By Carl Begai
Even if you don’t buy into the idea of a critically acclaimed metal authority like BW&BK offering regular coverage on a radio (pop) rock artist like Bif Naked, you have to respect the amount of work and in-your-face commitment she put into her new album, The Promise. On a purely selfish and personal level it’s an honour to spend the time, having watched and waited over the last year as she battled breast cancer, praying for a positive outcome. The Promise has become a guilty pleasure, and a bloody inspirational one to boot for reasons that will become painfully clear. It was written and recorded while Bif was undergoing chemotherapy, an endurance test that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and fans will be far from disappointed. The best part of it all, however, is that the Bif Naked who made an unforgettable impression on yours truly 15 years ago with her warm-hearted tough as nails approach and became a fave interview over the years hasn’t changed. Okay, a few more tattoos, but the person underneath the ink is alive and well. Thus, the question about whether or not Bif ever broke down with a “Why me?” after being diagnosed – especially after her successful run with the Superbeautifulmonster album and in her personal life – is wasted breath. Continue reading BIF NAKED – Live Through This
I recently spoke with EPICA vocalist Simone Simons about the band’s new double live album, The Classical Conspiracy. An excerpt is available below, with Simons discussing the band’s set list for the one-off show featuring a full orchestra and choir backing them up…
“We had to decide which classical songs we were going to play, and which Epica songs would be in the set. Oliver (Palotai / KAMELOT keyboardist) arranged the Epica songs for the orchestra we were going to play with, so it was a big job. We were in Hungary for a week to rehearse, so it was a lot of work, and for me the show itself was really stressful because we had a rehearsal on the same day at 10:00am and then the show in the evening. It was a really long show – one hour of classical music, one-and-a-half hours of Epica – and I was nervous because normally I perform with backing tracks, and they never make mistakes. Now I was working with a choir, which of course isn’t perfect, so it felt a little bit different because the rock I normally leaned on had changed, if you know what I mean.”
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Television would have you believe stardom is only an elimination round away. Indeed it is… if you want to settle for being a flash in the pan.
Before nightly programming became cluttered with “talent” shows, before wide-eyed wannabe stars lined up every year by the thousands for another season of throwing away their dignity on TV in the hopes of grabbing the brass ring, people used to work for the fame and fortune they desired. They didn’t allow a jury of overpaid celebrities to dumb them down and decide who should live to see another day, they created something for themselves to be shared with anyone willing to pay attention. All in the pursuit of a not-so-impossible dream. FIRE AND FAME is one such story. Every word is true.
Continue reading Buy My Book — it ROCKS!
By Carl Begai
Vocalist Amanda Somerville has endured a healthy amount of good-natured ribbing over the years from certain press people for her claims of not being a metalhead. Her catalogue of projects, guest appearances and live shows dating back to 2001 screams proof to the contrary, an impressive body of work that gives her more credibility in metal circles than she ever bargained for. Even so, her first love is composing music for the moment that takes her. Rock, pop, new age, blues, ambient goth, the occasional silly commercial jingle, Somerville is capable of pulling off any style of music and doing it supremely well.
Her new album, Windows, is a showcase of her unique style(s), and sign that the world at large is starting to clue in to Somerville’s artist presence was the unexpected appearance of the album on a promo-sheet circulated by German metal promotional company CMM. Sandwiched between news of releases from Heaven & Hell (otherwise known as Black Sabbath featuring Ronnie James Dio) and doom veterans Trouble was Somerville’s name. This followed the original independent release of Windows by a few months, hinting that big things were the works. Not that the album was anywhere close to tanking without CMM’s helping hand.
