Photo Courtesy of Venom Inc. / Alpha Omega Management
Metal legends Venom are primarily known for their early eighties material created by the original line-up, as well as scaring more than a few parents with their over-the-top Satanic imagery. This material would go on to inspire legions of bands across the spectrum of heavy metal.
These days there are two versions of the band. Bassist/vocalist Cronos tours with new members under the Venom name, while guitarist Mantas and drummer Abaddon have been joined by frontman Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan under the banner of Venom Inc. Dolan is a familiar face to Venom fans, as he took over for Cronos when he originally left the band in the late eighties.
Last month Venom Inc. rolled through Toronto’s Hard Luck Bar and delivered a set of classics to a loud and receptive audience. The show initially seemed under threat, as it had been downgraded from the spacious Danforth Music Hall. The thing is, the band sounds really good. In fact it sounds like vintage Venom, and good thing too because that’s pretty much what they’re going for. I sat down with Abaddon before their set to talk about why this lineup is concentrating on the early Venom material rather than the songs they recorded together, re-starting their careers, and how he’s happy for there to be two versions of Venom... even if Cronos is using the original band logos he created.
Photos by Andrew Epstein
I recently had the chance to speak with guitarist Kaoru of Japan’s art rock legends Dir En Grey. The band, who began their life nearly two decades ago in the glammed out visual kei scene, are arguably the most well known Japanese speaking act in the world. They’ve always had two levels of musical style, releasing avant-garde rock compositions alongside pop ballads. In recent years the former has had a distinct metallic touch. Along with a more toned-down look on stage this new sound swelled their fan-base in Europe and North America.
Their latest album Arche goes against this formula by combining their two sides into a unique experience that doesn’t reveal all its secrets in the first listen. It’s garnered the band some of the best reviews of their career. Much like the music on the new album, interviewing the band can also require peeling back a few layers. I sat down with Kaoru before an energetic set at Toronto’s Opera House to chat (through a translator) about the new album, his need to be loud, and re-embracing the visual side of the band. Also with the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 once again in the news, we touched on the band’s Scream for the Truth campaign which called for government transparency in the wake of the tragedy
Dir En Grey have two dates lined up in February at Tokyo’s legendary Nippon Budokan. Arche is available now and you can watch the video for “Uroko” here.
Check out my previous interview with Dir En Grey bassist Toshiya from 2014.
On occasion for one reason or another an interview gets put on the back-burner and doesn’t get produced. But good interviews never die, so as a special holiday gift to you I am proud to introduce a new feature called The Zombitrol Vaults.
The first installment features an interview from the fall of last year with the lovely Sharon den Adel, vocalist of the Dutch symphonic metal superstars Within Temptation. Watch the video below to see us chat about how being melodic doesn’t equal commercial success, and why the Dutch seem to have a stranglehold on the symphonic style.
Shot and Edited by Aaron Mandel at Boke Productions
Within Temptation have just wrapped up their special Black Xmas performances in the Netherlands. Check out the full live video for “Covered By Roses” here.
Photo by Thor Broedreskift
The Norwegian black metal band Enslaved have always had a progressive element to their sound. Although their earlier material is raw and primal, the music has distinct sonic elements that set them apart from others in the genre. Beginning with the 2001 album Monumension these element began to become far more pronounced. With the help of some lengthy melodic jams and ethereal keyboard passages, Enslaved began to be perceived as the sort-of “Pink Floyd of black metal.”
Their latest album In Times brings them closer to this idea than ever before. The album is comprised of six epic tracks that use equal amounts of extreme abrasiveness and delicate melodies. During their last pass through Toronto (the first since they were waylaid by a blizzard in late 2013) I sat down with Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/vocals) and Grutle Kjellson (vocals/bass) for an in-depth interview about how they have arrived at their current sound, the role Norse culture plays in their music, and how the post-nineties perception of black metal in Norway has helped their profile at home.
Enslaved are currently on tour in North America with Between the Buried and Me with two dates in Canada: December 10th in Toronto at the Danforth Music Hall, and December 11th in Ottawa at the Bronson Centre. In Times is available now on Nuclear Blast Records, and you can listen to the track “One Thousand Years of Rain” here.