For fans of heavy rock and doom, there are two words in the lexicon of all their language that has a shared, universal significance. No matter what country you are from, what your native tongue may be, those two words have such massive historical density to them that they instantly evoke reverence upong hearing them: CIRITH UNGOL. Anyone that has been around as long as I have (for the record, I am 47 years old) and has been entrenched within the underground music scene understands the legacy of this longrunning band. Taking on the name of Cirith Ungol in 1972, the four musicians that comprised the band a decade plus later, vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Jerry Fogle (R.I.P.), drummer Robert Garven and bassist Michael Vujea, made music history in 1984. That was the year that the quartet released their game-changing sophomore album, King Of The Dead, on Enigma Records and simply put, music would never be the same again.
This landmark album went on to inspire and influence untold numbers of musicians, bands and more over the next three-plus decades. It would eventually ascend from the underground and become an iconic, audible bastion in the annals of music history. Cirith Ungol the band would share in this glorious acquisition of reverence and respect as well. They too obtained a state of high honor among those that were enlightened to what greatness this band wielded and so it came as no surprise when Metal Blade Records revealed their plans to pay homage to the band and their King Of The Dead album. Releasing the bonus-laden ‘King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition‘ mere weeks ago to coincide with the band’s playing their first ever European show at this year’s Keep It True Festival, Metal Blade sparked something in us all. I’d already had an interview with Cirith Ungol in the works but I recognized the opportunity to capitalize on circumstances and thus we at Taste Nation LLC began brainstorming. What we came up with is, what you are in the middle of enjoying right now, the fruits of our labors to properly pay the mighty Cirith Ungol their due.
You’ve seen Matthew Thomas‘ unboxing video and pictorial, you have read Ric ‘Suisyko‘ Dorr‘s review (both here) of Metal Blade Records ‘King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition‘ and now we present you the coup de grace of today’s event. Without further ado nor hype, no more anxiety from anticipation and want, I and my fellow TNLLC teammates present to you the following: The Taste Nation LLC Interview With CIRITH UNGOL (vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Greg Lindstrom, guitarist Jim Barraza & drummer Robert Garven)!!!
Pat Riot:The origins of Cirith Ungol date back to at least 1972..what was the inspiration for starting the band? How did it first form at that time and is it true you all began playing as solely instrumental? Fans always debate the correct pronunciation of the band’s name..care to give us the official one?
Tim: As the real historians of the band I will let Rob and Greg answer the first couple of questions. They remember a lot of that stuff better than I can!
Greg: Rob and I met in 7th grade and instantly became friends. He and Jerry Fogle and Pat Galligan (who later joined punk band The Angry Samoans) decided to start a band to play Beatles songs, and I think the only reason they got me involved was that I had an amp. We called ourselves Titanic. Three guitars plugged into one 15 watt amp and Rob with just a snare drum and hi-hat trying to play Beatles and CCR songs. Anyway, Rob and Jerry and I wanted to play heavier stuff like Cream and Mountain, so we quit Titanic, and the three of us formed Cirith Ungol in 1972. Almost immediately we started doing some originals (“Radiation Blues”, “Flesh Dart”) along with our versions of songs by Sabbath, Budgie, Ursa Major, etc. Around 1975, Neil Beattie (aka Terry Dactyl) became our lead singer. He was a little more glam inspired than the rest of us, but he put on a really wild live show, with black widow spider fingertip extensions to go along with our six-foot wide black widow spider for “Shelob’s Lair”. Even though he was a great performer, his voice didn’t quite fit our style, and we parted ways after about a year. We spent the next couple of years writing a lot of songs and playing all the LA clubs as an instrumental power trio, playing along side bands like Quiet Riot, Y & T, and Van Halen, going over amazingly well. We tried out a number of singers, but nobody clicked until 1979, when Tim Baker, our head roadie at the time, tried singing lead on “Hype Performance”. That version is the first song on “Servants Of Chaos”.
Jimmy: In 1972 I was 6 years old living on a farm in Lincoln, Illinois. I thank these guys for starting the band while I was so young, ha-ha. To be part of this reunion at 50 years old is amazing. It is rare, but I have only met a handful of people that I’ve heard pronounce the name correctly and have read the Lord Of The Rings books many times over. I still have not read the books. Maybe one day.
Rob: I was inspired by Greg, because he would always turn me on to new music. I remember him showing me a copy of Mountain’s Climbing, and saying something like, “You have got to hear this!” We incessantly combed the LA area record stores mainly searching for new imported music. There we discovered Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, Lucifer’s Friend, Night Sun and many other heavy bands years before they were even on the radar in the US! There were very few that heard as much early hard rock and metal as us back then. I remember picking up Deep Purple “In Rock” at the local Sears the day they put it on the shelf!
Pat Riot:What took the band almost a decade to get the debut album, ‘Frost And Fire’, recorded and released in 1980?
Greg: Remember, we were only 14 years old when we started, so it took a few years and a lot of jamming to get proficient on our instruments – in my case I’m still working on it! But we wrote songs almost from the beginning, and in 1978 we actually self-released a home-recorded cassette album with a completely different set of songs than F&F. None of the songs on F&F were more than a year old when we recorded it. Some of the songs on KOTD like “Atom Smasher”, “Death Of The Sun”, and “Cirith Ungol” actually pre-date the F&F songs.
Jimmy: In 1980 I was 14 years old. I had taken guitar lessons at a local music store for about a year then. I didn’t hear Frost And Fire until 1987.
Rob: Like Greg mentioned we started pretty young. After the cassette demo we did, commonly known as the “Orange Demo” due to its orange cover, we were ready for something bigger. Since we never received a response from the numerous demo tapes and letters we sent out, we wanted to create a complete album of epic proportions, to show the record companies that we knew what we were doing.
Pat Riot:Speaking of ‘Frost And Fire’, how do you process the fact it is such a hugely monumental, revered album now in 2017? So much there’s even a festival bearing its name, which you all played in 2016. How was that experience?
Tim: For something that was never really suppose to be released as an album, it turns out to have been a great starting point! As far as playing at Frost And Fire II it was a remarkable experience! To actually get on the same stage where we had played our final concert, those long years ago was incredible. Of course the best part was seeing and getting to meet so many people from around the world that came to the Festival – a truly awesome and inspiring thing.
