New roars and creative chapters: talking Armored Saint with Joey Vera

 armored-saint_photo04_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review

  There is no doubting that the new album from Armored Saint was one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2015, and in turn no surprise certainly to fans, that it showed the band like all the best malts, just keener and more flavoursome over the years, simply better with age. Win Hands Down is a proposition distinctly Armored Saint but ripe with stirring invention and adventurous attitude aligned to maybe their most explosive craft yet. It is beast of a release which meant we did not have to be asked twice when given the opportunity to talk with the band about their new triumph. So with thanks to bassist Joey Vera, we looked in on the making of Win Hands Down, the new freedom seemingly flowing through songwriting and invention, the band in the modern metal scene and…

Hi Joey and many thanks for taking time out to talk with us.

Let’s get straight to the chase and talk about new album Win Hands Down which is deservedly earning strong acclaim since its recent release. Do you find you have the same emotions and excitement with each record you unleash or does it vary with each release and situation?

Yeah the feelings are generally the same. We’re very proud each time we finish a record. But must say this time the fallout is somewhat more electric I have to admit.

In regard to creating the album, Jon (Bush) was quoted on the albums press release as saying, “When we started work on this record, I said, ‘Let’s pretend we are a really big band and can do armored-saint_photo03_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Reviewwhatever we want’.” Now I find it hard to believe Armoured Saint as a band and as individual musicians would allow restrictions to deflect ideas and intentions or have thoughts of being anything less than a ‘big band’ creatively. So could you elaborate on what he meant and how you used it as a spark in the creation of Win Hands Down?

We’ve pretty much done our own thing this whole time. But we always have this reminder over our shoulder that there’s some kind of expectation from us. But I think we started to feel freer from that starting with La Raza. We feel more than ever that we can do whatever we really want. But let’s be frank, there are SOME confines that we live in, but it’s a matter of how much you are willing to elaborate from those confines. It takes balls to go outside a comfort zone and we felt like we had to go past that this time.

Did you approach the writing and recording of Win Hands Down with any major differences to how for example you made last album La Raza?

Not really. The bottom line with us in the past 10 years is, just write great songs. When we were younger we were more likely to be concerned with making some kind of impression. But that’s all out the window now. We have nothing to prove to anyone.

There is a freedom in the songwriting of the new album, a more adventurous bucking of expected structures in metal and heavy rock songs. This in turn gave it a bolder energy and unpredictability which was maybe less pronounced in its predecessor; something you would agree with?

Absolutely, again, we’re at a point where we need to push ourselves and see what we’re capable of. We get very tired and restless if we feel like we are not moving in a forward direction, for better or worse.

What primarily sparked this different intent and exploration in the writing of songs?

Maybe our age? We truly enjoy making music. But we have to create something that is interesting and fun for us first. Seems obvious when I say it, but it’s fun and exciting to take chances, and horribly boring playing it safe.

Cover_Reputation Radio/RingMaster ReviewThis freedom in exploration will be continuing in future releases we can assume such the potency it gave Win Hands Down?

Well I sure hope we continue to explore what we are capable of. Otherwise, time to hang it up.

How so does the songwriting process generally emerge within the band?

They last two records have pretty much been done by John and myself. There’s just some kind of snow ball effect that happens when the two of us start writing. It’s genuine and honest and the results are great, at least to us. We take contributions from the other guys of course but the shapes have to fit inside the puzzle. It can be difficult sometimes but the guys all know what’s right.

Were there any specific inspirations fuelling the lyrical side of the album and its tracks?

Well as John writes, some of it comes from a personal place and some it reads like fiction. But in either case John has written this one wearing his heart further down his sleeve than in the past. A lot of it hits home.

Going back to that freedom point, and I guess you have already answered this but I get the feeling that the band and again you all as individuals are now in a place where you primarily do, write, and create things for you rather than when expectations of others whether it be fans, labels etc.?

