Κυριακή 20 Νοεμβρίου 2016

Jarvis Leatherby (Night Demon) interview. Heavy Metal is the law.

Night Demon from Ventura, California was born in May of 2011 and the current line-up is Jarvis Leatherby (vocals, bass), Armand John Anthony (guitars) and Dustin Squires (drums).
Their first s/t EP was released in 2012 and was a shock for the traditional metal scene, followed by their first full-album "Curse Of The Damned" in January of 2015 by SPV/Steamhammer. Been active with many live shows and extended tours, Night Demon have been established as one of the leading forces of the new wave of traditional heavy metal. 

Jarvis Leatherby has become one of the most respectful persons in the metal scene today and besides Night Demon, he is also the man responsible for Frost & Fire Festival and the reunion of Cirith Ungol, where he also handles bass duties. So, there aren't many people out there suitable for a similar interview where we simply discuss the present status of heavy metal music.

-Let's take a short break from your Night Demon tour and talk for a while for what your are doing almost every night lately, Heavy Metal. But first of all, how the tour is going?

J.: Tour went well. It’s actually over now. I can’t even believe it! I don’t know what to do with myself.  

-What's the diferences of the European metal fans, with the ones in the United States?

J.: I think there are very passionate fans in both places. Really they are all the same. I think that’s a common misconception. I will say that metal is much more popular in Europe and there are more die hard fans by volume, but in America there are many metalhead who live the lifestyle and are true supporters. They don’t have as many opportunities to see metal festivals and certain bands, so they make the dedication to travel to those events, and support those bands when they come to town. But basically metalhead are metalhead anywhere you go in the world.  

-What kind of hypes do you recognize in the metal scene over the last years? 

J.: It’s hard to say now with the internet being so popular. Obviously in mainstream metal, there’s still a lot of tough guy stuff, a lot of down tuning, and radio rock. That stuff will always be popular in middle America and other parts of the globe, and real metalhead don’t listen to that stuff, but I also see doom metal and stoner being more of a current trend in underground music. Maybe its not a trend, but it definitely has been more popular as of late.

-Is regression the new mainstream in metal music? In the present decline of the physical format, it seems more and more record labels (even major ones) sign and release what we might call "true" in metal music.

J.: Well I think that maybe some of the bigger labels are getting smarter business wise to sign try metal acts. The reason not necessarily being that they love true metal music and want to be that sort of label, but the fact is that true metal fans will always buy physical media or digital. Not the case with most mainstream music, so it seems to be a good move for the labels financially.

-How would you define "true", and such a term should exist? 

J.: I would honestly describe that as meaning that a band is not fake. Meaning they don’t follow current trends too closely, there is some originality there, and they mean what they do. No matter what style of music a band is playing, you can easily spot when someone is not being genuine with what they do. I don’t mind the term “true”, but I don’t like when people in the scene take on this term to mean that they have the right to call anyone else a poser who they don’t think is “true”. People need to be able to be who they are and listen to what ever the hell music they want to without some internet bully telling them they can’t.

-Many old and underground metal bands are reformed and even more new ones are born. Various festivals grow here and there and small record labels appear everywhere. Is everything so easy in our days? For me, wrong people and intentions are spread everywhere making things harder for those who really "know how", but what's your view on this?

J.: Well nothing ever with it in life comes super easy. When you truly follow your passion inline, there will be many obstacles  in the way, and they will never stop coming, but its really all part of the bigger plan. When you take these things on it can also be enjoyable. Accomplishing things in the face of adversity, especially following your passion, you can’t do any wrong, and you should never let anyone tell you that. Or don’t let it affect you, at least. There will always be people in this business for the wrong reasons. The only thing anyone can do about that, is stay away from them and keep doing your own thing. Those people always fall apart in the end and their true intentions will always show. You don’t need to waste your valuable time and energy trying to bring someone else down. They will do it on their own. Also, what does that say about young try and do that to someone else? You become the same thing you despise at that point. There’s enough room in this world for everyone.

-Old farts die hard. For sure there are some 80s metal bands that live and breath for metal and you can't easily stop them from what they love to do. How would you seperate them from the "fake ones", what is fake for you and who from those bands are the most important and/or best for you? 

J.: It’s a difficult question you have posed here.  I will answer and explain the best way I can…
I think its safe to say we can all agree that any historically great band from the old school at one point in time had integrity, originality, hard work, passion, and a great vision. Now some bands will continue to do this throughout their careers, or the opposite happens. They grow older, things change, they lose sight of why they started to begin with, and they go off in other selfish directions and the whole thing falls apart, or even worse, the band continues to do their thing for the wrong reasons and it shows.

