By Carl Begai
“I’m always enthusiastic when we put out an album, and this time I think I’m even more enthusiastic.”
Par for the course when dealing with Avantasia mastermind Tobias Sammet on any given day. Perhaps even a bit frightening. The man has been living and breathing music for over 20 years, having officially come into his own when Edguy released their debut album, Kingdom Of Madness, in 1997. It was when Sammet pulled a fast one by daring to release a metal opera under the Avantasia name in 2001 – appropriately titled The Metal Opera – that people started taking him seriously, or at least treating him as someone who should be watched carefully for repeated bursts of questionable behaviour. Legend has it that The Metal Opera was meant to be a one-off, but 15 years and a loyal international fanbase later Avantasia have unleashed their seventh official studio album, Ghostlights. To say Sammet is excited is an understatement, and he has every right to be when riding the high of an album that’s as Meatloaf / Savatage theatrical as it is trademark Tobias Sammet metal.
“Yes, absolutely, but it wasn’t meant to be like that,” Sammet insists. “There was no masterplan. A lot of journalists have asked if I intended to make this such a big-sounding theatrical record, and the answer is no, I didn’t intend anything. I didn’t even know where this would bring us, I didn’t even push the music in a certain direction. The music was dragging us in a certain direction and that’s probably the most innnocent and best approach you can have when writing music. Just do it, enjoy it, feel great while doing it, and see what comes out in the end.”
“I’ve defended the analog sound we did in the past, that old school let-it-sound-like-Ronnie-James-Dio-in-1983 kind of production, and I still think I was right to do so, but Sascha (Paeth/guitars, producer) decided we should do whatever the music needed. ‘Let it just happen,’ he said and this is what came out. The song ‘Let The Storm Descend Upon You’ is probably one of the most epic tracks I’ve done in the Avantasia context; it’s a big sounding arrangement with a lot of things that do not make sense according to the book of rules on how to compose a song. It’s not very reasonable to start a song with a one minute intro, and then do a second overture, and have the first chorus after three-and-a-half minutes, but I don’t think you perceive it as something that doesn’t make sense. The whole song just developed. It was one of the last tracks I wrote for the record.” Continue reading BraveWords Interview: AVANTASIA – Go Big Or Go Home Ghost Stories
By Carl Begai
At this point, Queensrÿche fans and anyone who reads metal news feeds are aware of the controversial split between original vocalist Geoff Tate and the rest of the band. It’s an ugly break-up that will see both parties in court as of January 2014 to decide who gets to use the Queensrÿche name, with the fanbase taking sides and being quite vocal about who they think is the real deal. For the old schoolers that grew up with the band’s debut EP and first four studio albums (The Warning, Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime, Empire) it’s a no-brainer in picking the non-Tate version of the band – now fronted by former Crimson Glory frontman Todd La Torre – thanks to their new self-titled record. It’s the album fans who have held out for 20+ years have been waiting for.
“We just did what we felt,” says La Torre, “and the fact it’s been received so well makes it that much better.”
The album is short and sweet, clocking in at 35 minutes, which no doubt helps as well. Rather than pounding people into submission with their new / old direction, Queensrÿche chose instead to give folks just enought of a taste of the band’s rediscovered potential.
“We didn’t even know what the length of the album was until it was done,” La Torre admits. “We just liked what we had and said ‘Okay, that’s the album.’ We had other songs that didn’t make the record, but we decided to put the album out and leave the fans wanting more.”
They won’t have to wait too long if all goes according to plan. La Torre and his bandmates have every intention of using the momentum the new album has provided…
“We’re writing new songs for the next album now. We’ve got a handful of songs in various stages and its going to have a multitude of elements that are Queensrÿche. You’re going to have longer songs, heavier songs, softer songs, maybe something acoustic. We’re not boxed into any niche which is the beauty of what Queensrÿche has always been. Continue reading TODD LA TORRE – Let’s Get ‘Rÿched
By Carl Begai
Back on October 24th, 1991 a 22 year-old head-in-the-clouds metalhead sporting the oddball name of Carl Begai took his kid brother to see Queensrÿche at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The band was soaring on the strength of their now classic Empire album, and it was a show never to be forgotten by either sibling. A cult fave of the prog metal world through the ’80s, Queensrÿche had finally (and unexpectedly) hit the big time and gave the fans an arena show to match. Of course, if you’re a fan you’re fully aware of how things have gone to hell since then. Never mind the 20 years of pussyfooting around the band’s metal roots since Empire; amidst personal and professional ugliness there are now two versions of Queensrÿche, one featuring vocalist Geoff Tate and a new line-up, the other with former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre taking Tate’s place fronting the (almost) original roster. A recipe for confusion that will be rewritten in January 2014 when the battle over the band name goes to court.
