Κυριακή 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2019

Love Music - PledgeMusic. A marketplace connecting artists and fans, falling apart.

PledgeMusic started in 2009 as an online direct-to-fan music platform. The original idea was to help musicians reaching out directly their fans and pre-sale their music. The fans ("pledgers") were able to pre-order (and of course, pre-pay) albums and singles that weren't even released, in some cases without even a confirmed release date. Additionally, PledgeMusic (a vessel for the artists) were offering signed items, from albums to lyric sheets and anything else you could imagine. And of course, everything was pre-paid from the fanbase.

Someone might think that this was a way to support directly the artist and there is no problem with that. There never was supposed to be a problem, even if some items were way more expensive than how they should normally be. But everyone should understand that no one is forcing you to buy something. The item is out there, it has a price placed by someone and it is up to the fan if he wants to buy it or not. Even if these "items" were just... nothing yet, just a pre-ordered item that wasn't even manufactured, and there wasn't even a picture of it. But the fan should pre-pay if he wants the item. That's how business works, like it or not.

PledgeMusic is focused on raising funds for musicians, without retaining any ownership or rights to any music and encouraged artists to offer a wide range of exclusive content to "pledgers". Charity and donating was also a part of many campaigns.

Everything was looking successful until one point, even if there were many complains on shipping methods, damaged items and/or items that weren't exactly the ones pre-orderd and pre-paid. However, PledgeMusic refunded many similar issues, even if it took a while and lot of patience from "pledgers".

In the early years, PledgeMusic was nominated and won few important awards but when 2019 entered and with many campaigns ongoing, reports emerged of musicians not being paid in accordance with their agreements. Some payments were late even from mid-2018 and while it is too early to figure out what's happening, soon we will have statements. There have to be statements. What's more important though, is the ethical issue where artists are responsible and should fulfill on their own their obligations to the "pledgers"; the fanbase.

The fanbase gave money to PledgeMusic in order to support directly the artists and now it seems that some ongoing campaigns are falling apart, while the "pledgers" haven't got the pre-paid items, and some artists are asking from the "pledgers" (their fans that pre-paid in order to support directly the artist) to request a refund, contact lawyers and giving explanations that doesn't matter or make no difference for the fan, the supporter of the artist, the "pledger".

The artists were using PledgeMusic in order to get money from the fans months before the release of an album, for an album that wasn't even recorded. The fans supported the band, not PledgeMusic. If PledgeMusic is falling apart, the artists should fillfil their obligations against their fans. PledgeMusic is falling apart but that's business, and artists were involved in this kind of business "requesting" money upfront directly from their fanbase. Now, they should return them to their fans or give them the pre-ordered and pre-paid items.

The official announcements of PledgeMusic don't clear anything yet, while artists like Bernie Torme and Queensrÿche among others, confirm that payments in respect of their latest albums had not materialized and there is no communication coming from PledgeMusic with a solution. There is no information about the state of finances.

What the artists should do? What the fans should do? Crowdfunding was always "weird" and now it is falling apart. Or not?

PledgeMusic official site  

Πέμπτη 14 Φεβρουαρίου 2019

Tony Iommi and the Hand of Doom - One riff to rule them all.

February 13th of 1970. The debut album of Black Sabbath was released.

In 2019, we celebrate 50 years of Black Sabbath. Home of Metal is a celebration of the music that was born in Birmingham UK, the birthplace of Heavy Metal. A season of exhibitions and events that connects fans with artists, music, visual art and social history.

From 22 June until 29 September of 2019, there will be a major exhibition celebrating Black Sabbath and their legacy at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

In celebration of the release of Black Sabbath and 50 years of Black Sabbath, we pay a tribute to Tony Iommi (Anthony Frank Iommi, born February 19th, 1948), the Riff Master and Lord of this world.

We take a look on the legacy of his riffs, with contributions and exclusive comments of few great musicians inspired by his music.

The Album. The Song-The Riff.

And the children of doom inspired by his magic: Victor Arduini (Arduini/Balich, ex-Fates Warning), Brian "Butch" Balich (Argus, Arduini/Balich), Howie Bentley (Cauldron Born, Briton Rites),  Chris Black (Professor Black, High Spirits, Pharaoh, Dawnbringer), Leif Edling (Candlemass, The Doomsday Kingdom), Anders Engberg (Sorcerer), Devon Graves (Psychotic Waltz), Kimi Kärki (Lord Vicar, Orne, Reverend Bizarre), Chritus Linderson (Lord Vicar, ex-Count Raven, ex-Saint Vitus), Gerrit P. Mutz (Dawn of Winter, Sacred Steel, Battleroar), John Perez (Solitude Aeturnus), Vorskaath (Zemial, Agatus, Alpha Centauri)

The Album: Black Sabbath (1970)

During 1969, Earth / Black Sabbath were playing live anywhere they could and in January of 1970 the record deal was finally official. Those days, without internet, the spread of the news was quick and a band that released an album in February, could influence another band that released an album just two months later. Things were very fast and recordings were finished in just few days. Just keep in mind that during 1970-1973 Black Sabbath released 5 albums!

So, in 1969, Ozzy heard the Led Zeppelin debut album and he was shocked. He couldn't believe that this was a new band. He said to Tony Iommi, "Did you hear how heavy this Led Zeppelin album sounded?" Without missing a beat, Tony replied, "We'll be heavier". And so they did. In February 13th of 1970, the world of music changed.

According to Devon Graves (or Buddy Lackey, if you prefer), member of the genuine progressive metal act Psychotic Waltz, and also the man behind Deadsoul Tribe, "Black Sabbath is the most deeply influential band of the whole metal genre. Case in point; the first album, Black Sabbath is historically significant because it was the first rock album that remained to a single genre. No blues, no folk. Just a dark, heavy vibe, even when mellow, always a single haunting thread spun throughout. As became the genre that was born from it. Black Sabbath invented ‘Heavy Metal’ without having that handy label."

