By Carl Begai
Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie released his third solo album in 2005, ditching the Mullmuzzler project name he’d used for the first two. The record in question, Elements Of Persuasion, was huge step away from Keep It To Yourself (1999) and Mullmuzzler 2 (2001) in that it was heavier and more melodic, with Labrie and long time collaborator Matt Guillory (keyboards) having finally locked into a musical direction. The addition of then-unknown Italian guitar virtuoso Marco Sfogli and LaBrie’s close friend and former Winter Rose bandmate Richard Chycki as sound engineer tied everything together and set the tone for future albums from the LaBrie camp.
Since then, LaBrie and his band – Guillory, Sfogli, bassist Ray Riendeau and drummer/vocalist Peter Wildoer – have released Static Impulse (2010) and Impermanent Resonance (2013) which built on the Elements Of Persuasion sound by adding a strong dose of death metal vocal aggression. Some fans were violently opposed to this new element (provided by Wildoer) when Static Impulse surfaced, but a large number of followers praised LaBrie having the balls to try something radically different from his Dream Theater day job. During my BraveWords for Dream Theater’s Canada / US tour in support of their new album, The Astonishing, LaBrie shed some light on the possibility of a new solo album somewhere down the line.
“I think it’s just a matter of Matt Guillory, myself, and all the other guys making time to get together,” says LaBrie. “It really is a band and me and Matt are really passionate about keeping the same players of the last 10 years. Matt and I have talked and we agree that we definitely have to do another one, we have to follow up Impermanent Resonance with an album that is just as killer. I think it’ll be better. It really is a matter of being able to sit down and put the time and focus into it that it deserves. But yeah, I do believe there will be another one. I really want to do another solo album before I say ‘I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore…’ or ‘I don’t want to perform live anymore.'” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Better late than never, as the saying goes. Initially this interview with Nonexist vocalist Johan Liiva was intended to be released in October 2015 in tandem with the release of the band’s third album, Throne Of Scars. Unfortunately, he decided to leave the band shortly after the record was unleashed, leaving the band’s existence – no pun intended – in doubt. Liiva’s hectic personal and professional schedule made a timely follow-up chat impossible, leaving me no choice by to shelve the interview due to some painfully large holes in the story. As the months passed, however, it became clear thanks to the magic of social media that Nonexist was still very much alive with guitarist Johan Reinholdz – also of Andromeda fame – up front, and that it had been an amicable split with Liiva. Reinholdz elected to fill in the glaring blanks of the original article, dismissing any misconceptions of the band being dead and buried.
“We recorded the first album and released it through Century Media in 2002, but it was actually signed to New Hawen,” Liiva begins, explaining how he ended up back in Nonexist following the 10 year gap between debut album, Deus Deceptor, and its follow-up From My Cold Dead Hands. “The label went under and the band kind of dissolved after that. I continued on with Hearse, recorded some abums and did some shows and short tours with them, and in 2011 I was feeling bored (laughs). I had the itch to do something and spoke to Reinholdz and he told me he had a lot of music that went back as far as the first Nonexist record. I was so surprised to hear that (laughs). So, we decided to give it a try and it was a really exciting time. The songs that we did three years ago for From My Cold Dead Hands had been written over the previous 10 years.”
“The recording process for Throne Of Scars started almost immediately after we finished From My Cold Dead Hands. The writing basically went on for the last three years or so. It’s been a long process but that’s the way we like to do it. We had lots of time to cram everything into it and experiment. A lot (laughs).” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
On January 22nd, Arch Enemy guitarist/founder Michael Amott announced the return of original singer Johan Liiva and guitarist Christopher Amott for a special one-off project dubbed Black Earth, which will perform Arch Enemy material from the band’s first three albums on tour in Japan this May. The internet turned out to be the largest broken telephone in existence; shortly after the announcement was made, rumours of Johan and Christopher returning to the Arch Enemy line-up full time and Black Earth doing a world tour began to surface. Michael contacted BraveWords directly for an exclusive interview in hopes of clearing up the confusion regarding Black Earth’s agenda.
“It’s a one-off tour in Japan and that’s all. It’s just supposed to be something super fun and not Michael Amott’s new band (laughs), and that’s where the confusion lies.”
Arch Enemy fans will remember the band performing at Japan’s annual Loud Park festival in October 2015, a special show that featured the return of Johan and Christopher to the stage to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut album, Black Earth. That’s where current events began.
