Celesti Alliance – Hybrid Generation Review

Score8/10
GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime43:46
Release Date29 November 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Finland’s latest melodic heavy metal addition comes from the brand new Celesti Alliance. After two EPs, these cultivators of classic steel are finally ready to smash onto the scene with their full-length debut. Pulling from a range of influences from late-80s heavy/power metal (Accept, Judas Priest) and modern heavy metal, Hybrid Generation is a super catchy album that’s generous with the riffs and heavy on the solos.

I think the most accurate way to describe Celesti Alliance’s sound is as a slightly more exciting version of HammerFall. The vocals of Valtteri Heiskanen are pretty similar to Joacim Cans in terms of sound and style, and the songs are built in much the same way (especially ‘Louder Power’). Where things get a bit more colourful, though, is in the prevalent use of keyboards and vocal layers, as well as a dynamism that HammerFall always comes close to achieving but rarely does. As a result, Celesti Alliance end up with an album full of solid bangers while still delivering enough variability to stay exciting.

The only thing holding Hybrid Generation back is the fact that it more-or-less lacks any wowness. There’s some great soloing, with ‘Incomplete’ having my favourite, as well as some memorable riffs, but the album coasts along with the same level of power and proficiency the entire way through. It doesn’t make the album bad, especially when you combine the straight riffage with super beefy mixing, but it does keep the band from reaching their full potential.

But, if you dig the whole neo-80s style, you’ll dig Celesti Alliance. Hybrid Generation lays down enough steady drivers to please more oldschool fans and it explores enough highs and lows to round itself out. You won’t want to miss this killer offering of heavy metal worship.

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Heavy Metal: HammerFall Announce 2020 North American Tour

With a few dates left in their current North American tour as special guests for Sabaton, heavy metal legends HammerFall have announced a headline tour for North America. The tour will be in September and October, with support coming from Finland’s Beast in Black and California’s Edge of Paradise.

Vocalist Joacim Cans on the tour:
“After the amazing times and reception we have gotten and are still experiencing on tour with Sabaton, we can’t wait to return to North America in 2020. For the past three years we have toured the continent frequently and every time, you showed us that heavy metal is still alive and kicking. So, polish your studs and get ready for the hammer to fall harder than it ever did before.”

Guitarist Oscar Dronjak adds:
“The last three tours have proven to us that North America is ready and willing to once again wield the hammers of Heavy Metal, and it is with great pleasure we announce that we will return to the continent for the fourth time in as many years.”

This will also be Beast in Black’s first tour across North America. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, 26 October!

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HammerFall – Dominion Review

Score9/10
GenreHeavy/Power Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime50:29
Release Date16 August 2019
Record LabelNapalm

Since their founding in 1993, heavy metal templars HammerFall have fought to continue the legacy of 80s heavy metal, smithing more than ten full-length records and establishing themselves as Sweden’s and Europe’s premier heavy metal masters. Their latest album, Dominion, delivers an epic powerhouse that easily contends with their early material in terms of quality and heart.

If you judged explicitly by this album, you’d have no idea that these guys are approaching 50. In between each chanted, arena-sized anthem, Joacim Cans‘ sharp, impactful vocals ring as clean as ever. On top of that, the thundering riffs and immense facemelters (I’d pick a favourite or two but they’re all incredible) of Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren keep the rhythm section firm yet emotive. Underneath this rugged musical force, the versatile drums are operated by the band’s newest member, David Wallin, who joined in 2014.

Dominion radiates more energy and passion than the band’s previous three releases combined, which is most easily seen in the amped-up speed and power in tracks like ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Scars of a Generation’ that hearken to the band’s earlier work. The driving force behind this revitalized sound is most likely due to the fact that the band took a far more relaxed approach to songwriting this time around, rather than worrying themselves with deadlines and schedules.

Another key part of Dominion‘s success lies in its variety; where Built to Last treads safely in usual HammerFall territory, Dominion proves its boldness by exploring some (not a lot, mind you, but some) new ground. It’s still more-or-less what you’d expect from them, but tracks like ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’ and the opener, ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget’ bring some freshness to the table. Additionally, there are two ballads on the record: the piano-driven ‘Second to One’ and the closer, ‘And Yet I Smile’, which leaves the album hanging in a hopeful and bittersweet air.

