"some music was meant to stay underground..."

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Sunday Old School: Saxon

Some bands play heavy metal. Other bands embody it. And nobody embodies heavy metal quite like Saxon have been doing for over thirty years. Whilst the band appear to be somewhat overlooked these days, to a die hard fan of metal, there's no denying that Saxon are one of the greatest bands to ever emerge from the United Kingdom. The group was founded in the Yorkshire town of Barnsley back in 1976 under the name Son Of A Bitch but wisely decided to change the name to Saxon, which represented a long-time lyrical theme of the band, namely it's fascination with British history. The band quickly built up a following, becoming one of the leading bands in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and gained support slots with the likes of Motorhead before releasing their self-titled debut in 1979. While the first album didn't fare too well commercially or critically, the 1980 release "Wheels Of Steel" earned the band two hit singles with the album's title track and the song, "747 (Strangers In The Night)" along with the future fan favourite, "Motorcycle Man." The album itself proved successful too as it hit the British album charts at number five. The band released a third album, "Strong Arm Of The Law" only four months after "Wheels Of Steel," which also did well critically and sales wise and featured some of the band's best known work including, "20,000 Feet," "Dallas 1PM" and the title track. After this, the band completed the third album in what is regarded as their "classic album trilogy" and released "Denim And Leather" in 1981. The album also entered the British album charts, this time at number nine and once again featured future live staples such as "Princess Of The Night," "And The Bands Played On" and the anthemic title track.

Saxon then released "Power & The Glory," which, while not being their most acclaimed album in their catalogue, is their best selling. As a result of the record's success, the band were able to embark on a headlining run of European arenas, taking a little known German band by the name of Accept along with them. Saxon continued their streak of commercial success when they released "Crusader" in 1984 and took two struggling bands on the road with them named Krokus and Motley Crue, allowing these bands to reach wider audiences. The band were to experience a backlash of sorts however, when they released "Innocence Is No Excuse" in 1985, with many European fans accusing the band of "selling out" to try and reach a more commerical audience in America, though in recent years it has earned a place in the hearts of fans. The group continued to do well throughout the rest of the decade, but found major success in America somewhat hard to find, resulting in the band being released from EMI Records after the "Destiny" album was released in 1989. They then signed to Virgin Records and released a string of albums which went largely unnoticed by the media.

A career resurgence of sorts began to happen in the late '90s however, with the band being invited to headline such festivals as Bloodstock and Wacken Open Air. Commercial success reared it's head once again in 2007 when they took part in Harvey Goldsmith's "Get Your Act Together," where Goldsmith attempted to restore the band to the popularity it had experienced in the 1980s. He did so by bringing in two new producers to oversee the band's new single, "If I Was You," from their album, "The Inner Sanctum." The single entered the top ten in countries all around the globe. Their most recent album, "Into The Labyrinth" has seen them continue to gain critical acclaim and tour with the likes of Anvil and Doro supporting them. Although "Into The Labyrinth" was only released last year, there is reportedly already plans to record a new album, along with a new documentary movie on the way entitled, "Heavy Metal Thunder." Whether you're a fan or not, no-one can dispute that Saxon have earned their place in heavy metal history by being one of the hardest working and most dedicated bands in the business, with a loyalty to their genre that is unquestionable. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Revolver Awards Diary

The past weekend VH1 Classic showcased the Revolver Golden Gods Awards show (taped from April 9th), an annual show of hard rock and heavy metal awards chosen by the readers of the rock magazine, Revolver. You can catch reruns of this event twice daily, for the next eighteen months. More...

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Pit Stories: Gettin' Some with Nashville Pussy

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Nashville Pussy guitarist Ruyter shares their own tale from the cl*t pit:

Nashville Pussy was playing the Electric Lounge in Austin, Texas. Our drummer Jeremy's awesome parents were in attendance and his father doesn't ever swear so Blaine told the audience he'd asked Jeremy's dad if he minded that we'd be cussing that night on stage and Jeremy's father responded, "you should cuss even more tonight." Everyone laughed. Especially Jeremy's parents cause Blaine just made that story up on the spot.