“We brought Chris and Johan over for Loud Park, and the promoters over there offered us a tour,” Michael reveals. “They suggested that we do something to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the first album in Japan to a fuller extent. Arch Enemy is taking it slow this year, doing some writing and some shows here and there, so we thought it would be a good idea, but we obviously can’t call it Arch Enemy. We came up with using the name of the first album, Black Earth. They booked six shows in Japan so it’ll be quite extensive. I thought the buzz would be contained to Japan but of course the news got picked up and spread around thanks to social media and metal news sites. And when I was at NAMM last weekend in California everyone was asking me about Black Earth (laughs).” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Over the last several years, Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine has made a tradition of playing a solo show in the small southern German town of Nagold, which has slowly but surely evolved into a short annual tour. This year was no exception, and in keeping with her goal of trying to make each go-round as memorable if not moreso than the previous year, Liv invited her former Theatre of Tragedy bandmate Raymond Rohonyi on board as a special guest. Not for a mere song or two, but for over half the show each night. Unexpected to say the least considering Liv was unceremoniously fired from Theatre of Tragedy in 2003, resulting in a low key flow of bad blood via the press in both directions for a number of years. On top of that, when Theatre of Tragedy called it quits in 2010 – with Nell Sigland in Liv’s place – Raymond dropped off the radar entirely, seemingly have said his final piece with the band’s departing live album, Curtain Call.
Watching the pair trading off vocal lines as they did well over a decade ago – not having shared a stage since 2002 – one would never know Liv and Raymond had ever been at odds. The same can be said of their interaction off stage, which is charged with positive vibes and Raymond’s dark sense of humour. As for the live performance as a whole, the backing band pulls off Liv’s solo material without batting a collective eye and looks perhaps a bit too happy performing evil doom goth Theatre of Tragedy material, also at an equally killer level. Liv’s trademark soprano Theatre vocals have lost none of their charm, and Raymond’s growls and mannerisms are as powerful as they were 20 years ago. Bottom line: if you’re a Theatre of Tragedy fan the tour was a dream come true.
Ray: “I’m not really interested in doing music as a career, but I’m happy to perform like this. Liv just asked me if I’d be interested. I don’t miss being a musician but I miss the narcissistic part of the music; being stuck up and a prick (laughs). And I don’t really work up a sweat, it’s more like a general stench (laughs). Getting out of town is also good for a while.”
Liv: “It was actually (husband) Alex’s idea, I have to say. He said to me ‘Just ask Ray to join you. That way you can play some more old shit…’ (laughs). We rehearsed in Stuttgart and it was like the magic had been there all the time, as if it had never left. We just grabbed the microphones and went for it.”
Ray: “We rehearsed the set two times and that was it. From there we went to Russia for the first show.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
British black metal heathens Cradle Of Filth have been through over 25 line-up changes since clawing their way into the spotlight in 1991. Following their 2012 album, The Manticore And Other Horrors, the band went through a noteworthy shake-up with the exit of original guitarist Paul Allender (for the second time), resulting in founding hellmouth Dani Filth conscripting two new guitarists and a keyboardist / backing vocalist. Canadian songstress Lindsay Matheson – better known pre-Cradle as the voice, heart and soul of Schoolcraft – was brought on board as said keyboardist / vocalist and, ultimately, Dani Filth’s on-stage foil. It’s a post she’s held since 2013 and she has no intention of leaving any time soon, which is a good thing when fans consider Lindsay played an important role in the making of Cradle Of Filth’s new critically acclaimed album, Hammer Of The Witches.
“I got so lucky,” says Lindsay. “They found me on Facebook. My predecessor left because she’d moved on to another gig, but it put the band in a tight spot because a world tour was coming up. At the time our old guitarist (Paul Allender) was living in Minnesota, and he knew Melissa Ferlaak from Visions Of Atlantis and asked her to do the tour. She told him she couldn’t do it, but she knew someone who could. I was freaking out when I sent in my cover letter and my demo, which was my acoustic version of ‘Nymphetamine’, because I wanted the job so badly. I waited from Christmas to New Year’s for an answer and it was the longest two weeks of my life. Their manager called in the first week of January 2013 and told me I got it. I had to fly out to Minnesota to meet our guitarist, and I got to quit university which was kinda cool (laughs).”
