Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Yule!

I know the posts have been a little lot thin around here lately, but the largely unavoidable trauma of the season has been taking a toll on my writing schedule. The reviews and interviews are piling up, so it won't be long before the posts will be churned out with some semblance of regularity once more. But for now, I want to wish you a very merry Yule. As the sunlight begins to increase, I hope so too does your fortune. Be safe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview: Alison Thunderland of Axxion

The renewed popularity of traditional heavy metal has brought with it a fresh generation of wild and crazy bands, one of which is Canada's Axxion. Based in Toronto, Axxion has been making an impact on the trad metal scene with their energetic live performances and their recently released self-titled EP. The band's drummer, Alison Thunderland (ain't that one helluva metal name?), spent a few moments answering questions about the band, the EP, and  everyone's favorite elven ranger - Legolas.

[HMM] For those who may be unfamiliar with Axxion, would you introduce the band?
Alison Thunderland of Axxion

[Alison Thunderland] Axxion is a good old fashioned Heavy Metal band from Canada! Dee’s the singer and guitar player, Shred’s also on guitar and Chris Riley on bass and I’m the drummer…but come on, no one cares about the drummer.

How and when was Axxion formed?

I guess you could say it all started in July of 2011. I had just left my last band and Dee and just left his as well, and I’d known him for a long time so we just started jamming me and him in the hourly rental jam spaces goofing off playing tunes, then we found our first guitar player Inti and bass player, who both ended up leaving pretty early on, and now we’ve finally got the final line-up.

Your debut, self-titled EP was just released this past Halloween. How as the feedback been so far?

I’m honestly so friggen surprised! Haha I’ve only heard good things so far, people seem to be loving it, but then again who’s gonna call me up and say “Hey I just got the new album…it sucks!” Who knows maybe someone will do it haha!

Where was it recorded, and how long was Axxion in the studio?

It was recorded all by Shred, he did everything man; record, mix, master! This is a legit basement recording haha. We were too damn poor to pay for a studio and he offered to record us (when Inti was still playing guitar). The drums were done in a day and then we just hit obstacle after obstacle. First we had our bass player leave, then the guitar player not long after but once we got the solid line-up with Shred, Chris, Dee and myself it all fell into place in a couple weeks and voila! We changed up a couple songs once Shred came along and just went for it.

Is the songwriting process for Axxion a group effort?

The writing is one of the best things about this band; I call it the democracy rule haha but really everyone has an equal say in everything from riffs, to lyrics to drums fills. Usually we go with what the majority of us want but you’d be surprised how many times one person manages to convince the other three! It makes writing a lot easier and a lot more fun, because everyone feels included in the whole process.

Original Axxion guitarist Init Paredes left the band just a couple of months before the EP's release. Does he still make an appearance on the album, or did your new axeslinger Sir Shred handle all of the lead six-string duties during recording?

Yea after Inti left, we got Shred in there and he and Dee got everything finished up as quick as possible so it’s just those two guys on the album.

Is the band already looking ahead to a follow-up release?

Yea we’re gonna be working on a full length in the new year, hopefully we can get it recorded quick after all the songs sound nice and tight, so maybe we’ll have something out by early spring?

Are there any tour plans in the works?

No tours planned yet; maybe in the new year, we’ve gotta see what opportunities come up and I think we’re all hoping to tour in Europe instead of North America, but right now it’s a bit off on the horizon.

Are there any interesting stories from past gigs that you'd be willing to share?

Hmmm. Well we’ve only had a few shows so nothing too crazy yet; there is this guy in Toronto who comes out to every show and he looks like a legitimate gangster but he loves the shit! He kills everyone in the mosh pit haha!!!

Is there a particular song that you love to perform live?

I think my favourite might have to be "Stallion" because I get to do a lot of my favourites in that one. I mean, come on, it starts with a drums fill of course I love it haha! And there’s a nice part in the pre-chorus where I just get to ride the bell of my ride, I love that, bell riding that’s where it’s at! I’ve also got a couple cool fills in that one as well and I get to sing back ups, I’m not the greatest singer but I actually like doing it, it’s like a mental activity moving all four limbs and singing.

Before joining Axxion you were in another traditional metal band called Skull Fist, which you recorded an EP with. Were you in any metal bands prior to Skull Fist?

I actually recorded the full length as a favour to Jackie as well….not like anyone cares haha. But no nothing serious before Skull Fist, I jammed with a couple people, I used to jam with a couple people that I knew from a recording studio I worked at when I was like 16 but that ended pretty quick. It was tough I never knew anyone playing metal growing up, so I was a loner for a long time haha, playing alone in the basement.

You recently had a starring role in Cauldron's video for "Nitebreaker". How fun was that, and how did the opportunity come about?
Alison Thunderland of Axxion

Dude that video was so fun! We shot all night from like 5:30pm until 8:30am the next day but man was it cold overnight and we had to do all the cool shots overnight. Well one night Decay asked if I would be interested in being chased by some Cauldron zombies and I said hell yea! So we went out into the woods and ran around all night. It was awesome working with the Cauldron guys, they’re all super cool guys it was definitely an experience to remember. And I got to beat the shit out of some zombies too haha!

There seems to be a fair number of classic metal outfits emerging from Canada recently. Do you think there's more of a hunger for old-school metal in Canada than, say, the U.S.?

It seems to be that way doesn’t it? I guess I’d have to agree with that, I always say there’s this “American Metal” scene they’ve got going on down there with bands like Lamb of God and Meshuggah style bands. Not to say that we don’t have it here, it’s just not as big. We’ve got a fair bit of thrash over here as well, I think like 2/3 bands here play some form of thrash/ death metal, so maybe that’s why the old-school stuff stands out more; not everyone’s doing it and when people hear it they’re thinking “Oh damn! It’s good.”