Ha, you’d think I’d read ahead on these questions but I didn’t. Yes, we have to please ourselves first. We are very fortunate that we have a loyal fan base and loyal support from our label that allows us to do this.

This also allows other projects and opportunities to fit in with the band’s ‘exploits’ without difficulties I assume?armored-saint_photo02_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review

Managing our lives is tricky these days, no matter what.

Armored Saint has been a greedily devoured and potent proposition within metal since the early eighties and over three different ‘chapters’. I wonder though that even with all the thrilling and impressive releases you have given us, hi-energy quality shows you have played, that the band is the most relaxed with itself right now and subsequently blossoming even more creatively taking Win Hands Down as evidence?

Perhaps, we are in our golden years. We’re very tired of stressing the small stuff.

Where would you say the band has most dramatically changed since its early days?

Well I guess the fact that we are more at ease now, more than ever.

And where do you see Armored Saint in the landscape of metal today?

Just recently I began to think that we’ve always been on our own island and in the past, that bothered us a little. But now we love it and embrace it.

As mentioned you have been and are involved in numerous other projects and bands, would you say this has also played a big part in the evolution of the band’s sound and in your albums consistently having a fresh and modern feel whilst retaining that distinct Armored Saint sound?

Sure. I’ve become a better player and musician all around, largely due to all of the amazing musicians I’ve have the pleasure of being with. I learn so much from each guy I jam with, I listen and learn.

What is next for Armored Saints?

We will be playing some great shows the rest of this year and into 2016. We will be shooting a new video in late summer and more tour dates. A live DVD is also in discussion.

Big thanks again for chatting with us, any last words for the readers?

We must give thanks to our fans that have followed us since day one, and since they’ve come on board. We cannot do any of this without them. Thank you for coming with us.

Read our review of Win Hands Down @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/armored-saint-win-hands-down/

https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint    http://www.armoredsaint.com/

Thanks to Andy at Metal Blade for arranging the interview.

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 19/06/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard on Reputation Radio @ http://www.reputationradio.net

Max Pie – Odd Memories

MaxPieBand_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review

Fair to say their name is still as dislikeable as it was when we covered their excellent album Eight Pieces, One World album two years ago but musically the Belgian metallers still rock the juices out of us as proven by new encounter Odd Memories. Max Pie fills their third album with all the essences which made its predecessor a surprising and compelling proposition but it is with bigger and bolder imagination and creative energy. We are no major heavy/power metal fans here to be honest but once again Max Pie has given us one thumping and rousing time.

The band was formed in 2005 by vocalist Tony Carlino taking inspirations from bands such as Symphony X, Van Halen, Toto, Queensrÿche, and Dream Theater into their emerging ideas. A slightly unstable time in personnel graced their early years before Max Pie released debut album Initial Process in 2012. Fan and critically acclaimed it was surpassed by Eight Pieces – One World a year later in presence, sound, and praise. Its release was followed by the band playing numerous festivals and undertaking tours with the likes of Symphony X, Evergrey, Fates Warning, Avantasia, and Queensrÿche. Now they return with, as the last album, the Simone Mularoni mixed and mastered Odd Memories and simply their finest, most inventive proposal yet.

The album opens with its title track; an instrumental ripe with a foreboding atmosphere and epic textures all cinematically imposing on the imagination. This type of beginning is becoming a common practice across varied metal offerings but when done right, as here, it makes a potent invitation into any release. As the track slips into the following Age of Slavery, a sizzling electronic coaxing colludes with rampant riffs and a melodic embrace of keys. The thick commanding rhythms of drummer Sylvain Godenne shape and invigorate the track further, framing the growling vocals of Carlino perfectly. The frontman’s diverse delivery is as magnetic as ever, some elements more powerful and potent than others but like the music, a constant lure that likes to stretch and push both song and musician. As the guitar and keyboard craft of Damien Di Fresco builds and expands its enterprise, the track blossoms into a sturdy and fiery encounter to really kick things off.

