Friday, February 2, 2018

Retro Review: Crimson Glory, Transcendence

Image result for crimson glory transcendence

When the nightmares ensue,
all that you can do is
paint the sky another brighter
shade of blue....

Ok, its 2018. The 30th anniversary of one of the greatest and most under rated albums from one of the greatest and most under rated metal bands of all time...Possibly THE most under rated. Of course, I'm talking about Crimson Glory and Transcendence. I've seen several other bloggers review it, so I figured I might as well too. Crimson Glory is one of my all time favorite bands, and Midnight is my all time favorite singer.

I remember the first time I heard them. They had released a self titled debut album, but I hadn't heard anything off it. A friend of mine was wearing a Crimson Glory T-Shirt, and I asked him who they were. He told me to come sit in his car. The tape was already in his player, and he had been wearing it out. The song, Painted Skies was just ending, and Masque of the Red Death was about to begin. When the abrupt punch of that song's intro blasted through the speakers, I was blown away. I loved the sleek and sharp blistering guitar leads of Jon Drenning, as they made way for Midnight's opening vocals. "The pain lingers on beyond these castle walls...The red death is taking them all...While the king and his court dance the night away at the masquerade..The hour of Midnight grows near..." I had goosebumps. I asked him to rewind it, but he said no, and played Eternal World. My reaction? Astonishment. Speed metal never sounded so good, and Midnight's vocal range was something I had never heard before. I told him not to play anymore, and later that day, I went and bought a copy of my own. 

That album is a slam dunk. There's not a bad song on it, and if the Metal Gods had smiled on Crimson Glory, Painted Skies would have been (recognized in the mainstream as) one of the greatest metal ballads of all time. Same with Burning Bridges, but that song is more epic in length and content, and wouldn't have been given radio play unless they chopped it up and shortened it which would have been a crime.

You've heard people rant and rave about the production quality of Metallica's Black album or Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood? This album deserves to be in the discussion as the best. For example, I've honestly never heard drums sound like that before. They sound raw and live, yet also sound like they were done in the studio. You can also clearly hear the cymbals on this album, which is something that I can't recall where I've heard them in other songs. And of course the guitars and bass. You hear one lick from this album, and you'll know its them. Lots of work and money went into the making of this masterpiece.

Transcendence literally has everything that was popular at the time. Commercial appeal (although it was never a cheesy love ballad) in Lonely and Painted Skies, speed metal in Eternal World and Masque of the Red Death, a blast of thrash metal in Red Sharks (another stratosphere piercing offering from Midnight) Gothic metal with Where Dragons Rule (I'm sure there's a D&D dungeon master somewhere who plays that song each time his group starts a session) Power metal in Lady of Winter, and slow and creeping haunting metal with In Dark Places. And last but not least, an acoustic creepy feeling title track that made me feel like I was being watched the first time I heard it. This band literally put the metal world on notice with this album that they could do anything, and rule at it.

Unfortunately, we all know what happened next. The band signed with Atlantic Records, who put out a lackluster album, Strange and Beautiful that failed miserably to live up to its predecessor, in terms of song quality, and production.  Midnight left, and singer Wade Black, an extremely gifted singer joined to release the album, Astronomica. While better than Strange and Beautiful, it also failed to live up to Transcendence, and Black was eventually replaced with Todd La Torre, who is honestly the only singer I've heard that can capture every vocal nuance of Midnight's voice, and do the songs their well deserved justice. Unfortunately, the band wasn't ready to work, so La Torre left them to do the same for Queensryche. He's successfully replaced not one, but TWO metal legends. There's nobody else who can say that. Anywhere.

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Todd LaTorre with Crimson Glory

So, give this album a listen if you haven't heard it. You'll thank me. And, if you have heard it, give it another listen. Tell a friend about them. I've told quite a few people who hadn't heard them about them, and their reaction was similar to mine. One guy just shook his head, and said "Its a damn shame that nobody knows this incredible band. Nobody knows the bass player's or the drummer or guitarists name." I replied "You do now, and so do all of their fans, and their cult fanbase keeps growing." 

