VIBRATIONS OF DOOM
BY: STEVEN CANNON
This issue is dedicated to Peter Wittke, one of the original guitarists of one
of my favorite bands Iron Angel. Work on their latest album "The Rebirth," as
reported in issue #25, has been put on hold, and it is doubtful whether the
band can or will continue. Peter died in a car accident on September 21st, our
thoughts and prayers go out to not only the band but his family as well. He is
survived by his wife Bianca and his two year old son Leon.
Speaking of sons, I have one as well. William Thorne Cannon was born into the
world on March 13th of this year... A definite source of imspiration to say
Welcome to another issue. Damn if this ain't our biggest issue yet! Here's da
address to send things to:
Vibrations of Doom Magazine
c/o Steven Cannon
P.O. Box 1258
Suwanee, GA 30024-0963 USA
ANNIHILATOR "Carnival Diablos" (Metal-Is) SCORE: 54/100
I must say I was surprised to see Annihilator still around. This CD showcases
a new vocalist in Joe Comeau, who also sang for Liege Lord on their last
record "Master Control." He tries to sing with a lower toned style, which for
the most part is adequate, but the songs here have very little spark to keep my
interest. The CD starts out with 'Denied,' showcasing some thrashy dual guitar
attacks that are used sparingly and very seldom come off as kick ass. 'Battered'
has these choppy thrash riffs that kill, but the song itself sucks, the choruses
are weak and uninspired. 'Insomniac' is about the worst song on here lyric wise,
ooh, gee, what an evil song that talks about someone that can't get to sleep!
Check out a sample lyric: "You're getting ready for the next attack, so go on
and try to rest your head, but you just can't, just can't, can't get to bed."
Anyway, that crap aside there's a few good songs here, albeit only a few. The
title track was most suprising; when they're not trying to be all heavy and
thrashy, they can actually write some good melodic material, Joe's vocals sound
great here and the choruses are actually worth listening to, simplistic though
they are. And the slower thrashy number 'Time Bomb' showcases Joe's lower toned
vocals at their best: full of suspense, aggression, and viciousness that no
other track on this album can touch. 'Shallow Grave' was highly amusing,
everything from the guitar riffs to Joe's emulation of Mr. Scott to the catchy
phrasing of the lyrics and chorus reminds one instantly of AC/DC, and it was
a really cool track. Comeau is almost a dead ringer for the famed AC/DC
vocalist! Many of the songs aren't terrible, but on an 11 song CD to only have
4 songs I could even stand to listen to does not fare well for the aged
thrashers. Sounds rather tired.
Contact: Metal-Is Records.
AYREON "Flight of The Migrator" (Inside Out Music) SCORE: 95/100
If I actually had a chance to resend the top 15 albums of 2000, this one would
have been a notch below the first CD in this series "The Dream Sequencer." This
is the heavier side of the space story, and most surprising it is to hear the
spacey sequencers and synths alongside heavy guitar work. This CD also features
the most popular of singers, including Timo from Stratovarius, Fabio Leone from
Rhapsody, and of course the most famous of all being Iron Maiden's Bruce
Dickinson. And let me say right off the bat that Bruce's vocal work on 'Into
The Black Hole' made this song hands down the best on the whole CD. I've heard
a later version of this song on the 'Ayreonauts Only' CD (reviewed as well this
issue) and Bruce MADE this song. Even his more mellow range is astounding, check
out some of the notes that he holds damn near forever! For his age, his range
and power are simply unbelievable. (See the interview this issue for more
details). Other tracks are very good in their own right, like Ralf Scheepers
doing 'Journey On The Waves Of Time' and doing a very energetic performance as
well! 'Dawn Of A Million Souls' showcases Sir Russell Allen doing a very stand
up performance, with a rather anthemic beat structure to start things off.
'Out Of The White Hole' has some dynamic multi vocal choruses, though on this
CD most of the multi vocals seemed to be pulled off by running two tracks of
the same vocalist back to back. The worst song on here has to be 'Through The
Wormhole,' though the great choruses help to keep this from being a total
disaster. What's worse is even though Fabio is a great singer, evidenced by his
work with Rhapsody, the vocal melodies sound a bit warbled, even the alternate
version that appears on "Ayreonauts Only" with a different vocalist still does
not work for me. Part of it is the silly sounding instrumentation, the other
part is the way Arjen required the vocals to be performed. This is a small
complaint, as the tracks here not only rock, but have that outer space vibe
running through every song. I think I speak for many by saying this album,
along with the first CD reviewed last issue, deserves every bit of good press
it has gotten, album of the year inclusions notwithstanding.
Contact: Inside Out America, 344-TB Oakville Dr. Pittsburg, PA 15220 USA
Web site: http://www.insideoutmusic.com
CARNAL FORGE "Firedemon" (Century Media Records) SCORE: 96/100
WHAAUUUGGHH! Man, this thing is vicious! For those of you who were really
impressed by the brutality and helldriving aggression of Soilwork, this CD is
light years beyond that, as the Swedish five piece forsakes any and almost all
melody to create second after second of hard driving death/thrash metal! That
vocal style borders on shouting but adds such power and force to this that you
cannot get up from the floor once you are smashed to it! And many of the tracks,
though they run at you with constant speed, also manage to slow things down with
some amazing thrashy guitar work! The difficult task here is getting through all
12 tracks, you end up exhausted by the disc's halfway mark. I can play this CD
in any order and get the same reasults, from track 1 on through to the end,
track 12 and run it down to track 1, or even put the player on random! There's
too much viciousness to contain! Even the title track and 'Covered With Fire'
have catchy choruses, though simple, that you'll be screaming on your own.
The vox on 'Pull The Trigger' sound a bit hardcore styled, which was cool, and
they also utilize one of my favorite things in extreme music: the stop and
start passages. 'A Revel In Violence' and 'Uncontrollable' are two great
examples of this, especially since it allows smooth transition from slower to
faster paced instrumentation. Very diverse for what it is, the aggression
factor is multiplied times 10 from most everything else I've ever heard.
Contact: Century Media Records, 1453-A 14th St. Santa Monica, CA 90404 USA
Web site: http://www.centurymedia.com
CATHEDRAL "Endtyme" (Earache Records) SCORE: 37/100
Cathedral has definitely been around a long time. After "Forest Of Equilibrium,"
their first album and the "Soul Sacrifice" EP I kinda lost interest in them. I
have yet to regain my favor with the,. For starters, this marks some of
Cathedral's slowest and heaviest riffs yet, very evident on tracks like the
opener 'Melancholy Emperor,' however the vocal work just cannot keep pace with
the music. Lee's vocals here are about the worst I've ever heard them, which is
a shame because some of the instrumentation is their most punishing, downtuned
riffage I've ever heard on a Cathedral album. There's only a few songs I can get
into here, and mostly because the instrumentation is more uptempo and Lee's
vocals work better. 'Alchemist Of Sorrows' was one of those, not a track I
have to go out of my way to hear, but it was nice to hear some acoustic
passages to break up the pace. 'Whores To Oblivion' was probably my favorite,
with shouted choruses and vocals that really work, this has a sludgy Electric
Wizard hate filled feel to it. The instrumentation isn't always kick ass though,
like on 'Ultra Earth,' damn I swear this song just drags on and on! Then on the
ender 'Templar's Arise,' we get to hear god only knows how many minutes of noise
before any real instrumentation kicks in, then the slow doomy riffs, and finally
Lee's awful delivery. I must say this is one of their worst yet, makes even
their last few barely passable albums sound like album of the year masterpieces.
Contact: Earache Records, 43 W. 38th St. 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10018 USA
Web site: http://www.earache.com
CENTINEX "Hellbrigade" (Repulse Records) SCORE: 92/100
Though a lot of what I've heard from Repulse is sick death and grind, this
CD was one I was looking forward to. Haven't heard from Centinex since their
"Reflections" CD, but they have obviously added a few twists to the brutal
death and black metal mix they so proficiently displayed in the past. It seems,
my friends, that the Gothenberg hand has crept down upon them. 'Towards
Devastation' starts things out with a kick ass speed fest, and this leaves no
hint at what is to come later on. There's high end lead riffery presented to
be sure, but make no mistake about it; for all the melody and the few songs
that have clean sung vocals, Centinex's main intention is to kill with power
and speed. And this they well do throughout the CD's nine tracks, even on a
song like 'Nightbreeder,' which probably has the most cleanly sung vocals on
the whole CD. There were some riffs that I didn't care for on 'Emperor Of
Death' but that's a minor complaint on that track, which packs quite a punch
especially on the choruses. The title track wasn't too bad either, though it
lost me in spots. It's great that through all their lineup changes and albums
that they still remain quite vicious while still musically adept, and I look
forward to hearing more from them.
Contact: Repulse Records, P.O. Box 50562, 28080 Madrid, SPAIN.
Web site: http://www.repulserecords.com
CHILDREN OF BODOM "Follow The Reaper" (Nuclear Blast Records) SCORE: 94/100
This third album from fellow Finns showcases much more dynamic keyboard work
than I heard on "Something Wild." Even though I missed the second album, I have
been told it's midway to the progression point they showcase here. What's so
amazing about this CD is the intricate and quite melodic keyboard work, while
not forsaking the hard and heavy thrash guitar pieces! The vocalist is in ever
so vicious form, utilizing some hardcore shouts in places with the rapid fire
vicious black metal vocal delivery. The title track starts things off rather
nicely, in fact one amazing aspect of this CD is the uncanny ability to let the
keyboardist do some solo work, often on tracks like 'Follow The Reaper' and
'Children Of Decadence' you hear a keyboard solo immediately after hearing a
nice guitar solo! Many tracks here are quite fast paced, but they do know how
to slow things down, some of their best thrashy heavy guitar work can be found
on 'Mask Of Sanity.' This track also has some insanely fast instrumentation,
which threw me off especially after hearing such good slow paced viciousness!
There isn't really much to complain about, though there's nothing especially
groundbreaking or different about C.O.B., though this album shows much
improvement over their debut. There's much to like about this album, one of
those you can nearly play straight through to the end with no problem, the
proficiency and diversity of the music will leave you perfectly satisfied.
Sometimes I find myself unable to tell if the faster paced instrumentation is
coming from a keyboard or a guitar! The bonus U.S. track 'Hellion,' a kick ass
WASP cover, was also very well done. And get this: The tune 'Hate Me!' also
has received radio play in their native country! Though the pre chorus and
melodies remind me very STRONGLY of an old Pro Pain song off of their "Contents
Under Pressure" album. Makes me think...
Contact: Nuclear Blast Records, 1453A 14th St. #324, Santa Monica, CA 90404 USA
CREMATORY "Believe" (Nuclear Blast) SCORE: 93/100
The most amazing thing about this band is not only how long they have been
together, but how consistent they are from release to release! My personal
Crematory collection goes all the way back to "Just Dreaming," with a self
titled, all German sung release and "Act Seven" getting great reviews in and
of themselves! Starting things off is an eerie intro, with a spoken word piece
that I just have to know who is behind! Then the song 'Endless' kicks in with
your vicious death metal vocals, and clean sung chourses. Did I mention that
it's also quite catchy? Catchy is the "catch" phrase here, pardon the pun, as
tracks like 'Take' showcase some thrashy riffs with striking melodic keyboard
work, but many of you know this to be a strong aspect of Crematory. What you
may not have expected is the unusually sinister and dark overtones that
permeate MANY tunes on this disc, so there are some out and out dark thrash
pieces to be found within. 'Act Seven' was one of these, though the choruses
still have the cleanly singing vocals. I wish to really hear more clean sung
vocal work, 'The Fallen' was one of very few songs to have nothing but clean
vocals, though ones like 'Why,' truly one of my favorites, has a nice switch
where they utilize mostly clean sung vocals on the mainlines and shouted or
death vocals on the choruses. Made for an emotional piece! I didn't care much
for 'Caroline,' though, sounded kinda mushy, and 'Time For Tears' didn't thrill
me too much though I couldn't say these tunes were terrible. The song
'Unspoken' had some whispered death vocals that sounded rather weak but other
than that, if you like music that has contrasting styles and sounds, with
catchy songs that have a multitude of emotions running through them, then you
can do no wrong with this. Their last track 'Perils Of The Wind,' a ballad
piece, was easily more enjoyable than the ballad they did on "Act Seven." A
Contact: Nuclear Blast Records.
DARK FUNERAL "In The Sign..." (Necropolis Records) SCORE: 84/100
Now, if memory serves me correctly, doesn't Dark Funeral call home to No Fashion
Records? And has for at least the last few releases? So why is Necropolis
picking up this? No matter, as this CD shows what Dark Funeral has been, and
is still about. Raw, primitve, fast and satanically brutal as all hell black
metal. Guitars, drums, bass, and screaming vocals combined with some vicious
death growls. No keys, no female vocals, no synths (well, unless you count that
wierd thing that sits in the middle and end of track 4 'In The Sign Of The
Horns.') This was recorded back in '94 with a slightly different lineup, of
course you had Blackmoon on guitars (he has since gone to the band War) and
of course Themgoroth (the maniacal looking one with the vicious screams) who is
god, ahem, Satan knows where... :> It doesn't get much more straight to the
point than this. It does tend to show it's age a little, and the ending of
'Shadows Over Transylvania' does tend to run a little long. Plus, the lyrics
on 'My Dark Desires' seem to be crammed into small spaces, IE he's trying to
sing them fast and obviously has to skip some words printed in the booklet to
keep things from sounding sloopy. 4 originals and 2 covers, both by Bathory,
and lemme tell ya these covers sound, to me, much more vicious than the
originals! 'Shadows Over Transylvania' also proves that the black hordes of
Satan are not all about speed, speed, speed, and they can make some interesting
melodies with the guitar riffs. Evil has come, and you will kneel. Now if they
could just re-release the first self titled debut album from 1994, your Dark
Funeral collection would be complete. Nice photos from the old days too, with
the corpsepaint and spikes/swords/axes/all out darkness.
Contact: Necropolis Records, Box 14815, Fremont, CA 94539-4815 USA
Web site: http://www.necropolisrecords.com
DEAD MEADOW "Dead Meadow" (Tolotta Records) SCORE: 47/100
Rarely ever do I give bad reviews to bands that dare to fly the flag of stoner
rock or even psychedelic music, but this is one bad review I gotta give. As it
stands, Dead Meadow is less of a stoner rock band than they are a psychedelic
rock band embodying the spirit of the mellow 60's. That being said, they do
manage to pull off some interesting instrumentation (say that three times fast!)
that could have been something special were it not for the very thing that
ruined the Natas/Dragonauta split: bad vocals. Granted they're not as harsh
on the nerves as Dragonauta, but they are rather alternative sounding, like that
college alternative crap that kids dig for some reason. Whiny sounding, that's
what it reminds me of. And slightly girlish, but I won't be too mean. The best
vocal style is on the best track of the album, 'Rocky Mountain High.' The vocals
work here because they are echo effected and sound like they're being sung from
a distance, so maybe this change of vocal style would have given better points.
But then again, some of the instrumentation isn't quite top notch either, like
'Dragonfly.' Just because a song has acoustics and is mellow doesn't mean it's
good, I dunno maybe if I dropped 34 hits of acid I could appreciate it better.
Then again, maybe I'd freak out so bad I'd have a brain meltdown. 'Greensky
Greenlake' was a cool instrumental, nice acoustics and subtle electro leads
bring this out, though some of their instrumentation runs a tad on the lengthy
side. Not too bad if they were instrumental songs, but when the vocals kick in
you're going "Ugh!" 'At The Edge Of The Wood' had acoustic guitars, ballad all
the way, but the vocals didn't help it, though they sounded a bit better here.
Interesting guitar work to be found on the first track 'Sleepy Silver Dollar,'
good instrumentation on 'Indian Bones ' too, but what's with the weak sounding
drums? Seems to me like they weren't miked right or something. Fuzzy distorted
guitars on tracks that tried to be both menacing and mellow at the same time,
something's gotta give. 'Lady' rocks, but like with many tracks, the vocals get
in the way long before you can appreciate the solos and guitar work. Can you
dig it? I'm all for the sounds of the 60's but damnit, mellow doesn't have to
Contact: Tolotta Records, P.O. Box 4412 Arlington, VA 22204 USA
DOZER "Madre De Dios" (Man's Ruin Records) SCORE: 95/100
Man did I ever enjoy this! (Okay, I enjoyed a lot of CD's I reviewed this issue
so what?) All hail the new Kyuss is all I can say. Those of you who truly long
for a band to take the place of the Desert Rock masters look no further! And
yes, I've seen countless articles mentioning them as the desert's newest
hallucination incarnation of Kyuss. One only has to hear fuzzed out, rockin'
tracks like 'Let The Shit Roll' (great title), 'Full Circle' with it's jammin'
kick ass choruses and fuzzed out bass gits, and the crunchy vibes of 'Early
Grace,' with riffs straight out of the old Kyuss tune 'Green Machine.' I been
singing this last one for days! Only 'tx-9' threw me off, a VERY slow tune
that had some really odd high notes guitar structures. They can rock it slow
too, though, and in a good way especially on 'Soulshigh.' Good damn CD, and
now you know why Man's Ruin is, and has been for a long time, one of my
favorite labels for Stoner/Desert/Whatever rock! (Well, them and Meteor City.
