During a soon-to-be-published BraveWords interview in support of his new solo album, When Life Was Hard & Fast, vocalist / guitarist Ricky Warwick discussed the forthcoming box set from The Almighty. Warwick launched the band in with drummer Stump Monroe and bassist Floyd London in 1988; original guitarist Tantrum was replaced by Peter Friesen in 1991. The Almighty went on indefinite hiatus in 2008 when London announced he was leaving the band.
Warwick revealed the box set has been a long time in coming and only became a reality in 2020.
“It was a nightmare purely for that reason, just getting clearance from all the various labels and everything,” he says. “It took a while. Some labels were very cooperative and were very fast, others dragged their heels and took forever: It was definitely a labour of love, so big kudos to my management for pursuing it. I wanted to put the house in order because it was so messy; so much stuff was unavailable, so much stuff was all over the place. It bugged me for so long and I needed help to do that. I didn’t even know where to begin, so to have management helping me… they were fantastic. We’ve been working along with Stump for the last five or six years trying to put this together, so to finally get it all in one place is just wonderful. It’ll definitely come out this year. We’re just waiting on a release date.”
Launched in 2012 by Finnish multi-instrumentalist Pauli Souka, Coldbound is a symphonic / progressive doom metal project that has taken on new life with the addition of former Theatre of Tragedy vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs and former Ensiferum keyboardist Meiju Enho to the creative team. Coldbound has released a new single, “Slumber Of Decay”, offering a taste of what’s to come on the forthcoming full length album. Following is a brief interview outlining Coldbound’s vision as they gear up to finish and release the record.
Carl Begai: Coldbound was launched as a project solely under your control. What do Liv and Meiju bring to the creative process that you couldn’t achieve on his own?
Pauli Souka: “That’s a very interesting question. For this album recordings I’ve had the priviledge and honour to work with almost 43 people; 43 wonderful musicians and fantastic personalities. Some of these people had a huge impact on the way I see music. Two of them were definitely Liv Kristine and Meiju. The main reason I brought them into this is that I knew I could trust the project in their hands 100%. The results I received left me speechless, as the sounds they created were unique and definitely beyond any expectations I had. To be able to co-exist in the same project with these two fantastic ladies is a huge honour. They’re both unique and exceptional in their fields.”
If a musician is fortunate enough to write a song – never mind a full album – that continues to resonate with fans years and decades after its release, he or she has every reason to be proud. Particularly in this day and age, when attention spans have been seemingly reduced to nanoseconds and music comes off as being as disposable for some people as used tissues or what passes for food at McD’s. When vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva and guitarist / keyboardist Chris Rehn, the brains behind Angtoria, saw the release of the band’s one and only album in 2006, they never imagined God Has A Plan For Us All would embed itself so firmly in the hearts of those that discovered the music. By no means was the record a million seller, but Sarah’s and Chris’ respective histories – her with Cradle Of Filth, The Kovenant, Mortiis to name a few, him with Abyssos and Takida – guaranteed from the outset that people would be paying attention. Sadly, after a solid response to the album Angtoria just faded away without an explanation. Fourteen years later, however, Sarah revealed she and Chris had decided to take a stab at releasing new music for the Angtoria fans that have continued to hold the band so dear, albeit under the project’s original name, Torn Between Two Worlds. The first sign of new life is the single “The Beauty Of Deception”, a song that would be well at home on God Has A Plan For Us All… which is just what the diehard Angtoria fans wanted.
BraveWords: How long has this comeback been in planning even though you aren’t using the Angtoria name anymore?
Chris: “In planning… well, Sarah and I met back in 2001 and started talking about working together, so it’s been in planning ever since then. We’ve did some demo tracks with this particular project back in 2003, and that escalated and evolved into Angtoria in 2006. This particular track has been in planning for the last five years; not five years in the making, just in the planning. Sarah and I are both busy with our families and work, so trying to find the time to do things for fun versus for work… those are two different things. And when you’re working 18 hours a day and trying to set time aside to do music for fun, it isn’t easy.”