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Jeff Lords, Jon Drenning, Midnight, Ben Jackson, Dana Burnell

That's all I got for now. Writing this took my mind off this damn flu for an hour or so. Until next time, turn it up to 11!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Movie Review, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Every word of what you just said was wrong. 
The Rebellion is reborn today. 
The war is just beginning. 
And I will not be the last Jedi.

First off, let me just say that I won't be seeing 3D movies anymore. They make the movie too dark, and it can be hard to see at times. I tried to see the movie a few days ago, but I was so tired that I actually fell asleep in the theater. Not because the movie was boring, but I had been up for 24 hours straight at that point. I saw it again tonight, and I liked it. So, let's get on with the review, shall we?

Possible Spoilers

Right off the bat, let me put your mind at ease. This movie is NOT a recreation of any of the previous movies, like Episode 7 turned out to be. That being said, there are several nods to Empire and Return of the Jedi. And while one of them seems to be a recreation of the Hoth escape scene in Empire, let me ask you this...How else would you portray a situation where the resistance is camped out on a planet, and the First Order shows up, and they need to escape? There's not much more you can do with that scene, although what happened after they escaped reminded me more of Battlestar Galactica than any previous Star Wars movie. 

I have seen mixed reactions to this movie. I really don't understand how any Star Wars fan could dislike this movie. It was much better than The Force Awakens,  and is easily better than the prequels. Possibly better than ROTJ and even the original movie. I'm not ready to go there yet. It has a solid story, that isn't ruined by lazy plot devices like a map. You can easily follow this story, and everything that happens does so for a reason. However, there were things that didn't sit well with me. Not anything to do with the story as a whole, but more because this movie is over 2.5 hours long. The scenes on the island with Rey and Luke were a little long, and there is a scene where Finn and a new character go searching for a code breaker. That scene didn't need to be there in my opinion. But, it was still an entertaining sequence. It kind of reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie. 

This scene was fun, but unnecessary
The movie was basically the story of Rey's relationship with Luke, as well as Kylo Ren and Snoke's attempt to turn her to the dark side. She is brought before Snoke, and the conclusion of that scene is a real surprise. It leaves you wondering exactly will happen next, and the movie makes you wait. The movie also continues building Rey into a powerful Jedi as she sharpens her skills and power. So, its mainly about Rey, yet the other story there is the desperate last gasp of the Resistance, as they stare annihilation in the face.

At the end of The Last Jedi, I really came away liking Kylo Ren a lot more both as a character and a villain. He seems less spoiled brat, and is really growing as a dark side force user. I'm anxious to see where his character goes in the next movie. He appears to have an ability to contact Rey, and project himself to places that are light years away. This is a skill that shows up later in the movie as well, but it turns out that it isn't exactly as it seems. Kylo seems to be much better written here than in the previous movie.

We also get to see Leia in a much more important role here. There is a scene where Leia comes into contact with Kylo Ren, and he has a chance to kill her. I won't say if he does or not. My only gripe here is that we finally find out that she has force abilities. I just wish they had done it differently, because the way they did it is a little on the impossible side, even in the Star Wars universe. Still, it was nice to see her using the force. 

Poe Dameron, and Finn both have prominent roles in the story, and they really grow as characters. The showdown that we saw in the trailer between Finn and Phasma was very good, although I doubt we'll see Phasma in the next movie, which is unfortunate. Phasma is very well represented in that she towers over the rest of the stormtroopers. If you haven't read the book about her, you really need to. Its very good. You also see just how brutal the stormtroopers under Phasma really are. Poe really steps up as a leader, and Finn becomes much more dedicated to the cause.

Overall, as I said earlier, I was very happy with this movie. I think most Star Wars fans will be too. A couple random tidbits, we find out where blue milk comes from. Those little owl looking creatures are there briefly for comic relief, but they don't go overboard with them. Leia hugs Chewie. And, the new land walkers seriously dwarf the ones that we saw in Empire. We do learn Rey's origins, but we do not learn Snoke's. However, in retrospect, this is a good thing. If it was revealed to Rey, she would have no idea who he was referring to, and the scene likely would have been cut anyway. Maybe it was. Who knows. 

These new walkers are close to double the size
of the ones we saw in Empire.

