April 29, 2012 by Publisher
by Steve Patrick
Staff Writer –
The members of Californian thrash outfit Warbringer are unabashed fans of the old-school. Their latest record, 2011’s Worlds Torn Asunder, is a relentless attack of 80’s thrash sound and sensibility. Even luminaries of the original Bay Area thrash scene have thrown their support behind the up-and-coming Warbringer. For example, Bill Metoyer (Slayer) produced their debut album War without End and Gary Holt of Exodus produced their sophomore album Waking into Nightmares.
Recently Warbringer rolled through Columbus, OH supporting Symphony X and Iced Earth. After Warbringer’s set at the Newport Music Hall, lead singer John Kevill shared with Hardrock Haven the reason he loves thrash metal and what it would take to make him karate kick my mother:
For more information on Warbringer, please visit www.warbringermusic.com
April 28, 2012 by Publisher
by Joe Mis
Staff Writer –
The Italian groove-metal band Rhope released their debut album entitled Turning Maybes Into Reality on 27-February-2012 after signing a deal with Bakerteam Records. This up-and-coming quartet consists of Diego Minach (vocal growls, guitars), Giammi Giuliani (lead vocals), Paolo Minach (bass), and Giovanni Tani (drums).
Guitarist / Vocalist Diego Minach has graciously volunteered to answer a few questions for Hardrock Haven.
Hardrock Haven – Hi Diego! Thanks for taking the time to visit with Hardrock Haven.
HRH – Congratulations on the release of Turning Maybes Into Reality – a solid debut album. Tell us a little about Rhope, and how you guys came together.
Diego Minach – Hi! Thank you for the great review! Rhope was formed in 2007 with the arrival of Giammi [Giuliani – lead vocals]. In 2004 me and my brother [bassist Paolo Minach] were already producing an album, but we decided to change the name of the band. Giammi created the new name as a mixture of ROPE+HOPE. In 2009 Giovanni Tani [drums] joined the band and we began to work on new songs, shaping our new style.
HRH – Rhope lays down some great groove metal tracks, along with lots of metalcore and thrash riffs. Who are the band’s biggest influences?
DM – We all have quite different musical tastes, but in the beginning we were all connected by Korn as our reference point and that kind of groove metal, the so-called nu-metal. Then we developed something that isn’t very similar to Korn (and that’s really good because we didn’t want to copy or clone them!). Apart from that we all love a lot of different genres; I listen to classical and new age quite often. I’ve recently been studying some fingerstyle music and I like to explore Music (with a capital M) in its complexity.
HRH – Tell us a bit about the metal scene in Italy – something we don’t hear that much about in the States.
DM – We have a lot of good bands here, and although there are a lot of people that love metal and heavy music it is very difficult in Italy to find a way to make your music heard. Metal isn’t “for the masses” – it isn’t “popular” here. It is still music for a relatively small group of people, and the average Italian would think we’re “strange”. I remember seeing a YouTube a video of Corey Taylor on Top of the Pops and being quite impressed because in Italy it’s impossible to see a hard rocker on a commercial TV channel!
HRH – If you ask most casual metal fans about Italian bands, they only seem to mention Lacuna Coil. However, it seems that the music scene there is very alive – last year we had some great progressive metal releases from Italy by Silver Lake and Odd Dimension. How do you try to break away from their shadows and make Rhope stand out from the rest of the pack?
DM – We’ve tried to develop a strong personal sound, something that is new, especially in Italy. As you said we have a lot of good bands especially in progressive metal and power metal, but I think that Rhope are really something new here. We’ve also paid a lot of attention and detail to achieving the right sound. We’re still developing and working on us as a band to become even more unique in our style – but being natural with it, not forcing it. We still want to be ourselves!
HRH – Lyrics seem important to Rhope, as most of your songs are quite well written. What is your songwriting process like, and where does the band find most of its inspiration?
DM – We look around us, and we generally find inspiration in everyday life, social issues and problems. Sometimes we write about more individual things, like “Parallel”, “Into The Box”, or “Lust.” We write spontaneously but we also care a lot about writing well as English is our second language. We respect the language and we don’t want to sound odd or unnatural. We always submit the lyrics to mother tongue speakers to check before considering them definitive.
HRH – You work well with fellow vocalist Giammi Giuliani. How do you come up with the great back-and-forth vocal lines?
DM – It depends on the situation. Usually we work on the vocals in our home studio, sometimes together, other times we integrate our individual ideas. In some cases we came to the final vocal arrangement while we were recording and working altogether with Paolo and Giovanni. We almost always agree on the vocals and that’s really a positive thing for the final result.
HRH – What is your favorite song on the album, and why?
DM – “Extinction is Forever” is probably my favourite song in this album. I wrote the main parts and the lyrics. The subject is a problem I really care about – animals and their extinction, and the fact that we all must do something to change the crazy way we’re living and wasting resources. I really love the music as well, with the alternating strong violent parts and the clean and atmospheric ones, as well as the long guitar solo.
HRH – As a guitarist, who are some of your influences and favorites?
DM – There are a lot of guitarists I love! I must say Steve Vai and Slash are my favourites.
Steve Vai really is a genius and he never repeats himself, he’s not just a guitarist. He’s got a superb technique of course but he’s a lot more than that. Slash on the other hand is the one with the best sound in my opinion, when you listen to his solos you can immediately recognize it is him, he sings with the guitar, he is so expressive. I really like Zakk Wylde, especially on the Pride and Glory album.
Kiko Loureiro is one guitarist I listen to a lot as a solo artist. I think Universo Inverso is his best album – he really produced something different. I’m amazed by his mastery in that fusion language.
John Petrucci is another artist I like a lot although I’m not really a fan of Dream Theater. Recently I discovered Misha Mansoor from Periphery and I think he’s really good and Periphery’s album is great!
I also really like Mark Morton’s style and Mastodon’s guitar atmospheres. I listen to a lot of acoustic guitarists as well like for example Tommy Emmanuel and Massimo Varini. For rhythm guitar and riffing I think my biggest influence is Robb Flynn.
HRH –You got to work with well-respected metal veteran Tom Baker during production and mastering. How did you guys hook up with him?
DM – We contacted Precision Mastering as we wanted a definitive mastering engineer! I’m a sound engineer and I worked on every step of the recording and mixing of the album but I’m not a mastering engineer so I thought we needed someone who was really into our genre. Tom did an amazing job, he didn’t alter the mixes but he added that magic touch and the punch that was necessary!
HRH – And speaking of “sound,” please tell us a little about the gear and equipment you used in the studio.
DM – I played my brand new Setius 7 strings by Mayones equipped with EMG’s 707 through a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier with its cabinet 4×12 Rectifer, combined with an Orange Thunderverb 50 with its Orange 4×12 cabinet. I also used a preset I made with a Line 6 Vetta II to give more definition to the analog sound. So the guitar sound is a combination of those 3 layered amps. For some of the solos and some of the clean parts I used a Mayones Regius 6 strings with Seymour Duncans Jeff Beck and Jazz pickups.
HRH – So what comes next for Rhope? Any touring plans, festivals?
DM – We’re looking into support tours with bigger bands and we’re in the process of signing a contract with an Italian-based booking agency. We’d really like to go outside Italy as well but at the moment we don’t have any fixed plans. Right now we’re busy writing new songs as we want to bring out a follow-up of Turning Maybes Into Reality soon.
HRH – And finally, is there anything else you like to share with our readers?
DM – Buy the music you really like because bands like Rhope can’t exist without your support!
HRH – Thanks for taking the time to visit with Hardrock Haven. Congratulations again for your debut release, and we wish Rhope much continued success!
For HRH’s take on Rhope’s debut, visit:
by Alissa Ordabai
Staff Writer –
The style of the late 80s – when instrumental guitar rock was at the peak of its popularity – to this day curiously dictates its methods to legions high-tech guitar aspirants all over the world. Seattle born and raised Brian Hunsaker is one such hopeful who on his freshly released CD channels the vibes of the time when the shred gurus of today were still at their tadpole stages.
Conventional tunes, greenhorn tone, unvarying rhythms, hurried phrasing, and standard-issue (although technically commendable) chops place Hunsaker somewhere between a hobbyist and a pro. Standouts such as “At Nebula’s End” hint at a knack for memorable tunecraft and a willingness to explore beyond the truisms, but overall the record is a peculiar throwback to a certain late Eighties instrumental guitar style where casual sentimentality, pseudo-mysticism and artifice in the disguise of profundity were de rigueur.
Most of this vibe is seeping into Hunsaker’s work from the early albums of today’s shred gods. But where the masters have since then progressed to a different level of perception and connecting the inner with the outer, this record is imitating the time when they were still struggling for independence and dealing with identity issues.
Genre: Instrumental Guitar, Melodic Rock
1. Into Orbit
2. Blue Angel
4. The Voyage
5. Gila Monster
6. Surreal Majesty
7. Spring Break
8. At Nebula’s End
9. Across the Galaxy
10. Atlantis Rising
11. Farewell to the King
Hardrock Haven rating: 5/10
April 26, 2012 by Publisher
by Steve Patrick
Staff Writer –
Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. If one did not know any other information about this release, Deep Purple’s new live disc Total Abandon: Australia ’99 would sound like a great idea. However, Purple fans out there should know that this release isn’t really new at all. It’s a stripped down, 1-disc version of a show that was previously released both on 2-disc CD and on DVD back in 1999.
The decision to condense a full show down to a 1-disc version is a curious one, especially given the fact that a 2-disc version already exists. For any of those out there that are curious, the tracks omitted include “Lazy,” “Perfect Strangers,” and “Speed King.”
It goes without saying that the performance itself is phenomenal. This is Deep Purple after all! The band is in fine form and touring behind their most recent studio release at the time, 1998’s Abandon. These live tracks also give listeners a taste of Steve Morse’s early days in the band. It’s clear that Morse’s presence gave the rest of the guys a much-needed kick in the pants.
The Mark VII line-up of Purple tears through a nice mix of old and new material in this show. The set opens with the rollicking “Ted the Mechanic” which is the lead track from Morse’s first record with the band, Purpendicular. It’s clear that the veterans in the band are proud of Morse and are more than happy to show off his guitar prowess.
Ian Gillan’s voice sounds great at this point as evidenced by his distinctive wailing on tracks like “Bloodsucker,” “Pictures of Home,” and “Fireball.” Mid-set features a couple of tracks from the album that Purple was supporting at the time, Abandon. Gillan offers an amusing introduction to “Almost Human” and Morse’s guitar dominates “Watching the Sky.”
Morse’s soaring guitar on “Sometimes I Feel like Screaming” is a high-mark of the show and turns a potentially mediocre song into a full-blown anthem. Also, Morse’s designated guitar solo in the set is a veritable tour through classic rock riff history with Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream, and The Beatles all represented and ultimately culminates in delivering the famous “Smoke on the Water” riff in all its glory.
The last things Deep Purple fans need are more live versions of “Strange Kind of Woman,” “Woman from Tokyo,” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Highway Star,” but they are most certainly included in this 1-disc version. It’s a shame that some of the material that is lesser known by comparison was omitted. Overall, no one can slight Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Morse or Gillan for giving a bad performance on Total Abandon: Australia ’99, but we can wish that we could hear all of it.
Genre: Classic Rock
Ian Gillan (v)
Roger Glover (b)
Jon Lord (k)
Ian Paice (d)
Steve Morse (g)
01. Ted The Mechanic
02. Strange Kind Of Woman
04. Pictures of Home
05. Almost Human
06. Woman From Tokyo
07. Watching The Sky
09. Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
10. Smoke On The Water
11. Black Night
12. Highway Star
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
April 26, 2012 by Publisher
by Mark Allen
Staff Writer –
Fans who have been chomping at the bit to sink their teeth—well, ears, technically—into this comeback album from Trixter will find it to be a mixed bag. There are some sweet melodic hard rock treats to be savored, but there are some less-tasty tricks as well. The balance is slightly tipped toward the former, but the unwelcome presence of the latter means this is not the classic Trixter reunion fans hoped for.
