By Carl Begai
If you cut your teeth on ’80s Queensrÿche, be honest: you’ve been prepared to shitcan vocalist Geoff Tate’s new solo outing since word came down he was putting one together. Guilty as charged in this corner, especially considering the last 20 years of Tate-led ‘Rÿche sludge has barely made a dent in my grey matter. Hell knows many fans have given the band’s music post-Empire years more than a fair shake, but the hookless meandering metal of the last two decades castrated the band’s credibility beyond a nostalgia act in this office long ago. With all that in mind, it came as a surprise to discover Kings & Thieves is actually a decent listen in spite of some mid-album filler.
Unlike Tate’s 2002 solo debut – one man’s “experimental” is another man’s “directionless” – Kings & Thieves is a rock album. His vocals are gold, as expected, though he never hits that high-end metal register he’s known for (which would stick out like a nail in the eye here), and the wealth of hooks and memorable melodies is a welcome surprise. In fact, the album is very reminiscent of the softer shades on Empire like ‘Another Rainy Night’, ‘Hand On Heart’, ‘One And Only’ and ‘Jet City Woman’, making the whole experience oddly satisfying. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
“The new record turned out better than I expected and the reaction has been phenomenal. It’s a testament to the fans and their love for this band. Everyone is so re-energized, it’s awesome.”
Things could have been very different for guitarist Thomas Youngblood and his Kamelot bandmates. Following the recordings for their Poetry For The Poisoned album in 2010 and only days before the band was due to embark on a fall headline tour, vocalist Roy Khan fell ill and plans were shelved until the end of the year. Although it hasn’t been said out loud – at least not to the extent that the press jumped all over it – Khan’s tenure with Kamelot was done at that point, both sides making it official in April 2011. The writing was on the wall when the band opted to hit the road prior to the announcement with Rhapsody Of Fire frontman Fabio Lione filling in and doing a decent to killer job depending on who you talked to. By many accounts he was a worthwhile prospect as Khan’s successor. In the end, however, Kamelot opted to enlist little known singer Tommy Karevik from the Swedish band Seventh Wonder as the band’s new voice, and the result is outstanding according to a ravenous fanbase.
“I think fans are more willing to accept a band changing the singer as long as he or she has similar characteristics to the one they had for 13 years.” says Youngblood. “It would have been hard for us to bring in some power metal singer or an opera singer that didn’t have the tonal characteristics the fans want. That’s what I wanted for the band. For me, having Tommy in the band is a no-brainer.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
German independent singer / guitarist / songwriter Florian Baessler – the original and only Wilderpilger – has earned himself a small but loyal following at home over the years both for his live cover act and his original music. The cover shows are always entertaining one-man-band displays of how far he can push (mostly) popular songs in directions one might not expect, while All The Things showcases Baessler as an artist capable of succeeding on his own merit. Big on country music influences (right down to a guitar twang) with a very slight dabbling of rock thrown into the soup, the album is a storyteller’s journey through everything from coping with that annoying person in the audience at any given show (‘All The Things’), the love / hate paradox of being a travelling musician (‘Really Like To Stay’), fatherhood (‘Your Love’, ‘Sleeping St. Salomon’), love (‘Mine’), fear (‘Breathe’), life ‘Down Down Down’)…. very down to earth. Musically it’s rock solid on a foundation of acoustic guitars and Baessler’s lush voice, backed by the organic warmth of piano, Hammond organ, upright bass and electric guitar as required. This can’t be stressed enough; All The Things sounds and acts like it was made by real people in a real studio, discussing and arguing and laughing with each other as the songs were brought to life.
It’s a bit of a surprise the album has the level of appeal that it does in my world given the noise I normally listen to on any given day. At this point I’m blaming it on the honesty of the music and the talent behind the songs. That and the fact many of the songs are catchy, pure and simple, and don’t sport that dreaded acoustic guitars = ballads stigma. Continue Reading
Since there’s no NHL hockey season thanks to certain greedy sons of bitches, you can brush up on your Canuck metal below:
Blackguard are back on the road yet again, only this time they’re on the other side of the pond on the highly anticipated Kamelot tour. This is going to be huge for the band in the Kamelot are a huge draw right across Europe, and the band’s new Silverthorn has been receiving rave rviews across the board. Vocalist Paul Zinay recently commented on the trek:
“We had a blast conquering North America with Kamelot and now it’s time to conquer some new territories. We are very honored that we were asked to join them on this tour and we’d like to give our deepest thanks and gratitude to Thomas (Youngblood / guitars) and all of the Kamelot crew for extending us this invitation. This will be the last tour supporting our latest album Firefight and we can’t imagine ending on a higher note than this.”
