October 2008 Reviews & Interviews
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ANGELA GOSSOW interviewed by Cameron Edney
Originally from Cologne, Germany Angela Gossow is one of the world’s most recognizable extreme female vocalists in heavy metal history. Front-women for Swedish based metal outfit Arch Enemy for the past eight years, Angela has gone from strength to strength. Last year Arch Enemy released their most successful album to date ‘Rise of the tyrant’ and soon after the band returned to Australia playing sold-out shows as part of the Black Crusade tour which also featured Machine Head and Trivium.
Heavily influenced and following in the footsteps of legendary metal vocalists such as Morbid Angels Dave Vincent and Death’s Chuck Schneider, Angela Gossow gives 110% with every live performance and eats, lives and breathes METAL! Recently Arch Enemy was approached to be a part of a compilation put together by Century Media ‘Celebrating 20 years of Extreme’. The compilation features many of Century Media’s current artists covering other artists tracks including Angela and the boys bashing out a fantastic cover of Dream Evil’s ‘The Book of Heavy Metal’!
Whilst Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson Are currently on tour with Carcass you would think that Angela would be enjoying a well deserved break, but the hard driven front-women, is busy working on a number of different projects including the running of the United Enemies fan club and working with Vegan rock fashion label Imortal.
Earlier this week Arch Enemy were confirmed to play at next year’s Dubai Desert Rock festival and announced plans to release a new live DVD and Cd from the bands recent Japanese tour.
I recently had the pleasure to once again speak with the ever so beautiful and talented Angela Gossow, we discussed the bands plans to release a brand new live Cd and DVD, we also spoke about Angela’s love for Carcass and the current reunion, and we also spoke about what the future has in store for Arch Enemy among many other things. So kick back as the ‘Revolution Begins’ with Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow!
Cameron Edney: Hi Angela, as always it’s a true pleasure to speak with you, what’s been going on?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Things are great! We have just finished an excellent DVD ‘Tyrants of the Rising Sun - Live In Japan 2008’ and we are excited about releasing it this fall 2008!
Cameron Edney: Awesome! What can you tell us about it?
ANGELA GOSSOW: The main feature is the Tokyo, Japan headline show we played this spring. The footage turned out amazing and Andy Sneap did a killer job mixing the live audio. The icing on the cake is Niklas Sundin beautiful, dark and brutal artwork for it. We will release the show as a live CD and on vinyl as well. How old school is that?
Cameron Edney: That’s great! I look forward to seeing the DVD! The last time we spoke I had asked you if you could put a band together, who would be in it and what would it be called, your answer was Carcass! No doubt you are thrilled that the band are up and running again after such a long absence?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Yes. I am thrilled because they still kick everybody’s ass out there. They are not old, slow and boring but still as exciting as they were in 1992, and by now probably even better players! Carcass 2008 is a tight and brutal force, spearheading the grindcore blitzkrieg all over the world right now. I am very happy for them and also for the kids to actually get to see them live!
Cameron Edney: Since the band reformed, you have had the opportunity to join them onstage, as a fan of Carcass’ work, tell us what was going through your mind during those few minutes onstage?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Nothing except those bloody complicated lyrics, [laughs]. I joined them once on stage at Wacken. It was totally spontaneous, unrehearsed and free style.
Cameron Edney: As it stands I guess, the main question all Arch Enemy fans are asking is, what the future now holds for the band. Once the Carcass reunion is over will there be a new Arch Enemy album and tour?
ANGELA GOSSOW: It’s nice to be off the road for a bit. Right now we are putting a little run in Europe/Germany together for December 2008. We will be playing the Doro Jubilee Festival 13 of December 08 in Düsseldorf and do some headline shows afterwards. We feel we have done a bit too much touring the last couple of years and it’s time to take it a bit easy. Less is more. So if we play, people better come, [laughs].
Never know if we will come back and when! We will actually tour a lot less than we used to do! Next project on is to re-record the best tracks from the first 3 Arch Enemy albums - kinda like Testament did with ‘First Strike Still Deadly’. We want to introduce our younger fans to those three ‘Johan era’ albums and be able to play them live with a lot more response in the future. We also started to jam and write for a new Arch Enemy record which we plan to record at the end of 2009. So we have a bit of time for that one!
Cameron Edney: With the Carcass reunion currently in full force, have you considered doing a side project or are you just enjoying the time off?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Time off frightens me. I need to be productive all year round. I was busy up to now with the DVD and also with business stuff concerning Arch Enemy. I already started to plan touring for Arch Enemy. I run the United Enemies fan club and am finally realizing my idea about vegan rock fashion with a company called Imortal. I am doing guest vocals here and there as well and I participated in an art installation in Stockholm. I also do some vocal coaching.
Cameron Edney: It’s great to see you are keeping yourself active with many projects, have you spent any time coming up with new musical ideas or lyrics for possible future Arch Enemy tracks?
ANGELA GOSSOW: [Laughs] No. I write those when the music is demo-ed! For now I concentrate on my numerous other projects.
Cameron Edney: Angela, I wanted to speak to you about the latest Century Media compilation ‘Covering 20 years of Extreme’. You have done a cover of Dream Evil’s ‘The Book of Heavy Metal’, for the compilation, which I think is a killer metal anthem. Tell us why you chose to do that song from the Century Media back catalogue?
ANGELA GOSSOW: It’s a fun track. We didn’t take that whole project so seriously at the time. Our brainstorm was like: Hmm, record a cover track for our label…
We are here in the studio with Fredrik Nordstrom recording ‘Rise Of The Tyrant’. Ok, let’s take a Dream Evil track. Simple, quick, and effective! Plus, we all kind of secretly like Dream Evil and their very funny lyrics. It is maybe our way to say: Yes. We take our music seriously - but there is also a lot of humor in everything we do.
Cameron Edney: Dream Evil and another great Century Media artist Mercenary are featured on the album both covering Arch Enemy tracks, have you heard them yet and what were your impressions on the bands take on your songs?
ANGELA GOSSOW: It is fun to hear those bands take on an Arch Enemy song - but I still think the original versions are better, [laughs]. Especially the solos, although I love the Mercenary power metal vocal on the ‘Burning Angel’ refrain a lot!
Cameron Edney: Last time I spoke to Michael we discussed the covers that Arch Enemy have done in the past from Iron Maiden’s ‘Aces High’ to Kiss’ ‘The Oath’. Is there any song which you would love to cover but just haven’t had the opportunity to do?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I love covering songs, but the guys prefer to concentrate on writing their own songs - which is more exciting for a band. I don’t know. The best cover songs are those, where it wasn’t an extreme metal song before and you ‘brutalize’ it. Maybe an Abba track? [Laughs]
Cameron Edney: You went on to tour the U.K. with Trivium, Dragonforce and Machine Head, I would imagine touring with those bands would have be a great deal of fun!
ANGELA GOSSOW: The European Black Crusade - we jumped on last minute, so we had to go on stage so early. It felt weird as there are a lot of markets where we are a lot bigger than Dragonforce and maybe even Trivium. It felt wrong. We actually hated that tour. We did it as a favor to our label Century Media - promoting the new album Rise Of The Tyrant. I am sorry to say, I didn’t have any fun. It was simply hard work.
Cameron Edney: Angela, I want to once again speak to you about life on the road…. Have you ever had any problems with customs?
ANGELA GOSSOW: No. Knock, knock, knock on wood and keeping all fingers crossed!
Cameron Edney: Looking back on your previous bands Asmodina and Mistress, can you remember the hardest time you had as an opening act?
ANGELA GOSSOW: We played shows where nobody was there - including proper gear and sound. But we didn’t take it so seriously either. We grabbed a beer and had a rehearsal on stage, [laughs].
Cameron Edney: How about that very first Arch Enemy tour, what fond/horrific memories come to mind when you look back at that?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I was exciting for the entire three weeks. I was also very afraid to get sick as I didn’t know if I could still perform. No horrific memories. But I was tired a lot - I couldn’t get used to sleeping on a tour bus.
Cameron Edney: Tell us, what is your most embarrassing onstage moment?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I don’t have any. When funny stuff happens, I laugh! When shit happens, I laugh as well!
Cameron Edney: Over the years you have played with some of the world’s greatest metal bands. Is there one band you would love to hit the road with, but the opportunity just has never risen?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Judas Priest. Before they quit it altogether!
Cameron Edney: Angela, we have hit the part of the interview where our readers get to find out more about the real you…. What was the very first concert you attended and how much of an impact did that have on you musically?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I think it was Revenant and Disharmonic Orchestra. I am still looking for the ‘Prophecies of a Dying World’ CD from Revenant as I left mine with my ex-boyfriend. Stupid! Anyway, it was extremely exciting and led me straight into my second and third concerts with Carcass and Morbid Angel. I saw all the good stuff in the early nineties. Unreal!
Cameron Edney: Awesome! What is the one metal song you wish you had written?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Painkiller - Judas Priest.
Cameron Edney: Mate, what have your parents thought about the music you played?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Nothing good… But who cares?!
Cameron Edney: You were born in Cologne, Germany… Tell us about those early years. Growing up, did you always have a passion for music and to get into the industry or were your goals extremely different?
ANGELA GOSSOW: My father’s record collection was all about The Beatles, ELO, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Queen. Queen was my favorite; I liked their heavier tunes a lot. I discovered a metal radio station from England one day - and I instantly loved that sound. I didn’t know what heavy metal was as I went to a kind of elitist school back then. Most kids came from rich homes and were into parties and Pet Shop Boys.
I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t spoiled and I started to hang out with the longhaired dudes from another school who sold me all their vinyl for cheap, as the CD had just hit the market. I got jewels like ‘Scream Bloody Gore’, ‘Reign in Blood”, “Symphonies of Sickness’, “Abominations of Desolation’ all on vinyl. I had no intentions to get into the music industry. I was a total metal head and the only girl that joined a death metal band in Cologne back then.
I didn’t dream of having a ‘career’ with such extreme music. I promoted in business and marketing and worked as marketing manager of online advertising for an expanding ecommerce firm after university. I joined my first band Asmodina in 1991 and was active in bands all these years until I joined Arch Enemy in 2001. Even when I joined Arch Enemy I didn’t expect it to become so big in terms of worldwide success. That kinda hit us by surprise.
