Following is an excerpt from a very recent interview with Yers Trooly conducted by veteran and downright awesome author / musician Joel Gausten…

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For more than two decades, Carl Begai has been a leading voice in Metal journalism. Whether he’s reporting on acts all over the world for BraveWords.com / Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles (BW&BK) or offering various musings on CarlBegai.com, he consistently provides an in-depth, unpretentious and often amusing take on the world of music. Now, he is preparing to steer his work in a GRIM new direction.

Boasting cover art by former BW&BK graphic artist Hugues Laflamme, GRIM – My Way To Hell is Begai’s first work of fiction and his first book since 2008’s Fire and Fame (with Bonfire’s Joerg Deisinger). He has been “dabbling” with GRIM since 2011, when he was inspired to start putting words together after watching The Devil’s Advocate with Al Pacino. In one pivotal scene, Pacino – in the role of The Devil – delivers a powerful speech on how God is “an absentee landlord” when it came to caring for humanity.

“That is my favorite Pacino moment,” Begai says. “That’s where the idea of the book came from.”

Fans of Begai’s work received their first tease of GRIM when he posted the book’s prologue on his website in 2012.

“The premise behind the book is that the world is such an ugly place and Hell is so busy that they decided to outsource in order to collect all the souls that need collecting. One specific guy more or less got sucked into doing the job, which goes against his own morals. He has real issues with that, and he has real issues with the idea of Heaven and Hell – plus the fact that people are looking for an easy way out by being willing to sacrifice their souls. It’s a first-person take on this seemingly ludicrous idea of God and the Devil, but it turns out that it actually does exist.” Continue Reading

“You know all is not well when Hell resorts to outsourcing to close deals made with the Devil. Or in this case, a guy named Stan.”

That’s the tagline for my new would-be book, a work of fiction entitled GRIM – My Way To Hell. I launched a 30 day Kickstarter campaign a little over two weeks ago in an attempt to raise pre-order funds to finance its publication. If all goes well, the book will be released in October 2016.

Some people might remember, however, that I condemned the idea of crowdfunding in my BraveWords year-end write up back in 2014, which makes me something of a hypocrite. Funny how things come back to bite you in the ass when you least expect it. The problem is I’ve had this book burning a hole in my brain for the last few years, and real life being what it is, saving the funds needed to publish a book independently with a limited income is next to impossible. So, I’ve had to swallow my pride. We’re going to see what happens with this, and if the campaign fails I’ll have to go back and do things the hard way.

Cover art for the book was created by former BW&BK graphic artist Hugues Laflamme, while the video trailer above features music composed exclusively for the project by After Forever guitarist / death vocalist Sander Gommans. The voiceover was provided by Trillium / Avantasia vocalist Amanda Somerville. It was shot and edited by video director Andreas Spitz. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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The first four seconds into the new album, Headbanger’s Symphony, are enough to slam dunk the 11-track opus into the Accept catalogue. Never mind that opening track “Scherzo” is an adaptation of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” featuring a tip of the hat to the band’s “Teutonic Terror”; the record has guitarist Wolf Hoffmann written all over it, featuring popular classical music pieces adapted for the metal crowd. The results are quite often stunning if you’re open to instrumental metal without the loopy Steve Vai craziness. For those Accept and/or Hoffmann fans that think this is something new for the legendary axe-master, however, not so…

“I made a classical album 20 years ago (Classical) and I’ve always been the guy doing that sort of thing in Accept songs, so it wasn’t totally unexpected,” says Hoffmann. “At the same time, it took forever to get this album finished so I’m super excited that it’s finally here.”

