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Unearthing The Metal Underground: Sacrocurse

The Mexican/Texan entity known as Sacrocurse has been hurling vile, dark metal since 2012. The unit’s leader is ZK, who began his career with Mexico’s Unholier in the early nineties, and he’s performed with the likes of Nodens, Morbosidad, Russia’s Pseudogod. But the prolific musician has been making noise more recently with Sacrocurse, an act that has a couple of full-length albums under its belt as well as a few other releases. And on January 20, 2021, the band will release the awesome EP entitled “Supreme Terror,” on multiple formats via Shadow Records/Regain Records. More...

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Unearthing The Metal Underground: Omegavortex

Something vile has been brewing in Germany. The ensemble known as Omegavortex initially formed in 2007 as Ambevilence, a project that released just a handful of songs. Omegavortex is cloaked in obscurity, referencing the majority of its members by only the pseudonym of a singular letter, including one “X”—who was presumably involved in the awesome, now defunct death metal band Beyond. The band’s mysterious nature permeates its ominous and punishing debut full-length, “Black Abomination Spawn,” which is set for release by Invictus Productions on November 13. More...

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Unearthing The Metal Underground: Hanging Fortress

A massive wave of younger hardcore bands and kids morphing into “Old School Death Metal” influenced bands has been flooding the American metal scene for a while now. Whatever their backgrounds may have been musically and in terms of influence, Toledo’s Hanging Fortress does indeed sound like a hybrid of modern, groove-based hardcore and classic death metal. The majority of such cross-bred bands sound good on paper, depending upon who you ask, yet the results are stale and forgettable more often than not. While the Ohio band in question isn’t pushing the envelope in any area, they stand out because of how catchy their testosterone-fueled death marches prove to be. More...

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Unearthing the Metal Underground: Nexul

There’s something absolutely disconcerting and ominous about the black and death metal bands from the border town of El Paso, Texas - whose sister city of Juarez, Mexico, is one of the murder capitals of the world. The hellish hymns of bands like Obeisance, Satanik Goat Ritual, Hellvetron and Nyogthaeblisz are distinct yet common in their shared, distinct sense of darkness. Members of the latter two acts also stand together in the occult-obsessed blackened death metal band Nexul that is also a part of what’s known as the Ordo Satanae Imperium collective. Conceived in 2011, the quartet hasn’t been the most prolific band out there—having released only a demo and a full-length album—but the Texans have clearly focused upon quality rather than quantity. More...

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Bloodsoaked Necrovoid

Latin American countries are home to a distinct kind of dark extreme metal. It is one that’s uniquely raw and demonic whether we are speaking about early Sepultura or Sarcofago from Brazil, Criminal from Chile, Mortem from Peru, or Shub Niggurath from Mexico. True to this wicked spirit is new blood squeezed from the soil of Costa Rica by the name of Bloodsoaked Necrovoid. Since forging together in 2018, the death/doom ensemble has been relatively prolific, having released several demos, songs on a compilation and a split. More...

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Unearthing Serpents of Secrecy

The gentlemen behind Baltimore’s doom rockers Serpents of Secrecy are set to release their highly anticipated debut release, “Ave Vindicta,” on Halloween. The effort is a tribute to the band’s late great bassist, the Reverend Jim Forrester, who was tragically murdered in 2017 outside of the tattoo shop at which he was employed. The band’s surviving members sidelined the creation of Ave Vindicta and the entire project at the time to cope with the gravity of the situation. More recently, the act—drummer Chuck Dukehart III, vocalist Mark Lorenzo, and guitarists Todd Ingram and Steve Fisher—reconvened to finalize the album which is a powerful blend of stoner swagger and dark doom heft. More...

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Unearthing the Metal Underground: WoR

In terms of new blood, there has been an extensive void in the realm of groove metal. They’re not exactly the next Pantera or Lamb of God, but North Carolina’s WoR seems to be one of the promising new acts that’s worthy of attention. Guitarist Ben Kaiser, the act’s founding member, has a background that’s far from the norm from most metal musicians. He was a collegiate football player at NC State University in North Carolina, having played alongside several current NFL players. The common thread between that element of his past and present with WoR is obvious: primal aggression. More...

