Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: "Am I Evil? The music, the myths and Metallica" By Brian Tatler with John Tucker

1981 Woolwich Odeon: “After the show a seventeen-year-old lad appeared backstage and introduced himself in one of the strangest accents I had ever heard. He was Danish, although he now lived in America, and he explained that he’d flown all the way from Los Angeles especially to see his favorite band. Tired post-gig and vaguely confused, I just asked something like “Who’s that, then?”

“You guys, Diamond Head!” he replied, as if stating the obvious.

If it weren’t for that seventeen-year-old transatlantic traveler would this book even exist? I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s very doubtful. Yes Diamond Head were and are a highly talented lot who penned some extremely original and catchy Heavy Metal songs and their influence on Metallica (and in turn Heavy Metal as a whole) cannot and will not ever be questioned. But the deep Metallica association aside, there’s a lot more to DH than the four or five things most people know about them.

Basically to most people there's four or five things they know about the NWOBHM band Diamond Head. Those things would be, “Am I Evil?”, “The Prince”, “Helpless” and “It’s Electric.” Now, I’m not coming at you from a very different viewpoint, while I might know or have known more than a few other things about the band, my knowledge was always based around the Metallica connection. Truth be told, there’s many a reason behind that thinking and that’s something no one in their right mind would ever contest.

However if you ever wanted to know more about the band, reading Guitarist Brian Tatler’s book will get you about as close to being there as you could possibly imagine. You not only get an in-depth look at the formation of Diamond Head in 1976 but also the stories and inspirations behind some of their most influential songs. On top of that you also and more importantly get to live the journey of being in the once “hot tipped/on the rise” band and the harsh reality of when “on the rise” almost quickly became “where are they now.”

Of course the sting of the “where are they now” tag has been softened by the world domination of Metallica, but in reading ‘Am I Evil?’ you definitely get to walk a mile in Brian’s shoes. You get to ride the Rock N Roll roller coaster during the highest of highs and the unbelievably succession of lows while holding on to the only dream the author has ever known. You meet the people who had a hand in the day-to-day activities of Diamond Head as well as those who advertently or inadvertently helped or hurt the band in reaching for their goals.

The business side of Diamond Head is a story for the ages, I don’t want to give too much away here, but this book could also be almost a tutorial on the music business and an insight on whom to put in charge of the things most musicians do not want to deal with. There’s some near misses with management opportunities that if things had worked out, the story of Diamond Head would be a helluva lot different. Similar to the Anvil story the DH saga is littered with near miss moments that do not exactly help the band along. It’s eye opening stuff and while at times these things can be pretty painful; it’s definitely a large majority of the 250+ pages within.

Of the things not so painful are the ways both Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine (who both penned forewords to the book) constantly looked after Brian and the band and helped out in ways big and small throughout the years. It’s actually pretty heartwarming reading about the relationship between Brain and these two former band mates.

You can’t say one has been “better” to Tatler than the other, but in reading these pages every time one or the other is mentioned it benefits the legendary NWOBHM band greatly. From tours/gigs to helping out with lawyers and tracking down royalties owed, Ulrich and Mustaine have gone above and beyond and their respect and admiration for one of their main influences is nothing short of amazing.

So knowing what we know now, Metallica having sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000,000 albums worldwide and knowing their wide and vast influence on Heavy Metal and all its sub genres. We know what Diamond Head meant to the hungry and powerless Los Angeles based band in 1981 with some six DH songs in their earliest set lists. So it begs the question, without the two heads, Diamond and Motor where would that seventeen-year-old kid be today?

Are Diamond Head the second or third most influential band in heavy metal, right behind their countrymen Black Sabbath and Judas Priest? If you break it down, I mean really nit pick, there might be some truth to this question and answer. Think about it.

Bottom line, good book, very entertaining and an honest look at the band many thought would be kings. But even though they were never officially crowned, you won’t find an ounce of bitterness or venom from Tatler. Nice guys don’t always finish last.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

OverKill's Killfest Tour 2010

Kudos to the veteran East Coast mob known as OverKill for assembling a fairly diversified bill when it came to touring behind the recently released ‘Ironbound.’ An album of that magnitude deserves a tour at least as equal, right? Well on paper it was a no brainer, being there was a little different.

