On July 25, Mike Bax of Lithium Magazine conducted an interview with guitarist Mark Heylmun of California deathcore masters SUICIDE SILENCE at the Toronto, Ontario, Canada stop of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. You can now watch the chat below.
SUICIDE SILENCE‘s new album, “You Can’t Stop Me”, sold around 15,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 16 on The Billboard 200 chart.
The band’s previous album, “The Black Crown”, opened with 14,400 units back in July 2010 to land at No. 28.
SUICIDE SILENCE‘s 2009 CD, “No Time To Bleed”, registered a first-week tally of 14,000 to enter the chart at No. 32.
“You Can’t Stop Me” is SUICIDE SILENCE‘s first album to feature new vocalist Hernan “Eddie” Hermida (ex-ALL SHALL PERISH) and their first since the tragic loss of singer Mitch Lucker. The CD was produced and mixed by Steve Evetts (SEPULTURA, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN), who worked with the band not only on “The Black Crown”, but also on some instrumental demos for the new effort just prior to Lucker‘s death in the fall of 2012.
The video for the “You Can’t Stop Me” title track can be seen below. The clip was directed by Nathan “Karma” Cox, who has previously worked with LINKIN PARK, BLACK VEIL BRIDES and MARILYN MANSON, among many others.
Mitch Lucker died November 1, 2012 after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle crash in Huntington Beach that Halloween night.
Regarding the decision to enlist Hermida, guitarist Mark Heylmun told Metalholic.com: “There was really nobody else — we didn’t want to try anybody out. We didn’t want to call people and be, like, ‘You wanna come and jam with us?’ That’s not how this situation seemed like it would work for us. Eddie was just a friend. Somebody that we know is extremely talented, and someone that could put the passion behind the job that it is. To not replace Mitch or be the singer of this band, but to treat the gig that it is. He’s replacing an idol to so many people and he’s also coming into a band that preexists, which is the other four members of it. We just knew he would be able to handle it with respect and knock it out of the park.”
Fight Network‘s Fight + Music recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy of Florida metallers TRIVIUM. You can now watch the chat below.
TRIVIUM in May parted ways with drummer Nick Augusto due to personal differences. Stepping in for him on TRIVIUM‘s current dates is the band’s drum tech, Mat Madiro.
“It just wasn’t working out and we just felt it was best to go our separate ways instead of trying to keep going on and then something happening and having an effect on shows or anything like that,” TRIVIUM guitarist Corey Beaulieu told the Impact metal channel. “[The split] was very calm and chill, but it just needed to happen. Sometimes, after awhile, things just aren’t going the way you kind of hope for and you’ve gotta make a switch. It’s a pain in the ass to switch members and get someone up to speed. But Mat‘s been doing great. He came into the role and he’s been doing a great job playing the songs and playing the shows. It was pretty smooth considering the circumstances — being in the middle of a tour and having to get a new drummer up to speed in 24 hours. But it was just something we had to do just to make sure that, moving forward, everything was tip top, 100 percent ready to roll.”
Asked whether Mat is a permanent replacement for Nick, Corey said: “He’s drumming for us for the foreseeable future, for the rest of the album cycle, which goes up ’till about December. And then we’re just gonna see where we’re at. We’re not gonna make any quick decisions; we’re just gonna let him get comfortable. He’s still… he plays a show and he’s still part of the crew, ’cause he was the drum tech and he’s teching himself, so he’s going between both sides. Everything’s been going great, the shows have been awesome, he’s been playing great, so we’re gonna leave it like that until we finish up all the shows we have booked and we’re gonna see where it goes from there. We’re gonna record a new record, and we’ll see if he’s the guy. It could possibly be him; you never know. [That decision will be made] months and months away from now. We’re just taking it easy and not making any quick decisions and [taking chances on it] not being 100 percent down the road. That is the right thing to do. So we’re keeping it fair for everybody and not leading anyone on. Playing shows and having fun is pretty much what we’re just having it be for now.”
Regarding TRIVIUM‘s plans for after this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, Corey said: “We’ll take a break for a while, have a couple of months off. Then we’ve got Knotfest in Japan. And then, hopefully, we’re working on finishing the album [cycle] off with a tour in Australia. And then after that, we’re pretty much not touring for awhile; we’re just gonna working on a new album. I guess after this year, not many people are gonna see us play for over a year or so… We’ve been on tour pretty much non-stop since February. So once we get back in August, we’re gonna [have some] vacation time and just be at home and decompress from [the road life]. We’re actually gonna enjoy being at home, since we haven’t… We’ve been home for about, like, a week since February. So it’s just down time to relax and just kind of recharge. And then usually when we’re home and we have that break, everyone just picks up a guitar and starts working on [new music]. We have a lot of stuff written, so we’re gonna be working away at that during our free time. But that’s just time away from the band mostly, since it’s been such a busy year.”
The video for “The Distortion Of Lies And The Overdriven Truth”, the title track of the debut album from ONE MACHINE, the brainchild of acclaimed guitarist/songwriter Steve Smyth (TESTAMENT, NEVERMORE, FORBIDDEN, DRAGONLORD, VICIOUS RUMORS), can be seen below.
