Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Happy Headbanger's Predictions for Heavy Metal Madness 2012.

Post #176
With the bonus round underway, it's time for me to pontificate about the Heavy Metal Madness 2012 tournament. This contest will be the subject for my reader's polls throughout 2012, where you can vote for your favorite bands in multiple match-ups each month. Brackets are available to fill out by emailing me at: Entries will be accepted until January 5th, 2012.

After a thorough opinion weighing and debating process among myself and the members of the HMM Selection Committee, we determined the final seeding of the 68 bands included in this tournament. Looking over the different match-ups I see a lot of tough choices. But debating the fine points of what I consider would make one band better than another, I went through and made my choices. My result for the Final Four came out to be: SLAYER, BLACK SABBATH, TOOL, and GREEN DAY. The bands I had to eliminate to get down to those four were often difficult to pick against. Still I found it to be a fun process, and now my curiosity is peaked to see how this will play out with voting open to the vast population on the internet!

Considering the infinite ways this tournament can play out, I'm going to venture some guesses of other bands I find likely to win this tournament. I'll start in the green bracket, with what could be one of the toughest picks in my opinion: Ramones vs. Misfits. Provided they both advance to the second round, this is one decision any punk rock fan would dread. How do you make the call between these two legendary bands for this genre? In my own prediction, I picked Ramones, but in all honesty, I can see either of these bands making the Final Four.

In the blue bracket, though I picked Slayer to emerge in the Final Four, I cannot rule out the possibility of several other bands in this group that I rank among my personal favorites: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Megadeth and, of course, Metallica. Part of me is hoping to see a Megadeth vs. Metallica match in the Elite Eight. A tough choice that would be, indeed! Time will tell if we get that opportunity. Not to be overlooked, I might look at Ronnnie James Dio as a dark horse to come out of this group. His passing away from stomach cancer in May of 2010 has elevated him in the subconscious minds of many fans of metal. His contributions over the years through the several bands he sang in are being dusted off and played again by many people who hadn't listened to them in years. Will this nostalgia be enough to tip some scales in his favor in this tournament? We shall see!

For the purple bracket, it's almost not fair to see how some of the bands matched up even as early as the 1st round! How do you choose between KISS and Alice Cooper, or Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix?!? Match-ups like these were simply inevitable when you're trying to design a tournament for the best rock/metal band of all time. As a result, this bracket is one that, in my eyes, is totally up for grabs. I foresee many of the match-ups in this bracket coming down to the last day of voting, and being decided by small margins. It would take a band beyond the #10 seed winning this block before I will be surprised!

Lastly, looking at the black bracket, where some of the more extreme bands are found, I can again see many different ways this tournament might play out. In the end it may simply depend on which fan base has more followers of this blog: metalcore, death metal, or modern power and prog? These sub-genres are pretty diverse when you think about it. When you think of mainstream success, the bands with more melodic elements are clear favorites. When you think of devoted, cult-followings, then maybe the death metal bands will have the unseen advantage. A couple telling match-ups, should they happen to meet, could be System of a Down vs. Tool, and Avenged Sevenfold vs Disturbed. Those are the four bands I view as favorites to come out of the black bracket. But in the end, it will be up to the readers to decide!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Post # 175
The past year has been a busy one for the Happy Headbanger. It has been filled with memorable shows, many great new albums from heavy metal artists, a couple interviews with some up-and-coming bands, and plenty of reviews decided by reader's poll results. I thank all of you who have voted in the polls over the past year, but I'd especially like to thank one poll-winner in particular: DEADMANSWAKE.

One year ago, DMW set a Heavy Metal 107 record for most votes received in a reader's poll. Together with Inn Cinema, Sutured Psyche, and the other contestants from last year's Independent Bands Reader's Poll, they helped bring in over 1100 total votes over a 45-day polling window (over 550 of those votes going to DEADMANSWAKE)! This unprecedented response was what prompted me to create the 'Honorary Vice President' spot on this blog, and ultimately commit to doing more for the Independent Band-of-the-Year than one full-length review.

I had the pleasure of seeing them play live twice over the course of the calendar year, and from the first time I saw them (on January 8th) at the Will Rock for Rescues show, to the more recent Dame-Nation 2011 show on July 29th, they have notably become a more cohesive band. I should point out that at the time they won the reader's poll, they were without a full-time drummer, and had been playing previous shows using session drummers. The January 8th show was their first performance with their new drummer, Brandon Schabell. Though he seemed a bit nervous, he pulled the band through that show just fine. By the time Dame-Nation 2011 came around it was obvious he had gelled with the band, and he seemed so much more relaxed and confident. Their performance that day was all the better!

With that perspective, I look back at 2011 as a year of revitalization for DEADMANSWAKE. Before their VP spot is handed over to the new Independent Band-of-the-Year, I will take a moment here to ask them all a few questions about the past year, their current and future plans, and some general questions about themselves.

Happy Headbanger-How would you summarize 2011 for DEADMANSWAKE?

JP Soule-Mostly satisfying. I would've liked to do some actual touring, but time and money did not allow. No big deal. There's always next year.

Kryssie Ridolfi-2011 was a pretty decent year for us. We started playing out with Brandon right at the beginning of January, so that was obviously life-altering. We've shared the stage with a few nationals this year AND got to play Dame-Nation for the third time in a row. All that compiled with the work we've been doing on two upcoming releases, I'd say we've been pretty productive this year. I'm proud of us.

