HMS is proud to present a special episode of the Horror Metal Cast to discuss the Grudge with Managing Editor Stevie Kopas and Horrorshow scribe Robin Thompson.
Here are the details on the show:
HMS is proud to present a special episode of the Horror Metal Cast to discuss the Grudge with Managing Editor Stevie Kopas and Horrorshow scribe Robin Thompson.
Here are the details on the show:
An Interview With A Stoic
Mike Stark of StormBurner
By Tim Duran
For over five years I have been in long distance contact with Mike Stark. He is Sweden’s screamer; I am Nevada’s nomad; although miles between us, we found ourselves confiding in one another, growing in friendship and kinship. With that being said, it’s a joy that he kept me up to date in his musical ventures. Once he was frontman for Starblind, now he heads up the new heavy hitters of heavy metal, StormBurner.
He gives Horror Metal Sounds an inside look into the making of their first release, “Shadow Rising”; a dark spark of Viking heritage, epic battle songs, and Norse pride. Although I am Native American, I felt like a Viking when I heard the record. So the album pulls you in and places you within the storyline.
It’s been a long road for Mike and the journey is only begun.
HMS: It has been a few years in the making of StormBurner. Can you give us an idea of what you had in mind for the sound and direction you wanted to pursue with this new band?
Mike Stark: Hi Tim, first I would like to thank you and HMS for taking the time to have a chat about Stormburner, it is very much appreciated by us. The sound and direction was basically set by myself and Tommi even before we formed the band with the permanent members. We had a very similar idea on what we wanted to sound like and what we wanted to achieve with this band. We never hesitated; we just agreed on what to do and did it.
HMS: Did you already have in mind who you wanted on the instruments or was it a journey to find the right bunch of guys?
Mike: Well, it was somewhat a journey in contrary to what we first believed, and we had a really hard time to get musicians wanting to audition after we posted a few ads. In this struggle, I got to think of Stefan Essmyren who I knew since many years and I checked with him and he was the perfect fit. At this time we were missing the bass and the lead guitar player and we started to write songs together as a trio. After a month or so Tommy Jee joined, he is an old bandmate and friend of Stefan and we just hit it off straight away and everything felt really good. Now we were just missing the lead guitars but we were in no hurry has we had a stable foundation and we could write songs this way as Tommi is the main song writer. We tried to convince Mats Hedström to show up for a jam for maybe 3-4 months but he was already in a band and kind of reluctant. When he finally showed, heard the songs and jammed with us he committed straight away, now his only band is Stormburner and he has also contributed greatly to the making of insane riffs.
HMS: The last couple of years, you have kept me updated on most things concerning StormBurner. Let the readers in on the process of my favorite song, “Men At Arms”. Start to finish, this song is heavy and relentless in its delivery and arrangement.
Mike: This was one of the very first songs that we wrote, Tommi had the melody for the chorus and I started to sing it, he then added a harmony to as he is a skilled singer himself and it just sounded great. Chorus was done and the other riffs came fast after this.
HMS: I’ve read a few reviews on the record “Shadow Rising”. Some say it has a big Manowar feel to it. To me, it has a more classic metal feel with hints of thrash. I know you’re a big Manowar guy, but who else influenced the music for this record?
Mike: Yes, this is very different from review to review. Some say it is a lot of Judas Priest and DIO in the music whilst others hear a lot of Manowar. I don’t listen to our songs this way. I basically focus on the melodies and the riffs and sure, I have listened to Judas Priest, Manowar, Saxon, KISS, since I was kid and from my teens also on a lot of bands like Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Rhapsody, Primal Fear and more recently bands like Sabaton have inspired me a lot personally. The others also share some of these influences but Tommi and I both have a special place for Manowar as the greatest band that has ever walked the earth, period.
HMS: There seems to be an underlying theme to the record. Songs like “Ragnarok” go hand-in-hand with “Demon Fire”, “Rune Of The Dead”, and “Ode To War”, along with a couple of others. It brings the Norse ways and beliefs to another light.
Mike : Well, these songs were not really written with the intention of being “a concept”; however, they were all written in “chapter two” of the bands history and as we all share the love of our Viking heritage and that we based most songs on this theme, we just kept going. The songs you mention were basically written within a short time span of one another so this is probably why they have the conceptual feel. I agree with you on this. I was unsure if Into the Storm was good enough to be on the album but it ended up being at least my personal favourite.
HMS: Tell us about the artwork on the album. Who came up with the concept, and for those who don’t know, tell us how you got such an amazing artist to make it all happen?
