NIGHTWISH – One Night In Denver With ELIZE RYD: “It Was A Very Magical Atmosphere”

By Carl Begai

On September 28th, 2012 in Denver, Colorado fans of Finnish bashers Nightwish witnessed something special at the Ogden Theater. So special, in fact, that if everyone who claims they attended the show was actually there the venue would have literally burst at the seams.

To recap, now ex-Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon fell seriously ill prior to the show and was hospitalized. Her bandmates had the difficult task of choosing between cancelling the gig and going ahead with support band Kamelot’s backing vocalists Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist) in Olzon’s place. With the audience’s blessing they chose the latter, resulting an unforgettable and historic show. Elize, Alissa and Nightwish were applauded for their efforts by seemingly everyone except Olzon, who made her rather ungrateful opinions known the next day via an online post. A few days later – October 1st, 2012 – Olzon was officially given the boot and the tour continued with ReVamp / ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen fronting the band.

Elize 2

During a BW&BK interview (found here) for Amaranthe’s new album, The Nexus, Elize discussed the unexpected once in a lifetime experience. Note that we kept any behind-the-scenes dirt regarding the disintegration between Nightwish and Anette out of the conversation, so if you’re a tabloid drama junkie you’ll be disappointed by what you’re about to read.

“It was a very special thing,” Elize says of the night. “I love Nightwish and I’ve sung their songs many times for myself (laughs). When you’re on tour you’re in a little bubble, so you don’t really think too much about what’s happening outside that bubble. They asked me if I would be willing to sing for them that night, and we decided that if the audience agreed it was okay for them that I sing, of course I was going to help Nightwish out so they could do the show. At least with some singing so they wouldn’t have to do it all instrumental.” Continue reading NIGHTWISH – One Night In Denver With ELIZE RYD: “It Was A Very Magical Atmosphere”

BW&BK Interview: STRATOVARIUS – Visions In My Head

By Carl Begai

During the last half of the ’90s, Stratovarius ruled the roost when it came to top-notch A-game power metal. Over the course of three albums in three years – Episode (’96), Visions (’97) and Destiny (’98) – the band set a standard that was hard to match. Guitarist Timo Tolkki was elevated to the status of guitar god, new vocalist Timo Kotipelto (as of ’95) cemented his position as the band’s frontman in spite of initial fan misgivings, and the quintet was deemed pretty much unstoppable. That wasn’t the case, and Stratovarius’ fall from grace in the years that followed was well documented, with the brakes finally being applied to halt complete self-destruction when Tolkki departed once and for all in 2008. Three albums into what has been touted since 2009 as a fresh start with axe-monster Matias Kupiainen in Tolkki’s place and the band have hit one out of the park with new album, Nemesis. It’s a record based on change of a tried and true formula, and nobody – not even vocalist Timo Kotipelto – could have predicted the wave after wave of positive feedback that’s come down since the press got a hold of it.

Stratovarius 1_1

“The reactions haven’t been like this in about 12 or 15 years,” says Kotipelto. “I’m always excited about releasing a new album when it’s done, of course, but this time it feels like a fresh new start. Not just because we have a new drummer (Rolf Pilve) but because things also clicked together in a good way.”

Which is a huge understatement to the ears of anyone that has followed Stratovarius since the ’90s. Kotipelto is hard pressed to identify what it was about the creative process this time out that coughed up a record worthy of their late ’90s run.

“When I had the demos there weren’t any vocals, just guitar melodies or weird keyboard melodies from Jens (Johansson). At that stage it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be a good song or not. I can recognize of there’s a melody in there that makes some sense that I can work with, but it can be difficult. Especially with Matias’ songs because he doesn’t compose with vocals and lyrics in mind; a lot of the time I end up thinking ‘What the fuck is this…’ when I hear his stuff (laughs). And sometimes when we’re recording Matias sometimes suggests we change things about the vocals because he has a vision in his head of what he wants. We give each other feedback in the studio, and it really works. When Jens composes he has a more melodic approach from a singer’s perspective, and I guess that’s because we’ve been in the band together for so long. For the last couple albums we made demos and Matias mixed them in the studio so we could hear how the songs would sound. They weren’t perfect but they gave us a better picture of where we were going. Of course, by the time I get to do my vocals two or three months have passed and the songs have changed a bit.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: STRATOVARIUS – Visions In My Head

BW&BK 2012: The Scribes Speak Day 3 – Carl Begai

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

BW&BK Interview: KAMELOT – Tales, Truth, And A Guy Named Tommy

By Carl Begai

“The new record turned out better than I expected and the reaction has been phenomenal. It’s a testament to the fans and their love for this band. Everyone is so re-energized, it’s awesome.”

