Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα Iron Maiden. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων
Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα Iron Maiden. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων

Δευτέρα 18 Ιουλίου 2022

Iron Maiden, the legacy of flares, Greek c#unts, rusty metal and the rebel youth.

 written by Andreas Andreou


"Α c#nt with a f#cking flare. I’m gonna sing, you f#cking cocksucker, you Greek c#nt. I’m gonna f#cking sing. F#ck you".


I am a huge fan of The Boys series and the third season that recently ended was awesome. Billy Butcher (portrayed by actor Karl Urban) is a favourite character in the sick and bloody, adult-only TV series, using strong language. The above mentioned quote could be easily one of his, if he was a singer in the show. But he is not, he is just a guy who wants to kill the supes.


That quote though came from Bruce Dickinson in the recent Iron Maiden show at Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece (July 16, 2022). A huge football stadium with thousands of people: Heavy Metal fans, Iron Maiden fans, and people who went there just for "check-in", like thousands more in big shows no matter what the music genre is. I've done it also when Eros Ramazzotti played in Patra, Greece, in 2006. I don't even know more than 5 of his songs, I just happened to be there, and I don't really remember why and how, probably someone invited me or I was just curious? In the recent Iron Maiden show, there were also a few thousand "Eros Ramazzotti" fans, just like me, the "Iron Maiden" fan that happened to be in one of his shows. That's what's happening in huge stadium shows with brand bands and artists, no matter what the music genre is. Name them Iron Maiden, Metallica, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Scorpions, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Adele, The Rolling Stones, whatever. Some people just want to be "there", it's not just a concert, it’s a show for everyone.



So, why did Bruce Dickinson shouted and cursed someone in the Greek audience? There were flares. Lots of them. Just like a few times in open shows, no matter what the music genre is, not only in Greece but everywhere, where the show organizers and their security don't do properly their job, and don't check the visitors and the paying customers. I've been in shows and festivals in Greece, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, and I've seen it sometimes here and there. I’ve been a visitor, a guest with a backstage pass, or I’ve worked in a few of them, so I guess I know it from different views. It’s not like Greece where things are more (let’s say) "loose" but I’ve seen insane things elsewhere too in Europe. They’re not just as "often" as in Greece. However, I know many people from aboard that sometimes like this "looseness" and the trip, and really enjoy local shows and festivals. But that’s another side of the coin.


There's a history with Bruce Dickinson in Greece and we know he doesn't like flares, even if the official Iron Maiden social media posted photos with flares (I guess they look impressive in photos, right?) and you can also see flares in their famous "Fear of the Dark" official live video from Donington Park, even in the same song at the En Vivo! DVD (2012), meaning it can happen anywhere, anytime, even in official Iron Maiden releases, no matter how they try to avoid these images. Sometimes, they’re just there and you can’t hide them all the time. That's not something new, that's not happening only in Greece, it can happen anywhere, where the show organizers and their security don't do properly their job. If security does properly the job, flares won't enter the venue, the arena or the stadium, no matter where it's located in the world. Well, it appears that in Greece the security is not as good as elsewhere or the Greeks have found adventurous ways to hide stuff. 



One day before (July 15, 2022) Judas Priest also performed in another location in Release Athens Festival and during "Painkiller" there were flares everywhere while Rob Halford was singing his heart out, never complained, enjoyed every minute and you could see the look of happiness and accomplishment in his face. He thanked us all and left the stage like a Metal God. If you're far away or watching a video, flares and smoke look really impressive, you can't deny that. If you're close, that could be dangerous, we all know that, too. But we also need to mention that the Release Athens Festival was nearly perfect and no one really complained. You can also find excellent gigs and festivals in Greece, just ask a few of the bands that have been here. Many of them love to be here.


If one will consider the Iron Maiden show as a fiasco (I don't, I was lucky to be in a good spot), you can blame Dickinson, you can blame the guys with the flares, but the most important thing one should blame is the lack of proper security and the organization that allowed everything within the stadium. It is funny to see people that during the economic crisis, managed to gather 80 and 90 EUR to see Iron Maiden, and they blame the kids with the flares ruining their evening. They see the tree but they missed the forest. Most of them couldn’t even see the stage because the ticket they bought didn’t match the position they paid, or the setting wasn’t good, people fainted because they were cramped in half of the stadium on the back while others were relaxed in the front, food and drinks were expensive, and security was there just not to allow people move from their area, and make sure they won’t bring beers from outside in the stadium. However, you could even bring guns within the stadium and no one would check you. But still, "the flares bothered Dickinson blah blah blah, he was right blah blah".


The Iron Maiden show of the Legacy of the Beast Tour 2022 was similar with the previous Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018. The difference is that they didn't perform "The Evil That Men Do", "The Wickerman", "For the Greater Good of God", "Where Eagles Dare" and "2 Minutes to Midnight", adding in their place "Blood Brothers" and three songs from the last studio album, Senjutsu. The 2022 setlist was: Senjutsu, Stratego, The Writing on the Wall, Revelations, Blood Brothers, Sign of the Cross, Flight of Icarus, Fear of the Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden, The Trooper, The Clansman, Run to the Hills, Aces High.


The beginning of the show was impressive even if the opening song that was very well performed doesn't really work as a show opener. However, "The Writing on the Wall" sounded better than the album version something that Maiden have done in the past too, with songs such as "No More Lies". Adrian Smith always had a cooler-than-your-favourite-guitarist stage presence but that day he didn’t really had it, but let me tell you that a cool solo part in a song like "The Writing on the Wall" - even if that song is one of the many non-top Maiden cuts - sounds better than the best songs of many other bands. When the three new songs ended, the "legacy" part took over and we can't really complain about the performance and the sound quality, they're professionals and know what to do, it’s an entertainment company now, while every move on stage is prepared beforehand. A few songs were played slower in favor of both frontman Bruce Dickinson (aged 63) and drummer Nicko McBrain (aged 70) but it didn't really matter because they all delivered and Dickinson is an iconic frontman, one of the greatest ever. One might say that McBrain lost a few drum fills or he just make a couple of songs simpler but I don’t think many people noticed that. The setlist lacked of faster and shorter songs with Maiden choosing a few longer numbers of their huge catalogue but it really worked with the show and the changing of the stage sets. During "Flight of Icarus", one of the highlights of the night, Dickinson appeared with a flamethrower on stage and flares also appeared in the audience. When "Fear of the Dark" followed, the whole stadium was singing and more flares appeared here and there. And when "The Number of the Beast" started, Dickinson also started," What did I see? Α cunt with a fucking flare. I’m gonna sing, you fucking cocksucker, you Greek cunt. I’m gonna fucking sing. Fuck you", leaving the stage for a while and the rest of the band tried to keep going. Of course the song was fucked up, Dickinson wasn't synchronized and kept doing gestures against that "Greek cunt". From that point on, the rest of the show was colder. Songs like "The Trooper" and "Aces High" are Everest-high classics but everything sounded cold, at least where I was standing with my friends. Dickinson kept doing a few gestures against "Greek cunts" during the rest of the set and if you were closer you could understand by the look of his face something that doesn’t fit in his status but all of the band members kept going with professionalism, even if there was a lack of passion on stage during the last songs.


So, "Greek cunt"? Imagine being in an open air festival in Germany or USA, and there is a random British band (not Iron Maiden), the security doesn't do very well the job they're paid for and a few flares will appear from hot-bloodied fans, and then, this random British band starts cursing, "you fucking German cunt", "American fucking cunt, fuck you" and all those offensive words we were using sometimes as teenagers just for the shock value. How would it sound if it wasn't Iron Maiden? Does it make any difference because it is Iron Maiden? I've seen that it does from many fanboys that don't bother but what would happen if there was any kind of riot from Greek fans that would be furious? I’ve seen people throwing bottles on stage because they didn’t like the band, imagine a professional, paying artist, starting cursing you. Can you imagine Maiden playing in Israel and Dickinson yelling "Israeli cunt"?


But there is something more with the "cunt" word and that's another issue most people seem to ignore or don’t know. This is not like "malakas" or "asshole". When it comes from a British, it is one of the most offensive and hateful words in the English language. It is pure hate, besides the strong misogynistic overtone. Words like "fuck" or "fucker" have lost their shock value while the "cunt" word is so hateful, offensive and nearly censored, that people in England who will use it in their business environment can lose their job and can be sued. This is not just an offensive word, this is more. Airbourne supported Maiden that day and singer/guitarist Joel O'Keeffe kept saying "malakas" but no one bothered because this is not about political correctness, this is about pure hate coming from the mouth of Bruce Dickinson.


You know what, anything that I am going to write here, anything negative that a random guy from Athens, Berlin, Chicago, London, wherever, will write about Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne and all those legends that shaped the music we're listening to, won't make any difference, won't bother them, we're just dust in the wind that will disappear after a while. Even if we're right. Their impact and history will remain and that's something they achieved but we're also a small, small part of it, with the support over the years, the money we're spending in live shows, the albums and the merchandise. Every time I am seeing Mantas of Venom live, he always mentions on stage that he is there because of us, the fans. Ronnie James Dio was always kind with the fans no matter what could happen below the stage and there are countless more examples. I think that the bands should not forget about it but that’s just my opinion.


