By Carl Begai
Out promoting Soilwork’s new album The Living Infinite, frontman Björn “Speed” Strid will tell you that as far as he’s concerned the band’s previous effort from 2010, The Panic Broadcast, didn’t get the attention it deserved. It was a record that washed away the bland taste of Sworn To A Great Divide (2007) with waves of thrash, colour and dynamics that really did deserve more than just the initial buzz out of the gate, but Strid doesn’t blame their record label for a lack of support or the fans for lack of taste. He chalks it up instead to a glaring lack of touring on the band’s part, who logged far fewer miles than in past years thanks in large part to the will-he-or-won’t-he status of founding guitarist Peter Wichers.
Having left the band in 2005 only to return in 2008 – and thus give Soilwork a much needed kick in the ass – Wichers found himself torn between commitments to the band and his personal life. Things eventually came to a head in June 2012 and he announced his (final?) departure, leaving Soilwork with a clear conscience and a clean slate. What better way to get back in the game doing double the work and churning out 20 songs for an official release?
“We always try to have the element of surprise in there whenever we go in to make a new album,” Strid says when Soilwork’s collective sanity sanity is called into question. Most bands have a hard enough time coughing up 10 songs with substance. “The real reason behind it… with all the chaos around Peter, I think we needed to turn things around and do something unique, something that stands out and turn it into something positive. We also wanted to show or prove to ourselves and the fans that there are other amazing songwriters in the band.”
Having different songwriters involved rather than just the Strid/Wichers seems to have had positive effect on the music as well, as The Living Infinite is definitely in the same park as The Panic Brodcast.
“For sure, and I think that was good for me. I definitely needed that because when Peter was a part of the band we knew each other so well musically, and in a situation like that sometimes you become too predictable. The fact that Peter was losing interest as well would have affected my work as well.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
I’m going to start this story with an apology to Tobias Sammet and all those involved with the Avantasia machine.
In my initial overview of the new album The Mystery Of Time (found here), I did a fair job of smack-talking Sammet’s previous Avantasia effort, The Wicked Symphony / Angel Of Babylon double album. In my world it was just too damn long, with only three songs of a possible 22 having left a mark on my brain since the 2010 release (‘Scales Of Justice’, ‘Stargazers’ and ‘Death Is Just A Feeling’ in case anyone cares). In stark contrast The Mystery Of Time boasts only 10 songs, and after only one time through during the listening session at the Nuclear Blast offices in Donzdorf, Germany there were melodies and riffs still resonating in my head days later. I blame my harsh view of The Wicked Symphony / Angel Of Babylon on being smacked with too much information at one time, while The Mystery Of Time is an exciting “buckle up” ride if you’re a fan of the genre. It seems my enthusiasm may have gotten the better of me. I still say Avantasia’s previous outing pales in comparison to the new album, but by no means had I intended to dumb down Sammet’s vision or the work that went into making it a reality.
That said, during the listening session for The Mystery Of Time, I did mention to Sammet that I thought The Wicked Symphony / Angel Of Babylon was too big for its own good.
“Definitely, I agree,” says Sammet. “Not that I would throw away any of the material because I like all the songs, but some of the songs suffered from being just one out of 22 songs that came out at the same time. The songs that would have been really appreciated on an album of 10 tracks were called ‘weak’ or ‘fillers’ because there was so much competition. That was something that I wasn’t able to predict. I thought, ‘I wrote the material, I like each song because I had months to become acquainted with them.’ I knew every detail of every song, so they were very important to me.”
The Mystery Of Time offers so much more to sink one’s teeth into because of its compact nature. Short-ish, sweet, wonderfully diverse, and straight to the point.