The "denim & leather" scene holds a lot of nostalgia for metalheads of a certain age (like myself). What is it about this particular era in heavy metal history that appeals to you?

I think it’s the way the music feels when you listen to it. If I listen to an album and it makes me want to run away and quit my job and just go to festivals all year long it’s a damn good album!! There are so many bands that got shafted because they didn’t have media appeal so they never got big, but some of my favourite bands just have that OOMPF! You know? And I never look at a band based on one member; I don’t care if you have the best guitar player in the world if the songs aren’t good then the band’s no good. And everyone in that era was way cooler, no one gave a damn, there was no internet to go complain on, if you wanted to say something you said it face to face like a man, and if you got punched in the face so be it! That’s life, the age of technology has given us a lot but it’s also taken away a lot of face to face stuff. Speaking of Denim and Leather we’ve been playing a cover of the Saxon song with the same name, gotta stay true to your roots!

How long have you been playing the drums, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?
Alison Thunderland of Axxion

I’ve now hit the nine year time flies! Well, when I was growing up I didn’t have anyone to show me music, or at least no one who wanted to so I just listened whatever was on the TV, and I’m not sure why but one day I went into my brother’s room and found this Metallica album and that was the first time I heard heavy metal and I was thinking where can I get more!? Then I started listening to whatever I could get my hands on, a lot of thrash in the early days then Megadeth, Yngwie Malmsteen, Iced Earth, it all starts to branch off, I didn’t know how to get my hands on music so whatever my brother had. The day my life changed was probably when I found Blind Guardian, I think I crapped my pants that day, and the first time I heard Iron Maiden and I’ve never looked back.

Are there any specific drummers who inspire or influence you?

Ok ok here comes the generic everyone loves him drummer but, Nicko Mcbrain. Just his footwork and the way he plays that ride it gets my blood going! When I was like 13 my dad bet me $20 that I would, in his words “never be able to play "Run to the Hills"”. Let’s just say he was $20 poorer within the week. You should have seen his face when I got my double kicks. Anyways, everything Nicko’s done I just eat it up, sorry to be cliché but he’s my hero! Also my drum teacher, Neal Busby; coolest guy ever. I’m not doing lessons with him anymore, been a couple years, but he’s a WICKED drummer and an amazing teacher. I owe everything I know to him; he made me get out of my comfort zone and really play, not just smash everything in sight haha. He used to play in a band called Slik Toxic and now he’s doing a project with his wife called Twirl. Another one of my heroes hehe.

I read in an interview you did a while back that you consider yourself to be a true Lord of the Rings fan (as are most metalheads, of course). What do you think about Peter Jackson's handling of The Hobbit?

I dunno about over there but it’s not out here yet! I’m really stoked to see it though. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has got to be my favourite movies of all time (the original Star Wars comes in a close second). I actually watched the first one like…yesterday haha, my tapes are going to stop working soon I watch them so much. He did a really amazing job with the first three and I only have high expectations for the Hobbit. I hope Legolas makes an appearance, what a hottie haha, though I don’t think he does, at least not in the book which I also read last week- wow do I sound like a super nerd yet? When I first saw Lord of the Rings I thought his hair was real and when I found out it wasn’t…..not a happy camper.

I also read that you were studying archaeology. Is that still true?

Yeah I actually am finishing up a degree in Biological Anthropology and Archaeology so I get to do everything from fossils, to animal biology to human evolution. Unfortunately university here is really expensive but it’s something that I’m also really interested in, now I have  to go watch the Indiana Jones trilogy you got me all riled up! haha

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to play the drums in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

Practice your ass off! Don’t be a chick that sells her ass, sell your forearms! The biggest insult anyone could say to me would be “you play good for a girl”. I’m not down with that at all. Yea yea the media wants to sell your tits but if you can kick ass people will RESPECT you, and that’s way more important than wanting to sleep with ya. Look at Doro she’s the coolest chick ever, queen of metal (sorry Lee Arron) and she’s got the pipes to prove it! Another one of my life heroes.

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Axxion for the first time?

Yea, if you’re a musician and you’re getting down about not having anyone to jam with and think you’ll never form a band, don’t quit! People are out there, they’re looking for you too. I played alone in my basement for years before I even found someone who could play heavy metal. If you quit no one will ever hear it, we need heavy metal to stay alive, keep the flame burning!

Thanks for the excellent interview Alison! I can't wait to hear what Axxion has in store for your next release.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: Victorians Aristocrats' Symphony - Revival (2012)

Victorians Aristocrats' Symphony [ Website | Facebook | ReverbNation ]

Victorians Aristocrats Symphony - Revival
Performance art, when combined with heavy metal, can be a very powerful experience. Alice Cooper, in my opinion the progenitor of shock rock/metal, so integrated his stage persona and theatrics with his music (and does so still) that the sum of the entire experience far exceeds its parts. In the modern symphonic/Gothic metal world, most outfits make only a cursory attempt to establish a visual image beyond the occasional frilly cravat or heavily mascaraed frontwoman. Poland's Victorians - Aristocrats' Symphony (VAS for simplicity's sake), on the other hand, have taken the unique approach of placing emphasis on image and theatrics. The band's music, as evidenced by their debut album Revival, is enjoyable and meets all of the stylistic prerequisites, but it's the VAS backstory and stage presence that sets this band apart from the numerous second-tier outfits hitting the live circuit these days.

