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Interviews   

The integrity of Nightrage


Marios Iliopoulos - NightrageNightrage are holding out. Although the Greek-Swedish band has welcomed many guests throughout the years (almost every artist the Swedish scene has to offer, really), they have never really been able to stabilize their line-up, and the turnover has been just as impressive. Today Nightrage are back as a three-piece (including a new singer, Ronnie Nyman) with a new record, The Puritan. True to themselves, the band elevate integrity as the most important virtue.

But the story of Nightrage is due for the most part to the determination of one man, guitarist Marios Iliopoulos, who literally lives for melodic death metal. In the early 2000s, he left his native Greece without a penny in his pocket and with no idea what the future had in store, to go and live his Swedish dream. Work hard, believe in yourself, don’t give in to what’s trending – all these precepts are still driving Marios in his musical adventure today. Speaking of adventure, his started alongside another Greek guitarist, his friend Gus G, who’s becoming well known today for joining the ranks of the Prince of Darkness himself.

Let’s talk about all this with Marios after the cut.

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Interviews   

Tribulation: creators of the night


Tribulation 2015

Although the Swedish melodic death metal scene has been saturated for almost two decades now, new bands still manage to emerge and, more importantly, to set themselves apart by doing things their own way. This is the case with Tribulation, whose third album, The Children Of The Night, released this year, manages to be refreshing and to offer atmospheres that are at once nocturnal and colorful.

We have talked to Adam Zaars, the band’s guitarist and mastermind, to know more about the record, but also, more generally, about a talented combo that deserves to draw more attention in the years to come. Adam told us how you can make new-sounding music while staying old school (which seems a bit contradictory at first), and delved into a theme close to Tribulation’s heart: religion and spirituality. The man, who calls himself a believer, outlines a vision of spirituality far removed from what we’re used to hearing. Tribulation are most definitely a band that make their own way.

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Interviews   

Frontiers Records: A melodic passion


Frontiers Logo

Most of the time, in the world of music, the word “fan” is associated with people who like an artist. It’s less often associated with a record company, a commercially-minded entity that provides a base for musicians who come and go (almost) as they please. And yet, it is that very word that Mario De Riso, marketing director of Frontiers Records, uses to talk about the people who show an interest in his label as a whole. And it’s precisely to kindle these fans’ passion that the record company has decided to create their own festival, the Frontiers Rock Festival, whose second edition took place at Trezzo’s Live Club, near Milan (Italy), on April 11th and 12th.

There’s nothing surprising there: Frontiers Records are one of those labels that have built an actual trademark, a true individual spirit. Hard rock, classic rock, AOR, so-called melodic rock and metal, even heavy metal with 80s roots and a certain fringe of progressive rock – that’s the DNA of the Frontiers Records stable. Some people have grown attached to this line of conduct, and they trust the label to discover new talents or follow certain big names.

We were lucky to conduct an exclusive interview with Mario De Riso ahead of the festival to talk about the big event, but also about the label, its spirit, and its favorite music, to try and understand better what Frontiers Records stands for.

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Interviews   

The Answer: Pure rock’n’roll pleasure!


The Answer

Is they any genre more instinctual than rock’n’roll? For the Northern Irish musicians of The Answer, who are depicted as savage beasts on the cover of their new album, Raise A Little Hell, there probably isn’t. As singer Cormac Neeson confesses in the following interview, it was precisely their instinct the band chose to follow this time, after putting themselves and their environment in question for New Horizon, a year and a half ago.

The Answer have put introspection behind them, and delocalized the recording of their new record to Madrid, a city famous for its warmth and its sense of partying. But they did more than just take it easy in sunny Spain: after all, making and recording music really is hard work. Cormac tells us the whole story of the band’s fifth album – a story that revolves first and foremost around pleasure.

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Interviews   

Nightwish: a new step in their evolution


Nightwish 2015In his fundamental book On The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin described natural selection as “the principle by which each slight variation of a trait, if useful, is preserved”, and went on to explain that a change could become a strength in any species. The principle fits Nightwish like a custom-made glove – because their ambitious new album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, is a concept inspired by life and evolution, but also because the band has wonderfully adapted to drummer Jukka Nevalainen’s insomnia problems, and found new strength in the inclusion of versatile singer Floor Jansen and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley. These two additions to the band have made composer Tuomas Holopainen extremely happy, as he confesses in the following interview, alongside the aforementioned Floor.

A year and a half ago, just a few days after the official announcement, Tuomas explained to us how this new step in Nightwish’s evolution had come about. Eighteen months and a soundtrack to Uncle Scrooge’s adventures later, Nightwish make the news once again with their much-expected eighth album. Every self-respecting fan has been in their starting-blocks for months now, dissecting every piece of music made available, every word that could give them even a hint of the album’s musical direction and of the third singer’s performance.

We talked with Tuomas and Floor about all this, and also about the issue of downloading (following a message that denounced the leak of the first single, “Élan”, a few weeks ago), the “experience of music”, and the role of education in this matter – something they both visibly hold very dear.

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Interviews   

Toto are still holding the line!


In 2008, when guitarist Steve Lukather confirmed he was really leaving Toto – and, therefore, that the band was done –, he was fairly adamant. At the time there seemed to be no hope of ever seeing the band back on stage. In truth, as he explains at length in the following interview, the guitarist was at the end of his tether and saw no reason to keep afloat a band that was no longer truly Toto. In a way, his reaction showed he was a man of integrity.

Still, what seemed improbable eight years ago has become a reality: Toto and the high-school friends that make up the band have treaded the boards again. First it was to come to the aid of another long-time friend, then to celebrate their 35th anniversary, and now they’re releasing a new album, entitled XIV. And they’re doing it for the right reasons, too, even if there was some encouragement from the justice system… but ‘Cause that’s what’s really bringing Toto together and helping the band move forward: long-standing, genuine friendship. In this respect, the guitarist is very outspoken in his comments about former singer Bobby Kimball (even if he carefully avoids mentioning his name most of the time), whom he obviously doesn’t hold too dear. On the other hand, he’s completely devastated when he confesses that there’s no hope for bassist Mike Porcaro, who suffers from a grave disease, and that “there’s no hope at this point” (ndlr: interview conducted before Mike’s death).

We talked with Steve Lukather about Toto’s return, the new album, the future of this group of highly talented musicians, and much more, with complete honesty and in a very friendly way.

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Interviews   

The Gentle Storm: Anneke and Arjen are in the same boat


It had to happen sooner or later. Anneke Van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen are two of the most established and talented Dutch artists in the larger rock and metal scene, and they’ve already crossed paths in Ayreon’s ambitious, progressive works (Into The Electric Castle, 01011001), with a success that we need not describe. Anneke has made countless appearances on stage and in the studio alongside other artists – among which Devin Townsend, of course, but also extremely varied bands like Pain Of Salvation, Within Temptation, Moonspell, or Napalm Death. Arjen, for his part, is known for using dozens of talented vocalists on his albums. Everything pointed at a common project between these two – and this project now has a name: The Gentle Storm. On March 23rd, Inside Music will release their first record, The Diary, which comes in two different versions for the price of one: the “Gentle” version, softer and more acoustic, and the “Storm” version, more epic and very much plugged.

We talked to the two musicians to know more about this collaboration, the idea of making two versions of the songs within a double album, and the theme said album is built around, the voyage of a Dutch sailor in the 17th century, aka the Dutch Golden Age. We also took this opportunity to talk about another highly creative mind, Devin Townsend, the theatrical project The Theater Equation, and The Gathering’s 25th-anniversary show, which Anneke was a part of alongside her former bandmates.

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Interviews   

Moonspell: questioning to stay alive


Moonspell are moved by a desire to outdo themselves. But although many bands use this verb in a way that suggests an excess of ambition, this is not the case here. This is not about a more-and-bigger approach, or moving away from the norm at any cost. It is about putting themselves and others into question, in order to avoid repetition and to aim for better dynamics in a song or an album, for the proper use of a sound, an influence or an arrangement. In short, it is about an honest quest for betterment, where emotion is both the means and the end.

Before this new record, Extinct, Moonspell offered us Alpha Noir/Omega White, a double album whose aim was to explore two aspects of the band’s music in a distinct way. We talked with the charming and well-informed Fernando Ribeiro on this exceptional project and the artistic conclusions the band has drawn from it. Maturity is the core theme of this interview, not only from a musical standpoint, but also from a more personal point of view for Fernando, who recently became a father – a big change that is all at once exciting and scary.

Among other subjects, we talked about the theme of the album, broader and more subtle than it seems at first (but then again, Moonspell’s fans are no strangers to subtlety): it is a mix of love, science and philosophy, which Fernando as always been attracted to since his years as a student.

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Interviews   

Steven Wilson: The joy of being alone


There’s no longer any doubt that Steven Wilson is giving priority to his solo career, to the detriment of Porcupine Tree, whose future is more than uncertain. He says so himself in the following interview, which he granted us to talk about his new record, Hand. Cannot. Erase. The man exudes enthusiasm regarding the freedom he enjoys now that he’s not, strictly speaking, constrained by a band.

His artistic freedom allows him to embark into risky, ambitious projects, in order to try and make things move forward, or at least to try something new. Paradoxically, his current musical mood will delight fans of Blackfield and Porcupine Tree, thanks to a few metal overtones that we’d thought we’d never hear again, considering Wilson’s comments on the genre a few years ago.

The music on this album serves a theme: isolation, inspired by the sad story of Joyce Carol Vincent, whom Steven Wilson sees as a symbol of the quirks of modern society. Speaking of which, there’s a paradox in what he says: on one hand, he deplores the progressive loss of human and social interactions, but on the other hand, he confesses to being happier as a solo artist that in a band. His imaginary character, who chooses solitude in order to be happy and observe the world, probably has a lot to tell us about the artist and his own complexity.

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Interviews   

Obsidian C. outlines the new face of Keep Of Kalessin


Keep Of Kalessin has recently seen the end of an era, with a change of label and the end of a rather tense relationship with vocalist Thebon. The conflict has received a fair share of media attention, through press statements that revealed opposite truths. Following the drama, Arnt “Obsidian C.” Grønbech, the band’s leader and guitarist, stepped into the singer/frontman’s shoes, with his bandmates’ approval.

Obsidian C. talked to us about these events and the transformation they brought about. The new record, Epistemology, more varied and grandiose than ever, shows the new face of Keep Of Kalessin: the new set-up as a trio implies a different composition process and a change in live dynamics, and having a new frontman means there are fresh creative possibilities. The new-found chemistry will help Keep Of Kalessin reinvent themselves and go further. Epistemology is only the first step in a new journey.

The new album is also a way for Keep Of Kalessin to involve their fanbase in the creative process, since the artwork is actually the work of one of their listeners, picked through a Facebook contest. Obsidian C. confesses that he finds the collaborative process particularly interesting. Who knows, maybe the next album will contain a riff written by one of your readers?

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