I honestly don't get where all the negative reviews on this movie come from. Detractors were complaining about the lack of originality in The Force Awakens, and this movie is a fresh and original story. I never read reviews until after I've written mine, but I really do think this is one of the better Star Wars films. When I first saw The Force Awakens, I had to overlook the fact that it was basically a remake of the original film in order to give it a positive review. But, the more I watched it, the less I liked it. I deleted my positive review, and wrote this. I don't see myself doing this with episode 8. So, go see it! You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Heavy Metal Christmas! Geezer Style!

Ms J: Drums, Harvey Geezer: Vocals, Calvin Sizemore: 4 String Guitar
Leonard Geezer: Guitar and annoyed grunts, Lil Shoogie: Gangsta backup vox

Heavy Metal Christmas,
Rocking in the New Year!
Heavy Metal Christmas,
Show no doubt, show no fear!

When I first heard the dynamic super punk band from Miami, Geezer, I knew they were something special. I saw more energy from them (a band from a nursing home in Miami, FL where the youngest member was over 70 years old.) than I have from bands that are young enough to be their great grandchildren. I was worried yet confident that they would bounce back following the tragic death of drummer, Victor Farnsworth. The band delivered! They had an orderly fill in on the drums for a while, until they found a permanent replacement, Ms J. I can't decide if she's gorgeous or hideous, but I digress. 

Like I mentioned, the band delivers. And they continue to deliver. I've never heard of a band that takes each milestone that they achieve, or challenge that presents itself and beats them into submission with a cane, while challenging the next challenge to bring it on. But, you get used to it when you follow this band. 

Hey, Shoogie...Call me! I think Harvey has my number!

But, what milestone have they achieved now? This is impressive. This punk band has crossed over into the dark realms of heavy metal. Yep. They have released 2 Christmas songs that are available on CD Baby. A very creative punk version of Jingle Bells, that pays homage to Slayer, as well as an original song called Heavy Metal Christmas. That song blew my mind completely. Deep dark metal guitar riffs that pull influence from the young heavy metal whippersnappers in Black Sabbath. Guitarist, Leonard Geezer delivers a stunning lead guitar solo, and the song is just ominous and dark. But, while on the surface, its a classic metal masterpiece, the lyrics are just as cheerful and joyful as everything else we've come to expect from Geezer. 

Yep. That's what Heavy
Metal Christmas is.

So, go to CD baby right now, and buy these two tracks. You'll be a hit at your family Christmas party when you play these songs after a nice scrumptious dinner. When the Geezer Christmas CD comes out, it will take its place proudly in my CD rack along with Transiberian Orchestra, and A Twisted Christmas. 

Geezer has hit yet another home run in their quest to achieve rock super stardom. You gotta have a crossover song, right? Well, Heavy Metal Christmas is a punk into metal crossover, so there you go. Geezer: Doing it RIGHT!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Geezer Links:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hide Your Lawnmowers! Dead Serios is Back???

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Could it be? Central Florida comedy punk metal legends, Dead Serios are going to record a new album? That would be a quadruple badass surgery on my senses. That would make my year! My favorite band of all time coming (once again) out of retirement to show everyone how its done! This needs to happen! 

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Bear with me for a moment. Let me reminisce for a moment! I remember my long time best friend at one of their shows in the 90's, during their hit song 'Lawn Care Studs' going, and grabbing a REAL lawnmower, firing it up, and moshing around the pit with it as lead singer, DL Serios led the pit with his sacrificial Playschool lawnmower. I remember seeing 1500 people pack out the Power Station in Melbourne Florida to see the band open for a national touring act, and half the audience leaving after their set, leaving the national band wondering where half the crowd went. 

Dead Serios was the band that every local band wanted to be. They were loud, obnoxious, funny, and extremely talented, and EVERYONE loved them, and still does. You couldn't see them in concert for the first time and not love them. DL Serios is one of the greatest frontmen to ever step on the stage. Bassist, Joe Delcorvo is among the skill set of Steve Harris. Guitarist, Doug Gibson is an upper echelon shredder, who could easily match up with some of the worldwide greats. Drummer, Scooter Greenbud is one of the best drummers in Central Florida, and could fill in for any national band. So, am I excited about this possibility? You betcha!