Mike: The concept was discussed within the band and all had their say, I think everyone contributed to the idea of the cover. After we did this we started to discuss who could help us create this. We made a wish list and Ken Kelly was of course at the top being the foremost Heacy Metal Cover Art artist of all time. I then decided to contact him and we ended up having a long chat over the phone and he got to listen to the “Men at Arms” song which he really enjoyed so we agreed to do this.
HMS: When performing live, do you plan on revisiting tunes from Starblind? I would personally like to hear what you guys can do with “Sacrifice” and “Seven Rivers”? I guess I ask because those two songs in particular, I cannot hear any other voice (As they are still my faves from Dying Son).
Mike: I can promise you this Time; Stormburner will never perform a cover on any band in a live performance. We focus on our own band and on our own songs. I had a great time in Starblind and I do love the guys but these songs are for them to perform.
HMS: For the video, “Demon Fire”, who came up with the concept, and did it get a little too close for comfort during the fight scene inside with the fire and everything?
Mike: The concept was originally the idea of Tommi if I recall correctly and it was first intended to be for the song “Metal in the Night”, however this was changed at the last minute, probably because of me, hahaha.
HMS: “Eye Of The Storm” is musically and vocally intense. The bridge breakdown before the solo is insane. The machinegun rhythms that match the vocals is outrageous! For that part alone( at minute 2:10 through 2:30) who was the mastermind behind that bridge section? (In this song, this bridge stands out for me above some of the others. It’s like what Rob Halford does.)
Mike: Thank you for those words Tim, much appreciated to hear this from you. I believe this bridge was created by Tommi and Mats, I am of course the guy behind adding the crazy vocals, hahaha.
HMS: As far as the recording, was it layered, or was it recorded live in the studio? As for the amazing vocal tracks, how long did it take to get all the harmony parts down?
Mike: The recordings were layered and we recorded one instrument at a time, the same with the vocals. It wasn’t very time consuming in the studio. I did 3-4 hour sessions and in this time I would basically complete a song, this was basically the same for all songs. We finished one song at a time adding all the harmonies and choirs before moving on to the next. It might be worth mentioning that there are no guest vocals at all on this album so all choirs and harmonies are done by myself and this is what took a lot of time adding overdub after overdub on some parts where there is big choirs or big gang vocals and also the different harmonies on these.
HMS: When I first heard the finished take on “Men At Arms”, I knew the record was going to be brutal. Upon hearing the finished project, I was blown away about everything this record offers. Does the next StormBurner record promise to be just as brutal, or will there be a little show tune action?
Mike: I surely hope so, I felt very confident having these great musicians and song writers in the band. Tommi is the best song writer I have ever worked with in my entire life. He has this thing for catchy melodies. Then we have Mats on lead guitars who is a riff master writing these brutal riffs, solos, melodies etc. The next album will make ears bleed and electronic equipment to melt, I am sure of it!
HMS: For years I have admired your voice. On this record, it’s more powerful and passionate. How did you prepare, both mentally and physically, as you rehearsed to lay down these tracks? There are so many voices on each song, all very different from one another, and all very unique in their own way.
Mike: Thank you Tim, I started singing at the age of 35 in 2014 with Starblind, We recorded the first album when I had been singing for 6 months so there was a lot of will and passion but it was also greatly lacking of technique and vocal ability. After this first Starblind album I started to practice a lot, this basically made it worse as even though I improved in a lot of ways, I tried to do things I was not really capable of so the 2nd Starblind album ended up as it did. I am not able to listen to any of these records today: it makes my ears bleed as I cannot stand my vocals. The songs and the music are great but I truly despise my vocals on these albums.
So what happened after this is that I basically decided to stop doing vocal practice, to stop doing warm-ups and just try to sing in the most relaxed way possible to try to find my true inner voice. This resulted in myself improving greatly as a singer by not doing any vocal practice except singing to songs at rehearsals. At this time I really evolved in my ability to just hit the right notes and also make up and do vocal harmonies with ease and not thinking too much. When we recorded this album I didn’t prepare the vocal arrangements at all before hitting the studio. I just went there and did it; sure Ronny Hemlin who produced the album also came up with a lot of good ideas on the vocal parts but we were very relaxed in this. There was no tension or stress at all.
HMS: Another favorite of mine is the title track, “Shadow Rising”. What made this song the title track for this album?
