[Metal/Doom] Trees Of Eternity – Hour Of The Nightingale

I wish I could have reviewed this album in a better context, but I also wanted to review this album in the memory of late Aleah Stanbridge. Aleah left us that day last year, leaving us orphan with her only album “Hour of The Nightingale”.

I started to know Aleah only after learning her death from the announcement by Juha Raivio (Swallow The Sun) last year. Sadness and tears came by listening to her ethereal  and melancholic voice, perfectly matching to the gothic and doom metal artistic style harbored by the album.

“Hour Of The Nightingale” is a 10-track album totaling 63 minutes of beautiful doom metal tracks. The album starts with “My Requiem” introducing us to Aleah’s voice and to familiar tunes, as Juha from Swallow The Sun collaborated heavily on this album, among other Finnish metal artists. It is minimal but so heavily laden with emotions through the lyrics that it infuses you with the melancholy of nostalgia. The descent in the melancholy continues with “Eye Of The Night”, “Condemned To Silence”.

“A Million Tears” brings on the doom and the gloom, making it one of my favorite. Melancholic tunes, the ethereal voice of Aleah and the lyrics loaded with sadness and full of sorrow, making it hard to keep on your tears. It wrenches your mind and makes the mourning even more painful, even after a year.

“Hour of the Nightingale” and “Broken Mirror” may sound a bit more cheerful, with a touch of sludge metal (a sub-genre in the doom metal involving an infusion of Southern metal)  in it but it is still loaded with emotions.

“Black Ocean” gives this atmospheric doom tunes that providing a soothing moment, with a remarkable instrumentation and melodics. Finally, the album closes with “Sinking Ships”, leaving us ashore with a melancholic ballad and with “Gallows Bird” featuring Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost). Minimalistic but so powerful, making a perfect bond between one pillar of Gothic/Doom metal and a new generation.

It is a remarkable and flawless album, solid as a granite tombstone, with no imperfections. Considering this was her first album, it was a remarkable piece of artwork that very few artists could master at this stage. There is no filler, there is no weak tracks. All tracks are remarkable, yet each of them with the unique identity but all sharing the same converging point: the sadness, the melancholy and the mourning of loosing our dearest.

Aleah left us taken by cancer, roughly in the same time that one of my beloved uncle also got taken away by the same type of disease (very unlikely the same type of cancer, but from the metastatic cancer cells that have spread inside his body). We came far with our fight against cancers (because each cancer is somehow unique) but we are still far over on winning that war. Until then, we will loose more talented and affectionate people from it.

RIP Aleah 😦

[Metal/Gothic Metal] Within Temptation – Enter (20th Anniversary Release)

Today marks the 20th anniversary release of the first album of the Dutch Gothic/Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation.
What I can tell is after all these years, this remains my most favorite album by the band. Why?
Probably this perfect blend of doom, gothic with a pinch of symphonic metal and of course Sharon Den Adel alias “Angel Voice”.  It may also because it was the heaviest album they had in their whole discography. The album is an 8-track album totaling 46 minutes.
It starts with “Restless”, a minimal but nicely starter allowing to appreciate Sharon’s voice. A classic of all WT song. The second track, “Enter”, brings on the heavy guitars, Robert Westerholt growls and Martijn Westerholt (Delain) on the keyboards. This gives this magic formula that makes “Enter” such a good song, giving this magical and gothic feel. The third track continues in distilling this magic “Pearls of Light” with Sharon taking the lead with the sounds of the harp. Listening to this song brings this soothing relief, followed by the lead guitars smashing the heavy tones into it and giving this bipolar tunes between the heavy from the guitars and the lightness of the keyboard.
“Deep Within”, the fourth track is in the continuation of the tone of the whole album. Nice but I always felt it was the weakest of all songs, considering the whole album standing strong like a rock. “Gatekeeper”, the fifth track of the album, is my favorite of all. Heavily gothic and influenced by elements of doom metal, it is dark and gloomy with a crescendo in the instrumentation slowly adding the heaviness and boldness. I lost my voice each time I try to keep on Sharon’s frequency notes.
“Grace” is another good song (Nº6 song), especially the second half of it as Sharon takes on the main part. It is also reflecting the heavy influence of Kate Bush on Sharon singing style, using the same song dynamics than the latter used to. “Blooded” is the instrumental track of the album, a finely arranged piece that really marked the band with their signature. “Candles”, the last track, is another jewel from the album by keeping the same flow of “Gatekeeper”. It is so beautiful to listen, with its melancholic tones and Sharon soothing voice all over, only to get shaken by the heavy guitars and Robert’s growl.
If I had to go to exile with only one album from my favorite bands, this is the album I would take from Within Temptation without an hesitation. This is where I found they had their best blend and musical style before they sailed into other directions that were not following my ears.
My only wish is as we mark the 20th anniversary of that release is that the band decide to rediscover this rich and engaging style that made them at the frontier of the symphonic metal scene.

