We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week’s story is from Henri Sattler of God Dethroned:
"We played Quito (Ecuador) on the South American part of our War Propaganda World Tour 2009 and there we had a slamming pit in which the whole crowd was participating. I felt like we were playing on a floating island since the whole stage was moving from its place! Even the sound desk moved from one place to another in the venue. Amps tumbling over, etc. I was the biggest madness I’ve ever experienced in my life on stage, and i was happy to leave the stage with all my teeth being in my mouth still..."
God Dethroned was recently confirmed for Austria's Kaltenbach Open Air 2010 festival and has an extensive US tour planned with Overkill, Vader, Evile, Warbringer and Woe of Tyrants early this year as well.
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the pit.
Bolt Thrower is seemingly one of the more forgotten bands when it comes to looking at the history of the British death metal and grindcore scene. They were formed in the city of Coventry in September 1986 and went on to release their debut album, "In Battle There Is No Law," in 1988 through Vinyl Solution Records. Unsatisfied with their record deal, the band moved over to Earache Records, which housed many of their contemporaries such as Napalm Death and Cathedral. Bolt Thrower struck up a deal with British model store Games Workshop and the chain store's main artist, with the band giving away a free record with the store's magazine, White Dwarf. In return, Games Workshop did the band's artwork for free for their next album, "Realm Of Chaos."
Since then, Bolt Thrower has continued to perform live and record new albums, although some speculate that the band may never record another album again, given how satisfied they were with their latest album, "Those Once Loyal." The band stated that they always planned to stop releasing albums once they felt they had recorded the "perfect Bolt Thrower album," a feeling they seemed to have secured with "Those Once Loyal." Bolt Thrower remains a big influence on modern death metal and deathcore, with German deathcore act Heaven Shall Burn naming their debut EP "In Battle There Is No Law" after the band's first album.
Bolt Thrower - "The IVth Crusade"
Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) will be co-hosting (with Kerri Kasem ) “The Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx”, a radio show that will play rock music and promises a look inside the life of a rock star. No word yet on how “Tattoo Corner, a Look at Nikki’s tats” will play out on the radio…Ramon Sampson beat out Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), and John Tempestra (The Cult) in the Guitar Center DRUM OFF in L.A. this past week, answering the age old question: What do drummers do in the winter months when not on tour?... More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week’s story is from Alan Averill Nemtheanga, frontman of Primordial:
"During the last show of the Paganfest Tour in LA in the pit some fucker was giving me the finger for the whole first half of the show, why you would go pay into a band to do that is beyond me. He was wearing a Dimmu shirt if I remember correctly so no doubt that says something about his taste in music. Maybe I fucked his girlfriend, sister or mother or something when she was on holidays in Ireland who knows? So I called him out on it and told him it was no problem to meet after the show and I would kick his fucking head in. 18 hole gettagrips got to be used for something right? Well I didn't need to as, as soon as the next track started he got hauled into the pit by some Irish boys and they kicked his ass big time. That made me smile, and here's me thinking Metal had lost it's edge o)..."
Primordial recently posted a new trailer online for their forthcoming new DVD release, "All Empires Fall." Meanwhile, the extreme metal side project Blood Revolt that Nemtheanga handles vocals for will enter the studio to record their debut album this winter.
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the pit.
On January 4th 1986, the world of hard rock lost one of it's greatest figures and heavy metal lost one of it's biggest influences in the form of Phillip Parris Lynott, the lead vocalist and bass player of Thin Lizzy, when he passed away from multiple organ failure at the age of thirty six. Lynott has since been remembered for being one of, if not the best, lyricist in heavy music, drawing much inspiration from poetry and Irish folklore and is constantly mentioned as one of the best frontmen of all time, easily contending for the title along with Bon Scott, Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger. You only have to listen to "Live And Dangerous", a classic in the field of live albums, to hear how well Lynott could work the audience. The line "Is there anybody here with a bit of Irish in them? ... Is there any girls out there who'd like a bit more Irish in them?" from this record has gone down as one of the most memorable quotes in music history. He was well known for living the rock and roll lifestyle which included drink, drugs and sex as main ingredients, so much so that after he passed away, a doctor reportedly said "He died from a lifestyle." Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll may have been a song by Ian Dury, but no-one personified it quite like Phil Lynott.
