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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: My Dying Bride

To paraphrase an old joke, there was once a band with a sound so loud you could hear them over three fields; Sheffield, Huddersfield and Wakefield. They were formed in another area of Yorkshire named Bradford in 1990 and would become one of the most influential groups in death/doom metal, and they are called, My Dying Bride. The genesis of the band began when guitarist Andrew Craighan and drummer Rick Miah left their previous band, Abiosis and joined forces with singer Aaron Stainthorpe and another guitar player named Calvin Robertshaw. After six months of writing material, they recorded their first demo, "Towards the Sinister," which led them to release their first official single, "God Is Alone" through a French label named, Listenable. The single was limited to one thousand copies, which sold out extremely quickly, and the buzz around the band saw them begin a love affair with Peaceville Records, a company which had previously specialised in anarcho punk bands but had now decided to expand their horizons by signing metal acts such as Paradise Lost, Darkthrone, Anathema and of course, My Dying Bride, who have been loyal to the label ever since signing.

After recruiting a new member in bassist, Adrian Jackson, the band released their first EP, "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" in March of 1992, and two months later released their debut full length, "As the Flower Withers." The album saw the band team with artist Dave McKean, known for his work on the legendary Batman graphic novel, "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Ground," and most recently for his work on the Richard Dawkins book, "The Magic of Reality," but more importantly, it saw the band begin to break through into the modern metal consciousness, allowing them to perform in mainland Europe, as well as embarking on a big tour in their native, Great Britain. The band then decided to broaden their sound by hiring Martin Powell as their keyboardist and violinist. Powell made his recording debut with the band on their next EP, "The Thrash of Naked Limbs," which was released in February 1993. While filming a video for the title track, Miah had a nasty fall which forced the group to cancel their tour in support of the record. Instead, the band got to work on their second album, "Turn Loose the Swans," which was met with a very strong response, with Rolling Stone describing it as, "Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ for the ears." They continued to tour Britain and Europe and released another EP named, "I Am the Bloody Earth" in January the next year. More...

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Sunday Old School: Great White

Great White started as a standard lipstick and big hair glam band before evolving into one of the best blues hard rock bands of the eighties. Great White had amazing highs in the eighties, but nothing matches their tragic low in 2003. Today (as is the current trend with eighties bands) the lineup is a mess; with two bands touring as Great White. A made for Hollywood story from a band formed in Los Angeles. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sick Of It All

This week's edition of Sunday Old School is a slightly strange one, in that we've already covered our focused band before, in one of the very first Sunday Old School columns. However, given that it only looked at one song, it seemed unfair to give so little attention to one of the greatest hardcore bands in the history of the legendary New York hardcore scene. So this week, we'll be taking a closer look at Queens' own, Sick of it All. Sick of it All were formed around 1985 by brothers Lou and Pete Koller, who sang and played guitar in the band respectively, along with bass player Mark McNielly and drummer David Lamb. They began performing regularly in the local music scene, where they rapidly improved their sound and demonstrated their ability to write memorable hardcore tunes. After Lamb and McNielly left the band, the Koller brothers recruited bass player Rich Cipriano and former Rest In Pieces drummer Armand Majidi to record their first demo in 1987, with a self-titled seven inch record following later the same year. In 1988, the band signed to In-Effect Records and released their first full length album, "Blood, Sweat and No Tears" in the summer of 1989.

The album was a hit in the hardcore scene, and received favourable reviews from music critics, and led them to tours with other highly respected hardcore bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and Agnostic Front. They followed, "Blood, Sweat and No Tears" with an EP named, "We Stand Alone" in 1991, which featured two new original recordings, as well as a cover of the Minor Threat song, "Betray" and nine live tracks, before releasing their second full length album, "Just Look Around" in 1992. "Just Look Around" was another success for the band and this time allowed them to tour internationally, taking them to South America, Europe and Japan. More...

