By Carl Begai
It’s probably in poor taste to suggest the members of Stryper have sold their souls in exchange for their current success. The Christian metal band’s 2005 comeback, Reborn, put an end to 15 years of silence (not including some sporadic touring) and was an all-important step into a decade that saw the band release four studio albums, a cover album, a volume of Stryper re-recordings, and a live record / DVD, interspersed with international tours. Considering the way Stryper splintered and died following their Against The Law album from 1990, nobody really expected them to get back together let alone turn the momentum kicked up by Reborn into wave after wave of in your face material. Their latest assault is the fourth album of all original songs since Stryper’s reunion, and album entitled Fallen that has the fans locked in yet again and has vocalist / guitarist Michael Sweet grinning from ear to ear.
“At the end of the day what’s important, obviously, is that we feel we’re pleasing God and we’re pleasing ourselves,” Sweet says of the band’s continued success. “The icing on the cake is how the fans feel about the new album.We try to ask questions and get feedback from the fans, and we apply that when we make an album. If they want to hear an epic six minute song with tempo changes, we give them ‘Yahweh’. We try to listen to the fans without selling ourselves out, and I think we did that this time.”
As a first taste of Fallen, it’s safe to say nobody was expecting the epic attack of ‘Yahweh’. The song is easily on par with one of Stryper’s strongest songs ever, ‘Soldiers Under Command’, and goes a step beyond.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting that, truthfully. It’s definitely down a different avenue for us. We’ve never done a six-and-a-half minute song, we’ve never had a bunch of time changes in a song; it borders on the progressive side of rock. Did we do that to try and fit in? No. We grew up on all this kind of stuff. We’re huge Iron Maiden fans and we love Dream Theater, we listen to all of that stuff, and it’s not out of our wheelhouse at all to do something like ‘Yahweh’. And then you bring in the fact that Clint Lowery from Sevendust had a hand in the making of the song… he sent me the original riff and I ran with it.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
There’s an unwritten rule in rock and metal that if you’re not legally allowed to drink, you don’t deserve a record deal.
Basically, you have to pay your dues before a Corner Office Suit gives you the opportunity to sign on the dotted line. It should be a process of getting the band out of Mom’s basement and into the garage, tormenting the neighbours with crap covers and even worse originals, being ripped off for rent at your first rehearsal space, asking Dad to bail you out of debt or jail (whichever comes first) before finally locking down that fateful first gig in front of a potentially hostile audience on the way to the big time. So it goes that when people discover newcomers Next To None – consisting of members aged a mere 16 and 17 – sitting pretty with a contract signed to InsideOut for their debut album, some folks dismiss them without hearing a note.
Drummer Max Portnoy has the added pressure of being the son of living and very active drum legend Mike Portnoy, who made a name for himself as a founding member of prog metal kings Dream Theater. Mike currently calls The Winery Dogs home, but divides his time with several different artists including Neal Morse, Flying Colors, Metal Allegiance and Twisted Sister. The thinking is that Portnoy family ties led to InsideOut picking up Next To None and that Max wouldn’t be anywhere without dear old Dad. Max is quick to shut down that line of thinking with regards to the latter.
“He didn’t push me into it or anything like that,” he insists. “Being in a band is something I’ve always wanted to do. Growing up watching my dad play drums did influence me in getting interested in making music, but he never forced me into learning how to play drums. I knew I was going to be a drummer when I grew up, I never questioned it. When I got older and met Kris (Rank/bass), that’s when I decided I was going to form a band. We started playing covers before trying to write our own songs, but my dad didn’t have anything to do with it.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Children Of Bodom’s trademark Hate Crew tag is meant as a proclamation of bad-assed-ness, but the band has hit a point in their career where it can be twisted to represent just how much some people detest them. Case in point when they pre-released a handful of tracks from their new album, I Worship Chaos; for all the praise the songs received there were just as many voices cutting the Children off at the knees. The music business has never been for the thin-skinned, of course, but in the internet age any band or solo artist hoping to carve out a career has to be prepared to get knocked in the teeth the moment they release new material. For Children Of Bodom vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman any lambasting they’ve received for I Worship Chaos thus far is simply a walk in the park they choose not to take.
Alexi: “I started ignoring that shit pretty much right away, when the whole internet thing kicked in. It doesn’t pay off to read any of the fucking reactions.”
BraveWords: Which extends to ignoring folks like Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn, who took online shots at you via Facebook (in October 2014)after you voiced your disappointment at Machine Head cancelling the North American headline tour you were due to support so they could finish work on their new album (Bloodstone & Diamonds).