All in all, this record is what we should all expect from HammerFall: refined heavy metal that’s been hammered in the forge for twenty-five years. If you want neck-breaking riffs, head-banging choruses, and face-melting solos, you’ve come to the right place. Their eleventh album to date, Dominion proves that, despite a few career hiccups, HammerFall is still capable of blowing heads off with no sign of hanging up their hammers any time soon.

Originally written for HeavyMusicHQ.

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HammerFall Release Titular Track

Somehow, it’s already August. Which means, HammerFall’s Dominion is only two weeks away! And, what better way to celebrate this new month with the titular track?

‘Dominion’, like the album, does a great job at putting a fresh spin on classic HammerFall. Don’t forget to check out the album on 16 August!

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Interview With HammerFall’s Oscar Dronjak

“[I]t’s gonna be a really fun tour. . . If you like modern heavy metal music I think you can’t get much better than these two bands together.”

Oscar Dronjak, founder and guitarist of the legendary Hammerfall, was kind enough to invite me into his mind to discuss his feelings on Dominion, Canada, and, of course, beer.

Kane: So you guys have been playing heavy metal for more than 25 years. That’s quite the milestone! How have you seen the metal scene change in that time?

Oscar Dronjak: I think it goes in cycles. Ten years ago was different than twenty years ago, and it wasn’t the same as it is now, and it’s not the same as it was in the US or Canada twenty years ago, either. So it’s changed a lot. I think it’s gotten a lot better in a lot of ways. I mean, when we started in the mid-nineties this type of music we were playing, people weren’t really interested in that as much as, you know, grunge and the heavier stuff, the aggressive stuff.

So we didn’t really think that there was going to be a market for this and we were surprised when there actually turned out to be one, and then after that obviously, the interest grew a lot in the early 2000s. So, you know, it waves I guess. Ebb and flow. But it’s changed greatly on every level. And we haven’t even discussed the record industry that’s also changed tremendously since we started [laughs] so, everything has changed a lot.

For sure. It seems like more people have gone toward more melodic metal in more recent years, too, like it was in the 80s.

O: Yeah. I think that, for HammerFall, Canada has always been good, actually. Even, you know, like the first time we played in Canada I believe was 2005, there was such a big contrast between Canada and the US. Canada was much more like Europe, like we were used to. But nowadays it seems like the US has caught up a little bit in the last, say, five years or so. It seems like the interest level for melodic metal music in the US has almost come to Canadian levels. But Canada has always been stellar for us. There’s no question about that.

Well, that’s good to hear that my homeland is serving you guys well!

O: [laughs] Well, that’s why we keep coming back on every tour. We do, I think, six shows every tour in Canada, and there’s a reason for that, is what I’m saying. [laughs] It’s not just coincidence!

Are there any more recent bands in the past few years that you’ve been keeping your eye on?

O: Ah, not really. I mean, certain names pop up here and there but I don’t go out actively searching music the way I did twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. I don’t listen to music the same way I did either. You know, you get older, you have your sort of favourites you like listening to. You get complacent I guess is what I’m saying. But there are several new bands. We just announced a tour with Battle Beast in Europe in February next year, Finnish band with a female vocalist. Totally not like I’m used to but it’s a really good band, actually. I was very surprised to realize that I like it. So I guess what I’m saying is all of this is because of myself, you know. It’s on me; I need to give more stuff a chance and I have to admit that maybe I haven’t been as open-minded as I probably should have in the last couple years. [laughs]

So, moving on to Dominion, it’s clearly a very HammerFall album, but how do you think it stands apart from your previous releases?

O: I think it follows in the same path as we were going with both (r)Evolution and Built to Last. It’s pretty much an extension of that. What I do think we managed this time is that we captured a lot of energy on the album: a lot of the live energy that you have when you’re performing on stage. We tried to get that in the album recording as much as we could. And we have tried that a lot in the past couple of years, or probably for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think we’ve managed to capture it as much as we did this time. And if you’re talking about, like, the music and stuff, I believe this album might be the strongest one that we’ve ever released. At least up there with it, because it’s got a lot of variety and I like that in an album.

