Τετάρτη, 29 Νοεμβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman

There are albums that we love and there are albums that are undeniable classics. "Diary Of A Madman" is both.

Originally released on November 7th of 1981 with a recording line up of Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Randy Rhoads (guitars), Bob Daisley (bass), Lee Kerslake (drums) and Max Norman as a producer. Johnny Cook (and not Don Airey) played keyboards, while Louis Clark is responsible for the string arrangements on the epic title track. 

Back-to-back with "Blizzard Of Ozz", this second album is a band creation where all members deserve credits. However, no matter how iconic and classic this album is, back in the day it was recorded fast, without even completing or expanding the ideas they had, in the way they really wanted. "Diary Of A Madman" was recorded and released very fast because the band needed to go on tour very soon.

Before even the album was released, Rudy Sarzo (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums) took over the rhythm section for the upcoming tour and Daisley with Kerslake were out of the band. Both of them weren't very happy with the situation therein and they wanted this to be a "band" and not just supporting a solo artist. However, Kerslake's replacement was Ozzy's first choice even before the first album but he wasn't available at that time, while Bob Daisley was coming back again and again until "No More Tears". 

Diary of a metal classic and beyond:

Over The Mountain: "Something in my vision, something deep inside". The album starts with a well known drum pattern that set a template for countless songs in the metal history. Actually, few years ago, Frankie Banali claimed that this is his intro from the early rehearsals of the band with Dana Strum on bass, and of course Ozzy and Randy, that took place in Los Angeles in late 1979. Randy Rhoads is mixing unique phrases and metal riffing with classical tradition from the opening track. Ozzy always had the charisma to locate pure talent and let his fate and ideas in their hands to expand them. He always had unknown guitarists that after his albums were considered iconic players, each in his time and beyond. Randy Rhoads already sounds like no other and in the years to come, many guitarists wanted to sound like him. 

Flying High Again: "People think I'm crazy but I'm in demand". Drugs was a huge part in Ozzy's life, especially in the 80s. Cheesy lyrics but this feelgood rocker was a fave live hit in the United States. It is rumored that the tour dwarf Ozzy had on stage was Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2D2 at the classic Star Wars films. Ozzy used to call him "Ronnie"...

You Can't Kill Rock And Roll: "King of a thousand knights, pawn in a table fight losing to you". Memorable and great vocal lines with amazingly guitar work and melodies. Lyrically, it is an idea of Ozzy against the attitude of record companies until that time, and Daisley filled the lyrics. However, from that point and on, Sharon gets in the picture and Ozzy was never treated bad again from the record industry. Most likely he had the upper hand and the final word.

Believer: "People beseech me but they'll never teach me things that I already know". Starting with a plain but memorable bass line, "Believer" is a song that brings in mind some of Black Sabbath's glory. It makes no sense to think of better singers. These songs and this album need this voice. I cannot think of anyone else (no matter how good he is) to sing this songs and justify them. These songs are meant to be for Ozzy and he is their soul.

Little Dolls: "The pins and needles prick the skin of little dolls". Side B also starts with a drum intro and this time with a tribal rhythm. Someone might say that the music of this track is to happy for those lyrics, and also this is one of those "not finally completed" songs, since the Randy solo that is used was just a demo recording and no the final one.

Tonight: "Good intentions pave the way to hell, don't you worry when you hear me sing". Ozzy always had ballads in his albums and some of them are really great. Daisley fills with some notable bass lines and once again, Randy Rhoads spreads his magic.

S.A.T.O.: "Now I find peace of mind, finally found a way of thinking". For some people it stands for Sailing Across The Ocean but most likely it goes for Sharon Arden - Thelma Osbourne (Ozzy's ex-wife) with the change in Ozzy's personal life and in the next months, on July of 1982, Ozzy and Sharon were married. There are even progressive elements in this track, with a weird intro and unorthodox scales. There is great drumming and bass lines on the background and Randy shines here with his licks and performance.