Troll-2011 for DEADMANSWAKE is mostly about getting back into shape. Dusting off the cobwebs, bursting into the spring air with vigor and confidence. We wanted to get back to kicking ass, melting faces, and making everyone extremely uncomfortable with our on-stage banter. Back to form, really.

Josh Barker-2011 was a transitional time for DMW as we solidified our lineup with our new drummer and new attitude towards performing. We basically adopted a "Kick every show in the balls, no matter what" attitude, and it really ended up in some memorable performances for us. We also have written more new material this year than in my two previous years in this band, so that is exciting to be progressing forward to our new album.

Brandon Schabell-2011 has been the entirety of my DEADMANSWAKE career, but I've had a blast. I personally feel that we've been making a lot of headway with the material we've been writing. We're growing as a band, and that means 2012 will be even better.

HH-What has been your favorite performance of 2011?
JPS-That's a tough one. Our set opening for In This Moment at Penny Road was pretty awesome. We were on our game and the crowd was really into us. Both of our Reggie's shows were epic, too; Mosh For Cancer and DameNation 2011. Both great sets with great crowds.
KR-Our show opening the Hell Hath No Fury Tour (In This Moment, Straight Line Stitch, etc) back in May was a complete blast. People came in from out-of-state to see us and ITM share the stage again, and Blake was cool enough to rock our shirt during their set. It was a great night and the crowd was awesome.
Dame-Nation 3 has the solid runner-up spot, though!
T-Performance, or gig. I mean there really is a difference. Overall best experience is probably Dame-Nation, as usual. It's always a great time, great lineup, our friends from the city actually show up ;) and we don't want to disappoint anyone, especially ourselves. We try our damnedest at every gig, but that show always brings out the best in all of us. Especially when the crowd is amped to be there. We definitely have the most fun when we're given that energy from the room. It friggin' snowballs, and next thing you know, everyone is sticky and needs a cigarette and a shower.
JB- My favorite performance of the year was probably Dame-Nation, as it was a good showcase of us at our peak. The crowd was energetic, the vibe onstage was fun, and the rest of the show featured some awesome bands. We made a lot of new friends at that show, as well as having a blast ourselves, which is really what this is all about.
BS-My favorite performance so far has without question been Dame-Nation 2011. We turned the technical issues on stage into our unique brand of "shit happens, roll with it" sort of humor. I feel as though we played that show more for ourselves than for anyone else, and that's what music is really about; creating something you enjoy. If other people like it, great. If they don't... well then you won't see them at the next show and that's okay too.

HH-What can fans expect from DMW in 2012 both in terms of shows and your next recording project?
JPS-There's a cover EP in the works that we're doing for fun and to test out Brandon's recording skills. We're also writing for album #2. I'm thinking our next album will be both more melodic and hook oriented AND heavier and more progressive. I'm really excited about what we've written so far.
KR-HITTING THE ROAD. Mark my words. We've been forced to put it off for years because of our revolving-door band member issues, but now that we're solidified and stronger than ever, it's time. 2012 will see DMW traveling and living on gas-station food. I can't wait. :o) Our cover EP and album number two are currently in the works, and we'll start production on those in 2012. No concrete release dates yet, but it'll be worth the wait for sure.
T-We're currently rehearsing for a cover EP. Something fun for ourselves, and our fans. Maybe for some special online releases and specials for the hardcore fans. We have no set schedule, just sort of an ASAP, when we're ready kind of thing.
Writing is ongoing for the next album, but we're not putting a deadline on that either. We're letting the process flow organically rather than trying to try and shit out less than our best effort. Trying to be a bit smart and stretch our own limitations, abilities, and comfort zones. Growth is the only reason worth being an artist. We're certainly not going to phone it in.
JB-In 2012, we're aiming to release our cover EP and play some of those songs at shows. We're working on our next album, and will probably be debuting some new material at some point to test the waters, but we're not ready to commit to a date on album number two just yet. But 2012 will see new material in our shows, and hopefully some more shows with national acts and at bigger venues. We aim big every year, so we plan on getting out there as much as we can and kicking ass.
BS-We're about halfway done with the writing process for our next album. I'm especially excited about the new project since its going to be the first DMW album that I will be playing on. Some of the new songs we've been working on have definitely pushed us creatively. I'm optimistic about 2012, although I can't say for sure when the album will be released or what shows will be lined up. All I can say for sure is that it's going to be a blast as always.

HH-Regarding 'Album Number 2', every time I've seen one of your shows, you've played 'Screaming In Silence', and of all your original songs not on It Comes to This, that is my clear-cut favorite. Can you confirm yet if that song is going to make its way onto 'Album Number 2'?
JPS-As far as I know, we do indeed plan to put "Screaming" on the next record. People seem to like it and it'd be nice to give it the full studio treatment.