Blackguard is due to release their new album, Storm, in the spring of 2013 via Victory Records. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
During a recent interview with Toronto-based Danko Jones about his band’s new album, Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue, he offered some insight into the new book Too Much Trouble – A Very Oral History Of Danko Jones. Call it the companion to the recently released Bring On The Mountain documentary DVD, only the book offers a view from the outside looking in as well.
“The book was done by Stuart Berman, who worked on it for about two years,” says Danko. “He interviewed over 70 people that, all together, tell the story of our band. We didn’t oversee it because I don’t do that with people who make videos for us, write about us, all that. It’s like ‘Go crazy, man’. I think that if you free people up more on things like that you get a better outcome. Stuart was a good choice to write the book because he knows a lot of the people we know, and a lot of the people we have bad relationships with (laughs). He was a great person to track down old band members and bands we’ve had brushes with. A couple bands didn’t respond but there’s a enough drama in there to keep people satiated. With him writing the book those parties felt safer, which was good. I told Stuart that we weren’t going to censor anything they said.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Toronto-based guitarist Glen Drover (ex-Megadeth, ex-King Diamond) recently revealed that he and his band had recorded a cover a classic song from Canadian rock legends Saga. Following a short conversation – and because Drover is a smart guy with excellent taste – it was agreed that BW&BK would stream the track exclusively over the weekend (October 13th and 14th), where it’ll remain even as Drover launches the track via his YouTube channel.
Check out Drover’s update below:
“Well, here it is, the first song from the forth coming Glen Drover Band album. It is tentatively titled Between Sea And Sky, and what you are about to hear is a cover song from the legendary Canadian band Saga called ‘Careful Where You Step’ that we recorded. We are super happy with the outcome and have to thank all the people involved to make it happen.
Aside from the band, which consists of myself, Jim Gilmour (keys/Saga), Paul Yee (bass) and Nick Davey (drums), we had a little help from original Saga vocalist Mike Sadler doing all lead vocals, as well as some backup vocals by Pat Mulock from Eidolon, who also sang on the Eidolon albums Coma Nation and Apostles Of Defiance. Everyone did a great job. Thanks again guys!!!
We are approaching the halfway mark of completing the recording for the next CD. Same approach as the last album as far as taking our sweet time to make sure the songs grow on us to try and make the album as strong as we possibly can.
Hope you enjoy this first track from the album as much as we do.”
Go to this location to check it out.
By Carl Begai
Purely by coincidence, this interview took place on October 2nd, 2012; two years to the day Liv Kristine’s former band Theatre Of Tragedy – she was fired in 2003 – played the final show of their career. It only dawned on me an hour or two before we met up on the Leaves’ Eyes / Firewind tour to discuss her new solo album, Libertine, and the irony wasn’t lost on her either, particularly since she’s found extra room in her heart for the Theatre over the last year-and-a-half. The focus was on Libertine, but it was interesting to learn that her Theatre Of Tragedy roots played a part in its creation.
For anyone that’s been following Liv’s career, it’s no secret or surprise that her solo albums are very different from what she does with Leaves’ Eyes. Libertine is no exception to this so-called rule.
“Most people know that this is my fourth solo album, and all four albums have been in the indie pop-rock vein somehow,” Liv begins. “The fans seem to accept that my solo albums are very different from each other and from Leaves’ Eyes. For me it’s been clear all the time that my solo stuff isn’t really for the diehard metal fans. It could be, but probably not. When Napalm Records released Libertine on the Napalm label and not on Black Rose, which is the sub-label that they promised they would release it on as well as the video for ‘Paris Paris’, the metal fans were the first ones to hear it. They said ‘We don’t need this.’ Of course they don’t; I understand that. So, there was an issue with the record company but that’s now been solved.”
In the end, however, the record company’s gaffe may have paid off. Any fallout from the metal community for getting slapped with a pop-oriented album released from the same realms as Alestorm, Grave Digger, Ahab and Battlelore has been minimal at best. Judging by widespread reactions, Libertine has become a guilty pleasure for the leather-and-loud set. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
“In his music he has the perfect symbiotic relationship between heavy and melody and true emotions and feelings. It’s just so pure and so heavy. When I was singing for the Epicloud album I told him I could hear West Side Story in the music. It’s so fairytale-like but so damn heavy.”