As the VAS story goes, over a century ago the ancestors of the current band members founded a secret society known as the V-Lodge. Read into that what you will, I certainly did, but the band's official bio seems to allude to the V referring to either the Victorian Age or vampirism - probably both - but not the kind of V that I was thinking of. Anyway, the band members came together in 2010 to resurrect the aristocratic and somewhat debauched ideals of this secretive Victorian society through classically-inspired arrangements and semi-operatic vocals. The band members fully immerse themselves into their theatrical world by donning period costumes and adopting mysterious-sounding pseudonyms, each with an equally fanciful personal backstory, for a completely integrated musical and visual creation.

Victorians Aristocrats Symphony
Although a great deal of importance is obviously placed upon the visual aspects of VAS, the music does not suffer because of it. Fronted by the striking personality of Eydis, the band creates a robust, symphonic metal soundscape rife with classical references and instrumentation. Eydis delivers a throaty, enchanting performance with just a hint of an Eastern European accent. Her range is impressive, and while not quite as polished as the Tarja Turunen and Monika Pedersen crowd, Eydis is only a notch below the elite singers due in large part to her versatility. The first song on Revival, "Descent of Your Destiny", contains her most engaging performance of the album as she skillfully employs Middle-Eastern vocal melodies in her delivery. Elsewhere, Eydis deftly maneuvers from crisp high notes to sultry near-whispers, underscoring her ability to match whatever mood the band chooses to set.

The most Gothic-sounding song on Revival, "In the End", employs familiar chugging riffs as a foundation for a mournful piano arrangement and a plucky string accompaniment. The remainder of Revival is an exercise in symphonic metal execution, with lush keyboard effects combining with synthesized orchestral compositions to enshroud the driving riffs and martial beats in a a gilded glaze.

While executed with precision and bolstered by interesting vocal variety, the music of Revival possesses little to set VAS apart from many of their symphonic metal peers. The story, therefore, is in the band's devotion to their visual presentation. Fans of Nightwish and the like will still want to explore Revival further, and those fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend a VAS live performance will want to be sure to do so.

Track Listing
1Descent of Your Destiny5:18
2In the End (Love Me Now)3:53
3Voice of Eternal Love3:55
4Who Never Loved5:26
6Servants of Beauty3:39
7Prince of Night3:43
8Don't Let Them Cut My Wings3:40
9Juliet's Tale5:51
Total Runtime45:10

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Interview: Andrea Weiss of Black Daffodils

Embracing all of the qualities that have led to success for bands such as Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Within Temptation, Germany's Black Daffodils have made the transition from cover band to releasing their own identifiable material on their debut album Broken Flower. The band's charismatic frontwoman, Andrea Weiß, spent a few minutes with Harvest Moon Music for the latest installment of the Women of Heavy Metal interview series.

[HMM] For readers unfamiliar with Black Daffodils, would you introduce the band?

Andrea Weiss of Black Daffodils
[Andrea Weiß] Black Daffodils is a female fronted rock and metal Band from Kronach, Germany. We are five musicians: Björn on the guitar, Chris on keys, Micha on bass, Markus on drums and me as the lead singer. Our songs are filled with great emotions like passion, rage or loss – feelings every one of us is familiar with. The listener is taken on a thrilling ride of heaviness, progression, drama and deep melancholy.

How and when did the band come together?

The band was formed in 2007 as a cover band for a party. At that time we did not know that we would do an album one day. We had a lot of fun and continued to play together. We covered bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish or Evanescence and other bands of this genre. One day we started to try to write own songs and felt like this was the right thing for us to do. At our live shows we got great reactions on our own songs and decided to focus on that.

How did the band come to be named Black Daffodils?

To be honest – there is not a big explanation for the name. We just tried to find an extraordinary name and when we found the name Black Daffodils we liked the sound of it. It is special and it fits our music.

Your debut album, Broken Flower, was just released in October. How has the feedback been so far?

Black Daffodils
The feedback was really positive. The people who have the album seem to like the diversity of the songs. When we ask our listeners which songs they like most almost everyone names a different one.

Have you received much feedback from outside of Germany?

Up to now unfortunately not, but we hope this will change soon.

Where was Broken Flower recorded, and how was the experience?

The drums and vocals were recorded at the Backyard Studio in Bayreuth. It was a lot of fun to record there and we learned a lot. Chris recorded the keys on his own and also recorded the guitars together with Björn. Micha also recorded his bass at home. It took almost a whole year from recording the first note to the final mastering. The mixing and mastering was done by our former band technician Johannes Fischer.

Who created the cover art?

Black Daffodils - Broken Flower
That was me. I tried to find the right idea which fit the music. As you can see now the black daffodils on the cover refer to the band name and also to the album title. The picture looks very sad, dark and romantic just like the songs on the album.

How long had the band been writing the material for the album?

I think that was about one year until all the songs were written and arranged completely. Unfortunately we cannot make a living out of our music and we all have normal jobs so it took a little time until we were satisfied with each song.

Is the songwriting process for Black Daffodils a group effort?

Yes, definitely. I think this is what makes our music special. Every one of us brings his own ideas and influences into the songs. On Broken Flower you can hear that. The songs are very diverse. There are the melodic melancholic tunes and topics and also the heavy parts or the symphonic orchestral songs as well as the catchy elements.

Does the band have any upcoming tour plans?

Black Daffodils
Of course we plan to play live concerts constantly. At the moment we are planning the next concerts for 2013 but I cannot say anything concrete yet.

Have you had the opportunity to tour outside of Germany?

Unfortunately not yet, but if we get the chance to do that we will.

Are there any interesting stories from previous gigs that you’d be willing to share?

Yes. The first time we played in Nürnberg we got to know Harald who became our first real fan! Now he comes to almost every BD-concert, even if he has to drive very far. He even made his own CD cover for the album. That is something very cool that we do not want to miss.