Mike: Mainly because of the song title which we all liked very much. Not so much for the song itself but we wanted the right song title on the cover to be honest. However it turned out great as we all like this song very much. It is not so heavy as a lot of the other songs but the message and the emotion of the song is great.
HMS: Just one last question that has been on my mind for years, but too afraid to ask you… The American television program, The Muppet Show had a character named The Swedish Chef. Did that character ever rub you the wrong way? Or do your chefs really throw things and cook unconventionally?
Mike: That is not true at all, that sounds more like British Chefs. (just a little dig at Gordon Ramsy)
HMS: I would also like to say, that it’s always an honor to keep in contact with you. You have always shown the utmost of kindness to the HMS crew. I wish you and the StormBurner family, Godspeed.
Check out StormBurner on the web
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(Pure Steel Records)
Written by Tim Duran
10 out of 10
It’s been a few years in the making for Mike Stark and company, and much anticipation on my part. For quite some time, Mike has been keeping me up to date on the formation, songwriting, and progress of everything StormBurner. From sound bites to video clips, everything he sent has added more and more excitement to the finished project that is StormBurner! To the band, I extend my utmost gratitude for letting me into your circle as you allowed me to hear and see the process and progress.
Let me say that I have been taken by the hand of Odin on a journey through Valhalla. I have seen heroes stand in victory, men with armor fighting together for truth, and they all raise their voices in unison in the courtyard of Asgard. On this sojourn, the soundtrack that played was the melodic and majestic metal of StormBurner!
As the music played, visions danced like demented sugar plums in my mind when I closed my eyes! So when you hear this record, your imagination will take you places that you’ve only seen in The Lord of the Rings.
Fronted by metal madman Mike Stark, whose vocals range from deep, then high, then angry, then smooth, until he grabs you by the throat and tosses you through a brick wall! Over the last five years, this is the best Mike has ever sounded; strong range, piercing screams, and indestructible power. This new direction into classic heavy metal with thrash overtones is just the niche I think he needed.
There’s no denying that the dynamic duo on guitars, Tommi and Mats, are very well versed and versatile. Stinging rhythms abound and vicious solos can be found around every corner of this record. That leaves us with a monstrous rhythm section found in Tommy Jee on bass and Stefan on the explosives. His drumming can only be described as bombs being rained down on the enemy.
The opening song, “We Burn” is the perfect tune to set things off. Big suspended chords ring out before a shattering scream breaks the tension into mayhem. The sound is heavy on the classic sound of yesteryear.
“Metal In The Night” is a fantastic voyage of just what the title ensues. The vocal harmonies are all done by Mike. Different ranges from alto, falsetto, and screamo, he does it all and throughout this audio venture.
You hear the Reaper laugh at you as “Shadow Rising” pile drives its way through your speakers into your head. As the chorus shouts, “Shadow Rising”, it sounded like he was saying, “Terror Rising”. It reminded me of that old Lizzy Borden song.
“Demon Fire” strikes down like a smite from below. The tempo here is about two beats slower, but the tones are a little darker and ominous.
The Valkaries ride and the war of the gods begin. “Ragnaröc” is a punishing little ditty about death and battle. Just the thing you need for an evening by the fireplace.
“Men At Arms” is a most epic and triumphant song. The verses are likening to that of a leader’s words to those about to go into battle. The chorus into the guitar solo is the fight. This was the first song that I had the honor to hear upon its completion a few months ago. It’s a song that can make the weakest person rise and conquer anything that opposes him. A masterpiece of composition and arrangement.
Keeping pure to the classic metal mania, complete with the sinister laugh and outright power vocals (especially at the 2:14 mark and thereafter), “Eye Of The Storm” is a category 6! The rhythm section works overtime and the guitars trade solos pretty vehemently.
From the “eye” and now “Into The Storm”, we push against the wind, trudging forward in the thickness of tone and intensity.
“Rune Of The Dead” has that beautiful Ronnie James Dio feel, both musically and vocally. For me it’s sort of a tip of the hat to the Man. It’s so magical in its presentation and deliverance.
As I said before, the epic overtones of this whole disc never stops. And it won’t stop. “Ode To War” is the ultimate anthem. The mellowest tune on here, but it is the perfect ending to a perfect story. Though it is a mellow tune, it’s rich in rhythm and beat.
I can’t say enough how much this record is a journey, an adventure, a joy to listen to. I play every record I review at least three times all the way through to get a meaning, to get an understanding, a feeling. I have to let the music sink in – in order to give you a taste of what I feel about whatever I write about. It keeps me honest with you and myself.