Don't wanna hurt no-one's feelings! That's why Abdullah's self titled CD was
voted one of the top 15 releases of 2000 by me, and it took at #2 or #2, I
Contact: Man's Ruin Records, 2626 3rd St. San Fransisco, CA 94107 USA
Web site: http://www.mansruin.com
GREEN CARNATION "Journey To The End Of The Night" (Prophecy Productions)
This CD features several members of some famous black metal bands, and some
others I don't know but that really matters little. Doom metal is what this is
supposed to be, but the female vocals, operetta style I might add, really ruin
the mood of this thing. For the record, track 1 'Falling Into Darkness' and
track 8 'Shattered' both sound the same, though the latter track is noisier than
the first and the female vocals on track 1 start out quite soothing, but when
the instrumentation gets heavier, her voice gets off track. Then track 2,
'In The Realm Of The Midnight Sun' has some somber, dirgy instrumentation that
really clashes with the female vocals. Music this dark really doesn't go well
with the rather upbeat high notes of the female singer. Though she does some
spoken word pieces I can't sit through this very long, which is no big loss
since the instrumentation doesn't spark me much anyway. And these songs are
LONG, my friends. This track picks up near the end a bit, but by that time I'm
more than ready to move on. 'My Dark Reflections Of Life And Death,' track 3,
starts to raise my interest. Space rock ala Hawkwind starts things off, though
it does take awhile for the song to really go anywhere. Nice acoustics! There's
a lot of solos instrumentation which I dig, and then out of nowhere male vocals
which I'm digging! Why they couldn't have used him I dunno, but his vocals
definitely work here. Though oddly, 'Under Eternal Stars' has rather bad male
vocals. The female vocals are better when they're backing the male singer. 'End
Of Journey' loses me almost completely, and even the spacey effects on 'Echoes
Of Despair' aren't enough to save this track. Nice try, good instrumentation but
not enough here to sustain my interest. Lose the female vocals and concentrate
more on what doom really is all about.
Contact: Prophecy Productions, Kurfurstenstr. 5, 54492 Zeltingen-Rachtig,
Web site: http://www.prophecyproductions.de
IKON "On The Edge Of Forever" (Metropolis Records) SCORE: 92/100
One of the first gothic bands signed to Metropolis Records, I've kept up with
them, rather erratically, through three of their other releases. And I have to
say that while they've been quite consistent from album to album, this is one
of their best works yet. Surprisingly, their percussion section sounds like a
real drummer as opposed to electronic ones that most gothic bands utilize,
making the band have more of a rock oriented feel than some etherial goth bands
I have known, though the beat structure on 'Distance' sounds a little
electronic. 'King Of Terror' starts things off on a rather sinister note, and
the album cover and this track would have you think the Egyptian theme runs
rampant throughout the disc, though it doesn't. The chorus work here is great,
especially on 'The Wish' and 'Wheels In Motion.' These are tunes that clubs
will definitely appreciate and some of the more mellow tracks, especially
'Stone Frailty' which has some emotional vocal work and even some acoustic
guitar work. The vocals, incidentally, are low toned for the most part but NOT
low enough to where he's trying to be a Type O Negative influence, his more
melodic range definitely comes out when he's working the choruses. That's how
a great set of songs should be: rather steady and even tempo and throw in a
little extra bang on the choruses; makes for more memorable tunes. There was a
few detractions, though, mainly the song 'Apparition:' I thought their chorus
work could have been a bit more dynamic, his vocal pace is a bit lethargic on
the entire piece, not enough spark, though it's not a song I could say is bad.
However, a very good album and one I've been cranking quite a bit when I need a
change of pace. See what true gothic music is all about, especially since it
seems to keep cropping up in the latest death/black and power metal releases
Contact: Metropolis Records, P.O. Box 54307, Philadelphia, PA 19105 USA
Web site: http://www.metropolis-records.com
KALMAH "Swamplord" (Spikefarm Records) SCORE: 96/100
Imagine Yngwie Malmsteen or one of your favorite guitar gods mixed with black
metal. Actually, you probably heard this kind of statement being made by me
before on my review of Dead Silent Slumber a few issues back. Though 'Evil In
You' starts things off so viciously and fast, that it takes a few minutes
before you start to realize that this isn't your average black metal release.
Lots of high end riffery permeates this disc, while the vocals dip between
harsh death and slightly screechy black, evidenced most on the track 'Hades,'
but with awesome effect. There is lots of atmospheric keyboard work too, which
adds an extra touch to already fantastic songwriting skills. 'Withering Away'
showcases some riffs straight out of a power metal song, though I wasn't crazy
about some of the vocal delivery. The aforementioned 'Hades' was one of my
favorites, with some really emotionally charged high end riffs and amazing
melody, only to blast away with vicious vocals and guitar work, while the
melodic keys are working their magic in the background! They don't mind making
the synthesizers start the song off, like on 'Alteration' and 'Dance Of The
Water,' though the synths on the latter track are a bit eerie. Great variety
is the mood here, and it seems that lately I have a strong appreciation for
music that dares to be both melodic and aggressive all in the space of a five
Contact: Spikefarm Records, Fredrikinkatu 71, 00100 Helsinki, FINLAND.
Web site: http://www.spinefarm.fi
LABYRINTH "Sons Of Thunder" (Metal Blade Records) SCORE: 75/100
This score comes rather begrudgingly. One cannot deny that the progression and
level of musicianship is there, but be prepared to bring your fruit basket,
cause this band's chunking the oranges, banannas and pears by the truckfull!
The storyline is somewhat interesting, though fruity as all hell, and it makes
not only for rather strange lyrics, but the music also gets infected as well.
For example: 'Chapter 1' is going along nicely, then towards the end you have
our Italian crooner sugar coating the music to where it sounds like a pop song
is about to commence! The riffs on the CD at least hold some of their own
weight, which keeps this CD just barely being a keeper. The synth work too is
rather stunning as usual, and of course if you caught the EP "Timeless Crime"
you've already heard 'Save Me,' a good song but amongst the realization of the
storyline it may make you drop a few points. Just a few. 'Touch The Rainbow'
had some interesting arrangements and a chorus that works well, and 'Love' was,
well, syrupy. The idea that a king could fall in love with a girl whom he has
only seen a portrait of is rather silly, but with unwritten chapters of history
being what they are, and no one really knowing what happened during the reign of
Louis XIV, I guess even the strangest events are possible. Not that this CD
won't have some appeal, I just prefer a band like Freedom Call to this one,
at least their lyrics and their "happier" moments don't come off like some
sappy romance novel.
Contact: Metal Blade Records, 2828 Cochran St. PMB 302, Simi Valley, CA 93065
Web site: http://www.metalblade.com
LYKATHEA AFLAME "Elvenefris" (Obscene Productions) SCORE: 81/100
Throw everything you know about the grindcore genre OUT the fucking window!
Czech republic mayhem masters Lykathea Aflame have brought us one of the most
unique recordings in the entire genre of grindcore, small though it is. You
won't find a more unique band that mixes slight Egyptian ambient pieces, along
with keyboards and singing vocals along with unusually melodic instrumentation.
Even on their slower passages, the drummer is playing so fast that the music
may, at times, sound faster than it really is. The CD starts off rather with
mixed results, the Egyptian sounds start 'Land Where Sympathy Is Air' on the
right path, though the Egyptian ambience is not seen very often on this disc.
I guess this was to keep them from being tagged as Nile clones. The grindcore
elements can be a bit overbearing at times, though, but the instrumentation is
not only top notch, they can go from blazing speed down to a slower tempo at
lightning speed, and their transitions are so flawless that you can tell this
band rehearsed these songs numerous times before laying the tracks down! 'An
Old Man And A Child' had some very odd trumpet notes, however it was one of the
few tunes here to utilize some nice Egyptian sounds. Some of the grindcore
elements downtune themselves to rather thrashy paced death metal, like on
'Flowering Entities.' It's a rather amazing CD, though as I said, the lower
points come in because the basic grindcore elements tend to be a bit overbearing
at times, especially on the beginning of 'An Old Man...' and 'A Step Closer.'
Plus, I wish the vocals were a bit easier to understand, as their lyrics are
very original, tending to deal more with ancient philosophical musings rather
than your standard gore and dark lyrics. Very recommended.
Contact: Obscene Productions, PO Box 28, CZ 53341 Lazne Bohdanec, Czech Republic
Web site: http://www.obscene.cz
MAGNITUDE 9 "Reality In Focus" (Inside Out Music) SCORE: 86/100
When did you ever hear a progressive metal/rock band sound more like a European
styled power metal band? That's exactly what we have here, one of very few
prog bands I've heard that are more interested in crafting catchy, solid songs
rather than just showing off their fast playing abilities. As Chuck Billy from
Testament once told me, "Usually, progressive styled bands are more appreciated
by musicians than fans." That being said, this CD starts out fast, just like
you'd expect to hear from Symphony X, Edguy, or Labyrinth. The vocals? Just
tremendous, able to carry the great instrumentation that much further. Acoustic
guitars and synths are definitely used and used well, though the synths are not
as forefront on some tracks, though they do get their own solo pieces at times.
(This is progressive music after all, and what would progressive music be if the
keyboard player didn't get the ability to show off?) There's a ripping cover of
Iron Maiden's "Flight Of Icarus," as if they didn't trust their music alone to
prove to you they play METAL. Our coveted singer even sounds uncannily like
Bruce on this one. There's a few tracks that didn't work for me. I'm not saying
this is happy metal, but the darker overtones on 'Mind Over Fear' were a bit
too overpowering (instrumentation wise) and really throws the track down a bit.
His lower sung vocals, as well, do sound a bit odd and at times out of place,
especially on 'Temples Of Gold.' This lower sung progression thankfully doesn't
occur much, it is only slightly found on 'The End Of Days.' Now 'Afterlife,'
all 9 minutes of it, is a true masterpiece. Great soaring high notes, and
catchy as hell choruses with amazing melodies, especially on the keys. 'Far
Beyond Illusion' was a slower piece, and had a rather melancholy atmosphere to
it but is still a great track. Definitely a great CD that evokes many moods and
emotions, standing out above the pack on the progressive genre.
Contact: Inside Out Music.
MELVINS "Electroretard" (Man's Ruin Records) SCORE: 38/100
Man, this is the mighty Melvins? A band I haven't heard from since their "Stoner
Witch" album, which was quite good but from what I heard was their last decent
album, I knew I was in for trouble when Sons Of Otis vocalist Ken informed me
that their most recent stuff had been mostly just crappy noise. And that's the
best way to sum up what this album is: just more controlled forms of noise like
you'd expect to find from Namanax and Merzbow. Granted there are some
interesting takes on the noise theme, some of it actually borders on the musical
side of things, and there are actually a few decent songs to come out of this
mess. First off: Many of the songs presented here are reworkings of older tunes,
and the rest seem to be covers of bands I have never heard of. That being said,
the best song on here is 'Youth Of America,' which actually kicks ass. It's
fast, it's heavy, it has a raging punk attitude and I dig it. Then there's
'Revolve,' which is an older song reworked. It has some unusual guitar sounds,
like they're being scraped instead of picked, and there was some cool whistling
effects at the end of the song. However, the noise routines invade even this
piece, in the form of annoying computer tones, though they're not frequent
enough to ruin this completely. Then there's the Pink Floyd cover,
'Interstellar Overdrive,' which at least they didn't screw up, but it wasn't a
great song to begin with. The vocal delivery on the others ranged from terrible
to passable at best, the Cows cover 'Missing' was absolutely abysmal, made even
worse with the minimal instrumentation which made the vocals even more dominant
with nothing much else to focus on. 'Tipping The Lion' had electronically
effected vocals, an idea I usually don't like save for industrial bands that
make them sound harsh and evil. Plus, the guitar "noises" were quite painful,
like having a carrot scraper plunged into your ear and then doused with tabasco
sauce. 'Lovely Butterflies' had heavy vocal effects but was very wierd, it's
obvious to me that The Melvins have been listening to too much Japanese noise
core, and it reeks. Really, avoid this at all costs, even if you liked early
Melvins material. Very interesting cover art though, but Kozik should have saved
it for a band worthy of such work. Electroretard indeed!
Contact: Man's Ruin Records.
MOB RULES "Temple Of Two Suns" (Limb Music) SCORE: 97/100
After their successful "Savage Land" album comes a continuation to the story
with their latest full length. Still dealing with the survivors of a wartorn
planet, the heroes of the story are being led into a jungle setting where they
discover the ruins of an Aztec empire. This German five piece makes pretty good
progressive metal that ranges from slightly heavy and aggressive to downright
melodic and catchy. The choruses are well done, quite a continuation from the
last album, though 'Pilot Of Earth' reminds one of the track 'Savage Land Part
1' from the album of the same name. There are two versions of the song 'Hold
on' which I thought a bit unnecessary, though I prefer the more symphonic
version which has a richer, full symphonic accompaniment. The shorter version
does feature nice female backing vocals by Susanne Mohle of Heaven's Gate fame.
That and the few times when the higher end vocals on 'Outer Space' got to be a
tad too much were all the bad points this album could muster. It's a better
album all the way around for sure, though it's not like this is a vast
improvement, both albums showcase some great songwriting ability and catchy
chorus and guitar work. 'Evolution's Falling' was a good example of the heavier
style, with a bit of commercial appeal, I could see this on radio stations that
aren't afraid to appeal to a heavier style. It's not a commercial sound by any
means, but it won't offend those not into metal either. 'Unknown Man' starts
out with some heavy instrumentation, but has catchy and dynamic multi vocal
choruses, like many others. 'Flag Of Life' had some violin pieces that do not
sound out of place here. 'Celebration Day' gives the synthesized orchestration
some dynamics and tells us that even synths can be made heavy! Great lead solo
work too, I go nuts over the solos on 'Pilot Of Earth' and 'Inside The Fire.'
Definitely a great album, I suggest you check them out, as they have shared the
stages with the likes of Overkill, The Scorpions and Pink Cream 69, big names
in Europe. Let's hope they achieve greatness here in the States.
Contact: Limb Music.
MORBID ANGEL "Gateways To Annihilation" (Earache Records) SCORE: 44/100
Man, I can't believe how bored I was with this! I think it might have something
to do with the old saying "too many cooks spoil the broth." Now, I've never been
a huge fan of Morbid Angel, though their "Covenant" album was one of my faves,
with the return of Eric Rutan to the fold I think there's too many diverse ideas
coming across at one time. I've never been a fan of Eric's band Hate Eternal
either. So starting this out we have the obligatory swamp noises. Remember the
photo shoot in Metal Maniacs when their "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh" album came
out? I think they've been spending too long in the Florida swamplands. Anyway,
slower Morbid Angel was an interesting idea, and is pulled off quite well on
'Summoning Redemption.' However, 'He Who Sleeps' just seemed to drag on
endlessly, hell even the speedier numbers like 'Opening Of The Gates' and
'To The Victor The Spoils' didn't do much for me. The vocals are still cool as
ever, though the Azagthoth black metal style ruined 'Secured Limitations,' one
of the worst tunes ever penned by M.A. 'God Of The Forsaken' is just a speed
for speed's sake track, there wasn't much going on, but the lead solos Trey
pulls off never ceases to amaze me. And I dug the guitar effects on 'At One With
Nothing,' I would love to know what Trey is using there! 'Ageless Still I Am'
wasn't bad either: I really was intrigued by the slower stuff that
actually worked, though there wasn't much of that to go around. However, I'm
wondering what kind of pit action the slower songs will get, they are doing a
tour with Pantera which has probably already blown by a town near you by the
time this issue is released.
Contact: Earache Records.
MORTIFER "If Tomorrow Comes" (Metal Agen Records) SCORE: 83/100
The most amazing thing about this package is not just the old school, hard
edged thrash that I dig so much (hell, I devote a whole classic albums section
to it!) but the fact that this release, as well as about 7 others, comes from
one of the very first metal record labels ever to be set up in Russia. I
believe Mental Home got their start there as well. Anyway, the CD starts out
with a wicked intro and some really heavy, downtuned thrashy riffs and quite a
good mixture of drum beats. The vocalist is quite rough, reminding one of a mix
of Mille from Kreator and Rock 'n' Rolf from Running Wild (which is a bit
significant later on, don't worry I'll explain). Most of the material here is
pretty straightforward, especially where the vocal delivery and instrumentation
is concerned, but damn those thrash riffs are quite infectious! 'Slave Of Fate'
and 'Sea Of Tears' are two tracks that showcase some of their heaviest sounds,
they aren't adverse to utilizing some power metal styled riffs either. The last
two tracks, though, are the worst on the CD, their cover of Running Wild's
'Realm Of Shades' is quite adept music wise, but the vocalist doesn't quite
work here. And why didn't they pick a better R.W. song to cover, like maybe one
of TEN from their stunning "Gates To Purgatory" album? Their last song 'Don't
Say Never' was rather ballad type, I question their arrangement of this song
as it is VERY out of place with a song like 'Crematory's Yard,' with some VERY
fast vocal delivery and killer tight riffing. Many will find that though this
isn't the best thrash album they've ever heard, these Russian metalheads have
DEFINITELY been listening to a lot of German thrash and speed metal. It
definitely touches a place in my black heart.
Contact: Metal Agen, Glavpochtamt, 5c-o/d, P.Box 179, Moscow 101000, RUSSIA
NATAS/DRAGONAUTA "Split" (Icarus Records) SCORE: 58/100
Man was I ever glad the day this showed up in my mailbox. Or so I thought. Many
of you might remember the Natas full length "Ciudad De Brahman" (okay, so I had
to go get the CD to make sure I spelled it right) which was quite simply, quite
awesome. This releases showcases 5 songs in a style that is a bit more mellow
than their previous full length, and while the songs here are not quite as good
as their full length, there are some promising points. In fact, the majority of
the points on this CD go straight to Natas, but more on that in a minute.
'Xanadu' starts things off a bit heavy, there's some cool bass guitar effects
utilized here. And I don't think I ever noticed a Hammond organ before! I KNOW
they didn't use it in their last CD. One other thing too, and it's the one BIG
minus, there are more vocals being utilized here. Not that the vocals are bad,
but they do get used in some bad ways, like on 'El Convoy,' they let their
enthusiasm run wild and get a tad sloppy on the vocals. I wish they wouldn't
go "whoah, whoah" all the time either. That being said, Natas instrumentation
is quite good. The last Natas track 'Bodokentorten' is quite beautiful and
serene, the only song on here without vocals. They even let the Hammond have a
kick ass solo! Now to the terrible part of this disc: Dragonauta plays a more
downtuned Sabbathy style of stoner rock, but the vocals are simply horrible!