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Unearthing CONTRACULT Collective

Fans of catchy industrial metal have reason to rejoice with the introduction of CONTRACULT Collective. The Los Angeles-based duo, operating under the pseudonyms Culprit and Svart, had initially come together while they were members of Brooklyn’s hardcore/sludge metal hybrid White Widows Pact. That band’s 2015 album “True Will” concluded with a hidden song that foreshadowed the divergent path that led to CONTRACULT Collective. The unit has just released its debut EP, “A Cult of Opposition,” via their own imprint, Hogwasche Music, and the release is available via Bandcamp and all major streaming services. More...

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Unearthing the Metal Underground: Exaugurate

Buried in the belly of America’s deep South is the interesting death metal entity known as Exaugurate. The new project is comprised of members, past and present, of Hollowed Idols, Ectovoid, Ritual Decay, Cemetery Filth and Seraphic Entombment. Exaugurate is steeped in the spirit of classic death metal without being riddled by the cliches and tropes of the en vogue “old school death metal” scene. While Exaugurate summon’s the filthy spirit of genre progenitors Autopsy, whilst occasionally churning out Immolation-styled riffs and squeals, the band’s label, Rotted Life Records, rightfully likens them to dank, brooding, post-2000 death metal bands like
Dead Congregation, Grave Miasma and Cruciamentum.

Speaking of Cruciamentum, that act’s main-man, Dan Lowndes, actually provides excellent lead work on “Ascendant Beyond Carrion,” the final song of Exaugurate’s outstanding, four-song debut EP “Chasm of Rapturous Delirium.” Lowndes also mixed and mastered the release. “Chasm of Rapturous Delirium” stands out because Exaugurate clearly focuses upon substance and song-craft above all. With plans for a full-length album in the works, and the expressed desire to perform live and tour once such efforts are realistic, Exaugurate is clearly a new death metal band worth your attention.

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Unearthing the Metal Underground: Video Nasties

Liverpool will forever be known in the realms of pop and rock by virtue of it being home of the Beatles. Fast Forward to 2020, a band by the name of Video Nasties may be drinking from the same water, but they’re as stylistically removed from the Fab Four as Mr. Rogers is from Howard Stern. The act pulled it’s name from the singular form, “video nasty,” an English colloquial term referring to low-budget horror and exploitation films. The moniker is apropos considering that the quintet’s debut full-length, “Dominion,” is a filthy and melodic slab of fun-loving but aggressive, horror-obsessed black ’n roll.

Video Nasties is comprised of alumni of such notable underground UK metal bands as SSS, Magpyes, Heresy of Thieves, The Bendal Interlude and Iron Witch. The English metal scene vets may have been around the block, but as a new entity, Video Nasties performs with the enthusiasm and vitality of a collection of passionate 18 year olds jamming in the garage. The form is thrashing blackened death, with a pinch of doom thrown in for good measure, but they perform with the spirit of a coarse punk band. Whether it’s the pummeling opener “Stay Gold” or the groovy, mid-paced burner “Drone Eagle," the gentlemen of Video Nasties unleash catchy metal that’s just as fun-loving as it is lethal and cut-throat. The synths and electronics augment the horror soundtrack qualities throughout, fleshing out the robust metal attack that’s helmed by charismatic frontman Damian Von Talbot. In short, Video Nasties is a compelling band that extreme music enthusiasts should keep an eye on.

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Unearthing the Metal Underground: Dining with Dogs

Dining With Dogs is an atypical name for a heavy band. More importantly, Dining with Dogs is an atypical kind of heavy band, in the best possible way. The band differs immensely from The Dead See, the ensemble’s precursor outfit that was a gargantuan and lethal hybrid of Neurosis and Crowbar, as well as from frontman Mark Key’s current experimental mind-fuck that is BLK OPS. In a nutshell, Dining With Dogs is a metallic version of the legendary noise rock band Jesus Lizard that unravels in defiance of strict genre classification, touching upon the foundation of sludge metal and hard rock along the way. While 2020 has been deemed by many as a “write-off” due to the current pandemic, Dining With Dogs’ debut “The Problem With Friends” is cause for celebration for fans of inventive heavy music.