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Sunday Old School: Dream Theater

With ProgPower USA wrapping up yesterday, along with our pledge to cover more progressive acts in Sunday Old School this year, it seemed like a fitting time to look at one of the biggest names in modern progressive metal, Dream Theater. Dream Theater was originally formed under the name, Majesty in 1985 by guitarist John Petrucci, bass player John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy, who met each other while students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. They filled the remaining slots in the band when Petruccis old friend, Kevin Moore joined on keyboards and vocalist Chris Collins was recruited after the band heard him singing Queensryche. The hectic schedules of the musicians resulted in them all leaving education to focus on the group and they soon recorded some songs as demos, which sold out in a matter of months. In November 1986, Majesty decided to fire Collins and after a year of searching, they appointed Charlie Dominici as their new singer, despite him being considerably older than the other members. They were to experience another change after Dominicis recruitment, when a band from Las Vegas, also named Majesty, threatened legal action if they did not change their name, leading them to choose the new moniker, Dream Theater, which was named after a theater that Portnoys father used to run.

With their new, more visually stimulating name and a stronger work ethic, the band eventually caught the attention of Mechanic Records, a division of MCA Records, and released their first album, "When Dream and Day Unite" through the label in 1989. The album was met with lacklustre reviews and the label broke many promises they had made, leaving Dream Theater to continue performing mostly around New York. The group soon made two key decisions, with the first being to fire Dominici due to what they perceived as his limited vocal range, and performed with him for the last time opening for English prog legends, Marillion. Their second item of business was to be released from Mechanic, which they eventually achieved. More...

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Sunday Old School: Cirith Ungol

The band that I bring you this week is so old school that it formed during the times of older rock acts that influenced the independent metal acts of the eighties. In terms of being unique, Ventura, California metal band Cirith Ungol has no parallel. Having met in 1969 in High School, drummer Robert Garven, bassist Greg Lindstrom and guitarist Jerry Fogle started jamming under the name Titanic. Another school friend, Pat Galligan, joined them until eventually going on to play for the Angry Samoans years down the road.

Robert Garven had liberal minded parents that allowed the band to practice at their house. The year was now 1972 and the band had changed its name to Cirith Ungol, which is a reference to Lord of the Rings. Cirith Ungol means "pass of the spider Shelob" in Elvish as per the trinity, the members of the band being huge fans of Tolkien's novels in English class. Frodo and Samwise fight the spider in Tolkien's "Two Towers." In practice, the band would cover Cream, Mountain, Sam Gopal's Dream, Ursa Major, Freedom and also their renditions of Budgie tunes long before Metallica even existed. More...

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Sunday Old School: Alice In Chains

Usually at the end of every month, Sunday Old School examines a band from the glam metal genre, so we’re kicking off a new month of Sundays this week by taking a look at one of the bands that helped to kill off the era of men in lipstick, Alice In Chains. The band was formed in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bass player Mike Starr, and soon recruited a singer named Layne Staley, who joined in return for Cantrell participating in his funk project. The funk band broke up soon afterwards and the quartet performed under a number of different monikers, before eventually settling on Alice In Chains, which stemmed from Staley’s former band, Alice N’ Chainz. The group caught the attention of local promoter, Randy Hauser, who offered to pay for their demo recording, which was delayed when the studio they were set to record in was shut down a day before the recording was meant to take place, due to the biggest cannabis raid in the history of the state of Washington. The band eventually recorded a demo named, "The Treehouse Tapes," which was passed around the local scene until it reached Don Ienner, the president of Columbia Records, who decided to sign the band and make them a top priority.

In July 1990, Alice in Chains released their first EP, "We Die Young," and its title track became an instant hit on metal radio. Based on this positive response, the label rushed the band to release its full length debut, which surfaced only a month later in the form of, "Facelift." The album sold modestly at first, until the music video for, "Man in the Box" found its way into regular airplay on MTV and became a top twenty single. Six weeks later, "Facelift" had sold over 400,000 copies and was certified Gold before the year was out, peaking on the Billboard Charts number 42. The album was also highly praised by critics and their peers alike, and soon the group were invited to open the Clash of the Titans tour in North America, which apart from themselves, featured a thrash metal lineup of Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. The band found themselves subject to some hostile audiences but Anthrax bassist Frank Bello recalls them earning the respect of others by standing up for themselves. "If there was a guy starting shit, Layne would jump into the audience and beat the FUCK outta that guy!" he recalls in the documentary, Get Thrashed. More...