Continue reading AMANDA SOMERVILLE – Pick A Window
I still say it should be “Lullabyes” in the title, but nobody likes a know-it-all so I’ll let that supposed gaffe slide. What matters is the music, and the new Agonist album is a huge step up from the debut, Once Only Imagined. Unlike the first record, which was bogged down by a poor track sequence, Lullabies For The Dormant Mind goes for the throat from the very first track (‘The Tempest’) and doesn’t let up for a moment until the welcome mid-album acapella version of Tchaikowsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ (executed top to bottom by vocalist Alissa White-Gluz). The aforementioned lead-off track is the bookend to the stellar ‘Business Suits And Combat Boots’ from the first album, sort of a kiss goodbye to the band’s younger days. Continue reading THE AGONIST – Lullabies For The Dormant Mind (Century Media – 2009)
Having risen to fame in the metal world over the last several years writing and recording with After Forever, Edguy, Kamelot, Epica and Avantasia – extensive tours with the latter two included – vocalist Amanda Somerville has stepped up with her second full length solo album. A 12 song journey through what will be unexpected territory for some fans, Windows sees Somerville returning to her first love, namely making music on her own terms. That said, the album is diverse mix of musical styles tied neatly together by her instantly recognizable voice, making it a riveting listen as you wonder what’s coming next. Continue reading AMANDA SOMERVILLE – Windows (Hya – 2009)
By Carl Begai
Only the good die young. Either that, or they sell their gear and get something close to a real job.
Case in point with Neurosonic frontman / founder Jason Darr who, after only one album and two-and-a-half straight and gruelling years on the road in support of it, officially pulled the plug this month (April 2009) on what was supposedly his dream gig. And while here are plenty of people who will stare blankly at this page thinking ‘Who?’ there’s a loyal legion of Neurosonic fans mourning the loss of a seriously underestimated Canadian rock act that shone far too briefly. Darr didn’t stray too far off the beaten path, however, turning up as producer and collaborator with former tourmate / labelmate Bif Naked on her new album, The Promise. It’s a significant release for both in that it’s Bif’s highly anticipated comeback following her tooth and nail battle with breast cancer, and Darr’s highest profile effort to date sitting in the producer’s chair. He’s clearly excited about what the future holds both for himself and Ms. Naked, having come to terms with the end of Neurosonic quite some time ago. As a result Darr offers up a refreshing dose of honesty when asked what brought about the band’s demise.
Continue reading JASON DARR – Getting Naked At Neurosonic Speed
Just a few words to the folks that have been stopping by to take a look around (a hell of a lot more than the nine I was expecting…) . Thanks for making the existence of this site worth my time and whatever energy I have left to stroke my ego; much appreciated.
Over the next two weeks several stories from yours truly will be spread out between BW&BK and this site. On the BW&BK front there are stories on EPICA, LEAVES’ EYES, ex-NIGHTWISH vocalist TARJA TURUNEN, DEATH ANGEL, STRATOVARIUS and THE ALMIGHTY frontman RICKY WARWICK. This site will see interviews featuring TESTAMENT, former NEUROSONIC frontman JASON DARR, and singer extraordinaire AMANDA SOMERVILLE. I’ll also be adding to the Reviews and Retro Fit pages over the next few days.
Continue reading What’s Up, What’s Next….
After two solo albums (three if you count W.A.R.P.E.D., the pimped-up version of his 2004 debut Faces), Savatage / Trans-Siberian Orchestra / Doctor Butcher guitarist Chris Caffery has decided to give the diehard (read: pig-headed) Sava-legions a record closer to their collective comfort zone. Kind of ironic considering he was trying to respect his band’s legacy by not ripping it off when he started pumping out his own music. Thankfully, while there are some definite Savatage moments on House Of Insanity, Caffery hasn’t sold out on his original plan of attack to create something with its own identity. The record is raw and, if such a thing exists, under-produced to the point it sounds like it was recorded analog and live off the floor. A very good thing if you understand the term “old school.” Continue reading CHRIS CAFFERY — House Of Insanity (iTunes – 2009)
Frameshift guitarist / songwriter / producer Henning Pauly is known for going off on a tangent every now and then to explore avenues outside his usual prog-metal haunts, whether it be epic Ayreon-styled storytelling (Babysteps) or tongue-in-cheek tributes to punk (The Anthologies) and controversial “rock stars” who don’t really have their shit together after all (Credit Where Credit Is Due). His latest venture, Shadow’s Mignon, most certainly falls into the second category, celebrating the all-powerful heavy metal cliché by offering up every riff, lick and lyric that made Dio, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden famous. Midnight Sky Masquerade isn’t brain surgery and was never meant to be, focusing instead on taking traditional metalheads back to that old school comfort zone through simple off-the-wall guitar shred (Pauly really should do this more often) and killer vocals from Transmission singer Juan Roos, easily the most underrated vocalist in the biz. Continue reading SHADOW’S MIGNON — Midnight Sky Masquerade (ProgRock Records – 2009)