Τρίτη, 28 Ιουλίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 6: 5 platinum hard rock albums that wouldn't happen without their producer.


Nowadays, it seems that the term "producer" is over used or has lost its meaning. Many times, next to the "producer" credit there is just a name that is actually the audio engineer or the guy who is recording, along with the band.

In the history of hard rock and heavy metal music, there have been producers that shaped the sound of many iconic bands, like Martin Birch for Iron Maiden of Killers (1981) up to Fear of the Dark (1992), Tom Allom for the '80s albums of Judas Priest, or Dieter Dierks for all those iconic Scorpions albums, including Lovedrive, Blackout and Love at First Sting among others.

However, there is also another type of producer, the "musical director", the one who will completely guide and command the band, even changing the songs, even adding music ideas, even playing music sometimes, even writing the music himself. There aren't many of them but in the history of hard rock, there have been a few albums that reached a platinum or multi-platinum status, thanks to that producer.

There are a few albums you surely know and you probably can't imagine that they wouldn't happen without their producer.

written by Andreas Andreou
 

ALICE COOPER - Trash (1989)

Producer: Desmond Child

 
Recorded in various locations from New York to Los Angeles, and from Boston to New Jersey, Trash started taking shape shortly after completing the tour for Alice Cooper's previous album Raise Your Fist and Yell. While at that time Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) was working with musicians like Kane Roberts and Kip Winger, Alice decided to make a commercial full comeback so he needed the assistance and the Midas' touch of Desmond Child. He knew his songwriting skills in hit singles from bands like Bon Jovi, so he needed someone like him to take care of his next album and lead him to mainstream success.

With a new main recording line-up and a company of special guests contributing backing vocals, like Steven Tyler, Jon Bon Jovi, Kip Winger, and adding a few guitar parts from people like Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Steve Lukather and Kane Roberts, someone might say that Trash would be destined to be a huge commercial success. No, this wouldn't be possible without Desmond Child. After all, Alice Cooper's next album Hey Stoopid had more bigger names as special guests, a bigger songwriting team but didn't have Desmond Child leading so it didn't even come close to the commercial success of Trash.

So what Desmond Child did for Trash? Well, besides producing the album and giving that awesome sound, he co-wrote 9 out of the album's 10 songs!

Alice Cooper (the band) released the first album Pretties for You in 1969 and after a few albums as a band, starting with Welcome to My Nightmare in 1975, Alice Cooper-the band, became Alice Cooper-the solo artist. However, his early '80s albums, Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin and DaDa, were misguided and marked his "blackout" period since Alice Cooper doesn't really remember them. Or he just doesn't want to talk about them.

After a short period in hiatus, Alice Cooper's Constrictor (1986) and Raise Your Fist and Yell (1987) added a metal edge and marked the artist's turn in the path of hard rock, glam, hair metal and heavy metal, the way it was played that time in the United States. But those albums seemed like presenting a caricature figure of Alice Cooper with certain limitations and without any radio-friendly big hit. It was Trash though, with the addictive, catchy and "candy" songs and sound that was the huge success needed and introduced Alice Cooper to a wider new audience. Many of them didn't even know him before, in a similar case like Whitesnake's same-titled 1987 album. There were many times that younger people thought Trash was his first album but Alice Cooper finally had a hit in the '80s!

The album's first single "Poison", dominated the charts, radio and TV music shows, while there were three more singles ("Bed of Nails", "House of Fire", "Only My Heart Talkin'") but also one of the album's highlights, "Hell Is Living Without You", that besides Desmond Child, it is co-written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, that  worked with Desmond Child in Bon Jovi's hits like "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer", among others. Desmond Child was also responsible for a few of those album's guests, since he had worked with them and co-wrote a few of their biggest hits.

Trash is the album that brought Alice Cooper back in the frontline and the album's legacy kept him there for three decades, even if he rarely performs many songs from that album nowadays, like it's not his album, despite being his ultimate mainstream success. Except "Poison", of course, and "Bed of Nails" following.


5 more super hits Desmond Child co-wrote: KISS - "I Was Made for Lovin' You" (1979), AEROSMITH - "Angel" (1987), JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS - "I Hate Myself for Loving You" (1988), BON JOVI - "Bad Medicine" (1988), MICHEAL BOLTON - "How Can We Be Lovers?" (1989).


BAD COMPANY - Holy Water (1990)

Producer: Terry Thomas


The legendary British band was disbanded after the release of Rough Diamonds (1982) but sometime in 1985, the original members Mick Ralphs (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums) were working on a new project. At that time, their record label requested to use the Bad Company name, so they asked singer Paul Rodgers to join them again. However, Rodgers was committed to a new project (The Firm) and Brian Howe stepped in. With Howe on vocals, Bad Company released Fame and Fortune in 1986 but after that, the band started working with producer and songwriter Terry Thomas for the next three albums.

Terry Thomas, replacing producer Keith Olsen, brought to Bad Company the best possible sound for such a band and he also offered them his songwriting skills. Holy Water was a success and reached platinum status.

What Terry Thomas did for Holy Water? He is credited as a co-writer in 11 out of the 13 songs of the album but he actually wrote most of the music and he also played guitar and hammond organ on the album. Many people consider him as a regular member of the band while in the album's credits you can find his name in the "additional musicians".

Original members Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke were somehow stepped aside and the album sounded mostly as a  Brian Howe & Terry Thomas collaboration. Ralphs even refused to follow the band on the road after the album's release since it seemed he lost the "battle of egos", even if his exit was supposed to be for "personal and family issues". Someone might say that this isn't a "true" Bad Company album, just like the albums bands like Black Sabbath and Riot released the same year.

Despite its success, Holy Water and the Howe-era is underrated in the band's history, where most people have connected them with singer Paul Rodgers. A great singer who falsely believes that only he should be considered as the Bad Company voice.

Recently, singer Brian Howe died (May 6, 2020, aged 66) and after a few days, Paul Rodgers posted a video on social media, saying that he is alive and the Bad Company fans should not worry, without mentioning anything about Brian Howe. That's one of 2020's biggest fouls in the music industry.


5 more albums with Terry Thomas' credits: TOMMY SHAW - Ambition (1987), BAD COMPANY - Dangerous Age (1988), FASTWAY - On Target (1988), FOREIGNER - Unusual Heat (1991), BAD COMPANY - Here Comes Trouble (1992).


DEF LEPPARD - Hysteria (1987)

Producer: Robert John "Mutt" Lange


Def Leppard's previous album Pyromania (1983) was an important step away from their earlier heavy metal and NWOBHM roots. Pyromania was a massive success but in the mind of Mutt Lange, the next album would be "bigger" and larger-than-life in all terms. An album where every song could be a hit single that could dominate the charts.

Hysteria's recording is one of those long and multiple sessions that create those stories and myths we love to read. Started in early 1984, it was completed in the beginning of 1987, with Mutt Lange checking and arranging every small detail. The kind of details that most musicians and many producers wouldn't mind to look for or think about. Songs like "Animal" took up to three years to be completed! At some point in the beginning though, Mutt Lange had such a full schedule, that producer Jim Steinman was brought to work with the band. Lange returned in the producer's chair for Leppard very soon.

In such a monumental and historical release you can also find traces of drama, adventure, even tragedy. In the end of 1984, drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash but he was determined to continue playing and his bandmates stood next to him. Working with a drum company, they designed a custom drum kit that was also offered to the band and producer Mutt Lange a new dimension to work with. Hysteria was also the last Def Leppard album of guitarist Steve Clark who died in 1991, before the release of the next Leppard studio album, Adrenalize.

What Mutt Lange did for Hysteria? He is credited as a co-writer in all of the album's songs, where he added the "hit" factor. Even the few heavy metal traces someone could find in Pyromania, now they're completely gone. Or they just entered a "pop" frame. Mutt Lange was the one who arranged and added the multiple vocal harmonies, adding background vocals anywhere he could. And then, Lange used any available new technology and recording method, presenting an album sound no one had heard back in 1987. Lange, as a perfectionist, added the "perfect" element to Hysteria.

