CHRIS CAFFERY — House Of Insanity (iTunes – 2009)

cafferyhouseofinsanityAfter 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)

SHADOW’S MIGNON — Midnight Sky Masquerade (ProgRock Records – 2009)

shadowsmFrameshift 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)

AYREON – Everything In Time

arjen-5By Carl Begai

I caught up with Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen a while back to discuss a variety of subjects including the last Ayreon record, 01011001, the Timeline compilation released at the end of 2008, and his new project, Guilt Machine. It was an informal fact-finding mission done outside the confines of the usual press junket routine. Many thanks to Arjen for taking the time; much appreciated.

Discussion begins with the success of 01011001, which had the daunting task of following up The Human Equation, considered by many fans to be the cornerstone of the Ayreon catalogue. By all accounts 01011001 did extremely well, but it was agreed almost across the board that it was harder to get into than its predecessor due to its considerably darker atmosphere. Once inside, however, most fans were hooked.
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SONS OF SEASONS – It’s Good To Be King

oliversons2By Carl Begai

Guitarist / keyboardist Oliver Palotai will tell you that downtime is overrated if it means sitting around doing nothing. So it seems, given that the man has spent the last four years as a card carrying member of Kamelot while juggling schedules with artists such as Doro, Blaze Bayley and Uli Jon Roth both prior to and during his time with the band. A full plate, and one he’s managed to pile a little higher with his own band, Sons Of Seasons. It’s not a mere side-project, either, as Palotai has invested a considerable amount of time, money, heart and soul in getting the band off the ground while honouring his other commitments. The end result is Gods Of Vermin, and dark and atmospheric symphonic metal record that deftly avoids becoming yet another knock-off goth rock album. On the contrary, it’s one of those rare albums that seemingly offers up something new with each listen. Where Palotai found the time to write and record the material, let alone find the band members best suited for the job, is anybody’s guess. Including his.
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BW&BK Interview With WOLF Online…

wolf-2I recently spoke with Johannes “Axeman” Losbäck from WOLF about the band’s new album, Ravenous. An excerpt appears below, with Losbäck discussing the seemingly perpetual comparisons to Iron Maiden…

“The coat fits now and people know that’s going to come out in our sound. At the beginning people would say ‘I like them because they sound like Iron Maiden.’ Nowadays it’s ‘I like them. Period.’ But where would we be without that comparison? We get a lot of Mercyful Fate comparisons these days, which is great. All I can say to that is thank you goddamn very much (laughs). We could do a lot worse. If people want to compare my riffs to Dave Murray or Hank Shermann… please continue (laughs). So, those comparisons come with respect nowadays.

“The Iron Maiden comparison was justified and it still is, and for us it’s a compliment. We love hearing that. Bruce Dickinson plays our stuff on his BBC rock show on Friday nights, and that doesn’t suck. He even played our version of ‘Deja-Vu’ and liked it. If he would think Wolf is a rip-off band somehow I don’t think he’d be doing that.”

Go to this location for the complete interview.

MIDNATTSOL – Out Of The Dark

carmen2By Carl Begai

Carmen Elise Espenaes used to be known as the younger sister of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine first and the singer of Midnattsol second. That started to change at the beginning of 2008 with the release of Midnattsol’s second album, Nordlys, an unexpectedly ballsy outing leaps and bounds ahead of their 2005 debut in every way. Affectionately referred to by some as having an Amorphis-meets-Iron Maiden sound, Nordlys took the folk metal direction established on Midnattsol’s first record, Where Twilight Dwells, and turned it on its ear. The band was bent on making an impact. More progressive and traditional metal elements, most certainly heavier, better produced, the album showcased a band interested anything but settling for comfortable half-measures. Capping it off was Espenaes’ multi-facetted vocal performance, so strong that one had to wonder where Midnattsol had found their new singer and why she was using the old one’s name. Once perceived as delicate and waif-like, perhaps even insecure in her role fronting a metal band, Espenaes blew the doors off on Nordlys like a seasoned professional. A development that could be seen as well as heard over the course of the select number of shows Midnallsol was able to put in over the past year.
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WARRANT – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989)

warrantdirtyDanko Jones once told me that the best way to pick a single for radio is to get a bunch of girls to do it. Sound thinking, and with that in mind it’s very clear that estrogen was on tap the day Sony braintrust decided they would release both suck-ass ballads from Warrant’s debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. People blame the rise of grunge for shoving metal to the back of the bus for most of the ’90s, but it was in fact Warrant and their keepers that did the deed. Continue reading WARRANT – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989)

Carl Begai interviewed by journalist / author Neil Daniels

UK-based journalist / author Neil Daniels recently caught up with me to discuss my new book, Fire And Fame, and my career with BW&BK. An excerpt is available below. Enjoy…

carlhellguitarQ: Tell me about your book Fire And Fame. How did you hook up with Joerg Deisinger?

Carl: I met Joerg in ’98 in Nuremberg, Germany, where I’m currently living. He lived around the corner from me at the time and worked at USG Records, so we ran into each other on a regular basis. I was never a huge Bonfire fan, but we had a common interest in rock, metal and movies, so there was never a lack of things to talk about. He moved to Thailand in 2004 and narrowly escaped being killed by the tsunami that hit on 26th December. By rights he should have been killed; only dumb luck saved him. When he first approached me about the idea of writing his memoirs I didn’t really see the sense of it – I had no idea just how popular Bonfire had been in Europe in the early days – but I understood his reasons. His first hand experience with the tsunami and the aftermath, I think that was kind of like a mirror being held up in his face, saying “look at your life and don’t fucking take it for granted.” He asked me to work with him on the book because of my experience as a journalist, and I agreed based on our friendship. What sold me on the project was the fact that I had an active role in shaping the book rather than being a mere translator. Anybody with the skills could have translated his story, but I was able to use my voice to tell it. Fire And Fame was a 50-50 split with regards to creative control, so while it is indeed Joerg’s story I was able to put something of myself into it as well.
Continue reading Carl Begai interviewed by journalist / author Neil Daniels