Monday, March 31, 2008
Interview with Lipstick Magazine
Lipstick Magazine are a New Jersey based band who have been getting noticed quite a bit lately. I recently had a chance to check in and find out more about them and their upcoming plans. They answered the questions as a group, the band members are Toni - Lead Vocals, Damon - Lead/Rhythm Guitar, David - Keyboards, Nat - Lead / Rhythm Guitar Marc - Bass Guitar, Russ - Drums.
MM-Can you tell us a little about who you are and the history of your band?
LM-The band is a combination of 2 bands. Damon and Dave were in one project Nat and Toni in another. They often played on the same bill. These 4 are the writing core and are all originally from Essex County a town called Belleville home of the Sopranos. Marc and Russ the rhythm section are brand new to the project.
MM-I know that you have played with a number of hard rock and metal bands, but it sounds like you definitely have some other influences as well. So who are your musical influences?
LM-The truth is all the writers have very different influences with one common love of rock and roll we go from classical to metal. I think that’s what keeps the sound fresh deep and unique. Heart / Kiss/ Queensryche / Elton John/ Bon Jovi / Daughtry / Guns and Roses / Pearl Jam / Queen / Hendrix / Stevie Ray
MM-Who came up with the band name and does it mean anything or did you just think that it sounded good?
LM-Name was thought up by a friend. Yes, the name was meant to capture Toni’s style the femininity of the word Lipstick and the machismo of the Magazine of a gun. Like Toni it means a heavy balls out chick that’s not afraid to rock you and get you wet at the same time, in fact that’s her goal.
MM-Who have you opened for? What have been some of your more memorable shows so far?
LM-Winger / DangerDanger/ Doro Pesch/ UFO/ YES / KIX, I would mention two shows, at the Winger show the crowd was unbelievable they really let us know they loved the music. Dexter’s in Riverdale we opened for DangerDanger, great room and the members of DangerDanger were really cool and talented.
MM-The biggest news for you has to be playing one of the side stages at Rocklahoma. What time and day are you playing?
LM-Lipstick is playing Saturday July 12th, the time is not concrete yet but I believe it will be somewhere between 1PM and 6PM.
MM-How did you manage to get a spot playing Rocklahoma? How excited are you about that and what are your expectations about playing this event?
LM-Lipstick Magazine has a staff that networks very well, they are very business oriented, we made contact with the right people running Rocklahoma, they loved the music and we got the spot, Excitement is beyond words. Expectations, getting to play in front of thousands of people and show them that Lipstick Magazine live put out an amazing performance.
MM-Have you ever played a festival before? If not then do you think it will be a challenge to bring your sound to such a large venue?
LM-Yes, Lipstick has played a festival before.
MM-Are you going to be checking out all of the other bands while you are there? Who are you most excited about seeing?
LM-Yes we will see the other bands, we are excited about all of them really, and they are all great musicians.
MM-I know that you have a few other dates lined up over the next few months including a few openings for KIX. Do you have more summer dates in the works?
LM-Yes we plan on touring thru the summer, we will post all of the dates on our website www.lipstickmagazine.net
MM-The hard rock scene in many places seems to be getting increasingly busy and crowded. So what is your band doing that sets you apart from the pack of today’s bands?
LM-SEE US LIVE YOU’LL KNOW
MM-You are currently on the front cover of All Access Magazine and it seems you are getting quite a bit of press in general plus playing Rocklahoma. Is everything going very fast for you right now or is that all part of the plan?
LM-At first it seemed to move quickly but now it can’t go fast enough, we are all very hungry to make music our only thought in a day.
MM-Is your music getting much airplay in any areas or are you generally just promoting through the press and your sites?
LM-We are receiving air play on various FM stations in LA, NY, NJ, AL, OHIO AND VIRGINIA
MM-Obviously you have accomplished quite a bit so far this year, but there is large of the year left. What other goals do you hope to accomplish in 2008?
LM-We are finalizing a distribution deal in the US, Canada and Europe for a summer time release, Lipstick will go back into the studio to redo and add tracks to there album prior to release.
MM-Are any of you currently in any other bands or projects at the moment?
LM-Not at this time, too much going on with Lipstick.
MM-Pick the band from the following pair that you prefer and tell why you picked that band.
Dream Theater or Queensryche
Heart or Warlock
Dokken or Winger
Motley Crue or Van Halen
LM-I would say Motley, been around for 25+ years and still finding ways to recreate themselves
MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?
LM-Lipstick will continue to work hard and get there music out to as many places as possible in 2008, we would just like to say Thank You to people like yourself, To Lipstick press is one of the all time most important things in the music business, and we all know (or maybe not) that marketing and promotion thru press is key.
***Thanks to the members of Lipstick Magazine for doing the interview.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Top Ten most underrated hard rock/metal bands of the 1980's
10)Medieval-They only made one LP and one EP, but they were fantastic. Unfortunately they were on a label that did very little to help them so one of the most original metal bands of the decade went largely unnoticed.
9)Lizzy Borden-Between 1984 and 1986 they cranked out a few really solid albums that easily blended hard rock and metal.
8)Cirith Ungol-LA band that drew on Sabbath, Pentagram, Budgie and Priest as major influences. The combined elements of doom, classic metal and more as well as adding their own ideas.
7)Raven-They did a few clunkers in the mid-1980's, but their first three LPs were huge influences on the speed metal scene. They also did one of the best live albums of the decade and returned to being a solid band again towards the end of the decade.
6)Accept-Now they sold some albums, but I they got overshadowed by other mid-paced metal acts of the day like Judas Priest and Dio. However, metal bands even today talk about the impact this band had on them. Udo was and is a one of a kind singer (I mean that in a good way) and in their prime (82-85) these guys just went at it.
5)Metal Church-These guys were cranking out killer heavy music from the word go. They were also just as good with second singer Mike Howe as they were with original vocalist David Wayne. I think they got a little lost and left behind due to the rise of speed metal and they were kind of between speed metal and classic metal.
4)Celtic Frost-Perhaps no one else in the 80's defined the heavy aspect of metal more than this band. They also were not afraid to expand and take changes, but "Cold Lake" was not a chance they needed to take. Still they created sounds that are still influencing bands, but they didn't quite get their due back then.
3)Mercyful Fate-These guys were creating so much as they went along and I don't think even they quite understood the immediate impact they would have on the metal scene. Just solid, well played, tight metal all the way around. I think that King Diamond's image and the lyrics caused people to forgot just how good this band was.
2)Armored Saint-Tremendous straight forward real metal band that kept pushing forward despite trends changing around them and lack of support from their record label.
1)Hanoi Rocks-Between 1981 and 1984 they did four studio albums, a live album and an album of b-sides. Every album was at least very good. They combined elements of 70's glam, hard rock, punk and pop with ease. Unfortunately they broke up by the middle of the decade and got overlooked due to the dominance of too many lame hair bands.
Fight-K5 The War of words demos
Metal God Entertainment
Releasing an album of demos is a concept that seems to have just become fairly popular in recent years. My previous experiences with albums of this type is that they tend to me just under produced versions of the songs you know or they may have a few unreleased tracks. However those songs tend to only be valuable to die hard fans of the particular band. However, this album might be the exception to what I thought was a rule about demo albums. I remember buying War of words the month it came out and playing it a lot back then. This newly released collection is supposed to represent Halford's original vision of the album. After a few plays I realized that I like this version better than the original release. I am a little surprised to say that, but it became obvious that this version is superior and does greater justice to the material. Halford is the best metal vocalist of all time and when he left Priest he of course pulled drummer Scott Travis with him and then filled in the rest of the band with some young and energetic musicians. This album was pure metal despite the fact that this was recorded in 1992 when "metal" was becoming a dirty word because grunge was wiping out many bands. Not just that it was metal, but they were stripping down the sound and bringing forth an aggressive, almost bare bones approach which was in contrast to the over processed sound that had become more popular between say 1987-1991. Hearing these versions makes me aware that the original version of the album polished the songs up a bit too much and they didn't need it. You can hear the raw power in these versions and retains so much grit and Halford's vocals sound better here because the slightly rough tone helped him to sound more energized than he had in years. There is a definite aggressive tone and primal energy on these songs that the original version didn't quite have or at least not to this extent. I think that this version of the album shows that the band was really doing something special at the time and we never quite got to hear that back in the early 1990's which is a shame because metal fans certainly could have used an album of this magnitude. This is not just a specialty album or one just for diehards, but a true must for all fans of Fight and Rob Halford.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
What's coming up?