Says Smyth: “A lot of work went into this, shooting with the excellent Anthony Dubois, then over to an old friend of mine I’ve been waiting to work with, Mike Sloat. Both guys were great to work with, and together, I think we’ve brought the truth in the distortion of lies in the world with this video.”
“The Distortion Of Lies And The Overdriven Truth” was released on February 18 via Scarlet Records. The CD was recorded and produced by Steve Smyth and was mixed by Roy Z (JUDAS PRIEST, BRUCE DICKINSON, HALFORD). It was mastered by Alan Douches (3 INCHES OF BLOOD, FIREWIND, SEPULTURA) at West West Side Music, with artwork created by Niklas Sundin from Cabin Fever Media (DARK TRANQUILLITY, ARCH ENEMY), complemented with photography from Anthony Dubois (MESHUGGAH, MNEMIC).
Vocalist Mikkel Sandager (MERCENARY) left ONE MACHINE this past spring due to “personal and business differences” and has been replaced by Chris Hawkins (METALHEAD). The band’s current lineup is rounded out by Jamie Hunt (BIOMECHANICAL) on guitar, Tomas “O’Beast” Koefoed (MNEMIC) on bass and Michele Sanna on drums (although former drummer Raphael Saini of Italian progressive metallers CHAOSWAVE played on the album).
Smyth had often given thought to leading his own band throughout his distinguished career as a member of bands including TESTAMENT, NEVERMORE and FORBIDDEN, among others. He had written a number of songs, but the challenge of finding the right members to bring them to life remained. He found a more than capable shredding second guitarist in Jamie Hunt, and the two began collaborating on the material Smyth had.
“Jamie‘s playing complements mine extremely well, and we hit it off perfectly when we got together to work on the songs,” said Smyth.
KIX‘s seventh album, “Rock Your Face Off”, is available for streaming in its entirety using the SoundCloud widget below. The CD was released on August 5 via Loud & Proud Records.
For KIX, not recording any new music for two decades has been far too long. Fans have made it known for years that they want new music. And now, the time has finally come.
“Rock Your Face Off” is everything fans know and love KIX for: a raucous, roaring and real display of rock ‘n’ roll.
As guitarist Brian “Damage” Forsythe explains: “When we first played ‘Love Me With Your Top Down’ live just a few months ago, it went over like gangbusters with the fans. It’s a catchy little tune with classic KIX flavor, a perfect choice for the first taste of the record.”
What makes the new album even more exciting and anticipated is that it features most of the band’s original lineup: Steve Whiteman (vocals), Brian “Damage” Forsythe (guitar), Ronnie “10/10” Younkins (guitar), Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant (drums), with the exception of Mark Schenker (bass).
With “Rock Your Face Off”, KIX stirs up their truest statement to date in 2014. “It’s still hot women, fast cars, and great moments,” concludes Whiteman. “I want everybody to end up on their feet, whether they’re working out or stuck in rush hour traffic. This is a release, something to lift your spirits when you need it. You can party to this one.”
KIX gracefully eased back into the public consciousness in 2008. After sold-out hometown gigs, the quintet hit the stage at Rocklahoma in front of over 20,000 people, venturing out of the Mid-Atlantic for the first time in 13 years. The band was hailed by many music web sites and attendees as “Best Performance” at the festival, where they played alongside SAMMY HAGAR, ALICE COOPER, TESLA, QUEENSRŸCHE, RATT, and more. After capturing their fiery reunion on 2012’s “Live In Baltimore” CD and DVD, the band agreed to enter the studio once again.
“In many ways, this is for the KIX diehards as much as it is for us,” guitarist Brian Forsythe explains. “When we started doing this again, tons of fans came out of the woodwork. They’d show up with their kids, and it was just incredible to see. We had to deliver for them.”
In order to deliver, the band enlisted the talents of producer Taylor Rhodes (AEROSMITH, OZZY OSBOURNE), with whom they had last collaborated on 1991’s “Hot Wire”. Also, for the first time in the group’s history, each member contributed to the writing process, fostering an extremely creative and free environment in the studio. A new dawn commenced as they simultaneously harnessed their classic spirit.
“It was more free-flowing because everybody got to write and come up with ideas,” says singer Steve Whiteman. “We encouraged this new freedom within the creative process.”
“Rock Your Face Off” track listing:
01. Wheels In Motion
02. You’re Gone
03. Can’t Stop The Show
04. Rollin’ In Honey
05. Rock Your Face Off
06. All The Right Things
07. Dirty Girls
08. Inside Outside Inn
09. Mean Miss Adventure
10. Love Me With Your Top Down
11. Tail On The Wag
12. Rock & Roll Showdown
Vocalist James LaBrie of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER was interviewed by Lady Obscure before the band’s July 31 concert in Istanbul, Turkey. You can now watch the chat below.
Speaking about DREAM THEATER‘s mindset going into the songwriting process for the band’s latest, self-titled album, LaBrie said: “We kind of knew before going into the album that it was going to be something that we could refer to, for all intents and purposes, as a self-titled album. And it is a rebirth, it is almost like getting back in touch with your roots… I guess redescovering yourself as a band, but at the same time staying relevant and contemporary. So I think we took all those things into consideration.”