[Metal/Gig] Sweet Iris/Red Beard Wall/The Ditch & The Delta/ Rozamov – Zombiez Bar @ Yellow City (03/19/2017)

Having metal gigs in Yellow City is not common, having a doom metal band performing is even rarer than a blue moon. However, that does not mean it will not happen. It is all about probability and last night it happened.
Yes, the date was awkward (Sunday for a gig is maybe not the best night to play a concert) but it was indeed a very kind gesture from the bands to stop by and play at the Zombiez Bar (the local spot for any metal gig in YC).
The gig started with Sweet Iris (?), playing some good old psychedelic rock as a warmup, giving the vibes of the early 70s scene, including early keyboard arrangements. I could not find more about the band, so if they recognize themselves please let me know.

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The second band playing was Red Beard Wall (Plainview, TX), a a skeleton crew metal band raising the potentiometer into heavier stuff and bringing on the heavy riffs as the night was settling.

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The third band to perform was the Ditch and The Delta (Salt Lake City, UT) bringing on the heavy stuff (https://theditchandthedelta.bandcamp.com/releases). The sound was becoming heavier and slower, just in time, bringing the doom metal atmosphere as the night became darker and colder.  These guys are touring around Utah and it was a pleasure to have them come in town. If you are living around Utah watch out for their gig, some good stuff. Also a kudos to the drummer, a headbanger and Trekkie fellow :).

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Finally, the “plat de resistance” was Rozamov (Boston, MA; https://rozamov.bandcamp.com). I did not realize these guys were from Boston and one of the guitarist was fairly surprised to see me harboring a “Armageddon Records” tee. It was pure coincidence when I was picking my tee prior attending the concert. I bought it when I was touring Boston last summer before attending a scientific meeting (I take a couple of hours during my scientific meetings to visit local metal records store as we have no more record shop in town, leaving Best Buy the only store selling physical copies). Finally, listening to some doom played live was worth the waiting. I have to salute the band decision to stop by YC on their way to Albuquerque (playing there this evening) and playing in town. It was heavy, slow and depressing, as you expect from any doom. Really some good stuff to try if you have been running over your Candlemass, Ahab, My Dying Bride and looking for some fresh tunes to listen, you should give them a try.

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If I had an only wish, I wished they were playing in town during a weekend evening. Starting a Monday sleep-deprived is not the best idea but honestly for the evening I had it was worth.

[Gothic Metal] Anathema – Eternity (20th anniversary)