“I’m really with you on that,” Sammet agrees. “This album is an entity all its own, and compact is the best way to describe it.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
On February 7th, I was contacted by vocalist Todd La Torre, who was known first and foremost as the frontman for Crimson Glory before replacing Geoff Tate as the singer of Queensrÿche in 2012, effectively pulling double duty. After a lengthy conversation and some minor editing, La Torre handed over a press release exclusively for BW&BK (found here) announcing that, after approximately three years as Crimson Glory’s voice, he had officially resigned.
La Torre was introduced to Crimson Glory by Matt La Porte (Jon Oliva’s Pain, Circle II Circle), becoming an official member in 2010. He helped to ignite and give new life to the legendary band that had been on hiatus for nearly ten years, and mourning the loss of original vocalist Midnight. Crimson Glory emerged back into the world arena metal scene with very high praise and acceptance. La Torre toured as the new voice of Crimson Glory throughout Europe in celebration of the band’s 25th Anniversary with great success.
Talk of a new album was highly anticipated and the band appeared to be firing on all cylinders.
“We were writing the new album and things were looking good, says La Torre. “We had interest from two major European labels, which was very promising. I was very honored and proud that we were on the rise, and the fans were embracing all that we were doing. We had wonderful momentum and we were working within an important window of time within which the new record should have been recorded and released to have the most impact given the bands resurgence. Unfortunately, the record never materialized despite my best efforts.”
“My involvement with Queensrÿche had nothing to do with the album progress,” he continues. “I haven’t been contacted to write with Crimson Glory for over six months. As a band, our writing sessions were slow, eventually becoming non-existent before I ever joined Queensrÿche. During the specific timeframe that I was in talks with Queensrÿche, members of CG were simultaneously occupied by other external and internal endeavors that apparently absorbed the time and/or will away from CG, which is not fallacious per se, but it proceeded in passivity. The main reason for my resignation from Crimson Glory is primarily due to its inertia status.” (continue reading…)
A couple months ago Jim McCormick out of London, Ontario launched a website dedicated to garnering attention for shows scheduled to take place in and around his home town. A musician himself, McCormick is all about the live experience. And let’s face it, if you call yourself a musician you sure as hell better be able to deliver them studio goods to the stage and impress the hell out of the folks buying your music. This is a call to arms.
I was recently asked to contribute to the site, and agreeable sort that I am – not to mention a shameless Canadian flag-waver – I decided to add my two cents to the AllStage site where required. Thus, along with whatever news bits we deem worthy for the site’s format I’ll be posting a monthly editorial on whatever tickles my fancy or irritates the hell out of me at that moment in time. (continue reading…)
So, me and my extended BW&BK family have issued our individual Best Of 2012 lists because that’s the sort of thing you do in this biz as the new year kicks off. I’ve decided to post my long-winded overview of the last 12 months here, with a link provided leading to my Top 10 Albums list along with other honourable (and dishonourable) mentions…
It was a rollercoaster of a year, as they all are in the music biz.
From being blindsided by Halestorm’s new album The Strange Case Of… and becoming a fan against my will, to dealing with a fuckwit promo rep at Roadrunner Records who decided to change my questions in an email interview because she felt they were “too harsh” for her artist (um, shouldn’t that be for the artist to decide?), to bucket list interviews with Brighton Rock’s Gerry McGhee and the lovely Lita Ford, to witnessing some amazing shows on both sides of the pond, 2012 has been quite the adventure.
See the list here for the Hot and Not albums of my year, then pick apart my sanity at your leisure.
Gotta say that I was surprised at not being disappointed by any of the shows I was able to attend this year. The third annual European run of Rock Meets Classic featuring Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Steve Lukather (Toto), Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), three-fifths of Primal Fear’s roster and Trillium vocalist Amanda Somerville was positively brilliant, with PF singer Ralf Scheepers going above and beyond lending his voice to the Toto hit ‘Rosanna’ (!). Watching Devin Townsend successfully manipulate a Motörhead crowd into doing his bidding was a gut-buster, seeing former Helloween members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen on stage together with Unisonic belting out classics ‘I Want Out’ and ‘Future World’ was ’87 surreal, and the Leaves’ Eyes / Firewind tour that looked so weird on paper turned out to be one of the best gigs of the past 12 months.