Is there one song in particular that you love to perform live?

My favorite song live is "The One I was" cause it is so dramatic. We often feel that the audience is really surprised when the first so soft and sad song takes this unexpected change to a really heavy ending.

How long have you been singing, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?

Andrea Weiss of Black Daffodils
I already loved singing as a child and I had my first band experience at the age of 14. But this band did not last very long. So I sang a lot at home and together with my sister. I always loved rock music and wanted to sing in a rock or metal band because that felt like freedom to me. I did not plan to found a band when I met my BD-guys and it also was not planed what kind of music we would do later. Musically Black Daffodils is the perfect band for me as a musician and as singer because that is the kind of music I want to do.

Are there any singers in particular who inspire or influence you?

As a teenager I listened a lot to bands like Aerosmith, Guns 'n' Roses and Bon Jovi – real rock singers. Later I discovered Sheryl Crow and still she is a great singer for me. I also listened a lot to Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. Their singing really touches and inspires me even though it has nothing to do with metal. If I have to name a singer from a metal band who is an inspiration for me it would be Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation.

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to sing in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

Do not compare yourself with others and try to find your own voice.

What do you enjoy most about being in a heavy metal band?

I really love the power of this music and it is a great feeling to create songs together with a very creative team and to rock live.

Andrea Weiss of Black Daffodils
Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Black Daffodils for the first time?

I thank all the BD-fans out there for your support. For those who might not know us yet: If you like bands like Nightwish, Evanescence or Within Temptation then check us out, you might like our music! Thanks for the interview.

Thank you for your time and wonderful answers, Andrea. Black Daffodils has a sound that is a favorite here at Harvest Moon Music, so I'm looking forward to what the band has in store!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Frank Roberts - Change in Motion (2012)

Frank Roberts [ Website | Facebook | ReverbNation ]
Change in Motion

Frank Roberts - Change in Motion
Just last week I remarked on my personal indifference toward instrumental albums since the majority of them are not much more than braggadocio, interesting primarily to other shred-oriented musicians. Change in Motion, the debut EP from Montreal native Frank Roberts, does not dispel the stereotype. After spending many years contributing to other musicians' albums, as well as establishing himself as a fixture behind the boards of local studios, Roberts has released Change in Motion as a means of drawing attention to his abilities as a rock guitarist and songwriter. The EP definitely proves that Roberts possesses formidable talent, but will struggle to gain traction among general audiences.

The title track, which kicks off the EP, is an uptempo composition dominated by Roberts' leads. Although he also provides the backing instrumentation (bass and drum programming), Roberts' approach on this song is clearly to establish a signature lead guitar presence. Melody and harmonized riffing take a backseat to his agile fretwork, and as such "Change in Motion" succeeds as a "showcase" song. The pace is slowed on "The Missing Element" to more of a blues-rock amble, with Robert's leads adopting a more melodic approach as they make room for the other instruments.

Frank Roberts
Roberts' begins to devote more energy to catchy accessibility with "Conflicting Ambitions". The song starts with somewhat of a pop-rock beat bolstered by strong melodies that integrate seamlessly with the leads, which themselves offer a nice variety of tones. As a general listener, the standout song for me is "Under the Cali Sun". There's a warm, embracing mellowness to the riffs that recall - ever so slightly - Satriani at his most reflective.

Change in Motion fulfills its purpose as a vehicle designed to display Frank Roberts' skill with the guitar and will raise awareness of his talents within the metal/rock community. Casual listeners may want to keep an eye out for future endeavors by this skillful Canadian axeslinger.

Track Listing
1Change in Motion3:15
2The Missing Element3:24
3Conflicting Ambitions5:00
4Under the Cali Sun5:29
Total Runtime17:08

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Life Tragic - Destiny, How Are You? (2010)

Life Tragic [ Website | Facebook | ReverbNation ]
Destiny, How Are You?

Life Tragic - Destiny, How Are You?
Initially formed as a cover band, Minnesota's Life Tragic have issued their debut album of original hard rock tunes. Sporting "Suicide Girl"-inspired cover art by Spain's Victoria Francés, Destiny, How Are You? is an entertaining album of post-grunge hard rock that - at times - emulates the band's influences just a touch too well.

"Easy Enough" starts the album off with an overwhelmingly Velvet Revolver sound, particularly in the slightly sleazy tones of Tim Butler and Geoff Franz' riffs and leads. Throughout Destiny, How Are You?, Butler and Franz make it clear that they are connoisseurs of the Slash-meets-Jerry Cantrell school of guitar slinging. Typically this influence manifests as such - just an influence, resulting in familiar yet unique riffs and leads. On songs such as "Easy Enough" and the Alice In Chains-influenced "Do Me Bad Things", however, Life Tragic allows their history as a cover band to dominate the originality of their songwriting. The majority of the songs on the album fortunately avoid overt '90s grunge references and instead call attention to the band's high-energy, original rock sound.

Life Tragic
The song that stands above the rest as a uniquely Life Tragic song is, appropriately, "The Life Tragic". Comprised of extraterrestrial guitar effects, an upbeat mood, and gurgling/growling vocals,  this song is the most experimental on the album and turns out to be the standout number - which is not often the case when a band attempts to push boundaries. The more standard rock fare of the dark sounding "Sea of Red", the bass heavy "Complications", and the acoustic "Angel Lust" may not be as identifiable as "The Life Tragic", but represent the band's core blue-collar sound and serve as the granite upon which Destiny, How Are You? is built.

Life Tragic takes another risk near the end of the album with a live cover of Prince's hit "When Doves Cry". I encourage you not to snicker until you've had a chance to listen to the track, as it's an interesting take on the fellow Minnesotan's original and probably one of the band's favorite live numbers.

