DOUBLE CRUSH SYNDROME – New Album Review: “An Impressive Collection Of Garage-Band-With-Skills Songs”
By Carl Begai
With a library of albums under his belt – from Sodom in the early ’90s to Powergod, The Traceelords, and a few solo outings since then – vocalist/guitarist/producer Andy Brings seems to have finally found a place to call home.
Double Crush Syndrome is his new lease on musical life, a three-piece band hinting of everything from The Ramones to Baz-era Skid Row to The Mamas & The Papas. Yep, pretty basic three chord punch on the surface but big on the singalong hooks, with tracks ‘Yeah! Pain!’ and ‘She’s A Pistol’ sucking you in from the start even though you might be of a mind to dismiss it as pap. The You Filter is in fact a reminder that the Keep It Simple Stupid formula does work. ‘Blood On My Shirt’ and ‘Fuck You IS My Answer’ see DCS channeling Skid Row – ‘Get The Fuck Out’ and ‘Riot Act’ come to mind – while ‘I’m In Love With You’ and ‘With Me’ go in the opposite direction as two ‘60s cheese-flavoured tracks that deftly (thankfully) avoid the Travolta / Newton John Grease trap. An impressive collection of garage-band-with-skills songs, middle finger anthem ‘Die For Rock N’ Roll’, ‘We Cannot Be Ruled’ and ‘Blood On My Shirt’ coming in as the faves of the moments, all shred and attitude served up old school with choruses that stick. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
My Ruin vocalist Tairrie B. Murphy and guitar-wielding multi-instrumentalist husband Mick Murphy could write a book on perseverance. They’ve been recording the audio version for almost 15 years.
Originally launched as a solo project by Tairrie in 1999, My Ruin has had career made up beautiful highs and brutal lows, the lowest being the systematic destruction of their Ghosts And Good Stories album in 2010 by their previous record company president. Long story short, the man that lured My Ruin to his now defunct label (Tiefdruck Musik) and played the good guy became the band’s worst enemy once the album was in his hands. Ghosts And Good Stories was dead before it had a chance to breathe. A year later, My Ruin stormed back with probably their angriest album to date, A Southern Revelation, making the surprise move of offering it to anyone that wanted it for free. Now, the band is back with The Sacred Mood, their eighth studio album, a record that perhaps best encapsulates what My Ruin is all about. It’ll cost you to take it home with you, but the long time diehard fans will tell you its money well spent.
Tairrie: “Let’s be honest, in this day and age, every record is available for free. With or without a label, your record is out there on the internet, and even if you want to fight it you really can’t. Writing and recording A Southern Revelation was cathartic for us at the time and we needed to do it. It was our middle finger to our ex-label owner Daniel Heerdmann, but also the only way we felt able to take back our power as a band while we waited out our contract with the label. Other than doing nothing but mourning the album he killed, it really was our only option at that point and the fans of our band understood this and supported us in a big way. So did the press, who really got behind us and championed our album with some of the best reviews of our career. We were extremely mad about the lies, broken promises and complete lack of promotion for the release of Ghosts And Good Stories because he did nothing with it – an entire UK / European tour for which tickets had already been sold had to be cancelled – so rightfully this led to me and Mick taking matters into our own hands and addressing what he did to us head on. We decided to channel our anger and focus our rage by writing A Southern Revelation. It was our reckoning and our slaying of the beast.”
The natural assumption is that The Sacred Mood – rounded out by bassist Luciano Ferrea – is less likely to take a firm hold with the masses compared to A Southern Revelation due to the fact there’s a price attached to the music. But, as is the case with any band that boasts a loyal fan base, My Ruin’s followers had no problem forking over their beer money even though A Southern Revelation was a freebie.
