HELLOWEEN’ S Michael Weikath – guitarist, songwriter and founding member of one of the most influential European Power Metal Bands, dating back to 1985. Helloween has set the standard for this genre of Heavy Metal, while exemplifying longevity and industry durability also breeds consistent quality albums. Since 1985, many changes have taken place in the world of Heavy Metal, major bands that once filled arenas are now filling clubs and musicians can now download and upload musical arrangements on a laptop. Throw in the fact, that a select group of Helloween songs have become rearranged, with the enormous help from the 70 Piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and The London Choir.
Helloween has reached a Heavy Metal milestone, celebrating their quarter century as a major player and mighty influence on the European Power Metal stage. Thus, saluting their catalog of albums with the release of “Unarmed – Best Of 25th Anniversary”. Michael Weikath or Weiki as he likes to be called, proved to be quite an intriguing conversationalist, with an admirable straight forwardness about him that this writer found most appealing. Weiki took the time recently to discuss with Hard Rock Hideout the aforementioned, plus added some interesting thoughts along the way. Here is what Weiki had to say:
HRH: How are you doing Weiki?
Weiki: I’m doing well! I’m looking up the Veronica’s right now and buying music on the internet. The Veronica’s are twins, they are really good! I like their music a lot. Do you listen to them?
HRH: I can’t say that I do, Weiki. I’ve heard of them though.
Weiki: You should definitely give them a try.
HRH: What other bands are you currently listening to?
Weiki: I’m a big fan of Chris Cornell. Nirvana, you know, I hated their music when it first came out, now, it’s good and not so bad. I’m a fan of The Moody Blues and technical stuff from the 1970’s. I’m pretty open, even original Disco, I’m with it.
HRH: Congratulations Weiki on Helloween’s 25th Anniversary! The new album is a unique celebration of your songs. What inspired this musical direction for “Unarmed”?
Weiki: Well, we just came off of a huge, a massive tour. We had some time off after the last tour and never really had a break for fifteen years. “Unarmed” was all the managers idea, the thought of doing something big this time around for the 25th Anniversary of Helloween. We employed outside arrangers to re-arrange all of the songs you hear on “Unarmed”. We picked some greatest tracks, still “Falling To Pieces” was not on the list. There was a ton of file transfers going on and everything was done this way, so I could stay on top of what was happening with the arrangements.
HRH: From concept to finish, how long did it take to create “Unarmed”?
Weiki: It took a little over a year. With the re-arrrangements, feedbacks, brainstorming and recording. We had to consult with so many people and work with numerous timetables regarding the classical and digital recordings. Having the opportunity, the means and the time to do this album all came together. I feel the result is great! So far, I have heard a fifty-fifty response to “Unarmed”, people either love it or hate it.
HRH: Well Weiki, I am not in the group that hates “Unarmed”!
Weiki: Thank you!
HRH: With all of the dynamics involved with “Unarmed”, what was the most difficult step in the recording process?
Weiki: Doing arrangements on the computer was no biggie. The Classical arrangements of the timing and where do you put these parts? That all takes time. During the session arrangements, I did not touch one string or guitar.
HRH: “Why” is a hidden track, with no hint of it anywhere in the liner notes. Why is this?
Weiki: I don’t know, it’s not on my CD either! I was pretty surprised myself when I discovered this. I’m not aware of why “Why” is a hidden track. It’s a mega surprise track! It surprised everyone, even me!
HRH: Would you consider creating music in the future with the 70 piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Choir once again?
Weiki: It was so much hard work, it’s a good idea though. If our manager wants to, we do it. We would be extremely proud to do it again.
HRH: What other personal music goals do you still have?
Weiki: There are times, where I think I could have done many other things in the past. There was a time when I was not sure of staying in Helloween, it was during the “Chameleon” phase. I moved on with it of course. I like to consider each and every option. Well, for example, I’ve always liked the collaboration of Jim Steinman and Meatloaf, that is something I would like to do. Creative Rock and doing something in that direction I would like to try. ELO, Queen, Jim Steinman and Meatloaf are great examples.
HRH Note: “Chameleon” was the fifth studio album released by Helloween in 1993, (not counting their debut “Helloween” EP from 1985).
HRH: Where in America is your favorite city or venue to play?
Weiki: It’s so hard to say and choose. The United States is so vast! I do love B.B. Kings in New York City though. Maryland has many nice places, up around Niagara Falls and Arizona as well. The Key Club in L.A. I really remember well, it filled around eight hundred people and it was great. In America, there are too many interesting places.
HRH: What band would Helloween want to tour with, that you haven’t toured with already?
Weiki: It’s really hard to say. Judas Priest would have been cool in the past, only it’s not recommended now. One point in time, in the past, we should have toured with Judas Priest. We are out on our own now, as a headlining band. For us to do our own lineup show is dream stuff and wishful thinking. We’ve played the festivals in the past, with say, Cinderella and DIO. Then, Guns & Roses comes out to end the night. It was managements decision back then to play certain festivals and in which order.
HRH: Do you own an iPad yet? I’m just looking into them right now myself.
Weiki: Not yet, they are not available in Spain, at the time they are first available in America. I will get one though, an iPad will be pretty cool. They are thin and light weight, perfect for traveling in the airports.
HRH Note: Michael Weikath currently resides in Spain.
HRH: “Gambling With The Devil” is one of my favorite Helloween albums, there are many uplifting and positive songs on it, for example, “Can Do It”.
Weiki: I wrote that song. “Gambling With The Devil” does have some positive songs. I like to stay positive with my lyrics and stay away from the dark themes. I like to write positive songs, with meaning. “The Dark Ride” was too dark of an album for me, lyrically.
HRH Note: “The Dark Ride” was the ninth studio album released by Helloween, back in 2000.
HRH: Who are your hero’s in life?
Weiki: You have to be very careful about who to idolize. It’s very hard to say. If I was to say, for example, Humphrey Bogart, how many skeletons may he have hid in his closet?
HRH Note: Humphrey Bogart was an American film actor, spanning three decades in film during the 1930’s, ’40’s and ’50’s.
HRH: Are you setting sight on a North American tour this year?
Weiki: In November a tour starts that will go into next year. Our last time out went extremely well for the first time ever! It was more of a condensed experience but a brilliant tour. The clubs, bus and accommodations were great and it was a great time. Our last tour was just organized better, it was very intense!
HRH: Which do you prefer better, an arena or club?
Weiki: Whether we play an arena or club, people, the fans, pay to be there. As long as we put on the best show possible for the fans, it doesn’t really matter. It’s always great being close to the fans in a club, as long as they are friendly! We like to play to a minimum of fifty people in a club, sometimes that is not always the case though. There have been times where there are say, seventeen people in the club! Regardless, Helloween must put on the best show and play great. When the show goes as planned, I’m happy. If a band were to ever fuck up a show in a small club, it would get on You Tube very fast! I believe you can still be a great band playing in a shit hole.
HRH: What Helloween album do you look back upon with the most pride?
Weiki: All of them! They are like photo albums. They all ooze something special, each album is unique. A lot of work went into each and every Helloween album.
Gary Cherone, singer and songwriter. The front man for the world renowned and musically diversified Extreme. Be it Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk Metal or a chart topping Pop Ballad, Gary Cherone never fails to capture the emotion and heart of a song. Extreme, with their 2008 reunion, has given a bounty of relief to loyal fans, after a thirteen year hiatus. With three quarters of the original Extreme lineup intact, Gary Cherone, guitarist & songwriter Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger have proven that they still have plenty of Hard Rock left in their musical tanks, alongside newest band mate and drummer Kevin Figueiredo.
With 2008’s critically acclaimed Saudades de Rock followed by a triumphant touring schedule, this second chapter of Extreme is just beginning. Extreme’s reunion has even led to the release of Take Us Alive, a live CD/DVD recorded in August of 2009, in their hometown of Boston Mass, at the House Of Blues, with a release date of May 4, 2010.
Hard Rock Hideout had the privilege recently to catch up to Gary Cherone, while his busy schedule allowed. Gary talks about the reuniting of Extreme, “Take Us Alive”, his musical influences, the now classic “More Than Words” ballad, a dream duet and his true feelings of being the lead singer for Van Halen too. As polite and candid as he is down to earth, Gary Cherone has proven to this writer, that he and Extreme certainly are an American Rock ‘N’ Roll success story. Here is what Gary had to say:
HRH: Gary, what is the Extreme Rock ‘N’ Roll story behind “Take Us Alive”?
Gary Cherone: It’s our first live CD/DVD, the story behind it is surprisingly, after a thirteen year break, we have never played or felt stronger. “Take Us Alive” documents the 2009 tour and covers the full spectrum of the Extreme catalog of albums.
HRH: Seeing the fans sing the lyrics to “More Than Words” on “Take Us Alive” gave me those good and cool chills, did it have an effect on you while on stage?
Gary Cherone: Absolutely! This song has been a blessing and a curse over the years for Extreme. The band resented this song for a while because it was the one and sometimes only song people knew from us. We learned to embrace it though, now it’s a special song to us. After thirteen years, coming back to see the fans sing along to it live, every night, makes for one of the highlights of the night.
HRH: Were there any vintage, live Rock albums over the years, that influenced you to one day make a live Extreme album?
Gary Cherone: You are absolutely the first writer to ask this question and I’ve been waiting for this! KISS “I” and “II”, Cheap Trick “at Budokan”, The Who “Live At Leeds”, and The J. Geils Band had three terrific live albums. There are too many of them really, to mention. Just recently, I was sending emails to the guys saying, “hey, we finally have our KISS Alive out! It’s exciting after all these years to to have our live album. We recorded the show in Boston, at the House of Blues, it’s our hometown and it meant a lot to us to have it filmed there.
HRH: Gary, “Last Hour” from “Saudades de Rock” I point to as a career highlight for you vocally. Did you reach for any personal emotion to record this song?
Gary Cherone: Thank you very much. “Last Hour” is one of my favorites on this record. I always start on a personal level then lyrically go in different directions. I try to translate emotion onto tape. Steve Perry, (Journey), he came a few times during the making of “Saudades de Rock”. This was the only song Steve Perry hung out with us on in the control room.
HRH: Wow, Steve Perry! You must have been a bit nervous there?
Gary Cherone: I felt pressure with a legend sitting in there! I think seeing Steve Perry made me reach in for that little extra!
HRH: Have you known Steve Perry for some time?
Gary Cherone: Steve Perry is a friend of the band, has been for some years.
HRH: “Saudades de Rock”, do you look upon this album as a comeback or continuation of Extreme?
Gary Cherone: Both I guess. We treat it as a continuation. The public looks at it as a reunion record after thirteen years. “Saudades de Rock” is not a one-off album, this was the first of hopefully many more Extreme albums to come.
HRH: Gary, who is the singer that you would want to make the dream duet with?
Gary Cherone: I always wanted to do something with Ann Wilson, (Heart), she’s it! I’m always mentioning Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury and Roger Daltrey in conversations, about being the best voices in Rock ‘N’ Roll history, yet Ann Wilson, she is an amazing singer. There’s still time to do a duet with her, I just have to write the right song.
HRH: There’s plenty of time left Gary!
HRH: Are there any younger musicians or bands out there in 2010, that have made an impression on you?
Gary Cherone: Late at night, I’ll watch VH1 to catch new music. Muse comes to mind. The music I listen to is rather mellow compared to the Hard Music world I live in! I like Stone Temple Pilots, they have a new record coming out. I really like their new single “Between The Lines”. Norah Jones, I like to listen to her music.
HRH: Any Rock legends your listening to?
Gary Cherone: Bob Dylan, there is enough in his catalog to listen to and enjoy for the next twenty years! As a singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan is just great, there is no one else like him.
HRH: If a major motion picture was made on the career of Extreme, would the word “united” be in the title?
Gary Cherone: It would certainly be in the title. Extreme is a close bond of brothers, past members included. We grew up together, went around the block long enough to know what friendship is about. “United” would definitely be the theme of the movie.