The Song-The Riff: Black Sabbath

At 4:36, the heavy riff reveals to the desperate voice that was screaming, "Oh, no, no, please God help me!", that Satan's coming 'round the bend...

Victor Arduini, guitar partner of Jim Matheos during the early years of Fates Warning, revealed his Black Sabbath influence with the Arduini/Balich project and the album Dawn of Ages in 2017. Victor comments: "While there are just so many individual riffs that I could include in my list of inspirations there none more specific in its tone, mood and overall feel than the one that started it all, 'Black Sabbath'. The darkness and power that Tony brought to that song still moves me to this day. His simple use of a one-note background behind the vocals created such emotion that rises into those doomy massive power chords, then completely changing into that second half of almighty passionate riffing, is simply one of the best all time moments on any Sabbath album. I still remember how it made me feel 40 years ago and it's no less as inspirational in what I play and write today."

Howie Bentley (Cauldron Born, Briton Rites) besides a guitarist and composer, is also an author and true metalhead. "Every riff Tony Iommi ever wrote for Black Sabbath was stellar, so it is not the easiest thing for me to do to pick a favorite," says Howie and explains "they are all my favorite, and Black Sabbath is the greatest band of all time. So, I will just start from the beginning."

"Though some would say that heavy metal is a subgenre of rock music, I vehemently disagree. There was a point where the two musical genres separated, and that point was when Black Sabbath wrote their first song, the eponymously titled 'Black Sabbath'. With three notes (root, octave, tritone) Black Sabbath created a whole new genre of music that had a lot to do with Gustav Holst’s 'Mars, the Bringer of War', and nothing to do with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. With lyrics primarily about black magic, wizards, and Lucifer, Black Sabbath left the mundane mediocrity of rock n’ roll, the blues, and hippy bullshit far behind and created the template for heavy metal bands that is still used to this day. Heavy Metal is about entering another world through music. That world is a realm of the supernatural and the fantastic, and was founded by Tony Iommi sending the magic notes through his overdriven amplifier to a world that was ready for something new, which has become something timeless."

The Album: Paranoid (1970)

Just few months after the debut album, the band had more songs completed and Paranoid was released during September in UK. Opening with "War Pigs", previously performed as "Walpurgis" and dealing with witches' sabbath, transformed to the famous anti-war song we all know, now. And then, it is "Paranoid", the song. The last song recorded because the label needed a single. As the backbone of doom, drummer Bill Ward recalls in Iron Fist magazine (September 2018), "There was always an underlying fear that if we made singles we might become a part of popdom, and that might somehow threaten our more aggressive attitude." Black Sabbath always hated singles and Bill also adds to Chris Chantler at the same interview, "We were quite rebellious to any kind of authority, it's just the nature of the beast of where we come from." In 1970, Black Sabbath was already a band with a separation between a core, rebellious fan base, and pop (or new) fans that come to see what's is this that stood before them. More people joined the Sabbath, more songs changed their lives.

The Song-The Riff: Iron Man

The main riff of "Iron Man" strikes like a giant iron bloke and heaviness shocked the world. I am not a guitarist, but when I was a teenager, I learned to play just the main riff of three songs. One of them is "Iron Man". The other two are "N.I.B." and "Smoke on the Water". "Iron Man" is an immortal, dramatic song and that riff is an archetypal Sabbath riff, one of Iommi's (and heavy metal's) greatest and most iconic guitar parts.

The Album: Master of Reality (1971)

Is this the greatest Black Sabbath album? Tony Iommi downtunes and so did Geezer Butler to match. And the heaviest album until 1971 is released! Master of Reality is dark, heavy and extremely influential. There is a new dimension, away from blues influences and here we have THE Black Sabbath sound.

The Song-The Riff: Children of the Grave

The galloping riff, the marching of the damned against the world in which they have to live.

Multi-instrumentalist Chris Black (Professor Black, High Spirits, Pharaoh, Dawnbringer) is one of the most productive musicians of our time. Regarding the article you are currently reading, "Whatever Edling says is the correct answer", notes Professor Black, "but my pick is 'Children of the Grave' opening riff.  That rhythm is one of heavy metal's most dependable building-blocks, and as such it runs through thousands of subsequent heavy metal songs that I also love, and perhaps dozens that I've written."

Kimi Kärki, known as Peter Vicar during his Reverend Bizarre years, also known as Peter Inverted during the early Lord Vicar years, is also a member of Orne, and spreads doom over the world since early '00s. "There’s so many Black Sabbath riffs that rival for attention in my head right now" says Kimi before adding that his favourite Sabbath album is Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, for its diversity and ambition. "But dirty massive riffage was perfected already earlier. I'll go with one song that I have a fond personal memory about. 'Lord of This World' is the sixth song of the third Black Sabbath full-length album Master of Reality."

"When I was working on the second Orne album Tree of Life, I had Patrick Walker of Warning and 40 Watt Sun fame guesting, doing a spoken intro and outro. We recorded in London, and got to witness the original tape reels of Paranoid and Master of Reality by chance. The Holy Grail. This song had piano and slide guitar recorded on separate tracks, as you can hear from the 2009 special edition. And YouTube, nowadays... One of the heaviest songs on this planet could be mixed so that there is Ozzy, piano and slide guitar only, hope someone will pull it off one day."

"But the actual heaviness of the intro... The influential pounding of the verse riff... and THAT evil bluesy riff with a bending that follows "That soul I took from you was not even missed...", and the break. I say goddamn!!! The song is obviously about Lucifer, but with a biblical twist, a warning... It is hence a logical continuum to songs like 'Black Sabbath', and 'After Forever'. It belongs to the pantheon of perfect heavy metal songs."