Anyway, here's the story. Record label, Ghoul Tone Records, who released the Dead Serios tribute album in 2015 has contacted the band, asking them to record a new album. They are also re-releasing the entire Dead Serios catalog, completely remastered! SWEET! And, I was just thinking about asking DL for a bunch of the classic songs on MP3. So, I'm stoked. Now, I'll be able to get ALL of them! And, you will too. Now, we just have to convince the band to play more shows. We all need this. We need the standard setter for local bands back in action. Central Florida needs it. If the band can win enough new fans, we would have packed local shows again. 

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We NEED this!
Almost as much as we need Ozzy!

So, at this point, all we can do is hope. We'll probably get a new album, and the remastered catalog. But, in the meantime, here is the original version of the Dead Serios classic, Ranks of the Unemployed. Enjoy!

Yes, I'm a giddy little fangirl over the POSSIBILITY of a Dead Serios reunion.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Its Gerald's Tower! A Tale of 3 King Movies

There's a winning formula.
Its right there, if you
just keep your eyes open
Ok, as a long time Stephen King fan (minus his idiotic jabs at our president) I've seen many of his books adapted into movies for both TV and the movie theater. Most of them have not been that good, with a few exceptions, like The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, and a couple others. As good as the original TV series, 'It' was, it was actually pretty cheesy, with the only redeeming thing being the talent of Tim Curry as Pennywise. But, this year has been a gold mine for King, with 3 movies, and several TV series. We're going to talk about the movies "It, Gerald's Game, and The Dark Tower" because they were all big budget hits. Even though Gerald's Game was a Netflix movie, it could have easily been on the screen because its production value was equal to the other two.
There are spoilers coming!
We'll start first with It because its the biggest blockbuster of the three, and rightfully so. It was brilliantly done, and while it didn't follow the book verbatim, it made its own formula that worked. The book, and the first movie takes place while the group of kids as adults looking back and remembering events that took place during their first brush with Pennywise, the evil monster who eats kids to stay alive. What the 2017 version does is make it all take place when the kids were kids. No flashbacks. The next movie will cover the events as they are adults, returning to take Pennywise down once and for all. It was a great movie, and I imagine the next installment will be equally good. So, while this movie doesn't follow the book as written, it follows the book in content, just in a different order, which is a good thing. And, sorry, Mr. Curry...Bill Skarsgard owned the character. As much as it pains me to say it. Grade: A-
Next, we're going to talk about Gerald's Game. When I first heard they were doing this movie, I was skeptical. Most of the movie is a woman cuffed to a bed, with her fears manifesting themselves in her mind. I wasn't sure how it could be interesting. Well, leave it to Netflix, because they hit a home run. This movie follows the book verbatim. And, we see her memories, and hallucinations. There were a couple scenes from the book that were left out, but nothing that effected the quality of the story, unlike Cell which was careful to leave out anything cool and interesting that happened in the book. Grade: B+ 
Say it aint so!
And finally, we come to the last of the 3. I guess you could say that I saved the worst for last.  The Dark Tower series should be done AS A SERIES by HBO or Netflix. Period. Its too complex for a movie. Even for a series of movies. For one thing, the Roland character, played by Idris Elba is not black. If you've read the books, you know that I'm not making a racist statement by saying that. Just imagine a black character calling another black character 'Honkey.' It just doesn't work. Plus, several key characters were left out, and the one that they do use, Jake is nothing but a pawn in the books. There are 2 other characters who contribute much more to the story. Also, the "Forgotton the face of his father" chants that Roland and Jake recite. If you've never read the books, that makes no sense to you, and seems kind of silly. The 'Man in Black' played by Matthew McConaughey is in a struggle with Roland, but it doesn't end the way it does in the movie. Not even close. And, honestly, when I first heard about this movie, I figured McConaughey would be playing Roland. That would have fit, honestly. And, the Dark Tower itself is not remotely represented in the movie as it is in the books. Not even close. This movie is nothing more than Stargate meets Inception. Avoid this one if you haven't seen it yet. Grade: F
So, what's this formula? Its easy, Hollywood. JUST FOLLOW THE DAMN BOOKS! Look at It and Gerald's Game. They followed the books, and are critically acclaimed blockbusters. The Dark Tower was a flop. Look at the other movies that were huge successes: Christine, Cujo, the 2 I mentioned earlier, and others. What do they have in common? They followed the books, and are considered classics. The Lawnmower Man? The Mangler? Not so much. Just follow the books, and you'll get it right! It isn't that complicated!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Tale of 2 Sci Fi Shows: Orville vs Discovery