Another scenario is when sometimes a band reunites for the first time in over decades of not only performing together, but also not even being in contact with one another. A lot of things can happen during the course of that time. People change. Even if the reunion has good vibes around it, there is an adjustment period. Often times you also have these bands that reunite after all these years, and want to take on a trendy or current rock and roll image. They want to be relevant in some sort of modern way. I can imagine that as an old man going out there, one would want to seem young and hip as they were in the days that fans know them from. However, this is a double edged sword. The fans like the old school style and fashion and that’s what they really want to see.

-From your experience and your live performaces, which are the best metal festivals out there?

J.: Keep it True, Muskelrock, Up the Hammers, Frost and Fire, Ragnarokkr, Defenders of the Old, Pounding Metal, Bang Your Head.

-Speaking for festivals, you are also the brain of Frost and Fire festival (Ventura, CA, USA) and this year in the second edition of the festival, you are behind the Cirith Ungol reunion. What made you start this festival and which are your goals?

J.: Yes, I started it in their honor. Cirith Ungol and Night Demon are the only two metal bands to ever break out of Ventura California, and as we all know Cirith Ungol started it all. Those guys are my best friends, and it’s been a true honor being the band’s manager and bass player. We are having a lot of fun, and have a lot more to come!

As far as the festival, it is something that I plan on keeping as an annual event. I was on the fence abut it before because my touring schedule is always so demanding, and I always want to make myself available for those opportunities, but after this last year, I saw how much fun everyone had and how important the whole thing was to so many people, so now I feel a definite responsibility to keep this going and pride myself on being the best heavy metal festival in America. That is my goal.

-Who are the new bands you distinguish from the present metal scene and why?

J.: Visigoth, Blade Killer, Black Trip, High Spirits, Warbringer, Midnight Chaser, Cauldron, Enforcer.
There are many more, but off the top of my head these bands represent what “true” means. It’s not the style the play, but their intent when they do it. 100% integrity all the time. They are all serious about what they do, but are also willing to have a good time with it.

-How would you describe the "proper" Heavy Metal fan / supporter?

J.: There is no proper way. If you like it, support it however you can and want to. I know one thing is that in Night Demon we are completely committed to what we do. We feel just as much responsibility to support our audience as we feel we want them to support us. We strive on putting on the best live show possible, traveling all over the world to visit anywhere the fans will have us, big or small. It’s give and take. Respect is earned, and everyone should think of it as a collaborative relationship.

-Last words. Give me something the readers will be glad to read!

J.: Lots of exciting things coming up!  New Night Demon album and European tour coming in April 2017, Cirith Ungol European festival appearances in 2017, and of course most and Fire III in October 2017 in Ventura, California.
Always stay true to yourself and thank you for supporting heavy metal. We get just as much from it as fans and as performs. Thank you!

Join Night Demon on Facebook HERE and visit www.nightdemon.net

Κυριακή 23 Οκτωβρίου 2016

ZEMIAL present "The Repairer Of Reputations"

Three years after their last full-length album (Nykta), ZEMIAL present a new 14min track in two parts under the enigmatic title "The Repairer Of Reputations". ZEMIAL is in talks with various labels for a vinyl release and the song is already available for digital purchase and you can find it in the band's bandcamp page here
Archon Vorskaath, the multi-instrumentalist genius behind ZEMIAL, steps into new dimensions and breaking away from the norm with this new artistic creation. Far beyond the early days of Black Metal, he now transcends into progressive paths converting to music, fairytale images, dark lullabies and Tim Burton-ish nightmares.

Meanwhile, on the AGATUS camp, where Vorskaath handles the drumset, "The Eternalist" is already available on CD format by Hells Hedbangers Records and the band is rehearsing for upcoming live shows, so stay tuned...

You can read a review for "The Eternalist" I've done for Iron Fist here.

You can also read a new interview with The Dark talking about AGATUS and "The Eternalist" again on Iron Fist, here.  