Kimi's partner in doom and singer of Lord Vicar, Chritus Linderson (ex-Count Raven, ex-Saint Vitus) is one of those (few?) people who do appreciate most of Sabbath, including the Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! albums. Chritus adds "I’m gonna go with the song 'After Forever' from Master of Reality album on this one. When that main riff kicks in it always make me grit my teeth. Love that in-your-face kinda thing. He was always the master of that."

The Album: Vol. 4 (1972)

Black Sabbath already spread the seed for the future. And not only for Heavy Metal music, but other genres and sub-genres, too. From Soundgarden to Monster Magnet and beyond, grunge, alternative, stoner, the influence is there. And this influence makes Black Sabbath more important. Originally supposed to be entitled "Snowblind", Vol.4 has the rejected title's acknowledgement in the credits: We would like to thank the great COKE-Cola Company of Los Angeles. And that pretty sums up the lifestyle of Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill during 1972 and the next years.

The Song-The Riff: Supernaut

Frank Zappa loved that song. A song that even influenced Lenny Kravitz... Black Sabbath reach new dimensions. This is "new" and "different" Sabbath, and yet so familiar. Groovy and uplifting, this is an elegant riff from the new and diverse Sabbath era.

The Album: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)

Is this the best Black Sabbath album? While Master of Reality was a heavy and solid statement, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is an elegant album that follows specific songs of Vol.4. The proggressive track "Spiral Architect" has an orchestra and unique cosmic lyrics by Geezer Butler, there is flute on "Looking For Today" and Yes keyboard master Rick Wakeman offers his magic on "Sabbra Cadabra". Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is a creative triumph and one of the most important '70s albums with a huge influence in the '90s.

The Song-The Riff: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

The riff that saved Black Sabbath. The riff that broke Iommi's writing block in 1973. Black Sabbath rehearsed in the dungeons of a castle and when Iommi came up with that riff, another masterpiece started taking shape.

The latest Candlemass album The Door to Doom features a guest guitar solo by Tony Iommi at the song 'Astorolus - The Great Octopus' and Leif Edling was kind enough to have a small break from Candlemass and add his comment: "Very hard to decide what riff is the best of all the mighty and wonderful Iommi riffs. There's a whole pile of them... best riffs ever created! So I'll just make it easy for me... go for the 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' one. So mighty, epic, crushingly heavy... immortal! The perfect start to the best heavy metal album ever, that just happens to have the coolest (and best) cover of all records released through time."

Gerrit P. Mutz, singer of Dawn of Winter, Sacred Steel and Battleroar says that Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is also his favourite riff. But if he had to chose another one, he would take something off the same album because it is his favourite Sabbath album. Do you want something different? Gerrit has the answer: "'Who Are You' might more be a melody than a riff but I nevertheless adore it! Goatsnake once did a brilliant and extremely heavy cover of that one, if I remember correctly. To me this "riff" is simple, effective, evoking and pure magic. Combined with the fantastic lyrics this just generates a mood of pure unadulterated timeless DOOM!!!" And if 'Who Are You' is probably one of those few Sabbath songs written by Ozzy, the magic is still there. And will always be, since Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is one of the greatest albums ever released.

 The Album: Sabotage (1975)

The music diversity that started on Vol. 4 and reached unique artistic heights on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, sounds different on Sabotage. But mentally, psychologically and business wise, Sabotage is the ultimate title for Black Sabbath during 1975. Music had its natural outgrowth but everything is sabotaged for them. If there is one thing that no one can blame Black Sabbath of, it is the fact that they always composed and played the music they felt right in order to satisfy themselves. At least for their great albums. That's why they are great. But Sabotage, despite its greatness, it is also distracted and confused and the paradox is that everything worked in favor of the artistic creation and the music. It was an angry album, it was experimental, a difficult album to make and there are parts that are also difficult to catch or seem out of order but in the end, Sabotage is one of those great album of the mid '70s when music was still evolving and changing. The writ was delivered.

The Song-The Riff: Symptom of the Universe

One of those riffs often voted as "the greatest riff ever", and one of the obvious answers to the question, "what's the greatest riff ever?" A prototype that sets the template for what became speed and thrash metal few years later. Brian "Butch" Balich (Argus, Arduini/Balich) notes, "For me the Iommi riff that had the biggest impact and the one that gets my blood pumping the most is the main riff in 'Symptom of the Universe'." Brian recalls, "I first heard the song at a friend's house back in junior high or high school... to that point I was unfamiliar with the Sabotage album. Well when I first heard that crushing riff kick in the song it just about threw me through the wall. It was like an explosion. So heavy and so catchy at the same time. So simple but so iconic. I still maintain that it's the heaviest riff ever written (and the heaviest song).  So, this was HUGE in furthering my love for Sabbath and for my love of riff heavy music and doom.  Even though I'm a singer, Tony Iommi has been one of the most important musicians to me - his riffing, his soloing.  He's a legend and 'Symptom of the Universe', for me, is his crowning achievement."

The Album: Technical Ecstasy (1976)

Time was moving differently in the music industry of the '70s. Black Sabbath had already released six albums and when Technical Ecstasy, came out, they were considered as "rock dinosaurs" and punk rock had just arrived in the United Kingdom. Today, a period of seven years might be just the gap between two releases, but then, it was already a huge career. Technical Ecstasy is not the "bad" album that many people consider nowadays. There is a thin line between "confused" and "diverse", and that album stands there in the middle.

The Song-The Riff: You Won't Change Me

The opening riff of "You Won't Change Me" sets the perfect intro for Ozzy's desperate and heart-breaking performance. A moody riff in the vein of early Sabbath, even if the album has a different, rockin' and proggy aura of confusion.

