MURKOCET – Single Review: “Hustlin’ Hate”

Hustlin' Hate

Phoenix, Arizona-based heavy metal band MURKOCET is bound and determined to slam you against the wall with their relentlessly intense music. They state they’re named after a substance directly attributed to the aggressive and often times violent actions of it’s user. Listening to their music, I’m certainly not gonna argue with that! Following up on their self-released face-melting debut album Digging Mercy’s Grave, released this past January 2017, they’ve just released a blistering new single “Hustlin’ Hate.”

MURKOCET consists of Richie Jano on vocals, Nate Garrett on guitar, Mike Mays on drums, and newcomer Jared Pettit on bass. Their hard-hitting yet melodic music is heavily influenced by some of their favorite hardcore and death metal bands such as Lamb of God, Slipknot and Hatebreed. They combine those influences with a strong emphasis on engagement with fans though their incredibly dynamic, high energy performances.

Murkocet

“Hustlin’ Hate” starts off with a wailing guitar riff, accompanied by a rib-crunching bass riff and pounding drum, then explodes into an unrelenting four minute long assault of jackhammer bass, pummeling drums and blazing guitars. The interplay between guitar and bass is so good it brings goosebumps. Jano unleashes all the brutal fury he can muster with his raw, guttural vocals, raising those goosebumps to the breaking point. It’s a phenomenally powerful track, and a thing of beauty for those who love death metal.

Catch Murkocet at one of these upcoming concerts:

Nov. 25 –  Silver Spur Saloon, Denver, CO
Nov. 26 –  Rio Rancho, NM
Nov. 27 –  Green Room, Flagstaff, AZ
Nov. 29 –  The Merrow, San Diego, CA
Nov. 30 –  Bricks Restaurant & Sports Bar, Maywood, CA
Dec. 1   –  Dive Bar, Las Vegas, NM
Dec. 8   –  Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ
Dec. 22 –  Acadia Bar & Grill, Houston, TX

Connect with Murkocet:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud/ Google Play / YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes

SERPERUS – EP Review: “Infernal Seasons”

I can’t seem to pull myself away from the UK, as here I am featuring yet another band from that island nation. There’s such a tremendous amount of musical talent based there, I could devote my blog entirely to UK artists. This time I shine my spotlight on Serperus, a Liverpool five-piece that plays aggressive and melodic heavy metal. Formed in 2014, the band consists of Joey Farrell (Vocals), Mark Coogan (Lead Guitar), Jono Walters (Rhythm Guitar), Mikey Smith (Bass) and Aaron May (Drums).

Serperus performing

They released their debut EP …with Pestilence in December 2016 to wide acclaim, and followed up with their sophomore EP Infernal Seasons this past May. Offering up six tracks of brutal, unrelenting thrash metal that address themes of authoritarian oppression, Infernal Seasons serves to further cement the solid reputation Serperus has established for themselves, and demonstrates the progression of their songwriting skills and technical experimentation.

Infernal Seasons

The title track “Infernal Seasons” sets the tone with an onslaught of wailing guitars and Smith’s buzz-saw bass lines, propelled by thunderous percussion, courtesy of May’s relentless attack on his drum kit. Coogan delivers blistering riffs while Farrell snarls the searing and topically relevant lyrics that speak of the destruction and cruelty perpetrated upon society by ruthless leaders: “A charade, a means to construct the plague. The infernal seasons, the results of tyranny. Mother nature, down to her last legs. Deliverance, for us as the non-believers. Twisting tongues of the prophet, forcing catastrophic opinions.”

Serperus dials up the speed setting on the frenetic “Divulge,” the first single released from the EP.  As the band explained to online magazine Pure Grain Audio, “‘Divulge’ is one of the fastest and most intricate songs, featuring lots of twists and turns throughout. It is our personal favourite to play live and it is perfect to showcase what [we’re] all about.” And they’re not exaggerating about the song being fast and intricate – this beast kicks ass! The scorching, rapid-fire riffs blast through the speakers from start to finish with no letup, calling to mind the epic Metallica song “Hardwired.”