Award goes to this band for the WORST vocal style of the year! It makes every
damn tune, all 4 of them, quite unbearable, despite the fact that 'Guardian Del
Kongo' and 'Hombre Monstruo' have some crushing guitar riffs that even Sabbath
would be proud of. There's just no way I'm going to sit through that to get to
some guitars that don't play long enough by themselves. 'Profeta Del Mar:' their
one shining grace. Great acoustical start, reminds me of one of Katatonia's
better songs from "Tonight's Decision." Instrumentation is quite long, it's
flowing like a mo-fo, then the killer Sabbath riffs kick in, then you know why
I shut it off without hesitation: Bad vocals. If you can find this at a bargain,
it might, I say MIGHT be worth it to hear 3 or 4 songs of Natas. Other than that,
do yourself a favor and get 'Ciudad De Brahman' instead, especially since this
is an Argentinian import and unless Man's Ruin releases it domestically, which
I doubt, you'd be calling this a great loss of cash.
Contact: Icarus Records, CC 1593(1000) Correo Central, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA
ONWARD "Evermoving" (Century Media) SCORE: 87/100
You never can tell where a band's future will end up. Originally this was
planned to be released on Dennis Gulby's Sentinel Steel label until Century
Media heard about it and signed the band. Were there more than 8 songs this
might have gotten a little bit higher of a score, as 'Absolution Mine' had a
really bad mix of vocals and isntrumentation; the vocal work is quite adept on
this release but here they were rather annoying. And the vocal delivery on
opener 'The Kindness Of Strangers' took a little getting used to, I'm not sure
I dig this one all that well, but the rest of the material is very classy and
great 80's inspired power metal of the "intelligent" variety. 'The Last Sunset'
was one of my favorite tunes on here, great catchy choruses and great singing
vocals, the dual vocals here sound like they recorded the singer's voice and
ran it back through a multitracking device, which adds an extra dimension to
many of the choruses. Be difficult to pull that off live tho. 'The Lost Side Of
The World' had a nice acoustical melody, it's not really a ballad though as the
guitar work does get heavier. 'The Waterfall Enchantress' was a bit of a
midpaced tune, it slows down a bit once the vocal work kicks in, which is a bit
different from most melodic power metal bands that utilize excessive speed
riffs and structures. 'Storm Coming Soon' was another of my favorites, with
some emotional vocals and great chorus work, a staple to me for good power
metal bands. The lead singer has done vocal work for South American metal band
Legend Maker, and the guitarist and founding member Tony Knapp has done much
solo guitar work for Shrapnel Records, so that in itself shows the power and
class this band possesses. Definitely look forward to hearing more.
Contact: Century Media Records
OPERATOR:GENERATOR "Polar Fleet" (Man's Ruin) SCORE: 91/100
The fact that damn near every song on here kicks ass save one makes one wonder
why not a higher score? (Especially since everyone knows I don't go by a strict
mathematical formula for my scoring system). Well, they have some quirky
effects on quite a few tracks, however this is a solid album of, well, how to
describe what's a case of stoner rock/desert rock, and doom metal touches. The
vocalist has to be heard to be believed, a bit low toned but fitting with the
mood of the music well, along with the fuzzed out, crunchy and fat riffs that
I could use to describe just about any band in this genre, a genre which I
truly love more than anything right now. The title track is a really good
example of what I'm talking about, rockin' guitar riffs that slow it down
and the tunes have catchy choruses as well. The ending of this song has some
rather odd instrumentation, though, I guess they were trying to emulate a
military march, but it got a bit out of hand. Likewise, 'Museum's Flight'
annoyed me a tad with the "yeah's" every other line, but you still stick around
since the song itself kicks ass. Onto 'Quaintance Of Natherack,' which has some
REALLY kick ass choruses and downtoned riffs, but those "ah-oh-oh-oh's" kinda
bummed me out. Like I said, though quite a few annoyances can be found, the
songs are so damn solid and kick ass you just deal with it, and I think maybe
I'm just too picky sometimes. The last track is the one I usually skip, it's
got a mellow sitar piece and some singing vocals, but it really sounds out of
place with the heavy riffs and crunchy guitar work going on. Apparently, from
what I've heard, these guys are from Canada too, home to the mighty Sons Of
Otis, and these guys have more of a rock orientation than the spacey synths
that Sons Of Otis uses. Either way, the stuff that bothered me is not nearly
bothersome enough to keep me from cranking these songs repeatedly, which I
Contact: Man's Ruin Records, baby!
OPETH "Blackwater Park" (Koch Records) SCORE: 96/100
They're talking about this one for sure. Opeth's first record with a proper
U.S. distribution, and man it is a MONSTER. Vicious and aggressive death and
black vocals from Mikael, but with some nice 70's folish rock acoustics and
some singing passages as well. These songs are long, though, make no mistake
about it, and one thing you'll be able to say is that even if you don't like
the CD, it will take you more than a few listens to decide whether you dig this
or not. 8 songs, and one instrumental, which by the way is superb but too
short, probably the shortest track on here. 'Harvest' is my favorite, which is
mostly acoustic with all singing vocals and gerat choruses and melodies. They
have this ability to go smoothly from mellow acoustics and singing vocals right
into harsh instrumentation and vicious vocal work. The man seemingly pulls off
no less than three different vocal styles all in the space of an entire CD.
Now that's what I call diverse! 'Dirge For November' shows his solitary
singing vocals sounding quite strained at the beginning, as if he can't quite
hit the highs properly, sounding rather awkward for maybe a line or two but
quickly recovering once the instrumentation kicks in, and it is quite moving.
Music dedicated to sad and melancholy souls, with bits of viciousness, I don't
really need to say much more of this. If you haven't heard Opeth yet, the sound
files should convince you. I for one can't wait to catch them on their first
ever U.S. tour.
Contact: Koch Records, 740 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Web site: http://www.kochentertainment.com
PLASTER "Long Way From Earth" (Lucid Haze Records) SCORE: 29/100
There's a small but dedicated local scene here in Atlanta, and some have
accused me of not supporting it. So here's a band who I think is the only
stoner rock/doom metal band currently playing live in Atlanta. I caught these
guys at the Electric Wizard/Warhorse show in the ATL and they kinda impressed
me with their live performance. On disc, however, I can't say much good about
"Long Way From Earth." The thing is, the vocals don't really have any kind of
presence, they're just kinda there, and on some ballady type numbers like
'Mushroom Flower' (which is as bad lyric wise as it sounds) they sound really
weak. The instrumentation (for those of you who think I just focus on vocal
work and that's it) isn't very catchy either, there are some Sabbathy riffs
presented on 'Forest Of Never' and there's some cool riffing going on 'Bottom
Of The Bag,' but their choruses are weak and many of these songs don't really
go anywhere. There were a few interesting numbers, like the instrumental 'Funky
Car,' complete with 70's styled funk riffs and some porno music interludes, and
while I'm at it I must say 'Inside The Sky' was one of their best: where
everything, even the vocals, fit together and the song actually had a live
spark to it! This is a recording from 1998, so I'm wondering if they have
anything new out, or stuff out that they played live, because THAT material
from the 'Wizard show is what I really wanted to hear on disc.
Contact: Plaster, 150 Austin Ave. Marietta, GA 30060
PRIMAL FEAR "Nuclear Fire" (Nuclear Blast Records) SCORE: 52/100
I must say I can't really get into this album too much. The Judas Priest tag is
never going to escape them it seems. And don't get me wrong, had Ripper Owens
not done such a superb job with Priest, I would have to say hands down that
Ralf Scheepers is the second best candidate. His version of 'Exciter' off the
Priest tribute volume II only confirms this. However, songs like 'Fire On The
Horizon' and 'Fight The Fire' show the band maybe trying to break out of the
Priest mold by going at it more aggressively, problem is it just doesn't work.
Either the songs are weak themselves, or something in his voice, especially on
a track like 'Kiss Of Death' or the aforementioned 'Fight The Fire' have really
weak chorus structures, something Priest prided themselves on to build an
explosive climax. Don't believe me? Remember songs like 'Jawbreaker?' 'Turbo?'
These classic songs all had that kick ass song structure, just to explode out
of the cannon by the time the choruses came around. 'Eye Of An Eagle' wasn't a
bad song, and I somewhat enjoyed 'Iron Fist In A Velvet Glove,' silly as the
song title was. Scheepers is at his alltime best Halford notes on this one.
And I dug the choruses on 'Nuclear Fire,' but as I said, this is too Priest
sounding to be enjoyable, though if he had pulled it off well maybe that
wouldn't have been a bad thing. And I must say, as a ballad type 'Bleed For Me'
just rolls over dead. Did anyone else notice the "Painkiller" notes on the
opening of 'Kiss Of Death?" Can anyone say the song 'Nightcrawler?' I think I
have said enough. You get the idea.
Contact: Nuclear Blast Records.
RHAPSODY "Dawn Of Victory" (Limb Music) SCORE: 98/100
Yeah, like any of you are surprised to see a score like this. Close to, but not
quite as good in some spots as their last full length "Symphony of Enchanted
Lands," you know the self proclaimed "Hollywood metal" is back in full force.
This time around, the guitar work has gotten a bit heavier, they experimented
with a fuller guitar sound and decided to implement it further on this latest
full length. Many of you have already heard and/or seen the song that was turned
into a video in 'Holy Thunderforce,' a heavy tune that has some dynamic guitar
work and stop-start instrumentation. 'The Village Of Dwarves' was rather folk
ballady inspired, utilizing flutes (or is that a recorder?) and mellow female
vocals. The album REALLY shines on the use of multi operatta styled chorus and
prechorus works, making choruses and entire passages that stand out in your
head long after you've stopped listening to the songs! The few points come off
from small things on a few tracks, like 'The Bloody Rage Of The Titans,' which
had a bit too dominant useage of the multi vocal choruses, they just sounded a
bit too strong, drowning out Fabio's excellent vocal work. Plus, I didn't care
much for the short snippet of a small girl singing la-la-la style on 'Trolls
In The Dark,' which was an overall nice instrumental, but shouldn't an
instrumental dealing with Trolls and darkness be a bit, um, darker? As you may
have come to expect, the instrumentation is symphonic and accentuated by killer
guitar work, quite over the top and well orchestrated, with one not daring to
stop any part of the CD from start to finish, including the rather lengthy
'The Mighty Ride Of The Firelord,' clocking at a little over 8 and a half
minutes, but worth every second to hear the fantastic synths. They've done it
yet again, of course, but you already knew that. So we felt it imperative that
after three fantastic albums to give them space via an interview, which of
course you knew we would eventually.
Contact: Limb Music Products.
ROACHPOWDER "Atomic Church" (The Music Cartel) SCORE: 93/100
As you can tell by the score, I am quite impressed by the latest release from
a band that released, in my opinion, one of the best albums of 1999 in "Viejo
Diablo." This record takes things on a downlow so to speak, utilizing more of
the trippy and hypnotic sounds and mellow vibes of the 60's and early 70's.
The vicious screams and vocal work is still there, however now it is used for
effect rather than to create angry, vicious moods. This record also showcases
some great keyboards and organ effects, the most amazing song on here is clearly
the ender 'Into The Center.' This track shows some of the most amazing diversity
of the band with some slow downtuned riffs that have vicious shouted vocals,
at times bordering on death metal, then they'll break away to do some singing
amidst some spacey synth/organ effects to make such a beautiful, heavy AND
angry atmosphere all at the same time! Just listen to the sound files, that's
the best way to tell. There's even a few instrumentals on here, one entitled
'Harp' was just that: a beautiful, but short, track with nothing but a harp
being played. It's quite uncharacteristic for Roachpowder, but then again,
many elements of this album seem both uncharacteristic and a natural progression
as well. I did hate the spoken word intro on 'Oceans Red,' and the
instrumentation gets a bit too chaotic for me, something that was more prominent
on their last full length. 'Balls To The Sun' has the fun cowbell percussion,
something they toyed around with on "Viejo..." and has vicious shouted chorus
lines and rockin' guitar riffs. 'House Of The Wicked' and 'All Hail And Kneel
Before Me' have many singing lines, and more mellow instrumentation, but they
aren't afraid to throw in some shouted vocals in the mix! Still heavy, a bit
downtempo from their last release, but still edges of aggression creep in there
to create yet another great stoner rock masterpiece. But hey, where's the
Candlemass cover you promsied me?
Contact: The Music Cartel.
SHADOWKEEP "Corruption Within" (Limb Music) SCORE: 31/100
It's great that some of the world's brightest and best power metal and
progressive rock/metal are finding entryways into the United States. Too bad
not all of them can impress me. This is one record that I have been completely
unable to get into, mostly in part due to Rogue Male's rather awful delivery.
His screeching reminds me of the worst parts of Sacred Steel, with an actual
high end range that, controlled, can be rather decent. The instrumentation
fails to grab me either, songs like 'Meta Morale' and 'Corruption Within' have
very weak choruses and nothing much else to grab me on. They do rip two bands
on 'Altar Of Madness,' those being Morbid Angel (for the obvious song title),
and some of Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" for the riff structure. It was one
of their better songs, with the vocal work showcasing some interesting lows
that are on par with death metal bands, and when he doesn't try to sing high
notes every line, he may actually have something interesting to offer. The
guitarists here actually have skills, but they just can't seem to write any
memorable tunes... As legendary as this vocalist is, I was definitely
disappointed. Not much else to say.
Contact: Limb Music.
SOILWORK "A Predator's Portrait" (Nuclear Blast) SCORE: 99/100
Okay, I admit I feel a little embarrased. I know I gave Carnal Forge's new one
such high marks, saying they brought the intensity level much higher than
Soilwork, but the fact of the matter is, Soilwork are highly talented musicians.
And despite what Jim Raggi has to say about this new release not offering
anything different from their last release "The Chainheart Machine," other than
clean sung vocals (mostly on the choruses) and a label change, plus guest
appearance by Mikael from Opeth on the last track, this is a very well put
together album. Which is really all that matters. Didn't have hardly any
complaints, except for the insistence of the "one for the money, two for the
show" repeated at length on 'Needlefeast.' One of my favorite tracks here is
'Shadowchild,' with some great melodic choruses, contrasting highly the vicious
vocal attack and the razor sharp guitar thrash riffs. On 'The Analyst,' it's a
bit easier to make out the keyboard pieces, which sound really laid back
ambient, but usually get lost in the mix with other songs; IE you REALLY have
to listen for them to pick them out. 'Like The Average Stalker' and 'Neurotica
Rampage' also show us that these songs can be catchy as hell, and the dual
screamed/singing chorus lines work especially well. They can also slow it down
some too, as evident on 'Final Fatal Force.' I coulda sworn that the clean
vocalist was Opeth's doing all the way, it's amazing how alike they both sound.
Another fantastic album, okay, so it's not dynamically different, but in an age
where it's tough just to hear another good release from the same band, this one
definitely kicks solid ass.
Contact: Nuclear Blast Records.
SON OF SAM "Songs From The Earth" (Nitro Records) SCORE: 89/100
Anyone who longs for the good ole days of the Misfits, Samhain, AND who got
into Danzig's first few releases will absolutely love this band. Before I go
on, lemme tell ya who the legendary players are in this thing. On vocals you
have Davey Havok, who does vocals normally for Nitro emocore act AFI (more on
him later), plus various members of both Samhain and Danzig's past and present,
including London May, Todd Youth, and Steve Zing. Glenn Danzig himself also
makes a few guest appearances, marking the first time in recorded history (so
the bio says) Glenn has ever guested on an album. And you know this has to be
good with all these people involved. Now, I never was a fan of AFI, due in
part to the overtly emotional nature of the music and the vocalist, but here
Davey does a complete 180 and turns out the vocal performance of his life.
True, he does try to actively imitate Glenn's singing style, but there are
times when one isn't sure if it's Glenn doing guest vocals or Davey himself
pulling off the vocals, which in itself is a great sign. However, Davey still
retains enough of his own originality to NOT sound like a Danzig clone, so
major points go for that. The disc starts off great, with 'Of Power,' and many
of the tracks on here retain not only the faster punkiness that the Misfits had
to offer, but also the trademark "whoah-oh-oh's" that we all recognize as a
definite sign that Misfits era Glenn has been preserved. The darkness and
rather sinister nature of Samhain is dominant throughout this entire disc, and
slower songs like 'Evernight' and 'Purevil' will immediately remind one of the
Danzig styled ballads on his "How The Gods Kill" album. 'Satiate,' 'Stray' and
the title track are all rockin' pieces, Davey's delivery more shouted than
sung. There are some weak spots however, the song 'Michael' was the worst track
on here, with even the instrumentation on here not quite up to par, and Davey
doing some rather odd singing effects. 'In The Hills' was a bit faster, but
not as good, probably due to the fact that there's nothing catchy here, just a
faster track with mostly shouted vocals and not much else. The eerie organ and
spoken word piece 'Invocation' was cool, but other than a spooky Halloween
piece seemed rather unnecessary and I would have rather had another song.
Definitely a band to watch for, mixing the best of all three eras of Glenn's
past, present and future, the organ pieces throughout many of the songs gave
this an extra quality that definitely makes me wonder if this will be a brand
new band or just another side project. With the Misfits without a vocalist,
Danzig without a solo career, and the Samhain reunion stated as a one time
deal, it's time these musicians got together and floored us once again.
