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All posts for the month May, 2012

By Carl Begai

Not quite a year has passed since the release of her second official solo album, The Corruption Of Mercy, yet former Cradle Of Filth backing vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva is back with new music. Short but not exactly sweet, the three-song Malediction EP will be embraced by the diehard fans as a rousing stand-alone success. It’s also guaranteed to attract the attention of folks that normally wouldn’t have given Sarah and her bandmates the time of day, perhaps convincing them to stick around future escapades

Sarah makes it clear up front that Malediction isn’t the result of too many leftovers from the Corruption Of Mercy sessions. Nor is it a shot at trying to obliterate said album from memory as she did to her 2010 solo debut A Sign Of Sublime – which she considers a disappointment – with her previous outing.

“We didn’t have these songs lying about or anything like that,” she begins. “We never planned on doing this EP up until four or five months ago, and it was actually three things that led to making Malediction. We had a UK tour coming up, and the UK doesn’t give a shit about us. I suppose if I was a size 0 and had fake boobs to sell magazines they’d give a shit about me, but because we had the tour coming up we needed something to promote it so that people know we exist. The other part of it was loyalty to the record company (Listenable Records). We’ve suffered a lot because of illegal downloading and our physical sales are minimal, but the label has been so supportive since signing Angtoria (in 2006) that I felt I owed them something. And we did this for the fans. It’s a cheap buy so it’s not going to break the bank, and we’re not expecting to make any money off it. We want our fans to know we give a shit and they’ll be able to spread the word about the band. We absolutely love it and we hope that everyone sees what we see in it.”

“The internet is such a powerful tool, and we want or fans to be able to see us. We get so many requests from all over the world, and the chances of us playing the US or Canada or South America are really low without people knowing who we are.”

Sarah is adamant about pushing the new EP as a band effort rather than a solo project, stepping up the claim of working in a unit that was established with The Corruption Of Mercy. She and guitarist/producer Dan Abela are the creative heart of the band, and their collective brainstorm of ideas for Malediction resulted in a few outstanding surprises for fans and naysayers alike.

“Me and Dan do everything together – and to elaborate on that, we don’t sleep together and we don’t use the same toothbrush – which means that whatever I do for this band I clear with him, and vice versa. It’s not because we’re the bosses, it’s because we do most of the songwriting. We believe, and from my past experience, if you don’t communicate in a band it goes tits up very quickly. We have this understanding that we tell each other everything so that nobody can be accused of anything and there won’t be any problems.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

You have to respect Firewind guitarist Gus G. for remaining true to his original vision for the band even though he’s won a career-altering jackpot as Ozzy Osbourne’s right hand man. Granted, he launched the band in 1998 as a project and spearheaded the writing and recording of seven albums since then, but Gus wouldn’t be the first artist to abandon long term goals for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

To his credit, Gus isn’t stupid either. Having been a member of the Osbourne camp since 2009 and having recorded and toured for Ozzy’s 2010 album, Scream, that notoriety led to the decision to book Firewind’s first ever North American headlining tour for Fall 2011 in support of the Days Of Defiance record.

“It was an experience,” Gus laughs. “Times are tough everywhere, let’s face it, so I didn’t really expect to have sold out arenas or anything. We did small clubs, we did it on the back on an album that was a year old, but the reason we chose to do it at that time was to capitalize on the hype that I got and re-introduce the band. We wanted to go out there and see who our fans are and what was actually happening with Firewind in the US. I’ve got to tell you, things look positive. For a first headline tour we did really well and I think it can only grow from here.”

“Of course there were better shows than others as far as attendance, but that depends on the places you hit and the days that you hit them. And Canada was awesome; you guys love your heavy metal. We didn’t play Toronto, but we played Ottawa, which was one of the best shows of the tour. It was like a festival in a club with two floors and some local bands playing. It was fucking amazing. Montreal was great, and that’s always a good place for us. We even went out west and played Kelowna, British Columbia (laughs). That day was funny, and it was one of the misfortunes of the tour. We had some weird promoter that moved the show around a few times, and we ended up playing a bowling alley. But hey, what are you gonna do? (laughs)” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Anyone who became a fan of Canadian bashers Neurosonic during their short but volatile run between 2006 and 2009 will agree the band should have been much bigger than they were. From a commercial standpoint their debut (and only) album, Drama Queen, had plenty of radio potential that was never tapped, and on the live front Neurosonic was known for delivering the same face-melting show for 2,000 or 20 people on any given night. Sadly, frontman/founder Jason Darr unexpectedly pulled the plug on April 1st, 2009 based on his growing discontent with the music industry. One of the most original almost-mainstream bands to come out of Canada in years had been silenced.

