they have totally blown away all opposition as far as experimenting with the death metal sound goes – Argorok aren’t quite at that level yet, but the potential is there, because “Usurpator” is entertaining as fuck and if you love Rammstein, OOMPH!, Megaherz et al, you’ll be pretty pleased with Argorok.

To quickly summarise, I like this band a lot, but it’s a pretty raw product. With some work it could be truly ground-breaking.

Meine Herren von Argorok, ich liebe Ihre Band und Ihre Musik.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Das Patentierte Dark Juan Blutspritzer-Bewertungssystem – I’m not apologising, I fucking love doing that in different languages) awards Argorok 8/10 for a flawed but still most worthy album, and one that will be in fairly constant rotation in the Mighty Gothikpanzer (which has split an intercooler pipe somewhere. The bastard.)

Tracklist (With helpful and probably hilariously inaccurate translations):
01. Aus Der Tiefe (From The Depths)
02. Protector (Do I really have to translate this for an English audience?)
03. Odyssee (Fairly self-explanatory as well.)
04. Refugium (This ain’t even German so I’m not playing)
05. Königin der Asche (Queen Of Ashes)
06. Kalter Stein (Cold Stone)
07. Hinter Der Maske (Behind The Mask)
08. Katharsis (Erm, yeah. You can work that out for yourselves too)
09. Meister Der Lügen (Master Of Lies)
10. Tag Des Zorns (Day Of Anger)

Boa – Vocals
Andy – Guitar
Bill – Bass, programming, backing vocals


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Dark Juan’s Top Ten Releases Of 2020

Dark Juan’s Top Ten Releases Of 2020
By ‘Dark Juan’

Yes, my dear children of the night. It is that time again. It’s near Yule and the Krampus is rampant. At least that was what I said to Mrs Dark Juan during a night-time meeting in the hall leading to the bathroom. The Smellhounds are currently quiescent, Mrs Dark Juan is currently creating felt art and I have a bit of time off from wrangling young gentlemen, and also the Mighty Gothikpanzer flew through its MOT, so in a rare moment of sober good humour I present to you all this list of what I consider to be the records of the year. There’s going to be a few honourable mentions at the end, because this year has been a fucking BANGER for new metal, even though we have all been confined for the good of our various realms… Shall we dance?

10. Häxan – White Noise (July 2020)

An astonishingly assured debut album from a young British three piece, variously from Cheltenham and Wales. “White Noise” is based on the sound of classic hard rockers and these three young ladies kick serious amounts of arse. If I were to rank this list on the amount of songs by a single band reverberating around my poor damaged head, Häxan would have fucking aced it, folks. Harking back to an age when hard rock was king, yet somehow managing to convey a modern edge, HUGE fucking stadium rock choruses and killer riffs abound and the songs just drip snotty attitude and the kind of swagger you’d normally associate with veteran bands who have been massive for decades. This, unsurprisingly, is a Very Good Thing indeed and this album is still on fairly constant rotation in the Mighty Gothikpanzer after several months because of its sheer quality and the obvious enjoyment the band have in playing their music. Plus, I love Sam Bolderston’s voice, and this slab of good time, party rock and roll is an excellent addition to any metal fan’s record collection for when you want to dial back the heaviness and listen to something groovy.

9. Basement Torture Killings – Lessons In Murder (May 2020)

Primal, British old school death metal. Uncompromising and a listening experience not unlike having your face marched over by a thousand hobnailed boots for the rest of time, this record reminds us just how good death metal can be when played with passion and excitement. Vocalist Beryl is at her most effective when employing a Jeff Walker-esque high pitched snarl and the music is the soundtrack to all the worst horrors you can perpetrate on the human body with a bit of imagination and a room full of power tools. Speedy, bloody and shockingly violent, Basement Torture Killings took my face off with their sheer intensity and ferocious commitment to death metal. A top-notch addition to any collection of extreme metal.

