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…

Labrie 3

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

BW&BK Interview: FAMOUS UNDERGROUND – Cracking The Surface

By Carl Begai

If you’re a Canadian that lived through big-haired rock/metal scene in the the late ’80s and early ’90s, you don’t need the history lesson that comes with the name Slik Toxik. For those that find themselves here thanks to the buzz created by former ST frontman Nick Walsh’s new band, Famous Underground, all you need to know is that before grunge showed up to ruin the party in the ’90s they were a big deal at home, with a smaller contact buzz in the United States. Songs like ‘Helluvatime’ and ‘White Lies, Black Truth’ from their Doin’ The Nasty record were MuchMusic staples through ’92 / ’93, and Walsh was the kid with a huge voice that overshadowed / excused his pin-up status depending on your sexual persuasion. Slik Toxik died a quiet death in ’94 after releasing their second album, Irrelevant, and the band members went their separate ways. Walsh held a singer’s course, however, and pursued various projects before forming Revolver with bassist Laurie-Ann Green, a band that enjoyed middling success but never hitting that Slik Toxik high.


A name change in the fall of 2011 to Famous Underground came with a new focus, however, and the pieces of their long-unfinished puzzle began to fall into place. A record deal with German label Dust On The Tracks, a new self-titled debut in stores, Famous Underground is now more than just a cool idea and Walsh is on his way out from under Slik Toxik’s shadow after almost two decades.

“The label is actually utilizing the Slik Toxik name as a positive thing, which is odd for me,” Walsh admits. “It’s like ‘What happened to the 20 years in between? Why weren’t you people using it then?’ (laughs). Now I see stuff saying ‘Featuring Nick Walsh of Slik Toxik, who gave us that great sleaze rock album Doin’ The Nasty!’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ (laughs). I don’t mind saying I’m the guy from Slik Toxik but I don’t want that to be a focus for people. I’m the guy spearheading my new band.”

Something that’s going to take a while to catch on, particularly at home from Walsh’s first-hand experience. He offers a very recent example of what he’s had to deal with since Slik Toxik packed it in almost 20 years ago.

“I had a call from the promoter who did the Todd La Torre-fronted Queensryche show back in March here in Toronto a few weeks before it went down. Just a message on Facebook asking me to give him a call when I had the chance. I was thinking that it could work for us, that doing a show supporting Queensryche would look good on our resumé. I called him up and he told me that he has Slaughter coming to town this August, and he was wondering what it would take to do a Slik Toxik reunion show. I had to wonder what rock he’d just crawled out from under (laughs). I told him that we were offered a bucketload of money 10 years ago to do a reunion and I turned that down, so it wasn’t about the money. On top of that, some of us haven’t spoken to one another in 10 years or so. I told him ‘It’s not gonna happen, but since you got in touch with me through Facebook, have you not seen any of the new stuff I’m up to now?'” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: FAMOUS UNDERGROUND – Cracking The Surface

FAMOUS UNDERGROUND – New Album Review: “Leaves No Room Or Reason For Disappointment”

By Carl Begai

Being the first to embrace an original band with a unique vision takes balls, because doing so is an exercise in uncertainty and fear of “What will everyone else think?” Famous Underground is that road test, you’re the deer in their headlights, and the impact is a skull-rattling reminder that a stand-alone identity in the here and now overshadows past glories and current blood-sucking music industry trends.


Or, if you prefer your promo without the formality, Famous Underground is one of those present day rarities that defies being dumped in the genre box. Fangs and all. A cross between Guns N’ Roses when they were mean (Appetite For Destruction) and latter-day non-suck Metallica (‘Sad But True’, ‘King Nothing’), Famous Underground is a heady mix of ’80s attitude and ’90s grit with former Slik Toxik frontman Nick Walsh at the helm. The man’s voice is still a big fuckin’ deal some 20 years on since ‘Helluvatime’ – a bigger deal, actually – and the songwriting is darker with more muscle behind it; a lot less hit-and-miss compared to the Slik days. Continue reading FAMOUS UNDERGROUND – New Album Review: “Leaves No Room Or Reason For Disappointment”

BW&BK 2012: The Scribes Speak Day 3 – Carl Begai

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 BW&BK 2012: The Scribes Speak Day 3 – Carl Begai