HRH: Extreme has personified Rock Music diversity through song, time and again. How important is it to not be stereotyped into one specific genre?
Gary Cherone: I think that is probably a distinction we wear with pride. When you look at AC/DC, I would not want them any other way, you know what you are getting. Then, I look at the Beatles, Queen and Led Zeppelin, all three had no barriers, they really wrote honest music with expression. They did not try to ever fit in. When I sit down with Nuno, we really don’t know what is going to come out when we create music. We sit down together and write, Nuno plays the guitar and what comes flowing out of us during those moments is what becomes the record.
HRH: What changes in the music industry, within the last twenty years, annoy you the most?
Gary Cherone: Extreme has been fortunate and blessed from the past. After 13 years of being away, we know there will be touring and small venues, we don’t care how big the place is we play at. The digital revolution, where music can be downloaded for free, it doesn’t bother me so much. If people get turned on by Extreme through You Tube, then the interest to come see us live or buy our music can result and that is a good thing. There are pro’s and con’s to technology, it’s like comparing LP’s to CD’s, nothing changes.
HRH: Nothing beats those days of buying real vinyl.
Gary Cherone: If you show a kid an LP today, they would look at it as if it’s from another planet. There was nothing like going to the record store back when I grew up, getting the album home and putting the needle to the wax! Our parents used to look at us like we were crazy or something! That’s our generation though.
HRH: Today, the kids are raised on MP3’s.
Gary Chreone: I’m sure if we were kids now, that’s how we would get turned on to music. The sad thing is, kids get turned on song by song today. We grew up on concept records like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Would kids have the attention span to listen to a whole piece of music like that now? A pro in technology is Guitar Hero, it’s giving kids an outlet to discover so many great bands and songs.
HRH: If you had a magic wand and could change just one thing that is wrong in the world today, what would you change?
Gary Cherone: (In a disguised voice, sounding like a Miss Universe contestant): All I want is world peace. (laughs)
Gary Cherone: I don’t want to sound like a Miss Universe contestant and say all I want is world peace! I’d like to see less pain in the heart, which is manifested physically by people abusing other people or emotionally abusing each other. This is such a big question and difficult to answer or resolve. It’s not that hard to start now, on a local level, by being kind to your neighbor. Our song, “Peace” on “Saudades de Rock” has two verses, the first verse lyrically is very local and internal, while the second verse covers the bigger issues of the world.
HRH: Any Tour plans for Extreme in 2010?
Gary Cherone: Nuno is out on tour with Rihanna right now. It’s a long shot, that maybe Extreme schedules tour dates at the end of the year. I’m working on another Rock project this Summer called Hurt Smile.
HRH: Hurt Smile? Is this a Rock or Hard Rock band? How heavy?
Gary Cherone: Hurt Smile is more rawer than Extreme and Hard Rock. My brother, Mark Cherone, plays guitar.
HRH: Very cool, I wish you guys the very best! I look forward to hearing Hurt Smile in the future.
Gary Cherone: Thanks!
HRH: Gary, what is your most positive experience you look back upon, being the lead singer for Van Halen?
Gary Cherone: For three years I was in the band and it was a fantastic experience I’ll never forget. Being on tour was the best part and all the crazy moments on stage! Just Playing with the mighty Van Halen! Getting to know Van Halen as human beings and recording the record, (“Van Halen III”), with Van Halen was such a great experience. Eddie was such a generous person, they all were generous. It all feels so surreal now, being ten years removed from Van Halen, I’m like, I was really in that band! I was very fortunate to be a part of Van Halen for a moment in time.
ASIA’s “OMEGA” – A REQUIRED ROCK MUSIC REALITY CHECK!
ASIA – releases their fourth studio album on May 4th, 2010, on Frontiers Records, that features the four original members of this vastly influential and Rock historical band. This new album is “Omega”. I could never put into words, just how talented and important to the history of Progressive Rock Music these four musicians are: Geoff Downes, (keyboards, backing vocals), John Wetton, (bass lead vocals), Steve Howe, (guitar, backing vocals) and Carl Palmer, (drums, percussion).
Granted, the Asia franchise has created music with other lineups while Geoff Downes has steered the Progressive ship, (twelve all-encompassing album releases, spanning three decades, since the iconic and self titled debut release of 1982). With that said, this “Omega” release is testament as to the unmatched Progressive Rock prowess that this original lineup possesses.
As I listen to “I Believe”, I actually do believe this Asia lineup has reached that milestone point in their music career, where they can create what I consider to be the most beautiful Progressive Rock Music one could listen to in 2010. “There Was A Time” progressively plays out at almost six minutes and it is rich with the glistening softness of Geoff Downes’s keys, that weaves its way through Steve Howe’s unearthly guitar, while Carl Palmer and John Wetton apply an almost magical rhythm section. I really do hear magic on “Omega”, excuse me if I feel this way.
If there ever was a progressive element in Rock Music that can be considered the super glue of its layered parts, it is the keyboards. Geoff Downes incredibly inspires the song “I’m Still The Same” with his majestic keyboard play, giving this song it’s progressive decor and mind flight sound and feel. “Don’t Wanna Lose You” is the Classic Rock journey back in time, only Asia musically adds the relevant Rock ambiance that reminds me it is still 2010.
The short and extremely creative guitar leads of Steve Howe resonate his fondness for that 1970’s tone, that so many guitar gods of his generation have captured with splendor. John Wetton may still play as astute as ever on bass, still it is his timeless vocals that are all the listening splendor on “Omega”.
Steve Howe may incorporate the tonal spirit of Classic Rock’s guitar elegance throughout “Omega”, just remember that this is a guitarist that has fortified his very own sound through the decades as well… and his trademark licks are peppered throughout this entire album. “Finger On The Trigger” can easily be pointed out as the Rock out moment on Omega, proving that this legendary lineup has a bounty of uplifting Rock ‘N’ Roll left inside of them… and I never doubted that for one Rockin’ second!
“Holy War” begins instantly on a spirited note, with Geoff Downes hitting the keys in epic fashion. As this song kicks into progressive gear, the realization that Asia is back once again making a song so structurally sound is a Rock Music reality check. The Progressive Rock elegance of “Holy War” has reminded me once again, that Asia has staked their claim as THE most talented supergroup I can ever describe to someone.
“Ever Yours” may just be the tear jerker of “Omega”. The lyrics of Asia’s songs are synonymous with its respective music’s energy it radiates. The musical highs will inevitably catch up to the musical lows, creating a dazzling union of parts and that is what separates Asia apart in the Rock Music world. The songs on “Omega” are musical moments that have personality, feelings and emotion. “Ever Yours” is as sentimental as it is inspirational, proving to me it’s importance to the overall assemblage of songs heard on “Omega”. An Asia ballad is a work of art, not a filler song for iphone lighters at a live concert.
Not to sound silly or corporate in any way, those who know me realize I am not either when it comes to music, especially Rock Music… yet after each listen to “Omega”, I want to stand and applaud this original Asia lineup. Certainly, many will pump their fists into the air and jump up and down with progressive glee, that Asia is not only back, they are back on top. I myself want to do the same fist pumping and jumping in joy, only the Rock historical reverence, that I uphold for these four musicians, has me restraining myself and saying… bravo.
Rating: Out of 10
1. Finger on the Trigger
2. Through My Veins
3. Holy War
4. Ever Yours
5. Listen Children
6. End of the World
7. Light the Way
9. Still the Same
10. There was a Time
11. I Believe
12. Don’t Wanna Lose You Now
John Wetton – vocals, bass
Steve Howe – guitar
Geoff Downes – keyboards
Carl Palmer – drums
9 Out Of 10 Flying V Guitars!!
JON OLIVA – has made quite the mark on the music industry. Since 1978, Jon Oliva has been involved in making music… after all, as you will later find out, Jon Oliva is a man of music. A founding member, along with his late brother Criss Oliva, of the influential and legendary Progressive Metal Band -Savatage. As Jon Oliva will elaborate, later in this interview, Savatage has since been transformed into the ultra world popular – Trans Siberian Orchestra, in which Jon Oliva is most personally proud of.
In the midst of of Jon Oliva’s music career, he has also founded and nurtured his Heavy Metal brainchild known as Jon Oliva’s Pain, with four studio albums released since 2004. Jon Oliva’s Pain has recently released a fourth studio album on AFM Records titled, “Festival”, this very same month on April 13th. Recently, Jon Oliva took the time from his busy schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout about his terrific new album and the music he has created and loves. Here’s what Jon Oliva had to say:
HRH: Jon, I can’t stop listening to “Festival”, I’m really hooked! An incredible album you made here!
Jon Oliva: Thank you, “Festival” really is an album that grows on you each time you listen to it.
HRH: As with all of the music you have created or helped to create, it’s always been a listening experience for me. “Festival” continues this trend. How did you prepare your thoughts and ideas for this new and amazing album?
Jon Oliva: There’s a lot of little things in the background. The last album, (“Global Warning”/AFM Records), was an experimental album and I pretty much got that out of my system. I wanted to play guitar, so when we were on tour in Europe, “Festival” was written. We had an amp and a 4-track riding around Europe! I wanted a darker, old school Savatage type album, a back to basics without losing any weird stuff that is heard in the songs.
HRH: “Festival” showcases your musical diversity, all the while maintaining a dark, hard and heavy style. Were there any last second double guessing happening while in the studio?
Jon Oliva: Not really, there was a plan. I was confident when we went in and prepared. “Festival” is different from the last three (John Oliva’s Pain) albums, every musical thing was written and ready to go. There was no searching for parts, no searching for keyboard parts, no stress. This was a very happy album to make.
HRH: The song “Now” has an uncanny Classic Rock feel to me, with a tad of ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) flavor and still it’s Jon Oliva’s Pain. Is that accurate for me to state?
Jon Oliva: Sure! A big influence on me is ELO, I love that band! Back when I was eighteen years old, my bother Criss and I wrote the chorus for this song in grandmas garage. After all those years, I pulled the tape out, wrote a new verse for it, inserted the chorus and this song, “Now”, is the result. “Now” was half written in 1978!
HRH: That’s really cool, the story behind “Now”.
HRH: “Death Rides A Black Horse” gives me goose bumps, such an epic power it delivers. How did this song come about?
Jon Oliva: From a nightmare. Lyrically based on nightmares are all my songs. I saw that guy with the long scythe, it was death coming through the clouds and he had fire in his eyes. What I remember from nightmares I elaborate on it, lyrically. I have nephews in the military and their slogan is this song title, so I thought it was a great name for a song! I wanted to do it for them, adding their slogan as the song title. “Now” and “Lies” are two songs not based on a dream or nightmare though. “Living On The Edge” is about being chased by something I cannot see, all I am seeing is blackness ahead of the lines in the road. The storyteller comes out in me through songs, I just improvise the ending of these nightmares I have.
HRH: It’s amazing and unique, these nightmares you have that eventually become songs.
Jon Oliva: Since I was a kid, I always have nightmares, every night. As a kid, I would watch “Creature Feature” (a Saturday morning/classic horror movie matinee on television) and my mom would warn me, “you’ll have nightmares if you watch this stuff!” My brain is having a party up there and this is what comes out in my sleep!
HRH: Each time I listen to “Festival” I get the perception that there is no slowing down Jon Oliva. How true is my perception?
Jon Oliva: Very true. There is a lot going on in my life. I am creating as much music as I can, while I can still do it. I’m not twenty one anymore and eventually it will all stop. I still have a lot of stuff on tape to pull out and work on. I like to get up and get out there! As I get older, I have acquired a sense of urgency. Trans Siberian Orchestra helps, I get lots of music through them that doesn’t suit John Oliva’s Pain, the Hard Rock and heavy side of Pain. The soft and more tender music I write suits Trans Siberian Orchestra.
HRH: Is there a North American tour on the horizon for Jon Oliva’s Pain?
