JON OLIVA – Snapping Necks In KAMELOT

By Carl Begai

Kamelot’s new album, Poetry For The Poisoned, ranks as the darkest album of the band’s career thus far. Still heavy as a bag of hammers, they’ve succeeded in adding even more atmosphere to their music without – thankfully – going the beyond trendy symphonic route. Contributing to this new facet of the Kamelot sound are guest vocalists Simone Simons (Epica), Amanda Somerville (HDK, Kiske/Somerville) and Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) and guitarist Gus G. (Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne). Perhaps the most intense performance other than frontman Roy Khan, however, comes from Jon Oliva’s Pain singer and Savatage legend Jon Oliva. His lone appearance on the record is a theatrical show-stopper, with Oliva serving up a trademark shot of evil as only he can.

During an interview for BW&BK (found here), Kamelot guitarist Thomas Youngblood revealed how the band ended up bringing Oliva on board.

“We sent the text to Jon with the basic melody and he put his signature style on the phrasing. He’s such a cool guy. Having him on that song is surreal for me because I grew up watching Avatar, which of course became Savatage. We actually did a festival not too long ago with Jon Oliva’s Pain and we were headlining, which was weird (laughs). But that’s just the way the business part of this goes.”

“It’s very cool having Jon on the album, and it was actually a last minute thing where I thought ‘Hey, maybe I should ask Jon Oliva to do this…’ because the melody in the second verse just reminded me so much of Savatage. On the other hand, Roy didn’t grow up with Savatage as a kid – I think he was more of a Queensryche / A-Ha kind of guy as a kid – so it really was a fit of inspiration.” Continue reading JON OLIVA – Snapping Necks In KAMELOT

X JAPAN – Band Of The Rising Sons

By Carl Begai

I recently had the opportunity to interview X Japan drummer / co-founder Yoshiki as pre-promotion for the band’s current and first ever North American tour. Definitely a highlight for me – up there with interviewing Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Alice Cooper or the great Ronnie James Dio – and I came away from the chat suitably impressed by Yoshiki’s candor and grounded nature. Not at all what I expected from someone who can brag about 30 million units sold since the band’s ‘80s inception, is a media magnet in his native Japan, was preparing for a tour and fielding questions daily from North American press people that only recently learned of X Japan’s existence. I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years, making this discussion something special on a personal level.

The main interview appears via BW&BK here, following are some additional thoughts and revelations from Yoshiki:

With X Japan’s rise to fame in the ‘80s came the Visual Kei movement, inspired by the band’s over-the-top cyberpunk glam image that made acts like Poison look painfully bland in comparison. It was a trend restricted to the youth of Japan until Dir En Grey, sporting a similar albeit darker hair-and- make-up look, gained notoriety in Europe in 2005. Dir En Grey have since exploded in North America and Yoshiki is often credited with having discovered the band, but this isn’t exactly the case. His name is indeed linked to them, but he only played a brief part in their history. Continue reading X JAPAN – Band Of The Rising Sons

LIV KRISTINE – When Velvet Darkness Falls

By Carl Begai

Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull and I recently sat down to discuss her new solo album, Skintight. Towards the end of the interview (found here) I asked her for her thoughts on her former band Theatre Of Tragedy’s decision to call it quits after 17 years. Liv was an integral part of the band, and it’s fair to say they were one of the building blocks in my metal education. It’s sad to see them go, and I’m not the only one that thinks so.

“I received an invitation from the guys in Theatre Of Tragedy asking me if I wanted to make a guest appearance in Stavanger at their final gig on October 2nd,” Liv reveals. “I’ll be in the States on tour so there’s no way I can do it, which is a pity. My mother is going, though, and I’m still in touch with Raymond (Rohonyi / vocals) and Lorentz (Aspen / keyboards). We’ve talked about what happened between us and, well, it is what it is. You can’t change the past.”