Accomplished music video director Marcos Morales’ murky and punchy bassline opens the spacious soundscape of “Oddly Shaped Skull” right off the bat, underlying Josh Paul’s steady beat and Mark Key’s soulful, subdued crooning that has more in line with a narrative quality than standard guitar-driven music vocals. Key’s guitars subsequently come crashing with a forceful hard rock surge that’s delivered with a sense of purpose. “Sweet Talkin’ Psycho” follows up with a groovy swagger that’s almost danceable. The simplicity and rhythmic stabbing here and throughout “The Problem With Friends” are the reasons why the release is so memorable. The riffs and the punctuations simply have meaning. Later, “Puzzled” rolls forth with hearty portions of melodic post-rock majesty that are reprieves for the burly scream-along fracas.

The individual pieces of the puzzle of “The Problem With Friends” aren’t entirely unique. But they’re assembled in a manner that’s refreshing and distinct. This is an exciting starting point for the new Austin-based band that is comprised of seasoned musicians. And Dining With Dogs is a band worth keeping an eye on for heavy music aficionados who are yearning for something new and fresh.

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Pit Stories: One Foggy Night

New Jersey’s Spider Rockets sent in a well-told story of traveling between gigs one foggy night while touring in upstate New York:

It was late, and we had finished our last night playing a festival in upstate New York. We were dirty and tired of hanging out with nature and decided to hit the road instead of camping out for another night. All around us were mountains and enough one-lane winding roads to make one uncomfortable driving in the daytime. Cell phone service was pretty much unavailable, too. Definitely no hotels. Also, as you can imagine, no nearby cities... The fog started coming in as we were leaving. We started driving and we realized how bad the visibility actually was.
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Pit Stories: Metalheads VS Methheads

Every week on Metal Underground, we receive stories of life on the road from metal bands all over the world. This week, we received a story from Denver based Pile Of Priests about the time watching a show went wrong:

"Hey Metal Underground! Evan from Pile of Priests here, we’ve got a wacky story for you. Back in 2010 we played the the Wichita Extreme Metal Festival, it was our first show out of state and we brought two roadies along with us to help out. After our set, we proceeded to have some beers and whiskey shots with the other bands.

"We were watching Stonehaven’s set, when some tweaker in the pit began fucking with our roadie (Dan) trying to shove him from behind. Dan is a tall dude so we aren’t sure why he decided to pick on him, and let me tell you, bad idea! Dan shrugged it off until this bozo threw a punch at the back of his head. It was on, and Dan began shoving him outside for a proper ass beating.

"By this time Stonehaven finished their set and EVERYONE from the show was outside watching Dan whoop this dude’s ass. Our other roadie (Nick) was pretty wasted by then and was heckling the shit outta this guy while Dan was giving him the beatdown. The fight ended and some of the tweaker's friends showed up, so it was time for us to split before it got nasty. As we were finishing loading up the trailer, Nick was getting into it with one of the other tweekers. He was just trying to piss the guy off, yelling “You want to fight a 16 year old!?” repeatedly (Nick was 21 at the time). We yanked him into the van, he continued yelling insults out the window as we peeled off into the night. Dan was thus dubbed “The Tweaker Beater” by the Wichita metal scene, they still ask about him to this day."

Pile Of Priests' new EP, "Tenebrous Labyrinth" is available now through their official bandcamp page

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Pit Stories: D&DD

Every week on Metal Underground, we receive stories of life on the road from metal bands all over the world. This week, Warraxe, lead vocalist of eclectic Canadian group Nordheim shares a tale of Dungeons & Dragons with some surprising twists!