It's been a fairly busy week at work and actually the last few weeks have been busy with Easter, a birthday and other things. I have just been trying to stay ahead like Indy and the gigantic ball. This week I hope to have out these topics....
Fight-K5 The War of words demos
Fight-War of words the film
Armory-Dawn of enlightenment
Judge the album or Clash of the album covers.
I had been thinking about doing a list of the top ten underrated hard rock/metal acts of the 1980's. I don't know if I will get to that this week, but I may if time allows.
Have a great week!
Cruz Del Sur
Seeing the Cruz Del Sur label on a label normally means the band is going to have some strong 80's-early 90's metal influences behind their music. Pharaoh are no exception as they play a style that is largely power metal, but also includes some progressive metal traits stirred in the collective pot as well. I hear some Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Crimson Glory and even some early Dream Theater on this release. Pharaoh lean towards a heavier, guitar pumping variety of power metal and that gives them a slightly more fierce approach than many power metal bands who believe the genre needs lot of flourish and pageantry. Another big plus is they cut straight to where they need to go and just tear into the meat of their material with little ceremony. That certainly appeal to me with this type of style because my eyes glaze over and my mind wonders when I sit through too many power bands who drone on with too much nonsense before getting at their real material. These guys also blend in some progressive metal elements to a lesser extent and they work because it's a smooth mix and the styles actually compliment one another. The two problems I have with this release are the vocals and a slight lack of originality. The vocals are perhaps deeper and less melodic than some singers in this musical genre and that could work except that here it's just a little too flat at times to really completely keep up with the music. Being even a little original in power metal seems to be a difficult task as so much seems to have been done already. As I said there are times where their aggressive take helps, but they do tend to hit so much on established sounds that it may be hard for them to get much of a following outside of just power metal fans. Still a decent outing that was overall steady and not one clunker on the entire CD.
I had to give to give Hulda's new CD a few spins to really figure it out. It's not that it's necessarily a complicated album, but rather that the approach they take is different than I was expecting. Hulda play a style of music that although seemingly basic in some ways still manages to combine elements of punk, pop, gothic and heavy influences as well. The sound has a definite mid-80's feel flowing through it although not so much that it's stuck in that decade. What really threw me initially about this album was how subtle their approach is and it is certainly low-key on many levels. I think my initial reaction caused me to dismiss it because it did not grab me immediately. However on repeated plays I realized they were shooting for this style and you just had to listen deeper to really pull out what was happening below the surface. There is little build-up to their songs instead they are more like steady waves yet the music is thick even though it doesn't immediately hit you in the face. The rhythm section is extremely solid laying down a strong backbone for the rest of the band to play off of. The guitars are largely straight forward, but the solos are strong. The vocals are slightly laid back almost deadpan at times yet they fit with the music. This is perhaps not a CD that will instantly grab you because it's not that style, but this band has the skill and the style to pull it off at their pace. If you sit back, reach out and try to take everything that's taking place on these songs then I think that really begin to hear, feel and realize all that's going into these songs. This may be a release that you have to be in a certain mood to play, but it certainly has a great deal to offer once you give it a chance.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Interview with Iron Kongo of Leaded Fuel
Sweden's Leaded Fuel recently released their album "Inhale and get pale" and it's certainly one of the best hard rock releases of the year so far. I recently got to interview drummer Iron Kongo to find out more about this band and their upcoming plans
MM-You recently released "Inhale and get pale". What has been the response to the album so far?
IK- So far the responses have been good, from magazines and fans.
MM-What was the recording process like for the album? How long did it take and was it much different than you thought it would be?
IK-We recorded the album in one week, and we mixed it in one week. It was pretty easy because everybody know what to play. And the guy who recorded/"produced" us (Jorgen Svensson) was very professional, so things went very smooth.
MM-Tell us a little about the history of your band?
IK-It started out with Liz and me (Iron Kongo) searching for a guitar player, and one night Liz bounced into Priest. At first they didn't get along at all. But after 10 minutes they were talking about starting a band together. Priest had three songs written that he wanted to try out. We only had to find a lead guitarist and a bass player, and those guys was found at Crazy Nights (A glam/sleaze bar in Stockholm). In April our first demo was released, with those three songs that Priest had written.The response was overwhelming and we where asked to be on a glam/sleaze compilation called "Glamnation 1". And we contributed with the song "Leaded Fuel". And through Myspace our named grew bigger and bigger. Some people from Germany and Italy came to Stockholm on vacation, and they wanted to set up a rehearsal. We didn’t know that one of them was working for a Italian record company. And she liked what she heard, and later on we signed a record deal with that company (Costaovest records) that she was working for.
MM-How do you think that your music has progressed since you first formed?
IK-In the start we had three songs, now we have more songs, ish.
MM-In what areas do you think your band still needs to improve?
IK-Well, stay sober before the shows is a hard one... or really, just to stay sober.
MM-There have been a lot of 1980's style glam bands coming out of Sweden in recent years. Why do you think that is?
IK-It is kind of a hype I guess, and a towards reaction to all that nu-metal that stinks.
MM-Do you think that the younger glam bands of today are doing anything that the bands of the 1980's didn't already do? If so then what?
IK-No, I guess the most of them just try to copy what’s already done. But Leaded Fuel have their own way, you could say it´s like a fresh wind of lead. Hehe.
MM-With a number of bands of the same style coming out of country, what do you think sets you band apart from all of the others?
IK-Listen to our music, and you´ll understand...
MM-Has it been difficult to emerge from this scene with a lot bands doing a similar style of music? How have you been able to do it?
IK-We don´t feel that we have to fit anywhere, and we are not really a part of the scene, we play rock´n´roll, more sleaze then glam.
MM-Have you played many shows outside of your home country?
IK-Yeah, we just got home from a tour in Italy. And two long European tours are waiting for us, this year! So keep your eyes open, even when you sleep!!!
MM-Do you have many tour dates lined up over the next few months? Any chance that you will play any festivals in the summer?
IK-Same as the question before... we don´t know the dates or the countries yet. This summer we don't know about festivals. But next summer we sure gonna play at every festival!... I hope, hehe.
MM- Judging from your band name and the album cover I am guessing that you are big car fans. Is that true or is it just part of the image?
IK-Liz is a big car fan, but I´m really scared of his driving. He drives like he sings. Fast and uncontrolled!
MM-On your Myspace page under "sounds like" it says "A -70 Ford Mustang with four strippers hitting a truck full of Budweiser in central Stockholm 2.30 on Friday Night". Who in the world came up with that description?
IK-Liz... he was drunk. hehe. But he meant it!
MM-Pick the band from the following pair that you prefer and tell why.
Crashdiet or Vains of Jenna
Crashdiet: They are both good bands, but Crashdiet first record "Rest in Sleaze" is really hard to beat.
Poison or Ratt
Ratt: They are more aggressive, and that's the way we like it.
Ramones or the Stooges A tough one... impossible to decide...next question please.
Guns and Roses or Hanoi Rocks
Damn!!! Two tough questions in a row! But if I have to decide, I say Guns´n´Roses and Hanoi Rocks.
MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?
IK-If you want rock´n´roll, it spells Leaded Fuel!!!