Mutt Lange was also asking for more songs and the running time of Hysteria is a little more than an hour. In the vinyl era, Lange predicted that compact disc will be the next format that will dominate the music market and he wanted to add more music testing the limits of the new format.

Hysteria is one of the top best-selling albums in the history of hard rock music, the multi-platinum album with the 7 singles, the album that made the term "pop metal" more popular and dominated the '80s music scene. A defining moment for the '80s mainstream hard rock / metal scene.


5 more albums "Mutt" Lange produced: AC/DC - Highway to Hell (1979), AC/DC - Back in Black (1980), FOREIGNER - 4 (1981), DEF LEPPARD - Pyromania (1983), BRYAN ADAMS - Waking Up the Neighbours (1991)


KISS - Destroyer (1976)

Producer: Bob Ezrin

 
Destroyer, the fourth studio album of Kiss followed the success of the Alive! live album, something that the previous three studio albums didn't reach at that time. Might be a paradox in music history that a live album (at the time of its release) is the most successful release of a band then, but it helped Kiss to establish their name as a ground-breaking live act; "the hottest band in the world".

After that success and since the live album didn't stop selling, the band decided that they will need to record their best album to date, so they will need something more, a producer that could lead them to the next level.

Bob Ezrin brought in the sound of Kiss a few special sound effects, choir and children voices, most notable on "God of Thunder" track including also an unusual drum pattern, strings and an orchestra for "Beth", a track that was supposed to be a filler, a track that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons didn't like but ended also as a b-side at the "Detroit Rock City" single... and became one of the band's most successful songs. And that's also another paradox with a b-side used as a filler, to become a huge success.

What Bob Ezrin did for Destroyer?  He was the musical director of Destroyer and besides his experimental method and techniques, he co-wrote almost all of the album's songs.

Destroyer, with the iconic cover art of Ken Kelly, was the first studio album of Kiss reaching platinum status, the studio album that established them and marked their bigger tours and stage shows. "It is a cinematic album", as Paul Stanley once said to Rolling Stone magazine, while Gene Simmons added, "Destroyer was ultimately a major leap forward for us because of Bob Ezrin. We were just knuckleheads, guys who turn it up to 11 just because we can. We didn’t know anything. We could barely tune our guitars. Before Destroyer, we just did what we did: We played, we wrote songs up to the level of our musicianship, and that was about it".

After a few more albums and the 1978 solo records, in 1981 the band worked again with Bob Ezrin. That time, Ezrin discarded their demo tracks and suggested making a concept album. Ace Frehley didn't like the idea and that also affected his position within the band. Both Stanley and Simmons agreed to do what the producer said but that second time, the result was the album Music from "The Elder", a commercial failure and Kiss didn't even tour for that album.


5 more albums Bob Ezrin produced: ALICE COOPER - Billion Dollar Babies (1973), ALICE COOPER - Welcome to My Nightmare (1975), PETER GABRIEL - Peter Gabriel I (1977), PINK FLOYD - The Wall (co-producer, 1979), PINK FLOYD - A Momentary Lapse of Reason (co-producer, 1987).


MEAT LOAF - Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993)

Producer: Jim Steinman


Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell trilogy is one of the most iconic and best-selling chapters of rock and hard rock history. And while the first part, originally released in 1977, has sold more than 40,000,000 copies worldwide, the second part released in 1993 sold more than 14,000,000 copies and if you will consider the time it was released, that's a huge number!

Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday) has a great voice but truth to be told, songwriter Jim Steinman is the driving force behind his success since he wrote all the songs for the first two parts of the Bat Out of Hell trilogy. Steinman also wrote Meat Loaf's Dead Ringer and Braver Than We Are albums, while Steinman's solo album Bad for Good of 1981 was also supposed to be Meat Loaf's follow up to Bat Out of Hell. Meat Loaf was unable to sing for a short period back then, so Steinman released those songs as a solo album. However, a few of those ideas and songs were reworked and used in Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell since that was the original plan.

The album's first single "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" was edited for the video clip (directed by Michael Bay) and the single version since it's album running time is 12 minutes, but the meaning of the lyrics was always causing confusion with a man-lover that would do anything in the name of love, except "that". There are a few funny theories over the years, but most likely, it is that the man-lover "won't stop dreaming of her every night of his life".

What Jim Steinman did for Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell? Well, actually it is his album, since he wrote it and produced it. Everything was done under his command and his creativity.

Before the release of the album, a few people in the music industry thought that this was going to be a joke and Steinman with Meat Loaf won't be able to make another commercial success. They were proved wrong.


5 more albums with full or partial credits to Jim Steinman either as producer or/and composer: MEAT LOAF - Dead Ringer (1981), BONNIE TYLER - Faster Than the Speed of Night (1983), Various Artists, Soundtrack - Streets of Fire (1984), BONNIE TYLER - Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire (1986), THE SISTERS OF MERCY - Floodland (1987).

Πέμπτη, 23 Ιουλίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 5: Top-10 Hard Rock / Metal Reunion Albums: The albums, the stories, the legacy.


The context and differences of "reunion" and "comeback".

First of all, we need to start with what "reunion" actually means. A reunion album is the album created by a band that was previously disbanded/inactive. For example, Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers is a reunion album by a band that was no longer active, didn't perform live and didn't record albums. Sometimes, people are confused with other cases, for example: Black Sabbath Dehumanizer, Iron Maiden Brave New World, Judas Priest Angel of Retribution or Slayer Christ Illusion. All these cases are not "reunion albums" but comeback albums. Those bands weren't disbanded, kept releasing albums and performing live. It is just that an older band member (or more) returned to the already active band.

In these different cases, there were also different results: "comeback" member(s) left again and the band returned to a previous incarnation (Black Sabbath), the comeback member(s) were treated again as equal members, probably because of new contracts (Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden), the comeback member started taking the leading role (Rob Halford in Judas Priest) or the comeback member was never equal in the business part and left again (Dave Lombardo in Slayer). These are brief examples of the many comeback albums that some people confuse with reunion albums. In order to be reunited, you need to be disbanded before. And also, as it is clearly in these examples, the return of an old member can have a different impact in the active band.

Let's have a look at the greatest reunion albums and their stories. Stories that led to the reunion even if sometimes it wasn't meant to be like that... but that's the music industry and its many faces. We don't want to present "any" reunion album; it makes no sense to add Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers and Medieval Steel's Dark Castle back-to-back just because both of them are "reunion albums". We have to separate the best ones and the greatest ones, so we will expand on the 10 best ones according to Crystal Logic.

Furthermore, within those "Top-10" albums, more tales will be added, the "check also" part we love, with more bands and albums, different aspects and stories from the history of hard rock and metal music, more reunion and comeback names, as also a few that failed.

written by Andreas Andreou


Top-10 Hard Rock / Metal Reunion Albums (and other stories):

1. DEEP PURPLE - Perfect Strangers (1984)


Someone can say that this could be one of the undeniable greatest reunion albums in the history of hard rock. Someone could also write a whole book behind that reunion and what followed, so let's stay as brief as possible. The classic MK II line-up of Ian Gillan (vocals), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums), recorded groundbreaking albums like In Rock (or Deep Purple in Rock, if you prefer), Fireball and Machine Head during 1970-1972 but after Who Do We Think We Are (1973), there were already  tensions between the band members and differences with the management, so Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left, while Deep Purple were in their peak.

David Coverdale (vocals) and Glenn Hughes (bass/vocals) joined and Deep Purple released two albums with that line-up, Burn and Stormbringer, both of them in 1974. And then, it was time for Blackmore to quit the band because he didn't like the soul and funky elements of those albums... So, the "man in black" went to form Rainbow, while the rest were joined by guitarist Tommy Bolin for one more album (Come Taste the Band) until the summer of 1976 where they decided that the band won't record or perform as Deep Purple again.

At that time, Ritchie Blackmore had already released his second album under the Rainbow moniker with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, and kept doing what he really liked. However, Blackmore wanted a more commercial approach at one point, something that Dio didn't really like and a few more line-up changes took place in the Rainbow camp, where at one point, Roger Glover joined Ritchie, among others.