Diary Of A Madman: "Sanity now it's beyond me there's no choice". During this period, there are some of the most known incidents of Ozzy's madness; Alamo, doves and bat bite. It is a weird coincidence that all this madness happened at the period around "Diary Of A Madman", so either he is a madman indeed, or there is a very well stractured professional business plan. The song itself, is a masterpiece and the strings arrangment unique and ahead of its time. You can hear violin and cello in a heavy metal song, in 1981... Progressive metal bands like Psychotic Waltz (just ask them) are highly inspired by this song (and album) and the stracture and aura of this track can be founded in late-Savatage, and even in songs like Queensryche's "Suite Sister Mary".

"Diary Of A Madman" is the last album of Randy Rhoads, that died in a plane accident on March 19th of 1982, while touring with Ozzy in the United States.

Κυριακή, 29 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Caronte: Tales of Shamanic Doom.

Hailing from Italy, the Fenriz-approved Shamanic Doom band Caronte, returns with the new album 'YONI', just one year after "Codex Babalon" EP.

Speaking of the previous offering ('Codex Babalon'), singer Dorian says "it is mainly focused on the woman figure and on her power generating; contains also a lot of magical/sexual notions", to continue, "I think is a very powerfull record, in terms of energies, people who listened 'Codex Babalon' can confirm this. For sure is the most obscure work and with more occult elements we made".

The men behind Caronte are Dorian Bones (vocals), Tony Bones (guitars), Henry Bones (bass) and Mike De Chirico (drums).

How the cult started? Back at the end of 2010 they spent a lot of nights talking and trying to give birth an obscure smoky project which may have the same atmosphere of a ritual. Dorian confirms that "magic, sexuality, drugs were all themes we wanted to touch in our musical project. In particular, I was following a course of studies who brought me to write the lyrics and define the influence and the energy that nowadays we bring with us. From 2010 we released two EP, three albums and a split with the mighty italian doom metal band Doomraiser". 

Your lyrics sound very imporant and the music is indeed a mirror for them. Which are your influences on both lyrics and music?

Dorian: Regarding the lyrics, I have to mention the master Therion Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Helena Blavadsky, Eliphas Levi and a lot of books on the Shamanism in South America and in the East. Often our lyrics are prayers, tales and chants that describe myths and rituals where we found all the energies that we bring in our project
Regarding music I can say Danzig, Coven, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Candlemass and Cathedral.

You are not what we could exact call "Doom Metal", so how would you describe your music to someone that haven't heard you?

Dorian: I think that Shamanic Doom is the nearest definition some careful voices gave us. We feel very near as friendships and audience to the black metal scene (the most esoteric part) and the rest of extreme scene. I really don't like when people say stoner, I don’t feel part of that kind of message.

How would you describe the present doom, stoner, occult scene, which bands do you distinguish nowadays?

Dorian: Lately I think we really have a dynamic and prolific scene. Regarding the doom scene I say Cough, Windhand, Urfaust, Saturnalia Temple, Abysmal Grief, Doomraiser.  Stoner, I don't know... About Occult, I think of Acherontas, Behexen, Fides Inversa, Arktau Eos, Lapis Niger, Satanismo Calibro 9.

The latest Caronte album 'YONI' is out now on Van Records, and currently Caronte is on tour supporting the album.

Caronte discography:

Ghost Owl EP (2011)
Ascension (2012)
Doomraiser / Caronte Split (2013)
Church Of Shamanic Goetia  (2014)
Codex Babalon EP (2016)
YONI (2017)

Join Caronte on Facebook HERE.

Love is the Law. Love Under Will.

Δευτέρα, 23 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Martin Eric Ain - A rebel life in darkness, art and glamor.

From the ashes of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost was risen. Tom G. Warrior and Martin Eric Ain were the leading force that inspired the extreme metal scene in the years to come.