As a debut album of original material by a former cover band, Destiny, How Are You? reveals that Life Tragic is still holding on tightly to the sound of their past as they edge closer to establishing an identity of their own. Nevertheless, fans with an awareness of the past two decades of rock will find much about this album that is appealing as we anticipate the next chapter of Life Tragic.

Track Listing
1Easy Enough3:01
2The Life Tragic4:11
3Do Me Bad Things3:18
6Sea of Red3:46
8Angel Lust4:03
10Meant To Live3:50
11When Doves Cry3:59
12The Life Tragic (Original Version)4:05
Total Runtime47:17

Monday, November 26, 2012

Interview: Desislava Hristova of Chains

Bulgaria's Chains was a modern metal outfit that bore similarities to late-'90s era Metallica, where thrashy guitar leads blended with polished production values and growling vocals. I refer to Chains in the past-tense because the band broke up during the interview process with drummer Desislava Hristova - definitely a first for me. In spite of the strong emotions that tend to well up as a band goes their separate ways, Desislava graciously completed the interview for Harvest Moon Music.

[HMM] For readers unfamiliar with Chains, would you introduce the band and describe your role?

Desislava Hristova of Chains
[Desislava] Chains was a progressive trash metal band from Bulgaria. We had lots of concerts in our country, we took part in several festivals and competitions, TV and radio Shows with the main idea of making and performing our own music. And finally in 2012 we released our first EP, called Pieces of Reality. Ivan Munin-VANS was the lead singer and guitar player in the band, Ivailo Tsatsov was the lead guitarist, Peter Bachev – the bass player and I was the girl always smiling behind the drum set.

How and when did Chains form, and how did you come to be the drummer?

Going back in time to 2008 I see 4 enthusiastic, full of energy and ideas people, who just loved the music and spent lots of time devoted to their dream. At first thanks, to a guitar teacher who was gathering people for a band, I met Ivo (the lead guitarist), the former singer and bass player and it took us month or two to realize what we really wanted so we took things into our own hands and that’s how the band was formed. A year later Ivan joined us and in 2011 we decided that Peter was the missing link and that was no mistake.

What's the story behind the band's name?

I really can’t remember how and why we chose this name but actually Ivo had a good story about it. Once we were invited to an interview for an online magazine, when we were asked to tell the story behind the band’s name and we gave the word to Ivo as one of the former members of the band and surprisingly we were really impressed of his answer. He said that the idea came from a music forum and the name represents the power and the interaction in a chain. True story!

How long have you been playing the drums?

My love and patience for this instrument were born in Switzerland. I was student taking part in an exchange program and I had the opportunity to visit a rehearsal of one of the students there who was a guitar player and… guess what happened when I saw the drum set… I fell in love (with the drums)! I’ve never been interested in music or drums until then. I think in that moment I turned that page. Step by step and thanks to many people 4 years ago I started playing drums and after 3 months I had my band. I developed my skills and technique thanks to the invaluable support and patience of my teachers and the guys from the band.

Do you play any other instruments?

Funny story! Once we had this idea to go out on stage, playing a song with changed roles. I had to play the bass…well we tried it at home and actually decided to spare our fans and friends. So…no I cannot play any other instruments and I’m also not allowed to sing…and it is all for good!

What led to your involvement in heavy metal?

I began playing in the band with nothing but my love of drums. The first songs I played were well known rock and heavy metal classics. I think the guys from the band and the other awesome people I’ve met through all these years played an important role in my involvement in heavy metal music.

Chains' debut EP Pieces of Reality was released in 2012. How has the feedback been so far?

Well the promo show went really well with the support of two great bands named Wartime and Voltage. We principally received positive feedback about the songs and artwork of the CD and we were really happy and satisfied with this as it has been a few years now working hard for this. A few on-line media, a radio and a TV channel did great reviews of the CD claiming that we are one of the most interesting bands in Bulgaria at the moment which was the greatest acknowledgement and achievement of our short music career. Well of course there were some negative feedback about the record and some other slight details we missed but it is always good to have that as well so we know what to improve further.

Have you received much feedback from outside of Bulgaria?

Sadly we did not receive a lot of feed back outside the country as we did not promote it in foreign countries. However we did receive some positive feedback by some people from USA, Cuba (as far as we remember) and some people from Europe including a few guys from the UK.

Many of the lyrics on Pieces of Reality seem to deal with war, corruption, and environmental destruction. Are the lyrics targeted at any specific entity, or are they more about the general state of the world?

The lyrics were inspired by many worldwide issues society experiences nowadays including wars, corruption, poorness, politics and other. Also there are a bit of personal experiences, feelings and thoughts we involved as we are part of that society.

Is the songwriting process for Chains a group effort, and if so what are your contributions?

Absolutely! Each of us had the right, obligation and privilege to leave his own signature in the song.

How long was the band in the studio recording Pieces of Reality, and how was the experience?

Desislava Hristova of Chains
The process of recording the CD was really funny and we had some really good times doing it. We made some friendships, some funny jokes and funny moments and we did get the maximum of ourselves at that point. Well of course when we listen to it now we realize we could do better but when it happened it was good and we do not regret a single thing we did back then. It took us a few months as we were a bit busy but actually the recording hours were not that many.

Has the writing for the next album begun?

At the moment Chains doesn’t exist anymore. After 4 years together sharing one stage and road we made a decision 2 weeks ago to try something new. I believe the music is and always will be a priority for each one of us and this is the way we should move on.

Now that Chains is no more, do you plan to stay involved in heavy metal?

In any aspect, this music became a big part of me and my life. The journey began with Chains and the experience was strong enough to keep me not just involved but totally in love. I already have several invitations for new projects…the “Show must go on” and “We won’t betray ourselves”.