Phil Lynott joined Thin Lizzy in December 1969, along with his friend Brian Downey. The two performed together as part of the band Orphanage and were spotted by organ player Eric Wrixon and guitarist Eric Bell, who were previously members of the famous band Them, fronted by the legendary Van Morrison. Bell and Wrixon approached Lynott and Downey after Orphanage finished playing their set and suggested they form a band together, which was agreed on the condition that Lynott also play bass guitar and that they would perform some of his own compositions. This lineup would release only one record, a single entitled "The Farmer" through EMI. The single only sold 283 copies and has since become a rare collectors item. Following from this commercial failure, Wrixon left Thin lizzy to return to Them, leaving the band as a three piece. Thin Lizzy soldiered on and signed to Decca Records in 1970, releasing their self-titled debut album the next year. The album sold fairly well and the band followed with the much more Celtic orientated album, "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" in March of 1972. Neither of the bands first two albums found a place in the charts but they received a high profile support slot when they were invited to tour with the hugely popular Slade and Suzi Quatro later that year.
The band tasted their first chart success soon afterwards when Decca Records, against the band's wishes, released their cover of the Irish ballad "Whiskey In The Jar." The single topped the Irish charts and entered the U.K. charts at number six, leading to their first appearance on the revered show, Top Of The Pops. The band were not quite as succesful with their next singles which only entered the Irish charts. More...
Taking a page out of the KISS “How to Market Your Band” book, Def Lepard is moving into the world of cartoons. Here’s a look at a few others that may be in productions soon…
SUPER NINJA VAN HALEN BROTHERS: They eat pizza with M&M’s (no brown ones allowed) and solve crimes. Each with their own super powers: Eddie plays his guitar and bad dudes become distracted by the sound, Alex uses his drum sticks to perform beat downs, Michael strokes his beard to gain super strength, and David, of course, conquers his enemies with karate kicks. A cartoon of good vs. evil with a lesson taught at the end. The lesson is always we may not like each other, but damn we are good when we work together. More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week’s story is from Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani:
"Generally, an audience has been very positive and in good mood at our shows, likely because of the fact that our music is pretty enjoyable and lively. For this reason, we have barely experienced anything serious because of moshpits during the concerts. Usually we would remember if something negative occurred and unfortunately something like that has happened for a couple of times. The only time, when our playing was interrupted during the song took place in London, while playing there for our first time.
"The venue was entirely filled with crowd. A lack of security barrier was another difficulty. In addition there were not any kind of security personnel between the audience and the stage. Immediately after starting the gig, I noticed that the front line of the audience was seriously suffering. The behaviour of some of the persons in the front row was too aggressive, as well. For the violent behaviour, I was forced to give a short notice to the audience, without any effect.
While a particular period of time during the concert, I recognized a woman falling to the ground, being under a pressure of others peoples' legs. This occurrence was followed by a really aggressive attack towards the surrounding people, made by this woman's partner.
"We stopped playing. I grasped the woman in the hand in order to pull her onto the stage and finally to the backstage. The woman was absolutely shocked and she had hurt herself severely. The security personnel still didn't lift a finger and were not interested in having control of the front line. Subsequently, the band started trying to get the violent fight stopped in the frontline. The fight wasn't stopped until bringing the partner of that woman from the audience through the stage to the backstage.
"After our concert, the couple was already drinking beer at our backstage, with pleasure. They were extremely grateful for what we had done to save them from a disturbing situation. Sometimes we were told that people have been hospitalized because of the moshpits. Broken
legs, etc. have been occurred. Fortunately we have succeeded in avoiding bigger dangers throughout the years."
Korpiklaani will be touring the US on the latest installment of Paganfest and plans to record a new album in 2010.
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the pit.
