By Carl Begai
Guitarist / vocalist / self-styled hand model Jason Bieler was a founding member and the main songwriter for Saigon Kick, launched in 1988. The band’s on again / off again career had more twists, turns, ups and down than a drug-addled rollercoaster designer’s masterpiece, but longstanding fans agree to a man (and woman) that Saigon Kick’s first two albums – the self-titled debut (1991) and The Lizard (1992) – are untouchable works of distortion heavy art (your arguments are invalid). While the band has since been laid to rest Bieler continues to make music, and in fact he never stopped even when they were in a holding pattern for years at a time. Most of it has been released independently over Bandcamp under the Owl Stretching moniker, but Bieler decided towards the end of 2019 to work on a second full blown solo album rather just single releases. The end result is Songs For The Apocalypse featuring a literal truckload of guest musicians playing to and for Bieler’s unique vision. And even though it will satisfy many a Saigon Kick fan’s want for something heavy from the man – this is the loudest he’s been in ages – one should leave all preconceived notions at the door before going in.
Prior to the making of Songs For The Apocalypse, Bieler began moving away from the Owl Stretching name in favour of his own. Devised as a one-man project with the goal of bringing a song to life within 24 hours of coming up with an idea, Owl Stretching was an ongoing experiment used to refine his craft. Sadly, not as many people were aware of it as there should have been, but the new album may change that by putting the Jason Bieler name in lights.
“That could happen,” agrees Bieler. “Having the label I’m with now (Frontiers) and talking to different people that I work with, they all told me ‘Dude, you don’t realize you’re already obscure, so by naming it Owl Stretching you aren’t helping the cause in any way, shape or form. You’re making looking for a needle in a haystack the logical choice compared to what you’re doing.’ And they were right, of course. I decided to just change it to my name to make it a little bit easier for those people that were looking.”
Continue reading JASON BIELER – A Playground For The Demented
By Carl Begai
In 2006, long suffering Canadian cult favourites Eidolon released their seventh album, The Parallel Otherworld. The record unintentionally signalled the end of a decade-long career just when Eidolon had clearly hit their stride with Pagan’s Mind vocalist Nils K. Rue behind the mic, but the move to call it quits didn’t come as a surprise considering founders Glen Drover (guitars) and Shawn Drover (drums) had been devoting their time to Megadeth as of 2004. As fate and musical inpiration would have it, however, Glen and Shawn have decided to close out 2015 with a new Eidolon track, “Leave This World Behind”, featuring Rue and long time bassist Adrian Robichaud. The song marks the first Eidolon recording in 10 years.
“To be honest, we never called it quits, we basically just decided to put the band on the shelf,” says Glen. “I mean, at that point yes, Shawn and I were now half of Megadeth, and way too busy to consider anything else regardless of the fact that we had finally found an all around amazing and professional singer who couldn’t be matched. We had a lot of negative feedback in the past about some of our previous singers. All of those people were silenced when we brought Nils in.” Continue reading BraveWords Interview: EIDOLON – Life After ‘DETH (Once More, With Feeling)
By Carl Begai
In the interest of not boring the veteran Queensrÿche faithful to tears we’ll skip rehashing the episodes of Tate Hate that led to the band splintering in 2012. If you’re a new fan all you need to know is vocalist Todd La Torre replaced original Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate after 12 albums due to some brutal personal and creative differences, and both sides are better for the change. In Queensrÿche’s case – featuring La Torre, original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson, and Parker Lundgren – it meant returning to the signature sound of the band’s early years, which has given Queensrÿche a completely – and if we’re being honest, unexpected – new lease on life. Sure, some fans have been loud in their disapproval of La Torre taking over Tate’s post, but the live shows have succeeded in changing some narrow minds.
“It’s a new energy, man, a rebirth of the band,” says Wilton. “Like you said, it’s a shame there are some people that are complaining, but it’s just one show at a time and we’re going to have to convince people that way. We’ve been doing that for the last two-and-a-half years and it’s gotten to the point, at least in Europe and the UK, they know and remember who Queensrÿche is. We just have to prove ourselves to the rest of the world.”
“We played a good variety of shows this summer; some key festivals, the main one being Wacken, which Queensrÿche has never performed at. It was great except for the mud (laughs). Being able to do our own shows and teaming up with Dream Theater again, it was amazing. It’s been a long time since we toured with them and it was a rekindled friendship. James LaBrie was so positive with Todd, letting him know that he’s just killing it, and John Petrucci wants us to do some shows together in the States next year. And then teaming up with Armored Saint and Death Angel in the UK, it was a great variety. The show in London was just amazing because both bands were there and the fans were just blown away.”