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Sunday Old School: BulletBoys

Love the BulletBoys. Hate the BulletBoys. Never heard of the BulletBoys. There are only three options here. MAYBE, a fourth option: being a fan of Marq Torien’s hair. Nah, if you were a fan of Torien’s hair then admit it: You loved the BulletBoys! More...

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Sunday Old School: Katatonia

Catatonia are one the biggest successes in the history of Welsh pop rock, having forever entered the annals of British music with such classics as "Road Rage" and "Mulder and Scully." No, sorry, I got mixed up. This week, Sunday Old School will not be looking at a female fronted pop rock group, but rather a band with a similar name who created some of the darkest and most atmospheric music of their time, and continue to push boundaries, Katatonia. Katatonia were formed in the Swedish capital city of Stockholm in 1991 by guitarist Anders Nyström and singing drummer Jonas Renkse, and soon recruited keyboardist and singer, Dan Swanö, which would be released in 1992 as an EP entitled, "Jhva Elohim Meth... The Revival." They followed this with the release of their first full length album, "Dance of December Souls" the next year, which featured a new member in bassist Guillaume Le Huche, but saw Swanö appear only as a guest musician. These early releases proved to be landmark entries into the emerging hybrid of death and doom metal, a crossover also launched by such British bands as Anathema and My Dying Bride, and they followed this direction for their next release, a four track EP named, "For Funerals to Come" in 1994, which would prove to be the last recording with Le Huche, who left the band soon afterwards. His departure was quite a blow for the band, and they took over a year to find a new lineup they were satisfied with.

Katatonia eventually returned in 1995, after Renkse decided that Fredrik Norrman, a bandmate in his new group, October Tide, would fit in well. Soon after bringing the band back, Renkse discovered that he could no longer perform harsh vocals and focused on clean singing instead. So that the style wasn’t missing from their new material however, the band invited Opeth frontman, Mikael Åkerfeldt to perform death growls on their new album, "Brave Murder Day," which was released in November of 1996 through Avantgarde Music. The album was notable for going to pressing unmastered, something which wasn’t rectified until it was re-released in 2004 through Peaceville Records, along with their next EP, "Sounds of Decay," which also featured Mikael Åkerfeldt, who claims that two versions of the EP were recorded and that he preferred the unreleased edition. More EPs were released during this time, including, "Scarlet Heavens," (a split with Irish black metal band, Primordial,) which the group did not want released owing to it’s noticeably different sound from their previous work and "Saw You Drown" in 1997, which marked the start of Katatonia’s complete shedding of harsh vocals. More...

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Sunday Old School: The Accüsed

Whidbey Island, Washington isn't that remote, but is only accessible via the Port Townsend ferry on the Olympic Peninsula, the Mukilteo ferry north of Seattle and the Deception Pass bridge up by Anacortes. It is in this splendid isolation that one of America's most revered seminal crossover bands, The Accused, found its inspiration. The time was 1981 and the place was the town of Oak Harbor.

Before the beginnings of grunge proliferated to the extent of being a pox on the Seattle area (except for the really good bands), The Accused had already started honing its pioneering hardcore metal sound. There were other bands doing the same thing such as DRI, COC, Cryptic Slaughter and Broken Bones (to name a few), but The Accused came from an area far removed from these other bands and thus had a distinct sound very unlike anyone else. More...

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Sunday Old School: Living Colour

The great thing about alternative metal is there's such a wide variety of bands in the one genre, some of whom retained a constant signature sound, while others such as Faith No More experimented continuously to create a brand of rock music which painted with every colour from the palette. Faith No More weren't the only band to do this, a band from New York named Living Colour combined everything from funk to electronic in their attempt to produce hard rocking, but interesting music. Living Colour was formed in 1984 by Vernon Reid, an English born guitarist that grew up in New York who was also one of the founders of the Black Rock Coalition, an organisation which sought to encourage black musicians with an interest in rock music. He performed with a large number of musicians under the Living Colour moniker before eventually finding a stable lineup in 1986 which featured bassist Muzz Skillings, drummer Will Calhoun and vocalist Corey Glover, who up to that point had been an actor and had appeared in the Oliver Stone movie, Platoon amongst other things.