HH-From the couple shows of yours that I did attend, it seems you are pretty tight with several other bands on the Chicago local scene. Is there a strong sense of camaraderie among some of the bands?
JPS-Oh, for sure. There are some egos and attitudes out there, but we do our best to be cool with everyone. We're all doing what we do for the same reason. Bad attitudes can take a walk.
KR-Yes and no. I find that generally speaking, there is a camaraderie, but every now and again, you run across those bands that don't want anything to do with you. Honestly, it doesn't break my heart. I'd rather be close to other bands and give everyone a leg-up when they need it than live by the "every man for himself" mentality. Most of the bands we've worked with feel the same way, so we're in extremely good company. The bands that don't? Fuck 'em. This is all about having fun for us, when you boil everything else away. I love all the amazing people I've met through the Chicago music scene. :o)
T-Definitely so. I think it mostly comes from mutual respect. You see other Cats out there giving it their all, and you have to respect that. We're all in this together. I personally gravitate to bands I like, sure, we all do, but I know a lot of people who I talk to and support because they've just got it. There's a small but dedicated group of people from all over the area that spend almost every weekend going to see and supporting other bands. I certainly try, but don't always have the time or energy working 6 days a week.
JB-There is a strong camaraderie among the local bands we play with. We all know how hard the music scene is, especially in Chicago, and we try to watch out for each other and help each other out when we can. While our sound is hard to match with other bands, we do enjoy playing with a lot of local metal and hard rock acts for the sake of the people in them. We also try to be supportive and go to their shows if we're not playing that night. Since the music business is all about connections, we try to stay connected with as many people as possible, and we try to promote local acts as well though our own promotions.
BS-I would definitely say so. The music scene (not just in Chicago) is facing some really hard times right now. A majority of people aren't going to shows anymore and even fewer are buying albums. The bands that do it for the money are gone, leaving only the bands that actually enjoy playing music for people. We stick together because we know the hardships facing the music industry. It's not about who draws the most to a show or who sells the most albums. It's about having fun. When bands can have fun on stage, they will earn my respect.

HH-Is there a chance this will translate into collaborations or guest appearances?
BS-I'll leave that one for JP and Kryssie.
JPS-There are a few things in the works. Wait and see... :)
T-I think Kryssie might have something going on, but you'd have to ask her. Anything I've been involved with is either from past bands or people I've met from other bands. Some fill-in stuff here, some recording there, or maybe doing a small side project or reunion thing for the fun of it. I also did some background gang-vocals for Dysfunctional Mariachi. They've long been friends and jammed with several of the guys in other old bands. I went to the studio for DMW business and ended up drinking with them all day while they worked in the studio. That's always fun!
KR-It has in the past, and I'm sure it will in the future. Dane, from Sins of a Nation, and I have been DYING to share the stage. So at the very least, making that duet happen is at the top of my list. :o)
JB-We've discussed collaborations and guest appearances with several of the local bands. A few musicians and myself have discussed covering a Christmas song sometime this winter, though that has not gone beyond discussion at this point. We're always open to suggestions and ideas, as we enjoy collaborating with our friends in the local scene. In fact, you can find video of us stumbling through Metallica's 'Creeping Death' with our buddies from Desolate Sky at our CD release show back in March of 2010.

HH-That is a pretty cool video of you guys paying tribute to Metallica. I recall you did the same thing at the Will Rock for Rescues show.

HH-Do you have any suggestions for Heavy Metal 107 for content or format?

JPS-More pictures of ME!!! Kidding... You run a good site. My only suggestion, I guess, would maybe be to add a gear section for the few metalheads who just have to know what their favorite musicians are playing on stage and in the studio. I'd read it!
KR-Nah, keep doing what you're doing. I'm no good at this kind of stuff! Hahaha!

T-More? I don't know. But I am an information sponge. The more, the better, is all I can think of?
JB-I really don't have any suggestions as to the forum content or layout, as I've never really had a problem navigating it or finding content on it. I'm not much of a blogger myself, so I'm not the best to consult on formatting. I do enjoy the content and I've discovered a few acts that I probably would not have, thanks to some of your reviews and posts.

HH-Thanks, guys. I really appreciate your readership. I'm glad to hear you find the content informative and enjoyable, and especially when readers discover some new band, or a new song, or an obscure tidbit that they enjoy, then I consider it a success. Those are the reasons I wanted to write this blog to begin with!

HH-Besides the Dame-Nation 2011 review, do you have a favorite blog-post from 2011?
JPS-Eek! That's hard, man! I decline to answer on the grounds that I'm tired and can't think of one off the top of my head...
KR- I actually really dug the September 11th blog. That event was this generation's Kennedy assassination, and it's always interesting to me to get a window into everyone's brain concerning that day.
T-Err, no? I guess is the honest answer. Sorry... (scared face)
JB-As strange as it may sound, I did enjoy your blog post about the Beatles a while back (I don't remember the month, I was just browsing your blog randomly one day) and how they were still influential and still have a dramatic impact on music almost 50 years later. John Lennon has always been a huge influence on me as a musician, and it was good to see the Beatles mentioned on a metal blog. Their influence is felt everywhere, regardless of how much some people want to deny it, and their music will always stand the test of time.

HH-Who is your favorite band?
JPS-Iron Maiden

KR-Rude. How can you ask me to choose just one?! Alkaline Trio, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses... I dunno. This isn't fair. Music is my life. I can't narrow it down!
T-Now that's not fair. That's always changing, and anyone who obsesses about any one band that much is a loony. I do have 'Slayer' carved into my arm from when I was thirteen...I've been kinda stuck on Obscura the last few months, but am saddened by Thesseling leaving. He honestly was what drew me into them. I am a sucker for fretless bass, especially shredding on some amazing technical death metal.
JB-I do not have a favorite band, so instead I shall name my top four: Metallica, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles.
BS-Top 3 in no particular order: Tool, Dream Theater, Darkest Hour

HH-Usually I say Kiss, but I love so many metal bands... just read this blog, lol, I have hundreds of favorites!