The Album: Never Say Die! (1978)

Another difficult Sabbath album. Another confused but also a diverse Sabbath album. The last album with Ozzy and the end of an era. Some people might believe that this is an uninspired and tired album but most likely, Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! are two albums that deserve their own era, within an era. An experimental era in the vein of the late '70s, with music recorded in the middle of conflicts and confusion. The ending is just a beginner...

The Song-The Riff: Johnny Blade

Keyboards and heavy-rocking riffing. Tortured and twisted, the future's decided.

The Album: Heaven and Hell (1980)

Polished, straight, focused and solid, Heaven and Hell sets the template for the '80s heavy metal sound. Black Sabbath set the foundations of heavy metal in 1970, and ten years later, Ronnie James Dio enters Sabbath and they change heavy metal music. Epic, sinister and elegant, it brings freshness and power to the tired body of Black Sabbath. The music, the performance and the production of Martin Birch, everything perfectly balanced in order to create a heavy metal masterpiece and one of the greatest metal albums ever.

The Song-The Riff: Heaven and Hell

The opening guitar riff, the bass line and the guitar solo are among the most iconic in metal music. The rebirth of Sabbath and the evolution of Iommi's riffing are more than obvious on "Heaven and Hell". The archetypal Sabbath sound is modernized for the new era.

The Album: Mob Rules (1981)

Mob Rules is a great album that might be underrated by few, only because it is second (as a release) to Heaven and Hell. It is vibrant, epic and heavy. Bill Ward left the band during the Heaven & Hell Tour and Vinny Appice joined Sabbath. However tensions began within the band, with Iommi/Butler on one side and Dio on the other. During the '80s, Iommi has stated that Dio had an extremely selfish attitude and a war of egos began. The mixing sessions of  the forthcoming live album Live Evil ended the battle between the two parties. Dio was asked to leave.

The Song-The Riff: Falling Off the Edge of the World

Is the riff at 2:10, the greatest heavy metal riff of all times? Vorskaath (Zemial, Agatus, Alpha Centauri), adds a detailed commentary about the riff, the song, the album, "I am not sure if I could truly be objective in anything I say about 'Falling Off the Edge of the World' and it's difficult to tame my urge to begin by using epithet exaggerations to describe it." Vorskaath explains, "Suffice it to say that it is my favourite Black Sabbath song.  I should begin by stating this at the very least. Why? Because everything is balanced in such as way so as to create a perfectly dark, ominous yet aggressive heavy metal song."

"The gentle story-telling by Dio on top of the melancholy introduction immediately draws the listener as the passageway to a dark fantasy tale. Geezer's opening bass lines, muffled yet perfectly dominating, prepare us for the doom that Vinny Appice unleashes using those big reverberating gong drums and gong of course. If Sabbath were ever known to have produced Doom Metal, this part is the perfect example as to how the beast of doom moves: ever so slowly and imminently towards the listener."

"Suspense rises by a reversed sound pushing ever forward and reaches a climax upon which the main theme comes to sit and remind all of us how and why Tony Iommi is the master of the riff, if ever there was one. You have been already swept up by the story thus far and now crushed in what must be one of the supreme riffs of heavy metal history. The piece remains ominous and suspenseful throughout, by the nature of that riff whilst never letting go once the run begins."

"The production is of no less significance. Iommi pushed his guitars harder than before by using different amplification than before and the drums were the heaviest and biggest sounding drums on a Black Sabbath album until that date. Such heaviness and spaciousness came to define heavy metal productions."

"Dio once said that the album was composed at studio sessions with everything being outstandingly loud and heavy. That element passed onto the recording and became the most complete heavy metal album that Black Sabbath had recorded to date. No ballads, no happy songs, just darkness and aggression."

"Despite the band itself reckoning the sound of the Mob Rules with disapproval in later years, this remains the finest production that Black Sabbath ever achieved, particularly as a result of their collaboration with Martin Birch, who never worked with Black Sabbath again, but carved himself an illustrious career as the producer of iron Maiden from Killers through to Fear of the Dark." 

The Album: Born Again (1983)

Drummer Vinny Appice followed Dio and Bill Ward returned to Black Sabbath for Born Again that was recorded at the Manor Studios. However, Bill didn't continue beyond the studio recordings, and Bev Bevan joined for touring. As for the singer, he is no other than Ian Gillan. Songs like 'Disturbing the Priest' (there is an also a cool Psychotic Waltz cover out there) and 'Zero the Hero' are eternal masterpieces, but the Sabbath fans (and press) didn't really accept this new super group (they called them Deep Sabbath), and having 'Smoke on the Water' in the live set was a disaster. Ian Gillan was looking forward for the US tour since he didn't manage to tour in the States with his solo band but the best was yet to come for him. After Born Again, Gillan joined the reunited Deep Purple and recorded one of the best reunion albums ever, Perfect Strangers. Black Sabbath continued with many line-up changes during the '80s but the great music is still there. Different, but still there.

Devon Graves (Psychotic Waltz) recalls, "The album Born Again was the most satisfying metal expression of my whole life."

The Song-The Riff: Zero the Hero

This is a haunting riff. A nightmare. "Zero the Hero" is malevolent and sinister. Disturbing and yet so addictive. This riff is pure evil.

The Album: Seventh Star (1986)

It seemed that Black Sabbath would come to an end. Tony Iommi was left alone and started to write and record his first solo album with Glenn Hughes (vocals), Dave Spitz (bass), Eric Singer (drums) and Geoff Nichols (keyboards). However, under the pressure of the record company, the album was released as Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi, and had only Tony on the cover sleeve. Seventh Star is a great album, but it is not a Sabbath album. It wasn't meant to be a Sabbath album. But we used to consider it as a Sabbath album and that's fine. Glenn Hughes had to face his demons and bad karma, so he didn't last for more than a handful of live shows. He was replaced with Ray Gillen. Until the next chapter.

