Entries in heavy metal (3)


Maiden Canada

I've mentioned previously that both of my kids are big metal fans and I've mentioned that Bozeman is a lousy place to keep up with metal tours. That's one of my bigger disappointments for all of us in Bozeman, and I'm sensitive to the fact that my kids will not be able to spend their teens hanging out at local all ages shows, checking out the bands like The Squares(Night) RangerMetallicaTestamentExodus and Y&T before they make it big. The first couple of years in Bozeman we just lumped it, streamed concert videos and complained a lot.

This year is different. I already wrote about our trip to Finland and Sweden, centered around seeing Amaranthe in Göteborg. For us serious metalheads, though, one show a summer really isn't enough and as a parent of two kids that love metal, there are certain experiences that it's essential I share with them. Thanks to Iron Maiden's North American Tour - 2012, our other big show for the summer was obvious. It wasn't a question of whether we'd go, just a question of where. The obvious choice is Salt Lake City in terms of a road trip, with Denver and Seattle being close seconds for short hop plane trips. But, for a summer trip and the chance to pass through Glacier National Park on the way, Calgary really was a no brainer.

Nancy and I think it's incredibly important to expose our kids to a variety of experiences. They have been to Yosemite, we make regular trips to Yellowstone and have a long list of national parks and monuments yet to visit. I have similar feelings about making sure they experience certain bands. Sadly, they will never get to see Queen but thanks to videos and documentaries, they've got a good understanding for how magical Queen's live performances were. On the metal side, there are only a few bands that sum up the genre as effectively as Iron Maiden. We're talking about a band that covers all the bases: a scary mascot, comic book like and bigger than life, fast tempos, soaring vocals, songs about stalkers, mythology and warfare. Plus, like Queen, they put on an amazing show.

Bruce Dickinson is a master of getting the crowd involved. Maiden shows involve every single audience member. Admittedly there are times that you simply can't hear Bruce, even when he is singing, because the crowd is singing so loudly. And, somehow, Iron Maiden manages to capture that energy across the entire globe. This isn't a national band, this is a global one. They've honed their chops and their show over decades and they're the perfect band to show our kids where metal came from and why it still lives on despite a complete lack of coverage in the mainstream press.

We've got about a week before the show, and less than that before the road trip begins. I can't wait to share an evening with my kids and enjoy one of the bands that really got me started on this crazy metal ride. I look forward to seeing the stage lights glowing in their eyes, and the periodic jaw-dropping looks of disbelief that I know will grace their faces that night. I want to see them as they watch Steve Harris' crazy dancing spider fingers. Maybe they will wonder, as I did, "How does he play all those great galloping bass lines like that." I've never quite figured it out, to this day.

It really just boils down to a show that can't be missed. Sometimes you just gotta make the effort and go out of your way for the sake of the experience and opportunity. We look forward to traveling through beautiful Alberta and sharing an evening in Calgary with our northern neighbors, enjoying one of the best metal bands ever. Hope to see some of you there!


New Loud Rock - mid July 2012

As KGLT's Director of Loud Rock, I now receive a steady stream of new loud rock releases. It's exciting to have a supply of brand new music to review for the station, and I want to start sharing bands and albums with the rest of you. Here's my first installment, reviewing new material from four exciting bands.


Icarus Witch - "Rise"

As a big fan of heroic metal, just a few seconds into Icarus Witch's latest release, "Rise", and I was hooked. Lots of melodic singing, lots of guitar and full of energy; I feel right at home throughout the album. "Rise" stands out to me in that it captures the triumph of heroic metal but remains raw and real (in Tolkien terms, think "more Gimli, less Legolas"). There are definitely technical elements to the album, particularly in some of the guitar work, but Icarus Witch remains far afield from the polish and structure of symphonic metal. As I listened through the album, I was reminded of Riot, Pink Cream 69 and a recent favorite, Lillian Axe's "The Days Before Tomorrow". That's not in any way meant to suggest that Icarus Witch derives from any of those bands; it's more that they capture a similar balance between melody and technique while establishing their own unique rawness and character. "The End" and "Break The Cycle" jumped out at me and "(We Are) The New Revolution" is a classic anthem in all respects.


Baroness - "March To Sea", "Take My Bones Away" (Yellow & Green album July 17th)

I'm really excited for Baroness' upcoming July 17th release, the "Yellow & Green" album. If the two pre-release singles, "March to Sea" and "Take My Bones Away", are any indication, this will be a powerful, well-crafted album, the kind we may look back on in years to come as the band's break out moment. Baroness combines raw energy and dark tonality to create haunting and intense songs. While their overall effect is raw, they layer dirty and clean guitars to create spacious arrangements, punctuated by vivid but realistic vocal harmonies. While listening to "March to Sea" I was impressed by the dynamic variation over the course of the song. Unlike much of the smash-limited, wall of destruction metal these days, Baroness is refreshing because of their willingness to paint a full and varied picture. Check out the two singles and get ready for the full release on the 17th!