Contact: Nitro Records. http://www.nitrorecords.com
SPIRIT CARAVAN "Jug Fulla Sun" (Tolotta Records) SCORE: 97/100
Damn, it seems like Wino can do no wrong these days! One of the most surprising
things about Tolotta Records, first of all, is the fact that it's owned by Joe,
a member of Fugazi. This hardcore/punkish outfit definitely remembers Wino's
humble beginnings in a band called St. Vitus, a band playing stoner/doom metal
back when the punk movement was in full swing, and turning the heads of many a
punk rocker. I'll save the rest of the details for the interview, which was a
great honor for me. And after seeing the Spirit Caravan/Clutch/Clearlight/COC
tour, I was very eager to get my hands on this CD, and I be damn if I am more
blown away than I thought I'd be. His penchant for more positive vibes
notwithstanding, some of his heavier tracks are the heaviest I've heard from
him yet. 'Fear's Machine' and 'Fang' have some of the most evil riffs I've
ever listened to on a stoner rock or doom metal disc, and Wino's trademark
vocals make this all the cooler. He even throws a few nods to the punk era with
'Kill Ugly Naked,' a song that not only kicks ass in a fast punk fashion, but
has great chorus work as well. He definitely lets the guitar sing on tunes like
'No Hope Goat Farm' and 'Dead Love/Jug Fulla Sun,' there are some absolutely
beautiful and serene acoustic/electric guitar riffs but he doesn't leave you
hanging: he slides right into a kick ass, rocking set of riffs! There's so many
fantastic tracks to work with digitizing these will be a hard sell. 'Sea Legs'
was a slower tune and I'm not sure it's one of his best, and 'Chaw' was the
fastest song on here, though I'm not always the biggest fan of Wino's fastest
songs. But overall I can't complain about much, hell check out the true
sorrowful and melancholy doom styled atmosphere on 'Melancholy Grey,' you
really feel the weight of sorrow on this track! Wino is not only a master of
the genre, but still has many years of life to give this scene which has taken
on a new spark lately, especially press wise. Words really fail this, and even
though it's a few years old, I'd be a fool not to give it the full attention it
deserves. A new record has been released, which we will get to next issue.
Contact: Tolotta Records.
THE LEFTOVERS "667: The Neighbour Of The Beast" (Fueled Up Records)
Man, oh man! Fueled Up Records is a sub label of Necropolis. They have so far
dealt with some gothic and stoner rock releases, but this is the first "new"
punk release I have really enjoyed in quite awhile. This band definitely does
NOT do the Green Day/soft/emo punk thing, naw this is fast, raw, loud and
heavy! If you dig old school punk like GBH, Dictators, Black Flag, Circle
Jerks, The Germs, Dead Kennedys, then this is for ya! Even the lyrics are chock
full of attitude, though I fail to see how a songtitle like 'Burning Love'
won't raise some punks eyebrows. 'Evil Knievil...' GREAT song, first time I've
heard a band do a tribute to the daredevil from the 70's. Just goes to show
what time zone these punks are in (the same timeframe that punk was big in,
in case ya didn't know!) 'Live To Sin' is almost black metal in lyrical content,
with our snotty, pissed off vocalist telling them to "take this cross and shove
it up your ass!" You gotta love that! '13 Needles And A Doll' sounds to me like
a stab at the whole soft/emo/Green Day punk theme; though it's fast and rough
as hell, the choruses are sung in that sickening kinda emo way! I guess for
effect. 'Fucked Up Situation' didn't spark me as much though, it's a fast tune
but seems to be lacking substance, as does 'Stuck In 3rd Gear,' with it's
overrepetitive choruses at the end of the song, though it still manages to get
some heads moving. 'Out Of Luck' sounds like another chick song, until ya
realize he's talking about money grubbing bitches (something I know all too
well about) and it just goes uphill from there! The guy has the classic pissed
off, shouted vocal style we all know and love, and if punks' making a comeback
then The Leftovers are leading the way! Count me in baby!
Contact: Fueled Up, a division of Necropolis Records.
THIS EMPTY FLOW "Nowafter" (Eibon Records) SCORE: 36/100
Described in the bio as a cross between Pink Floyd and The Cure, sadly the
vocal delivery falls more into The Cure than 'Floyd, and that's not a good
thing. Points have to be given, first of all, for the vocal rendition of
The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, who I ALWAYS refer to as Prince. Even
though it's a higher toned Prince, it's still interesting for about a spin or
two, then it quickly gets annoying. This is on the track 'Stilton.' The music
is the best thing here, definitely melodic ambient with some mellow keys and
piano notes, but for the first 3/4 of the disc the vocals pretty much ruin
everything. These guys would work better as an instrumental band. What did
work? Well, 'One Song About Solitude' was great; echoed and distant drum beats,
melancholy instrumentation, and vocals that really convey a mood of, well,
solitude! 'Angel's Playground' has better vocals, and very nice acoustic guitar
work, though the vocals keep me from fully enjoying this, there's even some
nice organ notes. 'Marmite' pissed me off with the hip-hop vocals and the
whiny alternative singing, which is also present on 'Shoreditch' though even
higher pitched! 'Hunger' kinda spoke to me too, utilizing the echoed drumset
and vocals that are not only more in the background, but lower toned than the
rest. I can understand where he's going with this, but his vocal work did ruin
what could have potentially been another good release, like Canaan was.
Contact: Eibon Records.
VINTERSORG "Cosmic Genesis" (Napalm Records) SCORE: 95/100
Thanks to Napalm for finally doing away with those cardboard sleeves! Now if
Century Media would just follow suit. There is an interview following, simply
because I like what these guys, or should I say this guy, is doing. Taking a
different turn from "Odemarken's Son," utilizing English vocals (save for a few
tracks, lemme tell ya though I am glad to see at least a few songs in the guy's
native tongue) and some trippy synth effects, this CD is very diverse! I am
very much into tracks like 'Astral And Arcane' and 'Algol,' they both show us
some vicious black metal styled vocals along with great singing vocals. The
latter track is very diverse, it has the tempo of the song speeding up, then
slowing down, so it never stays in the black metal realm for too long. My only
complaint about 'Algol' was the too fast instrumentation in the chorus lines,
this is where you should be concentrating more on the melodic feel of the vocal
delivery. Halfway through the chorus he slows it back down, so all is not lost!
And of course, great title track though it is, I would much rather have heard
singing vocals instead of the spoken word "Let's be an industrial band for a
minute" vocals at the start of that song. After track 5 though, the black metal
vocals are all but nonexistant, though the interview points to more harsh vox
in the future. There's lots of acoustic melodies, even in some of the tracks
that go vicious on me. 'The Enigmatic Spirit' ends the CD with an almost ballad
but folk type atmosphere, utilizing mostly acoustic guitars and synths. And did
I mention there's a great cover of a Uriah Heep song 'Rainbow Demons?' Quite an
innovative disc, even if I wasn't crazy about 'Om Regnbagen Materialiserades,'
and it had nothing to do with the fact that vocals are sung in an ancient
Swedish language! Further fueling the points (for people OTHER than me) is the
fact that yes, a Napalm release that DOESN'T have naked chicks on the cover.
Contact: Napalm Records, P.O. Box 382, Bremerton, WA 98337 USA
Web site: http://www.napalmrecords.com
AYREON. Interview with Arjen Lucassen.
One of the most amazing releases of 2000 was the 2 CD's that came from Ayreon.
This massive project features over 20 different singers and many guest
musicians, everyone from Fabio Lione of Rhapsody and Johan Edlund from Tiamat.
What's even more amazing is the consistency of each and every song, though the
two CD's encompass different styles of progressive music. This entire project
is controlled by one man, and one man alone, who wrote 99 percent of the music
and the lyrics. Without further ado, a lengthy chat about one of the most
exciting and innovative projects of 2000.
Before we start on the two CD set, I wanted to talk about your latest
project, I understand there's already ANOTHER CD coming out from you that
features some older Ayreon material?
It's all Ayreon stuff that has been released before, just different versions
with different singers. There are however a few demo songs and a few newly
recorded songs. I got the idea because I heard a few people sing vocals to
songs already done, like for instance Lana Lane and Damian Wilson did vocals
for Bruce Dickinson's version of "Into The Black Hole." Ian Perry did a few
songs like "Into The Black Hole" and a couple others, basically songs that were
already released on the 2 CD set with other singers. So I had all these
different versions of released songs and I thought these were great why not
release them. I then went through the archives to see if there were any other
songs I could release and found an old demo I did about 9 years ago, it's the
instrumental song from "Flight Of The Migrator" entitled 'Chaos.' A few other
demos from the first album resurfaced as well. I then decided to take songs
that were released that I wasn't happy with and re-record them for this release
as well, 'Beyond The Lost Horizon' was one of these. I wasn't very happy with
the version of 'Temple Of The Cat' that was on "The Dream Sequencer" either.
I'm surprised at that, I thought that was rather a good song. I really
liked the female vocals on that one.
It was something I couldn't put my finger on. It was intended originally to be
a small, sweet acoustic song, but when we were in the studio we ended up putting
chellos in it, violins and stuff; it became different from the version I
intended. I wasn't too thrilled with the vocals, maybe that's because it took
me a long time to record them. I get a lot of tapes and demos from musicians
wanting to be on my albums, but usually they're not that good. I got this email
from this guy who said "I recorded this 14 year old Dutch girl singing and I
want you to hear it." So I said, okay send it and we'll see, not expecting
anything that great. I was blown away when I heard it, I was like "Whoah! I
can't believe she's only 14 and that she's Dutch!" Immediately I called her up
and sent her the Ayreon albums. She really liked the albums a lot and I decided
to record an album with her, which will be under the name Ambeon, a combination
of Ayreon and ambient styled music. I have to say I really tried to make a
soft album but I just can't do it, I can't help it I just keep adding heavy
guitars in it and so there will be a couple of heavy songs on it but it's more
atmospheric, electronic, celtic and gothic influenced.
With the style of space rock you seem to be delving into, even though it
incorporates heavier styled instrumentation, I was just curious are you into
Hawkwind at all?
I have almost all their CD's. I know they've released about 200 CD's, I think
I have close to 100.
I have quite a few of their releases as well, have you ever thought to
ask any of the Hawkwind members to guest on the albums?
Of course! I asked Dave Brock about three times, and each time he's really
interested but something seems to happen and I end up not hearing from him.
That would be great for me to have him on one of my records.
You ought to get in touch with Nik Turner, he was in Hawkwind briefly
and most of my favorite Hawkwind albums feature him performing either vocals or
I'm not that fond of Saxophones however. It's one of the few instruments I
don't like. He does play flutes though and I do love flutes. I've got a few of
his solo albums, like "Sphinx." I really dig that.
There must have been tons of preparation for these albums, it had to
have been a project of at least a couple of years in the works, especially the
time it takes to line up musicians and vocalists.
It's been about two years, but then again I work seven days a week, I don't
take off weekends, don't do holidays, I'm always working. It took about two
years I guess to write the songs, record the music, do the artwork and what not.
And like you said, getting the guest musicians was a horrible job, it took
forever for some singers. There's about 20, 25 guest singers on the two CD's.
The "Ayreonauts Only" album, will that be coming out through any U.S.
label anytime soon?
I don't think so. We did that album very quickly, all of a sudden the German
office called me up and said, "Hey, we heard you have a couple of bonus tracks
lying around still, we really want to release an album, could you finish it for
us?" We really worked hard for one month trying to get it all finished. And like
the U.S. needs at least two months preparation for a record to be released,
otherwise if they were to take the release there's already been so many import
versions that it's not a good opportunity for them sales wise.
Even though the second album "Flight Of The Migrator" is heavier than
the first "The Dream Sequencer," and despite the fact that I haven't reviewed
the second one yet, I still thought that first album was top metal album of the
year for 2000, though it's not quite metal oriented.
No, I don't think so either, I don't think it's metal. That's nice to hear you
know, and I hear that a lot. I'm really surprised, because when I released these
two albums I figured the metalheads are going to hate the first release. It's
surprising to me that a lot of metal fans like this.
It seems these days that there is a return to symphonic, psychedelic
and space rock; one of your guest vocalists Johan Edlund from Tiamat even
did an album that was in that style, sort of a spacey, Pink Floyd theme, and
that album did very well. We've always tried to cover that style in depth
I guess that's why I liked Tiamat so much, because of the Pink Floyd images.
Their last two albums were just great, and you know I had heard a lot of stories
about how difficult he is to work with, but I just had to have him on my album.
I sent his manager an email and I was very surprised that I got email back the
next day. He said yes, he'll be glad to do that song 'My House On Mars,' and I
must say it's one of my favorite songs on "The Dream Sequencer."
Speaking more of "The Dream Sequencer," I must say my two favorite songs
from this album are " And The Druids Turned To Stone" and "One Small Step." It's
been a very difficult time for me finding ANYTHING by these two vocalists who
you had sing on these two tracks, I know one of the singers was in a band called
Kayak made loads of albums, they were a great symphonic band, not metal at all
though. That was Edward Reekers' band, he was not the original singer though,
he joined the band later on and made a few albums with them. If you are looking
for the definitive album I would get "Merlin." Part one of the album is a great
concept, though part two is not that good, it's rather commercial sounding.
The keyboard player was the leader of that band, he's in the band Camel now.
Camel is a great band too, they're from England and quite big in Europe. It's
a bit like Pink Floyd and they made many albums. I would go back to the
beginning of their career and check out "Mirage," "Moon Madness" and their
concept album "Snow Goose." Of course it's from the 70's.
The 70's to me was when a lot of good, symphonic rock came out, and
albums were on a grand scale back then. Now what about Damian Wilson, he did
the vocals on "And The Druids Turned To Stone," and his vocals were so emotional
on this track it made for an amazing performance.
It's amazing, because the song wasn't that special to begin with. I sent the
track to him and he called me up and said "I don't like the song, but I'll do
it anyway because I like your music and we worked together before." I said,
"No, if you don't like the song you shouldn't do it," but he did it anyway. He
really made that song, I consider that HIS song. He was in a band called
Landmark, it's a British band. I wasn't crazy about the band but if you want to
check them out you should get "Infinity Parade," that's the only album I got to
hear but the vocal performance was amazing. It's the way I got to know Damian.
After that band he joined a band called Threshold, and maybe made two or three
albums with them.
Now I am aware that you do all the lyric writing, music and album
concept work yourself, however I did notice that some of the vocal lines for
'My House On Mars' were written by Johan Edlund, as well as a few lyrics done
up by Ian Perry?
The reason for that is, obviously Johan isn't a great technical singer like
Bruce Dickinson, but I think his strength lies in the mystery and darkness in
his voice, and I really like his melody lines although they are simplistic.
So I thought, I should not make a melody for him, he should make his own and it
will probably turn out better than if I had written it. It was funny, I told
him to make a melody and sing it on my answering machine, which he did. He
just went like "ahhh-blaah-blaaah." And I just made the lyrics to that. The
reason Ian wrote the lyrics to 'Keeper Awake' was that we were both in a band
called Vengeance, a metal band. From 1989 to 1992 I think it was. In those days
we wrote the song but it was called 'Sleeper Awake.' Of course back then the
lyrics were not fitting with the theme of Ayreon, but I felt very strange
rewriting the lyrics to this song, since Ian was the lyric writer for Vengeance.
I basically told Ian what the story was about, what should happen in the song,
since it was the last track at the end of the album. In a sense, I did help him
out with the lyrics to this song.
You know, the story for both albums is such a fantastic piece of work,
have you ever thought about having a movie made out of this? The music for the
movie would obviously be written, sountrack wise.
The problem with that is that it costs millions. Obviously I would love for
someone to make a film, but it's not very commercial. There's no hit singles
from these albums.
Well, I don't know about that. These songs are good, the more melodic
songs might have a potential for hit singles.
If you look at all the movies, the albums that made movies like Jesus Christ
Superstar, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" or The Who's "Tommy," they all had hit
singles. You really need that to make it worthwhile. If I look at the TV or
listen to the radio I just go crazy. I look at MTV and it's all this rap stuff
and crap which I just can't stand, I don't like or even know any of the bands
that are being promoted now. A long time ago I gave up the idea of making hit
singles, I don't think I even know what a hit single is supposed to be now.
It seems like if you are a famous person, like an actor or actress, then you
stand a chance of making hit singles. Or if the music is used for a commercial.
But back to the film idea, there was a guy from the Czech republic who now lives
in the U.S. and he wanted to make a movie for my "Electric Castle" album. He
came to Holland and made a beautiful screenplay, we worked it out and he paid
the advance, we signed the contract and everything seemed done. He went back to
the Czech republic to make the film because it would cost about 1/10th of what
it would cost in the States. Then Warner Brothers got interested in the film
and they decided to use Boris Villaeaux (sp?) a very famous artists who had
done covers for Manowar and Molly Hatchet. He's one of the most famous fantasy
artists in the world. He was going to paint a cover, and I haven't heard
anything since. The budget went up from 200,000 dollars to 2 million dollars
because of this artist. It's strange because everything had been signed up to
this point, so I don't know if this will ever happen.
Here's a tough question to answer. I know you aren't able to perform
live with this lineup from either CD, but just suppose you had to perform live.
If you had to pick just one or two vocalists to do either album, be it "Flight
Of The Migrator" or "The Dream Sequencer," who would you pick?
Well, I like Damian, he's great. I need versatile singers of course, because
there's songs sung by a 16 year old girl and ones done by a 50 year old man.
It's hard to say, I think Russell Allen is great too, he really impressed me.
But neither of these guys can sing like fish, I couldn't really say who
exactly. It's a tough decision.
I know I haven't talked much about the second CD, but I am very curious
about the Bruce Dickinson track 'Into The Black Hole.' Vocal performance
notwithstanding, I felt his song was the best track on the whole CD, which
leads me to ask: Was this track specifically written FOR Bruce, maybe you saved
the best track for someone of his fame and caliber?
Well, when I write the songs I have no idea who is going to sing them. I first
write the songs, then I work them out in my studio, then I'm going to see which
singers I can get. After that I make a list of all the singers I can get, and
then I decide which singers I'd like to have sing which tracks. Of course,
until the very end it's not definite if the singer can make it, especially
Bruce. It took me years to get him into my studio. Of course everyone was
thrilled that he would be on the record, so they said, "Hey, you have Bruce
Dickinson, so you have to get him to sing a very fast song that lasts three
minutes so you can make a hit single."
