Speed Limit – “Unchained / Prophecy”

Speed Limit
“Unchained / Prophecy” 2CD REISSUE
(Karthago Records)

Despite being neighbors to the mighty metal market of Germany, little is known other than to connoisseurs, about the early 80s Austrian metal market? Well Speed Limit were one of the forerunners, beginning in the late 70s, releasing their debut “Unchained” in the mid 80s and its follow up “The Prophecy” in 1988. As with many metal bands, the 90s heralded a dark period and Speed Limit tried to go with the flow by becoming more hard rock before splitting in 1994. In 2008 they made their comeback reunion and have been playing in the HM Division 2 mainly around central Europe. However, with time both their aforementioned albums have become collectors items, so as part of their 25th anniversary both albums have been reissued in a double CD, complete with 16 page booklet containing the usual rare pix etc. The 15 tracks pretty much capture the history of the band, from the Accept sounding ‘Marriage In Hell’ to the melodic metal of ‘Lady’ to the drippy AOR of ‘No Lies’ to a bizarre drunken rendition of ‘My Bonnie’ (a tribute to tour mates Nazareth?)! It’s miles away from the likes of Belphegor which is ironic as Hell Lennart used to play in Speed Limit but if you desire to enter the Austrian metal mists of time then look no further than this bumper package!

The Browning – “Burn This World”

The Browning
“Burn This World”
(Earache Records)

Straight outta big D (Dallas) comes The Browning – strange name whether it’s from one of the band members streets or the firearms company! Even stranger still is the band’s sound – a mixture of metal and electronica or ‘ravecore’ as they are now being labelled by their fans. Hoarse vocals and chopping riffs are accompanied by electronic trance rhythms on songs like ‘Tragedy Of Perfection’, ‘Dominator’ and ‘Standing On The Edge’. In a way The Browning sorta remind me of 90s electronic bands like Prodigy although the influence of electronica varies greatly in the mix between songs such that some of them are out and out dance whilst others are more trance like. Whilst I don’t feel there’s anything dramatically new here in the music (or the title for that matter), there is obviously a niche for this sorta mix and The Browning have enough firepower to make something of it. I’m just glad they no longer incorporate rap into their fold like they used to LOL!

Screaming Shadows – “Night Keeper”

Screaming Shadows
“Night Keeper”
(Jolly Roger Records)

Wow, I hope this album gets wider attention because it is a power / classical metal album par excellence! Screaming Shadows are a little known Italian band despite this being their 3rd album but I hope “Night Keeper” cracks it for them because it truly rates a triple A: superb musicianship in all depts; intelligent song arrangements; excellent use of melodies and most of all, played with passion and style! Screaming Shadows take inspiration from the heavy metal greats like Maiden in their foundation and then add power or classic or symphonic elements from Rhapsody or Edguy to create exquisite songs like ‘Holy Knights’, ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Free Again’. These guys are so confident that 3 of the 12 tracks are instrumentals no less, but when you play a guitar like Frances Marras does, why worry LOL! Definitely a superior album, Screaming Shadows must rank as a strong contender for being Italy’s numero uno metal band!

Puddle of Mudd – “Re:(Disc)overed”

Puddle of Mudd
“Re:(Disc)overed”
(Goomba Music)

Allegedly named after the Missouri River flood of ’93, this post grunge band having been going it solo for close to 20 years. Prior to working on a new album in 2012, the band have released “Re:(Disc)overed”, an album of no less than 13 classic rock covers – yes, covers! What motivated this? Well, according to guitarist Paul Phillips ‘….I think we needed something like this because it was a no pressure situation. We just wanted to do something for fun in the studio. We had a great time, and I think it was the right thing to do…’ although don’t think that the project was, as main man Wes Scantlin would say, ‘..easy peasy..’. Indeed. The problem with covers, especially with heavy weight numbers like the Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’, Bad Company’s ‘Shooting Star’ and even Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’, is that if you’re a respected band, you don’t just do a cover, you do a GOOD cover! By and large, Puddle of Mudd have done a fine job, drafting in the hammond and harmonies on The Beatles ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and Scantlin doing a fine job in the vocal dept on Clapton’s ‘Cocaine’ and Free’s ‘All Right Now’. Perhaps their most remarkable feat is pulling off Zepp’s reggae ‘D’yer Mak’er’! If I hadta be super critical then it’s on ‘TNT’ where Bon once again fools ’em and not even Scantlin can nail the twisted wailings of AC/DC’s original vocalist. But maybe that’s not Puddle of Mudd’s fault, as it seems that the covers they excel in coincidentally fall closest to their rock realm?