Sound-wise, this albums cleaves closely to Hear!, the band’s cult-beloved sophomore effort that came out twenty years ago. (Yes, now would be the appropriate time for everyone to moan, “Holy shit, I feel old.”) While the debut was undone by anorexic production, Hear! corrected that flaw with a bulkier, harder, less-glammy style that improved on its predecessor in practically every department. Two decades later, Trixter has wisely picked up where that sophomore album left off. New Audio Machine sounds absolutely killer, engineered for a thick sonic spectrum that takes full advantage of current production technology without sounding overly modern or hopelessly retro. You can crucify some of the songwriting choices on this album—and make no mistake, we will—but you cannot crucify the production. This sounds damn good, and kudos to those who catch the Trixter reference right there.
Also sounding sweeter than a sack full of Halloween candy is the axe work of Steve Brown. In some critical circles the music of Trixter has been called generic, but even those who blasted the band often praised the six-string skills of Brown and nothing here justifies altering that assessment. Brown’s sharp, sizzling prowess is all over New Audio Machine. Also showing no signs of rust is vocalist Pete Loran and between these two, not to mention the other original members who have all returned for this new album, they manage to give a portion of this release that classic Trixter sound.
But therein lays the rub; only some of New Audio Machine is immediately identifiable as Trixter. Sometimes this is everything you want from a Trixter album; other times, you’re left wondering what this or that song is doing on a Trixter album. New Audio Machine works in snippets, but taken a whole the album lacks that cohesive Trixter vibe. The band always brought a sense of anthemic power to the table, but on this new album the hooks sometimes falter and the rush of anticipatory excitement fades into the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations. None of the songs are dreadful—nothing on this release will make you want to chop off your ears—but a few too many just aren’t up to snuff.
But cast aside critical cynicism, focus on a glass half-full philosophy, and you will find plenty of assets. “Get On It” for example, with its slamming beat, banging rhythms, dynamic chorus, and gang vocal enhancements, is classic Trixter. Then there is “Dirty Love,” which is not only the best kind, but also one of the best tracks. Simplistic, sure, but in a retro-cool kind of way. The song just screams the ‘80s…you’ll just scream along to the song. The album highlight is the first single, “Tattoos & Misery,” which comes equipped with more catchiness than any one song has a right to. “Save Your Soul” is the kind of turn-it-up-to-ten anthem that was a staple of ‘80s metal, built out of hooky power chords and a huge chorus with gang vocals shouting, “Rock and roll will save your soul.” Yeah, it’s dumb and loud and bloated with enough Velveeta to give even KISS pause, but somehow Trixter make it work.
And so it goes, great songs mixed with so-so songs intertwined with some outright filler. Sure, this album could have—some might say, should have—been better, but it also could have been much, much worse. Ultimately, though this is a flawed effort from the band, there are enough treats on here to make it worth taking a ride on Trixter’s hard rock machine.
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
Pete Loran (lead vocals)
Steve Brown (guitars)
P.J. Farley (bass)
Mark “Gus” Scott (drums, percussion)
1. Drag Me Down
2. Get On It
3. Dirty Love
5. Live for the Day
7. Physical Attraction
8. Tattoos & Misery
9. The Coolest Thing
10. Save Your Soul
11. Walk With a Stranger
Label: Frontiers Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
April 24, 2012 by Publisher
by Scott Alisoglu
Guest Writer –
Jack Blades has been a name associated with numerous melodically potent, spirited rock albums over the past three decades, the best known being Night Ranger, Shaw/Blades, and Damn Yankees. Blades took a look back over his storied career and summarized the ups, downs, ins and outs of it on his second solo album, the aptly titled Rock N’ Roll Ride (Frontiers). While the album offers a fair share of Blades’ distinctive brand of upbeat melodic hard rock, he also shows another side of his immense talent in songwriting informed by the 60s/70s influences he holds so dear; everyone from Rod Stewart to The Beatles to The Eagles to Humble Pie. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable and appealingly varied collection of material that any fan of American rock music will want in his or her collection. Blades squeezed out a half hour in his insanely busy schedule to break it all down for us.
Hardrock Haven: Rock ‘N Roll Ride is a very American-looking album. The American flag on the inside is anything but subtle too.
Jack Blades: [Laughs] Pretty much. I’m pretty much an American guy and my bands have always been pretty much American bands, starting with Rubicon and Night Ranger and Damn Yankees and all that kind of stuff.
Hardrock Haven: No wonder you got along so well with Ted.
Jack Blades: [Laughs] yeah, right, exactly.
Hardrock Haven: This is solo album number two and most of what you do has such a positive vibe about it. On this one there is quite a lot of material that seems to be focusing on just being who you are. You’ve got that great line in “Change it’s where I go when I want to be free” on “Back in the Game.”
Jack Blades: You’re actually picking up some good stuff there, Scott. That’s very astute of you; I like that instead of an interview that’s all [in goofy voice] “So what was it like with Ted?” But at a certain point in my life I’ve reached a point where I want to say something and I don’t just want to write lyrics down about whatever. I’m cool with the guy and the girl thing and I’ve written a lot of those and lord knows I’ve had huge hits that way, but at this stage of the game I want to be able to say something. Otherwise, it’ll be like Robert Plant said, that I might as well just sit around and write down the words from the room service menu at the Holiday Inn and call that my lyrics. The lyrics like “don’t give up” and “I was born for this” and “change is where I want to go when I want to be free,” that’s kind of the way I am, man. The lyrics on this record are probably about as close of a glimpse into my soul as I’ve ever dared let out [laughs]. It’s kind of a credo of the way I am.
Hardrock Haven: Over the years you’ve developed, intentionally or otherwise, a sort of signature way of writing melodies; it’s recognizable for the most part as Jack Blades. This album has some of those too, but there just as many or more that are a bit of a departure.
Jack Blades: What’s nice about a solo record is that you can introduce things that you wouldn’t normally do with your band. I’m thankful that I have Night Ranger and it’s just a kick ass American rock band. I’m thankful that after all these years people still come and see us [laughs]. I wanted to make a record where what the title says is exactly what it is. I want everybody to go on a rock ‘n roll ride with me. There are ups and downs, you slow into a turn and all of a sudden there is just this frickin’ 175 mile per hour thing and you’re jamming it, and then you slow down… Almost like a roller coast ride. The title is exactly what this is. This is sort of like my 30 years of my rock ‘n roll ride. The influences that I’ve had have always been… Well, I’m from Southern California so there is the Beach Boys and Eagles and that Southern California sound in my heart and soul. And then I was also a big Beatles fan and then in the late 60s and early 70s I was deep into British metal like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and Cream and Blind Faith and Humble Pie. And then I moved to San Francisco and I got deep into like Sly and the Family Stone. A lot of times when I sit back and want to groove I put on Sly and the Family Stone’s Fresh album and just listen to like “In Time” or “If you want me to stay” and things like that. So this album is this ride of my life and that’s why it’s not all pedal to the metal, straight ahead Night Ranger and Damn Yankee type songs. So I can have a song like “Say You Will” or a song like “Hey Now,” a real bluesy track at the end. That’s why I enjoyed making this record.
Hardrock Haven: In fact, “Hey Now” is kind of folksy and acoustic and it has that bluesy organ in there. When you break it down it almost sounds like something Rod Stewart would have done in the early days.
Jack Blades: Oh, you’re so spot-on with that track! You’re frickin’ exactly feeling what I was feeling there. Of course I was into the Stones and “Wild Horses” and shit like that and when I did that song I played the acoustic guitar part and I thought why don’t I just put a scratch vocal on it, just so we know where the song is going. So I got up to the microphone and it was like 1:00 a.m. and we were in studio getting ready to finish out and all the lights were down, the candles and incense were burning, and I just sat there and sang those lyrics out, man. It was almost like stream of consciousness shit. I changed a few words and it was all finished. After it was all finished [engineer] Will [Evankovich] just looked at me and said “Where the hell did that come from?” I was like dude, fuck I don’t know [laughs]. And we left that vocal; that’s the vocal that is on the record. I listen to the vocal and would try to sing it like two weeks later and I was like “Dude, I can’t beat this.” Getting back to what you said, I think that’s the way a lot those Every Picture Tells a Story kinds of albums came about. I’m sure it was just a bunch of guys sitting their drunk asses in a room laughing and joking; he and Ronnie Wood or whatever. Just a bunch of guys going “Fuck, do that!” [Laughs]
Hardrock Haven: There are a couple of other moments too and this may not have been intentional but on “West Hollywood” and another song that’s escaping me at the moment you can even hear a Tom Petty vibe.
Jack Blades: Like “Don’t Give Up,” yeah. “West Hollywood” and “Don’t Give Up,” that’s the California vibe thing that’s in me. I know Petty is from Florida, but he was out in L.A. for so long and that’s kind of ingrained in me too. It’s kind of like the Shaw/Blades stuff that Tommy and I do too. We did an album back in ’95 called Hallucination and then we did Influence, which was covers of our favorite songs from the 60s and 70s that we put out a few years ago that sold really, really well and we were on the Howard Stern show and did all these shows. Actually, we’re halfway through an Influence II record. Tommy was here a week and a half ago working on some tracks and I was down at his place working on it last month.
Hardrock Haven: Even on the last Night Ranger album, Somewhere in California, that is also so full of that same vibe. You can’t think of anything but sun and driving with the top down and just cruising when you listen to “Growing up in California.” You can’t find a damn cloud in that song [laughs].
Jack Blades: Dude, check this out! That song, I had written for my solo record. I finished my solo record before the Night Ranger record came out and so we were going to release that one first. The song “Growing up in California” I had recorded for my solo record and Kelly [Keagy] and Brad [Gillis] heard it and said that’s a Night Ranger song and I’m like “yeah, you’re probably right” [laughs]. So I pulled it off my solo record and got all the Night Ranger guys to play on it and we put it out and became the first song on the record.
Hardrock Haven: And your son Colin co-wrote “West Hollywood?”
Jack Blades: Yeah, he lives in Hollywood and about a year and a half ago he came up to visit here for a weekend with his girlfriend. He walked into the kitchen one morning and had his guitar and just started singing “West Hollywood.” And I went “Fuck, that’s great, dude!” I always remembered that so when I decided to do the solo record I said I’m going to do that song. I called him up and we finished the song. He’s a real good songwriter and he’s doing his own stuff down in L.A.
Hardrock Haven: Then of course, “Anything for You,” before I even read that it was Robin Zander [Cheap Trick] performing on that it was so obvious it was him.
Jack Blades: It’s quite a difference, isn’t it?
Hardrock Haven: It’s interesting to hear how The Beatles’ influence comes through, like how Cheap Trick channels The Beatles.
Jack Blades: I gotta tell you, man, I’d love to do a whole album with Robin. I called him and told him I was doing a solo record and he was out on the West Coast doing a show or something like that and he shows up at my places in this big stretch limo. He gets out wearing this all white suit and I’m like “damn.” I have the music for “Anything for You” and he just starts singing that [imitates a grand Zander vocal line] and I was like “Whoa!” So we recorded it real quick and wrote two other songs and then he gets in this big ole long stretch, black limousine and drives away four hours later and Will and I are looking at each going “What the hell just happened?” That was just the most creative four hours I’ve spent in years. I’m so proud of that song it’s crazy.
Hardrock Haven: Even with the range of influences and styles the album flows very well. It’s never stuck in one mode for too long and it’s got a good mix of straight rock and deeper material.
Jack Blades: Trying to figure out which song should go where is always a constant struggle with me. I thought the record flowed real well and starting with “Back in the Game” I really wanted to sock everybody right in the chin with a rockin’ track. So I made this video and if you want to see it just go to You Tube and type in “Jack Blades, Back in the Game” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpOPMYadzrE] and it’s like this mini movie. Actually, that’s my son Colin starring in the movie. You’ve got to check it out. It’s really cool. There is a Western Union telegram that’s in the video and some Army medals that were always in my family. In fact, the Western Union telegram is up in my studio and had it there for years; it was something my mom received like the day after Christmas in 1944, saying that her husband was killed in the war. So I’ve always had that and used it in there. At the end of the video I dedicate it to all the troops that have given their last full measure to ensure freedom for the world. I’m pretty proud of that video.
Hardrock Haven: The CD layout is great too. The memorabilia pictured on the cover is all yours?
Jack Blades: Those are all the laminates from the bottom drawer in my closet. I saved all my laminates going back to the days when I was in Rubicon at California Jam II in 1978. It’s pretty wild. Those are all the real deals!
Hardrock Haven: The post-it notes on the inside of the booklet, such as “When Rubicon broke up I thought the world had ended,” pinpoint significant moments in your career.
