A rare early recording made by late Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley has been put up for auction on eBay. Seller Ron Holt posted that the tape was made in 1988 when Staley. Holt and Jerry Cantrell were all part of a pre-AIC band 40 Years Of Hate. Continue reading →
Relaxing in London’s Gibson Rooms, surrounded by dozens of very expensive-looking guitars, Jeff Waters is a happy man. The founder, guitarist and occasional frontman of Canadian thrash outfit Annihilator is in Europe at the label’s beckoning filming videos for his band’s new album, Suicide Society (UDR).
“I’m smiling because we don’t usually get two videos,” explains Waters. “Normally I have to call the label and say I’d really like to do a video, and usually argue politely about a video budget and whether we can get one, and sometimes we get a video.” For the Annihilator’s 15th album, however, there was no need for negotiations; UDR & Warner wanted two videos and wanted them quick. “We didn’t have concepts, we didn’t have a video team, director. We didn’t have anything arranged.” While Waters was still worried that these two videos might still be done on the cheap with a skeleton crew, what he found on arrival came as a pleasant surprise: 14 crew, three cameramen with top of the line stuff, and decent hotel rooms (no sharing) to top it off. “We got to the shoot in Hanover, went to the very east of Germany to an old run down building that was around in the war which we probably shouldn’t have been in, and filmed.”
“We were just smiling the whole time, realising that the labels are putting in some money into this thing, and I’ve not seen that since 1995. So that’s what, 20 years ago? 20 years since a label has looked like they’re putting in more than the contracts say, more than I request, more than I would expect.”
Having heard Suicide Society, it’s safe to say the label’s faith in Annihilator is well-placed. Continuing the upward trajectory in quality of 2010’s self-titled effort and 2013’s Feast, it balances the aggressive bite with Water’s soft spot for accessible melody. “It’s a good sign that looks like the labels are supporting us. I am getting a little bit excited about this, more than I normally would.”
While he might be smiling now, the album’s gestation contained more than its fair share of stress. Shortly before he was due to record his part, Dave Padden, Annihilator’s vocalist/guitarist for over a decade, decided to call time on his career with the band. “I don’t know the specific reason, but I know the general reason was he hadn’t been happy in the band for almost four years,” says Waters.
“I thought, “Uh-oh, do you need more money?” Nope, that wasn’t it. Was it something I’ve been doing or some way I’ve been treating or not treating you? No.” At loss as to why, Waters asked for an explanation. “He said, “I don’t like or look forward to going on tour or going to record. I just don’t like the travel anymore.” While it came a shock, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. “Now that I look back, I think I knew. I never said anything because I didn’t want to open something up and have him leave.”
Since he joined in 2003, Padden had been a steady ship in a band with an-ever rotating line-up of members and for a while, things seemed bleak. “I was screwed. I had a whole week of depression.” The original plan would have seen him arrive at Waters’ studio in early December and have everything wrapped up time for Christmas. “I had recorded the entire record, wrote the lyrics, and demoed it on CD. I was scheduled to move house and I also had a deadline for the record. It was supposed to be out months earlier than now. Dave quitting completely destroyed that whole thing.”
But refusing to be deterred, Waters set about looking for a new vocalist. “I looked for a while, couldn’t find anyone. It was either old school guys that were old and out of shape or guys that didn’t have everything Annihilator needed.” Explaining that returning to previous vocalists such as Randy Rampage or Aaron Randall was a non-starter, he looked to some of the younger vocalists, but still couldn’t find what he was looking for.
Eventually Waters – who performed vocal duties for three Annihilator albums in the 90s (1994’s King of the Kill, 1995’s Refresh the Demon, and 1997’s Remains) – had an epiphany. “I said to myself, “I’ve already got this thing done. I could walk in tomorrow and sing it” and then I realised, you idiot, that’d be a great way to get this problem quickly solved.” But not wanting to do a half-arsed job of it, Waters did some prep work. “I pushed the entire thing back – not just the album, my whole life went on hold and I went to a vocal teacher, got vocal lessons, learned how to warm up my voices so I hopefully wouldn’t destroy it on tour.”
