All Photos by Andrew Epstein
The band Raven was an important part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the same movement that made Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard international superstars. Like many of their contemporaries they never achieved widespread attention outside of the metal underground. But in 2009 they released the album Walk Through Fire on SPV and Metal Blade Records and toured around the world. They attracted a bunch of new, younger fans and were able to quit their day-jobs and focus on the band.
Over forty years after their inception, Raven is now more popular than ever before. Part of this is the ridiculous energy that the trio exude in their live performances. Brothers John (bass/vocals) and Mark (guitars) Gallagher along with American drummer Joe Hasselvander bring the stage to life in a flurry of sweat, hair, and riffs. The Gallaghers thrash out and throw themselves around the stage in way that makes more than a few younger bands look a bit pathetic.
The band capitalized on the renewed fan interest and created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the recording costs of their latest SPV release ExtermiNation. They raised over $27,000, which was 80% more money than they were asking for. This is perhaps why the album has a modern and crisp sound but still conveys the rawness of their live show. They also ended up recording a classic rock covers album called Party Killers that they delivered to their campaign backers.
I caught up with John before their headlining set at The Garrison in Toronto to talk about the reception of the new album and how it came together, and we get a bit deeper into his outspoken distaste for extreme metal.
Raven Live in Toronto - The Garrison - September 2, 2015
Photo by Ester Segarra
Lucifer (the band) was formed by German vocalist Johanna Sadonis following the breakup of her previous band The Oath after just one album. While her former bandmate Linnéa Olsson would join up with Finnish goth-rockers Grave Pleasures, Sadonis would partner with guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings of the legendery U.K. doom act Cathedral. Together they worked on what would become Lucifer’s debut album, a hypnotic sludge-tinged traditional metal opus laden with occult imagery.
I spoke with Sadonis after Lucifer’s recent Toronto set opening for High on Fire and Pallbearer. In the new crop of traditional metal bands that are flooding the heavy music scene, the occult connection can be simply theatrical, while other acts hold those beliefs close to the chest. Sadonis and I chatted about her spiritual influences, and how the band cultivated their sound in the shadow of their former bands and a slew of contemporaries.
Lucifer are currently touring Europe and the U.K. with Paradise Lost. Their debut album Lucifer I is available now on Rise Above Records, and you can trip out to their video for “Izrael” here.
It was the last day of Wacken Open Air and the sun had finally decided to show itself. The whole area had been mashed up pretty hard. Non-stop rain had liquefied, then rubberized the ground and uncharacteristically cold weather had prevented it from drying out. This didn't stop the German metal hordes from their usual sport-drinking and chanting, but it definitely restricted the space you could hang out in without getting your beer rained on. The sunny Saturday definitely felt more positive and the genuine Wacken vibe began to show itself.
That evening death metal superstars Cannibal Corpse played a crushing ninety-minute career retrospective set on the Party Stage. I'd already seen them play WOA a couple of times, including a particularly memorable after-dark set in 2007. This time the sun was just setting and on a much smaller stage, but the band easily eclipsed every festival set I've seen them play with an amazing display of musicianship and technicality.
Photo by Alex Morgan
Earlier that day I met up with drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz in the VIP area and we talked about the reception of their latest album A Skeletal Domain, their intense touring schedule, and how their lyrics still get them into trouble after all this time.
I had dealt with a variety of weather conditions at Wacken Open Air over the years. In 2007 heavy rains leading up to the festival almost caused a cancellation, which was averted at the last minute when the rains let up and the grounds had some time to recover. There was the deluge in 2012 that turned the ground into liquid and rubber (depending on where you stood), and didn’t even let up on the final night.
But this year the legendary German metal festival experienced a particularly wretched case of bad weather. In fact a good portion of Northern Germany and the Netherlands was dealing with some unseasonably cold conditions due to a large low pressure system that hovered over us like a haze of doom. The area had already been battered mercilessly when campers started to arrive. Wednesday evening saw non-stop rain that carried through until the next day, and although it slowly began to clear up, the grounds were completely massacred. What was first a cold-as-hell lake of dirty water became a mire of sticky mud that devoured boots and shoes of all kinds.
By Friday a number of my interviews were cancelled as flooding had messed up the roads going in and out of the Wacken village. Even getting around the festival grounds was logistically far more difficult than usual. Luckily I clumped across the field of mud traps just in time to interview Esa Holopainen, guitarist and founding member of Finland’s Amorphis.
Photo by Ville Juurikkala
Despite a new release full of ultra-melodic death metal on the way, the band was there to play their 1994 album Tales from the Thousand Lakes in its entirety. We spoke about playing the album with their modern line-up, how their sound still reflects their musical origins, and whether Amorphis can still be considered a death metal band.
The brand new Amorphis album Under The Red Cloud was just released by Nuclear Blast Records. Check out the video for “Sacrifice” here.
Coming soon: An interview with Cannibal Corpse backstage at Wacken 2015