Jack Blades: Yeah, those are moments in my rock ‘n roll ride. When Rubicon ended I thought my world had ended. That’s the whole thing, man; you never know. The next thing you know I’m in Night Ranger and that’s where I was meant to be and here I am. It’s all these moments that mean something in the grand scheme of things.
Hardrock Haven: There is the one note about Night Ranger and Japan calling in ‘96 after the Shaw/Blades album came out. Were you wondering about whether Night Ranger was still relevant at the time? You seemed shocked by the response from the Japanese fans.
Jack Blades: Well, it was at a time when we were doing Shaw/Blades and Tommy had gone back to Styx and I was sort of like hanging out there going “Well, that’s interesting and I guess we’re not going to do a new Damn Yankees record” and I don’t know what’s going on. Then the next thing you know the guys in the Night Ranger found out about the Japan thing and said why don’t we play some shows there. Then all of a sudden the first show sells out, then the second, then third, and it’s like “Ok, we’re back” [Laughs]. We did something right over there I think.
Hardrock Haven: Some of the Night Ranger guys play on this album, as well as some others.
Jack Blades: Brian Tichy, my buddy that plays drums in Whitesnake and played with Foreigner and Ozzy and everybody else, played on some of the tracks and Kelly [Keagy] played on some. Alan Hertz, a great drummer from up here in Northern California, played on a few of the less rockin’ tracks. Joel Hoekstra from Night Ranger did most of the guitars, Will Evankovich, my buddy from Shaw/Blades, did most all the acoustic guitars and some electric and sang background with my son Colin. Those are my buddies, man and we made a record [laughs].
Hardrock Haven: No Ted Nugent on this one though.
Jack Blades: No, but we had Ted on our Night Ranger album last year [laughs]. We did an extra track, a version of [Damn Yankees’] “Coming of Age” and we broke it down halftime in the middle and Ted recreated the “Stranglehold” solo [laughs]. It’s a bonus track.
Hardrock Haven: Are you going to do any shows in support of Rock N’ Roll Ride?
Jack Blades: I’d like to do some shows. I’m trying to figure it out because I’ve been so busy doing everything else. So many of these songs are just screaming to be played live.
Hardrock Haven: Frontiers is treating you well it seems.
Jack Blades: Oh yeah, I love the guys from Frontiers. What’s neat about Frontiers is that sine the beginning they’ve given me a green light and just say do what you want to do and we’ll back you up, we believe in you. The owner and I are really good friends; I trust him and he trusts me that I’ll give it everything I’ve got. And I know he’s going to give it everything he’s got. We have sort of this mutual admiration for each other and it works out really well.
Hardrock Haven: I think that about covers it.
Jack Blades: Thanks Scott! Make sure you check out that video!
Visit Jack Blades on the web @ www.frontiers.it
by Mark Allen
Staff Writer –
Half a decade has passed since this German band released their last CD. In the world at large, much has changed since then. Obama is the President of the United States. Bin Laden bit a bullet. Miley Cyrus is now legal. But what has not changed in those five years is the sound of Wild Frontier. Catchy melodic hard rock is what they were playing back then… catchy melodic hard rock is what they’re playing today.
Wild Frontier’s style is in the Bonfire vein, with some Def Leppard (mainly in the layered harmonies) and Scorpions sprinkled into the mix. They are a pure blood melodic hard rock band who give the cold shoulder to modern trends like the prissily pretty cheerleader snubbing a date request from the school dork. They have zero tolerance for current fads, no interest in crossbreeding with other genres. Their guitars are just edgy enough to earn them the “hard” tag, the keys are subtle enough to avoid the “AOR” label, and the slick hooks and slicker choruses elevate this from a solid effort into an excellent one.
Someone could argue the songwriting is simplistic at times, but that someone would be nitpicking, splitting hairs, and just generally being a grump. The arrangements here are focused on creating addictive melodies and alluring refrains, not on impressing anyone with complexity. There are thousands of prog-rock and metal bands out there more than willing to wow you with technical wizardry; Wild Frontier just want you to tap your foot, bang your head, and sing along.
Speaking of singing…the lead vocals are laced with a noticeable accent, but nothing that should faze anyone who grew up listening to European hard rock. If your ears can handle Klaus Meine (Scorpions) or Claus Lessman (Bonfire), then they can handle Jens Walkenhorst. English not being his native tongue, the vocalist received some coaching in proper inflection from a respected rock journalist here in the States and it seems those lessons served him well.
The album is engineered exactly as it needs to be, each element allowed room to breathe; everything sounds open and airy. Those who prefer their production be packed with more beef than a Burger King freezer and enjoy their Sonics thicker than Rosie O’Donnell’s thighbone may find the overall sound of this album to be a bit tame, but Wild Frontier are aiming for crisp and clean, not crushing and crunchy.
But that hardly means these guys are lightweights. For proof, look no further than “Stay Tough,” an ‘80s-style anthem that sports the kind of fist-pumping power you expected from a band like Keel or Black ‘N Blue back in the day. More evidence can be found in “Long Gone,” a full-throttle rocker punched up with gang vocal “whoas,” ripping guitars, and a chopping, rapid-fire rhythm. Really, the only duff track is the instrumental opener, which is as unnecessary as…well, as unnecessary as instrumental openers always are. Heck, the band even pulls off a miracle by making ABBA sound cool with a rocking cover of “Gimme Gimme Gimme.” Yes, you just read “ABBA” and “cool” in the same sentence and it wasn’t a joke.
2012 has already been a banner year in melodic hard rock and it just keeps getting better. At one point Wild Frontier pose the plaintive question, “Why are the good things too hard to find?” Well, if the “good thing “ they are referring to is a high-quality melodic hard rock album, then it’s not too hard to find—it’s right here.
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
Jens Walkenhorst (lead vocals, guitar)
Mario Erdmann (bass)
Thomas Ellenberger (keyboards)
Sascha Fahrenbach (drums, guitar)
Nico Fahrenback (drums)
2. To the End of the World
3. It’s All Over Now
4. Another Lonely Day Without You
5. Why Don’t You Save Me
6. Stay Tough
8. It’s All Up To You
9. Tonight Tonight Tonight
10. Can’t You Hear Me Calling
11. Long Gone
12. Why are the Good Things Too Hard to Find
13. Gimme Gimme Gimme (ABBA cover)
Label: Frontiers Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.8/10
April 22, 2012 by Publisher
by Justin Gaines
Staff Writer –
Finnish progressive metal band Status Minor is back with their second full-length album, titled Ouroboros. The band turned some heads with their 2009 debut Dialog, and if anything Ouroboros is an even stronger album. The band still plays a highly melodic, Dream Theater-inspired brand of progressive metal, but they’ve refined their sound as well as their overall songwriting.
If nothing else, you have to give Status Minor credit for not simply imitating their more popular countrymen in Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica. Instead of taking those bands’ often cold and neoclassical approach to the genre, Status Minor emphasizes powerful melodies and brings some real heaviness that brings to mind Evergrey as well as Train of Thought-era Dream Theater.
While Ouroboros is a strong album throughout, you soon notice that three key elements are driving the overall sound. The first is Sami Saarinen’s guitar work, which is dazzling and technical enough to satisfy most progressive metal fans, and subtle and steady when that’s called for. The second is Jukka Karinen’s keyboards, which play a huge (but not overpowering) role in how these songs sound. So often the keys can sound like an afterthought or simply echo what the guitarist is doing, but that’s definitely not the case here. And of course there’s the vocals. Markku Kuikka has an amazing voice and a terrific range, and he knows just when to break out of that steady mid-range to deliver some extra emphasis. There are also some occasional female backing vocals here, which is a nice touch.
Most of the songs on Ouroboros clock in at the 5-minute mark, and given how melodic and accessible they are, that’s probably a smart move. They’re more effective that way. However, as with Dialog, Ouroboros closes with a massive, overtly progressive song. This time it’s the 10-minute “Sail Away,” which comes directly from the Dream Theater playbook. It’s an obvious highlight, but the more straightforward “Hollow” and “Flowers Die” also stand out.
Ouroboros is another fantastic album from a band that deserves a lot more attention in progressive/power metal circles. Fans of bands like Circus Maximus and Seventh Wonder in particular should definitely enjoy this one. Hopefully this time around Status Minor will get some recognition.
Genre: Progressive Metal
Eero Pakkanen (b)
Rolf Pilve (d)
Sami Saarinen (g)
Jukka Karinen (k)
Markku Kuikka (v)
1. The Wind
3. Glass Wall
4. Like a Dream
5. Confidence and Trust
8. Flowers Die
9. Sail Away
Label: Lion Music
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.75/10
April 21, 2012 by Managing Editor
by Hardrock Haven
Staff Writer –
There’s some music in life that is custom made for romance, for love, for candlelight interludes and Harlequin fairy tales. And then there’s the music made by Dennis Develin, a flat out love-hating tat-covered ass kickin’ SOB who just happens to sound like he has Lemmy’s blood in his veins. On his new album Tip of the Tongue, Develin brings you into his world of violent love, men who are so browbeaten they can’t “perform,” sheer anger at the world around you … and of course an ode to all of the beautiful harlots of the ‘80s. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds …
“All You Got” kicks things off, a nice little tale about one-night stands and giving women nicknames like “Head Queen.” If any of his music is taken from his actual life, Gene Simmons will be jealous. The music is as sleazy as the story, a grinding, pumping anthem with Develin’s sneering gritty vocals singing “Give me all you got, cuz it’s been itching, down her kitchen, all night!” As the song comes to a close, Develin mocks women’s incessant need for marriage after fornication. It’s really honest and cutting—he isn’t wrong.
The next track continues the ravenous sexuality, “Backseat Fighter.” Basically, it’s a song about lovely lass named Gina (pronounced Ji-na) and that tells you about as much as you need to know. “She fits like a glove, she’s one of a kind, she lives for the night …” You can hear the idiot experts on shows like American Idol saying “you know who you are as an artist; be true to yourself.” Well, if that’s the key component to artistry, Develin has every other artist in the world beat.
“Can’t Die Fast Enough” is heavy … duty. It’s all carnal pumping and the riffs from Jonas Roxx cut to the chase. “I got a gun, I got a knife. A rope and a noose and an alibi … you can’t die fast enough.” Yeah … perchance all of this tainted love is creating “anger issues.” If you are pissed at the world, turn this up to 11, thrash around, scream your head off, and use it as a cathartic way to stay out of jail. It’s truly vicious … and awesome.
If you thought a song like “Never Let You Go” would be a step back from the aggression, especially based on its mid-tempo pacing and melodic guitar leads, you’d just be wrong. Develin takes the edge off his voice and opens with lines like, “I have waited all my life for a girl like you,” which seems positive. And Develin plays no studio tricks with his vocals; if you catch him playing live it’d sound just like this final cut. It’s honest, earnest singing and it matches the song to perfection. Of course, it’s Develin, so the happy story ends with “Sometimes I hurt you; that’s the name of the game. We will be together … until the end of the days.”
But don’t fret—it’s not ALL dark and gloomy. “Ladies of the Eighties” was first heard on Perris Records compilation Hollywood Hairspray 7. When you hear the opening guitar refrain you’ll be thinking “Summertime Girls” or something that poppy, that lighthearted and the song is all of those things. It’s really a nostalgia track, an anthem about how it used to be so easy for men and women to copulate without all the aftershocks. “I miss the fire; today, there’s no desire! I miss the ladies of the eighties!” Develin has a hell of a sense of humor too, especially on lyrics like, “Today we got the Internet, and we’re only touching ourselves!” This final track is the bonus cut, and Develin did well by placing it on the release, if only to offset the visceral messages heard before it. While it veers far off course from tracks like “Can’t Die Fast Enough,” it’s believable … because it’s about sex, after all.
Tip of the Tongue is not a carefree, summertime driving album. This is what you listen to when you walk in on your lover cheating on you … when you find out your child isn’t really your child … when you are in the middle of a relationship so toxic you just want the lights to go out … and finally, when you are at a kick ass rock ‘n roll show surrounded by beautiful, overly-hairsprayed women. The great thing about Develin’s music is that it is so authentic—you know it’s him as soon as you hear the music. “Different” doesn’t always equate to “better,” but in this case, it surely does …
1. All You Got
2. Backseat Fighter
4. Can’t Die Fast Enough
6. MF Man
7. Pussy As a Friend
8. Never Let You Go
9. Birds of Fire
10. Ladies of the Eighties
Genre: Hard Rock/Metal
Label: Perris Records
Hardrock Haven Rating: 8.1/10
by Justin Gaines
Staff Writer –
If you’re the kind of fan of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s melodic rock scene that still follows the bands all these years later, you’re no doubt aware of the fact that the original Tyketto lineup is back together and has a new album out. Tyketto’s latest, titled Dig in Deep, is only the band’s fourth studio album, and is their first since 1995’s Shine. It’s not Shine that Tyketto has to follow-up here though. With the original lineup – Danny Vaughn, Brooke St. James, Jimi Kennedy and Michael Clayton – intact, fans are looking for an album that is worthy of 1991’s Don’t Come Easy and 1994’s Strength in Numbers, two of the best melodic rock albums that decade had to offer.
