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Grim

So yeah, I’ve been all about trying to publish this book independently for the last few years and it has been a very slow process. The writing itself wasn’t an issue, although I discovered some fantastically awful grammatical errors when I went back to look at the manuscript some six months after the fact. I dragged my feet putting together a Kickstarter campaign to finance the book, as I have publicly denounced crowdfunding in the past, but realized that it’s the only way I’m ever going to (hopefully) secure the funds to publish. Back in January I foolishly announced March 15th as the Kickstarter launch even though I didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle assembled. My pride took a beating when those plans fell through and I’m still eating my words.

It was plan from the very beginning to have a video trailer to advertise the Kickstarter campaign. One thing the music biz has taught me is Promote Or Die, and video is seemingly the best way to go in this day and age. Finding someone to do the work proved to be a problem, however, as the one soul who promised big and brash and bold things took a powder when he realized I wasn’t kidding about going through with it. Either that or the music composed by Sander Gommans (After Forever, HDK) scared the bejeezus out of him and sent him running with his award-winning tail between his legs. Trying to find someone else to do the job took a few months of hair pulling, one profanity-laced rant on Facebook, and a phone call from Rock & Royalty photo god Heiko Roith who introduced me to a colleague we’ll call Spitz for the time being. Continue Reading

At BraveWords we’re doing our annual look back on the year that was, with each scribe offering up their respective lists of Hots and Nots of 2015. My rundown is available below; the original version along with links to the other members of my BraveWords family can be found here.

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Top 20 Albums Of 2015
1) QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman (Century Media)
2) CRADLE OF FILTH – Hammer Of The Witches (Nuclear Blast)
3) KAMELOT – Haven (Napalm Records)
4) CHILDREN OF BODOM – I Worship Chaos (Nuclear Blast)
5) SYMPHONY X – Underworld (Nuclear Blast)
6) DANKO JONES – Fire Music (Bad Taste)
7) GRAVE – Out Of Respect For The Dead (Century Media)
8) DEAD LORD – Heads Held High (Century Media)
9) CHRIS CAFFERY – Your Heaven Is Real (Metalville)
10) SLAYER – Repentless (Nuclear Blast)
11) HELLOWEEN – My God-Given Right (Nuclear Blast)
12) NONEXIST – Throne Of Scars (Mighty Music)
13) FEAR FACTORY – Genexus (Nuclear Blast)
14) STRYPER – Fallen (Frontiers)
15) CIRCLE II CIRCLE – Reign Of Darkness (earMusic)
16) THE V – Now Or Never (Frontiers)
17) STRATOVARIUS – Eternal (earMusic)
18) ANNIHILATOR – Suicide Society (UDR)
19) LEAVES’ EYES – King Of Kings (AFM)
20) MOTÖRHEAD – Bad Magic (UDR) Continue Reading

Grim

So, shit just got real.

Yes indeed, after months and months (and months) of dragging my Size 8 feet I’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to publish my first official book independently, or feel ridiculous in the attempt. And in spite of the fact I’ve dumbed down the concept of pledge campaigns like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, etc. I’ve been forced to out myself as a hypocrite and take that route if I’m ever gonna get the damn thing out there.

Folks that know my name probably picked it up fom BraveWords.com, where I’ve worked as one of the the key writers as a so-called authority on heavy metal for the last 20 years (dating back to when we were the most awesome print magazine, BW&BK). Either that or they remember bullying me in high school. Some of the bodies that know of Grim – My Way To Hell’s existence have asked me why I’m releasing a work of fiction rather than doing something better suited to my music journalist roots, and the short answer is that’s been covered by my esteemed peers like Martin Popoff, Joel McIver, Joel Gausten and a host of other rivet-heads. Not that I have anything against doing up a band / artist biography, but until a direct request comes from a musician to do so I believe I’ll stay out of that end of the pool.