For example, The Number of the Beast is not my favourite Iron Maiden album. I mean, obviously some fantastic classics, but you also have a couple of songs that aren’t really up to par like ‘Gangland’ for example.

Yeah, like a lot of filler.

O: Yeah, exactly. I would prefer, let’s say, Somewhere in Time. That’s a flawless album from start to finish, in my opinion. Obviously, this is just opinion, but that’s what I’m comparing Dominion to because I think it’s a good comparison. You don’t have any downtime on the album, you know, it’s all really good in its own rite. Not just in the context of the album, but they can stand alone and I think that’s something that we’re really proud of that we’ve managed to achieve this time.

Yeah, I mean, listening to it myself I did sense a lot more energy and passion than the last few albums, and I think it’s actually my favourite HammerFall album so far, to be honest!

O: Oh, wow! Thank you. I love to hear that. Of course, any artist likes to hear that, but it’s really great because we tried to approach the songwriting in a different way. You know all those little details you have in every album? Those are the ones that make a good song great or a great one legendary. So we tried really, really hard to focus on all these details to try to do things a little bit differently to keep things fresh while still having the same base HammerFall sound. You know, if you were to listen to any one song on the album, you would instantly know it’s a HammerFall song because it has the HammerFall quality to it.

We also tried to give each song as much time as they needed. We had a lot of time this time. Last album was really stressful and the songwriting process was not fun at all, and we tried to avoid that at all costs this time. And we ended up having more-or-less all the songs ready several months before the album recording was about to start, so we could really put that time that we needed into it. And I think that’s a really important piece of the puzzle why the album sounds the way it does.

So the whole thing was more of a natural process, then.

O: Yes. Very much so. And also, you know, the songs in HammerFall are written mostly by Joacim and myself, and both of us tried to approach the songwriting in a different way this time. We both were writing songs on the road this time. Normally, for me, the touring part has always been creative-free, so to speak. You know, I don’t do anything creatively because because, if I do anything creatively, it just sounds like the songs I’m playing every night, which is HammerFall songs. I want to have a distance from the live setting when I start writing songs for the new album. But I decided to try to write songs on the road this time and it was extremely rewarding. I had no idea. I didn’t know I could and I didn’t know it was going to be this fun to write songs.

You know, when you come off stage, for example, you’ve got this adrenaline going from being on stage and several times I managed to capture that and write some really good songs with it and it’s a first for me, for sure. And also something I never thought I was capable of, even. And that’s why this songwriting process was really fun and I think you can hear that, with the passion and everything. You can sense that, I hope. You know, for me, it’s really difficult to talk about this album in these terms. I don’t know if I’m going to feel like this when I actually get some distance from the album. [laughs] But these are all things that were different with this album that I felt from day one, basically, when we started the songwriting process. Both Joacim and I had a lot of interaction. Usually I write parts at home and then I send it out to him when it’s done and he puts on his stuff and then we’re finished, but this time we had a bit more back-and-forth during the songwriting process and I think that helped a lot, too.

Do you have any favourite tracks on the album?

O: Sure, but also difficult to answer right now. We only played two of them live, the ones that have been released so far, and both of them have been enormously fun to play live. I have to say, some of my favourites to play live right now. We just premiered ‘One Against the World’ on Saturday for the first time live. The single came out a few weeks ago. And, so, those are among the favourites right now but, you know, it’s very difficult to say. I’m hoping that we can play ‘Testify’ live because I think that will go really well. It’s got that good, cool strength in it, but we’ll see. You know, ask me this again in a year and we’ll definitely have an answer for you!

So where did the concept for your first single, ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’ come from?

O: It came from Joacim’s brain [laughs] as a lot of the stuff we do. He’s really good at brainstorming and he wanted to find an angle, you know, something we have never done before, or something nobody has ever done before. I don’t know exactly where it came from other than when we were talking about if we were going to play at Sweden Rock next year. I think that might have started it. You know, the Sweden Rock Festival that we have in the South of Sweden. But the idea, both lyrically and the video, came from the pitch he gave me, so to speak.