The place was sold out and packed solid. The stage was only about 3 feet off the floor and some drunk woman in front of me was laying half way on the stage and grabbing at my monitor. She kept clinging to it like a life preserver and kind of jerking it back and forth across the stage with the beat and driving me Nuts! I was about to boot her in the head and get her the fuck off my monitor when I noticed the guy behind her had her skirt up over her back and was f*cking her from behind. I remember looking at the happy couple then quickly scanning the crowd to find Jeremy's parents standing at the back with big smiles on their faces.

That's my best Pit story. Fun for all ages.

Nashville Pussy is currently on tour in the apparently aptly named Parental Advisory tour with Green Jelly and Psychostick. Check out a report from one stop here and an interview with Ruyter here.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In New Jersey

Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week I am exploring the New Jersey extreme metal scene.

The extreme metal scene in New Jersey is hard to find, but it's there. I find that most of them like to hide under the radar and remain underground. the bands I'm featuring here aren't that kind. these are the ones looking to make their foot print in the scene by doing something a little different in their own way. There are too many bands around that do the same song over and over again with different lyrics and in a different key or tempo. More...

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Celebrity Apprentice: Bret Michaels Wins!

The live finale starts with Donald Trump entering the makeshift boardroom with a smoke machine behind him. Wasting little time, Trump announces that yes, after being back in the hospital just days ago; Bret Michaels will be appearing live. Given this news, we are in full Michaels Reality mode: a drink each time we hear the word AWESOME. More...

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Sunday Old School: Tommy Vance

After the death of heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio was confirmed seven days ago, it made me think about the true pioneers of the genre, which Ronnie certainly was, and how we never expect them to leave us. In the United Kingdom, one of the men who helped define heavy metal and hard rock as we know it wasn't a musician, but a radio DJ and occassional television presenter by the name of Tommy Vance. Whilst it may seem strange to dedicate this weekly segment to a DJ and not a band, ask any of the older metal fans in Britain about Tommy Vance, and they'll tell you he was just as essential to the genre as Ozzy, Lemmy or Rob Halford.

Perhaps a little background information would be useful however. Tommy Vance was actually born with the name Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston in Oxfordshire, England in 1940. He began his radio career in the United States, using the alias "Rick West" but took the "Tommy Vance" moniker from a DJ who failed to show up to a show on Seattle's KOL station. He was forced to return to the United Kingdom in 1965 as a result of immigration difficulties. When he did return, he worked with the infamous pirate radio station, Radio Caroline before eventually being signed to BBC Radio 1, where he worked with equally revered DJ John Peel on the Top Gear programme, which specialised in "progressive" music.

His crucial role in British heavy metal would be kick started in 1978 however, when he began presenting the "Friday Rock Show" (which is currently hosted by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.) He presented this show for fifteen years and gave headbanging Brits a place where they could not only hear their favourite bands, but also discover many new ones that wouldn't have been known otherwise. Vance was a particular champion of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and would often feature interviews and performances from bands within the movement, as well as talking with the rock and metal stars of the day including Black Sabbath and AC/DC. He was also a regular fixture at the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, where he would DJ the event inbetween bands, as well as introduce them. However, after writing a critical report of the 1986 edition of the event, he was dropped from the next festival and banned from even attending.