It is also, in many ways, a relatively straight forward and maybe expected proposal from the band, the new exploration showing itself more from Odd Future on. Keys breed the first mesmeric caress on the third track before guitars and the wonderfully dark throated bass of Lucas Boudina bring their hues to the emerging and stirring landscape of the encounter. Once vocals join, the song settles into a melodic roar and sonic flame of melodic and heavy rock ‘n’ roll, their union a heated and tenacious arousing of ears and thoughts veined by sparkling, and at times understated temptation from the keys. It is when things go off kilter with a glorious stretch of discord kissed invention and melodic bedlam that the song really comes alive and if there is any moan it does not play in this great moment long enough.

MaxPieOddMemories_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review     Promised Land opens on a vivacious escapade of keys quickly encased in storming riffs and rhythms, it all quickly blooming into a virulently contagious slice of rock pop with classic metal and progressive rock hues. It has single running through its potent craft and lusty veins, every second of the track a bold and rousing incitement for body, voice, and emotions. Such its power and lure, it gives next up Love Hurts a hard time trying to follow it, and as mesmeric in melodic beauty within tempestuously emotional and physical terrain that it is, it never quite finds the same full-blooded personal reactions as its predecessor. It is undeniably superbly crafted and woven though and does leave only fully satisfied thoughts before the darker, ravenous excellence of Don’t Call My Name takes over. The guitars alone are predatory with their creative rummaging of the senses whilst the keys float with celestial temptation above them and the uncompromising rhythms spearing it all. Reaping the ripest elements of technical and progressive metal, band and track pulsate as they gnaw on ears, adding melodic and harmonic balm to the increasingly irresistible voracity on offer. With Carlino also on fine form, the track is the pinnacle of the album, reason alone to eagerly approach Odd Memories.

The acoustically brewed Hold On slips in next to transfix and from a slow start to its persuasion grows into a big favourite. Whether by chance or intention, it has a Bowie-esque essence to it, a floating whisper in quieter moments which does it no harm. It is a scent soon out flamed by vocals and the sonic blaze giving the song rich crescendos and a breath-taking finale before Unchain Me takes the listener on another tumultuous ride of rugged metal and tantalising electronic adventure.

No prizes in guessing some of the scenery within Cyber Junkie, its electronic and industrial endeavour a potent spicing to another song offering a compelling fusion of bestial metal and melodic flirtation, the former steering the ship with invigorating success. As Don’t Call My Name before it, the track is a masterful web of varied and diverse styles in one predacious provocateur, thoughts of bands from Anthrax to Armored Saint, Dream Theater to Skyharbor coming to mind across its exciting and again show stealing soundscape.

The album is finished by The Fountain Of Youth, a song which either a raging storm of a canter or a gentle caress enthrals and sparks only the keenest attention and support from ears and emotions. Like a couple of other songs it takes longer to get all of its hooks inescapably entrenched but with its additional symphonic elegance and emotively hued strings, the song has seduced long before realisation notices.

Wrapped in the excellent artwork of Didier Scohier, Odd Memories and indeed Max Pie have caught us again with a tempest of sound and invention driven by craft and passion. This time it is bigger, more adventurous, and confirming the band as one of progressive power metal’s finest.

Odd Memories is available from June 19th via Mausoleum Records @ http://www.maxpie.be/shop.php

http://www.maxpie.be/   https://www.facebook.com/maxpiemusic

RingMaster 19/06/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard on Reputation Radio @ http://www.reputationradio.net

Armored Saint – Win Hands Down

Photo byStephanieCabral

Photo byStephanieCabral

Some things are at their pinnacle straight away and some just get better and more potent with age. Taking Win Hands Down as evidence, Armored Saint is definitely one of the latter, the release for us the most inventive and exciting proposition from the LA band in a long time. The album has all the essential ingredients which have made Armored Saint one of the ‘unsung’ but generally devoured heavy metal propositions of the past three decades, but equally a fresh attitude of invention that explores ideas the band want to pursue rather than feeding expectations bred from previous offerings. The result is an album which has you rocking like a dog in heat.