A few weeks ago, there was a Greek hip hop artist using the stage name Lex (ΛΕΞ in Greek) where he played a stadium show and gathered 20.000 young people. That show had a cheap ticket of 8 EUR or something, while at the same period there was the show of Manowar that gathered an estimated number of 10.000 people, having of course a much more expensive ticket of 50 EUR. It was then, where another issue came up in the Greek social media comparing the two different music worlds and the audience. That was a wrong comparison since it was two events with a huge ticket price difference and two completely different worlds. That issue though, is not only about Greece but it is worldwide but let's see behind that contrast because it is very important and it is giving many specific answers combined with the Iron Maiden show.

During that contrast between Lex and Manowar, hip hop & rap music with heavy metal, I've read from many Greek metal fans comments like "watch all those young kids and teenagers at the Lex gig - in the heavy metal scene we're just old guys". Those boomers that were complaining about the lack of young people in the metal scene, and compared a Manowar show of an audience mainly 35+ years old with that hip hop event, probably didn't want to notice that in the 20.000 young people event, there were countless flares that turned the night to day. Those old metal fans that justified those kids because they're having fun are the same ones who today are screaming about the "Greek cunt" who brought a flare in a Maiden stadium show of 40.000 people and it bothered Bruce Dickinson. Is this confusion or hypocrisy? Truth to be told, those kids probably don’t give a fuck about you but if you want to complain about the lack of young people in metal live shows, maybe you should just look in the mirror. We’ll go to that later, for now here is a photo of that Lex show and its flaming youth.



Heavy metal has lost the element of danger, the fun, and the reaction against whatever the young people want. The young "Greek cunt" paid 80 and 90 EUR to watch Iron Maiden, a heavy metal band and will headbang, push, yell, enter a mosh pit, do a crowd surfing, even light up a flare in a very rare occasion. Then, the young "Greek cunt" will have an old dude pointing a finger to him because the young kid does his revolution and having fun, just like everyone did a few decades ago when they were below the stage of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, Motörhead and countless more. When shows had passion and it wasn't just dads sitting their ass on a soft chair, a venue corner or the balcony, complain if someone will go so close to them that will feel a touch...


Is it right to light up a flare in a concert show? I wouldn't do it, probably I never did it even when I was young. If someone does it next to me now, I will go to another place and if it bothers me I will let him know it and kindly ask him to stop. If he doesn't stop you never know how it will end. But I have no problem whatever will happen, nicely or badly. That's life.


Is it right for the artist to start cursing someone in the audience about a flare? I don't find it right but I definitely don't want it to affect the show I paid for. Also, the artist should expect a reply because it is always action-reaction. So, if the artist will do it, he should expect that probably it will be worst. That's life.


But never forget that it's not just the millionaire, professional singer and the "Greek cunt". If you want my humble opinion, it's all about the rules set by the organizer / promoter and the security paid to do a specific job. If you're paying a ticket to watch a specific show under certain rules and you don't follow them, it's the security's job to solve the problem. Of course it’s each individual’s responsibility as a human being to behave too but we’re not professional gig attenders and sometimes things can get out of hand. The professionals are on stage and the rest are working for the show (security included), so they should take care of such things.


Also, sometimes we tend to forget that this is heavy metal. We were also kids once and I have strong memories of great shows where I travelled many miles sleepless, I was yelling and screaming, and returned home with bruises. I don't regret, I don't forget, I don't want it to change, even if I am not doing it anymore. That's part of my youth and if it never happened to you, I am sorry, but in my opinion your relationship with Heavy Metal is blurry.


If all those things would bother the young Black Sabbath, the young Venom, the young Metallica, even the young Iron Maiden, we wouldn't be here, you wouldn't be here, you would be a Milli Vanilli fan. 

 





Do you want to know why you don't see many young kids in the heavy metal scene?


Because they're kids, and sometimes kids want to make their brief revolution against normality. You say yes, they say no. You say white, they say black. You say stop, they say fire! This is not bad, this is not a crime and you can't lock them. Unless you want them to be zombies with iPhones stucked in their hands. If Heavy Metal has become completely conservative, younger fans will find somewhere else to do their revolution, as they're doing with the recent example of Lex in Greece. Without promotion and without media, just the word of mouth. Goddamnit, I didn't know this Lex guy one month ago and suddenly he gathered 20.000 young kids in his concert! So there's a huge audience out there pointing the middle finger to dad-rockers and their dinosaur beliefs.


Because many of them can't be related with 60 and 70 year old guys running on a stage holding their breath, and having 40+ year old dudes below the stage pointing the finger to them so they will "behave" like they're in a Frank fuckin' Sinatra nightmare show.


Because many of the 40+ and 50 year old dudes keep saying "there are no good new metal bands". You can't have a new audience if there aren't new metal bands. Young people want to see young musicians too so they can relate to them; their generation. And THERE ARE excellent new metal bands but the boomer with the soft ass will never accept it because he is still living in the past. And as long as we keep saying that heavy metal will die once Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and all those legends will retire, that will happen for them too. And along with those legendary bands, the "old guard of fans" will also die and maybe then, maybe then, a young generation will be free from the boomer bullshit.


Because an "editor" in a magazine, website, whatever, will review a new band of 18-year old kids and see a photo of youngsters dressed up in leather and posing like their idols, playing whatever they want with passion, having a label supporting new blood, and that "editor" just writes whatever it takes just to project himself as a metal omniscient larger than the artists themselves. That is a failure. The boomer attitude that the "old guy" knows better and he can affect everyone's opinion. Bullshit. And that's coming from someone like me, who is 45 years old and works in the music industry.


Because metal music has been an expensive music nowadays. Records are getting expensive, live shows are sky-high expensive and young fans that don't have a work yet, can't keep asking their parents to give them 80 and 90 EUR to see Iron Maiden or 35 EUR to see Accept. They can go only to a few gigs and they can't really buy many albums.


I was not far from a company of high-school kids with flares in the Iron Maiden show. I saw them from distance having the fun of their life, like nothing else mattered. Time seemed to stop for them, they were yelling and smiling. I understand those who were annoyed and they have every right to be annoyed. But that image, for a while, it was a flame that sometimes is missing from life. And from Heavy Metal.


That was intended to be a Facebook post but a few paragraphs were expanded to a bigger feature of more than 3000 words (I did it again…), so it's added in the blog.

I can understand that a few people will disagree, that's fine and healthy, there's no problem with that. But if you believe that your opposite opinion is the correct one, the truth and the only truth, and everyone else is an idiot, then maybe you deserve a curse in a Bruce Dickinson way. Doesn't look nice, huh?




Edit: Meanwhile, a few days later in Germany...



Κυριακή 2 Ιανουαρίου 2022

2021 - THE BEST OF METAL: The albums we enjoyed most in 2021... And a review of the year's top releases.

Once again, the usual prologue would be that no one can say that they have listened to almost everything that was released during 2021. Everyone who claims that is wrong, so we will speak just about our favourite releases and the albums we enjoyed mostly in 2021. The "best" albums of 2021 according to Crystal Logic, and a wider review of another covid-year in metal music. Note also, that this time we won't include any hard rock, AOR or melodic rock albums like previous years and everything you will read below, are releases that can be found in physical format. "Releases" that were available only digitally, are not included. Sorry Kenn Nardi, you're also delayed to deliver the album within 2021. Also, Cauldron Born's Legacy of Atlantean Kings rules, but we won't also add re-recordings.  


Another difference is that everything you will read below was written within a few hours. Actually this morning. It is not filtered or worked within a bigger time frame of days or weeks. Simple and out of my mind at that exact time. The Top-20 list was already completed in late November since it was asked from Metal Hammer magazine in Greece (where the author of this blog is also a scribe) but there are also a few changes that my Greek friends will notice if they will compare the magazine's list with this one. Sorry, but since printed media are asking so early for the top lists, we might miss a few December releases and one of them was Funeral Mist's Deiform that appeared out of nowhere (or straight from Hell) and made us look silly. Damn you guys! Lists shouldn't be published or requested so early! Talking to you Decibel too, who presented them in mid November missing albums such as 1349 and Deiform...

written by Andreas Andreou


Let's start with those "mini" releases, name them demo, EP, split. Ten of them ruled, including a few new bands that are going to be huge. Check them and catch those names from now.

 

1. TALES OF MEDUSA - Antiquity (demo)
2. SOLEMN LAMENT - Solemn Lament (tape EP)
3. SPIRIT ADRIFT - Forge Your Future EP
4. DIRKSCHNEIDER & THE OLD GANG - Arising EP
5. EZRA BROOKS / SERPENT RIDER - Visions of Esoteric Splendor (split)
6. CIRITH UNGOL - Half Past Human EP
7. MACE 'N' CHAIN - Upon the Anvil Formed (demo)
8. RAGE AND FIRE - 1986 + 35 (demo)
9. SANDSTORM - Desert Warrior EP
10. TOWER HILL - Fighting Spirits (demo)


Not much to add here, the mystery of Tales of Medusa continues, and we're looking forward to the debut albums of bands such as Solemn Lament, Mace 'n' Chain, Rage and Fire. Check those releases and you will discover bands that are going to occupy your time in 2022 and/or 2023. Ezra Brooks and Serpent Rider joined forces delivering arcane metal, and Udo Dirkschneider alongside Peter Baltes and Stefan Kaufmann brought us back the spirit of the melodic side of Accept.