So with that, I can honestly say I was utterly and completely blown away by StormBurner and their album “Shadow Rising”. I’m giving this a 10 and anything less would be an insult to the band. You have to hear it for yourself, over and over again.
Released in 1983
I love going back and hearing classic heavy metal from different countries; in particular anything from the early to mid-1980’s will always do the trick to quench my taste. As we dig deep into the Saturday Metal review, I’ve selected one of the first Dutch heavy bands as our point of interest, so let me introduce you to Picture.
They hail from the Netherlands and the band released Picture (1980), Heavy Metal Ears (1981), Diamond Dreamer (1982) and in 1983 Eternal Dark. I thought we would review Eternal Dark for a few reasons – namely the striking album cover art and of course the 9 tracks of pure molten metal.
So let’s start with the album cover. I bring this up because it stood out to me when I was rifling through a Google image search of classic heavy metal covers. The ghoulish image of a nearly decomposed skeleton head with one eyeball still in the socket stopped me dead in my tracks. I love images like that, but sadly I have no idea who painted this.
Regardless of who the artist was, I thought the image perfectly represented the songs found on this release. The album’s title (Eternal Dark) surely proclaims this to be taking everyone on one hell of a ride and it did not disappoint my ears. I think what you get here is nine solid tracks that fall into the Accept-Judas Priest category that pack a big punch.
Most of the tracks will titillate yours ears – fast paced songs with a nice polished sound to boot. The opening track “Eternal Dark” starts up and delivers a catchy sing-a-long chorus and provides a Black Sabbath infused solo. Then you get a speedy number like “Griffons Guard the Gold” which is very reminiscent of Saxon in my humble opinion.
The strongest tracks slot right in towards the middle of the album. “Make you Burn” is the closest they get to sounding like vintage Judas Priest and it rocks big time! The twin axe attack of Chris van Jaarsveld and Henry van Manen trade off well and provide the sonic attack. As does the next piece “Battle of the Universe”; which provides the jet fuel for a quick paced number that high tails into first gear and never let’s up. There’s also a flourish of classical guitar riffing and it might be the highlight of the whole album. I can say the same thing for “The Blade” coming at you with a meaty mixture, coupled with the shrill sounds of vocalist Pete Lovell proclaiming – “no man can take the blade,” in the lyrical department.
As we get closer to the end of the album, the remaining tracks move along at a nice clip. Both “Flying in Time” and “Into the Underworld” segue well into each other, before the plodding “Tell No Lies” nearly halts the proceedings. But as luck would have it we end things well on a spirited number like “Down and Out”, so have no fear for those who think this might be tough to get through.
There are some who consider this album to be a rather bland affair when you prop this up against the previous release Diamond Dreamer, or even Heavy Metal Ears. Yes both albums felt more vigorous at times and a tad more lustful in the approach – but Eternal Dark is tight where it needs to be and adventurous enough in the sonic department. The guitars still have that vitality and it soars along with a strong production job to keep me happy.
I am giving this release a rating of 8 out of 10. It’s a polished record with a bevy of prime metallic offerings that will keep you going throughout the thirty-five minutes of running time. My favorite tracks are: “Eternal Dark”, “Griffons Guard the Gold”, “Make you Burn” and “Battle for the Universe”.
Bowles of Earth
Written by Kenneth Gallant
8 out of 10
I feel like Lars Goran Petrov still has something left in the tank. He’s back behind the mike and spitting verbal razors with a vengeance; while sticking to the tried and true formula of the band. Despite adjusting the band name after the custody battle with Nicke Andersson and company, Entombed A.D. forged ahead with most of the line-up that recorded Serpent Saints. They released Back to the Front (2014) and Dead Dawn (2016) – to varying degrees of success, and now they return with their latest offering Bowles of Earth here in 2019.
We do have a minor line-up change though on this one, as bass guitarist Victor Brandt is replaced with incoming axe grinder Guilherme Miranda. It looks like Tobias Cristiansson is playing bass on the live tours, so all is not lost on the bass guitar front. The addition of Miranda on guitar has given them a bit more push in the riffing and solo department; allowing for a fresh take to my ears. Often I am hearing elements of Uprising and Serpent Saints bellowing through the tracks; but still maintaining the death ’n’ roll approach adapted into their modern sound.