Cameron Edney: Before joining Arch Enemy, what were your impressions of the band?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I was a huge Carcass fan, so I naturally was interested in the member’s activities after they split up. I actually liked the BlackStar album as well. What Michael Amott did with Arch Enemy was the closest to the Carcass sound though and I really dug ‘Black Earth’. I like a few songs from ‘Stigmata’ as well, but it seemed a bit unfocused musically and Johan Liiva’s vocal performance wasn’t very good on this album. ‘Burning Bridges’ is an excellent record again. Killer song writing and good vocals! I saw them live for the first time in 1999.
Arch Enemy hardly toured and I think this was their first European tour, opening up for In Flames. They were the first band on the bill. I knew their songs, loved them, but their live performance was odd. Michael and Chris didn’t move at all, they were glued to their stacks and pedal boards. Johan Liiva looked lost on stage and couldn’t really communicate with the crowd.
They were all extremely nice though; I met them after the show to do an interview with them for an online music magazine I wrote for at the time. I gave ‘em one of my band’s (Mistress) demo tapes and a live performance video. We were always fishing for support slots and I was hoping next time Arch Enemy would come around we could maybe open up for them. That’s how they remembered me when they were looking for a new vocalist.
Cameron Edney: And the rest is history…. How different is the private Angela Gossow from the METAL women portrayed by the media?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I guess I am who I am. I am dressing the same, I am always on the passionate side, I am not as angry but still very driven. I like to fight battles and win them. I am a Scorpio. Full fledged.
Cameron Edney: Angela, there is no doubt that Arch Enemy fans are fantastic, some going to extremes, getting the logo and signatures tattooed. What are your thoughts on fans getting the bands logo, signatures tattooed?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Tattoos are a very personal choice and I would say - if you like Arch Enemy so much, go for it. But maybe tell me before I sign your arm so at least I am going to put some serious effort in it. I have seen some of my really sloppy signatures tattooed, [laughs]. Terrible! The lasted album cover motif ‘Rise Of The Tyrant’ - I have seen a lot of killer version on it as huge tattoos! The same goes for the logo symbol.
Cameron Edney: Mate, I have always loved your vocal abilities with Arch Enemy; the power in your voice is amazing, but I wonder, will we ever get to hear the softer side to your vocal abilities? Can you see yourself doing something a little lighter in the future?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I am light. I mean, I don’t grunt anymore. I did that in my previous bands. With Arch Enemy I utilize aggressive vocals but I incorporate the melody and the rhythm of the riffs in it. What I do you can maybe call ‘aggressive, distorted singing’!
I don’t think I am a grunter or growler really, I am in between. When it comes to bringing in my sweet female voice - well, I do that when I sing nursery rhymes and children’s songs with my niece Lavinia Gossow. Although, she loves when I bring in the rougher tunes and tries to growl as well. So ‘Father Jacob’ doesn’t really sound like a lullaby when we intonate it together, [laughs]
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Now that is something I want to hear [laughs]. I know you have said in the past that you sing softer/cleaner styles in private, which most people would do. But are there any possibilities that the next album would feature a lighter more “Commercial / Radio Friendly” track?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Fuck no! If it would be up to me, Arch Enemy would sound a lot more extreme than we do. But Michael and Chris are very influenced by classic rock and metal and their very melodic traits always come through in the songwriting. I love disharmonic melodies, blast beats and riff madness. I would go and throw in lots of Carcass, Behemoth, Death, and Dismember.
Cameron Edney: You have a great voice and you have been singing for a long time, as time goes on some vocalist find it harder where others think it’s a breeze! Is singing this style of metal challenging these days?
ANGELA GOSSOW: I don’t think it is no more challenging than any style of vocals. If you want to have a personal style, you have to work with your voice and have some natural talent.
A lot of vocalists are excellent in copying others but never manage to really find their own style. In terms of extreme vocals many sound like a barking dog. They have no rhythm, no pitch change, and no articulate pronunciation. I guess it is easy to damage your voice with this style and then you lose variation too. Your voice gets a hoarse quality - some find that actually beneficial - but it definitely narrows your vocal range.
Cameron Edney: Angela, lastly a question I ask of everyone I speak with these days… What is the one band you never want to hear again and why?
ANGELA GOSSOW: Dragonforce… Nintendo metal without balls!
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Never heard them compared that way [laughs]. As always it is fantastic to speak with you.
© Cameron Edney 2008
Official Arch Enemy website
Angela’s official website
My solitary meeting with errr.. Solitary earlier in their career, was rather unmoving to be honest with you, however I am always up for a good dose of UK thrash metal even though I'm not expecting a great deal, but I live in hope. These guys were groovy and fairly heavy thrash metal as I recall with quite brutal vocals, but without the necessary song-writing skills or tunefulness to appeal to the more discerning metalhead.
Well I can report that as the first strains of the music begin to thunder out of my speakers, that Solitary are much better than i remember them being! They have increased the production values manifestly with a huge crunching sound. The riffing has gotten a whole deal tighter and even more brutal whilst still maintaining the grooves of old, although the song-writing is still nothing to write home about, it has improved a lot. This cd will appeal to anyone into Pantera, Metallica and the modern groovier thrash bands and even a hint of old Meshuggah is prevalent rather than the classic Exodus or the old school melodic thrash metal of say a Testament or Megadeth.
Solitary come across sounding like Pantera's pissed off little brother more or less. The vocals are acidic and bite sharply while being understandable and not that annoying and are pretty to close to Schmier but even more brutal if that's possible. I always found Anselmo's biting howls almost unbearable and Pantera as a band has never really been a favourite of mine and yet this disk is a really solid heavy as lead thrash metal disk with a no prisoner taken attitude.
Opener Predator thrashes along like a rabid dog and is followed by angry music and somewhat slower grooves of a track like 15 Years which actually does very little for me. Track 5 is a cover of Testament's Into the Pit and it's a bit of an odd place to position the cover track but the cover is absolutely awesome. Just goes to show though that the cover is better than their own material and makes you want to bang your immensely hard, which is a bit odd as it lessens the impact of their own songs when juxtaposed with a such a classic thrash staple.
In any case the band plunders more heavy thrash metal after the mid album cover song, bringing more earth shattering brutality and a sleeker modern edge. Hatred is a song which as the title would suggest is very heavy and brutal with a steamrollering staccato vocal attack and battering ram riff runs to hammer the point home with a blistering late-song solo.
Overall we have 10 original brutal groove thrash bruisers and 1 classic cover here with a massive crunchy sound. Those who seek more melody or subtlety within their thrash should approach with caution, however those with a penchant for anger re-distribution and mosh-worthy mayhem then prepare to enter the pit!
© Pirage Forsi
Rating *** 1/2 (3.5.0/5.0)
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DARKTHRONE - "DARK THRONES AND BLACK FLAGS"
If there is one album whose release I have been both apprehensively and eagerly anticipating, that is none other than "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" - the fourteenth studio effort of the Norwegian extreme metal outfit Darkthrone. Anticipating, since I have been a loyal supporter of the band since the mid 90s, but my apprehension is justified by the fact that the previous effort of the unholy duet Nocturno Culto/Fenriz left me with doubts about the band's future approach to song writing and their ability to continue releasing original and influential albums. Well, it only really took one good spin to realise that 'all is good' in the Darkthrone camp.
As far as character and musical approach is concerned, one can easily claim that "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" continues exactly where "F.O.A.D" left off, so why have I found "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" to be more appealing than its predecessor?
These ten new compositions come across as being the products of a more mature thought process. My main concern was always about Fenriz's contribution to the song writing process, as I had often felt that he did not take himself too seriously, whilst Nocturno Culto struggled to retain the unique character of the band through his personal creative input. This time, Fenriz has managed to limit his crazy vocal 'experiments' and has ensured that each of his vocal contributions blended in better with those of his 'partner in crime', making "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" a more coherent album than "F.O.A.D".
I had mixed feelings when I listened to the opening track "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker", due to Fenriz's high pitch vocals that did not seem to blend in well with the impressive rhythmical opening riff. A few spins later, though, I came to realise that the band was attempting to recreate the mood and attitude that you normally get from an Exodus composition (Baloff era), which allowed me to hear the track in a different way completely.
It only took a few moments of the opening riff of "Death on All Oaths (Oath Minus)" to realise that this is a Nocturno Culto composition, as it does not only feature his trademark 'necro'-sounding vocals, but also an array of Celtic Frost-sounding riffs that will simply blow your mind away. This composition is also 'blessed' with an impressive atmospheric/doom break à la Cathedral, whose quality will surprise even the most musically daring amongst you.
There are a few more nice surprises from Fenriz in the shape of the Punk anthem "Hiking Metal Punks" and "Hanging Out in Haiger"- the former being based on a simply catchy main riff and an amazing Maidenesque guitar solo (yes, it’s true!) that will definitely surprise you with its quality, and the latter, a slow-paced rhythmical composition based on Celtic Frost influenced guitar riffs and Mercyful Fate - sounding vocals.
Much as I really liked both these songs, though, it was once again Nocturno Culto's 'classical' approach that impressed me most. Compositions such as "Norway in September" and "Launchpad to Nothingness" are not only the best songs of the album as far as I am concerned, but also two of the best compositions that Darkthrone have recorded in the new millennium, as they do not only display some of the catchiest killer riffs you can hope to hear from this band nowadays, but also unique dark atmospheric moments in their short but much needed breaks.
Strangely, I am really happy that Darkthrone released "F.O.A.D" back in 2007, as I strongly believe that it was the knowledge obtained from the recording of this album that enabled the duet Fenriz/Nocturno Culto to bring to life "Dark Thrones and Black Flags". This new effort may have little to share with classic Darkthrone albums, such as "Under A Funeral Moon" and "Transylvanian Hunger" but I couldn't care less about that, seeing as this is not only one of the best albums that the band has released in recent years, but also an effort that creates an expectation for many more great moments in the future.
Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)
SPEED THEORY Blood Money
Ant Hill 2008
Since forming in 2004, SpeedTheory have taken the underground metal scene by the scruff of the neck by working hard promoting their very own brand of melodic thrash metal, combining the rawness, intensity and pace of 'Old School' thrash with the brutality of modern metal.
SpeedTheory have supported many other metal greats such as In Flames, Lacuna Coil and Megadeth's 2008 European Tour, gaining many a fan in the process.
This album is right in your face with pure thrash filth and heart felt deep lyrics making me feel gleefully antagonised and ready for a giant mosh pit. Any album that portrays the bands feelings on to you is indeed a great task to complete.
The addition of eerie war sounds, especially on the track "Red Hour", made all my hairs stand on end and left me feeling somewhat saddened by the pain and heartache of the sacrifices our peers made in the days of war.
I don't think a thrash or metal album has ever made me feel anything like this before and to make matters even better, the melodic trash guitar and drum work is tight, clean, raw and damn right hardcore. I love it!
This band should now be taken into the fore front of the hierarchy in metal, and if they don't go far, I will quite frankly eat my dirt festival poncho.
There is just one minor downside which provokes a lost 0.5 mark out of 5 - the album is only 26mins long, and this time goes past faster than Lewis in his Formula One car.
Rating **** 1/2 (4.5.0/5.0)
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ARKENSTONE Dead Human Resource
Arkenstone hail from the sunny holiday island Crete, and this is their debut release after a number of demos which they offer up to the metal hordes to dissect. First of all I must say the band name and CD cover are very cool so all bodes well. Of course the proof of the pudding in this case is the pressing of that tale telling 'play' button so without further ado let's see if the sunny Greek Islanders can impress me.
Immediately as the music starts you are met with a fairly beefy sound that has a raw and earthy quality but perfectly balanced. The music the band plays is described as a hybrid mix of thrash and power metal which is pretty much on the money. The band uses melody in the riffs rather than in the vocals which are more of a shouted vein with some melodic lines here and there.
The opening song Fall, fully nails the colours of the band to the mast. They have some cool headbangy riffs going on and immediately perk me up from my skepticism. I am not loving the vocal arrangements but once again I must admit that I've heard far worse screaming and ranting before and thankfuly they didn't go the metalcore screaming route.
The band ups the ante as the songs progress with a few thumping midpaced, heavy riffed up numbers where they get to show off a little of their guitar skills with slightly more intricate and angular riffing. In fact instrumentally speaking all the band members handle their respective instruments with no little skill.
The vocals are a bit monotonous in a song like Blame, but the feel is aggressive and heavy as lead. I must say that it is quite hard to pick out the band's influences. They don't blatantly sound like any other band that immediately comes to mind. Perhaps the biggest influence for the band is the almighty Iced Earth, then a little Annihilator mixed with Megadeth style thrashing but without ever really reaching the highs those bands can reach, however they are good influences to have no?
They don't really put the pedal to the metal that much either tending to stay in mid to semi fast pace without really cutting loose apart from the odd riff section.
This is probably a draw back for the thrash freaks out there, who normally prefer a frenzied attack more often than not.
Of course the band has a nominal power metal influence too and this also shows itself at various stages with attempts at more melodic singing and a more melodic riff, however I must say not always successfully, even though I personally favour those more melodic moments.
The songwriting in general is really solid if unspectacular. The band has
obviously been around awhile before deciding to record their debut
proper and it shows that they took their time to think about songs
rather than like many bands hitting the studio without having any worthy
Forever More is the fastest and most power metal
sounding track on the CD apart from the vocals which are still in the
shouted vein apart from the chorus which is one of the better ones on
Eyes of the Dark is another power metal influenced song that has energy but lacks a memorable vocal hook but nails it musically. If the band had more songs like this with a slightly better and more melodic vocal, it would be highly beneficial for the band although it must be said that the title track is a real speed infested fire cracker of a song and ends the album on a high note.
As things stand this is a competent debut and deserving of some praise. However I am wondering if this will be enough to get them noticed in the massive European metal scene where albums like this are ten a penny basically though this is slightly above average I would say. For their next effort I would advise Arkenstone to bring the melodic aspects of their sound to the fore and add more energy to some of the songs, whilst seeking out those big vocal hooks that lifts bands like this above your run of the mill average bands out there. Good start!
© Pirage Forsi
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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LIGELA Bad News
Pushing the boundaries of the bastard progeny that is metalcore to fresh heights of accessibility, Massachusetts-based bearers of "Bad News", Ligeia, present their second anthemic effort thus far.
The abrasive, gargantuan riffs of "Johnny Cash", though momentarily arresting, are swiftly undermined by a trail of repetitive refrains and plaintive vocals. The more aggressive vein of "One Night Stand" is rendered similarly impotent and, much like the wilfully misspelled "I've Been Drinkin" offers little in terms of unchartered lyrical territory. With its obscure rap lingo and troublesome turntable scratching, "Hoodrat" is a curious testament to the much-outdated 1990s nu-metal phenomenon.
Despite a smattering of hardcore meanderings throughout, "Bad News" remains a predominantly emotive, if somewhat genre-confused offering.
© Faye Coulman
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
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CRUCIBLE Beyond Driven
Sub Mariner 2008
Aspiring rockers, The Crucible, triumph with their latest immaculately manicured release.
A refreshing departure from the largely unimaginative alternative genre, "Beyond Driven" is a slow-burning piece of instrumentally taut yet ambient, emotionally fractured rock.
Seething and sedate in equal measures, "To The Lions" features distorted riffs of an ever so slightly frayed, yet distinctly polished persuasion. Admirable production techniques aside, however, there is a certain melancholic darkness at work here, which is undeniably intriguing.
Capable of evoking expressive yet carefully tempered, radio-friendly angst, The Crucible showcase a rare combination of creativity and ever-growing commercial potential.
© Faye Coulman
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
POETIC YESTERDAY A Little South Of Zero
Going by the bands name and title of the album and tracks, I wasn't expecting a cascade of a youngster screaming like a banshee at the start of the album. A guess this band has a lot to say and instead of coming across as political, this has been overridden by the use of the word "Poetic". The fact that you can't understand what is being sung however, may effect what the band are trying to achieve by getting their opinions across.
Thankfully, the momentary periods of pure melodic sounds and the use of DJ mixing, deters you from listening to the lyrics and allowing you to sit back and enjoy the music itself. It's a shame because the lead vocalist has a very nice voice and should use it to his advantage allot more instead of screaming. 'I Can See The Seller" and 'Serenade For Spiders' are beautiful renditions and beautifully sang as acoustic tracks. The drumming is very technical, but I detect a hint of a nasty little invention called the "Drum Machine".
I had to find out who Tony Jaa is and who's ass he was going to kick, after researching this strange man, it appears he is a martial arts expert, which confuses me considering the track 'Tony Jaa Will Kick Your Ass' is about 9/11 and it being an inside job. I can't really understand the relationship of the song title to the lyrics itself, bringing me back to the fact that the political views are being masked by cleverly titled song tracks, making you listen to them a bit more clearly than you usually do. Clever marketing!
This album has very early Lostprophets feel, along with The Gallows, so in hindsight, the sound is nothing new to what is currently being released by these younger bands of today. Remember youngsters, things like this won't last the test of time and you want to make a mark on rock music, you have to come up with something a little more original to make us sit up and listen.
Not a bad album, that will definitely go down well with the youth of the today, but us older rockers may not give them a chance.
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
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KINGSKIN Rhyme For Smalltime
Zebra 3 2008
Kingskin won 'Kerrang!'s Best Unsigned Band Competition two years ago and now they are finally releasing their debut album.
First off, track 1 'Bottom Dollar' starts this album in true pelt with an explosion of hard guitar riffs and a very bluesy sound, and definitely has a 90's feel. I can't help but hear a comparison of Clutch with a little mix of Black Label Society. Although the PR's description is defined as "Nirvana would have sounded like this if they listened to more Led Zep and less Frank Black".
As the album continues, their sound changes, making every track completely different, and diverse from one another; including the slower tracks such as 'Nothing Left To Burn' which in my opinion has a little spice of Nickelback. I am only making these comparisons here to give you readers an insight on what this band sound like and what they are capable of, don't be deterred by the comparisons, as this album is very different to its predecessors
Track 4, 'In The Way' starts with a funky bass, which reminded me of the quirky bass guitar at the start of sitcom Seinfield but then continues to rock out with feeling and a similarity of Pearl Jam. Here I go with the comparisons again, but I must state these similarities to make you readers listen and go grab a copy!
The latter of the album continues with the same funky, catchy, rocky and blues feel and I can't help but see myself with my car windows down blaring this album out, it's a shame Summer is passing.
Any music lover with love this album, and I am excited for Kingskin as there is no doubt that this band will get a lot of airplay sometime soon and go places afar. I'd be very surprised if they didn't anyway!
Rating ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)
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Germany is one of the few places in the world where I truly feel at home, even though the local culture is very different from my own country’s, so I always feel disadvantaged by my rudimentary knowledge of German language.
It was after I received the promo CD of Orplid's third studio album "Greifenherz", though, that I realised that this lack of knowledge was to significantly deprive me from understanding better and enjoying properly what I consider to be a both interesting and inspiring release...well, being almost certain that it would be impossible to learn such a demanding language in a week, I decided to sit back and try to 'absorb' as much as I could of this impressive fourteen track release, and the result was quite rewarding.
Having had no knowledge whatsoever of this band prior to receiving "Greifenherz", I realised that I had to rely on the information provided by the press release that accompanied the promo and also of the things I could find on the internet. Past reviewers have described Uwe Nolte (lyrics) and Frank Machau's (all instruments, compositions & vocals) music project as a neofolk, post-industrial experimental music, but, much as I agree with the latter part of that description, I found nothing in the fourteen compositions that are featured in "Greifenherz" capable of justifying the term “neofolk”.
All songs are based on simple melodies, which are products of acoustic guitars or keys or computer samples, hence the justification for the term post-industrial. Some of you may thing that this is hardly the type of music that would be of interest to metal fans, but believe me when I say that you could not be more wrong than that!