And I had a song that I was struggling with a bit. I couldn’t really get past the prechorus. Sometimes when you’re writing stuff it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t feel right and nothing good comes out of it. I was basically stuck on this song, and then he talked to me about this idea and I mulled it over for a little bit and I thought, “Wow! This is actually a really good idea,” so I went out and continued writing the song and from that point on it was sorta like when you pull the plug out of the drain, all of a sudden whoosh, all of the inspiration came back to me because I thought it was such a cool thing to do, so I finished that song pretty quickly, and then, of course, the lyrics took a little bit longer. He had these ideas to incorporate the song titles or album titles or just phrases from songs of these artists that he sort of wove together in a story of some kind, the story being “Swedish rock music and metal music rules”, basically. [laughs]

And what about the album name? Who came up with Dominion?

O: Normally the process is I come up with the song titles, and this is also a title for one of the songs. “Dominion” is kind of a cool word, so when the song title was presented to Joacim he was like, “This might be the album title,” and we sort of agreed quite early on that it was a good fit for the album cover that we had in mind. And so when he started writing the song he also had the album cover, or well, the idea for it, in mind, but he still wrote it coming from that direction.

And the word itself is, well, I’m a pro wrestling fan, and there’s this company in Japan called New Japan Pro Wrestling, and they have, I believe it’s in June every year, the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dominion, or whatever. And I thought that was a cool word. I didn’t know what it meant, actually, so when I saw that I looked up and was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna use this one day for a song title,”. This was a couple years ago, or a while ago, anyway. And now it just fit the song and it just came to me when I was trying to find a name. So, that’s where it came from.

See, I like that. You chose a word because it sounded cool, rather than, you know, a five minute story about how the meaning is symbolic, or whatever!

[laughing]

O: Yeah, and also when I found the meaning of the word it cemented everything.

So, Dominion is your second release with Napalm Records after being with Nuclear Blast for nine albums. Is it safe to say that your current partnership is an ideal fit for you guys?

O: I mean, we left Nuclear Blast for a reason, but the reason was never like, “Oh, this sucks, let’s get outa here,” you know. We stayed with them for seventeen years, after all, like you said, nine albums. But we needed something fresh and Napalm was able to give us some fresh ideas, some fresh angles to come from when it comes to the release, and that’s why we switched record labels.

Right. So, moving on to your tour with Sabaton this Fall, what kind of shows can your North American fans expect?

O: Oh, that’s gonna be fun! I really can’t wait for that. That’s gonna be great. We toured with them once before ten years ago, actually, and the roles in Europe were reversed at that time, so they were our Special Guests, but they have such a strong fanbase over there in North America, which is really good for us to be a part of this tour. And I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not sure what to expect. You can expect a kickass show, of course you can expect that, no matter who the other band is that we’re playing with, but I think for me, or for us as bandmembers, it’s gonna be a really fun tour. It’s also pretty cool because they have a new album out, it came out a couple of days ago, and their stage show is always pretty impressive, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that, as well. It’s gonna be a great package. If you like modern heavy metal music I think you can’t get much better than these two bands together. I hope not, anyway. [laughs]

I mean, I definitely agree with that. I got my tickets as soon as I could!

O: Oh, cool! I heard several of the shows are already sold out and several other shows are almost sold out so it’s going really well, the ticket sales.

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about touring in North America compared to Europe?

O: There’s one thing I particularly like, and if you were to ask anybody in the band, they would definitely mention this as part of it, because the tour buses are bigger and more luxurious than in Europe, because you have bigger roads and less regulations for the sizes, so that means that it’s always comfortable on the bus. We don’t have hotel rooms in the US anymore, it’s just a waste of money. We treat the bus as our home, you know, clean it and everything, make sure everything is good. You take care of your stuff, basically. Your dishes and stuff. And the couches are so much more comfortable and so much more well spaced out. It’s a total difference. Everything is just a little bit bigger and it makes a big difference. You were probably looking for an answer about the audience or something but that’s what comes to mind first. Being on the road in the US is a pleasure in that respect. It’s never uncomfortable. And, you know, when you’re travelling around in your home for four or five weeks, these things matter.