***Thanks to Iron Kongo for doing the interview.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Voodoo Six-First hit for free
Voodoo Six claim to be highly influenced by 1970's and early 80's rock and I can hear that to some extent. However I think their sound is more like those older influences as funneled through late 80's-early 90's bands such as Sound garden and Guns and Roses. In Voodoo Six we get a hard rock outfit where not only is every member a talented musician, but they also bring far more life to their songs than most of the hard rock acts of today. I think they manage to bring technical ability plus soul and emotion and let these parts help elevate their music as a whole. It's obvious that they put some work in towards making each song have it's own identity. Okay, they have their influences and they are obvious, but Voodoo Six are at beginning to develop their own ideas as well. They also handle their music with a great deal of confidence and poise as they obviously believe in what they are doing and that fact shines through on this release. This is a band who managed to blend melodies with some rough pounding rhythms that will stick in your head long after the CD stops. The biggest problem I had was they are a little repetitious at times and this seems to come when they try to stretch a song a little past when they should have stopped. Still this one of the more exciting hard rock releases I have heard a while and my hope this that Voodoo Six keep pushing and punching away at a hard rock scene that could certainly use the burst energy and skill that they so obviously possess.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Lesser of two evils
Little Caesar-s/t (1990)
Lord Tracy-Deaf Gods of Babylon (1989)
So we have former Pantera singer Terrence Glaze up for lord Tracy. He is going against Ron Young who is the man that broke a pool cue over Arnold Scharzenegger in the bar scene in Terminator 2.
BV- This guy sounds like Sammy Hagar if Sammy had no soul at all. His cadence is flat and his range is minimal. On slower songs, he's even worse. He should be singing in a bar band doing bad AOR covers. Maybe he could get a big curly blond wig and play in a (bad) Sammy Hagar cover band. I know "3HC" is a joke, but a joke should have a better take on rap than this.
MM-I hear the Sammy Hagar thing, but it's more like he's trying (and struggling) to sing in Hagar's style than that he actually sound like him. He's trying too hard and really reaching, but there is nothing behind it. Somewhere along the recording process someone really needed to tell him that he couldn't sing.
BV-He doesn't have a great voice, but he uses what he has well which raises him to the level of perhaps just a tad better than mediocre. At his best, he's a poorman's Ian Astbury. Bad Ian Astbury beats bad Sammy Hagar, point to Little Caesar.
MM-The range is alright, but he sings with some conviction. I don't completely buy into what he's trying to do, but he does and that helps. Point to Little Caesar.
So it's Apache and Louren Molinare for Little Caesar against Jymmy R. Rusidoff for Lord Tracy.
BV-At their best, these are third-rate Van Halen riffs that alternate between disjointed/unnatural and just plain dull. I think at times Lord Tracy would like to do something along the lines of Extreme, but their guitarist fails do anything dynamic. Not only are the riffs unoriginal, but they're poorly played as well.
MM-The bulk of the riffs are similar to Extreme's first album only not nearly as sharp. The solos are far worse it's like he's trying to toss in everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to sound stellar. Only it just sounds sloppy and annoying like he's trying so hard to impress us with his want to be rock god tricks.
BV-The guitar parts never show off and that's good. If the 80's did one disservice to the instrument, it's that it encouraged so many dull guitarists to be flashy rather than to sink their teeth into their playing and try to evoke some feeling. Little Caesar's guitar parts are played with some swagger and have a nice organic tone. There were plenty of guys who could play circles around this guy, but most of them were far more boring. If for no other reason than for not overextending himself, point toLittle Caesar.
MM-I like the overall tone and even though there is not a lot here that's original at least most of it seems directed towards the overall good of the song rather than trying to be a hot dog and slap in some flash that doesn't fit. Point to Little Caesar.
It's bass player Fidel Paniagua and drummer Tom Morris for Little Caesar against bassist Kinley Wolf and drummer Chris Craig for Lord Tracy.
BV- I guess they can keep time, but they provide no value, no drive,no groove. If they were any more boring, they'd fall asleep. The drummer and bassist are the band's best technicians, yet they manage to evoke even less emotion than the singer and guitarist.
MM-For Lord Tracy these two are better than the vocalist and the guitarist for sure, but that doesn't mean a whole lot in the long run. The drummer is steady enough and you don't hear the bass player a lot. There was one slow song where the rhythm section kept it from being truly horrible because the singer and guitarist were killing it. Still they are just alright at best.
BV-Neither are great players, but they do make a contribution to the music with rich tones and just a bit of swing. The bass lines aren't all that complicated, but they provide a rolling rhythm on which the riffs ride. I'll take groove over noodling any day. Point to Little Caesar.
MM-These guys are also fairly standard yet I like the drum sound overall. There is a little variation on Little Caesar's songs and these guys handle the different paces fairly well.
Point to Little Caesar.
BV-The only thing less original than the music is the lyrics (with the exception of the comical "Piranha"). Frankly, even when they try their hand at some of the things Faith No More and Extreme were doing at the same time and got into something a little newer than the same old 80s hard rock crap, they do it so poorly that they shouldn't even get credit for trying. Why do so many people in hard rock think misogyny is cool anyway? The production is unfortunately decent, allowing us to hear just how bad Lord Tracy is in all facets of their game.
MM-They copy a number of other acts, but not the usual suspects as not many acts copy Sammy Hagar and to be fair this came out the same years as Extreme's debut. However it still fails to sound that fresh and just because something is sort of original doesn't mean it's good as several songs by this band illustrate. The production is above average.
BV- I've certainly heard this stuff before, so they aren't going to get any points for originality. However, they do it well and the production brings out their gritty, organic sound. They both get zeroes for originality, but the production for Little Caesar brings out their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Point to Little Caesar.
MM-I think they were trying to blend some classic rock with hard rock of the day and the results were hit and miss and the originality was minimal. However producer Bob Rock does a fine job of making what's here sound tight and as presentable as possible.
Who Rocks More?
BV-Lord Tracy hit the nail on the head when they call one of theirshort, meaningless instrumentals a "wank." That's really what their music is. There's no substance on any level yet they play in a way that attempts to show off their meager skills as if they actually have something to offer. I found myself laughing at how bad "She Man Blues" is and then commenting a moment later that it was one of the album's best songs. I can't imagine how something could rock less. Yuck, yuck, yuck.
MM-It just felt like Lord Tracy were so bad that even when they tried get the music to move it didn't exactly rock but instead it just showed all of their weaknesses. They just didn't really seem to have a clue about how to make this music appealing on any level. Perhaps this album should have been called the "Tone Deaf Gods of Babylon"
BV- Rather than getting bogged down in showing off, Little Caesar get straight to the business at hand and they do, despite not doing it in a new way, rock. Sure, I'd rather listen to the Cult, but this would do in a pinch. If I only had Little Caesar in the car, it wouldn't be the end of the world. If I only had Lord Tracy, I'd just assume ride in silence. Point to Little Caesar.
MM-I think Little Caesar tried well enough and several songs rocked in fact they definitely had more good songs than they did clunkers. I think they had an idea of how to rock and did so some, but they were also taking a few stabs at some very radio friendly tracks as well. If the amount of tattoos equaled talent than these guys would have been big. However their sound wasn't as heavy as their image yet they do enough to show that they had some potential. Point to Little Caesar.
We both agree that Little Caesar sweeps Lord Tracy.
BV-Well, I have even more respect for Metal Mark after going through this process myself. While Lord Tracy is probably up there with the worst of them, at least I lucked out with Little Caesar. They're a far cry from great, but they're listenable. Lord Tracy was just torture.
MM-Both bands didn't make much head way back in the days of a very crowded field. However both seem to have a little bit of a cult following and both have reformed at certain points in recent years. Little Caesar were one of those bands like Circus of power and Junkyard who tried to look tough, but their music didn't match their image. Lord Tracy just sounded like they had no idea what they were doing, but made an album anyway.
***Thanks to Bob Vinyl for helping out. He writes Rock and Roll and meandering nonsense.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Swarm Theory are from Raliegh, North Carolina and I recently received an e-mail asking me to check out their Myspace page. It took me a while to get to it, but I am glad that I did. They play a style of progressive hard rock/metal that's somewhat influenced by early progrssive metal from the 80's such as early Queensryche and Crimson Glory. However they dash in some heavier and certainly darker tones as well. The three tracks on their Myspace page are all somewhat raw. Yet that sound actually fits rather well with their sound as it sets them apart from the usual shine and polish that is sometimes over used in progressive metal. I certainly like the potential I heard on their tracks so hop and check them out.