Even though "Greifenherz" is an album that works on a number of different levels, there is a dark and sinister mood that covers like an invisible veil all fourteen compositions, providing a unique sense of cohesion on this album.
If you are not impressed by the military drum theme and Frank Machaus' Sisters of Mercy approach to vocals in "Luzifer", please do not loose faith as most of the compositions of the album are filled with moments of great passion and breathtaking atmosphere, starting with "Schwertgesang" - a three minute opus filled with a simple but mesmerising acoustic guitar theme that is accompanied by epic keyboard arrangements in the background.
For some strange reason the duo Nolte/Machau decided to name three of their songs as "..." (tracks 4, 8 & 11), but what is indeed more strange is the fact that tracks 4 & 8 are two of my absolute favourites of this album (!?!).
Track 4 is a keyboard-based composition which works on a simple melody that somehow reminded me of late Anathema, but what really makes is special are the female operatic voices working in the background which are adding a haunting feeling to this sort composition.
Track 8, on the other hand, is a more 'militant' composition, probably due to the addition of drums, whose simple but epic keyboard melodies vividly recalled moments I have spent in the elements, surrounded by the sublime nature of Scotland.
Two more compositions that will undoubtedly win you over are "Traum Von Blashyrkh" and "Gesang An Den Horusfalken" - the former due to Sandra Frinks' imposing vocal contribution (the opening narrative/vocal theme sounds positively witch-like!) and the latter as an emotive narrative whose content I will hopefully manage to understand one day.
If I were to listen to this album fifteen years ago, I would probably not have liked it half as much as I do now, so I guess that it really takes someone with an open mind and experience of different styles of music in order to fully appreciate "Greifenherz" fully. I strongly urge you to check out this release while I a) try to get my hands on the band's two previously released studio albums and b) finally teach myself some basic German!
Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)
DARKTHRONE - "FROSTLAND TAPES"
October is a very important month in my calendar - a well deserved trip to Hellas awaits, following me finishing my University exams for the year and to celebrate the birth of my nephew, as well as welcoming the release of the new Darkthrone album "Dark Thrones and Black Flags". Darkthrone, of course, are quite an unpredictable band, so their decision to celebrate twenty one years of existence was never going to be through their above-mentioned thirteenth studio album, as most of us would expect. What Peaceville records and the diabolical duo from Norway decided to do instead was to release a 3 disc collection of rare demo and live recordings under the inspirational name "Frostland Tapes".
Every loyal fan of Darkthrone, whose main goal in life is to collect every single product ever released by the noisy Norwegians, knows what a great and costly challenge it is to achieve the above, especially when it comes to the band's earliest material. Demo tapes such as "Land Of Frost", "A New Dimension", "Tulchandra" and "Cromlech" are almost impossible to find on sites such as Ebay (trust me, I look almost on a daily basis), when you do find them the amounts of money that you are required to pay for them are ridiculously high, and let me also mention the fact that you are never one hundred percent sure that what you are getting is indeed the 'real stuff'.
Well it seems like Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have decided to put us all out of our misery as "Frostland Tapes" not only includes the above four demos, but also a rare twelve track live recording of the band's 1990 gig in Denmark and an instrumental demo version of the album "Goatlord" - an album that was finally released with the addition of vocals back in 1994. Well, there is plenty of material to indulge in, so let's see what each of the three CDs has to offer.
The first CD begins with the five-track demo "Land Of Frost" which is, in my humble opinion, not only the most interesting but also the most challenging recording included in this release. The sound is horribly bad, guitars being almost constantly 'covered' underneath tons of distortion, and the band is in a very primitive stage of their evolution where they were happy to invest in simple riffs and melodies, but are often making mistakes at times when they are not really justified.
Having said that, I found the vocal effects and the melodic bass theme of "Forest of Darkness" very inviting, as were the memorable refrain of "Land Of Frost" and the Celtic Frostesque main riffs of "Odyssey of Freedom" & "Day of the Dead". Even though the second demo on offer, namely "A New Dimension", was also released in 1998, the sound is significantly better. Unfortunately, apart from the dark/atmospheric intro "Twilight Dimension", there is only one nine minute long composition on offer, entitled "Snowfall", yet it provides enough to convince the listener that the band has already started to move towards more technically demanding musical formulas. Still, I have to admit that my favourite demo of this CD is "Thulcandra", as it does not only move towards a thrash/death musical direction ala early Sodom/Sepultura that I absolutely adore, but also contains tracks of unique violence such as "Thulcandra" and "Archipelago", which portray Fenriz as a young drummer with plenty of potential.
The second CD starts with the 1989 four-track demo "Cromlech" - a demo which continues exactly where "Thulcandra" left off. This means that you should really expect to get in contact with more Sepultura-influenced Thrash/Death compositions such as "The Watchtower", but also with slightly doomier ones, such as "Accumulation of Generalisation" which portray the band's darkest side - all blessed with what can be described as a decent demo sound.
In "Sempiternal Past/Presence View Sepulchrality" we find Darkthrone investing in more technically demanding US-influenced Death Metal compositions, whereas "Iconoclasm Sweeps Over Cappadocia" may indeed include one of the most atrocious guitar solos ever written by the band, yet the numerous beautiful bass themes will leave you with a huge smile on your face, as will the overall production which is the best that you can hope to find in "Frostland Tapes" in general. Darkthrone are not an actively live band, so listening to the 1990 seven track show "Live From Denmark" was for me one of the absolute highlights of this release.
The sound of this recording may not be the one any of you would hope to get but it is decent, even by today's standards, and the band comes across as both confident and also in need of further improvement. The communication with the audience is quite good and the performances of "Cromlech" and "Soulside Journey" are amongst the highlights of the show.
The last CD of this very interesting triple package was the one that sadly impressed me the least and that probably has to do with the fact that "Goatloard's" compositions come across as both confusing and lacking orientation (probably due to the absence of vocals).
Guitar melodies and riffs are quite simplistic, showing a band that is attempting to invest more in atmosphere than aggression, yet Fenriz seems to kind of ruin things for the band with his endless technical 'renditions'. Having said that, I did enjoy listening to both the mid/slow tempo "The Grimness of Which Shepherds Mourn" and the equally slow "As Desertshadows", the latter containing a guitar solo that competes in lack of taste and skill to that of "Iconoclasm Sweeps Over Cappadocia".
As a long time fan of this fan I find "Frostland Tapes" to be an essential purchase. Apart from the fact that it offers the opportunity to get your hands on all these hard-to-find old goodies, it gives a clear indication of Darkthrone's humble beginnings and their then musical approach - one that was indeed miles away from the extreme Black Metal sound and style that made them famous around the world in the mid 90s through albums, such as "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" and "Transylvanian Hunger".
Much as I appreciate this beautifully arranged package, though, I would be lying if I was to tell you that listening to these three CDs, especially all in one go, is an experience that I am willing to undertake at any given time. Fans of the band should purchase without fear, but the rest of you who are not up to a good challenge should approach with caution.
Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
BATTLELORE The Last Alliance
All the way from Lappeenranta, Finland come Battlelore with their fifth album, "The Last Alliance". If I tell you that the ply their trade in epic, fantasy, symphonic / power metal, you won't be surprised to learn that their latest album is based on storylines from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.
So far, so stereotypical. If I were to add in that they also do the whole clean female vocals / male growls thing, you may well be looking over your shoulder for something more interesting to distract you. But don't go just yet.
For sure, there is absolutely nothing original in what Battlelore are doing, but does it really matter when it's so damned enjoyable? Sometimes you just need to go with the flow, position your foot on an imaginary monitor, and let it rip. And that's exactly what you get here.
I actually recall early Battlelore being a bit rubbish, so never kept up with them, but turns out that their last album "Evernight" was a big step forward for them in songs, performance and production.
Because this album certainly rocks. The twin vocals of Kaisa Jouhki and Tommi Mykkanen work well, playing off each other well, and the added symphonic keyboard touches are very well done. Add in a BIG production sound, and you end up with some truly epic tunes like 'Exile The Daystar', 'The Great Gathering' and 'Voice Of The Fallen' to soundtrack your next role playing evening.
Overall, this is an excellent album, chock full of the best elements of symphonic / power metal. Miss out at your peril.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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DRIVER Sons Of Thunder
Metal Heaven 2008
I'm not sure whether this is a blast from the past or not? Way back in the late eighties, Driver were one of the LA bands that everyone thought would make it. Well, bar a five track demo, they didn't, and the band split with vocalist Rob Rock going on to become a legendary vocalist with the likes of Impelliterri, Axel Rudi Pell as well as a latter day solo career.
Guitarist Roy Z ended up with Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson during his Maiden hiatus, Rob Halford during his Priest hiatus, and has also forged an inexplicably acclaimed career as a producer.
Now, nearly two decades down the line, they've decided they have unfinished business to take care off, putting together a new version of Driver (including original drummer Butch Carlson) and expanding the demo to a full length album.
You won't be surprised to learn that "The Voice of Melodic Metal" has basically continued to do what he does best, which is powerful, um, melodic metal. The Rob Rock name is usually a stamp of quality and that continues here.
You wouldn't really know it's the 21st century from the songs here, as the band blast their way through a series of excellent, hard hitting rock songs including the title track, which dips into titanic Manowar territory, 'Hearts On Fire' and the killer ballad 'I Believe In Love'.
If this were still 1987, then you'd wager big money on 'Never Give Up' being a monster US hit single, with more hooks than a coach party of fishermen. Sure, a couple of tracks don't pass muster, but for the most part this is a fabulous album.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
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DESTROYER Blake Harrison interviewed
Interview by Cameron Edney
Virginia’s extreme sound nihilists Pig Destroyer deliver savage grindcore that is both intentionally confrontational and thoroughly pummeling. Pig Destroyer formed back in 1997 when the charismatic vocalist J.R. Hayes and guitarist Scott Hull decided to join forces and create a new brand of ravishing grindcore which had never been explored.
Twelve short months after forming, Pig Destroyer were ready to take on the world; the band recorded their first album 'Explosions in Ward 6' and toured extensively throughout the United States with bands such as Isis, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge.