Greg: I think because of Tim’s voice, our quirky playing style, and our inexperience in a real studio, F&F doesn’t really sound like anything else, not even any other CU album. I can hear a bit of Rush and Y&T in there, but for better or worse, it’s pretty unique.
Jimmy: I have to mention that the song “Frost And Fire” is one of my favorites to play live. The experience playing live for the first time in 25 years was so amazing. Although there was a little bit of stressful moments just prior to going on stage due to technical issues (faulty tuner) that could have been unnerving had it not been detected. But, it was promptly remedied. We were 100% ready and played with really minimal issues. It was a success and we also learned a few things in the process.
Rob: We had a great time recording it, and I knew the material was good, and pleased with the result. I love Tim’s voice on that album, it reminds me of a razor blade, thrashing its way through the songs. We had a private tour of the DW drum factory before they built me the greatest sounding custom oak drum set in the world, and I asked the gentleman giving the tour if he had ever heard of our band. I was shocked when he said, “Of course, who didn’t have “Frost & Fire” growing up! As for the Frost & Fire Festival II, it was an awesome experience, playing in our hometown in front of a packed audience from around the world! The next day during the meet and greet there were people who came from as far away as China & Russia just to see the band!
Pat Riot: I understand Cirith Ungol are playing more festivals this year such as Days Of Darkness and Psycho Las Vegas..What is your take-away from seeing the band hold such a spot of reverence with music fans now? Would or will the band undertake any full-on touring plans in the future?
Tim: It’s all about the music – I think the stuff we did holds up well, and with the resurgence of what is now called “classic metal” the timing couldn’t be better! And no – we are not really planning a full on tour, just a bunch of the metal festivals – at least the ones that will have us, hahaha!
Greg: We didn’t have the opportunity to play outside of southern California back in the day, so a lot of folks have been waiting 30+ years to see us live.
Jimmy:I’m very excited for the band and to be part of this journey. The fans are the best, and I am blown away at the ranking position at these festivals. We just gotta stay healthy and motivated.
Rob: We did play a special show in Mexico City after “Frost & Fire” was released and did a radio interview with a pirate radio station that was literally on top of the presidential palace! We are all very excited to be playing so many heavy festivals* this year, some which are still unannounced. You forgot to mention, “Keep it True Festival“, “Up the Hammers“, “Defenders Of The Old“, “Chaos Descends“, & “Hammer Of Doom“, where we are headlining! It is going to be epic an “A Churning Maelstrom Of Metal Chaos Descending!”
*See the Flyers and Promotional Posters for them at the end of this Interview
Pat Riot:Back in the 80s when Cirith Ungol was playing the L.A. circuit, a scene dominated by many lighter fare ‘glam’ type bands, how was CU received at that time?
Tim: We had a fan base back in the day, but really the LA scene for the most part had no idea what to make of us – especially that “singer” lol. We played all the clubs down there and met a lot of great people and bands that are still going strong today!! It was a strange time!
Greg: CU didn’t really fit in with the hair metal scene. As you can imagine, there were people who dug it, and people who didn’t. After I left the band, I saw CU play at the Beverly Theatre with Ratt and Lita Ford. CU commanded the stage, and there were a couple of hundred fans (maybe 25% of the crowd) totally into it, but the other people had come to see Ratt or Lita and weren’t into it.
Jimmy: I had only played a handful of local shows from ’87 – ’89 (LA, Ventura, Santa Barbara). It did seem that the crowds were a bit thin and only the die hards came out and stood in the front to pound their fists and head bang. I remember a mosh pit of punk rockers formed at one home town gig. That was entertaining.
Rob: We did have a loyal fan base in Ventura. Most of our big shows seemed to be on a night when it was raining. We got several hundred people to drive to LA to see us play. We did get some really great reviews from the big LA newspapers such as the Herald Examiner. One writer Marc Shapiro wrote a bunch of great articles on the band after seeing us play with Ratt! He famously wrote about the band, “If hell has a soundtrack then this is it!”
Fan-filmed ‘King Of The Dead‘ preformance from “back in the day”…
Pat Riot: Cirith Ungol released only four official albums in the span of a decade (’81-’91) but the band holds such an iconic place in fans hearts.. why do you believe that is? I have read many things over the years that seemed to indicate a reunion would be unlikely, ever, so what drove the band’s return?
Tim: It’s all about the music I think. Those records hold up pretty well and I think they are good metal albums, and I guess there are a few people out there that feel the same way, hahaha! And yes, for a very long time a reunion was something that was never going to happen, for a lot of well documented reasons. I won’t go into that since that story is pretty well known. The main reasons it did happen is largely due to the efforts of Jarvis, his tales of seeing Ungol stuff all over the world while on tour with Night Demon. The creation of the Frost And Fire Festival, which was the first time in decades the surviving members of the band had all been together, even if it was just for a meet and greet. His support and perseverance to put us back together was something to behold hahaha!! I must also thank Oliver [Weinsheimer] from the great Keep It True Festival. He had been asking us for years just to come over and enjoy his festival, and for years we politely said no. But Rob and I finally went over last year, and to see all the people with Ungol patches, albums to sign, and even people with Cirith Ungol tattoos!! It was a mind-blowing experience and it certainly helped me change my mind about playing again. To see things on the internet and know that there is still a bit of interest in the band is one thing, but to see it in person was amazing!!
Greg: I think Rob needed something to do in his sunset years! And I figured we had better get together and play before: 1) people stop asking, and 2) we get too old to rock and roll!
Jimmy: For years I had hoped for a reunion. Once the opportunity came up, I jumped on it. I am so elated to be playing once again. It’s all good.
Rob: I think our listeners are not unlike our band members and are yearning for something more from their music, something that challenges, and engages them. Even though we wanted to be successful, we did not write the songs to appeal to anyone but ourselves, and I think people get that. I also think they have all succumbed to the “Legions of Chaos! I swore I would never play drums as long as I lived. At the “Frost & Fire I” festival Oliver Weinsheimer came from the “Keep It True Festival” and Jarvis got all the guys together for a meet and greet. They pretty much made us an offer we could not refuse. It was these two guys that will go down in history as the ones that unleashed the Fury of Ungol upon the world!