Nightwish gets a scrapbook all its own due to a brilliant show in Nuremberg – featuring more pyro than the sun – and a day and night hanging with some of the finest people in the metal business. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
“From a fan’s point of view, I’d be happy to see one of my favourite bands doing a completely different setlist because I know all their songs. If I go to a Judas Priest show, rather than hearing ‘Living After Midnight’ I’d rather hear stuff like ‘Dreamer Deceiver’. That’s much more interesting even for a diehard fan that knows all the songs in a band’s catalogue.”
And there you have the motivation behind Gamma Ray’s new outing Skeletons & Majesties Live courtesy of frontman/founder Kai Hansen. Call it a case of the band challenging themselves and the fans by daring to be different, building a tour setlist in 2011 that reached all the way back to their 1990 debut Heading For Tomorrow and dusted off some of their more obscure tracks for the stage.
“It was really cool. And the great part of it was seeing that it actually works, that those songs aren’t weaker than the ones we play all the time. They just don’t get the attention they deserve. There are always the album favourites and the ‘real’ great songs, but that doesn’t mean the other songs are shit. When you do festivals and tours, sure, you include your ‘Best Of’ songs to make most of the people happy, but it was a lot of fun for us to do things this way.”
“That was especially at the rehearsals, when we were saying ‘Do we really have to practice ‘Send Me A Sign’ again?’ We’ve been playing that song for a long time and it’s quite simple, so there was no real need to go over it again. The songs that we hadn’t played in such a long time – or never – there was a totally different motivation to rehearsing them and improving ourselves.”
It was no secret the band was heading out to flog their so-called “rare” material when the tour was announced, and according to Hansen the number of people in the door on any given night was more or less the same as when Gamma Ray does an expectation-loaded show. Definitely a good thing considering the band committed themselves to a DVD shoot as preparations were being made.
“The tour was planned first, and then the suggestion came up to do a DVD since it’s been quite a while since the last one (Hell Yeah! The Awesome Foursome from 2008) and we were doing completely different songs. It was a perfect opportunity. We thought about doing a whole acoustic set but we decided it would be too much, especially for this band considering the music we play. It was better than we just changed things up for a song or two in the middle of the set.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
It’s hard to believe that almost 13 years have passed since German thrash veterans Destruction made their triumphant return with All Hell Breaks Loose. It was a big deal for the fanboys on the BW&BK staff due to vocalist/bassist Schmier’s being back up front following a 10 year absence, and we’ve followed the band religiously ever since. An impressive seven studio albums since the reunion including the new slab of violence, Spiritual Genocide, and the naysayers are hard pressed to argue against the claim that Destruction are more vital than ever as elder statesmen in the thrash world.
“It’s crazy,” Schmier says of the band’s 13 year charge, which shows no sign of slowing down. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve been back that long. We’ve been working constantly since then. Doing new records every two years or so followed by all the touring – plus the live records and the DVDs – we’ve been rather productive (laughs).”
Not everyone was thrilled with Destruction’s return in 2000, however. Many fans complained that All Hell Breaks Loose was, for all its crushing energy, “too modern” to be a considered a worthy follow-up to the band’s early catalogue. Schmier remembers the bitching and moaning but his opinion of the people doing the complaining hasn’t changed over time.
“There are too many people always complaining about something, so if you listen to them all you just stop doing what you love. I think it’s important to do what you do best, and all I can say to all the haters and trolls out there is to get a life. Go do it better than us, motherfuckers (laughs). People bitch about this and that, but what have they achieved in life?” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
During a recent interview with Toronto-based Danko Jones about his band’s new album, Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue, he offered some insight into the new book Too Much Trouble – A Very Oral History Of Danko Jones. Call it the companion to the recently released Bring On The Mountain documentary DVD, only the book offers a view from the outside looking in as well.