Let's go to Crystal Logic's Top-20 (plus many more you should check also!)


20. NECROMANTIA - To the Depths We Descend...

A farewell. Blood and darkness. To death and beyond. The last Necromantia album is the closing chapter of a book that sealed the history of black metal.

Check also: MARE COGNITUM - Solar Paroxysm, WODE - Burn in Many Mirrors, YOTH IRIA - As the Flame Withers

 

19. WOLFTOOTH - Blood & Iron

If you're following this blog, you will remember that each Wolftooth album had a mention every year it was released. What makes you think it will change now? One more cool album, more "epic" than the previous two, still with swords, still heavy, still great. The wolf bites again.

Check also: APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE - Until Darkness Goes, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY - Doom Crew Inc.



18. CRIMSON FIRE - Another Dimension

The third album of the Greek (once, traditional metal) band combines elements that made their music much more addictive, adding keyboards and a strong melodic touch, releasing a few of the unsung hits of 2021.  

Check also: HITTEN - Triumph & Tragedy, POUNDER - Breaking the World

 



17. TERRA ODIUM - Ne Plus Ultra

Looks insane that this album came out by Frontiers Records, the home of sugar music, countless projects, a few legends of AOR and hard rock and the similar sound to all of them. With a line-up including Steve DiGiorgio on bass and other members of bands such as Spiral Architect and Manitou, this is a heavy as fuck and skillful as MacGyver, classy progressive metal debut album, opposed to the wankery of most modern prog bands.

Check also: I guess that when DREAM THEATER releases a new album we should include it, so you can also check A View from the Top of the World. They're not there, but they were once.



16. WHEEL - Preserved in Time

While I wasn't a huge fan of their second album Icarus (2013) but I enjoyed the 2010's same-titled debut, Preserved in Time caught me by surprise! Maybe because of that huge Solitude Aeturnus vibe since we're missing the Texan epic doom metal legend. But don't take the third album of the German doomsters as a copycut, it's just the kind of doom that makes us headbang (we did it in Keep It True Rising!) and raise the fist in the air. Classy!

Check also: NEKROMANT - Temple Of Haal

 

15. THE SONIC OVERLORDS - Last Days of Babylon

The lads from Sweden play a cool heavy/doom metal in their debut album that brings in mind one of the greatest heavy metal styles you can think of: What Iommi was doing with Black Sabbath in the mid to late '80s. Oh yes, they even brought Tony Martin as a guest singer for the bonus track "Pass the End of Time", that's actually the album's "Sands of Time". And what a great song it is! Something that could even be in Sabbath's The Eternal Idol! That album deserved to be higher in this list since it is one of the year's releases I listened to mostly. Performance is excellent, Marcus Zachrisson Rubin sounds as the most suitable voice for this material, Per Soläng is a groovy pounder, Daniel Ramírez uses his bass as a star and fills with the best possible way everything low-heavy-and-beyond, and Morgan Zocek sounds as a true riffmaster; Lord Iommi would be proud of him. Opening track "Utopia" has a Spiritual Beggars vibe, follow-up "In My Darkest Room" is a doomy cut with a nod to American doom metal and overall The Sonic Overlords have also a classic (heavy) rock feeling in their music. You can listen to it at "Fools" and "Shine" which is the best hit you probably didn't hear in 2021 if you passed this album. Grab it and listen to it!

Check also: THE NIGHT ETERNAL - Moonlit Cross

 



14. LAMP OF MURMUUR - Submission and Slavery

That riffing at the 8th minute of the 11-minute "Reduced to Submission and Slavery"  opening track can put to shame the traditional heavy metal etnhusiast that believes "everything here is just noise" since a few of his/her favourite metal releases of 2021 might lack of the authenticity this American hyped outfit has. The overall authenticity can be questioned though by the anti-hype hunters but Lamp of Murmuur dwell in the past of black metal and at the same time they walk in paths of post-punk, the goth rock ways of Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death, even Dead Can Dance. Mysterious, charming and dark, Submission and Slavery is another chapter in the floodland of modern underground black metal. It's commanding and true.

Check also: MYSTRAS - Empires Vanquished and Dismantled. The new project of Spectral Lore's Ayloss is medieval black metal against empire and aristocracy. Anti-imperialism, anti-fascist and anti-nationalist, Mystras' second album keeps the lo-fi aesthetic and sound adding traditional instruments (such as Turkish ney and santoor) in separate folk pieces and interludes, while keeping the raw black metal harshness in most of the rest. 



13. MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY - Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb

With more than 100 minutes, the one-man project of Dis Pater from Australia delivers a genre-breaking and grandiose release that's what you can call once you will mix: ambient, dungeon synth, symphonic black metal, progressive, atmospheric black metal. Are you confused?  Don't be. Just listen to songs like "Dawn-Bringer" and "Rise of Thunder", two of the best tracks of 2021. More than impressive, with rich and brilliant arrangements, beautiful synths, and a bright sound, Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb is a goldmine of inspiration that any real fan of quality music should listen to.

Check also: ESOCTRILIHUM - Dy'th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath. Just a year after the magnificent Eternity of Shaog (that was included in 2020's list) Asthâghul returns with one more experimental and atmospheric black metal album, bizarre and beautiful, different and multi-dimensional.

 



12. GREEN LUNG - Black Harvest

You listen to this album and instantly understand that it's coming from the United Kingdom, with a warm sound that dwells in the '70s but brings to us something that's also fresh. But let's put away for a while any comparisons and don't mention the band names you probably expect to read. Black Harvest has the riffs, the organ, the perfect voice chanting about old gods, folklore, leaders of the blind, altars and thy satanic majesty. But don't get fooled, Green Lung is not just a band praising the goat, this is a beautiful art that requires your attention and time. Give it to them and you might find a new favourite band. Brilliant!

Check also: HOUR OF 13 - Black Magick Rites

 

11. SILVER TALON - Decadence and Decay

You definitely read many times about US power metal blah blah blah but actually, the Portland-based band featuring past and present members of acts such as Spellcaster and Unto Others is something more. And while the Nevermore vibe is more than obvious, Silver Talon's metal is more technical than the average NWOTHM or a modern screaming USPM band, and in Decadence and Decay you can locate a songwriting influence by King Diamond (guitarist Andy LaRocque is also a guest) while the spirit of Judas Priest is all over too. Let's put away the "progressive" term for a while and bring on the "modern technical power metal" that it is. Riffefficacious and skillful metal for those who need deeper music than radio hits.

Check also: CHEMIKILLED - Aftermath

 



10. WARRIOR PATH - The Mad King

Guitarist and main songwriter Andreas Sinanoglou had a specific vision of a heavy/power metal band in his mind for years. He probably didn't care about commercial success and he just needed to materialize this vision. Finding multi-instrumentalist and producer Bob Katsionis (solo, Outloud, ex-Firewind, etc,) in his way is the key that unlocked the doors to his vision. After 2019's same-titled debut album the return marked the recruiting of singer extraordinaire Daniel Heiman (ex-Lost Horizon) and the result is an album that brings back the glory of European '90s and '00s heavy/power metal. Note that this album isn't an underground "true metal" thing, this is a high quality release that could be released by bigger labels if the band wanted. Name them No Remorse Records (that did just the vinyl version) or Napalm Records, they could do it if they wished, and they could definitely sell a few thousands copies more. Everything a fan of European heavy/power metal needs is here and if The Mad King would be kinda squeezed if it was released in the late '90s to early '00s between all those HammerFall, Lost Horizon, Stratovarius, Kamelot etc. releases, in the 2020s it simply rules and it's the master of its game.

Check also: ANCIENT EMPIRE - Priest of Stygia, BLAZON STONE - Damnation, BRAINSTORM - Wall of Skulls, CLAYMOREAN - Eulogy for the Gods, CRYSTAL VIPER - The Cult, HELLOWEEN - Helloween, PALADINE - Entering the Abyss

 



9. PHARAOH - The Powers That Be

Professor Black's Pharaoh is back bringing again the powers of the great songwriting and the force of the riff. Excellent from start to finish, Pharaoh's fifth album has all the elements that made US power metal what it is. And if the band looks more of a "miss" in "hit-and-miss" in terms of recognition in the wider scene, one can't really argue about their high quality and that's what you should keep in mind. While Professor Black wrote Dawnbringer's Into the Lair of the Sun God (2012) in the key of H (Headless Cross, Heaven Forbid, Hammerheart, Hail to England, Holy Diver...), The Powers That Be looks like written in the key of R regarding bands, and you can spot the Running Wild influence in "Freedom" or an overall vibe of Riot. The quality of songs like "Dying Sun", "We Will Rise" and "When the World Was Mine" is unmatchable. Do yourself a favor and don't let this band pass you by.