"So there was that time when we were going to Toronto... When we're driving to a venue, we usually play D&D in the tour van all ride long, yeah I know it's sounds geek as fuck but wait for it...

"We also have a habit of putting a big flashy sing with stupid shit written all over it so we can see the reaction of people driving by and it's always a good time. So this time we wrote on it : Show us your tits we're rockstars.

"We didn't know what to expect, we got lots of smiles, people laughing, angry old ladies... typical stuff. So we kept on playing D&D while keeping an eye on cars passing by, the occasional manboobs you know... We had a good laugh at the first hairy ass that we saw but things got cool when we saw a super classy Mercedes pass by. I don't know who she was or where she was going but this girl wasn't shy at all. She had I would say something like 36 DD at least and they where exactly how they look in porn movies, minus the jizz. Super tanned, gigantic shades and expensif clothing, the perfect stripper kit. We had a good laugh and threw her the horns and kept playing D&D feeling a little less geeky. Nothing like a big pair of dice to spice a game up hahahahaha."

Nordheim's latest studio album, "RapThor," is available now through Maple Metal Records.

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Thrashback Thursday: Hearts On Fire

It can be surprising where some seeds are sewn. If you were to tell someone that members of two of Sweden's most influential death metal bands were in the same group together at one stage, they'd probably think they already know what the music would sound like. Then tell them that the band in question that featured members of Dark Tranquillity and the founder of In Flames was one of the biggest names in power metal and they might not be so sure of themselves. Nevertheless, Hammerfall has included members from these groups and while starting off as something of a side project, as over time become one of Europe's most beloved heavy metal groups, selling thousands upon thousands of albums worldwide and becoming a mainstay of the summer festival circuit. This week we'll be taking a look at one of their most popular songs, "Hearts On Fire."

"Hearts On Fire" is arguably the stand out track on the "Crimson Thunder" album from 2002, which is not the most revered release by the band but nevertheless has its place in Hammerfall history. After the superb debut, "Glory to the Brave" in 1997 and the strong follow ups, "Legacy Of Kings" and "Renegade" in 1998 and 2000 respectively, some fans were a little disappointed with this fourth effort, feeling it was overproduced and formulaic. Despite this, "Hearts On Fire" is generally seen as a good starting point for those seeking to find out about the band or the power metal genre.

It begins with a two punch opening, led by a memorable riff. The verse itself doesn't offer much musically to be honest, but this is where the song is more focused on the delivery of the lyrics, leaving the listener to focus on the story at hand, told by vocalist Joacim Cans. This works in service of the sweeping, almost football chant style of the chourus. Essentially being a song about brotherhood, the chanting of the title works excellently as a unifying cry, aided by additional lines from Cans. After repeating this structure, the song lulls a little into a more hushed take on the refrain, before exploding with energy again. It may not be the most complex song Hammerfall have ever written, but it will stick in the listener's head for days and has become one of the band's best known tracks ever since. More...

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Pit Stories: Stage Invasion Of The Nipple Rubbers

Every week in Pit Stories, a band or musician tells us some of their most wild memories from shows they've performed or attended. This week, Koen ‘Vuurdichter’ Romeijn of Dutch folk metal band Heidevolk tells us of a show in Birmingham that was dangerously full and walking in on the promoter in the midst of a Silence of the Lambs routine:

"To be honest, in this so called ‘Folk & Pagan metalscene’ where we operate, most Pit
Stories tend to end with a smile. You simply cannot compare it to, let’s say, a mosh pit at a
Slayer concert. Now I’m not saying there aren’t any brutal moshpits at our shows, because
that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s always a lot of movement going on in the
crowd at our shows, but it tends to be more of a ‘drinking dance’, a celebration if you will,
with people clattering drinking horns and cheering along our tunes.

"But since this item is called ‘Pit Stories’, I will give you a more genuine one.
Back in 2003 I was on tour in the UK with Detonation, a melodic Death metal band. This
particular tour was as ‘underground’ as they get. Tiny van, small stages in shitty venues,
poor turnouts, sleeping on peoples floors after the gig because we couldn’t afford hotels. The
works. But awesome, nevertheless. More...