Yeah, for sure. The tour buses are obviously important, but what about the drinks? Do you prefer Scandinavian beer or American beer?

O: Ah, ok! That’s another thing I prefer. [laughs] My favourite beer is Bud Light, if you can believe that. And you can’t get it in Sweden. You can get Coors Light, but not Bud Lite. So whenever I go to North America I always make sure that there’s always Bud Light if I need it, just to make sure I can have it as much as I want to. I mean, I like it for several reasons: it’s easy to drink, it doesn’t taste that much but it still tastes good. And it’s also only four percent, which means, you know, when you’re drinking beer and having fun and everything is great, maybe you drink a little bit faster than you should, but if the beer is not so strong, then it doesn’t matter in the end! [laughs] So much, if you know what I mean. So, that’s part of it. It’s perfect for a summer day, or for any day, really. So I definitely prefer Bud Light over any other beer. If you ask our drummer that, though, he hates that type of beer. He wants, you know, the weird shit: stouts, and the ones that have strange mixes of everything. Licorice beer, or whatever. I don’t know.

That sounds a bit more like my taste!

[laughing]

O: Yeah, you know, he’s really into it. And I can see that. If you like tasting stuff, you know, stuff that tastes a lot, it’s fine. But I know what I like and I know what I don’t like more than anything else. I don’t like, for example, hard liquor. I don’t like whiskey or anything; I hate the taste of that, too. For me it needs to be sweet and easy, basically. And the beers he drinks are certainly not that! But again, I understand that we all have different tastes and I see where he’s coming from, where it’s fun also. It makes it a sort of process!

Absolutely! So, we’re just about out of time here, but I do have one more question for you. I know that HammerFall is home for you, but do you have any desire to eventually pursue other projects?

O: No. Well, never say never, right? But anything creatively I want to do I can do with HammerFall. Everything I want to do. I don’t have any desire to do anything other than this because I love this so much, you know. This is my first love, heavy metal, I guess you could say that. And I have a lot of say over what kind of songs we do and stuff, which means I can do basically what I want. I’m not saying that like, “fuck everybody else,” you know, but I have a lot of freedom. That’s what I’m trying to say. And, if I get the desire to do something else, maybe one day I’ll get into that, but right now, and this has been the same for almost my whole life, this is all I wanted to do. Heavy metal is all I wanted to do.

I think that’s the best answer we could hope for, especially from somebody who’s been in the scene for so long!

O: [laughs] Well, thank you.

Thank you very much for taking some time out of your day to chat with me a little bit!

O: Yeah, no problem at all! Thank you for the nice conversation.

Make sure to pick up Dominion when it comes out on 16 August! For information about special editions, tours, and everything else, visit the >>HammerFall Website<<!

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HammerFall Announce World Domination Tour

Heavy metal veterans HammerFall have announced the world tour for their upcoming album, Dominion. After they visit North America this Fall in September and October, they’ll be storming Western Europe with support from Battle Beast and Serious Black, beginning on 30 January of next year.

The date of Dominion draws ever-nearer. Make sure to pick it up on 16 August!

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Hammerfall Announce New Album

After a week of suspense, Hammefall have announced the title, tracklist, release date, and first single of their upcoming album! Dominion marks Hammerfall’s eleventh album and David Wallin‘s second album as Hammerfall’s drummer.

Dominion‘s first single, ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’, is nothing special, but that isn’t really what we expect of Hammerfall, now is it? It’s straightforward, anthemic hevay/power metal, but it still kicks some ass!

Hammerfall – (We Make) Sweden Rock (Napalm)

Dominion is set to release on 16 August, which means that North American fans can look forward to brand new bangers when Hammerfall join Sabaton on their tour this fall.

