By Carl Begai
In 2011, Iced Earth said goodbye to fan-favoured vocalist Matt Barlow (again). A potentially disastrous situation for a band that had clawed and carved its way to something pretty damn close to the top over two decades, but they were given a second chance (again) with the entrance of Into Eternity frontman Stu Block. His Iced Earth debut album, Dystopia, went over a storm compared to its cold and dense predecessors – Framing Armageddon (’07), The Crucible Of Man (’08) – and the world tour that followed cemented Block’s position as the band’s singer. Iced Earth’s new album, Plagues Of Babylon, doesn’t exactly pick up where Dystopia left off in that it comes off as darker and more aggressive – and hell, more epic – but it most certainly matches Dystopia for intensity and being a solid no-bull fan friendly package.
“Sometimes you hit things right on the mark for the fanbase, other times you do what you feel like as an artist as much as for the fans,” says guitarist/founder Jon Schaffer. “I don’t think it’s a contrived thing. This album is a little bit more epic compared to Dystopia, but the writing period was the same length as it was for Dystopia. I was going through a very difficult time in my personal life and a lot of shit happened, but somehow I was able to put together a really strong record in spite of everything that was going on. With Dystopia, I just felt that was the way to go and I don’t think Plagues Of Babylon is too far from that direction. I think Plagues Of Babylon has a couple more songs that are a bit more epic in terms of the writing, sure, but we stayed on the course set with Dystopia.”
“I produced this album, and one of the things I wanted to do was make it heavier and give it a live feel,” he continues. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t over-produced. I got really good takes out of everybody but I wasn’t so anal as to make sure that everything was 100% perfectly in tune and perfectly on time. That’s a trap you fall into as a producer. I wanted to capture the essence and energy of a band that’s been touring its ass off and I think I accomplished that.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: ICED EARTH – New Days Of Rage
The tribute album dedicated to Woods Of Ypres frontman David Gold – who passed away in December 2011 – entitled A Heart Of Gold: Tribute To Woods Of Ypres, is now available for digital download via Bandcamp.com at this location.
Fans can purchase a CD hard copy of the album by sending $20 via PayPal with your name, mailing address and email to DavidGoldTribute@gmail.com.
The confirmed tracklist is as follows:
‘Thrill Of The Struggle’ – Catuvolcus
‘Adora Vivos’ – Raphael from Musk Ox
‘Lightning And Snow’ – Earthen
‘Falling Apart’ – Canopy
‘A Meeting Place And Time’ – Panzerfaust
‘Finality’ – Kuhrzarth
‘The Sun Was In My Eyes’ – Anemic
‘Retrosleep In The Morning Calm’ – Albireon
‘Suicide Cargoload’ (live) – Gypsy Chief Goliath
‘Career Suicide’ – Reliquis
Continue reading WOODS OF YPRES – A Heart Of Gold Tribute Album Officially Released
So, me and my extended BW&BK family have issued our individual Best Of 2012 lists because that’s the sort of thing you do in this biz as the new year kicks off. I’ve decided to post my long-winded overview of the last 12 months here, with a link provided leading to my Top 10 Albums list along with other honourable (and dishonourable) mentions…
It was a rollercoaster of a year, as they all are in the music biz.
From being blindsided by Halestorm’s new album The Strange Case Of… and becoming a fan against my will, to dealing with a fuckwit promo rep at Roadrunner Records who decided to change my questions in an email interview because she felt they were “too harsh” for her artist (um, shouldn’t that be for the artist to decide?), to bucket list interviews with Brighton Rock’s Gerry McGhee and the lovely Lita Ford, to witnessing some amazing shows on both sides of the pond, 2012 has been quite the adventure.
See the list here for the Hot and Not albums of my year, then pick apart my sanity at your leisure.
Gotta say that I was surprised at not being disappointed by any of the shows I was able to attend this year. The third annual European run of Rock Meets Classic featuring Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Steve Lukather (Toto), Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), three-fifths of Primal Fear’s roster and Trillium vocalist Amanda Somerville was positively brilliant, with PF singer Ralf Scheepers going above and beyond lending his voice to the Toto hit ‘Rosanna’ (!). Watching Devin Townsend successfully manipulate a Motörhead crowd into doing his bidding was a gut-buster, seeing former Helloween members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen on stage together with Unisonic belting out classics ‘I Want Out’ and ‘Future World’ was ’87 surreal, and the Leaves’ Eyes / Firewind tour that looked so weird on paper turned out to be one of the best gigs of the past 12 months.