Pat Riot: How does having Night Demon’s Jarvis Leatherby in the band help things? It looks like his presence would kind of ‘bridge the gap’ between older fans and the current scene’s younger ones or am I off-base with such an idea?
Tim: I hadn’t looked at that way before but I suppose you might be on to something there! His main help was of course getting us back together, with management stuff, and besides being the hardest working man in Metal he is a great musician and a good friend, Night Demon and Cirith Ungol are like a family. Jarvis, Dustin [Squires], and Armand [Anthony] are really great guys and we are proud to know them!
Greg: That’s a good point. I’m sure that Jarvis will bring along some Night Demon fans for the ride!
Jimmy: Filling the slot of bassist was first offered to Flint, but he had other commitments and declined. It was only fitting that Jarvis being a fan of the band, a seasoned musician and has the drive to make Cirith Ungol great again and to take the roll of manager and bassist. It is my pleasure to play alongside Jarvis. His Energy and commitment has proven invaluable and vital to our success.
Rob: When you look up Jarvis Leatherby in the dictionary, it says “All Metal, All The Time”! Actually after traveling to Germany the average age of our new fan base is under 30. I think these new listeners are discovering unique bands such as “Cirith Ungol” for the first time. BTW Jarvis’ band Night Demon I think is going to be a very big act. Their show is outstanding and their new album is killer! I am not just saying this because we are friends; I am saying it because they rock! (Indeed they do! I’ve seen them, have all their released material and I fully agree, Rob. – Pat)
Pat Riot: You all surely get this all the time but will/would/is Cirith Ungol entertaining the idea of recording new music or a new album?
Tim: Yes. We would hope to do a new record sometime in the future and are actively writing new stuff as we speak-along with getting ready to hit the festival scene!
Greg: We are working on new songs and unearthing a few unheard old tunes with that in mind.
Jimmy: Yes, Absolutely.
Rob: Tim has written some great lyrics and we have a few songs in progress. My goal is for the next album to be like “King Of The Dead”, something we will be proud of! Just for the record Metal Blade Records is re-releasing a deluxe edition “King Of The Dead” in vinyl and CD with full color booklets, colored vinyl, and a DVD of a rare show we played at the Roxy, in Hollywood that no one has ever seen before! It also has several live tracks from our appearance at “Frost & Fire II”. They did such a great job on “Paradise Lost”, and we are all looking forward to this re-release. Everyone that is a fan of the band should get this one, as it is our best album to date and they are finally doing it justice!
Pat Riot:David Paul Seymour is one of my absolute favorite artists..are you all excited about ‘The Planet Of DOOM’ cinematic project and the inclusion of Cirith Ungol music in it? Speaking of artists, any specific reason that the works of Michael Whelan have exclusively been used on CU album’s artwork?
Tim: His paintings are the absolute best album covers ever done by anyone-period. We are so honored to have him on our side, he is such a great artist and also such a very nice guy!! Just recently went to a gallery opening of his here in California. It was so special to reconnect with him after many years. And he had the original painting of Stormbringer at the show, the Frost And Fire album cover…to actually see it up close and in person was something I will never forget, just awe inspiring. And the Planet Of Doom project looks like it will be so badass, I cannot wait to see the final results!!
Greg: Back in the day, we had originally envisioned using a painting called “Death Dealer” by Frank Frazetta, who is famous for many Conan illustrations. One day I walked into a record store and there it was on the cover of a Molly Hatchet album! Anyway, Rob and I were both reading Michael Moorcock’s, Elric series at the time, and the U.S. editions all had Michael Whalen’s paintings on the covers. Rob got in contact with Michael, who is one of the nicest guys we’ve ever met, and he agreed to let us use “Stormbringer”. He liked the music and felt that it was an appropriate match for his artwork, and we were totally thrilled and honored to be able to use his artwork on our albums. For sure it has helped us to sell more albums. I even know some people who don’t care much for our music, but buy the albums just for the cover art!
Rob: We are hoping that any new project will feature another of Michael Whelan’s Elric illustrations! I feel very privileged that we were allowed to use 4 of his masterpieces on our albums; they would not have been the same without him! “Planet Of Doom” is going to be an awesome project and we are very excited about this also!!!
Pat Riot:How did Cirith Ungol’s involvement with Metal Blade come about and is it safe to say the band is pleased with the re-issues they’ve provided? Are there any plans to give the ‘Paradise Lost’ record the same treatment?
Tim:The reissues have been great. And of course by the time you read this the Paradise Lost one will already be out!! The KOTD ultimate edition is set for release to coincide with our first ever European appearance at the Keep It True festival in April and it is going to be killer!!
Greg: MB has done a great job with the reissues so far, and the new KOTD reissue is going to be fantastic.
Jimmy: I’m very pleased with the reissue of Paradise Lost in October 2016. It’s also cool to hear some alternate track mixes on the CD. Bart Gabriel did a great job re-mastering, and Metal Blade also gave their all in regards to the vinyl and packaging.
Rob: Brian and everyone at Metal Blade Records have been instrumental in the band’s career over the years. We met Brian when we were first thinking about “Frost & Fire”. He worked at a record store in the LA area and was and still is a good friend. He was launching his record company at the same time, and he hooked us up with the company that would distribute our first 2 albums, Greenworld Distribution. Metal Blade Records in Germany have spearheaded some amazing projects, such as “Servants Of Chaos”, and the deluxe editions recently, and we are proud to be their friends. We were pretty surprised when Brian was asked to name his favorite releases over the history of his label, and he picked “Metal Massacre 1”, which one of our songs, “Death Of The Sun” was on, and “King Of The Dead” as 2 of his top 11 releases of all time!! WOW!
Pat Riot: After nearly 50 years in the musical realm, what is one of your most cherished memories from it i.e. an experience or event, meeting someone, etc. whatever it may be?
Tim: Well for me it is probably making the records we made, and for sure the recent reunion, something that for decades was never going to happen. To be able to finally go out and play around the world is like a dream come true for us.
Greg: Feeling like a proud father, holding a brand new shrink wrapped copy of Frost & Fire fresh from the pressing plant back in 1981. Your first album is always special!