 "Morbid Tales" (1984), "Emperor's Return" (1985) and "To Mega Therion" (1985) are the foundations of extreme metal, and "Into The Pandemonium (1987) is a genre-breaking record that introduced us the term "avant-garde" in metal music. An experimental dark album with undeniable influence. This influence was both musical, artistic and visual. 
Martin Eric Ain was separated from Celtic Frost during the recordings of "To Mega Therion" but returned very quickly and even if Tom Warrior was the prime composer, Martin was the link that completed the gaze into the darkness with his contributions in lyrics, music and image.
"Cold Lake" (1988) was an abomination, Martin Eric Ain wasn't there and Tom G. Warrior doesn't want to listen to this record again. "Vanity / Nemesis" (1990) marks the return of Martin Ain and after few years, there was silence. But during this silence, the impact of Celtic Frost in metal music was growing over and over...
While Tom G. Warrior is death-obsessed in general, Martin Eric Ain was deep in the art of darkness and while they seemed to share a common morbid vision behind Celtic Frost, they probably had a different approach and social sense. Celtic Frost was Tom Warrior's life's work and there is no doubt about it. But Martin was the nocturnal factor that added another (and yet so similar) dark artistic element to the band.
In late 2001, Tom Warrior and Martin Ain began to write music together again, along with Erol Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, drummer Franco Sesa joined them. The album was completed in the end of 2005, the title is "Monotheist" and Celtic Frost dominate the metal press and festivals for almost two years.
Few months prior to the release of "Monotheist" in 2006, Martin Eric Ain visited the offices of the label and unfurled full-color printouts of the complete layout, including final artwork for everything (both CD and vinyl) and provided detailed explanations about all symbolism, meaning and importance of what he presented. At this time and after the years of Noise Records and the problems and artistic limitations they had, now they knew exactly what they wanted and everything was done under their control.
But what happened after "Monotheist"? According to Tom Warrior, Martin was a different person now. As he states in an interview at Iron Fist magazine (issue 10) "We just try not to meet. Martin lives to a different planet to the rest of us. He runs an empire of clubs and bars in Zurich, and we're not talking about metal clubs - he runs the hipster clubs. Martin is a millionaire and that's his world now". When they reformed Celtic Frost, Martin had already the basis of his empire and he admired Tom for sticking with the music, so he wanted to be a part of this but after a hundred plus shows he was sick and tired of touring when he already had this kind of life back in Zurich. But besides this glamorous life, Martin was always in the art of darkness. "I was at an opening of an exhibition in Zurich and I knew he [Martin] was going to be there and I went right up to him and I offered my hand, we hugged, we talked, we had a really good time but we're no longer the same as we were in 1983", Tom states.
"Monotheist" is the best metal reunion album. In my book it is also the best Celtic Frost album but I know that you won't agree with me.
From Hellhammer to Celtic Frost, Martin Eric Ain was an iconic important part of extreme dark music. 

Martin Eric Ain (born Martin Stricker, on July 18th of 1967) died on October 21st of 2017 by heart attack.
"I am deeply affected by his passing. Our relationship was very complex and definitely not free of conflicts, but Martin's life and mine were very closely intertwined, since we first met in 1982." - Tom Gabriel Fischer (October 22, 2017)
Only Death Is Real.


Κυριακή, 1 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest For The Wicked

Listening and celebrating the heavier Ozzy solo album, originally released on September 28th of 1988.
Let's remember...