8. The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (April 2020)

I have had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Black Dahlia frontman and all-round good egg Trevor Strnad for It was the first ever interview I had conducted with a metal superstar, which has scared me half to fucking death to the point I haven’t done another, and I am ashamed to admit that there was quite a lot of abject and pathetic fangirling from your favourite pseudo-Satanist metal hack. Kudos to Trevor, who was most gracious during the times I was waffling in a panicked fashion. Thankfully, “Verminous” is quite simply a jaw-droppingly fine record from a band who have discovered the secret of expanding their sound into new dimensions without losing the core of what they are. This album is going to be impossible to top – Strnad has never sounded better vocally from subterranean grunt to head splitting howl, the songwriting and experimentation on display is astounding, and the band have lost none of their snaggletoothed bite and awesome power. Yet more proof that heaviness does not preclude melody, The Black Dahlia Murder are absolutely, ahem, MURDEROUS in their intensity and wild eyed, flailing power and this is the watershed moment in an already stellar career for these American extreme metal stalwarts. A most worthy purchase, should you choose to indulge yourself.

7. Master Charger – Origin Of The Lugubrious (August 2020)

Fellows in the British doom/stoner scene with Red Spektor, Master Charger are an order of magnitude heavier. Taking their cues from classic Sabbath, Master Charger dial down the psychedelia and turn up the heaviness quotient to something akin to a sonic avalanche. Yes, these guys are heavier than a planet with your mum and sister standing on it wearing underwear fashioned from neutronium. Sonically dense and Mogadon slow, Master Charger play artfully crafted doom metal with a stoner edge and are blessed with the voice of the pleasingly alliterative John James, whose whiskey and Marlboro Red soaked vocal is a joy to hear. Master Charger are fucking magnificent bastards and this is a record of such colossal heaviness that there were earthquake warnings in New Zealand when I played it.

6. Red Spektor – Heart Of The Renewed Sun (October 2020)

A SLIGHT change of pace and style to the previous entrant, Red Spektor served us up an absolute PEACH of an album in “Heart Of The Renewed Sun”. Effortlessly melding 60s psychedelia, the bluesiest of blues rock, metal and stoner, RS carried me off into internal mescaline fuelled musical visions of infinity, without all the tiresome bad tripping that normally comes whenever I take vast quantities of acid. Yes, for all I like to have my face melted by the speediest and rawest of heavy fucking metal, there are times when I want to trip balls and have my mind expanded. Red Spektor are the PERFECT band to take you on a tour of your own psyche. This isn’t to say that they ain’t heavy though. They are a gaily painted, super heavy battle truck bristling with acid gas projectors. If you dig melody and experimentation, grab this album.

5. Olivia Neutered John – Gorewhore (May 2020)

Holy fuck, not since the early days of Carcass or The Berzerker have I heard such demented savagery. Olivia Neutered John play old school grindcore in such a visceral way. It’s raw and bloody and ONJ are taking names and not taking any fucking prisoners. If you’re looking for melody, forget it. This is just sheer bastard powerviolence with a strong anti-paedophilia message. Considering my career in putting back together the recipients of abuse, this is a message Dark Juan not only gets behind, but will be joining Olivia Neutered John on the front line armed to the teeth and screaming for vengeance. The songs are short, sharp, devastatingly speedy shocks, not unlike stabs to the heart with cruelly serrated blades, yet the warped sense of humour necessary for grindcore lurks just behind the utter sonic destruction of the music, and ONJ make this list because there are painfully few bands making grindcore record these days, and I fucking love it. And they have the BEST band name EVER!!!

4. Quinn The Brain – Open Wide EP (May 2020)

Red raw and visceral nu-grunge with a serrated punk edge. No, stick with me here. Texans Quinn The Brain are ANGRY. They are fucking furious and they want the world to know it. Painfully emotional, but dripping with wry humour and a not inconsiderable amount of bile, this four track represents a surprisingly complete body of work from a band who easily evoke the memories of the classic riot girl bands of the 2000’s. Arta Salehi’s vocal especially reminds the verbose idiot writing this of the great Kat Bjelland of Babes In Toyland and the equally great (and very tall) Brody Dalle, of The Distillers. Plus, they are named after an episode of Daria (remember that show?) which is also a massive plus. Proof that heaviness doesn’t come just from metal, Quinn The Brain’s music is as flayed skin emotional as you can get.