A few weeks ago, we took a look at British grindcore legends Napalm Death and saw that several bands related to them have become legends in their own right. This week we take a look at one of these bands, in the form of Lee Dorrian's legendary doom metal outfit Cathedral. Cathedral were formed in Coventry, in the Midlands area of England in 1989 but had already earned a degree of underground fame as the bands lead vocalist Lee Dorrian had been the singer of Napalm Death beforehand and guitarist Garry Jennings was previously a member of British thrash metal outfit Acid Reign, who had reached the number ten spot on the U.K. Indie album charts with their debut album, "The Fear." The band were much different from their associated acts and were more inspired from the slower metal bands such as The Obsessed and Black Sabbath than Motorhead and Kreator. After recruiting bass player Mark Griffiths (a Carcass roadie) and drummer Mike Smail, the band recorded their first album, "Forest Of Equilibrium" which is now regarded as a classic in the genre of doom metal. The album featured extremely slow and long songs, which took fans of the British underground scene by complete surprise at the time and left the band with a mixed reception when they performed shows with the likes of Entombed, Carcass and Confessor.
The band followed this impressive debut with "The Ethereal Mirror" (which had a number of working titles including "Decadence and Journey Into Jade) in 1993 and once again received critical acclaim, with some media refering to the band as "the next big thing in metal." The album also saw the band experiment more with their sound, fusing a stoner rock influence with their doom laden grind. The album also produced two music videos in the shape of "Ride" and "Midnight Mountain" which received some negative feedback from fans as they were quite light hearted in nature. The band took on two new members after this release, with bass player Leo Smee and drummer Brian Dixon and released yet another outstanding album on September 26th 1995 in the form of "The Carnival Bizzare." The album featured the song, "Hopkins (Witchfinder General)" which has become one of the bands best known songs and a staple of their live set. The song also received a music video that included clips from the Vincent Price movie "Witchfinder General" as well as the band performing in a tongue in cheek fasion. The album also boasted a guest guitar solo from Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi on the song, "Utopian Blaster."
Cathedral have continued to tour the world and record albums ever since and have cemented their place as true legends in the field of doom and stoner metal by releasing more well received albums such as "Caravan Beyond Redemption" and "The VIIth Coming." Fans of the band are expecting 2010 to be another great year for Cathedral when they release a new studio album entitled, "The Guessing Game" in March, which likely include a world tour to help promote the record. Doom on! More...
UPDATE: Neither the Metalunderground.com staff nor the members of Hoarfrost support or condone damaging a venue's equipment. We apologize if this story was construed as supporting destructive behavior that hurts both the venues and the bands that are vital to continuing a strong underground metal scene.
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Hoarfrost vocalist Ryan Suche shares a cautionary tale to venues who may want to cut off fans from the bands:
"Okay, so there's a bit of a preamble I have to get through first - gotta set the scene here, right?
"Late in 2008, a local venue called the Zoo installed a big honkin' fence in front of their stage. I heard there was some hardcore show where people were hanging from the ceiling and running around everywhere and some beer got spilt on the monitors and, well, the Zoo was sick of replacing the monitors or something like that. So, they installed this massive 4 foot high fence that just totally cuts you off from the band, and people fucking hate it.
"Which brings us to March of this year (2009). My band Hoarfrost was playing a gig with a local band called Tyrants Demise and TD was building up this crazy pit; the place was packed! And the front row was just bashing their fists against that fucking fence TD's entire set - BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! And, as it goes, the shit hit the fan and those fuckers tore that fence right off it's mounts. People don't like that fucking fence. At all."
Hoarfrost recently self-released their debut EP "The Cold Plains." Samples from the EP can be heard at the band's MySpace page. Hoarfrost also announced in a recent interview with Metalunderground that they will soon start writing new material for an upcoming release.
In 1989, four young men who enjoyed playing Dungeons And Dragons would form a band that has since gone one to become a huge influence on thousands upon thousands of musicians, particularly in the doom and stoner areas of metal. Vocalist John Garcia, guitarist Josh Homme, bass player Chris Cockrell and drummer Brant Bjork formed the band with the original name of Sons Of Kyuss and released their debut EP of the same name in 1989. This would be the bands only release with Cockrell, as he was replaced by Nick Oliveri soon afterwards. The band shortened their name to Kyuss and developed a large following in their home state of California, where they would perform regularly at parties in isolated areas of southern California. These would become known as "generator parties" and included the use of gasoline-powered generators to provide electricity for the equipment.
