By Carl Begai
Love it or hate it, it’s an undeniable fact that so-called ’80s hair metal is alive and well in 2020. Never mind the LA strip bands that are trekking around on “reunion” tours – often consisting of two original members and three guys conscripted from the local laundromat – living off their glory day catalogues; there are up-and-coming bands in all corners of the world trying to make their mark with that distinctive ’80s rock sound. And many are succeeding. Canadian rockers Storm Force are one example, having released their debut album Age Of Fear at the beginning of the year and receiving critical acclaim from the European and UK press in particular. Not an easy task considering Europe is where most of these bands originate nowadays, but something about the record has garnered Storm Force serious attention and it’s not guitarist / founder Greg Fraser’s Brighton Rock past. Sure, folks that lived through Brighton Rock’s commercial success in the ’80s with two sign-of-the-times albums (Young, Wild And Free and Take A Deep Breath) will zero in on it as a talking point, but Age Of Fear stands on its own as a solid rock album that people are happy to dub “old school ’80s hair metal.”
“It was about three year in the making, just kinda chipping away at it,” Fraser says of Age Of Fear, having been out of the limelight for several years. “Sometime I wondered if it was ever going to be finished because we’ve got different things going on, but once we got the deal (with Escape Music) it put things into overdrive. We wanted the record to be finished before we started shopping around but it didn’t happen that way, which is kind of a good thing because it could have been another year before the record was done.”
“Any kid that’s 20 years-old today, they’re never going to buy a CD in their lifetime,” he adds. “It’s the people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older that are willing to buy 10 songs all at once. Kids today… one song at a time and that’s all they need. I’m still old school. If I hear a song I like, I wanna know where the rest of the songs are (laughs). The fact I have a label (Escape Music) that’s willing to print CDs is amazing, because that’s the only way you can make any money off of any product. You can’t make anything off of streaming.”
Continue reading STORM FORCE – Breaking Down The Barricades
By Carl Begai
In their heyday, Canadian ’80s rock heroes Brighton Rock were branded as fluffy counterparts to their American hair band brethren thanks to big label boardroom decisions that saw ballads “Can’t Wait For The Night” and “One More Try” shoved front and center. No surprise there, as that was the sign of the times (see Warrant’s sappy breakthrough, “Heaven”), but it was a huge disservice to the bulk of Brighton Rock’s material, which was often heavier than expected. While the band remains semi-active, guitarist Greg Fraser chose to launch Storm Force and string together a 10-song celebration of feelgood in-your-face hair metal / rock in the spirit of classic Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Whitesnake, Dio, Ratt, and every other classic ’80s-era band that captured your imagination and made you pick up air guitar or sing into a hair brush for the first time.
Following the line scratched with Brighton Rock’s 1991 album, Love Machine, Fraser’s riffs are meat-on-the-bone heavy yet compact, the songs straight to the point and not legging a ton of “additional” keyboards / layered clutter. Lead single “Because Of You” is instantly infectious as only ’80s hair metal anthems can be, followed up by the standout title track that features one of Fraser’s heaviest guitar riffs (and best songs) to date. “Breathe” takes things in a different and darker direction, led by bass and drums, and featuring guest vocals by one Serena Pryne who comes off as a young Sass Jordan. “Dirty Vegas”, “Ride Like Hell” and “Marshall Law” are groove heavy, more rock than metallic, with balls by the ton. The country-esque “More Than You Know” is grudgingly enjoyable (don’t tell my metal friends), while full-on ballad “Different Roads”…. I’ll leave that for the soccer moms and bake sale dads that still love their cassette collections. Closing track “Ringside”, on the other hand, ends things with a satisfying amount of shred recalling the work of guitar lord Jake E. Lee.
Continue reading STORM FORCE – Age Of Fear
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 Only In Canada, Eh! – September 2013: JAMES LABRIE, VARGA, CHELA RHEA HARPER, FAMOUS UNDERGROUND, And BRIGHTON ROCK Give Us A KISS Cover
By Carl Begai
If you grew up in Canada during the ‘80s hair band cock rock era you were well aware of Brighton Rock. They were a fixture on MuchMusic and video shows as of 1986 with their Michael Wagener-produced full length debut Young, Wild And Free and first single ‘We Came To Rock’; the same year Poison blew their wad all over Los Angeles, thus making mega-glam ultra-cool in North America. Unlike Bret Michaels and his ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ crew, however, the big push behind Brighton Rock was focused on the band’s lighter side. Second single ‘Can’t Wait For The Night’ and ‘One More Try’ from the 1988 follow-up Take A Deep Breath were massive hits that ultimately came to define the band. It was a travesty for those of us that truly knew Brighton Rock in that there was nothing prim or proper or fluffy – read: stereotypical Canadian rock – about the vast majority of their material. And anyone who saw Brighton Rock perform live will argue (successfully) that the band stood toe-to-toe with any of their glammed-up L.A.-based peers… when they didn’t crush them entirely.
And for the record, the title of this story is ripped off the back of a Brighton Rock tour shirt…. that I so foolishly didn’t buy when I had the chance some 24 years ago.