3. White Crone – The Poisoner (February 2020)

Friend of, general lovely person and top-notch blues musician Lisa Mann visits the results of a lifetime’s love of classic metal upon us and by Satan it’s a fucking banger of an album. Traditional metal all the way, it remains spectacularly vibrant and is more exciting than being caught in a ladies’ finishing college somewhere near Cheltenham wearing nothing but a bow tie and a wry grin, whilst carrying a bottle of champers. Lisa’s voice brings back echoes of the great metal vocalists, her barrel lunged delivery both powerful and excellent, along with top notch songwriting, guitar playing and some of the finest bass work you’ll ever hear irrespective of genre. The woman is a musical goddess and I will forever champion White Crone.

2. Protosequence – A Blunt Description of Something Obscene (May 2020)

My face still hasn’t recovered from the beating it has taken from this supertechnical death metal band’s record. If you love Necrophagist, you’ll fucking love this band. There are only four songs, but then the guys have thoughtfully included instrumental versions of each track and they are explosively brilliant. Stunning guitar work and drumming proves that death metal is not just a bunch of hairy arses battering their instruments and regurgitating their own giblets in a vague approximation of music. Fucking hell, boys, girls, and all other genders, this album is almost classical in musicianship such is its depth and complexity. I have played it a million times already and I show no signs of stopping.

01 The Machinist – I Am Void (November 2020)

Holy fucking fuck. Jesus Christ in a chariot driven sidecar. It is conceivable that The Machinist are my new favourite band. You are all no doubt aware that I regard The Berzerker’s self-titled debut album as the most violent and psychopathic record ever, and the benchmark for sheer brutality. Well, my faithful followers of all known genders, those worthy Australian nutjobs have finally been toppled from their throne by The Machinist’s extraordinary fusion of black metal, death metal, power electronics and industrial. For a debut album,” I Am Void” is simply staggering and utterly breathtaking in both scope and execution. My people, honest to both the false God and our Lord and Master Shaitan, this release is a landmark in extreme metal. It simply can’t possibly get any heavier or faster than this without shredding causality and destroying the universe. Best of all, they are fellow Mancs!

So, there you have it. Dark Juan’s top ten records of the year. 2020 might have sucked humungous hairy balls because of the worldwide pestilence and plague, but by God the world of metal didn’t. A vintage year for the music we love, my family of weirdos. If I may, I wish to share a few honourable mentions because there were several bands who missed the cut by a gnat’s chuff…

Bofo Kwo – Space/Time Carnivorium (June 2020) – Demented Finns tell the tale of three intergalactic cannibals and their adventures to a death metal soundtrack. As insane as it sounds.

Sertraline – Clouded Minds And Silver Lines (May 2020) – Young, British prog metal band gifted with exceptional vocalist in Lizzie show that prog metal can kick arse in a big way.

Lucifer – III (March 2020) – Absolutely gorgeous international doomsters with classic rock sensibilities and image keep up the exceptional quality of their releases with their third record.

Bull Elephant – Created From Death (August 2020) – “Created From Death” is the story of a slain African elephant that occultist Ahnenerbe SS attempted to bring back from the dead as a new form of battle asset. However, before re-animation could be completed it was intercepted by a mysterious witch-shaman, pursuing her own agenda and redirecting the undead creature’s purpose. With Nazi attack wolves.”

Says it all, really.

And last of all, we remembered the sadly missed Wayne Static with Static-X’s “Project Regeneration Vol. 1” (July 2020) which was simply magnificent nu-metal and a more than fitting tribute to one of our Lost Boys.

I’m done. I’m utterly spent. May you all make merry and receive all the love in the world from your families and significant others. A joyous Yuletide to you all. Remember to spell Santa correctly, kids, otherwise you’ll be getting a surprise you won’t forget in a hurry.

To read the original reviews follow these links:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Machinist – I Am Void

The Machinist – I Am Void
Release Date: 04/12/2020
Running Time: 52:36
Review by Dark Juan

Greetings, my followers of the Horned God and keepers of my twisted gospel. It is I, Dark Juan, fresh from going full Jonathan Pie at the television and having had a stern telling off from Mrs. Dark Juan. Whereupon I have retired to my bedchamber in what can only be described as a magnificent sulk and stuck on the first record that came up on my electronic magic box of tricks (otherwise known as an elderly and temperamental Acer Aspire laptop that has been telling me for at least two years that there’s no memory left) which happened to be from The Machinist, who are a bunch of clearly insane and phenomenally dangerous psychotic Mancunians, which means they are entirely normal for denizens of the city of my birth. However, we are here for my thoughts on “I Am Void”, being their debut album, and the question is, if these mad, MAD Mancs have released a perfect peach or a pile of diseased, foetid arse?