“Without Theatre Of Tragedy I wouldn’t be where I am today. I learned a lot during those years. I founded the band with Raymond when I was 18 and we went on tour when I was 19. It was crazy, and what we learned and experienced in those years was fantastic. Continue reading LIV KRISTINE – When Velvet Darkness Falls

SOILWORK Guitarist Peter Wichers – Thinking Obsidian

By Carl Begai

During his departure-turned-hiatus from Soilwork between 2005 and 2008, guitarist Peter Wichers turned to production work and succeeded in carving out a lucrative new career. Having made his mark in 2008 with Nevermore frontman Warrel Dane’s first ever solo album, Praises To The War Machine, 2010 finds Wichers with two more critically acclaimed releases: Soilwork’s new record The Panic Broadcast and Nevermore’s surprising return to old form, The Obsidian Conspiracy. During our interview about The Panic Broadcast, he also discussed how he ended up working with Nevermore and his influences on their new record.

“The Obsidian Conspiracy was a great opportunity for me and I really enjoyed working with them,” says Wichers. “I didn’t know too much about them other than what I saw on Headbanger’s Ball when I was a teenager, but then we toured with them for A Predator’s Portrait. We learned so much from those guys and we stayed in touch, and the whole Nevermore thing came about because of Warrel’s solo record. I got involved with it, he asked me to write for it and was really happy with the end result, so I guess from that they decided to give me a shot with the new Nevermore record.” Continue reading SOILWORK Guitarist Peter Wichers – Thinking Obsidian

ARCH ENEMY – Chemistry Lessons

Sharlee D’Angelo recently sat down with me to discuss the new Witchery album, Witchkrieg, for BW&BK (found here). The interview eventually turned to focus on his main priority, Arch Enemy, who have spent the better part of the last year touring in support of their Root Of All Evil updated retrospective album. Given that it’s been three years since the band’s last all-original outing, Rise Of The Tyrant, the question was raised as to how long of a wait is in store for the next Arch Enemy studio record.

“It’s definitely in the planning stages” says D’Angelo. “It’s just that ever since we changed our whole organization a little bit, things are so much smoother and going so well now that we’re self-managed. So many offers have come in and we’ve been playing places we’ve never played before. It’s like, we’ve confirmed a show in the Maldive Islands this summer (laughs); things like that you can’t say no to. And there’s the mainland European festivals, of course. We’ve made a plan now, so shows after the tail end of November that we had scheduled, we scrapped all those so we can get into the fucking studio.”

The band isn’t necessarily ready to go with brand new material, however. It’s still very much a work in progress. Continue reading ARCH ENEMY – Chemistry Lessons

NUNO BETTENCOURT – Roadwork With Rihanna

By Carl Begai

Back in November 2009 Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt made the surprise announcement that he would be touring as a member of pop star Rihanna’s live band. It was coupled with the assurance that Extreme was still alive and well, he was just taking time out to do something a bit different. During a recent interview with Bettencourt about Extreme’s new live DVD, Take Us Alive, he discussed life as a session player for one of the world’s most popular popsters.

“That was one of those unexpected little things that happens,” Bettencourt says. “A friend of mine, Tony Bruno, called me up when Extreme was off the road and he told me that if I wasn’t doing anything, Rihanna was looking for a guitarist. He told me that before I said no – and I guess he figured I would because there isn’t really a lot of guitar in her songs – the idea was that she wanted to make the live show a bit heavier because she’s into bands like Linkin Park and stuff like that. She wanted somebody to make things rock a little bit, which meant that I would basically get to do what I do if I took the job. I thought it was really interesting to be able to play my style of guitar over her stuff, I thought it would be fun, so I went for it.” Continue reading NUNO BETTENCOURT – Roadwork With Rihanna

NEVERMORE – Temptation And A Tea Party

By Carl Begai

During my recent interview with Nevermore frontman Warrel Dane for the band’s new killer of an album, The Obsidian Conspiracy (found here) we discussed their latest round of cover songs that accompany the release as bonus tracks, ‘The Crystal Ship’ by The Doors and ‘Temptation’ by The Tea Party. The cover of ‘Temptation’ was of particular interest to me due to the fact that The Tea Party is a cult favourite in Canada and easily one of the most underrated bands in the world (in my humble opinion). Like Rush, they are revered at home to the point that Canadian citizens claiming not to like The Tea Party risk having their passports revoked.

“I would hope so,” laughs Dane. “It’s really weird that they were so fucking popular in Canada and Australia, but in the US they never hit. I have no idea why that is. Any of my friends that know me really well know that I worship that band. I’ve turned them all on to The Tea Party and they’re all like ‘Why isn’t this band fucking legendary?’ Well, they are, but they just don’t sell huge numbers of records.”