Into Ruin” opens with a mysterious intro of violin, xylophone, and piano before an assault of shredded guitars, hammering drums and crushing bass rain down like thunderbolts. This track’s a real head-banger, and once again our ears are treated to killer guitar solos, which continue unabated with “Deliverance Has Come.”  The song’s lyrics assert that mankind’s suffering will only be relieved by death. “Our fate is sealed. So choke on your last breath, as you sit and wait for the sweet release of death. Light begins to fade, humanity has failed, blinded by deceit, history repeats.

Perhaps the most melodically complex track on the EP is “No Vindication,” a six and a half minute-long tour-de-force. The song starts off slowly, with strummed electric guitar and heavy bass, then a hypnotic drum beat enters the scene, accompanied by Farrell’s calm, echoed vocals. The intensity ramps up with aggressive, shredded guitars and pounding drums,  Farrell’s vocals rising in ferocity to match the brutal instrumentals. We’re then thrust headlong into the hard-hitting closing track “Spirit in Black.” Unrelenting riffs of distorted & shredded guitars are driven by jack-hammer percussion, making this track an adrenaline rush on steroids. When the guitars fade out with a final crash of the cymbal, all you can do is catch your breath.

Even though it contains only six tracks, Infernal Seasons runs over 30 minutes, as they’re all fairly long. That fact, combined with the high level of intensity throughout its entirety, make it feel more like an album than an EP. A minor criticism I have is that some of the tracks sound quite similar to one another, however, the quality of the instrumentals and compelling lyrics more than make up for it. Overall, it’s a great EP that delivers the thrash metal goods.

Connect with Serperus:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and download for free on Bandcamp 

MEN WITHOUT ARMIES – EP Review: “Strapped & Loaded”

Men Without Armies is a hard rocking, guitar-driven metal band based in Nashville, Tennessee. The band was formed in 2013 by Canadian guitarist/composer/producer Brennan Dylan, and now includes lyricist Dude Diablo and drummer Derek Bachtold. The band is set to release their new EP Strapped & Loaded on July 20, 2017.

Before I get into my review of their EP, I want to provide a little background on the band and its founding member Brennan Dylan. Born in Vancouver, B.C., raised in Ottawa and then Toronto, he’s had a love and aptitude for music since early childhood. He began playing sax and composing music at the age of 10, and performed classical, jazz & swing in school stage bands. In his bio, Dylan states “When I was 14 I picked up a guitar for the first time; it was like I’d inherited freedom. My high school music teacher told me that guitar wasn’t an instrument. I ignored him and studied rock/metal guitar for the first year.

Brennan D as boy

He wrote rock and metal songs and, while still in high school, performed jazz, rock & blues improv guitar at a local club. He branched out and studied everything from Motorhead to Dick Dale to Bach. He was in a surf band one summer, then moved into electronic music, which he incorporated into hard rock/metal compositions. He eventually moved to Boston to study Performance Guitar at Berklee College of Music, then headed west to LA where he played the Sunset Strip as a solo artist, performing with some major acts, including Michael Angelo Batio, DeathRiders and Gorillaz at the Whisky a GoGo.

In 2010, Dylan released his first self-produced CD Bullet Ride, followed two years later by Broken Glass, which received positive reviews and radio play, including a CBS Radio interview and press in Performer Magazine, NME & Guitar World. In 2013, he dropped his third CD Raining in Berlin. Still restless, he relocated to New York City that same year, where he formed Men Without Armies, about which he explained:

That simple 3 man band was the formula I’d been searching for in the trees rather than the forest. Pure rippin’ metal has been coursing through my veins since I first picked up a guitar. My adventures to incorporate every genre that has a beat into my metal compositions was very necessary and still is. I want to study it all but most of all I want to become a better guitar player and composer. By straying from the herd I think that I can accomplish that…no one has a monopoly on anything, even a flat tire kicks off a beat. I may not like all music genres but I’ve always been able to find great guitar players and/or composers in all I’ve studied.

brennan dylan

Men Without Armies released their debut self-titled EP in 2014, and followed up in 2016 with Walking Through Fire. The band won the prestigious IMEA (International Music and Entertainment Association) award for Best Metal Group in October 2016. They’re now based in Nashville, and ready to drop their third EP Strapped & Loaded next month.