Jon Oliva: I’m looking at a mid September to late September window, with a few dates in the Northeast and I’m working on setting this up. Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York would be the area for these dates. The economy is bad and the drinking age is twenty one. The club scene is killed with the drinking age of twenty one. The clubs lose fifty percent of their business with twenty one being the drinking age.
HRH: I always wonder, how much of a deterrent to alcohol this drinking age of twenty one really is.
Jon Oliva: It’s not a deterrent. When we were young, you would still gather somewhere to drink and play music.
HRH: Yeah, my buddies and I would set up in a remote field in the woods, crank up some Metal and let the keg beer flow!
Jon Oliva: Exactly! That’s what we did.
HRH: Who were your musical influences growing up and even now?
Jon Oliva: The Beatles and ELO. ELO’s music is so melodic. I saw ELO in concert in Florida, sometime in the late 70’s. ELO had this enormous spaceship on stage, it was like going to see Alice Cooper for the first time!
HRH: Was it the “Out Of The Blue” tour?
Jon Oliva: I believe it was. It was around 1977 and 1978.
Jon Oliva: Theater Rock is what I’ve always been into and inspired by. People get bored at a concert without entertainment on stage, you might as well stay home and listen to the album or CD instead. If you are really into ELO, Klaatu is a band you should look into. I’ve always loved this band’s music. They were a Canadian Progressive Rock band. Klaatu is named after a character in the science fiction movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.
HRH: Thanks Jon, I’ll have to definitely check out Klaatu.
HRH: Which instrument, that you play, gives you the most satisfaction?
Jon Oliva: The piano. There’s nothing like playing a real piano and singing. The guitar also, it’s a weird combination. I can get real emotion on the keyboards, yet it transposes better on guitar. Still, the touch and feel on a piano is something special.
HRH: Will Trans Siberian Orchestra return with a new Christmas theme in the future?
Jon Oliva: I’m not sure, it’s Paul O’Neill’s decision. Paul has lot’s of projects set up that he wants to get out.
HRH: Jon, you have seen and done it all in the world of music. What moment or moments in your career make you the most proud?
Jon Oliva: Becoming so successful with Trans Siberian Orchestra. Trans Siberian Orchestra is Savatage. We worked very long on Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra put a cap on Savatage, it’s all the same people. It was always as if we never could get over the hump, (with Savatage), where Savatage was a big name band, by changing the name to Trans Siberian Orchestra, it broadened the whole thing. Trans Siberian Orchestra was a natural progression to go to, there are no limitations, many musicians and singers are featured while the nucleus of Savatage is there. We have the same writers in Paul O’Neill and myself. The name and versatility of Savatage changed.
Living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trying to survive since 1980, we, (Savatage), would get beaten down and people would stomp on us! Then we got back up for another ten rounds with Mike Tyson and finally delivered that Buster Douglas punch with Trans Siberian Orchestra! Trans Siberian Orchestra is the biggest band, if not, one of the biggest bands in America today, two shows sell out a day! Currently, “Beethoven’s Last Night” is on tour.
HRH: Is music all about life or is life all about music?
Jon Oliva: Music is all about life! Music is personal experiences, desires, dreams, loves and losses. Music is life with a tune!
HELLOWEEN – “UNARMED, BEST OF 25TH ANNIVERSARY” TAKES A METAL DETOUR!
For 25 years, this pioneering Power Metal band originating from Germany, has taken their fans along a journey of 12 studio albums. From Helloween’s legendary 1985 debut, Walls Of Jericho, to their 2007 release, Gambling With The Devil, this important, resilient, multi-talented and influential band has many a song to choose from for their Unarmed, Best Of 25th Anniversary album. One can debate for a year and a day, as to which of their favorite Helloween songs were included or ignored for this milestone album release. Regardless, Unarmed is by far and large, the most grandiose Helloween album ever to have been created.
Usually, upon my hearing the news of a new Helloween album coming up on the Metal horizon, I begin to lick my chops in anticipation of more speed, power and old school Heavy Metal from this incredible band. Well, Metal truth be told, Unarmed is quite the Metal detour for Helloween and their worldwide fan base too. These classic Helloween songs from years long past, have undergone some major changes in their arrangements! Allow me to explain further… an untold number of composers, producers and arrangers all embarked on the restructuring of these 11 Helloween classics heard on Unarmed. Try this on for Metal size – the 70 Piece Prague Philharmonics Orchestra and the London Choir also play a major role in the musical identity of Unarmed!
Certainly, these songs do sound remarkably different, only this detour did not disappoint me one bit. As an old Metal wise man once told me… “change is a good thing”. Still, this is quantum change for any Helloween fans ears to handle upon a first listen to Unarmed. It’s like shifting gears while driving a standard, it’s all about instinct – while accepting such a dramatic musical change of pace. I became instantly aware from the first note of “Dr. Stein”, that I needed to shift my Metal soul into a mellow soul. “Dr. Stein” does play out as a Classic Rock song, now. With similarities to early 1980’s E Street Band, (minus The Boss), “Dr. Stein” is a knee slapping, foot tapping good time… courtesy of the horn section that really adds to the flavor.
As Unarmed plays out, the quality and sum of the musical parts far outweigh any distractions that I may have experienced during several complete listens of Unarmed. The distractions being – where’s the Speed Metal? Hey, this used to be a Power Metal song! And… the ultimate distraction of them all… could I possibly be falling over for this Unarmed version of Helloween? Metal be thy name! Metal as my witness, I have a soft spot in my Metal heart for this Unarmed chapter of Helloween.
For those die-hard Helloween fans that may not absorb musical change with Metal ease… do not despair for you most likely will not be alone. Fans will either love or (gasp) dislike what Helloween has embarked upon here. I just so happen to be an open minded Metalhead that upholds a love for music, thus my appreciation towards such a drastic change by Helloween is not an alarming issue in my Metal world at all.
Truth be told, Helloween has showed me why I have admired them as musicians first and foremost for so many years, their musical transition on Unarmed has been presented upon my ears, with the highest of quality standards and without question… credibility. Helloween loyalists will embrace Unarmed, as for other curious fans out there… don’t be afraid, take a chance on Unarmed, it won’t ruin your Metal soul!
One last interesting note: there is a hidden track on Unarmed! The song title is – “Why”. My question is this, why is “Why” a hidden track? There is absolutely no mention of this song within the liner notes either. An Unarmed, Helloween mystery that may never be explained!
Rating: Out of 10
- Dr. Stein
- Future World
- If I Could Fly
- Where The Rain Grows
- The Keeper’s Trilogy
- Eagle Fly Free
- Perfect Gentleman
- Forever & One
- I Want Out
- Fallen To Pieces
- A Tale That Wasn’t Right
- Why (Bonus Track)
Andi Deris – Vocals
Michael Weikath – Guitar, Backing vocals
Sascha Gerstner – Guitar, Backing vocals
Markus Grosskopf – Bass, Backing vocals
Daniel Löble – Drums
ARMORED SAINT – TRIUMPHANTLY RETURNS WITH “LA RAZA”
When Armored Saint decided to make a return to the recording studio, the Heavy Metal Gods were surely smiling upon them. If I’m to point out a “comeback” Heavy Metal album for 2010, La Raza gets my vote without hesitation. All ten songs on this new Armored Saint album are as quality a listen I’ve had all year. Released on March 16, 2010, on Metal Blade Records, La Raza is best summed up as the most complete sounding Armored Saint album that has ever been created. No pretensions and no gimmicks to be heard on La Raza, this is Armored Saint we are talking about.
Blame it on the inevitable maturation process of these seasoned musicians or maybe the fact that bass guitarist/song writer Joey Vera along with vocalist/song writer John Bush had something to prove to themselves and the rest of the world. Regardless, the solidarity of Armored Saint I hear on La Raza has never come across this potent and real before… to my ears.
I’m by no means overlooking any Armored Saint album of the past here, only pinpointing 2010 as a moment in time for this blue collar American Heavy Metal Band, that deserves to have their finest album to date exposed for what it is, and it is song writing brilliance. Lyrically, the songs on La Raza don’t glamorize keg parties and girls gone wild, no way, this is Armored Saint. With a glance and a nod to some Old School tendencies that can never be shaken off, (thank God for that), Armored Saint fuses their traditional Heavy Metal approach with oozing relevancy.
La Raza could very well be “that album” that captures the mood and attitude of the 1980’s metalheads that still wear their Heavy Metal hearts on their sleeves in 2010. Armored Saint may come across as mature, only the hardness of their musical roots shines through with decadent streams of heaviness on La Raza. Chilled is one amazingly cool song that radiates this mature ideal… both lyrically and musically. I personally have chosen “Chilled” to be my pick for Heavy Metal song of the year, one that should be played loud while taking a long Summer nights drive with the windows down.
The song “La Raza” reminds fans like me, that Armored Saint has not lost a step in their Heavy Metal beat. Guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan not only compliment each other, they streamline the identifiable sound that makes Armored Saint heavy in the first place. Melodic is this entire La Raza album, with multi flashes of thunderous outbursts coming from the bass lines of Joey Vera and the ultra solid drumming of Gonzo Sandoval. John Bush vocally sounds refreshed and driven… on every song.
An Old School retreat of a song like “Get Off The Fence” only embellishes La Raza all the more with its standout quality of songs. The guitar solo, multi licks and backing vocals on “Get Off The Fence” brings back memories as to why I got hooked on Traditional Heavy Metal in the first place. “Black Feet” alone can stand on its own Heavy Metal feet, (no pun intended), with its strategically placed slow tempos that cave into some seriously heavy grooves. “Left Hook From Right Field” takes its stab at 100% proof Heavy Metal and succeeds with its unforgettable riffs, leads and hooks… and John Bush singing lights out.
Heavy Metal purists should find themselves embarrassed, if they are to turn a deaf ear to this Armored Saint accomplishment of an album. Armored Saint and La Raza would be a listening requirement, mandated by me… if Heavy Metal was the law. Regardless of my wishful thinking, let La Raza engulf your ears soon, you don’t want to miss out on one gem of a Heavy Metal album… that 2010 and beyond has to offer.
Rating: Out of 10
1. Loose Cannon
2. Head On
3. Left Hook from Right Field
4. Get Off the Fence
6. La Raza
7. Black Feet
8. Little Monkey
10. Bandit Country
Armored Saint is:
John Bush – vocals
Jeff Duncan – guitar
Joey Vera – bass
Phil Sandoval – guitar
Gonzo Sandoval – drums
If Jon Oliva has proven one thing throughout his music career, it’s that he is never at a loss for storytelling through song. Jon Oliva’s Pain is just another amazing band that he has nurtured and built to stand the test of time. Festival is the newest release from Jon Oliva’s Pain, (released on April 13, 2010 in the U.S.). Festival is just that… a festival of songs that embody horror, nightmarish stories and the human experience.
If you are hankering for a new Heavy Metal album, that touches on some diverse musical material, while lending some dark themes lyrically, Festival should satisfy your palette. Need not worry though, this album delivers the hard and heavy that has grown on me considerably, which should do the same for any Jon Oliva’s Pain or Heavy Metal fan, in all likelihood. Jon Oliva is no stranger to atmospherics and chilling sound effects… Jon Oliva’s Pain delivers such mentioned on the opening track Festival. The chilling and carnival like sound effects open Festival, with spine curdling thunder storm atmospherics that explodes the creep-out meter.
“Death Rides A Black Horse” is a superior listen into a nightmare that engages with its epic and haunting keyboards. Without question, I cannot get “Death Rides A Black Horse” out of my mind ever since I first heard it, the atmospheric keyboards are what has captivated me so incredibly. This very easily can be the highlight song, that is played at the culmination of an epic horror film. “Eyes of hell burn in his eyes” are just a sampling of the lyrical content this song bestows… the grim reaper rides again through Jon Oliva’s Pain!