Twenty-two years and a day after that fateful Toronto show, I caught up with the Todd La Torre fronted incarnation of Queensrÿche – the real QR for anyone that has heard their new self-titled album – in surroundings far and away from the glory of Maple Leaf Gardens. In the middle of a European tour, the band touched down in Munich, Germany to play a simple rock club catering to only a couple hundred people, one of several steps towards rebuilding the Queensrÿche name as it should be remembered. Prior to the show we sat down to discuss Todd’s rise to fame and the band’s return to greatness.
“I was going to do both,” Todd says of leaving Crimson Glory to join Queensrÿche, which was official as of February 2013. “When I joined (side project) Rising West which then became Queensrÿche, they knew I was in Crimson Glory but they never said ‘Hey, you’ve gotta quit.’ As far as the guys were concerned, as long as I could do both and Crimson Glory wouldn’t infringe on Queensrÿche’s touring, cool. They knew I had an obligation to do a record, so they weren’t going to tell me to quit. What upset me and still does is when I read statements from Crimson saying that the writing was on the go when I joined the band, but the fact of the matter is that’s not true. I’m still friends with the guys but I haven’t talked to Jon Drenning (guitars) in over a year. When I’m back home we try to get together for dinner – me, Ben, Dana, Jeff – just to maintain that friendship. I care about those guys.”
Todd has no regrets about leaving Crimson Glory for Queensrÿche. Looking back on when the offer came down, he agrees it was a no-brainer.
“This is a dream come true… exponentially. When things went down it was like, ‘I have to do this.’ Parts of it are surreal, other parts are not because I know these guys now. We’re all very close so I don’t see them in the same way I did before just as a fan. I’m still a fan, but not the way I used to be.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: QUEENSRŸCHE – Rebuilding The Empire
By Carl Begai
Twenty years is a long time to wait for a band to get its collective shit together. Funny how one ugly line-up change and nine new songs can wash away two decades’ worth of mind-numbing WTF frustration.
Gone is original vocalist Geoff Tate, and with him the fetters that seemingly/supposedly steered the band into realms they were better off not exploring if you grew up/into Queensrÿche’s debut EP and the four albums that followed (The Warning, Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime and Empire). Recharged with the entrance of ex-Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre, the band was able to get back to doing what they do best, and the surprising end result is a record that falls nicely in line with the aforementioned 4.5 ‘Ryche classics. Call it Rage For Order meets Empire; an obnoxious claim to be sure, feel free to disagree, but it’s pretty damn hard to refute. Continue reading QUEENSRŸCHE – New Album Review: “A Slab Of Faith-Restoring Metal”
By Carl Begai
As of October 2012, guitarist Glen Drover’s second official solo album was reportedly half finished. Six months later and the only real buzz out of Drover’s neck of the woods is his recent and brief association with vocalist Geoff Tate’s new incarnation of Queensrÿche. Contacted initially to discuss the ‘Ryche situation – some folks might call it a debacle; depends on who’s side you’re on – Drover revealed that his new solo album is still in the works. It would have been finished by now if not for his decision to go back and remix last three albums – Coma Nation (2001), Apostles Of Defiance (2003), The Parallel Otherworld (2006) – from his pre-Megadeth / pre-King Diamond band Eidolon.
“Without getting into all the details of why we’re doing it, the way technology is now we realized that we could really make the quality of the albums a lot better than it was,” says Drover. “It’s a major step up in overall production. There were things that we weren’t 100% happy with, but I guess most musicians go through that. Something just came along that made us decide it was a good idea to go back and remix the albums. Me and Pat (Mulock/vocals) and Shawn (Drover/drums) are really excited, and Jon (Howard/vocals) from Threat Signal is helping out on it, too.”
“It’s a really cool project. We’re taking our time, going through one song after the other. We started with Coma Nation and it’s half finished. It’s a remix and not a remaster, so we’re changing the face of the whole thing for the better. If there wasn’t a noticeable increase in production I would never waste my time with this. For what it is, those albums came out good at the time. We used what we could and we made the best of what we had, and it worked. Now things are a little bit different. We’re not changing the performance – that’s going to be the same – but we might tweak a couple of thing effect-wise. The albums are going to be the same, but with a far stronger production.”