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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Anathema “Eternity” album. If you dont know who Anathema is and into Gothic/Doom Metal, then you have to review your knowledge.
Anathema is an essential piece of the unholy trinity of the Gothic Doom Metal genre, along with My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost.
“Eternity” is what got me interested into Gothic and Doom Metal. When I was young, I was  old enough to listen to my older brother tapes and songs (as we shared room). My brother was big into New Wave, in particular “Depeche Mode”. I liked it too but I was also interested by “the Cure”. Of course, I did not get the proper introduction to it as my brother was referring it as “music for girls”. Then I reached my 10th year birthday and got into something much more tough, listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden and AC/DC. In high school, to get into Gothic Metal you had to hang out with the right friends, thing I wish I did retrospectively. Long story short, I got into Gothic/Doom later during college by listening to the Gathering and Lacuna Coil. Among tapes and CDs exchanged with classmates, I came into Anathema via “Eternity” and boom that was it. Something heavier than The Cures, much slower than Metallica but having the same vibes than The Gathering but also having darker lyrics. That was just in time in my life when I was into a depression. It helped me cope into it, giving this vector for catharsis of my depression and coping with a lost love.
The album is very pivotal in my opinion as the band transitioned from doom into gothic metal and that has evolved later into more accessible and more mainstream “indie rock”. It has still some of the heaviness of their previous albums, but also a lot of experimentation with progressive tones and keyboard that surely influenced me to move into symphonic metal.
If I have to pick one song from the album, it is certainly “Sacrifice”. It is starting very slow like any Gothic Metal song, with the romanticized lamentation and sadness, followed by the catharsis and excruciating pain to relieve such sufferance and at the end giving you the ability to move on with your life. A couple of weeks, there was a Twitter discussion about how music is associated with activation of certain area of the limbic system. One of the point was what did we have evolved some attraction to tones we qualify as sad. This album is the perfect example of why: by giving a cathartic vector to our sadness and depression, music can help us exteriorate it and help us move on with life.

[Metal] France National Day: A time to celebrate some French Metal bands

Today is France National Day. We celebrate the breakdown of the Bastille, a famous prison  that incarcerated folks from common misdemeanors to political dissents that dare to question the Royalty decisions. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and revealed French rebellious nature. Up to today, French are notorious for their demonstrations, strikes and rants on any form of political correctness. Is not what metal is about?

I felt it would a great time to list some of the French metal bands I have encountered and before I introduce you to them, I would like to thanks Geo Theoneandonly (https://geotheoneandonly.wordpress.com) that have doing a great job in promoting small bands from the gothic and symphonic metal genre on his Facebook group.
Some people say that the French metal scene is dead and moribund, if even you consider it exist. If you think about absolute numbers (numbers of metal bands/inhabitants), Scandinavian countries blows up by far. But I would disagree with it and tell that such argument is valid only if you keep on mainstream and do not enters the rabbit’s hole and if you value quantity versus quality. Because deep underground, you have a plethora of very good bands that don’t have access to promotion tools as big players but have social media and crowdfunding tools to have them thrive and soar.
I have decided to include bands from the French-speaking parts of Belgium and Switzerland inside the list, as part of cultural and linguistical similarities in this list.
This being said, let’s start with my favorite lists, all bands have been sorted by alphabetical name.
This is an update of my previous post (back in 2015), I have updated some bands and added new bands too. Also if you like to learn more about French FFM, I would highly recommend to follow Femmes du Metal Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FemmesDuMetal/?fref=ts). The admin is very good at digging such bands.
If I missed anyone, please let me know. Kick me on social media, maybe you will make it for next year.

Adrana (Tours – France):

If I have to say something about Adrana, it is certainly Anne’s voice. Surely the best French female opera voice in the French metal sphere and easilly rivals with other singers more established as Tarja, Simone or Sharon. A professionally trained soprano singer, Anne’s voice litterarly blew my mind the first time I heard. Up to date, they have three albums, with their latest “Foreshadow” released last fall. It is bold, gracious and elegant in the same time. If you are looking for some bold metal with an opera atmosphere and a soprano singer, Adrana is certainly the hidden gem amongst the French metal scene.

Alkemy (Genève-Switzerland):

Alkemy is a very new band from Romandie (French-speaking Switzerland). The band have been so far touring and singing music cover. The originality of the band is to host two founding female front-singers, Katia and Jess. So if you want to hear them, you will have to see them performing live.
If you want to judge their vocal qualities, look up for their cover of “Ghost Love Score”, my golden standard for comparing singers to Tarja. Very good start for a new band. Lets see now how they can transform into some artistic creativity.