“It’s been almost three years with Todd and his confidence level is very strong. His voice is getting stronger from all the touring we’re doing, and he’s so comfortable with the old Queensryche songs it’s unbelievable. He’s grown as an individual and he’s such a team player for Queensrÿche; the fans love him.” Continue reading BraveWords Interview: QUEENSRŸCHE – (R)Evolution Calling
By Carl Begai
It’s considered poor journalistic form for a writer to put himself / herself in what’s supposed to be an unbiased info piece, but the catalyst for this story was in fact my personal disdain for teenagers in the music business. A hypocritical attitude to some degree given that many of the bands and musicians I hail as personal heroes started in their teens, but in this day and age it doesn’t seem to matter if newcomers are talent free with regards to achieving success. More than ever, the worn out music industry cliché of record label suits snagging disposable prettygirls’n’boys and thrusting them into the public eye with an image and songs written by an overpriced producer seems to hold true. And it’s not an illlness restricted to the pop music world (Baby Metal, anyone?).
With that in mind, if I had stumbled upon 16 year-old Gabbie Rae Trial through normal online channels, I likely would have dismissed her as just another fresh-faced marketing mogul’s dream guaranteed to be history before the end of the year. As luck would have it, she was introduced to me through a Facebook post by Queensrÿche vocalist Todd La Torre, who is known for his talent and integrity. Having spoken with La Torre several times in the past, there was no way he would waste his time and breath on fluff. Asking him to elaborate, he made it clear that Gabbie Rae is the real deal as far as he’s concerned. Curiosity piqued by the song being hyped (‘Scream’), a trip through YouTube’s infinite wealth of music yielded a startling catalogue of Gabbie Rae material. It runs the gamut from singer/songwriter ballads, an anti-bullying song, pop covers, and some positively startling live acoustic renditions of metal classics from Dio, Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche.
Her killer cover of the Queensrÿche classic ‘Queen Of The Reich’ – which really shouldn’t work acoustically – was enough on its own to push for this interview.
“The first time I met Todd I told him that I’d covered a Queensrÿche song acoustically, I’m pretty sure he thought it was ‘Silent Lucidity’ or ‘I Don’t Believe In Love’ or something like that,” Gabbie Rae laughs. “But… nope (laughs). It’s kind of fun to mess with people.” Continue reading GABBIE RAE – Life Is But A Scream
By Carl Begai
Back in September, former Megadeth / King Diamond guitarist Glen Drover ended several years away from the metal scene with a new song called “Discordia”. It was an unexpected collaboration with Queensryche vocalist Todd La Torre showcasing Drover’s return from his prog fusion Metalusion band/project and the more aggressive side of La Torre’s talents. The vast majority of Drover fans loved it. And while he was already committed to releasing a second full-on metal bloodletting, the success of “Discordia” served to strengthen his already ironclad resolve. He made certain his return to metal was a strong one with “Discordia”, and new song “Walls Of Blood” featuring Untimely Demise frontman Matt Cuthbertson is the face-ripping follow-up that stands to surpass its success.
“You know what? Not to sound ‘whatever’ about it, but I believe the same thing because of the strength of the song,” says Drover. “I’m really happy with it and excited to see how the people respond to it. You have to believe in your work before anyone else does, and there was lots of confidence and belief in ‘Walls Of Blood’ when we put it together.”
“I think it’s just the new mindframe I have right now,” he says of his full-on return to churning out his brand of metal mayhem. “Doing ‘Discordia’ with Todd gave me a clear picture of a path forward. It’s a lot less work doing a single rather than an album, obviously, but you put more focus on that particular song. ‘Discordia’ kind of wrote itself and things came together, so we put it out for fun.” Continue reading BraveWords Exclusive: GLEN DROVER’s New Single ‘Walls Of Blood’ Featuring UNTIMELY DEMISE Vocalist Unleashed
So, once again, a wrap-up of the Hots and Nots from the year gone by courtesy of my day job at BW&BK. The whole rundown of Brave Embarrassments, Best Concerts, assorted predictions and pleas to stop music industry stupidity can all be found here.
Below you’ll find my Top 10 list of favourite albums of 2013 and a long-winded summary of why the year didn’t suck for music… at least in my world.
Top Ten – 2013
1) ANNIHILATOR – Feast (UDR)
2) CHILDREN OF BODOM – Halo Of Blood (Nuclear Blast)
3) STRYPER – No More Hell To Pay (Frontiers)
4) QUEENSRŸCHE – s/t (Century Media)
5) HEADSTONES – Love & Fury (Universal/Frostbyte)
6) DUSKMACHINE – Duskmachine (Massacre)
7) THE NEW BLACK – III: Cut Loose (AFM)
8) JAMES LABRIE – Impermanent Resonance (InsideOut)
9) THRAWSUNBLAT – Wanderer On The Continent Of Saplings (Ignifera Records)
10) HELLOWEEN – Straight Out Of Hell (Sony)
Continue reading BW&BK 2013: The Scribes Speak – Carl Begai
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
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