The Song-The Riff: Danger Zone

A great riff from a great album. Yes, Seventh Star is a great album. A "Featuring Tony Iommi" album. And "Danger Zone" has an amazing  and addictive riff. It sounds like a classic '80s Iommi riff in a classic '80s hard rock/heavy metal song.

The Album: The Eternal Idol (1987)

The Eternal Idol, the 13th album of Black Sabbath, was released, on November 23 of 1987 and marked the beginning of the most underrated era of the greatest band on Earth. With the guidance of producer Chris Tsangarides and after a difficult period, the album started taking shape with Ray Gillen on vocals but it was finally recorded with Tony Martin, the longest serving Sabbath singer after the Madman.

For some people it is just "one of those other Sabbath albums", but for many others (and especially the last years) it is a great album and the Tony Martin-era gets more recognition over the years. Tony Iommi, the Riff Lord, the Master of all, shines once more. Tony Martin has an amazing voice and even if he based his singing note-by-note on the Gillen vocal lines, he delivers a solid performance that went even further in the albums that followed. And also, Geoff Nicholls is the unsung hero of Sabbath, with his beautiful keyboards that help Iommi to create this unique atmosphere, and we need to mention also the ghost presence of Bob Daisley and Eric Singer.

The Song-The Riff: Eternal Idol

While the album has elements in the vein of Seventh Star, there is a strong epic feeling in few songs, while the title track is pure doom metal. That was something that was missing from the recent albums. Anders Engberg, singer of the Swedish epic doom metal masters Sorcerer, is a huge fan of the Tony Martin era, so when he was asked about his favourite Iommi riff, he said: "The riff or song I have been most inspired by and really feel is in the vain of what Sorcerer is about today is the song 'Eternal Idol' from the album with the same name. That song is for me the pinnacle of the kind of doom influenced music that created bands like Sorcerer and Candlemass. Even though both Ozzy and Dio were there before Tony Martin. It is extraordinary and the vocals are soaring high yet powerful. The evil element in the lyrics makes it perfect. To me the best performance from Mr. Tony Martin."

The Album: Headless Cross (1989)

Headless Cross was the first Sabbath album with I.R.S. Records, after a lifetime with Vertigo and Warner Bros. The album was produced by Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell, Tony Martin wrote all the lyrics and also, Headless Cross is a small village in the vicinity of Birmingham. Overlooked at the time of its release, it is the kind of heavy metal we are missing today.

The Song-The Riff: Devil & Daughter

When Dawnbringer released Into the Lair of the Sun God back in 2012, you could read on a sticker placed on the CD version: "The story of a naive assassin, his bizarre journey, and its tragic end. Revealed in nine untitled parts founded in the key of H (Headless Cross, Heaven Forbid, Hammerheart, Hail to England, Holy Diver...)."

"It's 'Devil and Daughter' too", added Chris Black, the man behind Dawnbringer, about another favourite Sabbath riff, "it was in my head for literally the entire summer of 2011. Awake or asleep, didn't matter.  That rhythm was, and is, in a word: constant".

The Album: Tyr (1990)

By Odin and Tyr, be sure that the blood will start to flow. Black Sabbath's 15th studio album is far away from their traditional sound, and the band reached the shores of epic and power metal, with songs like "Valhalla". This is a different era, but still you can recognize Iommi's riffing. This is the kind of heavy metal we are missing today, part II.

The Song-The Riff: Anno Mundi (The Vision)

John Perez, guitarist and brain of Texas-based epic doom metal legends, Solitude Aeturnus, comments:  "I'm certain that everyone has told you that it's virtually impossible to pick out a favorite riff. Quick guess but I'd say 87% of his riffs are freakin' killer. So I'm going to pick a less obvious, but to my mind equally as important and powerful in the Iommi arsenal. Song and riffs for the song 'Anno Mundi' from Tyr. This song gives me chills when I listen to it! The opening heavy riff at about 1 minute is just a chugging rhinoceros - one of my faves! And the chorus riff is simply as majestic as it gets. It sounds like I'm standing on top of a mountain with wind blowing my hair and looking like I know some important information about the universe! This song gets me every time. So underrated and underappreciated is this era of Sabbath. Iommi is the master at creating songs/riffs for whatever vocalist he has at hand. All hail!"

The Album: Dehumanizer (1992)

After Tyr, the rest Sabbath members that recorded the album and completed the tour (Tony Martin, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, Geoff Nichols) were each to his home or taking a break with other things. At that point, Tony Martin started working on his solo album Back Where I Belong but none of them knew what was happening until one point. More likely, Martin and Murray were removed from the band. Or they just didn't call them back. However, Dio and Powell didn't really like to work with each other and it was more than obvious that this collaboration will fail once the long recording sessions started. Dio wanted Simon Wright instead of Cozy Powell on drums but Iommi and Butler rejected him. Iommi called Martin to rejoin but it lasted for just few days and a sequence of events led to the final solution: Tony Martin also wanted to finish his solo album, Cozy Powell had a horse riding accident and a broken bone. Meanwhile, Warner Bros Records offer to the Dio reunion line-up a huge amount of money for a new album. With Powell off the picture due to his accident, drummer Vinny Appice was recruited and Dio was back in the studio since that was an accepted option for him. However, he didn't know that Iommi and Butler called again Martin for demo sessions and the pressure of Warner Bros worked on Dio's behalf.

Dehumanizer, the 16th studio album of Black Sabbath was released in June 1992 but the line-up was once again short lived due to extended (again) conflicts between Dio and Iommi/Butler. The final conflict occurred when Ozzy invited Black Sabbath to open for his final (then) shows in Costa Mesa, California, United States. Dio refused because he believed that Black Sabbath shouldn't support for anyone, especially Ozzy.

The Song-The Riff: I

A monster riff! Anger, wicked, legion! An incredible giant riff that brings Sabbath back to form with their heavier record to date.