The delay in getting Headbanger’s Symphony was due to the fact Accept has always been Hoffmann’s top priority, particularly since their 2010 comeback album, Blood Of The Nations, pretty much blew the roof off the metal scene for being one of the strongest records released that year

“The majority of the album started before Accept got back together,” Hoffmann reveals, “so it was at a stage where it was almost ready but the recordings weren’t finalized. The tracks were written and the project was in my head, it was all demo-ed and good to go, and then Accept started back up. So whenever there was a couple weeks free, like over Christmas, or things slowed down I went at it again. And again and again (laughs).” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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On June 24th, German metal queen Doro released her latest in a string of anniversary DVDs entitled Strong And Proud – 30 Years Of Rock And Metal. For some people this may come off as overkill in that the lovely lady cranks out an audio-visual extravaganza every five years or so, needlessly showcasing the fact she’s still in top form and kicking ass. For the diehard fans it’s a celebration of an artist who continues to put her peers and performers half her age to shame (Doro was born in ’64; do the math). Strong And Proud is a monstrous three DVD set featuring an obligatory Wacken Open Air show, a two-night stand her Düsseldorf home town divided between Classic Night and Rock / Metal Night sets, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and bonus material Doro couldn’t leave on the cutting room floor even though she was advised to do so by the creative team backing her up.

“It was at least one-and-a-half years of work,” Doro reveals, as the 30th Anniversary show in Düsseldorf was shot in 2014. “I have a guy that works with me, he’s done the last four DVDs, but I always want to be there to help take care of stuff so it’s definitely teamwork. I know best what the fans want to see, so there might be an editor that’s great at his job technically but I want to see excitement of the fans, I want to see their faces. Those things catch my eye but the guy doing the editing might have a different perspective. And sometimes I’ll have to tell the people ‘No, the other guy is playing the guitar solo, not him, so focus on the other guy…’ It’s like they always focus on the wrong guitar player unless I’m there (laughs). There’s a team of people that work on editing, colour grading, sound and all these other details, so it was months and months of work.” Continue Reading

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So yeah, I’ve been all about trying to publish this book independently for the last few years and it has been a very slow process. The writing itself wasn’t an issue, although I discovered some fantastically awful grammatical errors when I went back to look at the manuscript some six months after the fact. I dragged my feet putting together a Kickstarter campaign to finance the book, as I have publicly denounced crowdfunding in the past, but realized that it’s the only way I’m ever going to (hopefully) secure the funds to publish. Back in January I foolishly announced March 15th as the Kickstarter launch even though I didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle assembled. My pride took a beating when those plans fell through and I’m still eating my words.

It was plan from the very beginning to have a video trailer to advertise the Kickstarter campaign. One thing the music biz has taught me is Promote Or Die, and video is seemingly the best way to go in this day and age. Finding someone to do the work proved to be a problem, however, as the one soul who promised big and brash and bold things took a powder when he realized I wasn’t kidding about going through with it. Either that or the music composed by Sander Gommans (After Forever, HDK) scared the bejeezus out of him and sent him running with his award-winning tail between his legs. Trying to find someone else to do the job took a few months of hair pulling, one profanity-laced rant on Facebook, and a phone call from Rock & Royalty photo god Heiko Roith who introduced me to a colleague we’ll call Spitz for the time being. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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Seeing as how BraveWords lays claim to being Canada’s authority on metal and boasts an international reach that few can compete with – we’re a humble lot up here in the Great White North – it falls to us to acknowledge the victory of fellow Canuck and drummer extraordinaire, Randy Black, who made a small but significant contribution to the legacy of German thrash masters Destruction in 2015. Thus, going in to discuss the band’s new slab of violence Under Attack with Destruction frontman Schmier, the first order of business was to find out how Black fared filling in behind the kit while permanent drummer Vaaver took some time off to be with his family early last year.

“He’s not a crazy Canuck,” Schmier laughs. “Randy doesn’t drink or do drugs, and he takes his job very seriously, so nothing spectacular happened like Randy destroying the bus or anything like that. He’s very focused on his work. It was difficult because we needed someone to replace Vaaver for a while and it had to be someone who was familiar with Destruction who could learn to play the material in a short amount of time. It’s not easy to learn and feel the songs like a drummer who has been playing them for a number of years, but Randy did it his way and he did a great job. Vaaver thought it was great the way Randy interpreted the songs. It was fun working with him and there were a lot of people that liked it so much that they started asking if Randy was joining the band permanently. I think it was a good challenge for him. It was a good cardio workout for him, anyway (laughs). I think the last time he played stuff like ours was with Annihilator, but Destruction has more fast stuff compared to them. Randy was in great shape by the end of the tour (laughs).”