Jimmy: I’ve had the privilege of spending the day with Grace Slick shooting an MTV Video, visited back stage with Carlos Santana (he bogart’s, ha-ha), and even randomly ran into Ozzy Ozbourne here in town (he was 1/2 brain dead, ha-ha). Or I should say that he ran into me. Literally. It was at a Mexican restaurant, he was eating then heading straight to rehab. And of course it has been awesome to play in a band that is finally getting some well-deserved recognition.
Rob: The proudest moment for me was taking the stage as the headlining act at “Frost & Fire II”! Playing on my beautiful Ferrari red DW oak drum set, surrounded by the most amazing set of Paiste cymbals and gong, and beating the drums. Having all that firepower at my command I felt like a metal god for one small moment in time!
Pat Riot:OK, you guys, I have a tradition of closing interviews with an open floor where you have the last word..care to say, share, state whatever you wish about anything..this is all you so have at it:
Tim: I would like to say a huge thank you to all the people that encouraged and supported Ungol all these years – without you the band would be in the dustbin of history, and we certainly would have never gotten back together!! I look forward to telling you all “thank you” in person.
Greg: Huge thanks to everyone who has supported CU over the years. We really appreciate it!
Jimmy: To all the Fans. Your enthusiasm is much appreciated. Thanks for keeping the torch lit and making us feel like Metal Gods. Cheers!
Rob: I would ask anyone that can make it, to come to one of our rare shows. If you like the band, or our music, I promise you will not be disappointed!!! Everything in my life has culminated in this reunion and I want to share it with everyone!
This is Cirith Ungol..what am I going to say after this that’s going to add anything to what has just unfolded here? Nothing. So with that, I want to thank our guests, the magnificent Cirith Ungol circa 2017: Tim Baker, Greg Lindstrom, Jimmy Barraza, Robert Garven and Jarvis Leatherby who was here in spirit. Metal Is Forever!!!
Taste Nation LLCPresents: Cirith Ungol – King Of The Dead: Resurrection Day, Saturday, June 10th, 2017! Here is what we have in store for you:
Metal Blade Records‘ Cirith UngolKing Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition unboxing video with Matthew Thomas
An in-depth Album Review of the Cirith UngolKing Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition from Ric ‘Suisyko‘ Dorr
An Interview With Cirith Ungol Drummer And Founding Member Robert Garven with Pat ‘Riot‘ Whitaker
Every so often in hard rock history there comes a game changing record release, an album that serves like some sonic barometer. One where an offering is so monumental that it can be used to gauge music before that album’s release and of course, music after its release as well. In 1984, the up and coming Ventura, California based Cirith Ungolreleased such an album with their sophomore opus, ‘King Of The Dead‘. The album, which was issued through Enigma Records, featured the musical talents of vocalist Tim Baker, guitarist Jerry Gogle, drummer Robert Garven and bassist Michael Vujea and, bluntly put, heavy music would never be the same again. Not bad for a band started by some high schoolers under the name Titanic, changed it to Cirith Ungol around 1972 and only played instrumentally at first.
This second studio album from Cirith Ungol followed their equally revered debut, Frost And Fire, but this record contained an undeniable shift in musical direction for the band. Where the debut was based a bit more in Seventies hard rock elements, King Of The Dead embodied a defined turn toward progressive hard rock and doom metal. The band produced the record themselves while Baker and Garven handled all the lyric writing though some folks aren’t aware that at least three songs (‘Atom Smasher‘, ‘Cirith Ungol‘ and ‘Death Of The Sun‘) were originally written in the mid-70s. The iconic artwork that adorns its cover, itself titled ‘King Of The Dead‘, was painted by Michael Whelan and inspired by the literary works of Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Michael Moorcock.
After two more studio albums, 1986’s One Foot In Hell and 1991’s Paradise Lost, Cirith Ungol would disband in 1992 due to their frustration with the music industry. However, the mythos and legacy of Cirith Ungol would build and increase unabated during the subsequent decades. Their influence was felt across numerous genres and sub-genres of metal and hard rock while countless musicians cited Cirith Ungol as a constant inspiration. Then, in 2015, members of the band came together for the 2015 Frost And Fire music festival in Ventura, California. Their first public appearance as a band since 1991, they participated in a meet-and-greet and item signing where they were immensely well-received. Soon after, Cirith Ungol announced that they would reunite for the 2016 Frost And Fire event, playing their first live show since December 13, 1991 which they did in October 2016.
Now we arrive in 2017 where Cirith Ungol have returned to bless the doom loving masses with a variety of ongoing events. Just last month, in late April, the band played their first ever live show on European soil at the Keep It True festival in Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany. To mark the occasion, as well as celebrate both Cirith Ungol and their landmark 1984 studio album milestone, King Of The Dead, Metal Blade Records have graced fans and collectors both with the utmost must-have release of recent years: The Ultimate Edition Of Cirith Ungol’s King Of The Dead!!!
Every fan of underground heavy music knows how the legendary Scott ‘Wino‘ Weinrich-fronted band The Obsessed are back in a major way currently, circa 2017. The band has been the centerpoint of mass focus and near hysteria since announcing their return in 2016. That announcement eventually led the band, with drummer Brian Costantino and bassist Dave Sherman alongside Wino, to sign with Relapse Records. From there, the guys went to work on writing and recording a new studio album, the band’s first since 1994’s The Church Within. Eventually, said album did manifest as the hugely successful ‘Sacred‘. Since that time in the studio, the band underwent a couple of membership tweaks, ones that have now settled with bassist Reid Raley completing the trio’s line up. As is the case with new records and oldschool legends, The Obsessed soon decided it was time to take things to the road and so they compiled a powerfully alluring touring package that included Karma To Burn and Lo-Pan. Others would join along at some legs of the trek like Fatso Jetson, Weedeater and Primitive Man so all in all, this was a tour that only a damn fool would miss. I had no intention of being that fool when I hauled ass over to The Hideawayin Johnson City, TN. back on May 10th for this Volunteer State stop of The Obsessed, Karma To Burn, Lo-Pan and Navajo Witch caravan.