But, if there’s one thing the music industry has taught me is that projects live and die by promotion. Thus, with a March 15th, 2016 date set for the launch of my 30 day Kickstarter campaign it makes sense to start attracting attention now. Thanks to the assistance of some ridiculously awesome friends, pieces of this puzzle are being assembled and will be unleashed over the course of the next two months. In addition, I will be making updates to this page every couple days offering book related odds-and-bits. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

You may have heard that Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister passed away on December 28th, 2015 at the age of 70, a victim of cancer. If you haven’t…. well, you are most certainly oblivious to the world around you.

I honestly had no intention of writing a tribute in Lemmy’s honour, figuring nothing I could possibly say would have any weight or worth in the shadow of such a legend. When the boss asked the BraveWords staff to contribute to a very necessary piece honouring Lemmy’s memory, however, I figured I had to say something. After all, the man and the band have been a part of my life for 30 years now; surely I could come up with a few kind words.

Turns out I did, much more easily than I’d expected….

Lemmy1

I’m not going to launch into this tribute with claims that Lemmy and Motörhead changed or influenced the way I devoured my rock n’ roll upon discovery, because they didn’t. The simple fact is that when I picked up my first Motörhead album in 1986 in downtown Toronto and Cheapies, it was on a whim inspired entirely by the Orgasmatron artwork. This was before the age of listening desks, thus all I had to go on was word of mouth, MuchMusic, and judging a proverbial book by its cover. In this case the initial Orgasmatron spin was the first of a gazillion, and from there Motörhead was simply “there” in the best way possible. Aggressive high energy go-to music good for any occasion, something decidedly different from the Metallica, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Ratt and Mötley Crüe albums that otherwise occupied my brain for hours on end. Year by year, forward and back, my Motörhead album collection grew to the expected size for that of a true fan. In short, all of ’em.

I had the pleasure of seeing Motörhead play in both Canada and Europe several times, the first being in Toronto at the infamous Operation Rock N’ Roll show in 1991 with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper and Dangerous Toys. Regardless of which side of the world they played on, the trio was welcomed with a reverence worthy of royalty and Lemmy was most certainly the king. Even from the back of the room he was larger (and louder) than life. A living legend in the truest sense. Continue Reading

It’s that time again. Below you’ll find my list of Hots and Nots of 2014 compiled for the ever faithful BraveWords readership (originally published here) to chew on and swallow or spit in my face as they see fit. Enjoy.

And if you’re offended or otherwise put off by anything scrawled below, please take it up with the Complaint Department here.

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Top 20 Albums Of 2014

1) SANCTUARY – The Year The Sun Died (Century Media)
2) ARCH ENEMY – War Eternal (Century Media)
3) DEVILMENT – The Great And Secret Show (Nuclear Blast)
4) KOBRA AND THE LOTUS – High Priestess (Titan Music)
5) OVERKILL – White Devil Armory (Nuclear Blast)
6) ACCEPT – Blind Rage (Nuclear Blast)
7) GAMMA RAY – Empire Of The Undead (earMusic)
8) AMARANTHE – Massive Addictive (Spinefarm)
9) HURTSMILE – Retrogrenade (Slipkid Records)
10) SEASON OF GHOSTS – The Human Paradox (Coroner Records)
11) EXODUS – Blood In, Blood Out (Nuclear Blast)
12) RED DRAGON CARTEL – Red Dragon Cartel (Frontiers)
13) THE PRETTY RECKLESS – Going To Hell (Razor & Tie)
14) METSATÖLL – Karjajuht (Napalm)
15) JUDAS PRIEST – Redeemer Of Souls (Epic)
16) HDK – Serenades Of The Netherworld (The Rock Station)
17) UNISONIC – Light Of Dawn (earMusic)
18) DELAIN – The Human Contradiction (Napalm Records)
19) SEBASTIAN BACH – Give ‘Em Hell (Frontiers)
20) SLIPKNOT – .5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner) Continue Reading

I’ve said this dozens of times: one of the great things about this whole music journalist career are the people I meet along the way. Not just the so-called rock stars, but the characters – managers, promoters, stage crews, photographers, journalists, security people – behind-the-scenes as well. One such personality is Australia-born photographer Heiko Roith; very ambitious, extremely talented (but don’t tell him that, it gets him excited), and most certainly unique. Thus, it came as no surprise to discover that he decided to fill what little free time he has with a new project outside of his usual music-based commitments. The nature of that project, on the other hand, was completely unexpected.