True the evening started without me as both Woe Of Tyrants and UK thrashers Evile took the stage a lot earlier than most attendees arrival, but from what I heard it did little to dampen their sets. I know nothing about ‘WOT’ but have followed Evile for some time now and would like to see them at least once but tonight was not that night.

Similar in theory, I had never seen Warbringer live. Which is amazing seeing how often they tour, but combat that with how little I leave home and you can see its basic math. Tonight was different as I finally got to witness the California quintet take the stage with an absolute fury! I’ve got to say, they were everything a young, hungry and dedicated band should be. I like to think I know a thing or two about the genre and these guys simply delivered it in droves.

I was impressed throughout their set, for all the hoopla about “modern” Thrash bands and the hype surrounding them Warbringer stand shoulders above it all. No jokes, no gimmicks, no surfboards, pure music delivered with pure intent.

Holland’s God Dethroned were up next and truthfully I haven’t heard an album of theirs since the late 90’s/early 00’s so it was almost like seeing a “new” band for the first time. They were solid as hell, maybe a bit repetitious but the quality and professionalism of the band and how they performed as a unit was undeniable. Vocalist/Guitarist/Founder Henri Sattler led the band through, from what I could tell a decent smattering of God Dethroned history and I was duly impressed with their drummer who was a machine behind the kit.

Back in the day when you mentioned the words Poland and Metal there was only one word that came to mind…Vader! That was it, case closed. Vader were the premiere band from that country and their albums and live shows were about as brutal as they come. The year now is 2010 and I’d say for the past several years the axis of those sentiments have shifted, especially here in the US. Behemoth, once the snotty nosed cousins of the mighty Vader have slowly been nipping at their heels and while I would never admit a full usurped upheaval, tonight’s show may have sealed the deal.

Now I’m not sure if this is because Vader’s recorded output has slowly morphed into AC/DC territory where several of their most recent albums, more or less sound like the one previous? It may have something to do with it, but as with many a Metal band the proof is in the show and that’s where this reviewer’s job gets tricky. To put it bluntly I simply was not blown away. For the first time since 1993 when the last chord was struck and the band exited the stage, Vader just didn’t do it for me tonight. Was it the band themselves? No, not at all. Peter and the boys came ready to perform, but it wasn’t a mind blower nor was it a snooze fest.

Was it the material? Again, no. While I was a little bummed not being able to hear some of my all-time favorite songs, I understand this was a support slot and time was an issue. But even when they went into a favorite of mine like “Sothis” it was again, good but not great. I don’t mean to come across in any way that their set was a disappointment because it wasn’t, new songs off the ‘Necropolis’ album “Devilizer” and “Rise of the Undead” were probably more enjoyable live and when they went back to their debut with “Crucified Ones” that was killer too, but an overall feeling of a slight let down could not be erased.

Not helping things was the sight and sounds of the evening’s headliners. Blessed with crystal clear sound and expanded production values New York’s OverKill took the stage and pretty much obliterated those who played before them. Kicking things off with a monstrous 1-2 punch of “The Green and Black” and “Rotten to the Core” Blitz and D.D. Verni led their troops through 25 years of material near and dear to the frenzied crowd. Long time axe-team Derek Trailer and Dave Linsk were damn unstoppable running through old and new songs like “Feel the Fire,” “Hello from the Gutter,” “Necroshine” and the title track to the new album “Ironbound.”

For a band who has released one of their strongest records in their 25th year, it was an absolute pleasure to watch these guys work. Their energy level and enthusiasm for their craft after a quarter century is something to stand up and notice and ultimately salute.