HH-What is your favorite movie?
JPS-The original Jaws, no question.
KR-This varies from day to day, but since I have an over-300-piece collection of Nightmare on Elm Street memorabilia, we'll go with that. ;o)

T-I always say Office Space, and that always sounds right in my head, so I'm sticking to my guns.

JB-My favorite movie is The Lion King.
BS-"Baseketball". No question about that one.

HH-Usually I go with a good psychological thriller. Memento, and Se7en are always near the top of my list...

HH-What is your favorite book?
JPS-The entire Necroscope series by Brian Lumley.
KR-The Outsiders has been one of my favorites since forever... and Catcher in the Rye... I've also read The Princess Bride probably ten times at least... I can't choose!
T-I don't get a lot of time to read books. Mostly stuff online. World news and astronomy mostly. The last great thing I read that still stays with me is the entire Dark Tower series from Stephen King. Even if it was like 10 years ago, still lodged in my brain as one of the most awesome things I've read. I want to re-read it again sometime. I recently read the Slash and Mustaine books and enjoyed them. I've been meaning to pick up Rudy Sarzo's "Off the Rails".
JB-My favorite book is a tie between Phantom of the Opera and The Pushcart War.
BS-My little black book.

HH-You guys have a lot of good titles in there, but I must commend Troll on the mention of The Dark Tower series. That's ALWAYS near the top of my list... I'll go ahead and call it my favorite today! Also love The Stand by King. I should re-read the Dark Tower series soon myself...

HH-(For Troll) What is your favorite kind of cheese?
T-As usual, subjective. Entirely dependent on context. On soft pretzels? Cabot makes this amazing Habanero Cheddar. They just came out with a cheap version, but if you can find the good one in the deli section, it's worth the extra price.

On nachos? A blend of cheddar and pepper jack, maybe some colby jack and Velveeta.

Quesadillas? Pepper jack and colby jack, all the way. Fry it with some butter in a pan or skillet...

American cheese with Ritz Crackers (No substitutions!)

I'm not much of a funky cheese kinda guy, I'm very picky with flavors and textures so... But I did once have a great beer and cheese pairing with New Holland brewing that was eye opening. I even tried some of the funky veiny cheeses. I didn't vomit, amazingly.

JPS-Smoked Gouda. Troll's not the only one who loves cheese, y'know...
JB-I'm not Troll, but my favorite cheese is Mozzarella. On Everything.

HH-Every time I've seen you guys, you always seem to be having a lot of fun. What do you do when you hang out together?
JPS-Lots of bonfires, Mario Kart Wii and Mario Party 8. There's also a lot of snooty craft beer consumption. Troll's turned me into a beer snob.
KR-Ha! We do all sorts of dumb things. Whether we're brewing beer and having french-fry parties at Troll's place, screaming at the TV playing Mario Party at my place, or being inappropriate and embarrassing at Steak 'n' Shake at 2am, we're almost always together. We're all best friends, family, and accomplices. :o)
T-I know the gang spends a lot of time playing Mario Party and Kart. I work too damned much and often have to opt out. However, we enjoy thrifting and being goons around the fire and yes, playing video games. And making a million pop culture references to make each other laugh. Amazingly we don't party or drink together really, we all drink alone ;) That and pick on Brandon for being a Douchebag.
JB-When we hang out, I'm usually beating Kryssie at video games, bowling and air hockey, and she's usually whipping my ass at the card game Egyptian Ratscrew. We're extremely competitive, so we have to be better than each other at everything. We also hang out at Steak N Shake, have pretty awesome bonfires, and enjoy random movie nights together. We try to get out to shows and support other local bands as much as possible, but conflicting work schedules sometimes make that difficult. We have a blast just being together as a group in general, and you could drop us all in any situation/context and laughs will ensue for sure.
BS-Bi-weekly trips to Steak 'n' Shake are an integral part of any band. Hanging out usually consists of making fun of me for being a douchebag, making fun of JP for being 86 years old, making fun of Kryssie for being.... "Italian", making fun of Josh for his obsession with pork, and making fun of Dan for hating everything. Oh and Mario Party.

HH-Who's Dan? I gather from the process of elimination that 'Dan' is Troll's real name? Anyway, you all sound like a fun bunch of folks to hang around with!

HH-Lastly; who do pick for the Final Four of Heavy Metal Madness 2012?
JPS-Oh, man, I don't know! I'll go with Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Amon Amarth, and Rob Zombie.
T-Since I just saw the list of criminally left out bands, I want to say Mastadon and Skid Row! I say: King Diamond, Led Zeppelin, Black Flag, and Death (clockwise).
BS-Dream Theater, Led Zeppelin, Tool, and Stone Temple Pilots.

HH-I have my personal final four as: Slayer, Black Sabbath, Green Day, and Tool... With Slayer winning the whole thing, but the only way to know for sure, is to follow the blog, and vote in the monthly polls yourselves! Thanks again to DEADMANSWAKE for taking the time to do this interview, and especially for being an excellent 'Honorary Vice President' for Heavy Metal 107 in 2011!

T-Thanks for all the support Joel. It means the world to us that anyone would take the time to give us any sort of attention. We're needy! No, really, it is awesome. You provide a great resource and spread the word to a lot of unrecognized talent in this area. Keep up the good work!