First up this night was the regional heavyweights and purveyors of pummeling sludge, Navajo Witch. The beloved trio of guitarist Allen Keith, bassist/vocalist Dylan Rutherford and drummer Ross Grindstaff are all well known fixtures within our area’s music community. The band itself now has two official releases under their belts with the 2013 Skinwalker EP and 2016’s full-length, Ghost Sickness. Tonight saw the trio unleash their heavily volatile but totally groove-fueled style of sonic abrasiveness. Navajo Witch are loud and very musically dense, they do not rely on any bells or whistles to augment what it is they do and what they do is savage. Melding a variety of tempos into their crushing stage delivery, they keep it tight and heavy with some alternating vocal stylings. So heavy in fact that you’d have a hard time believing they are a threepiece without seeing them yourself. The beast that is Navajo Witch also treated us to some new tunes this night, so new in fact that a couple are not even titled yet, ha! Their setlist consisted of the well known standards ‘Rites Of Divination‘ and ‘Ghost Sickness‘ but it began with what we will call ‘Untitled 1‘ and ended with ‘Untitled 2‘. There was also a titled new track in there too, one being called ‘Still We Rise‘..a bit of a misnomer seeing as how Navajo Witch‘s thunderous rumbling nearly brought down the room to rubble.
Next up this night were the continually astounding Columbus, OH. quartet Lo-Pan. If you’ve seen these guys before then you already know that they are one of the tightest bands in all of rock and roll, seriously. Setting up in their usual unusual configuration with vocalist Jeff Martin toward the back behind drummer J. Bartz, bassist Skot Thompson and guitarist Chris Thompson, the guys tore it loose. The rhythm section of the band are nearly impossible to avert your gaze from when watching Lo-Pan and I’ve said it before but here it is again: Bartz & Thompson may be the absolute best in the business (outside of Clutch’s Maines and Gaster). A phenomenal sight to see and an even more powerful one to hear, the pair powers each Lo Pan song like some rhythmic dynamo. Meanwhile Martin croons some of the most solidly soulful vocals there are and, for the third time in a row of my seeing them, this was a recently acquired new guitarist in Chris. I say new but he’s fell right into place after providing the axe-work for the band for several months now and came on board around the time Lo-Pan recorded their latest effort, the In Tensions EP.
There is always more than just universal recompense ablaze when West Virginia’s Karma To Burn grace a stage somewhere. Tonight was no different either as guitarist Will Mecum, bassist Eric Clutter and drummer Evan Devine did what they do best onstage next. Exactly what that is must be witnessed to fully comprehend as these three have somehow harnessed the truest, most legitimate power of the trio. 99.999% instrumental, Karma To Burn are 1000% unbelievable and so finely tuned that they operate like a machine. I say that despite Will’s having some tuning issues once or twice but undetered, they blistered every ear within earshot with their furious onslaught of numerically designated songs. Always a spectacle to observe, the animated intensity with which all three of these guys go at it live is something that’s beyond merely impressive. Mecum’s maestro-like hand gestures are used to accentuate the guitar-fueled grooves he is constructing at that very moment while Clutter’s all-over-the place bass abuse nearly rivets your eyes in place. And Devine, you ask? He is like some unholy tempest upon the drum kit, furiously pummeling said kit in a manner befitting of someone with multiple appendages. No, I don’t mean the normal two or even four in his case, what he does only seems within the realm of possibility for someone that happened to be an Octa-ped.
Now three bands in, The Hideaway‘s crowd had grown quite immensely and was gradually becoming a standing room only audience. But there would be no agitated wait like some shows, where some primadonna indulged their status and disrespected their fans with an unneeded, extensive wait. No, the legendary Scott ‘Wino‘ Weinrich and his bandmates in The Obsessed, Brian Costantino and Reid Raley commandeered the stage at this point. The trio instantly unfurled their critically-lauded new album’s glorious title cut, ‘Sacred‘, before veering right into one of their beloved classics, ‘Streetside‘. Hearing the crowd sing along to the lyrics and choruses revealed that those present in this house were familiar with output both past and present. With each new song rendered, ones ranging from ‘Blind Lightning‘, ‘Protect & Serve‘, ‘Decimation‘, ‘Climate Of Despair‘ and ‘Hiding Mask‘, The Obsessed seemed a band possessed.
Wino’s playing has increasingly become more and more fierce with each new set that I attend and knowing him as I do personally, I dare say that he is rejuvenated these days. Reviving his beloved band, new blood in it, new album from it, whatever the case may be, Wino seems to really enjoy himself lately and it shows. Another showing that comes shining through is that from the backline anchor, the man that holds it all down and in place, Brian Costantino. His concrete-like heavy handed, hard-hitting style of playing reverberates shudders across the airwaves with each strike laid. Plus, make no mistake, Reid Raley is a bottom-end monstrosity himself, generating visceral vibrations in such cuts as ‘Be The Night‘, ‘Skybone‘, ‘The Way She Fly‘ and ‘Streamlined‘. In fact, The Obsessed played most, if not all, of ’94’s iconic The Church Within along with a respectable number of tracks from Sacred.
Two of that latter album’s tracks were especially enjoyable for me personally as the introductory cut, the re-working of the band’s first-ever song release, ‘Sodden Jackal‘, is so damned heavy now. Even Wino commented about how he’s had the desire to revitalize that old tune for a long, long time and now that he has, Jeee-zus! The depth and density now permeating the song is nearly inhuman while another Sacred selection, ‘Razorwire‘, is just a lively, kick-ass good time of a song. Clearly I was not alone in that appreciation either as people all over the place lost it during its roll out. Playing somewhere near fifteen songs or so as only they can, The Obsessed showed all in attendance why they are the focal point of so much attention at this time. Sure, it is more than deserved by the threesome, they are great musicians and all that but also because Sacred was decades in the making so to speak. In some bizarro world, we might have never gotten this new album or worse, God forbid, a reformed incarnation of The Obsessed! But, thanks and praise to whomever you wish, we do have Sacred and more importantly, we have The Obsessed..and Wino, Brian and Reid. And Karma To Burn, Lo-Pan and Navajo Witch as well!
One of the best, largest gatherings of underground extreme Metal and Hard Rock bands and their music has been announced with the first annual Starkfest 2017! The two-day and a half day (with pre-show) event is set to ravage Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, South Carolina beginning on June 1st to the 3rd. There will be a pre-fest show atRadio Roomin Greenville as well that will include several must-see bands. But that is just the start of festivities as the roster of acts for it and the full-on fest weekend is an impressive array of sonic brutalists.