Fast forward to March 2012 and the rise of Crashscene, an outfit that is essentially Neurosonic minus Darr with a few new twists thrown into the mix. Bassist Jacen Ekstrom is now up front as lead throat backed by guitarist Troy Healy and drummer Shane Smith, with new faces Ean “E” Scream filling Ekstrom’s old boots and guitarist Josh Volkov. The band’s debut album, I Fall Apart, is a welcome picking up of Neurosonic’s pieces worthy of serious attention.

“Darr and I are in contact a lot, but he doesn’t want to be in a band anymore because it’s a lot of hard work without a lot of the rewards you’re hoping for,” says Troy Healy of choosing to move forward with Crashscene. “Jacen and I are lifers; we couldn’t run from this if we wanted to (laughs). It’s a blessing and a curse.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

With the world being linked up, down, and ten ways to Sunday thanks to the internet, it’s hard to fathom that a metal band can rise seemingly out of nowhere, secure a deal with a respected record label, and find its way onto two high profile North American tours almost immediately thereafter. California-based Huntress did just that, signing with Austria-based Napalm Records in November 2011 and confirming an early 2012 release a short time later for their official full length debut, Spell Eater. It’s particularly disconcerting for someone like Yours Truly, who effectively lives on two continents simultaneously and supposedly has a finger on the metal scene’s international pulse. The jury is still out on whether this slip was a case of jaded journalistic ignorance, particularly given that Spell Eater is a meat-and-potatoes wallop of old school thrash-and-burn metal.

“No, you’re not at all ignorant; we did just appear, quite magically” says vocalist Jill Janus graciously. “Huntress was birthed in the underground metal scene, but I clawed my way through the roots and dirt rapidly. I have been visualizing this moment for a long time. I finally met four people at my level of musicianship who share the same vision. It’s simply our time now. I could have appeared sooner fronting some false trend metal band, but my integrity is sacred. We don’t compromise on our art.” Continue Reading

Your semi-regular update on Maple metal and associated rock continues…

Toronto rocker Danko Jones is gearing up for the release of a new DVD entitled Bring On The Mountain. The package features a documentary on the band spanning the early years all the way up to the present day, 14 live performances, and a whopping 19 (!!) official video clips. This one’s a keeper for the diehard fans, and for the diehard fans that pre-order (shipping date is June 13th) a free 10 minute preview is available online. Go to the band’s official website here for pre-order details and DVD formats. A three-minute documentary trailer can be found here.

French Canadian unsigned progsters Southern Cross are currently one of the featured artists on the BW&BK website, in support of their new album From Tragedy. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with frontman David Lizotte – story can be found here – an assignment I took on because I actually enjoy the new record. Song-oriented prog-metal is hard to come by, and it’s rarer still to find a band of this kind penning songs of the foot-stomping kind (see ‘Tightrope’). Fans of Ayreon, Pain Of Salvation and Parallells-era Fates Warning would do well to check them out.

My review of From Tragedy can be found here. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Folks on this side of the music industry desk will tell you that the vast majority of press releases and band biographies are loaded with hollow bullshit. Many of these essays are too bloated with adjectives, mixed metaphors and blatant flavor-of-the-month ass-kissing to be taken seriously, often peppered with keywords and band names popular at the time and space in question, or yanked from a Wikipedia heavy metal page. These things raced through my head while scanning the bio for Moonspell’s newest outing, Alpha Noir, wondering out loud more than once if the newbie dweeb hired to write it had ever heard of the band before. Dropping names like Bathory and King Diamond as influences to describe an act hailed as one of the few and true remaining old school goth metal bands was absurd to the point of insulting.

Give Alpha Noir a spin and you’ll discover the description is dead on.