Dylan states that the songs on Strapped & Loaded took more than a year to create and, in the process, he literally became a ‘man without an army’ after the band’s original drummer and bass player/vocalist abruptly quit to follow other pursuits. He had written 53 new songs, which he whittled down to 20 and finally 12 that he fully developed into complete works. With his drummer and bassist now departed, Dylan played all instruments but drums (guitar, bass, keyboards and synths) and hired a session drummer for recording of the songs, as their time at Vibe Studio had already been booked. The vocals were sung by Vibe Studio owner Johnny Burke.

Dylan and Diablo eventually landed Derek Bachtold as their new drummer, and they’re currently recruiting for a new bassist/vocalist. They decided that Strapped & Loaded will now be a six-song EP instead of a 12 song album. But they also recorded the remaining six songs without vocals. Those six instrumentals have been amped with searing guitar solos which have become their trademark and something their fans have come to expect, so they will also be released as a follow up EP to be called Strapped & ReLoaded once they have a new vocalist on board to sing the lyrics.

About the new EP, Dylan explains: “Strapped & Loaded speaks about our times, and three of the songs have a military theme. The song “Strapped & Loaded” is the single and has a double meaning. Dude also wrote it to help give my mom strength and courage to battle her cancer. “Crash ‘n Burn” is all about Vegas. The title for “Fast Life in Hollywood” says it all. “The Gun Show” was written to help bring more awareness of living life inside of our inner cities, to those living the great life in places like Man Hat Tan – grab a coat, got a plane to catch, see ya man.”

Track listing:
1. The Desert Haunts Me
2. The Gun Show
3. Strapped & Loaded
4. Crash ‘n Burn
5. Fast Life in Hollywood
6. A Day in The Life

The Desert Haunts Me” kicks things off with a rousing, hard-driving beat and killer riffs. “It’s the trigger that sets me free. The trigger that sets me free. Bang bang bang bang. Brings the bullets right out of me. The bullets right out of me. Bang bang bang bang. Forced to kill. Enough to thrill. The desert haunts me.” “The Gun Show” ramps up the energy with a frantic beat and awesome rapid-fire riffs that really show off Dylan’s amazing guitar playing skills. The in-your-face lyrics speak to the endless bloodshed of gang violence: “Welcome to the gun show baby, with bullets flying. We’re all locked and loaded, spilling blood with people dying. Welcome to the gun show, and no one’s keeping count. It keeps rising, and rising and rising and rising.

Dylan unleashes his sonic weaponry on the title track “Strapped & Loaded,” with scorching hot riffs that do justice to the intense lyrics that describe the band’s mission and also Dylan’s mother’s battle with cancer. In his gritty vocals, Burke snarls: “Crashing through the gates, a burning hell. Never quit, always with horns up, never ring the bell. Punching stars, we’re rippin’ metal. This is our story for us to tell. Strapped & loaded we will go. There is silence in screaming. There is violence in dreaming. Bullets riddle my mind.

Crash ‘n Burn” offers up more hot, bass-heavy riffs and thunderous percussion, before all hell breaks loose on “Fast Life in Hollywood.” Frenetic guitar riffs, crushing bass and hammering drums make this track a real head-banger that gets the blood pumping, and Dylan’s guitar solo at the finale is jaw-droppingly fantastic!

My favorite track is “A Day in the Life,” a complex song with two distinct melodies. The track opens with a mysterious atmospheric synth chord, then explodes with snarling guitars, crashing drums and Burke’s gruff vocals singing the defiant lyrics: “Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we fight. Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we die.” The tempo abruptly changes to a beautiful melody, with gentler guitars, snare drums, and softer vocals, before the gruff, hard-driving melody returns for two more cycles, making this a musically exciting and compelling song. Dylan lays down one of his signature blistering guitar solos in the bridge.