The band released their first full length album, "Wretch" in 1991 after signing with Dali Records. Several of these songs wre re-recorded versions of songs from the "Sons Of Kyuss" EP that was released two years previous. Many felt the album was a poor showing of the band, owing to the lack of money and production skills. The band were able achieve critical acclaim with their next album however, when they released "Blues For The Red Sun" in June 1992. The success of the album allowed the band to tour as support to Metallica (who had just released the mainstream smash hit Black Album at the time) and perform with other notable bands such as The Obsessed. Nick Oliveri was not part of the touring cycle however, after he left the band shortly following the albums completion, being replaced by Scott Reeder. Kyuss continued their success by signing with major label, Elektra and releasing the classic "Welcome To Sky Valley" album (the album is self-titled, but fans refer to the record by this name.)
Kyuss would suffer the loss of another band member after this album was released, when original drummer Brant Bjork quit the band, citing bad relations between band members and a hatred for touring. Alfredo Hernández stepped in as his replacement and this incarnation of the band recorded their fourth and sadly final album, "...And The Circus Leaves Town," in 1995. The album was once again seen as a masterpiece from critics, particularly the outstanding cover of the Yawning Man song, "Catamaran," but failed to become as commericially successful as the bands previous release. In October of that year, Kyuss decided to call it a day. Ever since their demise, the band has been offered on numerous occassions to reform, although it seems highly unlikely due to the success of guitarist Homme's post-Kyuss band, Queens Of The Stone Age (which also featured Nick Oliveri for a time.) More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Evergreen Terrace guitarist Josh James shares a true hardcore pit story:
"We recently played in Columbus, GA on our 'Almost Homeless Tour.' During our set I saw a guy push pitting hard as hell. He had shirt off, tattoos showing, muscles flexed and enjoy the set thoroughly. Pretty standard except for one small detail: blood. I noticed that he had a little bit of blood coming out of his back. I thought to myself that he must have been scrapped up in the pit or maybe fell into something during the show. Two songs later I noticed more blood. I kept my eye on him for our last three songs and notices he was becoming more and more bloody after every song. When the show finished I found out that right before our set there was a fight outside. He was jumped by three kids, one of which had a knife. That kid stabbed him four times in the back. After he got stabbed he beat the shit out of the kid who stabbed him and ended up beating the shit out of the rest of the guys who jumped him. He said he didn't want to go to the hospital cause he loves Evergreen Terrace. That's a true fan."
Evergreen Terrace recently wrapped up their Persistence Tour 2009 date with Ignite, Biohazard, Walls Of Jericho, Death By Stereo, and have a couple of dates planned with Ignite in January.
Check back every Tuesday for a new Tales from the Pit story.
Having been credited with the creation of the grindcore genre, many people will claim that Napalm Death are among the most influential bands in the world of extreme metal and some people will go so far as to say they were the last band from Great Britain to have a signifficant impact on the world of metal. Like many great British metal bands such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, Napalm Death were formed in the Midlands area of England, starting up in 1981 in the village of Meriden, just outside of Birmingham. The band recorded a four song demo in 1982 and continued to perform regularly until towards the end of 1983 when they imposed a hiatus of sorts, with only one concert being performed in 1984 (a benefit show for the striking mine workers.) The band would return permanently in 1985 and performed many shows at their local pub The Murmaid, which was known to host hardcore matinees on the weekend. The band achieved a stable line up when drummer Mick Harris joined the group, complimenting the guitar sounds of Justin Broadrick and bass player/vocalist Nic Bullen. This lineup of the band recorded the first half of the now classic album, "Scum" in 1986, however before they could record the B-side to the album, both Broadrick and Bullen left the band. Harris recruited Bill Steer (later of Carcass fame) on guitar, bass player Jim Whitely and friend of the band, Lee Dorrian to join as the groups new singer, even though he had never sang before. This lineup recorded the second half of "Scum," completing what is now regarded as a classic in the field of extreme metal. The band replaced Whitely with bass player Shane Embury and recorded their second album, "From Enslavement To Obliteration" which was released in October of 1988 before Steer left the band to focus on Carcass full time and Dorrian quit to form the now legendary doom metal band, Cathedral.