In his later years, Vance appeared on several television shows including Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Dumber And Dumber, Brass Eye and The Eleven O' Clock Show (which featured a young Ricky Gervais) where he allegedly encouraged people to call TV's Handy Andy and "tell him he's a twat." He hosted a revived Friday Rock Show on VH1 which featured interviews and music videos from the biggest and best names in metal and rock and made one last big contribution to the British rock scene by co-founding the popular internet radio station TotalRock. He sadly passed away from a stroke on March 6th, 2005 and his memory and work was celebrated with a 15 hour tribute show on TotalRock as well as a tribute concert at the famous Royal Albert Hall in London, which featured the recently reunited Judas Priest, along with the Scorpions and Deep Purpler singer Ian Gillan, along with special appearances by Bruce Dickinson and The Who frontman Roger Daltrey. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: R.I.P. Dio

Gene Simmons (Kiss) continues to push a “stage challenge” to both U2 and The Rolling Stones. I find it interesting this offer has yet to be extended to AC/DC. Is it just me, or when Kiss makes their version of a Superman movie (this will happen) we will learn that AC/DC is Gene’s Kryptonite? … More...

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Pit Stories: Getting Acquainted with the Floor

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week, the members of DFW thrash band Warbeast talk about their experiences getting to know the floor well while at shows. Stay tuned after the stories to learn about the Pit Bulls of Fort Worth, Texas; moderators of the mosh.

Pit Stories: Warbeast from Emily Hingle on Vimeo.

Check back ever Tuesday for more Pit Stories.

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Unearthing the Metal Underground in Taiwan

Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week I am offering a brief glimpse of the dynamic Taiwan metal scene.

In the past few years, the metal scene in Taiwan has exploded and now boasts an active roster of more than 50 bands. This is a significant number for the relatively small island nation of 23 million that lies less than 200 kilometers off the east coast of China—with geographical, political, and historical factors playing a key role in Taiwan’s metallic output. The repressive Chinese government currently has well over 1,000 ICBMs aimed at Taiwan, and has maintained that it will use military force if necessary to bring Taiwan back under its control. Taiwan has been governed separately from China since the KMT was defeated by the Communists in 1949 following a four-year civil war, after which the KMT leadership and soldiers fled across the Taiwan Strait. Since then, Taiwan has held de-facto independence that is only officially recognized by an ever dwindling number of African, Central and South American, Caribbean, and South Pacific states. The perpetually tense political standoff with its impossibly imposing neighbor to the west, combined with an ongoing struggle for inclusion in international organizations and increased diplomatic recognition, has made Taiwan the ideal breeding ground for the world’s angriest, loudest, and fastest form of musical expression.

Here are three such examples warranting your attention: More...

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Celebrity Apprentice: Bret Makes It to the Finale

After last week’s elimination leaving only five contestants, and two weeks left of Celebrity Apprentice, it was not surprising to see Donald shake up the boardroom. More...

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Sunday Old School: Anthrax

Given the news this week that Joey Belladonna would be returning to Anthrax, sparking off another round in the never ending war of words between Joey Belladonna fans and John Bush fans, it seemed like a good time to take a look at New Yorks most popular thrash metal band. Anthrax was formed by guitarists Scott Ian and Danny Lilker, taking the name from a biology textbook. A few members came and went before they settled on the lineup of Charlie Benante on drums, Neil Turbin on vocals and guitarist Dan Spitz, prompting Lilker to switch to bass. They recorded their debut album, "Fistful Of Metal" in 1983 and released it in January 1984, achieving some international success when the album reached the top ten in Britain. However, the band fired Lilker soon after the release, replacing him with Benantes nephew, Frank Bello. Neil Turbin would also be released from the group after a while, which led to guitarist Scott Ian handling vocal duties for a short time, though these performances mostly consisted of covers of hardcore songs.