At the same time, Ian Gillan released music under the names Ian Gillan Band and Gillan before ending in Black Sabbath, while the rest of the Purple family was involved around solo albums, Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord, Gary Moore and more, until one day in the first months of 1984, where the classic MK II was reunited and released later in 1984 the album Perfect Strangers; and what a suitable title that was!

Truth to be told, no matter what the credits say, Ritchie Blackmore was always the primary songwriter, especially for that album, and that was one of those issues that caused a few additional problems since other band members wanted everyone's name in the credits. Of course, Roger Glover was also very important, being also the producer. We're used in cases where the credit is not given but there are also cases where you have equal credits for a minimum input and Deep Purple probably fall in this category.


Despite its commercial success and a few already classic songs like the same titled, "Knocking at Your Back Door", "Under the Gun" and "Wasted Sunsets", it was Blackmore who always thought that this reunion was actually  a mistake, while his relationship with Ian Gillan was getting worse... until 1989, where Gillan was off the band. The cracks in the walls have grown too long.

The lyrics of "Knocking at Your Back Door" is also one of those things that cause controversy. For some people these lyrics are among Gillan's cleverest ones, for others they are just silly or make no sense. There are parts that make no sense but Ian just fits random words easy to sing like "Sweet Lucy was a dancer but none of us would chance her because she was a samurai". Funny thing is that it got lot of airplay and was released as a single but even up to this day, there are many people that are not aware this song actually talks about anal sex.

The legacy of Perfect Strangers is undeniable. Deep Purple are still active, performing live and releasing albums since that reunion in 1984 while before that, they had 8 years of activity and 8 years of inactivity. Perfect Strangers is a classic album, among the best of Deep Purple and none of the following albums in the next decades is better than that. Perfect Strangers dominated the press and music world of 1984, in a time where reunions weren't a hype and behind the money involved, there was also great music and performances by five musicians, each one, the echo of the other's past.

Check also: BLACK SABBATH - 13 (2013)
A heavy comeback: BLACK SABBATH - Dehumanizer (1992)
And comeback again: BLACK SABBATH - Cross Purposes (1994)


2. RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW - Stranger in Us All (1995)

Well, that's not the second best reunion album but it fits perfectly after Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers, leading to the Stranger in Us All


When Ian Gillan was fired by Deep Purple in 1989, it was Joe Lynn Turner the one who was finally chosen as the frontman of the legendary British act, who had also recorded three albums with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow before that iconic Deep Purple reunion in 1984. So, at that point in 1990, you had three of the members that recorded the last Rainbow albums, one of them being also the producer of those albums, writing and recording the new Purple album, Slaves and Masters. That was a really great album but soon afterwards, while a few people were calling this reincarnation as Deep Rainbow, there were voices (band members and record label) that wanted Gillan back, even if Blackmore was negative. So, the record company offered Blackmore a huge amount of money for a solo album, in order to accept Gillan back.

Ian Gillan was finally back and Purple released The Battle Rages On... in 1993 with tensions surfacing again until the moment where Blackmore quit before even completing the album's supporting tour. He still had the solo album deal and the money he got though, so he started working on that album with Doogie White (vocals), Paul Morris (keyboards), Greg Smith (bass) and John O'Reilly (drums), having also Candice Night around him, inspiring him, even helping with a few lyrics and backing vocals. That album is one of those (many) cases that was supposed to be released under another name but in the end, the record company had a different opinion despite the will of the artist.

Moon, Rainbow Moon, Ritchie Blackmore, are a few of the names that were considered for naming that project but the album was finally credited to Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Actually, only the same-titled album of 1975 used that name but most of the fans accepted Stranger in Us All as a Rainbow reunion; in the same case like Yngwie Malmsteen and Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force being the "same thing" (you can add the "J." if you wish between "Yngwie" and "Malmsteen").

The album was simply amazing, with (Ritchie Blackmore's) Rainbow being one of the very few acts having released more than five-six albums, all of them of high quality. "Wolf to the Moon", "Cold Hearted Woman", 'Hunting Humans (Insatiable)", "Ariel", "Black Masquerade" are all excellent songs and they also added The Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad" (just like in the 1975 debut album) this time adding lyrics, like they used to do in the live shows, giving an additional connection to the past.

Stranger in Us All was greatly accepted mainly in Europe and Japan and the band toured a lot for that album even if Ritchie didn't break guitars and Doogie White had difficulties performing the Graham Bonnet material. Other than that, everything around that reunion was perfect but didn't last. Most of those musicians remained strangers but Candice Night led Ritchie to Blackmore's Night.

Check also: EUROPE - Start from the Dark (2004)


3. W.A.S.P. - The Crimson Idol (1992)

Since 1970's "Black Sabbath" where Ozzy Osbourne is singing "Satan's coming 'round the bend", prophetically of the things to come, heavy metal was meant to shock. However, the element of shock is different over the years, depending on the decade and the society at that time. What was extreme in 1970 or 1980, it is something normal nowadays and that's why when someone reviews an album or a song, or even an incident, must keep in the back of the head the context of the period that album or song was released. And when W.A.S.P. were writing the song "Animal (F**k Like a Beast)" or performing live in the mid '80s, they were extreme for that time, especially if you will consider that they were a mainstream act and not a few friends playing in a local studio. There were many (and more) extreme underground metal bands in the mid '80s but shocking thousands, society and all media, has a larger impact than shocking a few people that happen to know you. Don't forget that.


How many people actually know that Blackie Lawless disbanded W.A.S.P. after the release of The Headless Children? Chris Holmes, guitarist and co-founder of W.A.S.P. left the band in the summer of 1989 since he probably preferred the "funnier" side of the band, while their last (then) album had a different vibe and most likely set the scene for what would follow.

When Blackie disbanded W.A.S.P. he started writing something different, a concept album, the story of Jonathan; a young musician who is promised to be a star but finds out that the music industry and the glamorous life is not exactly what he thought it was. Fame and fortune is not always the essence of happiness and the end might only be a string away. Or six strings around his neck.

This wasn't the most original idea ever but it was an idea that was presented perfectly, with a lot of emotion and music maturity; something miles away from the '80s party style of the band and the years where they were targeted by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) along with bands like Twisted Sister. So, those "White Anglo Saxon Protestants", the "We Are Sexual Perverts" or the "We Are 'Short' People", that in the end are just "We Aren’t Sure Pal" were gone along with the decade of ‘80 and everything that the '80s meant.

In the '90s, the music world was changing, despite the fact that there were still a few bands coming from the '80s that expanded their commercial success and fame, like Metallica, Guns 'n' Roses and the solo band of Ozzy Osbourne. But there was also something new, especially in the United States of America, where everything that W.A.S.P. was representing, became "old" and outdated. It was that point where Blackie Lawless started working on his first solo album. That was The Crimson Idol, a different, mature project he was working on, for more than two years. However, the pressure of the fans and mainly the promoters that needed the "brand name" in order to offer live shows, made Blackie to bring back W.A.S.P. and resurrect the name in such a short period, even if everything sounded "different" now.

Blackie definitely had something huge and special in his mind, something that needed to be created and shaped away from the existing (then) W.A.S.P. moniker, but it was that name that could offer him everything he needed in order to achieve the grandiose plan he had in mind. So, W.A.S.P. are back. Different, but back. In The Headless Children album, there is a cover song on The Who’s "The Real Me" and there is a strong possibility that Blackie already had in his mind The Crimson Idol project, inspired by The Who and their Tommy Rock Opera. After all, it is known that Pete Townshend is one of Blackie's greatest idols and inspirations.

However, it is no surprise that upon its release, The Crimson Idol didn't reach the expectations in terms of popularity and sales, even if there were a few great reviews. There were also a few reviews that found it so "different" for W.A.S.P. that ended to be negative. The album went unnoticed in the United States, where W.A.S.P. was a huge name in the '80s and after a while, Blackie disbanded again his band… But while time was passing, the reputation of The Crimson Idol was growing and people (fans and critics) started considering it as an extraordinary artistic monument, a status it keeps until today. It is not the first time when an artistic monument goes unnoticed upon its release but after a while its reputation is growing. After all, there is no better example than Ridley Scott's Blade Runner film.