Syndicate are a young band from Gloucester/York County, Virginia and they play some rather basic yet intense metal as reflected by the four songs on their demo. The influences here include huge doses of Pantera and Judas Priest and smaller doses of early Metallica, Exodus and Iron Maiden. All of the tracks are very straight forward and primarily medium to medium/fast in pace. They are far more about pumping in heaviness and intensity than they are about speed and that seems to work for them. Syndicate have a fairly strong grip on how to control and manipulate the pace to their advantage. The vocals are powerful yet clear enough to really add to the overall tightness. I also think they handle the guitar solos well and use them to their advantage instead of just sticking anything in which is a trap that a number of bands in this style of metal tend to fall into. They obviously are highly influenced by late 80's-early 90's metal, but they manage take their influences and build on them enough to add their own ideas into the mix. The production is overall decent for a demo although the drums might be a little too tin sounding on a track or two and the guitar could come a bit more into the foreground. I think they have a good start here and if they just keep pushing forward and trying to grow then they are certainly heading in the right direction.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Interview with Tommi Holappa of Greenleaf
Greenleaf have been around for almost a decade and have featured a number of different members, many of who are also in other bands. I recently got to interview guitarist Tommi Holappa (who is also in Dozer) to find out more.
MM-How did the idea for this band come about?
TH-Well it all started sometime in 1999 when me and Daniel(drummer) were out drinking beer at some shitty pub here in our hometown of Borlänge(Sweden). I had known Daniel for a few years, he played drums in Demon Cleaner and we (DOZER) have done a bunch of gigs with them so we were good friends. So anyway, one night at the pub we were talking about how much we love good old 60's and 70's rock! The sounds,the grooves,the simple "just have fun and play whatever you feel". So after a whole bunch of drinks we decided to start a band.
MM-What are you currently working on?
TH-Currently there is not much going on with Greenleaf. Oskar (singer) is busy touring with his band (Truckfighters) and I´m busy working on the next DOZER album. Greenleaf has always been a side project for me...whenever I have some time over from DOZER (after tours etc etc) that's when I work on Greenleaf stuff. But no worries I love Greenleaf so there will always be time to make more music and do a couple of shows...it just might take a bit of time:-)
MM-There have been numerous musicians contributing to this band. Was that the original idea or has it just turned out that way?
TH-That was the original idea! We make the basic songs(guitar,bass,drums) and then we invite some friends over to be on the record.
MM-This band has been referred to as a “super group” or an “all-star band”. Do you think that either of those labels is appropriate or not?
TH-Hehehehe...I don't know if we can call it a super group....none of us are famous!:-) But yeah there's some members and guests on the records that are in very cool bands! Truckfighters,Lowrider,Witchcraft,Stonewall Noise Orchestra etc etc.
MM-Do you use any vintage gear or equipment when recording to help give it a more authentic 1970’s sound?
TH-Not really...Most of the stuff is recorded with cubase and modern gear...except for a couple of old amps, speakers and effect pedals. It´s all about the money...if we could afford it we would definitely record on 2" tape and only old gear but...yeah...give us money!!Hahahaha! But I think we have done a pretty good job in making it sound vintage.
MM-How do you think “Agents of Ahriman” was different from your previous albums?
TH-The core, the idea is the same...just make songs that we like and a whole bunch of cool riffs! I think we put a little bit more time into writing the songs and tried to make a bunch of songs that would still be good after hearing them 50 times. Other than that it's good old Greenleaf taking a little step forward.
MM-Whose guitar is on the album cover?
TH-That's my baby! I have 2 firebirds that I love to death! Bought my first one 15 years ago and since then I have been in love!
MM-Where do you get the inspirations for your song topics?
TH-Oskar wrote all the lyrics on the latest record I really know where he gets his inspiration from. But on the older stuff it was really simple...Fredrik(singer on the 2 previous records) comes to the studio and sings his melody idea he has and then we just sit down and write lyrics for 10 minutes and yeah...then it´s done.So the lyrics are about everything and nothing at the same time:-) On 10.000 years of revolution(from Secret Alphabets) Fredrik just improvises the whole thing...so there is a whole bunch of made up words there:-) Whole idea about Greenleaf is about riffs and grooves so the lyrics are not really that important...To me the vocals are just another instrument.
MM-What is the music scene like these days in Sweden?
TH-There's a whole bunch of cool bands if you are into 70's rock :Witchcraft,Graveyard,Elope.Abrmis Brahma,Blow Back,King Hobo(just to name a few) But other than that the scene is not so good in my oppinion...not so many good clubs to play in...if you find a club that will let you play they almost want you to pay to play...which sucks ass! Anyway there is still hope...Lately there has been some new clubs opening that bring hope to smaller bands...so ask me again in a year and I tell you if things have gotten better:-)
MM-What do you hope to accomplish in 2008?
TH-Maybe after we have recorded the next DOZER album I will have some time to concentrate on writing some new songs for Greenleaf...I have a couple of riffs ready to be made into songs so let´s keep our fingers crossed!
MM-What other bands are the current band members in?
TH-I´m in DOZER and DALI(a new band I have with Daniel). Oskar(vocals) is in TRUCKFIGHTERS.Erik (drums) was the first drummer in DOZER. Peder(vocals) is I ARE DROID and LOWRIDER(r.i.p) John(vocals) is in STONEWALL NOISE ORCHESTRA and MOTHER MISERY
MM-How is this project different from other bands that you guys have been in?
TH-I can only speak for myself but Greenleaf is more easy going...we play whenever we have time and we do it just to have fun.
MM-Has this band played live or is it strictly a studio band?
TH-Most of the time we are a studio band but we have done a handful of shows in Belgium,Germany,Finland and Sweden. It's always fun to play live with these guys but at the moment it's hard to get our schedules to match.
MM-Pick the band from the following pairs that you prefer and tell why.
Captain Beyond or Sir Lord Baltimore
Hhmmmm....I like I´m both but if i have to choose one,,,Captain Beyond.
Lynard Skynard or ZZ top
Wow! This is even harder! How I´m I supposed to choose one! They both are awesome!
Alice Cooper or KISS
Damn! I love both! I grew up on the early KISS stuff. Ace Frehely made half of the Greenleaf solos..hahahaha!! So I guess I have to choose KISS.
Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer
Ok,,,Blue Cheer rocks like hell but Sabbath wrote the book of heavy riffs!! So Sabbath it is.
MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?
TH-Yeah,,,Bengt should let his beard grow!:-)
***Thanks to Tommi for doing the interview.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Clash of the album covers
What's coming up?
Voodoo Six-First hit for free
The Lesser of two evils that I didn't get to this past week.
Have a great week!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Some more mini-reviews
I am still making it through that stack of older CDs that I picked up a few weeks ago. I am finding that some are gems, some are not and the rest fall at different levels in between. So here are five more that I listened to this past week.
Budgie-Power Supply (1980)
It was the 80's and Budgie had changed guitarists yet this was probably their best album in six years at that point. A much heavier, more raw album than they had done in some time. This one gets overlooked far too often because too many people assume this was after their prime.
Survivor-Vital Signs (1984)
Almost every song sound like something that someone would pick to have played at their wedding. I like some AOR and the vocals are strong, but this is just so sappy that I can only take it in small doses. Plus the fact that so many songs here were overplayed on the radio back in 84-85.
Cycle sluts from hell (1991)
This is a mixed bag overall and I actually bought this on cassette when it came out. Some of the songs are joke songs and they work, but then they try to be sort of serious and those songs are just alright. It would have been stronger as just a total joke album.
MSG-Save yourself (1989)
I liked when Robin McAuley sang for MSG, he had a good voice and was a nice fit. This album is decent, but it's a just a bit retrained at times. It really seemed like they needed for the music to just explode a little more and the album could have used that extra energy.
