Saturday, October 31, 2009

Michael Amott Schedules Australian Appearances

Michael Amott, guitarist for the Swedish melodic death metal band Arch Enemy, has scheduled two personal appearances during the band's Australian tour:

• November 5 - Melbourne, AUS - KC's Rock Shop (1 p.m.)
• November 7 - Sydney, AUS - Mall Music, Warringah Mall (10 a.m.)

Arch Enemy's latest album, The Root of All Evil, has registered in the following first-week chart positions:

• Germany: #84
• Sweden: #69
• Japan: #21 [combined chart]
• Japan: #7 [international artist chart]

According to Nielsen SoundScan, The Root of All Evil sold approximately 1,500 copies in the U.S. during its first week of release. Officially released on September 28, 2009, the album features re-recorded versions of songs from Arch Enemy's first three LPs: Black Earth (1996), Stigmata (1998), and Burning Bridges (1999). The album was mixed and mastered by acclaimed British producer Andy Sneap (Testament, Exodus, Megadeth) and was recorded at a number of different locations in Sweden. It was produced by the band and all engineering was handled by Rickard Bengtsson and Daniel Erlandsson.

On September 30, the Japanese edition of The Root of All Evil was made available. This edition featured five bonus tracks, including cover versions of "Walk in the Shadows" (Queensrÿche) and "Wings of Tomorrow" (Europe).

Arch Enemy is scheduled to begin a European tour in December and will be accompanied by Abigail Williams, Triosphere, and Destruction.

Hallows Eve Parts Ways with Abbamonte and Welcomes Bartelson

Chris Abbamonte has bid farewell to Hallows Eve. The guitarist left the Atlanta-based thrashers "for personal reasons." He was quickly replaced by Evan Bartelson (Las Tregas Nosferatu, The Despised, Black Daniels) who, according to a press release, "brings not only over 25 years in the Atlanta music scene but, more importantly, his unique playing, writing and live performance skills."

The Neverending Sleep,Hallows Eve's latest album, featured original members Stacy Andersen (vocals) and Tommy Stewart (bass) along with Jim Gorman (drums), Doyle Bright (guitar) and Abbamonte. The album was produced by Bright (formerly of Rigor Mortis) and has been cited as being "a conscious effort to achieve the feel and sound of Tales of Terror (1985) and Death and Insanity (1986)."

On April 28, 2007, Anderson and Stewart appeared together on stage for the first time 1989. The reunion occurred during a performance at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival and was meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Metal Blade Records. The pair were joined by drummer Dane Jensen and Doyle Bright (who is also Anderson's bandmate in two other bands: Soulzero and Two Pronged Death).

A deluxe edition box set of Hallows Eve material has been released by Metal Blade Records. The set includes the group's three Metal Blade albums (all of which have been remastered) as well as ample bonus material (including a bonus DVD that clocks over 200 minutes in length) and liner notes.

Audio samples can be found on the band's MySpace page.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Life is good and I am happy and healthy!" says Eddie Van Halen

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen recently updated his MySpace page with the following statement:

"Took a short break and went to Vegas with Janie [Liszewski, Eddie's new wife], Wolfie [Eddie's son and Van Halen bassist, Wolfgang] and Olivia.

"Hung out and relaxed, saw three Cirque shows, shopped, checked out the town and had a good time all around.

"Back home now and busy planning Janie's birthday and working on some stuff in the studio.

"Life is good and I am happy and healthy!"

Eddie Van Halen told Rolling Stone that he underwent surgery on his hand to correct a twisted tendon, a bone spur, and a cyst in the joint of his left thumb. He noted that the hand problems began during Van Halen's last tour: "During the last leg of our tour, I started developing pain in my thumb and my pinky. I didn't think much of it at the time. It got progressively worse to the point that about three months ago I wasn't able to play at all. My pinky and my thumb were totally locked up and felt like there was something broken."

He also explained that he turned to hand specialists in Dusseldorf, Germany for help. At first, said specialists were treating him for arthritis. However, further examinations revealed the extent of the problem: "They said the only way to fix it was surgery, which of course scared the shit out of me, but I was told it was the only way to fix it. Surgery was a success, now I just have to let it heal. I am totally jazzed that they found the problem, fixed it and in about four months my hand will feel like I am 18 again. Thank God."

Van Halen, whose current lineup features brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie's son), and David Lee Roth, are expected to record a new album and launch a subsequent tour in 2010.