So you turn around and make the song ten minutes, right? (Intense
Ha ha! A ten minute long song, very slow. I wanted to give him a lot of space,
basically not so many words to sing. Steve Harris gives him loads of lyrics. I
just gave him a few words and said let's hear him sing. And he puts so much
emotion into it, he's just like he is onstage, he puts his foot on a chair like
he does live he puts his foot on the monitor. And he waves his hands in the air
and screaming and running through the studio. This guy is real you know! He's
not fake at all, he really enjoys his work.
You can feel his performance. And as old as he is, too, I'm an aspiring
singer myself but to be able to hold a note as long as he does, it's simply
astounding. He must work on his vocals daily, because his range, depth and
duration of his delivery is amazing.
I was laughing too when he belted that out, he just didn't stop. And he didn't
even warm up either. He came into the studio and grabbed the acoustic guitar,
went out into the hall and announced "I'm going to warm up now!" He goes out
there and I heard him say "Yeaaah, yeaaah!" and he came back immediately. "Okay,
I've warmed up now."
He must be a lot of fun to work with, even the photo of him on the
album shows that he knows what he's doing, he's just having fun with things.
Yeah, I took a lot of pictures of him, and he said, "I want you to use that one
with the little horns," where he made horns with his fingers. A lot of those
pictures were kinda serious looking, it's what I told him, but he said, "No, I
want you to use that one," so I said okay.
I was really impressed that the first CD transcended genders, where you
used many different female singers. A lot of stories of this type are very male
Well, it's a concept album about preincarnation instead of reincarnation.
So it's someone who goes back to his previous lives. I thought it would be cool
if he were going back into a woman's perspective. I really like the diversity of
singers. Nowadays I can hardly listen to a whole album with just one singer.
I'm so used to working with many different singers.
Have you rounded up any guest musicians or singers for your next
project? I assume you're working on a new project.
Well, not yet. I'm first doing the Ambeyon thing with the 14 year old girl.
She'll be singing on all the tracks, and I've let her completely loose. She'll
be doing all her own melodies and lyrics. I feel a little bit like David Gilmour
discovering Kate Bush. That's the feeling I get. I always think about that,
suppose there was a producer who told Kate Bush what to do, wouldn't that have
been a shame. She would never have made 'Wuthering Heights.' It's a wierd song
but very strong. That's the same feeling I had with this girl. Some of her
lyrics are really dark, but that's the way she feels. It's really scary, some
of the lyrics are about suicide, some really intense stuff about lying with
her head under a train, her head all opened up. Then there's a song called
'Sweet Little Brother' and I thought well, finally she made a nice lyric, but
then she talks about slitting his throat! That's what's so wierd, a 14 year old
doing lyrics like this!
Now, I've gotta play devil's advocate here, on the more metal oriented
CD, there are hardly any female vocal performances at all!
I prefer women singing like women, I'm not that much of a fan of women singing
metal style. I have to say though that Lana Lane did a lot of backing vocals
on the records.
Are you into her stuff at all? I have an album of hers that I like.
I'm not that much of an AOR fan. I love certain songs, but I don't like the
ballady type of stuff. I do know that Lana likes the same stuff I do. Her top
three songs are my top three as well, it was 'Stargazer' from Rainbow, 'Anno
Mundi' from Black Sabbath, and 'Kashmir' from Led Zeppelin. I actually had to
answer that question in an interview with some magazine.
With the hundreds and hundreds of CD's I get I could never lock down
three songs to be my favorite of all time.
These are kind of like songs that changed my life. Obviously they are all from
the past, nowadays it's very hard for a song to change your life.
If I had to lock down maybe one artist that changed my life in a way,
it would be Bob Dylan. Back in the early 80's I was heavily into speed/thrash
and death/black metal, then when I was at a friend's house I heard Dylan for
the first time, and I hated it! But then the second and third times I listened
to it and I really heard the words, I thought, these were some very cool lyrics,
and then the vocals suddenly grew with me, like they accentuated the whole theme
of the music and the words. It was sort of my awakening period, when I started
being open minded about different types of music.
SO what album was it you heard?
That would have to have been the double album set "Blonde On Blonde."
I have it now on CD, but it was a defining point in my life. The song would
have been "Rainy Day Women #12 And 35." We were partying and smoking pot, so it
fit well with what we were doing and was fun.
My favorite by him is "Highway 61," with that song 'Like A Rolling Stone.'
I remember reading in Lamentations Of The Flame Princess you had some
death metal vocalists on some of your older albums.
Well, with me I think it's nice for a few minutes or one song, I can't hear
that for too long.
Are you a fan of that style at all, the intense death and black metal
It was original in the beginning, when I first heard it I was like "Wow! What
is this, that's great." It was something new you know, it was something
exciting. But then when they just kept on doing it, I thought well hey, that's
I think it's relevant, because black metal today parallels what you are
doing now. They are somewhat getting away from the vicious vocal work and the
fast staccato guitar work, the vicious vocal work is still there but they have
added operetta style singers, female vocals and the keyboards and full scale
orchestra sounds. This is something I think that is important to readers, that
a lot of this stuff may sound like it's new, but it's been around since the
early to late 70's. It's all in the way that you work it.
I hate to repeat myself. I like to keep each album fresh and different. Each
album is very different from the last. The first album was very over the top
and bombastic. There was an opera singer and death metal vocals, so it was
quite extreme. That's the danger of doing what I do, it has to be bigger each
time around, even bigger names and bigger concepts. How much bigger than the
last two albums can I get?
LIZZY BORDEN. Interview with Lizzy himself.
It's good to see a hard working 80's metal band make a comeback that isn't
actually lame! If you read last issue, I definitely enjoyed their latest
record, and definitely enjoyed their live performance. Without further ado,
noting special thanks to Mark from Souls Of Chaos zine for his experience with
Lizzy's entire career and help with some of the interview questions.
I want to start off the interview by talking a bit about some of the
songs on your newest release "Deal With The Devil," because it deals with a lot
of conceptual topics. I know people are going to look at the album title, look
at the album cover and go "Ah, it's the old cliched satanism in metal" thing,
but there's some deep conceptual topics going on in songs like 'Deal With The
Devil' and 'Zanzibar.'
This record has almost nothing to do with the devil, it really has to do with
the weakness of man. The seven deadly sins are right there for you, and that's
the subject that I went for. I make theme oriented records, that's what I do;
I pick a theme and dive right in, doing some digging until I find topics and
different subject matters that I can really tap into. People that I know,
people I see and observe going through their lives. As far as putting the devil
into it, that's just fun.
You think maybe he's (Satan) just a synonym for rebellion? Sorta like
what Running Wild alluded to with some of their subject matter from "Gates To
Absolutely. That's why we put it on the cover, we put the contract on there
even. To me that's fun, you gotta have humor. I take the work seriously but I
don't take the job seriously. You gotta have fun with it otherwise it's just
a job and you don't want that.
'We Only Come Out At Night' was very interesting, rather industrial
sounding. People who I have played this for couldn't believe it came from a
metal band, but it still has your signature sound. Was the influence
That song I wrote originally around 1988, '89. We played it on the '92 tour,
but we've worked on it over the years and tried to change direction on it. When
we recorded it for this record, I wanted to try and add something to it because
I had been living with it for so long. So we tried to add some new dimensions,
and my producer really stepped up and tried some new twists to it. We didn't
want to go too overboard with it though, we still wanted it to be a metal
song, a Lizzy Borden song.
I really dig the covers, I know about Alice Cooper's track, but who did
"Summer Of Love?" That one I didn't recognize.
That was Blue Oyster Cult. I'm a big fan of Blue Oyster Cult, it was a toss up
between that and 'Burning For You' and we ended up doing 'Summer' because we
used to encore with that on tours in 1992, so we recorded it. It's an obscure
track by them, instead of doing 'Don't Fear The Reaper' like everyone else we
wanted to do something obscure that nobody knows, but still something that we
can make our own.
Now I heard your back catalog is going to be reissued sometime soon.
Yeah, it's great, the records were frozen for over ten years through lawsuits,
and it's all squared away now. They will be released with extra songs, we went
through all of our tapes and found songs from 1982, when we first got together.
There's probably 20 songs recorded in a live rehearsal. We'll break those up
and put some on "Love You To Pieces." There's some songs that will go on the
"Menace To Society" record too, demo songs we did for that record. We have
live stuff from "Visual Lies," and I have hundreds of songs that we demoed
from "Master Of Disguise." We're also going to put new pictures in there and
make the stuff really cool.
It's rather odd to me that you are back on Metal Blade, especially
since all these problems cropped up with your entire back catalog.
They had problems, and in turn we had problems. The lawsuit wasn't really their
fault, it's just that our albums were involved in the lawsuit they were
involved in. Other bands had their albums frozen as well, it wasn't just us.
It was one of those things where we had to leave, there was no way we could
stay with them because of the big lawsuit they have. They are a great label now
though, and I couldn't be happier with them. They know what they are doing as
far as metal is concerned and that is the best part. Metal Blade was affiliated
with Capitol and Warner Brothers, and we were too in turn. Those guys had no
idea what to do with us. (Capitol and Warner - Ed.)
Mark: And we all know what happens to anything associated with Warner
Brothers, just look at Metallica for example.
I was coming down an elevator with one of the senior V.P.'s at Capitol at one
point, and he just looked at me and shook his head; he had never met me before.
He goes "You know that song 'Me Against The World?' That should have been a
number one single." We were signed with Capitol at the time, and this guy is
going "I wonder what happened?" That made me say we have to get off this label.
I mean, if the senior vice president of the label doesn't even know why things
didn't happen the way they should have, and his label put it out, then there is
a huge problem. Metal Blade definitely knows what to do with us.
One thing that upset me a lot about Metal Blade is the fact that so
many albums they put out in the 80's are simply not available. It's such a
shame to me that King Fowley from Old Metal Records has to rerelease Cities'
"Annihilation Absolute," a great band that had AJ Pero from Twisted Sister in
the band. Plus the Cirith Ungol records, Silver Mountain stuff, and a whole lot
of other releases that are still unavailable or just now getting rereleased.
They might have been contractually out of it, they didn't have it anymore or
they couldn't get it back. There's lots of possibilities, I know Brian Slagel
was a big Cirith Ungol fan, he loves all of that stuff.
Mark: I wanted to talk about the album cover artwork a bit, especially
the "Visual Lies" cover. The silver paint, that had to taste awful! It looks
like it was caked in your mouth...
That was a one day shoot. Everything we've ever done has been a one-off idea.
It was like, let's just try this idea. We used stuff whether we hated it or
loved it in the end. That was about a 20 hour shoot believe it or not, and three
T.V.'s gutted. I forget who shot that, but he was a great photographer. Mark
Weiss it was, he comes up with so many great ideas. That's actually foil paper
in my mouth. It started out with just a little silver, but then Weiss was
going "No, no, I want more, more!" On the tour it was just a little bit of
silver, but we kept going and going with it.
Do you have a more elaborate stage show than what you used tonight? I
had heard that you had a shock rock type of atmosphere, with blood, lights,
All of our stuff, our whole stage set, is in the trailer. We can't use anything
at all. We're lucky to be using costume changes onstage, which is minimal.
I guess Malmsteen wasn't too happy with the idea of anyone trying to
upstage him. (laughter erupts, as we all know the egotism of Yngwie Malmsteen).
We missed the first show in Dallas because of it, there was a thousand people
there in Dallas waiting to see us, and Yngwie wanted to look at some of our
production. He took one look at it and said basically, "No, you're not using
this." So we couldn't use any of it, and then we described some of the stuff
we do in the show, some of the nice, bloody fun stuff and he wouldn't let us
do any of that either. We basically just had to cut everything out, what you're
seeing is a raw outline of us and we're still killing every night. This is
probably the quietest crowd we've seen on this tour.
And you guys were getting the crowd response.
Mark: The crowd was getting into it too much, I didn't see Yngwie topping your
It's been so great to come back this way, even under the circumstances. In many
shows, people were leaving the venue after we're done. (YES! Much laughter
over this - Ed.)
I would have loved to see the full blown stage show. I have to say, I
kinda dig Malmsteen's music, but his egotism gets in the way and ruins the
whole experience not only for the fans but the bands as well, who can't give
their best show on given nights.
It should have happened, because in no way did it interfere with what he was
doing. But, you know... I don't blame him... (Evil laughter).
I feel that the band should be able to hold it's own based on it's own
merits without having to worry about the supporting band "upstaging" them.
Mark: Even if they were blowing them out of the water. (You can tell we're
having fun with this subject - Ed.)
We've been a headlining band most of our whole career, and we've let any band
do anything they want onstage as long as it didn't interfere with our show.
We weren't afraid of anything, they could have done any kind of show they
wanted and it wouldn't have threatened us in the least. We opened up for Alice
Cooper, Motorhead, Megadeth, and Manowar.
Mark: You didn't get to do much over there with Manowar.
Well, we didn't bring a whole lot of stuff because it was only like 5 shows,
and Manowar helped us with the production. We'll bring the blood next time.
It'll give a new meaning to the word "There Will Be Blood Tonight."
Any chance of a headlining tour?
After this seven week tour, we're leaving and doing a full on European tour,
we're going to bring ALL the gear with us for that one. It's gonna be as much
as we can do, we sent a lot of stuff back already because we couldn't use it
on tour, but we will have the production and we have some of the props, but
nothing like the headlining we're gonna do I think in August or September.
We're going to do a full headlining tour across this country, in front of new
promoters and new clubs, because to us these are all new promoters. All the
promoters so far have asked us back, and we'll be leaving nothing out. We'll do
extra songs from "Deal With The Devil" on tour. We try to get a couple of songs
from each record, and in a 45 minute set it's hard to do. We've had about 700
people a night at these shows, and many of these people aren't familiar with
Lizzy Borden at all, but by the end of teh show, they were screaming and going
crazy, and now I think we have a whole legion of Lizzy fans. As we head east,
that's our main territory, things will really pick up. We had such a huge
following in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia after we left L.A.
MOB RULES. Interview with Mattias Minerva via phone.
Things seem to be going pretty well for you guys, though the U.S. is a
tough market for any European band or otherwise to break into.
We have had some great response from America. A lot of American fans have said
that there is a market for us, though small. They think that for melodic metal
bands the time is getting better now.
Hammerfall did a good tour through the States not too long ago.
I just saw them a few days ago, they put on a great show.
I wanted to talk a bit about the "Temple Of The Two Suns" now. There
seems to be a continuation of the concept that "Savage Land" touched on. There's
a song on there called 'Outer Space' and I have seen that this tribe of people
that survived the last great war went into the jungle and saw an ancient temple.
They are standing on a hill and looking down into a valley, and they see the
old temple. They think that they can see two suns shining over the temple and
they think this must be a sign for us, it must be hallowed ground, the place
where we have to go. They go down into the valley and take the temple as their
Well, that song 'Outer Space,' does it allude to the fact that the
ancient civilization was aided by beings from another planet, like some have
said about the Egyptians?
It's not for sure whether it's alien or not, but the people are wondering who
has helped us to survive, who is leading us and gives us the sign to tell us
where to go? Who helps us have a good fate for the future. They are deeply
religious, believers so to speak. One day they see lightning and thunder in
the sky and feel that this is a sign from outer space. They are close to
religion as well. Very spiritual people. The song 'Celebration Day' alludes to
the fact that they celebrate black masses, and you can see there is a spiritual
thing going on with this song alone.
So what denomination are these people, is it a belief in spiritual
forces at work or a belief in God as in Christianity?
I think it's more we believe in a higher intelligence, no special person, not
God, someone who is ruling or watching us from above. A kind of power which
you can't see or feel but will be there if you need it.
So how do you feel about organised religion? I know a lot of black
metal musicians have a strong dislike towards Christianity, so I'm curious as
to your thoughts on religion.
I am, how do you say it, skeptical towards religion? I know in the history of
mankind so many wars were done by religious persons. So many persons had to die
because of different viewpoints. Especially in Germany, the German church had a
very obscure position in the Third Reich, I guess you could say. When Hitler
was here, all the horrible murders were done, and when everything went wrong
because of the fall of the Germans, the church had an obscure, rather non
commital position towards what was happening. But, I am a believer, I do not
believe in the church for the most part, I do believe in a higher power. Like
the idea you have to pay for salvation.
So what's the music scene like in Germany? I have read that you actually
played shows with Overkill and The Scorpions?
I think there's two different kinds of metal bands over here. There are the ones
like The Scorpions who are very famous here in Europe and have been for years.
They have some problems at the moment because there are some very young fans,
young German metal fans, who are waiting for younger bands. We have a very
vital and lively new metal scene, with bands like Helloween, like Gamma Ray,
Blind Guardian, Pink Cream 69 and a great new band called Edguy. So I think it's
very good for the metal scene that we have so many young metal bands. The scene
here is very vibrant at the moment.
Are you commencing on any tours anytime soon?
We've done a few single shows up to now, and we are going to do a European tour
in a few weeks. The tour starts out with ten shows with Company Of Snakes, a
band that features former members of Whitesnake. Then we do six shows with Doro
Pesch, then we do maybe a festival with Helloween, one festival where we are
headlining, then we go to Paris with Rhapsody and Silent Fall, a German band
who has the former lead singer from Royal Hunt.
Wow. I loved Royal Hunt, do you know what label Silent Fall is being
worked through? I absolutely loved Royal Hunt's "Fear" album.
I really loved that album too. Silent Fall is being worked through Noise
Records here in Germany I believe. I've seen Royal Hunt on the Wacken tour over
here, they had a great sound and performance.
Speaking of touring, are there plans for a U.S. tour? (Most asked
question number 99) I know Rhapsody has shown a huge interest in touring here
in the States, and I would think that if Limb Music in America decided to bring
Rhapsody over, you guys would fit nicely on the bill. However, with the
American music scene in such dire straits, it would probably take being a
support band for a bigger name like Iron Maiden or even Rhapsody, how would you
feel about the role of supporting band?