The Album: Cross Purposes (1994)

Cross Purposes is the most classic-sounding Sabbath album of the Tony Martin era, originally released in January of 1994. When singer Tony Martin joined Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi was the only member of the original line-up and many die-hard Sabbath elitists considered those Sabbath incarnations after the Born Again album more likely as Iommi solo projects under the Black Sabbath moniker. Cross Purposes is probably Tony Martin's personal favourite album from the ones he recorded with Black Sabbath and there is a variety of songs, from the emotional power ballad "Dying for Love", "Cross of Thorns" with its dark, lyrical atmosphere and a magnificent solo by Iommi, "Immaculate Deception" with its haunted keyboards, the doomed and gloomy "Virtual Death" that brings in mind some of the '70s Sabbath aura. And everything with a clear production and mix.

The Song-The Riff: Cardinal Sin

"Cardinal Sin", originally supposed to be called "Sin Cardinal Sin" has a Led Zeppelin "Kashmir" touch evolving to a powerful riff-driven explosion. And that explosion after 2:20 comes with a great Iommi riff.

The Album: Forbidden (1995)

The reunion of the Tyr-era line-up didn't have the same artistic result. No one was happy with the album as it was presented. The presence of Ernie C (Body Count) as producer was a forbidden mission. The album is not bad. It's just not good. However, as Tony Iommi has recently mentioned, he is working on a remix of Forbidden, so the album might have a second chance.

The Song-The Riff: Guilty as Hell

Deep inside you know you're guilty as Hell. Because that's a killer Iommi riff that is lost within a song that makes no difference. At least not until the remixed version...

The Album: Iommi (2000)

The multi-singer solo concept that Tony Iommi had in mind for Seventh Star, finally took shape with the release of his first solo album Iommi. One singer for each song, featuring Henry Rollins, Philip Anselmo, Serj Tankian, Ian Astbury, Peter Steele, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol and few more, it is too modern for a Black Sabbath fan and closer to the bands that are inspired by Iommi.

The Song-The Riff: Black Oblivion

"Black Oblivion" featuring Billy Corgan, has a Vol. 4 touch, and that would be a cool Sabbath-inspired track of the new millennium.

The Album: The 1996 DEP Sessions (2004)

Originally recorded during 1996 with Glenn Hughes on vocals and bass, Dave Holland on drums, Don Airey and Geoff Nichols on keyboards. Due to ex-Judas Priest's drummer, Dave Holland, conviction for sexual assault, Jimmy Copley re-recorded all the tracks in 2004, before the release of the album. That was supposed to be Iommi's first solo album but it wasn't released before the multi-singer solo album. However, it is much better and Glenn Hughes shines!

The Song-The Riff: I'm Not the Same Man

A killer Iommi riff that could be included in an album like Seventh Star.

The Album: Fused (2005)

Another solo Iommi album with his partner in crime, Glenn Hughes. Without been so modern as Iommi, it sounds fresh and much better, keeping a valid heavy metal touch.

The Song-The Riff: I Go Insane

A beautiful nearly 10 minutes song that leads to a riff holocaust after 4:20.

The Album: The Devil You Know (2009)

The reunion with Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice brings back in modern age the Devil you know and evil doom metal is his game. With the original Black Sabbath line-up touring, they decided to tour and record under the Heaven & Hell moniker, so everyone would be satisfied and Dio won't have to sing "Paranoid" in every show. It makes you wonder how they managed to record such a heavy and evil record after decades and so many albums...

The Song-The Riff: Fear

That's one of those Iommi sinister riffs. One of those riffs that make Satan run away. Or pay a visit for a tea.

The Album: 13 (2013)

The last Black Sabbath album. It was supposed to be the last album with the original line-up in order to make full circle, but Bill Ward is not part of it and drums are recorded by Brad Wilk. However 13 is a honourable final statement of the greatest band ever.

The Song-The Riff: Loner

The archetypal Iommi riff, straight from the heart of the '70s. A proper ending to come full circle (?)

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The riff is calling you.

Κυριακή 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2019

COUNT RAVEN interview with Dan Fondelius: Day of Doom is what you'll learn.

There is a key moment for every person that will define a part of his life. For Dan Fondelius, guitarist, singer and founder of Count Raven, one of those moments was the first time he heard the music of four blokes from Birmingham. With the recent (2018) vinyl reissues of Count Raven's first four classic albums on Metal Blade Records, Dan speaks about those albums, doom metal, Black Sabbath and everything in between.

With Metal Blade Records re-releasing your first albums on vinyl, let's remember how the Count Raven legacy was forged. You released your first album 'Storm Warning' in 1990. Sweden had already Candlemass leading Doom Metal but which were your early influences and what do you remember from the recordings and the release of 'Storm Warning'?

Dan: Well our influences were mainly from the '70s at that time, but as we plunged through the '80s with our own band and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, that too was influential. But off course, we said that we would keep to our own interpretation of our music. The preparation of the 'Storm Warning' album was very short and intense. Luckily we already had the songs finished and testing them live a year before it's recording. To record the album was indeed a magic moment for me, and to the other members as well, I guess.

We had 5 weeks to do it, thats the time it takes to play a doom record… haha, no, but seriously we needed that time. Tomas Ahlen, who was the studio owner and producer was one of the coolest persons I have ever met. You could ask him anything and he came up with a solution. We became good friends as well and his crew were also nice people. I had a guitar tech/producer named Marcus, who helped me out all the way and through the mixing procedure. The studio was not the biggest, but big enough. As it were back "in the old days" the control room, off course had to be a factory size mega hall  room with the mixers channel 1 starting at one side of the hall room and channel 10.000 ending at the other side. There were no digital mixers then, only analog, so for instance during the mixing, when all channels had to be muted, we had an army of people all over the table, using all they got, fingers, toes, noses, and at the giving signal, cutting it off. The tape recorders were from Polar studios, the same as ABBA recorded all their albums. We recorded our four first albums on these machines. You can clearly hear the similarity between 'Dancing Queen' and 'Until Death Do Us Part', don't you think? 

