Coal Chamber appeared in the 90’s along with a handful of American bands that became labelled as “nu-metal”. To the dismay of metal purists these bands took root in the hearts of teenagers all over the world. Coal Chamber was definitely the Costello to Korn’s Abbott. Sure they had pathos, but they also seemed like they were having fun. After three albums the band broke up, and while his peers decided to write more accessible tunes, vocalist Dez Fafara formed the band Devildriver, and successfully asserted himself within the same subculture that had resented him in the first place.
I caught up with Dez aboard a Gibson guitar branded tour bus backstage at the Wacken festival in Northern Germany. He’d just come off a successful reunion tour with Coal Chamber, and Devildriver is about to drop their sixth album entitled “Winter Kills”. Plus Gibson just gave him a free hollow-body guitar, so things are generally looking up. We ended up having a very candid conversation about his different musical sides and his no-nonsense attitude towards playing live and the commercial side of the music business.
Known primarily as the frontman for the legendary Norwegian black metal band Emperor, Ihsahn (pronounced E-sawn) has forged a rather substantial solo career. Emperor distinguished themselves from their peers by integrating extensive melodies and orchestral influences into the hard tremolo of the black metal riff. In the 1990’s the Norwegian black metal scene gained media attention through a series of events involving murder and arson, and all three of Ihsahn’s bandmates were at one point imprisoned.
The writing on the final Emperor album is credited solely to him, and it was definitely a sign of where he would go with future material. His solo albums retain a certain extreme element, but also integrate progressive rock and jazz, including the outstanding saxophone playing of Jørgen Munkeby from the band Shining. Some fans laud his bold choices, while others yearn for a recreation of the past.
I met Ihsahn backstage at Wacken Open Air in Northern Germany, the world’s biggest heavy metal festival. He’d just played a solo set under a cloudless sky and blistering heat, which isn’t exactly conducive to a grim atmosphere. But it’s also just been announced that Emperor will reunite for a performance at next year’s festival. We discuss his legacy with Emperor and his solo material, along with fan expectations and why he isn’t so progressive after all.
Holy Grail originally formed in Pasadena, California through a mass exodus of the members of the traditional metal band White Wizzard. With the addition of guitarist Eli Santana, the band injected itself with the distinct sound of extreme metal while maintaining the classic structures of British legends like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. This mix has caused them to be exposed to a diverse crowd. They’ve played for the faithful at Germany’s Wacken Open Air and on a recent tour with heavyweights Anthrax. But they’ve also wowed the crowds at SXSE and even managed to find themselves on folk-metal or punk bills.
Now having released their second full-length album “Ride The Void” back in January, fan support continues to grow, and Holy Grail have managed to carve themselves a unique little niche in the ever-growing pack of so-called “retro” bands currently being signed and promoted. I had a chance to speak with Eli outside of Toronto’s Hard Luck Bar (on Ronnie James Dio’s birthday no less) about the band’s mix of styles, avoiding the retro tag, and a couple of the weirder moments he’s experienced on stage.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Anvil is a Toronto heavy metal band that emerged in the early 80s and is credited for inspiring bands like Metallica and Slayer. Their first three albums are considered metal classics. But due to a cocktail of poor management decisions and label jumping the band drifted into obscurity despite a string of solid albums full of their distinct blend of kinky metal and bluesy hard rock.
Everything changed in 2008 when the documentary film “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” www.anvilthestoryofanvil.com/ was released. Directed by former Anvil roadie Sacha Gervasi, the film chronicles the band on an ill-fated European tour with sparsely-attended shows, followed by their struggles to produce their thirteenth album and the toll it took on their family and friends. After premiering at Sundance the film went on to garner near-universal acclaim (it currently holds a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes). The film gave way to a significant rise in the band’s popularity and big name gigs started popping up, including an opening slot for AC/DC.
The last time I spoke with frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow was in the summer of 2006 behind the fondly-remembered Big Bop in Toronto. That night the band the band would play to a handful of people, a scene that was echoed throughout their documentary. With their latest aptly-titled album “Hope In Hell” having just dropped in May, the band is now two records deep since the release of the film. I had a chance to talk with Lips about the film’s overall impact on the band, and why he thinks there’s no point in Anvil creating more commercial music.