Remaining Dates:
04/15 Vancouver, BC Red Room no Woe Of Tyrants
04/16 Seattle, WA El Corazon
04/17 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
04/18 San Francisco, CA The Grand Ballroom
04/19 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues
04/20 Los Angeles, CA House of Blues
04/21 San Diego, CA House of Blues
04/22 Phoenix, AZ O.K.'s
04/23 Tucson, AZ The Rock
04/24 Farmington, NM Gators
04/25 Tulsa, OK Marquee
04/26 Austin, TX Emu's
04/27 Houston, TX Scout Bar
04/28 Dallas, TX Trees
04/29 Louisville, KY Headliners Music Hall
04/30 Springfield, VA Jaxx
05/01 New York City, NY Nokia Theater Times Square

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When it rains, it pours...

LUDICRA - Tour Update, Donation Info Posted

Figure with word going around on the status and fate of LUDICRA’s “De-Cancellation” tour, it’s time we gave an official update on the situation. The plan is for LUDICRA to soldier on their tour in St. Paul, MN (on April 08) as a four piece until John Cobbett full recovers and can re-join the band for the rest of the tour. Read on how you can help LUDICRA in this time of need...

After having their first big break, in their illustrious ten-plus year career, yanked from them when Mayhem unceremoniously decided to cancel their initially planned return to the U.S. (where LUDICRA were direct support), LUDICRA weren’t going to let this blemish get in the way of touring in lieu of their new album “The Tenant” (which has, so far, become one of the most acclaimed albums of the year). So the band decided to last-minute book a full-on 31 date tour in place of the canceled Mayhem one.

As the tour began, the second day in the tour, guitarist John Cobbett (also the mastermind in HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE of course) felt a pain in his stomach/abdominal area and it was revealed he had appendicitis and that his appendix had burst, along with having an abscess growing inside his body which, in a weird twist of fate, actually helped him. Prior to the tour, before the Pentagram show in SF which LUDICRA recently played, Cobbett felt the symptoms of such a sickness and went to get checked out. Even though he went to get checked out though, the ever reliable and helpful (sarcasm) doctors at San Francisco General Hospital simply dismissed it and told Cobbett there was nothing wrong with him.

So in Olympia WA, Cobbett had to be rushed to the emergency room to be tendered to. He is currently still in the hospital in Olympia and is awaiting word on the doctors of when he can re-join his band mates and is recovering really quickly.

The outpouring from the fans of support has been immense and it just shows the kind of dedicated community a band like LUDICRA can create.


There have been people showing interest and asking on how to make any kind of donation as these medical bills continue to surmount and pile up (that’s U.S. health care for you). But we have posted several donation options (which will remain active for the duration of the tour) for those who want to donate (anything helps of course) and help LUDICRA:

Option 1: If you would like to make a donation to LUDICRA/John Cobbett directly through Profound Lore, simply send a manual payment via paypal here: and in the subject line please write “Ludicra Donation” just so we can distinguish it.

Option 2: LUDICRA’s friends WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM have also reached out to help. They have posted all their donation info etc. via their myspace blog HERE.

Option 3: Casey C-P , has created a cool poster for the band’s show in Portland and is selling them. All proceed from sales of this poster will go towards LUDICRA. Go HERE to see where you can buy the poster.

Of course any updates (prior to us leaving on April 12th for Roadburn Fest) will be posted. For the most recent updates on LUDICRA, best to check our twitter account HERE.

And of course we want to thank all the LUDICRA supporters out there who have shown their concern and support towards one of the best American metal bands today. Your support means a lot.