Check also: IRON FATE - Crimson Messiah

 



8. UNTO OTHERS - Strength

After changing the name from Idle Hands to Unto Others, the lads from Portland, thankfully, didn't lose their momentum and the second full-length album is here with us, through a bigger record label. Let me add just one note about this change. It's always great for a band to be in the roster of a label such as historical and big like Roadrunner but in the modern era of the music industry, once a label can offer the same things in terms of royalties, distribution and promotion, you probably need to check only how easy or difficult the communication and co-operation can be. What do I mean? Unless it is a band choice, having the CD version of Strength already released in September and vinyl not yet out, looks like something "wrong" or something just not planned well for a label such as Roadrunner, let alone the lack of proper distribution in specific territories where Unto Others have a strong fan base (talking about Greece). Pre-ordering like half a year earlier, is not something the fans really like too. Back to the album, Gabe and Co. delivered a brilliant release that just lacks the element of surprise Mana had. It happens many times in music history and this is an unavoidable trap. The new album has one of the best sounds of any album released in 2021. What an amazing production this is! Courtesy of Arthur Rizk's wizardry and settings, Strength has the SONGS and a beautiful bittersweet feeling that after a few listens it becomes addictive, with all those excellent hooks and melodies. Still though, Strength needs its time to dwell its melancholy within you but in the end you will be rewarded.

Check also: LUNAR SHADOW's Wish to Leave is an album you're gonna like too. Actually, Max Birbaum's band is not really doing what Idle Hands (now Unto Others) did, since you  already had the magnificent "Roses" track in The Smokeless Fires album that was a hint for the future, let alone that all "this thing" was already in the scene here and there, and Lunar Shadow was always a diverse band with an enormous variety of influences, bands from any genre you can think but also inspiration from life, night and everything Max could breath, hear, see and feel. The album is not as negative as it may sound in the first place, it has an excellent sound opposed to many overproduced metal albums and Max understands that not everyone needs to ride that train to the end, but he'll stay a little while longer and see where it takes him. We're aboard with him.

 



7. IRON MAIDEN - Senjutsu

When the first song "The Writing on the Wall" was published, I didn't like it at all. I still don't, even if the guitar solo part sounds great, but in the album's flow it doesn't bother me.  The most negative issue I noticed at that specific track was Bruce Dickinson's performance, the production and the songwriting itself. Let's take them one by one and see how different they can be when the physical copy is on your stereo.

Bruce sounded a bit tired on that first track and like a vowel singer more than ever. When I used to listen to older Maiden tracks, I could understand every word without needing to read the lyrics (even if that completes the listening experience). However, in the new album it doesn't really happen. That means something. Well, the man was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and he beat that. And he still sings in the Heavy Metal Empire so he is a hero. But, sometimes it sounds like there is a problem with the pronunciation of the "s" letter or his joint but weird enough, this comes and goes and it is not something you listen to the complete album. Iron Maiden are recording in the way the songs should be performed live, so I guess that the songs that will be included in the setlist intentionally have some "imperfections" or it just happened.  

Jumping to production, the album also has the live feeling, just like most of the Maiden albums after Dickinson's and Smith's comeback. But how's the sound? It depends on the format and where you're listening to the album. If you believe that everywhere it is the same, sorry but you're wrong. Or you just don't know correctly about how a new album should be mastered. And that's because a new album should have three different masterings, one for the CD, one for vinyl and one for digital outlets. So, you have three different "sounds" plus it always depends where you're listening to the album. The album is not perfect in terms of production but never forget that this is also a matter of taste, let alone the fact that one can't ignore what the artists really want for their art. Let's say that digitally the limitations are stronger, CD is just... CD, and vinyl sounds much better with a warm analogue sound that sounds more outspread. So, if you want a better sound experience for Senjutsu, I suggest the vinyl format. Instruments? Bass guitar is loud as always, the three guitars don't always justify the "there-are-three-guitarists!" and the days of the glorious Smith/Murray dual masterwork and Birch-sound of the '80s is a long past. If someone believes that current producer Kevin Shirley is not a good one, oh lord, you are so naive! He is a top producer but here you probably have what Cap' Steve wants and asks for. What I really enjoyed about this album's sound is the drum set. Organic and nice, a thing I am missing sometimes in the era of all those Sabaton-whatever overproduced albums where everything is red-locked, triggered and sampled.

And finally, what about the songwriting, the thing that matters most? If you don't like what the British legend is doing over the past years, this album won't change your mind. But if you liked The Book of Souls you're loving this one already. It is that simple, but damn... who needs one minute of waves and seagulls at "Darkest Hour" or the ten minutes of "Death of the Celts" that could be cut down to seven? And there's more to cut, including parts of those long intros but anyways, this album has "Hell on Earth", one of the best Maiden songs of the past 30 years, "The Parchment" and "Darkest Hour" that brings back the glory of the last three solo Dickinson albums. By the way, Bruce sounds so awesome on this track, like it's a different session from "Stratego" and a few other songs. Like this will be a studio-only track so he doesn't care how it will sound live. If you think that I mentioned too negative things in an album that's so high in the list, it's Iron Fuckin' Maiden and the empire strikes back.

Check also: SKYEYE - Soldiers of Light

 



6. THRONEHAMMER - Incantation Rites

7 songs, 75 minutes. Damn you sludgers, that's epic! Just by that, you can understand what to expect. And it won't fail you. The UK/Germany based band features past and present members of many underground acts, and delivers crushing ultra heavy doom metal with a sludge vibe alongside an epic feeling and lyrics. Confident vocals with an excellent emotional performance, huge riffs, an insane guitar tone, huge riffs, a monolithic and suitable rhythm section, huge riffs, a strong '90s British doom (and doom/death) metal vibe and huge riffs. Tracks like "A Fading King" and "Of Mountaintops and Glacial Tombs" simply rule.  This album is a beast. An earthquake. Heavy as Godzilla marching.

Check also: WORM - Foreverglade

 



5. SEVEN SISTERS - Shadow of a Fallen Star Pt.1

That album is dominated by the art of great songwriting and the lost art of great vocal lines. Damn, I miss that thing! Well, there aren't many out there that can do what Shadow Gallery did, but we're missing even the basic stuff. Not many people understand that the most important thing in a song, is the songwriting, and part of it, is also the vocal lines. A few of the greatest songs in metal music were arranged around a vocal line, just like a few of the early Ozzy Osbourne albums where Oz had the vocal line, the song title and a few words here and there, and then the band built the song around it. Or what Dio was doing in his solo career. How important is the vocal line? Very, very much! Like a song within a song, the thing that stays with you, the melody you sing. The thing that's missing in KKs Priest's debut album Sermons of the Sinner that was out the same period with Seven Sister's third album. Having the better singer doesn't mean you will have the better songwriting, or the better vocal lines, or the better performance, and in the end, you don't have the better album. And one can say that Tim Owens is a better singer than Kyle McNeill and no one will fight this opinion of course, but does it really matter when we're talking about music? In the end of the day, Owens rips his throat screaming here and there, but for the year 2021 and those albums, McNeill is a performer while Ripper is a screamer. And Tim's problem, just like many singers that "can hit the note, can keep the tone, can blah blah blah" is that he can't write good vocal lines. And as it seems, no one in KK's Priest did it for him, while Seven Sisters' Shadow of a Fallen Star Pt.1 is full of great vocal lines and a better songwriting. The youngsters from the United Kingdom put to shame many older bands, many better singers, many better musicians, many better "put-what-you-want-here" because they have the SONGS. Sorry, but you can have the better singer or the better guitarist but if you don't have the songs, you have shit. Shadow of a Fallen Star Pt.1 rules. It's full of great hooks, great melodies, great guitar parts, great vocal lines, GREAT SONGS.

More heavy, clean or dirty, metal to check: BLACK SOUL HORDE - Horrors from the Void, FORTRESS - Don't Spare the Wicked, HEAVY SENTENCE - Bang to Rights, HERZEL - Le Dernier Rempart, KONQUEST - The Night Goes On, LUCIFER'S HAMMER - The Trip, PORTRAIT - At One with None, TOWER - Shock to the System, TYRANN - Djävulens Musik, WANTON ATTACK - Wanton Attack

  



4. FUNERAL MIST - Deiform

It came out of nowhere. One of the best black metal releases of the past years will be the paradox of the years to come since you won't see it in most of the "top lists" of 2021. Why? Check the prologue. But who cares about lists besides the fun of making them since they (maybe) only represent the moment? Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and satanic voice, Daniel Rostén (using the name Arioch in Funeral Mist, also known as Mortuus in Marduk) delivers another different album in Funeral Mist's dark catalogue. From the chanting of the "Twilight of the Flesh", to the child choir in "Children of Urn" and the doomy "Deiform", Arioch added an atmosphere and parts of a melodic lunacy that showcase his many talents redefining Funeral Mist. You still have the Marduk-like ultra speed but Funeral Mist is Funeral Mist, a different beast releasing different albums of orthodox and unorthodox black metal that rips your spirit. I didn't expect such an album, ravenous and atmospheric, a milestone for the years to come, capturing the old essence of black metal. To catch up things, Rostén is not the regular guy you will see often in interviews and has a shady character that will be brought upfront in a few cases. If that's an issue, you don't have to listen to Deiform and you will survive the spiritual violence. Otherwise, here's a modern black metal masterpiece for your black soul.