Fast forward to the present, where Under Attack closes the four year gap since Spritual Genocide. An unusually long time between Destruction albums, but according to Schmier it was a conscious move on the band’s part to take their time making rather than having to deal with unexpected roadblocks.

“We recorded the demos for Under Attack and then went back on tour, so we were never in the studio for more than three or four days at a time. It was actually a genius move because we recorded a song or two or three, went back on the road, and we had all that energy and excitement from playing the old songs for the fans. When we went back into the studio we had that old school feeling even as we were refreshing our sound, and it made the songwriting process very smooth. If you don’t write songs for two or three years, when you do start writing again you have so many ideas. I was like a volcano of new ideas, it was shocking.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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More often that not, band biographies are loaded with show-off information and adjective-tweaked factoids meant to sell the artist in question to the press. Makes sense if a label or management is pushing a new signing, but it comes off as trying to sell snow to an Eskimo when the band has been around for over a decade and has seven albums to choose from. In short, trying to sell a veteran and altogether successful band’s new work on hype rather than substance is insulting to the folks behind the music. This is particularly true of DevilDriver and vocalist Dez Fafara, who launched the band in 2002 after carving a path into the distortion-driven music scene with Coal Chamber beginning in 1993. He’s quite content and able to to let his music do the talking, as on the new DevilDriver album Trust No One.

“I think I’m still around because I’m a no-bullshit guy,” says Fafara. “I don’t have time for the purists in music or any of that. People who know me, that are close to me, they appreciate the guy that I am because I don’t have the time to bullshit you.”

Thus we leave it to him to describe DevilDriver; the only overview that really matters in the end.

“Every single record has a DevilDriver sound and a signature groove but they’re very different from one another. Beast is very different from Pray For Villains, and Trust No One is very different from our last record. People can’t pin us down and I think that’s a good thing. They started calling us groove metal and I thought that was too broad a term, so they started calling us the California groove machine. It’s like, ‘Okay, I’ll take that…’ (laughs).”

A nifty little stamp, sure, but it still reeks of desperation on the part of the media or management as trying to put DevilDriver in a convenient little box.

“Sometimes you have to go with monikers because some people need a tag,” Fafara offers. “Long ago when I started DevilDriver, I wanted a signature sound and I knew I wanted something different. I’ve got my ear to the ground, I hear what’s going on in metal, and I see a lot of bands putting out the same record. There’s been hype and critical acclaim behind records that I listen to and I’m thinking ‘What..? Why?’ For me it’s like ‘Let’s do something different, let’s stand out,’ and I think on Trust No One – especially on the new album – that we’ve done something that’s our own. We’ve upped the sound and I’ve definitely upped the players within the band, and it has become a monster.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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“Without The Sweet there would not have been a KISS.”

So says music legend, entrepreneur and mouthpiece Gene Simmons, which is a fine reason to give a damn about what The Sweet and all its moving parts are up to these days. In the case Pete Lincoln, who has been fronting the 45+ year institution since 2006, and guitarist Andy Scott (on board since 1970), they recently wrapped up a three week road trip through Germany and Switzerland with the annual Rock Meets Classic tour, now boasting seven years of success. Lincoln and Scott shared the stage with Joey Tempest (Europe), Scott Gorham and Ricky Warwick (Thin Lizzy), Dan McCafferty (Nazareth), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Doro (Warlock) and Steve Walsh (Kansas), performing some of The Sweet’s classic tunes to raucous rounds of approval night after night. On top of that, they helped to break in the new Rock Meets Classic format when it was decided the six year old formula needed to be changed.