The band members haven’t exactly been sitting idle these past two decades. Vocalist Danny Vaughn in particular has maintained a successful solo career as well as his From the Inside side-project. As a result, Dig in Deep sounds like what it is, the work of seasoned veterans who are older and wiser, but no less optimistic than they were back in 1991. It’s not as instantly memorable as Don’t Come Easy was, with its dynamite hooks and radio-ready singles, but Dig in Deep definitely has the Tyketto spirit, especially in the lyrics. You hear it the most on the album’s harder rocking songs, like the dynamic opener “Faithless” and the stomping “The Fight Left in Me,” which features some blistering guitar work from St. James and could have come straight from Strength in Numbers. The rest of the album alternates between the kind of mid-tempo melodic rockers and Eagles-like slower songs you’d find on one of Danny Vaughn’s solo albums. That’s not a bad thing, given how good a songwriter Vaughn is, but at the same time songs like “Here’s Hoping It Hurts” and “Monday” don’t stand out clearly as Tyketto songs.
We’re not getting another Don’t Come Easy here, but that was probably an unreasonable expectation in the first place. What we are getting in Dig in Deep is a smooth melodic rock album with a solid rock n’ roll backbone, real heart and soul, top-notch musicianship and vocals to die for, and that’s not a bad deal at all. Dig in Deep is a welcome comeback from one of the best, and most consistently overlooked, bands in melodic rock.
Genre: Melodic Rock
Danny Vaughn (v)
Brooke St. James (g) (v)
Jimi Kennedy (b) (v)
Michael Clayton (d)
2. Love to Love
3. Here’s Hoping It Hurts
4. Battle Lines
5. The Fight Left in Me
8. Dig in Deep
9. Sound Off
10. Let This One Slide
11. This Is How We Say Goodbye
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
by Justin Gaines
Staff Writer –
Danish melodic/progressive metal band Royal Hunt celebrates their 20th anniversary this year, and what better way to do that than with an extensive, multi-disc “best of” collection that captures the highlights of the band’s career and best albums? Unfortunately, Heart of the City (Best of 1992-1999) does nothing of the sort. The idea of a compilation covering Royal Hunt’s ‘90s output is a good one. There hasn’t been anything like that since 1998’s Best, and that was only available in Japan. The problem with Heart of the City is that it’s limited to a single disc and just ten songs, and those songs appear to have been chosen by someone utterly unfamiliar with the band’s history.
With this collection, you get a pair of songs from each of Royal Hunt’s first five albums, which means that despite being far more successful and superior in just about every way, the DC Cooper-fronted albums Moving Target and Paradox get the same amount of songs as the largely unknown early albums Land of Broken Hearts and Clown in the Mirror, and even then they gloss over some key songs. No “Last Goodbye” or “1348?” No “River of Pain” or “Message to God?” That’s an instant fail right there.
A real best of Royal Hunt’s ‘90s era should ideally have two discs, but failing that the non-DC Cooper albums should have one song each…tops. Throw on “Land of Broken Hearts,” “Clown in the Mirror” and “Fear” and you’re done. After that you want 3-4 songs each from Moving Target and Paradox, plus a song or two from the live albums 1996 and Paradox – Closing the Chapter. Royal Hunt’s career in the ‘90s was defined by DC Cooper’s vocals as much as anything else, and a good “best of” set would acknowledge that.
Heart of the City just doesn’t get the job done. It’s barely acceptable as an introduction for fans unfamiliar with the band, and even then newcomers are better off with a collection like Double Live in Japan. And without any b-sides or noticeable remastering, there’s definitely nothing here for serious Royal Hunt fans to bother with.
Genre: Melodic Rock, Melodic Metal, Progressive Metal
1. Running Wild
2. Kingdom Dark
3. On the Run
4. Clown in the Mirror
5. Making a Mess
7. Tearing Down the World
8. Silent Scream
10. Sea of Time
Hardrock Haven rating: 5/10
by Joe Mis
Staff Writer –
More and more interesting rock of all sub-genres is coming out of Italy these days, and fans of flowing and melodic progressive rock are in for a treat if they pick up the debut album from the Italian 3-piece, L’Alba Di Morrigan. The Turin-based trio has just released The Essence Remains on the My Kingdom Music label, and it is a solid debut in every respect.
The band consists of vocalist / guitarist Ugo Ballisai, bassist Alessio Caruso, and drummer Luca Costanzo. Together since 2008, this trio plays like a group with a much longer history. They excel at setting mood, and their performances have real depth and numerous complex layers that manage to blend seamlessly into a cohesive and melodic whole. There are plenty of vocal harmonies and instrumental subtleties, long atmospheric passages and moody melody lines, and just enough variety of tone and tempo to make it all interesting. As is the case with many “power trios” there is not a single standout performer – each member of the band does a fine job and contributes greatly to each and every track. The vocals, guitars, bass and drums are all equally important to L’Alba Di Morrigan’s music.
“Snowstorm” opens the album with smooth, flowing vocals, nicely done guitars, slick bass and almost tribal drums. This track carries a good deal of warmth and pretty much sums up the sweeping and melodic sound that is the band’s keystone. Progressive tempo changes make it a fine tune, and signals great things to come. Thick and chunky guitar / bass riffs open “The Fairies Circle” before leading to a very mellow and hypnotic vocal line by Ugo Ballisai. Drummer Luca Costanzo seems to keep everyone focused and handles the tempo changes and subtle elements deftly. Alessio Caruso’s bass work drives a number of the more ethereal passages with grace and delicacy. Layered guitars, lush vocals and amazing keyboards make “Silence” one of the stronger songs on the album. “Lilith” is a very modern rock track featuring some great bass and drum work, and it is sung in the band’s native Italian making for a totally immersive sonic journey if you don’t speak the language.
“Holy Mountain pt.1” and “Holy Mountain pt.2” feature a powerful and pulsating bass opening and some interesting guitar dissonances. Ballisai’s vocals are much simpler on this epic journey and allow the music to be the driver. Both parts of the song showcase the underlying instrumental talents of the entire band. “24 Megatons” is the most “metal” and energetic track on the album and this instrumental features some incredible bass guitar hooks. “Equilibrium” is a very low key instrumental and a long track at almost 8 minutes. It is well-executed, but a little drawn out and breaks some of the momentum of the album as a whole. “The Essence Remains” wraps the release in melancholy (but not depressing) style – great bass and drums here.
Fans of progressive rock or metal will without a doubt enjoy this solid debut. It is creative, imaginative and well executed. There are few weak spots anywhere on the release. The only one worth mentioning is the occasional burying of the vocals under the instruments – just a bit more volume on the voice would help in some of the more subtle moments. The raw talent of the band is obvious, as is the level of care and creativity they put into their music. Highly polished and very well done, The Essence Remains is hopefully the first step on a long and successful road for L’Alba Di Morrigan.
Italy is musically much more than just the home of Lacuna Coil. Perhaps this is another sign that the NWOIHM is upon us…
Genre: Progressive Rock
Ugo Ballisai (guitar, vocals)
Alessio Caruso (bass)
Luca Costanzo (drums)
Guest musician – Frank Default (keyboards, programming on “Snowstorm” and “Silence”)
2. The Fairies Circle
5. Holy Mountain pt. 1 (The Alkemist’s Frode)
6. Holy Mountain pt. 2 (The Rebirth)
7. 24 Megatons
9. The Essence Remains
Label: My Kingdom Music
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10
by Alissa Ordabai
Staff Writer –
You’ll need a turntable to hear this release as it will not be available in any other format but a vinyl LP – a decision Jimmy Page perhaps took as a tribute to the epoch when the material was recorded while subtly hinting at its exclusivity. A compilation of Page’s early Seventies avant-garde experiments is certainly not for the mass market and not for the mass listener. If it resembles Led Zeppelin in any way, then only in its broodingly dark atmosphere or the way it offers a glimpse of the fertilizer ground from which ideas sprang in the band. A lot of creative audacity and experimental courage went into making the music on this record, but none of it has anything to do with rock, Page interested not in riffs or melodies, but mainly in exploring sound per se, going where the sonic properties of his instruments lead him.
Following the path first trodden by Brian Jones with his recordings of traditional Moroccan music – and in resonance with the fashions of that time – Jimmy Page here ventures further than Jones, mixing the inspiration received from the Eastern music with his personal inner realities in a bid to reach beyond Western cultural codes and practices.
In this sense it’s a deeply self-indulgent record, as Page has no wish to entertain, instead choosing to communicate with his inner self to unravel his own potentialities and to tap into what can be awakened within. So it is slightly ironic that when this type of self-discovery in the end did prove successful, the evidence was not in Page’s experimental material, but in the songs and the sounds of Led Zeppelin. In this sense his experiments such as these did serve a purpose – having enriched the music of his band – but never amounted to a substantial contribution to the avant-garde music.
Most of the sounds and vibes on this release would sound outlandish to an average rock audience, but die-hard fans of LZ would perhaps hear echoes of Bonzo’s accents and patters in the tabla parts of the title track, and hints of the blues on the East-meets-West gem “Unharmonics”. The haunted, at times luminously eerie “Unharmonics” is perhaps the closest this release gets to rock with its mix of traditional Indian music and the bluesy guitar sounding as if learned by an alien and reaching us from a different planet, carrying a deeper mystery with its twilight glow than any other material released by Page to date. Other pieces – including the infamous title track which never made it to the final cut of Kenneth Anger’s film – are mostly juxtapositions and mixtures of textures and sounds, tranced ostinato repetitions, and experiments with timbre, where Page is more interested in the atmospherics than composition.
On the one hand this release is a relic – the product of the time when rock musicians were looking toward the East for guidance and inspiration, just like the early XX century esoterics who preceded them. But on the other hand this music is curiously timeless, not chasing or creating any trends, not following any prescribed patterns, and aiming at a purpose deeper than reflections on one’s own immediate surroundings. It is also simultaneously abstract and deeply personal, self-indulgent but also self-forgetting in an attempt to engage the forces that have been here since the dawn of time.
Whether this release will be understood or misunderstood, one thing is for sure – no-one will ever write music like this. Not only because of the singularity of its author, but also because the times have irreversibly changed and a different age is now upon us where the price for self-search is either obscurity or complete anonymity.
All songs written by Jimmy Page.
All instruments played and recorded by Jimmy Page.
1. Lucifer Rising – Main Track
“Whilst in India I had acquired a bass tanpura, that provides a majestic drone. I applied a chant, tabla drums, bowed guitar, acoustic twelve string guitar, mellotron and a newly acquired ARP synthesiser that provided the Horns of Jericho. A mix of music was presented to Kenneth Anger and was used on showings of the first third of the film but not in the final cut.”
“This suggests the icy scratches and cutting embrace of the incubus at play.”
“Inspired by my journeys both on foot and through the recordings of the masters. A simple homage to the sarangi.”
Instruments: Six string bowed guitar
“With the harmonics and demonstrative bowed glissandos the naked solo guitar moves cautiously through a sonic landscape.”
Instruments: Six string guitar, bowed guitar
5. Damask – Ambient
“Damask Mix II returns from the original recording with a more dense, heavily perfumed ambience.”
Instrument: Six string bowed guitar
6. Lucifer Rising – Percussive Return
“The main title with a surprise visitor. I had forgotten about a percussive overdub courtesy of the ARP Odyssey synthesiser.”
Instruments: Phased chants, ARP synthesiser, mellotron, twelve string guitar, tabla
Label: published by Succubus Music Limited
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
by Ron Higgins
Staff Writer –
Serpents Kiss is the first album from the unlikely duo of original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins and Christian metal guitarist Paul May. Although this is their first full-blown collaboration, May has appeared on some Al Atkins solo albums in the past. So the question is, does this two-man project work? Does Bret Michaels like bandanas?