Let us find out together.

First things first, you, dear readers, have to know that the blurb that came with this record was an out and out damned lie. It described the music as “A fusion of blasting black metal and machine driven death metal.”


You know how I’m ALWAYS banging on about The Berzerker and they hold the record for the most brutal and intense record ever made in their debut self-titled album? Well, hold on to your fucking trousers (and your underwear, because you’re going to be blown clear out of the fuckers), boys and girls and all other genders, tonight we celebrate the new kings of sonic violence, because our longstanding me(n)tal monarch Luke Kenny has been bested. Yes, not even our magnificently demented Aussie friend can stand in the way of The fucking Machinist. The sex wee quotient is explosive. There’s flashing red lights and klaxons everywhere and Alaska has declared a state of emergency because the sex wee storage tanks off the coast are in danger of catastrophic failure from sex wee overpressure…

Fucking JESUS, this record is savage. It’s all blades, heavy calibre machine guns and flamethrowers and artillery all rolled into one. Take the love child (for love child read absolutely murdering bastard fucking killing machine chimera of hatred) of The Berzerker, Akercocke and Anaal Nathrakh and try

to imagine that sound. Got it? Nah, mate, you aren’t even fucking close! There’s distorted kick drums, the kind of drumming that can only be accomplished by killer robots with heavily engineered pistons for arms, razorwire riffs that are not so much music as simple vessels for murdering entire rooms full of people in one go and vocals that bear no resemblance to any noise made by a human larynx ever before. I don’t even know how to describe the howling madness and predatory growls to an acceptable standard. There hasn’t been words yet invented to describe what I’m listening to. This is literally murder in musical form. It’s wide eyed, blood flecked, spittle drooling homicidal madness rampaging round at supersonic speed, roaring and shrieking sheer batshit insanity at extreme and inhuman volumes two inches away from your face. It will be no surprise to any of you to learn that I fucking love The Machinist now.

Although the music is primarily a hyperspeed amalgam of the most primal and martial black metal and the unrelenting brutality of death metal, that isn’t to say there are not subtleties at work here. Oh no, like a psychopath experiencing fleeting moments of clarity, The Machinist dial back the lunatic speed and blastpower and slow down to be like the most evil of serial killers to whisper in your trembling ear exactly what horrors they are going to perpetrate upon your helpless corpus. ‘Departure’ is the most notable example of this, as is album closer ‘Schwarzschild Radius’, both songs having the kind of power electronics found on Whitehouse records, and for all the speed and sheer madness these Mancunian sonic serial killers employ, they are surprisingly technical musicians, with multiple tempo and pattern changes throughout songs and different movements therein also. The keyboards employed throughout the record are never intrusive and at times remind me of when Emperor used then on ‘Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk’ and they add a gothic and often futuristic element to the sound of the Machinist that gives them the gravitas and grandeur that was missing from The Berzerker (who had opted for ultraviolence and gabba techno) and much more like Emperor mixed with the complete uberaggression of Anaal Nathrakh with added industrial precision. The industrial element of this record cannot be ignored, for it is this that lifts it up from contemporaries and gives it the je ne sais quoi to make this album truly, TRULY special.

I’ve run out of superlatives. Wait…. what? This is their DEBUT album? THIS IS A FUCKING DEBUT RECORD? HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Jesus fucking Christ, how are this bunch of howling mad bastards going to top this one? It is not possible. It will cause a massive rupture in spacetime and destroy the universe as we know it if they get any faster or heavier…

Ah, I’m on to you, you fuckers. Nothing less than total musical apocalypse is your plan. Where do I sign up to join, our kid?

So yeah, this is the Holy fucking Grail, ladies, gents, and gentlepersons. It is rarer than rocking horse shit. It is a perfect debut album. I never thought it would ever happen but this is a fucking perfect debut album. I know I’m repeating myself. My brains are liquid and running out of my nostrils thanks to The fucking Machinist.