LA Guns-Cocked and loaded (1989)
I think I wore out a copy of this on cassette back then. It's still good, but not nearly as explosive as I remember it being. I think this band's biggest problem was that even when they rocked they had problems really defining their own sound.
The Budgie CD was the only one I had not heard before. The Survivor CD was about like I remembered it being, the LA Guns and Cycle Sluts were not as good as I remember them being and the MSG one may have been a little better than I remember it being years ago. There you go, I may post some more of these as I eventually make it through the rest of the pile.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Canterbury is a rather diverse album compared to the band's previous efforts. It's fairly well removed from the hard rock/metal style they had come to be known for. Instead they opted for epics with quite a bit of pageantry and build-up plus some very blatant pop leanings as well. Obviuously they were reaching out with this album and going in different directions, but it's also very easy to see why fans didn't really embrace it. The epics are generally more appealing than the pop songs here, but even they are a bit too dull and tedious to really be that intriguing. Canterbury is one of those albums where try as I might I could not get into it. Ultimately like Celtic Frost's Cold Lake or Helloween's Chameleon it's an example of an established band trying very hard to go way into another direction and failing because the direction is too different and the material just isn't that good. If Diamond Head had taken a few elements here and mixed them more with their existing style then maybe it would have been easier to take, but that's not the case. This re-issue includes to bonus tracks that are both live plus an interview with Andy Peebles. The packaging and bonus tracks are up to the usual high Metal Mind standards.
Diamond Head-Borrowed Time
Has there been anything written about Diamond Head in the last 19 years that didn't mention Metallica? Possibly not because they are likely always going to be associated with the band that chose to cover "Am I evil?". Diamond Head were of course part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Movement that spawned so many acts in the early 1980's and changed the whole metal scene worldwide. Suprisingly Diamond Head are far more melodic than you might imagine given their impact on Metallica. Although fairly involved, the music leans as much towards hard rock as it does towards metal and this album in particular shows some definite shades of progressive music as well. Where I think shine is in how they take their time developing a number of their songs. I think they pull the listener in a bit more and cause you to really take notice of all that's going on. Certainly this is an album that's more about the playing style than it is about the tones being used. Don't expect to instantly clobbered, but instead sit back and let the whole song play out and then I think that you will appreciate it a little more. It's perhaps a little more low key than I would have liked, but certainly an important album for the time due to the playing and the way they assemble the song as a unit. This version from Metal Mind includes six bonus tracks, two of which are live plus an interview with Sean Harris and Colin Kimberley. Another fine re-issue and an album worth checking out, but set your expectations at good rather than great.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Clash of the album covers
Interview with Thor and Steve Price
Vocalist Thor has been at it for a long time belting out solid metal anthems and performing with his elaborate stage show. I recently got to interview Thor and guitarist Steve Price to find out more about the new album and their plans for the near future.
MM-Tell us some about your new album “Into The Noise”.
THOR: The album is a concept album. Story-telling. Many years ago Warriors in various cultures would gather around the campfire and tell tales of battle. Maybe they would have the minstrel play an instrumental as a segue into the tale of battle for that day. They could also sing about Sex and Love or narrate a story about bringing down a vicious creature while hunting, also about new beginnings as well as the end of the world. There would be instrumentals and there would be songs.
This album is a modern version of that story telling.
STEVE: It is one the best records of have done with some great new players
MM-How is it similar and how is it different from your previous efforts?
STEVE: You tell me?
THOR: I think that it’s something special that Steve Price and Mike Kischnick play guitar together on this album. I consider them astounding guitar players. The best in the world! Steve Price toured with me in the 80's throughout Europe. We had #1 hits together in the UK with “Thunder On The Tundra” as well recording a huge selling album called "Only The Strong". Mike Kischnick has toured with me in 2003 and 2006 and we have recorded songs together for the "Triumphant", "Beastwomen" albums as well as "Devastation Of Musculation". So to have them both perform on the new cd "Into The Noise" in this modern age is a BIG treat for me.
MM-What has been the response to the album so far?
THOR: Absolutely amazing. Sales are going through the roof.
STEVE: Great! We sold out the first pressing in 3 weeks.
MM-How do you come to get signed with Sudden Death records? How has that relationship been so far?
STEVE: Great they have done a lot to help.
THOR: Joe Keithley, the president of SDR Records, is a legend himself. He is the leader of the world famous DOA. He knows both sides of the industry both as a performer and as an executive. We are great friends. He thought the album was fantastic and wanted to release it along with Fathom Records in Florida.
MM-Steve Price has a Guitar Challenge contest going on. Can you tell us the details on that and how did you come up with the idea to do that as a contest?
STEVE: I guess It’s just supposed to be fun. Jon and I love to play music with our fans!
THOR: The song "Berserker" - an instrumental by the incredible Steve Price - is unbelievable. I doubt that anyone will match it note for note. We thought it would be great to come up with a fun contest that shows extreme musical talent.
MM-Have you had many entries for the contest yet?
THOR: Yes, many thousands have entered.
MM-What are your touring plans for this year? Any possibility of playing any festivals in the Summer?
THOR: We are only going to be doing events. We have a huge show March 5 in Vancouver followed by March 8 at Slims in San Francisco with ArnoCorps.
Then it’s on to San Jose and 3 Big shows in Florida ending the first leg in Miami. We have a new CD coming out on Ektro Records in Europe and North America called "Live In Detroit" a re-release. So we will be doing special events, Festivals in North America and Europe.
STEVE: Yes, the U.S. and maybe U.K., Ireland, and Germany.
MM-Tell us some about your spots on MTV Canada? How did that come about?
THOR: They asked me to shoot some segments as an advice guru. So we shot the scenes in Toronto.
MM-If someone came up to you and said they had never heard any of your albums and they could only afford to buy one then which one would you recommend to them?
THOR: Into The Noise.
STEVE: Into The Noise.
MM-How do you think the metal scene has changed over the last say twenty years?
THOR: It’s become more underground. In the early 80's and into 1987 Metal was prominent on the airwaves and more mainstream. Now on the radio mainly hip hop, rap and pop is played. Metal still gets played on college stations and specialty shows.
STEVE: It seems to be very angry and the music is very intense - a lot of speed.
MM-Are you surprised that you are still recording and touring at this point in your career?
THOR: Yes. I am surprised. I am fortunate to be able to leap into the air and bend steel and wear a cape on stage. Music has kept me young over the years. I Love what I do for a living.
STEVE: No. We like it.
MM-Has recording and playing live gotten easier or more difficult for you over the years?
THOR: It has gotten much easier. I feel I have seasoned over the years as a performer. My voice has gotten stronger and I feel very comfortable on stage. I get a lot of energy from the fans who sing along and shout it out.
MM-What current bands do you like?
STEVE: Not sure.
THOR: ArnoCorps, Black Mountain, Angus Kahn and The Blue Ticks.
MM-You have always been known for your stage show. Do you still bring the hammer on stage and what else do you currently do at your live show?
THOR: We have an incredible show! The hammer shoots lightning bolts, I do multiple costume and mask changes. We have dancing Valkyrie girls and amazing songs and guitar playing.
MM-Have you ever had a prop or something not go according to plan on stage?
THOR: Yes. One time I tried to blow up a truck innertube tire with my lungs. It kept getting larger and larger but wouldn't pop. It eventually became like THE Blob and expanded so huge it went into the crowd where I let it go like a deflated Zeppelin.
MM-Pick the band from the following pair that you prefer and tell why:
Twisted Sister or WASP
Gwar or Manowar
Rush or Triumph
Judas Priest or Ozzy
THOR: I like all these bands!
STEVE: The best metal ever along with Thor
MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your music or your band?
STEVE: Thor is one of the greatest frontmen ever!!
THOR: I look forward to seeing all THOR fans out there on our WORLD TOUR. Both Young and Old. I thank everyone for all the support over the years.
BEHOLD THE HAMMER!!!!!