The one word that comes to mind while listening to Festival, is that these songs embody the integrity and substance of a man who knows how to write the utmost credible music and lyrics. Now has the sound and flavor of late 1970’s Electric Light Orchestra, while never leaving the threads of Jon Oliva’s Pain far behind.”Lies” upholds a Power Metal meets Traditional Heavy Metal union. Jon Oliva’s vocals on “Lies” reminds me of just how Heavy Metal vocals can pierce through a song with uncanny resonance.
“Looking For Nothing” has a Beatle-esque coating, the music speaks tranquility, all the while brandishing a 1970’s Classic Rock sword. “Living On The Edge” jumps out at me as a psyche-you-out song that straddles dark lyrics with an electrifying hardness. This dramatic song finds its incredible balance within its memorable melodies, caught between the speed and paced heaviness of the music itself.
To comment on the totality of musicianship I hear on Festival, the only way I can describe the credibility of this Jon Oliva’s Pain lineup, is to state, please take the time to buy Festival and listen for yourself… honestly, these guys are that great at what they do. If there is that one song on Festival, that exemplifies what I honestly mean here, it is “Winter Haven”. This song distinguishes itself amongst Festival as raising the music bar… and Jon Oliva’s Pain have succeeded in doing just that, in my Metal opinion.
Layered and textured are the songs throughout Festival, the ingredients and arrangements from a music mastermind in Jon Oliva comes through with heavy and soft results. I find both the heavy and soft sides of Festival, to be quite delectable for my music palette. This is a return to Old School form for Jon Oliva’s Pain, only it is presented with admirable conscientious care. If Jon Oliva set out to celebrate his interpretation of Heavy Metal, he has done so with Jon Oliva’s Pain and Festival… and I’m on board for this celebration.
Rating: Out of 10
01. Lies 6:18
02. Death Rides A Black Horse 5:28
03. Festival 4:22
04. Afterglow 6:50
05. Living On The Edge 5:10
06. Looking For Nothing 2:42
07. The Evil Within 4:36
08. Winter Haven 7:38
09. I Fear You 5:11
10. Now 3:51
Jon Oliva’s Pain is:
Jon Oliva – vocals, keyboards
Matt LaPorte – guitars
Tom McDyne – guitars
Kevin Rothney – bass
Christopher Kinder – drums
AT VANCE – “RIDE THE SKY” RIDES WITH POTENT & MELODIC POWER METAL!
AT VANCE – Ride The Sky was released on January 12, 2010, an album emboldened with the blazing guitar mastery of founder and leader Olaf Lenk. Guitar enthusiasts know that Olaf Lenk will more than fortify the songs of At Vance, to unreal heights of the Melodic Power Metal stratosphere. Ride The Sky plays this truth out, in non-excessive fashion. Olaf Lenk has the acute ability to streamline his leads and solos into an all-out accessible listen, which in turn becomes dozens of listens. Giving equal spotlight to lead vocalist Rick Altzi, Olaf has truly found a star with this frontman. Rick Altzi convincingly adds a classic Hard Rock touch, vocally, to Ride The Sky, combined with his credible Power Metal pipes.
The album title and opening track Ride The Sky makes no excuses for what is about to come. Sensational from the onset with its bridge leading into a heightened Power Metal theme, that sets the excellent musical standards of this ensuing album. Vivaldi, Summer 2nd Set is the one Euro Power Metal trademark song, an instrumental that gains it’s identity through its Medieval ambiance of keys, rhythm and guitar tone. Salvation Day has the emotional theme in both its lyrics and music, a song that catapults inspiration into a mesmerizing plane. End Of Days is acceptably the fastest song on this album, blending an inspired rhythm attack from bass guitarist Wolfman and drummer Alex Landenburg with borderline shredding from Olaf.
If you have heard even the slightest comparisons of Rick Altzi to the legendary David Coverdale, those comparisons are justified. No where will you hear more, the shades of David Coverdale, than in Rick Altzi’s vocals in that of Wishing Well. This genuine Classic Rock song, made famous by the legendary Free, is covered so brilliantly here by At Vance that I equate it to taking a Metal Music ecstasy pill. I’m not kidding. Olaf Lenk knows where Hard Rock and Heavy Metal roots were sown, giving Free such an enormous nod through the cover of Wishing Well exemplifies this.
Torn – Burning Like Fire is a song that should make the great Yngwie J. Malmsteen smile, with it’s melodic muscle and lyrics, coupled with Olaf Lenk’s arena style riffs and leads, this song is an old school standout. Power is adequately titled, this song is laden with old school Hard Rock crisscrossing with Power Metal of 2010, best defined as a sped up mid ’80’s Whitesnake with Rainbow lyrics. Not to be misunderstood, influences that I hear aside… Power is as original an example as you will hear from At Vance.
You And I is the ballad found on Ride The Sky. I will stand outside the Metal box here and respect my own self commandment: thou shall not criticize a ballad just because I am not fond of them. This ballad has the balance and fortitude to belong on Ride The Sky, plus Olaf Lenk saves the day with his most appreciated and short guitar solo. Besides, Rick Altzi has the vocals that are tailor-made for a ballad once in a while.
There are Power Metal albums and then there are those elite offerings that only come around every half dozen years or so… Ride The Sky is one such album. Olaf Lenk has an At Vance lineup that has obviously seen and listened to his Power Metal vision. Olaf Lenk and his band At Vance can now continue onward, with Ride The Sky as their newest measuring stick of Melodic Power Metal completeness.
Rating: Out of 10
01. Ride The Sky
02 Burning Like Fire
03. End Of Days
04. Wishing Well
06. Last In Line
08. Glommy Monday
10. Salvation Day
12. You And I
At Vance is:
Rick Altzi – vocals
Olaf Lenk – guitars
Wolfman – bass
Alex Landenburg – drums
When you think of Thrash Metal legends, the first bands that come to mind are usually Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus and Anthrax. Old School Metal fans know… there is another extremely key player in this legendary mix of Thrash Metal originators and it is – Overkill. Going on three decades, with 15 studio albums, an EP, a covers album and 2 live albums under their legendary Thrash Metal belts, Overkill is as Metal potent as ever. Setting out to embark on their Spring North American Tour in support of their 15th studio album – “Ironbound”, original member and vocalist Bobby “The Blitz” Ellsworth cordially took the time recently to talk to Hard Rock Hideout. Here is what Bobby had to say:
HRH: What were the thoughts of Overkill going in to record Ironbound?
Bobby: There was a newer energy within the band, we came in right off the road to assemble Ironbound. The unseen hand or the x-factor was the energy we felt in the studio. It was business as usual, still we were feeling something special while recording Ironbound, this afforded us the luxury of coming together so quickly as musicians and finishing this album.
HRH: Ironbound is on the E1 Music label, are you committed to a defined number of albums with them?
Bobby: Yeah, 100 albums! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) You know Bobby, at the rate Overkill has been going over the years, that is not far fetched!
Bobby: Two more records with E1 Music here, with Nuclear Blast for the rest of the world.
HRH: I actually feel Ironbound is one of the best Overkill albums ever.
Bobby: Thanks, that’s quite a compliment! After 15 albums and over 25 years of Overkill, we are concentrating on today and this Ironbound album and tour. The beauty of Overkill is you know what to expect, yet it is different with each album. Ironbound has teeth, energy and the x-factor, there’s turns at every angle. Ironbound is rooted in what Overkill has been doing since we first became a band and what we are doing today. This album gives you the best of both worlds.
HRH: Where can we catch Overkill on tour this Spring, any updates?
Bobby: We begin our tour on April 1st, in Philadelphia at The Trocadero and on May 1st in New York City, (Nokia Theater in Times Square), it finishes. Coming out to see us live is to really experience Overkill!
Bobby: Not necessarily, I write abstractly. “Endless War” is a little bit more personal and abstract, yet it relates across the board. One man’s cross doesn’t outweigh another man’s cross. This song can apply to what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and real life at home. I make comments socially and politically when I write. Ironbound screams louder in the dark, the angst and chaos is valid emotion on Ironbound. I have had over sixteen records to cleanse myself!
HRH: “The Goal Is Your Soul”, can the lyrical content here be representative of white collar crime on Wall Street?
Bobby: Not necessarily, it’s more of a comment on right wing and fanatic Christian and Muslim religions. Organized religion is dangerous, it creates an army in it’s own right. There is danger in the word organized. Organized religion is very follower based. You can also interpret it as the enemy is right here, every day with politics.
HRH: Overkill is arguably the most consistent Thrash Metal band in history, based on album releases and touring. Was an old school work ethic instilled in you at an early age?
Bobby: I think so, it’s my background as a person. DD, (bass guitarist and founding member), and I were raised as such, with a “you want then work for it” discipline. It’s the principals and values of Overkill from the very beginning that has led us here. Doing more and giving your all is the premise this band works on. We always tweak it up, year after year. Our strong work ethic, helps in getting us to go through the artistic torture of making albums for so long, being a band and touring.
HRH: Two words to throw at you, use a free style way to convey your thoughts about them please. Punk Rock.
Bobby: Unbridled energy. Punk Rock has always been the x-factor in Overkill. We started our band covering Punk Rock songs! The Dead Boys, Ramones and Sex Pistols are all influences. The Punk Rock influence is what gives Overkill that different angle that other bands don’t have.
HRH: From “Relix IV”, I love “Old School”, it has that Punk Rock sound and feel.
Bobby: It’s a great song, it’s been a live staple on our set list ever since we released Relix IV.
HRH: What peer band would Overkill take to battle with?
Bobby: There are plenty of us that are cut from the same cloth. Exodus. Overkill and Exodus hold a lot of the same principals. There’s still competition there, yet when we toured together it brought out the best in both bands on stage.
HRH: Are we experiencing a Thrash Metal revival or has Thrash Metal never gone away to begin with?
Bobby: It never went away! Overkill has been doing this straight since 1985. There is a resurgence in popularity with great young bands like Warbringer, Gamma Bomb and Bonded By Blood. Plus, Overkill is also recruiting younger fans with Ironbound in 2010.
HRH: Over the years, what moment truly defined Overkill as being resilient to outside forces?
Bobby: Overkill is special, we always have been able to put ourselves as people ahead of the band. I have known DD for thirty years, our friendship is amazing. In Overkill, “you” come first, not your writing. Overkill is a team, we are more so real about life, instead of business.
HRH: If you could have any famous musical guest on your next Overkill album, who would it be?
Bobby: I’d like to do a duet with Ronnie James Dio. That would be a lot of fun! Lemmy too, (Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead). Lemmy and I sang live together once onstage, it was a lot of fun.
HRH: “Coverkill” is a great tribute to many legendary bands and their songs. What are the chances of there ever being a Coverkill II?
Bobby: I’m not thinking in those terms now. There is a possibility, of course, that it could be done. Since Coverkill, we have covered some new and different songs, Eric Burdon and The Animals and Johnny Cash are just a couple of examples. Still, I think in terms of the day instead of the future, it’s more about the now.
HRH: “Promises” on “From The Underground And Below”, (1997 album), I really like. Is there another ballad in the future for Overkill?
Bobby: I don’t think so. This song was written due to the death of a very close friend. I was able to cleanse the soul through these lyrics. It was necessary for me to get rid of the sadness I was feeling because of this loss. It is real emotion that you hear on “Promises”, not contrived emotion. That song was not the norm for us, then again, it was not the norm for us to be in that situation to write that song either. It’s life, an opportunity to express that emotion I was feeling on a higher level. “Promises” is a testimonial to someone’s life is a way to explain it.
Bobby: They can handle alcohol! Really, the idea of alcohol is part of someone’s life at a younger age in Europe, not so in America. Shit can happen in the U.S., one hundred thousand people will create assaults in the U.S., there’s nothing like that over in Europe. I was at a festival right here in New Jersey last year, there were people arrested for assaulting a police officer! That’s pretty bad when the police start getting assaulted at Rock festivals here. The festivals in Europe are well organized, big beer sponsors are needed and Europe has them. Insurance costs for festivals can dictate why the U.S. doesn’t go for them too.
