From There To Here…
By Carl Begai
Anybody can claim to be a professional anything, but when you get down to the blood and guts it’s action – and more often than not, the lack of it – that separates the wannabes from the real deal. It’s easy to find both in the music industry.
A couple years ago I witnessed an unforgettable display of professionalism by a band, right on the heels of a disgusting example of betrayal by a so-called professional promoter. All in the space of one evening.
The band in question is a Norwegian/German outfit called Vinland (the name has been changed to spare them any undue embarrassment). They’ve been around for over a decade, are signed to a major metal record label, and have toured the world several times over playing clubs, theaters and festivals for numbers ranging anywhere between a couple hundred people a night to 70,000+ depending on the territory. In other words, they know the ropes. They’re also very aware of the music industry’s First Commandment:
As a fan and friend of the band, it was good news when they announced a stop on their European tour in Nuremberg, Germany (where I’m currently residing as a travelling Torontonian). As a town of approximately 400,000 people it isn’t a hotspot where tours touch down regularly, particularly for artists with a large fanbase, so when a promoter actually snags one it’s an event. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
One of my first serious live show experiences growing up was seeing Niagara Falls-based Honeymoon Suite perform at the Ontario Place Forum in August 1984. I was 15 years old, and I say “serious” because my ears were still ringing four days after the show. It was awesome.
At that point I was just starting to get my legs as a concert-goer, having attended a show or two at Maple Leaf Gardens and a couple more at Ontario Place if memory serves. The Honeymoon Suite show was something special, though, because it was the real concert experience. Me and a friend got down to the park in the morning, paid some ridiculous almost non-existent admission fee, and nabbed first row seats. We hung out all day, had the chance to witness soundcheck, hit on the girls in the neighbouring rows unsuccessfully, and generally whiled away the hours and potential boredom with other fans that shared our mindset.
When the show started some time after 8:00pm, the sold out Forum went nuts. I remember the wash of music, the energy of the crowd on all sides, the heat of the lights (as it was a revolving in-the-round-stage), the handful of new tunes played that would end up on the band’s second album The Big Prize, security guards trying to keep people out of the aisles (and failing), learning how to identify the stink of weed, the lovely pair of twenty-something ladies that stood beside me necking with each other for the last half of the show…
Yes indeed, that was the night I fígured out why going to concerts was a big deal. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
I’m going to preface this with a head’s up:
The following piece is my opinion, and as such it is neither wrong nor right. That said, if you feel the urge to respond to it because I’ve somehow insulted nine generations of your family and called into question your Nightwish fanboy/girl-ship, please do so intelligently. I don’t mind a conflicting view at all, so long as the person offering it put some thought into it and doesn’t need to rely on name-calling and bullshit attitude. This isn’t Bladdermouth.
Lotsa love. Read on…
So, it seems Nightwish is minus another singer. Anette Olzon (pictured above), replacement for original vocalist Tarja Turunen, became a part of the band’s history as of October 1st, 2012 and they’re supposedly better for it if the official press release is to be believed. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, Nightwish is now faced with the unenviable task of doing damage control and explaining why the woman they touted and defended left and right as Turunen’s ideal replacement was given the boot.
Olzon’s haters are, of course, celebrating with thoughts and babble of a reunion with Turunen. Who knows? It may happen, especially now that we have the technology to preserve snowballs in hell, but I doubt it. And with the positive buzz surrounding ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen’s performance filling in, this may well be a learning-by-doing audition. The fact remains, however, that Olzon was a part of two solid albums that turned the band into a bigger deal than when Lady Tarja was with them, so whatever the follow-up may be it has to be a home run of cosmic proportions or the band is finished (in my humble opinion).
As for the reasons behind Olzon’s seemingly blink-of-an-eye ejection from her day job, the fans are going to be treated with two versions of the truth over the next several months. Chances are there were little issues between Olzon and her former bandmates that got tensions brewing to begin with – no band is immune to internal conflict – but there’s no doubt in my mind that her reaction to being temporarily replaced for the September 28th show in Denver, Colorado is what smashed the camel’s back to splinters. (continue reading…)
Sam Sniderman passed away on Sunday, September 23rd 2012. He was 92 years old.
I didn’t know the man. I never met him. When I saw him in passing there was a sense of reverence that came with the experience. As in “That’s him, that’s the guy.”
Simply put, the gentleman who was known as Sam The Record Man played a huge part in fuelling the music-obsessed soul trapped inside this 43-going-on-18 year old. Opened in 1961, the iconic flagship store on Yonge Street in Toronto that launched a cross-Canada chain was a haven and a world of discovery. It was also the place I happily dropped thousands of dollars over the course of my teen years and into my 20s without thinking twice.
When the store closed down in 2007 it was heartbreaking for anyone that had spent significant time weeding through the vinyl, cassettes and CDs. The weekly off-day visits, the obligatory stop-ins on the way to a pub, club, the movies or a restaurant on the weekends, the late night visits – which the Barenaked Ladies wrote about in ‘Brian Wilson’- on the way home… it was hard to believe it had come to an end.