They performed regularly at the legendary club, CBGBs and it was whilst playing there that they caught the attention of iconic Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. They soon signed a deal with Epic Records and got to work on their debut album, "Vivid," which was released in May of 1988. The album featured guest appearances from Mick Jagger, who performed harmonica and backing vocals, as well as Chuck D and Flava Flav from Public Enemy, and became one of the most acclaimed records of the year. Though sales were initially rather slow, its momentum was boosted immensely when MTV began playing the video for the albums opening track, "Cult Of Personality," helping the album to reach as high as number 6 on the Billboard Album Charts and eventually achieve Double Platinum status. Their profile increased greater still when they performed on the legendary TV show, Saturday Night Live, before joining Guns N Roses to open for the Rolling Stones. More...

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Sunday Old School: Faster Pussycat

Faster Pussycat was part of a large second wave of the glam eighties. They followed the template of successful debut and even more successful follow-up album, popular ballad (with video), deep decline in interest (as the grunge arrived), and then reunite only to break-up and attempt to have two versions of the same band. No, it may not be the road most chosen, but it was the road taken by the band Faster Pussycat. More...

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Sunday Old School: Slayer

Today marks the 150th official column in the Sunday Old School series (we’re not counting the April Fools article which looked at Limp Bizkit) and to celebrate, we’ll be taking a look at a band that we’ve been asked to feature for years. If you haven’t worked it out from the title, this week's Sunday Old School will be examining Slayer, one of the most controversial bands in the history of metal music, with a fan base more akin to the characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest than the average head banger.

Slayer was founded in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, who met when they went to audition for the same band. They soon completed the group when they recruited singing bassist Tom Araya, a native of the South American country Chile, and drummer Dave Lombardo, who met King while working as a pizza delivery man. The quartet initially performed at local parties, covering songs by the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, as well as using a "Satanic" image, influenced by such bands as Mercyful Fate and Venom. In 1983, the band pooled money saved by Araya and borrowed from Kings father to record their debut album, "Show No Mercy," which was released through Metal Blade Records in December of that year. Although some had criticised the record for its production quality (or lack thereof,) it became the biggest selling album on Metal Blade at the time, shifting over 20,000 copies in the United States alone. They followed the album with a three song EP entitled, "Haunting The Chapel," which featured the live staple, "Chemical Warfare" and soon performed in Europe for the first time, including opening for UFO in Belgium and a show at Londons infamous 100 Club, where the band were upset about being spat on by the audience (though this was actually a sign of approval from British punks.) More...

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Sunday Old School: Skyclad

It’s interesting that in well over a hundred columns, Sunday Old School has barely touched on the folk metal sub-genre, (unless you include Primordial and Bathory.) This week we will be rectifying this by examining one of, if not the first folk metal band, Skyclad. Skyclad was formed in 1990 by vocalist Martin Walkyier, who had recently left his position as lead vocalist of the thrash metal outfit, Sabbat, and former Satan guitarist Steve Ramsey, with the intention of forming the "ultimate pagan metal band," which initially included such ideas as costumes, though thankfully these were soon ruled out. The original lineup was completed by drummer Keith Baxter (later of Northern Irish alternative metal group, Therapy?) and bass player Graeme English, who had worked with Ramsey as part of Pariah. They soon signed with Noise Records, a surprising choice considering how they were alleged to have treated Sabbat and released their first album, "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth" in 1991.