To keep up-to-date on DEADMANSWAKE, follow them on their website and social networks!
or to book them, send a message to:

And as always, Happy Headbanging!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Congratulations, Mortal Wrath!

Post #174  [Poll Winner: Independent Band 2011]
 Congratulations to Mortal Wrath from Romney, West Virginia on winning this year's Favorite Independent Band reader's poll! Following the tradition established last year, Mortal Wrath will soon enjoy a side-bar link to their main website for 1 year, a full-length review, and promotional blog posts ahead of every show they play throughout the year. The Happy Headbanger is honored to have them featured on this blog.

This year's Independent Bands contest was a huge draw for votes, similar to the last 2 years' polls. Though Mortal Wrath jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang onto that lead throughout the contest, there were a couple bands who gave them a run for the money. Ideal Zero were knocking at the door for a while, and later, Sins of a Nation got into the mix as well. Those bands finished 2nd and 3rd respectively  but couldn't overtake the lead before the poll closed.

Watch for that review of Mortal Wrath soon, as well as their web link and show announcements.
Until then, happy headbanging to all!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pearl Jam-Ten

Post # 173 [Poll Winner: Favorite Pearl Jam Album of the 90's]
It is perhaps a little overdue that I finally review some Pearl Jam on this blog. Though there were polling opportunities before, they never managed to come out on top (they failed to win the Favorite Grunge-Band poll, and Favorite Debut Album poll.) Over the 2nd half of 2011, I decided to focus on the 90's with my reader's polls, and I finally made my way to Pearl Jam. They have had the most staying power of all the grunge-era bands, and deserve some attention for it.

It may have been expected that Ten would win favorite album of the 90's, but it is also poetic, as it celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. This album was a major cornerstone for the entire Grunge genre. Ten is well known for the several smash hits it includes: 'Even Flow', 'Alive', 'Black', and 'Jeremy'. Beyond those songs is a top-notch rock album from one of the biggest rock bands to emerge during the 90's.

Through a persistent commitment to follow their own agenda, and to write music from the heart and not follow trends, or bow to the will of producers or critics, Pearl Jam have established a very loyal and devoted following. Many of these fans first developed this obsession with Ten. This album brought a certain appeal to the hard-rock music scene of the early 90's. By the time 'Jeremy', the album's 3rd single, was released people were catching on. Along with their contemporaries Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden; Pearl Jam were offering a different sound, and new take on angst-driven hard rock. Leagues of new fans, who had perhaps grown tired of the pop-driven Hair-Metal scene, flocked to this new 'alternative' scene, and gave the grunge movement its primary fan-base.

I invite you to go back to your CD archives, dust of your scuffed-up copy of Ten, and give it another listen...
The singles you have probably heard several times over, unless you've lived in a cave for the last 20 years...
-Even Flow

My other recommended tracks from this genre-defining masterpiece:
-Once (Perhaps the best of several overlooked tracks on this album)

-Release (The hidden track at the end, 'Master/Slave', fades out, and if you have your player on repeat, picks up again as the intro of 'Once', bringing Ten full circle.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Anthrax-Worship Music

POST # 172

With what may be the longest-awaited album from any of the Big-Four bands of thrash metal, Anthrax display a fine return-to-form effort on their latest: Worship Music. This album sees the in-studio return of Joey Belladonna, who had not sung lead vocals on an Anthrax album since 1990's Persistance of Time! It is also the first Anthrax album of any kind since 2004's The Greater of Two Evils, the studio album that featured John Bush vocals on fan-picked Belladonna-era classics; and the first album of new material since 2003's We've Come For You All. In any case, it's been a long wait for new music from Anthrax!

In hindsight, the '05 reunion seems to have been the starting point of what turned into a huge identity crisis for Anthrax at the lead singer spot. This was a brief reunion with Joey Belladonna (and guitarist Dan Spitz) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their classic album, Among the Living. After that tour, the band had several attempts to fill the lead-singer spot: Dan Nelson in '07, John Bush in '09. All along the way, the band was working on new material, and with each new singer, new issues were brought up, and the delays for the new album began to mount.

Eventually it would be Belladonna again coming into the fold to give a voice to the band's new material. Joey completing the band's lineup came not a moment too soon, as the first ever performance of the Big Four was announced. Anthrax joined Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica for a series of Sonisphere Festival shows, and thrash metal fans world-wide have been treated to this historic event through its release on DVD.

With Joey on the mic for Worship Music, it really feels like a classic, 80's-era Anthrax album. The album is packed with riffs that sound like instant classics. Joey's voice hasn't lost anything over the years, if anything it sounds better than ever. Heavy mid-tempo riffs, great solos from Rob Caggiano, and a few clean-melodic passages make this a truly memorable album.

In my opinion, the first few tracks on this album are the best, though the whole album is worth hearing.
-Earth On Hell (A somewhat socially conscious track depicting several current events in a brutal light)
-The Devil You Know (A great thrashing song!)
-Fight 'Em Til You Can't (This one goes great with a round of Silent Hill, or Resident Evil- describing battles with zombies!)
-I'm Alive (My TOP pick from this album. Clean guitar intro builds to a heavy riff with tons of groove!)
-In The End (This one has a string-quartet intro. Almost reminds me of Apocalyptica, then it delivers more great thrash riffs)
-Judas Priest (I had to recommend this, simply for the lyrical references to Judas Priest!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DEADMANSWAKE- 2 Shows This Week!!