Al Atkins brings some name recognition, to a degree, thanks to being an original founding member of British heavyweights Judas Priest. He has also released six solo albums and is currently fronting the band Holy Rage. May on the other hand is lesser known despite being a fairly prolific session musician (recording on over 50 albums) and playing in bands A.N.D. & Temple Dogs. Although Al brings the name to the project, it’s May who really shines on this release. Not only is he the primary songwriter but his guitar slinging is top-notch. People who have never heard of Paul May will certainly know his name after this one.
To those who aren’t familiar with Al’s vocal style, this release might appear to be somewhat novel. However, this is by no means a novelty record. This is a legitimate heavy metal record. So how do the vocals sound on this record? Do they sound anything at all like The Metal God? Well, not really. He mostly sings in a lower register with a bit of a growl. He does hit some high notes but it sounds strained at times. He’s not bad but he’s no Halford. But then again, who is? He can definitely sing though but it’s a bit like comparing Bruce Dickinson to Paul Di’Anno. They can both sing but they’re not in the same league. But you have to give credit to anyone who helped contribute to the seminal Judas Priest song “Victim of Changes”. What about the guitar work? Absolutely blistering throughout. Very impressive.
This straight-ahead metal record kicks off in interesting fashion with “The Shallowing.” The song starts with a slow, crunching riff layered with sounds reminiscent of warnings being sounded prior to a missile attack, which is quite apropos as this tune kicks off an auditory assault of pure metal about 60 seconds in. For those who may never have heard Halford’s predecessor, this album teases like a married stripper feigning interest while being plied with $20 drinks, making the listener wait a full minute and a half before finally hearing Mr. Atkins’s musical snarl. The track pounds along for the rest of the song but slows back down towards the end, firmly establishing a rather dark and gloomy mood.
Although this is a solid record all the way through, as usual, there are several standout tracks. These include “Dream Maker”, “Signz”, “Fight “, and “Betta Than Twisted”. “Dream Maker” has an infectious driving rhythm. And you have to love a song that starts off with a gong. It’s like a law or something. This is a slower but heavy groove song with impeccable guitar wizardry, which is prominently featured throughout the album. The double-bass drumming is a nice touch too. “Signz” is another pleasant chugger with some cool high/low vocal multi-tracking that would make Axl Rose proud. The spiritual lyrics that pervade this album shows up in full force here with lyrics like, “better watch and pray, it won’t be long, gotta keep the faith bold and strong, and when the prophets say I Am The One the warning signs have just begun,” which are both spiritual and apocalyptic, adding to the dark, doom-like atmosphere of this release. “Fight” may be the best song on the record, which is no doubt why it was chosen as the first single and also has a cool video. Van Halen could take a hint from such a radical marketing decision. It has a classic metal riff with lots of testosterone-filled machismo lyrics like, “You can’t break me, you won’t shake me, you don’t have what it takes. In your mind, you will find, you’ve made a big mistake. I’m a fighter and I’m delighted to take you … you better run, because I’m a loaded gun, don’t walk in my sight because I’m a troubled man and I’ll make my stand.” The chorus upholds the swagger, advising, “You better fight, you can stand your ground, you better fight because I’m taking back my ground.” An absolute beast of a song. Finally, “Betta Than Twisted” has another catchy riff and employs more spiritual lyrics, comparing the song’s antagonist to the ultimate betrayer Judas.
Another interesting tune is a cover of the KISS classic “Cold Gin.” It’s not as good as the original but Al’s growl is similar to Gene’s so it actually works pretty well. The most interesting element of the song is a surprise addition towards the end of the song where they start playing a few bars of another KISS classic, “God of Thunder.” Merging these two songs together is a bit of unexpected creative brilliance.
The album ends on a high note with an eight and a half minute track called “Theatre of Fools”. Although it’s slower at times it has more exceptional guitar work that leaves the listener with no doubt that this guy can seriously shred. It’s a worthy closer to this fine album.
Overall, this is a very good album that is sure to please any fan of classic metal. Some of the songs aren’t as strong as others but they’re all decent. The biggest complaint is that this release only features 10 tracks, one of which is a cover tune so only nine true Atkins/May songs are on offer here. However, it’s clear that this is a partnership that works and hopefully they decide to collaborate again in the near future. If the intent was for the metal world to stand up and take notice… mission accomplished.
Genre: Heavy Metal, Classic Metal
Al Atkins – Vocals
Paul May – Guitars
1. The Shallowing
2. Traitors Hand
3. Dream Maker
4. Can You Hear Me
8. Betta Than Twisted
9. Cold Gin
10. Theatre of Fools
Label: Gonzo Multimedia
Hardrock Haven Rating: 8/10
by Steve Patrick
Staff Writer –
Listen to the Interview
Terrance Zdunich is one of the world’s true Renaissance men. Not only did he come up with the ridiculously original concept of Repo! The Genetic Opera, but he also developed the visuals in the cult classic movie musical, composed the film’s songs, and starred in the finished product. Released in 2008, Repo! is the tale of a dystopian future in which the corrupt organ-lending company GeneCo is legally able to repo their product from the live bodies of their customers if the borrowers are unable to pay. Following in the rock opera tradition of Rocky Horror, Repo! contains several connections to the rock world including Ogre from Skinny Puppy starring as one of the main characters and a cameo by the legendary Joan Jett.
Good news came in 2011 for fans of Repo! and Zdunich’s work when word broke of a new musical project entitled The Devil’s Carnival. The film centers on three individuals that have stumbled into a carnival located in Hell and is operated by none other than Lucifer himself (Zdunich). This particular venture stars even more hard rock/metal musicians, including the returning Ogre, Clown from Slipknot, and Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch. The Devil’s Carnival also stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Emilie Autumn. It also features Repo! alumni Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Bill Moseley, and director Darren Bousman.
Currently, Zdunich and Bousman are touring the new film like a rock show across the country. Both will be present at each showing and additional cast member guests will be showing up at each stop along the tour. For more information about the film and the tour of showings, please visit www.facebook.com/devilscarnival.
Zdunich took some time from working the floors at a recent horror movie convention in Columbus, OH to speak with Hardrock Haven about The Devil’s Carnival, his own musical tastes/influences, and anything else that came up.
by Alissa Ordabai
Staff Writer –
April 5, 2012 at Purple Turtle in London, U.K.
Keeping in step with the perpetually changing underground rock scene, the famous Purple Turtle bar in London’s Camden Town is now hosting a radically different breed of rock star candidates compared to 5 or even 2 years ago. Jumpy nu-metalheads of the turn of the millennium are obviously ancient history now, but also gone are the sleazy glam metal revivalists of who flooded the place from 2003 to 2008, and even the blues-rock traditionalists of some 2 years ago are now nowhere to be seen. Enter bands like the Blueberries – a pan-European outfit barely out of their teens who came to London from their native countries of Greece, France, and Spain, hooked up with some local aspirants, and are now bidding to conquer the European capital of rock with their mix bag of styles ranging from classic rock to punk.
A heady, at times rudderless mixture of simplistic guitar, dancing drums, neat bass, and the front man who channels echoes of Keith Relf, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison through the distortions and transfiguration’s of the time continuum, the biggest draw of this act is still not their well-picked influences, but how these boys use them to convey modern-day realities. Unabashed by their uncomplicated chops and the transparency of their sources, they still – amazingly – are coming through fresh and original, at times brazenly artless, at times deliberately minimalist, and at times swaggeringly crafty when they hit the right balance between the simple musicianship, the catchy tune-craft and the audacious message.
A lot of what the Blueberries do is propelled by the early Sixties British rock (from the drummer’s Keith Moon-esque swaggering flamboyance to the singer’s shouty vocals a la Keith Relf), as well as to punk with all the clangy riffing and repeat-until-you-drop rhythms. But the instantly recognizable references help more than they hinder, flinging the door wide open for an as diverse an audience as possible. Plus despite all the nods to the past there is still something about the Blueberries which defies classification – their own brand of unselfconscious insolence so organic and natural, you keep wondering if it’s not the next generation of rock stars starting at you from the PT’s compact stage when they launch with footloose abandon into one tune after another – a mix of the old, the timeless, and the personal delivered with the biggest “don’t-give-a-damn” attitude this side of la Manche. You can write it down to the band’s young age, but it also could well be the sound of a new generation which is just starting to spread its wings.
Photos appear courtesy of Alissa Ordabai
by Chris A.
Staff Writer –
Meet Columbus-based hard-rock band SEVER. Combining high energy vocals with thick classic rock and thrash inspired licks, this foursome has the potential to move up the rock ‘n roll food chain.
April 18, 2012 by Managing Editor
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Staff Writer –
It took them a few good years but they are finally back! Dragonforce the British-French extreme power metal group shook the rock and mainstream world on numerous occasions during the previous decade; from 2003 to 2008 Dragonforce put out four genre-defining albums (statement holds no exaggeration) the last of which hit the Billboard top-100 at position 18! When was the last time a Euro-power band entered the US top 200, one can not say, yet as the members themselves are quick to point out, Dragonforce play extreme power metal rather than simply power metal.
Ever-present melodic guitar lines, complicated guitar/keyboard harmonies, outrageously technical power metal rhythm section plus traditional vibrato-based vocals are defining elements of the Dragonforce musical mix.
Dragonforce have been through a good number of line-up changes, but always retained a very high musical/technical standard- still- the loss of lead singer ZP Theart delivered a significant blow to the band, if one is to judge by the time-gap intervening between the previous album and The Power Within. The established line up of founding guitar-duo Herman Li and Sam Totman, bassist Frederic Leclercq keyboardist Vladim Pruzhanov and drummer Dave Mackintosh are joined by new vocalist Marc Hudson.
Obscenely fast tempos once again lay the foreground for a barrage of guitar arpeggios, and vicious riffs; balancing the equation are the melodic vocal lines, which remain attached to clearly defined verses, choruses and main bodies. In addition the keyboards, though remaining substantially in the background, reinforce definition within each song – changes in key signify the move from a song’s main body to a verse, or from a verse to a chorus. So rest assured you will not get lost in the ‘firestrom’ of instrumental technique and musical cosmetics. That is not to say however that The Power Within will prove an easily digestible musical package to begin with.
Unless you have been listening to Dragonforce’s previous album on a daily basis over the past four years you will have to play The Power Within over and over before you are able to identify/recall which melody or solo comes from which song. And really there would be no point for anything larger than a 10-track album as each song is an overload of technique and speed at its own right, making it rather easy for one to get lost within its structures unless paying their full attention.
Overall The Power Within is a rather predictable yet 100% authentic Dragonforce album. If you enjoyed previous Dragon-releases or consider yourselves a long-term admirer of their output, you can not possibly be let down by their fifth album.
Genre: Extreme Power Metal
Marc Hudson – lead vocals
Herman Li – guitars
Sam Totman – guitars
Vadim Pruzhanov – keyboards
Dave Mackintosh – drums
Frédéric Leclercq – bass
1. Holding On
2. Fallen World
3. Cry Thunder
4. Give Me the Night
5. Wings of Liberty
7. Heart of the Storm
8. Die By the Sword
9. Last Man Stands
10. Seasons (Acoustic Version)
Band website: http://www.dragonforce.com/
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
April 18, 2012 by Managing Editor
by Mark Allen
Staff Writer –
Like a rock ‘n’ roll praying mantis, Lzzy Hale seems like the kind of gal that will slam you to the floor, mess you up in the roughest, most erotic way imaginable, and then rip your head off your shoulders when she is done. And as you are bleeding out from your torn neck stump, with your final gasp you would say thank you.
Halestorm’s major label debut came loaded with venomous sex appeal wrapped in powerhouse drums, beefy power chords, and catchy melodies. Well, Halestorm stared the dreaded sophomore slump dead in the eye and it was the sophomore slump that blinked first and went slinking away in tucked-tail defeat. This new album ups the ante on f*ck you attitude while simultaneously cementing Lzzy’s status as the new queen of hard rock. This girl has a serious set of lungs on her, capable of reaching jaw-dropping notes one moment and dropping into a sultry snarl the next. She is not just one of the best female vocalists the genre has ever seen, she is one of the best vocalists the genre has ever seen, period.