If you’re a fan of heavy, guitar-driven metal rock, Strapped & Loaded needs to be part of your collection. Show Men Without Armies some love and support by following them on:

Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Reverbnation

Purchase it:  Reverbnation

EP Review: ONESTEP – “Haunting Satellites”

OnesteP is an alternative heavy metal band based in Kiev, Ukraine that plays hard-hitting rock with a message. I reviewed their excellent debut single “In War We Rust” in February, which you can read here, and they’ve now released a four-track EP Haunting Satellites.  Formed in 2011, OnesteP consists of Siddy on vocals, Eugene Sikoza on guitar & production, Taras Kolomoiets on guitar, and Bogdan Korol on bass. (The band also has a session drummer.)  Strongly influenced by the great bands Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, their intense music style is both fierce and melodically beautiful – always a winning combination in heavy metal. Having two guitarists plus a bassist also gives their music an incredibly powerful, complex sound that reaches all the way down into the core of your soul.

onestep

For their EP, the band stated they wanted ‘songs with deeply emotional lyrics about existential malaise and trends in modern society,‘ and do they deliver! The first track “In War We Rust” is a blistering protest against war, its lyrics a searing attack on mankind’s inability to change its behavior or take any responsibility for continuing to engage in wars: “Your satellites are haunting me and making me blind and I’m losing sight. Now look around and find your waste that you’ve made of this another site.

The instrumentals are as powerful as the lyrics, with razor-sharp shredded guitars, bone-crushing bass, and thunderous drums that are hallmarks of OnesteP’s sound, and setting the tone for the entire EP.  Siddy’s impassioned vocals are almost terrifying as he screams: “Crawl! Dig em’out! Fall! Pick em’ up! Destroy! Build it up! Got bored? Heat it up!

The ferocity of the music remains at full throttle on “Cold Revenge,” with the added bonus of rapping vocals, both clean and hardcore (that are also employed on the other two tracks “Illusion” and “Torment Chapter”).  I love the melody on this track, and the guitar work is outstanding. So too with “Illusion,” where the instrumentals and chord change-ups are quite good. I especially love the melodic flourish at the end of the track. On “Torment Chapter,” dramatic, menacing synth chords compete for our attention with thunderous shredded guitar riffs and an exuberant hard-driving beat, making for a great song.  Hell, they’re all great songs, and Haunting Satellites is a terrific EP.

Connect with OnesteP on Facebook,  stream their music on Soundcloud and  YouTube, and purchase on Bandcamp.

Song Review: ONESTEP – “In War We Rust”

onestep2

Nearly every day I receive submissions from artists, bands or their publicists wanting me to review or feature them on my blog, and I’m thrilled when their music is really good. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover a promising young band from Kiev, Ukraine called OnesteP. They play an intense style of alternative heavy metal, and just released their fantastic new single “In War We Rust” in advance of their debut EP, due for release this coming April.

Formed in 2011, OnesteP consists of Siddy on vocals, Eugene Sikoza on guitar & production, Taras Kolomoiets on guitar, and Bogdan Korol on bass. (The band also has a session drummer.)  Having two guitarists gives their music a muscular, hard-hitting sound that quite effectively delivers. Their music style is strongly influenced by the great bands Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, but the guys bring a fresh approach to their music. Like many new bands, they toured heavily the first few years, experimenting with their sound until they felt it fully represented who they wanted to be, then started writing songs for their first EP. Along with “In War We Rust,” the band states that their EP ‘will feature songs with deeply emotional lyrics about existential malaise and trends in modern society.’

In the band’s own words, “In War We Rust” is a protest against war and mankind’s fear to change its behavior or take any responsibility.  The lyrics are searing: “Your satellites are haunting me and making me blind and I’m losing sight. Now look around and find your waste that you’ve made of this another site.”  

