By Carl Begai
For the record, I love Toronto.
Sure, the public transit system isn’t fit to service Legoland let alone a bustling metropolis, the cost of living has punched a hole through the roof, and we have a mayor with less credibility than your average high school junkie hall monitor, but it’s my home. I was born and bred here, I got my metal skooling during the righteous and never-to-be-repeated Gasworks/Rock N’ Roll Heaven era. Even so, when word came down in 2011 that Hogtown was going to echo Montreal’s highly successful weekend metal festival Heavy MTL – launched in 2008 – with a two day thrash-and-burn open air of its own in Downsview Park, I was skeptical. I had no doubt the organizers would pull things together in order to make it happen, but far less confident it would last more than a single “nice try” run.
Having lived in Germany since the tail end of 1995 as BW&BK’s European correspondent, I’ve attended my share of metal festivals great, good, bad and painfully ugly. Every weekend between May and September the classic metal festival model is put into action somewhere on the continent, attracting rivet-heads from all walks of life by the thousands and tens of thousands for two or three days of distortion and debauchery. It’s this model on which Heavy MTL was based – and succeeded – thanks to the European mentality of the Québécois. I didn’t see Heavy T.O. having the same impact in a city where metalheads are about five steps less committed to getting off the couch when a show hits town (sorry, it’s sad but true).
Heavy T.O.’s 2011 line-up turned out to be a ray of hope. Megadeth, Children Of Bodom, Opeth, Diamond Head, Volbeat, Mastodon, Slayer, Death Angel and Exodus on the same bill? Hard to believe but a European festival had come to town and landed with a bang, featuring a bill more than merely strong enough to drag the metal masses out into the light. By all accounts it was a rousing success beyond the expected and inevitable screw-ups that come with organizing anything for the first time. When the dust had settled it was a done deal: there would be Heavy T.O. 2012, with a legion of fans waiting in the wings brandishing piggybanks in hand when tickets finally went on sale. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
In mid-2011, Calgary-based Kobra And The Lotus surprised their fans with the release of a video for the song ‘Welcome To My Funeral’. At the time it was a non-album track, a taste of what was coming down the pipe later in the year with their second official record, Visionary. It was a bold move, particularly since there had been zero build-up to the new record in the press prior to the video release, and shocking in that singer Brittany “Kobra” Paige’s vocal style had evolved even further since the band’s 2010 debut, Out Of The Pit. Everything was ready to go for Visionary right down to the artwork, but the band’s plans were abruptly scuttled when they were offered a deal with Spinefarm / Universal in cooperation with KISS legend Gene Simmons’ label, Simmons Records.
A new game plan was put into play along with a couple line-up changes, and Kobra And The Lotus found themselves back at the drawing board for what would become their self-titled second outing.
“When we signed the new deal the label wanted us to write more material for them to choose from so we could release the strongest album possible,” says Paige. “They also wanted to keep it upbeat, so they cut all the ballads. We wrote a bunch of fast hit-you-in-the-face songs and they picked four to be used with what we already had for Visionary. We actually wrote ‘Forever One’ in the studio, and that was created out of four different demos that the label decided not to use (laughs). It was pretty crazy taking chopped up pieces of songs and realizing we had one really solid song in there. What’s really interesting is how the band has evolved sound-wise on the new album. There are a lot of dual guitar leads, there’s some thrash in there now. Everything is so much bigger now.” 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. It turns out that Kiernan had made more friends than enemies amongst Into Eternity fans even as they mourn Block’s absence, the majority of fans willingly giving 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 in order to make things work.
Her 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.”
Roth recalls the events leading up to having to place the ad that eventually snared Kiernan…
“We (the band) were rehearsing on a Friday, and after a whole weekend of rehearsals Stu hit me with the news that he’d joined Iced Earth. And then he hit me with a CD of him singing some new Iced Earth stuff. So not only did he tell me, he showed me some of the material they’d already recorded. I was just floored. Stu and I are best friends, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, so it makes sense that someone would come in and invite Stu to join their band. Jon Schaffer (guitars) knows talent, I know talent, and Stu has always been that shining diamond in the rough. When I’d seen him in his previous band he really impressed me. I knew I had to have a guy with his kind of vocals in Into Eternity.” Continue Reading