Archive for April, 2012
By Carl Begai
Booked for a phone interview in the midst of a European tour, Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann dutifully took on the task during a travel day, only to be confronted with a mobile signal that refused to cooperate as the band’s tour bus hurtled down one of Germany’s highways. Thus, two dropped calls later and Hoffmann questioning the wisdom of interviews being scheduled while the band is in transit, he opted not to call back a third time, leaving BW&BK with half an interview and a half-baked story. Fast forward 24 hours to an unplanned and completely unexpected phone call from Hoffmann, settled in his pre-show (and stationary) hotel room, who had chosen to step up of his own free will and finish the job rather than write us off as a digital-age hiccup.
Not that Accept desperately needs the coverage. Hoffmann is certainly happy to have it, but the buzz surrounding the band’s new album, Stalingrad, is as loud and in-you-face as the justified hype their rousing 2010 comeback, Blood Of The Nations.
“I guess we’re just firing on all cylinders at the moment,” muses Hoffmann. “We were away for quite some time, so maybe that recharged out batteries enough to give us the energy to keep going like this, but sometimes I ask myself how we’ve managed to do it again. I don’t know. We just go out and do it.”
Stalingrad marks Accept’s second outing with vocalist Mark Tornillo, who replaced original singer Udo Dirkschneider behind the mic for the reunion when the U.D.O. frontman made it brutally clear he wasn’t interested. Months of touring behind classic and new Blood Of The Nations material quite naturally tightened the bonds of this new Accept incarnation, suggesting the band was much more focused going in to do Stalingrad.
“It wasn’t dramatically different,” Hoffmann says of the creative process. “The only difference was that we were, as you said, a little more in tune with what we were going for. When we made Blood Of The Nations we were fishing a little bit; where does Accept belong in 2010? We weren’t sure if we should go the totally old school way or of we should try to incorporate some newer elements in out sound. But, because everything worked out so well with Blood Of The Nations we kind of decided not to change a winning formula. We just tried to come up with new songs that were as good as the one on Blood Of The Nations. The ideas on Stalingrad are fresh along the same lines, and that was our goal.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Call it a safe bet that a fair number of progressive metal fans feel slighted by having two giants of the genre – vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) – slamming down ton of bricks modern-edged metal with nary a 5/8 time signature or widdly keyboard flourish in sight. Nope, this is feelgood freight train mayhem minus the seatbelts done up old school, with the dynamic prog duo and guitarist Mike Orlando relying on musicality rather than gutteral aggression and the same old boring-ass downtuned chords to get their message across. Allen is a monster right out of the gate, his melodic bellow on lead-off tracks ‘Undaunted’ and ‘Psychosane’ laying the groundwork for some of the strongest material of his career (and wiping those damn Allen/Lande albums from memory). Orlando was either schooled in Stuck Mojo, or the band’s guitarist Rich Ward – who was in Adrenaline Mob for about 5 minutes – made a lasting impression on his songwriting. When it comes down to the groove crunch, and there’s plenty of it, Orlando’s shred is also an echo of Zakk Wylde, giving folks a welcome taste of Black Label Society. With Portnoy providing the backbone for the Allen/Orlando-penned tunes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Adrenaline Mob’s overall sound is far and away from your average balls-out 4/4 metal band.
By Carl Begai
When Trans-Siberian Orchestra / Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery refers to Tears Of The Sun, he’s not talking about a new sadboy love song he’s just written, or taking a shot at launching a Broadway play. Nope. Tears Of The Sun is, in fact, a Caffery-created hot sauce that has gone from his kitchen to the stores through a series of fortunate coincidences. And unlike a lot of “celebrity” marketed products – which usually feature little or no actual input from the star in question even though his/her name is slapped on the label – Caffery can lay claim to having created Tears Of The Sun hot sauce from scratch.
“All of it is my recipe, actually, because I’ve been cooking my entire life,” says Caffery. “Steve Seabury at High River Sauces is responsible for getting it out there. The whole idea of making the hot sauce company that he has came about while he was managing some of my solo stuff and dipping his feet into the food business at the same time. I gave him some of the hot sauce I’d made at a business meeting, and he really liked it. From there Steve eventually got into doing it as a business, but this recipe is 100% mine. I measured the ingredients and sent it to the guy that was making it; they cooked it off of that. I had them tweak it a little bit because I wasn’t completely happy with the way it came out, and we ended up with the hot sauce we have now.”