Slayer's Halloween Hijacking

Thanks to Slayer, this Halloween weekend will be a scary one (at least at MySpace Music).

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, Slayer will officially hijack the site's Music homepage as well as the new Music Video homepage. The band will dominate for the entirety of the Halloween weekend.

Visitors to MySpace Music will be treated to the exclusive premiere of Slayer's new album, World Painted Blood. Samples from the album, which is scheduled to hit stores on November 3, have already been made public (including "Hate Worldwide," "Psychopathy Red," and the title track), but this weekend the band will let fans hear "Public Display of Dismemberment," "Not of This God," "Snuff," and "Beauty Through Order."

Slayer's total seizure of MySpace Music will be achieved by filling every slot of the Music Video homepage with Slayer videos, behind the scenes clips, shout-outs, and other tidbits.

Fans can get even more creepy goodies by checking out the video graphic novel Playing with Dolls, which will be available for viewing only through MySpace Music and only through the weekend. It will be released on November 3 as part of the World Painted Blood deluxe edition.

Playing with Dolls was created and directed by Mark Brooks (Metalocalypse) and isn't simply a twenty-minute music video. Presented in twelve parts, Playing with Dolls is a stark nightmare that breathes life into Slayer's cryptic creations: serial killers, stalkers, and psychopaths. It merges all of these psyches into that of a single, merciless malcontent. The film follows the nameless protagonist as his methodical, lethal frenzy brings outbursts that can only be described as gruesome. Rather than being an indiscriminate murderer, the nameless man is portrayed as an artist with a sense of purpose. For him, murder is the only way forward. He chooses his victims carefully and his methods of murder are as varied and grisly as they are poetic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Comedic Stylings of Alex Lifeson

Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson made an appearance on the latest edition of The Rick Mercer Report this week. The show aired on October 27. (The segment can be streamed below.)

The Rick Mercer Report is a Canadian comedy series that airs weekly on CBC. Since 2004, the half-hour show has been hosted by comedian Rick Mercer and features news parody, sketch comedy, satirical editorials, and special guests that range from politicians to musicians.

Earlier this month, Mercer and Lifeson were in Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side, that is) to film the segment for the show. The pair donned flight gear and made an attempt at skydiving by visiting the Niagara Freefall Indoor Skydiving facility on Stanley Avenue. They floated atop 225 km/hr (140 m/hr) winds which were generated by a jet engine.

"All we've been told is that it's harder than it looks," said the 56-year-old Lifeson, who co-founded Rush with bassist Geddy Lee some 40 years ago. "It's the string that's over the jet engine that's disconcerting." Mercer quickly added, "I just find standing over a jet engine disconcerting."

The television segment follows Mercer and Lifeson as they go on a "man-date." Mercer had previously heard about the indoor skydiving attraction from a co-worker and decided it would be the perfect venue. Mercer said: "Alex is apparently up for anything...or crazy, I haven't determined yet."

Gus Drax Reveals Solo Album Details

Greek guitarist Gus Drax (Biomechanical) recently revealed the cover art and track listing for his upcoming solo album, In Search of Perfection. The album is set to feature guest appearances by guitarist Steve Smyth (Forbidden, formerly Testament and Nevermore) and keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Firewind).

The track listing for In Search of Perfection is as follows:

01. Kiss of Life
02. The End of Innocence
03. Cerebral Chaos
04. In Loving Memory
05. Hourglass
06. 1000 Nights
07. In Presence of the Dead
08. Abnormal Sequence
09. Vitality [bonus track]

The album's cover art, which was designed by Anestis Goudas, can be seen below.

Gus Drax was born on September 21, 1987 in Larissa, Greece. He began playing guitar at age 14 and is now considered to be among the most talented guitarists in Greece.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interview with Testament’s Alex Skolnick

Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick recently sat down for an interview conducted by Mama's Fallen Angels. The chat is available in two parts and can be streamed below.

On August 10, Testament performed at the Sirius XM studio in New York City. The performance was part of the satellite radio service's Artist Confidential series.

Artist Confidential showcases some of the most important artists in the music industry and features candid interviews, live performances, and conversations with fans. The show began its run on October 5 on Sirius XM's Liquid Metal.

Although Testament had previously announced a string of South American tour dates in September, the San Francisco Bay Area metallers recently cancelled those dates. The reason for the cancellations has been cited as a need to focus on recording a follow-up to the band's 2008 album, The Formation of Damnation. Until recently, Testament had been continuously touring in support of the album. They also did the Priest Feast tour in Europe with Judas Priest as well as the Metal Masters tour with Heaven and Hell and Motörhead.

