Saturday, July 26, 2014

WHITE EMPRESS To Make Live Debut in Minneapolis in Late October

Former Cradle Of Filth guitar Paul Allender has revealed exclusively to Twin Cities Metal that his new band, White Empress, will perform their first-ever concert here in Minneapolis in late October as part of a four-date Midwest mini-tour. I'm holding back the date and venue until everything is confirmed, so check back for complete details. The to-be-announced dates are intended to be small "warm-up" shows lacking full stage production (props, and the like) in preparation for more extensive touring plans that are currently in the works. White Empress canceled previous plans for their live debut on July 12 in Madison, Wisconsin.

I conducted a lengthy in-person interview with Paul last night, and we discussed details of his recent departure from Cradle Of Filth, and had an extensive conversation about the genesis and plans of White Empress. Look for publication of the full interview during the next week. I dare say that this is the most extensive interview Paul has given about both White Empress and his reasons for leaving Cradle Of Filth!

There has been a ton of activity and news regarding White Empress in the last couple of weeks, so here's a quick rundown.

Photo courtesy of the White Empress Facebook page.

There's been a change on guitars, and the complete lineup of the band is now:
Vocals: Mary Zimmer (ex-Luna Mortis)
Guitar: Paul Allender (ex-Cradle Of Filth)
Guitar: Jeremy Kohnmann (The Awakening)
Bass: Chela Harper (ex-Coal Chamber)
Keyboards: Will Graney (Damnation Angels)
Drums: Zac Morris (ex-Silent Civilian, Ugly Kid Joe)

White Empress has signed with Peaceville Records, and the debut album Rise Of The Empress will be released September 29. The official video for the first track released from the album, "Darkness Encroaching", is now available for streaming exclusively in the U.S. at Bloodly Disgusting, and at Metal Hammer for the UK and Germany. I'm not embedding the video to respect the exclusively of the video on these sites through the weekend, but here's a couple screenshots (taken from the White Empress Facebook page). Go to one of these site to watch the video!!

The band has launched a fund-raising campaign at PledgeMusic where you can buy tons of things from a digital download of the album to a signed guitar from Paul Allender. In almost no time, the band has raised 121% of their goal! Here's a video of Paul explaining the PledgeMusic campaign:

Lastly, you can still download the four-song White Empress EP for free from the band's website, or purchase higher-quality files from Amazon or iTunes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Concert Review: AGALLOCH and OBSIDIAN TONGUE in Minneapolis

Agalloch, Obsidian Tongue
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN

Click on the picture to see additional photos of Obsidian Tongue (11).

Upon arrival at the Triple Rock for this greatly anticipated show, Obsidian Tongue was wrapping up their first song and the club was packed near capacity. Obsidian Tongue is a two-piece black metal band from Massachusetts, and their guitar and drums combination packs a surprisingly strong punch. Being that their songs hover around ten minutes each, they were only able to play four songs, two from each of their albums. Their set was good, but the constant barrage of primitive, chainsaw guitar riffs and howling, screeching vocals made for difficult listening.

Click on any of the pictures to see more photos of Agalloch (32).

This was Agalloch’s first show in the area, and the place seemed abuzz with anticipation as the band took the stage to the strains of the introduction, “(Serpens Caput)”, and began the set with “The Astral Dialogue” and “Vales Beyond Dimension”. Agalloch is American black metal at its finest, and the band stayed focused on their playing while on stage and maintained little interaction with the crowd, even between songs. Half of the ten-song, nearly 100-minute set was drawn from the latest album, The Serpent & The Sphere, with the remainder a representative selection from each of the previous four albums. Slower, moodier songs such as “Limbs” and “The Melancholy Spirit” offered no respite from the intensity of the show, and the audience treated the band as welcoming heroes. The whole affair was exhausting for everyone in the room, and the band looked drained by the time the show ended with “Into The Painted Grey” from 2010’s Marrow Of The Spirit. Everyone wanted more, and the band obliged with an amazing 16-minute version of “Plateau Of The Ages” for the encore.

As a live band, Agalloch more than delivers on the promise of their recorded output, and everyone at the show seemed to feel like they had witnessed something special. Adding to the unique atmosphere of this show was the one-time availability at the bar of Serpensblod, a smoked red ale inspired by Agalloch, and brewed especially for this show by Hammerheart Brewing (yes, it’s named in honor of the Bathory album!). I snagged one pint before the tap went dry and I was blown away by the smooth intense aroma and flavors. Hammerheart has a Nordic-inspired lodge-type taproom just north of the Cities in Lino Lakes, and if Serpensblod and the Hokan’s Brown Ale I also imbibed that night are any indication, the short jaunt to the brewery would be well worth it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TRIXTER Guitarist Admits to WSJ: "My Career Has Kind of Gone Backwards"