Along with all of the enjoyable features atThomas Creek Brewery itself there will also be food truck vendors and folks on hand from retail record outlets including Greenville’s ownPharmacy Records. Starkfest 2017 is being brought to music fans from these sponsors along with Iron Rust Productions.
Tickets for Starkfest 2017 are on sale NOW and available at this location.
The line-ups for each day are as follows:
Thursday, June 1st (6/1 Pre-Show) at the Radio Room:
Black Mountain Hunger Death/Of Kingdom Faust Tone Waft (special set)
Friday, June 2nd (6/2 Day 1) at Thomas Creek Brewery:
Abacus All Hell Cazador Dreaded False Light Mothmother Uninhabitable Wvrm
Saturday, June 3rd (6/3 Day 2) at Thomas Creek Brewery:
Avalon Steel Bask Bathe Canopy Cikada Come To Grief Crawl Heathen Bastard Midmourner Swallow The Sky Tar Hag The Asound Waft
Two of the biggest, most iconic bands from the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement are returning to North America together this fall. Following their hugely successful tour together in March and April, UFO and Saxon have announced more dates in the U.S., plus two in Canada, in September and October. Vocalists from both bands commented on the announcement saying:
UFO‘s Phil Mogg shares: “Seldom do you get the chance to have a tour with such great bands and great personalities. We have been offered such a chance and will be grabbing it with both hands. We are looking forward very much to our autumn tour with the lads from Saxon, Biff, Paul, Doug, Nigel, and Nibbs, Jared James, Eric and Dennis, just so you know every one. I hope you enjoy these gigs as much as we will, rocking/kicking, your proverbial arse/bottom. Love UFO.”
Biff Byford from Saxon adds: “It’s great to be coming back with UFO, we had such a great time on the last tour – it’s a great package with three great bands, what’s not to like BRING IT ON!!!!!”
UFO, featuring the long-running line up of Phil Mogg (Vocals), Paul Raymond (Keyboards / Guitar), Andy Parker (Drums), Vinnie Moore (Guitar) and Rob De Luca (Bass) are currently working on a studio cover album after the last studio release, A Conspiracy Of Stars, in 2015.
Saxon are touring on their latest release Battering Ram, together with the new live DVD Let Me Feel Your Power, both on the UDR Music label and are currently in the studio working on a new studio album for release early 2018. Saxon are: Biff Byford (Vocals), Paul Quinn (Guitar), Nigel Glockler (Drums), Doug Scarrett (Guitar) and Tim “Nibbs” Carter (Bass).
22 – Newton, NJ – Newton Theater
23 – Huntington, NY – Paramount Theater
24 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage
26 – Philadelphia, PA – Theater Of The Living Arts
28 – Plymouth, NH – Flying Monkey
29 – Worcester, MA – Palladium
30 – Hartford, CT – Webster Theater
1 – Portland, ME – Aura
3 – Toronto, ON – Queen Elizabeth Theater
4 – Montreal, QC – Corona Theater
6 – Flint, MI – Machine Shop
7 – Traverse City, MI – Ground Zero
8 – Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall
9 – Akron, OH – Tangier CabaretRoom
11 – Pittsburgh, PA – Jergels
12 – Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts
13 – Merrillville, IN – Star Plaza
14 – Indianapolis, IN – The Egyptian
Tickets are available from all usual agents and outlets.
The past and the present, the old and the new, the hard and the heavy. A juxtaposition of variances would be embodied on the night of Friday, April 21st as the legendary Y&T, with support from Temptations Wings, came to Asheville, North Carolina. The setting would be The Grey Eagleand the broad spectrum of rock music to be presented would be impressive to say the least. So would merely making it to the show as I, and shotgun rider Tomm Huff, departed our home in Kentucky amid a battering hailstorm and torrential downpours. Three nerve-wracking hours of travel through non-stop inclement weather would not deter us though and eventually we arrived safe if not a little soaked.
My first trip to The Grey Eagle revealed a nice, well maintained older building of good size with a cool music hall, bar and kitchen/dining area. I had been eagerly awaiting this show for months now since learning that the current incarnation of the iconic Y&T were coming to the region. Not just that alone either as regional band Temptations Wings, who are riding high on their recently released album, ‘Skulthor Ebonblade‘, were on the bill as well. In fact, I conducted an A/V interview with those guys prior to the show, in the rain somewhat, that will be coming soon.
When it came time for Temptations Wings, aka Micah Nix (gtr./vox), Jason Gardner (drums) and Chad Barnwell (bass), to take the stage, the venue was quite packed. Guesstimating somewhere near 400 – 450 people had filed in to see these AVL hometowners unleash their heaviness. The trio recently released their critically-acclaimed conceptual album, the aforementioned ‘Skulthor Ebonblade‘, and have been in high demand ever since. The album weaves the tale of a mythical warrior who returns home to find his family slain and and village destroyed by an evil witch. To reap vengeance, he journeys to obtain a mystical sword and once acquired, goes to slay the witch herself. Quite an intriguing storyline, is it not? Truth is, the story is only but a small part of what makes this band so solidly kick-ass though..it is really more about the music.
The music of Temptations Wings can only be described as Appalachian Power Doom for that does suit it rather well. Comprised of chunky, thick riffs, pulsating rhythms and thunderous drumming, the music is heavy and engaging. And it was clear the guys have a large, loyal support base here in their home region. After a taped intro segment, they delivered the barrage of songs that included ‘I, Destroyer‘, ‘Treachery Of The Blind Raven‘, ‘Lair Of The Gorgon Queen‘, ‘Into The Maelstrom‘ and ‘Crush The Weak‘. Each was well received and it was clear that many of those in attendance were already familiar with the tracks. The guys provided a fantastic set that went over really well with such a diversified crowd, one where all ages from the younger to the elder, were well represented.
An interlude and then the stage was commandeered by the legendary Y&T! Y&T 2017 sees the only surviving band founder, guitarist/vocalist Dave Meniketti, joined currently by guitarist John Nymann, bassist Aaron Leigh and drummer Mike Vanderhule. Many of the bands that got their start several decades ago, and are still around, exist solely to relive their glory days by rehashing their earlier material. Such is not the case with this band as they continue to record and release new material, like they did with 2010’s Facemelter album. The repertoire of material that Y&T has available in their discography to select from was well plundered on this night too.