“The book was done by Stuart Berman, who worked on it for about two years,” says Danko. “He interviewed over 70 people that, all together, tell the story of our band. We didn’t oversee it because I don’t do that with people who make videos for us, write about us, all that. It’s like ‘Go crazy, man’. I think that if you free people up more on things like that you get a better outcome. Stuart was a good choice to write the book because he knows a lot of the people we know, and a lot of the people we have bad relationships with (laughs). He was a great person to track down old band members and bands we’ve had brushes with. A couple bands didn’t respond but there’s a enough drama in there to keep people satiated. With him writing the book those parties felt safer, which was good. I told Stuart that we weren’t going to censor anything they said.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
So, about a year-and-a-half ago I started using whatever downtime I had to write a story. It’s a work of fiction, and it’s not about the music biz even though the industry does turn up along the way. Some of you who visit this site regularly may have noticed the small “grim” link at the top of the page, but I’ve now decided to let folks know about it officially… beyond the few souls that were silly enough to subject themselves to my creative streak a while back.
A link to the prologue of the book is below, available for your amusement. With luck, a great deal of perseverance, and saved-up funds I hope to release it independently early next year. Sure, an agent and roads leading to a publisher would make my life so much easier – and the search is indeed on – but I have no intention of waiting for the right combination of timing, business people and luck to get the go-ahead to publish if I have the resources to do things the hard(er) way.
Some of you may be amused by what you read, others may be offended (which means you really don’t want to read the whole book), and some of you may decide I should stick to writing formula rock star showcases because GRIM is a pile of crap. Fair enough, so long as it makes you smile in spite of yourself.
And for the record, the graphic isn’t the final cover. Just something I threw together so the words you’re reading look more attractive.
Check out the prologue for GRIM here.
- flames courtesy of shaedsofgrey at DeviantArt.com. Touch-ups and pimping to suit his purposes by Carl Begai.
By Carl Begai
Sure, the public transit system isn’t fit to service Legoland let alone a bustling metropolis, the cost of living has punched a hole through the roof, and we have a mayor with less credibility than your average high school junkie hall monitor, but it’s my home. I was born and bred here, I got my metal skooling during the righteous and never-to-be-repeated Gasworks/Rock N’ Roll Heaven era. Even so, when word came down in 2011 that Hogtown was going to echo Montreal’s highly successful weekend metal festival Heavy MTL – launched in 2008 – with a two day thrash-and-burn open air of its own in Downsview Park, I was skeptical. I had no doubt the organizers would pull things together in order to make it happen, but far less confident it would last more than a single “nice try” run.
Having lived in Germany since the tail end of 1995 as BW&BK’s European correspondent, I’ve attended my share of metal festivals great, good, bad and painfully ugly. Every weekend between May and September the classic metal festival model is put into action somewhere on the continent, attracting rivet-heads from all walks of life by the thousands and tens of thousands for two or three days of distortion and debauchery. It’s this model on which Heavy MTL was based – and succeeded – thanks to the European mentality of the Québécois. I didn’t see Heavy T.O. having the same impact in a city where metalheads are about five steps less committed to getting off the couch when a show hits town (sorry, it’s sad but true).
Heavy T.O.’s 2011 line-up turned out to be a ray of hope. Megadeth, Children Of Bodom, Opeth, Diamond Head, Volbeat, Mastodon, Slayer, Death Angel and Exodus on the same bill? Hard to believe but a European festival had come to town and landed with a bang, featuring a bill more than merely strong enough to drag the metal masses out into the light. By all accounts it was a rousing success beyond the expected and inevitable screw-ups that come with organizing anything for the first time. When the dust had settled it was a done deal: there would be Heavy T.O. 2012, with a legion of fans waiting in the wings brandishing piggybanks in hand when tickets finally went on sale. (continue reading…)