Alwaid (Lille-France):

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Alwaid is a gothic/symphonic metal band from Lille, as we call in French “les chti’s”. They have a full album “Lacus Somnirum” released in 2014 and for a first album, it is very good. The female singer is fairly good and overall this gothic/doom metal atmosphere of the band reminds me the first releases of Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation, when the gothic metal scene was just opening for female-fronted bands. A nice group to discover especially if you are living in Northern France and Belgium (as they tour locally).

 

Azylya (Brussels-Belgium):

Azylya is a gothic/symphonic metal band from Belgium. Altough they have been founded in 2009, they have only one full-release listed: “Sweet Cerebral Destruction” released in 2013. Its style reminds me something very close from Evanescence, with a darker tone. Jamie-Lee Smit (the front singer) is very active on social media and one of the friendliest singer in Geo’s Facebook group. You should definitively try if you are looking for something in the vein of Evanescence a step heavier and darker.

 

Blazing War Machine (Marseille-France):

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Ever wondered how Dimmu Borgir would sound as a  French FFM band? Then you should try Blazing War Machine.  Irina knows to growl, and growl in very low frequency range, things than even Alissa White-Gluz or Angela (the gold standard in terms of female growls) do. Watch out, this is some brutal melodic death metal.

 

Bloody Melody (Tours-France):

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Bloody Melody is one of these new talents with potential. They play in a ground not too much, something more like gothic metal/alternative metal with their first EP “Gates of Mind”, that have this old good sound, something intimate but very engaging. Their EP is available to download on iTunes and have no news of any full-release album.

 

Darkonelly/Erzebeth/Marion-Lamita (Dijon-France)

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Darkonelly was a doom metal band from Dijon fronted by Marion-Lamita Peubey. She concluded Darkonelly and currently started a new project called Erzebeth. What I am still referring to Darkonelly then? For a simple reason. Opera voice with doom metal! Doom metal is always linked to guttural growls but this is first time I ever heard a soprano voice into a doom metal band. And a damn good soprano she is, pitching in very high vocal ranges. Marion one of the highest opera soprano vocal I have ever heard in any band. It is just mesmerizing. She is very talented to attract you to their first EP “Stories from Beyond”, especially if you are like me attracted to high pitch soprano voices. You don’t believe me? Listen to her track “Beneath The Mask”. If you have an auditory cortex that tilt on soprano voice, you will enjoy it. Add on top of it melancolic melodies and lyrics and I would recommend it if you want to “broyer du noir”. You can listen to their first EP via Bandcamp and give them some retribution if you like it. When Marion announced she ended Darkonelly, it was a sad moment but she said she will continue to do some metal as Erzebeth but also as a solo career as “Marion-Lamita” (https://www.facebook.com/marion.lamita.solo.project/?__mref=message_bubble).

 

Dreamslave (Lyon-France):

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Dreamslave is a power symphonic metal from Lyon. At this date, they have one full album “Rest In Phantasy” available. What I can tell? Well some fresh air, something powerful with melodic tones. Something you would expect if you blended Nightwish and Sonata Arctica together. Emma Elegy is doing a great job in giving some dynamism in the band. This brings a fast-paced, loud and enjoyable melodic power metal French band.

 

Ethernity (Brussels-Belgium):

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Ethernity is like Azylya another band from Belgium. Ethernity however is playing in another register and more into the progressive metal genre, just to warn you about it as it may sound different. They have one album released in 2015 named “Obscure Illusions”. The instrumental part is sounding awesome and Julie Collin-Spreutels voice is playing in another domain than symphonic voices I are accustomed to listen. A great alternative from lyrical voices and growls.

 

ETHS (Marseille-France):

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ETHS is one of the few female fronted death metal band that sing in French. More recently, the band were under the spotlight with Rachel Aspe’s performance in the French version of “America Got Talent” by bringing the growls on prime time. Surely it shook to see that girls know to growl too. The band just released their latest album “Ankaa”.