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Thrashback Thursday: Trapped Under Ice

Over the past few weeks, the Thrashback Thursday column hasn't quite lived up to its name by featuring grindcore songs, namely; Napalm Death's, "Suffer The Children" and Brutal Truth's, "Sugardaddy," with the proto-black metal staple, "Satanic Rites" by Hellhammer being featured the week before. While it's been made clear from the start that this column won't focus solely on thrash metal, this week we'll be heading back to the eighties to take a look at a song from thrash metal's biggest band, Metallica and the song, "Trapped Under Ice" from their beloved album, "Ride The Lightning."

"Ride The Lightning" was Metallica's sophomore full length album, being released a year after their debut, "Kill 'em All" and brought a lot more melody to Metallica's sound than previously heard, perhaps most notably on, "Fade To Black" and the instrumental closer, "Call of Ktulu." However, there was plenty of heaviness still on offer, including the twisting riffs of Metallica classic, "For Whom The Bell Tolls," the sharp shocks of opener, "Fight Fire With Fire" and the Moses biopic, "Creeping Death."

However, the track we'll be examining this week, "Trapped Under Ice," showcases everything that was great about Metallica in their prime. On the album, the song brings listeners right back to frantic energy after the preceding number, "Fade To Black" and displays a sound which is all about speed, opening with a guitar intro and breaking into a wild riff, it's reminiscent of wild horses and motor racing less than 30 seconds into the song. There isn't much in the way of vocal melody, which is actually a plus when delivering the panic stricken and paranoid lyrics, however there's still enough to create a catchy, if brief, chourus. "Trapped Under Ice" is arguably one of the more overlooked songs on this classic album, but it's a perfect snapshot of the young thrash metal genre, showcasing a youthful energy and passion which would make the sub-genre such a success and by extension, why Metallica would become thrash's biggest ambassadors, at least for the decade. More...

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Pit Stories: Brave Art

Each week on Metal Underground, musicians tell us some of their craziest and strangest memories from shows they've performed or attended. This week, Roger Sjunnesson, guitar player in The Unguided, told us all about his love of "the wall of death."

"For most people moshing and crowd surfing at concerts are compared to chaos. For us, it's a beautiful work of art. It´s basically like ants going crazy for a potato chip, and that´s the big charm about it. For me moshing is a relief and it helps me get the anger out. If people fall we would stop the pit and help them up, and when the moshing is done, we always high five each other and shake hands. Honestly, if you plan to go to a metal concert just doing nothing. You might as well stay home and listen to the band on the computer or cd in my opinion.

"For a couple of years we were playing a festival show with The Unguided in Gothenburg (which happens to be the capital of heavy metal), which left us with some great mosh and circle pit memories. We played quite early so we had no expectations how big crowd would. But when we finally hit stage, the crowd were surprisingly big (a couple of thousand for sure) and they were going totally ape shit right from the start!! Sooner in the set, right in the middle of our last song our vocalist Richard told the crowd to split up into two teams. Which formed a gap bigger than a fu*king canyon! We were planning to do the "Brave Heart" named after the first battle scene of the movie Brave Heart (also more familiar known as a “Wall of death”).

"People were lined up and beyond ready to break legs and melt faces as I slowly counted down. As a final step, Richard throw his stage shoes out in the crowd and screamed GO! We started to play the last chorus of the song and people were running like crazy into each other. Wow I've always wanted to be in the front line of a wall of death because it looks absolutely insane!!"

The Unguided is a five piece metal band from Sweden who just released our fourth album "And the Battle Royale" through Napalm Records.

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Thrashback Thursday: Sugardaddy

Last week, we took a look at grindcore pioneers Napalm Death and their song, "Suffer The Children" from the "Harmony Corrupted" album. The record was their first with vocalist Barney Greenway (with whom you can see an exclusive video interview here,) and was more widely available in North America than their previous two albums, with many grindcore fans and favourites there citing it as heavily influential on the American grindcore scene. This week, we're going to stick with the genre and look at perhaps the most revered name from the other side of the Atlantic; Brutal Truth.

