THERION – Symphonic Metal

Therion is a pioneering Swedish symphonic metal band founded and led by multi-instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist Christofer Johnsson. Originally designed as a death metal band, Johnsson took the name from the Celtic Frost album To Mega Therion. By the time they issued their third album, 1993’s Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas, Johnsson remained the only original member and Therion’s sound began an evolution toward doom metal with electronic and avant-garde elements. For 1996’s Theli, the band’s sound adopted Persian modes and scales, and was performed by a rock quintet, two classical choirs, a simulated orchestra, and an army of keyboards. 1998’s Vovin found Johnsson recording with completely different musicians than he toured with, while 2001’s Secret of the Runes was based on lyric themes from the nine worlds of Norse mythology.

Johnsson inexplicably added covers of the Scorpions’ „Crying Days” and ABBA’s „Summer Night City” to that concept album. In 2004, the band released Lemuria and Sirius B simultaneously – 171 musicians participated in the recording sessions, including the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and a 32-voice classical choir. 2007’s conceptual Gothic Kabbalah featured five vocalists – three females and two males – amid their most ambitious musical settings and prog rock production tropes yet. 2010’s Sitra Ahra was a perfect meld of Therion’s classical aesthetics and doom metal. 2012’s Les Fleurs du Mal consisted of covers of French chansons and pop songs performed in the band’s symphonic style. In 2017, Therion issued the three-hour rock opera Beloved Antichrist. They followed with the first volume in the Leviathan project in 2021. Each album sought to reflect the different sonic eras in the band’s history while delivering all new material. Leviathan II followed in 2022.

In January 2021, Therion issued Leviathan. Written by Johnsson and Vikström, it was conceived as a trilogy to give fans a solid, end-to-end trilogy of „Therion hit songs,” even though all the material was current. The set’s personnel lineup featured the return of Koleberg on drums, and included a guest vocal appearance from Nightwish bassist and vocalist Marko Hietala. Leviathan II, issued in October of the following year, revisited the mystic, melancholic sonic aura of their groundbreaking 1998 work, Vovin, while the projected third entry, plotted for September 2023, would focus on the band’s „braver orchestral songs.”


TRIPTYKON – Doom Metal

Switzerland’s Triptykon is a truly avant-garde, extreme rock band. Their sound simultaneously embraces doom, gothic, black, and more recently, symphonic metal. They were initially intended as a side project of Tom Gabriel Fischer’s (aka Tom Gabriel Warrior), the group’s singer, guitarist, keyboardist, and principal songwriter, so it makes sense that their sound is steeped in tension and darkness as well as dissonance and experimentation, as evidenced by their 2010 debut offering Eparistera Daimones. Since that time, they haven’t exactly been prolific, but are readily visible as a prime mainstay at heavy metal festivals and concert halls. Their second album, 2014’s Melana Chasmata, was even more compressed and dynamic than their debut. Warrior is always at work, writing, arranging, and experimenting with recording techniques, but he seldom issues finished records given his standards for perfection.

Triptykon was established in May of 2008 to further develop the musical directions instigated by its predecessor, black/extreme metal pioneers Hellhammer and, in particular, Celtic Frost: both bands were founded or co-founded and led by Warrior. Triptykon was so named to identify it as his third major project. Singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter Warrior assembled the group in order to complete a project begun by Celtic Frost that remained unfinished when they permanently split in 2008. In addition to their founder, the initial lineup included guitarist/vocalist V. Santura (Dark Fortress), bassist Vanja Slajh, and drummer Norman Lonhard (ex-Fear My Thoughts). The band debuted in 2010 with the globally acclaimed album Eparistera Daimones (with cover art by Warrior’s close friend H.R. Giger), on Century Media. It was reissued later that year with an added five-track EP entitled Shatter as a box set called Eparistera Daimones: The Complete Sessions. The band took to the road and won over fans across Europe, becoming a top festival draw. While many critics considered their debut a logical conclusion to the experiments Warrior conducted with Celtic Frost, it also showcased his anger with his former bandmates.

In 2016, Lonhard left Triptykon and was not immediately replaced. The following year, Warrior was commissioned by the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg to create and perform material. He’d been struggling with the conclusion of a multi-part Celtic Frost triptych called Requiem for more than three decades. While its first part, „Rex Irae,” had appeared on 1987’s classic Into the Pandemonium, its seeming conclusion appeared almost 20 years later on the Celtic Frost reunion offering, Monotheist, in 2006. Working with Triptykon and specially curated brass, string, and percussion musicians from the prolific Dutch Metropole Orkest under the direction of conductor Jukka Iisakkila, he completed a 32-minute bridge composition entitled „Eternal.” It was premiered, recorded, and filmed at the 2019 Roadburn Festival with veteran drummer Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, Eternity’s End) as part of the lineup and Tunisian co-lead vocalist Safa Heraghi. The performance of the completed Requiem was widely and glowingly reviewed in the rock press. Century Media released the platter in several packages in May of 2020, with some including Blu-Rays and DVDs of the concert.


