By Carl Begai
Carmen Elise Espenaes used to be known as the younger sister of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine first and the singer of Midnattsol second. That started to change at the beginning of 2008 with the release of Midnattsol’s second album, Nordlys, an unexpectedly ballsy outing leaps and bounds ahead of their 2005 debut in every way. Affectionately referred to by some as having an Amorphis-meets-Iron Maiden sound, Nordlys took the folk metal direction established on Midnattsol’s first record, Where Twilight Dwells, and turned it on its ear. The band was bent on making an impact. More progressive and traditional metal elements, most certainly heavier, better produced, the album showcased a band interested anything but settling for comfortable half-measures. Capping it off was Espenaes’ multi-facetted vocal performance, so strong that one had to wonder where Midnattsol had found their new singer and why she was using the old one’s name. Once perceived as delicate and waif-like, perhaps even insecure in her role fronting a metal band, Espenaes blew the doors off on Nordlys like a seasoned professional. A development that could be seen as well as heard over the course of the select number of shows Midnallsol was able to put in over the past year.
Continue reading MIDNATTSOL – Out Of The Dark
By Carl Begai
So, what’s it like having Ronnie James Dio fronting Candlemass?
A question posed by yours truly to bassist/founder Leif Edling on the heels of hearing Candlemass’ new album, Death Magic Doom, for the first time. All in good fun, and meant as a compliment to “new” frontman Robert Lowe and the material he’s given voice to on his second record with the band. Lowe’s voice and Dio’s are indeed similar, making the comparisons to Black Sabbath that have been following Candlemass around seemingly since their inception that much more fitting. Nobody is complaining, however, especially not Edling
“It’s fantastic,” he laughs. “Have you heard his version of ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’? I was gobsmacked when I heard it. He sounds amazing. Dio is Rob’s favourite singer, so now we’re talking about doing ‘Kill The King’…”
Continue reading CANDLEMASS – Doomed If You Do, Damned If You Don’t
As the title says, there are a few interviews up on the BW&BK site penned by Yers Trooly. Click the links below to check them out.
THE AGONIST – Hush Little Baby, I Don’t Hear A Word
STUCK MOJO – Revival Of The Fittest
KREATOR – “Hail Moses!”
In a recent interview with BW&BK, Savatage / Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Chris Caffery revealed that when it came time to work on a new solo album he committed himself to doing it on his own. As in locking himself away from the world in the name of his music for months at a time, surfacing occasionally for a dose of sunlight and to conscript a select few musician friends to fill in the blanks as needed. Once the material for the aptly named House Of Insanity had been hammered into a shape he was happy with, Caffery was left with the problem of mastering the record; a potentially monstrous task in its own right. Rather than take it on alone as well he turned to a member of his extended Savatage family, Jon Oliva’s Pain drummer Chris Kinder, both to preserve his sanity and to ensure a quality album. Caffery has gone on record as saying Kinder brought the songs on House Of Insanity together, citing the drummer’s production work with JOP as more than enough proof he was the right man for the job. Kinder is likewise pleased with the end result and considers the album yet another important step in his development as a producer and, ultimately, a musician.
Continue reading JON OLIVA’S PAIN Drummer CHRIS KINDER Enters The House Of Insanity
I recently spoke with Toronto’s own Danko Jones for his new B-Sides compilation album, a discussion which quite naturally involved talk about girls and touring with MOTÖRHEAD. An excerpt is available below.
Danko: “I recently bumped into an old high school buddy of mine that I haven’t seen since then, and he was out with a date. We started talking about old times, and then I looked at his date and she seemed familiar, so I asked if we knew each other. She said we knew each other from the early days, and then asked me what I was up to and if the band was still around. That’s when it hit me; it’s been so long that you’d think we wouldn’t be around anymore. I kinda got my back up, told her ‘Yeah, uh, we just got off tour with Motorhead.’ She did one of those ‘Ohmygawd, rilly?’ routines (laughs). It was pretty cool, especially since I did it in front of an old high school buddy. It’s true, though. Bands aren’t supposed to be around for 13 years or even ten years. I really do look back and go, ‘Fuck, this is wild.’”
Go to this location for the complete interview.
By Carl Begai
Just as Canadians have been pegged by the world at large as being nice and polite in any given situation no matter how dramatic or off-putting (no, we are fucking not), Japanese metal fans have been saddled with the reputation of being reserved and disciplined to a fault regardless of how intense a band might be on stage. Arch Enemy’s latest DVD, Tyrants Of The Rising Sun, rips this myth to shreds. Perhaps it was due to the cameras set up on the night, or maybe it’s because Japan has become Arch Enemy’s home turf in a bizarre trans-continental way, but the audience that the band plays host to on this latest live retrospective was anything but sedate. Like the fans in North America and Europe – perhaps even more so – the Japanese legion hang on every word and every note as the gig plays out, breaking into song and applause when instructed, unleashing soccer chants and circle pits as the music and atmosphere dictate. No question, Japan’s metal fans can wear Arch Enemy’s trademark “Pure Fucking Metal” shirts with pride.