Nightwish gets a scrapbook all its own due to a brilliant show in Nuremberg – featuring more pyro than the sun – and a day and night hanging with some of the finest people in the metal business. Continue reading BW&BK 2012: The Scribes Speak Day 3 – Carl Begai
By Carl Begai
It takes remarkable strength of character to throw yourself to the wolves knowing you’re going to get bitten and potentially ripped to shreds. So it goes that, regardless of what Into Eternity fans may think of vocalist Amanda Kiernan stepping in to replace Stu Block – now a member of Iced Earth – for the band’s live activities, they have to respect her for willingly putting herself in harm’s way. It turns out that Kiernan had made more friends than enemies amongst Into Eternity fans even as they mourn Block’s absence, the majority of fans willingly giving her the benefit of the doubt. It’s anybody’s guess how the future will play out now that the band essentially has two singers and Block’s Iced Earth career has exploded, but the bottom line is that Kiernan is committed to shedding even more blood, sweat and tears in order to make things work.
Her journey began in November 2011 when Into Eternity put out the call for a “touring only” singer. She jumped in with both feet.
“I found out about the audition and called (Into Eternity drummer) Brian Newbury right away,” Kiernan says. “I just wanted to push myself to the top and prove to myself and others that I can actually do this, and that there are no limitations. After I called him we both went to my studio and spent two days recording the audition songs that Tim (Roth/guitars, founder) wanted me to do.”
Roth recalls the events leading up to having to place the ad that eventually snared Kiernan…
“We (the band) were rehearsing on a Friday, and after a whole weekend of rehearsals Stu hit me with the news that he’d joined Iced Earth. And then he hit me with a CD of him singing some new Iced Earth stuff. So not only did he tell me, he showed me some of the material they’d already recorded. I was just floored. Stu and I are best friends, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, so it makes sense that someone would come in and invite Stu to join their band. Jon Schaffer (guitars) knows talent, I know talent, and Stu has always been that shining diamond in the rough. When I’d seen him in his previous band he really impressed me. I knew I had to have a guy with his kind of vocals in Into Eternity.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: INTO ETERNITY – Rebuild To Remain
Your semi-regular update on Maple metal and associated rock continues…
Toronto rocker Danko Jones is gearing up for the release of a new DVD entitled Bring On The Mountain. The package features a documentary on the band spanning the early years all the way up to the present day, 14 live performances, and a whopping 19 (!!) official video clips. This one’s a keeper for the diehard fans, and for the diehard fans that pre-order (shipping date is June 13th) a free 10 minute preview is available online. Go to the band’s official website here for pre-order details and DVD formats. A three-minute documentary trailer can be found here.
French Canadian unsigned progsters Southern Cross are currently one of the featured artists on the BW&BK website, in support of their new album From Tragedy. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with frontman David Lizotte – story can be found here – an assignment I took on because I actually enjoy the new record. Song-oriented prog-metal is hard to come by, and it’s rarer still to find a band of this kind penning songs of the foot-stomping kind (see ‘Tightrope’). Fans of Ayreon, Pain Of Salvation and Parallells-era Fates Warning would do well to check them out.
My review of From Tragedy can be found here. Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – May 2012: DANKO JONES, SOUTHERN CROSS, THE ORDER OF CHAOS, And HAIL THE VILLAIN Vocalist Bryan Crouch Returns With SIX SIDE DIE
By Carl Begai
It takes remarkable strength of character to throw yourself to the wolves knowing you’re going to get bitten and potentially ripped to shreds. So it goes that, regardless of what Into Eternity fans may think of vocalist Amanda Kiernan stepping in to replace Stu Block – now a member of Iced Earth – for the band’s live activities, they have to respect her for willingly putting herself in harm’s way. With a few gigs under her belt at the time of this writing, Kiernan had made more friends than enemies amongst Into Eternity fans even as they mourned Block’s absence, the majority seemingly able to give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s anybody’s guess how the future will play out now that the band essentially has two singers and Block’s Iced Earth career has exploded, but the bottom line is that Kiernan is committed to shedding even more blood, sweat and tears to make things work.
Kiernan’s journey began in November 2011 when Into Eternity put out the call for a “touring only” singer. She jumped in with both feet.
“I found out about the audition and called (Into Eternity drummer) Brian Newbury right away,” Kiernan says. “I just wanted to push myself to the top and prove to myself and others that I can actually do this, and that there are no limitations. After I called him we both went to my studio and spent two days recording the audition songs that Tim Roth (guitars / founder) wanted me to do.” Continue reading INTO ETERNITY – Amanda Kiernan: When Opportunity Knocks…
By Carl Begai
When word came down in March 2011 that Canadian bashers Into Eternity’s vocalist Stu Block had replaced Matt Barlow as the singer for Iced Earth, it caused major confusion amongst fans in both camps. Iced Earth followers that were aware of Block’s shriek-and-growl style were convinced guitarist / founder Jon Schaffer had lost his mind, while Into Eternity fans were left wondering if the band had a future without Block’s unique vocal talents. Both he and guitarist Tim Roth have maintained that Block is still with Into Eternity – a claim that rang true with the recent release of the single ‘Fukushima’ – but news that The Order Of Chaos singer Amanda Kiernan had been brought in as Block’s live replacement so the band can tour served up another barrage of questions. With that in mind, Roth was happy to hook up and set the record straight.