While Lzzy may be the centerpiece, she is ably backed by a group of guys equipped with serious chops. Halestorm as a whole understand the dynamics of the rock genre, the sort of unbridled recklessness and freewheeling fury that the best bands bring to the party. Call this modern hard rock if you must, but only by virtue of the big budget studio production; bubbling just beneath the surface gloss is just a badass heavy rock album. Halestorm eschew the poppy allure so prevalent in today’s hard rock in favor of something saturated in the full-throttle power of ‘80s metal.
The band’s only serious misstep is the ballad block in the middle of the album. After cranking out four kickass rockers, Halestorm slow things down for a ballad…then another ballad…and yet another. It doesn’t just drag the momentum down; it slaughters it like a crippled lamb. It is testimony to the band’s excellence that they recover from this what-the-hell-were-they-thinking decision, but seriously…what the hell were they thinking? One ballad would be tolerable, but three would be overkill even if spread out over the whole album. Cram them all together and it’s damn near disastrous. Besides, Lzzy’s persona is badass rocker chick and we want to hear her sing badass rock ‘n’ roll, not softly croon about romance and whatnot. That’s what we have Amy Lee for.
Maybe the band just wanted to get the boring stuff out of the way, because as soon as the ballads are done, they get right back to rocking, delivering three of the album’s best tunes. “Daughters of Darkness” is the heaviest, opening with some angry “na-na-na-na-nas” and then proceeding to slam, smash, pummel, and pound your ears with aggression. Subtle, it is not. Awesome, it is. “You Call Me a Bitch Like It’s a Bad Thing” could serve as Lzzy’s theme song lyrically–“You call me a bitch like it’s a bad thing / You call me a freak like that means something / I don’t give a shit”—and musically will rock your face off. The album then ends with the rock-ballad “Here’s To Us,” which pulls off the tough task of sounding tender and nostalgic while using copious amounts of profanity: “Here’s to us / Here’s to love / All the times that we fucked up / Here’s to you / Fill the glass / ‘Cause the last few nights have kicked my ass / If they give you hell / tell ‘em to go fuck themselves.” If that doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies, nothing will.
Actually, warm and fuzzy—not to mention smiling from ear to ear—is what every hard rock aficionado should feel like when they finish listening to this album. It is a distortion-filled delight, a metal-edged masterpiece, a power chord paradise. In other words, this album rocks like a bitch, and yeah, that’s a compliment.
Genre: Hard Rock
Lzzy Hale (vocals)
Arejay Hale (drums)
Josh Smith (bass)
Joe Hottinger (guitars)
1. Love Bites (And So Do I)
2. Mz. Hyde
3. I Miss the Misery
4. Freak Like Me
5. Beautiful With You
6. In Your Room
7. Break In
8. Rock Show
9. Daughters of Darkness
10. You Call Me a Bitch Like It’s a Bad Thing
11. American Boys
12. Here’s To Us
Label: Atlantic Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.75/10
April 15, 2012 by Publisher
by Nikiforos Skoumas
Staff Writer –
In retrospect most would agree that Accept served the metal community with one of the best comebacks in the new decade through Blood of the Nations. Blood of the Nations introduced American singer Mark Tornillo as the front-man of Accept along side founding members guitarist Wolf Hofmann and bassist Peter Baltes – the line up was completed by platinum-grade, six-string mercenary Herman Frank (the mastermind of Victory and Poison Sun) and drum titan Stefan Schwarzmann (who had previously supported Accept members David Reece and Herman Frank on their various solo endeavors.)
On account of the considerable success of Blood of the Nations it should come as no surprise that the very same team is back in 2012 with a brand new proposition in Teutonic metal (or Teutonic-US metal to be fair). Accept in collaboration with producer-extraordinaire Andy Sneap bring us Stalingrad, and you will be hard pressed to find a more metal title than this in 2012.
Though a fair part of the press have been quick to label Stalingrad as the artistic sequel to Blood of the Nations, the new album bares fundamental differences to the previous as a few more thorough plays clarify. For starters the double-bass drum attack has been kept to a minimum, prioritizing drum breaks and improvisations as opposed to a standardized pedal beat. In addition the rhythm and lead guitars seem to reach equilibrium on Stalingrad since the riffs are kept within the song opening, verses and choruses instead of having one riff playing over and over throughout the track. On the other hand the twin guitar melodies establish a firm presence early on in the play-list commonly found in the verses and solos, and often times following the chorus.
Thematically, it is critical to note that Stalingrad though named after the well documented WWII impact, is far less of an epic metal album than Blood of the Nations. Opposing its title, Stalingrad promotes rebellious attitude, liberalism and heavy metal as a lifestyle instead of going down the concept format of war-history.
Truthfully, Stalingrad has a lot in common with Accept’s earlier works such as I’m A Rebel and Balls to the Wall; hence it is the kind of metal that shares strong ties with hard rock, rarely touching upon their speed metal heritage (which does not make the album any less enjoyable).
Above all Stalingrad does justice to all Accept fans who demanded an album of similar artistic credibility to Blood of the Nations. Though different in many ways to its predecessor, Stalingrad verifies that the new Accept is far from a one-hit-wonder.
Genre: Heavy Metal, Melodic Metal
Mark Tornillo – vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – guitar
Herman Frank – guitar
Peter Baltes – bass
Stefan Schwarzmann – drums
1. Hung, Drawn And Quartered (4:35)
2. Stalingrad (5:59)
3. Hellfire (6:07)
4. Flash To Bang Time (4:06)
5. Shadow Soldiers (5:47)
6. Revolution (4:08)
7. Against The World (3:36)
8. Twist Of Fate (5:30)
9. The Quick And The Dead (4:25)
10. The Galley (7:21)
Band website: http://www.acceptworldwide.com/
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10
April 14, 2012 by Publisher
by Mark Allen
Staff Writer –
The Veer Union sound a bit more pissed off since their last effort, Against the Grain. Maybe it’s because their label dropped them after just one album. Maybe it’s because two members bid the band adieu at a critical juncture. Or maybe it’s just because they’re from Canada. Whatever the reason, Veer sport an angrier, more aggressive edge on this new outing and it works extremely well.
Granted, The Veer Union do not wander far from the well-defined parameters of the modern hard rock genre, kicking around in the same post-grunge sandbox made popular by Nickelback. Difference is, Veer feature better musicianship and their darker, heavier edge is a welcome change from the booze-and-fellatio obsession of Chad Kroeger and company. Speaking of Kroeger, Veer’s vocalist, Crispin Earl, sounds somewhat similar, but sings better and with greater range. Frankly, a one-line review of this album could simply say The Veer Union sound similar to Nickelback, only better. Some readers just got more excited than a teenage boy getting laid for the first time. Others just threw up in their mouths a little bit. Your call.
Now seems like a good time to discuss the hooks, of which there are legion. Randomly select any point on this album and you’ll find big, fat hooks flying at you like bullets in a warzone. The Veer Union possess a catchiness factor, gifted with the ability to pen anthemic choruses that bristle with commercial credibility but avoid the sugar-pop crassness of many of their contemporaries. While Veer’s overall sound may resemble a heavier-edged Nickelback, their approach to songwriting is more in line with the mastery displayed by Shinedown.
The band’s first single, “Bitter End,” could also serve as their theme song: “I won’t ever / surrender like that / I know better / to ever fall back / I’m feeling born again / I will fight to the bitter end.” And born again is a good way to describe the band, as they sound totally reinvigorated, not only on this song, but the entire album. If the adversity the band endured between their last album and this one made them sound this good, fans should start cold-heartedly praying that the gods afflict them with a thousand tribulations when they record their next one. Just as fire tempers steel, the flames of hardship have strengthened The Veer Union.
Proof of this strength can be found in the songs. Anyone who claims there is filler to be found can be disregarded as readily as a man who claims he watches porn for the plot. The band comes in, wallops out ten great rockers (no ballads on this album), and then have the smarts to not overstay their welcome. As any music fan that has had to give the Skip button a workout in order to get through an album will tell you, ten high quality tunes is better than fifteen tracks of varying quality. And any fan of the modern rock genre would be hard pressed to listen to the mid-tempo distortion of “I Will Remain,” the rapid-fire riffing of “Live Another Day,” or the heavy, clenched-fist headbanging of “Divide the Blackened Sky” and call them subpar in quality.
Simply put, this is one of the best modern hard rock/metal releases of 2012. The band’s previous album was solid enough but lacked that certain something. Whatever that something was, the band has found it by veering off in a slightly heavier direction while retaining ear-catching melodies. The Veer Union suffered blood, bruises, and broken hearts to bring this album to the world. Their pain, your gain.
Genre: Modern Hard Rock
Crispin Earl (lead vocals)
Eric Schraeder (guitar)
James Fiddler (guitar)
Marc Roots (bass)
Neil Beaton (drums)
2. Bitter End
3. I Will Remain
4. Buried in the Ground
5. Inside Our Scars
6. Live Another Day
7. Divide the Blackened Sky
8. Silent Gun
9. Last Days of Life
Label: Rocket Science Ventures
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10
April 14, 2012 by Publisher
by Alexandra Mrozowska
Staff Writer –
Forget the 2007 farewell: Tyketto is back and not to call it quits! New Jersey rockers, known from such classics of melodic rock as Forever Young or The End of the Summer Days released in the early ‘90s, return in triumph with their new album Dig in Deep due to be released this month… The new record soon to see the light of day and the band being back on track are, however, just two among many topics Michael Clayton, the drummer of the group, covered in his recent interview he provided for Hardrock Haven.
Hardrock Haven: Thank you for the possibility of talking. The title of your last album up to now, ‘The Last Sunset: Farewell’ (2007) suggested it was the end of Tyketto; also shows from that period were announced to be ‘farewell.’ Why have you eventually decided to continue?
Michael Clayton Arbeeny: The farewell came at a time when we felt stagnant. Actually I initiated it, as I felt Tyketto had run its course and had nothing new to say. With no new albums on the horizon and everyone living in different parts of the world, it seemed like the best idea at the time. We did indeed do a few select shows after the breakup, but with no new album, there was really no point to them. We vowed not to become a “nostalgia” band, and if we didn’t have something new to give our fans, it was best to fade away. Once Danny started sending me some of his ideas in 2009 and 2010, (all of which made it onto ‘Dig in Deep’), we were all inspired to move ahead, and the new album was born.
HRH: 2012 is a year of a long-awaited new Tyketto studio album – Dig in Deep, planned to be released April the 24th in North America. Are you satisfied with the final result of the recordings? What in your opinion are the strongest points of the new CD?
MCA: My favorite aspect of the new album was seeing the chances we took. Danny’s lyrics aren’t your typical “boy/girl” pop lyrics. He wrote some of his most insightful and poignant stories that will challenge the listener to think. That doesn’t mean we don’t still pack a punch! The record has guts, brains, and brawn. It was a hard record to get used to, as we hit on new themes and new musical territory, but the result is something unique and powerful.
HRH; What has inspired you in terms of lyrics and music during the period of working on new album?
MCA: I believe Danny looked through the eyes of a man just turning 50, settling into his happy marriage and “taking in” in his life experiences; both new and old. We wanted Tyketto to grow as a band the way we did as people. Songs like ‘Dig in Deep’ and ‘The Fight Left in Me’ are lyrics of pure inspiration, while ‘Monday’ and ‘This is How We Say Goodbye’ are more introspective. I believe we successfully managed to weave deep lyrical content into great pop melodies and music.
HRH: The album’s title may be understood literally at some points – there are moments where you dig deep into your blues/southern/country roots (a track ‘Monday’ in particular)… Any comment on genres that inspired the album’s content?
MCA: As you can hear, we approach many diverse styles. The title track. ‘Dig in Deep’ has a real Black Crowes feel, while ‘Sound Off’ would do Def Leppard proud. Danny’s folk inspirations always make their way onto our albums (a’la ‘Seasons’ and ‘The Last Sunset’). Brooke in particular, was seeking new styles to infuse into the Tyketto sound, with some unique guitar effects and innovative solo sections. This album has many styles intertwined, which makes it so distinctive; all the while still being a TYKETTO album.
HRH: Which of the new songs is your favorite?
MCA: There is something about the song ‘Let This One Slide’ that puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. The message is simple… “Life is tough, but never forget to enjoy the ride each and every day.”
HRH: Dig in Deep is what could be a natural follow-up to a killer 1994 release Strength in Numbers. Weren’t you tempted to go for something more experimental and unexpected and to explore modern genres of music?
