By Carl Begai
Swedish bashers Arch Enemy – who now boast Canadian and American talent within their ranks – kicked off October with the surprising news that their upcoming show at the Loud Park festival in Japan will feature guest appearances by former members Chris Amott (guitars) and Johan Liiva (vocals). At press time there had been no official explanation given as to what had spurred the upcoming reunion(s), but a quick call to Liiva offered a bit of insight as to how he became involved.
“I was invited by Arch Enemy to do this along with Chris as it’s two jubilees,” he begins. “Ten years for Loud Park and soon 20 years for Arch Enemy, so it was no hesitation there for me.”
Chris Amott left Arch Enemy for the second time in his career back in 2012 (the first time being 2005), presumably never to work with the band again. Given that his guitarist brother Michael calls the shots in Arch Enemy, one can assume that family ties played a significant role in bringing Chris back to the fold, however temporarily. Liiva, on the other hand, left under seemingly unpleasant circumstances after three cult favourite albums and was replaced by Angela Gossow, which ultimately turned Arch Enemy into a metal household name. Gossow was officially replaced by Alissa White-Gluz in 2014.
“I left the band the band in 2000, and of course we weren’t too eager to talk to each other in the first few years after that,” Liiva offers. “The first years after I left the band, the relationship was quite infected. I know that Michael didn’t feel too good about the situation. He wanted to go in another direction. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few years and I understand him now. It’s like a process and you have to think things through because Arch Enemy is his life and Michael knows what he wants. He made the band into what he wanted it to be, and for me it’s okay because the touring life was never my thing. I loved being in Arch Enemy but I much prefer the life I have now.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Children Of Bodom’s trademark Hate Crew tag is meant as a proclamation of bad-assed-ness, but the band has hit a point in their career where it can be twisted to represent just how much some people detest them. Case in point when they pre-released a handful of tracks from their new album, I Worship Chaos; for all the praise the songs received there were just as many voices cutting the Children off at the knees. The music business has never been for the thin-skinned, of course, but in the internet age any band or solo artist hoping to carve out a career has to be prepared to get knocked in the teeth the moment they release new material. For Children Of Bodom vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman any lambasting they’ve received for I Worship Chaos thus far is simply a walk in the park they choose not to take.
Alexi: “I started ignoring that shit pretty much right away, when the whole internet thing kicked in. It doesn’t pay off to read any of the fucking reactions.”
BraveWords: Which extends to ignoring folks like Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn, who took online shots at you via Facebook (in October 2014)after you voiced your disappointment at Machine Head cancelling the North American headline tour you were due to support so they could finish work on their new album (Bloodstone & Diamonds).
Alexi: “I know, what the fuck? Honestly, it made me laugh because it was so surreal. I’ve known Robb Flynn for a long time, we’ve toured with Machine Head before and we always got along, and all of a sudden he’s out there talking shit about me? I just laughed and that’s why I didn’t say shit about it. The last thing I want to do is get into some stupid-ass internet war. If anything, that break in the schedule gave me more time to write. I stayed pretty active, I did a bunch of other shit like guitar clinics and playing bass on a friend’s band because I didn’t want to sit on my ass. I was also able to work on riffs that I’ve had in my head for quite a long time.”
BraveWords: It’s not at all surprising that I Worship Chaos has polarized your fanbase. Something would be wrong if the fans weren’t choosing sides when you release new music.
Janne: “I Worship Chaos feels right on many levels. It was the right time to release an album like this and somehow it all clicked together. You can’t plan on something like this; sometimes it just works and everything turns out great. We haven’t written the same song or album over and over again, but it’s getting to the point where we have to come up with new and fresh ideas, and somehow keep doing what we’re doing. That’s something we’ve always kept in mind, to not release the same thing over and over again. That won’t work for us.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
While preparing for the release of the new Leaves’ Eyes album, King Of Kings, vocalist Liv Kristine announced some dates for what has become a traditional year end European solo tour. She then revealed that her former Theatre Of Tragedy bandmate, vocalist Raymond Rohonyi, would be joining her as a special guest for the duration of the tour, performing several songs from the band’s catalogue with her. A very surprising development considering the bad blood stirred up when Liv was fired from Theatre Of Tragedy in 2003 – she was replaced by Nell Sigland – and Rohonyi’s disappearance from the music scene when the band called it quits in 2010. The last time the duo shared the stage was 2002. During our interview for King Of Kings, Liv discussed how she reconnected with Rohonyi.