Are there any interesting stories from previous gigs that you’d be willing to share?

The first story that comes to my mind is at the same time funny and sad. We all know the series of drummer jokes…here we go…we had this concert when in the middle of the show my mind went blank, I didn’t know what should I play, and not because I couldn’t see clearly the playlist. I just forgot the song…and what was even worse…it was one of our own songs. I counted to 4 and thought to myself “It will come with the first riff”…but NO! I started with something completely different, we had to stop the song and start all over again and again…but NO memories came to scene. I felt awfully, the guys were thinking that I’m joking (I wish I was!)

Is there one song in particular that is your favorite to play live?

Desislava Hristova of Chains
Yes, this is the last song we wrote together. That happened last year, when I had to spend the summer in Germany, 2 months without drumming, live music and rehearsals. When I came back the guys played for me the new song they had created and I hardly stopped my tears. I really love this song. It’s called “Foreseeable” and it represents to me the meaning of the music – the shared feeling and emotion.

Are there any specific drummers who inspire or influence you?

One of the first drummers I heard about was Thomas Lang and I’m really happy that I met him in person this year. Amazing drummer with incredible technique and mind and really good sense of humor. I admire drummers like Mike Portnoy, Mike Mangin, George Kollias, Danny Carey, Thomas Haake, Jonas Ekdahl. Dennis Chambers, Nicko McBrain, Aquiles Priester, Marco Minnemann and many others, who inspired me and I also cannot miss names like the legendary Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Phill Collins who opened a whole new universe for me.

What are some of your favorite bands?

I will always start this list with Whitesnake, Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden and I would add now bands like Godsmack, Pantera, Evergrey, Symphony X, Death, Opeth, Dream Theater and many others.

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to be a drummer in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

I think with the aspiration the first step is made. In my opinion there are three basic rules:
1. willing for development
2. practice1000000
3. self-confidence
Never take it too seriously, first of all it always should be fun! And one last thing…don’t be afraid to smile!

In your four years with Chains, what would you say was your most valuable experience?

Desislava Hristova of Chains
Well, that’s a hard one! I’ve learned how to listen to music, the first step toward its creation. I shared the best time of my life so far with the guys from the band and all the memories we created together will always make me smile. Тhe first song, the first concert, the first interview, the first CD … it always will be а little sentimental. The truth is that actually I cannot emphasize the most valuable experience but thinking about it at the moment I envy myself. I had the honor to go through all these firsts with amazing musicians on the stage and close to my heart persons off stage!

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Chains for the first time?

I would like to thank all the great pеople who helped and supported me and the band through the years and who always made us feel just right there on the stage, sharing emotions and energy, we’ll never forget that. WE highly appreciate it, because thanks to all these people we have our story and we are proud of it!

You can check our music in our YouTube channel and visit us on our Facebook page, where the guys are representing now their new project called Fragments Of Existence, level up for sure! I wish them health and joy, inspiration and resounding success on the world scene! Stay Metal!

Thank you so very much for your great answers! I'm looking forward to hearing about where your career in metal takes you next.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's time once more for our yearly sojourn to the land of football and turkey as we reflect upon all we that have to be thankful for. Without becoming too encumbered by serious reflection, I'd just like to say that I am personally thankful for family and good health. Neither are perfect and, for some, good health is a relative term, but I cherish what I have and the time that I have left with those whose health is fading. 

Now, the heavy metal world has largely ignored this uniquely American holiday, but I did manage to scrape up this little gem from The Underwear Serpents. I truly hope you celebration turns out much better than this one!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Red Sky - Origami (2012)

Red Sky [ Website | Facebook ]

Red Sky - Origami
I'm usually not a fan of instrumental albums. More often than not, the purpose of such albums tends to be more about a musician (or band) stroking their own ego than putting together entertaining melodies. Every once in a while, however, an instrumental album makes its way into my grubby hands and reminds me of the fact that for every rule there is at least one exception. Origami, the latest release from Italian multi-instrumentalist Red Sky, is one of those exceptional instrumental albums. Though he does flirt with guitar wankery now and then, it's refreshingly obvious that his goal here is to create an elaborate yet engaging auditory experience and not just showboat for showboating's sake.

Perhaps it's a bit unfair to regard Origami as a strictly instrumental album. Voices do appear briefly throughout the album, mostly in the form of poetry recitation, to humanize the lush compositions and elevate the appeal to listeners like me. The vocals also enhance the Gothic undertones of Origami through the use of sinister whispers (as on "Temporale Notturno" and the title track) and the enchanting female lead of album closer "E poi silenzio Pt. 2" performed by Aurora Rosa Savinelli of the Gothic prog outfit Ephesar. Alberto Bernasconi of Nekrosun also makes a guest appearance on the acoustic "L'Ultimo Petalo", providing a break from the male spoken-word style with a passable baritone delivery of the all-Italian lyrics.

Red Sky
As refreshing as the various vocal contributions are, they really comprise only a small portion of Origami. The vast majority of the album is an exercise in classical guitar and synth composition that forsakes grandiosity in favor of nuance. Red Sky's metallized moments have a definite Satriani influence to them, but his versatility shows in the way he blends his crisp leads with various flavors of six-string melodies. "Temporale Notturno" serves as the first indication of the effectiveness of his layering techniques, joining warm acoustic leads with electrified riffs. The next track, "Andalusia", is fittingly built upon a Flamenco-styled performance accentuated by some tasteful noodling and soothing melodies. And so Red Sky progresses through his compositions, treating listeners to favorable soundscapes as he blurs the line between classical, prog, and metal genres.