Right then, The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is utterly fucked beyond repair. The Machinist have broken it. It’s a 10/10 from it (it’s a googleplex out of ten as far as I’m concerned, but Rick has a scoring system and he has decreed that we use it properly for he is possessed of considerably more wisdom than I, who has literally frothed maniacally for over a thousand words during this review) and I wish I’d fucking heard this before I submitted my top ten records of the year because this should be in there. At the top. IT IS THAT GOOD.

EDIT: I changed my top ten list. So at least you know what I think is the best release of 2020 already…

01. Extinction Event
02. Skin Is Not Enough
03. The Sky Has Opened
04. Approach
05. Bleak Affirmations
06. Depopulate
07. Death Cults of Abraham
08. Magnificent Desolation
09. Departure
10. Schwarzschild Radius

John T – Synths, Drum Programming, Vocals
T – Guitar
Scott W – Vocals
K. Mackinnon – Guitar


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Dark Juan’s Top Twenty Favourite Songs Ever

Dark Juan’s Top Twenty Favourite Songs Ever
By Dark Juan

Salutations, and the holiday that the Christian Church stole from the pagans is nearly upon us. I’m not a fan. I have to deal with people and I don’t like that. Anyway, I can’t do a top ten gigs I attended because of this troublesome plague we have had to deal with. In fact, I don’t think I have even been to ONE FUCKING SHOW this year apart from Ever-Metal’s own Beth Jones’ birthday bash (Sorry Mate, that was last year – Rick) where Lullaby For A Unicorn taught me new and exciting ways to ruin metal via colouring competitions and Mad Spanner showed me just how bouncy humans can be. So, mainly because I am A) bored, and B) unaccountably not dealing with a review writing backlog as is usual, I thought I might share my top twenty favourite songs with you all.

DISCLAIMER: Not all of these songs are heavy metal. I don’t believe in restricting yourself to one single genre of music. So there.

Godflesh – Slateman

My absolute all-time favourite song. Colder than interstellar space and mechanical and alienating, yet still somehow suffused with life and passion, Slateman is where Industrial music reached its apogee. Proving that speed doesn’t equal power, Godflesh flit from drawn out single chords to a middle eight that is just sublime, underpinned with the martial beat from the Alesis HR-16 drum machine Godflesh used. Nearly thirty years after its release, Justin Broadrick’s first two chords instantly transport me to musical heaven and the volume is fucking CRANKED, baby!

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Ian Curtis is still much missed by me. A man who encompassed my gaucheness as a teenager and managed to see inside my head as a lyricist – a man to whom love was not joyous, it was to be feared. The lyrics on this song manage to convey mental anguish and sorrow and fear so explicitly it is still raw to this day. The lyric “And there’s a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold” still speaks to me in my mid-40s, and this is another song where the music is cold, black and obsidian and machinelike, but it still pulses with vitality and life. A perfect, perfect song and an all-time post punk classic.

The Sisters Of Mercy – Some Kind of Stranger

You will all no doubt be quite aware that the Sisters are the best band in the world ever and Andrew Eldritch is my musical god. ‘Some Kind Of Stranger’ is the best love song ever written and has sublime lyrics that run the gamut of wryly amused (“Seen the way that careful lingers, undecided at the door…”) to heartbreakingly intense (“Rationale and rhyme and reason pale beside a single kiss…”) to full on impassioned plea (“Come here I think you’re beautiful, my door is open wide, some kind of angel, come inside…”) This song showed the post punk world just what Goths were capable of (even if Eldritch still denies he’s the Gothfather.)

Carcass – Heartwork

Who would have thought that three vegan Scousers would invent splattercore? Carcass will always be one of my favourite bands, and I love the early splatter stuff, but I have chosen ‘Heartwork’ because it was a supremely technically gifted, complex song which proved that the Scouse boys could do more than just vomit into microphones and have amusing song titles. Jeff Walker never sounded better than on this song and Bill Steer showed us just what a talented guitarist he was. Also the last record Ken Owen played drums on before his brain aneurysm and its simply untouchable melodic tech death…

Combichrist – What The Fuck Is Wrong With You?

This was my gateway into Terror EBM. It proved to me that you didn’t just have to have guitars and play heavy metal to make aggressive, violent music. Combichrist are fucking brutal, slamming Industrial beats and power electronics meeting the full-throated roar of Icon Of Coil and Panzer AG’s Andy LaPlegua – the lyrics are dark as fuck too – this song exhorting “Why don’t you finish yourself, because you don’t really care. Let the screams in your head be the last thing you hear” even though it is a song about being alone in a hive like world of normal people and you are the alternative different one. Heavy metal music made with electronics, and absolutely brilliant.