Nile – “Worship The Animal (1994 -The Lost Recordings)”

Nile
“Worship The Animal (1994 -The Lost Recordings)”
(Goomba Music)

Man, talk about a blast from the past! I wouldn’t exactly say these are ‘lost’ recordings but this is essentially Nile’s demo from back in 1994 which means some of you out there might not have been even born LOL. I have a special place in my heart for Nile given they were fatefully signed by Relapse Records at the Expo Of The Extreme in 1996, an event I had some involvement in at the time – as I recollect we almost didn’t allow the label into the venue owing to a mix up! With a unique middle eastern theme thanks to then drummer Pete Hammoura, Nile were a cutting edge death metal band who threatened to (and later did) take the levels of technicality of the genre to a new level. Seventeen years ago, however, the band were still finding their feet and as such songs like ‘Nepenthe’ and ‘Surrounded By Fright’ are certainly not the whirring hyper speed techno tornadoes that one might associate with the bands music today. Instead they are much slower and dirtier, almost doom like with ‘Mecca’ having a southern groove like Crowbar. So current fans of the band wishing to delve into the band’s distant past should understand this is a true demo – albeit well produced and still remarkable for the time, almost worthy of the gods themselves.

Charred Walls Of The Damned

Formed by the multi talented Richard Christy and featuring the likes of Steve DiGiorgio, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Jason Suecof, this is a US metal super group – and then some! From their astonishing debut to their highly anticipated follow up, CWOTD could be THE happening band this year, so it was on the phone to Richard! Shan Siva

1. Hi Richard, firstly let me offer u belated congratulations on an amazing debut – so obvious first question, will your new album be more of the same addictive metal (if only you could see the drool LOL)?!

Richard: Thank you very much!!!! I’m so proud of this new album and so excited for you to hear it! Yes it is definitely the same type of metal as the last album but I also think the band has grown much tighter and more solid since the first album and I also learned a lot about songwriting and composing from the first album which I think makes this second album even better! Plus there’s much more music in the second album than there was in the first, the first album was 34 minutes long and this one is 58 minutes, almost an hour of pure metal!

2. Who thought up the band’s name and is there any particular inspiration behind it?

Well, where I work, The Howard Stern Show, one of the things that I get to do is make prank phone calls, it really is a super fun job! One day myself and my co-writer Sal Governale were prank calling a very religious Christian radio show in the Southern part of the United States and they got very angry at us because we were goofing around and talking dirty. The host of the Christian religious radio show started yelling at us and said that if we don’t stop making prank calls and if we don’t turn our lives over to Jesus, then we will be scratching our nails on the Charred Walls of the Damned in hell! Sal and I looked at each other and both said at the same time, “That’s an Awesome Band Name!” Luckily it was a name that had never been used before and I love the name!

3. I haveta say that a lotta ‘supergroups’ disappoint me cos they seem to be only in name and not in delivery. It’s not the musicianship I question, but the fit of styles that make it come together so what were the reasons you worked with Tim Ripper Owens (ex Judas Priest), Steve DiGiorgio (ex Sadus)?

Tim, Steve, Jason and I all are very good friends and we also all have a great chemistry because we’ve all been in bands together at one time or the other. For me it’s important to be friends with the people I’m in a band with because the most important thing about music is to have fun and I knew it would be fun to be in a band with Tim, Jason, and Steve, and they’re also amazing musicians so I knew it would be a perfect fit! I think our great chemistry comes through in our music and you can hear how well we all gel together in this band.

4. How easy was it for you to manage guys like this with both a high level musical talents and credentials – I’m guessing that if you didn’t have a level of experience playing in the bands that you did it might not have been easy…?