**Thanks to Thor and Steve for doing the interview.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Bullet for my valentine-Scream Aim Fire
Either the world of metal is different today or I have gotten old or it's a combination of both. Twenty years or so ago it seemed like it was far easier to say what was and what was not metal and largely you either liked metal or not. Some people may have been more selective about just liking an act two, but they were normally seen as being what they were and that's casual metal fans. Okay, I need to get back to the subject at hand which is the new release from Bullet for my valentine. The masses generally seem to like this album a lot and most people seem to say that it is indeed metal. However being the old, fickle, stick in the mud metal fan that I am causes me hesitate, step back and examine what's going on here. Is this really metal? Well, surprisingly some of the top influences are metal such as early Metallica and Iron Maiden. They also tap into lesser known suspects as well such as Testament and Annihilator. The hard driving riffs are here and they possess a good grasp on executing sharp pace changes. So if it's metal then why I am having trouble embracing it? I think there are three factors that trouble me some. First is that the production is just so slick that even though the licks say metal, the overall feel is perhaps a bit more polished than I wish I was. Perhaps some people like this sound, but for myself I don't like all of the rough edges to be sanded off my metal. The next is the vocals which are perhaps more accessible than I am accustomed to from metal that is this fast. The vocals are solid enough, but perhaps more than anything I could adjust to this over time and repeated plays. The final item that troubles me is just the fact that they seem to have gotten a great deal of attention rather fast and perhaps are getting more credit that they deserve considering that they are not bringing a whole lot to the table. I think that although this is a good album that satisfies my metal needs on some levels, but I wouldn't give them any kind of crown just yet.
One of my major problems with the 2006 self-titled debut from Vermont's Witch was that it was just too stripped down. I understand that they were trying very hard to lean more towards an authentic classic metal sound as opposed to falling under the "stoner rock" label. However in doing so their sound was a little thin and I got the impression that they were apprehensive about really dipping too far into being metal. Two years later and we get and the new album and it comes blaring on with "Eye" which has a real live in the studio vibe even if it's not. It's obvious that the band has become heavier and faster in their approach plus they seem far more comfortable with what they are doing here. The majority of the album has that hazy, scratchy guitar sound and the deep pounding rhythms of early 1970's metal. The most obvious influences are the two usual suspects which of course are the legendary Black Sabbath and Pentagram the masters of early, subtle doom. Now that's not too say that this album is a complete throwback to those early days of metal because they maintain some more modern sounds as well. A few tracks touch on 90's style rock and the vocals in general have a feel that isn't completely attached to early metal yet it still works. Witch work upon a heavy off the cuff approach with a loose, spacey feel and the two sounds help to give the music an approach that offers some very different sounds, but somehow they work together. They also get some points for a rather smooth touch as several songs slide rather than feeling the need to try and clobber you with one big sludgy riff which is a trap that I think too many acts try. I think with this album that Witch pushed aside pretences and thinking so much about what they should and should not do. Instead it sounds very much like they opened up as just went at it. The results are a fairly honest album that's active and varied enough to appeal to most fans
Monday, March 17, 2008
Interview with The Devil and the Sea
The Devil And The Sea are from Louisiana and they recently released an album called Heart vs. Spine on Acerbic Noise Development records. I recently interviewed bassist/vocalist Ryan Pankratz to find out more about this band and their album.
MM-Tell us about how and when this band formed?
RP-Dave and Shane started this mess of noise about 3 years ago when their former band "Machinist" was booked to play a show and some of the other guys couldn't make it so they just decided to do it anyway. Shane and Dave were both guitarists in Machinist, but since their drummer couldn't make it, Shane decided to give it a go. After that they decided theywanted to make songs that way and their friend, Chud, a fellow tattoo artist joined up on second guitar. About a month later I joined up on bass and this bastard was officially birthed. About 2 or 3 months after that Chud stopped playing with do to some personal complications. We went through about 6 zillion name changes because everything is already a great band somewhere...
MM-Some of you guys were in Icepick Revival (At A Loss Records) and Collapsar (Escape Artist Records). How is playing in this band different from those previous bands?
RP-Well... We don't have to lubricate our thinkin' parts as much... With this band we wanted to drive the point home instead of confusing the hell out of people. And we want to do that very loudly.
MM-What has been the response to your album so far?
RP-Pretty damn good... We have some reviews posted up on our myspace page. We have a couple interviews coming out soon... One in Unrestrained! And one in Decibel... So I guess somebody somewhere is listening. Turn it up!!!
MM-Who are your musical influences?
RP-Man... It's all over the place really... Anything from Hank Williams Sr. to Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Otis Redding to Nightstick. Bjork to Napalm Death to Black Flag to Marvin Gaye to Yob to Willie Nelson to Taj Mahal to Buried At Sea... Etc. etc. etc.... Oh, and I have to say this, "Dave likes Crotchduster."
MM-You have three tracks on your album that are ten minutes or more in length. Did you set out write a longer song or do you have an idea and it just develops into that length?
RP-I don't know... I've always liked epic, long sagas... Even when I was playing in Icepick Revival, we had songs that were 8-10 minutes long. Sometimes a musical idea just needs a good long span to unravel... Like clippin' a dook...
MM-Where do you get the inspirations for your song topics?
RP-Some of 'em are somewhat serious things, like real life issues and some of 'em are complete mockeries of those things, just to make sure we're not taking ourselves to seriously... And sometimes it's just complete nonsense. Like "Tea Pinky," that shit makes no sense... But it's one of my favorites. Everybody now, "get bent you fucks!!!!"
MM-You have a number of tour dates coming up in Louisiana, Texas and out west. Any chance you will come to the east coast this year?
RP-Yeah, we have a good little 16 days worth of shows coming up... Going up to Seattle and back for SXSW in Texas and then back home to good ol' shitfuck Louisiana...Our next outing will be to the east... I can't wait. I hope it's sooner than later.
MM-On your Myspace page under the sounds like section it says "soundtrack to walrus porn". Where did that come from and how would you describe your sound?
RP-Hmmmm... I don't know, I just threw that up there because it seems like a good walrus porn would need some big, loud and sludgy jams keepin those fat bastards pumpin, ya know?
MM-How would you describe your live show? Do you play any covers live?
RP-Oh. Mah. Gawd. It is awesome... Just kidding, In all seriousness, we focus on keeping things moving along. Not a lot of talking or any of that shit. Less talk, more rock. Hit 'em and quit 'em... We have done one cover... We did "Blockbuster" by The Jesus Lizard. 'Shits fun...
MM-What current bands do you like?RP-I've been listening to a lot of Electric Wizard lately... Some Dove here and there... Maybe a shot of Middian. I'm waiting on a copy of the new "Let The Night Roar" from Atlanta... Those guys are sick...
MM-What's your favorite Dolph Lundgren movie?
MM-On your bio (on your labels site) there was a mention that you had to replace a few thousand dollars worth of equipment that couldn't hold up. Were you guys that harsh on the equipment or what is that story about?
RP-I think I am just an electronically cursed person... Don't loan me your gear, you'll never see it alive again... 5 ampegs SVT's in a row, within 3-5 months. No shit, 5 of 'em up in smoke...
MM-So what is the music scene like in Lafayette, Louisiana?
RP-It's like a box of chocolates.... Mostly the crappy, coconut or pink filled ones, but every now and then you get caramel!!!!
MM-Pick the band from the following pair that you prefer and tell why.
Isis or Pelican
I choose old Isis. Mosquito Control and Celestial!!! Yeah... Real long pretty stuff where you can tell your listening to impeccable musicians starts to bore me pretty damn quick...
Cathedral or Electric Wizard
Durrrr... Electric Wizard "we live!" I don't really know why but I could never really hold Cathedral down. It gives me the icky stomach... Electric Wizard is the elixir of the gods...
Fu Manchu or Roadsaw
Whatever... Don't know nothing 'bout this... This is "stoner rock" right? I'd rather talk about Kyuss if we're gonna burn one...
Black Sabbath or Deep Purple
YES!!!! I'll take both.... Fuck yeah, fuck yeah, fuck yeah!!!!
MM-Is there anything else you want to say about your band or your music?