Last year Pig Destroyer released their sixth and most diverse full length studio album ‘Phantom Limb’ which features some killer tracks such as ‘Girl in the Slayer Jacket’, ‘Deathtripper’, and ‘The Machete Twins’. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Pig Destroyer Sampler and electronics genius Blake Harrison. We discussed the bands upcoming tour, pig destroyers latest album ‘Phantom Limb’, what the future holds for the band and much more.
The time has come to get ‘Waist Deep In Ash’ with Pig Destroyers Blake Harrison.
Cameron Edney: Hi Blake, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us today. It won’t be too long now before you reach our shores, why has it taken you guys so long to organize shows here in Australia?
BLAKE HARRISON: Hey man, we don't really tour too much in general, even in the states, so when this opportunity was brought up to us, we jumped at the chance. It's not really something we do, with our jobs, families and things like that. It's hard for us to get on the road...
Cameron Edney: Blake let’s talk about the most recent album ‘Phantom Limb’! The response has been amazing all over the world and a little over twelve months on you are still touring on the back of this killer album, looking back is there anything you would have changed?
BLAKE HARRISON: Not much, I mean once you spend so much time with a project, there are of course things you'd rather do differently, but all in all, we're pretty pleased
Cameron Edney: What comes to mind when I mention the following tracks from 'Phantom Limb'...
Jupiter's Eye: A bit of a departure for Pig Destroyer, with the stoner rock sort of vibe, but a great song nonetheless.
Loathsome: Personally, I'm a bit tired of this one, has to do with the video and hearing 1000x in one day.
Girl in the Slayer Jacket: Pretty good song, we keep considering adding this into the set.
The Machete Twins: This one would be more for JR, his writing was a little different on this one, he wanted the females to be the strong characters in it.
Cameron Edney: How did you push each other musically and creatively to get the best results possible for 'Phantom Limb'?
BLAKE HARRISON: This is a bit difficult for me to answer as I stepped into the band midway through the writing process for this record. Pretty much Scott had the material written and came to practice with his songs, drums demoed and all, and they just got tweaked a little
Cameron Edney: Blake, how much involvement did you have in selecting the tunes which made the final cut on the new album?
BLAKE HARRISON: There wasn't a lot, we wrote pretty much for the album and that was it, there wasn't much extra material
Cameron Edney: Tell us about the equipment you used to record 'Phantom Limb'?
BLAKE HARRISON: The recording experience was great; we recorded at Omega Studios in Rockville Maryland, famous for recording the early Bad Brains stuff. Scott went to school for recording there. We used 2" analog tape, dumped into Pro Tools, but I think the natural tape saturation adds to the whole sound and feel to the album. The Neve console in the studio was also the one George Lucas mixed the Star Wars soundtrack on
Cameron Edney: Of all the members in the band, doing the Electronics, I guess you have the most freedom musically when it comes time to lay it all down in the studio? Did you approach 'Phantom Limb' in a different way to albums you have worked on in the past?
BLAKE HARRISON: I do feel like I have a lot of freedom, but in the same respect, I feel with the past material I do not, I certainly want to add to the feel and vibe without stepping all over the music. I've never really done electronics in a band before, so it was a pretty new experience, and I really wish we had the time to do more with it, but there's always going to be new material...
Cameron Edney: Are you currently working on any new material? Can you share any working titles with us?
BLAKE HARRISON: Yes, we are working on some stuff, but no, we don't have any working titles...
Cameron Edney: Blake I wanted to talk to you a little about life on the road. What can the Pig Destroyer fans expect when you guys go out on tour?
BLAKE HARRISON: Booze, booze and more booze, we all have regular jobs, so we like to cut loose a bit. We like to have a good time...
Cameron Edney: There is no doubt that you are great at what you do! Tell us about your most embarrassing onstage moment?
BLAKE HARRISON: Recently, we played the Dude Fest in Indianapolis, and there were a bunch of kids behind me, ready to stage dive when we started. Some of them bumped into me, and I deleted everything off of my sampler during the first song. I just rocked the fuck out for the rest of the set, but it was pretty embarrassing that I didn't have my shit backed up
Cameron Edney: Do you do anything specific to warm up before hitting the stage?
BLAKE HARRISON: Shots...
Cameron Edney: Have you ever had any problems with customs?
BLAKE HARRISON: No, not really, hopefully this doesn't jinx us though....
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] let’s hope it doesn’t mate! Who is the one band you would like to hit the road with?
BLAKE HARRISON: There are tons, I'm pretty excited to play with Blood Duster, playing with Halo again would be cool. Fight Amputation, Rotten Sound, Unsane, Misery Index... There are too many to name really.
Cameron Edney: Is there a show that you'd recall as the worst one?
BLAKE HARRISON: There's one that was before I was in the band, but we've vowed never even to bring it up...
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Okay… moving on, you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most and could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?
BLAKE HARRISON: The At the Gates tour was pretty fun, I'd have to say the funniest stuff was hearing all of the stories from the Mayhem guys, most of which I'm sure they wouldn't want us to repeat...
Cameron Edney: Mate, you’re probably right! Blake, we have hit the part of the interview where our readers find out more about the real you! Let's start with your childhood, tell us about those early school years, at that young age did you know you were destined for a career in music?
BLAKE HARRISON: Wow, this is a tough one, I grew up in pretty rural Maryland, I don't know if there was a "destiny" as far as a career in music, I just always loved music and had a huge desire to play/perform it. I played saxophone poorly in elementary school, and got my first guitar at about thirteen. I found a love of metal when I first heard Metallica’s ‘Ride the Lightning’, and then Napalm Death completely changed my life. There wasn't a lot of people involved in the music scene where I grew up, so my first band started in high school, and then I moved on to college.
Cameron Edney: Take us through a typical weekend as a teen in the neighborhood you grew up in?
BLAKE HARRISON: Like I said, I grew up in kind of a rural area, I'd hang out, try to ride my skateboard, play guitar, drink, go to Washington DC, or Baltimore to check out local music. I never really cared, I'd just check out bands all the time...
Cameron Edney: What have your parents thought about the music you played?
BLAKE HARRISON: They think it's cool that I get the opportunity to do the things I do, but I don't think either of them have actually heard my music at all, ever.
Cameron Edney: Has there ever been a point of your career where you personally lost hope & thought everything was over?
BLAKE HARRISON: If that's your proclivity, you shouldn't be playing extreme music, all the free booze, drugs, promiscuous sex, and easy money, who wouldn't want to slug it out in a van with 4-5 other sweaty testosterone fueled men to drive all day to play for forty five minutes...
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] What was the very first concert you attended and how much of an impact did that have on you musically?
BLAKE HARRISON: My brother took me to see Iron Maiden on the Somewhere in Time Tour...what is interesting is that he didn't' really like them, but he thought I would. It definitely shaped my life as a young metal head I was only ten at the time. What a bad ass tour!
Cameron Edney: Blake, already there have been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?
BLAKE HARRISON: I've played a lot of shows and had a lot of fun, that's really better than anything else... having my grandmother see me on MTV right before she passed was pretty cool too...
Cameron Edney: What's the craziest rumour you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?
BLAKE HARRISON: The one rumor that sticks out is that JR is Christian and has a tattoo to prove it... I believe there's a picture online where he may have an "X" on his hand that possibly could look like a crucifix if you really want to stretch it...
Cameron Edney: If you were to stop playing tomorrow, what would you be doing?
BLAKE HARRISON: Working still, I work at an audio engineering company, I'd probably still play music, but on a different level. My dream in life is just to go fishing every day.
Cameron Edney: Who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of you work?
BLAKE HARRISON: Matthew Barney the artist, Jeff Walker from Carcass, Joe Preston from the Melvins, all of which are very flattering...
Cameron Edney: Tell us something about the other guys in the band that we may not know!
BLAKE HARRISON: There's not a lot of dirt we have... Scott works for the government... How punk is that?
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] It doesn’t get much better huh [laughs]! The band has been together now for a little over ten years, what influence do you think Pig Destroyer have on today's music?
BLAKE HARRISON: Well, as a fan, and now a member, PxDx to me is kind of a new version of grindcore, on a much lesser scale of course and not as influential as the original wave, but I think it's cool that a younger crowd comes out to support us...
Cameron Edney: Mate, I only have a couple more questions for ya! Using only five words how would you describe Pig Destroyer to someone who has never heard them?
BLAKE HARRISON: The Pornographers of Sound (I know it's four, and a cheesy catch phrase, but)...
Cameron Edney: What lies ahead for Pig Destroyer, do you guys have any other big plans that you can share with us?
BLAKE HARRISON: I believe we're trying to get to Europe next year, who knows, we plan on recording some new material, and releasing it, and hopefully punishing eardrums everywhere...
Cameron Edney: Lastly mate is a question I ask of everyone I interview. What is the one band you never want to hear again and why?
BLAKE HARRISON: The RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, it's like kryptonite to me
Cameron Edney: Blake thanks again for your time today mate, I wish you all the very best with the tour! Do you have any last words for our readers?
BLAKE HARRISON: Thanks man! Please come out to see us, keep supporting extreme music, and if you do come out, buy me a Guinness...
© Cameron Edney 2008
To keep up with all the latest Pig Destroyer news head to the following sites.
Official Pig Destroyer Website
Pig Destroyer on MySpace
OHM Circus Of Sound
One time Megadeth guitarist has been plowing a different furrow since his long gone days in the world of thrash metal. But don't go thinking his shift to jazz / fusion instrumentals is some kind of mid-life crisis. Because prior to the "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!" and "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" period of his life, Poland played guitar in a fusion band called the New Yorkers, with bass player Robertino Pagliari and fellow Megadether Gar Samuelson on drums. After his dismissal, and despite on and off antipathy between Poland and Megadeath leader, Dave Mustaine he did return to contribute solos to the 1994 album, "The System Has Failed".
But since 1997, Ohm has been his main creative output, alongside fellow ex New Yorker Robertino Pagliari and an assortment of drummers. Latterly, the drum role has been filled by Kofi "son of Ginger" Baker, but this album sees the drumming duties split three ways with Baker appearing on half the songs.
It's very much back to his roots with shades of Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra interwoven with some metal tinged guitar work. I've not kept up to date with his career, but this seems to fall more on the rock side of fusion, than it does jazz, so it will appeal to the Vai / Gilbert / Satriani fans out there.