It has been five years since the release of previous album La Raza, time that has seemingly seen vocalist John Bush, guitarist Jeff Duncan, bassist Joey Vera, and guitarist Phil Sandoval with brother and drummer Gonzo explore arguably even bolder ideas and imagination in songwriting and sound. Major departures are not rife within Win Hands Down but openly unpredictable and striking ideation lines the album to fine effect.

The album opens with its title track and a slab of prime Armored Saint persuasion which never gets tiring though this is one song which does feed expectations a touch. The song is an instant cauldron of rhythmic and energetic aggression, the band launching itself at ears with a sonic tail wind as things slip into place for a thumping stomp of an encounter. Things settle a touch as Bush with his ever alluring voice sets the song’s narrative and heart in motion. Fair to say, the frontman’s vocals have always been a major attraction for us, his Anthrax days seeing of the finest moments of that band with his rich and explosive tones at the helm, and his potency again lights things up here. The opener proceeds to rumble in ears and appetite until sparking the imagination with a melodic, almost spatial passage. It is a thoroughly engaging and intriguing moment, though for the main the track is a highly agreeable if, to go against the grain of other opinions, a little underwhelming. Simply it offers what you assume you will get from Armored Saints, a highly accomplished and enjoyable encounter, which of course is no bad thing either.

Cover_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review     The core adventure really starts with Mess, the second song a bone shuddering barrage of rhythmic bait in its first breath and a volatile predator of ears thereafter. Gonzo Sandoval continues to sculpt a web of antagonistic and inventive rhythms whilst the bass of Vera snarls with every groove expelled. Riffs are equally as imposing and at times bestial in tone whilst the superb guitar enterprise and imagination shared by Duncan and Phil Sandoval mouth-watering, especially when adding some eastern mystique and melodic unpredictability into the mix. It is a treat of a song swiftly backed by An Exercise in Debauchery, a song about “people’s fascination with porn.” Thick basslines and spicy grooves collude with the rich roar of Bush, whilst drums revolve in aggressive and anthemic prowess. The tapestry of the song continues to get more involved and fascinating with every passing minute, samples and funk fed grooves amongst many things turning a potent rocker into a major pinnacle of the album.

Muscle Memory mellows the intensity and air of Win Hands Down a touch with its opening reflective power balladry, though in no time Bush is leading a powerhouse of sonic expression and rhythmic tenacity. The song continues to entwine elevated intensity and impassioned drama with calmer temptation, again as its predecessor and subsequent tracks, avoiding going down a more formula route of simply repetitious verse chorus etc. The creative freedom offering from that intent is as potent and exciting as the sounds sculpted within the album, and a quality explored further by the power metal predation of That Was Then, Way Back When. Like a muscle-bound stallion leaping from a race starting block, the song grumbles as it voraciously strides through ears, cantankerous rhythms flexing as carnivorous bass lines prowl with heavy incitement within the brew of creative hues cast by guitars and vocals over the song’s narrative.

Rock ‘n’ roll does not get much better, though it does get persistently replicated within Win Hands Down, as proven by the outstanding With a Full Head of Steam. Pop, rock, metal all collude for a fiery romp of a proposal, a rampant adventure energised further by the guest vocals of Pearl Aday which share the spotlight with Bush and co. The vocal union is a delicious success matched by the increasingly sublime enterprise of guitars and the contrastingly intimidating and animalistic qualities of bass and drums. The album’s title track is the lead song but as next single and enticement for the release, it has to be this gem of a thrilling persuasion.

Inspired by the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, In an Instant is an emotively fired and provocative proposal whilst Dive straight after provides a piano led, shadow blessed ballad, which from a lean opening evolves into a smouldering seduction of melodies and vocal reflection within a hug of evocative strings. Both songs take longer to inflame thoughts and passions but instil the album with further magnetic diversity and given attention become pungent proposals to increasingly and greedily devour.