One of these shows
truly captures the
spirit of Star Trek...
The other does not.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a huge sci fi geek. I was raised on Star Trek Original Series reruns long before Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. But, Paramount has simply not been able to get it right in a long time. These rebooted Star Trek movies are horrible, and they pulled the plug on the Enterprise series in season 4, right when the show found its stride. So, they have created an all new show, Star Trek: Discovery, set before the events of The Original Series. Yep. A prequel of all things. Now, I'm not going to sit here and gripe about how the tech of today looks different from tech created in the 60's. That's a given, and to anyone who would gripe about that, I have one word for you. "DUH!" I'm going to do you a favor, and talk about the show itself, its characters and story lines.

Discovery cast

On the other side of the coin, Family Guy creator, Seth McFarlane has created a sci fi show called The Orville. It was billed as a spoof of Star Trek, with humor and antics that you'd expect from McFarlane. Did he overdo it? Did he get it right? Read on.

Orville cast

So, let's first start talking about the 6th official Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery. Minor spoilers ahead. First off, the series takes place several years before The Original Series. Any trekkie knows that the Klingon War takes place during that time frame. However, this series obliterates any of the canon that was established during Enterprise. For example, the lead up to the Klingon war, and the elephant in the room, the forehead ridges on the Klingons. Enterprise brilliantly explained why they looked so different in the Original Series vs how they look in the rest of Trek. That story is not only gone, but the Klingons look nothing like (or act nothing like) the Klingons of the older series...which in my opinion were the most badass looking. And, it gets worse from there.

You're saying we now look like
Ahh yes.
We demand honor!
If everyone politely agrees!

The story is of a first officer who committed mutiny against her captain in a standoff with the Klingons. Her mutiny failed, but had it succeeded, Starfleet likely would not be involved in a war. The captain of her first ship is such a wuss, that you are actually wanting her to get killed off. This is a major problem with this series. You can't get attached to any of these characters. There's nothing redeeming about any of them. But, our main character, (Michael Burnham...a female) the aforementioned first officer who committed mutiny is sentenced to life in prison, but is transferred to the USS Discovery, a science vessel that is no longer a science vessel. Its now a war vessel because Starfleet is at war.

YES, my name is Michael
YES, I'm a GIRL!

The whole premise is flawed. This series mentions that they have had contact with the Klingons for a while, but there is little known about them. Any Trekkie knows that this is total bullshit. Paramount and CBS are trying to show the Klingon war. And, there is nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that the writers seem to have never seen an older Trek episode in their lives. It really shows.

Personally, I liked Enterprise alot, but many critics said that it was dark and morbid...which it was, but with the exception of season 3, it really was Star Trek. Discovery seems to be just a war story with lots of over bearing CGI, lens flare, and explosions. It seems ironic that a show called "Discovery" is turning out to be yet another dystonian sci fi series where everything is WAR!

I mentioned the Klingons, and how they look nothing like the badass Klingons of previous series. I also mentioned overkill of CGI. Remember how the ships of the previous Trek series looked elegant and big? Well throw that out the window. Star Trek: Discovery has taken tips from the Transformers movies, and shown you so much CGI that you can't even tell what you're looking at. Take a look at this pic. Can you see anything???

Me either.

So, now that we have that out of the way, let's move on, shall we? The Orville.

Right off the bat, if you've watched ONE episode each of both these shows, you know that The Orville is a much brighter, and upbeat show. Its sci fi, but with fun, and honestly, its a realistic look at how Star Trek would be in real life. It has a chain of command, but its officers are allowed to be themselves. For example, in one episode, the captain calls for one of the bridge crew, who is in his quarters. The announcing officer says (paraphrasing) "Hey, Bortis, the captain says to get your ass up here." There are comedy breaks, but the feel of the show is exploration and...discovery. Hmmm!