In 2010, German metal legends Accept ended a 14 year hiatus with Blood Of The Nations, an album that went over a storm in spite of the band doing the unthinkable (again) by replacing original vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. News that former T.T. Quick singer Mark Tornillo was fronting the band created a nasty buzz amongst Accept diehards, many of whom regarded the Eat The Heat record from 1989 a monumental bomb due to the addition of David Reece in place of Accept’s iconic original singer. Blood Of The Nations was anything but a failure, however, silencing the naysayers with band’s strongest record since 1993’s Objection Overruled and serving as a launchpad for a decade of metal mayhem. Too Mean To Die is Accept’s latest offering five albums in from their comeback, and it’s fair to say anyone who has stuck around since then or was weaned on the Restless And Wild, Balls To The Wall and Metal Heart albums will find it delivers the expected goods.
Asked if it registers that a decade has indeed passed since the Blood Of The Nations comeback, guitarist Wolf Hoffmann says “it sounds like a long time, but really, it goes by so quickly. But, sometimes I’m amazed at how much we’ve done in the last 10 years. Five albums, I made a solo album, we made a live album, we’ve toured all over the world. Yeah, we’ve done a lot (laughs).”
One of Accept’s last road trips before getting to work on Too Mean To Die was 2019’s Symphonic Terror Tour through Europe with the Orchestra Of Death. It was an important tour for several reasons and in truth was meant to be a Wolf Hoffmann solo tour. It simply grew to become an entirely different animal during the planning stages.
“That tour was really a lot of fun” says Hoffmann. “I have to say it’s one of the best tours I’ve ever done in my life from a musical and personal standpoint. It was very satisfying. And the funny thing is, yeah, it was supposed to be a Wolf Hoffmann tour; Accept snuck in as an afterthought. Originally I was going to go on tour with my solo project and an orchestra, but then it happened step-by-step that everyone said ‘Well, if you’re going to be on stage you’re going to play ‘Balls To The Wall’, right? You’re going to play ‘Metal Heart’, right?’ And you can’t really do that without a singer, which is how the Accept guys ended up getting involved. It was hard to communicate with the outside saying that it was an Accept show with an orchestra, because I was playing all these instrumentals during the show, but what are you gonna do? I just wanted to play stuff from my solo album (Headbanger’s Symphony) and we wanted to play some Accept stuff, so we did a 50-50 thing.”
Blame Soilwork guitarist David Andersson for the band’s new EP, A Whisp Of The Atlantic. It’s all his fault. And he’s proud of it.
Of course Andersson’s bandmates were all present and accounted for when Soilwork put the EP together over the summer, but it was the 45 year-old guitarist who fired up the machine again and put everyone back to work. A Whisp Of The Atlantic offers up some startling work from the band, spearheaded by the monstrous 16-minute title track that, once again, makes a bold statement with regards to collective talent that Soilwork bleeds into their music. For Andersson it was a chance for the band to continue exercising this creativity rather than waiting for the world to get back to something resembling normal before releasing a follow-up to their previous spotlight-worthy album, Verkligheten.
“We released Verkligheten early last year, and this line-up of the band has a really good time together, so we’re very creative and enthusiastic about what we’re doing,” Andersson explains. “I thought it would be a waste to wait two or three years before we record something new, so I wrote a few songs starting with ‘Feverish’. I made a few more and everyone seemed to like them. Since I joined the band in 2012, I’ve always had this idea of writing one long epic, progressive song. Just because I loved prog rock growing up, and I also think that Soilwork is a bit underestimated as a band. People think of us as writing catchy Swedish melodic death metal but we’re more than just that. With this line-up we’re pretty much able to play any kind of music and it would be really nice to just be able to show people that we’re much more than they think.”
