I became aware of Castle when I received a promo for their latest album “Blacklands”, a tight collection of female-fronted hard rock steeped in the tradition of early heavy metal. The band was listed as being from San Francisco, so it was a bit of a surprise when the next time I saw them mentioned it was on the 2013 Juno nominees list in the Metal/Hard Rock category.
Recently Castle passed through Toronto’s Lee’s Palace on their tour with The Sword, and I had a chance to speak with guitarist Mat Davis so we could clear up the Canadian connection, and also discuss the band’s sound in context with the glut of traditional rock and metal bands currently being signed and promoted.
The story of Georgia’s Baroness is one of rock’s more turbulent tales in recent memory. Their two colour-titled releases (“Red Album” and “Blue Record”) garnered critical acclaim, and they went on to tour with Mastodon, Deftones, and even Metallica. Much like Mastodon, Baroness’ unique mix of progressive rock and heavy metal riffs found an audience with the indie crowd, and the band played both the Coachella and Bonnaroo festivals.
Their latest double-album, the bluesy “Yellow & Green”, came out in May of last year to an extremely positive response. Nearly three months later the band suffered a disastrous tour-bus accident in Bath, England. Frontman John Baizley, who broke his left arm and leg, vividly chronicled the accident on the band’s website: baronessmusic.com/update-from-baroness/
A year later Baizley along with fellow guitarist/vocalist Peter Adams, took Baroness back on the road with a new bassist and drummer to finish the job of presenting their newest material to their fans. I met up with John and Peter before their gig at The Mod Club in Toronto to talk about how the fans react to a band’s personal struggles, the perceived direction of their sound, and tunes they’ve been working on during their hiatus.
Baroness are currently on tour in North America, and have just released the BBC EP “Live At Maida Vale”.
The Dillinger Escape Plan are one of the most unique entities in rock n’ roll. Their albums can be confusing as the majority of the tracks are a unique blend of punk, hardcore, and metal, but they sit next to soaring pop songs with a perfectly clean tone. Including pop songs on their albums next to tracks that often verge on pure noise seems somehow both commercially savvy and yet suicidal. Their audience has grown slowly, but it’s a dedicated crowd, some of whom discovered them on the unlikeliest of bills.
They’ve toured with Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, and AFI and collaborated with Mike Patton. At the moment their headlining the annual Summer Slaughter Tour, an all-day affair usually dominated by extreme death metal.
Then there’s the live show. There is no other band that physically occupies more space on stage than Dillinger. I have no scientific evidence to back that up, other than to say that their live experience have resulted in serious injuries to the band and damaged equipment.
I had a chance to sit down with guitarist Ben Weinman and bassist Liam Wilson and chat about being inaccessible and commercial at the same time, attention from more-famous peers, and why they haven’t been paid for a number of dates on their current tour.
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.