Cradle Of Filth – The Black Goddess Rises

Say what you like about Cradle Of Filth, when I first heard them, I was totally blown away. Their debut album is still an absolute go to listen in my collection to this day, and even with the ropey production is a landmark avant-garde black metal record, managing to weld absolute power and speed to swirling, romantic gothic passages. Dani Filth’s trademark howl is not as prevalent here as he employed a more standard black metal high pitched growl, but the music is just fucking spectacular and delivered a different experience in a year when metal was in flux, when Megadeth, Soundgarden, Pantera, Mayhem, Machine Head and Korn all delivered classics.

Gunship – Dark All Day

My latest and greatest obsession is synthwave and the two finest exponents of it are Carpenter Brut and Brits Gunship. This song is accompanied by a brilliant anime style video, and don’t let the Miami Vice neon aesthetic and the lush analogue synths fool you, because Gunship goes to some very dark places – the lyrics here, for example: “I am your night girl, rip my heart out. Darkness falling yet another night, come on Lost Boys, let’s stay alive.” Heavy as fuck, man, and an ideal listen when you want to hear something different than guitars and screaming.

Mushroomhead – Bwomp!

Mushroomhead were introduced to me on a cover mount CD from a once popular metal magazine, which had ‘Solitaire: Unravelling’ on it. However, ‘Bwomp!’ was the song that really did it for me as it was a wild mix of nu-metal, industrial, hip-hop and hardcore techno. Couple that with the band’s uniform image and masks and 20-year-old me was hooked. It’s another love affair that has lasted to this day as it was a real toss-up between this and ‘QWERTY’ for my favourite Mushroomhead song. I don’t give a fuck about the spat them and Slipknot had, because they play completely different styles of metal, and for me Mushroomhead were the more considered and musical of the two.

Ghost – Square Hammer

I like vaudeville performances and masks and costumes and mystery and silliness, all of which Ghost bring in spades, along with a shockingly good ear for classic rock and metal influences, seeing as they generally sound like a Satanic melding of Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss and Wishbone Ash with added Papa. Also, their sound is developing through eras – “Opus Eponymous” and “Infesstisumam” sounding like 70’s hard rock, “Meliora” like the early 80’s and “Prequelle” like the anthemic choruses of hair metal in the late 80’s. They are fun, the music is great and they really are the most exciting thing to happen to metal in a decade because it was a break from the identikit screaming of the early 2010’s.

Necrophagist – Stabwound

I have no problem in admitting that I am a complete and total Mohammed Suicmez fanboy. I have rarely seen such a talented guitar player. And Necrophagist’s music kicks seriously arse and ‘Stabwound’ is one of the finest pieces of super technical death metal there has ever been. Speedy, precise and fucking slamming, the intricacies of Suicmez’s guitar work are jaw dropping to behold and the speed at which his instrument is played is breathtaking. Every Necrophagist song I have ever heard has been brilliant but ‘Stabwound’ is my favourite along with ‘Mutilate The Stillborn’.

Blood Ceremony – Goodbye Gemini

Alia O’Brien is a musical goddess and her band weld folk, metal and prog together in a gloriously luminous whole. The ethereal O’Brien utilises the completely non-metal flute to great effect in her songs and also is a dab hand with the Hammond Organ. Add to this a sensibility that references Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in the guitar work and the lyrical content of the songs and you have a Canadian tour de force of classic metal, reinvented for the 21st Century. Goodbye Gemini is simply splendid, uplifting and still heavy, even though it is beautiful above all else.

Nuclear Assault – Brainwashed

“Radio! An insidious form, helps shape your thoughts, making you conform. Programming music, easy listening, help you achieve that moronic grin…”

For this rebellious teenager, Nuclear Assault smeared Metallica’s pansy arses all over the wall. Fast, violent, anti-establishment and rebellious in the extreme and punk as fuck thanks to the involvement of Dan Lilker on bass guitar, this was politicised music that was raging against the machine before any amusingly coiffed shouty man decided he wasn’t going to do what you told him.

