Δευτέρα 29 Οκτωβρίου 2012

One more Heavy Metal week - Chapter II: Tony Martin

The chapter is opened and the pages are turned...

the Manilla Road memories are still in my head (and heart) and forever will be. But I was also expecting another visit this week. Tony Martin would be in Greece for a few days, we spoke about it and arrange at the last day of his visit (October 18) a “Meet n’ Greet / Signing Session” at No Remorse record store. It seems that we were unlucky… Everything was set perfectly, some interviews were also arranged, but that day, there was a national strike in Greece, so we decided to cancel the event. However, at the same day (or night to be specific!) the German Heavy Metal armada Accept would perform live in Athens. Tony told me that he would love to see live the guys! He knew them from his Black Sabbath days and they played a couple of shows back then. Straight away, I booked him two tickets (one for him and one for his lovely lady) and we were ready for the show! Despite the strike, one interview was done at noon, with Chris Kissadjekian from Metal Hammer magazine. Well… It’s not right to tell you what was said during this exclusive interview, except from the things I knew and discuss with Tony, mainly from his Black Sabbath years. Anyway, after the interview, I picked him from the hotel in the center of Athens and we went for dinner. Thank God, he is not vegetarian!

Back in the mid 80s, Tony was a member of a band called The Alliance, a melodic AOR band with only a few demo recordings and not any official release. They were based in Birmingham, the birthplace of Heavy Metal, and one day, his manager told him that he would take him to an important meeting. He didn’t say where and with whom… When they arrived at the meeting place/house, the door opened. “Hi” said a voice. He was Tony Iommi. Tony (Martin) was shocked and speechless for a while. Black Sabbath had some issues at that period… Their singer at that time was Ray Gillen, but he left to form Badlands with ex-Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee. The recordings for the upcoming Black Sabbath album “The Eternal Idol” were finished, even if it took them many months. Gillen had recorded the vocals, but since he wasn’t in the band, a new voice was required. Black Sabbath gave Tony only one week to finish the vocals, even if they were composing / recording for more than a year. Tony did an excellent job. He recorded all the vocals from the beginning, without meeting anyone else from the band in the studio. They gave him Gillen recordings as a “guide” and “The Shining” was the first song he sung to take the part.

During the whole discussion, Tony had a kind of bitterness when he was speaking for Black Sabbath, “When we were traveling with plane, they were in the first class with campaign and wine, and I was in the back with chicken and dogs…”

“Headless Cross” was actually his “first” Black Sabbath album, composed and recorded as a band, but “Tyr” was the album that made him realize that actually he is a member of Black Sabbath, the greatest Heavy Metal band ever. The sad thing is that when he was realizing where he is and where he stands, they “fired” him to call back Ronnie James Dio and record “Dehumanizer”. “They stopped calling me", recalls Tony, "They didn’t reply to my calls. No one told me I was off the band.”

He met only once Dio, but Ronnie wasn’t very polite with him… It was during a time when the Sabbath guys start calling him again. They invited him at a concert, just like nothing was happening. They were happy “Nice to see you!” and stuff like that. He understood that something was wrong with Dio. Personally, I like “Dehumanizer”, but it seems like a break for all of them. Tony had time to record his first personal album “Back Were I Belong” and Sabbath had “Dehumanizer”. The next Black Sabbath studio album, “Cross Purposes” is Tony’s favorite Sabbath album - “It has the ‘biggest’ sound” - But the last one (“Forbidden”) is the worst for him. 

Tony had strong memories from his first Sabbath shows in Russia. By the way, his first ever live show with Black Sabbath was the one on Greece! In Russia, they played two shows each day for two weeks! One show at noon and one later at night. Thousands of people came and go in a huge stadium. 
Tony Martin remembers: “It was like thousands of people entering in the stadium, clapping and then leave. After a few hours thousands of different people enter. In the front line, almost 20 meters away from the stage, there were always the officialdom, like the mayor and his people, family… There was even a grandma in a wheel chair once, in the front line… knitting under the rhythm of Iron Man!”