While the guitar is unquestionably Red Sky's primary weapon, his arsenal is indeed formidable considering the skill with which he wields the keyboards and bass - bolstered by the reinforcement of Laura Balbinot's mournful cello. The strings and synthesized backgrounds maintain the overall dark mood that exists throughout Origami, belying the sometimes wistful tones undertaken by the guitars. Providing a consistently enjoyable backdrop to the varied vocalizations and Red Sky's multifaceted guitar sound, these elements of Origami are nevertheless key to the album's allure.

Given Red Sky's image and the packaging of Origami, it would be easy to mistake this album as something better fit for the avant-garde scene. Instead, this is an album of pseudo-instrumental Gothic metal/rock that is accessible, interesting, and altogether enjoyable.

Track Listing
1Gocce Di Eternità1:04
2Temporale Notturno7:21
3Andalusia (Nostalgia Di Un Tramonto)5:54
4Ti Ho Sfiorata Nei Miei Sogni2:47
5Lo Notte Si Innamorò Del Sole7:01
6Il Filo Rosso2:41
7La Voce Dei Tuoi Occhi Che Mi Rende Pazzo4:18
9Alla Prossima (Forse Un Giorno Ci Rivedremo)7:02
10L'Ultimo Petalo1:54
11L'Ultimo Petalo - Acoustic2:56
12E poi silenzio Pt. 24:10
Total Runtime49:26

Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview: Sara Valente of Chaos in Paradise

Poised for a breakthrough, Portugal's Chaos in Paradise is a dark, melodic metal band with similarities to Lacuna Coil, In This Moment, and Evanescence. Fronted by Sara Valente, whose versatile voice is comprised of equal parts honey and venom, the band recently released their EP Let the Bliss Remain. Sara generously donated some of her time to answer a few questions for Harvest Moon Music's Women of Heavy Metal interview series.

[HMM] For readers unfamiliar with Chaos in Paradise, would you introduce the band?

Sara Valente of Chaos in Paradise
[Sara] Well, we are a female-fronted metal band from Oporto, Portugal. We are a group of five individuals: Quik on drums, Alex on guitar, Pedro on guitar, Bruno on bass and me, Sara, as the leading voice behind a progressive metal band based on every element’s passion for music and above all, a great friendship.

How and when did the band come together?

The first time CIP came together was in 2008, and the band started in Quik’s garage, initially with Quik and Alex, who immediately began the auditions to fill the empty spots on the band. Pedro was the first to join them, then 19 and at last me. There were other people involved in the project at the very beginning of it, including bass player Rui Ferreira and another female vocalist. So it was only in 2009 that the band found the solid and last formation. Unfortunately, early this year, 19 left the band, but then Bruno joined us and we now are all heading for the same purpose and ready to rock!

Is there a story behind the name Chaos in Paradise?

It was a little hard to choose the name Chaos in Paradise, but in the end it made total and perfect sense. The beauty in the music we make is that we have amazing and beautiful guitar riffs that remind us of "Paradise" and we mix them with those heavy catchy riffs and powerful drums creating a strong and chaotic emotion. The vocals complete it with sweet melodies and at the same time fearless screams. So, what we really want is to create an atmosphere connecting the best of these two worlds.

You mentioned that bass player 19 left Chaos in Paradise earlier this year. Do you mind sharing details about the split?

Truth is we noticed the path we wanted to carry on with was different from the one 19 wanted. At that moment we all came to an agreement and the best thing to do was continue without him. He was a great influence to the band and watching him leave was very sad, but as his friends we knew this was the right thing to do and so did he. Now he is working on other projects he already had and which he’s very happy with. We support him on this new chapter and wish him all the best.

After a fair number of auditions, Bruno Martins was brought in as your new bass player in August. What is Bruno's background?

Bruno is a self-taught musician and started playing bass 10 years ago. He is from Brasil and moved to Portugal in 2009. In Brasil he has played in six different bands, one of them symphonic metal and even had a pop-rock band too. Currently he is with Chaos in Paradise and also plays bass with another metal band from Oporto.

The band's second release, the Let the Bliss Remain EP, was released in 2011 and has received a lot of praise. Are you happy with feedback so far, and is there anything about the EP that you would have done differently?

Chaos in Paradise
The results of this EP were surprisingly good for us and the feedback was amazing, better than we expected! We feel we have done a nice job and we are certain that it was the best we could do at the time. Let the Bliss Remain is perfect as it is for us and we never felt the need of changing anything. Its result pleased us in every aspect, from the songwriting to the recording, but we always push ourselves and we know this is not as good as Chaos in Paradise gets…

Who created the cover art?

The cover art was created by the Portuguese designer Augusto Peixoto, from Irondoom Designs. After a careful search from many designers, national and international, we knew he was the right choice. He came up with the concept and we liked it since the beginning.

How do you feel the band's sound evolved from your first, self-titled demo to Let the Bliss Remain?

Our "Demo" is so much different from the EP, and considering both, you can see huge progress in every aspect. All the recording from the "Demo" was in our own rehearsal room, lead by Quik. As for the EP, it was a positive experience for us since for some it was the first time recording on a professional studio (SoundVision Studios at Vila do Conde). Song writing, artwork, lyrics, were all done by ourselves and we are proud of everything we’ve accomplished and convinced we took the right direction with this last work.

Will there be changes to the Chaos in Paradise style on your next release?

Yes, as you might know, we already started writing songs in a lower tuning. For this album we expect to deliver heavier songs, never forgetting our roots. Despite of the differences you notice between the "Demo" and Let the Bliss Remain you can find some reminiscences and similar aspects between them, we always hold this on our minds, but in this album we will also be preparing some surprises. Hopefully, we will do something special and mind-blowing.