Post #171
Attention Heavy Metal 107 readers!
DEADMANSWAKE are playing TWO SHOWS this week!! Thursday (TODAY) they are opening for Brand New Sin at the Underground Lounge at 952 W Newport in Chicago, and THIS SATURDAY, November 12th, at MOJOES in Joliet, IL supporting Cynic, Scale the Summit, and Three.

DEADMANSWAKE have been the independent band-of-the-year for 2011, and the current poll of independent bands will decide their successor. This may be the last show announcement for them as Honorary Vice President of this blog, so if you're free on either of these evenings, get out and check them out! They are sure to deliver superb performances of their classic and catchy heavy metal.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Post #170
Here's a little update for those of you participating in (or interested in participating in) the Heavy Metal Madness 2012 competition. I have already mentioned that I will have prizes to give away to the top-scoring brackets that I receive by the January 5th deadline. However, I have recently confirmed that Rock America will be providing a $20 GIFT CARD that will be included in the Grand Prize Package!

If you want to be a part of this unique contest and opinion poll of rock bands, please email me at, or stop by the Vernon Hills, IL location for Rock America where brackets are available to fill out on the spot!

The Happy Headbanger is very grateful for this sponsorship, and as thanks I will be sharing various products available at Rock America throughout this competition. Today, I will start by sharing some items that are on my personal wish list, featuring the four #1 seeds from the Heavy Metal Madness 2012 bracket. Simply click the image if you are interested in purchasing these items:

Metallica (#1 seed in the Classic Metal/Thrash bracket)

Black Sabbath (#1 seed in the Classic Rock/Hard Rock/Hair Metal bracket)

Tool (#1 seed in the Metalcore/Death/Power Metal bracket)

Nirvana (#1 seed in the Alternative/Grunge/Punk Rock bracket)

Simply click to order!
Enjoy shopping online at
Again, thank you for participating in HEAVY METAL MADNESS!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Warrant-Cherry Pie

Post #169  [Poll winner: Favorite Warrant album '89-96]

The theme for polls this past summer and fall has been the 90's. While most of these polls have focused on the trend the rose in popularity during that decade-Grunge, this post allows me to focus on one of the trends that faded during the 90's: Hair Metal. Within the Hair Metal scene, Warrant were already late-comers, with their debut album being released in January '89. By '93 the Hair bands were, by and large, struggling to maintain their platinum-selling status.

With the recent passing of Jani Lane, the founding front-man of Hair-Metal legends Warrant, I took the time to reminisce on some of my favorite tracks in post # 156 on August 19th. Soon after, I posted the poll asking your opinion for favorite Warrant album. The resounding answer was Cherry Pie.

Cherry Pie, Warrant's second release, may have had perfect timing, hitting the charts in 1990. The album is still well known for its title-track, a song that has been typified as stereotypical, cliche Hair Metal. Lyrically the  song is virtually 100% innuendo, but the heavy, pop-rock tune has a catchy chorus that is difficult to forget. If you take the time to look past this over-inflated, trade-mark title track, you will discover the true greatness of this album. The other singles it produced; 'I Saw Red', 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', and 'Blind Faith' each give more merit to this album's solid songwriting.

'Uncle Tom's Cabin' in particular shows the versatile side of Warrant. Beginning with an acoustic intro, adding a banjo to the melody, and changing tone a few times throughout as the guitars flip between electric and acoustic, this song gives you just about everything Warrant is capable of. However, what truly makes this song memorable is the narrative style of the lyrics. The song tells the story of a corrupt sheriff and deputy who dispose of a dead body in a swamp. The narrator, who observes the event along with 'Uncle Tom', portrays the weight of this circumstance quite well.

If you want to rediscover Warrant's Cherry Pie album, here are my top recommended songs:
-Cherry Pie
-Uncle Tom's Cabin
-Sure Feels Good to Me
-Mr. Rainmaker
-Train, Train (Blackfoot cover)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Independent Band Reader's Poll 2011

Post #168: 2011 Independent Band Reader's Poll Contestants
Hello happy headbangers! It is time once again for the most anticipated reader's poll event of the year here at Heavy Metal 107: the annual INDEPENDENT BANDS READER'S POLL! This fall marks the 3rd annual running of this polling competition. Whichever band pulls in the most votes over a 35-45 day window will get a full review posted on the blog shortly after the poll closes, a link to their main website on the blog's side-bar for 1 year as 'Honorary Vice President', and brief promo posts announcing any upcoming shows they schedule during that year.