Paradise Lost - "Tragic Idol"

Paradise Lost delivers yet another unique and masterful step in their fascinating evolutionary journey. "Tragic Idol" satisfies my love for gothic metal, and fits well in my collection next to the Charon, Sentenced and Poisonblack albums, while delivering an impact reminiscent of Metallica and Systematic. The songs on "Tragic Idol" are dark and mysterious, spacious and yet powerful. The album is gripping much like an intense action drama and worth every minute of its 10 songs. If you enjoy music that balances raw power riding on a layer of intricate texture and aggressive guitar, you should give a listen to "Tragic Idol". If you're short on time, the defiance of "Crucify", the despair of "Honesty In Death" and the deep moodiness of the song, "Tragic Idol" will do a great job of capturing the overall character of the album, whetting you're appetite for a full listen when time allows.


Vintersorg - "Orkan"

Each time I listen to "Orkan", Vintersorg's latest album, I'm more intrigued. Their Viking/folk influences come through clearly on "Orkan" as do brief flashes of black metal. What intrigues me though, is the delicate balance they maintain throughout the album, with an ongoing sense of community and folk quality, yet an overall sense of detail in the arrangement and sonic textures. Fueled by complex, intricate and rough-edged guitars, Vintersorg balances that with a steady dose of keyboards, giving their songs an intense but open feel throughout. Their songs are propelled by sections of steady single-note guitars and big chunky chord harmonies. Their music is both dark and upbeat; for me, it brings the Beowulf saga to mind in both intensity and mood. I've included "Istid" in my last two KGLT playlists, but I recommend listening to "Polarnatten" and "Norrrskenssyner" to get a full overview of Vintersorg's latest release.


Scattershock - A History: Part 2

In my recent article, I described the people and events that were at the heart of my early bands and marked the beginning of the trail towards Scattershock. I left off at the end of my stay in Boulder, having made the decision to return to Berkeley to finish school.

Once back in Berkeley, Steve Rosenthal and I reunited and started up our songwriting activities again. We got caught up in the MIDI craze and began recording demos that used sequenced drums, bass and keyboards, synchronized to the Fostex 4-track for guitar and vocals. We were calling our project "Secret Life" at that point, and the focus was writing and recording. We mixed a demo tape using our combination of analog tape and MIDI, which included two songs that would eventually become part of the Scattershock repertoire: "Same Time Next Week" and "Don't Wanna Talk".

At the end of my undergraduate years, I made the decision to enter UCSF to study towards a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. That meant that, Nancy (my wife to be) and I moved from Berkeley to San Francisco. As a very strange coincidence, Mike Levine had taken a job in San Francisco and was relocating from Colorado. Steve was also taking classes at San Francisco State University, making our next musical chapter fall into place effortlessly. Steve, Mike and I decided to join up under the "Secret Life" name. By this time I'd retired the Fostex 4-track, replacing it with a first-generation Pro Tools system, beginning with 4 tracks and eventually expending to 16. We wrote and recorded a bunch of songs during this period, and recorded them into Pro Tools. Mike was doing most of the lead vocals by time and all three of us were taking vocal lessons from Rubinoos drummer and great friend, Donn Spindt. We'd adopted a new name, "Shatterbox", one that better reflected the hard rock and grunge influence that had worked its way into our material. This was a very creative and productive period for all of us. We maintained a rehearsal space, first in the Turko Persian building near the Balboa Park BART station, and then eventually in the 3rd St. Rehearsal Studios near Hunter's Point. Somehow, though, over the course of my 5-ish years in graduate school and my early years in the software industry, we slowly watched our lives grow apart. Mike eventually moved back to Colorado and Steve and I struggled to spend significant amounts of time together.

Somewhere along the way, Steve and I recognized that we still wanted better recording of the Shatterbox material. Without Mike, we were short a bass player and primary vocalist. We solved the first problem by bringing in Paul Olguin, a great bass player that Steve had played with previously while backing Linda Brady. We'd gotten to know Gannon Kashiwa, a recording engineer in Denver and beta tester for Digidesign, and decided that we would record our songs with him. We gave Paul the earlier Shatterbox recordings and some demo tapes to help him learn all the songs and soon after loaded all our gear into a U-Haul trailer and headed to Denver for a week. It was a memorable week. Working with Gannon was great, both because I didn't need to think about engineering but also because he's a great guy. By the end of the week, we'd tracked 14 songs and headed back to the Bay Area, hard disk in hand.

Little did we know that it would be more than a decade before any of that material was finished. In an upcoming article, I'll explain more about why it took so long and how it eventually led to Scattershock and the "Wrong Train" release.