The album finishes with Up Yours, a dirty and adversarial bruiser with punkish inhospitality but equally equipped with melodic imagination and sonic invention. Like it started, the album finishes with a strong and thoroughly enticing invitation impossible to turn down, but the prime creative meat and majorly exciting richness of Win Hands Down comes in between.

Surely destined to be acclaimed one of the heavy/melodic metal triumphs of the year, it feels like Armored Saint is entering a new creative chapter with this album whilst staking their place again at the fore of the metal scene.

Win Hands Down is available now via Metal Blade Records @ http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/item/32456

https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint   http://www.armoredsaint.com/

RingMaster 05/06/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard on Reputation Radio @ http://www.reputationradio.net

 

DC4 – Electric Ministry

It is fair to say that many hard rock bands and releases are generally predictable, not necessarily bad, just that you know what you are going to get before a note is played and there is often no distinction from one band to another who are effectively and sometimes satisfyingly reproducing the same set sound of the genre. Unless a real fan of hard rock it can be off putting from checking out bands and their music, but it is bands like DC4 who make sure nothing should be taken for granted and shows that there is some strong and intriguing blood pumping through the heart of the genre.
The L.A. rockers show with new album Electric Ministry on Metal Blade Records that the time between their previous release Explode and this has not been a barren time ideas wise, Electric Ministry being a breeze of hard rock sounds infused with strong and vibrant metal riffs and tones. Consisting of the brothers Duncan, vocalist/guitarist Jeff (Armored Saint, Odin), Matt on bass, and drummer Shawn (Odin) plus Rowan Robertson (ex-Dio) on guitar, DC4 have produced an album that shows at its best why rock fuels the day for so many.  
Electric Ministry begins on the short instrumental burst of melodic energy ‘Wrecktory’ setting up an edge for the title track to ride in upon. With driving hard riffs and a deep throbbing bassline ‘Electric Ministry’ delivers strong effective rock ‘ n’ roll, Jeff’s vocals punctuating the track purposely and strongly with his classic rock vocals. This is a good blend that features throughout the whole album, the classic and hard rock styling from his vocals and band harmonies as well as some delicious rock guitar play all combining with some direct and dark aggressive riffs that would not seem out of place on a Spineshank or Sick Puppies album.
Two of the best three tracks on the release are the sexed up wonderful ‘filth’ of ‘XXX’, a riot of aggressive loin fire that is as infectious as the subject matter for any respectable rock star is itself, and ‘Rock God’ with the best combination of body throbbing induced bass and drum rhythms heard this year, pounding behind some guitar and melodies that point to a Alice in Chains/ Stone Temple Pilot feel and touch. Matt’s bass is imperial and alone would make the song something special but everyone is at their pinnacle making the track irresistible. The third glorious track comes later in the shape of the dark, venomous ‘Sociopath’, again rippling with wickedly devious riffs and intensity. Though many of the tracks are right there supporting with great sounds and quality such as ’25 To Life’ and ‘People’ another great bass driven track , both having a good John Bush era Anthrax flavour to them, ‘Sociopath’ and the other duo of tracks take Electric Ministry to a much higher level.
One of the strong positives about Electric Ministry is its strength in bringing the hard rock and metal elements together to appeal to both set of fans. Possibly tracks like ‘The Ballad Of Rock And Roll’ and ‘Glitter Girl’ might not work for those not into the hard rock sound particularly but with eight other great tracks that surely will it is not an issue and with the great rock flavourings, vocals and guitar sounds on the heavier riff laden songs pleasing traditional rock fans this is a all win album for all.
Electric Ministry has the quality hand of Bill Metoyer guiding it and it is hard to imagine anyone anywhere that could have made it sound any better or have the understanding of what the band wants as well as him. Production is crisp allowing each member to excel and be heard in perfect tandem with each other. DC4 have shown that hard rock does not have to be a replica of what came before and mirror everyone else currently and with Electric Ministry given essential listening for many other rock favouring ears.
http://www.dc4rocks.com

http://www.metalblade.com/dc4

RingMaster 23/07/2011

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