The origins of Y&T date back as early as 1974 and the band began officially releasing studio albums in 1976. Some of their albums have achieved both commercial notoriety as well as cult status amid massive reverence. One of their most beloved records, In Rock We Trust (1984), would provide the one-two punch to start their set this night with the fantastic ‘Lipstick And Leather‘ and ‘Don’t Stop Runnin’‘. The place was roaring with excitement as the band followed up with another classic, ‘Hurricane‘, before visiting material from another landmark album, 1981’s Earthshaker. ‘Shine On‘ and clear crowd favorite ‘Dirty Girl‘ had the place erupting with sing-along choruses and crowd enthusiasm. Then Meniketti & Co. unleashed one of their most well known songs, the scorching title cut from 1983’s Mean Streak and the audience went haywire. In case you don’t know it, Dave is one hell of a damn good guitarist too and he himself scorched the frets on the song’s solo while Nymann too delivered his own axe wizardry.
Things would wind down to the lighter side of the band’s music as they delivered a great version of ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark‘ from 1990’s Ten. What came next was the most touching period of the night as Dave spoke about the now deceased longrunning Y&T members Phil Kennemore, Leonard Haze and Joey Alves. He dedicated the next song, ‘Winds Of Change‘, to them and then delivered a powerfully stirring delivery of the song which clearly moved all present. Before anyone could dwell on the touching significance of that moment the guys launched into the high energy of ‘Blind Patriot‘ from their most recent studio effort, Facemelter. The uptempo track is a hard rocking number that rolls out at a frenetic pace from the start and it sure got everyone’s blood pumping again including Y&T‘s. Not to mention some fiery guitar pyrotechnics from Dave and John both throughout the song.
The next block of cuts would touch upon all the bases, i.e. hit albums, first with the stellar rendition of the melodic rocker ‘I’ll Keep On Believin’ (Do You Know)‘. Then came the lively title track of one of my personal faves, ‘Black Tiger‘, and they toned things down again with ‘Midnight In Tokyo‘. Keeping the formula going of tapping into some of their best, well-known albums, Meniketti and the mob delivered up rousing cuts like ‘Let Me Go‘, ‘Hang’em High‘ and ‘I Believe You‘. Then came the inevitable title track of the band’s 1987 album, one of their most well known records and songs both, ‘Contagious‘. Needless to say, the packed house clearly knew the song by heart, inside and out, upside and down as they involved themselves in some way or another. Women of all ages, makes and models were dancing around the auditorium and before the song was finished, Mike Vanderhule delivered a jaw-dropping drum solo. It was the perfect segue into one of Y&T‘s most upbeat, metallic-tinged tracks ever, ‘Open Fire‘, and that is exactly what the quartet did with the track. Now had come the time that everyone knew was inevitable, the delivery of Y&T‘s most well known, biggest commercial hit song of their legacy, ‘Summertime Girls‘. The beloved MTV / Billboard Hot 100 hit song that hails from the ’85 LP Down For The Count is the sole song that many people know Y&T for. That’s really a shame too because the band truly has such a remarkable body of work built up throughout the years that some people are tragically missing out on. A trip back to 2010’s Facemelter record came in the form of the anthemic set-ending “I’m Coming Home‘, another song that elicited sing along choruses and intensified audience participation.
To be honest, things could have just ended at this point and I would have been more than satisfied with what I had just experienced. Seriously, I had just seen a band truly perform their very heart and souls out for the house attendance and it was utterly incredible to put it mildly. Yet the show was not quite over as the quartet returned and served up two more remarkably rousing renditions of great older songs: ‘Rescue Me‘ and ‘Forever‘. The latter was quite the appropriate finale for the night too because rock ‘n roll is forever and for me, the experience of seeing Y&T will remain with me forever as well. But not just Y&T of course as I got to see my good friends in Temptations Wings open for the legendary act and thus share their own killer music with a wider audience. Between the two bands they had the spectrum well covered, just as I eluded to at the start of this recap. The Grey Eagle in the mountains of Asheville, N.C. served as ground zero for this spectacular night of Rock ‘N Roll where both the Old School and the New were well represented.
For many, Easter is all about church services celebrating the New Testament era of the bible and the savior Jesus Christ. However, I was party to a whole other kind of religion with a Testament all its own on this most recent Easter Day, April 16, 2017. Yes indeed, the Brotherhood Of The Snake itself, Bay Area oldschool thrash legends Testamentwere at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina and they brought friends. The revival of classic metal would also be preached by Prong, Sepultura and new converts, The Convalescence. Before the night’s electrified sermon would unfold, we had the opportunity to meet Testament for a signing session and brief interaction with the guys which was cool. And for the record, the guys currently in the long running powerhouse are vocalist Chuck Billy, guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, bassist Steve Digiorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan.
The evening’s events would kick off with a band totally unknown to me, the Toledo, Ohio sextet,The Convalescence. I’m not totally certain what genre you’d classify the act as since they incorporate some Metalcore and Death Metal (Deathcore?) into their sound. But oddly, there are keyboards, varied vocalization styles and yes….corpse paint! Now the band received decent crowd support and interaction, I’ll give them that but to be added to support this bill of oldschool acts was an ill-conceived plan on someone’s part I believe. I am sure it was some label employee’s big idea perhaps but a modern metal act like this would be better served on a more accommodating roster like a Van’s Warped Tour or Knotfest (do those still exist?). Being unfamiliar with The Convalescence, I’m clueless to what songs they performed but allow me to add that the band was not bad or terrible or anything…just a tad out of place in my opinion.