“It’s not like I’m just stamping my name on a bottle,” he continues. “In fact, I didn’t put my name on it at all because I didn’t want it to be presented as ‘Here, a musician put his name on some salsa.’ I wanted to make something that would actually get taken seriously, and it won two really big national hot sauce awards since it hit the market; Best New Hot Sauce Of The Year and Best Fruit-Based Habanero Sauce. I think that if we would have said it’s Chris Caffery’s Hot Sauce, that wouldn’t have happened.” (continue reading…)
Folks that spend any time on this site – and to those that do, thank you – are aware that the passing of Woods Of Ypres frontman/founder David Gold last year affected a lot of people on the Canadian metal scene, myself included. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the tribute shows that took place at home earlier this month, but drummer Rae Amitay – who was gearing up to tour with Woods through 2012 – and Eclipse Eternal frontman Voldamareshave issued their own special recaps of the events dedicated to David’s memory. They both appear below.
Rae issued the following via Metal Review:
“When I try to put my experience from Ypres Metal Fest into words, everything from that night and the days leading up to it seems to blur together into a mess of emotions that I can’t properly articulate. As those reading this may know, David Gold had asked me to play drums for Woods of Ypres in support of the brilliant album Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light. I accepted without hesitation, and my days quickly filled with practicing and making plans with him, Joel Violette, and Brendan Hayter. For each of us, being in Woods was a dream come true, and we were greatly looking forward to being a part of the band together. It all felt like the beginning of something extraordinary. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
When Halestorm surfaced in 2009 with their self-titled major league debut – after a decade in the trenches creating a buzz – they hit a home run with fans of modern day radio rock. The band was immediately lumped into the Nickelback / Shinedown section of the bus and rewarded with a legion of fans for their trouble. Safe, predictable and formulaic, they became a success through a mix of pushing the right commercial buttons, good looks, and touring their collective asses off on some big-name road trips. For all the accolades, however, Halestorm was considered by those listening from the sidelines as a solid act but not worth writing home about. The release of the ReAniMate covers EP in 2011 punched a king-sized hole in the “safe and predictable” tag-line, scaring the hell out of the naysayers (and some fans) with wonderfully obnoxious covers of anthems ‘Slave To The Grind’ (Skid Row) and ‘Out Ta Get Me’ (Guns N’ Roses), and a ballsy rendition of The Beatles’ classic ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’. The live shows around the release sent a clear message that in spite of popular fluff in their repertoire, Halestorm is a tooth and nail rock band capable of bringing the roof down around your ears.
For anyone that didn’t jump on board at the beginning of the Halestorm trip, new outing The Strange Case Of… is exactly that: strange. It kicks off with a tip of the hat to the fans of all things heavy with ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’, essentially daring rivet-heads everywhere not to get roped in by the up-tempo shred and vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale’s rant-tastic delivery. Second track ‘Mz. Hyde’ is just as much of a surprise thanks to a chugging Stray Cats groove (!), followed by the soaring crush of ‘I Miss The Misery’ and the too-Papa-Roach-for-its-own-good rocker, ‘Freak Like Me’. Only four songs in, it’s clear as to why Lzzy is considered to be one of, if not the best female vocalist on the scene today. Her delivery is classic Joan Jett attitude mixed with Corey Taylor intensity (as needed) and a young Sebastian Bach’s insane vocal range. Everything you hear has been and can be pulled off live, with interest. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
It’s fair to say that former Venom bandmates Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan (vocals/bass) and Jeff “Mantas” Dunn (guitars) do their best work as a unit. There are folks that labelled Dolan a pretender to original / current Venom singer Cronos’ pincushion throne when he stomped in for three albums from 1989 – 1992 (Prime Evil, Temples Of Ice, The Waste Lands), but Dolan is still recognized as an integral part of the band’s history. The fans were reminded of this in 2004 when Dolan joined Dunn’s new albeit short-lived project, Mantas. It was a venture that died before its time, largely regarded as a nice try and not much else. When the buzz of another reunion project started up in 2010, however – this time with ex-Venom drummer Antton Lant in the mix – people were all ears, particularly since the trio had chosen to work under the banner Prime Evil as a tip of the hat to their collective past. One name change and Lant’s unfortunate but amicable departure later, Dolan and Dunn are in arguably better form than ever with Mpire Of Evil.
