By Carl Begai
A Monster’s Life is a benchmark record that dictates just how high and how far The New Black has to shoot the next time they hit the studio. Four albums into their career, the German rockers have adopted The KISS Concept (Keep It Simple, Stupid) with unexpectedly mindblowing results. Not to say they’ve existed under a cloud of suckitude up to this point, but of the delightfully old-school 10-song romp of A Monster’s Life there’s really only one track (‘A Pill Named Ting’) that falls flat. The New Black have always been more rock than metal, big on melodies and the almighty guitar riff, and they’ve managed to take their best ideas and string them together while leaving most of the unnecessary fat on the studio floor. Best guess is that Volbeat producer Jacob Hansen had a valuable hand in the carving, but credit where it’s due to the band for having the balls to keep things compact in this bloated “more is more” world.
Folks following The New Black will be pleased to hear the familiar high speed Motörhead-isms, and they’ve always had the Rocktallica feel to their sound in the spirit of Volbeat that’s so pronounced on A Monster’s Life. ‘Long Time Coming’, ‘Dead In The Water’, ‘Blockbuster Life’ and ‘Better’ are the requisite supercharged headbangers this band is so good at, while anthems ‘With A Grin’, ‘That’s Your Poison, Not Mine’ and ‘Buddha Belly’ crush anything of their kind they’ve served up before now. Favourite track of the moment is ‘The Beer Of No Return’ for bashing out everything new about The New Black in the space of three-and-a-bit minutes. And ‘Send In The Clowns’ is one of those bluesy ballad-esque tracks every rock radio band desperate for airplay would kill for. Continue reading THE NEW BLACK – A Monster’s Life
By Carl Begai
A Million Miles is a band out of Germany that grabbed my attention several months back thanks to the efforts of vocalist Mona Miluski. Rather than flooding my inbox with drivel about how awesome her band is and how they’re poised to dominate every plane of metal existence, her approach was limited to “This is what we’re up to; your opinion would be appreciated.” Subtle but effective, particularly when the invite to see the band live supporting The New Black – ultimately delivering a scorching show – came down as a build-up to the release of their debut album, What’s Left Behind. That performance was the icing on an already enticing cake, putting A Million Miles well beyond the “nice try” threshold in my book.
As for the new album itself, call it one of the biggest surprises to come across my desk in 2012.
“We can’t wait to release the album,” says Miluski. “We’ve been heavily and constantly touring all over Europe in the past few years, and played all of the songs that are going to be on the record live, so it means a lot to us to finally share this album. It represents an important chapter of being on tour all these years, and where we are going in the future.”
Seeing the band in action, it’s easy to imagine the music being far more chaotic and frayed around the edges when they first started compared to the material earmarked for the debut album. Like any band worth the price of their gear A Million Miles was built for the stage, and they’ve finally locked into that needed balance of skin-flaying heavy and refined musical performance.
“When A Million Miles started back in 2005, the guys were writing songs without a vocalist,” offers Miluski. “When I joined the band in 2008, all of the songs were written without vocals and I had to find my space in all these riff monsters my bandmates had created and packed into the songs. But, we grew into each other and started to write new songs with vocals. We worked on each song all together, so we became more musical in the way we felt we wanted to go. Our songs became more structured, and we found our own way and style.” Continue reading A MILLION MILES – Going The Distance
By Carl Begai
On November 25th and 26th, Hamburg-based AFM Records celebrated 15 years in the trenches. It was a remarkably well-organized weekend of work and play, featuring fine dining, an open bar (or two), great people, an early morning label showcase to introduce new AFM signings (that not everybody attended due to the late late late night), a hotel bar that never closed (and was abused accordingly.. all hail Motel One), culminating with a festival at the Markthalle in the heart of downtown. Rather than the usual cattle call of press hacks, the vast majority of folks invited to attend were in fact AFM business partners, responsible for keep the label in people’s faces over the last several years. Being one of the aforementioned journalists, it was an honour to be asked to come out on behalf of BW&BK for the whole knock-down-drag-out event, and it was certainly worth the time spent.
On the work end of things, the label presented priority releases for early 2012, including German glamsters Kissin’ Dynamite, Orden Ogan, Lyriel, Solution .45, Fear Factory, Buck Satan And The 666 Shooters (industrial country… really) and of particular note, Ministry’s comeback record, Relapse. This included a special video message from frontman / mastermind Al Jourgensen, and two tracks that are the closest Ministry will (n)ever get to a ballad.