Brutal Truth was one of approximately 18 billion bands that Danny Lilker was a member of, forming the group after his departure from Nuclear Assault, (themselves covered in this column a few weeks ago.) They released their superb debut album, "Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses" in September 1992 through Earache Records, which was home to a number of grindcore favourites and associates, including Napalm Death, Carcass and Godflesh. It was followed eighteen months later by another awesome release, "Need To Control," after which they left Earache and signed with Relapse Records, widely considered to be Earache's American equivalent. With their new label, they released the somewhat experimental mini album, "Kill Trend Suicide" and another excellent full length, "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" in 1996 and 1997, before deciding to call it a day, signing off with the double disc live and rarities album, "Goodbye Cruel World."

In 2006, Dan Lilker, Kevin Sharp and Richard Hoak, three quarters of the final lineup, along with new guitarist Erik Burke, reformed the band and contributed new music to the "This Comp Kills Fascists" compilation album. Fans were eager to hear a new full length from Brutal Truth however, which finally arrived in April 2009, under the title, "Evolution Through Revolution." The introduction to the album came in the form of the song, "Sugardaddy." It was a remarkable return, showcasing all the talent and trademark sound that made Brutal Truth one of the most recognisable names in grindcore.

The video threw fans a little at first, with its silent movie style showing the group turning up at the studio to play a song and the members ribbing each other, before a memorable riff peaks in, allowing Sharp's gruff scream to be unleashed, along with all the noise and fury of extreme music. It's riff laden, blastbeat filled and led by the iconic barking vocals of Kevin Sharp. It even features a groovy kind of bridge, before naturally returning to the explosive sound of before. The video even throws in the six second track, "Branded" as a bonus. It was a great return from a band that fans of extreme music had been missing and since Lilker's retirement in 2014, we miss again. More...

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Pit Stories: Let's Just Sleep In Another Country

This week in Pit Stories, we heard from Fabio D'amore, bassist of Austrian symphonic power metal band Serenity, who told us all about the problems with finding somewhere to sleep when on tour.

"In 2012 we had a show in the Netherlands, in Utrecht, if don't remember wrong. The venue was pretty cool, sort of theater, and we've got a very good show. I remember I flew from Venice off Duesseldorf, together with our sound engineer, and reached the venue driven from a friend, but the other guys came from Austria, drove the whole night cause Georg had a show with his cover band, and as soon as he was off stage they drove like 13 h during the night to be able to be there in time, with the whole equipment.

"So after the show we were all visibly tired, especially the “Austrian gang” since they hadn't slept. We finally were about to go to a flat that has been organized for us, and we found out it was a sort of joke, there was nothing on that flat where we could have been able to sleep, the 8 of us. We were thinking of possibilities, we have been searching for hotels or cheap last minute accomodations, but everything seemed to be full or none of them had a 24h check in possibility. Literally nothing! And it was getting late...

"So, although almost collapsing and falling asleep, with decided to drive toward Germany, to be able to find maybe something nearby the airport in Duesseldorf, though very far away. But as soon as we entered the van, and we started the engine, we noticed we had 5 KM autonomy of gas! And as it was really late, and no gas station was open, we toured the city for 2/3 hours searching for a gas station having a 24 h automatic, but nothing, slowly we got to 0 KM autonomy and we drove this way for another hour or two!

"Finally around 4 am we found a gas station with automatic machine, but, believe or not, none of our credit cards were accepted!! Then we had to continue till 5am, when the first gas station opened,and luckily we didn't stop somewhere on the road without gas! We were really empty! We could finally fill-in the tank and we continued till Duesseldorf, where finally we found a hotel, and we could enter our room at 6.30 am!!"

Serenity's latest album, "Lionheart," is available now through Napalm Records.

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