HRH: What is your favorite Overkill album and why?
Bobby: Horrorscope from ’91. It’s the first album DD and I wrote together. I can’t look at Ironbound as being my favorite because it is new, I need to let it sit with me for about a year.
HRH: One of my favorite Overkill albums too, I love “Frankenstein”.
Bobby: Yeah, that’s a good one! DD has a running joke that Frankenstein is the best song I’ve ever sung on! (laughs)
HRH Note: “Frankenstein” is an instrumental.
HRH: Throughout the years, what tour sticks in your mind the most?
Bobby: Motorhead 1988 and 2007. Growing up a Motorheadbanger, the excitement to meet and tour with a band that I looked up to was incredible. We covered their songs in cover bands and now we’re on tour with Motorhead! In Europe, on the 2007 tour with Motorhead, Lemmy asked me to sing onstage with him! That was just a positive experience! Here we were in 2007, nineteen years after the first tour together and Motorhead is just as nice a group of guys as they were when we first met them.
HRH: Is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame useful or useless?
Bobby: Useful, I was able to carve my name into the bathroom stall wall there with my pocket knife! (laughs)
Bobby: It’s very cool. There are different things in Rock and Roll to be recognized. It’s an avant-garde answer to what music was in the 1950’s. It’s Rock and Roll history and it’s a necessity to bring forth this history to the public.
HRH: I feel Motorhead belongs in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bobby: They will be someday.
MUTINY WITHIN – New Jersey has bred once again, a heavy band that might one day become a household name… and why shouldn’t Mutiny Within attain such status? Anything is possible in the world of Hard & Heavy Music, it’s quality and perseverance that wins out in the end. Thus far, Mutiny Within has proved to my ears, the quality in their slim lined Progressiveness, that they have fused within their Melodic Metalcore. On their debut and self titled album, (released February 23, 2010 on Roadrunner Records), Mutiny Within does take a couple of chances as a band, these chances are: 1: lead vocalist Chris Clancy pronounces the lyrics with surprisingly cool eloquence and 2: there exists the atmospheric and space filled keyboards manned by Drew Stavola.
These two musical characteristics of Mutiny Within are not a rarity in Heavy Metal, rather they are a tad uncommon in Metalcore as a whole. I find both of these attributes to be of significant strengths for Mutiny Within, almost like a breath of fresh Melodic Metalcore air. As technically astute as they are melodic, this band of 6 musicians, almost sound as if they have a couple of polished studio albums under their belts already. I’m not trying to ring the Metal bell here, stating we are welcoming in the next Queensryche or Dream Theater… what Mutiny Within represents to me, is an eclectic mix of Metal styles that are woven together with relevancy, talent and wit.
Awake embarks lyrically on an emotional journey of sorrow, colliding with new found hope. Awake is a definitive and standout “hit” from Mutiny Within. Images encapsulates the harmonious vocals complimented by vocal growling, amidst the progressive keyboards and searing dual guitars. Year Of Affliction begins with a tremendous up tempo, subsiding to subtle keys and then erupting into a volcanic overflow of heaviness, while never losing sight of melodic layering. Lethean without doubt in my ears and mind, scorches like there is no tomorrow, thanks in part to the guitar duo of Daniel Bage and Brandon Jacobs. The exchanging leads and solos are above impressive on Lethean, proving to me that these young guitarists want to make a career out of this.
Only one song hits the 4 minute mark on Mutiny Within which is Suffocate, proving that flirting with progressiveness doesn’t equate to elongated material. Suffocate delves lyrically into a self-psychoanalytical battlefield, a song that can be open to interpretation and to be digested numerous times… this song is that heavily good. Reflections is the album closer, fortified with all the musical elements that Mutiny Within has so fantastically elevated, throughout the other ten songs.
Bill Fore on drums is ever relentless throughout each song, with Andrew Jacobs keeping the pounding rhythmic pace flowing, at every twist and turn. Daniel Bage and Brandon Jacobs can and easily do steal the show during these songs on Mutiny Within, proving convincingly that heavy and melodic really coexist. Has Mutiny Within truly broken any new ground in the world of Metal Music here? Not necessarily, yet how many bands really do nowadays? What Mutiny Within has done here, is weaved through the textured world of progressive music while not letting go of any heavy and fast styles. Add a melodic mindset as the bookends to their songs and it only makes Mutiny Within that much more appealing, so much in fact, I look forward to their 25th anniversary reissue of their debut album… down the Metal road.
You can get this CD for only $5.00. Please visit Mutiny Within’s myspace page to find out how.
- Falling Forever
- Year Of Affliction
Mutiny Within is:
Chris Clancy – Vocals
Brandon Jacobs – Lead Guitar
Dan Bage – Rhythm Guitar
Andrew Jacobs – Bass, Backing Vocals
Bill Fore – Drums
Andrew Stavola – Keyboards
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – has no sophomore blues to remedy with their second studio album War Is The Answer, (released on September 22, 2009). If a one line review was to suffice regarding War Is The Answer, I would take a corn dog route and just say: Skull crushing Hard Rock that melds with the finer points of Heavy Metal. Alright, with that said, Ivan Moody has secured his place among Hard Rock and Heavy Metal’s most convincing and steel solid vocalists. Ivan’s vocals on War Is The Answer can be construed as the show stealer, however, there is one terrific band behind him as well… and these guys have also secured themselves some heavy respect, with laying down the hard and heavy.
Cutting to the Metal chase on the ferocious songs heard on War Is The Answer, a standout for me is “Burn It Down”. It opens up into an angst fueled and welcomed invasion of Metal music and lyrics. An electrifying song is “Burn It Down”, highlighted by exquisitely heavy guitar licks from the guitar tandem of Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook. Five Finger Death Punch never comes across as playing heavy out of necessity, these guys play heavy because they damn well can… and play it hard and heavy – extremely well. “Canto 34″ is all rip and tear, with elevated riffs and melodic leads that creates the genuine factor that this band glistens with. If a heavy instrumental could talk, then “Canto 34″ is a testimonial to someone or something very important to Five Finger Death Punch.
“Falling In Hate” rages along with Metal glee, a sound reminder that no one should ever consider messing with this band in a remote alley. “Falling In Hate” flat out smokes, the hardcore vocals of Ivan Moody ignites the powerful mood here. The cover version of “Bad Company” receives a unique FFDP spin, it’s harder, faster and downright leaner and meaner than it’s iconic original. I’ll always revere the original Bad Company song, still, FFDP pronounces this classic in a way that cannot ever be ignored or denied. Far From Home is an up tempo and heavy ballad, it seems to fit into this album rather seamlessly… a short detour from the storm filled sound that FFDP is so well known to carry out.
“War Is The Answer”, the albums title song, borders on that fine line of Thrash meets Hardcore, both musically and lyrically. The profound ability for FFDP to shift gears, into various levels of heaviness, is what I most admire about them.”War Is The Answer” is THE song to listen to when you feel like someone has slighted your life in any way… it’s Metal psychotherapy for the ears! “No One Gets Left Behind” maintains the precision accuracy of speedy riffs and leads alongside a hell bent for Metal rhythm section that this entire album is seething with. The military oath of “no one gets left behind” has never been more heavier stated and explained than on this FFDP song… it’s an eye popping listen!
Closing out my Metal praise for War Is The Answer is “Dying Breed”. If FFDP was looking for that Metal body slam to close the door on this fantastic album… they succeeded. Ivan Moody’s diverse use of his vocal range coupled with layered vocal harmonies, lent an element of surprise upon my very first listen to what is a very heavy song. FFDP once again, uniformly as a band unites their talents, in creating an album that screams textured hardness, molten together with all the heavy goodness of what we Hard Rock and Heavy Metal fans love to savor.
- Dying Breed
- Hard To See
- No One Gets Left Behind
- Crossing Over
- Burn It Down
- Far From Home
- Falling In Hate
- My Own Hell
- Walk Away
- Canto 34
- Bad Company
- War Is The Answer
Five Finger Death Punch is:
Ivan Moody – vocals
Zoltan Bathory – rhythm guitar
Jason Hook – lead guitar
Matt Snell – bass guitar
Jeremy Spencer – drums
OVERKILL – with 15 studio and a few live albums released by Overkill since their 1985 Feel The Fire debut, these Thrash Metal legends originating from New Jersey, have unleashed their newest Metal carnage among the masses… IRONBOUND. Released on February 9, 2010 on E1 Music, Ironbound could very well be Overkill’s finest album to date. Judging from the speed and thrashtastic riffage, leads and solo’s of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer, frenetic drumming of Ron Lipnicki, empowering bass grooves from DD Verni and of course, the trademark, hardened and vicious vocals of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, to walk away from Ironbound feeling Thrash fulfilled is a Metal understatement. The two opening songs – “The Green And Black” and “Ironbound” are how Thrash Metal albums are supposed to begin… like decisive missile strikes and extremely Metal monumental.
“Ironbound” just sounds as if DD and “Blitz” decided to not just remind the world they are Thrash Metal originators and icons, they have also pronounced and engraved their loyalty to a genre they helped create. “The Green And Black” offers such a diverse song structure, with it’s near epic length of over 8 minutes. “Endless War” capitalizes on the combination of lyrical imagery, (a soldiers dread, suffering and anguish of dying) and blazingly brilliant, Thrash musicianship. The sinister acoustic intro to “The Goal Is Your Soul”, only accentuates the impending Thrash heaviness that is to follow. This song’s message can/may be interpreted: reap what you sow by your actions/words and knowing one can lose their soul to damnation and the dark unknown, despite life’s blessings being fulfilled or not. This is Overkill’s reality check… as only they can deliver it.
“The Head And Heart” is emblematic of what Overkill’s Thrash Metal makeup is all about. A dark lined intro that submerges your ears into the Thrash assault of heavy and fast grooves with the punctuated vocals of “Blitz” that come across with hellish and angst ridden conviction. The more times I delve my senses into Ironbound, the more I become convinced of Overkill’s allegiance to the foundation of Thrash Metal. Overkill reaches into their underground roots if you will, which is conveyed by them with dominance in their playing, energy, spirit, sound and feel of Ironbound.
Metal truth be told, this is probably the first Overkill album ever, where I have been highly enticed by deciphering the lyrics! This is not to say Overkill never possessed smart, entertaining or attention grabbing lyrics in their past albums. Ironbound just carries with it, an increased intellectual approach to it’s lyrical messages, in my Metal opinion. DD and “Blitz” seemed to turn it up a notch with their lyrics and song writing and this entire Overkill unit has obviously approached this Ironbound album with a type of new found Thrash epiphany.
Lyrical meanings aside, Ironbound is equal to or more explosive, heavy, fast and mean as any Thrash album in Overkill’s iconic catalog. If Overkill were ever be remembered as Metal martyrs, they would be for the Thrash Metal cause they have valiantly forged, with blue collar blood, sweat and muscle for over 25 years. Overkill carrying and waving the flag of Thrash Metal, spanning across decades, is not something I or countless others can ignore. This Overkill lineup has cast their finest album together, Ironbound is a new Overkill Thrash Metal classic, proving once again, this band has not abandoned the Thrash Metal cause, their fans or themselves.
Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth – Vocals
D.D. Verni – Bass, Backing Vocals
Derek “The Skull” Tailer – Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Ron Lipnicki – Drums
Dave Linsk – Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Stratovarius released their first studio album Fright Night in May of 1989. Practically twenty one years to the month later, Stratovarius releases upon their fans, an album of songs that radiates Power Metal sophistication. Polaris, released on May 21, 2009, may not bestow the original Stratovarius lineup, nonetheless, this is as potent a lineup as there ever has been, in this bands history. Being an integral name in a select group of Power Metal pioneers, Stratovarius continues on without original guitarist Timo Tolkki for the first time on Polaris.