Continue reading ARCH ENEMY – Soccer Chants And Circle Pits
Part 2 of my 2005 coverage of SAIGON KICK drummer Phil Varone’s fall-from-grace documentary Waking Up Dead featuring an interview with the man himself, originally published by BW&BK. Call it a dose of “rock star” reality…
Phil Varone entered the heavy metal arena in 1991 with Saigon Kick, a little known band from Florida that would go on to become a cult favourite on the metal scene before imploding in the mid-90’s. Varone would take part in a Saigon Kick reunion tour in 2000 – reportedly where his troubles with drugs began in earnest – and would eventually resurface with Skid Row, going on to record on their comeback album, Thickskin, in 2003. The tour that followed and the addictions that went with it ultimately brought Varone crashing to earth. He’s clean now, however, focusing on his second chance at life.
“I’ve been off drugs for a while now,” Varone says. “I go to my cardiologist regularly, I go the gym six days a week, I have a trainer, so I’ve really done a 180 with my life and I feel great. I’ve never felt better, to be quite honest with you.”
According to Varone, it took leaving Skid Row and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle behind to bring about the change in his lifestyle.
“Basically, my doctor said that if I went back out on the road I was going to die” he reveals. “I made the decision at that point to quit what I was doing and clean up. I went through some mild heart attack situations on the road that we actually have on tape, got close to overdosing a couple times, all that shit. Bottom line is that the music industry and being on the road exposed me to a lot of things. My decision to stop touring was for health reasons, and because I also have children that I need to take care of, to be around. When we decided to do this movie and we had all this interest in it, I saw that I could help people with it. Waking Up Dead is part of my rehabilitation.” Continue reading Waking Up Dead – Interview From 2005 With SAIGON KICK Drummer Phil Varone
By Carl Begai
Suffering from what has been documented as “stress-related burnout”, After Forever guitarist/co-founder Sander Gommans’ condition put the band on forced hiatus for the duration of 2008. The downtime gave the band members an opportunity to explore other musical ventures, and for Gommans it meant taking a serious stab at bringing his long-fermenting side-project HDK to life. Initially meant as a lighthearted showcase of his heavier side – the Hate Death Kill moniker is an intentional metal cliché – he decided prior to the break that the material was strong enough to be taken far more seriously. Calling on pop rock / temporary Epica vocalist Amanda Somerville, who had collaborated with After Forever several times in the studio, for her assistance, the pair settled in to create what is by far the most brutal piece of work in their respective catalogues. Sadly, the release of the HDK debut, System Overload, was punctuated by the announcement that After Forever had decided to call it quits. Rather than look back Gommans has chosen to push forward by starting a new chapter in his musical career; one that starts on an unexpectedly brutal note.
Continue reading HDK – “Hit The Pavement!”
Back in 2005 former Saigon Kick / Skid Row drummer Phil Varone released a DVD entitled Waking Up Dead, which documents his rise to fame and eventual fall from grace due to substance abuse. Filmed by Emmy Award winning journalist and film maker Fabio Jafet over a four year period, it offers a brutal look at the realties of the music business, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s ever had the whole fame and fortune dream (view a clip here). Thanks to Matt Kramer, the vocalist of Saigon Kick, I was able to set up interviews with both Varone and Jafet to discuss the project, and both pieces were published by BW&BK in 2005. I watched the movie again today and decided to resurrect the interviews now that I have this page to do my bidding.
The first interview features my discussion with Jafet. Remember, this is was back in 2005 so the timelines might be a tad off…
Continue reading Waking Up Dead — Interviews From 2005 With SAIGON KICK Drummer Phil Varone And Emmy Award Winning Director Fabio Jafet
THE NEW BLACK – How To Love Your Liver
By Carl Begai
Guitarist Christof Leim was two for two in 2008, cranking out a new Sinner album (Crash & Burn) to rave reviews and launching new street level dirt metal outfit The New Black to equal amounts of high praise. A big change from his one album stint with The Traceelords (The Ali Of Rock – 2006), a band that couldn’t decide if it was metal, rock, or full-on sugar pop and eventually imploded. And while Sinner’s success was assured with Crash & Burn’s return to the band’s rock roots, The New Black was a gamble. Leim had no expectations going in save that the music would better reflect who he is as a musician, making the positive reactions to their demo material and resulting record deal with AFM Records that much sweeter.
“The New Black started before I joined Sinner, and it was one of the good things in life that got the ball rolling: binge drinking,” Leim reveals. “Fabs (Schwarz/guitars) and me attended the Earthshaker Festival in 2006, and we watched the show by a headliner that I won’t mention because they sucked (Lordi), then hit the caiparinha booth. I told him that I had a lot of heavy riffs sitting around that I couldn’t use in The Traceelords because they didn’t fit. Basically, they were a bunch Black Label Society-type riffs. Fabs and I got along great, so the only logical conclusion was that we should form a new band. We got shitfaced and the question came up; ‘So, when should we start this new band?’ Answer: ‘I don’t know, what time is it? 10:45pm? Okay, we’ll start it at 11:00pm…’ (laughs). Fabs is a real musician, not just a rocker, so I sent him three song ideas, and a couple weeks after the festival we were at a party and he pulled out a CD with three songs on it. From there things moved along really quickly.”
Continue reading THE NEW BLACK – How To Love Your Liver