And it really is an excellent release for those of us who enjoy the sounds of fusion. It's chock full of musical treats, with Polands upfront playing beautifully underpinned by the fantastic bass work of Pagliari.
In fact, there is just as much here for bass and drumheads as there is fret fanciers, with some of the percussion work absolutely inspiring. I'm pushed to pick a couple of highlights, but if a gun were at my head, then I'd go for 'System Of A Clown', where Joe Taylor shows just why Allan Holdsworth had him sitting on a drum stool, and the delightfully melodic 'Steps From Home' which just lodges in your brain.
It sounds great with a fabulous production, courtesy of Poland and Petar Sardelich, and is a rich, melodic, and intense album that just oozes class from every enjoyable groove.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
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SISTER SIN Switchblade Serenades
Metal Heaven 2008
There's usually a reason for it taking six years for a band to follow up a debut album, and that reason usually involves a lack of talent. Well that's only half true in the case of Sister Sin.
Emerging from the mean streets of Sweden at a tortoise like pace, Sister Sin come across as a hybrid of Girlschool and Motley Crue, something that sounds like a Tommy Lee home video, but involves hard edged biker rock crashing into some eighties hair metal choruses.
Which is quite nice, but a lot of the songs seem to involve a strong chorus, and then a couple of minutes of filler, while you wait for the next chorus to arrive. When a good riff arrives, you welcome it like a long lost friend as it carries you through to your next sing-a-long bit. So songs like 'Death Will Greet Us' work well on record, but some numbers like 'On Parole' will make an awful lot more sense in a dank, smelly club.
Vocalist Liv has quite a harsh, Joan Jett / Doro type voice, which suits the harder material better than when she tries to emote and, again, she probably rocks it big time live. In an unusual twist, the band take on a Motorhead cover in the shape of 'Make My Day' from the "1916" album. An unusual choice, but Motorhead are always welcome round my way. I wonder if it's a clever in-joke that it's sequenced straight after 'On Parole'?
If you've been lost in the ozone since grunge killed off decent rock music, you may well enjoy this. The album sounds great, production-wise, and the band kick serious amounts of ass. Despite my reservations about the songs, I had fun listening to it, and enjoyed the vinyl crackle that's been programmed in, but I doubt it will have staying power in the repeat play file.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating *** (3.0/5.0)
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HOLY MARTYR - "HELLENIC WARRIOR SPIRIT"
The story of the legendary battle between King Leonidas of Sparta & King Xerxes of Persia at Thermopylae in 297 BC has been a source of inspiration for artists for centuries. All these fine works of art, from the brilliantly conceived painting of Jacques Louis David (1814) to Frank Miller's graphic novel '300' and its subsequent movie adaptation by Zack Snyder, have attempted to bring across the array of powerful feelings and emotions that Leonidas’ and his faithful soldiers' divine sacrifice, which has inspired and continues to inspire people throughout the world.
It is, therefore, inevitable that any similarly conceived efforts will be rigorously scrutinised by their intended audiences. The latest interpretation of this classic tale of honour, betrayal and courage comes from the Italian Heavy Metal quintet Holy Martyr in the form of an eleven-track album, entitled "Hellenic Warrior Spirit".
The first thought that crossed my mind the moment I got my hands on this promo copy that was sent to me by Dragonheart records was that this was an effort of an 80s sounding Greek Heavy Metal band, so one can say that I was partly accurate in my prediction.
Influences from N.W.O.B.H.M and especially early Iron Maiden are clearly audible throughout the album, not only in the numerous melodic sounding guitar solos on offer, but also in Alex Mereu's varied vocal performances which come to dominate each of the eleven presented compositions. It is indeed true that, as far as the choice of style/genre is concerned, Holy Martyr are not presenting us with something that we have not heard from hundreds of bands during the last twenty five years.
Still, "Hellenic Warrior Spirit" is the kind of album that not only managed to win me over in no time, but I can say I will continue to listen to it with great pleasure in the months to come. Why? Well, apart from the fact that they seem to refuse to jump on the 'True Metal' bandwagon like most young Heavy Metal bands nowadays, they use their classic influences (Running Wild/Thin Lizzy) in moderation, thus managing to come across as both fresh and classic - a very impressive combination indeed.
It is true that you somehow know exactly what to expect from this album the moment you hear the first few notes of the epic/pompous 'military' intro "March", yet it will be strange if you are not slightly surprised by the beautiful opening melodies of "Spartan Phalanx". The production is powerful, all instruments come clear in the final mix, riffs are heavy and simple, the refrain is catchy and memorable - all elements of a great song.
Those of you who are keen on giving your neck a really hard time will be provided with such an opportunity by 'banging along' to the galloping riffs of either "Lakedaimon" or "The Call to Arms", the latter's intro having borrowed probably the best quote from Zack Snyder's movie '300'. The one thing that sets Holy Martyr apart from all those Manilla Road and Omen 'clones', though, is their willingness to expand their musical horizons into many different directions, an attitude which brought to fruition songs like the slow tempo "Hellenic Valour" and "The Lion of Sparta" - the former being a heavy but atmospheric composition with emphasis on melody (check out the amazing acoustic guitar break half way through the song) and the latter the band's tribute to Iron Maiden.
There are moments in the album, such as in the closing opus "To Kalesma Sta Opla" where Alex Bauer's accent does not really work to the band's benefit, but the fact alone that the singer of Holy Martyr decided to sing a whole song in Greek is proof of the band's willingness to make that extra step towards the creation of something more special than what the average Keep It True band aspires to produce nowadays, and that is why this release should be greeted with appreciation by the fans of this specialised genre.
When it comes to classic Heavy Metal, there are not many things that a young band can do, other than to try to create a decent release that will give justice to the music of those artists that set the standards of the genre back in the 80s and "Hellenic Warrior Spirit" is an album that has achieved exactly that. If what you are looking for in a classic Metal album is passion and honesty, then do yourselves a favour and get your hands on this gem - you will not regret it.
Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)
GALLHAMMER - "RUIN OF A CHURCH" DVD
If I were to compile a list of bands that made the biggest impression on me back in 2007, the Japanese female trio Gallhammer will occupy a predominant position.
I mean, who would have thought that three little girls from Tokyo, armed only with their passion for dark extreme music and their admiration for the music of Amebix and Hellhammer would manage to make so many journalists around the world bow before them, simply on the strength of the release of their second full length album "Ill Innocent"?
Sometimes, all you need to do is to be in the right place at the right time, so when the opportunity rose for them, Vivian, Mika and Risa grabbed it with both hands.
Following the release of "Ill Innocence", Gallhammer went on a short European tour that found them performing on English soil and, even though I was invited to review their London show, obligations of a personal nature deprived me from attending - something that bothers me to this very day.
You see, one of the things I was desperately looking forward to establishing was whether the power trio would manage to recreate in a live environment the dark/gloomy atmosphere that made "Ill Innocent" such an impressive effort. Well, if Mohammed won't go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed, and with that in mind, I gratefully received a copy of the band's first ever DVD "Ruin of a Church" - a release that will finally provide me with an answer to all the above questions.
The feelings I am left with after having been through the process of watching the band's live performance that took place on the 25th of September 2007 are mixed, seeing as I found that there are equally positive and negative things to say about this DVD release.
I believe that the decision to record this DVD at the Colchester Arts Centre was indeed a wise move, seeing as I cannot see how any other venue on British soil other than this deconsecrated church would be capable of providing the ideal vibes that would enable atmospheric compositions, such as "Hallucination" and "Song of Fall" to reach their full potential.
There was certainly a great deal of mystique with regards to the band's overall presence and the performances of songs like the punky mid tempo opus "Blind My Eyes", the Burzumesque "Endless Nauseous Days" and the 'claustrophobic' "At The Onset of the Age of Despair" were both impressive and inspirational.
It is also true, though, that the band seemed somewhat alienated on stage, giving me the impression that they felt as if they were in their rehearsal room rather than playing in front of a crowd.
There was no exchange of words between band and fans, other than a ‘domo arigato’ coming out of Risa Reaper’s mouth moments before the band was to leave the stage, but based on what I saw in the band interview featured in the extras, this probably has to do with the fact that these three noisy musicians are indeed quite shy.
Annoyingly so, the crowd's voices have been erased in the final mix, and something makes me believe that this is probably a decision made as a result of potentially poor attendance on the night of the show.
Finally, there were a few moments during the show when the band looked slightly overwhelmed by the overall experience, making simple mistakes in musical parts that were neither difficult to perform, nor technically demanding.
If your question to me is whether I would be buying this DVD, had I not received a copy from Peaceville records, the answer is yes.
It is clear that these Japanese Gloom merchants have still many things to learn, but there is so much passion and energy behind everything that they do that I feel inclined to support them.
Apart from the main one hour long gig, this DVD includes bootleg footage from two more shows (London Barfly, Oslo Club Maiden), promo videos for "Hallucination" and "World to be Ashes" and an interesting interview, where the questions are asked in English while the band’s replies are in Japanese - all making "Ruin of a Church" an interesting package. Things are very simple here: if you are looking for something dark and slightly out of the norm, then this release is indeed for you.
Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
THE DROWNING This Bleak Descent
Album number two from Welsh doom-mongers, The Drowning, a genre I'm surprised more Welsh bands don't investigate. Following on from debut, "When The Light Was Taken From Us", an album I'm now ashamed to have missed, this is one of the finest British doom releases I have heard in a long, long time.
Returning doom to its dark roots, and away from the more melodic direction a lot of the name doom bands have pursued, this lives up to its bleak title, taking the listener on a dirgey, heavy, unrelenting journey into recesses best left alone.
The band themselves say they're hearkening back to the heady, doomy days of Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, and it's probably My Dying Bride that they have most in common with.
The slow, ponderous riffs are lightened with touches of keyboards and acoustics, but then the harsh, brutal vocals of James Moore arrive, and you know there isn't going to be any wimping out on display here.
At times I was reminded of long gone doomsters The Blood Divine, but as you head through album highlights like 'Blackened Weave' and the soul crushing 'In The Fields Of Solace', you realise that they are very much their own men.