RP-Uhhmmm... Come check out the songs on our myspace page, www.myspace.com/devilandthesea leave us some comments with pictures of titties and beer soaked wastedness... if what you hear tickles your special places, then order up a copy of our debut album, "Heart Vs. Spine" on Acerbic Noise Development. http://www.acerbicnoise.com/ stay fucking awesome out there world....
-Thanks to Ryan for doing the interview.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
What's coming up?
The devil and the sea
Bullet for my valentine-Scream aim fire
Diamond Head-Borrowed Time and Canterbury re-issues (hopefully on the same day)
Lesser of two evils-This one might have a bit of a twist on it so tune in for this segment for sure.
I might even put out a Clash of the album covers if I can get to it.
***Lately I was thinking about younger hard rock/metal bands and it just seems like there are good bands coming out of UK and Europe lately or perhaps they have been there for a while and I just didn't notice. Anyway it's been three years since my favorite album of the year came from an American band (that was Acid King in 2005). However, I do think the best album so far in 2008 is from an American band ( that would be Byzantine) . So are American hard rock/metal bands slipping or other countries just clobbering us these days or what?
Billion Dollar Babies-Stand your ground
Sweden's Billion Dollar Babies have released a four song CD that sounds very much like it could have been recorded between about 1989 and 1992. The opener "Nineteent nintie four" is a mid-tempo, slightly gritty track that reminds me musically of a cross between Skid Row and early LA Guns. This song plunges ahead and serves well enough as an energetic opener. The second song "Restless Minds" slows things down some and the build-up plus the radio friendly choruses have me thinking of late 1980's Aeromsith. The title track is up next and the band pick up the pace from the previous track, but this one also reminds me of late 80's Aerosmith. This might be the tightest track on the album though as everything falls into place very well here. The closer "We don't live forever" storms on with with a basic, but catchy main riff. This one might be the closest the band comes to establishing their own sound. It does sound very much like it could have been done back in hard rock's prime, but it's supremely solid. They move the pace around with ease and they handle the whole song with a great deal of flair and a good sense of detail. Actually Billion Dollar Babies have some good hooks all throughout this album and the vocals fit in just fine. I really like the potential I hear from this band and would very much be interested in hearing what they could turn out when they get around to doing a full length album.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Hate Eternal-Fury and flames
About fifteen years ago the label "death metal" meant pretty much one thing and that was an aggressive style that plowed straight ahead while being accompanied by definitive growling type vocals. Like most genres and sub-genre, death metal seems to have expanded over the years as we now have the likes of "melodic death", "technical death" and various other labels now falling under this once singular heading. Oftentimes it great to progress, but addressing the basics and pushing them to their fullest can work too and that's what Hate Eternal have done with their latest offering. "Fury and flames" is about as crushing as it is relentless in this celebration of raw brutality. There is little build-up or technical flaunting, but there is no time or reason for it when you are able to produce a blistering mountain of sound like this release. One of my biggest problems with death metal is the all too common feeling that the songs blend together and have a lack of personality. Although there is a definite sameness in style to most of the tracks here, I think they easily avoid that trap because they have manage to give the songs enough of their own identity and each one sweeps you under as they plunge forward. The vocals are the traditional death style, but they very much compliment the music and fluctuate enough as needed. I don't think Hate Eternal are doing anything that terribly different, but when everything they are doing tramples your senses then originality doesn't matter a whole lot in the long run. If you are looking for melodies and virtuoso flashes then you will have to search elsewhere, but if you are in search of a straight ahead massive assault then you are in luck.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Interview with Joe Hasselvander
Joe Hasselvander has played with Raven, Pentagram, Blue Cheer and numerous other projects. I recently got to talk to him about his long career and find out what he is currently up to.
MM- By the looks of your Myspace page you have been exceptionally busy lately. So what are you working on?
JH - I’ve been doing all kinds of things! I think 2007 was a banner year for me as I recorded 2 albums, "the Hounds of Hassel Vander" (Rock Savior records Germany) and Raven's "walk through fire"(King records Japan)! I also saw the release of an album I recorded in 2005 with the legendary Blue Cheer "What doesn't kill you..." and a re-release of Armageddon’s "1990 album "the money mask"! I also played the hard rock "Hell festival in Minehead, England with Raven! We went down a storm! We shared the bill with bands like Twisted Sister, Saxon & Girlschool! It was a blast and we were able to hang out with some of the other old men and women of metal! It was brilliant! We soon after were on a way to the Netherlands to play "Mario’s metal meeting" which was a killer show and was so well presented and put together by Mr. Mario himself! Then we buggered off to Belgium for a two night engagement that was sold out both nights and although the venue was postage stamp size, the spirit of metal was high! We ended the festivities with an exclusive interview at radio Brussels FM! I was surprised to find out that the interviewer/ DJ was a major fan of my work with "Pentagram" and the doom metal scene as he played loads of the old hits over the air from pentagram as I sat there!
MM- Who else is in The Hounds of Hasselvander? How would you describe the music and how has that project gone so far?
JH- I’ve recruited the expertise of Gary Isom-drums (Spirit Caravan, Iron Man, Unorthodox) and the beautiful Kayt Vigil on the bass (Syzlak, Hatchet face)! On the album I play all the instruments and do all the vocals. I would describe the music as proper doom metal with a commercial twist and an over all early Alice Cooper band vibe! I’ve been told by many that it's a dead cross between Ozzy, Kiss and Pentagram! The shows that we've done so far have been received incredibly well as the last one in Philadelphia was sold out! The band members I hired have proven that they have what it takes and listen to direction well and we are all on the same page! We have become sort of a family!
MM- You played some on Blue Cheer’s “What doesn’t kill you” album from 2007. How many songs did you play on and did you manage to get brought in for that role?
JH-As I said, I recorded the new Blue Cheer album back in 2005! I was brought in for three major reasons which validate the destiny that this job held for the band and me! First off, the original drummer (Paul Whaley) had some serious health issues and he also lives in Germany! Secondly, duck MacDonald; the band's guitarist is a long time friend of mine! We used to play together in legendary British blues rock band, ”Savoy Brown"! Thirdly, I am the biggest Blue Cheer freak on the planet and duck knew this and also knew that I could very easily do the job and that I would be able to help the record's budget out as I had a house they could rehearse and live in for a month as we did pre-production! I also new a very good friend with an incredible studio who worked for cheap and also happened to be a huge fan of "cheer"(Chris Kozlowski)! The band continues their association with him to this day! I originally played on all the cuts for the album. I was offered a tour with them but the pay wouldn't have sustained my home and family life! And besides, Paul Whaley wanted his job back! As everyone knows, Paul was my biggest influence as a kid coming up in the music business! The record company decided that there should be some songs with Paul on them, if not half the album! So a lot of what I did was deleted! In answer to your question, I am on five of the tracks!
MM- You played with guitarist Jack Starr in Phantom Lord back in the mid-1980’s. What do you remember about that project?
JH- "Phantom lord" was part of a three pronged record release for N.Y. label Dutch east records, "phantom lord being the first one out of the starting gate! Jack and I were working together on a project with the late Rhett Forester (Riot) and money was tight! So Jack went to his old friend at Dutch East and hatched a plan to do three albums and generate enough money to keep all of us living near him so that we could continue our work on the Jack Starr band project! We did "Phantom Lord" on a budget of $200 and we had a real laugh doing this record because we recorded it in five hours! Some of the material was made up on the spot! When it was time to mix this extravaganza, I was chosen to do the honors as Jack and company suddenly disappeared and the studio was adamant about finishing on a certain night! I had the flu so bad as it was mid- December'84 and my inner ears were infected, so I couldn't hear anything correctly and that's why the sound of that record is so harsh, not to mention that the studio was highly inadequate! I never took that record seriously, until I got requests from all kinds of magazines and fanzines from Europe to give the exclusive scoop on these little atrocities that Jack and I had recorded! It seems that "Phantom Lord" and the other two albums had become major collector’s items over there!