“That was the piss-off of being Canadian,” says frontman Gerry McGhee, the head honcho at Canadian music distributor Isotope for over 10 years now. “They always wanted to stick us in that box of fluff. I remember one time we were on tour and we did ‘Unleash The Rage’ at a soundcheck; we came off stage and some guy says ‘Are these the same guys that do ‘One More Try’?’ That was one song on the record, man (laughs). I love the tunes, don’t get me wrong, but if I had my way it would have all been the heavy stuff like ‘Unleash The Rage’, ‘Bulletproof’, ‘Nightstalker’ put out there because that’s what the band was all about. We kind of captured that on (third album, from 1991) Love Machine because it was close to that raw sound, but it was the label pressure that put us in that ballad box. That would have been fine if they’d at least released some of the rockers. I got in shit on MuchMusic once because I said ‘The new album doesn’t come wrapped in a condom, so open up and say aaah.'” Continue reading BRIGHTON ROCK – Take A Deep Breath And Suck On It
By Carl Begai
St. Catharines-based Fraze Gang recently released their second album, entitled Fraze Gang 2, and along with a heavier and edgier sound they went from being a trio to a quartet, adding Dead Celebrity / former Hexus guitarist Derek McGowan to the line-up. Anyone familiar with either band will find the Fraze Gang merger a head-scratcher, but McGowan considers it an honour to be a part of the proceedings even though things are geared in a melodic ‘70s / ‘80s rock direction. And the truth is he earned his spot in the band as Fraze Gang frontman Greg Fraser’s stunt double in Brighton Rock a long time ago, which McGowan readily admits was a surreal experience.
“It’s coming up on ten years now, and that blows me away because it doesn’t feel that long ago. It was about a year after they got back together to do some reunion shows here at home. Brighton Rock’s second album, Take A Deep Breath, is still one of my favourite albums. Every single moment on that album means the world to me, because it brings me back to great memories of my childhood. I originally wanted to be a drummer, so I’d set up a makeshift kit and try to do Mark Cavarzan’s moves (laughs). It was Mark’s playing, Bobby Blotzer from Ratt and Joey Kramer from Aerosmith, those were the guys I tried to emulate up to the point where I got a guitar. The Fraze Gang thing came about because I stayed in touch with Mark, Greg, and Stevie. We’d talk on the phone and I went out to a few Fraze Gang shows, and they eventually asked me to get involved with the band. Originally I was just their live guitarist, and we’d get together to rehearse and jam on the songs.” Continue reading FRAZE GANG – Six String Four Play
Metal news from the first nation of Hosers. Read on…
Quebec’s northern hyperblast legends Kataklysm released their new documentary DVD, Iron Will: 20 Years Determined last month, and it’s a monster. For anyone who has a band, started a band, tried starting a band and failed, tried starting a band and became Nightwish or Metallica, it’s worth spending the five hours needed to watch the whole thing. One of the best working class band documentaries ever. Seriously. It goes right back to the beginning of Kataklysm’s career, leaves no stone unturned, and shows the band at their best, worst, most embarrassing and most righteously awesome. Even if you don’t get the music, you’ll get the story: dream big, dream loud, screw the naysayers.
The package also comes with the band’s complete 20th Anniversary show from Summer Breeze 2011. Complete details can be found here along with order information. Check out a clip from the live portion of the DVD here. Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – July 2012: KATAKLYSM, FRAZE GANG, KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, And A WOODS OF YPRES Tribute Album
By Carl Begai
“In the old days radio wouldn’t be so shy about trying out a new band. They’d give a band a shot. Now, because there’s so much competition, stations are so afraid you’ll change the channel if they try and push something that’s different from everything else on the radio.”
It may sound like bitterness talking, but it’s simply point of fact in the life of Fraze Gang guitarist / vocalist Greg Fraser. He made a name for himself with Brighton Rock in the ‘80s, quietly sat out the grunge era through the ‘90s, returning to the grind in the early 2000’s for the love of making music rather than trying to cash in on past glories. That said, Fraser had no delusions about breaking the bank with Fraze Gang’s self-titled debut in 2006 (issued via Bongo Beat Music in 2008), especially not with the beating the music industry was taking at the time (and continues to endure). For better or worse, however, he has retained an old school way of thinking with regards to marketing and exposure.
“With the internet being what it is you can get some exposure, but you’ll never get the massive exposure that you had in the old days because the record companies don’t have the clout anymore. And there were the magazines like Circus and Hit Parader; bands could get in there and sell records from that exposure alone. Take a band like W.A.S.P.; you’d see them, see Blackie Lawless and his codpiece and go ‘Who the hell are these guys?’ and right away they had your interest, especially of you were a kid. You had to hear them. When I first saw pictures of KISS, I was really young and it was ‘Oh my God, look at this!’ It’s a lot tougher now to get that kind of intense exposure. Then again, bands that don’t have major label deals can still get exposure thanks to the internet, so it’s a 50-50 deal.” Continue reading FRAZE GANG – New Blood, Old School
More noise from the Hoser Empire. Read on…
Kittie are gearing up to hit the road in support of their new album, I’ve Failed You. Following what are essentially warm-up shows in London and Toronto, they’ll head down to Australia for a string of dates on the Soundwave Festival tour. Upon their return, the ladies will spend most of April and May on the road in Canada and the US. The tour is an all-Canuck affair, with Blackguard and The Agonist – both out of Montreal – as main support. Putting the “eh!” in metal, indeed 🙂 Go to this location for the complete schedule.
In addition, Kittie will perform at the Toronto tribute show for Woods Of Ypres founder / frontman David Gold on April 5th at the Wreckroom. In a recent interview with Morgan, she mentioned to me that Kittie might perform a Woods song during their set. Stay tuned for updates, click here for details on David’s tribute show, which also includes Eclipse Eternal and Novembers Doom on the bill. Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – February 2012: KITTIE, LEADING THE BETRAYED, NAIL, FRAZE GANG, BRIGHTON ROCK… And ANNIHILATOR Guitarist Jeff Waters “Sings” ‘Turbo Lover’