Queensrÿche – Gonna Get Close To You

A band that sadly imploded when egos got in the way of the music, Queensrÿche were one of my favourite bands in my youth, second only to Iron Maiden in the trad metal stakes and Geoff Tate’s voice still gives me goosebumps to this day. However, this strange trad metal/industrial hybrid was always my favourite, being a cover of Canadian artist Dalbello.

I just wish that Geoff would get over himself and rejoin the rest of the band and bring back the classics. I could have chosen anything off Operation: Mindcrime, but I always hated the production on that record. This song is quirky and interesting and absolutely brilliant.

Cromagnon – Caledonia

Absolutely out to lunch psychedelic proto-industrial from the sixties. Among the first records to have distorted guitars and using a demented taped loop of Scottish bagpipes and increasingly unhinged vocals throughout the song, this can be charitably described as a challenging listen. But I absolutely love it simply because it is one of the building blocks for stoner, industrial, electronic music and extreme vocal styles and it is just a cracking tune if you can get past the production, which is “experimental” to say the least. Most definitely an acquired taste.

VNV Nation – Perpetual

VNV were one of the first electronic bands that really spoke to me, and one of the best gigs I ever went to was to watch Straftanz and VNV Nation playing together at Sheffield Corporation. I believe Uberbyte opened for them. This is ultimate quality futurepop from a band who delight in offering a positive, uplifting experience (with the exception of the incendiary Tomorrow Never Comes) of which ‘Perpetual’ is a fine example. The memory of a club full of people all singing “Let there be, let there always be never ending light” back at singer Ronan, grinning and motionless on stage. Wonderful. And it was fucking good fun!

Prong – Whose Fist Is This Anyway?

This song is absolute riff heaven. Tommy Victor is a phenomenal guitarist and this song for me is even better than lead single ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’. With a serious Killing Joke vibe joining the punk metal fury of Prong’s sound thanks to the involvement of Paul Raven playing bass, Prong absolutely took their music to the next level of brutality. The band literally has everything here – perfect production, a minimalist aesthetic, MASSIVE songs, melody, distended harmonics, precise and choppy riffing and groove for fucking days. This song was and still is Prong’s finest ever work. And a tune that I will never get bored of.

The Berzerker – Reality

One minute and twenty odd seconds of frankly the most incredible goregrind I have ever heard. As an album opener it is one of the most staggering statements of intent I have ever heard. It doesn’t even qualify as music – It’s more a sustained and spectacularly violent assault on your senses, melding distorted 909 kick drums, mind-blowingly fast drumming, utterly savage gabba techno and the fastest and filthiest death metal ever committed to record to create something that is less music and more the aural equivalent of an insane butcher machine gunning a thousand innocent people to death in a big steel tank. Savage, brutal and uncompromising and absolutely original.

Dinosaur Jr – Out There

Now, a grunge record. Bet you never saw that coming! However, J Mascis is a fucking incredible guitar player who can emote on his instrument like very few people I have heard. He makes his guitar sing and cry and weep and this song is just an absolute joy if you like listening to guitar technique. His vocal is an acquired taste though and if you don’t like grunge you’ll fucking hate this song… But I love it and for the purposes of this small article I don’t care what you think!

GWAR – Slaughterama

I am a colossal overgrown child and I still laugh my arse off at this, Black And Huge and Meat Sandwich. Don’t you judge me.

The Damned – Grimly Fiendish

Knowing that I am a sad old goff, this one probably is not much of a surprise, but what might be is that I first heard this on a vinyl 2 record set called “Out Now II” which celebrated the state of the late 80’s pop scene. Somewhat oddly, the state of late 80’s pop included Killing Joke’s ‘Love Like Blood’ and this Gothic little masterpiece – all harpsichord, dry humour and dripping sarcasm delivered in a menacing baritone. I was 11 when I first heard this and this song was the point where I was lost to alternative and extreme music forever. Betcha wish you never bought me that record now, eh, Mum and Dad? Hahahahahaha!

So, there you have it. Twenty of Dark Juan’s favourite songs – by no means all heavy metal, but they all share something in the way of extremity, or the alternative. I hope you all try some of them you might not have heard of – or a genre you haven’t listened to before. Good luck and good hunting.

Yeah, merry fucking Christmas too. Bah humbug.

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.