The blistering track immediately hits you like a punch to the gut, leaving you breathless. It’s both savage yet melodically beautiful – always a powerful combination in heavy metal. Eugene and Taras shred their guitars to pieces, making them snarl, wail and scream with abandon, while Bogdan’s intense, heavy bass gives the track incredible heft. Toss in thunderous, hammering drums and Siddy’s fierce, impassioned vocals, and the result is a tremendously satisfying heavy metal track. I love it, and eagerly look forward to hearing their entire EP.

Support OnesteP by following them on Facebook. “In War We Rust” may be purchased on Bandcamp.

Album Review: TRAVERSE THE ABYSS – “The Gamble of Life”

If you like music that melts your face off, then Traverse the Abyss is the band for you! These guys from Scranton, Pennsylvania play metal so heavy, it’ll knock you on your ass. The first time I listened to their debut album The Gamble of Life I was blown away by the sustained, unrelenting fury of their instrumentals and vocals from beginning to end. The thing is, despite the crushing intensity of their music, it’s still accessible and highly melodic. As an added bonus, their lyrics are heavily peppered with “fuck” – my favorite word in the English language.

The band formed only a year ago, in early 2016, and spent much of the year writing and recording songs for their debut album, which was released in November. For the recording of the album, the band line-up included Eric Ross on lead vocals, “Iron” Mike White on lead guitar, Mike “Bnoc” Bieniecki on bass/backing vocals, and Phil Luongo on drums. Luongo left the band in January 2017 and they welcomed new drummer Nelson Negron and second guitarist Seth Cardona.

traverse-the-abyss

The music style of Traverse the Abyss draws from classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, groove metal, metalcore, hard rock, rock’n’roll and punk. In a conversation with band front man Eric via Twitter messaging, he stated “we are all fans of metal and all the different sub genres within it. We like to blend all our influences together to get a more unique sound compared to the monotony of most modern music. Instead of going towards an album with intentions of writing to appeal to only one crowd like some deathcore & death metal bands do, we write more based on the vibe presented.

Regarding the gambling/card theme of the album and song titles, Eric explained “The gambling theme came into play when we first started writing songs. The first two songs we wrote were ‘Royal Flush’ and ‘One of a Kind,’ and our guitarist said ‘what are we going with, a gambling theme?’ Gambling themed titles with a life reference in the song: ‘One of a Kind’ – be yourself; ‘Snake Eyes’ – death/bullets/hatred;  ‘Joker’ – being used/revenge.

The album storms out of the gate with the first track “One of a Kind.” No song lead-in here, but rather an instantaneous onslaught of pummeling bass, machine-gun riffs, hammering drums and Eric’s furious vocals. He screams “Am I the only one who follows his own path? Am I the only one that doesn’t live by a fad?” Halfway through, the song tempo changes a bit, guitars and heavy bass ablaze as Eric shrieks  “I would like to know, who the fuck you think you are? You act like you’re some sort of god.

Not skipping a beat, the second track “All In” explodes with a full-on assault of blistering guitars, powerful bass and fierce vocals. The song is a thrash metal/rock’n’roll gem, even containing a ‘sex, drugs, rock’n’roll‘ lyric. There’s no let up as the album segues to the brutally hard-hitting “Royal Flush.” Unbelievably, the ferocity of Eric’s hardcore, growling vocals reach new heights, and remain there in the intensely dark “21 or Bust.” He screams “Who do I ask these questions? Who’s got a fucking answer? I just want to know what’s the meaning of life.” Shredded guitars and more savage vocals are the highlights of the menacing “Snake Eyes.” By this point, I’m wondering if Eric has any vocal cords left!

I like every song on the album, but a favorite is the frenetic, punk-infused “Aces High.” Awesome, rapid-fire guitar riffs, buzzing bass and staccato drums keep the energy at full speed. Eric’s vocals alternate between clear and hardcore, and I love when he sings “woo” at 2:44, providing a bit of levity in an otherwise intense song. Speaking of which, the intensity dial is turned all the way to ‘High’ on “Diamonds.” The machine-gun-fire bass and hardcore vocals are positively brutal, yet we’re treated to some melodic guitar solos too. Eric growls “Fuck your Disrespect. Its funny now I see the people who support me. Just look over my shoulder and you’ll see the people who matter to me.”

