Administrivia

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….

Theatre+of+Tragedy+aegispromo2

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

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 Velvet Darkness They Fear, 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….

Theatre+of+Tragedy

Velvet Darkness They Fear

Released in August 1996, Velvet Darkness They Fear is regarded as Theatre of Tragedy’s breakthrough album due to the popularity of the single ‘Der Tanz der Schatten’. It was unthinkable that a proclaimed doom-goth metal band could achieve commercial success on any level, yet they did just that. The Theatre’s German fans in particular embraced the song, leading to rumblings in the background that ‘Der Tanz der Schatten’ was a calculated attempt to cash in on a fanbase that had made itself known when the band’s debut hit the shelves the year before. This wasn’t the case according to drummer Hein Frode Hansen:

“Me and Raymond (Rohonyi/growls) were really into a lot of German darkwave bands like Das Ich, Lacrimosa, Goethes Erben and such at the time, and Raymond really wanted to do a song in German. A few of the other members were really against the idea and thought it would do more harm than good, and that nothing good would come out of it. Little did they know. The single hit both the metal crowd as well as the ‘grufties’ (goths) and became a huge club hit. What’s even stranger is when Brazilian bands cover a Norwegian band that sings in German (laughs).”

Vocalist Liv Kristine elaborates: “Both Raymond and myself chose German to be our third language at Gymnasium and we were hooked on the language. That was two years before we went on tour, but we wanted to write a song in German so we asked Tilo Wolf from Lacrimosa to help us with the lyrics. The version Raymond and I came up with wasn’t nearly as good as what Tilo wrote, but it was a good try and the song turned out really well. And one month after we’d recorded ‘Der Tanz der Schatten’, Ray and me both started studying German in university at home in Stavanger.” Continue Reading

The tribute album dedicated to Woods Of Ypres frontman David Gold – who passed away in December 2011 – entitled A Heart Of Gold: Tribute To Woods Of Ypres, is now available for digital download via Bandcamp.com at this location.

Fans can purchase a CD hard copy of the album by sending $20 via PayPal with your name, mailing address and email to DavidGoldTribute@gmail.com.

Heart-of-Gold-A-Tribute-to-Woods-of-Ypres-e1343246205256

The confirmed tracklist is as follows:

Disc 1
‘Thrill Of The Struggle’ – Catuvolcus
‘Adora Vivos’ – Raphael from Musk Ox
‘Lightning And Snow’ – Earthen
‘Falling Apart’ – Canopy
‘A Meeting Place And Time’ – Panzerfaust
‘Finality’ – Kuhrzarth
‘The Sun Was In My Eyes’ – Anemic
‘Retrosleep In The Morning Calm’ – Albireon
‘Suicide Cargoload’ (live) – Gypsy Chief Goliath
‘Career Suicide’ – Reliquis

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 the self-titled debut, 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….

TheatreofTragedy4-1

The journey started with a simple demo tape, which received favourable reactions first in Theatre of Tragedy’s hometown of Stavanger, Norway and then from the international metal press. From there everything snowballed, and the rest is history.

“Most of us were so young and inexperienced at the time, so we didn’t really have the fear of being ridiculed, nor the ambitions to make it big,” says drummer Hein Frode Hansen. “We were just a bunch of kids wanting to make a hybrid of our different musical influences at the time. Individually, we were mediocre musicians at best, but together we were something fresh and new.”

“We all came from different backgrounds and that what made it so special,” continues guitarist Tommy Lindal. “We simply put some elements of all the members together and it sounded really cool; metal with piano and soprano vocals. My impression at the time was that we didn’t worry too much about if the people liked it or not, as long we enjoyed it ourselves.”

The debut album seemed to be a risky affair on many levels. The Theatre was more than a bit daring when one considers there was nothing heavy or metal about ‘…a Distance there is…’ , a track featuring piano, cello, Liv’s vocals, and the sound of falling rain. The song has since become the cornerstone of the debut for many diehard Theatre of Tragedy fans. Tommy remembers working on the track:

“…’a Distance there is…’ is a song that I think everybody in the band has a different relationship to. We were in Sweden at Dan Swanö´s studio, spending our Christmas alone in Sweden recording the debut. Lorentz and Liv had some ideas and ended up recording the song. The cello was Dan Swanö’s brilliant idea; he called a friend to drop by the studio and record some cello parts. It took some hours and the result was amazing. We were all was excited about it and decided to put it on the record.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Over the last couple months I’ve been subjected to some unsigned bands that have done a great job of knocking me on my ass. Call this Round 1 of what will hopefully be an ongoing column on this site assuming the music continues to grab my attention as these folks have. Read on if yer curious….

Over The Coals

Over The Coals out of Vancouver have started make a buzz outside of their regular haunts thanks to the video for the song ‘My Worth’, a track taken from a forthcoming EP. It’s my understanding that they used to have a male singer – YouTube footage supports this – but the addition of one Susie Myers seems to have been the clincher in terms of solidifying the band’s sound. First thing that came to mind when I heard ‘em…. it sounds like Strapping Young Lad and My Ruin had a baby. Must be a West Coast thing. It’s impossible to judge them on one song, of chorus, but I like the sound of serious potential

Check out Over The Coals on Facebook here. The video for ‘My Worth’ can be found here. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

On February 7th, I was contacted by vocalist Todd La Torre, who was known first and foremost as the frontman for Crimson Glory before replacing Geoff Tate as the singer of Queensrÿche in 2012, effectively pulling double duty. After a lengthy conversation and some minor editing, La Torre handed over a press release exclusively for BW&BK (found here) announcing that, after approximately three years as Crimson Glory’s voice, he had officially resigned.

La Torre was introduced to Crimson Glory by Matt La Porte (Jon Oliva’s Pain, Circle II Circle), becoming an official member in 2010. He helped to ignite and give new life to the legendary band that had been on hiatus for nearly ten years, and mourning the loss of original vocalist Midnight. Crimson Glory emerged back into the world arena metal scene with very high praise and acceptance. La Torre toured as the new voice of Crimson Glory throughout Europe in celebration of the band’s 25th Anniversary with great success.

Talk of a new album was highly anticipated and the band appeared to be firing on all cylinders.

“We were writing the new album and things were looking good, says La Torre. “We had interest from two major European labels, which was very promising. I was very honored and proud that we were on the rise, and the fans were embracing all that we were doing. We had wonderful momentum and we were working within an important window of time within which the new record should have been recorded and released to have the most impact given the bands resurgence. Unfortunately, the record never materialized despite my best efforts.”

“My involvement with Queensrÿche had nothing to do with the album progress,” he continues. “I haven’t been contacted to write with Crimson Glory for over six months. As a band, our writing sessions were slow, eventually becoming non-existent before I ever joined Queensrÿche. During the specific timeframe that I was in talks with Queensrÿche, members of CG were simultaneously occupied by other external and internal endeavors that apparently absorbed the time and/or will away from CG, which is not fallacious per se, but it proceeded in passivity. The main reason for my resignation from Crimson Glory is primarily due to its inertia status.” Continue Reading