After two great albums with Jake E. Lee on guitars, that were both of them more commercially successful (at that time, not now) than Ozzy's first two albums with Randy Rhoads, Ozzy parted ways with Lee by mid-1987. After being fired from Ozzy, Lee formed Badlands with singer Ray Gillen, but after that he didn't do much and will mainly remembered as "one of Ozzy's great guitarists". But unquestionably, he was the perfect guitarist for Ozzy during mid-80s and a significant part of Ozzy's success.
Zakk Wylde (21 years old at that time) was Ozzy's new guitarist, and until today, his longest solo band member. According to Ozzy, Wylde is a great character, he works easily with him and he can play almost everything. After a while, Dio also got a younger guitarist (Rowan Robertson, 17 at that time) and released "Lock Up The Wolves" (1990) but that was a much inferior album than "No Rest For The Wicked" and another small vistory to the supposed old conflict between Ozzy and Dio, and even if Robertson wrote a big part of the album along with Dio, he was forgotten. On the other hand, and after many albums with Black Label Society and other solo works, today Zakk Wylde is considered a very successful guitarist.
With a recording line up including Bob Daisley (bass), Randy Castillo (drums) and John Sinclair (keyboards), the band entered studio with producer Roy Thomas Baker but Ozzy was not satisfied because Baker coudn't understand his ideas and both parties continuing to disagree. After a while, Keith Olsen was brought in to continue and complete the album, but even after that, there is still something "strange" with the total result, especially the drum sound. However, this is the sound we learned and loved on this album. 
More powerful (not better) than "The Ultimate Sin", "No Rest For The Wicked" is a goldmine of riffs and the most riff-driven solo album Ozzy ever recorded. Actually, this is the closest album to the Black Sabbath legacy and the heavy riffing has lot to do with this; just check songs like "Bloodbath In Paradise" and "Breaking All The Rules". Some different highlights include the epic "Fire In The Sky" with its great arrangment, and "Hero", a semi bonus track. Speaking of bonus tracks, there is also another song from these sessions, "The Liar"; a song that could fit in Savatage's "Gutter Ballet", recorded before "Gutter Ballet". Of course, you have a filler like "Crazy Babies", but fillers like this are just guilty pleasures, while on the "Demon Alcohol" Ozzy speaks for his addiction bringing echoes of the past singing "Don't speak of suicide solutions, you took my hand, I'm here to stay".
However, these demons dominated Ozzy those years.  As usual, Daisley was gone / let gone after the recordings (just to return and leave again for one last time later) and Geezer Butler entered the band for the tour. The tour was successful and a mini live EP followed ("Just Say Ozzy") along with a dark period for Ozzy. In August 1989, Ozzy returned home drunk after performing (ironically) at the peace festival in Moscow and announced to his wife and manager, Sharon, "I’ve decided you have to go" before trying to strangle her. Sharon didn't press charges and after that, Ozzy spends three months in rehab. Two years later, he returns sober with his most commercially successful album at that time, introducing him to a new generation of fans.
Tracklist: 1. Miracle Man, 2. Devil's Daughter (Holy War), 3. Crazy Babies, 4. Breaking All The Rules, 5. Bloodbath In Paradise, 6. Fire In The Sky, 7. Tattooed Dancer, 8. Demon Alcohol, 9. Hero


Τετάρτη, 27 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Savatage - Hall of the Mountain King

There are moments when some artists reach bottom (artistic or commercial) or they just were misguided to the "wrong" direction from labels-managers- executives. In few occasions, some artists return in full glory. "Hall of the Mountain King", originally released exactly 30 years ago, on September 28th of 1987, is the perfect example.

Let's remember...

(with a contribution - epilogue by Johnny Lee Middleton)

Atlantic Records signed Savatage in 1984 and the band had already released "Sirens" (1983) and "The Dungeons Are Calling" (1984) that were both recorded at the same session. "Power of the Night" (1985) was the first major-label album and one year later "Fight for the Rock" was the release that nearly killed the band. A wrong album for a wrong band. It is not bad, but it is wrong. Forward after the release and the tour; Enter Paul O'Neill.

The band almost broke up and thought the end is near. Paul O'Neill is the "x-factor" that took them by the hand and lead them to a brighter future. He encouraged Criss and Jon Oliva to start writing new material and so they did. This time, the band compose without any label or management interfere, and once the material was ready, Savatage entered studio and complete the album with Paul O'Neill. As Johnny Lee Middleton has said, "
Never give up on what you believe in and do not be afraid to struggle and suffer through the tough times because quitters never win and winners never quit". 

Besides production, O'Neill gets some credits on songs, too. Later, he will take care of all lyrics also, giving to the band an extra maturity, but from this time and on, he is the only one that will guide the band and he also became a key piece of the Savatage songwriting formula.

