By Carl Begai
In 2013, Italian soundtrack composer/orchestra conductor and producer Zombie Sam unleashed his debut album Self Conscious Insanity, a record that blended symphonic and industrial elements to create a unique calling card. The outing yielded two official videos – “A Hallowed Tale” and “Woman In White” – that gave Zombie Sam a Tim Burton-esue identity to go along with the music and earned him a cult following. A lot has changed since then including his musical vision, meaning the fans clamouring for a sequel to Self Conscious Insanity should be prepared for a distinctive new take on an esablished theme.
“I don’t try to imitate anybody, I just try to compose what I feel,” Sam says. “A few years ago I had some health problems with my heart, and after that my life changed somehow and I started seeing things in a different way. It also affected the way I compose music, so that definitely had an influence on the songs for the new album. I also wanted to change my sound. People told me the first album was leaning more in an industrial direction like Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to create something unique, be more myself; not too serious, maybe even a bit funny.”
More rock than metal this time out, Zombie Sam’s new material is, ironically, reminiscent of two beloved Canadian bands: The Creepshow and Billy Talent. He agrees with the suggestion that if his music is going to wear a stamp it should read “Horror Rock”.
“You mentioned those bands to me and I thought ‘Holy crap, he’s right…’ The new Zombie Sam music doesn’t sound like those bands exactly but it is similar. I like the music from both Billy Talent and The Creepshow, I like the way they perform live, so I could learn somethings from artists like that. They have an amazing energy. My new music is going more in the direction of something like The Creepshow. I don’t want to be heavy metal and I think this new stuff is more rock. Some of the vocal lines even sound a bit like pop music even though it’s not. It’s definitely more horror rock.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Dutch singer Floor Jansen is best known these days as the voice of Nightwish, a post she’s held since 2012 following the controversial firing of Anette Olzon, but her music career began long before Tuomas Holopainen had the presence of mind to ask Jansen to help pilot his ship of dreams. Jansen made name for herself fronting After Forever from the band’s inception in 1997 until 2009. In that time she also worked with Ayreon, Star One, Devin Townsend Project and MaYan on an assortment of albums and launched her own band, ReVamp, which has since been put to rest due to her Nightwish commitments. Although Nightwish spent most of 2016 on the road in support of their latest album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Jansen found time to record vocals for two tracks on the new Evergrey album, The Storm Within, collaborate once again with Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen… and make a baby with fiancé and Sabaton drummer Hannes Van Dahl.
Jansen is featured on two tracks for The Storm Within, ‘In Orbit’ and ‘Disconnect’, the former having been released as a single and video. I spoke with Evergrey frontman Tom Englund for the official bio released for The Storm Within earlier this year and he offered his thoughts on bringing Jansen in for the album.
“That was actually my wife (Carina Englund) thinking for me. Floor is a personal friend and major Evergrey fan, so it was over a glass of wine between her and my wife, who asked her if she wanted to do the song. ‘In Orbit’ is a powerhouse of a song and it would be easy to make it the first single, but it’s not the first impression we want to make. That said, it would be stupid not to release it as a single, and if we could get Floor to do the video, that would be a home run.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
In early 2011, Seattle’s conquering sons Nevermore unexpectedly slammed the brakes on their career after almost 20 years in the trenches. The quartet – Warrel Dane (vocals), Jeff Loomis (guitars), Jim Sheppard (bass) and Van Williams (drums) – cited creative and personal differences as the cause for the parting of ways, shocking their loyal fanbase. Dane went on to re-launch Sanctuary in 2014 and Loomis was tagged to join Arch Enemy, replacing Nick Cordle. The former was expected, the latter was a complete surprise, but most Nevermore fans seem to have made peace with the changes even though there seemingly has never been a concrete explanation as to what brought about Nevermore’s (supposed) demise. Given the opportunity to sit down with Loomis during a stop on Arch Enemy’s late summer European tour, I asked him to shed some light on the matter.
“Nevermore was together for 18 years, and it was one of those things where everybody in the band at that time – five years ago now – was drinking heavily” Loomis reveals. “We all had a problem; it’s not fair to put the blame on one person for any of that. We wanted some changes in the band, we wanted everyone to quit drinking, but we were all too stubborn. Then the ultimatum came that if we didn’t quit drinking we’re not going to tour anymore, and that’s basically what ended the whole thing. I also think that after being together for so long and going through so many ups and downs, nobody could take it anymore. All I can say is that I’m very proud of what we did in Nevermore, we still have a huge following to this day, but as with anything in life there are other chapters and the page had to be turned to something else.”
“For me personally it was a big breather to be able to live a normal life for a while,” he adds. “I still talk to Van and Warrel, I don’t really speak to Jim too much anymore, and I hear he’s out of the business now. Everybody is doing something musically, it’s just not Nevermore. Warrel’s got Sanctuary, of course, and he’s doing a Nevermore touring cover band kinda thing. Van has Ghost Ship Octavius, which is really cool.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
“Without The Sweet there would not have been a KISS.”
So says music legend, entrepreneur and mouthpiece Gene Simmons, which is a fine reason to give a damn about what The Sweet and all its moving parts are up to these days. In the case Pete Lincoln, who has been fronting the 45+ year institution since 2006, and guitarist Andy Scott (on board since 1970), they recently wrapped up a three week road trip through Germany and Switzerland with the annual Rock Meets Classic tour, now boasting seven years of success. Lincoln and Scott shared the stage with Joey Tempest (Europe), Scott Gorham and Ricky Warwick (Thin Lizzy), Dan McCafferty (Nazareth), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Doro (Warlock) and Steve Walsh (Kansas), performing some of The Sweet’s classic tunes to raucous rounds of approval night after night. On top of that, they helped to break in the new Rock Meets Classic format when it was decided the six year old formula needed to be changed.
“I saw Rock Meet Classic last year when I was in Germany and it blew me way, and I said we’ve got to get on it,” Lincoln says of how he and Scott found themselves on the tour. “Obviously we couldn’t take the whole band so it’s just me and Andy, but it’s just great. It’s a new concept for us so we had to get our heads around it because there’s the orchestra, the Mat Sinner Band band members, the set changes, other elements. It’s not the same as playing with a regular band so it took a few days, but I think we all agree that we don’t want to stop. We want to go home for a week’s rest, then come back and do another month of this. I’ve heard all these songs before, of course, but it’s great to hear them in this context. Midge’s songs, for example, take on a new life; ‘Vienna’ with an orchestra sounds killer. It’s really interesting to see how the format works on all these different types of music.” 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