Things could have been very different for guitarist Thomas Youngblood and his Kamelot bandmates. Following the recordings for their Poetry For The Poisoned album in 2010 and only days before the band was due to embark on a fall headline tour, vocalist Roy Khan fell ill and plans were shelved until the end of the year. Although it hasn’t been said out loud – at least not to the extent that the press jumped all over it – Khan’s tenure with Kamelot was done at that point, both sides making it official in April 2011. The writing was on the wall when the band opted to hit the road prior to the announcement with Rhapsody Of Fire frontman Fabio Lione filling in and doing a decent to killer job depending on who you talked to. By many accounts he was a worthwhile prospect as Khan’s successor. In the end, however, Kamelot opted to enlist little known singer Tommy Karevik from the Swedish band Seventh Wonder as the band’s new voice, and the result is outstanding according to a ravenous fanbase.

“I think fans are more willing to accept a band changing the singer as long as he or she has similar characteristics to the one they had for 13 years.” says Youngblood. “It would have been hard for us to bring in some power metal singer or an opera singer that didn’t have the tonal characteristics the fans want. That’s what I wanted for the band. For me, having Tommy in the band is a no-brainer.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: KAMELOT – Tales, Truth, And A Guy Named Tommy

Only In Canada, Eh! – October / November 2012: BLACKGUARD, GLEN DROVER, KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, And THE AGONIST’s Alissa White-Gluz Visits KAMELOT

Since there’s no NHL hockey season thanks to certain greedy sons of bitches, you can brush up on your Canuck metal below:

Blackguard are back on the road yet again, only this time they’re on the other side of the pond on the highly anticipated Kamelot tour. This is going to be huge for the band in the Kamelot are a huge draw right across Europe, and the band’s new Silverthorn has been receiving rave rviews across the board. Vocalist Paul Zinay recently commented on the trek:

“We had a blast conquering North America with Kamelot and now it’s time to conquer some new territories. We are very honored that we were asked to join them on this tour and we’d like to give our deepest thanks and gratitude to Thomas (Youngblood / guitars) and all of the Kamelot crew for extending us this invitation. This will be the last tour supporting our latest album Firefight and we can’t imagine ending on a higher note than this.”

Blackguard is due to release their new album, Storm, in the spring of 2013 via Victory Records. Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – October / November 2012: BLACKGUARD, GLEN DROVER, KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, And THE AGONIST’s Alissa White-Gluz Visits KAMELOT

NIGHTWISH – I Wish I Had A Singer… With Some Common Sense

By Carl Begai

I’m going to preface this with a head’s up:

The following piece is my opinion, and as such it is neither wrong nor right. That said, if you feel the urge to respond to it because I’ve somehow insulted nine generations of your family and called into question your Nightwish fanboy/girl-ship, please do so intelligently. I don’t mind a conflicting view at all, so long as the person offering it put some thought into it and doesn’t need to rely on name-calling and bullshit attitude. This isn’t Bladdermouth.

Lotsa love. Read on…

So, it seems Nightwish is minus another singer. Anette Olzon (pictured above), replacement for original vocalist Tarja Turunen, became a part of the band’s history as of October 1st, 2012 and they’re supposedly better for it if the official press release is to be believed. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, Nightwish is now faced with the unenviable task of doing damage control and explaining why the woman they touted and defended left and right as Turunen’s ideal replacement was given the boot.

Olzon’s haters are, of course, celebrating with thoughts and babble of a reunion with Turunen. Who knows? It may happen, especially now that we have the technology to preserve snowballs in hell, but I doubt it. And with the positive buzz surrounding ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen’s performance filling in, this may well be a learning-by-doing audition. The fact remains, however, that Olzon was a part of two solid albums that turned the band into a bigger deal than when Lady Tarja was with them, so whatever the follow-up may be it has to be a home run of cosmic proportions or the band is finished (in my humble opinion).

As for the reasons behind Olzon’s seemingly blink-of-an-eye ejection from her day job, the fans are going to be treated with two versions of the truth over the next several months. Chances are there were little issues between Olzon and her former bandmates that got tensions brewing to begin with – no band is immune to internal conflict – but there’s no doubt in my mind that her reaction to being temporarily replaced for the September 28th show in Denver, Colorado is what smashed the camel’s back to splinters. Continue reading NIGHTWISH – I Wish I Had A Singer… With Some Common Sense

NIGHTWISH – A Scaretale For Storytime

By Carl Begai

Finnish bashers Nightwish recently wrapped up the European leg of their ongoing Imaginaerum tour, which will continue for the forseeable future given the impact of the band’s latest album and the forthcoming Imaginaerum-based movie. Prior to one of the final gigs of the European jaunt, keyboardist/found Tuomas Holopainen sat down to discuss the success of the new record and the state of the band.