Mick: “We decided to self release The Sacred Mood via TuneCore, which has made it available worldwide through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play etc. This way people can find it in a lot of different places and not just on our Bandcamp page. We’re not making music for the masses. We never really have. We make it for ourselves and the fans of band that understand and support what we do. The diehards always show their support; even with the free record we got donations because many people still wanted to pay for it.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Dream Theater can lay claim to devoted international fanbase, with some of those followers bordering on fanatic. It’s just a question as to which side of the room is waving that particular banner. There are the ones that find worth in every album the band puts out regardless of how much Dream Theater deviates from what’s been deemed their signature sound (established by their first three records, When Dream And Day Unite, Images And Words, Awake). Then there are those that pick and choose their favourite DT records and will gladly cyber-stomp on anyone that tells them they’re out of their proggy little minds. So it went that when music from the band’s new self-titled album started circulating, the widespread accolades for a job well done (save for the expected Mangini versus Portnoy bitching) was surprising. Sure, some folks have dismissed the new music as a letdown, but guitarist John Petrucci couldn’t be happier with the result or the positive feedback that’s been coming his way since the record landed in the laps of the press.
“One of the great things is that the press has been very genuine and very up front about the way they feel about our music,” says Petrucci. “The album has been getting a very positive response, and what’s interesting is that we set out to do certain things on this album and people have picked up on those things without us really saying what they are. That makes me feel that we were successful in following through on what we initially planned to do.”
Ditching the journalistic neutrality schtick for a moment, my long-standing personal view on Dream Theater is that somewhere down the road they forgot how to write songs. Hard to say when, but as much as I enjoy prog rock and metal, the widdly 10+ instrumental virtuoso epics that have dominated the last several albums sucked the enjoyment out of the listening experience. It felt like math class; the foundations of the exercises were familiar but they’d become too damn complicated to follow. The new Dream Theater album, however, feels like a step back to the era of real songwriting for the band some 15+ years ago.
“It was definitely a conscious decision to do that,” Petrucci insists. “Every album that we make, we do what we feel at that time. Whatever the strength is that we focus on for any particular album, it’s definitely done on purpose. In doing that, I think it’s done a couple of things for us. It’s created a lot of variety, but it can also be divisive because the albums are very different. Fans might like a certain period of Dream Theater history or a certain style, but I don’t think that takes away from the overall catalogue. The new album is so different because we went in wanting to write a more focused album.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
By this point Children Of Boom fans, or anyone that gave a damn about the band’s first three albums (Something Wild, Hatebreeder, Follow The Reaper) before they pushed the ugly up a few notches for the Are You Dead Yet? and Blooddrunk, are aware that the Finns’ new album Halo Of Blood is a tip of the hat to those good old days. Listen closely, however, and you’ll realize it’s not simply the back-to-the-roots album so many followers have been hoping for and harping on…
“Every fucking person I spoke to for the album said that we’d definitely gone back to the roots and that Halo Of Blood reminded them of our first three albums,” says vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho. “So you don’t have to do that; I already know (laughs).”
There’s no getting away from the fact that Children Of Bodom have taken a step back, though. A listen through Hatebreeder or Follow The Reaper back-to-back with Halo Of Blood offers loads of room for comparison, even though some of the old songs sound surprisingly thin against the new tunes. No offence to the COB legacy, of course, but production values don’t lie.
“None taken, that’s for sure. There’s definitely some truth to that. There might be some elements from the old school Bodom on Halo Of Blood, but it’s with an obvious updated sound. Like you said, there’s so much more to it than Hatebreeder or those other albums. ‘All Twisted ‘ is a song where even I get a Follow The Reaper vibe, but there’s an updated sound to it. None of that shit was intentional or thought out beforehand. It just came about naturally and spontaneous, as always.”
“At certain points I guess the new album was easier than the last one,” Laiho continues, “but it’s never easy to write an album, that’s for sure. I always hit a wall at some point trying to put the parts together, but when I look back now on the writing and recording process for Halo Of Blood, it does seem that it went a little smoother this time around.” (continue reading…)
My Ruin have carved themselves a reputation for street level in-your-face bad-assedness, albeit only amongst those that look for their metal and mayhem outside the confines of big record label business. The ultimate do-it-yourself outfit led by vocalist/wordsmith Tairrie B. Murphy and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Mick Murphy – the wife and husband team par excellence – My Ruin have slugged it out for the last several years as independent artists (even with a record deal), turning in some positively brash and pointedly aggressive work for the masses to swallow.