“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” frontman Fernando Ribeiro grins. “I tend to write those things myself. It’s not that I don’t trust someone else to do it, but I like to write and I think that sometimes the people at the record labels kind of miss the point. A lot of labels have many bands, and sometimes the people that write the press releases have to do it in a rush. I’d rather make things a bit more personal by doing it myself, so I’m glad you found everything in the press release to be true (laughs). With all the metaphors and poetry and personal notes that we put into the press releases, it’s good to know that people check out the new songs and realize that we’re not just blabbering and self-praising. We really tried to give people a clear view of what’s going on with Alpha Noir.” Continue Reading

I was recently given an advance listen to vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva’s new three-track Malediction EP, due to be released via Listenable Records on May 28th. Following is a rundown of what the digital-only shot in the head has to offer…

Back when vinyl was king, it was common for bands to release 12” EPs featuring exclusive material to tide fans over while waiting for the artist’s next full length album. More often than not this material was top notch stuff rather than the uninspired cut / paste filler “bonus tracks” that often get tacked onto the end of present day releases. That said, it’s something of a pity that vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva’s new Malediction EP is a digital-only affair, because the three songs featured reflect that era; quality music created in the interest of giving the fans something special.

Malediction is short, sweet, and to the bloody point, boasting material as good as if not better than that featured on Sarah’s previous solo outing, The Corruption Of Mercy. Lead track ‘Lies Define Us’ is a gorgeous and memorable hook-laden piece standing head and shoulders above typical goth metal fluff, featuring Soilwork frontman Björn “Speed” Strid singing clean harmonies against Sarah’s leads and clocking in under four minutes for maximum impact. In contrast, ‘When “It” Catches Up With You’ is about the Sarah Jezebel Deva band as a whole rather than being a vocal showcase, officially smacking Angtoria off its pedestal as being the strongest band-oriented work Ms. Deva has ever done thanks to riff-heavy guitars, monster drums, with everyone involved getting a chance to shine.

The icing on the cake, however – or the thorn in the eye as he’d probably dub it himself – is Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani trading lead vocals with his former backing singer on ‘This Is My Curse’. And it’s a performance guaranteed to please any fan of the Nyphetamine and Thornography albums. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

It’s rare that a commercially successful rock band is good for a surprise. The vast majority would much rather stick to a proven formula – and understandably so – than throw their fanbase a curve. Pennsylvania-based rockers Halestorm, on the other hand, took the plunge with only one official full length album under their belt. Two years after the band’s self-titled debut touched down and started a buzz, the quartet issued the six song ReAniMate covers EP, which gave the people that thought they had Halestorm nailed down something to choke on. Covers of the Skid Row classic ‘Slave To The Grind’ – now a fan favourite in the band’s nightly set – and Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Out Ta Get Me’ left many a naysayer’s jaw on the floor, Yours Truly included, largely due to the explosive delivery by vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale. The EP set the stage and reined in a new batch of fans for Halestorm’s second record The Strange Case Of…, which rocks harder and heavier than what folks expect of a so-called “average” mainstream band.

“We chose the six songs on ReAniMate for all sorts of reasons,” says Lzzy, agreeing that it was one of the building blocks going in to make The Strange Case Of… “The cover of The Beatles’ ‘She’s So Heavy’ was the first song the guys and I ever jammed to as a band. The Heart cover of ‘All I Wanna Do…’ used to be my go-to karaoke song; the guys would sign me up in hopes of getting free beer from people who liked the way I sang. ‘Slave To The Grind’ and ‘Out Ta Get Me’ were some of my influences, growing up on my parents’ music, and they had tempos that we’ve never experimented with before. In turn, they directly inspired our fastest original song to date, ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’. ‘Hunger Strike’ was a nod to one of Joe’s (Hottinger / guitars) influences, and the Lady Gaga cover (‘Bad Romance’) was the #1 most requested song in a poll we put up for our fans to determine what our final pick for the EP was. It’s a great mix.”

Considering that Halestorm gained notoriety with radio-safe hits like ‘I Get Off’ and the Twilight-fuelled ‘Familiar Taste Of Poison’, choosing ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ as the first single off The Strange Case Of… was a ballsy move. Folks that respect the band as a live act but have no use for the debut album have embraced the track, which is Halestorm’s take on ‘Slave To The Grind’ at its heart.

“‘Love Bites’ is a great ‘re-introduction’ song. It was a reflection of what people saw at our live shows while touring on our last album cycle. We wanted to give people a first single that was a step up from our last recording, but was familiar to the energy they get from us live.” Continue Reading