He continued: “We knew that with [2011’s] ‘A Dramatic Turn Was Events’, it was an album that was to prove to the world that we really hadn’t lost a step, even though an original member [drummer Mike Portnoy] had left the band. Still, we were going to maintain doing what we were, we weren’t gonna lose that sound, we weren’t gonna lose our identity. So with doing that with ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’, and proving that to the world, not only with the album, but, I think, with the [subsequent] tour, when it came time to sit down and do the next album, it was, like, OK, we’ve done that. Let’s just really remain calm. Everything is peaceful. And let’s just really dig deep inside and just get back and really prove to the world that, you know, this, to us, is really the begnnning of something new, and it sets the tone for the next chapter.”
DREAM THEATER keyboardist, Jordan Rudess spoke to GetYourRockOut at this year’s Sonisphere festival in the U.K. about whether the band has already begun thinking about the follow-up to last year’s self-titled release. He said: “We haven’t really gotten into serious band discussions about what’s gonna happen next, although we’ve had little discussions between some of us about what we would like to see happen next. At the same, if I get a good idea in the middle of the night, or whatever, I’ll record it onto my iPhone. I elected James [LaBrie, vocals] to kind of be the keeper of some of my ideas; I’ll send him little YouTube clips of me playing something I think is cool. And then when it wraps around and we get into writing again and start our process, then we’ll go back an see what we’ve got and kind of figure it out.”
Rudess also reassured fans that there are no plans for DREAM THEATER to stop making new music and become a nostalgia act. He said: “Oh, no no no. We love what we do. We’re passionate about making music and as composers; that’s just who we are. DREAM THEATER has never been a band that hit at a particular fashionable point and said, ‘OK, that’s basically it.’ We’re a band that really… It’s important to us to write music and put it out there and to work together. And we love it. And that’s why we keep going.”
DREAM THEATER‘s latest, self-titled album sold around 34,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 7 on The Billboard 200 chart. The CD arrived in stores on September 24, 2013 via Roadrunner.
NOVEMBERS DOOM just might have become America’s official answer to ENSLAVED and OPETH, in a subtle way, of course. Having fostered their reputation in Europe, it’s no surprise the Chicago-based death metallers could pass for a Euro or Scandinavian act. Now carrying more than twenty years under their belts as a band, NOVEMBERS DOOM follows up their script-changing 2011 release “Aphotic” with a much bigger statement.
“Bled White” establishes a happy medium to NOVEMBERS DOOM‘s propensity for tinkering, if happy is seldom the representative vibe of the album. While death and doom modes oblige “Bled White”‘s bitter themes, the songs work their way toward a begrudging catharsis and occasional release. As ever, NOVEMBERS DOOM‘s sophistication is their biggest asset, since their refusal to work efficiently demands greater investment from the listener. Fortunately, the winding length of “Bled White” is filled with calculated and refined progression so not a single minute feels wasted.
“Heartfelt” and “Animus” are positioned far apart from each other on the album, but their brute capabilities and mincing between harsh and clean tones almost feel like distant-plotted call and response to one another. “Bled White” thus takes an audacious ride between these songs where spite, rejection and pain are confronted and partially purged.
“Just Breathe” might be the head-turner of the album for many listeners as Paul Kuhr and NOVEMBERS DOOM play the KATATONIA card and exhibit one of the album’s most emotive milieus. Kuhr dispels all hard tones from his delivery here, staying in wallowing clean mode as singular guitar lines drop about him like rivulets. The choruses erupt with morose static, at one point accenting the song’s dejection with sorrowful piano rolls. No matter how tempting the louder portions of “Just Breathe” may be for Kuhr to scream bloody murder over, he has enough respect for the songwriting to keep himself in check. Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese inherit the spotlight when Kuhr relinquishes it to them and ultimately disappears into their ether at song’s end.
The luxuriant acoustic instrumental “Scorpius” has its place on just about any metal record, but in the midst of “Bled White”‘s allegorical loathing, its soothing respite, however brief, acts as a hopeful conscience. It marks a spot of reckoning on the album as “Unrest” chugs forth with cascading riffs, double hammer-guided glides and Paul Kuhr‘s tradeoffs between pissy woofs and clean monotones. Lyrically dealing with grief and separation, when Kuhr chants “I only hope you found the peace you were searching for, I pray your smile is now pure”, the directional shift seems aimed as much toward his own relief as that of his muse’s.
“The Memory Room” changes atmosphere just enough to take a moody ALICE IN CHAINS primer and heavy it up a few clicks. Once more, Paul Kuhr opts to sing more instead of bark (though gruff portions do make themselves known), and the melodic chorus of “The Memory Room” is one of the gutsiest maneuvers of the album. As the song confronts past turmoil, the listener can hear NOVEMBERS DOOM pulling themselves out of the ruts with a song that comes off as a representative healing stone.
“The Brave Pawn” wisely picks up the pace in order to keep “Bled White” from sinking into stagnancy. Heavier from all stations than most of the output preceding it, “The Brave Pawn”‘s placement is another shrewd move on the band’s part, as is the option to keep it just under four minutes. Once this song spikes from fast to a charred grind, NOVEMBERS DOOM‘s listeners will be well-stoked to ride out the remainder of the album.
