Carl Begai

The Artists

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and forge relationships with some very talented musicians. I do what I can to draw attention to their work via BW&BK and Bravewords.com, but this website gives me the freedom to showcase and promote them as much as I want. That said, the following is a gallery of artists and all round beautiful people I’m proud to call my friends.

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scarletsinspromonewSCARLET SINS

I have five sisters; four of ‘em are in a band. Modern-edged metal that I’ve often described as Alice In Chains meets Black Sabbath, but they still have a sound all their own. One album out thus far, produced by none other than Richard Chycki, who is known for his work with artists such as Rush, Aerosmith, and Dream Theater’s James LaBrie. Currently unsigned, which to my mind is a huge oversight on the part of record labels everywhere, particularly since this is band that can actually play up a storm rather than just look pretty. I freely admit to being surprised by the caliber of their music the first time I heard it, and I’ve been a fanboy ever since. And yes, I’m always and shamelessly promoting them whenever I can. Deal with it.

Check the Archives section on this site for links to two separate BW&BK interviews. Seriously. Check them out. Now…

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hdk2HDK

After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans and vocalist Amanda Somerville, who is known for her work with Epica, Kamelot and Avantasia as well as a solo career geared in a more pop / rock / blues / new age direction, decided it would be a good idea to unleash some brutally heavy and downright entertaining Dutch / American thrash flavoured death metal. The most adventurous thing Gommans and Somerville have ever done up to this point. The HDK debut, System Overload, is available now through Season Of Mist. Check out ‘Pedestal’, ‘March’ and ‘Request’ for a kick in the teeth.

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profugussmall2BLACKGUARD

I have this thing for French Canadian bands (there’s Quebecoise blood in Scarlet Sins; go figure ;-)), and Blackguard are yet another example of an act from that part of my homeland that crushes the international competition. Pegged as extreme folk metal, both myself and the gentlemen from Kataklysm have been singing their praises for ages as the next Canuck act to take the world by storm. Hell, they wrote an official Canadian beer drinking song called ‘This Round’s On Me’. Nuclear Blast finally got their shit together and signed them for Europe. I love it when I can actually say “I told you so…”

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amanda2AMANDA SOMERVILLE

My beloved “aspiring metal bitch”… a term we agreed upon back in 2004 during our first interview. Quite possibly one of the most talented people I’ve ever met; she can quite literally sing ANY style of music… including full on death metal (although said brutal-is-beautiful recordings are under perpetual lock and eternal key). Her metal escapades include working and recording with Epica, Avantasia, Kamelot and HDK, while her solo material showcases a completely different side to her personality. Her latest solo album, Windows, will always be a guilty pleasure, but I have no problem letting people know it. As a fellow Ausländer lost in Germany (she’s from Michigan) Amanda also knows how to take care of her friends, having spoiled me on several occasions with high quality junk food from home…

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agonist1THE AGONIST

I have a confession to make. My first exposure to The Agonist – yet another gem out of Montreal – was a picture of vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, and between her very obvious female-ness accentuated by the blue highlighted hair and the lip piercing I figured the debut album, Once Only Imagined, would be some sympho-goth crap. Had I been paying attention I would have realized it was The Tempest under a new name, and the end result of this oversight was my jaw somewhere down around my toes and my eyebrows taking up residence on my scalp. The Agonist quickly became a fave, endearing themselves even more when Alissa turned out to be someone with a brain as well as an insane voice. New album Lullabyes For A Dormant Mind smokes the debut – said with all due respect to the creators – and features top shelf performances all around. High on my list of Must Have albums for the year.

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david2WOODS OF YPRES

The band that defines the term cult favourite. Unsigned, three albums to call their own, and the first band in history to sell their music for Canadian Tire money (!) as a bit of genius promo, Woods Of Ypres dish out atmospheric doom-laden Great White North-flavoured black metal. If ever there was a labour of love I figure Woods is the perfect example, as frontman David Gold has endured more than a few head-wrecking experiences along the way in creating this monster. He’s also responsible for penning an awesomel cautionary tale entitled ‘Your Ontario Town Is A Burial Ground’. Heavy and intense metal mindfood not meant for the faint of heart or the soft in the head.