The first four tracks are brutal and ripping affairs; harking back to the muddy production and fierceness of their classic period. It’s like they decided to take a trip down memory lane and I’m not complaining one bit, since this is way more engaging than the previous two albums. The opening track “Torment Remains” pounds and thuds hard, while “Elimination” sounds awfully close to that classic 90’s death metal platform we all have come to know and love. “Hell is my Home” finds the relentless chug slapping you in the face and the riffing is fresh as hell here. The title track “Bowels of Earth” pulls back into that all familiar creepy intro (we’ve heard before), and then the sledge hammer attack of the guitars pounds you into submission. This track could really be slotted into Serpent Saints quite easily; plus Petrov’s vocals really sell this one to me. It should also be noted that the solo is sounding more like traditional metal, giving the listener something new to digest.
But this isn’t a full-on return of the halcyon days of the band either; when you get to a track like “Bourbon Nightmare” which falls into the mediocre approach of the previous two albums. The same with “Fit for a King” and “Worlds Apart”; sort of bring down the rabid tone somewhat; even plodding along at times. The lull doesn’t hurt the album on a whole because the next track picks up the pace again.
“Through the Eyes of the Gods” sears into your senses and lays down a meaty portion-filled riffing attack, assaulting your ears once more. Then you get this peculiar cover version of Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never get out of this World Alive” that doesn’t sound anything like the original version. I actually had to go onto Youtube to hear the original to compare and I see no resemblance of the Williams’ twang whatsoever. Perhaps the doomy lyrics are what drew the band to cover this tune in the first place, but I’ll never know what their reasoning is here. The last song to close out the proceedings is “To Eternal Night” and it didn’t move me at all; partly because it resembled the tone of the first two albums and it was the slowest track on this album.
This is also the shortest Entombed A.D. record so far, clocking in around thirty-six minutes, so pulling back and streamlining the brutality makes sense. I think you can hear the band gelling more as a unit and just going back to the original Entombed template is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t Left Hand Path or Clandestine, nor is it even close to Wolverine Blues – so don’t pick this record up and expect that.
I feel like the album wants to make peace with all the silliness and drama from the past and roll out a record with those familiar sounds we’ve grown to love about this band. There’s plenty of the death metal chug, and greasy rock ’n’ roll/punk vibe to fill out the hysterics and yet offer some new variations like the more metallic edged solos and riffing. It’s not a bad thing at all, so check ‘em out and give this new offering a chance.
(Metal Blade Records)
Written by Kenneth Gallant
8 out of 10
Twenty three years is a long time between records, not to mention coming up with some new tunes to grab everyone by the ears. The Reich are back on the scene to prove they still have some fuel left in the tank and you have to admire them for giving it a go again.
Although, Sacred Reich have never really left the scene (existing as a touring entity only), they signed to Metal Blade Records in 2018 and suddenly announced a new record for release in early 2019. So what gives here? What inspired Phil Rind and company to bust out the guitars and oil up the machine once more?
Perhaps it’s about having the confidence to bring new music into the world; especially at a time when the world seems to be upside down politically and socially. Maybe the Reich felt we needed angry-infused thrash metal with a social message attached, but then again the music on this album isn’t really all that angry.
It’s a surprising twist; given how this band put out classics like “Ignorance” and “The American Way” back in the day; this album is void of all that. I think one might have expected Phil to grit his teeth and start bellowing out his pissed off lyrics, but we don’t really get that here. Don’t get me wrong, Phil and the gang are in fine form for the most part, but I didn’t expect this record to be such an uplifting affair.
So having said all that, let’s dive in a little deeper with “Awakening” – the band’s fifth studio entry and find out what makes it tick in the way it does.
Most of the players return, with the only exception being rhythm guitarist Jason Rainey (dealing with some health issues). He’s been replaced with twenty-two year old Joey Radziwill from death metal band Dichotomize. Joey brings in some much needed youthful energy and seems to fit in nicely with lead Wiley Arnett.
The other big coo for the band is the return of drummer Dave McLain (late of Machine Head) and coming back to bolster the line-up. He sounds near perfect here and it’s like he never left the band; pounding the skins with such a commanding force. His skills compliment the band’s style tremendously, along with the main man himself – Mr. Phil Rind.
What can I say about Phil; he’s still a major force to be reckoned with – spitting out the lyrics and guiding the band throughout it all. Unlike previous records, his voice seems a bit more refined at times, possessing more maturity and still commanding that beastly roar when needed. He’s still got it as far as I am concerned and this is what still makes Sacred Reich a unique thrash metal entity in 2019.