They added to their ranks after a tour with New Jersey thrash metal legends Overkill, when they recruited Fritha Jenkins to perform keyboard and violin duties and released their acclaimed sophomore record, "A Burnt Offering of the Bone Idol," the next year, in what was to be the first of several album titles involving what appears to be Walkyier’s love of puns, something brought up again on the third album, "Jonah’s Ark," on which they had replaced Jenkins with Cath Howell. Their next album was to be entitled, "Prince of the Poverty Line," which according to some members is their biggest selling album to date and is loosely a concept album, dealing with a decaying Britain left after the Thatcherite reign. Special editions of the album included a number of tracks from the groups, "Tracks From the Wilderness" EP, including a faithful but unique cover of "Emerald" by Thin Lizzy. Skyclad soon faced difficulties in keeping a stable lineup. After replacing Howell with Georgina Biddle for their fifth album, "The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea," both Pugh and Baxter decided to leave the group, though the band were still able to support Black Sabbath on their 1995 "Forbidden" tour, albeit as a last minute replacement for Tiamat, as well as releasing another album that year named, "Irrational Anthems." More...

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Sunday Old School: Whiplash

Back in the mid-eighties, I first stumbled upon New Jersey trio Whiplash when I worked at Roadrunner Records. The Passaic thrash band had just unleashed its 1985 debut "Power and Pain" and was doing the interview circuit. I called the band, asking if they could do a 15 second radio ID for my station. A week later, I received a tape from the band to convert to audio cart, which went like this: "This is Tony from Whiplash....and this is Tony from Whiplash...and this is Tony from Whiplash...and you're tuned to 88.7 FM."

That's right, all three of them were named Tony. This tale of three Tonys began in the early eighties in the tri-state area. Tony Bono, Tony Portaro and Tony J. Scaglione got together and released a series of four demos, channeling that New York sound into thrash. While the three were fans of Bay area thrash from the left-coast, they were also a product of their roots and went for that immediate, pulverizing sound that was so prevalent in their surroundings. The scene was in its zenith, and these guys put that metropolitan sound front and center - along with such bands as Ludichri$t, Crumbsuckers, Rest In Pieces and others. More...

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Sunday Old School: Queensryche

Given the recent headlines about Bellevue, Washington natives, Queensryche, along with Sunday Old School’s promise last month to cover more progressive bands, it seemed inevitable that the band in question would soon be appearing in our Sunday column. Queensryche began life in 1981, originally using the moniker, The Mob, formed by two members of a heavy metal covers band named Cross + Fire. The duo (guitarist Michael Wilton and drummer Scott Rockenfield) soon added to their ranks by recruiting bassist Eddie Jackson, and a second guitarist, Chris DeGarmo. Initially they had trouble finding a vocalist, but the group was able to convince singer Geoff Tate, who fronted another band named Babylon, to perform with them at a local rock festival. Tate refused to commit to the band at first, citing a lack of interest in performing heavy metal, though he was soon coaxed back to The Mob to record vocals for their demo tape, but returned to his current band at the time, Myth, soon after. The Mob soon changed their name at the urging of their manager, taking the tag, Queensryche from a song on their demo tape, which by now had been circulating worldwide and received massively positive feedback from such publications as Kerrang!, which proved to be enough to finally convince Tate to join the group on a full time basis.

The reception to their demo led to Queensryche signing a major label deal with EMI Records, immediately finding chart success when their self-titled debut EP (a re-release of their demo) entered the Billboard Charts at number 81. After performing their first tour together, the band flew to London to begin work on their first full length album, which hit the shelves in September 1984 under the mysterious title, "The Warning." The album climbed twenty places higher than their EP and found success overseas, particularly the song, "Take Hold Of The Flame" which was a hit in Japan. In addition to this commercial success, Queensryche were hired to support Kiss on their Animalize tour and soon released their second album, "Rage For Order," a more glam orientated affair than their previous work and laden with keyboards, but continued their commercial success, hitting the charts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as reaching number 47 on the Billboard Charts. More...

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Sunday Old School: Britny Fox

Can a “trashy Victorian glam” look and one big video hit lead the way to sell more than one million copies of an album? If it’s the late eighties, the name of the band is Britny Fox, and that hit is “Girlschool”, the answer is YES.

Britny Fox formed in 1985 in Philadelphia. The band was originally fronted by lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist "Dizzy" Dean Davidson. The band also featured Billy Childs on bass, former Cinderella guitarist Michael Kelly Smith on lead guitar and former Cinderella drummer Tony Destra on drums. Soon after securing a major recording contract (via their Cinderella connections) Tony Destra was killed in a car accident. Facing a tour, the band recruited drummer, John Diteodoro.