The above comment from vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen with regards to the Devin Townsend Project’s new album, Epicloud – offered during a May 2012 interview with yours truly – could have turned out to be a glaring case of too-close-to-the-music enthusiasm. Understandable given the high of her first successful foray into Hevy Devy’s world with the Addicted record in 2009, but from a discerning open-minded Townsend fan’s perspective her words sum up the album perfectly. It plays with his trademark heavy on a canvas of melody, seemingly executed with a musical stage play in mind, and Townsend clearly unafraid of mixing his not entirely hidden pop tendencies with the crushing metal he’s known for. In fact, he doesn’t give a good goddamn what people think in the grand scheme of things if they choose to dismiss Epicloud as worthless. Townsend made the record for himself and anyone else who gets off on being entertained.
“I think for me, because I spent so many years writing records that threw curveballs at people out of a fear of success or failure, I never really allowed myself to make a record that was just straight up,” says Townsend. “I let myself go on autopilot for this one and I was actually surprised by what came out naturally. When I finished it I sat back and listened to it the same way I did with Alien (Strapping Young Lad), and I was thinking ‘What the hell did you make here?’ (laughs). I just allowed myself to write a bunch of stuff that seemed to be appropriate, and when all was said and done my first reaction was that Epicloud was too vulnerable, too exposed. They were going to kick me out of the Chess Club for not being progressive. I thought I was going to get lambasted for doing something like this.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
I’m going to preface this with a head’s up:
The following piece is my opinion, and as such it is neither wrong nor right. That said, if you feel the urge to respond to it because I’ve somehow insulted nine generations of your family and called into question your Nightwish fanboy/girl-ship, please do so intelligently. I don’t mind a conflicting view at all, so long as the person offering it put some thought into it and doesn’t need to rely on name-calling and bullshit attitude. This isn’t Bladdermouth.
Lotsa love. Read on…
So, it seems Nightwish is minus another singer. Anette Olzon (pictured above), replacement for original vocalist Tarja Turunen, became a part of the band’s history as of October 1st, 2012 and they’re supposedly better for it if the official press release is to be believed. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, Nightwish is now faced with the unenviable task of doing damage control and explaining why the woman they touted and defended left and right as Turunen’s ideal replacement was given the boot.
Olzon’s haters are, of course, celebrating with thoughts and babble of a reunion with Turunen. Who knows? It may happen, especially now that we have the technology to preserve snowballs in hell, but I doubt it. And with the positive buzz surrounding ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen’s performance filling in, this may well be a learning-by-doing audition. The fact remains, however, that Olzon was a part of two solid albums that turned the band into a bigger deal than when Lady Tarja was with them, so whatever the follow-up may be it has to be a home run of cosmic proportions or the band is finished (in my humble opinion).
As for the reasons behind Olzon’s seemingly blink-of-an-eye ejection from her day job, the fans are going to be treated with two versions of the truth over the next several months. Chances are there were little issues between Olzon and her former bandmates that got tensions brewing to begin with – no band is immune to internal conflict – but there’s no doubt in my mind that her reaction to being temporarily replaced for the September 28th show in Denver, Colorado is what smashed the camel’s back to splinters. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
For guitarist Joe Stump the term “class is now in session” goes a lot further than sitting down with his axe and his reputation and giving six-string wannabes a schooling. At the time of this interview he was in fact getting ready for another year of teaching his craft to bonafide music students at the Boston-based Berklee College Of Music. Asked how his new crop of eager minds was shaping up, Stump addressed the situation with the same enthusiastic yet low-key approach he uses when discussing his music.
“I’m listening to a lot of guitar being played badly (laughs). It runs the gamut. You get some guys that are somewhat promising, but it depends. Younger guys nowadays… let’s just say they’re disciplined but their dedication is questionable. I’m very old school, so for me it’s still all about guitar, but as an example of what I just said, if I’m out in the hallway by my office I might see a couple guys practicing, but most of them are on their fucking smartphones, fucking around on Facebook. I purposely have a shitty flip-phone because if I wanted to type I’d get into another line of work.”
Revenge Of The Shredlord is Stump’s 11th official solo album but his old school approach to writing and recording has changed very little beyond the technology being used in the studio. Even then, he kept things at a basic meat-and-potatoes level for the new one.
“I did all the guitars at home this time, and I’m very low tech,” says Stump. “I like to play, I don’t like to fuck around, so it’s not like I have an elaborate studio set-up. I just have a small digital 8-track machine that I could never make a full record with, but for tracking guitars it works great. I did most of the guitars last summer and fall (2011), and by the time I finished tracking the bass, drums and keys the record was mixed by Christmas and mastered in January.” Continue Reading