heavy metal

Where Cradle of Filth has a reputation as a band given to theatrical presentations and the occasional flight of fancy, guitarist Paul Allender is a man who speaks much in the same way he plays; straightforward, without wandering decoration and totally unique to him. As Cradle of Filth gets ready to spring their new album "The Manticore and Other Horrors" on the world, Allender and I sat down for the second time to discuss the album, the band's history, the martial arts, and a small army of odds and ends. It was at all points an entertaining and enlightening conversation about the man and his music.

It seems almost impossible to think about The Sword’s “Apocryphon” without also thinking of their mammoth concept album “Warp Riders.” That record was nothing short of a modern masterpiece, masterfully blending blues-soaked doom riffs with the fiery grit of heavy metal, the end result a symphony of might and magic and science fiction. Fair or not, “Apocryphon” will be judged against “Warp Riders,” as the latter album was the exclamation point on The Sword’s rise through the ranks of metal.

Not so long ago on these very pages, I remember thinking that Sister Sin’s “True Sound of the Underground” was far too calculating for its own good, attempting to capitalize on the broad and easy target of teenage angst without really offering a solution or an alternative. It was a highly marketable album, but one that failed resonate for anyone of college age or greater.

Dark, cynical roadhouses lke Bogie’s in Albany, New York have been and continue to be the proving grounds or metal. It is here that the crowds deem bands worthy, encouraging their heroes with raised glasses of ale while passing judgment on inferior act with their austere silence. The lights are low, the die-hards are out, the Sword of Damocles dangles precariously over the musician’s necks.

One of the supposed glories about the old days of being a music fan was taking a trip to the local music store, rifling through piles of albums until you found the one you wanted, and then coming home with your new acquisition and letting yourself be encapsulated by the physical experience. Holding an album in your hands is different than clicking a download button, seeing the stacks of records on a shelf isn't the same as looking at a playlist, nor is nostalgia a replacement for the fact that reality has changed.

Geoff Tate's second solo album arrives at a time that long seemed impossible. The erstwhile leader of Queensrÿche, his voice was more than synonymous with the band's legacy. To think of Queensrÿche without Tate was absurd, because no band could survive losing not only its public face, but also the member most responsible for shaping the trajectory of their career. To lose Tate, it would be assumed, would be to commit career suicide. And yet, as we have seen countless times before, life doesn't follow along with what common sense would dictate.

Witchcraft is a band borne from obscurity that has worked diligently to popularize the musical principles they idolize. Always evolving and forever toiling, Witchcraft has put their nose to the grindstone to bring to the world a nearly lost art; atmospheric, doom-influenced rock in the style of the late seventies and early eighties. We sat down bassist Ola Henriksson to talk about the band, where they've been and how they got there.

The history of heavy metal has seen bands rise from all corners of the earth, but when the numbers are crunched, the majority of bands who have achieved a degree of notoriety come from a select few regions. It all started in England, then spread to America, Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Between them, they have amassed the most numerous and most influential metal bands we have ever seen. There are countries outside of those cornerstones that have made an impact on metal, but each time a band comes from somewhere else, it's almost viewed as an accident.

There's always a drip of anticipation when putting on a record from a legendary band, even when you have no personal history with them. My Dying Bride had never entered my radar, so even though I knew of their legacy in establishing doom as we know it, my take on the album is with fresh ears. Anytime I put on an album by a band with such a pedigree, there's an understanding in the subconscious of my mind that what I'm hearing is not yet another average record.

It was, as Billy Joel famously sang, a pretty good crowd for a Saturday. Worcester, Massachusetts was enjoying the throes of the Rock and Shock Festival, a multi day event that had come down to this: Legacy of Disorder, Cancer Bats, DevilDriver and naturally, GWAR. Who else would be appropriate for such an occasion but those undisputed lords of shock and awe?