“I spent a couple of weeks writing down on those three albums what sucked, what I did and didn’t like. I kind of taught myself to get rid of the things I didn’t like and work on what I might actually be good at.” After ditching the “crappy Waters characteristics”, the focus shifted to a What Would Jesus Do-type scenario, except instead of looking to the son of God for inspiration, he looked to his four favourite singers instead: Layne Staley, Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield and Ozzy Osbourne. “That was the only way I could stay afloat, otherwise you would have got an album like King of the Kill and you would have got some pretty clichéd, barely-cutting-it stuff out of me.”
Despite the trouble, Waters insists there’s no bad blood. “I talk to him every weekend; Facebook or text messages or whatever it is – and in a way he’s like “Dammit I wish I was there with you doing that,” but he knows that he would come back and do it and then in a week he’d be back to where he was.”
The Sixxis have been gaining attention for some time, and now we finally see what they are capable of with their debut LP Hollow Shrine (Glassview Records). Produced by David Botrill (Tool, Muse) Hollow Shrine presents a core sound of progressive rock, yet it seems the band’s multiple influences have blended into one. Preventing their music from being just a one trick pony. It’s an album that many people may enjoy regardless of what their usual cup of tea is when it comes to rock and metal.
Hollow Shrine has many facets to it. Songs like ‘Waste of Time’ is pure prog rock with a soaring violin solo performed by front man Vladdy Iskhakov. Then we have ‘Long Ago’. The prog rock feel is there, but they’ve also incorporated a southern rock groove for an interesting combination. The final track ‘Weeping Willow Tree’ with the southern prog sound but is slowed down giving the track a real southern comfort feel. ‘Out Alive’ has more of a prog metal feel. The whole song is just one buildup to the final minute where it really kicks in a finishes with a great guitar solo.
The track that caught my interest the most was ‘Coke Can Steve’. An instrumental track that really showcases all the intrsuments that have managed to remain a presence throughout the entire album. A great prog metal track with each instrument taking center stage at times with drum fills and solos performed by guitars, bass, and violin. Hollow Shrine is finally topped off with Vladdy Iskhakov’s vocal range and ability. At times it may remind you of the late Layne Staley, and other times he hits extended higher or more lower emotional pitches to really get across the emotion or intensity of the music.
I was overall surprised by Hollow Shrine, especially after not being aware of this group. This again feels like an album that many people regardless of their preferred brutality or emotions in music, may enjoy.
The new record was recorded at Phil “Landphil” Hall‘s studio in Virginia. Hall tracked rhythm and bass guitar, while his brother, Josh, tracked drums, and guitarist Brandon Ellis tracked the majority of the album’s leads. Barnes took to London Bridge Studio (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains etc.) in his new homebase in Seattle, WA to track vocals and in fact holed himself up in the very same booth where Layne Staley captured his words. Mixing was completed by Rob Caldwell (Cannabis Corpse, Iron Reagan etc.) in Sarasota, FL and mastering was handled by Alan Douches (Cannibal Corpse, Revocation, Torche, Skeletonwitch etc.) at West West Side in New Windsor, NY.
Last month saw the release of Cemetery Gates – Saints & Survivors Of The Heavy-Metal Scene by Mick O’Shea. The book is a collection of portraits on the more notorious figures within the rock and metal scene who’s party antics became their undoing or at least affected their lives in a significant way. Ghost Cult caught up with co-author Laura Coulman to discuss the backgrounds of this rather disturbing collection of rock and roll tales.. Continue reading →
Alice in Chains was among the biggest band to emerge from the grunge scene, combining metal, blues, rock and roll, with an alternative-rock edge. The group’s dark, bitter songs, with references to drug addiction and death, captivated the displaced adolescents, inserting the band somewhere between Metallica’s head bangers and Nirvana’s ominous hymns. After the tragic death of Layne Staley in 2002, it left AIC not knowing the future of their iconic band. Audiences relished in the music and the hole he had left in the grunge scene. Continue reading →