I've been slow in getting a whole bunch of posts up recently, so let's get back up to speed with something light-hearted. Over at the Wall Street Journal (I think there's an editor or several writers there that are metalheads), Neil Shah features Trixter guitarist Steve Brown in today's quirky A-Hed column, "These Days, Rock Cover Bands Can't Seem to Get It On". Although Steve is featured prominently (even getting the Journal's coveted dot-art rendition), the article is more generally about how brutally tough times are for cover band musicians. Partly to blame, according to the article, is "a glut of middle-aged musicians who just can't quit the scene". Steve's current gigs are summed up this way:

"Despite a brush with fame, Mr. Brown doesn't shy away from even the most cringe-worthy of gigs. One day he'll perform for thousands at a festival with his rock band, Trixter, whose videos briefly topped MTV's charts in the 1990s. The next night he'll be in a yellow, zebra-print vest belting out Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)' at a party in the Hamptons, or singing 'Hotel California' as customers examine Buicks at a car dealership in New Jersey.

'Not every show can be Madison Square Garden,' he says.

If you said Steve Brown would be wearing Spandex pants, playing a hot-pink and green guitar and doing Michael Jackson and Madonna songs three years ago, I would have said, "No friggin' way,"' the New Jersey native says. 'My career has kind of gone backwards.'"

The full article is here, behind the Journal's paywall.

Monday, June 30, 2014

In Concert This Week - June 30, 2014

Tonight, Monday, June 30 Greek symphonic black metal gods Septicflesh top a bill of extremity with Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse, Pennsylvania’s Black Crown Initiate, and Canada’s Necronomicon at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. The show starts at 7:30, it’s 18+, and tickets will be available at the door for $20.

Chicago’s female-fronted metal band Hessler plays Pov’s 65 in Spring Lake Park on Wednesday, July 2. Metal Witch will be supporting, and no additional ticket or show information is available at this time.

Former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone brings his band to Minneapolis at the 7th Street Entry on Thursday, July 3 with support from The Modern Era and Cerveza Muscular. Tickets are $10 in advance through etix or $12 at the door, and it’s an 18+ show that starts at 9:30.

Also on Thursday, Soul Asylum headlines A Taste of Minnesota, recently moved to the Carver County Fairgrounds. Tina & The B-Sides, Tim Mahoney, and Owl are also on the bill and the bands start at 2:20; Soul Asylum goes on at 8:30. Admission for the all ages event is free until 3:00, thereafter it’s $10 (which includes $5 in food/beverage tickets, kids 12 and under are still free).

Minneapolis punk band Dillinger Four has two shows on Friday, July 4 and Saturday, July 5 at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. Also playing Friday night are Masked Intruder, The Brokedowns, Canadian Rifle, Direct Hit!, The Priceduifkes, and Lutheran Heat, and on the bill Saturday are Night Birds, Neighborhood Brats, Vulgaari, War/Plague, Zero, and Architects Death Spiral. Advance tickets are still available for $15 each through Ticketfly, and these are 18+ shows with doors at 7:00.

Back to A Taste of Minnesota, Halestorm, Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer, Gypsy, and Crow play on Saturday, July 5. Blues-back Crow’s 1969 single “Evil Woman” was a Top 20 hit in the U.S., and none other than Black Sabbath released their own version of the song as their first single in 1970 preceding its inclusion on the debut Black Sabbath album.

Also on Saturday, July 5, locals Wither The Tide and Windowvine are having a double-CD release party at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis with Arrows At Dawn. This is an 18+ show that starts at 7:30, and tickets are available in advance for $8 through Ticketfly or at the door for $12.

To end the week, the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul has a night of local death with Invidiosis, Plagued Insanity, King Goro, and No Skin on Sunday, July 6. This is a free show, 21+, and it starts at 9:00.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Concert Review: BLACK FLAG and GREG GINN & THE ROYAL WE in Minneapolis

Black Flag, Greg Ginn & The Royal We
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN

Click on any of the pictures to see more photos of the respective band over at my Flickr site.

Way back in the summer of 1985 I had a ticket to see the Henry Rollins-fronted Black Flag play at a boathouse in Cedar Falls, Iowa; I missed the show due to a family vacation, sold my ticket to a friend, and never once did I ever again think I’d have the chance to see this iconic punk band play live. Nearly 30 years later, founder, guitarist, and only constant band member Greg Ginn assembled a new version of the band. Other ex-members of the band have been touring as Flag, but Greg Ginn’s version is the real deal.

Greg Ginn using a theremin.

I missed opener Cinema Cinema, but arrived in time for Ginn to walk on stage to introduce his solo project, Greg Ginn & The Royal We as “sensitivity training” before seeing Black Flag. Ginn’s other bands and projects have always veered into eclectic territory, but The Royal We was a real head scratcher. All instrumental, the set consisted of Ginn playing along to prerecorded tracks with a cold, mechanical feel accompanied by a TV monitor that ran a mix abstract images, black and white movie clips, and World War II footage. When not playing guitar Ginn fooled around with a theremin, an old, hands-free, noise-generating instrument capable of producing all sorts of spooky, bizarre sounds. It was interesting at best, and the crowd responded with mild, yet respective applause.