How is the new album coming along?

We are taking our time without rushing anything. We want to be sure we’ve done everything perfectly and we want to be even more satisfied than we were with the EP. Some of the songs are completed and we are confident with the choices made so far, also, we started creating the album concept and currently we are seeking other Portuguese designers and producers. It’s a priority to us working with different people and having different experiences, but above all, creating something from our own country, doing all that has to be done involving Portuguese people in every feature.

Chaos in Paradise recently played a fourth anniversary show at Metalpoint in Porto. How do you feel that went?

It was one of the most awesome nights for us! Just amazing! We were surrounded by friends and fans that have been following us since the beginning of the band. It was a night full of surprises. We played at the spot from our very first gig, called Metalpoint, in Oporto. We gave away five special editions of Let the Bliss Remain, made a commemorating video to show at the gig, brought a huge cake and some bottles of champagne and played an exclusive new song that will be part of our first album. Of course people went nuts when they heard we were playing a new song, but we felt they deserved it. After the gig, the party went all night long and for sure is a night for us to remember!

Sara Valente of Chaos in Paradise
Most of your touring has been in Portugal, with at least one appearance in Spain. Are there any plans in the works to play shows or festivals in other locations?

We haven’t played a lot outside Portugal but we are ready to start it at least throughout Europe on a first approach. At this time it’s almost unthinkable, but once we have finished the album recordings, it’s the right step to take. We hope it’s soon because we are excited to visit and spread our music live in foreign countries!

Are there any interesting stories from previous gigs that you’d be willing to share?

Our gig at Spain, for example, was awesome but we had a huge setback! We decided to go from Oporto to Madrid with two cars so we could carry all the equipment and also bring some friends. The trip to Spain was great and the show was pretty nice but when we were returning to Portugal the day after, one of the cars broke down and Quik, Alex and I had to wait for three hours for the trailer and had to rent a car to return home. Because of the assurance company, we had to rent the car in Madrid and had to drive through all Spain to Vigo and then someone hired by the company would pick us up there and drive us home. Nevertheless we ended up having a great experience since we ended up discovering beautiful places in that trip!

Is there one song in particular that you love to perform live?

In fact, for me, there is! It’s a song from Let the Bliss Remain called "Beyond the Horizon". It’s my favorite song and every time we play it I feel we can deliver a strong and positive message and of course, we love to see the audience head banging on the breakdown! And also, we all love to play our song from the music video, "Sanzu River".

Your video for "Sanzu River" is outstanding - very professional and well-produced. How involved was the band in the concept of the video?

The whole concept was developed by Chaos in Paradise. We created the story and also produced the video, so we were deeply involved with it. We then contacted 2Spot Media to film it. They loved the project and helped us by making some changes and adding some details. We owe them so much for their great job and the results, as you can see, are just amazing, greater than we expected!

The performance scenes from the video were shot at night in the middle of winter. How fun was that?

Chaos in Paradise
Not so fun as you might think! We’ve chosen a large field, normally used for wedding parties that had a river right in front of it. We were there from 5pm to 8pm preparing the scenario and then we started shooting right away. From 8pm to 3am we faced a terrible cold weather and I remember at one time we went to check the temperature: - 2°C! We were not dressed properly to those temperatures and proof of it is our breath that you can see in the video! Already facing the cold we had another problem too because the grass was a little icy so we kept slipping! It was a great experience for us and we had a lot of fun too, but we learned our lesson, next time we will shoot our music videos in the summer!

The lyrics to "Sanzu River" are pretty dark, and the title (I'm guessing) refers to the Buddhist "River to the Underworld". Where did the inspiration for this song come from?

The lyrics on this song refer to an important person on my life, my grandma. She unfortunately passed away too soon on Christmas time, when I was 10 years old. She raised me, so I felt I needed to give back something to her and this song made it possible. If you read the lyrics you understand the pain of her loss but at the same time the will to do better and go through it letting the pain in the past.

Is the songwriting process for Chaos in Paradise a group effort?

Definitely! All the songwriting is done by us and everyone participates. We discuss every detail and if someone doesn’t like something, even if it is a little note somewhere we try to change it and make everyone happy.

Chaos in Paradise has a very strong social media presence - frequent Facebook updates, videos, etc. How important do you feel social media is to emerging bands?

Nowadays social media is a big deal and it’s our way to show our fans exclusive stuff all the time. We think it’s important to make our fans feel more involved with our work, and of course, have contact with people from all around the world. For an emerging band there’s no better way to do this than through internet.

How long have you been singing, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?

I’ve been singing since I was 8 years old and for 10 years I sang in an amateur choir as a soprano. But at the age of 14 I started discovering metal and felt something I’ve never felt before. As I belonged to the choir, at first I started listening to symphonic metal bands with female vocals, but since then I’ve explored a lot of other metal kinds. I felt the need to start singing a different style, so I joined a rock band of covers and then another band, this time metal and with original songs. None of them were truly what I wanted at the time but then I found out Chaos in Paradise were searching for a vocalist, I applied to the audition and here I am now, 3 years later and happy with my choices.

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to sing in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

Being a woman in a metal band sometimes leads to controversy, so what I would say is just to follow your dream, never giving up and putting your heart truly into it. It’s a tough world out there and being in the music industry can be ungrateful so many times, so whatever the style of metal it is, do it with passion!

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Chaos in Paradise for the first time?

I would like to thank everyone for all the support so far that has kept us working with even more passion! For those who are hearing about us for the first time, if you like metal with heavy riffs and some nice melodies and groove, you can check our Facebook page at and also our YouTube page at You won’t be disappointed!

Thank you so much Sara!  I'm looking forward to hearing your new material.