“Ray is back in Norway and moved to Trondheim recently with his Brazilian wife,” Liv explains. “At some point I tried to get in touch with him by phone, then via Facebook, and many weeks later he got back to me and said that he was back in Norway. We caught up a bit, and I asked him about rumours I heard that Theatre Of Tragedy would be having a reunion some time soon. Rumours that came with the Northern winds, let’s put it that way (laughs). I just wanted to know if I was in or not. Ray said that nobody had asked him so far about a reunion and wondered why I was asking. I told him I had a solo tour coming up and that I’d been playing Theatre Of Tragedy songs at a number of gigs, that the audience really seemed to love it, and then I asked him if he’d be my special guest. He was very happy about the offer and he said yes.”
“When The Sirens supported Nightwish in Trondheim recently I finally met up with Raymond again. We talked about everything, about the beginnings of Theatre Of Tragedy. It was good to clear the table and our history, because we were the ones who formed the band and came up with the whole Shakespearean thing. It was really good talking to him, and we parted in Trondheim on great terms. Alex (Krull / vocalist, husband) is happy everything is clear now and there are no hard feelings whatsoever. I’m really looking forward to the tour, and I think Raymond might be looking forward to it even more (laughs). He’s so excited.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Ground zero for this interview was the southern German pork-shoulder-and-beer town of Fürth, prior to a gig The Creepshow bassist / founder Sean McNab says was one of the hottest shows the band had ever played. It was loud, everything was sweating – band, audience, instruments, walls, floor, bar staff – air was at a minimum, and the 100 or so attendees left the hotbox venue happy with asses kicked. Just one of many stops on The Creepshow’s second European tour in less than a year, it was a testament to how a Canadian band with a decent but far from loud enough buzz at home has been able to take other parts of the world by storm over the course of their 10 year career.
“When we first started touring we weren’t really known anywhere,” says McNab. “We started by playing Toronto, London, St. Catharines, Hamilton, and built those areas up. When we ended up in the situation of making some money, about every three months or so, we’d just put it in a pot so we’d have enough to go and play somewhere. Now we’re in a position where we can actually afford to tour. If we were on the road full time this would be my day job, especially me since I’ve been touring probably a decade longer than the rest of the guys, but after three weeks on the road I need that cut off and go home for a while. We’re really busy. This year was supposed to be chill but it’s probably the busiest year we’ve ever had (laughs). We’re all really tired but we’re still having fun.”
It seems to be a trait of Canadian music that some artists make their mark at home and nowhere else, while others garner international attention as Canada offers up warm albeit grudging acceptance outside the fanbase. The Creepshow have followed in Toronto rockers Danko Jones’ footsteps after a fashion, doing headline tours across Europe and playing festivals with wide-ranging line-ups that don’t cater specifically to the band’s trademark psychobilly sound.
“When we first started coming to Europe we’d do these psychobilly festivals, which was fine, but after a few years we were looking at playing other things like punk festivals. We did this one called Serengeti where Skindred played, Gogol Bordello, a bunch of ska bands, hardcore bands, and it was amazing. It was what we needed because most of those people had never heard of us and they’re generally open to new stuff. We’ve noticed that when we do stuff like that and then go back to that area with our own show, more people show up.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
In the interest of not boring the veteran Queensrÿche faithful to tears we’ll skip rehashing the episodes of Tate Hate that led to the band splintering in 2012. If you’re a new fan all you need to know is vocalist Todd La Torre replaced original Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate after 12 albums due to some brutal personal and creative differences, and both sides are better for the change. In Queensrÿche’s case – featuring La Torre, original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson, and Parker Lundgren – it meant returning to the signature sound of the band’s early years, which has given Queensrÿche a completely – and if we’re being honest, unexpected – new lease on life. Sure, some fans have been loud in their disapproval of La Torre taking over Tate’s post, but the live shows have succeeded in changing some narrow minds.
“It’s a new energy, man, a rebirth of the band,” says Wilton. “Like you said, it’s a shame there are some people that are complaining, but it’s just one show at a time and we’re going to have to convince people that way. We’ve been doing that for the last two-and-a-half years and it’s gotten to the point, at least in Europe and the UK, they know and remember who Queensrÿche is. We just have to prove ourselves to the rest of the world.”
“We played a good variety of shows this summer; some key festivals, the main one being Wacken, which Queensrÿche has never performed at. It was great except for the mud (laughs). Being able to do our own shows and teaming up with Dream Theater again, it was amazing. It’s been a long time since we toured with them and it was a rekindled friendship. James LaBrie was so positive with Todd, letting him know that he’s just killing it, and John Petrucci wants us to do some shows together in the States next year. And then teaming up with Armored Saint and Death Angel in the UK, it was a great variety. The show in London was just amazing because both bands were there and the fans were just blown away.”