Tony has very fond memories from Cozy Powell. He was very sad about his death. It was a car accident. A friend (girl) called him and asked for his help because her husband was beating her. Cozy, left everything and drove at her home. He was talking to her at phone saying he is going there, when the accident happened… After his death, they gave a concert in his memory. In the front line, there was a woman holding something like a jar. The same jar was left under the drum kit during the show. This woman was the one that called Cozy… When the band told her that they felt Cozy’s presence there, she said that he was with them. His ashes were in this jar…

Well… you all might know other stories, so I don’t have to add more here. After our dinner, I left Tony at the hotel and picked him up later, with my good friend Dimitris Sirinakis and his son, and we all went at Fuzz Club for Accept! Tony wanted to enter the venue before the show to meet the Accept boys. I tried my best for that, thanks to Hakos Pervanidis who was very helpful. We all went backstage and was funny to see Peter Baltes or Herman Frank hanging around. Tony took his VIP pass, spend some time with Accept and then we stood by the right side of the stage to watch the live show. The support band, Marauder from Greece are huge fans of Accept and they played were they should be. Excellent performance and their drummer, Grigoris, is a huge Cozy Powell & Black Sabbath fan and he was very happy to see Tony there. After a while he wore his hand-made Cozy Powell t-shirt! They even offer Tony a copy from their last album. Nice guys, great band, Heavy Metal! 

The time had come for Accept to walk the stage… Amazing performance! Even if half of the set are new songs, they already sound like the classic ones. Wolf Hoffmann remains a metal icon and they also enjoyed the show. I did, Tony did, everyone did, and the beers… oh, the beers…

After the show, we went to Revenge Of Rock Club. It was arranged that Tony would be there, so few fans were expecting him. We stayed for almost an hour at the club, he signed some CDs, took photographs and had great time there. We all did. And the beers… oh, the beers… Too many for one night, but I needed to escape for a while from the wine overdose of the last days!

Tony’s flight was leaving after a couple of hours and the time was already 02:00. So, until the next time, we said goodbye, and I hope that the next time he will be in Greece, it will be for a live show…

Mark Shelton and Manilla Road, Accept, Tony Martin, wine and beers, Heavy Metal and many good friends… What else do you need in one week? I think I can’t ask for more…

Τετάρτη 24 Οκτωβρίου 2012

One more Heavy Metal week - Chapter I: Manilla Road

Shark, Manilla Road, Hammers and Wine...

Now, let’s see what happened the last days. There was so much intense, passion and HEAVY METAL, that I want to keep it alive, not only as a memory (it won’t be forgotten anyway), but also for everyone to see that some musicians remain legends among men. 

On October 14, 2012 there was Up The Hammers Festival Special Edition II in Athens with Manilla Road as headliners and Dark Nightmare, Etrusgrave, War Dance, Midnight Priest completing the billing of the best festival in Greece. Two day before we were expecting the arrival of Mark “The Shark” Shelton and he would be in Ragnarok club for “meet n’ greet” with fans and friends of the band. The good friend and organizer of Up The Hammers, Manolis Karazeris along with the people of the club, organized everything perfect and we knew that there will be an unforgettable weekend. Funny, but there was also a special Manilla Road/Up The Hammers wine limited to 20 bottles! Of course, I took one, but I will open it for a very special occasion. So, people all over Greece and certain friends around Europe start gathering in Athens. Back in the club, after 12 o’ clock Mark made his appearance in the club. It is always good to see this guy and for sure he is feeling like home when he is in Greece. He signed some records, took photos, had his drinks and chat with friends and fans. 

There was a very funny moment, when we were headbanging during “Astronomica” near at a window in the club and suddenly we felt someone all over us… It was Mark climbing to the window! The night continued like that, but next day I had to go to the work… The next day passed easily for me, still though I had some time with friends that I hadn’t seen for some time. Of course we ate also. That’s one of our hobbies!

And then Sunday comes. I woke up early (I think…) along with my girlfriend, and went in the center of Athens to pick up our buddies from Patra. Of course we ate also. I told you, that’s one of our hobbies. And we only eat meat. I went earlier to the club of the festival (Kyttaro Live Club) because I had some work to do with the label. There I had the chance to see War Dance during soundcheck. I really love this band and for me they are the “next big thing”. 

So, everything was set up, we’ve already start drinking and having fun. 
Midnight Priest was the first band to hit the stage and people started to enter the venue. The band was very passionate and they enjoyed playing there. Then I grab a beer and went to the front to watch War Dance. They are perfect. They combine elements from Manowar, Warlord and Sarissa, filtered through a personal sound and the result is pure lyrical epic metal magic. They have released only a promo CD but they are in recording sessions for the material that will be their first album. I can’t wait for that. After that there was some kind of problem in the club with electricity or something and Etrusgrave moved on stage and wait for the problem to be solved. It took a little time, but after that, the Italian band was a huge surprise. I didn’t expect them to play before Dark Nightmare, but if you would see the respond that Dark Nightmare had from the people there, you would be surprised. Great shows from both bands.

