By Carl Begai
Ever since Guns N’ Roses and Tesla made it cool for hard rockers and metalheads to mess around with acoustic guitars – with G’N’R Lies and Five Man Acoustical Jam respectively some 20+ years ago – it seems every band has flirted with the unplugged concept. Hell, at press time Mpire Of Evil had kicked off their first ever Japan tour with an in-store featuring a set of acoustic Venom classics (!). So, when word got out a few years ago that Stratovarius frontman Timo Kotipelto and ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen had teamed up for a dynamic duo acoustic tour through their native Finland it wasn’t an earthshattering surprise. Their respective fanbases went suitably mad searching for footage on YouTube, of course, and the resulting requests, demands and yammering over the years for an album’s worth of acoustic material from the pair have finally been answered. Working under the Kotipelto & Liimatainen moniker, they’ve put together a collection of bare bones covers on Blackoustic, an album made for the fans rather than trying to cash in on a still-popular musical format.
“I’ve been doing these acoustic gigs with Jani for about two-and-a-half years now, and it did start like that,” says Kotipelto. “We basically got fed up with people complaining and decided to go to the studio and do it (laughs). We were laughing about it at first because nobody puts out acoustic albums like this, and as a duo it really doesn’t make any sense especially since we do mostly cover songs at the gigs. Why would we do it, really? And the problem is that when we do the live gigs, a third of the songs are ballads and the rest are rock songs. We did an acoustic version of ‘Speed Of Light’ (Stratovarius), for example, and we could play it at the proper tempo but that wouldn’t make any sense. We actually had to consider what was important in the song, try to find that red line, and make a good arrangement of it. The album is a little different from what we play live because there’s more energy at the live show because of the audience.” Continue Reading
Lauren Harris is known in music circles as the daughter of Iron Maiden bassist/founder Steve Harris first, and as a vocalist second. If she has her way that’ll change over the next year, and she’s off to a promising start
This interview never would have come to pass if it wasn’t for a tip from ex-Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young, who suggested checking out an indie band called Six Hour Sundown on YouTube during a weekly round of “Look what I found…” They came across as a better than average ‘80s-flavoured hair band for the modern day (minus the poofy hair), and the singer was a familiar face. Quick online investigation confirmed that it was indeed Lauren Harris front and center, but Six Hour Sundown’s appearance in the ring has been so low key that most of the initial attention received is the result of genuine curiosity rather than Iron Maiden family tree hype.
“It has been rather low key,” Harris agrees, “because we were doing the Maiden thing through 2008 and 2009, and there was a lot of hype around it at the time. I haven’t really been in the spotlight for the last couple years, and I’ve started up a new band using a new name rather than using my own name again. I’ve started from scratch, really.”
Most people would agree that dropping her own name in favour of Six Hour Sundown can only benefit Harris in the end. The move was made, she says, when her touring band fell apart.
“The first album was a solo thing, but when I was on the road with the guys it turned into more of a band. It was only natural for that to happen since we spent so much time together, and we really were like a family. You hear about some bands that just don’t get on, they’re not like real friends, but we were friends. But, because of other circumstances, it couldn’t continue. Randy (Gregg/bass) was in New York and we couldn’t keep flying him over to the UK because money was an issue. And with Richie (Faulkner/guitars), well, he went off and joined Judas Priest (laughs). Continue Reading
With their comeback only two albums young – the decent enough Reborn (2005) and the superior Murder By Pride (2009) – news that Stryper were gearing up for a cover album seemed like a step backwards. A tracklist of done-to-death classic metal staples from the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Deep Purple made the band’s lack of inspiration all the more apparent, and tacking on a title that sounds like a 2-for-1 Wal-Mart housewares sale item did nothing to raise dangerously low expectations. A mere two songs in, however, and vocalist / guitarist Michael Sweet’s claims that they are paying tribute to the bands that molded and shaped the Stryper sound ring true. On 10. In fact, with the exception of a painfully dull rendition of Judas Priest’s ‘Breakin’ The Law’ – which falls as flat as the original studio version – The Covering is a romp that breathes new life into a metal history many of us take for granted.
Lead off scorcher ‘Set Me Free’, originally done by Sweet (the band, not the man), makes the Vince Neil / Steve Stevens version from Neil’s Exposed solo record (1993) pale in comparison – no easy task – served up fully loaded with guitar shred. The Scorpions’ ‘Blackout ‘ is delivered vocal warts and all, the arrangements for Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ are eyebrow-raising surprises in that they’re played straight yet loaded with elements (guitar leads, vocal harmonies) that are distinctly Stryper. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
German bashers Gamma Ray have a new album out called To The Metal! and I recently caught up with long time bassist Dirk Schlächter to talk about it. The main point of discussion was the lack of trademark speed and shred on the record in comparison to their previous outing, Land Of The Free II. Then there’s the even more pronounced than usual use of the tricks Judas Priest and Iron Maiden ever taught them. Read on…
Schlächter: “Yeah, there are some Priest-ish riffs in there and of course some Maiden-ish riffs, but things will always be like that with us. People criticize us for that but it’s just not possible to play this kind of music in E without being reminded of Iron Maiden. We’re tuned down to D now, which makes things sound a bit different, but if you play the chords E, D, and C – which they use in all combinations 10 times on every album – it will always remind you of part of a Maiden song. It’s not that we’re ripping something off from those bands, it’s just the shape of the music.” Continue Reading
Kobra And The Lotus are a little band from Calgary, Alberta that I took an immediate dislike to when I first heard them in 2009. The music was fine but I couldn’t stand the vocals, provided by the otherwise lovely Brittany Paige. I have to admit, their debut album Out Of The Pit isn’t the car crash I expected. I recently spoke with Paige about the changes that helped Kobra And The Lotus get out of the career-stifling hole they were in, and was surprised to learn I had a hand in pushing the band’s decision to re-record all the vocals for the debut. Following is an excerpt from the story, with Paige discussing life as a metal band from the Canadian prairies.
According to her Calgary is the city where metal goes to die… Continue Reading