Alexi: “I know, what the fuck? Honestly, it made me laugh because it was so surreal. I’ve known Robb Flynn for a long time, we’ve toured with Machine Head before and we always got along, and all of a sudden he’s out there talking shit about me? I just laughed and that’s why I didn’t say shit about it. The last thing I want to do is get into some stupid-ass internet war. If anything, that break in the schedule gave me more time to write. I stayed pretty active, I did a bunch of other shit like guitar clinics and playing bass on a friend’s band because I didn’t want to sit on my ass. I was also able to work on riffs that I’ve had in my head for quite a long time.”
BraveWords: It’s not at all surprising that I Worship Chaos has polarized your fanbase. Something would be wrong if the fans weren’t choosing sides when you release new music.
Janne: “I Worship Chaos feels right on many levels. It was the right time to release an album like this and somehow it all clicked together. You can’t plan on something like this; sometimes it just works and everything turns out great. We haven’t written the same song or album over and over again, but it’s getting to the point where we have to come up with new and fresh ideas, and somehow keep doing what we’re doing. That’s something we’ve always kept in mind, to not release the same thing over and over again. That won’t work for us.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Ground zero for this interview was the southern German pork-shoulder-and-beer town of Fürth, prior to a gig The Creepshow bassist / founder Sean McNab says was one of the hottest shows the band had ever played. It was loud, everything was sweating – band, audience, instruments, walls, floor, bar staff – air was at a minimum, and the 100 or so attendees left the hotbox venue happy with asses kicked. Just one of many stops on The Creepshow’s second European tour in less than a year, it was a testament to how a Canadian band with a decent but far from loud enough buzz at home has been able to take other parts of the world by storm over the course of their 10 year career.
“When we first started touring we weren’t really known anywhere,” says McNab. “We started by playing Toronto, London, St. Catharines, Hamilton, and built those areas up. When we ended up in the situation of making some money, about every three months or so, we’d just put it in a pot so we’d have enough to go and play somewhere. Now we’re in a position where we can actually afford to tour. If we were on the road full time this would be my day job, especially me since I’ve been touring probably a decade longer than the rest of the guys, but after three weeks on the road I need that cut off and go home for a while. We’re really busy. This year was supposed to be chill but it’s probably the busiest year we’ve ever had (laughs). We’re all really tired but we’re still having fun.”
It seems to be a trait of Canadian music that some artists make their mark at home and nowhere else, while others garner international attention as Canada offers up warm albeit grudging acceptance outside the fanbase. The Creepshow have followed in Toronto rockers Danko Jones’ footsteps after a fashion, doing headline tours across Europe and playing festivals with wide-ranging line-ups that don’t cater specifically to the band’s trademark psychobilly sound.
“When we first started coming to Europe we’d do these psychobilly festivals, which was fine, but after a few years we were looking at playing other things like punk festivals. We did this one called Serengeti where Skindred played, Gogol Bordello, a bunch of ska bands, hardcore bands, and it was amazing. It was what we needed because most of those people had never heard of us and they’re generally open to new stuff. We’ve noticed that when we do stuff like that and then go back to that area with our own show, more people show up.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
In the interest of not boring the veteran Queensrÿche faithful to tears we’ll skip rehashing the episodes of Tate Hate that led to the band splintering in 2012. If you’re a new fan all you need to know is vocalist Todd La Torre replaced original Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate after 12 albums due to some brutal personal and creative differences, and both sides are better for the change. In Queensrÿche’s case – featuring La Torre, original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson, and Parker Lundgren – it meant returning to the signature sound of the band’s early years, which has given Queensrÿche a completely – and if we’re being honest, unexpected – new lease on life. Sure, some fans have been loud in their disapproval of La Torre taking over Tate’s post, but the live shows have succeeded in changing some narrow minds.
“It’s a new energy, man, a rebirth of the band,” says Wilton. “Like you said, it’s a shame there are some people that are complaining, but it’s just one show at a time and we’re going to have to convince people that way. We’ve been doing that for the last two-and-a-half years and it’s gotten to the point, at least in Europe and the UK, they know and remember who Queensrÿche is. We just have to prove ourselves to the rest of the world.”
“We played a good variety of shows this summer; some key festivals, the main one being Wacken, which Queensrÿche has never performed at. It was great except for the mud (laughs). Being able to do our own shows and teaming up with Dream Theater again, it was amazing. It’s been a long time since we toured with them and it was a rekindled friendship. James LaBrie was so positive with Todd, letting him know that he’s just killing it, and John Petrucci wants us to do some shows together in the States next year. And then teaming up with Armored Saint and Death Angel in the UK, it was a great variety. The show in London was just amazing because both bands were there and the fans were just blown away.”