The songs themselves are more uplifting, as I previously stated. Tracks like “Salvation” and “Something to Believe” bring a positive message to the proceedings. When you get to a track like “Manifest Reality” the droning chants give way to that familiar chugging of the guitars and allowing Phil to cut loose. His hoarse vocals push the chorus and Wiley contributes a really nice solo here. It sounds like vintage Reich to me and the lyrics continue to provide that positive outlook on life – asking everyone to stand up and be accounted for; adding that if you want positivity in your life then think and make it happen.
But then you get songs like “Killing Machine” and “Divide & Conquer” which refer to the old mindset of the band – a pummeling vibe and super charged lyrics about over-reaching religion and the spoils of becoming a solider. Pieces of the old Reich still remain intact in songs like these, but generally the lyrics overall face upwards to the sunnier side of life. These two songs in particular could easily be on a record like The American Way.
The other thing about Sacred Reich that hasn’t left their song-writing prowess is a penchant for utilizing groove. There’s tons of bluesy riffs going on in most of the songs, so be prepared to get that in spades when you get to a track like “Death Valley”. A very chill number for the most part, so I can already see some fans skipping over this one. Personally, it’s a number that I really like because it sticks in your head long after a few times listening to it.
On a whole though, Awakening is a solid slab of thrash metal for my tastes. Yes they have slowed down some and don’t have as much of that bite from their classic period, but this album still sounds like Sacred Reich. I would slot this right in around American Way and Independent and it’s definitely a better release than Heal will ever be.
The songs are short and straight to the point, managing to gut punch the listener on occasion. The fact Sacred Reich can still elicit these feelings 23 years later on a new recording is a testament to the powers of the band.
The Awakening has begun…so let the Reich play on!
October 8th, the mighty DragonForce will surround the Vinyl inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas in support of the new record “Highway To Oblivion.”
ANVIL : Pounding The Pavement North American Tour
Concert review by Tim Duran
Over the years I have been graced to hear the noise of the Great White North by bands such as Triumph, Voi-Vod, RUSH, April Wine, and the almighty ANVIL ! These great groups have stood the tests of time as well as putting out timeless music. Anvil is still pounding the pavement and pounding our brains with their brand of Metal On Metal ! Tonight, Sunday March 31st the Anvil drops on the 172 Club inside the Rio Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada like a classic cartoon scene.
The warm up , Alex Cole and his band took the stage first. He looks like Neil Schon and plays like Ted Nugent . His mean sounding blues/rock trio let loose on his original sound and songs. Upon his playability like our Uncle Ted, his stage presence was all flash with the chops to pull it off.
Next up was the constant lashing from the Santa Cruz thrashing Archer Nation. What can I say that you haven’t already heard from me? Dylan Rose attacked his Epiphone Les Paul like a man out for vengeance and sang his heart out (literally) whilst Keyhan Moini destroyed the house kit (he’s now in debt with the club), and David DeSilva slapped, punched and plucked his bass to death! Their set was various selections from their new record, Beneath the Dream with an added bonus cover of “Tornado of Souls” by Megadeth. You’ve never seen so much hair flying since Stryper back in their hay-day.
After a brief comedy act by Don Jamieson of That Metal Show, the head banging hosers of Canada brought everyone to the stage, eh!
Starting off with killer licks, Lips stepped down to rip some riffs surrounded by the cheering crowd before breaking into the opening song, “666”. Bassist Chris Robertson was non-stop thumpin’ on his bass and Robb Reiner was a constant blur behind the kit. (I think Keyhan went to the same school of drumming).
The trio went on to hit the fans with favorites from years past to brand new bangers from their new record – Pounding the Pavement. In the middle of the set, we were all treated to a most excellent drum solo during the instrumental, “Swing Ting”. This metalized swing jazz tune showcased not only the talent of the three, but the versatility of these heavy metal performers mixing two wonderful genres in one song.
Pound for pound, these badass rock n’ rollers from the early 80’s have not lost an inch of agility and stage stamina in the near 40 years of monumental metal and they’re still going strong!
Also – special thanks to Tony Sgro at the 172 for allowing us to photograph the show.
Lords of Chaos
Directed by Jonas Akerlund
Review by Kenneth Gallant
Films that strive to bring the truth about a particular point in time often fail miserably. It’s so hard to bring an accurate portrayal to the big screen; let alone have it interesting enough to people flocking to the cinema to see it.
The Lords of Chaos intends to give you the straight dope, illuminating the uninitiated into the dark realm of Norwegian Black Metal; and thanks to the bleak story culled from the book “The Lords of Chaos” – we get a truncated version that unfortunately falls short. I think true black metal fans will be sorely disappointed. My wife for example, was upset that mostly American actors were used in vital roles, but this is an Americanized take on it after all.