Next up were a band I have had a long, ongoing love for over many, many years…Prong! My seeing the band, albeit with differing line ups, dates back to their touring cycle for their third release, 1990’s Beg To Differ. Tonight would see band founder and frontman/guitarist Tommy Victor joined by drummer Art Cruz and bassist/bkg. vox Jason Christopher. If you are a fan of Prong‘s then you should be well aware that this band are on a roll and they only get better with each new album, and each new day it seems. Clearly, there was a venue full of Prong fans here too as people were singing right along to classic tracks from the trio. Songs like ‘For Dear Life‘, ‘Beg To Differ‘ and ‘Unconditional‘ elicited energetic sing-alongs during their oh-so catchy choruses. Other, more current songs like ‘Cut And Dry‘ and ‘Sense Of Ease‘ from 2016’s critically acclaimed X – No Absolutes were also well received but the most involved tracks were the one-two-three punch of some really well known selections. Just like how they unfurl on 1994’s landmark Cleansing record, the trio of ‘Another Worldly Device‘, ‘Whose Fist Is This Anyway?‘ and ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck‘ nearly brought down the house.
The legendary Brazilian metal band Sepultura would take the stage next and I have a confession to make concerning them. I was an avid fan of the earlier era of the band, seeing them numerous times when Max and Igor Cavalera were still present but I kind of lost touch with the act many years back. No particular reason other than my tastes changed and as most people know, so did the iconic band’s membership. Currently, only longtime guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Paulo, Jr. remain from those early days and they’re joined by vocalist Derrick Green and drummer/percussionist Eloy Casagrande. Sepultura has thrived in the years since I saw them last, releasing several albums and furthering the legacy of the beloved band. In fact, 2018 will make twenty years that Derrick has fronted the band so truth is, he’s as much a part of that legacy as anyone else at this point.
Fans in attendance at The Fillmore were more than ready for the Sepultura onslaught too as the band opened with back to back tracks from their recently released fourteenth studio album, Machine Messiah. ‘I Am The Enemy‘ and ‘Phantom Self‘ activated the crowd and they remained involved for a flurry of songs from that same record like ‘Sworn Oath‘, ‘Alethea‘ and ‘Resistant Parasites‘. For me, the most interesting moments came when the band played the earlier era’s material such as ‘Desperate Cry‘, ‘Inner Self‘ and the set closing ‘Roots Bloody Roots‘. Hearing these songs that I knew so well being done by band members I’d never heard them performed by previously was a somewhat surreal experience. Needless to say, for me, Sepultura circa 2017 are just as impressive now as the band was back a few decades ago and clearly able to stand on their own merits.
Then the time had come for one of the Bay Area’s most enduring thrash band’s to bring their aural legacy to the stage. Speaking of which, Testament‘s debut album, 1987’s The Legacy, turned 30 years old this past week on April 21st. The current incarnation of the band is 3/5 of the one that recorded 1999’s The Gathering, a much heavier-oriented album and that same heavy vibe comes through in the live line up as well. The guys immediately unleashed a quartet of tracks from their more recent albums with ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake‘, ‘Rise Up‘, ‘The Pale King‘ and ‘Centuries Of Suffering‘. Chuck’s vocals bellowed throughout The Fillmore as the crowd’s excitement went off the register and during the latter track, Peterson performed a scorching guitar solo. That set things up nicely for the catchy, melodic hooks of ‘Electric Crown‘ from the band’s 1992 album, The Ritual. Alas, the melodic moments were soon obliterated by ‘Into The Pit‘, a song proceeded with Chuck sharing a tale of about a night of too much booze in Texas back in the day. That, and them going to check out an up and coming band that night, Pantera. Another flurry of songs ensued including the death metal-ish ‘Low‘, ‘Throne Of Thorns‘ and ‘Stronghold‘. The latter was prefaced with Chuck’s commentary supporting the Standing Rock protesters and went out with yet another intense guitar solo, this time by Alex.
A return to that aforementioned 1999 album came with The Gathering track ‘Eyes Of Wrath‘ and then came a jaw dropping spectacle to behold: A furious drum solo by Gene ‘The Atomic Clock‘ Hoglan! One of the unquestionably best drummers on earth unleashed upon that kit like a man possessed before the band returned to the stage for a volatile delivery of ‘First Strike Is Deadly‘. From there another astounding event to witness, Steve Digiorgio‘s unhinged bass solo! In case you don’t know it, Steve has nearly four decades under his belt playing bass..and playing bass like only he can..and like he does. It cannot merely be described, it must be observed to comprehend and then come another block of fantastic songs: ‘Urotsukidôjí‘, ‘Souls Of Black‘, ‘Seven Seals‘ and the set-ending ‘The New Order‘.
Of course just as soon as Testament exited the stage the thundering chants of “Test-a-ment! Test-a-ment!‘ erupted in the auditorium. The call went forth, building and building until the guys came back out and hit us with staggering one-two of ‘Practice What You Preach‘ and ‘Over The Wall‘. The crowd was in a frenzied state by the time the band wrapped up these two favorites and there was no escaping the feeling that we had been subjected to some of the best oldschool metal on this planet…which we had of course.
Disclaimer: I am not a photographer. Bear that in mind when viewing the pictures included in this show review but then again, one thing I learned at Metal Nexus is that anyone can call themselves a photographer..even if they really aren’t!
Friday, April 21st, one of hard rock’s longest-running acts will descend into the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina when the legendary Y&T comes to town. They will be playing one of the region’s best venues, The Grey Eagle, and will be supported by AVL’s own Appalachian power doomers, Temptations Wings. Y&T’s origins date back to the early 1970’s when the band’s only current surviving member, Dave Meniketti, and his bandmates took the Yesterday & Today moniker inspired by The Beatles compilation sharing it. After an eventual shortening to Y&T, the group has spent decades sharing their music with the globe and now boast a discography of 18 albums, 3 greatest hits collections, a boxed set and have collectively sold over 4 million albums since their 1974 inception. Alongside lead gtrst./vox Dave Meniketti in the current incarnation of the band are rhythm gtrst./vox John Nymann, bassist/vox Aaron Leigh and drummer/vox Mike Vanderhule and without question they are going to rock The Grey Eagle.
To support such an iconic act, regional favorite sons Temptations Wings have accepted the challenge and will bring their heavy hitting talents to the stage as well. The trio, gtrst./vox Micah Nix, drummer Jason Gardner and bassist Chad Barnwell have just issued their critically acclaimed new conceptual album ‘Skulthor Ebonblade‘ and are eager to bring the new material to life at such a beloved hometown venue, The Grey Eagle. This is truly a show not to be missed!