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anna4ANNA PHOEBE

Never thought I’d be singing the praises of a violinist, but I’ve taken to referring to Anna as Apocalyptica’s little sister because she’s one of the minority of instrumentalists (guitarists included) that doesn’t bore me to tears. The violin is her voice, and she thinks in terms of traditional song structures when composing rather than mindless ego-stroking wankery. Her new album, Rise Of The Warrior, is a full-on metal production with Celtic tendencies, and definitely a far cry from the material she plays with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Anna has gained a reputation for her high energy live performances, making me think it would be nice to see her get out there and bring Rise Of The Warrior to the stage. I haven’t adopted any cool air violin moves yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time…

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cafferyCHRIS CAFFERY

From the man that penned the classic one line ode to Starbucks – “Five bucks a cup / What the fuck is up?” – Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery recently released his third official solo album, House Of Insanity. For my money it’s his strongest work to date in that he gives the hard core Sava-fans what they want without selling out on his original vision of creating his own sound. Nothing about the new album sounds like a compromise. As a vocalist Caffery is better than a lot of people give him credit for, having taken on a very raw Jon Oliva-type approach, and as a guitarist he shreds at a level that would do Megadeth proud. I find it mindblowing that a guy who has proven himself with a band like Savatage and was directly responsible for the creation of the legendary Doctor Butcher debut album is still treated like an underdog by a large portion of the metal community. For me, it’s been interesting hearing Caffery evolve since Savatage was put on ice, and even if/when a reunion comes our way I’ll still be looking forward to his next solo outing.

And yes, he does have some rather intense Criss Oliva moments (for those who know what I’m talking about). Listen carefully…

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frazegangcoverFRAZE GANG

Folks that know me will take one listen to this band and wonder what I’m on, because like Amanda Somerville’s solo material these guys don’t fit the metal-or-death profile I’ve crafted for myself. I freely admit to checking Fraze Gang out online during a fit of ’80s nostalgia based on the news that two of the band members were once (and as it turns out, continue to be) members of poofy-haired Canuck heroes Brighton Rock. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Fraze Gang didn’t go the commercial fluff route of Brighton Rock’s biggest hits. Instead, the self-titled debut hits that comfortable ’70s-flavoured rock vibe – sometimes heavy, sometimes not, sometimes Hendrix – out for a good time without spewing Loverboy cheese all over the place. One of the bands I’ve been watching not just because they’re from home, but because they make music for the right reasons: to have big dumb fun with it. Respect, especially in a day and age where mean and aggressive is the trend.

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mattkramer1MATT KRAMER

Once upon a time there was a band called Saigon Kick, a brilliant four-piece that deserved much better than what fate gave them. Vocalist Matt Kramer was the focal point for many fans, a charismatic and ultimately unique frontman who put in top-notch performances on the self-titled debut and the best album of their career, The Lizard (potentially one of the greatest rock/metal albums ever made, in my humble opinion). Kramer has worked on several projects since leaving the band in 1993, including a solo album entitled War & Peas and a book of poetry, An American Profit. I never get tired of listening to the aforementioned records, and I recommend War & Peas to anyone with a taste for taste for edgy ’70s vibe David Bowie-flavoured psychedelic grit rock… a description that doesn’t do the album justice. As for early Saigon Kick, the material is worthy of a genre all its own. I’m not alone in my thinking, probably due to the fact that when Kramer and Saigon Kick surfaced in 1991 they didn’t sound like anyone else, nor did they try to latch onto a trend or style to suit the masses. And according to bandmate/drummer Phil Varone, a kid by the name of Brian Warner learned a lot of what he knows about commanding a stage while hanging around the rehearsal space, watching and emulating Kramer. Warner would, of course, go on to become Marilyn Manson.

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bobnoxious2BOBNOXIOUS

Razor frontman Bob Reid’s party band, Bobnoxious is both loved and loathed in Canada because they sing songs about drinking, smoking, fucking, and ending up in the doghouse because you pissed the woman off yet again. Bobnoxious ain’t brain surgery, and as much as Reid loves going out and thrashing up a storm with Razor he enjoys strapping on a guitar and raising hell in Budweiser-fuelled Motörhead fashion (I’ll forgive his taste in beer out of respect for the music ;-)). Three albums in and Bobnoxious haven’t lost touch with their straight up rock and old school metal roots. Reid still has one of the strongest and most underrated voices in metal, and even though some of the band’s material is too light for me to take even remotely seriously the heavier songs – and there’s abundance of ‘em – make up for it. Pull-your-pants-down-and-party metal for discerning fans of loud tunes, loads of beer, and a potential visit from the cops at 3:00am.

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