The majority of the story darts from scene to scene and struggles to give you a very coherent point of view of the events that took place in Oslow during the late 80’s to early 90’s. What you end up getting is a bevy of violent outbursts; coupled with goofy-teenage angst moments for the most part, with some actual facts sprinkled in for good measure.
We learn that Dead (Per Ohlin) shows up seemingly out of the blue from Sweden to be the band’s lead singer. He’s obsessed with death and is bent on suicidal urgings. He ultimately commits suicide by the most gruesome way possible by cutting his wrists, throat and topping it off by blowing his head off with a shotgun. Yet we never really get to know anything about him.
Worse yet, his death scene are used to exploit Mayhem’s image courtesy of the band’s leader Euronymous (real name Oystein Aarseth). The much maligned leader of the outfit comes across like a carnival barker wannabe in many of the scenes, despite struggling to pawn himself off as practitioner of Theistic Satanism. Played by Rory Culkin, Euronymous is meant to be the lightning rod to inventing “Norwegian Black Metal” and gathering like-minded metalheads into the inner black circle.
Changing his name to Euronymous (derived from a Greek mythological spirit) and forming Mayhem in 1984 proved to be a stroke of genius. He gained instant notoriety, opened a record shop called Helvete (meaning hell in Norwegian) and started an underground record label (Deathlike Silence Productions). He was able to become the figurehead of the scene and helped bring black metal bands and friends together.
The trouble here is that it’s all just snippets in the film and Rory is adequate at best in the role. He doesn’t appear to be a confident individual with a disdain for individualism, much like the true Euronymous was known to be. You just waited for the veneer to drop and thanks to the other important piece to the puzzle: in walks Varg Vikernes to throw a monkey wrench into the plans.
Varg is washed-over mostly as a petty and jealous thug who schemes his way into the inner circle with plans to eventually overtake Euronymous’s position. Varg (whose real name is Kristian) desperately wants to be accepted into the inner circle, so he arranges a number of church burnings to impress everyone; including Euronymous. He also reinvents himself as Count Grishnackh, but it comes across as a pretentious move.
For me, the bulk of the film sags into an overly-angsty disposition between both Varg and Euronymous. You watch each musician trying to one-up each other constantly and bickering over band royalties (from Varg’s band Burzum), to fighting over a girl and going public about the church burnings. I found it took away from the creative process of recording the full length Mayhem album that we get bits and pieces of in the background.
It was also impossible to pinpoint the impact of black metal outside of Norway. It felt very isolated and relegated to being an underground movement; with many musicians like Necrobutcher, Hellhammer and Attila Csihar hardly getting a mention at all. For example, Faust was in other bands like Emperor and Thorns, but here all you know is that he stabbed a gay man to death in the park. The context of many of the players in the scene just feels like placeholders to give the film a dash of some life.
But I don’t think the film is a total lost cause. The ferocity of Euronymous’s death scene is filmed with such goriness; it’s just so hard to watch all the way through. You feel for him here as you watch how pathetic he becomes while pleading for his life. At this stage Varg is remorseless; allowing his murderous rage to carry out a pointless murder based on hearsay from others who overheard Euronymous boasting about killing him. It’s like a lifted plot from the black comedy Heathers, but director Akerlund deftly handles this with some uncompromising dark flair.
Lords of Chaos valiantly tries to get it right, but like most films based on true events the facts get fudged in favor of over-glorified story elements. The cheesy horror-satanic imagery and teen angst plotline take center stage here, often making the black metal genre appear silly. That’s one of the big drawbacks for me as I feel the genre is creatively significant for the time, upending thrash and death to bring something new to metal.
I just wish we got more of it here. The film is finishing up a limited theatrical run in North America and is heading to VOD on February 22nd.
Beneath The Dream
EMP Records: Released February 15, 2019
Written by Tim Duran
10 out of 10
It’s a special kind of feeling when a band like Archer Nation comes around. I knew of them way back when they were just “Archer”. Three young lads playing insane thrash from their record “Culling the Weak”.
Fast forward to now, these same three lads are still playing their thrash metal music with songs from their new record, “Beneath the Dream” on EMP Records. And oh, what sounds, what joyous noise, what healing power of heavy metal these three hold in the palms of their hands. Here, Archer Nation gleans from their influences from, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Motörhead, jazz, blues, angst, frustration, and sarcasm, and deal them out equally between eight lovely, heavy, aggressive tunes. The theme I get from listening to this CD; is “nightmares”. It’s like a Freddy Krueger lullaby.