Tim, Steve, and Jason are very easy to work with. I would write all the music and record all the instruments on the demo recordings, then send them to Tim, Jason, Steve, and they would rehearse the demos so that when we all got into the studio everyone would be totally prepared. These guys are super easy to work with because they’re always prepared and ready to have fun in the studio! Everyone recorded their parts very quickly for this album, Tim did his vocals in only 6 days for all 12 songs! There’s a very raw feel to this album which I like, it captures the spontaneity of the music but everyone was very prepared so I think it sounds raw and natural but very well rehearsed.

5. When I listen to Charred Walls Of The Damned I can actually hear the styles that all of you uniquely bring so (without pigeon holing u) how best would you describe the band’s music?

I love to say that we’re simply a Heavy Metal band. We have so many different styles that we’re all influenced by and many different kinds of bands that we all play in and I think that helps create a unique sound for Charred Walls of the Damned. There are elements of every type of heavy metal in our music, like death metal style blast beats, power metal type singing, thrash metal type guitar riffs, and I also love horror film soundtracks so we’re definitely influenced by that as well. I think it all comes together to create our own sound.

6. Has Charred Walls Of The Damned toured yet and if not what are your plans to do so after this new album?

Yes we toured in the United States and Canada during the summer of 2010 and it went amazing! I was so happy to be on tour with this band and so excited to play our music for the fans. We’re definitely planning on doing some more touring next year and I’m really hoping that we can come to Europe. Now that we have two albums out, we have plenty of material to play live! We’re setting up some shows for next year right now and I should have some news about live shows around the world very soon!

7. Having played in an astonishing range of bands (i.e. Acheron, Death, Iced Earth, Control Denied, Burning Inside etc) what is the single most important thing you have learned in your experience?

The single most important thing I’ve learned about playing music is to simply have fun. When you enjoy the people that you’re in a band with and have fun with everyone and have fun on stage, it really is the best feeling ever. Life is very short and playing music makes me so happy and I’ve been so fortunate to be in bands that I love and play music that I love for fans all around the world. Touring and recording can be stressful at times but the important thing is to remember that it’s all about having fun and making people happy with your music.

8. I understand that you grew up in Kansas? Was it the sound of metal that took you from there to where u are now or would u have been equally happy in the wheat fields?

Yes it was definitely metal that brought me where I am now! When I was around 8 years old, the neighbor who lived across the street from me played me the album Metal Health by Quiet Riot and it changed my life. I’ve been a huge metal fan ever since and when I turned 18 I was offered the drumming spot in a band called Public Assassin in Missouri so I moved away from home, then a few years later I moved with the band Burning Inside to Florida where I met Chuck Schuldiner from Death, and now I’m living in New York City and playing in Charred Walls of the Damned, so metal has definitely shaped my life and led me to where I am today! I really do miss the wheat fields and my family and I go back to visit them often but I love calling New York City home!

9. Besides a musician, you’re also a stand-up comedian, an actor, director, and a radio personality for the Howard Stern Show so are you one of these multi talented dudes that can make a success of anything – what next are you gonna try your hand at?!

Well, thank you for the nice words! I do love trying many different things because I have a lot of interests. I’ve been writing a lot lately and would love to someday write a horror fiction book and a horror screenplay, so that’s one of my goals for the future definitely. I have a lot of ideas for stories in my head and hope to one day have the time to write it all out and release it.

10. It sounds like your’re man of your own destiny Richard, so what’s it like to have a boss, let alone Howard Stern – I met Mancow once – after that my 9-5 office job seemed like a breeze LOL.

I love working for Howard, it really is my dream job to come to work every day and laugh and have fun. I’m so honored to have this job and work for one of the funniest people on earth and I’m also very lucky to also have the time to play in my band Charred Walls of the Damned. I’m very fortunate and thankful to be where I’m at right now and I’m very excited about what the future holds!

Ok, many thanks for your time Richard!