2009 has seen the reissuing of two classic Testament albums on gatefold double vinyl: 1997's Demonic and 1999's The Gathering. Both reissues were released by Prosthetic Records. Each record is limited to 1,000 copies worldwide and features etched artwork on Side D. In addition, 100 copies of Demonic feature red vinyl and 100 copies of The Gathering feature gold vinyl.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Music Live 2009 to Feature Varied Lineup

Music Live 2009, the tenth of the Music Live weekends, is scheduled for November 6-8 at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) in Birmingham, England. Among the confirmed guests are guitarists Paul Allender (Cradle of Filth) and Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy). The two will participate in a meet-and-greet session with fans and their appearance will be courtesy of ENGL Amplification.

The Live Stage will feature an array of artists. November 6 will see Cars on Fire and They Fell from the Sky (featuring Colin Doran of Hundred Reasons and Pitchshifter drummer Jason Bowld) take the stage. On November 7, Grand Theft Audio will reunite for a Music Live stage appearance and will be fronted by Chris McCormack (formerly of Three Colours Red). Also on that day, legendary guitarist Bernie Tormé (Ozzy Osbourne, Gillan, Mammoth) will appear alongside drummer Robin Guy and bassist John McCoy.

On November 8, the Live Stage will present its Titans of Tribute show, which will be a recreation of the Donington Monsters of Rock lineup from 1988 in tribute band form. Among the tribute bands are Megadeth UK, Hi-On Maiden, Yankee Rose, UK Guns N' Roses, Hulloween, and Dressed to Kill.

The Hellfire Festival will take place on the Music Live stage nightly. The festival has confirmed a lineup featuring Anvil, Fields of the Nephilim, Saxon, Blakfish, and Sylosis.

In addition, Ibanez is set to return to Music Live to show off its latest line of guitars and basses. Thousands of instruments, amplifiers, accessories, and effects from other companies (among them: Dean, PRS, Aria, Rotosound, and Roland). By involving retail partners, Music Live is able to feature special deals throughout the weekend.

Tickets are £16 in advance and can be booked by calling the box office (0844 581 1109) or by visiting

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview - Toby Knapp

The underground Shred-Metal king is about to release a new solo album. Read what he shares about his career, the music industry, and chop building.

What steps have you taken to forge a career in the music industry?

One small step at a time. Start with a small goal, perhaps creating a demo that creates a good buzz that lands some press from a guitar magazine. Then move to the next goal, start with what is thought possible and eventually move to the goals you once thought impossible. A love of music and creating it for personal satisfaction instead of lusting for a result is still the most important way to approach it, one shouldn't pursue music for specific outcomes, one should create because they are driven to create. My longevity in the business exists because I release any attachment to results, then opportunities actually start coming my way. I've noticed bands/musicians that want to "make it" so bad, it just seems to guarantee they never will.

What advice do you have for people looking to get into the music industry?

Realize that getting signed only puts you in the category of the tons of bands that have record deals and you have to work much harder at that point. The music industry is a dangerous place at times. Touring is not the thing people think it is, it's grueling and in the underground metal scene, touring conditions are terrible. Getting into the business only guarantees you will be able to serve an audience your music, and the privilege of doing so is the only guarantee for a musician. If you want materialistic rewards you are barking up the wrong tree.

What are the pressures in the industry and how do you cope with them?

I really am not to pressured at the moment, there's nothing in my musical life I need to cope with at the present, and if there was I would probably abandon the situation. When Onward was at it's height, there was pressure, there was problems and I drank way too much. I've changed in that aspect. If I want longevity, self-preservation is the highest law.

Tell us how you got onto the Shrapnel label.

When I was 17-20, I recorded music constantly and I figured it wouldn't hurt to send the demos to Mike Varney. I never received a response from him, but I sent demos anyway. After three years of doing this, the phone rang and it was Varney saying "keep working on the music, I think you are about ready to do an album". Within a few months I signed the contract and flew to Las Vegas to have my album produced by one of my favorite guitarists, Tony Fredianelli and of course Ray Luzier, who is now with Korn, played drums. It was surreal.

During your formative years, what sort of practice regime did you have?

I picked up the guitar after watching the Led Zeppelin concert film "The Song Remains the Same". I spent alot of time learning Jimmy Page solos, he was and still is my biggest influence and inspiration. When Yngwie and the whole Shrapnel era was new, I began practicing around eight hours a day. Warm up with chromatics, spend an hour on blues, an hour on legato, an hour on sweep picking, etc. every day.