And ultimately, completely in line with Roith’s spirit for adventure. Read on….

Carl Begai

HeikoRoad

On April 26th 1986, Anatoli Stepanowitsch Djatlow made the decision to simulate a total blackout in Block 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Because of serious infringements of safety regulations in force and the construction related characteristics of the reactor there was an uncontrollable increase in power, which ultimately led to the explosion of the reactor. The ensuing nuclear fallout resulted in large parts of the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and 200,000 square kilometers of Europe being contaminated by radioactivity. The Chernobyl disaster has been dubbed the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties.

Still today, some families live in the heavily contaminated Chernobyl areas and in the neighbouring town of Prypjat, and a few are even newly settled. The damaged reactor unit is still covered by a temporary protective shell of reinforced concrete, which should be replaced in 2015 by a more long term solution. The year 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster – but it will then be erased from our view forever. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

In this day and age female fronted metal bands are normal part of everyday life. They are so common, in fact, that it’s a waste of breath making the distinction between them and bands with a hairy, ugly guy behind the microphone. There was a time, however, when the idea of a woman fronting a full-on metal band was dismissed by metal fans and press alike as absurd. The world accepted Doro Pesch fronting Warlock and Sabina Classen leading Holy Moses in the ’80s, sure, but it wasn’t until the rise of The 3rd And The Mortal, The Gathering and Theatre Of Tragedy in the early ’90s that the movement towards equality in metal truly began. Now, in celebration of a revolution that launched an entirely new musical genre, vocalists Kari Rueslåtten (The 3rd And The Mortal), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and Liv Kristine Espenaes Krull (Leaves’ Eyes, Theatre Of Tragedy) have united for a journey into the past presented live on stage: The Sirens.

The Sirens

The seeds for The Sirens were planted when Anneke approached Kari in early 2013 with the proposal of doing a duet for her Drive album (released in 2013). Regarded by Anneke as an inspiration going in to do The Gathering’s breakthrough album, Mandylion, her intention was to pay tribute to Kari via the collaboration. The song didn’t make the final cut as it didn’t fit the album, but they remained in touch. Then, in July 2013 Anneke and Liv had a chance meeting at the Masters Of Rock festival in the Czech Republic, and The Sirens concept was born.

“We had a few minutes only to talk in between our gigs,” Liv recalls, “but we agreed that we really should get together and tour. We both had to smile then, thinking that we were, with Kari, the ‘originals’ within our scene. Moreover, all three of us being mothers and still highly busy in music and art. Anneke told me that she had just talked to Kari, and that was the ‘go’ for The Sirens”

It would be fair to call Kari the catalyst for The Sirens, as both Anneke and Liv saw her as a role model when they first made their way into music.

“I find it hard to believe that I once inspired them,” Kari admits, “but if so it is truly flattering. It is a fantastic feeling to know that I will be singing live with two such amazing vocalists!”

The Sirens tour will be split into two parts, including festival appearances, and staged at the end of 2014 in October and December. It will be a full concert showcasing the trio, one band, and a setlist featuring songs from The 3rd And The Mortal, The Gathering and Theatre Of Tragedy as well as tracks from Kari, Anneke and Liv’s respective solo careers. They will sing alone, perform duets, capping off the night with all three of them on stage, with a show that is expected to clock in at around 100 minutes each night. Thus, it’s a trip down memory lane produced for the here and now with brand new and unexpected elements, making The Sirens a nostalgia-fuelled reminder of who started it all and why it worked. And at the end of the night nobody will leave disappointed. Continue Reading

So, once again, a wrap-up of the Hots and Nots from the year gone by courtesy of my day job at BW&BK. The whole rundown of Brave Embarrassments, Best Concerts, assorted predictions and pleas to stop music industry stupidity can all be found here.

Below you’ll find my Top 10 list of favourite albums of 2013 and a long-winded summary of why the year didn’t suck for music… at least in my world.