Without a doubt, this is the best opportunity to discover, new, interesting, and diverse independent bands on this blog. I have always tried to select a variety of bands that show different sides of rock and metal music so that there would be at least one band for each reader's unique tastes. This year, I think I've collected the most diverse group of seven bands yet. Here they are for your consideration:

The Bob Clymers
"A two-piece duo specializing in the dirtiest of rock." From late 60's acid-rock legends like Hendrix and Joplin, to the 90's grunge movement, some of this band's influences are apparent when you hear their music. Wherever they draw inspiration from, they compose songs that truly hit home with a raw, untamed sound and pure emotion. Check out these songs at the links below:
'Grain of Sand'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
On Reverbnation:!/thebobclymers

Sins of a Nation
Nominated by last year's winner, Deadmanswake, Sins Of A Nation blend thrash and classic British-style metal in such a way that one can't help but bang their head to it. Their vocalist has an uncanny ability to channel the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy, and Phil Anselmo, depending on what the song calls for. You gotta hear these guys!
'Bow Down'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
On Reverbnation:

Penguins With Shotguns
From Kenosha, Wisconsin, a heavy rock band with tons of attitude... Penguins With Shotguns can win you over with catchy hard rock hooks in one song, then step it up with a furious hardcore edge on the next. They, too, were nominated by a previous winner: Losing Scarlet, who won the first ever Independent Bands poll on this blog. This band has some versatility, so be sure to check out more than one of the following:
'Said and Done'
'Lethal Remedy'
'Wake Up Screaming'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
On Reverbnation:

Ideal Zero
A female-fronted alternative rock band from the Orlando, Florida area, Ideal Zero are the product of a diverse background of musical inspiration. Heavy guitars, overlaid with keyboards, and a soft, melodic female vocal delivery make for a quality headbanger's listening experience. Check out these songs:
'Beneath The Sun'
'My Road'
'Free Again'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
On Reverbnation:

Mortal Wrath
(Progressive/Power Metal)
Hailing from Romney, West Virginia, Mortal Wrath draw their musical inspiration from nature, geometry, world history, and politics. Delivering their music as a blend of classic heavy metal and progressive rock, they sometimes sound like they're channeling early Queensryche, or European power metal. For a more cerebral listening experience, check out their tunes:
'The Single Projection'
'Law Under Grace'
'Morningstar Crusade'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
Band's Main Website:

(Gothic Metal/Progressive)
Sage 4 are another of Chicago's female-fronted metal bands that are on the rise.Their style of Gothic metal fuses influences from the heavy side of mid-90's grunge with a more traditional, and sometimes progressive, melodic metal. Their first release was packed with creative and technical musicianship, and they're working on their second. For a taste of what they have to offer check out these tunes:
'Out of Body'
'Steal My Thunder'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
Band's Main Website:

(Speed-Black Metal/Thrash)
Eliminator are the hot new underground metal band from Edison, New Jersey. Initially envisioned as a blend of speed metal and black metal, they have quickly expanded their horizons to incorporate some melodic, blues/R and B elements into their musical pallet, resulting in the most unique extreme metal band I've heard in years. Check out:
'No Answers'
'Near Dark'
'Breaking The Wheel'

On Myspace:
On Facebook:
On Reverbnation:

Please vote for your favorite band in the monthly reader's poll!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Thanks to the Heavy Metal Madness 2012 Selection Committee

Post #167
Selecting the bands that are included in the Heavy Metal Madness 2012 tournament was not as simple as you might think. For this daunting task I actually enlisted a selection committee of my close friends with a broad appreciation of hard rock and heavy metal music to assist me. All of their input has helped make this contest a more accurate representation of the state of heavy metal music today. Although 68 bands seems like a lot, there were many many more that many of us considered that didn't make the cut.

In no particular order, the bands that are not on the final bracket, but deserve an honorable mention: Iced Earth, Skid Row, Lamb of God, Gwar, Machine Head, Ratt, Immortal, Amorphis, Venom, Poison, Behemoth, Mastadon, Overkill, Pink Floyd, Emperor, Staind, Municipal Waste, Beatles, Dimmu Borgir, Offspring, Metal Church, Heathen, Blind Guardian, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Nile, Mudvayne, Decapitated, Mushroomhead, Therion, In Flames, Otep, Primus, Rancid, Holy Terror, Artillery, Dokken, Journey, Kalmah, Bloodbath, Cannibal Corpse, At the Gates, Shinedown, My Chemical Romance, Nevermore, Sodom, Sacred Reich, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tesla, Morbid Angel, Necrophagist, Suffocation, Cradle of Filth, Bathory, Enslaved, Alkaline Trio, Rammstein, Warrant.

My thanks again to the Heavy Metal Madness Selection Committee: Rocky the Rockette, Franthrax, foxymophandlematt, Jeremy, Wolf, and Stygian.

Good luck on filling out your brackets everyone!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Post #166
It's finally here! The OFFICIAL Bracket for Heavy Metal Madness 2012! This contest will play out over the course of 2012 through numerous reader's polls each month here at Heavy Metal 107. The winner in each match-up will be determined ENTIRELY BY YOUR VOTES! The only exception will be in the event of a tie, in which case the higher seed will advance. So keep an eye on this blog on a monthly basis so you don't miss a chance to vote for your favorite bands! Spread the news to your friends by sharing this blog on your social networks, the more votes the better. There will also be a contest, with prizes, for the most accurately predicted brackets. THERE IS NO ENTRY FEE! All you need to do is completely fill out the bracket with the bands you think will advance in each round, and send it back to me by the deadlines below and you're in!

HEAVY METAL MADNESS 2012 Scoring, Rules, and how to submit your bracket:
Scoring: For each correctly predicted match-up, each entry will earn points based on the band's original seed multiplied by the number of the round*. The first round of 64 bands begins in January, runs through May, and will be played out in four 30-35 day polling windows. The second round of 32 bands will be conducted over two 30-35 day polling windows in June and July. The Sweet Sixteen is the 3rd round, Elite Eight is 4th, and the Final Four is the 5th AND FINAL round.