MCA: You are actually the first person to say that! Most critics feel this album IS a total departure from the Tyketto of old. We LOVE the fact that everyone is reading this album differently.
HRH: Talking about Strength in Numbers – it took you quite long to release it, as it was rejected by Geffen and released under a different label. Were the changes in music industry a reason for that?
MCA: Yes, 100%. We were swept up in the grunge movement, and almost overnight, we were obsolete. It was a sobering experience, and forced us to step up and pave our own path without the support of a powerhouse like Geffen. Sometimes, through adversity, you realize your true strengths. As a result, we had more success with ‘Strength in Numbers’ than any other album in Europe.
HRH: The third band album Shine is not really listed among the fans’ favorite – often labeled as “too ‘90s” or a “Journey-oriented” and showing a bit of departure from classic Tyketto sound. What is your take on that?
MCA: I never felt Shine was a complete thought. We were forced to rush it, and didn’t give the songs the proper cultivation time they needed. In retrospect, I would have approached the album differently, as I felt there were some gems on that album that didn’t come to fruition.
HRH: The band’s first album was produced by Richie Zito (The Cult, Poison, White Lion etc.). How do you recall co-work with him? Are there any chances you’d like to join forces with him again in the future?
MCA: I loved Richie. We were mere kids when we met him to record our debut album, and he educated us well. He and I bonded, as we shared New York Italian roots. Richie was an integral part of what made ‘Don’t Come Easy’ so special. He and Danny had done some other work together, and he is actually credited with co-writing one of the songs on the new album.
HRH: Legend has it that Tyketto took its name from a graffiti tag scrawled across a Brooklyn wall. Is it true?
MCA: TRUE!!! We saw it spray painted on a wall in Brooklyn and fell in love with it. We loved the fact that we would define the name with our music.
HRH: Talking about legends – the wave of ‘80s nostalgia we experience nowadays spawned many band reunions. Sometimes what they deliver is simply disappointing, a mere shadow of their former selves… Weren’t you afraid to be perceived as being yet another ‘80s hair band trying to cash in on this back-to-the-‘80s journey when you reunited in 2004?
MCA: Indeed, to a small extent, we felt like we were just ”cashing in” on the name in 2004, which is why that was so short lived. We put all that aside when we started work on Dig in Deep, and set out to make a record WE wanted to make. People who chase the tail of the industry are fools, as only the bands with vision and integrity survive. Although we are proud of we did in the past, we set our sights on the future.
HRH: Also nowadays many new acts – from Crashdiet and Babylon Bombs to Lady Gaga – claim to draw inspirations from the ‘80s and early ‘90s rock and pop records. How do you personally judge such retro tendencies? Is there anything on the contemporary scene you find interesting?
MCA: I find it all interesting, and feel that after many decades, varied styles and passing trends, there are really only two kinds of music… GOOD and BAD! I like to think that despite trends and images, 80s or 90s or 2000’s… Tyketto always wrote good music.
HRH: Apart from this nostalgia we’ve been talking about, many music critics find pleasure in bashing the ‘80s hair metal genre for its overproduced, polished records, the “big hair” look and lack of what they call genuineness. What is your personal view on the genre and the decade, and the memorable acts and albums of that era?
MCA: Like any musical era, some depended more on their image than their musical ability. Geffen marketed us as a “pretty boy” band back then, but we always felt we had more to offer than that. Some 25 years later, I feel we can still light up a stage just as good as anyone. My faves of the era were always Bon Jovi, Guns and Roses, Aerosmith and Whitesnake. All managed to keep up great images and persona’s, but wrote some amazing songs along the way.
HRH: Recently, you have performed on festivals such as Sweden Rock or Download. What was the reception of the audience and your personal impression after those massive open-air festivals? Has the atmosphere changed anyhow from what you remember from the gigs in the ‘80s?
MCA: We still do the same thing onstage we always do… nothing short of 1000% focus and dedication. Our audiences react the same, and are always ready to sing along with Danny!
HRH: This October, Tyketto is going to headline a famous melodic rock festival Firefest in Nottingham, England. What are your expectations?
MCA: We are already FULLY sold out, so I predict madness, energy, intensity, and one hell of a show.
HRH: Do you plan to announce any further tour dates in 2012 in support of your album?
MCA: Not at this time… but stay tuned! Dates are coming!
HRH: Do you have any other plans concerning the band and promotion of Dig in Deep?
MCA: Frontiers are doing an AMAZING job getting the word out. We have been doing global press for weeks, and so far all reviews are fantastic!
HRH: Thank you very much for this interview! Is there anything you’d like to add in the end?
MCA: We feel that this album is special, and will make old and new fans proud. In my opinion, ‘Dig in Deep’ defines us, and shows our fans who we really are. I couldn’t be prouder of the work of my band mates, and it was a real labor of love to produce. This is a special album, and we hope you agree!
April 13, 2012 by Publisher
by Alexandra Mrozowska
Staff Writer –
Having released their first self-titled album in 1990, Trixter achieved some moderate success but was never able to be counted among the biggest acts of an era. The story of this underrated band follows perfectly the hair band cliché: early success – touring with big names of the scene – loss of mainstream interest with the rise of grunge in the early ‘90s – disbanding – late ‘90s reunion. Now the Jersey boys are back with their new album New Audio Machine, determined to conquer the music world once again… Mark “Gus” Scott, according to his own words “drummer and lunatic for Trixter”, was kind enough to share his thoughts about the new record and making music in the new era with Hardrock Haven, with a bit of blast from the past as well…
Hardrock Haven: Thank you for the possibility of talking. The new Trixter album ‘New Audio Machine’ is planned to be released on April the 24th via Frontiers Records. Could you please take us through your personal highlights of the album?
Mark “Gus” Scott: First off, Making the CD was a real interesting experience. Everything was recorded at Steve Brown’s (guitarist) home studio. Right off the bat it put us in a very relaxed environment with no time constraints. We didn’t have a recording contract yet so no one was there saying, “Hey guys, we gotta get this thing done!” We just started doing it because we felt like it! Then something really weird happened… The more we recorded, the better the songs sounded! I don’t know what it was, we all were inspired by the songs when we heard the demos, but when we actually started to record, the songs really blossomed! It certainly fueled our excitement levels and made us want to do more and more. Serafino Perugino, President of Frontiers Records heard a few songs and signed us to a deal. We wanted the CD to be release prior to the summer so now we had a deadline. This put us to work and I cannot tell you just how excited and proud we are of „New Audio Machine”… more so than any other recording we have done! I know, I know. It is very cliché to have a new CD out and say, “Oh, It’s the best thing we ever did!” But let me tell you – don’t buy the CD. Go to iTunes and listen to the FREE samples of the songs. I’m willing to bet that you will hear something that turns your head and will make you say, “Wow! This sounds great!”
HRH: What is your favorite songs off this record?
MS: Crap, this is hard. But three of my favorite songs on New Audio Machine are “Tattoos and Misery,” “Dirty Love” and “Machine.” Our first single “Tattoos and Misery” is a great song that shows, I think, where TRIXTER is today. Great solid rock song with great musicianship, vocals and hooks! Very proud. “Dirty Love” – This one is special. When you talk about making a CD, you think about what songs would stand out or really shine. I remember when Steve (Guitarist) played me the demo. He played it for me first. It had been a long time since I heard any of Steve’s original material. I was always a big fan of what he wrote but it had been a long time. I heard the riff and I was sold – Bigtime! Killer fuckin Track! It’s very naughty. Sexy. Now that’s what I call a pole-dancing-ass-slappin Rock song!!! “Machine” was a song that Steve asked me to help co-write. Funny thing… I don’t think he used any of my lyrics. That son of a bitch! Actually, he did use some lines of mine. Anyway, it reminds me of a Van Halen / WHO – Classic Rock song and the ending just kicks ass!!! There are also a couple of real hot ballads on there too…
HRH: Were your inspirations any different while recording the new material in comparison to what has been always present in Trixter music?
MS: First off, above all else, the members have not changed. Peter Loran, Steve Brown, P. J. Farley & Mark “Gus” Scott are TRIXTER! All original members! Funny, it’s the kind of thing you just don’t see very often these days. After a 13-year vacation, we all got back together to rock once again and enjoy what we love to do best…Play Live and Kick Ass! We got back together and played some big shows in 2008. We did a few outdoor festivals like ROCKLAHOMA, we opened for Poison, the band Boston, Cinderella, Scorpions, and Warrant – Awesome bands – Awesome times! To do it all over again is such a rare privilege. Steve Brown (Guitarist) had some song ideas that he made demos of and we just started working on a new CD. Then, the weirdest thing happened. The more we worked on it, the better it sounded. It went from demo, to laying drum tracks, then bass, the guitar, vocals, etc….. Every time something else went down in the studio, it just sounded better and better. OK – I admit it. It is very cliché for a band to brag about how good their new CD is. But all bullshit aside, I can’t wait for everyone to here this f*ckin’ thing – It truly RIPS and I can’t express just how proud we all are of how it came out. Our first single “Tattoos and Misery” will be released on March 19th. That will give you a taste of just what I’m talking about. Great guitar riffs, Pete’s Vocal is nothing short of class-act Rock. But please, pay very close attention to the rhythm section. Me and PJ on bass… It just doesn’t get any better!!! [laughs] As far as different inspirations go, I think just by aging 20 years, everyone in the band grew somewhat so when you put it all together, something happens. In the case of Trixter, it certainly was a positive effect! I truly believe that when people hear the songs on New Audio Machine that they will hear growth and something they never heard coming from Trixter. We might have grown up, but we are still ‘little bastards!’
HRH: The new album is produced and engineered by Chuck Alkazian (known from working on the music of Elton John, Vixen, Uncle Cracker, Christina Aguilera, Tesla etc.). How do you judge this co-work?
MS: Chuck is AWESOME! He helped create a very aggressive sound on songs like “Machine” and “Save Your Soul” and his mix on “Tattoos and Misery” is Kick Ass! Did I mention he is a drummer as well? We totally click! (No pun intended for drummers)… There are some guys that are ‘In-Tune’ and some guys who are not. Chuck is on the fuckin’ money!! He runs a hell of a ship at Pearl Studios in Michigan. He has truly become a part of the Trixter Family! Too bad he can’t drink his way out of a paper bag. We are going to have to work on that!!! I also heard he was lousy in bed. That report is unconfirmed though so I’m hesitant to say. I personally wouldn’t know but I will be sure to ask around.
HRH: Some of the new Trixter songs are the result of songwriting contribution of Skid Row’s Snake Sabo and Rachel Bolan and Styx’s Glen Burtnik. Why have you decided for some outside songwriting input this time?
MS: A few friends were called to collaborate for our new release. Some artists resent having other people “take credit” for work on their CD. I think that attitude is immature. It actually can be a lot of fun and if your collaboration yields a great song, well, damn! Isn’t that something special? As a Songwriter of several “Top 40 Hits,, former Styx member Glen Burtnik co-wrote “Drag Me Down” with Steve and created one of the CD’s hottest tracks. Snake Sabo and Rachel Bolan of Skid Row wrote “Walk with a Stranger” back in the late 80’s. TRIXTER used to play the song live back in the day, ripped it out of the closet and slammed the up-tempo rocker on the new disk. There were a few men responsible for putting the “finishing touches” on the NEW AUDIO MACHINE. With production/editing credits from Shinedown and Paramore, Bret Michaels Guitarist Pete Evick was called in to help mix as well. From groove oriented rock tracks like “Dirty Love” to Rock ballads like “The Coolest Thing”, classic TRIXTER sound can be heard from track 1 through 11! There was also a TRIXTER “Classic” that made it to this CD. “Physical Attraction” was a song we used to play back in the old days even before we got our first record deal. It was always a fan favorite – Killer Riff – Sexy vocals – very powerful with a very catchy chorus. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure why it never made it to a CD before now. Our fans from the “very old days” are gonna smile when they here that one!
HRH: It’s “Tattoos & Misery” that was chosen to be the first single off the album. Why you’ve made such a choice – is this song representative to the album’s general content anyhow? How is your co-work with Frontiers going? Are you satisfied with the label?