Sure, there were other record stores on the same strip, but Sam’s was the place, particularly through the ’80s and into the ’90s. Didn’t matter if Cheapies sold certain albums cheaper on any given week, didn’t matter if A&A’s next door was bigger on selling the soon-to-be-impossible-to-find 12″ singles (that even the Record Peddler didn’t have in stock), didn’t matter if the HMV down the street was big and flashy; Sam’s was tradition. It had the old off-white tiled floors that should have been replaced at the end of the ’70s. It had plastic dust jackets over the vinyl LPs for a reason. It had that record store smell.
It was the ultimate mom & pop record store. Supersized.
I didn’t realize it at the time but, looking back now, in a way Sam’s was like home. Not in a cheesy nerd outsiders-got-no-place-else-to-go way, but rather one of those mandatory visits one made when in the neighbourhood. Five or 10 kilometers was still close enough to demand a music run. Or else. And I know I wasn’t alone in my thinking. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Sure, the public transit system isn’t fit to service Legoland let alone a bustling metropolis, the cost of living has punched a hole through the roof, and we have a mayor with less credibility than your average high school junkie hall monitor, but it’s my home. I was born and bred here, I got my metal skooling during the righteous and never-to-be-repeated Gasworks/Rock N’ Roll Heaven era. Even so, when word came down in 2011 that Hogtown was going to echo Montreal’s highly successful weekend metal festival Heavy MTL – launched in 2008 – with a two day thrash-and-burn open air of its own in Downsview Park, I was skeptical. I had no doubt the organizers would pull things together in order to make it happen, but far less confident it would last more than a single “nice try” run.
Having lived in Germany since the tail end of 1995 as BW&BK’s European correspondent, I’ve attended my share of metal festivals great, good, bad and painfully ugly. Every weekend between May and September the classic metal festival model is put into action somewhere on the continent, attracting rivet-heads from all walks of life by the thousands and tens of thousands for two or three days of distortion and debauchery. It’s this model on which Heavy MTL was based – and succeeded – thanks to the European mentality of the Québécois. I didn’t see Heavy T.O. having the same impact in a city where metalheads are about five steps less committed to getting off the couch when a show hits town (sorry, it’s sad but true).
Heavy T.O.’s 2011 line-up turned out to be a ray of hope. Megadeth, Children Of Bodom, Opeth, Diamond Head, Volbeat, Mastodon, Slayer, Death Angel and Exodus on the same bill? Hard to believe but a European festival had come to town and landed with a bang, featuring a bill more than merely strong enough to drag the metal masses out into the light. By all accounts it was a rousing success beyond the expected and inevitable screw-ups that come with organizing anything for the first time. When the dust had settled it was a done deal: there would be Heavy T.O. 2012, with a legion of fans waiting in the wings brandishing piggybanks in hand when tickets finally went on sale. (continue reading…)
Folks that spend any time on this site – and to those that do, thank you – are aware that the passing of Woods Of Ypres frontman/founder David Gold last year affected a lot of people on the Canadian metal scene, myself included. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the tribute shows that took place at home earlier this month, but drummer Rae Amitay – who was gearing up to tour with Woods through 2012 – and Eclipse Eternal frontman Voldamareshave issued their own special recaps of the events dedicated to David’s memory. They both appear below.
Rae issued the following via Metal Review:
“When I try to put my experience from Ypres Metal Fest into words, everything from that night and the days leading up to it seems to blur together into a mess of emotions that I can’t properly articulate. As those reading this may know, David Gold had asked me to play drums for Woods of Ypres in support of the brilliant album Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light. I accepted without hesitation, and my days quickly filled with practicing and making plans with him, Joel Violette, and Brendan Hayter. For each of us, being in Woods was a dream come true, and we were greatly looking forward to being a part of the band together. It all felt like the beginning of something extraordinary. (continue reading…)
SVEN GALI Guitarist Dee Cernile Loses Battle With Cancer – “An Illness That Was Bravely Challenged And So Valiantly Fought”
By Carl Begai
The Canadian metal scene has bid farewell to another hero.
On February 25th, Sven Gali guitarist Dee Cernile lost his three year battle with cancer. I didn’t know him personally, but I had the pleasure of seeing him and his band tear up the Toronto club scene for a number of years in the early ’90s. Good times indeed, with Sven Gali one of several hopefuls on the Toronto scene at the time that managed to secure a record deal and go places beyond the nearest downtown watering hole. Thanks to my early involvement with M.E.A.T Magazine, I had the opportunity to interview Cernile on a couple occasions, and one of my earliest “I’m with the band” experiences took place at the legendary Gasworks in T.O., when myself, Cernile, Sven Gali vocalist Dave Wanless and a couple Killer Dwarfs partied into the wee hours of the morning… because we could.