W.A.S.P. in 1992


Check also: W.A.S.P. – Still Not Black Enough (1995)

Once again, that was also supposed to be a solo album, once again it ended under the W.A.S.P. moniker and from that moment and on, Blackie never left the "brand name". The funny thing is that when he was briefly reunited with guitarist Chris Holmes, their first album K.F.D (short for Kill.Fuck.Die.) released in 1997, was the less-"W.A.S.P."-sounding album Blackie ever released.

A failed reunion album: RUNNING WILD - Shadowmaker (2012)

In the summer of 2009, Captain Kasparek sailed for a last time. However, in April of 2012 a new Running Wild album was released. Just like W.A.S.P. and many more, that reunion happened very fast but this time not with the best result. Sometimes, artists change their mind very fast. Sometimes they don't have to do it, other times they must do it.


4. RIOT - Thundersteel (1988)


Based in New York, Riot released their first album Rock City in 1977, fronted by Guy Speranza and having the electric axes of Mark Reale and Lou A. Kouvaris. Sadly, the album passed unnoticed in the United States while even in New York, people were mostly looking forward to seeing Twisted Sister destroying the clubs and building a huge army of followers. And while Quiet Riot were also formed earlier than Riot, their first two albums were released only in Japan before Randy Rhoads ended with Ozzy Osbourne. Two years later, Riot released Narita and Kouvaris was replaced by Rick Ventura. Still though, just like Quiet Riot, the Japanese market was more interested in Riot than the US market where they were still unnoticed, just like Europe. Having song titles like "Tokyo Rose" and playing like a British band, also helps in Japan.

The problem with Riot was always that they were at the wrong place, the wrong time. Their early sound was mostly in the style and for the likes of European market and mainly the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, so when the famous DJ Neal Kay started playing Riot in England more people were getting interested in them and for their better luck, they ended performing in the famous first Monsters of Rock Festival in 1980, along with Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Saxon, April Wine and Touch, taking place in Castle Donington, England.

That gave an extra push in the career of Riot, so the next album Fire Down Under, released in 1981, is one of the biggest selling albums of Riot. The band even dedicated the track "Flashbacks" to Neal Kay for helping and spreading their name. However, that was the last album with Guy Speranza that was replaced by Rhett Forrester, releasing the albums Restless Breed (1982) and Born in America (1983). The unstable and eccentric behaviour of Forrester wasn't helpful, let alone the fact that at the same time the reformed Quiet Riot reached number 1 in Billboard with the multi-platinum album "Metal Health", confusing "wannabe fans" that wanted to listen "Cum on Feel the Noize" and they got "Vigilante Killer".

After a while the band was put to rest and Mark Reale moved to San Antonio, Texas, forming the band Narita. Sometime later, Mark Reale along with bassist Don Van Stavern of S.A. Slayer, tried to bring back the name of Riot and after rehearsing with singers like Rhett Forrester and Harry Conklin, they ended with Tony Moore and the line-up was completed with drummer Bobby Jarzombek. The result is one of those albums that carry only one member and the band name as a connection with the past: Thundersteel.

Music wise, "Thundersteel" has nothing in common with all the previous Riot albums and the songwriting style of bassist Don Van Stavern (that offered a huge part) is totally different than early members, even Mark Reale. So, in 1988, you have a band named "Riot" playing power metal with no connection to the past. The few older fans are having difficulties to reconnect with the "new" Riot, since they find no similarities or members they knew and the new fans have already a huge amount of bands playing the same style in the United States during that period. A period where in every neighbourhood there was a group of musicians playing that style, let alone that few of them already started making a name, like Savatage that released Hall of the Mountain King one year earlier, or Crimson Glory. At that time, Riot, fell in the category and league of bands like Helstar, Liege Lord, Vicious Rumors and Hittman, all of them great bands with amazing albums released in 1988, but Riot was supposed to be something like the "first American heavy metal band returning". And that reunion didn't have the impact it was supposed to have, even if the album was released by CBS and there was also a video clip for TV.

But what about Europe in 1988? There was a diversity and different styles but many of them had the same audience. There was Helloween and Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II on one side, King Diamond's "Them" on the other and Running Wild's Port Royal somewhere close. Some of them power metal, some of them heavy metal, others both.

So, how did people and media review Thundersteel and the reunion of Riot in 1988? Probably not very good, or to be more precisely they didn't give the proper attention. All of them. And a few of them, still do the same, just like Geoff Barton (founder of Kerrang! and editor of Sounds), who in the issue 141 (February 2010) of Classic Rock magazine, speaking about a reissue of Thundersteel, he adds that "in reality it sounds like a tinny, poor man's Judas Priest" and the album is rated with 5 out of 10. Barton is a legend, Judas Priest a larger-than-life legend and definitely Riot are not close to Judas Priest, but they are a respectable "neighbor" that deserved more. Much more. I don't believe in any kind of injustice in the music history and industry since there are always logical reasons for everything, so let's just add again, that Riot was always in the wrong place, the wrong time, wrongfully disbanded in a period where heavy metal was getting more popular in the United States instead of keeping up, they were resurrected as something different, changed line-up many times and they also had a few bad decisions for the cover art of their albums. But music was, in most cases, magnificent!

So, what about Thundersteel, the album and the music? What about it? This is one of the best US power metal albums ever made! Actually, Thundersteel is one of the most iconic USPM albums and the essence of US power metal. Perfect from start to finish. Not influential or "scene-changing", but definitely one of the most iconic of its kind. A style ("Power Metal") that mostly in the United States, was found mainly in albums and not so often in bands. After all, no one can say that Riot is a "power metal" band but Thundersteel is the essence of US power metal.

What happened after the release of the album? Nearly nothing. Most of them happened after the release of the next album, The Privilege of Power (1990) where the band re-established the Riot name in the Japanese market and finally managed to do a proper tour. But then, the line-up changed again and so did the music direction... Still though with great albums in the '90s. As usual, in the wrong place, the wrong time.

Nowadays, with a different name and without any original members, Riot V have gained some of the glory they deserved thanks to their amazing live shows. The Riot name has a discography of many exceptional albums but still in the United States they are an underground metal band without important opportunities of extended touring, in Europe they perform in small venues but in contrast to that, they also appear in big festivals and they still have a better name in Japan. Not close to the really big names (like the ones that end as cover to Burrn! magazine) or artists like Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Schenker, but definitely bigger than how they are in the United States and Europe. Shine on!

Check also: CRIMSON GLORY - Astronomica (1999)

Even if the band wanted to have the original singer Midnight back on the mic, his severe addiction to alcohol couldn't help at that time and he was unable to rise to the occasion. Singer Wade Black stepped in and Astronomica was recorded and released, followed by a tour that didn't really attract a huge audience. The album was great though even if it remains unappreciated until today.

More reunions of US metal: AGENT STEEL - Omega Conspiracy (1999), AXEHAMMER - Windrider (2005), FIFTH ANGEL - The Third Secret (2018), HEIR APPARENT - The View from Below (2018), MANILLA ROAD - Atlantis Rising (2001), METAL CHURCH - Masterpeace (1999), STEEL ASSASSIN - War of the Eight Saints (2007).

A failed reunion:  JAG PANZER - Dissident Alliance (1994)
And a comeback correction: JAG PANZER - The Fourth Judgment (1997)


5. CELTIC FROST - Monotheist (2006) ...and the end.

This is the best reunion album of extreme metal. The triumph of death.


Hellhammer was buried. After the triumph of death, the mysteries of perversity brought Celtic Frost from the demon entrails. Morbid Tales (1984), Emperor's Return (1985) and To Mega Therion (1985) are the foundations of extreme metal, and Into The Pandemonium (1987) is a genre-breaking record that introduced us the term "avant-garde" in metal music. An experimental dark album with undeniable influence. This influence was both musical, artistic and visual. Up to that point, Celtic Frost was the ultimate ground-breaking metal act. Martin Eric Ain was separated from Celtic Frost during the recordings of To Mega Therion but returned very quickly and even if Tom Gabriel Warrior was the prime composer, Martin was the link that completed the gaze into the abyss with his contributions in lyrics, music and image.