01. Never Forgive, Never Forget
02. Dominion
03. Testify
04. One Against the World
05. (We Make) Sweden Rock
06. Second to One
07. Scars of a Generation
08. Dead by Dawn
09. Battleworn
10. Bloodline
11. Chain of Command
12. And Yet I Smile

Want to preorder Dominion? Click here.
And, make sure to go follow Hammerfall on Facebook!

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Sabaton Announce North American Tour

The time has finally come for Sabaton to announce their North American tour for the upcoming The Great War. It has been confirmed that Hammerfall will join them for support and they’ll be hitting major cities from coast to coast in both Canada and the USA.

For the dates and locations, check out the picture below! Ticket sales will go live on 3 May, along with the first single of the new album.

Not only will the tour feature brand new music from Sabaton, but Hammerfall have also confirmed that a new single will be here on Friday (and an album announcement is likely to follow).

Don’t miss the chance to see this epic Swedish invasion in person! And be sure to check out The Great War when it surfaces on 19 July!

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Eight More Power Metal Songs Born Of Fire

Looking for some more heat this snowy season? If you’ve already exhausted the first fiery metal tracks, warm back up with these! I’m sure I could make a hundred of these lists due to the frequency of fire in power metal, but (despite my burning urges) I’ll settle for just one more. For now, anyway.

Hammerfall – Hearts on Fire

‘Hearts on Fire’ is a pretty recognizable classic at this point. It’s a hard pump up tune, and the pulled back section at the end amplifies the already-driving final chorus.

On another note, I could have very well included the music video in my Ridiculous Power Metal Music Videos article solely due to the surplus of skeletons and lack of fire.

Hammerfall – Hearts On Fire (Nuclear Blast)

Symphony X – Kiss of Fire

For a band whose lineup has been consistent for the better part of twenty years, Symphony X still manages to produce some heavy bangers. From their 2015 album Underworld, ‘Kiss of Fire’ is a hot slab of symphonic prog that’ll burn you with its intensity.

Symphony X – Kiss Of Fire (Nuclear Blast)

Thornbridge – Ember in the Winter Grove

‘Ember in the Winter Grove’ is by far the newest release on this list (8 February, in fact). Thornbridge’s Theatrical Masterpiece is an excellent piece of work (you can check out my review of it here), and this song sums it up very well. It’s 6/8 grooves are extremely well done, largely because of the drums, and the chanting chorus is mighty and epic.

Thornbridge – Ember in the Winter Grove (Massacre Records)

Brothers of Metal – Fire Blood and Steel

It’s been almost two years since The Brothers of Metal graced us with their debut album. Prophecy of Ragnarok is full of blood-boiling pump up tracks, and ‘Fire Blood and Steel’ is no exception. It’s incredibly heavy bass sound and thumping energy will have you shamelessly crying out to with the Sons of Odin.

Brothers of Metal – Fire Blood and Steel

Iron Mask – Feel the Fire

‘Feel the Fire’ is far from the best song on this list, but it’s certainly the heaviest. The rhythm section commands a harsh energy and Dushan Petrossi’s soloing skills are absolutely killer.

Feel the Fire – Iron Mask (AFM Records)

Dragonland – Fire and Brimstone

This song is incredibly dynamic and the drumwork is fantastic. Not only is it a top fire song, but it should instantly make its way into your favourite playlists.

Dragonland – Fire and Brimstone (AFM Records)

Seven Kingdoms – Flame of Olympus

Female-fronted Seven Kingdoms never fails to impress. ‘Flame of Olympus’ burns with heavy riffs and a driving beat that never stops. Topped with a hot guitar solo and Sabrina Valentine’s even hotter vocals, this song easily pounded its way onto the list.

Seven Kingdoms – Flame of Olympus (Nightmare Records)

Crystal Viper – Fire Be My Gates

This one’s not power metal, but I think it still belongs here. Crystal Viper is easily one of my favourite classic metal bands. I can’t get enough of Marta Gabriel’s attitude and rough vocals and the heart of the band never strays away from being true metal. Their production quality, dual vocals, and chugging choruses are straight from the 80s and ‘Fire Be My Gates’ is one of their best.

Crystal Viper – Fire Be My Gates (AFM Records)

Thanks for stopping by!

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