“It’s been almost three years with Todd and his confidence level is very strong. His voice is getting stronger from all the touring we’re doing, and he’s so comfortable with the old Queensryche songs it’s unbelievable. He’s grown as an individual and he’s such a team player for Queensrÿche; the fans love him.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
So, how do you feel about ’70s music?
If you’re a Soilwork fan the last place you’d expect to find a ’70s classic rock vibe is on one of their albums. Of course, if you’re a fan you’re also aware of frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and guitarist David Andersson pulling double duty in The Night Flight Orchestra, their classic rock-infused nostalgia trip. Thus, it may be disconcerting to hear that Soilwork’s new album, The Ride Majestic, does in fact flirt with the ’70s. Nothing to lose your cookies or your minds over, though, as we’re talking about guitar and keyboard splinters and shards that pop up when you least expect them, adding another dimension to a sound that is instantly recognizable as Sweden’s first sons of melodic death metal. It makes sense this new dynamic would bleed into The Ride Majestic, however, as Strid and Andersson went into writing for it immediately after working on The Night Flight Orchestra’s second album, Skyline Whispers.
“It’s funny you bring that up because last summer I was still working on Night Flight stuff and I had to stop myself,” Strid reveals. “I had to tell myself it was time to switch over to Soilwork (laughs). It was a major transition from one day to the next because they’re two very different forms of expression.”
Folks have their favourite Soilwork moments and The Ride Majestic is bound to conjure up some new ones – the Strapping Young Lad tweaked breakdowns of “Alight In The Aftermath”, for example – but it’s fair to say the band can do little wrong in the eyes of the diehards at this point. Their previous two albums, The Panic Broadcast and The Living Infinite, have kept Soilwork surging upward, but for a lot of people the love affair really began in 2002 with the now classic Natural Born Chaos album.
“There’s something about that album,” agrees Strid, “but it definitely took some time for me to notice that. I guess it started when we did our first North American tour, when we put Natural Born Chaos out. People were telling us that the album was so unique and so awesome, but it wasn’t until a couple years later that we realized we had an impact and had affected the metal scene somehow in so many ways.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Canadian bashers Kobra And The Lotus kicked off the summer of 2014 in the best way possible; they released their monstrous High Priestess album to rave reviews, hitting the road the day before the record hit the shelves supporting KISS on their 40 Anniversary North American summer tour alongside Def Leppard. Not the sort of honour bestowed upon one’s metal head every day, especially to a young band that has been paying its dues in the clubs and on festival circuits since 2009. Membership has its privileges, of course – in this case being signed to Simmons/Universal featuring KISS legend and business mogul Gene Simmons – but Kobra And The Lotus still had to deliver to audiences that generally didn’t give a damn about them.
“As a whole that tour was amazing,” says Paige, agreeing the band was widely regarded as window dressing by the diehard KISS fans. “The experience was incredible and really inspiring for us. KISS and Def Leppard were really great to us, they’re great people, and they shared some stories that really put them on the same level with us. It showed us that you have to have faith in yourself and push through a lot of obstacles. Def Leppard told us about getting bottles of piss thrown at them in ’88, but they kept going. The shows were very different and we had to adjust to that. Capacity for the amphitheaters we played was about 20,000 every night, and people were kind of pouring in and having drinks as we were playing, so we’d be in front of 8,000 to 10,000 people but that looks really scattered over that amount of space.”
It sounds as if Kobra And The Lotus were like a restaurant lounge act on any given night; patrons milling about, more concerned about finding their seats and ordering food and booze than the music.
“It was like that! But, it was good for us and it made us improve as performers because we had to figure out how to captivate that kind of audience. It was fun, and there were some shows that were definitely epic. Nashville was completely full when we played and it was amazing, it was so loud. That was probably the highlight for me on that whole tour.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Kataklysm has gotten fat. Monstrously fat. And frontman Maurizio Iacono couldn’t be happier.
We are, of course, referring to Kataklysm’s latest slab of violence Of Ghosts And Gods, a thundering, seething fuck off of an album if there ever was one in the band’s catalogue. As melodic death metal goes it has rightfully been tagged as being on par with At The Gates’ stellar comeback, At War With Reality. As a Kataklysm album it has been dubbed their strongest in years, taking into account that the shock and excitement of being nailed to the wall has blown some minds into paste. Either way, the accolades can be attributed to Kataklysm burning whatever tattered rulebook they’ve been using for the last several years, and the addition of producer Andy Sneap (Testament, Accept, Arch Enemy, you name ’em…) to their creative arsenal.