Cold Lake (1988) was one of those disastrous decisions in the change of musical direction, Martin Eric Ain wasn't there and Tom G. Warrior doesn't want to listen to this record again. However, despite most cases in the music industry, Tom has no problem to admit that this album was a failure, a mistake he did misguided and should never happen. Vanity/Nemesis (1990) marks the return of Martin Ain but fans must have felt betrayed and drowned in a cold lake, so after a while, there was silence. During this silence, the impact of Celtic Frost, one of the most original and eccentric bands in metal music, was growing over and over...

After talking again and planning the reunion, it was finally in late 2001 where Tom Gabriel Fischer (Warrior) and Martin Eric Ain began to write music together again, along with Erol Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, drummer Franco Sesa joined them, all as equal members. At that point, Tom and Martin wanted to offer an artistic conclusion of what Celtic Frost is. The album was recorded in different studios, starting in 2002 and completed in the end of 2005 under the title: Monotheist.

Monotheist is the true essence of Celtic Frost. This album isn't a simple reunion, this is a return to form that made their legacy stronger. "I am you. Stillborn" are the first words of "Progeny", the opening track and "I am hatred, seeping blood" are the first words of the second track, "Ground", both of them starting loud and heavy, with an abyssic tone. Then, you have the third track, "A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh" followed by "Drown in Ashes" and all is cold; flesh, too. After diving deeply in the music and lyrics, you start feeling a misplaced reality of total darkness where there is no hope, where everything ceases to exist and some things seem unavoidable. Not cathartic, just unavoidable.

The following track "Os Abysmi Vel Daath" is where Ain and Fischer enter the abyss, taking all of us with them in nothingness. There is sorrow, pain and loneliness in this album, a chilling gaze into the abyss, where there was never light, just the reflection of darkness. In "Obscured" you can feel the loneliness, the empty space and oblivion, while in "Domain of Decay" the existence is left behind. "There is no God but the one that dies with me" line from the song "Ain Elohim" might summarize the general idea behind Monotheist. The way Tom G. Fischer pronounces words like "flesh" and "wrath" is beyond evil and Tom's performance in Monotheist is his best of all the Celtic Frost albums. He is morbid and grotesque, a true artist, not an act. The Triptych part of Monotheist starts with the unspeakable "Totengott" followed by the 14-minute blasphemy of "Synagoga Satanae" and completed by "Winter", the third and final chapter of Celtic Frost's Requiem.

Few months prior to the release of Monotheist in 2006, Martin Eric Ain, one of the main responsible persons for the visual artistic direction of the album, visited the offices of the label (Century Media) and unfurled full-color printouts of the complete layout, including final artwork for everything (both CD and vinyl) and provided detailed explanations about all symbolism, meaning and importance of what he presented.


Photo taken on January 16, 2006, courtesy of Century Media Records. At this time and after the years of Noise Records, the problems and artistic limitations they had, now they knew exactly what they wanted and everything was done under their control.

Monotheist is crushing and intense, a scary and dark album. Every lyric, every line, every note, every symbolism, every detail, everything has its meaning. And those meanings create a larger idea, larger than the album itself, larger than Celtic Frost. Monotheist is a unique experience. Abyss itself.

Flesh has failed. Os abysmi.


Tom Gabriel Fischer and Martin Eric Ain in 2006. 
Photo taken from Delineation II (fischerisdead.blogspot.com) - photographer unknown.


Everything will come to an end.

On April 2, 2008, Tom Gabriel Fischer left Celtic Frost, the band that was his own life's work, the content of his existence. Celtic Frost has always been fraught with adversity from the inception to the end, a confrontational entity that doesn't fit anywhere and Tom is the soul of this entity. Not an act, but the essence and the soul. On June 16th of 2008, there was a statement by Martin Eric Ain & Franco Sesa (who was also Martin's close friend and the voice that disagreed with Tom), mentioning among others: "Tom Gabriel Fischer has left the band, but Celtic Frost is still alive, albeit in a coma of sorts. Franco and I are not going to continue recording or touring as Celtic Frost. This would be preposterous without one of its founding members, the original voice and its defining guitarist. But we are not going to officially disband CF."

Tom's reply to Martin is known, since it was posted in his (incredible) blog sometime ago, mentioning among others: "I explicitly think it is wrong to give fans cause for hope when there is none. There will be no reunification of Celtic Frost, at least not with me. Just how many times should we reunite and dissolve the band? [...] I cannot imagine reuniting Celtic Frost one more time, not with me and certainly not without me."

In September of 2008, Martin Eric Ain and Tom Gabriel Fischer discussed the situation and agreed that any continuation of Celtic Frost without either one of them would be absonant and decided to lay Celtic Frost to rest, with respect to their ideas and the legacy of this unique band.

It seemed though that Martin Eric Ain was already tired by touring and the "band" life in contrast with his comfortable life. "Martin lives on a different planet to the rest of us", Fischer said to Iron Fist magazine, in 2014. "He runs an empire of clubs and bars in Zurich, and we're not talking about metal clubs - he runs the hipster clubs. Martin is a millionaire and that's his world now". But the lives of all those surrounding him, will never be the same without him. Tom's, also.

Tom Gabriel Fischer formed Triptykon. There wasn't any other sign of Celtic Frost. Martin Eric Ain left the mortal world on October 21st, 2017 (heart attack). After two triumphant studio albums, Triptykon released Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019) including "Rex Irae (Requiem, Chapter One: Overture)", "Grave Eternal (Requiem, Chapter Two: Transition)" and "Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale)". Celtic Frost's requiem was originally begun in autumn of 1986 and its first part, "Rex Irae", originally appeared on Into the Pandemonium album. "Winter" originally appeared on Monotheist album and Fischer  started writing it in 2001. It was supposed that the requiem should be concluded once Celtic Frost recorded the second part but in the end, requiem was presented in its entirety by Triptykon with the Metropole Orkest.

Check also: VENOM - Cast in Stone (1997)

Lessons in Violence - Reunions of thrash/death metal: ATHEIST - Jupiter (2010), CARCASS - Surgical Steel (2013), CYNIC - Traced in Air (2008), DEATH ANGEL - The Art of Dying (2004), EXODUS - Tempo of the Damned (2004), FORBIDDEN - Omega Wave (2010).


6. HELL - Human Remains (2011)

The story of Hell from England is one of those legendary yet obscure, unknown chapters in the book of heavy metal. One of the best heavy metal stories. There are a few bands that managed to release a full-length album after their reunion and in their former years they recorded just demo tapes or released singles and EPs but the story of Hell is one of those that we would like to explore deeply sometime.


Guitarist Kevin Bower was a member of Paralex that released the White Lightning EP in 1980, while at the same time, singer David Halliday was recording a demo with Race Against Time, one of those obscure New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. When Race Against time disbanded, Bower who wanted to work with Haliday, left Paralex taking bassist Tony Speakman with him and asked David to form a new band. The line-up was completed with drummer Tim Bowler who had performed with Overdrive, while Halliday also played guitar and Bower also played keyboards. Immediately, there was a spiritual bond among the members and David Halliday started writing songs with Kev Bower. Among many demo recordings, there was also the Save Us from Those Who Would Save Us / Deathsquad 7" single released in 1983 but it was the live shows that made Hell so unique those years and they even managed to support bands like Budgie and Uriah Heep. Hell was one of the first bands that had "extreme" live shows, using something like a "corpse" paint, pyro, an exploding Bible and a theatrical performance like deniers of divinity. Funny how, the media didn't want to cover them and they were ignored by record labels, so when it happened after a few years and they signed with Mausoleum Records, fate had different plans. That deal fell apart since the label collapsed before the recordings and the band was left in debt, devastated and insecure about the future. Bower left the band and a few months later, on the 29th of January 1987, Halliday commited suicide. Hell was no more; another band that didn't make it and disbanded in the deepest underground metal catacombs, known to a few.