If you've been yearning for the days of albums like "The Angel and the Dark River" and "The Silent Enigma", then this may be your new best friend.
© Stuart A Hamilton
Rating **** (4.0/5.0)
DISARMTH Man, Machine and Murder
These guys have been peddling their NWOBHM styled metal for a good while now and finally after 9 years since their first album, they have finally reached the point where they have decided to record another original EP.
I am not really familiar with their music but I respect any old school band enough to at least try their music. The band have quite a live reputation as a hard rocking 4 piece on the live circuit and now they test that reputation once again in the studio.
Well to be honest with you all, this final product is rather lacking for my tastes I'm afraid. Their heart is definitely in the right place but with this type of production and bog standard song-writing, they just come off sounding like a typical pub band let loose in the studio with less than flattering results.
Don't get me wrong, the band has talent especially the lead guitar parts which are pretty cool, but the rest of it sounds just so pedestrian and without the necessary sound to lift the album above the norm. The vocals are very average too and lack presence or the muscle that the music calls for. Having said all that the band has some cool riffs going on at times with galloping twin guitar parts and sweet if simplistic leads.
I also hear a little Thin Lizzy styled riffing mixed with marching Saxon refrains which sounds pretty good on paper but the real thing just lacks bite and attack. I'm sure if I heard these songs in a live setting it would go down much better, but as a recorded entity, I find myself unexcited to say the least. I shouldn't keep harping on about the production, but this music needs crisp sound and thunder otherwise it sounds limp and lifeless.
Disarm Goliath are probably a pretty cool live band, but this album or long EP needs a lot of work in order for them to have any kind of real success as a recording or possibly get signed to a label. I hate to be harsh and trust me I've heard plenty worse so I should end by saying that these guys do have true metal flowing through their veins and probably love classic British metal more than anyone else. Plus their enthusiasm is probably second to none and they deserve praise for playing a style of metal which is still pretty much ignored today by the kids who just want to scream and rant to their emo crap all day.
© Pirage Forsi
Rating **1/2 (2.5/5.0)
Buy From Amazon
BLOODBATH - "THE FATHOMLESS MASTERY"
Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. After many years of speculation and false hopes, we are finally ready to welcome the release of Bloodbath's third studio album "The Fathomless Mastery".
Peaceville records has managed to keep fans of the band, myself of course included, in a relative 'sedated/happy' state of mind this year, not only by releasing the enjoyable four track teaser EP "Unblessing the Purity", but also the amazing live VD/DVD combo "The Wacken Carnage" - yet, I'd like to believe that we will all agree in saying that nothing other than a full-length studio release would finally manage to satisfy our hunger. After all is said and done, was "The Fathomless Mastery" worth waiting for? You bet it was!
One thing that you are always guaranteed by any project featuring the participation of musicians such as Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Anders 'Blakkheim' Nystrom (Katatonia) and Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) is high levels of quality: quality in sound, quality in overall performance and quality in atmosphere/emotion - attributes that exist in abundance in "The Fathomless Mastery".
The one important thing that I did realise, though, during my long and enjoyable encounter with this album is that the Bloodbath are still capable of providing the band's fanbase with a few nice surprises, while remaining faithful to their distinctive style that has been the band's trademark since the days of "Breeding Death" - namely an explosive mix of US Death Metal-influenced aggression and Scandinavian (see Entombed) melodic overtones.
The ultimate truth that this album means serious business comes in the form of "At The Behest of their Death", as everything that you ever loved in a Bloodbath composition can be found here: deep Death Metal growls courtesy of Mr.Akerfeldt, a variety of groovy and fast rhythmical guitar riffs and also imposing blastbeats and technical rhythmical themes capable of putting to shame even the most experienced of drummers.
It is this very variety in rhythmical themes that makes each an every composition of this album an absolute pleasure to listen to, regardless to whether this is a fast-paced Entombed-sounding composition, such as "Process of Disillumination" or a more groovy mid tempo monster such as "Slaughtering the Will to Live", - a composition whose lead guitar themes are terribly reminiscent of Trey Azagthoth's "Morbid Angel".
Other compositions that betray Bloodbath's devotion to the music of these Death Metal pioneers (Morbid Angel) are "Mock the Cross" and "Hades Rising", the former displaying numerous short melodic solos whereas the latter indulging in long/atmospheric passages, especially towards the end of the composition.
There are three songs, apart from the above-mentioned opening track, that completely blew me away and these were the two headbanging anthems "Iesous" and "Earthrot" but, most importantly, the brilliantly conceived opus "Treasonous", whose fast rhythmical opening theme is a must for every Deicide/Malevolent Creation fan and whose catchy refrain you will feel compelled to sing along to at any given opportunity.
Even though my addiction to "The Fathomless Mastery" was instantaneous, is has become quite apparent to me that these eleven compositions will continue to provide 'new clues' regarding the influences that brought them to life with each new spin, and that is the reason why I feel no hesitation in recommending this release to every fan of good quality Death Metal music. Now, if it just so happens that you are one of these people, such as myself, who grew up listening to bands like Entombed or Morbid Angel, then no more words need to be said, right?
Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)
FIREWIND GIG REVIEW
Support Acts: KIUAS/DEAR SUPERSTAR
London Scala, 25 September 2008
Review by John Stefanis
Being half way through the process of revising for this year's university exams, I was desperately in need of a small break - one that would enable me to release some energy and perhaps charge my batteries, so when my colleagues asked me whether I would be interested in reviewing a Firewind gig I was more than happy to accept.
The Greek metalheads have managed to raise their value in the music business quite high recently, with the release of their fifth full-length album "The Premonition", receiving some really positive reviews, so it was almost understandable how the gig that took place on the 25th of September ended up leaving both the crowd and the three participating bands with an obvious sense of satisfaction after the lights went out.
The first opening act of the night was the Manchester-based outfit Dear Superstar, and I have to say that it has been since the early days of the Stone Gods that I have to come across such a diverse band!
If you can imagine a post-hardcore outfit with a strong affection for bands such as Guns n'Roses and Motley Crue, you are still slightly far from describing these five lads and I have to admit that I was quite intrigued to find out whether they would be able to attract the attention of Firewind's loyal Power Metal crowd. The pit was relatively empty when these lads hit the stage, but before the end of their short set they had somehow managed to attract the attention and the applause of the few people that were willing to spend their time on something 'slightly different'.
Next on stage were the Finish Power/Folk metal quintet Kiuas - a band that was greeted with sheer joy by a large proportion of the crowd - testimony that the venue was hosting a varied crowd that night. Following the release of their latest album "The New Dark Age", the five Finns were more than happy to perform anthems such as "Conqueror" and the same-titled composition, both of which impressed with their groove and melody.
Further proof that this is 'not yet another Folk Metal band' came from the presentation of songs, such as "The Spirit of Ukko"and "Of Ancient Wounds", not only enabling the band to display material from all three albums, but also leaving me with the hope of seeing them headlining a London venue soon.
Firewind is a band that I have grown to respect quite a lot over the years, not only due to the undoubtable talent of guitarist Gus G, but also because of the great energy they bring to their live performances and this was not an exception. Last time I saw the band, though, which was a couple of years ago at the London Underworld, the band's frontman was not Apollo Papathanassiou, but the quite charismatic Chitral Somapala. Chitral was indeed a great addition to the band, so I was naturally uncertain as to whether Apollo would manage to match his skill.
A few minutes into the set, however, any doubts I was harbouring were dispelled. The band was as tight as ever and fans responded with much excitement, not only in the opening "Into The Fire", but also in compositions such as "Head Up High" and "The Silent Code".
One thing I always admired about Gus G is the fact that he manages to impress with his guitar skills without becoming tiring or annoying (unlike Yngwie Malmsteen) and yesterday's show proved once again why this young musician deserves all the praise that he can get. I believe I got so hooked on what was going on on the stage that I was somehow shocked when I realised that "Till The End of Time" was to be the last song of the band's main set, although they did come back on stage for a three song encore minutes later.
If you were part of the crowd that enjoyed this unusual bill on the evening of the 25th of September, you will probably agree with me that this was a show that was definitely worth attending.
BENEDICTION Darren Brookes interviewed
Interview by Cameron Edney
Death metallers Benediction are certainly a band with passion, integrity and attitude! Recently releasing their seventh full length studio album ‘Killing Music’ the band has been receiving exceptional reviews from critics and fans alike across the globe. Hailing from Birmingham, England, the birthplace of Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, Benediction are known as one of the world’s leading death metal acts.
Forming in 1989 the band instantly drew interest from Nuclear Blast which resulted into a record deal and led to the band’s debut release ‘Subconscious Terror’ in 1990. By the time the band were ready to enter the studio for their second masterpiece ‘The Grand Leveller’ metal fans around the world had adopted Benediction as their new favorite metal giants.
The earliest incarnation of Benediction featured Paul Adams (bass), Peter Rew (guitars), Darren Brookes (guitars) and Mark "Barney" Greenway (vocals) who went on to front Napalm Death. Over the years Benediction may have undergone some line-up changes but they have never let that get in the way of doing what they do best, making powerful, influential hard hitting metal!
As time has gone Benediction have become a live force to be reckoned with. Touring extensively during the nineties with Death at the request of Chuck Schuldiner, benediction formed a close relationship with the band and influential vocalist. The band have also had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the likes of Judas Priest, Motorhead, Dismember and Bolt thrower to name just a few.
With album sales that are in the hundreds of thousands, Benediction have toured almost everywhere on earth, and with the release of ‘Killing Music’ last month, Benediction are gearing up to slaughter fans across Europe once again as they introduce their adoring fans to some amazing new tracks. With songs such as ‘As Her Skin Weeps’, ‘They Must Die Screaming’ and ‘Dripping with Disgust’ ‘Killing Music’ can only be classed as the bands most brutal, energetic and powerful album to date.
I recently caught up with founding guitarist Darren Brookes to discuss the recording process for ‘Killing Music’, growing up in Birmingham and much more. Kick back as we begin ‘Burying the Hatchet’ with the legendary death metal axe-man Darren Brookes.
