Helloween is one of the building blocks of my metal persona, and my permanent residency in the pumpkin patch truly started with “Save Us”. I have no idea why I missed out on Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part I, released in 1987 – because this love affair would have begun a year earlier – but I suspect it had to do with many (not all) European metal artists having limited exposure on the Canadian market if a major league label wasn’t involved. In any case, mega-hit “I Want Out” was making the rounds on Toronto’s / Canada’s video channels and pushed me to buy the album, but when Side 2 of the cassette I’d purchased for my car kicked in I was floored. “Eagle Fly Free” and “Dr. Stein” had impressed me, “I Want Out” was a no-brainer, but “Save Us”…. it grabbed me by the balls and wouldn’t let go.
The guitar shred was over the top – making me a Kai Hansen fan for life – and as a huge Queensrÿche fan who worshipped Geoff Tate as a vocal god thanks to Rage For Order and Operation: Mindcrime, hearing Michael Kiske storm in and lay waste to everything in his path with those high-end vocals was a religious experience. I still remember sitting in the Warden Woods parking lot after work with the song blasting from my pimped JBL speakers, thinking “Who the hell is Judas Priest?” And it’s mindblowing to hear Kiske sing just with just as much power if not more some 30 years later, with no loss of vocal range.
Interestingly, I found out only recently later that “Save Us” never appeared on the original vinyl LP release of Keeper II, but only on the CD version as a bonus track. It did, however, appear on the cassette tape version, which is odd but fortunate for me.
And, in 2016, Hansen performed the song live with Visions Of Atlantis singer Clémentine Delauney sharing lead vocals, and damn, they killed it. Unexpected, but brilliant.
Lauren Harris is known in music circles as the daughter of Iron Maiden bassist/founder Steve Harris first, and as a vocalist second. If she has her way that’ll change over the next year, and she’s off to a promising start
This interview never would have come to pass if it wasn’t for a tip from ex-Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young, who suggested checking out an indie band called Six Hour Sundown on YouTube during a weekly round of “Look what I found…” They came across as a better than average ‘80s-flavoured hair band for the modern day (minus the poofy hair), and the singer was a familiar face. Quick online investigation confirmed that it was indeed Lauren Harris front and center, but Six Hour Sundown’s appearance in the ring has been so low key that most of the initial attention received is the result of genuine curiosity rather than Iron Maiden family tree hype.
“It has been rather low key,” Harris agrees, “because we were doing the Maiden thing through 2008 and 2009, and there was a lot of hype around it at the time. I haven’t really been in the spotlight for the last couple years, and I’ve started up a new band using a new name rather than using my own name again. I’ve started from scratch, really.”
Most people would agree that dropping her own name in favour of Six Hour Sundown can only benefit Harris in the end. The move was made, she says, when her touring band fell apart.
“The first album was a solo thing, but when I was on the road with the guys it turned into more of a band. It was only natural for that to happen since we spent so much time together, and we really were like a family. You hear about some bands that just don’t get on, they’re not like real friends, but we were friends. But, because of other circumstances, it couldn’t continue. Randy (Gregg/bass) was in New York and we couldn’t keep flying him over to the UK because money was an issue. And with Richie (Faulkner/guitars), well, he went off and joined Judas Priest (laughs). Continue reading BW&BK Interview: LAUREN HARRIS – The Maiden, The Priest, And A SIX HOUR SUNDOWN
Ten years ago, if you’d told Obsession vocalist Michael Vescera he’d be in a band with Impellitteri guitarist Chris Impellitteri, ex-Whitesnake / ex-Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, and Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis, he likely wouldn’t have ruled out the possibility. With a career spanning 25 years that includes albums and tours with Loudness, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow, working with a line-up of all-star musicians would probably be viewed by Vescera as par for the course provided the planets aligned in his favour. Had you told him that he’d do so looking like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, he would have laughed in your face. And yet, these days Vescera finds himself fronting just such a band and having a truckload of fun doing so.
“When I was younger I wanted to be a member of KISS,” he laughs, “and now I’m at least getting to play dress-up for the stage.”
Animetal USA owes its existence to a concept established in Japan well over a decade ago. The original Animetal – fronted by Anthem vocalist Eizo Sakamoto and ex-Volcano guitarist She-ja – was launched in 1996, taking famous Japanese anime theme songs dating back to the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and turning them into metal anthems. Their debut album, Animetal Marathon, went on to sell 300,000 units in Japan. Animetal released seven albums along with several compilations before going on indefinite hiatus in 2006, and according to Japan-based Area51 guitarist Yoichiro Ishino the band received more attention from the anime scene than metal fans. As a result, Animetal charted several times, even hitting the Top 10.
“We appreciate the legacy of the original Animetal and what they accomplished,” says Vescera, well aware of the origin story. “We’re really just looking forward to the future with Animetal USA and hoping to bring it to the rest of the world, not just Japan. In most of the press we did in Japan, they truly appreciate us bringing Japanese culture and music to rest of the world. We’re all hoping for a long run with this.” Continue reading ANIMETAL USA – Saturday Morning Smackdown
With their comeback only two albums young – the decent enough Reborn (2005) and the superior Murder By Pride (2009) – news that Stryper were gearing up for a cover album seemed like a step backwards. A tracklist of done-to-death classic metal staples from the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Deep Purple made the band’s lack of inspiration all the more apparent, and tacking on a title that sounds like a 2-for-1 Wal-Mart housewares sale item did nothing to raise dangerously low expectations. A mere two songs in, however, and vocalist / guitarist Michael Sweet’s claims that they are paying tribute to the bands that molded and shaped the Stryper sound ring true. On 10. In fact, with the exception of a painfully dull rendition of Judas Priest’s ‘Breakin’ The Law’ – which falls as flat as the original studio version – The Covering is a romp that breathes new life into a metal history many of us take for granted.
Lead off scorcher ‘Set Me Free’, originally done by Sweet (the band, not the man), makes the Vince Neil / Steve Stevens version from Neil’s Exposed solo record (1993) pale in comparison – no easy task – served up fully loaded with guitar shred. The Scorpions’ ‘Blackout ‘ is delivered vocal warts and all, the arrangements for Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ are eyebrow-raising surprises in that they’re played straight yet loaded with elements (guitar leads, vocal harmonies) that are distinctly Stryper. Continue reading STRYPER – The Covering
German bashers Gamma Ray have a new album out called To The Metal! and I recently caught up with long time bassist Dirk Schlächter to talk about it. The main point of discussion was the lack of trademark speed and shred on the record in comparison to their previous outing, Land Of The Free II. Then there’s the even more pronounced than usual use of the tricks Judas Priest and Iron Maiden ever taught them. Read on…
Schlächter: “Yeah, there are some Priest-ish riffs in there and of course some Maiden-ish riffs, but things will always be like that with us. People criticize us for that but it’s just not possible to play this kind of music in E without being reminded of Iron Maiden. We’re tuned down to D now, which makes things sound a bit different, but if you play the chords E, D, and C – which they use in all combinations 10 times on every album – it will always remind you of part of a Maiden song. It’s not that we’re ripping something off from those bands, it’s just the shape of the music.”Continue reading BW&BK Interview: GAMMA RAY – The Metal In Your Head