Step in new guitarist Matias Kupiainen. The melodic Power Metal guitar of Matias is standout, with his solos abundant on Polaris and not self serving. On Winter Skies, Matias lends his guitar to be a true asset to Stratovarius. Matias’s emotion for playing seeps from his guitar tone with riveting believability on Winter Skies. The same can be said for his talent during many, many moments onPolaris.
Lauri Porra as the new bass guitarist for Stratovarius fits right in alongside drummer Jorg Michael, bringing the melodious thunder that holds together these songs, especially on Blind and Forever Is Today, which can be equated as the two heaviest and fastest tracks on Polaris. Lead vocalist Timo Kotipelto can be considered to be the featured attraction for Stratovarius, never over powering yet powerful enough are his vocals to make any fan of Power Metal or Heavy Metal take notice.
On Polaris, the progressiveness of Stratovarius cannot hide, especially when a song such as Falling Star exists. The integration of Progressive and Power Metal styles that sometimes gets non mentioned doesn’t escape my ears, on a song so dynamic as Falling Star this never sounded more true. King Of Nothing carries out this same Power Metal progressiveness, with a saturated and brilliant overlay of synthetic sound from Jens Johansson’s keyboard skills. At 6:44 long, King Of Nothing borders on epic and plays out masterfully, without ever becoming an elongated power ride of nonsense.
Emancipation Suite I Dusk and Emancipation Suite II Dawn blend together with a thematic power ballad style that is reminiscent of 1970’s Hard Rock legends Styx, with Power Metal mechanisms all in place, of course. The vocals of Timo Kotipelto have pronunciations that remind me of Styx vocalist and founding member Dennis DeYoung, these two opening tracks are my best examples of this complimentary example.
Deep Unknown culminates Polaris as one of the best formulated and once again, mature, Power Metal albums that I have listened to in quite some time. Deep Unknown does not mask itself from any dark theme lyrically, it just spirals it’s way through a mixture of melodies and hooks that signify exactly what Stratovarius is… sophisticated Power Metal. Polaris is not going to grab you with non-stop and heavy Power Metal fury, nor will it have you wondering where the good parts are either. The element of surprise lies in it’s tantalizing progression toward the highs, while never letting in the lows.
Polaris has become a Power Metal album that I would recommend in the same sentence, along with Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Trilogy and Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I. The significance for me lies within the overwhelming musical credibility that I hear from this Stratovarius lineup, in addition to the exemplary song writing and layering of music elements. It’s not always about the heavy in Power Metal, the hardness, diverse tempos and progressive articulation is what has won me over with Polaris.
1. Deep Unknown
2. Falling Star
3. King of Nothing
5. Winter Skies
6. Forever Is Today
7. Higher We Go
8. Somehow Precious
9. Emancipation Suite I: Dusk
10. Emancipation Suite II: Dawn
11. When Mountains Fall
Timo Kotipelto – Vocals
Matias Kupiainen – Guitars
Lauri Porra – Bass
Jorg Michael – Drums
Jens Johansson – Keyboards
Any Metalhead will attest, (from what we can recall), that they had a pretty darn good time back in the ’80’s, so did Ron Keel. This man has seen and done it all – musician, vocalist, song writer, lyricist, composer… and he is still writing his own legacy in 2010. Ron’s most famous band KEEL not only jumped on board the Heavy Metal explosion of those colorful ’80’s, the original lineup is back for another hard and heavy go round with their loyal fans… both old school and new. Ron Keel is a smitten guy these days and there is more to this Heavy Metal veteran, more to this man, once you take in what he has to say. Oh, Ron Keel does have a lot to say too, taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout recently.
With the new KEEL album Streets of Rock & Roll, (released February 9, 2010), receiving it’s just praise from around the Heavy Metal and Hard Rock circles, concerts being aligned in support of this album and the KEEL NATION rising, Ron Keel is a man that is busy, happy and proud to be alive! Ron is excited about the present, reflects on the past, looks more to the future, holds friendship sacred, values his fans, respects and cares about the American troops both past and present, has a charitable heart, reveals his Heavy Metal and Hard Rock dreams and also has a message for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Walmart too… (phew), check it out:
HRH: So, Ron, how are you doing?
Ron Keel: I’m doing great! Keel is back! We just released Streets of Rock & Roll and I’ve never been a bigger fan of Keel in my entire life than right now!
HRH: You sound really happy Ron!
Ron Keel: I am! You know, back in the ’80’s, I used to want to go down in a blaze of glory. I used to think it would be cool to die young in a plane crash or something crazy like that. All those crazy thoughts go through your mind when your young. Now, I want to live! I’m 48 years old and I’ve seen and done it all and I’ve never felt better about life! I’m a husband, father and grandfather now, I want to make music, tour, do the things I love most in life and continue to Rock! I want to continue on with Keel and talk about this band and new album to everyone!
HRH: I’ll have to admit Ron, I really like this Streets of Rock & Roll album, it’s a great album. It Rocks hard.
Ron Keel: Thanks, I really appreciate that, I’m glad you enjoy it. It’s an album that I have in my truck right now, a great album to listen to while taking a long drive through the desert with the windows down. People are liking it, unfortunately Streets of Rock & Roll has been downloaded illegally already. There are ten thousand illegal downloads that were aware of in the first two weeks alone. It’s the other one million illegal downloads that we don’t know about!
HRH: That’s terrible Ron, it’s definitely not like the ’80’s anymore, where each album sold is accounted for.
Ron Keel: Sure, only back in the 80’s there were people out there buying chart positions. It gets real bad with how some albums got pushed up in the charts back then. It’s something I might want to touch on with my autobiography that I’m working on.
HRH: I’m sure I would be schooled on some of those stories.
Ron Keel: Keel was a young band back then, we were screwed out of money, we didn’t know any better back then. We probably sold a lot more albums than was being told to us, maybe a million more. It’s not like that anymore, I’m in charge now of everything.
HRH: Going in to record Streets of Rock & Roll, were there any pre-conceived ideas that were scrapped at the last minute?
Ron Keel: None. The cream always rises to the top, we just let it happen. Recording this album was a natural, easy, creative process. The entire album was written last year, after our (Keel) reunion and there was an excitement of working together again. There was no band meeting or anything like that. It was a six month creative process, it came to be where expressing two to three songs a day was happening and we recorded on June 18th of 2009. Streets of Rock & Roll was the greatest joy of my recording career.
HRH: Sounds like you are very proud of this new album.
Ron Keel: Definitely, it’s a reunion album, it was the right move and I have no regrets. Streets of Rock & Roll has all the great qualities of past Keel albums, the twin guitars of Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay trading licks, big choruses, rhythmic duo voicings, power grooves, the lyrical content, strong attitude and fighting for what we believe in. Lot’s of power. Plus there are different tempos and key grooves, a whole different feel on this new album that takes you on a journey. The strong bond and friendship among Keel shows through these songs. Life felt very natural in the studio while recording Streets of Rock & Roll. This new album would not sound as great if not for Pat Regan, he is the best in the business, his state of the art recording techniques made this album happen!
HRH: Hold Steady, bravo for writing such a patriotic song! Are there loved one’s of yours serving or have served in the Armed Forces?
Ron Keel: Both of my parents served and I have many dear friends that have served or are serving. Back in ’98 and ’99 we toured military bases and that inspiration carries to this day! Everyday is a sacrifice for our service men and women. I have dedicated, to their honor, a free mp3 download of Hold Steady that is available on Keelnation.com. We appreciate and honor the service men and women, by giving them and the fans this song.
HRH: The song and the free download are commendable, Ron.
Ron Keel: Thank you. We really care about our veterans, I like to donate money when it’s available by taking it out of whatever comes through the office in earnings. I don’t care about having the extra money laying around, I’d rather donate it. Just recently, I wrote a check out for The Veteran’s Hospital in Las Vegas. My wife and I strongly support and endorse a special charity as well, it’s to pay for arts classes for kids with parents that have been either severely injured or passed away in war or service. Anyone can donate by visiting http://www.our militarykids.org., it means a great deal to us.
HRH: Again Ron, very commendable.
Ron Keel: Thank you. I have lived a good life and made my money. Donating is not going to hurt our bottom line.
HRH: Live, from Streets of Rock & Roll, is this a personal message from the heart? Sounds like it to me.
Ron Keel: Forty eight years of experience wrote the lyrics to this song. I thought of these lyrics while driving home from a gig one night. I never expected to live this long, I love my life and all of it’s blessings. I have also gone through a change in my personality. My thought is now… you get through the bad times to enjoy the good times. Live is a celebration of good stuff in my life. Let me just say, finding the music to fit the lyrics for Live was the challenge! The melody and lyrics came first, then the music. I’m used to writing or being handed the music first, then adding the lyrics.
HRH: Live came out just fine to me, it Rocks!
Ron Keel: Thank you, I appreciate that you like it.
HRH: I have read recently your statement, that you have some unfinished business to still take care of. What singer or musician do you wish to collaborate with as an unfinished business item?
Ron Keel: One band I want to open for is the Scorpions, on their farewell tour. Keel wants to play with the Scorpions! I am friends with Jon Bon Jovi, Keel opened for him on the Slippery When Wet Tour, so I would love to sit down with him and write some songs together. I also would want to write songs with Chris Daughtry, he is a special, strong and unique talent. I feel Chris Daughtry has bridged the gap between modern Hard Rock edge and old school mentality.
HRH: Those are some powerhouse choices of musicians and bands, Ron. Plus, I really hope the Scorpions read this and give you an opening slot on their tour! You just never know Ron.
Ron Keel: Thats it, plus it would be a dream to play with the Scorpions! I would want to sit down with both Jon Bon Jovi and Chris Daughtry, drink some beers and kick out some songs for an album. I think the three of us together, we would write some great Hard Rock songs!
HRH: (laughs) I would love to sit down with you guys and share a six pack while you write songs.
Ron Keel: (laughs) Oh yeah!
HRH: How come Streets of Rock & Roll is not at Walmart or Target?
Ron Keel: Hey, don’t go to Walmart to buy your music! I buy everything online, it’s all out there. Walmart has nothing for Hard Rock or Heavy Metal! Hey, if Walmart wants me to send them two million copies of Streets of Rock & Roll, no problem! Just ask me! The AC/DC Black Ice marketing campaign was incredible, what Walmart did with them was brilliant.
HRH: KISS Sonic Boom as well. They had the KISS kiosk.
Ron Keel: Yes, KISS Sonic Boom was huge at Walmart! I remember seeing that KISS kiosk.
HRH: You know what you need to get into Walmart besides CD’s, is a Keel kiosk! (laughs)
Ron Keel: (laughs) Yeah! A Keel kiosk! That sounds good to me!
HRH: Well, you know how it is Ron, I’m caught in Walmart, with the family, the CD aisle is a cool escape to hang out in.
Ron Keel: I understand, actually, I went into a Walmart recently and looked for the new Chris Daughtry deluxe edition CD. Walmart didn’t even have it!
HRH: What 1980’s moment in your career do you laugh most about now?
Ron Keel: The ’80’s were happy times, it was a non-stop grind with all of the arena shows. Everyday in the ’80’s was like the 4th of July, New Years Eve and Halloween all together! We had nothing but sold out shows in Japan. As far as remembering a moment where I can laugh about today… there were many crazy female moments.
HRH: Crazy female moments? Such as? Or do we use our imagination?
Ron Keel: (laughs) Yeah! Use our imagination! That’s a good way to put it! Actually, there was this one time, where a girl handcuffed herself to our tour bus door.
HRH: Gee, what happened to this girl?
Ron Keel: (laughs) Well, no one had the key to the handcuffs! I really don’t remember what happened to her! Honestly.
HRH: (laughs) That’s funny.
HRH: What band would you pay top dollar to see, past or present?
Ron Keel: Well, top dollar or no dollar, because I’m friends with many of the bands. I like to support my friend Bret Michaels on his solo tours as much as I can. Nickelback, only when they came to Vegas, I was out of town on tour. Chris Daughtry, AC/DC, and a Van Halen reunion. Bon Jovi just blows me away every night as a fan! Queensryche as well, as a fan!