“It’s been almost three years with Todd and his confidence level is very strong. His voice is getting stronger from all the touring we’re doing, and he’s so comfortable with the old Queensryche songs it’s unbelievable. He’s grown as an individual and he’s such a team player for Queensrÿche; the fans love him.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Children Of Bodom vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman recently completed their official press junket for the band’s new album, I Worship Chaos. It’s a record that will ultimately keep the faithful Bodomites happy the way the band’s previous album Halo Of Blood did, while offering up a few surprises as it plays out. During the interview for BraveWords – coming soon – we stepped away from I Worship Chaos a little bit to discuss some recent projects outside the band that ultimately remain linked to Finland’s favourite Hatecrew.
And yes, “Hel” is spelled correctly in the title above. Trust me.
Diehard fans are well aware of Wirman’s other band, Warmen, and Laiho’s connection to it. Unlike Children Of Bodom, which features primarily Laiho-powered songs, Wirman calls the shots along with his brother Antti (guitars) in Warmen. Laiho has made guest appearances on the last three Warmen albums, however, and has performed live with the band on occasion. Warmen’s latest record, First Of The Five Elements, features Laiho on the song “Suck My Attitude”, a track that realistically could have been submitted and recorded as a Children Of Bodom tune without pissing off the vast majority of fans. Much the same way “High Heels On Cobblestone” from Warmen’s previous album, Japanese Hospitality, could have survived the COB treatment.
“Yeah, almost, but that’s not the way we think,” says Wirman. “Sure, if ‘Suck My Attitude’ had a little tweaking done it could almost pass as a Bodom song, but that’s not the point. I think ‘Suck My Attitude’ is more Lamb Of God influenced, and it was written mostly by my brother. Obviously people can hear the Children Of Bodom influence in it, but I hear lots of Lamb Of God in there because both of us are huge fans. It’s funny because it’s almost like a tribute (laughs). Getting Alexi to sing on the song, and the ‘Suck my attitude!’ chorus, just fit perfectly. I love how it turned out, and I really love the fact we got to play it live this summer at the Tuska festival with Alexi singing with us.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
So, how do you feel about ’70s music?
If you’re a Soilwork fan the last place you’d expect to find a ’70s classic rock vibe is on one of their albums. Of course, if you’re a fan you’re also aware of frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and guitarist David Andersson pulling double duty in The Night Flight Orchestra, their classic rock-infused nostalgia trip. Thus, it may be disconcerting to hear that Soilwork’s new album, The Ride Majestic, does in fact flirt with the ’70s. Nothing to lose your cookies or your minds over, though, as we’re talking about guitar and keyboard splinters and shards that pop up when you least expect them, adding another dimension to a sound that is instantly recognizable as Sweden’s first sons of melodic death metal. It makes sense this new dynamic would bleed into The Ride Majestic, however, as Strid and Andersson went into writing for it immediately after working on The Night Flight Orchestra’s second album, Skyline Whispers.
“It’s funny you bring that up because last summer I was still working on Night Flight stuff and I had to stop myself,” Strid reveals. “I had to tell myself it was time to switch over to Soilwork (laughs). It was a major transition from one day to the next because they’re two very different forms of expression.”
Folks have their favourite Soilwork moments and The Ride Majestic is bound to conjure up some new ones – the Strapping Young Lad tweaked breakdowns of “Alight In The Aftermath”, for example – but it’s fair to say the band can do little wrong in the eyes of the diehards at this point. Their previous two albums, The Panic Broadcast and The Living Infinite, have kept Soilwork surging upward, but for a lot of people the love affair really began in 2002 with the now classic Natural Born Chaos album.
“There’s something about that album,” agrees Strid, “but it definitely took some time for me to notice that. I guess it started when we did our first North American tour, when we put Natural Born Chaos out. People were telling us that the album was so unique and so awesome, but it wasn’t until a couple years later that we realized we had an impact and had affected the metal scene somehow in so many ways.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Canadian bashers Kobra And The Lotus kicked off the summer of 2014 in the best way possible; they released their monstrous High Priestess album to rave reviews, hitting the road the day before the record hit the shelves supporting KISS on their 40 Anniversary North American summer tour alongside Def Leppard. Not the sort of honour bestowed upon one’s metal head every day, especially to a young band that has been paying its dues in the clubs and on festival circuits since 2009. Membership has its privileges, of course – in this case being signed to Simmons/Universal featuring KISS legend and business mogul Gene Simmons – but Kobra And The Lotus still had to deliver to audiences that generally didn’t give a damn about them.