MM- Devil Childe’s EP was around the same time as Phantom Lord and both you and Jack Starr were in that as well. Were you doing these two bands at the same time? Were the two projects that different from each other considering some of the same people were in both?
JH-As I said, we did three albums for Dutch East records and "Devil Childe" was the second of the three that were released! This particular album was actually the first in the series to be recorded! It was done much the same way as "Phantom Lord", except that the songs were a lot stronger and there were also some very solid ideas on that one! To anyone who knows the history of "Pentagram"/"Death row" the song "Through the shadow” appears on side two! This song went on to be reworked and turned in to the title track of Raven's "Architect of fear"-1990!
MM- In the late 1970’s you ran into Bobby Liebling and started another line-up of Pentagram. I know this version didn’t last very long. What was that like and why did that version break up rather quickly?
JH- Bobby and the rock media like to refer to that line up of the band as, the "high voltage" era of Pentagram, aptly named after Bobby's little label that released "Living in a ram's head" b/w "When the screams come"-1978. This version of the band was hands down, the loudest group I’ve ever played with besides my present band "the hounds"! We worked a hell of a lot, and were loved by everyone in the D.C./Baltimore scene in those days! We were a shock rock band through and through! Black widow (Italy) released a perfect time capsule glimpse of this group on the 2002 release of "Keg full of dynamite" which will give you an idea of what was going on back then! I had my most fulfilling moments in Pentagram with that line up!
MM-How did you come to get back into Pentagram band in the 1990’s?
JH- Of course everyone knows that I’ve been in Raven for 20 years! There have been times that the band for whatever reason, has to take time off from touring and recording. During one of these times in the 90's I was approached by Victor who had just moved back to northern Virginia from Tennessee to do some simple 4-track recording at his house! I agreed, and we soon struck up our friendship again and hung out a little in the Maryland doom scene, only to find out that we had become impossibly famous in our 10 year absence! It just blew our minds at how many younger fans knew who we were and had all of our records and bootlegged gigs from everywhere! Then out of the blue, Peaceville records (England) offered a contract to bobby to re-release "Relentless" and "Day of reckoning" with a brand new follow up album, under the stipulation that he would get victor, Marty and I in on the project! Things just fell in to place very quickly! That’s how "be forewarned" came about! The rest is history!
MM-Now on “Review your choices” and “Sub-basement” you played all the instruments, correct? What was that experience like?
JH-Recording those albums was an amazing experience and a great learning period as well! I had always wanted to try my hand at "doing it all" on a pentagram release! My wish came true in a time when I had a crumby, unrewarding dirty job putting up commercial fences for someone who was extremely toxic to be around! Yet I had no choice as I was raising my then 5 year old son (Joe Jr.) By myself! To make a long story short I was ultimately fired when suddenly the black widow record contract was offered for "Review your choices" just in the nick of time! That album re-adjusted my self esteem which had been eroding under the umbrella of a negative control freak who had essentially made me think I was a washed up old rocker that chose a stupid career and had no basis in reality! After the success of that album I never listened to negative, jealous and ignorant sadists like that again! By the time Sub-basement was slated for recording, Bobby and I had become old hands at doing this type of two man album! We moved our operations to a different studio and got much better results! Bobby and I still say that sub-basement was the band's "Sgt.pepper's" album!
MM- How did you get the gig in Raven? Was playing with them a big adjustment from what you were previously used to?
JH-I had known the Gallagher brothers for some time, as I used to live with the whole band including Rob "Wacko" Hunter in a house in upstate New York! It was an odd coincidence that I had the exact same taste in bands that I liked as the Gallagher’s (Budgie, Slade Sweet Judas Priest, Deep Purple etc.)! So when Rob quit raven, I was the first person they called! We were soon signed by Combat records for "Nothing exceeds like excess"-1988!In answer to the second part of your question, the adjustments needed to play in Raven were minuscule as I had a band years ago called "Overlord" that played that same sort of Judas priest styled metal later referred to as "the NWOBHM."! I also was involved in jazz-fusion in the '70's ala-mahavishnu orchestra! This kind of music has many time changes and unanticipated break downs in the songs! It takes a certain type of work ethic to learn this kind stuff as it does with raven and their super tight and complicated music!
MM-You came to Raven at perhaps kind of a difficult time because they had just been dropped by Atlantic and the popularity they had once had around 82-84 was really fading by the time you joined. Was it tough going and how did the band approach getting back on track so to speak?
JH- I don't really think that it was tough going for me or for them, because we were three kindred souls who had found each other through the darkness! We had this unbelievable sound together that the previous version of the band could never obtain! We didn't care what anyone thought about us, we were enjoying this new monster we had created and we also knew that we would do even better than before! In reality, the band did much better and went on to do much bigger things than they ever did on Atlantic records! They made nothing with that label and were not supported or promoted properly by them! Real heavy metal only exists in the independent market nowadays anyway! You know why? Because there's more money in the band's pocket that way! Imagine that! As for Raven's popularity we've played more shows to 10,000 + fans than most heavy metal bands that I know of! We’ve toured the world loads of times!
MM-What kind of music are you listening to these days?
JH- Lately I’ve been listening mostly to unsigned bands I find on Myspace! A lot of them are doom metal or retro-'70's style groups! I always try to comment on their music and if it's good, I tell them so! I know when I was coming up in the world I would've been beside myself if one of my musical heroes said good things about my band! I probably would have stuck it out with a lot of the bands that I gave up on! I listen to so many kinds of music, you have no idea! Some of the things I like would get me put in a straight jacket if anyone found out!
MM-How do you think doom metal has changed over the last say twenty years?
JH- Doom metal has never changed! That’s the key and also what it's all about! It’s all about the blues and obscure British tube amps and extreme distortion and volume! It’s about staying in a permanent time warp from the years, 1968-1972! And do you know why? It’s because that was the most exciting time of experimentation in music, amplifier technology, drugs and sex! How’s that for the truth??
MM- On your Myspace page you have a number of horror images. Are you a horror movie fan and if so then what are some of your favorite horror movies?
JH-Yes! I am a rabid horror movie freak! I like most of the horror movies from the silent era to the mid eighties! After that Hollywood lost us! I will tell you, I have over 3,000 movies in my personal collection! I love them all like bad little children! just a few of my personal favorites because there are so many- "Mask of Satan" aka "Black Sunday" directed by Mario Bava, "the sadist" starring Arch Hall Jr., "Tombs of the blind dead" a Portuguese classic, “Night of the demon" aka "Curse of the demon" starring Dana Andrews and "The world's greatest sinner" directed and starred in by Timothy Carry! The list goes on and on and that's not counting my science fiction faves!
MM-You have played with a lot bands, toured and had a long career. Is there anything you have not done in music that you still hope to accomplish?
JH-Yes! I would like to make a record that goes platinum!!!! But who wouldn't! It would mean that I could write my own ticket and be able to help out other young bands who have lost hope! Help out starving families that have lost hope and secure my son's future! The fame part of entertainment is easy to obtain if you have a large body of work over time, but the money part of that scenario is a whole different ball of wax and is highly elusive!!
MM- Which band from the following pair do you prefer.
Blue Cheer or Sir Lord Baltimore
JH-Blue Cheer - this band lit my brain up as a child of 13 to the infinite possibilities in music! They showed me that you don't have to play by the rules laid down by the corporate norm or be restricted to conservative musical ideas invented by little scared people! After all, nobody stands the test of time mixing in with the crowd and essentially becoming common stock! You have to listen to your inner self and tune out the negative folks who don't want to see you succeed over them! I thank duckier Peterson, Leigh Stephens and Paul Whaley for pointing the way to the center of the universe, for that is where god dwells!
MM-Is there anything else that you want to say about your self or your music?
JH-I want to say to everyone who has enjoyed my music over the years in what ever group I’ve played with, even if only for a minute, thank you for noticing! Because I do this for you guys and not for myself! I don't know of anything that gives me more excitement, joy, sorrow or triumph than that one little musical note played on eleven!
God bless all of you! Doom on!!!Joe Hasselvander "the godfather of doom"