Guitarist / vocalist / self-styled hand model Jason Bieler was a founding member and the main songwriter for Saigon Kick, launched in 1988. The band’s on again / off again career had more twists, turns, ups and down than a drug-addled rollercoaster designer’s masterpiece, but longstanding fans agree to a man (and woman) that Saigon Kick’s first two albums – the self-titled debut (1991) and The Lizard (1992) – are untouchable works of distortion heavy art (your arguments are invalid). While the band has since been laid to rest Bieler continues to make music, and in fact he never stopped even when they were in a holding pattern for years at a time. Most of it has been released independently over Bandcamp under the Owl Stretching moniker, but Bieler decided towards the end of 2019 to work on a second full blown solo album rather just single releases. The end result is Songs For The Apocalypse featuring a literal truckload of guest musicians playing to and for Bieler’s unique vision. And even though it will satisfy many a Saigon Kick fan’s want for something heavy from the man – this is the loudest he’s been in ages – one should leave all preconceived notions at the door before going in.
Prior to the making of Songs For The Apocalypse, Bieler began moving away from the Owl Stretching name in favour of his own. Devised as a one-man project with the goal of bringing a song to life within 24 hours of coming up with an idea, Owl Stretching was an ongoing experiment used to refine his craft. Sadly, not as many people were aware of it as there should have been, but the new album may change that by putting the Jason Bieler name in lights.
“That could happen,” agrees Bieler. “Having the label I’m with now (Frontiers) and talking to different people that I work with, they all told me ‘Dude, you don’t realize you’re already obscure, so by naming it Owl Stretching you aren’t helping the cause in any way, shape or form. You’re making looking for a needle in a haystack the logical choice compared to what you’re doing.’ And they were right, of course. I decided to just change it to my name to make it a little bit easier for those people that were looking.”
Diamond Head may not be a household name, but their influence on the metal world is undeniable. They don’t share the spotlight with the likes of Iron Maiden, Def Leppard or Motörhead, but they are a recognized part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal circle that took the distortion-loving world by storm in the ’70s and into the ’80s. A prime example is Metallica who spent the early part of their career cranking out and covering no less than five Diamond Head songs – “It’s Electric”, “Helpless”, “Am I Evil?”, “The Prince” and “Sucking My Love” – taken from the band’s debut Lightning To The Nations, an album that turns 40 this year. Listening to Metallica’s first three records in particular, the Diamond Head references are easy to find if you’ve been paying attention.
Commercial success eluded Diamond Head because they were seemingly only able to keep things together for a few albums at a time over the course of four decades. Still, they’ve managed to put out eight albums and keep their name alive. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Lightning To The Nations, founding guitarist Brian Tatler and his bandmates decided album #9 should be a re-recording, figuring the updated version would appeal to the younger generation(s) of metal fans as well as the old guard. Particularly since there has been a renewed interest in Diamond Head in recent years.
“I think that’s partly due to our new singer, Ras (Rasmus Bom Andersen), who joined in 2014,” Tatler says of the band garnering new found and long overdue attention. “We released the self-titled Diamond Head album in 2016 and then The Coffin Train last year. Now we’ve got management (Siren), a label (Silver Lining) and an agent, so everything seems to be going really well. We realized it was creeping up to 40 years for Lightning To The Nations, and we could have just done some live shows – we did that in 2010 for the 30th Anniversary – but Karl (Wilcox / drums) suggested we re-record the whole first album with this line-up and this sort of modern sound and technology. I thought it sounded like a good idea.”
If the name Mark Mangold sounds familiar, it’s no small wonder given that the pop singer / songwriter / producer has a career dating back to the early ’70s. He has written songs with / for Michael Bolton, Cher, Paul Rodgers, Jennifer Rush and Laura Branigan to name a few, as well as making waves of his own with the band Touch in the early ’80s. Most recently, he co-wrote the song “Lost In Time” for Swedish melodic metallers Cyhra’s second album, No Halos In Hell. Prior to all of this, however, Mangold released three albums between 1974 and 1977 with the keyboard-dominated outfit American Tears, and the end of 2020 sees him returning to his old stomping grounds. The new album, Free Angel Express, is a massive 14-track romp of ’70s prog rock for folks that grew up in the era of warm and organic headspace-moving music, when challenging the listener was normal rather than being a contrived move for shock value. It’s a far cry from the realms of writing formulaic big money pop hits, and Free Angel Express makes it clear that Mangold is most certainly in this business for music.