It didn’t take long for Black Flag to take the stage with a short instrumental introduction that led into “Rise Above”, one of the band’s signature fast anthems that immediately worked the crowd into a frenzy. Current vocalist, professional skateboarder Mike Vallely, rarely spoke to the crowd, and the band seemed intensely focused throughout the set, as if they had something to prove after being away for so long. The entire performance was tight, and audience went nuts as the band ripped through expected classics like “Gimme Gimme Gimme”, “Six Pack”, “Slip It In”, and “TV Party”. A great selection of songs was brought out; my personal favorites being “Black Coffee”, “Annihilate”, and “Damaged”. All told, Black Flag played 20 songs before being called back for the encore of “Louie Louie”, which had Ginn swap his guitar with bass player Tyler Smith to become Dale Nixon (the name credited to his bass playing on albums). Ginn passed the bass off to Vallely near the end of the song to hop into the audience, where he remained after the show to speak and take pictures with fans.

The half-filled room was a disappointment (shouldn’t this have sold out??), but the fiery, take-no-prisoners performance was everything I had hoped for. Legal disputes with Flag (settled out of court in Ginn’s favor) seem to have divided Black Flag fans. Sarah Stanley-Ayre published a harsh, negative review of this show over at City Pages that left me befuddled. It would seem logical that as the band’s founder, primary songwriter, and only consistent member, Greg Ginn should have the sole right to the Black Flag name and any associated images and logos. To say that the current version of Black Flag “wasn’t Black Flag”, and that “The whole thing felt like watching a cover band who was incredibly well-practiced” is probably exactly how I would describe Flag (if I gave a crap about seeing them). I take issue with too many of the inaccuracies and descriptions of this review to detail them all here.

What Flag did—assemble a cast of fleeting ex-members, bring along a hired gun guitarist, ape the band’s logo, use the four-bars symbol on merchandise, and even call themselves Black Flag at a “reunion show”—is embarrassing and insulting and disrespectful to fans. In the metal world, this would be like ex-Megadeth members Nick Menza, James Lomenzo, and Chuck Behler hiring Gamma Ray/Helloween guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen to take the place of Dave Mustaine, calling themselves “Deth” (stylized in the Megadeth logo), and selling T-shirts with mascot Vic Rattlehead. Sounds ludicrous doesn’t it?

Black Flag returns to the area on Sunday, July 20 for a show at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul with support from Greg Ginn & The Royal We and Cinema Cinema.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Concert Announcements - June 27, 2014

The returning A Taste of Minnesota festival has been moved to the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia due to Harriet island in St. Paul being completely flooded from recent heavy rains in the metro area. Waconia is located about 30 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Bands of interest this year are Soul Asylum on Thursday, July 3, and Halestorm, Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer, Gypsy, and Crow on Saturday, July 5.

San Francisco doom band Castle will play Memory Lanes in Minneapolis on Monday, July 7.

Rock band Fuel has added a stop at Clyde Iron Works in Duluth to their tour itinerary with support from Royal Bliss on Wednesday, July 9. Tickets are on sale now through Twin Ports Nightlife.

Death/metalcore bands Suffokate, Abiotic, Aegaeon, and As They Sleep play The Garage in Burnsville on Thursday, July 10. Additional local support will come from Reaping Asmodeia, Roads Of Glass, So Long Orion, Death Punch, Axiom, and Bring Out Your Dead. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketfly.

A cool mix of local and Midwest metal bands are lined for Bummerfest at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul on Friday, July 18. Topping the bill is Ambassador Gun, and House Of Atreus, Cold Colours, Noble Beast, Nuklear Frost, Vukari, Seidr, Krawg, and Ire Wolves are also slated to play. Tickets are available now through Ticketfly.

Punk legends Black Flag return the area on Sunday, July 20 at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul with support from Greg Ginn & The Royal We and Cinema Cinema. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketfly. A review of Black Flag's June 15 show in Minneapolis will be posted soon!

Buckcherry has added a date in Rochester at the Wicked Moose on Tuesday, August 12 with support from Pop Evil. Tickets are on sale now through Tempo Tickets.

Minneapolis hard rock band Throw The Fight are calling it quits, and have announced their final show will be Saturday, August 23 at the Fine Line in Minneapolis. The band’s farewell announcement, posted on their Facebook page, reads in part, “After 11 years of being a band, we have decided to move in another direction and focus on different areas of our lives (family, other careers, etc.). We can look back on our years as Throw The Fight knowing that we have accomplished everything we set out to do and had a hell of a good time doing it!” Opening the show will be Emergent, Fifth Hour, and The Missing Letters. Tickets go on sale Saturday, June 28; see the Fine Line event page for up to date ticket information.

Long-running UK punk band Buzzcocks come to Minneapolis on Thursday, September 11 for a show at the Varsity Theater. No support band has been announced yet, and tickets go on sale today, Friday, June 27 at 10:00 am through Ticketfly.