Check also: FLUISTERAARS - Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking, SPECTRAL WOUND - A Diabolic Thirst, UNGFELL - Es Grauet

 



3. MEMORY GARDEN - 1349

The best doom metal album of 2021 comes from Sweden and that's not a surprise. It took them a while but the power-doom masters known as Memory Garden offer us their best album since Mirage (2000). With a crystal clear production and a masterful sound, 1349 is a conceptual album and the storyline covers both fact and fiction, taking place during the pandemic years of the black plague, released the years of a modern pandemic. A classy album in the vein of the fewer albums and style you can think of, the one of previous Memory Garden albums and also Candlemass' Chapter VI and the milestones of Memento Mori. Power doom metal, skillful and technical (do you want to add the "progressive" term?) with excellent melodies, huge riffs and really great guitar solos, something that's missing from modern metal releases. Bring us back our solos! Don't put one just because you have to, write the one that the song needs! Just like Memory Garden! There are so many highlights here that makes no sense to separate a few parts but let's just add that singer Stefan Berglund is an underrated vocalist with a voice that's an iconic part for Memory Garden. I don't think it is necessary to add how great guitarist Simon Johansson is, right? He is a master of his craft and a part of what I call "the Scandinavian metal style" that includes the likes of Hank Shermann, Michael Denner, Andy La Rocque and Mike Wead. That specific Scandinavian guitar metal style is very heavy, suitable for power metal bands (but not the US power metal bands or the Helloween-style bands), doom bands with power metal elements, it is technical and there are always many solo parts. That's one thing that you will find in 1349. Listen to the album and you will find more if you're looking for a high quality doom metal release.

Check also: SERVANTS TO THE TIDE same-titled debut album is a melancholic, dramatic, and melodic doom metal offering influenced by bands such as Atlantean Kodex and While Heaven Wept, and it sounds as the beginning of greater things to come.

 



2. STORMKEEP - Tales of Othertime

Isaac Faulk is a youngster born the year of Black Sabbath's Headless Cross and Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, also known as the drummer of Blood Incantation and Wayfarer, here using the (complete) stage name of Grandmaster Otheyn Vermithrax Poisontongue, handling vocals, guitars and additional key sorcery, writing also the majority of the album. With a company of other counts and lords, they created one more hyped awaited underground black metal record following 2020's highly-acclaimed Galdrum EP. "Stormkeep represents medieval fantasy, ancient legends and magick exclusively" is written in the booklet of the album, with its first pressing in both CD and vinyl format sold-out within a few days. What do we have here? Here is what we can call "epic black metal" (or "symphonic black metal", that once was called "majestic black metal") with its melodic parts, the dungeon synth and the fantasy lyrics. There are so many things that make this medieval black metal (you can also call it like this) cool: the riffs, the interludes and synths, the adventurous spirit, the storms and the dragons, but most importantly, the brilliant songwriting. And the Top-2 album of 2021 can go hand in hand with...

 



1. MORGUL BLADE - Fell Sorcery Abounds

The hyped debut album that will pierce your flesh is something really outstanding. Epic heavy metal with a nod to second wave black metal, clean and harsh vocals, and lyrics about Nazgul, magick and might, forlorn battlefields, heroic deeds and beings of unlimited power. If it sounds cool and nerdy, it's actually much greater. The 4-piece from Philadelphia, PA, USA presents something unique. It is not "epic black metal", it is not like all those Bathory-inspired acts and definitely not like those "blackened heavy metal" or "blackened thrash metal" bands you already know. And even if the band also loves Malokarpatan, it's still not the same. Fell Sorcery Abounds brings something new and actually it is epic heavy metal with huge riffs ("Sons of the Night" is the year's ultimate banger!) and each song has the vocals it needs. Name them evil, or the Witch King's voice, or the sound of demons' walk amongst men. And then, you have a voice that appears like an oak in the mist, or a voice that will light the flame. They know it or not, there's also a strong vibe of Hellenic black metal therein, and Morgul Blade's Fell Sorcery Abounds was equally loved by the underground metal fans and by band members of acts such as Smoulder and Lamp of Murmuur. We don't know where the second album will take us, the band members keep digging and following the current underground metal scene while they're also establishing themselves in the top of the current best newcomers. But this album is a breakthrough. It rules, it's a banger, it's Nazgul Metal!


Hopes and wishes for 2022? Freedom! We hope this pandemic-thing will end.


Σάββατο 21 Αυγούστου 2021

Into the Pandemonium: A study in the context, what's right and what's left in metal music press, the past and today.


There is a huge difference in printed music media during the years even within the same company / brand name / magazine. The reasons? Too many. A few of them will be mentioned in this article, but most importantly it is the change of seasons, the change of the audience, the change of people within the same publication, the change of music itself.

Written by Andreas Andreou


Personally, I've been dealt with the printed media for many years, as a writer-editor in magazines and newspapers writing about the art of film and (heavy metal) music. I think I have most of the magazines I wrote but definitely I don't have all those newspapers from my hometown. The more backwards we go, the better money a writer was taking (myself included), while now this looks like science fiction in the current music press where a huge part works for free.

I’ve been also writing for various online media in different countries. I don’t remember everything I have wrote and few of those online media are gone, deleted from the World Wide Web, reminding me that quote from the Blade Runner 2049 film: "Then ten days of darkness. Every machine stopped cold. When the lights came back, we were wiped clean. Photos, files, every bit of data. Gone. Bank records, too. Didn't mind that. Its funny only paper lasted. I mean, we had everything on drives. Everything, everything, everything".

That "only print is real" tag, sometimes is scary but that’s what will probably last. In an imaginary post-apocalyptic world, when everything might be lost, the story of the past will be based on hard copies that survived. Just like those old books and writings which the modern world has based its history upon.

I remember when I was writing for cinema, sometime like 15-20 years ago, where I had a column presenting one new film you must watch, one new film you must avoid and a classic film to revisit. There was a couple of money but from some point and on, it was, "Andreas, things are getting difficult and we already have many people coming from journalism schools that will work for free, they only want to see their name printed". Can you imagine? Did it all started like this? Who knows… I kept seeing my name printed for a while but there wasn't anything entering the pocket, until I stopped due to the lack of time and while I was also working for construction companies back then (before entering the music industry and become part of it), time was very limited for free things.

Someone might say that this is one reason why media in general (online mainly… probably) have such a low level sometimes. Writing, ideas, reviews, interviews look really mediocre and unimportant sometimes. It’s like everyone entered the field without any kind of filter. In the last issue of Iron Fist magazine there are like ten people in total, including publisher and graphic designer, while there are other magazines and online media of much less quality where you can find like thirty people or more. What are all these people doing? Publishers need to have as many people they can since there’s not a "job" for regulars and contributors who have entered a free-willing hobby-like status.

When you're writing for a long time, but most important when you’re reading for a long time, you can understand what’s not "good". Very clearly. Articles about older albums and bands that are just copying the main information from Wikipedia or older features. Interviews with the same boring questions, no depth, no interest in the art, or occasionally you see interviewers that ask a question expecting (and getting) the answer they want in order to satisfy a personal opinion. That's lame. In the end, most of those interviews are like watching Tony Iommi without moustache and the cross; they’re weird and incomplete.

Times are changing and the digital world is expanded to the point that anyone can create something online, just like this poor blog you're reading now where someone is writing a huge text that's against the present era's "reading-only-headlines" false mentality.

Those of you that are not tired reading yet and will continue, know that everywhere you can find good writers; in online and printed media. If you believe that this is not true and that every printed media that's been kept going for decades is crap, stop reading because there are 7000 more words here and you will lose your time. You probably have an opinion stuck in your head like a stubborn boy that doesn't like Marvel and DC superheroes or sugar or bacon. Who didn't like Batman or ice cream or pizza?


 

Back to the past.

Most likely, everything started with the impact of Billboard magazine that also introduced to the audience the Billboard Charts, the blueprint of "charts" tracking the best-selling records (note: the last many years they are not completely valid), leading to all those "top" and "best of" lists. Then it was publications (magazines and newspapers) like Melody Maker, NME (New Musical Express), Record Mirror, Record Collector, Rolling Stone, Hit Parader, Sounds, Circus, Creem and many more. Reaching the ‘80s, there were hard rock and heavy metal magazines worldwide like Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Metal Forces, Rock Hard, Enfer and Aardschok among others. From the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and on, while metal music was changing, there were more heavy metal magazines, extreme music magazines, plus publications focused in modern heavy and metal music. Among them: Terrorizer, Zero Tolerance, Revolver, Decibel, Iron Fist and Deaf Forever. Finally, all this time, there were also magazines focused in instruments and their musicians, like Guitar Player, Guitar World and Modern Drummer.

For those that are still reading, let's continue with the changes. There are many known magazines over the years, so hypothetically, let's assume they’re all a heavy metal magazine that's called "Crystal Logic Heavy Metal" (C.L.H.M. in short) and started sometime in the early to mid '80s.

Back in the '80s, you could buy records of bands like Loudness but how many times had you seen how really Akira Takasaki or Minoru Niihara looked like besides that photo on the back of the vinyl cover? Magazines back then had a strong power on presenting the image. Sometimes, the images were stronger than texts themselves, even in major names like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe. In the context of that era, you didn't have the opportunity to read something like what you're reading just right now on your hi-tech mobile phone or computer. You couldn't see hundreds of Ozzy or Dio photos with the press of a button. You were just waiting for C.L.H.M. to hold it in your hands, see the photos and the posters, and put them on your wall. With the lack of the internet and the World Wide Web, anything you could see and read was "something".