We were on tour with Saint Vitus when the  album was  released. It was a nice feeling to have your first international record in your hands. The press really liked it and we were pleasantly surprised. We were then under the impression that press generally hated doom rock. The record was released by the German label Hellhound Records and the British label Music For Nations.

Singer Chritus Linderson left Count Raven after your first album. He joined Saint Vitus after a while for the 'C.O.D.' album (1992) and you took over vocals. Was it a necessary evil and did you look for another singer?

Dan: Yeah, after he left, we were looking for other singers but nothing worked out and the deadline for starting recording  the next album closed in, so I decided to ask the producer and the guys in the band if it was okay that I took over the singing. I remember that everybody just screamed YES. I had already been singing through out the '80s with Stormwarning, so it was ok.  So we just went on.

'Destruction of the Void' (1992) and 'High on Infinity' (1993) followed with you on vocals, and here we have the complete trademark sound of the band. With two albums in two years, what were you thinking about the future of Count Raven and what was the actual feedback of the audience and press at that time?

Dan: Well, the ideal way would be to be able to combine hard work and to reflect at the same time. Unfortunately that is seldom the case. Work became so intense that we had no chance to even breathe. Luckily I had more than enough material in the christmas bag to use, so we took the best and kept on working. I remember we had real fun all through the recording and there was an atmosphere of total peace of mind. Once released, the press once more took it to their hearts and thankfully loved it. Once more, thanks to all of you. Hope you all have good lives.

When we got out live, the audience were surely there and by now we were mostly headlining during tours. So things progressed faster than we could keep up with. The audience were amazing I remember. The places were packed and they shouted and sang along so much, that when I sometimes missed the lyrics, I just read the lips of the audience and went on from there. Thank you for that, our beloved audience.

'Messiah of Confusion' (1996) is the last album of your classic period but it took three years, despite the fact that you had already recorded and released two albums in two years before. What were you doing during this period and do you consider your music as a mirror of your personality?

Dan: Ok, it is a long time ago, so I had to check back myself, but my record says 1995, so I guess it is not that long. Yeah, I guess you could say that it is a mirror of that. And still is. As I write the new material it is even more so now. And it makes me wonder about the future of things, with all the hateful persecutions of free thinkers.

Would you change anything if you could, during those years?

Dan: Not that much really,when it comes to the albums. Nuclear Blast approached us then I remember during the High on Infinity tour, but Hellhound rejected them viciously. I did not like that. I just know that if we had gone over to them, things had been much better. It was out of my hands, but that I do regret.

The music works still I think. About the lyrics, there is a couple of songs that I wished turned out different and when we do them live these days, I I do put in the changes. But since  I am OK with 95% of the lyrics I am satisfied. When it comes to business situation, things could have been better. The albums did sell like crazy. We were young and naive, so the record companies off course stole every penny from us. And I mean that literally. And this was the main reason the band disbanded after 'Messiah...' was released. Many years later, our producer Tomas, who is a professional in economics, and me sat down and calculated the whole thing for me. He showed me that I had lost several millions in cash by these thieves. That has been rather difficult to swallow. Personally I don't care much for money, but that  money would have been nice to have for my two handicapped children as security when they get old. Now they don't have that.

Speaking of lyrics, that's one important thing about Count Raven, and they stray from typical rock and metal themes. Which are the best songs you have written according to lyrics and why?

Dan: I thank you very much for saying that. I suppose this music maybe is not the easiest music to start write lyrics to, but for me that was not a problem. I just started doing it. Off course at first I had no idea how it would sound like at the end of the day. But almost directly, I felt that I wanted to write the lyrics in a communicational way, despite if you listen to it live or on a record. Best lyrics, I think I like many of them, 'Hippies Triumph', 'Jen', 'The Final Journey' and 'The Viking Sea' from a personal perspective. 'Childrens Holocaust' ,'An Ordinary Loser', 'Angel Of Death' for the deliberate destruction of family and life itself.  'Masters Of All Evil', 'Leaving The Warzone', 'Shadow Box' and 'Lost World' about Satan's people who want to conquer us with peace and hate! Or 'Cosmos', where science finally meet God. 'Northern Lights' for the best gift we got, mother nature. 'Europa', a humble ode to a continent that brought us science, reason, art, justice, creative thinking, a modern world and made us walk on the moon. I could go on…

Do you think that the 90s was the best Doom Metal decade? Did you follow any bands or you stick to the classic stuff?

Dan: I think that good doom bands have been around since we started until now. New ones coming up to the surface all the time. We did recently attended Doom over Scania here in Sweden with Iron Void and Desolate Pathway from the UK, that I haven't heard before. And they were both great.

What about the reasons of Count Raven's split in 1998?

Dan: Well I contacted the guys and asked them to pick up the band again and they said yes. I had some demands on them that if we should do this they have to work with me on this, to get the project going. They agreed and we  started to work on some new material. The idea was to record four songs to get a record deal and to pop up some interest.

We started recording these songs, and one extra track called 'Regression', who is now an extra material song on 'High On Infinity'. It is a Black Sabbath medley, that we just did for fun. The recordings started and finished with me on the bass as well, since Wilbur never turned up again… I called him up after several months. He gave some half ass excuse that he forgot it all!? I saw no reason to continue. That was that.

And what made you return in 2003? Did you ask from the previous band members to join you?

Dan: Yeah i did... I wanted to try again a third time. We did concerts during 2004-2005. And the last gig was at Wacken in August 2005.

However, it took you a while to record an album and since then, it seems that Count Raven is a "part-time" band with few live shows and not so much activity. How easy or difficult is to keep the band alive?