To be honest, if we have the chance and somebody is paying for the flight
ticket, we would start a tour right there. We would love to come to America,
because I think if we had a good headliner, it would be good to present the
band to an American audience. We are hoping that this will happen, but as you
can imagine it would be very expensive for us to come here. We are even in
Germany a small band with just two records out. We nearly always play support
shows and I think this is good for us because the band is on a very good track,
and we have progressed greatly in two years. We are in the position of a good
support band, we have played with many major metal bands that have invited us.
So to play with a band like Maiden or Rhapsody, would be a great honor for us,
no doubt about that.
It's a unique thing I'm hearing too, because you aren't just going out
with local metal bands, you're playing shows with bands that can pull 30 or 40
thousand people into a stadium type setting. Your label must be very supportive
to have tours like this.
I love this, and this is what we always say. We think that besides the fact that
we have a great album out, we feel we are a great live band. There's a lot of
good vibes when we are playing, there's a great atmosphere; we're very
optimistic and are a positive band. We have a lot of fun going out onstage and
everyone can see how devoted we are to the band and how much fun we have. The
best thing to promote our music is to go on tour, go out onstage and play these
songs. We have a great response when we go onstage, so every show that we can
do, we WILL do.
How did you come to be on Limb Music? Besides the fact that they seem
to be seeking out these styles of power metal bands.
We came to Limb because we had a self produced EP out in 1996, we sent it to
five record companies and immediately received four offers for a contract.
We were discussing which label to go with for about four or five months, and
decided to go to Limb because it is the best label for melodic newcomer bands.
The label guy is a fan of this kind of music, and if he is a fan of your music
then he is making the band a top priority to get an album out; this is what a
newcomer band needs. It was the best decision we made. Limb did a great
promotion job when "Temple Of The Two Suns" came out in Europe. Our deal covers
the next record we make only, our contract allows us to sit down with each
album after it is released and say "Should we continue on as a band?" And if
both sides agree that this is not the best idea, we will stop working with
each other. It's pretty much on an album-by-album basis, our contract is. We
don't plan to stop our association with Limb, as we are very proud of it.
So what songs are on the EP? Is it still available?
The EP is sold out. I have a copy for myself, but it was called "Savage Land
the EP." There were three songs and three interludes, the stuff is mainly
tracks that you can find on the debut album. Some changes in the arrangements
here and there are found, but mainly it's like the songs from the debut. We had
500 copies made and they are all sold out, I have one myself.
So how do you see the evolution of the German music scene, because I
remember the big wave of German thrash bands like Kreator, Sodom and those
types that came from Germany, and nowadays people here in the States are getting
back into that thrash style. Maybe you could give us an idea of how shows and
metal fans were back then as opposed to how they are now?
I actually remember the thrash and very brutal way of metal back in the late
80's and early 90's. At the moment there is a very strong renaissance of
melodic metal, traditional metal. A lot of the older thrash bands have tried to
change their direction, by getting into the melodic style. I think this is not
a good idea, because there are still thrash bands here. The early 90's were more
of a thrash metal style here in Germany.
Do you think maybe the reason a lot of the older bands are getting more
into melodic instrumentation and delivery is the age of the musicians involved?
I think it's sometimes a question of age, yes. We are all not seventeen or
eighteen, we are all mid twenties, end of twenties, I am "at the beginning"
of thirty. I remember when Kreator first came out and I loved it, I was really
into the thrash metal when I was younger, but now because of my age and the age
of the other band members, you arrive more at a traditional and more melodic
style of playing.
I wanted to talk a bit about the artwork, especially the new painting
on "Temple Of The Two Suns," I understand that this cover was painted by the
same artist that did the Rhapsody album covers. Was that set up through the
label? (They both are signed to Limb Music).
When we were working on the music for "Savage Land," our label asked us if we
had any idea for good cover artwork. We said we had a concrete idea, but had
no idea who could paint it. So the label told us to look at the Rhapsody covers,
Eric Fillipe was the name of the guy, a great artist and great painter. If we
liked his work we were told we could get in contact with him and he would do
us a cover as well. So we contacted him and he made a few rough sketches; there
were a few discussions made about color and some minor detail, but as a whole
we were very impressed with how he understood our vision. He was the artist for
not only "Savage Land" but also "Two Suns..." as well. I do have to tell you
though that the basic idea, most of the details of the covers were thought out
by the band.
So who does the lyric writing for the albums?
Writing is done by myself, but I have to tell you it's based on the ideas of
every band member. When we're working on the lyrics, there is input from every
member. At the end, when everything is done in rough sketches, when we have the
rough idea to every song, I sit down at home with my little tape recorder and
listening to the melodies I bring the ideas to paper. It's a long process and
one which is always done in many steps; we try and change things around until
everybody is happy.
I wanted to talk a bit more in depth about the lyrics to some of the
songs, since I didn't get a finished product, all I have is a booklet with a
bigoraphy. Even though there's a story line here, I'm sure some of the songs
touch upon different aspects of the theme.
I'll take part of the second song on the CD, which deals with the ruler of the
wasteland, the guy you can see on the cover. He is the leader of the small
group of people that have survived from the "Savage Land" CD. The song 'Pilot
Of Earth' deals with the ruler dealing with the people, saying to them "Please
trust me, please trust me because I know what is good for us and our future,
don't be skeptical, I am the right guy for this job." The people are not sure
if they can trust him but they give him a chance anyway.
So what happened on "Savage Land," was the leader trying to establish
himself as ruler?
On "Savage Land," the people that survived the war are running away from this
country that has been destroyed. Nobody has an idea of where to go, except for
this one guy. Because he seemed to have some ideas for survival, the people
told him they would follow him. The situation changes when they arrive in the
valley of the spot where the temple is located ("Temple Of Two Suns"), they
again start thinking about whether this guy is the best one to lead them.
'Pilot Of Earth' is the song that starts putting the doubts and questions into
perspective. There is another song, 'Celebration Day,' which deals with the
temple being a political focus point as well as a religious center, their
church. Every year they remember the day that they found the temple, and
because they are very religious, they believe they are human victims. They want
to make sure their future is ensured, so they burn one of their members as a
sign that the gods and the power in the sky is good to the people on earth.
That sounds a bit extreme, like a throwback to Aztec civilizations.
When they leave their homes after the nuclear war, they are not sure in which
direction they had to go with their faith. Did they have to go back into former
times, or go on in the future with modern styles of religion? In the beginning
of the society there is a mixture between ancient cultures and celebrations and
I would think some of these people in this society might not be okay
with having some of their people sacrificed in this manner.
These people are massively confused, they don't really know what is right and
what is wrong. This theme runs rampant throughout the whole album. The next
song 'Flag Of Life' deals with the day after the celebration day; they see that
they have survived the black mass and they are happy. They are dancing,
laughing and running around, having good food and just enjoying themselves.
As we wrap this up, are there any plans for another album, is this
story concept to continue for another album?
We will start writing the album next summer. I think the album will come out
in the spring of 2002. We have no idea what the album will be about, no idea
on lyrics or songs. There's a chance we will continue the story but we're not
sure, if we have a good idea and a good story to tell, we'll do it, if not we
will probably try and tell another story. Music wise we hope that we will
progress and grow where we can make a great album. We know that we are not a
band that deals with one genre or style, we like to have a wide range of
RHAPSODY. Interview with Alex Staropoli.
It seems that your new album "Dawn Of Victory" has gotten a bit heavier
than your last release "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands." With the Mob Rules
interview, we had discussed how many bands' members are getting older and their
music is starting to go more on the melodic side, whereas you started out very
melodic and are now getting heavier! Is this the trend for you guys, to get
heavier with each album?
I think this is the right equilibrium for us, a few years ago we noticed the
lack of heavy guitar work, especially on "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands." We
decided to make the new record more aggressive and more powerful. We felt
"Symphony.." was a bit too light, not quite fitting with heavy metal. We felt
something was missing.
Tell us about the theme of this album, I know the story started with
the first album and continued on through "Symphony..." Is this a continuation
of the story line?
It's still part of the story. We wrote this story in four parts, this is
the third part.
You guys used the same artist for all your album covers? I noticed the
new release looks a bit different from your last two covers.
Eric Fillippe, a Belgian guy, did the artwork for our first two. Marc , who has
done artwork for Axel Rudi Pell, did the new album. We wanted something more
aggressive artwork wise for this new record, and we will probably be using him
for future albums. I think the first two albums are nice but a little bit too
clean, too static. This artwork now represents the aggressive, heavier side of
So what's going on with the theme here? I know this is a question I
asked of Mob Rules, a continuing storyline from album to album seems to be
what bands on Limb Music are doing these days? And of course, I didn't get a
lyric sheet with the CD promo, so I don't know exactly what's going on.
I know with bands like Nocturnal Rites and Hammerfall, especially like
Nocturnal Rites latest album, the bands that wrote about sword and sorcery
topics are starting to move away from that. They want to write more about war
and political stuff which is happening in our own time, and I have to say I
can't understand why some don't want to write about worlds that are so magical
and fantastic, giving us music that can paint wonderous images in our minds
rather than the bleakness and hopelessness of society.
Exactly, that's how we feel and why we stick to the style that we write in. A
lot of bands try to follow the same style, like Hammerfall started out with
that so we can't really say much about them. We don't like to talk about
political things or crap like that. We really want to have an escape from the
world, though it's not a real escape but just a moment of our lives where we
go out of the reality and enter a fantasy world. This is a great thing for the
people as we try and present a great intellectual story with good music.
With each and every album there's so many elements to be found in your
music; the male and female operetta style vocals, the symphonic sounds, seems
like there's a full scale orchestra playing as well! This must be very
expensive for you guys to put together, Limb Music seems to be very supportive
of what you are doing.
Let's say for the first album there were already presented baroque and
classical influences. With "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands," we spent a lot of
money to realize a maximum level of great music. This made a great difference,
and you know it's true, if you want something really special you must pay for
it. I'm really fanatical about this kind of music, I have listened to a lot of
soundtracks for stuff like Lord Of The Rings, and it can be difficult if you
don't know anyone who can help you out, there's a lot of people who would like
to write music for movies. Me being the keyboard player I arrange all the
instrumentation and the classical pieces.
I don't know, but I heard rumours about Blind Guardian doing the
soundtrack for the new Lord Of The Rings movie they're filming now. I do know
that you guys would be perfect for doing a soundtrack or even a few songs in
I heard the same things about Blind Guardian. I really don't know who should be
the writer of the music, I don't really think that a heavy metal band should do
a soundtrack for this movie, but I don't know.
Well, if people were considering Blind Guardian as a possibility for
involvement, surely a band that utilizes symphonics, operetta vocals and
what you call "Hollywood Metal" even more would be more suited to this kind of
involvement. Even if you had to take the guitar work out, surely you could see
yourself doing music for a movie on this scale.
I feel the same way, but this depends. I think Rhapsody should be one of the
bands that could really pull this off. The connections are hard to get for
this type of involvement.
I'm curious about your live performance, how you would pull off all the
vocal styles and instrumentation live. I'm sure a lot of the instrumentation can
be mapped out on the keyboard but it must be hard to pull off the operetta
style vocals without bringing a bunch of extra musicians on the road.
We played the songs live on tour, we use a disc recorder for all the parts that
were impossible to have on stage like the real choirs, some of the instruments,
double voices and stuff. With the machine we had the possibility to emulate
basically anything that we recorded on the record.
So is there any chance for Rhapsody to come to the U.S.? With the
tremendous amount of press you have been generating with each album, plus the
U.S. office of Limb Music, surely a tour is forthcoming?
We are talking right now because we want to come to the States, to us it's a
big dream. We are just waiting for the offer. I think from this album on,
there is something changing in the U.S., the market seems to be more reactive,
you know? You think that the country is big, and there are a lot of people that
listen to metal, but this seems to mean nothing. I would think that if we come
to play, there would be a lot of people that would come to see us. We have an
agency working with us in Europe and South America. For sure we will play South
America, but for sure we want to play in the USA. The people in South America
have been waiting for us since the first album came out. We will probably play
around 12 concerts in places like Argentina, Chile, Mexico and stuff. We will
probably be a headliner, due to our sound. Maybe we could play a festival here
but I think a tour this year would be impossible in the States. We get a lot of
fan reaction in Canada but nothing is confirmed over there.
How close are the bands within the power metal community in Italy? It
seems like as of late there are tons of bands that play straightforward power
metal coming out of Italy, like Labyrinth and White Skull.
The metal scene in Italy is getting better, maybe because of a band like
Labyrinth, but there are lots of the same people in different bands. Many
musicians are here in Italy, though nowadays the ways to get professional in
this country have increased. What seemed to be missing here was a serious way
to make music, with investments in productions and studios and stuff. For
example, we went to Germany to record the album, because at the time it was
impossible here in Italy to record an album. Nobody really trusted in metal
music to be a seller in the beginning, but now there are good studios
delveloping, and the bands are not having to go so far to record music and
get studio time.
I understand you are working on a new record soon, is there anything
you care to tell us about it? Will it continue on with the storyline presented
on the first three discs or go in a different direction?
I cannot tell you much about it because we are preparing it now. I can say that
the singles will be out in September of this year and the fourth album should
be ready in January 2002. This will be the end of the saga, and after the
release of the 4th album we want to do the BIG tour of Rhapsody. We plan on
doing special shows, because we want to play almost two hours, a lot of songs
from every album. Not only a metal concert, but something to see, kind of a
theater show. We are looking to play everywhere, too, as we said.
Something I am concerned about, though, is Luca Turili. Is this a side
project or something that Luca plans to pursure more fully in the future, and
of course I'm concerned about how that will coincide with the big plans you all
have for Rhapsody.
Something I must say, first of all, Luca and I are in charge of that project.
Just as with Rhapsody, we both do the majority of the writing. We are both
planning on doing a solo album each, Luca with another record, and me with
my first solo album. I know people have said that Luca sounds a lot like the
Rhapsody releases, but Luca understands this and the second Luca release should
sound different from what Rhapsody has done and is doing in the future.
Sometimes it's really difficult to break away because this music is what we
feel. This is the main influence that we have, the classical music and the
orchestration. I would like to be satisified with my solo effort, to say that
this is something I did and did alone, to still have people recognize my solo
work as being different.
Is there anything else you want to add, or anything that we missed you
might want to talk about, before we wrap this up?
No, I think you have pretty much covered the main thing that we are interested
in right now, and that is playing in the United States. We went to Florida in
November, Luca and myself, though we only stayed one week. Florida was great.
Here it was cold and rainy and it was absolutely great down there. We enjoyed
the people down there, we met some people down there that liked our music,
because they knew from heavy metal magazines who we were. We saw many
magazines in the U.S. that were talking about us, so of course we decided we
must do something tour wise for the U.S.
SOILWORK. Interview with Peter.
I noticed with this new record "A Predator's Portrait," you guys are on
Nuclear Blast now instead of Century Media. I'm not sure if you're aware, but
in the States Century Media and Nuclear Blast have merged, somewhat.
We had a contract with French based Listenable Records and after we concluded
our contract with them we got some good reviews and Century Media licensed us
in America. We just thought it was time to move on and delvelop, we have worked
with both Nuclear Blast and Century Media in the past. I don't have any
problems with Century Media, it's just that in Europe I think that Nuclear
Blast is a lot more powerful, and I had some contacts with the label before
that haved moved to more prominent positions in the company. Nuclear Blast also
has more powerful distribution there as well.
There's quite a bit of melodic vocals on your latest release. Is that
the direction things will progress to for future releases?
We thought that after we did "Chainheart Machine" it was time to do something
different. Since we got such a lot of great reviews from magazine both in
America and Europe, we thought maybe we shouldn't try to top an album that was
great in that vein, so we tried something a bit different. I know for a fact
that Bjorn has a great singing voice as well. It was still supposed to be very
extreme and very heavy as well. This is really a natural development for us,
not such a deviation in style or sound.
I've noticed that a lot of your albums, well, I only have the last two,
but I've noticed that your album covers seem to merge aspects of cold,
mechanical technology with human emotions and some human imagery.
It's like a little bit of science fiction in the covers. That's basically what
we wanted to do, our first album cover was hand drawn, which we were tired of.
We thought it was important to have an album that people notice, that stands
out on the record store shelves, because there's tons of albums that have the
same kinds of artists that draw the same kinds of sketches. Take Hammerfall for
example. We definitely like it when it's a lot more photographic on the cover.
We tried to get Dave McKean to do the cover but he was too busy, however you'll
see his work mostly on the Front Line Assembly albums, he did all their work.
(He did "Hard Wired" and "Millenium," however he did NOT do the cover artwork
for my favorite F.L.A. CD "Tactical Nerual Implant." That was another dave -
Ed.) He does a lot of sick artwork!
So let's talk about the songs, with the technology theme and some of the
song titles, there's an "industrialized" theme (in the mechanical, technological
aspect, not industrial music) to the albums, do you care to discuss the themes
behind some of the songs on the new record?
What Bjorn likes to focus on in our music is not to have a satanic theme or
meaning, but it's basic stuff that actually goes on in our lives. People that
you meet on the road or people that you meet in everyday life. On this album
"A Predator's Portrait" is like ten different portraits out of different
people's lives; ones you read about and the stuff you experience by yourself.
Like 'The Analyst' is the guy who is analyzing everyone else, saying he's the
better one and he knows how everything is run. Basically, he's showing his
insecurity, so our theme is that you should do your own thing, not what you see
everyone else doing. 'Grand Failure Anthem' is like an environmental song.
Basic stuff, about pollution and seeing how the world is going. 'Bastard Chain'
is a kick in the teeth for Nazis, because we have lots of friends from different
countries and we don't support racism at all. It kinda gets inside the head of
a Nazi and displays what is going on in his life and what he feels is wrong
with his life.