“I fucking love The Tea Party so much, but that’s actually not the song I wanted to do. I wanted to do ‘Transmission’ because that’s my favourite Tea Party song besides ‘Sister Awake’. It turned out good, though. The way we approach covers is normally deconstructing them and recreating them. That one is a little more straight ahead because the song didn’t call for something like the way we fucked up ‘The Sound Of Silence’.” Continue reading NEVERMORE – Temptation And A Tea Party

AVANTASIA – In Search Of Finitude With JON OLIVA

By Carl Begai

One of the strongest tracks on vocalist Tobias Sammet’s new Avantasia epic, The Wicked Symphony / Angel Of Babylon, is ‘Death is Just A Feeling’ featuring Jon Oliva’s Pain / Savatage frontman Jon Oliva. During my recent interview with Sammet about the new record(s) we discussed Oliva’s performance, which is essentially a bookend to Alice Cooper’s guest appearance on ‘The Toy Master’ from the previous Avantasia album, The Scarecrow.

“And that’s exactly what it is,” says Sammet. “Jon Oliva is the reincarnation of the Toy Master in the story. The funny thing is, when I initially wrote the song I had Alice Cooper on my mind but I didn’t think it worked to have the same singer play the re-incarnation of a character. I decided to bring a new colour into it but I needed someone that would suit the song just as well as Alice Cooper. The problem was there aren’t many people that sing in that theatrical, big cinematographic way… thank you Luca Turilli for that word (laughs). Jon Oliva has that kind of theatrical, dramatic voice. I was listening to the Streets album thinking about that and Sascha (Paeth / guitars, producer) wondered if Jon sounded too neat and too beautiful. He felt the voice needed to be more broken. I pointed out that Streets was 20 years old, and present day Jon Oliva sounds epic and dramatic. He’s got something tragic in the way he sings, very deep and meaningful.”
Continue reading AVANTASIA – In Search Of Finitude With JON OLIVA

BRIGHTON ROCK Meets WINTER ROSE – A Sign Of The Times…

Some more fun shit with one of my homeboys…

The last time I spoke with Fraze Gang frontman / Brighton Rock guitarist Greg Fraser – check out the interview here – we discussed Brighton Rock’s rise to popularity in Canada during the ’80s. They were an important part of the Toronto scene at the time, and easily one of the heaviest hair metal bands around in spite of their commercially accessible singles in regular rotation on MuchMusic and rock radio. Leaving their shows deaf was a common occurrence. I have a vivid memory of one particular show that took place at The Diamond in 1989 or 1990, which was simulcast on Q 107.1 and featured an up-and-coming local band called Winter Rose. It makes me wish digital technology had been alive and well back then, because Winter Rose featured none other than Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie and and guitarist-turned-producer / engineer Richard Chycki in their formative years.
Continue reading BRIGHTON ROCK Meets WINTER ROSE – A Sign Of The Times…

DANKO JONES And SEBASTIAN BACH – All The Way From Willowdale…

By Carl Begai

DankoYell2I recently caught up with Danko Jones to discuss his new album, Below The Belt, and because he and I both call Toronto home conversation invariably turned to Canadian metal – past and present – and growing up on the local scene back in the day. One topic of discussion was vocalist Sebastian Bach, easily the loudest personality of that era. Baz was also the man that put Skid Row on the map back in 1989 and took the band’s voice, face and fame with him when he got the boot in 1996. Danko, an admitted Bach fan, toured with him on the January 2010 Canadian leg of the current Guns N’ Roses tour, an experience he would be only too happy to repeat. He looks back on sharing the road with his fellow former Willowdale native… ironically, the same part of town where I grew up. It’s a small world.

Danko: “Growing up in Toronto and going to shows, my biggest goal was to play the Concert Hall because that where all the shows I went to were. That level of band to me was ‘You made it!’ If you could get on a tour and be the first of three bands on a night, you were in. I remember seeing Testament, Savatage and Nuclear Assault there; Nuclear Assault were first up and for me it was like ‘Aw man, they made it!’. So sometimes when we get on those tours where we’re first of three I have to remind myself that that’s what I wanted (laughs).”
Continue reading DANKO JONES And SEBASTIAN BACH – All The Way From Willowdale…