“I saw Rock Meet Classic last year when I was in Germany and it blew me way, and I said we’ve got to get on it,” Lincoln says of how he and Scott found themselves on the tour. “Obviously we couldn’t take the whole band so it’s just me and Andy, but it’s just great. It’s a new concept for us so we had to get our heads around it because there’s the orchestra, the Mat Sinner Band band members, the set changes, other elements. It’s not the same as playing with a regular band so it took a few days, but I think we all agree that we don’t want to stop. We want to go home for a week’s rest, then come back and do another month of this. I’ve heard all these songs before, of course, but it’s great to hear them in this context. Midge’s songs, for example, take on a new life; ‘Vienna’ with an orchestra sounds killer. It’s really interesting to see how the format works on all these different types of music.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie released his third solo album in 2005, ditching the Mullmuzzler project name he’d used for the first two. The record in question, Elements Of Persuasion, was huge step away from Keep It To Yourself (1999) and Mullmuzzler 2 (2001) in that it was heavier and more melodic, with Labrie and long time collaborator Matt Guillory (keyboards) having finally locked into a musical direction. The addition of then-unknown Italian guitar virtuoso Marco Sfogli and LaBrie’s close friend and former Winter Rose bandmate Richard Chycki as sound engineer tied everything together and set the tone for future albums from the LaBrie camp.

Since then, LaBrie and his band – Guillory, Sfogli, bassist Ray Riendeau and drummer/vocalist Peter Wildoer – have released Static Impulse (2010) and Impermanent Resonance (2013) which built on the Elements Of Persuasion sound by adding a strong dose of death metal vocal aggression. Some fans were violently opposed to this new element (provided by Wildoer) when Static Impulse surfaced, but a large number of followers praised LaBrie having the balls to try something radically different from his Dream Theater day job. During my BraveWords for Dream Theater’s Canada / US tour in support of their new album, The Astonishing, LaBrie shed some light on the possibility of a new solo album somewhere down the line.

“I think it’s just a matter of Matt Guillory, myself, and all the other guys making time to get together,” says LaBrie. “It really is a band and me and Matt are really passionate about keeping the same players of the last 10 years. Matt and I have talked and we agree that we definitely have to do another one, we have to follow up Impermanent Resonance with an album that is just as killer. I think it’ll be better. It really is a matter of being able to sit down and put the time and focus into it that it deserves. But yeah, I do believe there will be another one. I really want to do another solo album before I say ‘I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore…’ or ‘I don’t want to perform live anymore.'” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

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One of the big metal events of 2015 was the highly anticipated Savatage reunion show at the world renowned Wacken Open Air. Many fans were sceptical of the band’s return to the stage when the buzz first started, however, as Savatage’s sister-act the Trans-SiberianOrchestra had absorbed the band members on its rise to arena rock mega-fame following Savatage’s Poets And Madmen tour in 2002. It was TSO’s continuing success as one of the highest grossing annual tours in North America that had presumably stalled any further output from the Savatage camp and effectively put them on hiatus. The press discovered over the course of 2015 that a Savatage reunion at Wacken was very much a reality in the making, with band members sworn to secrecy by management during press engagements for their own projects; it affected guitarist Chris Caffery and Circle II Circle vocalist Zak Stevens in particular, as they both had new albums come out in 2015.

“That was right up to the day of the show,” says Stevens. “You know how management is; everything has to be top secret (laughs). We really felt is was that way right up until we hit the stage. It was crazy, yeah, but everyone did a pretty good job. The consensus among some people is that we could have done better, we could have taken it more seriously. I think we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because we’re older, we did the rehearsals and figured out that we’re a lot better now than we were back in ’97 when we played the main stage at Wacken. And everybody in the band fell in love again. That was fantastic because it was clear that everybody missed it.”

“We had this really aggressive plan to hit the two stages at once, using fiber optic technology so we wouldn’t have any signal loss, and we brought all the pyro that we use in a season with two companies in TSO and blow it all off on one night… without trying to blow anybody up (laughs). We had one pyro meeting before the show and you would have loved that. You would have laughed your ass off because it was like ‘Okay everybody, gather round. We’ve got all this pyro from the TSO tours, we’re going to blow it all up tonight, these are the places you don’t want to stand…’ They asked how many people on stage were new to pyro and about 40% raised their hands. I raised my hand because I’ve never been involved with that kind of pyro (laughs). Because I’m a frontman and one of the elder statesman they pulled me aside and said ‘Look, definitely don’t stand here, here, here and here…’ (laughs).” Continue Reading