“Clear” continues “Bled White”‘s omnipresent vent session against a love scorned, but the lighter tones, the tiding guitars and bass and the tapping drum pats give Paul Kuhr‘s cleans extra loft. In response, the open air composition of the song feels like clarity, to the point the guitar solos delight instead of swelter. Even when “The Grand Circle” stubbornly seeks to retreat into an abyss of hatred, NOVEMBERS DOOM engineers uplifting tones to the choruses, capitalizing on Paul Kuhr‘s adamant clean drones. His switch to growls on “The Grand Circle” are, strangely enough, made more palatable accordingly.
As “Animus” and “The Silent Dark” slip back into the meditative anger “Bled White” was reared with, at least NOVEMERS DOOM spools harmonious reflection, more so in the latter song’s case, which carries on for nearly ten minutes. While there’s a lack of resolution or reprieve from the prevailing torment badgering the muse on “Bled White” for an hour, eight minutes, the wherewithal to offer melody to this self-chastising affair gives the listener something to hold onto all the way through.
Once more, NOVEMBERS DOOM concocts a haunting, sometimes beautiful album with more thought laid out into their songwriting than your average death metal act. They’ve strived for evolution over the years, but “Bled White” is transcendental.
SOS have always one of the more unique punk acts out there, unique being subjective at this point. They’ve been around since the late Nineties and now through five albums, band leader Mike SOS has apparently decided that playing NYC street ‘core wasn’t enough. Some lineup changes and an abrupt alteration to the band’s hefty hardcore sound leads to their first album in six years, the awkward “Strength and Conditioning”.
SOS have been authentic punkers over the years with relatively straightforward vocals (“Old No. 7” from “A Guide to Better Living” being as extreme as SOS has pushed it in the past). At least the singing in this band has previously been less over-the-top than what they’re shoving into their listeners’ ears on “Strength and Conditioning”. A press release describes guitarist/vocalist Mike SOS‘ vocals as “unhinged” on this album and that’s a gross understatement. Iggy Pop in the late sixties is properly unhinged. H.R. of the BAD BRAINS is the definition of unhinged in the most righteous sense a maverick vocalist can be. In this case, unhinged is something altogether different and Mike SOS plays it like an assumed foil in the effort to make a quirky statement. If you’re devoted fan of SOS, you hopefully get it, since they’ve always noodled around with their music. “Strength and Conditioning”, however, is a far step from the early days and even 2005’s awesome, star killing “A Guide to Better Living”.
Mike SOS also haunted the rambunctious but strangely fun SEIZURE CRYPT before that act was laid to rest. So the writing should’ve been considered scratched into the paint-chipped wall where he’d be going on “Strength and Conditioning”. With all due props, SOS gives to their community in the way of free outdoor all-ages shows and they’ve religiously played the New York City Marathon over the years. That being said, “Strength and Conditioning” requires plenty of both from their listeners if they’re going to make it through near fifty minutes of SOS‘ game-changing insanity.
“Let Them Come” steps off with a shuffle rag and plugging distortion that drowns Mike SOS‘s brusque vocal plod. His echo-bounced singing is callous, even as the band kicks up the amplification that’s already loud to begin with. “Disengage” steps up the tempo and delves thicker riffs which don’t altogether consume Mike SOS‘ crazy swills. Consider that good or bad to your level of taste. At one point, his already shaky singing devolves into a lunatic shriek and it hurts the song’s general pounce.
Finally on “Run it Down Into the Ground”, the chunky, grinding riffs gives something substantial to excuse Mike SOS‘ retching and screeching. By now, “Strength and Conditioning” comes off like twisted farce — at least one would hope it’s a farce. The switch between tough chunk verses and relatively melodic choruses are worth paying attention to, but the disruptive baying, given more prominence in the mix, doesn’t allow for much opportunity to sink into this song’s groove.
The lightning fast “No More Black” is one of the best tracks on “Strength and Conditioning”, that is, without the annoying up-and-down caterwauling. If Mike SOS had stuck to the primary growl he leads off with, this track could’ve been a true punk monster. Afterwards, the shucked and bluesy intro to “Low Road” once more sets an inviting mood that might as well not have been bothered with once the over-sprawled singing offsets the whole thing. Some poorly-mixed overdubs also drag the song down, which would’ve been better off played as an instrumental jam.
And what is Mike SOS doing on “Outgrown” by spiking and plummeting his vocal ranges, plying to be a would-be King Diamond of hardcore? “Outgrown”, a misnomer title if there ever was one, is (intentionally, no doubt) a childish rant piece with a cool punk drive and a neat raking outro going for it, but that’s about all. “Whatever Happened To…” thereafter is no better and the sad fact becomes this band can sustain plenty of energy without vocals. It’s clear the new lineup (including bassist David DeCanio, drummer Brett Thompson and guitarist Nick Pursche) are sharp musicians as the lofting, well-constructed instrumental “Daytime High” proves. The scraping guitar intro to “Whiskey Beard” is kickass, likewise its subsequent punching groove. A far cry from anything on “A Guide to Better Living”, alas.
A little madcap fizzle fry to music that’s destined to go no further than the underground is welcome incrementally. For an entire forty-eight minutes, however, it’s a pisser. Mike SOS has a great reputation in the punk leagues, but the goony shock factor mashed all over “Strength and Conditioning” does no credit to himself or the band. Disappointing, to say the least.