“As a whole that tour was amazing,” says Paige, agreeing the band was widely regarded as window dressing by the diehard KISS fans. “The experience was incredible and really inspiring for us. KISS and Def Leppard were really great to us, they’re great people, and they shared some stories that really put them on the same level with us. It showed us that you have to have faith in yourself and push through a lot of obstacles. Def Leppard told us about getting bottles of piss thrown at them in ’88, but they kept going. The shows were very different and we had to adjust to that. Capacity for the amphitheaters we played was about 20,000 every night, and people were kind of pouring in and having drinks as we were playing, so we’d be in front of 8,000 to 10,000 people but that looks really scattered over that amount of space.”
It sounds as if Kobra And The Lotus were like a restaurant lounge act on any given night; patrons milling about, more concerned about finding their seats and ordering food and booze than the music.
“It was like that! But, it was good for us and it made us improve as performers because we had to figure out how to captivate that kind of audience. It was fun, and there were some shows that were definitely epic. Nashville was completely full when we played and it was amazing, it was so loud. That was probably the highlight for me on that whole tour.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Musicians and journalists who have been doing their respective schticks long enough are painfully aware of how the Q&A process can become agonizingly formulaic. The artist hopes the press person on his or her list knows more than just the band’s name and the title of their new album. The journalist prays the musician is able to go beyond saying the new album is the best thing he / she / they have ever done. If both sides have their collective shit together, as in this case, it makes for a very interesting conversation.
I recently spoke with W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless about the band’s new album, Golgotha. At one point, discussion surrounding the long break between the new record and Babylon from 2009 turned into a look inside one of W.A.S.P.’s strongest albums, The Crimson Idol (1992), a personal favourite. From there it became a look back on the early days of the band’s career and the album that transformed W.A.S.P. from being regarded as an unruly party tribe to frighteningly intelligent musicians, The Headless Children.
With regards to Golgotha being four years in the making – due to Lawless going through various surgeries to mend broken body parts, and a W.A.S.P. 30th Anniversary tour – Lawless claims it was good for him to have time to live with the material and let it grow. There’s always the danger, however, that you might lose the passion for the project or start second guessing your work the longer you hammer away at it.
“The first part, no; the second part was definitely a consideration,” says Lawless. “You start making one record and by the time you’re finished you’re into making another one. When we did The Crimson Idol, I came very close to doing that. I started writing the story, and by the time I got to the end of that two year process I had fleshed out the character (Johnathan Steele) so much that to me he was like a living, breathing person. There’s a tendency to want to modify the story, but it’s like ‘No, stick to the script… (laughs).’ I had to tell myself to let it go. Looking back at that now, had I given in I would have killed the Idol record.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Kataklysm has gotten fat. Monstrously fat. And frontman Maurizio Iacono couldn’t be happier.
We are, of course, referring to Kataklysm’s latest slab of violence Of Ghosts And Gods, a thundering, seething fuck off of an album if there ever was one in the band’s catalogue. As melodic death metal goes it has rightfully been tagged as being on par with At The Gates’ stellar comeback, At War With Reality. As a Kataklysm album it has been dubbed their strongest in years, taking into account that the shock and excitement of being nailed to the wall has blown some minds into paste. Either way, the accolades can be attributed to Kataklysm burning whatever tattered rulebook they’ve been using for the last several years, and the addition of producer Andy Sneap (Testament, Accept, Arch Enemy, you name ’em…) to their creative arsenal.
“The reason we went to Andy Sneap to do this is because we thought the combination of him with J-F (Dagenais/guitars, producer) would be great,” Iacono begins. “J-F is a great engineer, but when you do everything yourself sometimes you lose the ability to be 100% on the ball because recording and mixing is such a long process. There are so many details. We wanted someone that has a good name, sure, but we also wanted someone we’re a fan of. We were lucky he even picked us because Andy is in high demand, and he’s turned down some big bands. For him to grab the new Kataklysm record was great.”
If you’re a Sneap fan it comes as no surprise to hear he succeeded in beefing up Kataklysm’s already crushing sound for Of Ghosts And Gods. As a Kataklysm fan you wish he would have jumped on board a few albums earlier once you give the new album a listen or five. Iacono agrees wholeheartedly. Continue Reading