HRH: What band or musician has been ignored too long by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Ron Keel: KISS! They are one of the five most iconic bands that ever lived! Don’t even get me started on this topic! I’ve expressed my disgust for that place many times in my past. Who votes in that place anyways? I’m not trying to throw The Who under the bus here, but, one hundred years from now, most people will say who is The Who? Not with KISS! One hundred years from now, people will know who KISS is and was! I’m not just saying this because Gene Simmons is a friend of mine either. Man, Gene Simmons’s kids will be running KISS, then the grandchildren will have the run of KISS! Their music, marketing and brand will never go away.
HRH: What song or album did you hear, that inspired you to become a musician?
Ron Keel: The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was two years old, it was February of 1963, I believe. The song was I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I remember looking at my parents and saying, this is what I want to do! I became so addicted and drawn to it at that moment. There were many milestone albums and songs, I devoured it all! KISS, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin all inspired me. Later on, the edgier stuff like Black Sabbath I listened to. As a kid, it all goes back to the 45, those little records I would buy at K-mart. The top thirty songs on 45, I bought them all! Every week, if the top thirty changed too. I learned them and sung them all! My father used to play Country Music all around the house, that is where my Country exposure came from. The Van Halen 1 album changed the world when I was a junior in high school! When I first heard Van Halen, everyone was saying, who is this guy Eddie Van Halen? No one was around that sounded like Eddie Van Halen on guitar. No one sounded like Van Halen, it was great! Because of Van Halen’s overnight explosion, credit Heavy Metal in America because of them.
HRH: Those are really cool influences.
Ron Keel: The kids today, they already know about most of these bands because of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These two games are exposing all of this great Hard Rock and Heavy Metal to new generations, our music will be kept live and fresh for decades to come.
HRH: If you could go back in time and rewrite a movie soundtrack, what movie would it be and why?
Ron Keel: I’m a music movie fan, I also like music biographies of famous people. I would not want to go into the past, I’d rather want to do something new. It’s interesting to consider, with all the t.v. and film work that I do. If I had to go back, it would be Spinal Tap. I would rewrite all the music and lyrics for that one! I wouldn’t mind contributing to a Rock movie as well. My favorites are Eddie and the Cruisers, Pure Country, Crossroads and Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg.
HRH: If you were to make just one more album, knowing it would be your last, what genre would it represent?
Ron Keel: An acoustic album by myself. I already released an acoustic album called Alone At Last. It was the biggest and most personal music achievement of my career. I sang the best of my career on Alone At Last. I want my next generation to listen to it and know that grandpa gave this to them, to know that I am at my happiest when by myself with a guitar and song. Alone At Last was the single most demanding project that I have ever done in my life. My fingers literally bled while making that album. Alone At Last is driving at night songs, through the desert. You can find it on CDBaby.com. Sabre Tiger is the heaviest music I have ever done, progressive too. Country maybe… it would be another acoustic album.
HRH: What is the common thread that has kept Ron Keel, Marc Ferrari, Bryan Jay and Dwain Miller together from the very start?
Ron Keel: Friendship. We never let anything get in the way of friendship, not money, women, drugs, nothing. We became Rock stars together, sharing the best times of our life together. Now we get to do it again! This Keel reunion is not about money, together we have already pumped so much money back into the business. At the end of the day, we settle our differences. We raise our glass to each other, brothers in blood is what we are!
HRH: Just like the song on Streets of Rock & Roll.
Ron Keel: Just like that.
HRH: Any message you want to say to the fans?
Ron Keel: Listen to this new record and enjoy it! It’s special. Fans of commercial Heavy Metal and Hard Rock will enjoy it. Fans can stay in touch with us by visiting online at Keelnation.com. The Keel fans are the people that helped me, helped us, to live a dream life and I cannot forget that. Twenty years from now, I hope the fans still listen to Streets of Rock & Roll!
AXXIS “UTOPIA” IS POWER METAL THEATER AT IT’S FINEST!
AXXIS, the Dortmund, Germany, Heavy Metal band has made quite an impression on me over the years… one being of the upmost Metal respect that I have for them. Going on 21 years in the Heavy Music business, the latest AXXIS release – Utopia, (released on October 6, 2009), is nothing short of dramatic and powerful Heavy Metal. All 11 songs are an all encompassing ride into the stratosphere of Power Metal enlightenment. Structurally solid are the songs on this album, the richness and power of the keyboards are what makes this album sound like I am actually on a journey to Utopia itself. Combine the song writing and semi-progressiveness of Utopia with the nod to old school Heavy Metal and what comes forth is not your standard Power Metal album… or band.
If I am to sum up Utopia with just one word, theatrical would be justified. This is not a word to shy away from on the Power Metal stage, it actually is what should be strived for and Axxis does it so well. Sarah Wanna Die and My Father’s Eyes are fortified with stirring emotion both musically and vocally, very moving are these songs lyrically. Axxis original Bernhard Weiss on lead vocals creates the emotional mood and feelings of this Utopia album, his vocals are of an almost sacred exaltation, with the chorus and keyboards only elevating what’s already powerfully high.
Heavy Rain is my favorite song on Utopia, one that could be construed as a soundtrack for self empowerment into reasoning the darkest of days. Axxis mainstay Harry Oellers on keyboards doesn’t just make background atmospherics, the importance of his musicianship goes beyond the norm on Utopia. His keyboards are the glue that pieces Utopia together, bridging the highs and lows of each songs tempo, while simultaneously lending as a chorus in it’s own musical right.
Lest not forget, that Utopia does Rock heavy, with Marco Wriedt on guitar reminding me of that, with each solid lead, riff and solo. A blend of old school Speed Metal and Traditional Heavy Metal guitar is what Marco brings, exhibiting some classical brilliance along the way. Rob Schomaker on bass and Alex Landenburg on drums add the thunderous pulse to what Axxis has created on Utopia, they are just as integral to these songs overall excellence.
At the end of my Metal day, I will tell anyone that Axxis is an electrifying and theatrical Power Metal Band, Utopia is an album that exhibits this, from beginning to end. Axxis just exercises more emotion within the lyrics and structures of their songs, which is a unique aspect to their brand of Power Metal. Axxis utilizes layering within their music not just because they can, it’s done with reason and with grandiose style that sets them apart. For a powerful, heavy and theatrical journey, get a hold of Utopia and enjoy. Axxis fans have already been on this Utopian, Power Metal trip and are getting ready to board again!
Utopia was released on AFM Records & EMI Capitol.
Rating: Out of 10
1. Journey To Utopia
3. Last Man On Earth
4. Fass Mich An
5. Sarah Wanna Die
6. My Fathers’ Eyes
7. The Monsters Crawl
8. Eyes Of A Child
9. Heavy Rain
10. For You I Will Die
Bernhard Weiss – vocals
Harry Oellers – keyboards
Marco Wriedt – guitar
Rob Schomaker – bass
Alex Landenburg – drums
Hard Rock Hideout caught up with Morgan Lander recently, the lead vocalist and guitarist for one of Canada’s, (and the world’s), finest Metal Bands – KITTIE. Morgan Lander has proven she can growl and croon with the very best in world of Metal Music, she also proved to be quite the sincere and friendly interview as well. Here’s what Morgan Lander of Kittie had to say:
HRH: So, Morgan, where in the world are you?
Morgan: Home! We, (Kittie) have been off tour since January 25th, (of 2010).
HRH: How was the tour in Europe?
Morgan: Awesome, we had a really good time.
HRH: One of the great things about being a world known band, is the opportunity to travel the world and see so many great countries.
Morgan: Yeah, it is a great experience to go to so many different countries and play in front of the fans around the world. We had some fans that traveled eight hours in Europe, just to come out and see us! That really means a lot to Kittie, having fans that will travel that long and far to see our show.
HRH: Kittie and God Forbid in the States, what can the fans expect?
Morgan: Fun! We know God Forbid real well, plus we never toured together, so it should be great. We have always talked about touring together, (with God Forbid), now it’s going to happen. We also share a mutual crew person.
HRH Note: Kittie and God Forbid kick off their 17 date North American Tour, on March 3, 2010, in Toronto, Ontario at the Opera House.
HRH: Any tour pet peeves you want to reveal?
Morgan: I, Kittie, we love everything about touring. Let’s see… there is one pet peeve that really bothers us all, it’s when strangers knock on the tour bus door! Anytime of the day it’s scary, especially at night. The tour bus is our home, our sanctuary, you just don’t go knocking on someone’s front door in the middle of the night! We don’t feel very safe just opening up the door to strangers that want to meet us. Besides, maybe I’m in my pajamas!
HRH: Is there a live album in the future for Kittie?
Morgan: No, yet we always wanted to do one. It’s definitely doable, we could work it out. If one was to happen, I would want it to be a CD/DVD combination. A future live album from Kittie would be an eye opener for the fans as well, it’s been ten years of Kittie! We definitely have the material and so much has changed with Kittie since the Spit In Your Eye video, which came out in 2000.
HRH: I agree, the transformation of Kittie, from (1999’s) Spit and it’s all out Extreme Metal to Funeral For Yesterday and your newest album In The Black, where you have become a melodic and heavy band, with still some nods to extreme, is just unbelievably great in my opinion.
Morgan: Thank you!
HRH: What country has Kittie not played yet, that is on your must list?
Morgan: It seems like we have played just about everywhere, I believe we never played Norway. If you can believe that! Norway it is.
HRH: What’s your favorite Metal album of all time?
Morgan: If you asked me this question five years ago, you would get a different answer! It changes, all the time.
HRH: It changes weekly sometimes too!
Morgan: Yeah, it can! It is ever changing. Metallica Ride The Lightning, Carcass Heartwork and Van Halen I and II.
HRH: With Ride The Lightning and Heartwork, enough said, those are powerhouses. Wow, Van Halen, thats old school.
Morgan: It’s what I remember growing up as a kid, listening to what albums my parents played, Van Halen I and II left a mark on me.
HRH: When you want to chill out, what music do you listen to?
Morgan: I have lot’s of interests, Kings of Leon, Silver Chair, and definitely Pantera! Believe it or not, I can really chill out to Pantera!
HRH: There’s nothing wrong with that. Who are your peer bands that you draw influence from?
Morgan: Kittie is inspired by everybody we tour with. Still there will always be Pantera. Not only were they the best Metal Band that ever lived, they were and still are really cool people, the very best.
HRH: If there was ever to be a movie made about Kittie’s career, what would the title be?
Morgan: Wow, cool question! It would have to be named after one of our songs, like Until The End or Into The Darkness. These two song titles capture the crazy times, ups and downs and the unknown we have experienced throughout our career.
HRH: What is the rowdiest venue Kittie has ever played at?
Morgan: Wow, there has been a few over the years! There was this place in Seattle, where the fire marshal came and closed the place down, there was way too many people that showed up. White Rabbit in San Antonio, Texas for certain! South America in general, Chile, Mexico and Brazil. The Spit In Your Eyevideo/DVD is a great example for fans to see us playing in a rowdy venue.
HRH: From everything that I’ve read and heard, Brazil has some hardcore and dedicated Metal fans there.
Morgan: They sure do!
HRH: What’s your opinion on the Grammy’s?
Morgan: They should be inviting us to go! Really, it’s a spectacle and a popularity contest. Having the Metal and Hard Rock categories is good, still they need to focus on Metal Music more, with more categories. The Grammy’s should be representing everything that’s out there, there is definitely room for improvement.
HRH: In the eyes of younger female fans, are you comfortable with being a role model or more an inspiration?
Morgan: A role model takes on a heavy burden to bear. Parents, friends, older siblings and extended family should be the real role models. I’m more comfortable with being an inspiration for younger girls. I want them to see in Kittie, the hope and strong female character that shows the ability to become self empowered.
HRH: At what point, did you and your sister Mercedes realize that Kittie was for real?