Joker” is the perfect kiss-off – or should I say ‘fuck-off’ song – with furious instrumentals and vocals to match the searing lyrics: “Reap what you sow, don’t go crying to me./ To be honest, I think you should go fuck yourself!” The fury continues unabated in “Bullets“, with staccato riffs and hammering drums that literally sound like machine gun fire. The album closes with the superb title track “Gamble of Life.” The nearly six and a half minute song begins with a haunting distorted guitar solo accompanied by mysterious vocals, then abruptly changes to a rapid heavy metal beat. Bnoc’s staccato bass is at full throttle, with pummeling drums and shredded guitars keeping pace. Eric’s screaming hardcore vocals intensify in the last two minutes, and by song’s end I’m completely spent.

The Gamble of Life is an impressive debut album from this highly talented group of musicians. I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great music from them in the future. Support Traverse the Abyss by following them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Spotify. Gamble of Life may be purchased on iTunes and other music sites offering music for download.

Album Review: ASHES IN THE SKY – “Relentless”

Metal and Hardcore Rock – and all their variations such as Post-Hardcore, Metalcore, Death Metal, Death Core, Nu Metal, Groove Metal, Doom, etc. – continue to remain popular, with a steady number of talented bands making those types of music coming onto the scene. As a result of discovering several really good hardcore and heavy metal bands, I’ve become a bigger fan of those genres myself. One such band I recently discovered when their bassist contacted me about reviewing their album is Ashes In The Sky, a five piece hard rock/metal band from Long Island, New York. They released their album Relentless in July 2016, and it’s quite appropriately titled, with 11 intense, ball-busting tracks that will have you shouting fuck yeah!

Formed in 2010, Ashes In The Sky now consists of twin brothers and original members Patrick and Anthony “Javs”  Javino, and their ‘three best friends’ Dave Lombardo, Anthony Villani and Andrew Kohn. Javs plays lead guitar, Patrick hits drums, Anthony plays bass, Andrew sings lead vocals and Dave plays rhythm guitar and provides the brutal screams. They’re all from Long Island and share a strong passion for music. Like many bands, their sound is influenced by some of their favorite artists, most notably Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine, Disturbed, Pantera, Trivium, Drowning Pool, Queen, and even The Beatles.

ashes-in-the-sky

Relentless opens with the gorgeous one and a half minute intro track “Spread the Ashes (A New Fire).” A simple, haunting piano movement starts things off, then strings, guitars and percussion usher in a sweeping rock melody that builds until it explodes into the blistering second track “Here to Stay.” Metallica’s influence is really apparent in this song, with a barrage of rapid-fire machine-gun guitar riffs, pummeling bass and hammering drums. Andrew Kohn passionately sings, with Dave Lombardo screaming the refrains: “No more fighting now, we are all here to stay / Conflicted by your laws no, I will always remain.

The band launches a full-frontal assault on the title track “Relentless.” The song truly lives up to its name, with guitars so hard-hitting and dense that they feel and sound like heavy percussion. Patrick Javino’s speaker-blowing drums ramp up the song’s intensity to even greater heights, and the ear-splitting vocals are downright fearsome. This merciless track will blow the hair right off your head! The guys don’t skip a beat with “Euthanasia,” a bombastic hardcore anthem about fighting against mind-control. With their furious vocals, Kohn and Lombardo spit the lyrics  “Don’t be a pussy, what the fuck’s it gonna do? / Why can’t I just say goodbye? You made me control everything yet nothing at all. Before me there lies a path of destruction.” The song’s bridge contains a military-style chorus “I don’t know what I’ve been told. Your prophecies are getting old.”