But there was a storm waiting to break… Arise all ye faithful to the sword... Manilla Road was on stage, for a special 3 hours set starting with my favorite MR album “Open The Gates” performed in its entirety. Magik, Dragonships, the Spear of Tiw, Fires, the Norns, Kings and the Dragon passed before our eyes and took us by storm. We were speechless from such a magical performance. Mark’s guitar was sending vibes from Hell and Bryan was singing with passion the hymns of mythical poetry. For my surprise, since it was the first time to see Neudi behind the drum kit, he really moved the band to a higher level. After “Open The Gates” the Road passed through “Necropolis”, “Haunted Palace” (Randy would be proud of Neudi), “Isle Of The Dead” (with a monumental moment of Agis throwing Jim off the stage!), “Masque Of The Red Death”, “Death By The Hammer”, “Hammer Of The Witches”, “Divine Victim”, “Dig Me No Grave”, “Metal”, “Crystal Logic”… and many more! During “Mystification”… well, I went a little crazy, but I think this will be my last stage diving - getting old I think. Still have bruises – for a moment I thought I broke some bones... but I enjoyed it! I really can’t say more for this performance. All you have to do is take a look on this video:

After two days, on October 16, there was a special event. A secret acoustic gig among few friends of Manilla Road (around 40 people) in a wine bar under candles’ light. Mark and Bryan with the help of Gianluca Silvi spoke straight to our hearts that night. There was a great moment where the original guitarists of Battleroar (Kostas and Manolis) with violin player Alex and Mark on vocals performed “The Wanderer”. A night to remember… with great friends and lot of wine!

I was very busy that week… and I was expecting a special guest. A good friend, a great person and a unique singer, but this is Chapter II

Τετάρτη 17 Οκτωβρίου 2012

VALIDOR interview... at the Dawn of the Avenger

At Up The Hammers Festival Special Edition II on October 14, 2012, Iron On Iron Records present the second album of Validor called “Dawn Of The Avenger”. Being there from the very beginning of this band, I always believed in Validor’s Epic Metal sound and the mastermind behind Validor, Odi, didn’t fail me! He won’t fail YOU either if you are into barbaric epic metal… So let’s see what Odi has to say…

You have a new album, just released, called “Dawn Of The Avenger”. How was the composing and production procedure and how long are you working on this one?

Hello! As in the previous album, all went very smoothly and even better. I had all the songs pre-recorded in my house and with the professionalism of Bob Katsionis and the excellent communication we had, the album was written in less than two months.

Along with your debut album “In Blood In Battle”, once again, Bob Katsionis helps you in recording and also plays some guitar parts and keyboards. How important is his contribution in Validor?

Bob, despite the fact that is a very good friend, is a highly talented musician. Knowing my character and also having the expertise that is needed he helped incredibly even in the vocal lines. How important he is? All I have to say is that he is so important for Validor, as Marty Friedman was for Megadeth.

Which are the differences between your two albums?

Both albums are designed to not become boring! This means several different parts, many lead guitars, changing tempos and diverse vocals. Beside that, the mistakes of the rookie are decreased. I worked more for the vocals and sung without anxiety and fear - not that I died in fear in my previous album haha. The main difference is the galloping rhythms that come and go in the new album. Also, I will agree with all those who say that “Dawn Of The Avenger” is more epic and more barbarian!

How would you describe your music?


How did you come up with the cover on “Hour Of The Dragon” from Manilla Road for the new album?

I made the cover version of “Hour Of The Dragon” (and not a remake) because, besides being one of my favorite songs since I was young, I remember myself singing the song and before the chorus I always said “why didn’t they speed up here or scream there…” so I decided to record it in my own way, the way I had it in mind and  the final result fully justified me and as the creator (Mark Shelton) wrote to me: “By the gods this is great stuff man. I love it, I love it, I love it. Great job. I think you have done a better version of the song than ours. Man believe me this is really great stuff.”

Validor will remain as one-man band with guest musicians and why? Don't you want to perform live in the future?

When I started Validor I did not have in mind to release anything for the world. Until the first 6 songs, I wrote music only for me and my best friends. Then, after threats and blackmail, they convinced me to go to a record label. Having Nick as guitarist, I recorded another song but after personal issues he left and Bob replaced him. Validor is for me the personification of my soul and for this reason I don’t want other members. That’s because if a member of a band doesn’t have an opinion, he is not a member but just a hired musician. So this is why I work with guest musicians. The only one after me, who has an opinion and view for Validor is Bob, but he takes the title of guest musician for force majeure, since he has contracts with other companies and cannot be a member in any band he wants.
Beyond that, a live show is something that maybe will concern me in the future. At the moment the conditions in my life do not allow me to do it and I don’t have enough free time. The only free time I have is dedicated to my wife and my family.