Lindsay admits that being a Cradle Of Filth fan didn’t prepare her for the experience of being part of the band. She had no idea how deeply she would be involved in creating Hammer Of The Witches.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into because I’ve never written an album long distance before. It was the strangest experience. The thing was, I was hired as a temporary replacement just as a part of the live band. In the first few weeks of the tour Dani got to know me – we didn’t really get a chance to talk until we were into the South American tour – and we figured we’d just grab a drink and talk for an hour. We stayed up until 5:30am talking. I showed him my solo stuff and he said ‘That’s beautiful: can you do that for Cradle?’ which surprised me, but that didn’t transpire until we got our new guitarists Rich (Shaw) and Ashok (Šmerda) in the band. Me and bassist Dan Firth started writing stuff on our own for Cradle, and ‘Yours Immortally…’ and ‘Hammer Of The Witches’ were the first demos for the new album that we did together. We showed them to Dani and I think that kind of lit a fire under his ass and convinced him we could do things with this new line-up.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Québec is known for offering up top tier metal talent to the world and having a forward thinking European-bent metal fanbase. Montréal’s Hasta La Muerte is one of the province’s latest spawn, having stomped into the spotlight earlier this year with a tongue-in-cheek / bum drum rap metal debut single, ‘Pour Anotha Shot’. The song, and particularly the video, garnered them instant attention both positive and “WTF?!” negative. A few months later they followed up with a darker, meaner, uglier tune ‘Step Up’, which has at the very least cemented them as not being flash in the pan. Beyond the music, however, almost nothing has been published about their roots and plans for world domination. Having tagged them as “Van Halen getting Ugly Kid Stuck Mojo-ed” when ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ first surfaced, I decided to dig up any available dirt for Hasta La Muerte’s growing fanbase.
“The band started out with myself, Manuel (Iradian / guitars) and Kev (Alexander / drums),” says guitarist David Evangelista, “all being friends in different bands and wanting to make something different together as a new band. Even though we grew up on old school heavy metal, we listen to all kinds of music, including hip-hop, rock, blues, or whatever in our free time. When we decided to work together, we worked off some demos that I had that were sort-of groovy and hip-hop-sounding, electronic, but also metal and really low-tuned on guitar. These were basic riffs and templates that would turn into ‘Pour Anotha Shot’ and ‘Step Up’. We wanted to be open to other genres of music as influences. So we collaborated to finish these ideas and making them into full instrumental songs, the three of us.”
“We put up a demo to recruit a vocalist, and we welcomed Robby (J. Fonts) who was primarily a rapper at the time. He did a great job mixing rap and heavy vocals on the demo which would eventually turn into our first single, ‘Pour Anotha Shot’. He had a similar open-minded vision too, so it worked out really well with the other material as well. But originally, before he appeared, it wasn’t necessarily set out to be rap-metal, it just sort of happened that way and we didn’t question it.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Swedish bashers Arch Enemy – who now boast Canadian and American talent within their ranks – kicked off October with the surprising news that their upcoming show at the Loud Park festival in Japan will feature guest appearances by former members Chris Amott (guitars) and Johan Liiva (vocals). At press time there had been no official explanation given as to what had spurred the upcoming reunion(s), but a quick call to Liiva offered a bit of insight as to how he became involved.
“I was invited by Arch Enemy to do this along with Chris as it’s two jubilees,” he begins. “Ten years for Loud Park and soon 20 years for Arch Enemy, so it was no hesitation there for me.”
Chris Amott left Arch Enemy for the second time in his career back in 2012 (the first time being 2005), presumably never to work with the band again. Given that his guitarist brother Michael calls the shots in Arch Enemy, one can assume that family ties played a significant role in bringing Chris back to the fold, however temporarily. Liiva, on the other hand, left under seemingly unpleasant circumstances after three cult favourite albums and was replaced by Angela Gossow, which ultimately turned Arch Enemy into a metal household name. Gossow was officially replaced by Alissa White-Gluz in 2014.
“I left the band the band in 2000, and of course we weren’t too eager to talk to each other in the first few years after that,” Liiva offers. “The first years after I left the band, the relationship was quite infected. I know that Michael didn’t feel too good about the situation. He wanted to go in another direction. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few years and I understand him now. It’s like a process and you have to think things through because Arch Enemy is his life and Michael knows what he wants. He made the band into what he wanted it to be, and for me it’s okay because the touring life was never my thing. I loved being in Arch Enemy but I much prefer the life I have now.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
While preparing for the release of the new Leaves’ Eyes album, King Of Kings, vocalist Liv Kristine announced some dates for what has become a traditional year end European solo tour. She then revealed that her former Theatre Of Tragedy bandmate, vocalist Raymond Rohonyi, would be joining her as a special guest for the duration of the tour, performing several songs from the band’s catalogue with her. A very surprising development considering the bad blood stirred up when Liv was fired from Theatre Of Tragedy in 2003 – she was replaced by Nell Sigland – and Rohonyi’s disappearance from the music scene when the band called it quits in 2010. The last time the duo shared the stage was 2002. During our interview for King Of Kings, Liv discussed how she reconnected with Rohonyi.