The band would eventually find a new permanent singer in 1985 and released an EP named "Armed And Dangerous" soon after. Later that year, the band released "Spreading The Disease," followed by "Among The Living" in 1987. Both of which garnered much critical acclaim and saw a dramatic change in personality for the band, who had decided to ditch the traditional leather and studs look of such bands as Judas Priest and wear clothing they felt more comfortable such as shorts. The band also introduced a more pop culture influence into their lyrics, writing songs about the comic book Judge Dredd ("I Am The Law"), comic actor John Belushi ("Efilnikufesin") and other movies and books. They followed with another highly praised album called "State Of Euphoria" in 1988, which featured a cover of the song "Antisocial" by French band Trust, earning them a minor hit single in the United Kingdom. They also gained some more mainstream notoriety when they appeared on the hit comedy show, "Married... With Children." They released their final album with Belladonna, "Persistence Of Time" in 1990, which was also well received, before collaborating with legendary rap group Public Enemy in 1991 for the "Bring The Noise" single and tour, which also featured Primus and Ice-T. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Spring is Officially Here

Jani Lane (Warrant) has been arrested again on suspicion of DUI. Is it Spring already?...

Starring on VH1’s new special “UNDATEABLE: Top 100 things guys do that guarantee they won’t be dating or having sex” is Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Bret Michaels (Poison). They will also be sharing the stage with hip hop legend Sir Mix a Lot who is responsible for Reason #32: Don’t write a song about big asses… More...

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Pit Stories: A New Twist On The Wall of Death

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Shawn Milke, singer/guitarist for Alesana, shares a story from the road involving an interesting twist on the wall of death:

"The fog pouring from the stage was thicker than that of a graveyard. On stage, we felt like we had been though a war; torn clothing, bloody lips, bruised faces. Gazing out at the crowd we could see that they were broken, but not beaten. It was time. The big guns were in place and ready to be fired. But this time around, we had a challenge for the soldiers. 'I want a wall of death!' screams our fearless front man Dennis. No fear. No mercy. This is no time for children to run scared to their mommys and daddys. This is a time to bring it and bring it hard. To prove our bite is as ferocious as our bark, we send one of our own down into the crowd and to the very back of the wall of death. The challenge is simple: hit him, catch him, beat him before he reaches the stage. We dare you. On the count of three. One...two...three...the stage is set, the night explodes. One of the best pits we've ever had!"

Alesana recently wrapped up their headlining The Emptiness Tour before embarking on a European tour that they're playing now. The band will return to the US and tour as part of the Vans Warped Tour this summer.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Celebrity Apprentice: Bret Fires Back

This week’s episode starts off in Donald Trump’s apartment. The place is as you would expect, it’s like standing inside a solid gold jewelry box. Having the group at his place inspires The Donald to get crazy and switch up the teams, moving Bret to work with Holly and Cyndi Lauper on team Tenacity, which is a little strange because Bret came up with the team name Rock Solid, and won two challenges with the team he is now being asked to leave. Oh, the drama of reality television… More...

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Unearthing The Solo Black Metal Underground

Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we'll be putting the spotlight on a few quality underground bands in an attempt to get the word out. This week we’ll be uncovering three bands that aren’t connected by geographical location, but rather by their decision to go it alone as solo black metal musicians.

By eschewing the benefits and difficulties inherent to a full band, the solo black metal artist is completely unchained by outside influence. A one man black metal group is only constrained by the limitations of his own imagination to create exactly the sound and feel he wants in any release. With how it easy it has become to create a professional sounding release at home it shouldn’t be any surprise that creative minds would want to completely take the reins of their musical direction. More...

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Sunday Old School: Crowbar

Many cities across the world have become known for producing many great metal bands. Birmingham, New York, San Francisco are just a few, but one that frequently gets forgotten is New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans produced arguably the greatest bands in the sludge metal genre, and perhaps the greatest of these bands was Crowbar. Crowbar was formed from the ashes of hardcore outfit The Slugs, with the original lineup consisting of bass player Todd Strange, drummer Craig Nunenmacher, guitarist Kevin Nooger and frontman Kirk Windstein. They released their debut album, "Obediance Thru Suffering" in 1991 which was well received but failed to sell well. However, the band was helped tremedously by Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo when he produced their next album and gave the band a support slot on one of Pantera's national tours, as well as wearing a Crowbar shirt in the video for "I'm Broken."