What advice do you have for beginner and intermediate players who are trying to achieve a highly advanced level of playing?

Do not underestimate the importance of being a well versed blues player whether you like it or not. Look to Clapton, Beck and Page before you try to become Paul Gilbert or Jason Becker. Get a teacher who will actually respect the direction you wish to go and they will help you get there, anybody can call themselves a guitar teacher so make sure you are not wasting money on a punk with a guitar. Instructional videos are fantastic, I learned so much from videos by guitarists like Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Greg Howe and Marty Friedman. Most importantly, love the process and have some self discipline.

What gear do you use and (more importantly) why?

I am a Strat man, nothing else. I even like the good Squiers. I don't do much modification to the guitars, once in a while I'll throw in some Dimarzio or Seymour Duncan pickups, but I think Fender stock pickups are great too. I collect the instruments as well, some I don't play, I'll buy strats when I have extra money simply if it's a unique looking guitar. Marshall amps are a mainstay as well and through the years I've used various varieties. There was even a pont when I used the Marshall Micro-stack head as a pre-amp. I dig the 80's Mosfet heads and I had a great, vintage Marshall Mk. 2 fifty watt head, Unfortunately it blew up and a friend swapped me his Laney head for the burnt out Marshall, so I must say Laney is pretty damn good. I've endorsed small things like guitar strings and such, but I've never pursued endorsements, I do believe Fender should give me a Yngwie model strat for all the years of dedication I've put into their intruments. Maybe one day......

What parts of your playing reflects your personality and self expression most accurately?

My playing and composing represent the frame of mind I am in at that point in time and on each album, I can remember what I was feeling. I know I have been described as a technical player, but it's really feelings and raw emotion I try to capture rather than a display of manual dexterity. If i record something and there is a mistake but it conjures an authentic feeling I will leave it. It just depends, sometimes I am a perfectionist, sometimes not.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?

I think every artist wants to achieve a great work, something that will inspire musicians and entertain listeners. I like to create sounds that are not always comforting, sometimes I play/compose very icy things that will have the listener at the edge of their seat. I think that's why I'm such a massive Jimmy Page fan, his music has that effect on me. It's also good to challenge yourself, take chances and challenge the listener. Respect the listener's intelligence. A dipshit once tried to insult me by calling me "nothing but an underground shredder", I take that as a compliment, especially considering the source. Take your listener on an adventure at the expense of being an underground musician, the fans I do have are small in numbers but very devoted. I am proud of that. I am not Slipknot or Nickleback.

Talk about the process of recording your latest album. Are there any tips and trick that you could pass on? How did you choose the other instrumentalists (if you did).

I am recording "The Campaign" in a very small room using a digital six track and an alesis drum machine, but the sound is very big. The reason for that is, I don't waste time second guessing everything, I use minimal effects/gear and just hit the record button. Keep it simple. One tip I can offer is do your mixing/mastering using very bad speakers.....I use a terrible stereo when doing the mixdown and I just do the best I can getting a good balance on everything. Then when you put the cd into a good stereo system, it will sound great, at least that's my experience. Don't spoil yourself with fancy/expensive moniters that will lie to you.

How did you get involved with Shredguy Records?

I received an invitation from label president Mike Mcdowell to participate in his "Shredding Across the World" compilation album series and we just started to hit it off well through e-mails. Then I mentioned I was ready to record a new album and asked if he would be interested in releasing it and he just gave me the green light and the process began. I highly respect Mike and the way he runs his label. No bullshit. He just encourages the artist to make some good music and works as hard for me as I do delivering a strong album to him.

What is happening with your band Onward?

Onward has been inactive for quite awhile and I think everyone has moved on to new things, speaking for myself, I am happy with what I am doing and don't foresee any reunion in the near future. However, if there was to be one, It would have to be with the Michael Grant, Jon Pereau and Chris Payette line-up. I doubt it will happen, but I can't predict the future either.

What does the future hold for Toby Knapp?

I want to listen to more music and I want to create more music.

Last words.

Thank you very much for giving me a chance to voice some opinions here, hello to all your readers and a big thank you to those who have followed and supported my musical journey.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook

Sometimes a piece of news comes along that, although it may not be directly guitar-related, still holds enough significance to heavy metal as a whole that it can't help but be shared here. This is one of those news pieces. It may sound odd at first glace, but what metal fan wouldn't be at least mildly curious at the prospect of a metal cookbook? Add the fact that the recipes of said book come from metal musicians from thirty-two counties, and you've got something that's bound to tweak some interest.