“We were rehearsing on a Friday, and after a whole weekend of rehearsals he hit me with the news that he’d joined Iced Earth,” Roth recalls when asked how Block broke the news of getting the gig. “And then he hit me with a CD of him singing some new Iced Earth stuff. So not only did he tell me, he showed me some of the material they’d already recorded. I was just floored. Stu and I are best friends, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, so it makes sense that someone would come in and invite Stu to join their band. Jon Schaffer knows talent, I know talent, and Stu has always been that shining diamond in the rough. When I’d seen him in his previous band he really impressed me. I knew I had to have a guy with his kind of vocals in Into Eternity.” Continue reading INTO ETERNITY – Tim Roth: Keeping It Real
Welcome, Canuckleheads! Time for an update…
Folks may remember Dream Theater frontman James LaBrie decapitating diehard prog-metal fans in 2010 with his fourth solo album, Static Impulse. It was anything but a continuation of his better-than-DT Elements Of Persuasion record, smacking people upside the head instead with the most aggressive music of his career, complete with death metal vocals (supplied by Darkane drummer Peter Wildoer). Attention Deficit Delirium’s Bryan Reesman recently caught up with LaBrie, who offered some insight on his next solo album, which is currently in the works:
“Right now, Matt (Guillory / keyboards), I and the other guys are writing. We’re about halfway through. I would say our main focus is that we want to raise the bar as far as the actual song compositions, so with the arrangements we want to see if we can better ourselves first and foremost. As far as the elements that we want to include or implement into the music, a lot of those elements will be familiar because we want to keep it consistent. It has to make sense and have a sense of continuity from where we left off, but there are some things that we’re talking about we want to bring in that will bring in some intriguing kind of sonics to give it its own identity.”
The complete interview can be found here.
Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – March 2012: JAMES LaBRIE, INTO ETERNITY, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD, And COAL CHAMBER’s New Bassist CHELA RHEA HARPER In The Spotlight With SARASVATI
By Carl Begai
Vancouver-born Stu Block made a name for himself in 2006 as the new singer for Into Eternity, adding a welcome new dynamic to the band’s established extreme prog metal sound on The Scattering Of Ashes. In 2008 the band released a follow-up, The Incurable Tragedy, which cemented Block’s reputation as one of metal’s most versatile (and severely underrated) vocalists. Iced Earth founder/guitarist Jon Schaffer was paying attention, however, and when it was confirmed that fan-favoured singer Matt Barlow would be calling it quits, he followed through on a third party recommendation and brought Block in to fill the vacant slot. The end result is somewhat mind-boggling for those that are familiar with Block’s Into Eternity brand of shred and Iced Earth’s traditional metal sound; he fits the songs on the new album like a glove, bringing an intensity to the new songs that Barlow hadn’t exhibited in ages and Tim “Ripper” Owens never had. It’s fair to say Dystopia may well be Iced Earth’s strongest album in over a decade.
“Joining the band, it felt like I’d won the lottery,” laughs Block, an admission some Into Eternity diehards may take exception to. “Really, there was a feeling of validation. Joining Iced Earth is a huge opportunity, so I was feeling a mix of pure joy, excitement, and being scared shitless (laughs).”
For the serious musician with leanings towards the old school, accepting an invitation to join a band with Iced Earth’s credentials would be a no-brainer. Take a moment to look at the big picture, however, and you see the mountain of responsibility Block had to consider before accepting Schaffer’s offer.
“There are certain factors in my life where it was sort of a tough decision,” Block admits, “but I knew in the back of my mind that it was a no-brainer. My mom is dealing with some stuff right now, and I’m going to be on the road, but you can’t live your life being held back. Anyone can find an excuse not to do something. I know this will be a life changing experience, I’m going to be away from my home and my fiancée for months on end, but I have a such a great support system in my family that everyone including my mother is encouraging me to do this. They told me I’d be a fool if I didn’t do it and I agreed wholeheartedly. I try to keep a positive attitude towards the whole thing, knowing what I’ve gotten myself into. In the back of my mind it was a definite yes.” Continue reading ICED EARTH – Long Live Block N’ Roll