So the De-Cancellation tour now looks like this:
04/08 - St Paul, MN @ Turf Club
04/09 - Milwaukee, WI @ Jackpot Gallery
04/10 - Chicago @ The Underground Lounge (w/Clad in Darkness)
04/11 - Indianapolis, IN @ Melody Inn
04/12 - Lansing, MI @ Mac's Bar (w/Wastelander, Sauron)
04/13 - Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar (w/KRALLICE, CRUCIFIST)
04/14 - Toronto, ON @ Rancho Relaxo (w/KRALLICE)
04/15 - Montreal, QC @ Il Motore (w/KRALLICE)
04/16 - Portland, ME @ Geno's (w/Ocean, KRALLICE, Aok Suicide Forest)
04/17 - Boston, MA @ O'Briens (2pm day show) (w/Tombs, KRALLICE)
04/18 - Brooklyn, NY @ Europa (w/KRALLICE, CASTEVET, Attake)
04/19 - Philadelphia @ M Room (w/Lair of the Minotaur, Tombs, KRALLICE)
04/20 - Baltimore, MD @ Hexagon (w/Tombs, KRALLICE)
04/21 - Richmond, VA @ The Triple (w/KRALLICE)
04/22 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn (w/Music Hates You)
04/23 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
04/24 – Little Rock, AR @ Downtown Music
04/25 - Austin, TX @ Emo's
04/27 - Las Cruces, NM @ The Trainyard
04/28 - Phoenix, AZ @ Nile Basement (w/LANDMINE MARATHON)
04/29 – San Diego, CA @ Radio Room
04/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Sabor Lounge
05/01 - Santa Cruz, CA @ Coaster's (w/Dusted Angel)
05/08 - San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord( w/Kowloon Walled City - cd release show for “The Tenant”)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

High On Fire: An interview with Des Kensel

Touring in support of their recently released fifth album, 'Snakes For The Divine' Oakland's High On Fire rolled through Chicago on Friday April 2, 2010. I spoke to Drummer Des Kensel before the band's set at a sold-out Lincoln Hall.

So first things first, I wore a High On Fire shirt today…

Des Kensel: Yeah, that’s the first shirt we ever made.

So you know about the unwritten “rule” that you shouldn’t wear a bands t-shirt when going to see the band.

(Laughing) Um, yeah, a little bit I guess (laughing).

OK, you always seem to hear about it or read about from the fans or writers or as internet chatter, but what does a/the band think of it?

It’s cool to see, it let’s us know people are buying our t-shirts. When you’re playing and half of the first few rows have your shirts, that’s cool too. If I went to see a show, would I wear that band’s shirt? Probably not (laughing)! But, yeah I guess it is an unwritten rule!

I was going through shirts on my way out and I said “fuck it, not only am I going to wear this, I’m going to ask him about it!” And like you commented before I asked the question, you recognized it as the first shirt you ever made, so in a way certain shirts might tell a story.

Yeah, that’s true. But yeah I wouldn’t wear a band’s shirt to go see them but it stokes me out to see people wearing our shirts at our show.

Cool, thanks for the insight. So let’s start with this, what did you take away, both professionally and personally from the ‘Death Is This Communion’ cycle?

Well, for that record that was the most support tours we’ve ever done before. So professionally we got kinda spoiled! I mean Gigantour we were out with Megadeth playing these huge venues and we had, like catered dinners and loaders and big time everything where everything was taken care of. That and we only had half-hour sets…so we kinda got used to that for a while.

But the next day we could be back on our own in a B-market somewhere and really missing doing the big shows with the catering! So yeah we learned a lot about what it’s like to be at a certain level and basically hoping we can reach that [level]…I mean do I expect High On Fire to headline Long Beach Arena, no. But if it happens, that’d be fucking awesome! But we’ll just try to get as close as possible.

How about personally?

More of a drinking habit, I guess…I don’t know? I mean we were going on at 6:00 in the afternoon like we did with both Megadeth and with Dethklok and we’re done by 6:30. So when you’re in a band and you’re done playing what else is there to do other than, start drinking (laughs).

I didn’t see either tour, unfortunately but when those tours were announced, especially the Dethklok one I think back to the time you supported Mushroomhead (2002). At that time was that something you also enjoyed back then? Just the different trip of being with other styles?

Let me start off by saying the guys in Mushroomhead , especially Jay who was the singer at the time, super cool to us. Shadows Fall who we’ve done some shows with since that tour, they’re fucking hilarious guys. I haven’t really seen Avenged Sevenfold since, well I saw them once actually they played with Shadows Fall in San Francisco and I went to say hello to everybody. But as far tours go? Matt and I still joke about that one, that’s the reference point of how bad it can get (laughing)!!