Let's talk about the Greek metal scene for a while. For you, which bands stand out from the mass and why?

Attention! I will only refer to recent bands and start with a great band named War Dance. The have great epic songs and emotional music, and they remind me of Manowar. That is enough for me to have them among my favorite bands. Wishdoom, after their demo also released a multifaceted epic album with diversity but always stayed epic! And although they tend to Doom (a genre that I don’t like) they don’t make me bored… On the contrary I like them! I listened a song from a new band called Tidal Dreams and get stuck on that one! I will not say anything more because I got their debut album just yesterday and I have not yet a complete opinion. The only thing I will say is that they are perhaps one of the most promising bands at this moment! I also like Wrathblade, even if they are a couple of years more in the scene, but they just released their first album this year… And now, Black Sword Thunder Attack! There are people who believe in them, and I expect something new from them apart from the demo. If they will release an album, many will kneel before them! If they won’t it will be a fault for them. Their singer has the most cult vocals and I'm proud that he accepted to do guest vocals on my first album, in the song “The Last Emperor” and I am trying to convince them to release their debut album which I have heard and it kills! If they will be left to slumber, I won’t bother with them again. If you won’t do something go and kill yourself! And finally I will mention a band that is not new but it's my favorite… Wolfcry!

Which are the things that bother you in Hellenic metal scene and what does it takes for a band to succeed? 

Although you do know better, I would say… We are full with “cliques”, assholes and conceited people! Just like that! People who released one record and consider themselves judges who deride the bands they don’t like without any respect and if you will tell them something, they just reply “we have democracy and I am saying my opinion.” Wrong! Democracy and freedom of opinion and speech is a different thing from a direct attack and infection. But they are so uneducated that they do not know that insult and irony - derision, are prosecuted. Each one insults the ones he doesn’t like and praises his friends. They think that they represent the Greek metal scene and that they are supporters of the scene. Shit supporters they are... and they don’t support the scene by going in a few live shows. They only do it to promote their work. On the other hand, there are people who really love the scene but they are only few.

What "success" means for you?

Everyone perceives success in a different way. So I don’t know what a band has to do to succeed, because I simply don’t know what success means for them. A few months ago I received a photo from an American who wrote in the back that Validor gave him strength and courage to overcome anxiety about a heart surgery that he would make… and few days later I received a message from a Spain, who told me that after a car accident, he sat a year in bed and listening only to Validor and Manowar because that was giving him motivate to get up and walk again… Beyond the positive comments like “epic composition” etc that I have received and honor me, success for me are these two messages which shocked me! This is the biggest success that I never imagined that I would have…

What are your plans for the near future?

I will continue without rush this time with the third Validor album. A thrash metal album under the name “Castigation” and one more surprise… Maybe a live show also in the future…

Last words…

Thank you very much for the opportunity you gave me to talk about the new album, but above all for your support from the beginning of Validor. I would also like to thank Iron On Iron Records for the full respect they showed in me. I asked one thing, they gave me ten! Our art work designer, Eleni Papadea entered my soul and created the art I had in my soul. So simple! Vlastos and Tsilios devoted to what they had to do with passion and the result is a great digipack CD with an amazing cover and an incredible booklet! Beyond that, I have to thank also Greg Varsamis for everything he has done. Hails!

Τρίτη 16 Οκτωβρίου 2012

WARLORD Tribute & LORDIAN GUARD Anthology on the way

There is on the way a tribute to Warlord album that will be released in digital (iTunes, Amazon, eMusic) and CD format from Metal Breed Records USA.

The bands that already are announced, are:
4bitten - Penny For A Poor Man
InnerWish - Black Mass
Angelo Perlepes' Mystery - Child Of The Damned 
Dark Nova - Sons Of A Dream
and more will come.  

For dates on the confirmed 2013 Warlord shows click HERE 

Tickets for the show in Athens, April 27, 2013 are available at Ticket House, No Remorse and Sirens Records. 
You can also order your ticket online HERE


There is also a Lordian Guard Anthology on the way, including both Lordian Guard albums, "Lordian Guard" & "Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God", plus the "Lordian Winds" demo and bonus material. It will be released in late December 2012 through No Remorse Records in a limited edition of 1000 copies. More details are coming soon.