Thank you very much for interviewing me! I really appreciate it!!! For all Charred Walls of the Damned information you can go to www.metalblade.com/cwotd and www.richardchristy.com Take Care and Keep It Metal! Richard

Saltatio Mortis – “Sturm aufs Paradies”

Saltatio Mortis
“Sturm aufs Paradies”
(Napalm Records)

Napalm are amassing quite a buncha these bands that feature bagpipes a plenty – from the jolly pirates of Alestorm to the jovial folks of Svartsot. Now come the Germans in the form of Saltatio Mortis (meaning dance of death) who take their inspiration from the dark ages! What immediately jumps out though, is that they’re not really metal but some sorta medieval themed rock band judging by songs like the pagan folk of ‘Eulenspiegel’, the more upbeat ‘Der Letzte Spielmann’ and the more epic ‘Spiel Mit Dem Feuer’. It’s certainly played well enough, and vocalist Alea has a wide range, but I suspect that this is one of these bands very much rooted in the success of their home market (where their recent live DVD “Wild und Frei” reached number 21 in the Media Control Charts) given the strong Germanic melodies and rhythms, and as such their wider appeal might be more questionable.

Wolfpakk – “Wolfpakk”

Wolfpakk
“Wolfpakk”
(AFM Records)

Whoa – thundering heavy metal courtesy of alpha dawgs Michael Voss (Ex-Casanova, Mad Max) and Mark Sweeney (Ex-Crystal Ball)! Screaming vocals, smashing drums, wolverine vocals, crunching guitar and keyboards that don’t bleet like sheep – yeah, this is just what the heavy metal doctor ordered on songs like ‘Slam Down The Hammer’, ‘Ride The Bullet’ and the kinky ‘Reptile’s Kiss’. With strong ballsy melodies featuring unashamedly throughout, this amazing debut may stop short of being brutal, but it nonetheless reeks of man stink chest beating and if that wasn’t enough in itself, features no less than 30 guest musicians including Paul Di’Anno (Ex-Iron Maiden), Tony Martin (Ex-Black Sabbath), Jeff Scott Soto (Ex-Y. Malmsteen, Talisman), Tony Franklin (Ex-Blue Murder, Robert Plant), Mat Sinner (Primal Fear), Neil Murray (Whitesnake) – a veritable hunting pack indeed!

Axel Rudi Pell – “The Ballads IV”

Axel Rudi Pell
“The Ballads IV”
(Steamhammer / SPV)

The ballad meister bar none, it’s been 7 long years since ARP graced us with his last compilation of tear jerking, babe crooning and man sized tear ballads. Where others might cringe, ARP unashamedly adds acoustics like he does on the cover of Kiss’s ‘Love Gun’ and his personal piano tribute to Dio on ‘Holy Diver’. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially on the Phil Collins ‘In The Air Tonight’ or Leonard Cohen cover of ‘Hallelujah’, but elsewhere on his own material like ‘No Chance To Live’ he shows us his song writing prowess and his once lofty ambitions to become the next guitar god of metal. Loathed by some, unknown to more but undoubtedly loved by many others as judging by his 1.5 million album sales and the sheer number of guest musicians that have collaborated with him over the years, he remains out there, soldiering as he did since those early 80s days of Steeler, carving what he may in his single minded quest to put the melody into metal.

Pro-Pain – “20 Years Of Hardcore”

CD / DVD (AFM Records)

Arguably the last of the original 90s crossover bands, Pro Pain celebrate their 20 year anniversary by giving is this year’s bumper package bar none! The CD has 4 brand new songs like ‘Damnation’ featuring trademark roaring vox, corrosive guitar mit some classy rock n roll, and a stomping rhythm to boot! Then there’s 4 re-recorded songs like ‘Foul Taste Of Freedom’, a Böhse Onkelz cover version of ‘Keine Amnestie Für MTV’ and 14 live tracks from a Czech show. But wait up, unlike many bands who rehash the same live show on the DVD, Pro Pain instead give us another 12 track live show from Serbia, 3 songs from With Full Force, 5 more from Berlin, and yet another 5 tracks filmed by fans including ‘Iraqnophobia’ – respect to the man Gary Meskil, if this isn’t da bomb, then you don’t know shit!