How about 'Needle Feast?' That song conjures an interesting image in my
'Needle Feast' is like you're feasting on needles, a guy who is addicted to
needles. He claims to be a mentally ill person so he can get access to Morphine,
free drugs and stuff.
One thing that really gets to me is the people that are demanding in
certain genres or subgenres that there is a drastic change, for instance, though
you know I love the new record, there's a review I read of your CD where the
guy says that nothing much has changed for Soilwork, except the inclusion of,
and I quote, "A few clean sung vocals." My whole deal is if a band can make a
record similar in style to the last but make it different enough to where it's
not a rehash of the same old sound, who cares really? There's so many bands that
make one great album and then make lots of crappy or subpar ones, why not let a
band stick to what they know that works and works well?
That's like difference of opinion, everyone has a right to their opinion. In our
opinion, I think that from a musical aspect of albums, the structure of this
new album is actually similar to "The Chainheart Machine." There are some
elements of "Chainheart Machine" that we blended into the new stuff as well,
but I think this album is more groove oriented, there's a lot more hard rock
on this album as well. For example, what we tried to do with this record is
try to break the boundaries of the Gothenberg style. We're actually from a
town called Helsinberg which is about 2 hours drive from Gothenberg. We also
have a band from here called Darkane, they're a little bit more technical
than us but still in the same genre. We try to create our own sound in the
southern parts of Sweden.
That bothered me about things I heard from a guy running Shiva, an
import type shop dealing with black metal shirts and CD's. He was saying that
lots of people love the older Dark Tranquility stuff and don't like the new
records, but as my experience with them has been, it's the same sound and
heaviness with just some clean vocals in there! I don't see where Dark
Tranquility has changed all that much, but like with the new Mayhem CD I can
understand how people might not like what Mayhem has done. Sometimes that whole
argument can be pointless, but I can still enjoy both new and old Dark
You're a guy that really appreciates the evolution of bands. Some bands, they
never change, they always keep the same kind of direction of their music, As a
listener, if I buy an album, I want to see that a band is having evolution in
their music, trying new stuff as well, because that makes it more interesting.
If all the band's albums sounded the same, that would be pretty boring.
I have heard you've actually done tours with Mayhem and Marduk, not to
mention Dark Tranquility. How have these tours been for you guys?
I have the utmost respect for bands like Marduk and Cannibal Corpse, but it's
not bands that really fit us. If we play with those guys, it's always like we're
seen as the Backstreet Boys compared to them, like we're too melodic. For us,
it's more suitable to play with a band like Dark Tranquility, who we did play
with over in Japan. The crowd could still appreciate either band, because it's
the same type of fans. It's hard to play with Marduk because most of the crowd
is diehard black metal fanatics. We are very lucky actually because we are going
to go on tour with Annihilator and Nevermore starting Tuesday throughout Europe.
I think that's going to suit us a lot better, the guys in Nevermore are looking
to tour with us.
Are you a big fan of the 80's thrash metal that came out? I wasn't too
crazy about Annihilator's latest CD, the melody is there but I just didn't get
into it. I really dig more along the lines of Dark Angel and Testament type of
I like Dark Angel, they're cool, and I like Testament a lot. I haven't followed
everything from the 80's though. When it comes to 80's metal, Bjorn and I are
more into the German thrash bands like Sodom and Kreator. The good ole' guys.
Some of those bands haven't really impressed me with their comeback
records, bands like Destruction, Kreator and Artillery had really weak records
released recently. They haven't been anywhere near as good as what they made
in the 80's era, and I know I sound rather picky, but I'm really very open
minded about music.
No, no, I understand what you say exactly. I'm somewhat the same kind of guy,
I am very picky when it comes to buying albums. I believe that you have to work
extremely hard if you want to follow up a good success album, you shouldn't
concentrate on releasing another record half a year after the first. You should
really sit down and think about what you are going to do; if you are able to
create another album as good as the previous one. Kreator actually has an
album coming out that has been said to be a return to their old school ways.
So, where does that leave you for your next record, which will be your
The guys at Nuclear Blast want us to record a new album this year, so after this
tour we're going to start writing new material. We have written like three or
four songs already, they will be more in the vein of tracks like 'Like The
Average Stalker,' Needle Feast' and 'Structure Divine;' not as fast but very
There's a lot of really good guitar melodies and solos on the record,
something that impressed me the most: the music is hard and heavy and
aggressive, but the guitar work is so intricate. Are you trained in classical
guitar, did you have many years of study behind you?
I started playing guitar when I was 12, and stopped for awhile then picked it
back up again when I was 15 or 16. I'm the main composer of many of the songs
as well. I was mainly a rhythym guitarist, it was basically what I played from
the beginning, and I had to practice a hell of a lot to be a good guitarist.
I started playing solos one year before the first record came out. I listened
to lots of solo artists like Steve Vai, Malmsteen and the like, trying to take
inspiration from them. It seems like the American guys appreciate the guitar
solos and melodies than some of the people in Europe.
So what would you say is the main difference between European and
American fans? I know we don't have a huge scene like they have in Europe, it
pisses me off to hear these festivals going on every week with bands like
Marduk, Mayhem, Dark Tranquility, hell how many times does Manowar play the
States as opposed to the festivals they headline every other month? Over here
it seems like once in a lifetime for a foreign band to come to the States.
I talked to Phil from Nuclear Blast in America, and he said this music is kind
of on the way to an uprising in your country. A lot of people are more into the
more melodic metal styles, maybe it's coming up in America. There's a good
possibility that we'll be in the States, especially since we have seen so many
good reviews in American magazines. There's a good possibility that if we do
come to the States, I'm pretty good friends with Eric Peterson from Testament,
so that would be a great opportunity for us.
How did the collaboration with Opeth come about? I know they did vocals
on the last track on your album, are they from the same area as you?
Opeth is from Stockholm, yeah. They were recording "Blackwater Park" at the same
time we were doing our album.
That's an amazing album, the amount of work they put into that CD.
I think it's an amazing album, I have the utmost respect for Mikael you know?
Just fantastic. Actually, they were playing ping pong in the recording room, and
we actually asked Mikael to come in and do some vocals, we wanted to have some
difference in the melodic vocals. It's funny though, some people have said that
Mikael sounds like he's singing on a lot more than just one song.
I was wondering that myself, I kept trying to hear the difference in
the vocals on that track and the rest of the album! (much laughter)
They have the same voices in the studio pretty much. They do have different
grammar tonings on their English, though, so that's where you can find the
separation in their vocal styles.
The more interviews I do with bands from overseas, the more I'm hearing
them with great English speaking voices, whether their native language is
Swedish, German, French or Italian! Yours in particular sounds pretty clear
and with only a trace of an accent... I know kids start learning English in
schools overseas at a young age.
The reason is because I have relatives in Florida, and I've been to America
several times myself. But not all the members of Soilwork are blessed with this
kind of accent, they often make fun of me because I sound a bit American. It's
not very cool to speak with an American accent, you have to speak with a British
accent. I don't pay them any attention because I know that when I speak to
Americans they probably appreciate my straightforward way of speaking to them.
The learning starts at like 9 years old in Sweden, and you have it through
school all the way until you are 18 years old. You can take a lot of trips, and
maybe go to England to learn to pronunciate better.
Here in American schools, they don't really stress foreign language
classes unless you plan on going to college, they don't really emphasize it
much, and it's harder to learn a foreign language on your own, without the
benefit of school and a more open mind at a younger age.
Well, you speak the most common language all over the world, you can make
yourself understood in just about any country you want to visit. I could teach
you some Swedish nasty words if you have time! When I am having contact with
the German office, I have to speak English, of course, because I don't speak
very good German, but I do know some.
THE LEFTOVERS. Interview via email with Par Jonsson.
Two fingers in the air punk rock! This is the first new punk band I've heard
in quite awhile that does't play the crappy, whiny pop or emo punk that I hear
out of countless Green Day clones signed to labels everyday. Rude, rowdy, loud,
abrasive and punk as the scene was back in the late 70's to early 80's, these
rebels actually surprised me with their American/British punk attitude and
sound. You'd be surprised to know just where these punk rockers come from, so
read on for more info!
For a Swedish band, you definitely have that angry British/American
punk sound. Were you around during the 70's & 80's punk explosion, and what
kind of punk scene did Sweden have back then?
Sweden had a bunch of great punk bands in the late 70's. Swedish acts have
always been damn good and still are right? All the members in The Leftovers grew
up in during the 80's and many different bands and genres have influenced us.
Our biggest influence of course have been English and American bands like Iggy
& The Stooges, Social Distortion, Dead Boys, Supersuckers, Didjits, The Misfits,
The Dwarves, Sex Pistols, GG Allin, Poison Idea, Dead Kennedys, Motorhead. The
list can be made really long!
You had me completely fooled, I was sure you guys were either British
or American. I know the punk scene is much bigger in Europe than the United
States, especially now, maybe that's why I'm not really surprised to hear you
are from overseas. Are there cool places for punk bands to play in Sweden?
We have always been listening to American/British punk music so we guess that's
the reason for our sound. It's okay but there it's quite hard to find cool
places to play. The underground punk scene is still pretty interesting and that
is good! Some great Swedish bands that always make good live shows are The
Hives, The Hellacopters, and the Backyard Babies.
The record "667: Neighbour Of The Beast" totally kicked ass, and I
liked it because it's NOT like that Green Day/emo/softcore crap. Raw and fast
and hard! Like I stated earlier, most of the punk bands coming up today want
to play that emotional stuff with whiny singing vocals. Are you into the
hardcore genre at all? I know many hardcore bands are credited for crossing
over the punk, hardcore and metal genres, like Black Flag and Bad Brains.
We totally hate that kind of fucking "lowlife trying to be punk idiots." We want
to produce music that is raw, wild, violent, dangerous, ass kicking and that's
a total opposite to bands like Green Day and Blink 182. By the way, Black Flag
is still one of the best bands that ever came out of America!
I am rather surprised at your record label of choice here in the States,
as Necropolis mostly deals with violent death, grind and black metal bands.
How did you come to be on Necropolis, and do you worry that with all the other
death, grind and black bands that you might not get the exposure you want or
We signed up with Necropolis/Fueled Up because we think that they could give our
record a good distribution worldwide opposite to most of the punk rock labels.
It seems that they are right for us and they push us and Fueled Up Records as
much as the other bands, but it's still a fact that the Necropolis crew are more
into metal than punk, so most of our review have so far been seen in a lot of
metal magazines. However, it seems like many people who are into metal like The
Leftovers, and if we were signed to a punk label we probably would not get that
kind of exposure we think.
Now that the record is completed and has been out for awhile, are there
any plans for another record?
It's not planned when the next record will be out but we hope that we will
record it within the end of this year. We have made about ten asswhipping new
songs but we don't know which ones will appear on the next album. Some titles
are 'Too Bad You're Gonna Die,' 'Like A Shot In The Arm,' and 'Death Race.' One
thing we can tell abotu the new tunes is it's still got a badass attitude and
it's not for the weak hearted, so watch out!
I have noticed that some punk bands prefer to call themselves a "rock
and roll" band, especially here in America, throwing the word rock and roll
around rather than "we're a punk band" or "we play punk." You think that might
have something to do with the dying scene here in the States, or is that just an
attitude of non conformism to the mainstream's idea of what punk is or isn't?
Maybe it's just "a punk thing."
We don't know about America, maybe it's a bit like here in Sweden. The word
"punk" has been used way too much and the media uses the word for all kinds
of strange music and fashion. Some people just put down too much effort into
categorizing music. Why? We think that they can call it whatever they want as
long as it's mean and rocks! We don't call our music rock and roll, we are, have
always been and shall always be a punk band!
You probably wonder, aside from your usual press, what a magazine like
Vibrations of Doom is interviewing punk bands, even though I've been into and
out of the punk scene for many years. I write about many different styles of
music and attend many shows from different music genres, but of all the shows
i saw, none were more fun or more kick ass than seeing Fear in Atlanta late
last year. Are you into many other styles of music besides punk? Any other
artists recording on Necropolis you dig? I only know of Herbert who has
recorded on Fueled Up.
Yeah, we like all kinds of stuff like old school death metal, thrash, grind and
crust-core. We're not that much into other bands at Necropolis but we think
they have some great stuff. The Babylon Whores are awesome! We also like bands
like Herbert, Dissection, Dark Funeral, etc.
Some song titles I wanted to talk about. 'Evil Knievil' was cool, and
indicative of the 70's period when he was most active. I don't think Knievil
is doing anything today, but he did some hellacious shows! Also, '13 Needles And
A Doll' was rather fast but had some melodic singing vocals on the chorus, was
that a stab at some of the emo punk bands of the day?
Evil Knievil was a fascinating man that knew how to put out a hell on wheels
show! We felt like we wanted to honor him, after all he is Satan's son! Nice
that you liked it! '13 Needles' was not meant to be a stab in the back on boring
emo punk bands. We just met a beautiful girl in the studio and asked her to
sing the chorus, so that's the only reason behind the choruses on that tune.
'Live To Sin' had one of the snottiest attitudes I've heard from a punk
song in a long time, especially the part where you say "take that cross and
shove it up your ass!" Been borrowing some lyrical subject matter from black
Haha! No, but maybe we've got the same opinion about religion they have,
though not that extreme in some cases. We just think that religion in itself is
hypocrisy and it makes me laugh when they ban Marilyn Manson in the year 2000!
Hey, he's not even a bit as evil as The Leftovers! Wake up!
So in this day and age, what kind of fans do you get at your shows? Do
you see people from the old school with the Subhumans, DRI, Fear and Dead
Kennedys shirts, patches, and with spiked hair and wallet chains? I have seen
quite a few metalheads at some punk shows and the scene (small though it is)
seems to breed respect for others who may look or dress differently.
It's all kinds of people that show up. Mostly it's people into punk and yes we
got the oldschool punks around, and that's great. Many guys into metal and
other extreme music show up and bang their heads to the beat. We also get
truckloads of chicks that want to get a glint of the good lookin' guys in The
Finally, though I can't remember some of the bands, there's a punk
band on White Jazz that has the members posing in front of an older car, like
the cover shot on your album. Is that a punk thing, footage of members with
older cars, like the Fords and the Chevy's from the late 50's? It kinda reminds
me of the rebel era of the 50's like "Rumble Fish" and what not without the
50's type of music, maybe it shows that it's time for REAL punk musicians to
get back to their rebellious roots?
We don't know which records you mean but old muscle cars are extremely cool!
Not many young people of today are interested in exploring their rock and roll
roots. So, all you youngsters out there! Spend your cash on alcohol and vinyl
records and believe us when we say that nobody would listen to crap like Korn
and Limp Bizkit if they had heard a band like The Sonics!
THE OBSESSED. Interview with Wino at the recent Clearlight/Spirit Caravan show.
This is an interview I have been after for months. After finally catching up
with Scott Wino at Ground Zero in Spartanburg, SC, it is truly an honor to
present to you a man who is considered the godfather of the stoner rock and doom
metal movement. It is an extremely lengthy interview but sets so much history
for the band and tells us a bit more about The Obsessed's record deal with no
less than Columbia Records.
As we mentioned, The Obsessed has it's roots in the punk scene, which
was a bit of a surprise to me. It blew my mind to read that you had such a
strong presence amongst the punk scene which you played right in the middle of!
The Obsessed period actually goes back to the late 70's, the version of The
Obsessed that stick most in people's minds, however, is around the mid 90's. The
punks really liked our originals, from 'Decimation' to 'Kill Ugly Naked.' One
of our earliest incarnations of The Obsessed was we were playing punk covers,
which the punks hated. They'd come down to see us, John from Government Issue,
Sam and Wendell, some of the younger punks, they would come see us because they
really dug what we were doing. Before we got ahold of the Bad Brains ROIR tape,
we were already listening to The Dictators and stuff. The Bad Brains crossed
everything over for everyone, they brought the metal into the punk, and are very
overlooked for that. Eventually though we dropped the covers, got rid of our
singer and became a three piece, THAT'S really when The Obsessed took shape, and
when we gained acceptance. We stopped wearing the makeup, stopped trying to be
punk, and just laid down the tunes.
So your first recordings that were laid down, who did the vocals on
The first recordings were with me. Stuff with the other vocalist is all taped,
from live sets and what not but there's some really obscure records out there
that have John's vocals on them, there's one on Doom Records...
Is that Mick Mars' label?
Yeah, that's him.
I've heard some really bad things about him. Church Of Misery especially
is pissed about a CD that he released that isn't supposed to be released. I've
talked to Mick a few times and he seems okay, so I don't want to say anything
negative without being sure.
He's got a pretty bad reputation because he overcharges people, but he is
instrumental in me joining St. Vitus, and he also turned me on to bands like
Bang, some obscure stuff. He charges high dollar, that's the bottom line. He's
very opportunistic but his knowledge of music is really great. From what I
understand he's a motherfucker of a businessman.
I wanted to talk a little bit about your Columbia years. It seems from
what I've read you were unhappy with them, and there are also versions of songs
on the Columbia release "The Church Within" that are different from "Incarnate"
put out by Southern Lord.
The songs that are on "Incarnate" were the songs we were recording as demos
before we got signed. Those songs were later re-recorded for "The Church Within."
Columbia didn't really understand what we were all about, we were a heavy
underground band who got signed to a major label basically. It was wierd though.
There were a few people at the label that went to bat for us, pushed us really
hard and really believed in us. We had a multi album deal but we never got to
the second record. We knew that was kinda unfair because they didn't really
give us the chance to develop. When we signed with them they were top of the
pops, they had the best distribution in the world, very happening. By the time
our tenure with Columbia was done, the movie part of Sony had pulled out,
creating general chaos. The only other heavy rock band they had was Alice In
Chains and they were all in rehab. The record company fell asleep on "The
Church Within" so fast, and then there was all this other crap where we had to
have a high priced lawyer to read through their contract because they were very
devious contracts. When we left the label it was because we were told we could
do a second album if we would do a radio friendly release. Of course, we would
never do that, ever. We always agreed that we wouldn't, and there's no doubt in
anyone's minds that would happen. They had already exercised their option for
the next album, so they screwed up themselves in a way. They didn't want us on
the label anymore but they were still legally bound to us. What happened then
was they gave us the option to be bought out of the contract. And then they
itemized every paper clip on every piece of fucking paper, every roll of toilet
paper we used while in the offices, and half of the stuff wasn't even real cost.