In the context of that era, that was powerful, just like the events surrounding the artists. If you were reading that Ozzy had bitten the head of a bat, that looked insane and not stupid. If you were reading that Nikki Sixx broke his hotel room and fought with security under the drug influence, it looked dangerous and not stupid. If you were reading about Vince Neil's drunk driving accident after a party with drugs and women, and the manslaughter conviction for killing Hanoi Rocks' Razzle, that looked like an extreme part of the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" '80s subculture and not stupid. Incidents like those weren't "here today - gone tomorrow" news. They're still part of the hard and heavy music culture and history that were spread beyond the fans of the bands and music, all over the international press. It was the press that made those incidents part of the heavy metal subculture and today have reached the status of a legend.

Today, all those would look stupid but in the context of the '80s, they weren’t. They looked insane, dangerous, part of the hard an' heavy music subculture that was corrupting the youth according to the conservatism of that era. And part of that era, were all those magazines too. If someone will read an old article from a magazine of that era and bring it in the context of the present day, it might be funny or silly. Not just the write-up, but also an interview, the questions and the answers, even if the interviewee is someone well known. That was the context of the era. A completely different thing where music and attitude were hand in hand.

If we will see everything outside of their context, magazines and music press in the '80s might be silly and cheesy but then, so could be all the Ozzys and Crües and King Diamonds and Quorthons of the '80s. Were they? It doesn't matter. That was a different era where they could do all of these things, they could have said anything they wanted and press was following in the same manner, asking everything but music. It was a time where offending didn't offend everyone, just the people outside that subculture. In hindsight, you can understand that in the modern, digital world of the present day, people and ways change. Everyone is offended more easily and things are also more sensitive, so the press also changed and also did most of the artists in their interviews, too.

You still have Yngwie Malmsteen though, saying anything he wants without caring for everyone else but most of the artists are very careful. Sometimes, before interviewing a musician from a major band, press might be advised not to ask specific things or they want to check the questions before and they will chose what to answer.

 

It is said that heavy metal in the ‘80s used to be a dangerous music (just like rock in the ‘70s) but in the 2020s, that lack of danger and attitude has changed everything that can be presented to a wider audience in hard and heavy metal music. Nowadays, you can’t built a hype if you will do or say something extreme. Sometimes it won’t even bother the media while in the old days (up to the ‘90s that are already two decades ago…), they were looking for that. That’s a huge change in the current metal subculture, including artists and media since now it’s mostly about the music. Acts don’t really matter and they’re easily becoming old news. You still have extreme ideas and acts, especially in extreme subgenres of metal music but today, media are very careful of what they present unless a well-known musician will enter the radio station with his cock out banging the desk like Tommy Lee did sometime in 1987. Still though, Mötley Crüe's sexism would have a different impact nowadays. Can you imagine that act today? Everything changes. Sometimes, things need to change.

 

That "Crystal Logic Heavy Metal" magazine in the ‘80s had also reviews. There was Iron Maiden, Saxon, and the bands emerging from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the bands that were getting heavier and more extreme leading to thrash metal and there were also a few other bands presenting something different. The "different" thing in the ‘80s didn’t always meet the acceptance of evolution or change, so when bands like Celtic Frost started adding different and out-of-the-box elements in their music, press was brutal. It was brutal when Black Sabbath firstly appeared in 1970, do you think Celtic Frost would have an easier treatment in 1987?

Let’s remember an interesting story that speaks about the context of an existing heavy metal magazine in the ‘80s. Back then, a few editors and magazines believed they really had power and actually they really had because it was affecting the musicians, their albums and the readers that wanted to be part of it. Metal Forces' editor Bernard Doe had something like a personal war against Thomas Gabriel Fischer and ended with a rating of 0 out 100 for Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium (review at issue 24), mentioning among others, "I put the knife into the Frosties latest piece of shit", "If there was ever a case for Manowar's 'Death to False Metal' slogan to be slapped on a piece of vinyl, then this is it", and "The most talentless hyped garbage that the metal scene has ever had the misfortune to be associated with". That specific Metal Forces issue also carried a full-page advert of Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium, meaning that the magazines back then, didn’t really care if they will disappoint the labels which were advertised. That was power. Or arrogance because many of them couldn't foretold the changes of the future including the decline in physical sales in music and the press.

Metal Forces magazine, based in the UK, was presenting a huge part of the underground metal scene of that period, including bands like Cities, Jag Panzer, Pantera of Power Metal era (with a generous review of 95 out of 100), Attacker, even Syrus and Oliver Magnum. It was a magazine that offered huge support and cover stories to bands like King Diamond, Candlemass (rating both Abigail and Nightfall with 99 out of 100) and Bathory but they didn’t really followed what they considered "mainstream metal".

On the other hand, it was funny seeing a metal magazine where in the writers' top albums of 1988 you could see Operation: Mindcrime, ...And Justice for All, South of Heaven and Transcendence but there was nowhere in the Top-20 list an album like Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. It is said sometimes that the "true metal" tag was founded in the '90s but that's not the truth since it has been used in Metal Forces since the '80s. Manowar wanted to kill "false metal" since 1983, so there had to be that "true metal", right? Metal Forces was a magazine that wanted to present that "true metal" and keep distances from mainstream metal. And while Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son didn't find its way in the writers and readers' top list for 1988, it was also the previous album of the British metal legend that was smashed by the magazine. In the issue 20, you will find a review of Somewhere in Time with a rating of 66 out of 100 with "synth-this" and "synth-that" comments, a "change of instrumentation" and a "temptation to slag off a major band's new album". That was written. You see, Iron Maiden had already a huge success touring worldwide, so keyboards and synths, was a "bad" thing for "true" metallers back in the '80s. And even if Seventh Son of a Seventh Son had a better acceptance from everyone, still it took a while for a few regressive fans to accept it and I can't even imagine how a few would feel when "Moonchild" started with the keyboards. That was enough for a few of them.     

The readers of the magazine didn’t fail them and Iron Maiden of 1988 didn’t make it to the "top album" list of Metal Forces while Metallica was the big winner (number 1 in all main categories). Why did it happen? In their pre-Black Album era, Metallica always had the mentalism of an underground metal band, even after the 1986 tour with Ozzy Osbourne, even during the release of …And Justice for All when they started playing in huge venues. Those fans felt them closer to their mentality. And they didn’t have synths.

Metal Forces also took its revenge against Celtic Frost who after Cold Lake were voted by the readers as the second "biggest joke" (yes, that was a category in the annual poll). According to the readers, Glam was the "biggest joke", followed by Manowar, Anthrax, Bon Jovi, Poison, and… Posers. That was a typical annual result in a metal magazine in the '80s, where Steve Harris was always in the "best bassist" list, Doro and Lita Ford were most of the times the "best female singer", while Bon Jovi and Poison were the strongest candidates for the "worst band". Sometimes, you could also see Jon Bon Jovi in the "best female singer" category, and that was part of the context for heavy metal magazines and their readers in the ‘80s. It wasn’t just the magazines, it was the readers too. Worldwide. So, if a few people in Germany, England, Italy, Greece, or the United States of America believe that it was just the metal press in their country, they’re wrong. The magazines and the editors could influence the audience, could make angry the audience, in a few cases could even affect sales but there was a wider context and kind of thinking within the heavy metal press and fans during the ‘80s and early ‘90s.   

In the UK, you also had the Kerrang! magazine with Geoff Barton as its managing editor, often cited as "the heaviest of the heaviest in heavy metal" but that wasn't really the truth. You could locate obscure heavy metal bands like Apollo Ra within its pages but if you could see those '80s issues, with the crazy colours, pink covers, even adding Aerosmith with Run-DMC in one of them, you could clearly understand that it was a magazine that included rock, melodic rock, hard rock and glam among heavy metal but there, a mainstream metal band like Iron Maiden was a tour de force that even in 1985 was voted as best band without a studio album while there was also artists like Marillion, FM and Pat Benatar in the "top lists". It wasn't exactly the "heavy metal" magazine a few people expected, especially when there was even a full-page shampoo advertisement, a "shampoo kind to your hair, specially formulated to leave it soft, shiny and manageable", or advertisements about Lee, "the jeans that built America". No wonder why readers of other magazines like Metal Forces considered Kerrang! posers.

Sometimes, press was brutal in music that wasn’t so "metal" for the magazine that carried the "heavy metal" title and that continued all the way up to the early ‘90s. Editors back in the ‘80s (and ‘70s too) thought they really had the power and could write anything they want. A hypothetical magazine called "Crystal Logic Heavy Metal" is probably supposed to concentrate in all the genres of metal music. That’s its title after all. So, when sometimes there were a few bands from melodic rock or AOR presented, they didn’t have a proper review, if any, while sometimes glam bands had the treatment of lipstick boys more than their music. But is it something you can blame the C.L.H.M. magazine? Thinking in the context of that era, probably not. That was what a majority of the readers also believed back then.