TRIVIUM – Heavy Metal · Metalcore · Thrash Metal

Orlando, Florida’s Trivium are among the most provocative, restless, and influential bands to emerge from the American South’s heavy metal explosion in the early 21st century. Beginning as a metalcore outfit, they have relentlessly combined and crossed styles including thrash, prog, technical, and melodic death metal, as well as alternative and groove metal. Trivium came by their global success the old-fashioned way: touring. Since issuing their first demo in 2000, they have been road warriors. They established themselves first in the South, and then across North America before conquering festival stages in Europe and Asia supporting their sophomore long-player Ascendancy in 2005. 2008’s Shogun showcased epic storytelling abilities as well as a love for innovative riffs. Its compositional tenets and love for narrative storytelling influenced each subsequent release, beginning with 2011’s In Waves. 2017’s The Sin and the Sentence used them inside an extreme metal setting and became one of their most acclaimed albums, selling better in Europe than it did in the States. 2020’s What the Dead Men Say fully integrated all their musical tenets. 2021’s In the Court of the Dragon was written and recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hailing from central Florida, Trivium formed in 1999 and quickly built a buzz around Orlando’s metal community with their blend of metalcore, thrash, and progressive metal. Having secured a contract with the German Lifeforce imprint, the band issued its debut album, Ember to Inferno, in October 2003 with a lineup that included vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy, drummer Travis Smith, and bassist Brent Young. The debut was well-received and Trivium signed with Roadrunner Records for their next effort. Ascendancy appeared in March 2005, at which point the band’s roster had shifted to include Heafy, Smith, bassist Paolo Gregoletto, and guitarist Corey Beaulieu. The album was reissued in May of the following year with four additional tracks and a bonus DVD. Trivium then visited the U.K. in June for the 2006 Download Festival, followed by multiple European headlining gigs and a stint with America’s traveling metal/hardcore fest Sounds of the Underground. The tour saw them playing alongside other heavy-hitting bands like As I Lay Dying, GWAR, Cannibal Corpse, and Terror.

Crusade appeared that fall, featuring a newfound emphasis on singing (previously, vocalist Heafy had relied on screams and throaty growls). Despite the band’s active defense of Heafy’s vocal approach, Trivium received much criticism for their shift in sound; accordingly, they wasted no time in returning to a scream-filled thrash style with 2008’s Shogun. In 2010, Trivium announced drummer Nick Augusto would be replacing the departing Smith. Later that year, the band went into the studio to begin work on their fifth studio album, In Waves, which was released in the summer of 2011 and saw the group bring a bold new approach and maturity to its songwriting. However, feeling that the album’s gestation process had been overlong and that they had produced too much material, they decided to focus on quality rather than quantity in the on-the-road writing sessions for their next record. The band tapped Disturbed’s David Draiman to produce, and the metal veteran took a real hands-on approach, bringing a newfound sense of melody to Trivium’s sound. The finished album, Vengeance Falls, was released in October of 2013; it received enthusiastic reviews from critics and charted well in the United States, the U.K., Japan, and Europe.

Trivium underwent yet another personnel change when they parted company with drummer Augusto in May of 2014. He was replaced by drum tech Matt Madiro. Late in the year, Trivium entered the studio with producer Michael „Elvis” Baskette and mixing engineer Josh Wilbur to begin work on the band’s seventh album. The title track, „Silence in the Snow,” was issued as a video single in July of 2015, and the album followed on Roadrunner in early October. Silence in the Snow was their first full-length to land on the Active Rock Top Ten and secured them headliner status for the European festivals Summerbreeze and Bloodstock. After the release of the album, Madiro left the band and was succeeded by Paul Wandtke, who lasted less than a year before being replaced by Alex Bent. In late 2016, Trivium partnered with Cooking Vinyl to re-release Ember to Inferno in several variations. The two deluxe editions contained the band’s earliest demos, including „Ruber” (aka the Red Demo), „Caeruleus” (aka the Blue Demo), and „Flavus” (aka the Yellow Demo), all recorded when Heafy was between 16 and 17 years old. Late 2017 saw the release of the band’s eighth studio long-player, The Sin and the Sentence, which was produced by Josh Wilbur and released on Roadrunner. The set peaked at number 23 on the Top 200, and landed in the top spot on the Hard Rock Albums chart. After extensive touring and a well-deserved break, the band re-entered the studio with Wilbur in late 2019. In February of the following year, Trivium’s members began adding cryptic messages to their social media accounts to attract interest for their upcoming album. They further teased its release with two songs – „IX” and „Scattering the Ashes” – added to the „Spawn” trailer for the Mortal Kombat video game in March.