“We had a long discussion before anything got off the ground,” Dolan admits. “Every time we’ve tried to get back together it’s been because we wanted to, and every time we stopped it was because of some other fucker, never because of us. The Mantas thing for example; we did the album (Zero Tolerance), we shot a video, we did the Earthshaker Festival in Germany, but when we got back it became apparent to me rather quickly that the record company (Demolition Records) might not be spending the money promoting the album they way they should have been. I told them that if they didn’t invest in it, thing were going to go the same way they always have. We had a big discussion with management and the record company, and I wouldn’t let it go. I kept bringing it up and they got so pissed off at me in the end, thinking that I’d become a bit of a problem saying they should do this and that. The label eventually told Jeff that he either dropped me or they were going to drop the band.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Like any serious band, the members of Toronto-based trio Modified – Tricia Stanley (vocals), Anthony Xander (guitars/vocals), James “Jones” Rose (drums) – are fuelled by their individual rock star dreams. Those aspirations are tempered, however, by keeping their collective feet firmly planted in the real world. Every step they’ve taken since the release of their EP debut Cruel Intentions in 2009 has been with a goal in mind rather than to prove a point to curious people watching from the sidelines. Battle Of The Bands competitions, sharing the stage with screamo, pop rock and death metal bands, shooting live-off-the-floor studio footage or an official video clip, Modified have taken on the music scene with a professional and thought-out approach unexpected in a young band still learning the ropes.
Ironically, Tricia sent out a message via Facebook a month prior to this interview stating that Modified were finished with Battle Of The Bands competitions from here on out. Not quite a rant, but a clear indication the band has had enough of being a number on a ballot.
Tricia: “I’m not pissed off, but it just seemed like we were getting bombarded by these promoters coming to us all at once saying ‘Do you wanna play this show?’ which was always followed by ‘Here’s the catch…’ It’s not like: ‘We love your band, we believe in you guys.’ It all comes down to how much money they can make off us. I know that’s the reality of the business, but I feel we’re past the stage in our lives where we can drive around the city for two weeks selling tickets. I don’t like it, so I’d rather not be involved in that part of it. And half the time it’s not a true contest; it comes down to how many friends you bring and whose ass you’re kissing. If it was a true contest where you could get something significant out of it to help the band, that would be fine, but we just don’t have time for that.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
In North America the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become as traditional at Christmas as Santa Claus, coloured lights and holiday parking. Even if you’ve never attended one of their seasonal shows – which usually hits a city near you anywhere from November through January – you’ve definitely heard of them, as the TSO rock opera format appeals to people from all walks of life, to everyone from children to the elderly. Plain and simple, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has proven for well over a decade that you don’t need to be metal to ride this ride, regardless of the outfit’s Savatage-rooted history.
Producer/composer Paul O’Neill is known for pushing the envelope with every project he devises. It was his collaborative efforts with Savatage frontman Jon Oliva in the late ’80s, in fact, that slowly but surely transformed the legendary metal band into something much more theatrical in nature, which eventually spawned the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And while TSO established itself as a Christmas-themed project when it launched in 1996, O’Neill got rid of the sleigh in 2000 for Beethoven’s Last Night, an album telling the fictitious tale of legendary composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s last night alive. TSO finally toured for the album in North America in 2010, went to Europe the following year, and 2012 sees the band on the road again, this time supporting a fully narrated re-release of Beethoven’s Last Night.
Guitarist Chris Caffery, a long time member of Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, offered his views on the current Beethoven’s Last Night tour versus the annual winter shows during some rare and fleeting post-soundcheck downtime:
“It’s a very different vibe. The winter tour has the holiday and runaway theme to the story line, the music marries that story. This tour is the complete Beethoven’s Last Night album, and it’s not like the winter show isn’t a rock concert, but the Beethoven show has a darker feel because of the story and the theme. Beethoven is battling the devil to save his soul and his music, it’s a pretty intense story. For me personally it feels more like I’m performing a rock concert because of the way the songs and the album is structured. It’s a little bit more to where my roots were when I performed growing up. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
It takes remarkable strength of character to throw yourself to the wolves knowing you’re going to get bitten and potentially ripped to shreds. So it goes that, regardless of what Into Eternity fans may think of vocalist Amanda Kiernan stepping in to replace Stu Block – now a member of Iced Earth – for the band’s live activities, they have to respect her for willingly putting herself in harm’s way. With a few gigs under her belt at the time of this writing, Kiernan had made more friends than enemies amongst Into Eternity fans even as they mourned Block’s absence, the majority seemingly able to give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s anybody’s guess how the future will play out now that the band essentially has two singers and Block’s Iced Earth career has exploded, but the bottom line is that Kiernan is committed to shedding even more blood, sweat and tears to make things work.
Kiernan’s journey began in November 2011 when Into Eternity put out the call for a “touring only” singer. She jumped in with both feet.
“I found out about the audition and called (Into Eternity drummer) Brian Newbury right away,” Kiernan says. “I just wanted to push myself to the top and prove to myself and others that I can actually do this, and that there are no limitations. After I called him we both went to my studio and spent two days recording the audition songs that Tim Roth (guitars / founder) wanted me to do.” (continue reading…)