So, besides the context of the era, there’s always the context of each magazine. And just like the "Crystal Logic Heavy Metal" magazine that didn’t present all the Journeys and Totos of this world, that’s similar with the "Pop and Rock" type of magazines that didn’t present all the Iron Maidens and Slayers of this world. Of course, these examples are major names, so they did write about them sometimes but they never really got the point. Just like all those "Pop and Rock" magazines that every less-known than the typical 5-6 major heavy metal bands they knew, was presented "like Iron Maiden but not that good" or "like Judas Priest but not that good". It was funny finding reviews talking about early Queensrÿche like a second-class-Maiden-clone that "won’t last" or "Pop and Rock" articles in 1989 writing "heavy metal is dead" features. But that was the context of all the Pop-and-Rock magazines, just like the Heavy Metal magazines. Different context in a different era.

The "failed" reviews of the past (just like Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium) made a new generation of fans acting like prophets while the prophecy was already completed. And while it was mostly the press that foretold about bands and albums that "made it", it is always the "failure of the press" that people will remember, either it is commercial, either artistic, either the acceptance just changed with the passing of time for both press and audience. It happens in many forms of art. And while Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium was praised by other printed media, if they had disbanded after Cold Lake and their influence (somehow) wouldn't cast a shadow over the '90s and beyond, that Metal Forces review would look prophetic. But it wasn't. Many others were though. So in the press over the years - printed and online - you will always have articles that will be remembered and also people (afterwards) acting like prophets while the prophecy was already completed. The only difference is that on online media you can "edit" or "erase" the failure and the mistake. Thomas Gabriel Fischer would wish to erase Cold Lake too but isn’t it like changing the history and the past? That’s what press is also about; a look in the past and what people thought and believed. That’s a view on the past through different eyes even if people of the future will change their minds and/or see things with a different view.   

 

Forward to the present day for a while. There is this bold title in the latest Classic Rock magazine with the Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance cover, that’s writing "Heavy Metal’s Unsung Heroes". Classic Rock is a huge brand name magazine, one of the biggest out there, one of the most important according to labels and bands, therefore one of the leading forces in rock music; a mainstream brand. Just like all those magazines that a few people are used to blame for everything that’s wrong without even reading them, but there’s a reason those magazines are out there for so long. They’re part of the scene, they’re part of the music industry, they have followers and friends, and they’re offering something to the audience. That’s why they’re still there. There are reasons for that, especially when they survive in the modern, digital era while others already gave up years before. There’s no luck in survival.

So, Classic Rock survived and rules part of the scene but many metal fans will laugh with the "Heavy Metal’s Unsung Heroes" headline on the cover of the August 2021 issue. Why? Simply because Judas Priest are "unsung" heroes only compared to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. You can’t really find many more heavy metal bands that are standing higher than Priest in terms of acceptance and popularity. If someone knows just 10-15 heavy metal bands, Judas Priest is one of them, so they’re not "unsung". An unsung heavy metal band is Riot.

Speaking of Riot, it was Classic Rock magazine that presented the reissue of Riot’s Thundersteel with a rating of 5 out of 10, mentioning that it "just sounds like a tinny, poor man’s Judas Priest" (issue 141, February 2010). Let’s stick to it for a while, not about blaming Classic Rock, but about the context, the writers and what a review is (really) about.

That specific review was written by Geoff Barton and I can’t really explain how important he is for the metal press so you can just "google" him. After all, that’s what many of the writers do nowadays: googling! Checking online to find the information, dates, everything, even copying texts from online sources, changing a few words and voila! You have your "article". Today, the information is very easy and that leads to less work and less thinking for the mediocre media. Looking back to history and what’s written in the press, sometimes, new-era writers are afraid to speak their mind and make the audience intrigued so we’re seeing countless reviews with ratings of 9 and 10 to 10, something that’s slightly insane. Looks like a few modern-age writers (in both printed and online media) can’t separate what’s really great from what’s just an average release and they just don’t want to be "remembered" as the ones that "failed" to "understand" a future classic album.

How does a proper, long and detailed review should normally look nowadays?
A. Informing the genre. The author should be clear about it and not just writing lines like "a dark vibe from hell coming straight from the heart of Satan reminding the Northern demons". He can just write, "This is black metal in the vein of Mayhem". Simple. Music writers should write about music and not trying to sound "poetic". If it is an already established band, it’s not a redundancy to write two more words (f.e. "black metal") and the scribe should mention if the band is faithful to their style or if there are musical changes.
B. Adding information about the album. Members, production, even cover art, everything that is part of the physical release but not just copying the EPK.
C. Where this album stands in the present day and where it really stands looking back in the past. For example, in 2021 Helloween released a new same-titled album reuniting past members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen. The writer should add where the album stands in the present day and the present standards of the genre (it can be rated just for that) but for such an important brand name, he should also add where the album really stands in the discography of the band. If the scribe wants to rate that album with a 9 or 10 out of 10 without adding the above detail, Helloween will look like an equal or a better release than Walls of Jericho and Keeper of the Seven Keys. Is it? It's been already more than three decades from those classic Helloween albums, so do you believe that in three decades from now, Helloween will be equally remembered? That's the kind of questions that must be analyzed unless the scribe and the press will ignore completely the past and see music just as a present thing. Is this correct?
D. Writer’s personal taste and opinion. That’s when a writer can ignore "C". Music is also about the personal taste and analyzing an album through a personal view, sometimes is very interesting, even if it is against a rational flow and objective musical criteria, as long it is not leveling as far as the value and the past of the artist concerns. The text should always be more important than the rating and you can’t really blame the personal taste. There lies the true power of music: The music that makes you feel something is more important than any objectivity. And that’s personal. As for the one who writes it? If the scribe feels so, it should be written.

So, if you want to write a good review (an interesting text) the steps are easy: What’s the album, the information about it, trying to be objective, placing the album in the context of the present day and standards (analyzing the album’s value in the context of the present day is very interesting), seeing where it stands in the history of the band (or the genre), and adding a personal view. "C" and "D" might challenge each other but that might be intriguing if the write-up is interesting. Always remember, the text should be more important than the rating. The scribe can add any kind of rating but the text is the important thing, even if many of the readers are only looking to the rating. The text is the most important thing, how objective or personal or intriguing it is. To be honest, rating might not be needed but that’s something of a standard in music press.  


Back to the Classic Rock. Just like what we already mentioned, it’s a CLASSIC ROCK magazine after all, so they can have their mistakes (if you can call it so) outside their field. NEVER FORGET THE CONTEXT. Just like the mistakes and/or the ignorance of each "Crystal Logic Heavy Metal" magazine towards classic rock, you will have the same of each "Pop and Rock" magazine towards heavy metal. You can disagree with the "Heavy Metal’s Unsung Heroes" headline of Classic Rock, you can disagree with that 5 out of 10 rating for Riot’s Thundersteel but it might be just the writer’s personal taste and opinion. Is it always correct? That’s up to the reader. Can you blame a rock magazine that wrote something about heavy metal, even if it’s historically and practically wrong? That’s up to the reader. Can you blame a heavy metal magazine that will write sometime something invalid about pop and/or AOR, even if it’s wrong or slightly insulting? That’s up to the reader. Very few articles and interviews can have an impact in music and definitely not those outside the context of each magazine. You don’t have to buy a heavy metal magazine to read about classic rock or AOR, and you don’t have to buy a classic rock magazine to read about heavy and thrash metal.  

But should a magazine like Classic Rock write only about "rock", and not about heavy metal or thrash metal? NO. They can just find people knowing and following the scene without sticking to the older established major bands. It’s simple. Problem (if you can call it so) is that a few brand name magazines look like they’re depending to "brand name" editors of the past, ending sometimes magazines of the past (under a mainstream umbrella). Of course, there’s no disrespect to any of all those GeoffBartons and MalcolmDomes and Paul Elliotts of this world but sometimes, that type of editors that have lived Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard in their heights, will see almost everything else like "poor man’s Judas Priest" and "poor man’s Iron Maiden". That’s the writer’s personal taste and opinion, bringing the newer and/or less known artist in the context of the past comparing it with the older legends and their music but they’re missing the context of today and the present standards, ignoring also the future and the possible impact to it. Just like those who wrote that Queensrÿche sound like a second-class-Maiden-clone that "won’t last" in the early ‘80s.


Genre purists, boomers and mainstream media.

Just like a few editors that were in the front line in the ‘80s and early  '90s, there is a very specific idea of what "classic rock", "hard rock" and "heavy metal" are, also accepting mainly bands that are having commercial success and historical value. But there, we’re entering another road of fans and how they view a few magazines and music in general.

It is very common in rock, punk, metal, many kinds of music that many fans are trying to degrade other genres and bands in order to incorrectly highlight what they prefer as a "better" genre. It's the "genre purists" who believe they know the "better music". In the "I-know-better-than-you" stubborn attitude, someone will say that black and death metal is just noise, someone will say that AOR is just soft butter and cheese music, someone will say that punk is just about social lyrics and the same noisy music, someone will say that neoclassical metal and shredding is guitar masturbation, someone will say that classic rock is dad-music, someone will say that traditional metal is music for teenagers or people who still live with their parents, and someone will say that grunge is a subculture of people who don’t know how to play. They’re all wrong and no one really knows everything, neither can cancel anything else. From the moment that there’s a subgenre or music style out there and it has the bands, the labels and its audience, it will have its airplay and will be also part of the press.

So, getting back to the music press, from the moment that there is an audience for a music genre, press will cover it. The bigger the audience, the bigger the coverage, and that’s why many times you’re seeing specific bands ruling the media. Because at that specific time, they had the bigger audience, and the magazines that keep the audience, keep their circulation over the years. Sounds like business? Yes, it is.