The band released a demo in 1986 titled “In America”, which drummer Tony Destra played on, and a demo in 1987 titled “Rock Is Gonna Fight”, which drummer Adam West played on. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 1988, was one of the most successful premieres, selling more than one million copies. They also won Metal Edge Magazine's 1988 Reader's Choice Award for Best New Band. Much of the success was due to the track titled “Girlschool” and the all-important video that received much air time on MTV. The loyal followers of this band are quick to point out the album as a whole made Britny Fox successful, and that may be true. But there is no denying what kick started their success. More...

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Sunday Old School: Obituary

Believe it or else, there was a time when death metal didn’t consist of bands who looked and sounded exactly the same, when it was an exciting new genre, spurred on by the likes of Possessed and Kreator. Like all genres, it had some bands that stood out more than others, and one group who stood out due to their undeniable quality and fresh approach, was Obituary. Obituary were originally formed by brothers John and Donald Tardy under the name Executioner in 1984, before altering their moniker to Xecutioner, prior to finally (and wisely) changing their name once again in 1988 to Obituary. Soon after the final name change, they entered Morrisound Studios to record with Scott Burns, who within the studio, also produced several other extreme metal classics such as "Effigy of the Forgotten" by Suffocation and a number of albums by Cannibal Corpse. The result was their first album, "Slowly We Rot," which was released in the summer of 1989 through Roadracer Records. The album was very well received, and many Obituary fans still regard it as their heaviest record to date. They were soon faced with the task of finding new members however, as guitarist Allen West and bass player Daniel Tucker parted company with the group, leaving their shoes to be filled by former Death guitarist James Murphy and hardcore loving bassist Frank Watkins respectively. This new lineup soon recorded a second album, "Cause Of Death," released the next year to similar praise. The album featured artwork by Michael Whelan which was originally going to be used by Sepultura for their "Beneath The Remains" album, but Obituary were allowed to use it first. It also contained a cover of the classic Celtic Frost song, "Circle of the Tyrants" and is today regarded as a true classic in the death metal genre.

This would prove to be their only record with Murphy, as the band welcomed Allen West back into the fold soon afterwards. They got to work on their third album, "The End Complete," which remains the biggest selling record to date, shifting well over half a million copies worldwide and gaining the band their first entry into the Billboard charts, peaking at number 16 on the Top Heatseekers chart. Although were not able to replicate this commercial success with the follow up, "World Demise," they made much of a profound statement, particularly with the music video for the album opener, "Don’t Care," which was seen as an environmental protest song, and featured shocking images of pollution. The album featured a number of other bleak sounding songs too, "Final Thoughts," "Lost" and the title track in particular. It would be three years before they released another record, which finally came in 1997 under the title, "Back From the Dead," the first Obituary album not to be produced by Scott Burns. The record received mixed reviews and, owing mostly to a lack of desire for touring, the band decided to call it a day soon after its release, marking their breakup with a live album suitably entitled, "Dead." More...

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Sunday Old School: Trouble

Looking at how big and branched out the doom metal scene has become in recent years, one can't help but look back to the pioneers of the first wave of Black Sabbath/Coven worship. Besides Witchfinder General, Candlemass, St. Vitus and Pentagram, there is the almighty Trouble. I respect the hell out of this band for its sheer heaviness and iconic style, making them a true American treasure. I've had the pleasure of seeing this great band live three times in my life, each time a complete and total assault of my auditory senses.

Back in the late seventies, guitarist Bruce Franklin and vocalist Eric Wagner were in a high school band in Chicago by the name of Wisecrack and eventually joined guitarist Rick Wartell to form Trouble. The line-up was rounded out with Tim Brown on bass and Jeff 'Oly' Olson on drums. By 1983 the bass was taken over by Sean McAllister, who had ironically borrowed a bass guitar from the man who would become Trouble's bassist for sixteen years - Ron Holzner, who had went to school with Trouble's number one roadie. Jeff Olson was from Maine, but his family had relocated to Chicago where he attended high school. The rest is history. More...