The Sacred Mood follows on the heels of A Southern Revelation’s ultra-violence, making the descent into the Murphy maelstrom somewhat slower this time out. ‘Monolith Of Wrath’ kicks things off with pulse, pound and Tairrie B.’s lush spoken word delivery, turning to My Ruin’s familiar up-tempo punk attitude for ‘Moriendo Renascor’ before giving the expected beating in ‘God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife’, perhaps THE song to feature everything My Ruin has to offer. From there it’s a journey through all facets of the band’s personality, Mick Murphy churning out Tony Iommi / Zakk Wylde-flavoured metal or a welcome rock crunch (‘Hour Of The Wolf’, ‘Heretic Dreams’) depending on the mood set by Tairrie B.’s vocals. And the lady is all about her non-tweaked all natural scream (‘God Is A Girl…’, ‘Harsh Light Of Day’) when she’s not in her spoken word spotlight (‘Honey Of The Human Soul’). (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
How do you write a hit record? Lock a bunch of unattractive over-the-hill songwriters with shattered dreams of being spotlight superstars in a room, add money, buy auto-toon software, and hire a pretty face to sing the songs. Or, if you live in the blood and sweat world of Annihilator guitarist/founder Jeff Waters you go with your gut, hit the studio when the time feels right, and cough up an album like the highly praised rip and tear called Feast.
“This is the first record where we took a big break from getting in the studio and writing,” says Waters. “We were finished with the cycle for the last album by the fall of 2010. It was a little over two years of not going into the studio to write. Dave (Padden/vocals, guitars) and I decided that we could pump out an album every year-and-a-half, and some albums would be better than others but it would be a case of just doing the same thing over and over. We wanted to see what happened if we took some time off from the writing. I did tons of guitar clinics around the world, we did some special festival dates, I did some mixing and mastering in my studio; there just wasn’t any new Annihilator stuff coming out of that. And from what I’ve been told it paid off because everyone seems to feel that Feast has brought things up a level.”
“I think it was good that we took the time off, and if I didn’t have all that stuff to do in those two years I would have gone straight into the studio and started writing. I had lots to do and Dave kept pushing me away from it, so I just decided to go with it until the time was right.”
Waters is in a good place these days both professionally and personally these days, yet the music he cranked out for Feast is (for the most part) full-on aggressive and a great soundtrack for pissed-offedness.. Not exactly a case of the art reflecting the man this time out.
“I don’t get that either. We threw that one song ‘Perfect Angel Eyes’ in the middle of the album, but you’re right, other than that it’s more aggressive and has an ‘F-You’ vibe. It’s weird how that worked out.”
Feast’s punk attitude is equally weird and totally unexpected. Sure, the legendary thrash sound that made Annihilator famous is very much alive and seething, but there are moments where Waters sounds like he’s channelling as much of The Exploited as he is Slayer.
“You know what? That’s the one thing I didn’t realize until very recently. I did a two-and-a-half week European press trip, I did something like 113 interviews – which is way more than I’ve ever done for an album – and I repeatedly heard the question ‘Where’s this punk vibe coming from?’ And my only answer was ‘I don’t know’ (laughs). I usually get questions about my soloing and I tell them it’s blues speeded up, and even though I don’t really know the blues, I just know the stuff passed down by Angus Young and Glenn Tipton who got it from B.B. King and Chuck Berry. At least I know where that blues influence comes from. The punk stuff… no idea where that comes from.” (continue reading…)
Only In Canada, Eh! – September 2013: JAMES LABRIE, VARGA, CHELA RHEA HARPER, FAMOUS UNDERGROUND, And BRIGHTON ROCK Give Us A KISS Cover
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…
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
“Back in 1999, I thought I didn’t have any demand as a singer and I seriously considered retiring. It was the guys from XYZ-A who saved me. If it wasn’t for XYZ-A, the current lineup of Loudness would not exist.”