Dan: Well the idea was then after Wacken that we should work on a full album. I spent six months full  time working on new songs. Wilbur turned up a few times and the drummer did not turn up at a all. Then I took in Jens on drums and Fredrik Jansson and the 'Mammons War' lineup was born. This was in 2006. It is very difficult to keep a band going due to several factors. Since it is all based on a free basis and friendship, and that no one gets paid at first. It is off course difficult to force, so to speak, everyone to go all the way. Especially if all have families for instance.

Are you familiar with C.O.T.D. (Circle Of True Doom) movement, that was comprised of musicians from bands such as Reverend Bizarre, The Gates Of Slumber and few more, with a goal of spreading True Doom Metal in the 00s? If yes, what's your opinion on this?

Dan: I heard about it at the time. I think they continued the idea that Solstice guitar player Rich Walker, a very nice guy, started attacking people with already in the 90s. I respected want they wanted to do. But times moves on, and as I said earlier, good doom bands still pop up.

For you, what's the true essence of Doom Metal?

Dan: Doom is more than just rock music, it is many things. Sabbath were the first ones to express that vibe in 'Into the Void', were you literally "leave the earth to find a new world unknown". Doom expresses a wish and demand for inner and outer changes of yourself and this world, and by doing so, becoming a true child of God, and always living in His presence.

With the economical and political crisis in many countries, wars and the decadence of modern man, the world today might be a perfect place for Doom Metal, right?

Dan: It already is! Doom is the music style that has least help from the music business, and still it is out there. They already sense their "new world unknown" and they will survive I'm sure. The meek shall inherit the earth… haha

It's already ten years since the last studio album ('Mammons War', 2009), so do you have any plans or working on a new album?

Dan: Yes thats the plan. We are still negotiating on a new album, so we will see. One way or another I know it will come this time. We have a stable line up now that for the first time wanna go through with this. We have been out there playing live since last summer and the band is tight. And everyone is having fun.

 Count Raven, 2018

Let's close the interview by mentioning the importance of Black Sabbath in your words...

Dan: Well they started doom with 'Electric Funeral', 'Children Of The Grave' and 'Hand Of DOOOOOM'… There you go…haha. I grew up as a very young kid with '70s Sabbath. I remember that not only did that created a completely new form of music, they also created a very new form of lyrics and lyrical approach. When all was still very much peace and love stuff, suddenly out of nowhere you hear this voice going: "Have you ever thought about your soul, can it be saved. Or perhaps you think that when you are dead you stay in your grave"… Or: "I am the world that hides the universal secret of all times"… And everyone just went… What the hell is this? It literally blowed your mind. Suddenly the intellect and soul met for the first time, created by four working class guys. Let that sink in.

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COUNT RAVEN vinyl reissues (Metal Blade Records, 2018)
'Storm Warning', 'Destruction Of The Void', 'High On Infinity', 'Messiah Of Confusion'

Highly inspired by Black Sabbath, Count Raven remains until today as the most underrated doom metal act. Their debut album, 'Storm Warning' was released in 1990. Slow, gloomy and groovy, this is the beginning of a true revelation in the name of rock n' roll. Or doom metal, to be more specifically. Count Raven always had a more street and rock n' roll attitude, closer to the feeling of bands like Saint Vitus  and less to some of their Swedish fellow mourners. Clean and monolithic, the debut album of Count Raven sets high standards for every traditional doom metal album that will follow in the 90s.

After the departure of singer Christian Linderson, guitarist and founder Dan "Fodde" Fondelius takes care of vocals and while at the same year (1992) Tony Iommi was reunited with Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbah released 'Dehumanizer', Count Raven's 'Destruction of The Void' is the album that Iommi would be proud to release if he was reunited with Ozzy, instead. The second Count Raven album is Fondelius' triumph and the beginning of the classic trademark sound of the band. Not so much different than 'Storm Warning' but yet you can clearly understand there is a different vibe, even if for some people the debut remains as their best effort. Fondelius' vocals are so similar to the Prince of Darkness, that in moments you just wonder if he does it on purpose. But not. And I cannot imagine most of these great songs with a different voice and approach, since everything works perfectly here. If you will combine this with the general huge Black Sabbath influence, a clear vision and love for music, great and diverse lyrics that stray from simple and typical themes, you have one of the best unsung doom metal bands. Fight for a new society, or you will die in sorrow.

"Tomorrow's child he cries but only in his mind. He gets so cold inside, he leaves his ones behind"... line from 'An Ordinary Loser' one of the best tracks of the third Count Raven album, 'High On Infinity', sums up what doom metal from the gutter is all about. True in every sense, less majestic than the epic doom legends (Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus) but more human and closer to reality, Count Raven delivered the ultimate Black Sabbath-worship feeling and yet, they sound as a unique act with diverse lyrics, great riffs and sadness all around. And if their music sounds more up-to-date than ever, in 1993 where 'High On Infinity' was originally released Count Raven introduced more unique elements even from the opening track, 'Jen', a fan-favourite and a great opener. And the best is yet to come, with songs like 'Children's Holocaust' or 'Masters Of All Evil', where the keyboard background and lyrics expand the atmosphere and the artistic expression. 'High On Infinity' is a doom metal triumph, so join the astral caravan.

In 1996, three years after 'High On Infinity', 'Messiah Of Confusion', the fourth Count Raven album is released and the legacy is continued. Keeping the same formula, the album is great but not better than the previous ones. However, the closing monumental track 'The Viking Sea' reached the top of Everest in terms of greatness. Nineties were supposed to be difficult for some metal bands but that was especially in the United States. Still though, just two years later after the release of 'Messiah of Confusion', Count Raven disbanded. Count Raven seemed to be in the shadow of the doom metal scene during 90s where doom started to stray from its traditional form and got confused with other sub-genres, but their albums are still among the best of their kind. Day of doom is what you'll learn.