By Carl Begai
In 1986, the Sacramento-based band Tesla released their blues-based shred rock debut, Mechanical Resonance. Stamped at the bottom of the liner notes were the words “No Machines” placed above a graphic of piano keys with a line through it. It was the band’s response to the pop-happy ‘80s’ love affair with sickly sweet keyboard pre-sets that had infected the realms of rock and metal. As if the Max Factor-sponsored glam movement wasn’t bad enough, the instrument that Deep Purple legend Jon Lord made respectable had become the musical equivalent of a chick flick. Thus, keyboards and their players in general were saddled with a reputation for softening up a band’s potential backbone-of-steel sound and / or being completely dispensable. In the world of soaring vocals, screaming guitars, crushing bass and tribal drums, anyone caught behind a Korg was often considered “just a keyboard player” with nothing special to offer. Things have since changed, with the likes of Janne Wirman (Children Of Bodom) and Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) re-establishing the instrument’s credibility, and Nightwish owing their millions-sold existence to the almighty keys.
In the case of Finnish bashers Battlelore, the soft spoken Maria Honkanen is responsible for filling out the band’s trademark Tolkien-inspired sound. In many cases it’s her contributions that carry the songs without dulling her bandmates’ fangs. A member since the band’s late ’90s inception, it’s safe to say Battlelore would be a much different animal without her. Continue Reading