We found out they basically added on to bolster their costs, which was really
lame. They paid us like 20 grand to leave and a lot of that had to go to the
high priced lawyers we had to have, because of stupid contracts that they would
look over and find stuff that wasn't right. I think I walked away from the deal
with a couple of grand. I got taxed on our advance, and I never paid my taxes
because we were relying on the next advance to pay the taxes on the first one.
The taxman didn't really catch up to me until I worked a regular job again, and
I had to get out of that nightmare. Columbia Records also, now get this: They
filed the band expenses, the band debt; instead of using the band's tax ID
number, they used my personal social security number. So I had this enormous
band debt from our corporation because they misfiled. I had to get the people at
Columbia to write letters to the IRS, and thankfully my wife is a bit more
patient than I, she got through the mess and got Columbia to admit their
mistake, but man that was like a 20 grand mistake!
It's wierd because there's bands that have moved up to Columbia, like
the whole Earache fiasco; you had bands like Carcass, Napalm Death, Entombed
and Fudge Tunnel that had records released on Columbia and they were gone just
as quick. It's sad because like Carcass, they changed their sound for the first
Columbia release and were granted this big tour bus for a tour, and now they're
gone. To me, success comes with a price: You want big touring packages, good
money to do what you love, but the major labels who can give you that just ruin
bands left and right.
It's a shame, they ruin bands all the time. When we got the contract I thought
it was my license to fly, my jumping off point. There were other factors though,
I had a drug problem, I was going through a horrible love relationship, it was a
bad time in my life too. There were definitely faults on my end, though, I
wasn't 100 percent, I know I should have taken control as much as I needed to
What was the deciding factor for the end of The Obsessed?
We got off the label for starters, we had a couple of bad shows, my personal
problems escalated to where I didn't feel like playing anymore. So I took a
couple of years off, got sober and got all my shit together.
You still smoke weed anymore?
I do occasionally, not as much anymore though, I can't afford to smoke often
because I need to sing. If I smoke weed on tour, especially the ragweed they
have in certain states (evokes much laughter - Ed.), it tears me up. My
preference is like good gram hash, but where do you get that stuff in the U.S.?
Basically I stay pretty straight. Smoking is hard on the voice. I started
smoking weed when I was 12, I'm like 40 years old now.
Tolotta recently re-released an Obsessed record that had a live show on
That's actually the first official record that was originally released on
Hellhound. The live show was taken from 1984, which was a Government Issue/
Iron Cross show. That live show was very raw, we were in a big gymnasium and
just set up to blast away. We tried to capture the feeling of that period with
that live recording.
A lot of people consider you one of the forefathers of the stoner rock
and somewhat the doom metal movement. I read a few interviews with other bands
who say that they give you credit for achieving that signature sound they pick
up on in their recordings.
I appreciate being called that, definitely. It's an honor to me to be listed as
an influence. I look upon the stoner rock thing as a movement. It's definitely
a powerful movement, and there's great respect amongst the bands in the scene,
like the tight knit community the punk scene had. The Clutch boys are cool,
they're from my hometown, and there's the Washington area music awards, where
Neil is nominated for best rock vocalist and myself as well. Clutch's latest
album was nominated for best album, so was "Jug Fulla Sun." (Spirit Caravan's
most recent release, as of this writing - Ed.) We both have been nominated for
best band up there, as well. We all have the same goals, it's just carrying on
the message. I've been at it awhile, so I'm really older than most and basically
I'm just really glad to be a part of the scene, glad I can be here to see it
Tell me about "Lunar Womb?" That was a Hellhound release correct?
That was released on Hellhound, yes. We sold "Lunar Womb" to Columbia for like
thirty grand and they just shelved it. But the rights may be reverted back to me
very soon, and if they do I plan on re-releasing it, people are definitely into
I had to download it off of Napster, because I couldn't find it anywhere.
You downloaded the whole thing, you found the whole album?
Yeah, I did.
That's really cool... Definitely. Scott Reider was in the band then, and we all
know where he went, he was in Kyuss. It was really a pleasure to work with him
back then for sure, an amazing talent he was. He brought some songs to the table
on "Lunar Womb," 'Back To Zero' was a song he wrote and he was having a hard
time singing it, so I transposed it to a lower key, I dropped it down to E and
it really showed because he could sing it good. He wrote the music to 'No Mas'
and I wrote the words to that, he wrote 'Bardo' which was an amazing song about
an out of body experience he had. I had all the pieces, all the arrangements to
"Lunar Womb," so we had everything ready to go. In the studio, we learned and
recorded the song 'Lunar Womb' which I am very proud of, at the time I think
that was one of my finest accomplishments, it's a wierd song; there's no singing
for like nine minutes but still it's a great song. Only with Scott and Greg,
the caliber of musicians we had, could we have made a record like "Lunar Womb."
That's rather what I wanted to ask you about: out of all the records you
released and recorded on, from St. Vitus to The Obsessed, what is your favorite
release to date?
Well, I haven't listened to "Lunar Womb" in a long time but I really dig that
record. I really like "Born Too Late" a lot, for me that was the highlight of
my days with St. Vitus. I had just joined the band, we rehearsed like three or
four months straight, every day except Sunday. I was also working a full time
job and we just nailed it. Michael, the keyboard player for Great White,
engineered the album; we went into his studio and he did a kickass job.
Everything was like picture perfect. We were doing the songs in like one take.
"Thirsty And Miserable" was a little different, we did a cover of the Black
Flag song, and that was a bit wierd. "Mournful Cries" was different too, we
had three days to record and mix the whole record. The mix got a little screwy,
but Casey, Mack and I pretty much produced that record ourselves, we think we
did a good job with it.
Finally, as we wrap this up, I know you have a new record coming out
with your new band Spirit Caravan, which is also on Tolotta. How did you come
to hook up with them?
Tolotta is run by Joe, the bass player from Fugazi. Joe really, REALLY believes
in the music and us. He is one of my oldest friends, and he was totally ready
for me when I came back from Maryland and got the new band together. My focus
was now fully on the music, and he said he'd really like to put out a single.
So we did and then he said, fuck it, I'm starting the label. Joe's learning,
I'm learning, we're all learning, and he's a great guy. And that was it!
My business relationship with him is flawless. And he's a great guy.
VINTERSORG. Interview with the man himself, he calls himself Vintersorg...
Napalm Records seems to have made your latest release "Cosmic Genesis"
a priority release for their label. I personally enjoyed it myself, how is your
relationship with Napalm these days? How did you get started with them and what
sort of deal do you have lined up with them?
That's right, they're pushing the album very hard, they've put it into the
distributors priority list, and I think it's totally great. I mean, I've worked
so hard with the songs so it would feel like a slap in the face if it would
just disappear among every other release. Our relationship is very pleasant for
us and I think Napalm are quite satisfied with the songs I write so everything
is working well. I don't want to discuss any details of the contract but I
think it's quite a good one; of course you always want more (from the label),
but it's allright still. We hooked up with Napalm three years ago with my other
folkrock/metal band Otyg, and then I recorded a mini CD (Vintersorg) and asked
if they wanted to release it, so then they shipped me a contract...
Tell us a little about Otyg? I had heard the name but am not familiar
with the material.
Otyg is folk rock/metal that is way more into the traditional Scandinavian folk
music. And we have all these folk instruments like the violin, jew's harp,
keyed fiddle, lute guitar and so on. We've recorded two album and in May we're
recording our third piece "Djavulen" (the devil) which is not into Satanism, in
that band I write about folklore, and on this piece I have taken the subject
Satan in Scandinavian folklore. I also write all the music for Otyg.
I was a little surprised to see the lyrics mostly in English for this
newest release. Was English a difficult language for you to work with? Did you
learn it in school or later on in life, and how many people in your country
speak English fluently?
For starters, I changed to English to challenge myself as a writer, with just
the Swedish lyrics I was trapping myself into a corner. I wanted to explore my
abilities so writing in English seemed to be a good step forward. In Sweden we
start learning English in third grade (when we're about ten years old) so I'm
not a total rookie in the language, but I think on the next album my
pronunciation will be even better. I think Swedes are among the best non
English talking people in English, because we for example don't do any language
dubbing on movies and TV.
I am glad, believe it or not, to hear at least a few songs on this new
record sung in your native tongue. Which, I have heard, is a language that is
very ancient and not spoken anymore; apparently hundreds of years old. I'm also
curious to know about the people of your land that spoke this language; what
they did for a living and some good history about them.
Well, as I also love to sing in Swedish I thought having two lyrics in my
mother tongue was a nice thing to break it up a little. The Swedish I use in my
writing is maybe a combination of older and some forms of newer. I use a lot of
words because the older language is much more emotional and poetical, so that's
the main reason why I use the older form; as I write the lyrics as rhyming
poems I think it fits very well. The people who spoke this language probably
lived in the 15th to 16th century. And where I live, quite far north in Sweden
(approximately 1000 kilometres north of our capitol city Stockholm) people were
I was realy surprised at the concept of this album, what or who do you
see as the grand creator fo this universe? Do you see it as a god as referenced
by "Christianity" in some way or a being of unknown origin?
The album is based a bit on that particular question. Who is the grand
architect of our symmetrical cosmos, which seems to have the ability to stay
quite solid even if it's constantly provoked by chaotic processes? And the next
album will go even deeper in this matter and will be called "Visions From The
Spiral Generator," as spiral structures is the origin of our universe in many
aspects; most galaxies are shaped that way. There are also ecliptic ones but
most are spiral galaxies. And what kind of formulas created this system of
stars, nebulas, black holes, and so on? Well, I don't have the exact answer but
at least I give my view on that topic; I think it would be too long to state
here but religion doesn't have anything to do with it in my sphere.
The universe to me is a pretty amazing place to be so vast and filled
with many objects seemingly hanging on nothing. I noticed some references to
astrology, do you see the stars and planets as having some kind of magical pull
on people's lives? Some see a connection between constellations and people's
everyday lives, as if their fates are "foretold in the stars."
Well, in old mythology they have an essential part but nowadays I think we have
too good instruments to explore the sky to be totally ruined by the
constellations as they were explained back then. But I've practiced spiritual
journey for more than ten years and have confronted many things which have
their origin in other dimensions; in some aspects I think that the hemispheres
can be the guide, but those damn astrology phone lines I don't much care for.
It's just a fraud. And they take topics which are sacred to me and put their
greedy hands on them, I hope they get what they deserve in the next dimension.
I gotta ask you, rather tongue in cheek that harshly, what's with the
album covers all being in the color green? That seems to be a dominant color
for you for the last two releases.
How should I put it? That color has special meaning for me. Where I live you
can see the Aurora Borealis nearly every night in the winter and the most
common color of the Nordic light is green (at least here) so I've developed a
special bond with it. Though I feel that the next album has to be different so
I don't stagnate and do the same thing over and over again. I want to develop
between every release.
I love the vicious black metal vocals, but they weren't used very much
on this album, in fact they weren't presented very much on "Odemarken's Son"
either. Are the black metal styled vocals difficult to pull off? I think
everyone knows by now I have been experimenting with doing clean and black
metal styled vocals simultaneously.
It isn't hard for me. But I listen to what the song requires, it didn't seem to
fit with a lot of black vocals this time around either. But I think on the next
album I'll try to put some more of these harsh vocals into it, so I will not
progress in a non-black vocal direction. But if I put vocals on a harmonious
acoustic part it will always feel very odd to blasphemate it with bone chilling
black screams, hope you understand.
Some of your reference material has got me curious, I noticed you have
mentioned Stephen Hawkins, Copernicus and even Aleister Crowley! I'm curious
too about some of the authors you mentioned I haven't heard of, like Bertil
Malmberg, Denis Lindbohm and Tor Norretranders, are some of these influential
people native to your homeland?
Bertil Malmberg is a poet who writes nature romantic poetry, and he's kingly in
his work; he's using the language in a very profound way, he's nearly
unequaled. Denis Lindbohm is an old man who has written over 50 books about
past lives and a lot of other spiritually connected stuff. He's the maestro in
what he's doing, and I have spoken with the man myself, though I've never met
the man in person as he lives very far from me, so he's a very strong
inspiration source for me. Tor is writing mostly scientific stuff, very complex
and wise, and I've gathered a lot of my knowledge regarding the physical cosmos
from him. So I've felt that it was appropriate to mention them on the album as
they've given me a lot of knowledge and imspiration.
The song 'Algol' was a rather interesting one, not to mention one of my
favorites. Do you think it's possible that maybe demons and/or angels roam
above the stars? People have always hinted at the possibility that there may be
intelligent life amongst the heavens, I think they look to alien races as the
catalyst that helped spawn life on our own planet.
Well, the lyrics to 'Algol' aren't meant to be looked upon in a direct form.
The star Algol is also called "The demon star" as it has a binary star swirling
around it, and people in the old days thought it was possessed by a demon as
the constantly spinning twin-star flickers due to the fact that the light
breaks every time they pass each other. So the lyrics deal with duality, now
maybe you understand it better.
Will the next album incorporate more lyrics in your native tongue or do
you feel a need to try and connect more with your words by using English?
The next release will consist of only seven songs. (See www.vintersorg.com for
the titles) It will be three Swedish and four English lyrics. The language and
topics are more developed and maybe also more abstract, so it's going to be an
interesting journey. I'm doing pre-production right now, for the best album
recorded so far in musical history. Hee hee.
Finally, I noticed that there's only two of you listed in the band
together. Did other people that were in your band in the past seem to distort
the vision you wanted to create? I know bands like Forefathers and other
projects that branch out their sound and vision have very few members these
days; it seems to be to keep the integrity of the sound and style intact from
many different styles and influences.
Vintersorg was only a full line up band in the first years when we went under
the banner Vargatron (Wolfthrone). After that I continued on my own, and the
first Mcd "Hedniskhjartad," the CD's "Till Fjalls" and "Odemarken's Son" I
recorded by myself. But now Mattias Marklund is also a member, we've been
playing together in different bands for over ten years so it was a natural step
to take him into the band.
Ten long years. Well, not really that long, but when I look back at my humble
beginnings with the Usenet newsgroups and FIDONET feeds it's amazing to see how
this publication has grown. From a small, barely 30k "newsletter" type with
one or two interviews to a full set of reviews and interviews, plus the most
extensive and exhaustive set of sound files anywhere on the net. And as I find
more ways to improve the overall quality and amount of info, believe me I will
offer readers so much more than just "words on a page."
Which brings me to my latest innovation. I have hereby decided to put my head
further up on the chopping block, so to speak. I believe this new addition will
not only make the informed buying public more informed about how good or bad a
CD actually is, they will also get to know my personal tastes and what I like
and dislike with each CD more and more. The problem is, I used to do the sound
files by putting the 4 best tracks on the soundfiles page. Well, this works out
well for a CD scoring 75 or above, but what about those awful releases that
score so low that no one in their right mind would have them? While I am open
minded, I suppose that even I have a different range of what is good music and
what is bad. So I will further note each song by whether it is a good song, or
one of the bad ones, by a simple * next to the bad tracks. If a CD scores 75 or
above, you can expect mostly my favorite tracks for the 4. Anything lower than
a 75 and you'll see at least one bad song. Probably the worst song, that way
it makes you not only know what I like and don't like, it helps you weigh the
good tracks from the bad ones and helps you to see more clearly just how good
a CD actually is. Of course, it puts me on my toes even more and makes me pay
more attention to what I'm doing, but in the end those of you who spend their
hard earned money for a CD need to know just what the hell they're getting.
Many people have asked me why I have so many good reviews each issue. For the
most part, with music either I really dig it or I really hate it. That's why,
especially this issue, there are many high 80's and 90's scores. I can't
remember the last time I gave a score below a 20! Openmindedness is the key,
but there are some godawful discs out there. I can recognize sometimes why
labels sign the bands that they do, even if no one else can. Even the worst of
CD's tend to have a few moments that can shine out like a burning torch in the
darkness and help give them a little bit of a score outside of a zero, which
come to think of it I don't think I have done yet. Here at Vibrations of Doom,
I don't particularly care about a band's religious or political affiliations;
whether they sing about Jesus or Satan or the Dali Llama is of no importance
to me. Whether black metal bands play it straight up with guitars and screaming
vocals or synths and female vocals combined with a full scale orchestra is also
of no concern. If a band I dig gets tons of radio play or fades into the
obscurity of the underground also plays no favorites with me. First and
foremost, of utmost importance at the end of the day is the music, and how well
the vocals interact with the music. Cheesy lyrics may shave a point off or two,
but if the band is jamming, thrashing, kicking serious ass or playing beautiful
melodies, THAT'S all that matters. From techno, gothic and industrial to the
harshest and most brutal of death and black metal, it's the music that matters.
Those of you open minded enough should always be willing to listen to the other
styles of music, even if you don't normally get into them. I'll always be your
guide so you'll have some idea of what you're listening to. The sound files are
a tool to help you further in your musical education. Any questions on anything
you see or hear, feel free to drop me a line. I'm always checking email.
Before I go, just wanted to say that there's a new little headbanger in the
world. William Thorne Cannon was born on March 13th, 2001. I may do that
picture posting thing I talked about someday. Right now he does consume a large
part of my time, but as you can tell I still managed to get another issue out.
Here's to hoping sometime in the future maybe my son will be singing on stage,
or maybe playing drums or guitar in a thrash/death/black/whatever band...
Either way, I hope he can still see daddy doing another issue of the magazine.
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