“The reason we went to Andy Sneap to do this is because we thought the combination of him with J-F (Dagenais/guitars, producer) would be great,” Iacono begins. “J-F is a great engineer, but when you do everything yourself sometimes you lose the ability to be 100% on the ball because recording and mixing is such a long process. There are so many details. We wanted someone that has a good name, sure, but we also wanted someone we’re a fan of. We were lucky he even picked us because Andy is in high demand, and he’s turned down some big bands. For him to grab the new Kataklysm record was great.”
If you’re a Sneap fan it comes as no surprise to hear he succeeded in beefing up Kataklysm’s already crushing sound for Of Ghosts And Gods. As a Kataklysm fan you wish he would have jumped on board a few albums earlier once you give the new album a listen or five. Iacono agrees wholeheartedly. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
There’s a music snob stigma attached to progressive metal and prog rock based entirely on one’s chosen approach. Young musicians with hearts set on the brass ring try to out-“Metropolis” Dream Theater at every turn (yeah, good luck with that), the diehard fan(atic)s will argue at length as to why their heroes can do no wrong even when the latest epic is clearly a cut/paste car crash of odd time signatures and über-noodling, and the traditional metalhead legions scoff at the thought of math pits versus mosh pits. Early on in their career New Jersey progsters Symphony X were seen as yet another band to be emulated, worshipped and slagged for their niche brand of music, but they’ve broken free from that particular cell block in a big way. It’s a process that began in 2007 with their Paradise Lost album – a metal slab nobody had counted on – took root in 2011 with Iconoclast, and has now grown into something particularly ominous with new outing, Underworld. Symphony X is still prog metal, absolutely, but it’s nice to hear a progressive band that’s not trying to blow away their listeners with 16 time changes in five minutes just to prove they have the chops.
Ask guitarist Michael Romeo and he’ll tell you Underworld is about the songs as a whole, not the flash inside them.
“We were talking about doing different things after eight albums,” he says. “The Rush album Moving Pictures came up a lot in conversation because every song on that record is great. Yeah, there’s some progressive stuff on Underworld but in the end there are just great songs on the record. The only thing we were really thinking about was trying to not to repeat something we’ve done. We wanted to do something a little bit different but have the elements of what people know from Symphony X.”
“The goal was for things to be cohesive and to the point, and if the songs catch people off guard, cool. Yeah, we’re a progressive band, so there’s nothing wrong with putting some measures in 7 somewhere, but we do it without taking away from the songs.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
BraveWords has been watching guitarist Luca Turilli’s career since the release of Rhapsody’s 1997 debut, Legendary Tales… back when we were BW&BK and in print only. In the time since then we’ve covered the band’s album-by-album rise to fame, their unexpected triumphant stand in Montreal supporting Manowar (and subsequent trouncing of the headliner), the court case against former management (led by Manowar’s Joey Demaio) which forced the band to change their name to Rhapsody Of Fire, and Turilli’s confusing but amicable split to form Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Over those 18 years, Turilli’s passion for his art hasn’t waned one iota. In fact, his present enthusiasm is downright dangerous given his vastly increased command of the English language since those early days. It kinda makes you wish you could bottle and use it as a Monday morning motivational chaser.
Bottom line is that even if you don’t care for the in-your-face happy metal soundtrack bombast of Turilli’s music, it’s very hard not to like the guy.
Turilli is currently pounding the pavement in support of his new album, Prometheus – Symphonia Ignis Divinus. Fans won’t be disappointed, as it features all the epic metal bells and whistles that made him and former partner Alex Staropoli – still with Rhapsody Of Fire – famous. This record just happens to be the biggest, most complex Rhapsody-related outing yet. A far cry from the comparative Super Mario soundtracking of Legendary Tales.
“We were influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen, the Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums from Helloween, and I was really inspired by the original soundtrack for the Batman movie directed by Tim Burton, composed by Danny Elfman,” says Turilli, laying the Rhapsody groundwork. “We weren’t so pretentious to think that we could create something brand new, but we wanted to create something out of our influences. We proposed something new with Legendary Tales, and it was the record company that decided to call it Hollywood metal. If you can imagine we were putting the classic orchestral elements into our compositions note by note using a keyboard and a sequencer. At the time, those orchestral samples we used were considered the best around.” Continue Reading