Matt “The Lord” Zane has always been a leading counterculture figure. A shrewd multimedia maverick whose repertoire includes music, acting, spoken word and video production (including porn, of course), Zane turned heads with his famed flesh suspension act as the jaw-dropping dimension to SOCIETY 1‘s balls-out stage performance. Having once broken Criss Angel‘s time record for hanging with meat hooks through his back, Zane turns his focus back to music and SOCIETY 1, following a momentary quietus of the band. It’s been three years since “A Journey from Exile” and the return of guitarist Sin Quirin (who had long been hanging out with Al Jourgensen and MINISTRY) in supplement of Beau Ashley onstage bolsters the release of SOCIETY 1‘s latest album, “A Collection of Lies”.
Also featuring Dirt Von Karloff on bass and drummer Iorten Mitev, “A Collection of Lies” is a compilation of previously-unreleased songs and B-sides. Hardly filler or gimmick material, this is perhaps SOCIETY 1‘s true moment of glory, at least from a songwriting standpoint. Matt Zane has taken his experiences and reputed professionalism to refine SOCIETY 1 into a vastly-improved beast. Moreover, Zane’s terrific vocals are the big story why “A Collection of a Lies” succeeds as well as it does.
“Lifeless” rages out with heavy tones and Zane‘s hollering in tandem to all the agro blasting around him. Always threatening to rocket away, “Lifeless” strains its raking tempos before skidding backwards and Zane excites with a new serenading pitch he’s not yet revealed from his repertoire. Changing flavors altogether with the chunk rocker “I Got You”, Zane wisps through the verses plugged with lobbing bass, nudging guitar riffs and buzzing electro blips. DV Karloff takes center of the slow cooker, “She’s Dead”, while Beau Ashley practically sings his guitar in shadow of Zane.
“Never Be One” capitalizes on the earlier vigor of “Lifeless” by peeling out and tearing away as the fastest number of the album, even with a pullback in the middle section. “All My Pain” then retreats to a slither and creates intrigue with Matt Zane‘s settled vocals and a dialed-back chord progression between bass and guitar that soon picks up in intensity. Zane confidently swoons with uncontaminated singing, raising octaves as accents and stresses with impressive punctuation.
Toughening up his pipes on the clammy “As You Go Down”, Zane still maintains a pure cadence that would fit snugly in any rock band, much less his own. Beau Ashley throws in a wicked mini solo after the first chorus and he shrieks his frets all over the outro of the sex-driven hump number.
For those SOCIETY 1 fans keener on Zane‘s bellowing, they’ll be satiated by the loud and menacing “I Will Dominate”. “I Will Dominate”‘s slow-rolling chords are killer, while Iorten Mitev‘s clattering drums dictate the shifting paces between crawl and stomp. DV Karloff’s bass is monstrous behind Zane‘s woofing and “I Will Dominate” is sure to send SOCIETY 1‘s live audience into a frenzy when performed onstage.
Zane‘s pipes once more dip and whisper throughout the proto slinker, “Hard to See”, a number carrying nuances of TYPE O NEGATIVE. Hitting a climax with SOCIETY 1‘s clumping tempo and swinging chords, Zane hits some terrific high notes in response. Zane throws his listeners more surprises with his high-pitched murmurs on the dark ballad “Open Cries” and chamber cello accompaniment to open and close the somber “Scream Out Your Breath”. The latter song again reveals depth and maturity in Zane‘s singing and it treads into TYPE O turf without ripping them off.
This album marks Matt Zane‘s most passionate performance yet in SOCIETY 1 and the astute plotting of the album makes “A Collection of Lies” the band’s most artistic achievement. Even by loading the back end of the album with slower, skulking numbers, the structure and execution of them keeps them interesting. Zane‘s sex ‘n metal collision “Radium” DVDs were a clever mash-up that showed the man’s always thinking outside (or, rather, inside) the box. “A Collection of Lies” proves his thinking has come miles, even as SOCIETY 1 grinds out perfect grooves to crank one with, take that as you will.
The late Ronnie James Dio found himself at a sort of crossroads in 1993 when he released his “Strange Highways” album. It followed Ronnie and Vinny Appice‘s brief reunion with BLACK SABBATH that culminated in the “Dehumanizer” record and a subsequent tour, stalling afterwards until years later when all came together a final time as HEAVEN & HELL. Appropriately titled, “Strange Highways” arrived on the heels of reported discord with Jimmy Bain. The album was met by American diehards only, given the abrupt change in the rock climate from heavy metal and hard rock to grunge. In his home country, Dio found himself playing more clubs than the sprawled venues he’d been accustomed to with RAINBOW, SABBATH and of course, his own band through the “Dream Evil” album.
You wouldn’t be able to tell Dio had anything amiss within his realm by watching “Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993”. The UK faithful packed the hallowed halls and gave Ronnie all the public verve he needed to grind out a concert loaded with fan favorites and pocked with six selections from “Strange Highways”, those being the title track, “Evilution”, “Pain”, “Jesus, Mary & The Holy Ghost”, “Hollywood Black” and “Here’s to You”.