Still, weeding through the archives, the temptation to go back into the studio and tweak the recordings with up-to-date performances… Continue reading GLEN DROVER – Piece By Piece (One Fret At A Time)
By Carl Begai
Making a long and disappointing story short, metal veterans Queensrÿche came apart at the seams in April 2012 after 30 years in the trenches. With vocalist Geoff Tate on one side and the rest of the line-up on the other, the band split into two factions, both laying claim to the Queensrÿche name. The ugly details of the split can be found here (scroll down for older updates), with a court date set for November 2013 to decide who will actually be allowed to wear the moniker. In the meantime both Tate and his former bandmates are working on new albums, with both due to be released this year.
Of the two parties, the Queensrÿche consisting of founding members Michael Wilton (guitars), Eddie Jackson (bass), and Scott Rockenfield (drums) – also featuring new-ish guitarist Parker Lundgren – have had it easier by hiring former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre. They’ve chosen to go back to the band’s original metal sound and the long-time fans are loving it. Tate, on the other hand, has gathered a group of musicians to continue his own ‘Rÿche legacy, with Rudy Sarzo (ex-Ozzy Osbourne), Glen Drover (ex-Megadeth), Bobby Blotzer (Ratt), Kelly Gray (ex-Queensrÿche) and Randy Gane (ex-Myth) having rallied around Tate in September 2012. Only two months later, however, Drover bowed out for undisclosed reasons.
I recently caught up with Drover to discuss his decision to pack it in before any recordings or live performances with Tate’s band were in the can. Continue reading GLEN DROVER – On The Road To QUEENSRŸCHE Madness
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 BW&BK Exclusive: QUEENSRŸCHE Vocalist Todd La Torre Resigns From CRIMSON GLORY
By Carl Begai
If you cut your teeth on ’80s Queensrÿche, be honest: you’ve been prepared to shitcan vocalist Geoff Tate’s new solo outing since word came down he was putting one together. Guilty as charged in this corner, especially considering the last 20 years of Tate-led ‘Rÿche sludge has barely made a dent in my grey matter. Hell knows many fans have given the band’s music post-Empire years more than a fair shake, but the hookless meandering metal of the last two decades castrated the band’s credibility beyond a nostalgia act in this office long ago. With all that in mind, it came as a surprise to discover Kings & Thieves is actually a decent listen in spite of some mid-album filler.
Unlike Tate’s 2002 solo debut – one man’s “experimental” is another man’s “directionless” – Kings & Thieves is a rock album. His vocals are gold, as expected, though he never hits that high-end metal register he’s known for (which would stick out like a nail in the eye here), and the wealth of hooks and memorable melodies is a welcome surprise. In fact, the album is very reminiscent of the softer shades on Empire like ‘Another Rainy Night’, ‘Hand On Heart’, ‘One And Only’ and ‘Jet City Woman’, making the whole experience oddly satisfying. Continue reading GEOFF TATE – Kings & Thieves
Since there’s no NHL hockey season thanks to certain greedy sons of bitches, you can brush up on your Canuck metal below:
Blackguard are back on the road yet again, only this time they’re on the other side of the pond on the highly anticipated Kamelot tour. This is going to be huge for the band in the Kamelot are a huge draw right across Europe, and the band’s new Silverthorn has been receiving rave rviews across the board. Vocalist Paul Zinay recently commented on the trek:
“We had a blast conquering North America with Kamelot and now it’s time to conquer some new territories. We are very honored that we were asked to join them on this tour and we’d like to give our deepest thanks and gratitude to Thomas (Youngblood / guitars) and all of the Kamelot crew for extending us this invitation. This will be the last tour supporting our latest album Firefight and we can’t imagine ending on a higher note than this.”
Blackguard is due to release their new album, Storm, in the spring of 2013 via Victory Records. Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – October / November 2012: BLACKGUARD, GLEN DROVER, KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, And THE AGONIST’s Alissa White-Gluz Visits KAMELOT
Having established themselves as something pretty damn close to unique with their classic self-titled EP and weirdo cold progressive follow-up, The Warning, Queensrÿche blindsided pretty much everyone with Rage For Order. The goth-glam promo pictures did a decent job of scaring the shit out of the people who cared, first single / video ‘Gonna Get Close To You’ finished the job with its brooding Depeche Mode-metal vibe. Most folks outside Canada didn’t realize the song was a cover, Canuck metalheads (myself especially) couldn’t believe one of their own would cover Lisa Dalbello, but it had the desired effect. I, like so many others that had dismissed Queensrÿche as being too over-the-top for their own good, weighed hype against weirdness and took a chance on the album, and was pleasantly surprised. Continue reading QUEENSRŸCHE – Rage For Order (1986)