The band recruited vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, of the British death metal outfit Benediction and their first international members in the form of Mexican guitarist Jesse Pintado, who had previously been known as the guitarist and founding member of Terrorizer and second guitarist Mitch Harris (who is from the United States of America) after touring with Bolt Thrower, Carcass and Morbid Angel. This lineup of the band recorded only one album, "Harmony Corruption" before Mick Harris decided to leave the band to form Scorn, leaving no members of the "Scum" lineup left. Napalm Death replaced him with American drummer Danny Herrera. These band members would then continue throughout the the 1990's recording eight albums together (Greenway was briefly fired from the band in 1996 and replaced with Extreme Noise Terror vocalist Phil Vane and while Vane never recorded with Napalm Death, Greenway recorded vocals for the Extreme Noise Terror album, "Damage 381" before returning to Napalm Death following the dismissal of Vane.)
In 2004, Jesse Pintado left the band and Napalm Death has since continued as a four-piece, releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums in the form of "The Code Is Red... Long Live The Code," "Smear Campaign" and most recently, "Time Waits For No Slave." Jesse Pintado sadly passed away in a hospital in Holland in 2006, after suffering from a liver failure. Napalm Death are a unique band because not only are they themselves regarded as hugely influential, but so are practically every band related to them. Lee Dorrian's Cathedral have become known as one of the best doom metal bands of all time and Bill Steer's Carcass has similarly been recognised as one of the greatest death metal bands in history. Justin Broadrick's bands Godflesh and Jesu have become recognised as influential and groundbreaking and even bands that only had small links to the band such as Extreme Noise Terror and Terrorizer have since become known as legends in the field of grindcore. While Napalm Death are often imitated, they are, as they say, never duplicated. More...
The season for giving and receiving is upon us. This week we look at what the 80’s glam gods are asking for this year…
Bret Michaels (POISON): A bandana (preferably blue) that alerts Bret when there’s a reality show opportunity near by.
Jon Bon Jovi (BON JOVI): Jeans (skinny, tears above and below the knees, medium wash).
Sebastian Bach (SKID ROW): Tickle me Elmo.
Steve Tyler (AEROSMITH): A band.
Sammy Hagar (CHICKENFOOT): A bottle of tequila, wrapped.
Vince Neil (MOTLEY CRUE): A Radio Flyer 2900 red wagon to carry all the cash made this past year.
Gene Simmons (KISS): To have Christmas renamed KISSmas.
Ted Nugent: Guns, raw meat, gun powder…oh, wait this is Ted’s weekly shopping list.
David Coverdale (WHITESNAKE): Once again make large hair and album sales go hand in hand.
Axl Rose (GUNS N ROSES): The option to do what he wants despite contractual obligations and pending legal proceedings. Also, a Tickle me Elmo.
David Lee Roth (VAN HALEN): A straight answer from the Van Halen brothers.
Jani Lane (WARRANT): For 2009 to end ASAP.
Kip Winger (WINGER): Hair dye for his chest AND buttons for his shirts.
Lita Ford: A new bed.
Josh Todd: A new tattoo.
Dee Snider: World anarchy in the name of peace and metal.
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher tells the story of what almost made him stop singing. The excerpt is taken from a full interview available here.
Check back every Tuesday for a new pit story.
Video game music metal covers, that’s what I’ll be reviewing here. For those new to this concept, video games, especially the old school games for NES and SNES, have always had many elements in common with metal. A Simple search on youtube or myspace, will yield plentiful results. Now it seems anyone who plays guitar decent enough is trying to play his or her favorite video game theme, movie theme, or TV show theme. Sadly most of these people are amateurs and don’t spend enough time arranging the music to form an interesting version of the song. Furthermore they usually have sub par recordings done in their bedroom with a drum machine. The bands in this article have been around for a while and put time, money, and a lot of effort into their recordings.