Dio and Appice at this time were surrounded by DOKKEN bassist Jeff Pilson and then-rising guitarist Tracy Grijalva (a.k.a. “Tracy G”). Pilson landed the gig by living in proximity to Appice and Dio. DOKKEN, running their own ruts to stay alive, freed him up to roll with the DIO band. It’s Pilson who appears to be reveling the most in his tenure with Ronnie and Vinny. Adorning himself with a baggy black shirt with shock-colored wraiths, Pilson headbangs and flails himself like a rag doll all over the Hammersmith stage as soon as the band rips into “Stand Up and Shout” at the beginning of the set.
Leading off “Strange Highways” with a knuckle-down bass plod, Pilson surrenders the epicenter to Ronnie, who assumes all of the elements around him, asserting his electrifying aura like the mystic he was. Ever the quintessential professional, Dio rallies his stripped-sounding band into a whirling rendition of “Don’t Talk to Strangers” that captures the English audience. No matter how raw the band comes off in the set, the bond is locked between all participants.
Tracy G and Jeff Pilson frequently flash-check Vinny Appice for his veteran guidance. Appice doesn’t just pilot the tempos of Ronnie‘s sets; he’s as much a directorial force as Ronnie himself. Appice‘s drum solo in this set needs a little extra kick, however, which Pilson and Tracy G supply him with external riffing. Pilson is given the chance to freestyle after Appice and he kills it. This, in the midst of a BLACK SABBATH and RAINBOW medley strung through “The Mob Rules”, “Children of the Sea”, “Heaven and Hell” and “Man On the Silver Mountain” with DIO‘s own “Holy Diver” mashed in-between.
As much as this concert is yet another showcase for Ronnie Dio, Jeff Pilson proved he was well malleable in heavying-up his chops. He and Tracy G might not be the most prolific team to grace the DIO court, but the songs on “Strange Highways” were sturdy and Pilson especially made the moment, on-record and onstage. Tracy G must’ve felt sheer intimidation trying to take on Ronnie‘s live repertoire. The G Man shreds instead of ebbs Tony Iommi‘s solo on “The Mob Rules”, which is a good bit of improvisation, but Grijalva shines best on his madcap notes and peals on “Evilution”.
“Holy Diver” is less dense in this show than fans are accustomed to, while “Heaven and Hell” is delivered just a click behind its normal strut. The Hammersmith audience in 1993 (including some brave chap wearing a Robert Palmer tee in the front row, of all things) are enchanted nonetheless. Pilson and Appice carry the main march nicely, while Ronnie momentarily slips into a trance before giving Hammersmith the goods.
As with much of the show here, “The Last in Line” is sent out rare at times, yet it remains one of the highest points of any DIO performance and Ronnie hurls it out with every lick of passion he has, no matter how times he performed it during his lifetime. “The Last in Line” is that iconic metal communion between Dio and his fans, while “Rainbow in the Dark” on its heels is a metal hymn built to stand eternity. Not that Ronnie James Dio was a religious person, but his shows were undeniably considered church for metalheads.
The vacancy of Dio‘s pulpit still stings, but watching him smile as Jeff Pilson gouges out an amp stack with his bass neck at the end of “We Rock”, then deferring to his fans with the end salutation of “Here’s to You”, it’s no wonder the man was so loved. As a bonus feature to this DVD, the “Hangin’ With the Band” segment will touch many souls, in particular Ronnie‘s interview while getting made up where he mocks band turmoil by outlining his show itinerary to conclude with “fighting, stealing each other’s wives and dancing on each other’s graves”. Here’s to you, RJD.
NONPOINT will release its eighth studio album, “The Return”, on September 30 via Razor & Tie (one day earlier internationally via Metal Blade Records).
A 26-second trailer for “The Return” is available below.
After 17 years in the game, the Florida quintet sustains the same energy that sparked its foundation back in 1997. The riffs crack with intensity, the bass and drums forge an unmatched groove, and the vocals rapidly recount stories of pain and perseverance. “The Return” remains as raw, ripping, and real as these musicians — Elias Soriano (vocals), Robb Rivera (drums), Rasheed Thomas (guitar), Adam Woloszyn (bass), and B.C. Kochmit (guitar) — get.
In February 2014, NONPOINT entered Groovemaster Studios with Grammy Award-nominated producer Johnny K (DISTURBED, STAIND, MEGADETH) and engineer Daniel Salcidoto. It marked their second collaboration together, and this time, the band had already amassed an arsenal of tight and tough material. Soriano elaborates: “Last record, we stepped in a direction we’ve wanted to for years and our fans revered us for it. This record we have gotten up to speed and dropped the pedal to the floor.
“I think our fans will embrace this record in a way no other NONPOINT record has been viewed or loved. We left no room for question of what we are trying to accomplish with our music or who we are. We haven’t gone back to old school. We didn’t reflect on our past. We didn’t discuss what works. We are not ‘Statement’ NONPOINT or even ‘Bullet’ NONPOINT… ‘The Return’ is NONPOINT right the fuck now.”
Adds Rivera: “Johnny is like the sixth member of our band at this point! He works us, and he pulls no punches. It was such a natural thing that we only needed to track for three weeks. Johnny understands the band and what we are, and he encourages us to be ourselves.”
Elias explains the meaning behind the first single, “Breaking Skin”: “It’s about addiction, whether it be food, drugs, sex, lying, or anything, that tends to turn into an itch. You can’t stop scratching it so you break skin. Then, you’re bleeding. You need to get help at that point and deal with it.”