Seth Mcfarlane takes jabs at everyone. And, speaking as a conservative, its refreshing to see that he is really giving his all to make this a great sci fi series. He could easily use this show to advance his liberal beliefs. But, he doesn't. In fact, there's an episode where he actually takes a view that opposes the liberal template. The storylines are very much Star Trek. This isn't a show (so far) that takes on an arc, like STD. Yes, I went there. Its an episodic roller coaster ride, with a fresh new story each week, with the crew learning something new after a white knuckle, brush with disaster. Sound familiar? The Orville is Star Trek!

The Orville uses a model.
Trek hasn't done that in years.
Models look SO much better than CGI.
What's not to love? Aliens, mistakes by the crew, practical jokes, and the wisdom that Gene Roddenberry made famous before his death. He would be proud of this series, and less of Star Trek: Discovery. For simply obvious reasons, the character development is MUCH better. I know more about every character of Orville in 6 episodes than I do of Discovery after the same amount of episodes.

So, while CBS is charging people to watch a crappy Star Trek series, Fox is giving you a real one for free. So, if you're unable to process the data handed out in this post, there is a new Star Trek series, however, a show that was intended as a Trek spoof is more Star Trek than an actual Star Trek series.

It pains me to say that, but its the truth. I'm still going to watch STD, but honestly, I look forward to The Orville more. Hands down, its a better show.

Live long, and prosper.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Album Review: Insatia, Phoenix Aflame

Better late than never...

I've had a very busy year, and I've been neglecting my blog lately. But, I had to review this album. Singer, Zoe Marie Federoff sent me this album to review over 3 months ago. She is not only one of my favorite guests of the radio show, she is one of my favorite people period. She's a sweetheart, and she's extremely talented, both as a singer and songwriter, and a good friend. She's also the only person who has taken me up on my offer to guest write on this blog. So, here's the review, better late than never.

Insatia is a power/symphonic metal band from Arizona, fronted by the lovely, aforementioned, Zoe Marie Federoff. Their latest album, Phoenix Aflame starts off with an intro, called Land of the Living. It has the feel of a metal opera presentation that hooks you pretty much right off the bat. Although, it doesn't really sound like anything else on the album. I thought that was a pretty cool little trick. Track 2, Act of Mercy is a heavy and driving number that showcases the ability of guitarist, Kaelen Sarakinis. He's a badass. Memory of a Sapphire is another power driven tune that has some beautiful harmony backing vocals. Sacred is a deep and powerful song with gritty guitar, and the harsh false harmonics on the guitar, made popular by Zakk Wylde. We Are The Grey has an anthem feel to it. The title track, Phoenix Aflame? Buckle up. This song is fast and heavy. A nice clinic on speed metal. Not My God is a sweet duet between Zoe and Spiritual Beggars vocalist Apollo Papathanasio. I'd love a chance to sing a duet with Zoe. Velvet Road is kind of a departure from the heavy aspect of the album. Its a ballad with acoustic guitar and keyboards, and creates visions of the Scottish highlands. 

Every track on this album is great. No fillers here, and its honestly hard to pick a favorite. Although, Act of Mercy, Not My God, Phoenix Aflame, Captor and Captive, Velvet Road, and Healer of Hatred are in the running. See what I did there? The musicianship on this album is top notch, and the musicians seem to gel together very well. This is a stellar lineup. 

Guitars: Kaelen Sarakinis, Bass: Dave Ablaze, Vocals:
Zoe Marie Federoff, Drums: Daniel Ted Milan
But, on top of the heavy metal greatness on this album, Insatia is joined by several more heavy hitters. The guest list includes Chris Amott (Armageddon, Ex-Arch Enemy), Apollo Papathanesio (Spiritual Beggars, Ex-Firewind), Erica James Foster (The Erica James Band), Christian Hermsdörfer (Serenity, Beyond The Black, Ex-Visions Of Atlantis), and many others. Produced by Fabio D'Amore (Serenity) and his partner Ivan Moni Bidin (Pathosray), as well as Staffan Karlsson.

If you want an album that will assault your senses, yet soothe your soul, then Insatia's Phoenix Aflame is for you. Zoe's vocals are haunting, sensual,  powerful, and sweet all at the same time. She's a great singer, and the band is all on the same level with each other. You'll swear this lineup has been together for years, but its only been a couple. 

So, what else can I say? Buy this album, and turn it up to 11!