Δευτέρα 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

CIRITH UNGOL - Paradise Lost

When Metal Blade Records announced that has finally been successful in licensing the rights for the reissue of 'Paradise Lost' on CD and for first time officially on vinyl, there was this statement of Robert Garven (drums) accompaning the release news: 

"The saga of Cirith Ungol's fourth album is true to its namesake 'Paradise Lost'. Like a classic Greek tragedy, it is an epic tale filled with pain, challenges, battles, lost opportunities, and final redemption. It contains a cast of heroes and villains, playing out their parts on a stage of metal, at a time when hair bands and speed metal were in vogue.
The seeds of this project grew from the fertile soil that was the aftermath of 'One Foot in Hell'. After its release the band immediately started work on their fourth effort 'Paradise Lost'. This was planned to be a concept album, and the album cover and theme had already been selected.
After its release the original record company could not secure distribution in Europe, and they released the band from its 3 album deal. Shortly thereafter, several of the remaining members left out of frustration. However, a few original members kept the fires of Ungol burning, closely guarded in its secret lair. They waited for the time when the stars were right, and the Great Old Ones were ready for it to come crawling out from its ancient crypt, back upon the metal stage. As of this writing, the being called Ungol has arisen to take its rightful place in the pantheon of true metal, and calls forth the Legions of Chaos to stand by their side to usher in its final act."

According to an older interview of Robert Garven (Steel Conjuring zine, May 2000) and also some personal email discussion I had with Robert during 2012, there were indeed many challenges, battles and lost opportunities, and more likely, this "final redemption" is more or less this 2016 reissue and the present status - reunion of CIRITH UNGOL, and perhaps not the original release of Restless Records in 1991, but lets stay in the music and talk about how legends are forged. 

Being unique from their first day, 'Paradise Lost' is the perfect follow-up to 'One Foot In Hell' and among some C.U. fans, that's their best album. I will have to disagree with that, since I consider 'King Of The Dead' as their best one, but still we are talking about a band that is balancing between perfection and... perfection. So we just share opinions and each one of the servants of chaos can choose among four perfect and unique metal albums as the "best one". 

'Paradise Lost' was out in 1991 and in 1992 CIRITH UNGOL steps into oblivion... until now. With Jerry Fogle (R.I.P.) been replaced by Jim Barraza and "Flint" by Vernon Green, we also find two additional musicians during th recording sessions (Joe Malatesta, Robert Warrenburg) with credits on the songs 'The Troll' and 'Heaven Help Us', plus a cover on the Arthur Brown's track 'Fire'.
The album starts with 'Join The Legion', a song that will drive the metal hordes crazy once it will be performed live. That intro and the vocals of Tim Baker (the voice of Chaos) cannot fail. Most people place C.U. under the "Epic Metal" banner, but that's somehow unfair for such a unique act. They have many epic elements of course, but there are also doomy moments, they are inspired by late 60s and 70s underground rock bands and the spirit of classic heavy metal is present everywhere and especially in 'Paradise Lost'. As for the last songs of the album, you cannot find easily tracks like 'Chaos Rising', 'Fallen Idols' and 'Paradise Lost' back-to-back. 

This article started as a 'Paradise Lost' reissue presentation, but you all have heard the album and you all love it (at least the readers of this blog-site), so it will end as another one CIRITH UNGOL-praise feature... and that's fine by me. Many bands have been labeled as "cult" but none deserves this title more than CIRITH UNGOL. One of the greatest metal bands.

Few days left and on the 7th of October 'Paradise Lost' will be available again and claim its place once more among the best metal releases ever. The CD version has been newly mastered from the original master tapes by Bart Gabriel and will include five bonus tracks (alternative mixes from album tracks). The vinyl edition will have a special vinyl master, using the original master tapes as a source, re-mastered by Patrick W. Engel at the Temple Of Disharmony studios. More goodies will be available in both formats, like previously unreleased photos, liner notes and song descriptions by band members.

CIRITH UNGOL will perform live for the first time in 25 years at the second installment of the Frost and Fire festival in Ventura, CA, taking place October 7th-9th, 2016.

Well, many of you have heard some rumors for something more in Europe during 2017... But until an official statement will be announced, consider this as a wish...

The might of Chaos descends, join the Legion.

Τετάρτη 18 Μαΐου 2016

Tour Report: Heavy Metal Forces United - HITTEN & AMBUSH

Our friends in Hitten, one of the best bands of New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal, based in Spain and having just released their second album "State of Shock",  just returned from their European Tour with Ambush. The band was kind enough to send us the tour report, so enjoy it!

An awesome experience. That's what this last tour has meant to us. Heavy Metal Forces United has taken us, Hitten, and our Swedish brothers Ambush, through all over Europe. 18 concerts, 18 cities, 7 countries. Big Deal.