Rest in peace, Dee, and thanks for the memories. Here’s one of them, back when I was learning how to use a camera…
Dee’s passing has hit much closer to home for people on the Toronto that worked, played, and occasionally butted heads with Sven Gali. Famous Underground vocalist Nick Walsh – who made a name for himself fronting Slik Toxik at the same time Sven Gali was raising hell – paid tribute to Dee when he received word of his death: (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
I don’t have much use for God these days.
With that in mind, when December 25th, 2011 rolled around I decided that I wouldn’t be celebrating the birth of some overblown, fictitious, omnipotent phantom as I gave gifts to my loved ones, turned the music up louder than usual, and drank more than I should have. Hell no. I chose instead to celebrate the life of my friend, David Gold.
David was taken from us on December 21st, 2011. He was 31 years old.
He was the voice and mind behind the band Woods Of Ypres. Not to discount or dumb down the invaluable contributions of the band members that worked with him over the years, but thanks to David’s efforts – seemingly superhuman and borderline insane at times – his music touched people around the world. He put Canada on the map amongst doom metal fans, and for anyone fortunate enough to lock into Woods Of Ypres, the name joined the likes of Rush, Annihilator, Voivod and Strapping Young Lad as a band to be revered when discussing metal spawned on Canuck soil.
I was introduced to David via a suspicious package that arrived on my doorstep in 2002. Living in Germany as BW&BK’s European correspondent, packages in the mail are nothing new, but a parcel sent from Toronto that I didn’t request or wasn’t warned about beforehand was odd. The name on the return address rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it. Inside was the first Woods Of Ypres CD with a hand-written note from David, introducing himself and the band, asking me to take a listen and offer my thoughts.
To this day I have no idea how he got my address, but I’m grateful to whoever gave it to him.
A blast from the past, posted a few years ago on Facebook and resurrected here in the now because it’s one of those fond memories that never gets old for me. Any Canadians reading this will appreciate the irony that wraps this tale up…
Some names have been changed to protect the presumed innocent…
A few years back, my best bud Paco decided he was going to visit me in Germany. He was overdue for a vacation and worked out a trip where he’d spend time in Holland with friends, then come visit me in Nuremberg, and cap things off with a jaunt through the pubs of Ireland (I’m happy to report he survived the last bit). I was all for it and was looking forward to four days of playing tour guide, talking metal, drinking copious amounts of beer, and (as it turned out) adopting the word “SMORE!” to express our appreciation of the opposite sex. We used it a lot.
Things began in Munich where, following the 45 minute subway trip from the airport into the city, I dragged Paco to the infamous Hofbräuhaus, a tourist trap armed to the rafters with beer. In other words, our version of Disneyland. We stashed his bags in a locker at the train beforehand and took our time doing The Walk downtown. We had a good two and a half hours to kill before our train to Nuremberg was due to leave, so no rush, everything was cool. Good weather, awesome scenery of the female variety – there’s something to be said for German engineering after all – and when we finally got to the ‘Haus, great malt beverages. We killed a liter each, shot the shit, I think I may have ordered a second beer (dumb idea). We took our time leaving, even getting one of the girls working there to show us her rather large pretzels (no, really) figuring 20 minutes was plenty of time to get back to the station.
My dear friend Audrey will tell you this is one of the dumbest assumptions person can make when travelling around Munich…
Paco and I quickly realized I’d made a “slight” error in judgment with regards to time versus distance, a fact we were reminded of by the clocks that were seemingly hanging on every street corner and on the side of every building. We were forced to run for our train; not a fun exercise when you’ve really gotta pee and you’re buzzing. (continue reading…)
As one of the members of the BW&BK family that posts news on the official website daily, I have the opportunity to promote artists that I feel are worthy of the coverage. In other words, folks that I like. The boss trusts my judgement, I’m not into bullshit tabloid reporting, our daily traffic is ridiculous, which makes it a great forum to offer some free exposure. There are things going on in the metal world to report on that don’t involve KISS blowing up a stage somewhere on tour or (insert black metal band here) being accused of offending (insert prudish social organization here), and today was no different. A buddy of mine with a long professional history of shredding up a storm let slip that he has a new project in the works, and I figured the fans would be interested in hearing about it. When I sent him the link to the news, however, he was grateful but not exactly enthused.
He explained that as much as he appreciated the exposure, the amount of trash-talking that has come his way over the last year or two as a result of these extra credit news bits had gotten to him, making the music world an increasingly lousy place to be. Basically, online talk and reports of new song ideas, experiences or projects has earned him the disdain of a small group of people that are quite happy to slag him in online forums for no good reason. I was appalled to hear this, and deleted the post without a second thought.
It sickens me to think that efforts meant as a helping hand did more harm than good in the end. Symptomatic of the psychotic digital information age we live in, I suppose, where every computer comes with a built in God complex for the user with no concept of respect. (continue reading…)