The next several album cuts fuse melodic arrangements with the band’s signature heavy metal instrumentals. “Coward” is more straight-up hard rock, with stunning, complex guitar riffs, power drums, crashing cymbals and soaring vocals that implore “You’re nothing but a fucking coward, using love to get your way. So please don’t ask me if I think that you’re the one to blame.” This is one of my favorite tracks – if it’s even possible to have a ‘favorite’ as every track on this album is pretty phenomenal.

Empty Space” is a great melodic track, with more of the band’s killer guitar work and a combination of both heartfelt and fierce vocals. The compelling lyrics speak to feelings of loss from a failed relationship: “I’ll say anything to make you stay. But words won’t fill this empty space / What is my purpose? What am I fighting for?” “Rain” starts off with a beautiful, rather mournful melody accompanied by multi-textured guitars, strong percussion and Kohn’s impassioned vocals, backed by guest vocalist Lauren DeLorenzo. Halfway through, we’re hit with a sudden blast of staccato guitars and guttural screams, then an onslaught of incredible guitar solos guaranteed to raise goosebumps.

The band unleashes its sonic fury in “Torn Away,” one of the standout tracks on the album. This jaw-dropping song kicks major ass! The guitars and percussion are nothing short of monumental, and the vocals are classic hardcore. As if Kohn and Lombardo’s powerful vocals aren’t fearsome enough, Kohn’s brother Tim’s guest vocals on this track are positively brutal. They scream “WHY!? Did it have to end this way?  (Couldn’t I make it okay?) All that’s loved is lost as I am torn away.” By song’s end I’m left speechless. I love the powerful video showing the band performing the song in a barn.

The final three tracks – “What Makes a Man,” the bombastic “Ene(me)” and “Fractures” – serve up more helpings of the band’s rapid-fire shredded and distorted guitars and heavy bass, along with both emphatic and hardcore vocals. All three songs are great, each clocking in at more than five and half minutes. “Ene(me)” is particularly brutal.

Ashes in the Sky is one of the better hard rock/heavy metal bands I’ve come across, and Relentless is a superb album, without a single throwaway song. Support these guys by following them on  Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to their YouTube channel, which features several videos of Tony Javs performing guitar cover solos of heavy metal songs. Stream their music on Spotify or Google Play, and purchase on iTunes or Amazon.

Artist Spotlight – ToxSyn

I recently stumbled upon the uniquely talented singer/songwriter/musician Rikki C. Ricci, who goes by the artistic name ToxSyn. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, ToxSyn plays a formidable mix of heavy metal, industrial goth rock and 90’s grunge, influenced by Nine Inch Nails and Alice In Chains,  among others.  He began playing bass at the age of 14, and has been making music for over 30 years, playing in metal bands Quick Trixx, Back Alley Boyz, Gangster, Bent, Hand Over Fist, Social Strife, SKROU, WAZP and Paranoid, as well as a number of tribute bands.

ToxSyn is Ricci’s solo project, and he writes his own music and lyrics, plays all instruments and sings all vocals. The most notable aspect of his music is the awesome guitar work. He coaxes some killer sounds from his bass that give his songs incredible force and depth. This is readily evident in the head banger “Crumble To Clay.” The monumental bass line is a thing of wonder.

ToxSyn shreds his guitar to pieces in “Toxic Shock.” His furious, raw vocals and thrashing guitar convey the brutal aftermath of nuclear war. “Skin burning from atomic blast, biotoxic radiation. Toxic fallout happened so fast, nuclear eradication.”

The guitars in “Be My Evil” are so amazing that I actually prefer the instrumental version, where they’re on full display.  Again, the powerful bass propels the song forward, with layer upon layer of guitar riffs accompanied by pulse-pounding drums making this a sonically hard-hitting track.

Ricci told me he has more music projects planned, which I can’t wait to hear. He produces a series of documentary videos about his involvement with many cover bands, called “Rockin’ Adventures.” Here’s a recent one:

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, listen to his music on Soundcloud or Reverbnation, and purchase on itunes.