Old Nick must have loved them. Maybe He was in one of their shows, along with Andy Sneap, a young boy that met David Halliday at the age of 12 and started taking guitar lessons from him. Halliday became a mentor for young Andy Sneap. Andy was following Hell in all of their shows, the cult shows with pyro, theatrics, the outstanding performance and the breathtaking atmosphere; the shows and performance were ahead of their time. Andy Sneap had already formed Sabbat along with singer Martin Walkyier and one year after the death of Halliday, Sabbat released their first album, History of a Time to Come. In the years to come, Andy Sneap became one of the most famous metal producers and nowadays he has already worked with bands such as Judas Priest (he also became a member of the band), Saxon, Accept, Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Exodus, Kreator, Nevermore, Testament, Megadeth and Opeth, among many, earning also a Grammy award. But Andy Sneap, always had in the back of his mind that those Hell songs should be recorded and released sometime.

In 2008, Bower, Speakman and Bowler were reunited again with Andy Sneap as the producer and guitarist, who also funded the project on his own, to record songs like "On Earth as It Is in Hell", "The Quest", "The Devil's Deadly Weapon", "Plague and Fyre", "Blasphemy and the Master", "Let Battle Commence"... Martin Walkyier was invited for a few rehearsals on vocals, but it was Kev Bower's brother David, who was finally the chosen one. David Bower, a professional actor and voiceover artist was the perfect choice and his theatrical performance is the perfect match for that hellish material.

Finally, the album Human Remains was released in 2011. "If you truly believe in what you do, your dreams one day will come true" - "The Quest".

I dare to say that Human Remains is probably the best classic heavy metal album of the decade of '10. Songwriting, performance, production, Devil always had the best songs and Human Remains is his victory.


Many live shows and festival appearances followed, all of them with an extraordinary theatrical performance and Human Remains was a commercial success for a band's first album. Hell returned with the follow-up album Curse & Chapter in 2013, more theatrical live shows afterwards and sometime after 2015 or so, Hell entered hiatus. I don't know if there will ever be another album or when Andy Sneap will find time to continue, but somewhere in Hell, David Halliday sits close to the Devil with a smile of sin watching the vallies of temptation, where the blind have led the blind. I want to believe that the horned beast will return.


From the vaults: PAGAN ALTAR

Prior to Hell, there was another band in England focused in occult themes, still less accessible than most British bands of that era, so I guess there's no need to wonder why they also didn't manage to release a full album back then, even if they had recorded many songs that saw the light of day in the years to come. Terry Jones on vocals and his son Alan on guitar, managed to create unique songs with a mystical aura and just like Hell, it is probably a weird case of bands that nowadays are considered innovative acts but back in the early '80s they were ignored by press and record labels. Thanks to a following cult, both of them managed to be reunited, re-record their old songs and release them in the next millennium. For Pagan Altar, after releasing for the first time what is known as Volume 1 album (originally supposed to be Judgement of the Dead), they officially reunited in 2004 and re-recorded older songs presenting the album Lords of Hypocrisy.

In 2006 the album Mythical & Magical was released, also including re-recordings of older material and this is probably the best Pagan Altar album and one of the best metal releases of the '00s. Finally, Pagan Altar was recognized as an important underground metal band, performing also in many venues and festivals in the United Kingdom, Greece, Germany and elsewhere. Sadly, on May 15th of 2015, Terry Jones left the mortal world and two years later, The Room of Shadows was released; the final album with his voice. His son, Alan Jones, one of the most emotional guitar players you can listen to, keeps the name of Pagan Altar alive with a different line-up.

The many faces of British hard rock / metal and NWOBHM reunion albums: ANGEL WITCH - As Above, So Below (2012), ELIXIR - The Idol (2002), PRAYING MANTIS - Predator in Disguise (1991), SARACEN - Red Sky (2003), SATAN - Life Sentence (2013).


7. ACCEPT - Objection Overruled (1993)

If someone would ask me to come up with three songs that shaped the foundations of speed and thrash metal, I would say: Besides Venom, these songs are Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe", Judas Priest's "Exciter" and Accept's "Fast as a Shark". Accept is one of the best, most important and most influential heavy metal bands. Period.


Formed in the depths of the '70s, their albums from 1981 to 1986 is one of those unmistakable and perfect heavy metal series. However, sometime in 1987, the iconic singer Udo Dirkschneider was fired from the band. "I never left Accept, Accept left me", Udo once told me, but he didn't miss a beat back then and he decided to follow a solo career with his first album under the moniker U.D.O. released the same year with the title Animal House. Funny how, that album was written by the Accept songwriting team and when U.D.O. was releasing the next studio album Mean Machine in 1989, Accept were releasing Eat the Heat with David Reece on vocals. The problem was that while Udo kept Accept's style and flame, Accept themselves tried to move to a melodic way and their target was the US market. "That was a fight for new roads'', guitarist Wolf Hoffmann told me when we did an interview for their excellent second reunion album Blood of the Nations. But before that second reunion album, there was another one: Objection Overruled.

The US tour supporting Eat the Heat was a failure and disappointment with poor attendance, even if the touring package included W.A.S.P. and Metal Church. Problems within the band and uncertainty led them to disband and they didn't even tour in Europe for that album. While U.D.O. had released two more albums, in 1990 (Faceless World) and in 1991 (Timebomb), the band's ex-singer was reunited with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, bassist Peter Baltes and drummer Stefan Kaufmann, recording Objection Overruled and touring in Europe, Japan and the United States with success in more than 70 dates. That reunion, one of the first and most important heavy metal reunions, brought back the trademark Accept sound. Objection Overruled is the last Udo-fronted classic Accept album. Two more albums followed and in 1997 Accept entered hiatus while U.D.O. kept releasing excellent albums. After a brief reunion in 2005 for (mainly) a few festival shows but not a new album, Udo didn't join again Accept and the band was disbanded.

The legacy of Objection Overruled is strong until today. You won't see it mentioned next to '80s classics like Balls to the Wall, Restless and Wild or Metal Heart but it is Accept's lost masterpiece, an album with all the characteristic trademarks of their sound, a  criminally underrated Accept album. Hoffmann's work in "Amamos la Vida" is pure gold. As for the riffs, this is a typical Accept album, meaning blazing guitars everywhere.

Check also: ACCEPT - Blood of the Nations (2010), GRAVE DIGGER - The Reaper (1993)


8. MERCYFUL FATE - In the Shadows (1993)


It was during 1985, when Hank Shermann, the half part of one of the top-5 metal guitar duos, wanted Mercyful Fate to follow a different path with a hard rock, melodic and commercial sound. King Diamond refused, so Mercyful Fate broke up. Shermann formed Fate and King Diamond went on with the King Diamond band along with ex-Mercyful Fate members, Michael Denner (the other half of the guitar duo) and Timi Hansen (bass), joined by Andy La Rocque (guitar) and Mikkey Dee (drums). King Diamond released a few of the best metal albums ever in the second half of the '80s and sometime in 1989, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner (that left King Diamond before the recordings of "Them") joined forces and formed Zoser Mez. In 1991 the band released their only album, Vizier of Wasteland, with a few guitar parts bringing in mind Mercyful Fate but something was missing.

In 1992, when King Diamond's deal with Roadrunner Records ended, King took the business decision to move his operation from Denmark to Dallas, USA. While he was searching for a new record deal, Brian Slagel and Metal Blade Records came into the picture, ten years after Slagel was first introduced to the music of Mercyful Fate, while visiting Europe and listening to a MF demo tape. Actually, he wanted to add Mercyful Fate in the Metal Massacre compilation but MF joined Rave-On Records for the release of their debut EP in 1982. While discussing the possibility to sign King Diamond they eventually ended with the reunion album of Mercyful Fate, In the Shadows. Shermann and Denner already were together in Zoser Mez, King Diamond had few songs that suited better to Mercyful Fate, Slagel wanted to sign Mercyful Fate and the circle is meeting again.

In the Shadows was recorded during February-April 1993 with the line-up of King Diamond (vocals), Hank Shermann (guitars), Michael Denner (guitars) and Timi Hansen (bass), while drums were performed by Morten Nielsen, who also played in Zoser Mez. However, Nielsen just performed on the album and the reunion was introduced with Snowy Shaw on drums. King Diamond, besides all of the lyrics as usual (that remain in the horror field but not as satanic like the early years) wrote music for 4 songs, while Shermann wrote music for 3 songs and Denner for 2 of them. There was also a re-recorded version of "Return of the Vampire" with Lars Ulrich of Metallica on drums.