Boston unsigned video game metal band Powerglove are probably the most popular of the band as they have toured with power metal band Dragonforce. Their covers are constructed as progressive power metal songs. The band will be touring the US with Hammerfall in March and continue in April and May with Sonata Arctica and Mutiny Within. The band has three albums worth of covers available. I am really surprised that the band is able to tour with such popular acts, while being unsigned and a band that covers video game music. They’ve done everything from Power Rangers to Final Fantasy VII. Check out some of their covers and upcoming tour dates on their MySpace page.
Powerglove performing Power Rangers in Quebec with the crowd singing the words:
A few weeks ago I was in the metal section of my local HMV branch, when I heard some kids mention a name. "Oooh! Death! What a great band name! Honestly, who would buy an album from a band with such a stupid name? I bet they suck!" All I could think to myself as they wandered away with their copies of the latest Slipknot and Panic! At The Disco albums was, "If you only knew, kids...." Quite honestly, Death's name is about the only thing anyone could ever have a problem with. Everything else about them is pure magic. Death is responsible for some of the best songs, album covers, song titles and musicianship in the celebrated history of extreme metal.
Death was formed in 1983 by vocalist/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner in the city of Orlando, Florida. They released their first album, "Scream Bloody Gore," four years later and quickly established themselves as one of the pioneers of death metal along with bands such as Possessed and Obituary. Their next album, "Leprosy" followed on where "Scream Bloody Gore" left off lyrically, focusing on violence, blood and guts, but the band changed to writing about more social and political issues on their next album, "Spiritual Healing." This album also featured alot more in the way of melodies and musical progression than the previous two albums. The band continued with their progression into the technical side of death metal when they released the album "Human" in 1991, which featured Schuldiner as well as Sadus bassist Steve DiGorgio and Cynic members Sean Reinhert and Paul Masvidal. "Human" also featured the band's first song to be given the music video treatment, "Lack Of Comprehension." More...
At LAX, Axl Rose (GUNS N ROSES) got into a scuffle with a paparazzo that ended up with a few bloodied participants. Even with Rose flying to Taiwan there is still concern about whether he will be in the mood to perform, a question that had been raised earlier in the week when the rest of the band flew to the gig without the singer. It’s time to set the GNR Tour odds: 2:1 one gig is played; 3:1 the Asian tour is completed without incident and/or cancellations; 5:1 GNR makes it to their Canadian leg of the tour; 1:1 Axl self destructs at some point during the tour. Technically, for those that had self destruction, you can now collect your winnings… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Guilt By Association bassist Britt shares one with us:
"I was on tour with my band Guilt by Association and we played a show at the Monkey Bar in Huntington, WV. We were mid set and it was really hot on stage. The riser puts you up really close to the lights and I needed a break from the heat. My guitarist and I ran off stage and started playing in the middle of the pit! He had a solo coming up so he only stayed a minute and then returned to the stage. Maybe the people in the pit thought I ran out too cause right then they all started moshing again instead of just circling around. I wasn't gonna be trampled so I pushed back and rocked out with the fans and right before I made it back to the stage this guy ran into me and I split his eye open with the headstock of my bass! He kept moshing and took his shirt off the stop the bleeding! After the show we were signing autographs at the merch table and I figured he'd be long gone but I looked up and there he was. He said 'I have to shake you hand and tell you you fuckin rock.... now I'm gonna go get some stitches!' He was die hard... it was awesome!"
Guilt By Association recently announced in an interview with Metalunderground that they are in pre-production for their upcoming EP "Chapter 2." Sample tracks from their first EP "Chapter 1" can be heard at the band's MySpace page.
Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we highlight a new group of bands that aren’t signed to a major label and are making a name for themselves in the underground. This week I’ll be delving into three Montana bands on opposite ends of the spectrum, ranging from death metal to thrash to groove. More...