At the same time, brand name magazines that have a specific target of mainstream music fans, will just keep writing about those classic and commercial artists, and they also need all those GeoffBartons and MalcolmDomes and Paul Elliotts of this world who could just call Brian Johnson, Joe Elliott, Sammy Hagar or Tony Iommi, and have a new exclusive comment or a brief interview for a new feature about the past. They were there in that glorious past, they met a few of those legends, and they have their private phone or private email or their manager’s contact, so they’re important for the publishers and chief editors of the mainstream media. You can’t blame all those for keeping the past alive but you probably can blame them for not looking to the future.

There’s also the other side of the coin too and I will make it short. It’s those new editors and fans that don’t care for genres and the past. Those who believe that all the Scorpions and Iron Maidens of the world are dinosaurs and their fans are "boomers". The only difference is that there aren’t GeoffBartons and MalcolmDomes on this side of the coin because those boomers built their name over the years and no matter what we say, this isn’t something easy. Just like everything in this life, one can have a hundred successes and one failure, but most of the time, some people only remember the failure. Isn’t it funny remembering only the failure?


Times are changing and so does music and the audience.

You had a few genres in the ‘80s but in the ‘90s each one of those genres gave birth to subgenres, others became relevant, others irrelevant, and also many new things appeared or older music evolved and transformed. Bands changed too, just like Fates Warning which left the debut album’s IronMaiden-ism for the progressive power metal acrobatics of Awaken the Guardian before leaving completely the "power metal" element in the ‘90s. The ‘90s was the season of changes for everything in the music industry and press also tried to follow, so you had heavy metal magazines trying to be relevant adding material that sounded irrelevant for their older audience. Part of that audience left, but while the readers were also changing, a few of those magazines managed to keep another part of their audience while they also gain a new one.

The audience is also changing. From the stubborn regressive fan that believes knowing everything already, to the person that believes that can learn anything with the press of a button online, up to the fans that never stop reading and learning and listening to new music. Even if music will stop today, we will never reach a point knowing everything already. Anyone can be an expert in specific things and have a solid opinion and idea but one can’t really know everything.

In the end, everything changed so much, that a magazine like the hypothetical "Crystal Logic Heavy Metal" could have in the same issue features and interviews from Whitesnake, Atlantean Kodex, Tool, Saxon, Slipknot and Napalm Death. In hindsight, it is proved that in the present day, the strict context is forgotten and that’s a huge change and difference with the past. We never stop learning. We should never stop learning.  

Still though, while the music industry also changes, underneath the current status there is a thrust to perpetuate the presence of all the classic bands; the brand names. Nostalgia and worship of the past is one of the main keys of how music industry is moving and the classic bands must stay with us forever, with one way or another. Older bands always get more attention when they are active and when a major act is touring or releasing new music, the music industry is moving around them: Record stores, concert promoters, and the press. Keeping the old will always be relevant.         


The Fanzines.

Music press is not just the magazines you can see everywhere. Over the years and while there is a hardcore audience focused in specific genres looking for in-depth information dwelling in each genre’s underground scene, there will also be the fanzines. Independent (sometimes homemade) press focused in specific subgenres providing features and interviews for albums and artists that will rarely make it to the mainstream press. There are pros and cons for fanzines. While the information through interviews could be the highlight and the reader can really find out something he was missing, learning new bands and albums, many times the write-up is poor and/or completely out of any context, facts and objectivity. A good fanzine though, could be a great source of information adding a missing or obscure link in the history of music and many of those fanzines of the past are excellent in that field.



Where music press is standing today?

In the context of each magazine according to its basic music genre, there are the historical facts, brand names and leading musicians/bands/albums that shaped the story of its wider context, so there is a line to follow. In this line, there are all those subgenres, older bands and all the new acts and albums of all subgenres, modern, new, hyped and traditional. There’s a big part of all the present music magazines that regressive fans of each genre won’t like but music has become a wider thing where not all people agree with. Even within a magazine, there are always different opinions between the writers. Writers that are also changing over the years, leading music magazines to different faces. Just like the football teams that are keeping the same brand name, in magazines you’re having many "players" changing and the "coach" keeping the line.

The change of people within the same magazine, is also an element that can affect it even if the audience keeps referring to the publication’s name. It can be very different, it can completely change, just like the athletic teams and bands that continue with the same name but they can have huge differences with their past. So, having in mind what and how something was written in the ‘80s, or the ‘90s, or the ‘00s, even within the same magazine, it might be completely different with what’s written in the 2020s. It is not just the magazine and the brand name but also the editors and people writing there too, that matter in the wider image.

Brand name magazines like Metal Hammer (founded and based in the UK in 1983) were published in different countries too, just like Rock Hard that was founded and based in Germany, also in 1983. A few of the local language editions met an important success in their countries and are still in circulation after many years, established as important players in the music industry while others didn't make it locally. In the beginning, a few of the local editions of magazines like Metal Hammer had translated texts from the British version but over the years they changed to something independent with their own editorial team and exclusive features keeping just the brand name. In the end, what might have the same brand name in the UK, in Germany, in Greece, even in Japan, can be a separate entity with its own context and impact.   


How the writing has changed over the years?

A LOT. While am reading constantly, from the 2010s and on, the information is more important and correct, while texts are more focused in music than anything else, something that’s more than obvious in the interviews. Nowadays editors have more sources to check and communication is easier with labels and musicians, so most of the work is the text itself. Having the long past and what’s already written, editors and magazines learned from mistakes of the past, except from older writers that can’t change.

In all those magazines that are still circulating, besides a few authors whose name is expanded beyond each publication, chief editors can interfere in texts, sometimes changing or erasing or adding something. This kind of "writing filter" was very rare in the '80s and the '90s while from the '00s and on it is more common, especially within writers that are not paid or it's not their main job. As it is already previously written in this article, the ‘80s and the ‘90s was a time where offending didn't offend everyone, just the people outside that subculture. But in the modern, digital world and the present day, people and ways change. Everyone is offended more easily and things are also more sensitive, so the press also changed trying not to offend a few musicians and especially the audience.

Printed magazines still have to work with strict deadlines, without second thoughts and edits like most of the online media, so if nowadays articles and interviews are better written and more informative why some people claim they preferred magazines the way they were in the long past?

Well, if you would browse a magazine in 1986 or 1987, you would read about Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time, Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy, Ozzy Osbourne’s The Ultimate Sin, Running Wild’s Under Jolly Roger and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, while in 2020 or 2021 you would read about Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu, Helloween’s same-titled album, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Parabellum, Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man, Running Wild’s Blood on Blood and Bon Jovi’s 2020.

In 1986 and 1987 you also had Slayer’s Reign on Blood, Fates Warning’s Awaken the Guardian, Queensrÿche’s Rage for Order, Dokken’s Back for the Attack, countless more, and albums of multi-million sales up to today from bands like Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Metallica. "OK boomer", someone might think but that’s something really important for all the boomers of the world.

So, while in the metal press of today you can read about the present acts and albums of all subgenres, over the last years, many magazines use to revisit older years, albums and bands, offering a new review of them with the present eye and in-depth information, something that press didn’t have back in the day. On a personal note, it is very important reading how the press and audience view an album like King Diamond’s Abigail when it was released but if an article will be written for that album today, it will be definitely better, as long as the writer won’t forget to add how it was viewed when it was released. Reaching musicians and people involved themselves for their memories, is also something adding value to the articles.


The illusion of knowledge.

In this blog that a few people are reading all this time, you can find interviews dated 5 or 10 years ago, that the author would completely change in the present date. Everything changes, everything can change. And if you will ask me, "why don’t you change or update those old interviews and articles herein?" I will reply that I probably don’t really like all those edits of the modern, digital world. I don’t find wrong the mistakes of the past and it is a good opportunity to seeing how things change and evolve. It's not bad to have a few mistakes there as a reminder so you will be better in the future. We will never stop learning because as someone once said, "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."

The press, the writers, promoters and the artists, they all have done something wrong, something great, something unnecessary in the past. It’s up to each individual to keep what they want to remember but we should always keep in mind that sometimes the memory remains for what is and what’s printed but also everything can change with the passing of time.  
 
There are so many bands out there and there are so many writers too but let’s not forget that you don’t have to be a musician so you can write about music, just like you don’t have to be a chef in order to say if you like a hamburger or not. It’s very simple. If there’s an objection, remember this: Just like anyone that can be a "writer" by writing something, everyone can be a "musician" by grabbing an instrument or just "singing". There will be just different results and impact. I remember trying to sing and play the guitar during my high-school years, even rehearsing with a few friends, but we weren’t that good. It’s very clear by looking back but in the early ‘90s we thought we were awesome and we were having fun. In hindsight you can understand that knowledge is something you’re gaining after many years and not something you’re born with. You might be smart or talented but that’s something different.

You might be a hard worker but you might lack of talent. You might be talented but you might be lazy. You might be smart but you could also be ignorant. Play the music you want, write the music you want, listen to the music you like, write about music if you wish. If there is an audience, you’re doing something good for them. Few or many, for a while or for a long time, forgotten or remembered.

In the end, it’s all about the music and the passion for music. That will remain.


All photos are from the author’s personal archive.