It’s an unexpected admission from vocalist Minoru Niihara, who is best known as the vocalist for the legendary Loudness the world over, but perhaps not that surprising looking back on his career. As the voice of the very first Japanese metal band to make a serious international impact in the early ’80s, Niihara was living the dream, only to have it snuffed out when he was invited to leave the band in 1988 in the interest of cornering the Western market with an American singer (Obsession’s Michael Vescera). Stints as a solo artist (1989) and with Ded Chaplin and SLY through the ’90s followed and were only moderately sucessful. It wasn’t until he hooked up with XYZ-A for their 1999 debut, Asian Typhoon, that things took a turn for the better. The album was a smoker, putting Niihara back on the map and rejuvenating his career. Two years later he reunited with the original Loudness line-up, reclaiming his original post which he owns to this day. Rather than sacrifice one band for the other, however, Niihara has been going strong with both Loudness and XYZ-A ever since.
Unlike Loudness, XYZ-A has never achieved the same level of success, but Niihara is far from discouraged. Settling in to discuss the band’s new record, Seventh Heaven, he knows XYZ-A has hit the sweet spot with their fans following its oddly named but highly praised predecessor, Learn From Yesterday! Live For Today! Hope For Tomorrow!. A pleasant surprise, particularly since the two albums prior to it (IV and Wings) were rather dull and uninspired in comparison.
“When YTT was released, it was recognized by our fans as the best album of our career,” says Niihara. “Every process including songwriting, arrangement, performing, recording worked successfully. I strongly feel that we as a band have gotten so much experience throughout years and it finally paid off.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Bad news for Dream Theater fans that were put off by frontman James LaBrie’s 2010 solo album, Static Impulse:
Yep, he did it again. With the same cast of characters backing him up.
You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for the folks that ran for cover when Static Impulse was released, however. It was the highly anticipated follow-up to LaBrie’s critically acclaimed Elements Of Persuasion album from 2005, which finally put his solo career on track in the wake of two somewhat confusing Mullmuzzler records. And yet he’d seemingly chucked the possibility of any future accolades in favour of Swedish death metal-inspired aggression, courtesy of drummer Peter Wildoer (Darkane) coughing up blastbeats and growls as required. It was an experiment of sorts concocted by LaBrie, long time collaborator/keyboardist Matt Guillory and producer Jens Bogren that took them as far away from Dream Theater’s prog metal shadow as possible, and for all the bitching and moaning from some scandalized fans Static Impulse was a success.
The new album, Impermanent Resonance, picks up where Static Impulse left off. The tear-your-head-off aggression of some of the songs has been toned down while the melodic aspects of the music have been turned up, but it’s definitely the same creative team behind the metal. And metal it is, with nary a prog-ism to be heard. Just like last time out, the only similarity between this new album and Dream Theater is the guy standing behind the microphone.
BW&BK: Was it clear from the beginning that Impermanent Resonance was going to follow in Static Impulse’s footsteps rather than experimenting with a new musical direction, like you did from going from Elements Of Persuasion to Static Impulse? There are similarities between those records, sure, but Static Impulse ripped the doors off the car you guys built with Elements….
Matt: “I think Elements Of Persuasion was the turning point, or at least a new chapter for us. We’d established ourselves as having a metal foundation within our music so we didn’t want to abandon that at all, especially coming off Static Impulse. We defintely wanted to keep that foundation for Impermanent Resonance but take it a step further, especially with the melodies and the hooks in the music. Also, the atmospheric perspective wasn’t emphasized on Static Impulse, so we wanted to bring that out on the new record.”
BW&BK: Static Impulse is a more aggressive record in comparison to Impermanent Resonance. In fact, if you were to dump the guitars and change the production on Impermanent Resonance you’d have some great pop songs.
James: “Absolutely, no doubt about it. They’re pretty damn pop-ish even as they stand now (laughs) but I get what you’re saying. You could come at some of these songs as a piano/vocal rendition, and ‘Say You’re Still Mine’ is pretty much in that vein as it is. I think Matt put some amazing songs together, like ‘Back On The Ground’ and ‘Holding On’. A song like ‘Back On The Ground’ definitely deserves to be in amongst the songs being played on radio these days, and it stands up against any one of them. For me a song is either song or it’s not good, and what’s important is what it conveys to me regardless of whether it’s a metal song or a pop song or a jazz piece. There are songs on Impermanent Resonance that definitely have that pop sensibility to them.” (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.
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…)