I’m all about bands trying to win over new fans and what not, but that run still sticks in my head as just way left field for you.

That was our first experience of kids in the front row and just staring at us or texting their friends on the way to the show, like ”don’t-come-now!!”

So several years on the Dethklok tour comes up, how was that for High On Fire?

That was pretty cool, we played a lot of the same venues we played on Gigantour, which really surprised me. I mean I knew Mastodon has blown up and has gotten really big and the popularity of Metalocalypse is there, but man. Tour-wise it was great for the band. We went on like I said, at 6:00 as we were the first of four bands and we played in front of a lot of kids.

Kids that weren’t just staring or texting or had their fingers in the ears, they were into it. However on a tour like that, yeah we’re getting a good crowd response, but at the end of the night how did we do with merch? On the Mushroomhead tour we’d be like “Wow, we sold $250 bucks worth of shirts, all right!” But yeah man, for High on Fire it was totally positive.

Of course I want to talk about the new record. What’s the initial spark that gets the band to start writing?

You know, it seems like every record that comes out, it gets harder to write. I think it’s because we have such high expectations and because of that we can’t always agree on stuff, but it gets done. But on ‘Snakes for the Divine’, I can definitely think back on it and it was a fucking headache. But I think we’re all like the happiest and most proud of this one.

I think our songwriting has evolved, our personal musicianship has evolved so at the end of the day when it’s finally done and we can agree on what part goes where and for how many times…it’s definitely something we’re proud of.

It took a while though, we had so many parts and so many riffs, we put all of them down on a disc once and it was close to two hours! We also, for the first time did some pre-production and we happened to finish a few songs during that time too. Another first was having a producer with actual input in some of the songwriting and that really helped out.

For this album we had some charts where we would write the parts and their timing and their key and BPM (beats per minute) and at one point it felt like our heads were about to explode so it was great to have an outside opinion.

Was that weird for you, for the band? I mean you’ve done X amount of records a certain way and now you’re…I’m not saying you’re giving, but sharing in this part of the creativity of High On Fire.

Definitely, but listen, when Jeff (Matz-Bass) came into the band, it was kinda weird because Matt and I had done all this writing together. Like “now we’re going to let someone else get involved?” On ‘Death Is This Communion’ he helped out a bit and I think after that album he felt more comfortable as did we.

So on ‘Snakes For The Divine’ it was like he just came up and said “hey, I got a lot of riffs.” With Greg (Fidelman) it was kind of like the same thing, like “we gotta have this fucking Hollywood Joe Schmoe guy come in and blah, blah, blah.

But what happened was Greg came down to our practice spot in Oakland to hang out with us and he brought a bunch of whiskey and cigarettes and hung out with us all day. So the reason we let him in this circle or whatever is because he was a cool dude to hang out with. In his job I think that’s very important, you have to understand or be near the same vibe of the band to work well with them. That’s why people refer to their producer as another band member, it’s important to click. He had ideas and we either totally agreed with them or we totally turned them down.

Now this was your first album recording with a double bass kit. Did you have to make a lot of adjustments to your playing and/or recording style/technique?

On the last record I used a double pedal, but actually the main reason I went with another kick drum was just before ‘Death is this Communion’ I had to have spine surgery and a lot of the “mock” double bass stuff, with the floor tom, that was getting really hard to do. I think the muscles just didn’t want to work that way anymore!

So then I started using the pedal and on some of the older stuff and Matt said liked it better. Live it was better for him as it sounded even where as if we had a rough mix where the floor tom was mixed lower than the kick, blah, blah, blah. So I had to adjust my playing after the surgery and then get back to the swing of things as far as the double bass stuff.

‘Snakes For The Divine’ is definitely a grower of an album, I think the changes between this and ‘Death is This Communion’ are a bit more subtle than those between ‘Blessed Black Wings’ and ‘Death…’. So I’m glad to see you guys are totally stoked with the outcome. If you had one song off ‘Snakes…’ you could play to a potential new fan, what song would it be?