Robb adds: “‘Breaking Skin’ is a different kind of song for us. There’s a lot of melody, but it’s still so heavy. That heaviness has always been in the back of our minds. It’s a natural direction for us. Most bands soften their sound as they go on. We get more aggressive and heavy. That’s what NONPOINT does best.”
Meanwhile, the record opens up with the taut thrashing of “Pins And Needles”, which Elias describes as “That moment where you say something very candid to an opposing party, and you know you’re going to get a reaction. You only want to retaliate, waiting to pounce.”
“Razors” cuts deep with a bludgeoning and brutal stomp, and the title track captures a strong and rather crucial message for the singer. He continues, “When you look back in your past, you always will find people who didn’t believe in what you were doing at the beginning. They end up coming around full circle later. Watching them come back is an interesting feeling. You can be a dick about it, or you can just be happy and live your life. That song is about opening the door and holding the proverbial slice of crow for them to eat high above your head.”
Ultimately, NONPOINT once again delivers a cohesive collection of powerful songs. “I want everybody to feel like they got a complete record from beginning to end,” concludes Elias. “I want them to walk away with something substantial and true that they can hopefully come back to.”
Robb leaves off: “NONPOINT has always been known for writing songs that help people. If we can help even one person feel better about his or her day, we’ve done well, as far as I’m concerned. I hope everybody gets something positive and can walk away with a smile.”
“The Return” track listing:
01. Pins And Needles
02. Breaking Skin
05. The Return
06. Take Apart This World
07. Forcing Hands
08. Goodbye Letters
09. Never Ending Hole
11. Never Cared Before
13. Know Myself
NONPOINT‘s latest, self-titled album sold 7,300 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 62 on The Billboard 200 chart. The band’s previous CD, “Miracle” (2010), opened with around 8,000 units to land at No. 60.
A trailer for “We Are Twisted F*cking Sister!”, the forthcoming movie about TWISTED SISTER‘s club days by German filmmaker Andrew Horn, can be seen below.
Horn took to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo last year to help raise the $150,000 he has projected it will take for the film to receive a full release.
In a videotaped message posted at Horn’s YouTube channel, TWISTED SISTER frontman Dee Snider said Horn got at the heart of the band’s “‘Rocky’-esque story of a band of brothers from the New York area who toughed it out for nearly a decade before finding fame and fortune.” The singer went on to describe the end result as “for people who are original fans, hardcore fans, true fans — or want to know more about this band.”
He added: “This is independently done, which is the way a documentary of this kind should be [and not like other rock documentaries where the] band puts together … a piece of propaganda to make [themselves] look good.”
TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French previously stated about the upcoming film: “Andy has been working on this documentary for the last [five] years. The idea came to him after an interview with me concerning another artist named Klaus Nomi who opened for us at the Soap Factory around 1981. At that time, Andy really knew very little about us and became fascinated by the story of our long and winding road to a record deal.
“While most of the world thinks that TWISTED SISTER started in 1984, there are those who know a much different story.
“The band’s die-hard fans in the U.K. thought the story began a couple of years earlier when Secret Records signed us in England.
“There does exist, however, a subset of fans who know the real story. Those fans are from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Those fans spent years supporting us.
“Because of the sheer number of super-sized night clubs that started operating in the tri-state area around 1976, there exists a fan base that only knew us with me, Dee [Snider, vocals], Eddie [Ojeda, guitar] and for a short time bassist Ken Neill (with an assortment of changing drummers).
“However, before that, TWISTED SISTER played hundreds of shows at places like the Mad Hatter in East Quouge, Mr. T’s & Maxis in Wantagh, in Long Island, The Satellite Lounge, The Wreck Room, Dodd’s, The Colony III, The Joker II, The Searchlite, Spruce Goose, The Capricorn and the George Inn in NJ and the Sahara located in Adams, Massachusetts.
“This version, when you look at the photo history of the band, contained me and four people most of you don’t know: vocalist Michael Valentine, guitarist Billy Diamond, bassist Kenny Neill and drummer Mell Starr.
“Except for Kenny, these former members were either fired or left under very bad circumstances. What happened as a result of the experiences that I had with these ex members formed the basis of my management skills and taught me what to look for in future hiring. In fact, the first break up of the band in December of 1974 led to a personal crisis at the age of 22, that forever changed my life and taught me how to cope in the face of total failure both professionally and emotionally.
“In short, the lessons learned over those first two years formed the basis of the future of TWISTED SISTER. without having gone through it, the band, as it exists in the hearts of millions of fans around the world, would never had existed.
“To be clear, this in no way implies that Dee, Mark [Mendoza, bass], Eddie and AJ [Pero, drums] would not have found fame in their own right. These are all immensely talented musicians. I can also state that I can’t see where I would have succeeded without these guys.
“It was clear to me early on that the first version of the band was never going to make it. None of the members, except Kenny, had what it takes.
“The lack of focus, professionalism and raw talent of the first version became obvious and the proof is that of all the original five members, only me and Kenny survived that circus.
“I will say this however about the very early days of TWISTED SISTER: Our agent worked us to death, playing 5-6 nights a week 4-5 shows per night. Some shows ended as late as 6 a.m.!