Trivium delivered their ninth full-length, What the Dead Men Say, in April. Original bassist Brent Young died on September 25, 2020; he was 37 years old. Sidelined by the global quarantine imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Trivium wrote and recorded the Wilbur-produced In the Court of the Dragon while in isolation; it was released in October 2021.


The Epirus-based VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY, deeply influenced by Greek nature and cosmic phenomena, return to deliver an explosive performance on the big stage with their fusion of heavy psychedelic rock and folk instruments! Formed in 2007, since the release of their first album Riza (2014), VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY have performed at the biggest rock festivals and numerous sold-out shows in the biggest music scenes in Greece. Now, the band is ascending forth for their first live album! Delivering amazing performances from the band’s short but powerful discography, Through Space and Time (Alive in Athens 2020) is set to be released via Napalm Records on March 3, 2023. The performance is structured around the band’s most recent studio album, Age of Aquarius (2019), as they play the album in sequence, with additional singles and songs from their debut album spliced in. Beginning with “Welcome”, “Age of Aquarius”, and “Part V” all in sequence, VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY demonstrates their ability to tell their story from song to song in the overall context of their album and show. The band then jumps straight into their debut album, Riza (2014), playing “Nova”, “Perdikomata”, and “Skaros”. The sextet blows away the audience with fantastic performances



A British metalcore group with a knack for pairing crushing riffs and uncompromising breakdowns with soaring melodic hooks, While She Sleeps emerged in 2012 with the unrelenting This Is the Six. Since then, the band has issued a string of acclaimed EPs and albums, including 2017’s You Are We, which cracked the U.K. Top Ten, and 2021’s wide-ranging Sleeps Society.

A shared love of heavy metal and, more specifically, metalcore, ensured that the members of While She Sleeps continued the bond they formed at school in Sheffield, England long after their final exams were over. In 2006, singer Jordan „The Face” Widdowson, drummer Adam Savage, bassist Aaran McKenzie, and guitarists Mat Welsh and Sean Long decided to get together after playing in various other groups in the area. The bandmembers played shows regularly for the next three years, and Widdowson eventually bowed out, leaving the door open for Lawrence Taylor to step in on vocals.

Not letting this setback halt their progress, and following extensive touring of their own, While She Sleeps went into the studio with producer Carl Bown in November 2011 and recorded their debut full-length, This Is the Six. The album, released in 2012, was a huge step up sonically for the band, displayed best on the anthemic title track and lead single. In the months leading up to the release of This Is the Six, While She Sleeps played the Download Festival and won the Kerrang! Award for Best British Newcomer. Brainwashed, the band’s much-anticipated sophomore outing, dropped in 2015 and featured the singles „New World Torture,” „Four Walls,” „Trophies of Violence,” and „Our Legacy.” September 2016 saw the release of „Civil Isolation,” the first single from their crowd-funded third studio long-player, You Are We, which arrived in May of the following year and debuted on the U.K. Albums Chart at number eight.

2019’s So What? saw While She Sleeps flexing their creative muscles by incorporating elements of electronic and alternative rock into their sonic arsenal, a template they utilized again on their dynamic fifth long-player, 2021’s Sleeps Society which, like its predecessor, was released on the band’s independent label Sleeps Brothers in collaboration with Search and Destroy, Spinefarm, UNFD, and Universal Music.


ZEAL & ARDOR – Avant-garde Metal

The black metal, blues, and African-American fusion of Zeal & Ardor’s music is the brainchild of musician Manuel Gagneux. He moved from his native Switzerland to New York, and took up the moniker Zeal & Ardor, having previously released music under the name Birdmask. The chamber pop of his Birdmask recordings is a far cry from the darker, heavier music he created for his Zeal & Ardor debut Devil Is Fine. He released the record in 2016, and Gagneux claims the project was kickstarted by a thread on a music board on the website 4Chan, on which he posted anonymously. On hearing the record, some music journalists were convinced that the vocal chants were samples of old spirituals, but Gagneux insisted that all the vocals were his own work.

During the process of touring the record, Gagneux developed the project into a full band. Building on the fusion of black metal and gospel of his previous album, he created the ambitious follow-up Stranger Fruit. The acclaimed 16-track record was produced by Zebo Adam and preceded by the lead single „Gravedigger’s Chant.” The group’s first EP, Wake of a Nation, was written in direct response to the murder of George Floyd and was released in October 2020. In the summer of 2021, the group began the rollout for their self-titled third album with singles „Run” and „Erase.”


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