  
In the Shadows is a convincing and classy reunion record that still gets a spin, just like all the MF albums. Mercyful Fate already had their own style since just in a few songs of their first years you can "hear" influences from bands like the '70s Judas Priest and that's mainly because those songs were written by Shermann or Denner. King Diamond has his own unique style from the moment he started writing music. In the Shadows isn't better than Melissa and Don't Break the Oath and even if the '90s MF sound more King Diamond-oriented than the '80s, it is still a different entity than King Diamond (the band), song-oriented and less over-the-edge. But what really makes In the Shadows as one of the greatest reunion albums is the importance of the band's return.

While after the release of Mercyful Fate's In the Shadows King Diamond had announced that he will start recording his new album The Spider’s Lullabye with Andy La Rocque, Mike Wead, Snowy Shaw and Sharlee D'Angelo, eventually another Mercyful Fate album was recorded in the summer of 1994 ("Time") and Sharlee D'Angelo was already the bass player of MF because Hansen didn't really like touring, and touring was important for Mercyful Fate (especially King). During the '90s, MF released three more studio albums (Into the Unknown - 1996, Dead Again - 1998, 9 - 1999) while King Diamond was also recording and releasing his band's albums. Into the Unknown was the last MF album to include both Shermann and Denner. That iconic guitar duo is one of the most important elements of MF along with the voice and image of King Diamond. But speaking about music, we must add the fact that without King, there is no Mercyful Fate. Shermann and Denner did more things together without King (Zoser Mez, Force of Evil, Denner/Shermann) but nothing of them ever came close to the Mercyful Fate albums, even the ones without Denner. Well, those projects-bands didn't even come close to the King Diamond (the band) albums also but there's a lot of cool stuff therein.

Mercyful Fate and Kind Diamond's legacy didn't inspire generations of young people to grab an instrument and play music, just like some major acts of hard rock and heavy metal music. Mercyful Fate and King Diamond inspired thoughtful people and young musicians to play better heavy metal music. The reunion of Mercyful Fate brought the opportunity for more people to see this band, listen again to their classic '80s songs live and have a few more albums. While the mid-'90s wasn't the perfect place to be for a classic metal band, the name of Mercyful Fate (and King Diamond) was re-established, became bigger over the last few years and nowadays they're considered as a major metal act. That reunion was important.

Comeback from Hell: SATAN'S HOST - By the Hands of the Devil (2011)


9. ADRAMELCH - Broken History (2005)


The Italian band released their debut album Irae Melanox in 1988 reaching a cult status with their unique epic progressive power metal style and that bizarre (or bad?), low-fi production. I've heard people saying that if Irae Melanox had a "proper" production that album would be legendary... but that album is already legendary for what it is and that's its charm that made it a classic in the underground metal scene. After all, there was just a handful of bands in the European underground metal scene of 1988 with such a unique album.

Named after a Bible's demon and also of a Phoenician King [the actual roots of the name "Adramelch" are plunged in the ancient aramaic: Ad = Lord, Ra = Evil, Melch (or Melech) = King (Lord is the King of Evil or also the King is an Evil Lord)] the band didn't last long and split just a few months after the release of the album. However there were more songs and ideas by guitarist Gianluca Corona written during the late '80s while he kept writing music during the '90s. Sometime in 2003, Gianluca told singer Vittorio Ballerio, "If you write the lyrics we can save these songs from oblivion" and this was the only reason to re-built the band. During that spring - summer, Vittorio worked on the concept of Broken History affected and inspired by the music, conceiving the album's lyrics as a political critic to the power and the strategical use of the religious mask.

Besides Vittorio Ballerio (vocals, lyrics) and Gianluca Corona (guitar, music) the line-up was completed by Fabio Troiani (guitar), Maurizio Lietti (bass) and  Luca Sifgrido Percich (drums).  The release of Broken History was a huge artistic success, no matter what the commercial result was. "Everytime I hear myself or my band on CD, I think that we could do something better", singer Vittorio Ballerio told me in 2012, after the release of Lights of Oblivion and I can't even imagine what could change in a perfect album like Broken History. Adramelch was a band ahead of it time but they never managed to escape from underground metal. Adramelch represent all those underground metal bands that never changed the face of music but their impact was strong in the music life of a few people-fans that always revisit albums like Broken History.

Two more studio albums followed, Light of Oblivion (2012) and Opus (2015), where Adramelch started getting away from metal, keeping the progressive element though. After all, when I saw again the band and Vittorio in Keep It True Festival in 2012, he bought a Pain of Salvation CD and later he told me: "I might say that the only constant during the last 30 years of listening music is prog rock. On my very first jacket (when I was maybe 17) I had Rush! And I still love them so much! Together with old and new names of progressive like Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson, Flower Kings, Agents of Mercy or Pain of Salvation, (before the Road Salt...) Beside progressive today I listen to a bunch of different music... from Jazz to some ethnic, to rock and jazz rock... and also a bit of baroque!"

Adramelch managed to offer us a "metal version of a prog rock vision" and ceased to exist after the release of Opus.


10. WARLORD - Rising Out of the Ashes (2002)


Nearly ten years separate the two Warlord reunion albums, the first one is Rising Out of the Ashes in 2002 and the next one The Holy Empire in 2013. It might not sound as a big deal but if you would approach those two cases from a distance, you would believe that the first one in 2002, including HammerFall's Joacim Cans on vocals, would be the most successful one. But it wasn't. The 2013 reunion was more successful followed also by a few headline shows while in the first case nothing like this happened. But still though, despite the fact that in both cases, a few old tracks, ideas and compositions were brought in the forefront along with new arrangements, they were both great albums.

In Rising Out of the Ashes, guitarist and composer Bill Tsamis brought old Warlord songs that were firstly officially introduced to the audience in his Lordian Guard albums. Then he added "Invaders" that was written as a Lordian Guard song, adding a cover of his own older Warlord tracks ("Lucifer's Hammer") and what's left, is three tracks that most of the people didn't really know: "Enemy Mind", "Sons Of a Dream", "Achilles Revenge"... Even if a few bits were also older... So, where's the new Warlord album? I don't know, but those recordings are mind-blowing. And that's enough sometimes. Adding also the talents of Mark Zonder on drums, is another absolute highlight. If someone will say that Mark Zonder is the best metal drummer, I don't think there will be many arguments. Zonder is like composing little songs within the songs with his drumming and ideas, pure genius. As for Tsamis, he has a huge talent. He can't write a bad song. Let alone the fact that he has one of the most recognizable guitar sounds in heavy metal history. You can't say that for many guitarists; only the greatest ones.

And reunited again: WARLORD - The Holy Empire (2013)

A short of a "reunion":  CANDLEMASS - Dactylis Glomerata (1998) [read more]
And another reunion: CANDLEMASS - Candlemass (2005)


Epilogue.

For many years now, we're living in the reunion and comeback era. Celebration tours, celebration shows and reunion or comeback tours without even releasing new music. It is not something new but as time passes, nostalgia and worship of the past is one of the main keys of how the music industry is moving. Crystal Logic wrote about that aspect in "Morality and inexplicable changes in the music industry" in March of 2018 already.

As for 2020, you still have a few reunion albums. After all, the music industry is changing, isn't it? Among them Psychotic Waltz continue from where they stopped with the new excellent album The God-Shaped Void and Cirith Ungol summarize their past with Forever Black pleasing a big part of their fan base. Northwind from Greece and Shok Paris from the United States, both return with new studio albums nearly three decades after the last ones, History and Full Metal Jacket respectively. And there's more to come, since until the end of the year there will be released two more excellent reunion albums from the United States; Hittman's Destroy All Humans and Glacier's The Passing of Time.


Wishes:
5 reunions (new album and live shows) Crystal Logic would support and we'd love to see: CRIMSON GLORY, MOAHNI MOAHNA, MEMENTO MORI, SAVATAGE, SOLITUDE AETURNUS.