It all started on March 9th. At 9 o'clock in the morning we all met in our rehearsal place. Time to collect and pack up all the stuff (drums, amps, instruments, merchandise, luggage...) in the van, say goodbye to our friends and family, etc. When all is ready we hit the road and head to Barcelona, our first stop. We got the city and we made the typical route we would do from that day on in almost every cities: 1) Hostel/resting place, leave the luggage and take a rest if there's enough time, 2) go the venue, unload all the stuff and set up all the equipment, 3) sound-check, 4) dinner, warming-up and pre-concert stuff, 5) CONCERT! 6) pack all the stuff and equipment, 7) party and crazy anecdotes (very important part in this tour!) and 8) sleep all you can in order to hit the road and repeat the same process the next day.
When we got to the venue, Rocksound, we met the Swedish guys and since then there was a very good feeling with them, and all along the tour. Great musicians and great people. We miss you guys!

After all the working-time, it was time for the concert, and we were very happy with it. The venue was really crowded, a lot of metalheads enjoyed our first Heavy Metal show of this tour. Everything went right, though it was the first concert and there were, of course, things that we could improve and work on. Typical stuff. After a beer drinking night, speaking English, and trying to find a good parking for the van we could finally get to the hostel and rest, ending the beginning of our adventure.

From that day on we had 11 concerts in a row, each day, until our first day-off, which would be in Hamburg at a spa! Great moments! Vitoria was really cool. A very good venue with an excellent and very kind crew. The sound was also very good and we had a lot of audience too! Burgos meant a little step-up for our performances. We will surely remember the dinner that day (so tasteful burgers!) and of course, the cold... such a cold city! Even the Swedish guys were freezing!

In Madrid we did another great show, surrounded by friends and other bands we knew from before. We also had great party 'til sunrise.

Next day was time to cross the border; Bordeaux, Nantes, and Reims awaited but in general France wasn't what we expected. Too much money spent in highway tolls, bad days for the shows (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). We will come back and get things better, for sure! We also appreciate the treatment we had there in the venues from the staff and owners.

Lots of good moments in the Netherlands and Belgium. Definitely great concerts in Tilburg, Antwerp and Kuurne (we will never forget “the laughing night”) or the perfect welcome in Enschede, with our sweet brother in Distillator. We love you, Julays!

Germany is indeed one of the Heavy Metal fortresses in Europe. And yeah, you can notice it! We had great success in German lands (Braunschweig, Hamburg and Oldenburg). Awesome shows, perfect sound, really devoted audience and very good sales! We are really looking forward to come back soon and keep on delivering Heavy Metal!

When we finished our shows in Germany we only had 2 shows left; in Olten (Switzerland) and in Milano (Italy) but this time we would have to continue on our own because due to some throat problems, the singer of Ambush couldn't make it anymore and the band had to return to Sweden sooner as expected. We missed them a lot the rest of the tour but... we had to keep on working!
In Switzerland we made one of the best shows of the tour, with a great performance, lot of people in the audience and furthermore a really really good treatment from the staff in the venue, where we also had a fantastic day-off! The post-concert party was also EPIC!

The finishing touch came in Milano, taking part in the Easter Desaster Festival, along with some Italian bands, though they were a bit more thrash-oriented, and so was the audience. We had bad weather in Italy so we couldn't have much party there but some of us wanted to the use our time to visit the magnificent Duomo, while the other members took a rest of a such exhausting tour.  

The next day we decided not to sleep in Barcelona, in our way to Murcia, as we had expected. At 11 am we left Milano, and we drove all the way home, where we arrived at 5 am. A really exhausting and hard trip, with a lot of accumulated tiredness but full of joy for all the things we had achieved, all the people we had met, thousands of funny anecdotes and good moments, and really good vibes and feelings. We also want to thank David the huge effort he made replacing Aitor on vocals on this tour, risking his own vocal chords at some times. Without him, this couldn't have been possible. A really professional singer. Thank you so much, man!

Heavy Metal Forces United had ended but there will be more opportunities to take our music to as many places as we can. We are already working on a second tour for our album, “State Of Shock”, expected for October, November and December along with our mates of Leather Heart, from Madrid. Stay alert! We will see you on the stages! 


The new HITTEN album "State Of Shock" is out now on CD format by No Remorse Records and on vinyl format by High Roller Records.

Join HITTEN on Facebook HERE

Παρασκευή 18 Μαρτίου 2016

Assassin's Blade interview: Under the blade of mystification...

Almost a year before, this new band named Assassin’s Blade, came to my attention. Shortly, I had the chance to listen to a 3-song demo from their upcoming album called “Agents Of Mystification”. I loved it at once. Now, the time has come that this album will be released and I had the chance to speak to bassist and songwriter Peter Svensson about this newborn metal monster.