As for the play side – other than the carrying on like kids in a candy store backstage – the Markthalle hosted 15 AFM bands on two stages, including U.D.O., The New Black, Voodoo Circle, Mob Rules, A Life Divided, Dark Age and Lake Of Tears. Doro Pesch, a former member of the label’s roster, attended in a strictly non-performance capacity but took plenty of time out for her fans backstage. As did Piet Sielck of Iron Savior fame, who soaked up U.D.O.’s show with us normal folk. And staff members from some of AFM’s international partners – INgrooves.com, Soundforge Music Group, Scream Magazine, Tangra Mega Rock Radio to name a few – kept the good vibes up in the rafters from the first glass of champagne. Continue reading AFM Records – 15 Years Of Metal Addiction: Feeding The Need
By Carl Begai
On June 2nd the lamest of lame-ass festival line-ups descended upon Nuremberg, Germany for the annual Rock im Park, guaranteed to impress only those tweens and under-35s that consider MTV and Glee quality programming. Several kilometers away in the city’s old town, veteran German rockers Sinner were down to the far more satisfying business of filming a video for the song ‘Back On Trail’, the first single from their forthcoming album One Bullet Left.
Following is a photo-documentary of the shoot, which took place at the – for lack of a better word – abandoned Volksbad (which must have been bloody impressive when it was fully operational). And if some of the mugs in the shots below look familiar, they should, as Sinner’s present line-up consists of guitarists Christof Leim (The New Black), Alex Scholpp (Tarja) and Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear) – yep, three of ’em – drummer André Hilgers (Rage), and last but never least, bassist and namesake Mat Sinner….
Continue reading SINNER – Rocked And Loaded
By Carl Begai
For a band that was spawned during a metal festival drinking binge, The New Black have pounded out an impressive stretch of road. The January 2009 release of their self-titled debut album gave the band legs, enabling them to do the festival circuit and put together short but effective tours with bands in a similar small-time boat. Topping this off were select support shows with high profile acts such as cult-fave German countrymen J.B.O. and the larger-than-life AC/DC. On the eve of the release of The New Black’s second record, II: Better In Black, guitarist / co-founder Christof Leim – who pulls double duty as the guitarist for veteran rockers Sinner – looks back on the band’s achievements and freely admits he’s surprised at how things have played out. Not that he was placing bets on things going to hell before they could get to Round 2, but the logistics of keeping the band up and running are anything but simple.
“The surprise started before the first album was out. We never had auditions, we never worked out way through dozens of people to find the right line-up. Reactions to The New Black have been pretty good and we’ve worked a lot as a live band without rehearsing because it’s just not possible. Preparation for studio time was done on the fly, basically, so the surprise started early for me. It’s not a project anymore, it’s our main band.” Continue reading THE NEW BLACK – Building Happy Zombies
Once again, a big thanks to those of you stopping by to check out my playground. And to those of you posting comments, thanks for keeping it clean and being pretty damn articulate and intelligent when you set off on an overview, commentary or critique. I enjoy the feedback, positive and not, and it’s definitely of worth. Keep ’em coming.
Currently up and running elsewhere (because it’s no fun staying in only one spot), I recently posted the larger portion of my recent interview with THE ALMIGHTY frontman Ricky Warwick on the BW&BK site here. He was a cool interview as always, discussing the here-and-not status of The Almighty, the death of his other band CIRCUS DIABLO, and being a folk artist. The folk-oriented portion of the interview is still available via Suite101.
I also supplied Suite101 with a review of DANKO JONES’ kick-ass B-Sides compilation, released earlier this year. You can find it here.
Continue reading Support, Stories And Satanism, Oh My…
By Carl Begai
(Click here for my December 31st, 2009 interview with Devin about the Addicted album.)
The original strapping young lad Devin Townsend is back. And he’s naked.
We’re speaking metaphorically, of course, in reference to his return in the form of a remarkably understated record dubbed Ki. Completely devoid of the camouflage, smoke, mirrors and assorted baggage that enabled him to create the hellfuelled carnage that was Strapping Young Lad, it is the first of a four part introduction to the real Devin Townsend. The initial buzz surrounding Ki has been laced with confusion and some outright negativity due to its mellow nature, leaving fans ponder what might have happened to their revered Hevy Devy during his two year self-imposed hiatus from the spotlight. There are other diehards, however, that have followed him through his non-SYL escapades (Ocean Machine, Physicist, Terria, Synchestra) and embraced Ki as another important step in Townsend’s career.
Ki is also a pointed confirmation that Townsend wasn’t kidding when he announced back in May 2007 that Strapping Young Lad was dead. It was a decision made out of necessity, as according to the press release issued “the last tour (for The New Black) was a real struggle for him to muster any enthusiasm, mostly because SYL was initially created to vent all his frustrations, which no longer exist.” Furthermore, Townsend admitted flat out he was tired of touring and doing interviews, and had no intention or desire to return to the grind although he would release music from time to time. And while there’s little to no chance he’s going to resurrect SYL, Townsend decided in favour of the interview circuit in order to set his rather volatile record straight.
Continue reading DEVIN TOWNSEND – The Deconstruction Of Destruction
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