Last time out Nightwish had unenviable task of promoting their Dark Passion Play album while continuing to defend their decision to bring vocalist Anette Olzon into the fold in 2007 as a replacement for Tarja Turunen. The band had been expecting the inevitable shitstorm long before they hit the road for the album – fan opinion regarding Olzon was widely divided upon Dark Passion Play’s release – but the negativity and tension endured over two years took its toll. Upon meeting Holopainen for this chat it’s immediately clear the strife from the previous tour is a thing of the past. Perhaps the only thing plaguing Nightwish at this point is a collective lack of sleep.

“It’s so much more relaxed, we’re so much more confident because we know that the people know what to expect,” says Holopainen. “They’re coming to see a show, not to judge the ‘new’ vocalist. It’s been so much more relaxed, easygoing and fun.”

YouTube is one public forum offering a resounding show of support for Olzon, who has definitely improved in her role as the band’s voice. Sure, there are the expected debates of whether or not she holds a candle to Turunen, but the fans that stuck around after Dark Passion Play are quick to defend Olzon nowadays and quite vocal about her having cemented a place in Nightwish. Continue reading NIGHTWISH – A Scaretale For Storytime

NIGHTWISH – Imaginaerum

By Carl Begai

The long awaited Nightwish follow-up to Dark Passion Play from 2007, Imaginaerum, is a masterpiece. The greatest thing since the creation of fire. Grander the invention of the wheel. A tour de force that has pushed the power metal and classical music scenes to learn French and admit they have no clue what “bombastic” really means. A showcase of musical genius that has composer John Williams considering changing his last name to Holopainen. Better than half-drunk pre-marital sex. So awesome they had to make a movie about/for/with it. Blah blah fucking blah add nausea…

Yes indeed, the media hack hype machine has been puckering up and kissing ass ever since the album was made accessible to the press, likely upping the sales of Chapstick by 200%. Only thing is, Imaginaerum is a bloody masterpiece, particularly if you’re a Nightwish fan that’s been able to see beyond Tarja Turunen’s cleavage.

If not for potential accusations of plagiarism, Nightwish could have gotten away with calling the album Tuomas In Wonderland. Spawned and nurtured by keyboardist / songwriter / founder Tuomas Holopainen, Imaginaerum is his full blown journey into the depths of fairytales and fantasy, something that’s been a here-and-there part of the Nightwish formula from album to album since the band’s inception. It earns the title “epic” before things are even a third done, the majority of the songs being a clear cut and necessary step up and away from Dark Passion Play on almost every count. Just how far one is willing to be yanked down Holopainen’s personal rabbit hole depends on how much time you’re willing to invest in a new, insanely ambitious, and occasionally bizarre take on a traditional soundtrack. Continue reading NIGHTWISH – Imaginaerum

BW&BK Interview: NIGHTWISH Bassist / Vocalist MARCO HIETALA – From Iron To Imaginarium

By Carl Begai

Marco Hietala is best known these days as the bassist / male vocalist for Finnish bashers Nightwish, but since hooking up with the band in 2002 fans have learned of his other outfit, veteran straight-ahead metalheads, Tarot. In actual fact, he’s been hammering out albums and low-key tours with Tarot for over 25 years, a truth the metal world has learned more and more about since their international release of the Crows Fly Black album in 2006. A breakthrough that can be credited to his Nightwish day job. Following is an excerpt from my recent interview with Hietala about Tarot’s new and remagined album, Spell Of Iron MMXI, and the forthcoming Nighwish epic, Imaginarium…

With one new album under his belt for 2011 (Spell Of Iron MMXI), Hietala’s focus is now on Imaginarium. Still a work in progress, it’s not expected to surface until early 2012.

“I’ve recorded all my stuff,” he reveals. “All my vocals and basses are done, a couple acoustic guitar things. And the mixes for those parts have also been done, already.”

With regards to the extended wait for Imaginarium, Hietala admits he’s in the same boat as the fans and is chomping at the bit to hear the final product.

“That sucks for me personally,” he says of the wait, “but the reason for that is we still have the movie in the works as well, and it’s going to take some time for it to be finished. The album and the movie go pretty much hand-in-hand because the whole movie is built around the music of the album. We decided to push the release so that we can put them out together.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: NIGHTWISH Bassist / Vocalist MARCO HIETALA – From Iron To Imaginarium

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