“I really missed playing synthesizer solos, the freedom of American Tears,” Mangold says of resurrecting American Tears, although he is the sole remaining founding member. “I don’t know if you can call it prog, but whatever it is, it’s not normal music, it’s not formula. You don’t have a safety net. It’s very free, so this is almost like I’m rebelling against the pop music and all the generic stuff that’s out there. With all due respect to Whitesnake, Foreigner and all those great bands, how many songs ripped off from those guys do we need to hear? And the record companies, that’s all they want, and I’ve done some of those records. I’m trying to do something original with American Tears, and it was always a case of doing whatever the fuck we wanted to do and being creative.”
“We started in 2004, so we’re not the most productive band on the planet. At least to other people it looks like we don’t do shit (laughs).”
Which is how Dimmu Borgir guitarist Silenoz – born Sven Atle Kopperud – sums up life in his side project, Insidious Disease. To date, the band has only two albums under their collective belt: their Shadowcast debut from 2010, and the just-released After Death. The in-your-face line-up featuring Silenoz, vocalist Marc Grewe (ex-Morgoth), guitarist Cyrus (Susperia), bassist Shane Embury (Napalm Death) and drummer Tony Laureano (ex-Nile) has finally put an end to their extended silence in a big way, and if not for the all-too-familiar pandemic’s chokehold on daily life the band would be delivering their goods to the fans first hand on the touring trail. This will happen eventually, Silenoz assures us; it’s just a matter of time until that becomes a reality. The same thing that plagued the making of the new album: time.
“Some of the ideas are from as far back as 2011 or 2012,” Silenoz says of After Death. “For instance, on the ‘Divine Fire’ demo I used the heartbeat of my unborn son at the time as the intro, and we kept that. And, Marc’s unborn son’s heartbeat is at the end of the song. That goes back to 2012 and it’s probably the oldest song on the new album. There was a good stretch of time between the material that we had, which was about 16 songs, but we trimmed it down to these 10.”
Given that Insidious Disease was locked away for a decade, fans may be left with impression that Silenoz, Grewe and Co. were content with getting back to work if and when they had nothing better to do. Not so, says Silenoz.
“The thing is, the debut album just kind of got buried because we were eager to start touring and promoting it, and things just hit an anti-climax because I got busy with Dimmu. There was never a reason as to why we shouldn’t tour, but it just didn’t take off. I think we could have worked harder on that end, but we always wanted to have Insidious Disease and not my solo project. We want to do everything to promote this new album.”
With the global pandemic’s continued stranglehold on everyday life, the goal here – unlike the tabloids that masquerade as metal websites – is to push conversation far away from everything virus-related in the interest of (blackened) soul-healing music. There are some instances, however, where it’s necessary to address COVID-19 and its effect on an artist’s career. Or in Devin Townsend’s case his current activities. Forced to scrap his Empath tour plans for 2020, Canada’s own Strapping Young Lad has released Order Of Magnitude – Empath Live Volume 1 to commemorate his December 2019 show in London, England, but this is only a dusting of what he’s been up to. Since March, Townsend launched a semi-ongoing podcast, streamed a series of off-the-cuff songs Quarantine Project songs to keep folks entertained, launched an effort to raise money for his out-of-work crew through merchandise sales, has performed a series of Quarantine Concerts to raise money for hospitals in Canada, the US and the UK, and put together a “virtual band” livestream show to make up for this year’s appearance at the Bloodstock Open Air getting blown out. No, boredom is certainly not an issue for Townsend in these trying times.
Devin: “I think I’m okay. It’s obviously very stressful in a lot of ways. Whether or not one subscribes to it, it’s the underlying anxiety that comes from this toxic and divisive period in time. It’s impossible to ignore. I think that undercurrent has made the fact that I’m finally at home and I’m finally in my studio a bittersweet thing because there’s not a lot of inspiration. It’s like, what are you going to write about? Are you going to compound the existing anxiety by writing about how you’re anxious? That doesn’t make any sense. It’s forced me to be outside my comfort zone, and that has propelled me down a lot of different avenues that I never anticipated being a part of. It’s been very fruitful, to be honest, and I should feel much worse than I do. All signs point to constant darkness and anxiety, but I’m trying to be as pro-active with that as possible so I don’t let that happen.”