 

Heonia (Lille-France):

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If folks of Northern France know about (les Chtimis as we call them), they know about to rock. They were the bedrock of the whole coal industry during the 19th and 20th century and know what it means to experience the hardness and blackness of life. This need of rage and anger surely percolated into Heonia, giving a loud and tense metal band with the melodic voice of Marieke. Their latest album “Portraits” is available online and in physical copies.

 

Inhepsie (Paris-France):

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Inhepsie is another French gothic metal band singing in the “language de Moliere”, a very nice metal band with symphonic and atmospheric elements. This is some of the gems that you would never see in any French TV or even hear in the French FM station. This is lame, because there are bands like this that are very nice flagship of the French metal scene.

 

Lethian Dreams (?-France):

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If you ask me what I would recommend to listen when you want to just get into a spleen and dark mood, I would answer doom metal. Doom metal has this cathartic ability to raise my darkest side of me, filled with sorrow, melancholy and broken heart. Sometimes I feel to cry on my lost loves, on my lost friends. It reminds us how mortal we are and that we will one day all die. Doom metal was something big in the 1990s but receded during the last decade.
I discovered that band through Geo on his webpage and it was love at the first listening. It is minimalist, but hell it is dark and depressing. Add on top the soft voice of Carline, it gives this atmospheric doom metal that you need to drown your sorrow in a rainy day. The band has three full-albums, all of them with very high standard. This is certainly a band I would not recommend to those with depressive and suicidal thoughts but in the age of “emos/screemos/schmeemos”, this is a good reminder what doom metal is and nothing beats doom metal if you want to drop a tear on your lost loves.

 

Midnight Sorrow (Strasbourg-France):

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Midnight Sorrow is a symphonic metal band that I particularly follow as they are from Strasbourg, my hometown. So it is always grateful to be able to support local band, especially for such a band showing already some high-caliber. Surely, they don’t have yet a full album, just an EP “At first”, but you can already feel the quality of it. It is taking straight roots from Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica by crafting the symphonic elements very nicely. Mauween has a very nice voice and we have some very good “Beauty and the Beast” duet here. Their first Indiegogo campaign to finance their first full-album “Pick A Tale” was a success and after some delay should be released by fall.

 

Oxy Hart  (?-France):

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Oxy Hart is what I call a free electron as she has mostly a solo career interacting with different metal bands such as Seadem, Nimrod and Experiment No Q. The caveat of it is there is at this point not a full-release or EP I can share but a video she guest vocalized for Seadem in their track “Cathedrale”.

 

Pray Manticore (Toulouse-France):

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If you are looking for something more brutal, like death metal with female growls, you should give a try to Pray Manticore. Still a band in their infancy, with an EP and a full-release album yet to be named and scheduled for delivery. Who said that French girls cannot growl?

 

 

Pyrah (Strasbourg-France):

Pyrah is another band from Strasbourg, so again very honored to support a band that has some potential. Very good starter with their first album “Where am I?”. The band is still not defining in a particular genre, but for me sounds more in the progressive metal genre. Give a try and see if you like it. If yes, go and support them through Bandcamp.

 

Seyminhol (Metz-France):

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If there is some genre and equivalent we are maybe missing in the French metal scene, it is maybe on the melodic progressive metal, something similar to Kamelot. I guess this is where Seyminhol is maybe building this niche. It feels a lot like Kamelot and if you like Kamelot you should give a try to this band.

 

Veil of Mist (Reims-France): 

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As I have previously mentioned, my list is fairly biased because I have listed bands I have been exposed on social media and clicked in their music. But it also mean I have a lot of them that went under the radar. If you are not visible on social media, you are not visible at all and you are missing an opportunity to be shared.

Fronted Female Metal of Europe nicely replied to my post and asked why Veil of Mist was not in my list. The simple answer is “if I don’t hear or see you, I don’t know you exist”.
Veil of Mist is a dark/progressive metal band of France that has some gothic and doom metal inspiration, reminding me a lot of the early days of Lacuna Coil and the Gathering. They have released early May their first full-album “Disenchantement” and based on their official video, it seems some good stuff I will put my hands on for further listening.