First of all, introduce us the pack under Assassin's Blade and when did you form the band.

Peter: The band was formed in 2014 and consists of Jacques Bélanger on vocals, David Stranderud on guitars, Peter Svensson on bass and Markus Rosenkvist on drums.

How did you get Jacques Bélanger in vocals and how easy or difficult is to work with such a distance?

Peter: I have been the webmaster of the "official" Exciter fansite since 2001 and I have been in touch with Jacques and met him a couple of times over the years. The beginning of Assassin's Blade is traced back in 2013 when David and I were putting some songs together just for fun. We then decided to record these songs and in a moment of whiskey-induced audacity we decided to ask Jacques if he was interested in doing the vocals. He agreed right away and flew to Sweden shortly afterwards to record vocals for 6 of the songs on the album. It was at that point we decided to form the band. From the initial recording session we got a good idea of how we should work together and were able to sort out a lot of things. After that we have stayed in touch through e-mails and Skype. We have all been open about things and what we want to do and there have not been any major issues caused by the distance.

Your first album is already completed and will be released by Pure Steel Records shortly. Give us all the available details, release date and tracklist.

Peter: The album will be released on the 29th of April 2016.The tracklist is: Agents of Mystification, Herostratos, The Demented Force, Dreadnought, Autumn Serenade, Transgression, Nowhere Riders, Crucible of War, Frosthammer, League of the Divine Wind, Prophet’s Urn
Also, Janne Stark (Overdrive and more) makes a guest appearance on lead guitar on several songs.

How was the writing and recording procedure?

Peter: The songs were more or less written by David and me. The arrangements were done collectively as a band. Jacques had a lot of input into the vocal arrangement and added some very cool things as well. Everything was recorded at my studio, except vocals on 5 tracks, which were recorded in Canada with Manfred Leidecker and Janne's solos were recorded by himself at his home studio.

Did you include all the songs you wrote in the album?

Peter: All the songs we wrote and recorded for the album were included. Originally we only wanted to release about 40-45 minutes of music on the album but we could not decide which songs NOT to include...

What's the story behind the band's name and what's your lyrics' inspiration?

Peter: The band name fits the image that we want to express with our music, it is aggressive yet sharp. Also, you can see the assassin's blade as the tool you need to achieve your objectives. Some of the lyrics were inspired by books written by Yukio Mishima ("League of the Divine Wind"), Jean-Paul Sartre ("Herostratos") and Calvino Italo ("Agents of Mystification"). "Dreadnought" was inspired by the war-ship and "Prophet's Urn" is a story about a prophet who foresees the end of the world and decides to take his own life before that happens.

What about the music? Which are your favorite bands and influences, how would you describe your music and what do you want to succeed?

Peter: Our main influences are the old classic bands like Priest and Maiden. Of course there is some Exciter influence as well, but in short, classic metal. Our aim is to make timeless heavy metal. We do not intend to sound like one band/album/era or anything like that, we just want to make great metal songs. Our main focus is to create something that we enjoy playing and listening to ourselves.

How do you see underground metal nowadays? There are plenty of bands out there...

Peter: Well, the underground is growing all the time. New bands and projects everywhere. Of course it is good but it also makes it a lot more difficult to stand out and get noticed by people. The amount of records that are released now is unbelievable.

Do you think there is a kind of hype with "underground metal" the last years? How do you explain the countless new bands, all the reunions (from everyone) and the amazing amount of reissues from old albums-demos-whatever?

Peter: Yes, there most definitely is a hype, however it's been going on for some 10 years now. Old bands that made one single in the 80s and new bands from everywhere. I think the old bands come back since they are at a stage in their lives where they might have more time than when they were in their 20-30ies and also that they easily see the interest in their bands through the internet. With new bands I think that the access to technology has made it so much easier to record and release music. Anyway, I don’t know how or if it should be stopped. How can you tell somebody that they are not allowed to play music?

Are there any plans for live shows?

Peter: There are no shows booked at the moment but we have been talking about a possible live set. Hopefully we can make a small tour or so of Europe in the near future since it is not feasible to fly over Jacques for a single gig.

What the future holds for Assassin's Blade?

Peter: We will start working on the next album right away. Also, hopefully there will be some live shows during 2016. I am really looking forward to where this takes us!

Any news on your other band's camp, Void Moon?

Peter: Yes, actually we are releasing our second album on the 28th of March. It is called “Deathwatch” and will be out on Sun & Moon Records, as well as a tape edition on Arcane Tapes.

Join Assassin’s Blade on Facebook HERE

Visit Assassin’s Blade official site HERE