Top Ten – 2013

1) ANNIHILATOR – Feast (UDR)
2) CHILDREN OF BODOM – Halo Of Blood (Nuclear Blast)
3) STRYPER – No More Hell To Pay (Frontiers)
4) QUEENSRŸCHE – s/t (Century Media)
5) HEADSTONES – Love & Fury (Universal/Frostbyte)
6) DUSKMACHINE – Duskmachine (Massacre)
7) THE NEW BLACK – III: Cut Loose (AFM)
8) JAMES LABRIE – Impermanent Resonance (InsideOut)
9) THRAWSUNBLAT – Wanderer On The Continent Of Saplings (Ignifera Records)
10) HELLOWEEN – Straight Out Of Hell (Sony)

Continue Reading

Been a LONG time since I’ve dished out one of these columns, but things are back to what passes for normal around here which means we#re back in business. That said, read on for your metal hoser updates…

Labrie 3

As most Dream Theater fans know, Canada-born frontman James LaBrie recently released his new solo album, Impermanent Resonance. There a full story with LaBrie here that goes over the ins and outs of the record, but from a completely biased point of view it’s fair to say Impermanent Resonance is one of his best (perhaps falling just shy of Static Impulse’s epic stature).

Plenty of aggression, which falls in line with Static Impulse’s in-your-face approach, but there’s a bloody infectious melodic aspect to the songs that open LaBrie’s music up to a wider audience. Hails to collaborator/keyboardist Matt Guillory for his brilliant songwriting skills. But don’t take my word for it; check out the full record on YouTube. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

It was announced back in February 2012 that Norway’s Theatre Of Tragedy, who spawned the career of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine and officially called it quits in October 2010, were working on remastered re-issues of their first three albums: the self-titled debut, Velvet Darkness They Fear, and Aegis. Initially meant to be released in late 2012, Massacre Records have confirmed July 5th as the official release date for all three albums in digipack CD and double vinyl LP formats.

The re-releases will feature rare bonus material, and will also include a band interview conducted by me split into three parts, one for each album. It was an honour to be asked by the Theatre Of Tragedy family to contribute to the re-issues, and I consider it to be a personal career highlight.

Following is an brief excerpt from the interview conducted for Aegis, which will appear in full in the re-issue liner notes. Call it an attempt to help promote the releases coupled with my pride getting away from me just this once.

Enjoy….

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Aegis

Theatre of Tragedy’s third album, Aegis, scared the hell out of their diehard fans. The band continued to evolve as they had between their self-titled debut and second record Velvet Darkness They Fear, but in a direction nobody had expected. The songs were geared in a goth metal direction, with the trademark doom aspect of the band’s sound reduced to a nuance. This was particularly apparent in the absence of vocalist Raymond I. Rohonyi’s growls, long considered to be just as important to Theatre of Tragedy’s sound as Liv Kristine’s soprano vocals. Raymond’s clean singing/spoken word delivery on Aegis – which would become a staple on future albums – had a direct influence on the atmosphere of the songs, which left some fans disappointed. Years later, however, Aegis is widely regarded as one of Theatre of Tragedy’s strongest records even by the (former) naysayers.

“Many people were screaming ‘They’re going goth mainstream!’ and pulling their hair out,” Liv remembers, “but it was nothing like that. It was just another influence coming into the band, which was guitarist Tommy Olsson. He’s a huge Sisters of Mercy fan, and he brought in this way of playing guitar. Ray realized that he had to develop in some way concerning his vocals to match his sound.”

“This was a natural progress for Raymond and the band,” drummer Hein Frode Hansen explains. “We changed both our guitar players and that obviously brought new influences to the band. The goth rock and elements of traditional songwriting became more relevant, and we wanted to make the perfect goth record for both metal and goth fans. It was probably more goth with a metal sound than the other way around (laughs). It was an homage and a wink to the elders Fields Of The Nephilim, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, The Cult and The Mission, and we started experimenting more with programming and samples. The feedback was very diverse, but most people came to enjoy it. As one fan said, ‘It is the perfect album to make love to!’” Continue Reading