I have a vivid memory of driving down Victoria Park Ave. in Toronto with former M.E.A.T Magazine colleagues Drew Masters and Adrian Bromley, with Masters taunting us with a game of “Name That Singer” as he gleefully seared our eardrums with the newest promo CD in his disc-changer. Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit I couldn’t even figure out who the band was even though the shred and clatter of the music was so obviously Voivodian (read: very Canadian, like beer and hockey). Continue reading Retro Fit: VOIVOD – Negatron (1995)
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
Yeah, I confess, I was one of the sheep that helped this album go platinum. Listening to it now, I realize I’ve become a metalhead of discerning taste over the past 23 years, and it boggles the mind to think I used to wade through this record (or the cassette in my car) to get to the good stuff. Probably had something to do with the fact that To Hell With The Devil’s predecessor, Soldiers Under Command, offered up a wealth of crushing guitars and introduced me to oft-overlooked vocalist Michael Sweet. Call it a sign of the times, but with the rise of Poison and related Max Factor-sponsored bands, To Hell With The Devil was a polished God Glam record that alternated between a balls-out metal, prissy melodic rock, and two of the worst, cheesiest, (insert derogatory comment here)-est, pre-Dirty Dancing soundtrack ballads ever written. Ever. Continue reading Retro Fit: STRYPER – To Hell With The Devil (1986)
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…
Their third album, easily the best of the four studio records that have come out under the Britny Fox moniker. It featured new vocalist Tommy Paris in place of Tom Keifer wannabe Dean Davidson, giving the band a huge set of balls… something they had been lacking since day one. Totally underrated in spite of the fact it’s a four chord album – hell, if it works for Maiden, why not here? – this is probably one of the last “anthem” hair band records to come out before Cobain and grunge fucked everyone blind for most of the decade. Gorgeous guitar tones and solos for miles, amazing voice, some very cool riffs (and a guest spot by Zakk Wylde), this is one of those better than average cock rock albums I’m actually not ashamed to admit I like. Great driving music as I recall…
Fave tracks: ‘Louder’, ‘Six Guns Loaded’, ‘Black And White’, ‘Over And Out’, ‘Liar’.
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
I’ve updated The BW&BK Archives with some pretty cool stories (if I do say so myself) featuring BIF NAKED, Phil Collen from DEF LEPPARD, LOUDNESS, and an exclusive head to head to head chat with NIGHTWISH founder Tuomas Holpainen and SONATA ARCTICA frontman Tony Kakko conducted during the Once tour in 2004. Finally, my book Fire And Fame is now available for purchase in The Books section. Hit the link for details.
I recently spoke with EDGUY frontman Tobias Sammet about the band’s new album, Tinnitus Sanctus. A brief excerpt is available below:
Sammet: “I can’t speak for everybody in the band, but I got sick of that ‘high velocity at any price’ approach. If you really have to say something at that speed, like in ‘Speedhoven’ for example, then it’s fine because it’s supposed to be fast, but I really don’t want people telling me what to do. I’m not going to record a fast song just for the sake of recording a fast song. That doesn’t make sense, and to me the mid-paced songs give you many more opportunities to put energy, melody and atmosphere into them. The music breathes so much more, and that makes it much easier to give the song a heart and soul. There are so many power metal bands playing fast songs and one song sounds like the other, and quite often I get the impression that those songs are being created from a blueprint.”
Go to this location for the complete interview.