Crowbar drummer Craig Nunenmacher decided to leave the band in 1996 and was replaced by Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod. This lineup released the albums "Broken Glass" and "Odd Fellows Rest" in 1996 and 1998 respectively, before the band briefly recruited drummer Sid Montz for the 2000 album, "Equilibrium." Montz was replaced soon after with original drummer Nunenmacher, though once again his tenure would be brief, as he left to join Black Label Society soon after. The band then went on a hiatus for a while as Windstein concentrated on working with Down, the band which also featured Pantera members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown, along with Corrosion Of Conformity leader Pepper Keenan and long-time friend Jimmy Bower, before returning with a completely new lineup in 2004, which included Rex Brown and guitarist Steve Gibb, former guitarist of Black Label Society and son of Bee Gee, Barry Gibb. This incarnation of the band released the album, "Lifesblood For The Downtrodden" in 2005, though new members were recruited soon after in the form of bassist Patrick Bruders (of Goatwhore fame) and drummer Tommy Buckley (best known for his work in Soilent Green.)

The band has continued to tour since 2005 with the promise of a new album in the near future. Crowbar's continuity has been disrupted several times in recent years, owing largely to frontman Kirk Windstein being involved in Down, as well as Kingdom Of Sorrow, the band he founded with Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta in 2005. The band replaced guitarist Steve Gibb last year with Kingdom Of Sorrow guitarist Matthew Brunson and have since been touring steadily, most recently as special guests to Sepultura in Europe. Their influence on modern metal can be heard today, with many bands citing them as an influence and they remain one of the greatest acts to ever emerge from the legendary city of New Orleans... along with Fats Domino of course. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Strip Club Inspired

Slash (Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver) was recently in Sydney, Australia to launch the new MTV Classic television network. Slash and his wife met up with the young pop princess Justin Bieber who was hoping to have dinner with the guitar legend. Instead of a dinner invite Bieber got more than he bargained when Slash invited him out to a strip club. No news on whether Justin accepted the invite, but the rule is that any time an inappropriate strip club invite is made, it must inspire a column so here we go… More...

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Pit Stories: "The Helicopter" Takes Flight

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week’s story comes from Joe Henley of Taiwanese death metal band Revilement:

On March 20th, 2010, my band, Revilement, was playing Asia Metal Festival in Seoul, Korea, which was headlined by Graveworm. During the headliner's set, I saw a pit move I've never witnessed before in all my years of going to shows both as a fan and a performer. A kid, all of 15 years old and 90 pounds, pretended to pass out, which caused crowd around him to back off to give him some air and some space. Then, another, much larger man, ran up, picked him up by the ankles, and swung him around in a circle by his feet like they were a heavy metal figure skating duo. There you have it, pit maneuvers now involve elaborate choreography. I think the most appropriate name for this move is "The Helicopter." If anyone else has seen something like this please let me know, because it was definitely a first for me. Hopefully I'll see a double-rotor at some point in the future.

Revilement recently welcomed new guitarist Tony D (Blood Orange, The Freeloaders) to their line-up. You can check out some of the band's music on their MySpace page.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Singapore

Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week I am exploring the Singapore scene.

The music scene in Singapore is predominantly indie and pop, with the biggest musical output being from indie bands. Rarely is metal heard over the airwaves with the exception of a one-hour metal show every Saturday midnight on a Malay radio station (the main spoken language in Singapore is English, so that shows how little exposure to metal there is over here). However, this has not stopped a large number of metal bands from sprouting up in recent years, with the wide availability of alternative forms of music via the Internet.

Whether locally or over the Internet, here are three underground metal bands from Singapore worth checking out: More...

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Celebrity Apprentice: Bret is Project Manager II

Episode eight begins with Bret Michaels taking the reigns as Project Manager for team Rock Solid. With Sharon Osbourne and Maria (wrestling star) Rock Solid is ready for their challenge of creating three radio spots for a plumbing and electricity company. Sharon adds that their team has an edge because, “We’re all rock and roll!” More...

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