As I let the thrash bounce around in my grey matter, the music sets me free as that dude from “Shawshank Redemption. That is why it is my honor and my great pleasure to tell you about Archer Nation and the little CD they like to call, “Beneath the Dream”.
Fronted by the melodious blonde bomber, Dylan Rose (no relation) who also commandeth the six stringed beasts to do his bidding. Keyhan(the blur) Moini bashes on the barrels, and the hair mask himself, David De Silva, beating the bass into submission. Together, this power trio from Santa Cruz, California will refresh your love for pure THRASH. For us old dudes, it’s a rebirth of the kings.
(Spoiler Alert……NO SLOW, SAPPY LOVE SONG BALLADS!!)
Kicking things in the teeth is the opening song, “I Am the Dawn”. The riffs abound right out of the gate as the story unfolds to what I believe to be someone going out of their mind with self deceit. (A nightmare in its own rite). The main guitar riff sets the pace for the delivery of insanity, like being trapped in a straight jacket.
“Division” starts with a nifty triplet drum intro before the band slams into the main riff. This is a heavy set of lyrics that talk about how messed up people are as we give into the propaganda force fed to us by main stream media. Hating each other for our own political opinions and focusing on either side’s bad points, becoming more and more divided as a country. The funny part is that there’s one thing we agree on. When our freedoms are taken away, we all of a sudden care about the outcome. “No matter who you choose, the people always lose/ either side it’s all the same”.
Starting off with some floaty, clean arpeggio on guitar, “Beneath the Dream” comes descending like a creeping death. Musically, it has the atmosphere of a dream going bad, the vocals ebb and flow over the verses, and it has one of most intense guitar solos I’ve heard in a long time. The song is heavy without being hard and fast. The tempo is in the middle, but it’s driving and airy.
“Acedia” is another set of vocals that describe the nightmare of false religions. I can relate to this song in a lot of ways. The anger in this song parallels the feelings I used to have. The rhythms here are fierce, the axe work is as angry as the lyrics, Dylan sings through gritted teeth, and the arrangement is above perfect.
“Not My Own” is a song that is borderline depression and just continuing with how things are going. Being stuck in a dank place, dreaming of something better, some sort of escape, wondering if this is all there is to life. It’s all a bad dream that’s lived out, day by day. The tune is sullen like lyrics and the music revolves around the confusion.
When I first heard this next song, “Matricide”, I thought it meant “death by sleep in bed”. Then I looked it up. Boy was I shocked. I had no idea there was a word for a son or daughter to kill his/her mother. To me, I think the lyrics are how we’re killing the earth. We have wars, divisions, the cutting down of rain forests, poison in the waters, and so on. We are the ones killing “mother earth” and we will continue to kill her because it’s what we do the best. And that also is living out a nightmare.
“Shackled” is about one who seems the only way to live is to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is one the more hard core thrash songs on here. The music translates the feelings of exhaustion and self failure. Every beat seems to weigh down on your soul. The crushing rhythms are like giant hail stones. The vocals are sung contrary to the rhythm, adding a maddening intensity.
The last song almost had me fooled into believing it was an instrumental. The intro is jazzy until it breaks into a hard rock feel. Although “Severed” would make an awesome instrumental as a whole, the song in its entirety is flawless. It defines the feeling of utter failure and dealing with destroying everything good in your life. The helplessness of enduring such a fate is translated ideally in the music as one who has seen firsthand the demise and aftermath of self destruction.
To sum up this record in a word would be “Aggressive”. Okay, second word, “Powerful”, “Relatable”, to mention a third. These three young men have grasped on to the true meaning of metal and put together another arrangement of pure Thrash.
Downside is that it took almost three years to get the second release out. That’s about it for the downside.
Upside is that there are eight wonderfully written woeful tunes to bang your head to. Its blues in thrash form. Meaning it’s not supposed to make you feel good, it’s supposed to make you feel. Although the lyrics speak of nightmarish things, the music sees you through. Before writing anything down for this, I spent the last two weeks listening to the disc over and over. The first spin wasn’t enough. Every song spoke to me in some way. Songs from “Culling the Weak” were the same way for me. I encourage you to find both of these records and put them in heavy rotation to whatever you’re listening to.
In a great big nut shell, I give the new release, “Beneath the Dream” by Archer Nation, a big, fat 10!