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Sunday Old School: Rush

A few weeks ago, Sunday Old School took a look at Swedish progressive metal outfit Opeth, which was followed by suggestions to cover other prog metal bands such as Dream Theater. We’ll definitely touch on them and other big name prog metal bands soon, but before that happens, perhaps it would be wise to examine the band that influenced almost every progressive rock band going today. Unfortunately, we don’t cover Pink Floyd, so this week we’ll be looking at Rush instead. Rush was formed in 1968 by schoolmates Alex Lifeson (born Alexandar Zivojinovich) and John Rutsey, who played guitar and drums respectively, along with singing bass player Jeff Jones, who was replaced by Geddy Lee, another former schoolmate of Lifesons, soon afterwards. They performed regularly in their local scene before releasing their first single, a cover of the Buddy Holly track, "Not Fade Away," which performed poorly. After struggling to impress record companies, they decided to release their self-titled debut album themselves in 1974, which once again had lacklustre sales at first, until a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio got hold of the record and began playing the song, "Working Man" on a regular basis. The song struck a chord with working class rock fans and soon "Rush" was re-released in the United States through Mercury Records.

Due to problems with diabetes, Rutsey decided to leave the band for the sake of his health, eventually being replaced by Hamilton native, Neil Peart, whose first concert with the band was opening for Uriah Heep to an audience of 11,000. Peart also took over the role as chief lyricist and the next year, Rush released their second album, "Fly By Night," which was better received than their previous effort and peaked on the Billboard 200 at 113. They followed this with, "Caress Of Steel," which featured only five tracks and was a commercial and critical disappointment. Although the record company urged Rush to record more radio friendly music, they instead got to work on their most ambitious record at that point, which was released in April 1976 as, "2112." The album contained a twenty minute long title track split into seven parts and became their first Platinum album in Canada, eventually going on to be Triple Platinum in the United States. The success of, "2112," allowed the group to release their first live album, "All The World’s A Stage" a few months later. More...

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Sunday Old School: Bad Brains

Let it never be said that heavy music only appeals to a small demographic. If it weren’t for four Rastafarian Black Sabbath fans, hardcore music wouldn’t be what it is today, and perhaps nor would heavy music in general. When the four young men from Washington D.C. discovered punk music, they would form a band that would influence thousands of others, with several of these becoming popular or influential acts themselves. Indeed, where would music be today without the Bad Brains?

The band originally formed as a jazz funk outfit named Mind Power in 1975 but their path was altered forever two years later when a friend introduced them to the punk rock sounds of the Sex Pistols and The Dickies amongst others. They soon became obsessed with the genre and changed their name to Bad Brains, inspired by the song, "Bad Brain" by The Ramones. Punk was not the only interest that gripped the four young men either. After witnessing a Bob Marley concert, they became enthralled by reggae music and the Rastafari movement. The groups original singer, Sid McCray left soon after the bands inception, and guitarist H.R. (Human Rights) took over the role as frontman. Their shows were notorious for their extremely high level of intensity and they became an influential force in the D.C. hardcore scene, particularly H.R. who claims he encouraged Ian MacKaye to spread the Straight Edge philosophy with his band Minor Threat and inspired Henry Rollins to join Black Flag. Such was the craziness of their live shows that they soon found themselves on the receiving end of an unofficial ban from many clubs in the D.C. area, and soon decided to relocate to New York. They were instantly accepted in New York and performed regularly at the legendary CBGBs club and with other young hardcore acts like Reagan Youth and the Beastie Boys (yes, those Beastie Boys.)

In January of 1982, the band finally released their first album, a self-titled effort available exclusively on cassette at first through ROIR Records. The album has since been hailed as one of the greatest albums in the history of punk and hardcore, if not the greatest. Its breathtaking blend of hardcore punk and reggae music made them stand out from their contemporaries, not least thanks to their obvious musical ability. They released their second album, "Rock For Light" the next year through PVC Records, and re-recorded several songs from their self-titled debut for the release, as well as including older songs such as "At The Movies" in addition to new material. More...

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