MS: It’s funny… Serafino, the President of Frontiers Records thought it was a great 1st single… and we agreed with him! You never hear about the record company and the band seeing eye to eye. You always hear about how the record company wants to change everything or they want this and the band wants that… This is a very unique situation. Serafino is so in tune! Great guy!!! (I have to say that or he will cancel my contract [laughs]) All kidding aside, we really thought Tattoos and Misery was a great choice for a 1st single. It blends a little old-school Trixter with a new-school sound and is very representative of other material on the CD. Chuck Alkazian did a GREAT re-mix for the single release as well. New Audio Machine has a lot of great songs on it…. Not just one obvious single so for us, the band, it can be a little hard to choose. But I thing Tattoos and Misery was a very good choice! The team @ the record company is very on target. Charise in our Press room is top notch! The Frontiers team is truly top notch and it is an honor to be an artist on their label.
HRH: As the album is soon to be released – are there any further plans for the promotion of New Audio Machine? Can you reveal the band’s tour plans before the readers?
MS: We intend on taking all of the money from the pre-orders on iTunes and Amazon and we will all fly to Aruba. We will party for 6 days straight, spend all of the money, get one night sleep and then get back to work! This new CD will be distributed in US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Europe and Russia. Our Record Company President Serafino is also working on other markets as well. Let me just say that we will be very busy in the next year to come. We intend on rocking this planet very hard! If there are people to play to, we are there! We will start in the U.S. and systematically rock every area that rock fans want to see TRIXTER! This is what we live for! Playing live is truly THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD!!! If it were illegal, we would do it anyway!!!
HRH: “Tattoos & Misery” is already available on the iTunes. What do you think about the digital distribution of your music – and, going even further, about the all-pervasive piracy that seems to be inseparably connected with the world of the Internet nowadays?
MS: Interesting topic… digital distribution can be amazing. To just e-mail a song…zap…like that. It’s also a lot cheaper than mailing a few thousand CD’s to radio people around the world. There certainly are a lot of pros! By the same token, piracy has always been prevalent in the record industry. I also believe that we don’t know to what extent piracy exists. Nothing is ever perfect. This is our new world. Better get used to it or get out there and do something about it. I am certainly not going to bitch and complain about it. It is a big difference from the way we used to do things 15 years ago. I’m glad we work alongside of some real pros who know what the hell is going on out there. Media and technology can change so fast and we want to be on top of it. Social media is also something new that can truly be an asset to a band if utilized properly. To be able to get the word out with the push of a button is amazing… and it doesn’t cost anything! I remember all of those stamps we used to put on fan mail responses and fan club mailings….
HRH: How do you judge the first band’s effort now, from a distant time perspective?
MS: Although so much time has passed (22 years), Our 1st CD entitled TRIXTER is something very special to this band. It was our first major-label release that brought us a great deal of success. And success aside, there were some really great songs on that CD. It’s fun to crank it up in my car from time to time…
HRH: In the band’s early career, you played with many notable acts of the ‘80s rock era. What were your favorites among those? Any memories worth sharing in particular?
MS: We toured with KISS, POISON, SCORPIONS, WARRANT, L.A. Guns, Firehouse, Faster Pussycat, Winger, Slaughter, Stryper, Dokken, Great White and then some! Just the opportunity to play with cats like that… damn… I would have given anything when I was a kid. We truly are very blessed and I don’t believe we ever lost site of that. All of our dreams have come true many times over and we still live our dreams of being a rock and roll band every day. I’m one of the few people who can say that they used to have dinner with Gene Simmons several times a week! I got to jam with my childhood heroes! I got to share the big stage with rock icons! I am one lucky mother*cker! And I will never forget it! The idea that some of these people have actually become our friends is inconceivable. By the way – we will be touring with our good friends Warrant and Firehouse this summer so please keep your eyes open!!!
HRH: The second album Hear! failed to capture the attention of the MTV mass market; short after having released this record; the band was dropped by MCA Records. In your opinion, who is to blame for that – was it a rise of grunge many ‘80s bands blame for the sudden end of their career?
MS: Blame… Hmmmm… ‘Blame’ is a funny word for this. Here’s what actually happened. In the ‘80s we saw a lot of things happen. The most notable was the birth of cable television and MTV. And who did we see on MTV? Rock acts like Van Halen, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Kiss, Scorpions, Winger, Warrant, Slaughter, L. A. Guns, Guns and Roses and yes, yours truly, Trixter. All bands that visually (whether it be big production sets, outrageous costumes or just plain old good looks), captured attention and truly lent itself to exciting TV. We had three #1 Videos on MTV – 15 or 16 weeks @ #1. We were #1 for the second week in a row with a song called “Surrender.” It was our 3rd hit single from our debut album. We were #1 and MTV eliminated “Dial MTV”. It was an opportunity for the public to call in and vote for their favorite video and MTV just closed the door. Dial MTV was a major chart that MTV created. To just eliminate it? Why? Video did in fact “kill” the radio star. MTV saw a change on the horizon and they had the power to pour fuel on the fire. There were these bands from Seattle (like Pearl Jam and Nirvana) with a different image and different sound. In the 80s, these bands were considered “alternative”. They were the “alternative” to what the “mainstream” were listening to. MTV was responsible for creating that mainstream and in the end, flipping it and making what was once alternative, was now the mainstream. Bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard that sold 8 – 10 million copied per album were now selling 25% – 35% of what they were selling. Bands like Trixter…. Well… You get the idea. It’s not a blame game. Its business. It’s better to lead change than to be a victim of it. And if you can control a whole industry….
HRH: What was the reason of the band’s break-up?
MS: It started a long time ago. There was a lot of negativity with all of us. Coupled with bad timing in the industry we just busted. Getting back together with level heads is very exciting! I certainly do not see a break up in the near future at all.
HRH: There is no doubt that the most famous New Jersey rock band is Bon Jovi – in their interviews they often emphasize the influence the variegated Jersey Shore scene (and acts such as Bruce Springsteen or Southside Johnny) had on them. Do you, as a Jersey-based band, draw some of your inspiration from the scene too?
MS: Absolutely! The only difference is we are a little younger. Bon Jovi was a huge influence on me as opposed to Springsteen. I certainly respect “The Boss” but Bon Jovi was always something special to us. A lot of talent from NJ!!!
HRH: Your early ‘90s songs such as “Line of Fire,” “White Knuckle Scorin” and “One Mo Time” were featured on the movie soundtracks. Do you plan to wind up in the movies in the future?
MS: We actually have some friends in this area. Producer Michael Wehrhahn, one of my best friends, is currently co-producing the first of a 3-D film trilogy; The Monkey King starring Chow Yun-Fat and Donnie Yen. For any budding film producer, it is a dream come true; The opportunity to co-produce a real $110,000,000 “big-budget” Hollywood vlockbuster! He has been given an endorsement by the Chinese film community elite to share a very special story with the West; something that has never been done in cinema history. In his spare time, Michael is also producing a television show Ancient Technology for the Discovery Channel. However, you just don’t get a song in a movie because you want to…. They have to like your music or it has to be appropriate for the movie. You never know what may happen.
HRH: Being somewhat a controversial period in music and pop culture, the ‘80s have as many adherents as adversaries. How do you personally recall the ‘80s era? Do you mind labeling Trixter as ‘yet another ‘80s hair band’?
MS: Hell yes I recall the 80s! It was an awesome time for rock and music in general. Although people list Trixter as an ‘80s band, we really didn’t have an album out until 1990. The ‘80s were so big that they actually spilled over into the ‘90s! Go figure! The fact that people recall Trixter to me is a major accomplishment. We were listed as #29 on VH-1’s “Top 40 Hair Bands of All Time!” That certainly lends itself to an ‘80s reference. Who cares. Let’s ROCK!!!
HRH: What would you call the highlight and the downside of Trixter’s career?
MS: Highlights: 1991. Our dreams coming true. Touring with our idols. Sold out arenas. Three #1 hits. Gold Album. Playing our hometown Arena – The Meadowlands in NJ – Opening for the Scorpions. Selling Out the World Amphitheater in Chicago with Warrant and Firehouse. A live concert pay-per-view Special. Best New Band by Hit Parader Magazine. Best Concert Tour by Metal Edge Magazine. On the road in a real tour bus… Damn… The greatest dream come true… Downside: Losing our record deal, losing our booking agent, endorsements, respect, getting cut from MTV and Trixter breaking up. We are on such an upswing right now.
HRH: What is your opinion about the modern day rock music and the music business in general?
MS: The music and the business are 2 different things. I’m glad there is a place for us in all this commotion. I think record companies in general have a lot to be concerned about. They truly failed to foresee how the internet can change the whole industry and to this day they have failed to make back the ground that they lost. Most have not even carved the inroads that is necessary to compete in today’s market.
HRH: Thank you for taking your time to do this interview! In the end, I would like to ask you for a word or two for Hardrock Haven readers; no doubt there are many Trixter fans among them!
MS: The best thing I can say is “Thank you.” “Thank YOU!” We would be nothing without YOU! The fan! The individual that waits in line, that buys the CD. When Mom and Dad tell you to keep it down, you turn it up! It’s YOU – that pays too much for parking at the show. That buys the tickets and waits for the show to start. And when the lights go down and the band takes the stage, it’s you that can be heard screaming your head off… because you love it. God Damn It… We love it too. We Love You …. More than anything we do… Thank you! We will be coming to see you soon!!! Keep you eye out for us on the road @ www.TrixterRocks.com.
April 12, 2012 by Publisher
by Marcel ”Mars” Groeneveld
Staff Writer –
Of course when you say Donny Vie, one thing comes to mind, frontman of the amazing ‘90s poprock sensations Enuff Z’Nuff. But he is not only just that. He is a minstrel, a painter with words, so much a poetic songwriter and a multiply talented musician. Vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano and so much more, Donnie is the man.
OK first thing first, the man and the history behind the man. Enuff Z’Nuff’ was on Atlantic Records, and the debut release spawned the hits “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing,” regular favorites on MTV’s “Dial MTV” and both of which charted in Billboard’s Top 50.
Over their 25-year career, Enuff Z’Nuff has produced a discography of 16 international releases, been invited and played on Late Night with David Letterman (two times), become Howard Stern’s favorite band, and toured the world over and over again.
Although not fully active for the band after 2002, Vie still was available to record the albums while on tour vocal duties were taken over by Johnny Monaco. This left time besides Enuff Z’Nuff to pursue a solo career as well and now 2012 brings us something very special.
Wrapped Around My Middle Finger is the brand new album from the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter and could well be one of the finest that he has ever recorded. Consummate songwriting combined with his and stellar performances make this gem a must have album for all melodic rock fans!! Mixing rock, glam and a Beatlesque vibe, Vie still continues with this but makes it in to his own new thing.
With the opener and title of the cd “Wrapped Around My Middle Finger”, a heavy groove, nice hooks and melodic vocals, Vie illustrates using his vocal cords as a musical instrument playing with melody. His distinctive vocals and feel for melody is his trademark on the whole album songs like “Lisa” (which is absolutely not sounding like the Beatles rif ;-)) is being done with a little humor by Vie and is music candy for the ears.
With the beautiful ballad “Daddy’s Little Girl” goosebumps may rise and a feeling to sing along comes to mind. The flow in Vie’s singing is amazing as on the other amazing ballad “Wonderland” and bringing some diversity with another groovy song “Now Ya Know” sounds like if the Beatles and Kip Winger bred together, then their son would probably sound like this. The solo brings a little bit of “the ‘60s and ‘70s” vibe which you also hear with “Rattle On” and “No Escape” but in a songwriter’s way, poetry folks! Before we doze off the more upbeat “Flames Of Love” put us on edge again to rock.
Still feeling in the peace mode “I Won’t Let You Down” put you back again in time coming in from the ‘70s but evolves into a rock song from the ‘80s then when you think WOW, the surprise track kicks in after a long minute and a half. “Smokin Hot Lolipop” is a cheerful upbeat and still catchy although the solos are a bit messy which contradicts the feeling of the song.
Conclusion, Wrapped Around My Finger is a play of melody of the ‘80s with elements of the ‘60s and the ‘70s in a 2012 coating. Eleven high quality songs which will stand the test of time because his songwriting and melody are magical. Now ya know!
Donnie – Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Randi – Drums, Vocals
Jimmy – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Patrick – Bass, Vocals
1. Wrapped Around My Middle Finger
4. Daddy’s Girl
5. Now Ya Know
6. No Escape
7. Lil’ Wonder
8. Flames Of Love
9. Rattle On
10. I Won’t Let You Down
11. Smokin’ Hot Lollipop
Label: Livewire / Cargo UK www.cargorecords.co.uk
Hardrock Haven rating 9.8/10