Morgan: Looking back on the last ten years, it all happened so fast, there never seemed to be time to process it all and reflect on what is really happening. It always felt like quick time and being caught in the middle these past ten years, like being in the eye of the storm! Truthfully, to pick out those moments where we felt that Kittie was real, was knowing we had released our first CD Spit. Having a tangible CD that people could buy was reality. Being a part of Ozzfest was another moment where we knew Kittie was real as well. We just need those moments to reflect on it all.
Paradox delivers the thrash & power with Riot Squad!
PARADOX, just another one of Germany’s very finest, in a long line of Metal greats. When you wish upon a Metal star, looking for that incredible combination of Thrash with a slight dose of Power Metal, all you need is Paradox… they shall deliver! Since 1987, Paradox is Old School, yet what sets this band apart from being considered stagnant is their hunger and drive for maintaining relevancy.
Gus Drax on lead guitar summons up the ferocity of what Thrash Metal was built upon, while establishing and securing melodic leads and solo’s throughout the entire Riot Squad album. Just one listen to the song Rise In Rank and the message is clear, Paradox is not a Metal band that is about to rest on their Metal laurels. Riptide is as strong a contender of Thrash excellence in 2010 as any Thrash Metal song I’ve listened to in recent months. Riptide alone is worth a dozen repeat listens!
Charly Steinhauer on lead vocals and guitar, is never the overpowering force… which is a great attribute in any Metal outfit. Charly’s vocals are melodic and laced harmoniously with hardened edges of experience. Charly Steinhauer has the Metal gift of having both Thrash and Power Metal vocals, thus the Thrash meets Power Metal reference I made earlier. Hollow Peace is a song I consider to showcase Paradox at their tightest and most momentous as a unit, it’s melodic ferocity that I hear, which is such a fine trademark of this untiring band.
Paradox has many Metal strengths, Olly Keller on bass and Roland Jahoda on drums remind me that speed is not focused entirely around the guitarists, this tandem executes precisely how a rhythm section holds everything together with mesmerizing speed of their very own.
Paradox does not just pull it off with Riot Squad, this is a Thrash Metal strike at the knees. The roots and credibility of this band’s past comes through on every song, a continuance of a Metal legacy is what Paradox has accomplished. As I see and hear it, let the underlying nuance of Power Metal in Paradox reign, it is the Thrash Metal override that catapults them onto the level of their elite peers. Paradox fans will either agree with me or they are too busy Metal rejoicing in the streets due to Riot Squad. New fans to Paradox should not just be buying and listening to only this great Paradox album… do yourself an important Metal favor and get ahold of Product Of Imagination from 1987 and Heresy from 1989, the roots, the legacy of Paradox are seeded in these must albums. Despite the lineup changes that Paradox encountered since 1987, this band has achieved what had to be their Metal goal from the very beginning… to keep the Metal real. Paradox the band and Riot Squad the album are real.
Riot Squad was released in Europe on October 16, 2009, and on January 12th, 2010 via AFM Records. For more information on Paradox, please visit the band’s myspace page.
Rating: Out of 10
01. Suburban Riot Squad
02. Hollow Peace
04. Rise In Rank
05. Evolution Reset
07. No Place To Survive
08. Dream Hero
09. Planet Terror
Charly Steinhauer – vocals/guitars
Kai Pasemann – guitars
Olly Keller – bass
Roland Jahoda – drums
KITTIE – “IN THE BLACK” SCREAMS KITTIE IS BACK! KITTIE – In The Black marks the fifth studio release from a Metal Band that epitomizes perseverance and a blue collar, Metal work ethic. Since 1999’s album Spit, Kittie has certainly come a long way… both in song writing and evolving as musicians. The proof is in listening to 2007’s Funeral For Yesterday and now, without a Metal doubt in my mind, In The Black. Can In The Black be considered THE breakout album of Kitties Metal career? Absolutely it can. With experience comes identity and Kittie has seemed to nestle right into their very own Metal comfort zone… still with many reminders of the vengeful lyrics, extreme vocals and Metal Music being played as fast as a ballistic missile out of control. That is the Kittie that us die-hard fans don’t ever want to see go away… while simultaneously embracing the Melodic Metal moments of Kittie that is now. The blend of extreme and melodic is reality in Metal Music, Kittie knows this and encapsulates it on In The Black better than I could have ever imagined.
The minute and a half intro of Kingdom Come is as delicate of a Heavy Metal instrumental as one can wish for. Do not be fooled by the sweetness Kingdom Come breathes however, the remaining 11 songs are greatly Metal vicious as they are sinister sweet… please Kittie, give me more! The Truth at almost 7 minutes long is a showcase of Morgan Lander’s vocal talents, she can offer up to you a freshly baked cupcake and then hand over your heart on a Metal platter. Morgan Lander can be trusted though… vocally she has elevated herself to near icon status among her female AND male peers within the Extreme and Metal community.
Die My Darling and Sorrow I Know are two songs that have their slivers of commercial appeal, the heavy, melodic and unforgettable guitar leads and riffs are complimented by once again… Morgan Lander’s Metal harmony. Morgan’s enticing vocals should not shroud the fact that she can play a credible note or two on guitar as well. Each time I listen to Sleepwalking, I need to remind myself that Metal Bands sometimes DO evolve into something special. Evolving from the stigma of Metal brutality to Metal exquisiteness like Kittie has done needs to be commended and exalted in the highest of praise. If I had to choose THE standout song on In The Black, without deliberation it is Now or Never. Every Metal quality that Kittie has in their Metal box of tricks is featured in Now or Never, from melodic and extreme vocals to a super catchy guitar solo.
Tara McLeod is now the guitar veteran of the Funeral For Yesterday and In The Black albums, solidifying her Metal legacy alongside fellow guitarist Morgan Lander, both with too numerous and solid guitar licks to mention. Kittie also empowered their unit to even greater Metal heights two years ago, by recruiting Ivy Vujic on bass guitar. What I hear on In The Black, is an asset to the rhythm section from Ivy. To be playing along with the beyond astute drummer Mercedes Lander is quite a professional achievement.
If anything can be learned from listening to In The Black, is that the Metal world has a sister duo in Morgan and Mercedes Lander that are as gifted musically as they are resilient. In The Black can easily be considered the bridge into Kittie’s second Metal chapter. The Lander sisters know and give more than a nod to their Metal roots and influences, while demonstrating they can recruit and mold new young talent within their Metal family they call Kittie… take a bow Kittie, you deserve it.
Rating: Out of 10
1. Kingdom Come
2. My Plauge
3. Cut Throat
4. Die My Darling
5. Sorrow I Know
6. Forgive and Forget
7. Now or Never
8. Falling Down
10. Whiskey Love Song
11. Ready Aim Riot
12. The Truth
Morgan Lander – Vocals & Guitar
Mercedes Lander – Drums
Tara McLeod – Lead Guitar
Ivy Vujic – Bass
MOB RULES – RADICAL PEACE IS AN EPIC AND MELODIC METAL STATEMENT
Mob Rules are no strangers to making Melodic Power Metal sounding so inviting to the Metal masses. Since their 1999 debut album Savage Land, this Northern Germany band has paid their dues and laid the Metal groundwork for their sixth studio album Radical Peace, to be released on January 29, 2010.
To become captivated by the atmospheric keyboards of Sascha Onnen and the melodic, yet searing guitar dueling of Matthias Mineur and Sven Luke is the likely result for Mob Rules and Power Metal fans alike. A great rhythm section is built around trust, Nikolas Fritz on drums and Markus Brinkman on bass have instilled the “I’ve got your back” style tighter than a platinum coil. Still, the big draw on Radical Peace are the vocals of Klaus Dirks, who leads one to believe his Metal idol could very well be Geoff Tate of Queensryche, book ended by Mark Boals of Yngwie Malmsteen fame and Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray. Make no mistake, Klaus Dirks is not stealing the Power Metal show on Radical Peace, this is an extremely talented, solid and tight group effort that pays off in the total quality of songs.
Mob Rules adds plenty of risky inventiveness to their lyrics on Radical Peace that pays off in powerful dividends. The Oswald Files opens with a historically famous John F. Kennedy address to the great nation of Germany, then kicks in with the Power Metal stomp that represents itself as the segue to an 18 minute epic, bestowing plenty of progressiveness that is worth a hundred listens in a row… really. Musically, The Oswald Files exemplifies why European Power Metal is truly grandiose and why Mob Rules has raised their own musical bar. Lyrically this song questions if John Oswald was really the trigger man responsible for JFK’s assassination.
Children Of The Flames lyrically visits the abhorring topic of Nazi death camp villain – Josef Mengele. This vile and evil creature’s cruel experiments on child prisoners is a touchy subject, with Mob Rules NOT glorifying this devil, they are instead not forgetting the suffering of the innocents.
Waiting For The Sun, outside of The Oswald Files, is another standout song, an electrifying brilliant Melodic Power Metal song to psyche out the senses. Trial By Fire and Warchild illustrate clearly the sensational prowess of atmosphere combined with heaviness, highlighting why Mob Rules should be a major Melodic Metal player for years to come. By now, anyone should realize, that I must openly admit, Radical Peace is a must buy.
Rating: Out of 10
- Children Of The Flames
- Trial By Fire
- Astral Hand
- The Oswald File
- Waiting For The Sun
- The Glance Of Fame
Mob Rules are:
Klaus Dirks – Vocals
Matthias Mineur – Guitar
Sven Luke – Guitar
Markus Brinkmann – Bass
Sascha Onnen – Keyboards
Nikolas Fritz – Drums
NIGHTMARE “INSURRECTION” – POWER METAL LEGENDS RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE!
When you think of a nightmare, it usually is the uninvited mind intruder in the middle of your sleep, maybe it’s the backup on the freeway during rush hour. Fear not fellow Metalheads, this Nightmare are the Power Metal warriors hailing from France and they reached a Heavy Metal milestone in 2009… their 30th anniversary of creating some of the best Power Metal to come out of Europe and the entire planet for that matter! To sustain the success and quality of Power Metal that Nightmare has achieved over three decades, is a legitimate Heavy Metal celebration. What better way to celebrate Nightmare’s legacy than to dive right into their September 11, 2009 release – Insurrection, on AFM Records.
Once you begin listening to Insurrection, if your like me, you’ll feel that the overwhelming waves of melodic Power Metal never sounded so glorious. “Decameron”, “Target For Revenge” and “Angels Of Glass” encompass every muscular nugget of what I crave for from Nightmare’s Power Metal attack. “Three Miles Island” is arguably the heaviest and fastest song on Insurrection, satisfying my need for Power Metal speed. Legions Of The Rising Sun does not lag far behind on the speed scale either, with guitarists Franck Milleliri and JC Jess impressing beyond my wildest Metal belief. “Eternal Winter” is a powerfully perfect song to culminate the Insurrection listening experience, with it’s anthemic chorus and slower tempo making for an emotionally driven ending. Nightmare has as formidable of a guitar duo here as any Heavy Metal band in 2010. Throughout Insurrection, the melodic licks are contagiously unreal.
Insurrection is a potent Power Metal release from 2009, one that Nightmare should beat their chests to with pride. Jo Amore on lead vocals can take a Metal bow, his range and pitch are to not just be enjoyed… revered as well. Jo Amore’s brother, David, plays the drums with precision and intensity, only magnifying the power of Insurrection to jaw dropping heights. Yves Campion on bass, keeps the rhythmic power machine on overdrive, adding more fuel to the already sweltering, Power Metal fire that is Nightmare… Insurrection.
Rating: Out of 10
Track Listing :
1. Eternal Winter
2. The Gospel Of Judas
4. Legions Of The Rising Sun
5. Three Miles Island
6. Mirrors Of Damnation
8. Target For Revenge
9. Cosa Nostra (Part I – The Light)
10. Angels Of Glass
Jo Amore – Vocals
Franck Milleliri – Guitars
JC Jess – Guitars
Yves Campion – Bass
David Amore – Drums