Τετάρτη, 3 Ιουνίου 2020

In a quest for new realities: WHITE CRONE interview with Lisa Mann

There are always times when out of nowhere, appears a heavy metal album that sounds fresh, inspired and addictive, with excellent songwriting and performance. And there are times that these albums come out of the blue, from bands that you don’t know. These bands and these albums are what we’re really looking for! White Crone is one of those bands and The Poisoner one of those albums! White Crone’s debut album was privately released in February 22nd of 2020, composed and arranged by a super talented person, Lisa Mann.

The Poisoner is a brilliant traditional heavy metal album inspired by ‘80s Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, combined with Lisa’s musical background. Bruce Dickinson-like female vocals, excellent dual guitar parts and ideas, prog elements, a powerful rhythm section with bass guitar dominating the record, a doom-y and mystical aura, a short visit at the seven gates of Hell and a guest appearance of legendary drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio), make this album one of the best releases of 2020. This album is epic.


We want you to know this band. We want you to listen to this album. We talked to Lisa Mann and here is all you have to learn for now!

Interview by Andreas Andreou


White Crone's debut album The Poisoner is heavy metal but you actually come from a different musical background as a musician. First of all, introduce to our readers your "other" background.

Hey Andreas, first I want to say thanks for this interview! Well, my name is Lisa Mann and I have a longstanding career as a Contemporary Blues artist. I've been blessed to accept two Blues Music Awards as a result.

And how did you decide to write and record a heavy metal album?

Well, I grew up a huge metal fan and I never stopped loving it. I have co-written in the genre with others in the past, I worked on a symphonic metal project called Cry for Eden, however this is the first metal recording of my own. I was inspired a few years ago when I heard Ghost during the Grammy process. They are so unusual and have so many odd influences. It occurred to me one day while listening that I didn't have to follow some sort of rules, I could just record whatever I wanted! Soon after I started hearing in my head the melodies and parts that would eventually become The Poisoner.

You're singing and playing almost everything, and I listen to a strong performer and a great musician. It really needs a lot of passion and skills to perform these songs and I find very inspiring the kind of heavy metal you're playing. How did you find the rest of the members contributing in The Poisoner and how did the Vinny Appice connection happen?

Thank you for your kind words! Well, I am primarily a bass player and vocalist, so putting together those parts wasn't an issue. But I decide to teach myself guitar in order to complete the album.  I watched a lot of YouTube instructional videos to learn guitar. I wrote the drum parts as well and recorded scratch tracks on electronic drums, but handed most of the real recording work over to drum instructor Larry London, with whom I had worked on Cry for Eden.  I also invited my old friend Mehdi Farjami, formerly of Glacier, to put down some smoking guitar tracks on two songs, and had percussionist Caton Lyles guest on a song with a middle eastern vibe. 

I had worked with Vinny Appice before on a blues-rock track on my last blues CD, Hard Times, Bad Decisions. He works remotely from his home in southern California, and creates very high quality tracks that the recording engineer, Kevin Hahn of Opal Studio, found easy to work with.  Of course he lays down a heavy beat that only John Bonham could have matched. I basically cold-called him when I was recording that blues CD. I figured, the worst thing that could happen is he'll say no, but he said yes! I'm still pinching myself.

By the way, what's your favorite album with Vinny Appice and why?

Holy Diver is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I just love Vinny's work on it.

Speaking of favorite albums, what's your musical background as a fan. What do you like to listen to now and what did you like to listen to as a teenager?

Early on as a budding bass player I really dug Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Deep Purple. As a teenager I really got into Iron Maiden, and learned how to play and sing along with the first five albums. Also, Mercyful Fate/ King Diamond, Ozzy, Dio, Megadeth, Rush, Venom, Judas Priest, Manowar, Black Sabbath, all that classic stuff. King Diamond's Fatal Portrait is still a favorite.  I still love all the classics, but now I also appreciate such diverse bands as Ghost, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, and Avatar. I think Avatar's Feathers and Flesh is one of the greatest audio achievements in metal history.


Do you think that as we're growing our musical taste changes or the first albums we listened and loved will stay forever with us?

Oh I definitely think it is a bit of both. I never "grew out" of metal, I have always just added to the music I love. After I got into the blues scene, I started falling in love with Jimmy Reed, Etta James, Little Milton and other blues greats. When my blues band is on tour, it's not unusual for us to listen to a Howlin Wolf CD for a while, and then crank some Ghost or some Avatar!

Back to The Poisoner. If someone wants you to describe the album by mentioning five other albums, which ones would they be?

Interesting question... that would be hard, since I have so many disparate influences. I'll narrow it down to Iron Maiden - Powerslave, Dio - Holy Diver, Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny, Black Sabbath - Master of Reality, King Diamond - Fatal Portrait

Lyrically, I assume you have specific things in mind you would like to explore and not just adding "words" to the music. Can you expand on the most important subjects of the album?

Lyrically I am coming from the point of view of the character, White Crone. She is the village wise woman, the storyteller, the prognosticator. Most of the lyrics are mystical in origin - there is a song about a primal goddess, an ancient zombie curse, an encounter with demons, that sort of thing. The title track "The Poisoner" is about a character who exists through time and space, invisibly poisoning those who mistreat others. There's a YouTube video of his story that's rather fun! But there are also a few real world stories, like "18 Rabbit", which is about a real Mayan king, who was a patron of the arts, and a peaceful ruler. His story ended tragically, as the song describes. "Edge of Gone", a Sabbath-y track, is about a mentally ill homeless person, which is a huge issue where I live in Portland OR.

And how do you see the world nowadays, as a citizen of the United States of America?

Our nation has a long, turbulent past, and we have obviously never really come to grips with the darkness of our founding. We are in the midst of a pandemic, which we were unprepared for despite our great wealth, and at this time cities are in flames with protest over racial injustice.  Other nations with similar dark history have made efforts to come to grips with it. But here in America we tend to let things simmer too long until tensions explode. I hope we can work for a better, more just future, but we can't do that until we take a good hard look at our history and our institutions, like the justice system. We can learn from other nations, like Germany, that has many history museums and school education programs about its dark past.


Funny how you chose to cover Venom's "Seven Gates of Hell", a not so obvious choice but clearly one of my favorite Venom tracks and I love how it sounds in the album's flow. Why did you cover that specific song?

I hadn't heard Venom in years, but once as I was getting ready to get on a plane to the UK, I loaded up a Venom compilation album on my phone. I was listening on the flight, and heard "Seven Gates of Hell". The recording quality is pretty crusty, and the performances very raw.  But the song structure is outstanding! I imagined in my mind, what if Dio sang this song? And that's how I approached it in the recording studio. It is truly a well-constructed work of art, with fun horror-fantasy lyrics.

How did you decide to release the album privately and how do you view the music industry?

All of my blues albums have been independently released, and while none of them have been busting up the Billboard charts, I've done alright for myself. I try to mimic what a record company would do, in promo, advertising, distribution, etc. But with this metal album, it was a humbling experience. I guess I took for granted the success I've gained in the blues scene, and when I first released The Poisoner, I was having a very hard time even finding someone to promote it. But I ran into some great people via "Metal Twitter" and CarcassBomb at NoobHeavy did some excellent PR through some underground metal sites. Later I connected with Zach over at Metal Devastation Radio, and I've made some great contacts through Facebook as well. Almost every review of The Poisoner has been excellent, and though it didn't make a huge splash immediately, it's creeping up on people's attention.

There are great people in the metal scene that really care about the music, but there are also those who want to take what you have and not give much in return. If I am offered the right deal for the next White Crone album, I'll be happy, but for now I prefer being an independent artist.

So, you’re planning to continue with White Crone? And what about your rest projects?

So yes, I am indeed planning on creating another White Crone album. I also have an Americana/ Blues EP coming out in September as Lisa Mann. Another great project I'm working on is with a band called Splintered Throne. Their vocalist left the band last year and I was pleased to join them. We haven't been able to work together in person due to the lockdown, so we are using Dropbox and Zoom to write songs. We almost have enough for a full album now!

In the end, if you have to choose, is it a guitar or bass guitar for you?

Oh, absolutely bass guitar. I was born to play the bass! 


Photos by Miri Stebivka at Mirifoto

Listen and buy The Poisoner on Bandcamp HERE

Join White Crone on Facebook HERE

www.whitecrone.com

www.lisamannmusic.com