The cookbook is entitled Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook and is compiled by Annick "The Morbid Chef" Giroux. The 224-page, full-colour book brings together favourite dishes from metal bands spanning the globe, such as the U.S., Canada, Japan, Brazil, France, Germany, Malaysia, and Pakistan. It features 101 recipes, all of which were submitted by members of over a hundred metal bands. Among the contributors are members of the pioneering death metal bands Death, Slaughter, Possessed, Autopsy, Master, Obscurity, and Repulsion.

Hellbent for Cooking is slated for a November 24 release and will feature an array of recipes, including Richard Christy's (Death/Control Denied) Viking Testicle, Matt Olivo's (Repulsion) Mushroom Steak à la Jack Daniel's, Dave Hewson's (Slaughter) Incinerator Chicken Wings, and Jeff Becerra's (Possessed) Strawberry Jell-o Pretzel Salad Cake.

The book showcases recipes in a number of categories, including appetizers, breakfast, lunch, beef, poultry, lamb, pork, seafood, vegetarian, desserts, and drinks, all contributed by members of:

Abigail, Abscess, Accept, After the Bombs, Alcoholic Rites, Amebix, Anthrax, Anvil, Armored Saint, Arphaxat, Atomizer, Autopsy, Bastardator, Bëehler, Blackfire, Blasphemy, Brutal Truth, Budgie, Bulldozer, Cauldron, Children of Technology, Control Denied, Countess, Cruachan, Dantesco, Deadmask, Death, Death SS, Deiphago, Denial of God, Desolation Angels, Destruction, Devastation, Dissection, Doro, Dusk, Electric Wizard, Elixir, Envenom, Exciter, Eyehategod, Faustcoven, Funerot, Goat Horn, Gorgoroth, Grimorium Verum, Gwar, Hidden Hand, Holocausto, Impaler, Inepsy, Judas Priest, Killers, Kreator, Lamp of Thoth, L’Impero Delle Ombre, Lord Vicar, Mantak, Master, Master’s Hammer, Mayhem, Melechesh, Messiah, Midnight, Minotaur, Mortal Sin, Mütiilation, Necromantia, Necrosadist, Nuclear Assault, Obituary, Obscurity, Orodruin, Pagan Altar, Pentagram, Piledriver, Possessed, Procession, Repulsion, Reverend Bizarre, Rigor Mortis, Rotting Christ, Sadistik Exekution, Saint Vitus, Sepultura, Shackles, Sigh, Sir Lord Baltimore, Skyforger, Slaughter, S.O.D., Spirit Caravan, Stiny Plamenu, Tankard, Thanatos, The Gates of Slumber, The Obsessed, The Rods, Lord Weird Slough Feg, Thin Lizzy, Toxic Holocaust, Trench Hell, Trouble, Tygers of Pan Tang, U.D.O.. Uriah Heep, Warlock, Warpig, Weapon, Wino, Witchfynde, Witchtrap, Xibalba, and Zemial.

To learn more, visit Bazillion Points Books.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Evile's Michael Alexander Passes Away Whilst on Tour

Evile were mere days into their European tour with Amon Amarth when bassist Michael Alexander took ill. Reports say he had complained of feeling ill after Evile's Sunday performance in Oulu, Sweden. Alexander collapsed the next morning (October 5) at the Theatra Hus club in Lulea. He was rushed to Sunderby Hospital but passed away shortly after. A blood clot is suspected to have ended his life. Alexander was just 32 years old.

Shortly after their bandmate's tragic death, Matt Drake, Ol Drake and Ben Carter released the following statement:

"This is so hard to find the words to express fully how we feel. We can't believe or accept what's happened. One minute we're talking to our buddy, Mike, the next minute we can never speak to him again.

"There's so many things rushing through our heads that we want to say, do and feel. We half expect him to come round the corner and call us 'dickheads.' We can't get our heads around it.

"It upsets us so much that he was away from his family when this happened, although knowing Mike, we're at least glad he was on tour doing what he loves.

"We're lost for words. We all miss him so much already. He was such a headstrong, genuinely nice guy who loved music and his family. We've got so many brilliant memories with him.

"Our hearts go out to his daughter, family and friends at this tragic, difficult time.

"Mike is much loved and is sorely missed. Rest in peace, brother."