Wow, what a question. Let’s see, well the song I probably listen to the most is “How Dark We Pray” I really just like that song, but that’s a tough question because I’d love to play em “Bastard Samurai” too, which is a song for us that’s a little off to left field…

That’s definitely a nice addition to the HOF repertoire!

You know, that one was one we totally wrote in pre production, it just kinda came out of nowhere. So going back to the whole pre production thing, it really was great for us. We were in Los Angeles so we were out of Oakland, totally out of our element. We were in a nice room with a PA and we miked everything and got to concentrate on tightening everything up and finishing up ideas instead of worrying about the stuff you worry about at home.

The cover story of one of the new issues of Decibel is a retrospective piece on the band that came out pretty cool. What was your reaction of Joe Preston saying…


That you and Matt “bickered like a married couple?”

(laughing…) Yeah, well he got to see a LOT of that, let me tell you! I remember one time he [Joe] actually had to leave the room! I remember the show like it was yesterday, we were in Prague and I think I got mad at Matt for fucking up a song or something. Put it this way, it was at one of those points on tour where everything boils over, right?

So we started throwing hospitality stuff, yelling and throwing loaves of bread at each other, I think I threw a bag of chips that exploded in his face or something…we’ve been in the band for, like 12 years now, that stuff’s always going to happen. Joe was just around for some good ones (laughing)!

I was going to bring that up 12 years…does it feel like 12 years?

YEAH (laughing…)! No, I mean it’s when I look back at old pictures of us it might seem like it, but in the present, it doesn’t feel like that long.

Do the pictures ever freak you out?

Sometimes, yeah.

The "bar-b-que" picture?

Yeah, totally!

From a fans point of view, it’s a pretty iconic photo of the band.

Sometimes when I look at it, it still looks so fresh, like it was just taken.

Do you remember that day?

I do, actually! That picture was taken in Albuquerque at a friend’s house, Brian Roy who was the bass player in my last band. He moved there from Connecticut and so we stayed at his place. I remember I had just finished checking an email and we’d recently signed with Man’s Ruin and the email said they wanted a band photo.

So Brian grabbed his camera and we took a few pictures and uploaded them on his computer and we just laughed at them, but then thought this’ll work. Brian still laughs about it because that picture of us was everywhere, but yeah the story behind that picture was it was the morning after our show in Albuquerque in a friend’s back yard.

This is a double question really, #1 this is the longest time between records, how did that work out for you guys and #2 I know towards the end of the ‘Death Is This Communion’ your son was born. How has it been dealing with the time factor of band and life?

Well this is another reason why ‘Snakes For the Divine’ took so long to write and I have to admit how cool and understanding the guys were, knowing I couldn’t go to the practice spot for six to eight hours every day with the kid. So the life part now that we’re on tour, I know I’ll be gone for several weeks but then know I’ll be at home for two months solid when it’s done. So it’s going to suck not being able to see him while I’m out, but then when I’m home, I’m home, you know? So I’m hoping it continues to balance out.

If you were to make a ‘State of the union address’ pertaining to High On Fire, everything’s going good? New label, new management, new stuff left and right. All’s well?

Add to that new booking agent, a new PR company so yeah, the wheels are rolling!

Before I left to come here I saw you were confirmed for some Metallica dates! Fuck man, congrats!

Yeah, dude that blew my mind! I mean really fucking blew my mind. If someone would’ve told me when I was eleven years old and just got ‘Master of Puppets’… how that album just blew my mind and totally opened up so many doors for me, be it Thrash or Hardcore Punk or whatever. But when I was down in my basement every single day trying to learn that record, so if someone would’ve told me one day I’d be touring with them, there’s no way I’d believe them!

I don’t care what anyone say’s about Metallica, they busted their asses from day one. The fact that they’re kicking it down to bands like Mastodon, Down, Machine Head, The Sword and then us…they sure as hell don’t need to worry about the package and if tickets will sell!!

Thanks to Carl and Brady for all their help!