“In those days, you played in one club for 3-6 night in a row. In the case of the Mad Hatter in East Quouge, we played 78 nights between May and September.”
“Dream Deceivers”, the 1992 documentary about the infamous trial in which JUDAS PRIEST was accused of inserting subliminal messages into its music, was finally released on DVD and digital on August 5.
Film synopsis: “Just before Christmas, 1985, 19-year-old James Vance watched his best friend Ray Belknap shoot himself to death with a .12 gauge shotgun in a churchyard outside Reno, Nevada. Then Vance pulled the trigger on himself. He survived but was severely disfigured. Vance later claimed his actions had been influenced by the heavy metal music of JUDAS PRIEST, prompting his family to sue the band. The drama of the ensuing trial provides the framework for David Van Taylor‘s disturbing look at teenagers today.”
According to Center For Media & Social Impact, the reason it took so long for the documentary to be officially released on home video is “the fair use revolution.” Specifically, because the music and lyrics of JUDAS PRIEST was heavily featured in “Dream Deceivers”, the documentary maker David Van Taylor was unable to get clearance from Sony to release the film on DVD. However, since the creation of the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use in 2005, there has been an increased acceptance of the law’s limited right to employ copyrighted material without licensing, when repurposing and using appropriate amounts.
“So much of what I cleared back in 1992 was absurd to clear,” Van Taylor told Center For Media & Social Impact, “and now the film seems like such a slam dunk for fair use. We have no qualms.”
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, at the heart of the lawsuit was the claim that JUDAS PRIEST‘s “Stained Class” album’s songs contained messages that, when played backwards, said “try suicide” and “let’s be dead.” Lawyers said it was the song “Better By You, Better Than Me” with its subliminal command of “do it, do it, do it” that pushed the two men over the line to end their troubled lives.
Vance told attorneys that he and Belknap were listening to JUDAS PRIEST when “all of a sudden we got a suicide message, and we got tired of life.” In a letter to Belknap‘s mother, he later wrote, “I believe that alcohol and heavy-metal music such as JUDAS PRIEST led us to be mesmerized.”
“JUDAS PRIEST and CBS pander this stuff to alienated teenagers,” the Belknaps‘ attorney argued. “The members of the chess club, the math and science majors don’t listen to this stuff. It’s the dropouts, the drug and alcohol abusers. So our argument is you have a duty to be more cautious when you’re dealing with a population susceptible to this stuff.”
JUDAS PRIEST‘s manager, Bill Curbishley, stated before the trial began: “I don’t know what subliminals are, but I do know there’s nothing like that in this music. If we were going to do that, I’d be saying, ‘Buy seven copies,’ not telling a couple of screwed-up kids to kill themselves.”
“It’s a fact that if you play speech backwards, some of it will seem to make sense,” JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Glenn Tipton said. “So I asked permission to go into a studio and find some perfectly innocent phonetic flukes. The lawyers didn’t want to do it, but I insisted. We bought a copy of the ‘Stained Class’ album in a local record shop, went into the studio, recorded it to tape, turned it over and played it backwards. Right away we found, ‘Hey ma, my chair’s broken’ and ‘Give me a peppermint’ and ‘Help me keep a job.'”
Speaking about the case in a 2007 interview, JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford said: “The American reaction was phenomenal — the support we had from the fans every day, to and from the courthouse. But it was very difficult to sit there and listen to the attorney basically saying: ‘These guys over there killed these kids.’ [We thought] ‘What are you talking about?’ It was surreal, but we knew we had to stand up for what we believed in: We had absolutely no association with their death. We kept them alive for a good period of their lives. We were a lifeline (from) the shit life that they were living.”
Halford went a step further in a 2008 interview with RockBand.com, telling the site: “We flatly refute any accusation or allegations that music of any thought or style can have the power to take someone’s life. At the end of the day, that’s the individual’s choice, and if you’re messed up on booze or drugs — or you have some kind of mental instability — that’s got to be addressed. But music in and of itself can’t kill you and never will.”
“It tore us up emotionally hearing someone say to the judge and the cameras that this is a band that creates music that kills young people,” Halford later admitted. “We accept that some people don’t like heavy metal, but we can’t let them convince us that it’s negative and destructive. Heavy metal is a friend that gives people great pleasure and enjoyment and helps them through hard times.”
Other lawsuits at that time sought damages because of violent lyrics in music, but the JUDAS PRIEST case was one of the first to claim that subliminal messages hidden behind those lyrics caused the deaths of young men.
“It was the first time there had been a judicial determination of whether subliminal messages were or were not protected speech under the First Amendment,” former Washoe District Judge Jerry Whitehead told the Reno Gazette-Journal in 2005.
Whitehead, who heard the case after the lawyers agreed not to have the civil suit decided by a jury, ruled it was not.
“Because speech is basically the expression of thoughts and ideas that a person can reflect upon and accept or reject, but a subliminal message is a surreptitious attempt to influence the subconscious and, therefore, is not something you could reflect upon and accept or reject,” he said.
His final decision: There was no conclusive evidence of subliminal messages, Whitehead dismissed the case against JUDAS PRIEST and its record company, CBS, in 1990.
(Thanks: Carl Alvarez)