While Jon Oliva is inspired and loves The Beatles, Black Sabbath and Ozzy in general, Criss Oliva is mainly inspired by the songwriting of the first two Ozzy albums and Randy Rhoads, and that's very clear to the first songs the brothers composed and recorded in their early years, and how those songs evolved after 1983. Jon has stated that "There's no one heavier than Sabbath; they have surprise songs and different arrangements that you don't expect". For him "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is one of the greatest albums ever. While recording "Gutter Ballet", Paul O'Neill has said "I have way more classical and Broadway influences; Jon, on the other hand, has more Beatles influence. But we're both influenced by Black Sabbath". This is one of the main reasons why Savatage sound so different from most of the US metal bands. While most of those bands are influenced by Iron Maiden (and Queensryche), you can barely listen to any Iron Maiden influence on Savatage... If you will add the uniqueness of both Oliva brothers and the later addition of O'Neill, you have SAVATAGE.

[There are many trivia and connections between Savatage and Black Sabbath-Ozzy, but this needs to be another chapter in the play. If I will find some time, I might come with something in the future.]

During 1988, with a major label supporting the band, "Hall of the Mountain King" had become Savatage's best-selling album and a world tour followed, including support shows with Megadeth and Dio. However, Jon Oliva went a "little too far" and entered a chemical rehabilitation program. This situation stopped the band since they had to cancel a scheduled tour, including the European dates. The future was different for the band and it took them few more years for a big commercial success, under a different line-up...

"Hall of the Mountain King" is one of the best metal albums ever, from one of the greatest metal bands ever. An ageless masterpiece with top notch musicianship. Raw, insane, solid and emotional at the same time. 

Criss Oliva is probably one of the best guitarists in metal music, with a unique and recognizable sound, unmatchable tone and feeling, and personally, I always had him in my Top-5 list. But I have to add, that Jon Oliva is also one of the most unique and emotional singers out there. I love his voice and his performance, and I don't understand why he is not mentioned among the greatest ones.

When I posted this synopsis on my personal facebook account, Johnny Lee Middleton came up to my post with this amazing text about the writing and recordings of "Hall of the Mountain King":

"We wrote the songs for this album in a warehouse area of a strip mall on US 19 in Palm Harbor, FL. It was a storage area for a company called Cage Maid that sold plastic bird mess catchers that were placed under a bird cage. The guy who rented the place named Reggie was a friend of the band and he let us use his storage area for free. We could only work at night when the businesses in the strip mall were closed but we had a small monitor/PA system and all night to work on songs. We never invited anyone to rehearsals as we had work to do and did not want to perform for friends. After we had a bunch of songs in the can Paul came down and we got into the final arrangement mode and tightening things up. After a few weeks of working with Paul we were ready for the studio to record this. We flew to NYC and went to work at the legendary Record Plant Studio. All of us stayed in a 2 bed seedy and smelly hotel room I think was called the Times Square Motor Lodge. We took turns sleeping on a bed or floor, lived on Peanut butter and jelly as well as Rays pizza and soup. I think I made $25.00 a day and that was barely enough to survive in NYC but we made it work and did not complain as this is what we believed in and we wanted it to be a record that was ours and something to be proud of. I was born and raised in Florida and living in the Hells Kitchen area of NYC in the mid eighties was nothing like the beach where I grew up and to say I was scared would be an understatement. 16 hour days and sleeping on a floor were the norm in our world and many times I slept in the vocal booth of the studio because I was afraid to go to the hotel at 4 AM. As the recording process progressed our relationship with Paul grew stronger and we finally felt we had a leader and a friend that believed in us. It was a tough time in our lives and we sacrificed everything to make this record and with the grace of God and a bit of luck we got something we could believe in. Never give up on what you believe in and do not be afraid to struggle and suffer through the tough times because quitters never win and winners never quit".

Madness Reigns.

Tracklist: 1. 24 Hours Ago, 2. Beyond the Doors of the Dark, 3. Legions, 4. Strane Wings, 5. Prelude to Madness, 6. Hall of the Mountain King, 7. The Price You Pay. 8. White Witch, 9. Last Dawn.

Savatage: Jon Oliva (lead vocals, piano), Criss Oliva (guitars), Johnny Lee Middleton (bass guitar), Steve Wacholz (drums).

Additional musicians: Robert Kinkel (keyboards), Ray Gillen (backing vocals).

Produced by Paul O'Neill.

Album cover by Gary Smith.