Cameron Edney: Hey Daz, I want to thank you for taking the time out to answer the following questions for our readers! Congratulations are certainly in order; the new album ‘Killing Music’ is amazing! No doubt you were happy with the outcome?
DARREN BROOKES: Yes Mate, but more so with the response. We were confident we had something’ good, but for others to say the same gives you a real buzz.
Cameron Edney: How has the response been thus far from family, friends and fans that have heard the album?
DARREN BROOKES: It’s all positive so far.
Cameron Edney: It’s been seven years since the bands last release and there is no doubt that various members commitments to other projects has played in the delay of new material but what I wanted to know was how the first encounter back in the studio went after such a long time apart?
DARREN BROOKES: As I’ve said in so many interviews, we ain’t been away! Neil left and in truth we had a real problem filling his boots. We’ve gigged constantly with various drummers over that period, played loads of festivals but we had problems finding ‘our’ drummer. It ain’t about just hittin skins; you have to ‘fit’ into the family.
We came close with Nik Barker, a long time friend but obviously the Testament thing clashed and we had to let him go. We asked Neil to help us put the album together on a temp basis but the minute he got behind the kit, it all fell into place and we just kicked on from there.
Listen, when this scene began to struggle, everyone jumped ship-we didn’t. We stayed true and hung in because we believed. Now it’s rising in profile again, everyone wants a ride- pisses me off no end. These people are in this for the money, the fame. We’re in it cause we love it and we’re privileged to have this opportunity… Right, that’s that out of me system- soap box away, sorry.
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] No worries mate, I hear ya! How did you push each other musically and creatively to get the best results possible for ‘Killing Music’?
DARREN BROOKES: Well I’ll refer you to the above response. We love what we’re doing and we believe in each other. We’re more a family than a band.
Cameron Edney: I love the album title and there is no doubt that it makes a strong statement on its own! Why did you guys decide to go with such a bold title for the new album?
DARREN BROOKES: I think it originated from an old venom slogan ‘home taping is killing music- and so is venom’, or something like that, but then Dave got hold of it and took it to a whole new level.
Cameron Edney: How much involvement did you have in selecting the tunes which made the final cut on the new album?
DARREN BROOKES: Well, we recorded about twenty two tunes, then played the ‘roughs’ back in the studio and made the selections over a few beers.
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] which is the only way to do it [laughs]. When it came time to record ‘Killing Music’, did you approach it in a different way to some of the albums you have recorded in the past?
DARREN BROOKES: It was more relaxed in terms of it being recorded in Birmingham and also with Mick Kenney being a close friend, yet being our first new recordings for a while there was real excitement and a determination that this would shred. It’s also not as polished as previous efforts. We wanted a more raw edge, in your face feel!
Cameron Edney: Using only five words: How would you describe ‘Killing Music’?
DARREN BROOKES: The Best Album We’ve Made [laughs]; no I would probably say Raw, Hard, Honest, Energetic, Benediction.
Cameron Edney: Daz, I want to talk with you a little about life on the road…. Can you remember the hardest time you had as an opening act?
DARREN BROOKES: Well, we were lucky. Our first tour was supporting Autopsy but they pulled out and we were asked to carry on by the promoter. That tour was amazing and we haven’t had to open a gig yet. We did open the Gods of Metal festival in Milan many years ago but it went without a hitch.
Cameron Edney: Do you do anything specific to warm up and prepare for a show?
DARREN BROOKES: Nope, adrenalin is all you need. If you ain’t got that, you shouldn’t be there!
Cameron Edney: Mate, now that ‘Killing Music’ is completed what touring plans are to follow and what can fans expect to see when you hit the road?
DARREN BROOKES: We have a European tour next month, you can check out our MySpace for dates and other info. We ain’t a band that uses any stage props or gimmicks, no costumes. We just hit the stage, full on, lovin every minute and we connect with the audience because we are one of them. We love what we do.
Cameron Edney: What comes to mind when you look back on the very first show you ever played with Benediction?
DARREN BROOKES: The first show was in Birmingham with Napalm, we only had about twenty five minutes of material, but the gig went really well and we ended up doing the set twice. Great fun!
Cameron Edney: Over the years, you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most and what comes to mind when you look back on the fun times you’ve had on the road!
DARREN BROOKES: Obviously we had a top relationship with Chuck (Death). At his request we toured with them twice and I think that is because we treated him like another human being, rather than either an idol or an ass which he was often labeled.
I do remember trying to get into a club in Milan with Frank our bassist and Lemmy (Motörhead) and when they turned Lemmy away, he turned to me and the others, tilted his white cowboy hat and said ‘’they turned me away, you ain’t got a chance’. We promptly returned to the hotel bar with obvious results. Frank was first to pass out, breakin his nose on the marble floor. I was then dragged by my feet to my room by Dave our singer. Probably a great night…
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] You have shared the stage with many amazing bands over time, who have given you the best single piece of advice whilst on tour and what did they say?
DARREN BROOKES: I don’t recall ever getting advice but playin with these bands is such a buzz.
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Tell us, what is your most embarrassing onstage moment?
DARREN BROOKES: Playing a show in Wels- Austria. I held a note leading into a mid section I lead off in. I was doin the proper guitar in the air thing, holding the note as long as possible, building and building. Then I brought the guitar down, stood in the middle of the stage, all eyes on me and then played the mid section to a different track. Had to stop, laughed, apologized to the crowd and tried again. Dead funny!
Cameron Edney: Daz, we’ve hit the part of the interview where our readers get to find out more about the real you! If you woke up tomorrow and decided you didn’t want anything to do with the music industry, what would you be doing
DARREN BROOKES: In another life, I would have been a footballer. In this life, when I’m not doing band stuff, I’m a rigger.
Cameron Edney: Tell us about your childhood, were you the long haired “weird” kid in school that no one would talk to? Was metal music a thriving part of the community you grew up in?
DARREN BROOKES: I absolutely was. Funnily, metal/punk was not really that popular which is stupid considering the metal history in Birmingham, Sabbath, Priest etc. In a school of 1600, there were three metallers, me, another guy and this girl in the year below us.
Cameron Edney: What was the very first concert you attended and how much of an impact did that have on you musically?
DARREN BROOKES: My first was Gillan, but within about six months I’d seen AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Priest, , MSG and Kiss. I Think I was about thirteen and I decided there and then, that’s what I wanted to be.
Cameron Edney: What’s the craziest rumour you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?
DARREN BROOKES: That we had or were about to break up.
Cameron Edney: Mate, what have your parents thought about the music you have played?
DARREN BROOKES: Funnily my Mom always backed me and my Dad always said I should play in a real band and play in bars. Both have given me inspiration
Cameron Edney: Daz, to date there has been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?
DARREN BROOKES: I guess lasting so long, being spoken about by the new bands as an inspiration and as you say, playing with my childhood heroes, Priest, Motorhead, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Slayer…the list is endless. I’m very lucky to do what I do and I know it.
Cameron Edney: Who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of you work?
DARREN BROOKES: I remember talking to Ian Hill [Judas Priest] and Tim Owens [Judas Priest / Iced Earth] and they said they had been listening to the album ‘Grind Bastard’ on their bus, We played a fest in Germany and as we came off stage we had various members of Slipknot watching us. They said they were big fans and then people like Billy from Faith No More. He was reeling song titles off to us when we met him in Bulgaria. That was amazing.
Cameron Edney: What is the one metal song you wish you had written?
DARREN BROOKES: Maybe, ‘Fast as a shark’ - Accept. There are loads!
Cameron Edney: Tell us something about the other guys in the band that we may not know!
DARREN BROOKES: Oh, there’s nothing really to tell… We’re all very simple, honest blokes who love this gig.
Cameron Edney: Over the last couple of years I have really opened my eyes to so many amazing newer hard rock / metal artists from all corners of the globe! Are you currently listening to any of the newer hard rock/metal bands? If so who?
DARREN BROOKES: I’m still stuck in the eighties. I just think a lot of the new stuff doesn’t grab me like the older stuff did.
Cameron Edney: >From all the albums you have appeared on what one would be your favourite to listen to and why?
DARREN BROOKES: ‘Killing Music’ because it’s now, it’s where I am.
Cameron Edney: Daz, I only have a couple more questions for you… Now that the album is finished… you will be heading out for a series of shows. Can we expect to see anything filmed for a new Dvd release?
DARREN BROOKES: There’s a DVD with the album I believe, just some clips from the recording. We have loads of bootleg stuff we could maybe release and I think we are in talks to do a full live DVD in Poland in the early part of next year.
Cameron Edney: What is the one band you never want to hear again and why?
DARREN BROOKES: I’m not gonna name names but there are various bands with ‘superstars’ within. I can’t be doing with that shit. The fans are the superstars and these wankers would do well to remember that.
Cameron Edney: I want to thank you again for your time today mate and wish you all the very best with ‘Killing Music’! Do you have any last words for our readers?
DARREN BROOKES: I would like to say a massive thanks to you and your readers. Without you people, I could not do what I do. Thank you very much, support the scene and keep in touch!
© Cameron Edney Sept 2008
Catch Benediction live in the following cities
2 Oct W.O.D Festival...Bamberg Germany
3 Oct Transilvania...Erstfeld Switzerland
4 Oct Volxhaus...Klagenfurth Austria
5 Oct Arena...Vienna (Wien) Austria
6 Oct Exit Chemelnice...Prague Czech Republic
10 Oct Collosseum...Kosice Slovakia
12 Oct Dekomptesja...Lodz Poland
17 Oct Blue Box...Sofia Bulgaria
19 Oct Avalon Club...Budapest Hungary
20 Oct Gala Hala...Liubijana Slovenia
21 Oct Legend 54...Milan Italy
22 Oct Sala Mephisto...Barcelona Spain
23 Oct Sala Caracol...Madrid Spain
25 Oct Sala Tunk...Irun Spain
22 Nov Damnation Festival Leeds University
To keep up with all the latest Benediction news head to the following websites….
http://www.myspace.com/benedictionuk Benediction on MySpace
The album "Killing Music" is out now. Buy at Amazon
© Cameron Edney 2008
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damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly