Monday, December 15, 2014

1989 Year in Review Part 1 - Ep167

It's been six months but this week we return with another Year in Review; this time it's one picked by our very own listeners.

Aaron and Chris take you on a journey of the first half of 1989. You'll get discussion of news stories, sports, movies, the price of bacon, and pop culture happenings highlighted by tons of music discussion and tunes from artists like Extreme, Lizzy Borden, Skid Row, Sepultura, Tesla, Blue Murder, Badlands, and much, much more! It's a trip in the way back machine going back 25 years. Join us!

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Lizzy Borden
Skid Row
Blue Murder
The Cult
Great White
Dangerous Toys
Faith No More
Mr. Big
King's X

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...And the Winner is: Red Dragon Cartel! (Award: The Band That Meister Has Seen Live the Most In 2014)

Anyone who knows me knows what a fan of not just hard rock and heavy metal music, but the live concert scene I am.  That being said it's unavoidable that I would catch a few bands for more than
Jake E. Lee - photo by Wally Norton
one performance as I hit up concerts in Toronto and festivals around the world as much as work allows throughout the year.  Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel is a band that I've seen a whopping six times throughout 2014 and frankly, it's still not enough!  After all the hoopla surrounding the band's premiere show front man Darren James Smith has more than proven his vocal prowess around the world, something that I, like Jake E. Lee, knew he would.  A former member of Harem Scarem, Warmachine, Heavens Fire and other Toronto area bands, the Southern Ontario resident has delivered countless top notch performances as the band saw heavy worldwide touring throughout 2014.

Darren not only has to sing the songs from Red Dragon Cartel's self titled album issued earlier this year that he provided vocals for, but has to also sing songs that originally showcased the voices of the likes of Robin Zander and Paul Di'Anno. On top of that he has to pull off the late Ray Gillen's Badlands tracks and one of the most well known voices in rock, Ozzy Osbourne. Not an easy feat!

Jake E. Lee is a guitarist that everyone definitely has to see before they die and now with his Badlands brother Greg Chaisson stepping in for Ronnie Mancuso who returned to his producing, Red Dragon Cartel is still setting the world on fire!  The band seemed to be playing everywhere in 2014 with appearances at Sweden Rock Festival, Monsters of Rock Cruise and M3 Festival and has more gigs planned for 2015.  But on Wednesday December 10, 2014 they rolled into Toronto for the second time this year!

After the stage and crowd at The Garrison was warmed by opening bands Warmachine, a local area band that formerly featured Darren James Smith with a pummeling fast paced set and young guitar wizard Ethan Brosh and his band with their shredding instrumental set, the crowd tightened up for Red Dragon Cartel.  Coming out of the gates ripping, they delivered Ozzy's "Ultimate Sin", of course co-written by Jake E. Lee.  The band sounded great with Jonas Fairley's pounding drums, Greg Chaisson's thundering bass and Darren James Smith's soaring vocals, but it was of course the master Jake E. Lee who stole the show.  "Wasted" from the Red Dragon Cartel self titled CD, which Paul Di'Anno provided the vocals for on the album was the next selection.  The crowd was clearly loving every minute of the show, but they weren't the only ones as a broad smile could often be seen to flash across Lee's face as he seemingly effortlessly wielded his guitar.  Throughout the evening we also were served songs like "Shout It Out""War Machine""Deceived" and "Feeder" (a Robin Zander sung track on the album).  Intermixed with those awesome Red Dragon Cartel songs were some classic Badlands compositions in the form of "High Wire""Healer" and "Rumblin' Train" among others.  One of the absolute highlights for me and one of the earliest rock/metal tracks I ever heard was the encore presentation and show closer of Ozzy's "Bark At the Moon".

Once again, this is the sixth time that I've seen Red Dragon Cartel live this year and it's still not enough!  If you have the chance, don't miss these guys!

The Meister

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Well, Who Would Want Frivolous Black?: A Review of Serious Black's As Daylight Breaks

The minute that I opened the press release one sheet for Serious Black I was excited.  The second line of the document will show why: "The line-up consists of Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween), Thomen Stauch (ex-Blind Guardian), Mario Lochert (ex-Visions Of Atlantis), Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge), Jan Vacik (ex-Dreamscape) and (last but not least) the golden voice of Urban breed (ex-Tad Morose, ex-Bloodbound)."  Anyone into melodic power metal should be familiar with several of those names and I was certainly enticed to hear this new supergroup.  The album is titled As Daylight Breaks and features the collaborations of the full band who were all involved in the songwriting process.  With eleven tracks contained in As Daylight Breaks I anxiously cued it up for a spin:
We begin with "I Seek No Other Life" opening with a blistering pace in true classic power metal fashion.  The soaring vocals courtesy of Urban Breed almost add another dimension to the song.  "High and Low" is another charging composition featuring more prominence of Jan Vacik's keyboard work, some great guitar soloing, thundering bass lines and pounding drum beat.  Breed's velvet vocals overlay the soft keyboard notes at the outset of "Sealing My Fate", but it's not long before the rest of the boys join in for this slower tempo composition.  Personally I don't have much
 time for intros, so based on that the 1:14 minute instrumental "Temple of the Sun" just serves as a momentum killer and general waste of time for me.  All hope is not lost as the thundering drums of the oddly titled "Akhenaton" resonate from the speakers in an awesome track.  Some quick internet searching finds that Akhenaton may refer to the tenth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty.  The keyboard work on "My Mystic Mind" gives it a real Gothic metal feel at points while "Trail of Murder", sadly the shortest track at under three minutes, is my favorite of the lot.  The title track, "As Daylight Breaks", is a ballad and vehicle for the talents of Breed and Vacik, but again, not to my particular liking.   "Setting Fire to the Earth" is once again more my speed with a catchy bridge and chorus, perhaps a little more straight forward rock-like. The longest track, "Listen to the Storm", opens with some dark, ominous keyboarding but soon gives way to the rest of the all-star project in another slower tempo, rather epic sounding composition.  Things wrap up with "Older and Wiser", another classic power metal track crafted by some of the best of the genre.
Overall these masters of metal have delivered a decent melodic power metal album, with only a couple of low spots.  Fans of the genre would certainly do well to pick this one up.  Serious Black is set to rock the stages in January and February as they open for HammerFall on their upcoming European tour, wish we could get a tour like that here in Toronto!

BUY: Serious Black - As Daylight Breaks

The Meister

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

God Of Thunder Thighs


“Even the best chicks can only last a couple of hours.”

I was years away from my first sexual experience when I first read that quote from David Lee Roth.  Yet despite my inability to truly comprehend what he was saying, something about that comment resonated with me.  That comment and the ability to come up with it seemed to embody everything I wanted to be.  In my pre-pubescent brain, it was quite possibly the coolest thing to say.  It oozed with confidence and dripped a sexual overtone that came with being a rock God.  That was before he became a caricature or a punch line to some lame 80’s rock joke.  No sir.  This was Diamond Dave in all his high kicking, spandex sporting Rock God glory.  And everything I wanted to be. 

As much as I found myself in awe of the bands I saw in Hit Parader and MTV, I was never star struck.  What I felt was more like desperate separation.  Like “If these guys only knew me, we’d be best friends.  I’d be the one dorky teenager they’d want to hang out with.”  I longed to be part of something out of my reach and I was frustrated.  I saw my surroundings as something I couldn’t put behind me quick enough.  I was a boy out of place.  An rock n roll astronaut stuck on earth.  A devil in the church.  I looked at rocker’s like Diamond Dave and dreamed of what it would be like to be them.      

But that’s just it isn’t it?  When you’re 15, rock stars seem ageless.  Old enough to do all the cool shit but not old like your stupid parents.  Parents are lame.  They eat three meals a day and go to church every Sunday.  Fuck that.  Do you think David Lee Roth is worried about the 4 food groups?  There’s no way Gene Simmons has ever gone to church.  He was born evil.  Right?  Or so I thought anyway.

I'll clean your chimney after this song
Ah but 25 years later things have changed.  Gene Simmons is just an old Jewish man who’s gotten a bit fat. And Diamond Dave?  More like Dingbat Dave.  He’s just an old man.  He isn’t even kind of cool.  He’s a hokey vaudevillian type.  A Vegas act and a cheap one.  In fact both Gene and Dave have taken their talents to Vegas.  Turns out, they were never as cool as I once thought they were.  In reality nobody is.  Cool is façade.  Cool is an illusion.  An outfit.  Shoes and makeup.  Lighting and cheap fabric.  Behind those serious faces of musicians who glamorized binge drinking and groupie sex were guys running on treadmills and avoiding alcohol to preserve their voices while making sure their tour riders included plenty of fresh fruit.  Lyrical reference’s to drugs and neck tattoo’s portray an image that often masks reality.  (Insert Buckcherry reference here) 

Ok so not all of them were healthy eating monogamous phonies but plenty of them are.  And I find it interesting the way our rockers age.   You can tell how successful a musician was and how relevant they still are by the way they look.  If you ran into Chuck Billy and James Hetfield at a San Francisco bar in 1988, you wouldn’t see the stark difference in appearance you do now.  Chuck Billy looks like he ate himself while Mr. Hetfield has on a pair of jeans and a t shirt that combined probably cost more than Chuck’s monthly rent on his apartment. 

Chuck Billy. Living the Dream
By 1992 Metallica were beginning their run as the biggest rock band on the planet while Testament was already into the downside of their career cycle.  20 years later they are both still going.  Only one of them strong.  When Metallica fly’s their private plane to their next show, I don’t think the in flight meal is Big Mac’s and Dilly bars.  And when Testament is playing some 400 seat club in New Mexico, I doubt their rider has top end, low fat catering.  More like 6 tombstones and a case of diet coke.  Look at current pictures of U2, Metallica, and and compare them to current pictures of bands like Testament and Exodus.  You can tell who’s staying in the better hotel’s. 

Alas we all age.  Some better than others.  But Rock Gods are supposed to stay golden.  Finding out they don’t is like discovering the whole Santa Claus cover up.      

God Of Thunder Thighs
The silver lining of course is that when it mattered to me, the illusion worked.  When I was popping pimples and jerking off 7 times a day, it all seemed so real.  So awesome.  So cool.  Right around the time I realized most of the musicians I inspired to be were either horribly boring or just horrible people, I no longer cared.  And for some reason, I didn’t feel betrayed.  I look back with fondness at the way dreaming of Rock Stardom made me feel.  And while it can never be the same I miss it.  There is a small window of time where horror movies are something you can watch and find scary.  And if you never watch horror movies during that time you will never know that feeling.  That same sentiment is why I don’t feel like I was lied to.  The feeling I had was real.  And that is what really matters.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Some Girls Do".....A Lee Aaron Concert Review (Including Photos by Shawn Irwin)

Lee Aaron - @ Barney's in Whitby, Ontario - photo by Shawn Irwin
There was some dividing and conquering of the Canadian Decibel Geek team for this trio of Lee Aaron shows in the southern Ontario area.  Photographer Brian Ronald attended the sold out London, Ontario show on Friday December 5th, 2014 and had rave reports for The Meister and photographer Shawn Irwin, who hit up Whitby's December 6, 2014 show.  Here's my (The Meister's) account of the Whitby event including a photo gallery from Shawn Irwin and a couple of The Meister's videos from the show.

Our initial reaction to this new venue for us was at first less than positive.  There seemed to be bit of a bottleneck just through the entrance doors as patrons collected behind the soundboard.  With a bar on the right side stretching the length of the venue and booth seating on the other it made for a crowd in this area and poor vantage points for ones of challenged stature such as ourselves.  Once we pushed through, however, there was relatively no one on the floor area and this is really where you need to be for a rock/metal concert anyway.  I noticed that the only way on and off the stage was via stairs at the front and center, a poor design.  I can't imagine trying to clear drums and equipment during set changes if this was a packed house with everyone crowding the front of the stage!  Other than that I loved the size of the venue, the balcony which would provide great views of the concert (but I'd rather be down front!) and the sound was awesome.  I do hope that this venue succeeds, I'd definitely make the three hour public transit trek there again to see a great live band.

Cindy Weichmann
It began to look a little like The Rockpile in here as we spotted a couple of our regular concert attending friends and even another random guy sporting a Rockpile t-shirt.  The opening band, Nail (featuring Cindy and Rainer Weichmann, once members of Helix), had a thick and heavy, rather industrial sort of sound and I'll have to check into their music.  As we caught up with our Rockpile friends and met some new friends at the same time, Nail were wrapping up with their final song, a radio friendly track titled "Fuck Off and Die".  It was actually about women getting out of a bad relationship, I believe, and was a great song with Cindy Weichmann's strong powerful vocals leading the charge.  At one point she left the stage into the crowd (few people milling about) and stopped to sing in front of us, pushing me in the chest a couple of times as she sang the chorus.

Heavens Fire was up next and having seen them a couple of times before, I was looking forward to their show.  Actually they're not using the Heavens Fire name at this time due to some internal legal band disputes to my understanding.    Darren James Smith (Harem Scarem/Warmachine/Red
Jesse Jack-Heavens Fire-photo by Shawn Irwin
Dragon Cartel) was the former lead singer but he has moved on to front Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel and so Jesse Jack has stepped in to fill the void, and does so excellently I might add.  I noticed that the guitarist was different, JT Harris being absent, but this new guitarist did a fantastic job and had a great tone.  Perhaps Harris' absence has something to do with the use of the Heavens Fire name, at least that was the rumor going around.  In any case Heavens Fire ripped through a spirited set comprised mostly of songs from the Judgement Day CD.  The original version of the CD featured Darren James Smith, but the band were passing out the re-recorded version at the show featuring Jesse Jack and titled Judgement Day A.D. (which I assume stands for After Darren?).

Drew Masters, editor of M.E.A.T. Magazine (a staple in my days of youth), bounded on to the stage bringing with him the lady of hour (or should I say "Lady of the Darkest Night"?).  After Drew's introduction and welcome to the stage Lee Aaron and her band, Sean Kelly (Guitar), Dave Reimer (bass), John Cody (drums and Aaron's husband) and Matt Weidinger (keyboards) ripped into "Hands On" from her 1989 release Bodyrock.  I was able to capture this opening track on video.

"Powerline" followed as everyone in the audience sang along with Canada's "Metal Queen".  During "Rock Candy" Aaron was sure to give some special attention to the gentleman in the front row at the
foot of the steps as she came right up and sang directly to him.  Lee Aaron stole the hearts of men all over the world in 1984 and she's still doing it today!  "Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi", "Sweet Talk" and "Baby Go Round" all followed bringing us to a real treat for Lee Aaron fans.  Lee Aaron with guitarist Sean Kelly have been working on new music and she let us know that they are hoping to have the new album out by December 2015 at the latest.  They debuted "If You Don't Love Me",
Lee Aaron - photo by Shawn Irwin
one of the new tracks and it went over extremely well from what I saw of the audience, both Decibel Geeks gave it "two thumbs up".  "Some Girls Do" had the crowd rocking and saw Lee Aaron invite a young lady up on stage to join her for a few seconds of chorus singing.  Although I do appreciate many styles of music it's the hard rocking that's true to my heart and so, subsequently, the following selection of "I'd Love To" from Aaron's Jazz era was not a favorite for me.  "Odds of Love" took us to the emotional ballad "Barely Holding On" which Aaron struggled to promote and get played on Canadian radio upon it's release back in 1986 she told us.  I marveled at just how strong and ridiculously powerful her voice was, "Barely Holding On" a complete showcase for these talents.  I readied the video camera once again and caught "Metal Queen", a song that as I understand, Lee Aaron dropped from the setlist for a number of years.  But for me, that song alone was well worth the admission price.

Our friend from the Rockpile found himself being invited on stage for a few moments as Lee plucked his hat from his head to wear herself and quipped that she'd found Walter White in Whitby (prompted by our friends fashionable headgear).  "Watcha Do To My Body" wrapped up the set, but the crowd at Barney's in Whitby would have none of that!  Aaron and band were soon back to deliver a two punch encore set.  Aaron invited two gentlemen concert goers from the crowd up on stage to be her "Go-Go dancers" for "Sex With Love".  The guys looked to be having a lot of fun and "selfie" photos were being snapped all over as they danced, flanking the "Metal Queen" on either side.  "That was awesome!" one exclaimed as he exited the stage afterwards and I recalled that exact feeling when I was called up on stage to sing in the past with other bands.  "Bad Boyfriend" was the final song for the evening and Aaron announced that she would be over at her merchandise table to sign autographs and pose for photos after the set, so please come and say hi she invited.

Shawn Irwin's Photo Gallery (71 Photos)

Another excellent night of homegrown Canadian rock featuring some of the best performers Canada has to offer!

The Meister

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(Lee Aaron Website) (Lee Aaron Facebook)

(Barney's Website) (Black Moon Entertainment Website)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ride for Dime - Ep166

This week marks an anniversary that is anything but something to celebrate. That said, we pay tribute to a true metal icon and, more importantly, an amazing human being.

Aaron and Chris return this week to pay tribute to the memory of Dimebag Darrell. The iconic guitarist was murdered onstage 10 years ago this week. Since then, a series of bike rides for charity have sprung up all over the United States. We had rock photographer and friend of Darrell's, Chad Lee, on the show as he was gearing up for the Nashville chapter event in September. Chris attended the ride and documented the process while later being joined by Aaron for the knockout metal concert. 

In this Dimebag tribute special, you'll hear first-hand how the day unfolded for Nashville's Ride for Dime event; from the bar-b-que before the ride and party that includes chats with Chad Lee, Steve Bumpus of Bumpus Harley Davidson (hosts for the event), Nancy Sayle (Rock for MS), and guitarist Nick Bowcott (Grim Reaper). The episode moves into the evening and features backstage talks with Sirius/XM deejay Jose Mangin as well as a lengthy talk with former Black Label Society guitarist Nick Catanese. It's a fly-on-the-wall perspective of a day that saw thousands of people coming together to help out charities and remember a metal legend and amazing person. We hope you dig it.

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More Chad Lee!

More Nick Bowcott!

More Jose Mangin!

More Nick Catanese!

Rock Against MS

Proverbs 12:10 Animal Rescue

Geeks of the Week:
Stuart Balk (Midnight Movie Cowboys podcast), Matt Ashcraft, Mike Blount, Jason Thomas Broadrick, Howard Tate, Gino Ames, Kal Hinz, Aaron Baker, Brian Bates, Paul Stamm, David Alpizar, Brad Kalmanson, Joe Lascon, Justin Ace Sixx, Sit and Spin with Joe, Shane Hebert, Brent Walter, Warren Money, Jason Ramaley, Derik Novak, The Riff of the Day, Chad Pollock, Brian Knapp, Alicia Martin, Lynn Bohne, Cassius Morris, Jack Broad, Adam Cox, Raw Magazine, Hot Metal Magazine, Loudmouth Column, Faces Rocks Magazine, Steve Newton, Music Mags and Wax, Daniel Chaput, Hoops, Pep Pep

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Lucky Number Thirteen: A Harem Scarem Album Review

Canadians Harem Scarem have made a name for themselves internationally and at home with solid releases such as 1991's Harem Scarem and the critically acclaimed 1993's Mood Swings.  The Canadians continued to record and release albums throughout the 90's and 2000's albeit a little sporadically at times with 1995's Voice of Reason, 1997's Karma Cleansing, 2006's Human Nature and 2008's Hope.  For a short period of time they even went under the moniker of Rubber except in Japan where they had a loyal fan base.  They released two albums under Rubber, but soon reverted to Harem Scarem.

Pleased with the reactions from recent touring, Harem Scarem have launched a pledgemusic campaign to assist in the funding of their soon to be released 13th album.  The album is to be cleverly titled Thirteen and the pledge campaign titled Thirteen Weeks to Thirteen.  After less than 24 hours into the project the album was more than 100% funded!  Thirteen will be released on December 9, 2014 and the band features originals Harry Hess on vocals/keys, Pete Lesperance on guitars/bass and drummer Creighton Doane sitting in for Darren James Smith who has gone on to perform frontman duties for Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel, but contributes backing vocals for the recording.

Thirteen leads off with "Garden of Eden", a song that harkens back to Harem Scarem's heyday ala Mood Swings.  "Live It" sits in the second track position, often the "make or break" slot for me with an album, and does not overly thrill me, but rest assured it's not a bad composition.  "Early Warning Signs" features a catchy hook and is classic Harem Scarem with a melodic chorus, great track!  Things turn a little more melodic with "The Midnight Hour", another that easily holds up to their 1993 release.  As many of you may well know I'm less than a fan of ballads, but it's something to be expected from Harem Scarem and as I fan I accept that.  That being said however "Whatever It Takes" gets skipped in every listen as it's just not my flavor, but I can tell you it features a chorus loaded with vocal harmonies.  "Saints and Sinners" is much more my style, a favorite of Thirteen and a really strong track to bring me back after the ballad.  "All I Need" keeps thing moving in this same Harem Scarem fashion through to "Troubled Times".  I can definitely hear this one fitting right in with the revered Mood Swings album, another standout "must hear" track.  "Never Say Never" dials down the tempo just a little, but still moves along nicely showcasing the guitar work of Pete Lesperance as does every other track contained here.  The longest track at just over the five minute mark, "Stardust", serves as the album's closer.  A grinding start gives way for another melodic harmony chorus that Harem Scarem do so well.

Thirteen is an absolute must for not only Harem Scarem fans but melodic rock fans in general, a definite return to form for these Canadians.

Buy: Harem Scarem - Thirteen

The Meister

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(Harem Scarem Website) (Harem Scarem Facebook) (Pledgemusic - Thirteen Weeks to Thirteen)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Storyteller Unleashes the Sacred Fire in February


The Storyteller unleashes the Sacred fire in February 2015
Power metal outfit The Storyteller formed in the Swedish town of Gävle in 1995 when, two friends L-G Persson and Fredrik Groth, decided to start playing acoustic songs with medieval influences together. This project soon evolved into more electric stuff in the form of a band known for its melodic power metal with medieval and folk music spices mixed in.

After a couple of line-up changes the band was discovered by the small Swedish label No Fashion Records and they released their self-titled debut album in the year 2000. The band now consisting of main men L-G Persson (lead vocals and bass) and Fredrik Groth (guitar) and joining them were Martin Hjärpe on drums and Lars Martinsen on guitar.

From the very beginning the band cut out its own niche in the overcrowded power metal genre with adding medieval instruments and inspiration along with very strong choruses and huge choirs to back them up. The bands reputation as a live act grew and the amount of fans increased exponentially in the next few years. They released a string of very strong efforts including 2003 highlight ”Tales of a Holy Quest”. Joining the band for that release was Jacob Wennerqvist on lead guitar replacing Martinsen. Being a concept album based on the shameful persecutions of innocent victims by the church in Sweden branding them as Witches in the 18
th and 19th century.

The Storyteller opened up for bands like Helloween, Gammaray, Stratovarius and Hammerfall. They played two times at the famous and prestigious Sweden Rock Festival in the early 00's but being on a small record label meant limited marketing and financial backing. By 2005 the band was on the verge of a larger breakthrough being offered the support slot for a major band and a tour of Europe. Disagreements arose with the record company over the cost of the tour and disappointed in not getting this chance to prove themselves the band went on hiatus indefinitely. Band leader L-G Persson then formed a new band called Crystal Light with long time Storyteller guitarist Jacob Wennerqvist, guitarist Marcus Backlund and bass player Marco Lehto. A demo was released in 2008.

In 2011 L-G Persson and Fredrik Groth decided it was time to take The Storyteller out of its hibernation and blow some life into the band once again. Just before the recording of the comeback album ”Dark Legacy” (2013) Groth left the band and was replaced by Crystal Light guitarist Marcus Backlund. Bass player Johan Sohlberg was not part of the reunion and the bass duties were filled by Henke Brannerydh after ”Dark Legacy” had been recorded, Wennerqvist and Backlund handling the bass on the album.

The Storyteller now unleashes their 6th album showing they´re back for good and they mean business! ”Sacred Fire” comes with all the usual trademarks you expect from The Storyteller, pounding double bass drum, massive hooks supported by big choirs, medieval inspired and thoughtful lyrics and the superb raw vocals of main man L-G Persson. This time the band has drawn a lot of inspiration from ancient Greek mythology. For example the song ”The Ferryman” is about the Greek God Charon transporting dead souls across the river Styx. With this being said The Storyteller is not your regular power metal band that you can find down the street!

Track by track
The album opens up in a strong fashion with ”As I Die” which is a typical uptempo power metal song with a strong chorus. Lyrically it´s based around a warriors plea to the Gods to sit by their side as they die in battle. A worthy way to start off with. It is then followed by the first single and first video ”One Last Stand” which starts off with Priest-esque fast and heavy riffing driving the verses just if they had been written by Mr Tipton himself. The song then changes tempo into a very melodic and great chorus. The song seems to tell us all about what is going to happen on the very last day (Armageddon). A very strong effort indeed.

Then it´s time for the title track which starts out with galloping drums in true power metal fashion that quickly slows down into an almost acoustical start of the first verse. The song again changes tempo back to the fast drums for the chorus. The lyrics tell the story of a blacksmith creating the ”Sacred Fire”. Then follows the epic ”The Ferryman” based on the mythology of Charon and the river Styx. This is an epic masterpiece with a massive chorus backed by huge choirs and a song easy to sing along to. Easily the strongest effort so far.

Just as if to compensate for this heavier and slower song ”Serpent Eyes” follows suit with its speed metal drive and the band just hits the pedal to the metal. The Greek mythology continues on. This song is a about the legendary horrible female creature, Gorgon, which had hair of living venomous snakes and could turn you to stone with their gaze. The song reminds me of early Helloween stuff minus the falsetto vocals. This ensures a varied album with lots of different styles being served up but never straying too far from the expected formula.

The Storyteller - photo by Mikael Svensson
Now follows what I would say is maybe the strongest song on the album called ”Sons of the North”. The song starts off in a very fast pace, very similar to Running Wild, but then again becomes heavy and epic in the build up for a melodic and enchanting chorus supported by a huge choir. I found myself toe tapping and singing along to this song without even noticing it at first. This song also has L-G Persson singing his heart out and delivering the vocal performance of the album.

Being ecstatic of what I just heard, the album continues on with the song with the longest name on the album: ”In Search of Treasures, Stones and Gold”. This is a regular power metal song with a great and majestic chorus but not the strongest effort in my opinion. The lyrics tell the tale of treasure hunters searching for gold. A song in the typical Storyteller fashion and ending with a short medieval inspired acoustic piece. Not bad at all just not the strongest hand in the deck.

”Sacred Fire” then continues with the only ballad of the album, "Coming Home", and this is a strong one. Not always a fan of ballads this song has me showing the white flag and surrendering to the great chorus and L-G's fantastic vocals on this one. It really adds value to the mix and gives the album a great variety!

The Storyteller - photo by Mikael Svensson
I am harshly being awakened by the thumping bass and pounding drums of ”The Army of Southerfell” which is an upbeat song with a huge chorus again. This song is about the English legend of a spectral army marching this ridge on midsummer's day 1745. The album continues with another upbeat song, ”Curse of the Seven Seas”. This song is about serving as a ghost on a ship, cursed for a 100 years. I guess the lyrics were inspired by the legend of the Flying Dutchman. A great song with a really strong lyrical content.

The album finishes off with two more typical power metal and upbeat songs called ”Let Your Spirit Fly” and ”God of War”. "God of War" deals with the battle of Troy and the struggle between the God Ares and his sister Athena. These songs are in no way groundbreaking but great songs very typical of the Storyteller.

To sum it all up this is the strongest effort since ”Underworld” was released in 2005. I would give this new album a rating of 8 out of 10. Not as prominent as 2003´s masterpiece ”Tales of a Holy Quest” but pretty damn close. The Storyteller are back and they mean business! They continue to tell us about legends and stories of the past as they easily could have done by the campfire. They just do it in a metallic setting. If your not familiar with the band before they are definitely worth checking out.

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Running Wild in Brantford...A Helix Concert Review

Well, a night of oddities and anomalies has just dropped itself upon the ole Meister!  Make no mistake however, for the most part that's a good thing.  Allow me to elaborate some.  For anyone that has read my ramblings previously you'll know that a rather long trek (usually via public transit) to a concert gig is not out of the ordinary for me by any means, but that's where I begin my story for today.  While at another awesome live music event and subsequent drinking experience at Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald's house in October (Halloween to be precise) he asked me if I would be coming out to Helix.  Totally unaware that there was an impending Helix gig, I enthusiastically responded with a "Hell yeah!".  The Helix gig in question was to take place on Friday, November 28, 2014 in Brantford, a three hour public transit venture for me.  I began to chat about the event around work over the following weeks as I was quite excited to be seeing Helix again, not having seen them since 2013's Monsters of Rock Cruise.

Anomaly #1: Two co-workers began to express an interest in coming with me to the show!  Serious?  Rarely does anyone outside of my circle enjoy my musical tastes, but it turns out they were dead serious.

Since they are also from my home town of Newmarket, Ontario their attendance would also be saving approximately two hours of public transit travel time.  Excellent!  That's where the trouble began.....we set out in plenty of time, planning on having dinner somewhere in Brantford prior to the event.  En route we encountered horrendous traffic like I've never seen before, turning a 1.5 hour drive into nearly 3.5!  The public transit game would actually have been faster!  Finally after pit-stops and the assistance of Google Maps we arrived and my first impression was; "Holy crap, this place looks all wrong!".  We had arrived at a strip mall plaza and a rather desolate looking one at that.  But the illuminated light-box sign reading "Army, Navy and Air Force Club" informed us that we were indeed in the correct spot.  As we entered the shopping plaza store front I was struck by another thought....this place really, really reminds me of a wedding reception hall or a year end sports team banquet at the local Legion!

Anomaly #2: I've seen Helix at festivals, on a cruise ship and at smaller clubs, but now I'm about to see Helix play at a wedding!

This event was actually a toy drive and as we entered the venue, presenting our unwrapped toys we received hand stamps and proceeded into the "wedding reception".  A Santa-dressed gentleman, who I assumed was the promoter or organizer of the event, was on hand at the door to warmly greet us and thank us for coming.  To the right hand side near the bar was an enormous pile of donated toys awaiting their Christmas destinations to those children in need.  Every child should experience the magic of receiving toys at Christmas and I was proud to see one of my favorite Canadian bands supporting such an event.  The three of us occupied chairs next to Brian and a friend of his.  Brian and I immediately lapsed into "rock talk" with preparing our "Top Ten Albums of the Year" lists for Decibel Geek and the latest Helix effort, Bastard of the Blues among the subjects.

Anomaly #3: I have known Brian for about three years and never, ever at a show, even on the cruise, have I seen him void of his camera apparatus as he was on this night.  As happy as I am to see him cut loose with some beers, I want some damn photos for this review slacker!

Unfortunately, we had basically missed the opening act thanks to our traffic nightmare, but we were able to catch the young lady and her guitarist as they wrapped up the final song of their set.  The evening's MC then took over for a series of prize giveaways and on-the-spot auctions, as well as drawing attention to other raffles that would be going on later in the night.  We learned that this was the third annual Helix Toy Drive event and I've already marked my calendar for next year's.

Helix was welcomed to the stage with a keyboard rendition of their most popular song, "Rock You" emanating from the PA sound system.  They blasted into "No Rest For the Wicked" to lead the charge and unfortunately the sound was not the best from our position seated at a long banquet table that was only missing the wedding tablecloths!

Anomaly #4: I have never seen a Helix show where pretty much the entire audience, let alone me, were seated!

"Wild in the Streets" was the next selection and that was it for me!  I'll be damned if I'm gonna let this flaccid crowd dictate how I see Helix!  Brian and I, both with freshly replenished beverages, headed up to the stage on the right side.  The sound was much, much better up here, probably the evils of bouncing off of the ceiling further back.  Brian Vollmer (vocalist) let the crowd know that Helix had just returned from a tour in Scandinavia as Brian and I remarked on the skills of newest Helix member, guitarist Chris Julke.  They went next to their latest release, Bastard of the Blues, for "Even Jesus (Wasn't Loved In His Hometown)", the first single.  With dry ice clouds billowing out from Greg "Fritz" Hinz's drum riser I was able to capture "Dirty Dog" on video.

Anomaly #5: While there were now several patrons standing and approaching the stage, there seemed to be a force field in the shape of a semi-circle at the front of the stage that no-one seemed to want to break.  Certainly not the style of crowd that we are used to at a show!  Actually kinda nice not to be pushing and shoving, trying to defend your position leaning on the front of the stage.

Brian Vollmer-photo by The Meister
The title track from the new album, "Bastard of the Blues", was up next featuring Kaleb Duck and Chris Julke both wailing on their guitars in an awesome display.  "The Kids Are All Shakin'" for some reason had me reflecting on the inaugural Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2012.  I had been dining alone sporting an older Helix tee and seated at a long eight person table in the buffet.  With my head down, shoveling in food in a flurry so as not to miss the next shipboard concert, I simply grunted approval without even looking up when someone commented "Nice shirt, mind if I sit at your table?"  It was a good several minutes later before it registered that it was none other than Brian Vollmer that had chosen to sit with me upon spotting my support for the band!  Kaleb Duck and Brian Vollmer now shielded their eyes and looked to the sky as the sound of an aeroplane passing overhead resonated through the PA system before Kaleb's guitar prowess lead off "When the Hammer Falls".  I've seen Helix quite a few times, but I can't recall a bass
Daryl Gray-blurry photo by The Meister
solo from Daryl Gray in previous events, so this was a new addition for me.  Gray called out "Give me some light!" and the fluorescent overheads illuminated the entire "wedding hall" as he pulled out what I believe was a violin bow to wield across the strings of his bass guitar.  I was also surprised to hear "Danger Zone" next as I don't think it's a usual inclusion in the setlist, either that or my memory's going in my old age.  One of my all time favorite Helix tracks, paling only in comparison to the rarely played "The Storm" and "Get Up!", "Running Wild in the 21st Century" saw me headbanging and singing away (apologies to those within earshot.....I'm tone deaf and tend to monotone hum the words that I don't actually know, but hey, I'm having fun!).  Vollmer made an appeal for us to support Canadian music, especially classic rock bands as Canadian radio is far from a supporter and buy merchandise from, not just Helix, but other bands as well.  This year marks the 40th Anniversary for Helix he informed us next.  He reminisced that when they first started out bar owners wanted dance bands to get the people up off their seats.  That's what the next track, "Make 'Em Dance" is all about.  The Crazy Elephant cover "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" followed before Vollmer told everyone that the band would be at the merchandise table after the set to sign autographs and take photos.  He then dedicated the next selection "To my lovely wife, a song from the Wild in the Streets album, "Dream On"."  "Deep Cuts the Knife" was next and after that I got the camera out again to film "Screaming At the Moon" from Bastard of the Blues.

Getting into the festive season next with "Jingle Bells", I certainly don't remember any guitar work like Kaleb blisteringly delivered in the traditional version!  Asking about the Toronto Maple Leaf fanship in the room served as the intro for "All I Want For Christmas Is the Leafs To Win the Cup" and I sung "Go Habs Go!" in my head, not being a Leaf fan by any means.  "Heavy Metal Love" was on the roster now and as Vollmer jumped off the stage to sing in the semi-circle that still refused to be broken you can clearly see Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald in the "Metal On Ice" tee-shirt drunkenly rocking out in my video...way to go Bri!!

A little instrumental break led us to Kaleb's awesome "William Tell Overture", this time with some help from Chris Julke, something that I've usually seen Kaleb play himself, came off really well with both guitarists in the mix.  As would be expected, "Rock You" wrapped things up and one or two crowd members broke the force field semi-circle, edging closer and closer.  The boys left the stage
Helix Toy Drive setlist
for a few minutes to towel off while the crowd did a fair job of making noise to bring them back to deliver "Heavy Metal Cowboys" for an encore.  As I carefully peeled the silver duct tape off of the setlist that I had pilfered from the stage, I saw the other encore choices listed that did not get played.  One was the awesome ballad that always makes me think of Maxwell House coffee, "Good to the Last Drop", and a serious surprise in "Get Up!".  Although I loved this Helix show as I do all their performances, I dearly wish they'd played "Get Up!".  There's so many Helix songs that I love, such as "Jaws of the Tiger", that will probably never see a concert, so the fact that "Get Up!" made the printing of a setlist gives me hope that I may just hear it live someday yet.

Even though I've met the guys many times over I headed to the merchandise table to do so once again and thank them for another awesome show.  I was surprised and proud when I saw my two friends, who had really seemed to enjoy the show even joining me at the front after a time, purchasing shirts and CD's!  I fear that Helix and I may have created a monster as they were very questioning about the Monsters of Rock Cruise during the drive home!  The whole band posed for a photo with them pointing at the Helix logo that appears in my full sleeve tattoo.  What an awesome night with an awesome band who truly do appreciate their fans and deliver their all on stage every single time.
Helix checking out The Meister's tattoo!
Thanks Helix.....when's the next gig?

BUY: Helix - Bastard of the Blues

The Meister

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