“Ray is back in Norway and moved to Trondheim recently with his Brazilian wife,” Liv explains. “At some point I tried to get in touch with him by phone, then via Facebook, and many weeks later he got back to me and said that he was back in Norway. We caught up a bit, and I asked him about rumours I heard that Theatre Of Tragedy would be having a reunion some time soon. Rumours that came with the Northern winds, let’s put it that way (laughs). I just wanted to know if I was in or not. Ray said that nobody had asked him so far about a reunion and wondered why I was asking. I told him I had a solo tour coming up and that I’d been playing Theatre Of Tragedy songs at a number of gigs, that the audience really seemed to love it, and then I asked him if he’d be my special guest. He was very happy about the offer and he said yes.”
“When The Sirens supported Nightwish in Trondheim recently I finally met up with Raymond again. We talked about everything, about the beginnings of Theatre Of Tragedy. It was good to clear the table and our history, because we were the ones who formed the band and came up with the whole Shakespearean thing. It was really good talking to him, and we parted in Trondheim on great terms. Alex (Krull / vocalist, husband) is happy everything is clear now and there are no hard feelings whatsoever. I’m really looking forward to the tour, and I think Raymond might be looking forward to it even more (laughs). He’s so excited.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Children Of Bodom vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman recently completed their official press junket for the band’s new album, I Worship Chaos. It’s a record that will ultimately keep the faithful Bodomites happy the way the band’s previous album Halo Of Blood did, while offering up a few surprises as it plays out. During the interview for BraveWords – coming soon – we stepped away from I Worship Chaos a little bit to discuss some recent projects outside the band that ultimately remain linked to Finland’s favourite Hatecrew.
And yes, “Hel” is spelled correctly in the title above. Trust me.
Diehard fans are well aware of Wirman’s other band, Warmen, and Laiho’s connection to it. Unlike Children Of Bodom, which features primarily Laiho-powered songs, Wirman calls the shots along with his brother Antti (guitars) in Warmen. Laiho has made guest appearances on the last three Warmen albums, however, and has performed live with the band on occasion. Warmen’s latest record, First Of The Five Elements, features Laiho on the song “Suck My Attitude”, a track that realistically could have been submitted and recorded as a Children Of Bodom tune without pissing off the vast majority of fans. Much the same way “High Heels On Cobblestone” from Warmen’s previous album, Japanese Hospitality, could have survived the COB treatment.
“Yeah, almost, but that’s not the way we think,” says Wirman. “Sure, if ‘Suck My Attitude’ had a little tweaking done it could almost pass as a Bodom song, but that’s not the point. I think ‘Suck My Attitude’ is more Lamb Of God influenced, and it was written mostly by my brother. Obviously people can hear the Children Of Bodom influence in it, but I hear lots of Lamb Of God in there because both of us are huge fans. It’s funny because it’s almost like a tribute (laughs). Getting Alexi to sing on the song, and the ‘Suck my attitude!’ chorus, just fit perfectly. I love how it turned out, and I really love the fact we got to play it live this summer at the Tuska festival with Alexi singing with us.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Musicians and journalists who have been doing their respective schticks long enough are painfully aware of how the Q&A process can become agonizingly formulaic. The artist hopes the press person on his or her list knows more than just the band’s name and the title of their new album. The journalist prays the musician is able to go beyond saying the new album is the best thing he / she / they have ever done. If both sides have their collective shit together, as in this case, it makes for a very interesting conversation.
I recently spoke with W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless about the band’s new album, Golgotha. At one point, discussion surrounding the long break between the new record and Babylon from 2009 turned into a look inside one of W.A.S.P.’s strongest albums, The Crimson Idol (1992), a personal favourite. From there it became a look back on the early days of the band’s career and the album that transformed W.A.S.P. from being regarded as an unruly party tribe to frighteningly intelligent musicians, The Headless Children.
With regards to Golgotha being four years in the making – due to Lawless going through various surgeries to mend broken body parts, and a W.A.S.P. 30th Anniversary tour – Lawless claims it was good for him to have time to live with the material and let it grow. There’s always the danger, however, that you might lose the passion for the project or start second guessing your work the longer you hammer away at it.
“The first part, no; the second part was definitely a consideration,” says Lawless. “You start making one record and by the time you’re finished you’re into making another one. When we did The Crimson Idol, I came very close to doing that. I started writing the story, and by the time I got to the end of that two year process I had fleshed out the character (Johnathan Steele) so much that to me he was like a living, breathing person. There’s a tendency to want to modify the story, but it’s like ‘No, stick to the script… (laughs).’ I had to tell myself to let it go. Looking back at that now, had I given in I would have killed the Idol record.” Continue Reading