 

Whyzdom (Paris-France):

Finally, “la piece de resistance” as we call it in France. One of the best symphonic metal album this year “Tears of a Hopeless God”. Whyzdom is certainly a veteran among all other bands listed as it was formed in 2007 and have three full album releases. The band is from Paris and have witnessed three different front singers, one for each album (Clementine Delaunay, Elvyne and Marie McLeod) but Whyzdom is the French Symphonic Metal to what French wine is: it just getting better as it getting older. “Tears of a Hopeless God” naturally explored the symphonic approach by Vynce Leff earlier in “Blind” and brought this very nice piece of “baroque” that make themselves different from other Symphonic metal. The fluff and the puff that made Versailles so French!
Marie voice is just getting better and better and have less the “French accent” that Elvyne had in “Blind” and I believe Vynce found the winning formula for the band. For 2015, this album remains the highest rated of all the album I have reviewed on my blog, so it tells you something.

[Gothic Metal] Evig Natt – Evig Natt (90%)

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Evig Natt……a band name that I never heard about a month ago. Evig Natt is a gothic-metal/doom-metal band from Karmoy, Norway. If you came to me a month ago, I would have said “Who are they?”. Then I heard about the band by honorably ranking in the Female Metal Voices Winter 2016 organized by Geo (geotheoneandonly.wordpress.com) #5 behind some big shots in the FFM scene such as Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp, Nightwish) or Simone Simons (Epica).
However, I got a lot on my plate during this month and my interest felt out of the scope due to some distraction. Then Kirsten, the lead singer nicely contacted me on my blog and I gave a try to their last album named “Evig Natt” (that translates into Eternal Night) recently released and available through Bandcamp and iTunes.
I got their album and put it into my iPhone for my commute test. What I can tell, that was a shocker for me, I was “how come I missed that one?”. Imagine a parallel universe in which Within Temptation did not deviate from their artistic choice with their freshman album “Enter”. Remember when Within Temptation was releasing that milestone in doom metal 20 years ago? How magic it was and still is? Remember that heavy, loud tunes and bass shreds, mixing the growls from Robert with the pristine voice of Sharon?
This was the first thing I felt when the sound into the speakers. It is loud, fast tempo drums that you would expect from a death band, yet with the lyrics and the bass shreds from a doom metal band. Scandinavian bands have “je ne sais quoi”, this ability to translate the most melancholic and darkest thoughts of the human psyche. Dimmu Borgir, Tristiana, Sirenia, Amorphis, Dark Tranquility………..
Tracks like “Bringer of Ice”, “Weathered Emotion”, “Silence Falls” brings you back to what Nordic mythology can evokate through Ragnarok: Cold, frostbiting, heavy and dark.
It is heavy, loud, majestic and despite some Norwegian tracks such as “Stille for Stormen”, they remain highly enjoyable and don’t need to know the meanings to understand the sadness and melancholic lyrics carried by. Kirsten voice is nice and highly reminds me Sharon Den Adel’s debut. If you want some clues, listen “Wildfire”, a very acoustic and intimate piano session in which Kirsten takes the front row of everything. Simply majestic. I don’t know why but this is what caught me in getting in love with this album. Part of me that was in love with “Enter”. There are so many FFM that are in the Symphonic Metal that sometimes you feel oversaturated and looking for something much more heavier and gloomy, yet without to face the constant growls. There are times you are just looking for an introspection in your darkest and most depressing side of yourself and looking for that doom metal album that will help you in the catharsis.
This is my March album of the month. You should give a try if you are into Gothic and Doom Metal. This is not for the fainted of the heart but this is why I love about it, that sometimes you are reminded of some of the most melancholic events of your life that the dust of time will just hide until undusted.
To give you a sneak peek of the album, the band has officially posted the “How I bleed” track on Youtube. If you like them, please support them and buy their album.