Since my first “real” news posting had to do with the unfortunate news of Ronnie James Dio's stomach cancer, I thought it might make some karmic sense if my first Sunday Old School posting had something to do with the the remarkable frontman.
I suspect a lot of people my age (36 years young) are like me in that the first time they ever heard of Dio was in seeing the phrase “OZZY RULES! DIO DROOLS!” scrawled on a wooden desk in junior high or high school. That's naturally a reference to the fact that Dio had replaced Ozzy Osbourne as the singer for Black Sabbath, following Ozzy's firing in 1979.
Dio would serve as Sabbath's lead vocalist on the seminal albums “Heaven & Hell,” “Mob Rules” and “Live Evil” before parting ways with Sabbath until 1991 when he rejoined the band for “Dehumanizer.” Another parting of the ways lasted until 2006, when his version of Sabbath reformed under the moniker Heaven & Hell and recorded new tracks for a greatest hits CD, as well as “Live from Radio City Music Hall” in 2007, and a new studio album, “The Devil You Know” in 2009.
Beginning with 1983's “Holy Diver,” he racked up plenty of album sales and accolades with his own band, Dio.
But there's an important chapter of Dio's professional career that seems to get at best a cursory glance among a lot of metalheads I know, which is unfortunate, because it seems to me to be very much a transformative time for one of metal's most powerful vocalists.
I am, of course, talking about his time in Rainbow, the post-Deep Purple band formed by guitar-god Ritchie Blackmore in the mid-1970s.
Blackmore had departed Deep Purple after arguments about the more “funky” direction that singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes were taking the band in. In search of a new singer and band, he didn't have to look far.
Elf, which featured Dio on vocals, had been touring as a supporting act for Deep Purple. Blackmore essentially grafted himself into the band, renaming it and collaborating with Dio to write the tracks for the appropriately named “Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.”
The song most everyone remembers from that 1975 album is “Man on the Silver Mountain,” with its son-of-“Smoke on the Water” riff and powerful delivery by Dio declaring himself a medieval metal prophet. It's become such a staple in the Dio arsenal that it's easy to forget how much of a milestone it is for the singer. Compare the supernatural lyrics with the somewhat more pedestrian (if equally well-performed) lyrics of tracks like Elf's “Carolina County Ball,” and you'll see what I mean.
That's hardly the only great one, though. The album also features “16th Century Greensleeves,” which would seem to be a precursor to Blackmore's later career, as well as the superb Quartermass cover “Black Sheep of the Family.”
By Rainbow's next album, 1976's “Rising,” Blackmore had fired everyone but Dio from the band and, if you ask me, the replacement keyboardist, Tony Carey and bassist Jimmy Bain (who'd later play with Dio in the 1980s) aren't completely up to snuff. It's this incarnation of Rainbow's weakest album, though tracks like the opener, “Tarot Woman” and the huge 8-minute closer “Stargazer” still hold up well.
The band had a return to glory with 1978's “Long Live Rock 'n' Roll,” which featured bass contributions from future Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath bassist Bob Daisley. The disc, which does feature some of the medieval and experimental sounds featured on the previous two studio albums (a live album, “On Stage,” was released in 1977), there's a surprising amount of pure blues-rock stomp this go-round, especially on the title track. “L.A. Connection” reminds me a bit of the bluesier side of the Doors, while “Sensitive to Light” is just a good-time rocker of the finest sort. Meanwhile, the darker lyrical themes Dio would go on to explore in Sabbath are on full display in the creepy Middle Eastern-sounding “Gates of Babylon.” The album's finest hour, though, comes with the speedy “Kill the King.”
Dio left the band in 1979 following a dispute with Blackmore over the guitarist's desire to take the band in a more “commercial” direction, which he ultimately did with vocalists like Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet.
If you ask me, though, the Dio era is a golden era for Rainbow, as well as the moment that one of metal's finest discovered his true voice and calling. As I and other metal fans await news of the ailing singer's condition, I take some measure of comfort in his “Man on the Silver Mountain” declaration that “You'll never stop me burning.”
May it be so.
Carolina County Ball (with Elf)