*The only exception to the seed-based scoring is in the 'play-in' round (where the 16th and 17th seeds face-off for the chance to face the #1 seed in each quadrant). A correct prediction of this round will count as 1 point, and will only be used to decide a tie-breaker among entries at the conclusion of Heavy Metal Madness. The play-in round is considered a 'bonus round', and is not required to be eligible for this contest. The play-in bonus round does have an earlier deadline than the official deadline to submit a bracket prediction.

In each poll, in the event of a tie, the higher-seeded band will advance, up until the Final Four. If there is a tie for 1st place in the Final Four, there will be a tie-breaking follow-up poll featuring only the 2 bands that tied for first.

Only the correct winner is needed to earn points for any given round.

There is a bonus of 5 points for each correct band to reach the Final Four, and a bonus of 10 points for correctly predicting the overall champion.

Prizes will be given away to at least the 5 highest-scoring brackets, possibly more depending on the number of entries received by the Heavy Metal Madness deadline. Prizes will consist of a variety of the following items: CDs, DVDs, magazines, posters, or stickers featuring bands from the Heavy Metal Madness bracket. I will ship them to the winners at my own expense.

The deadlines for bracket submissions are:

Play-In Bonus Round Deadline: December 5th, 2011

Official Heavy Metal Madness Deadline: January 5th, 2012

To request an email with an attachment containing the official Heavy Metal Madness 2012 Bracket (Excel spreadsheet), send an email to:
You may also request my mailing address through that email, and I will accept paper-copies of your predictions so long as the envelope is post-marked by the deadlines given above.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or are unclear about any specifics in this competition.

Here is an image of the OFFICIAL bracket:

It can also be found at the bottom of the blog, where it will be updated once the tournament has begun.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The American Carnage Tour (2010), Part II: Testament, Megadeth, & Slayer!

Post # 165
Picking up where I left off from part I of this review (post #146), my new friends and I left the VIP suite as Megadeth bid us farewell as they went backstage to prepare for the show. We were granted early entry to the floor-level and vendors. I made a short detour to get a souvenir tour T-shirt (I chose the Megadeth: RUST IN PEACE 20th Anniversary Tour shirt). Then I entered the arena floor and got right up close to the front barricade. There was one row of people in front of me, and I had a great view of the stage. This was sure to be an awesome show!

Time seemed to drag for a while. I conversed here and there with other fans, and watched the crowd slowly fill in the standing-room-only floor level. But finally the wait paid off: Testament took the stage to deliver their set of killer thrash-metal!

When it comes to thrash metal, everyone probably think of the Big Four first, particularly in the last couple years when they have been performing select shows together for the first time. However if there was a 5th thrash band on the totem-pole when it comes to significance in the genre, it is probably Testament. Their energy, bone-crushing heavy riffs, and seriously fast-paced tempos served to prove that they were right at home with two of the Big Four whom they were opening for.

They opened their set with the intro from their latest album The Formation of Damnation. This album was a true return to form for Testament, and they are helping bring traditional thrash back to prominence in today's metal scene. Inevitably, with the break-neck pace of their music came the break-neck intensity of the mosh-pit. It had erupted about 3 or 4 rows of people behind me, and the people who opted out of moshing crammed more closely together. The physical pressure of being packed so tightly together and close to the front barricade built to an uncomfortable level many times, but I'd be damned if I was going to give up this close spot before I had my chance to see Megadeth this close. So I toughed it out, and managed to hold my own through their set.

Testament delivered a killer set, too! I recognized such classics as 'The New Order' and 'Practice What You Preach' before it was all said and done. My favorite moment, though, had to be during their performance of the title-track 'The Formation of Damnation'. The band paused before the closing thrash segment and gave singer Chuck Billy a chance to direct the crowd into a face-off mosh, and he directed the crowd to spread out to either one side or the other of the stadium floor, then when the music kicked back in, they charged each other with as much of their furious abandon as they could manage! After they finished their set we all had a few minutes to catch our breath and prepare for Megadeth...

Many of us knew they were intending to play the entire Rust In Peace album on this night. I for one, couldn't wait. This has long been my favorite Megadeth album, perhaps my favorite metal album of all time! You can go back and read post #1 if you don't believe how much I praise this album for it's technical, speed-driven riffs. Before long, the band took the stage...

Dave Mustaine, one of the founders of the thrash-metal genre, walked to center stage. Clad in his trademark plain white, light weight shirt and jeans, with his signature flying 'V' Dean guitar, he muttered a quick, 'Here we GO!' and instantly flew into the opening riff of 'Holy Wars... The Punishment Due'. For the next 45 minutes there was no looking back...

My adrenal glands got the best of me, and I was helpless to sing along to one of my all-time favorite thrashers, 'BROTHER WILL KILL BROTHER! SPILLING BLOOD ACROSS THE LAND! KILLING FOR RELIGION, SOMETHING I DON'T UNDERSTAND!' I think I sang along for the entire first song. I could see Dave up at the mike, and I could hear the crowd behind my own voice, also singing along. For all I could hear, Mustaine could have been lip-syncing. I could see his jaw moving, but his mop of blond hair kept his face partially obscured. Dave Ellefson and Chris Broderick were thrashing along, keeping perfect time... the band seemed so tight! The fast-paced, complex riffs that overflow the Rust In Peace album seemed second-nature to Megadeth. This was a technical masterpiece of heavy metal being brought to life for the lucky fans that attended this tour.

At some point I cut back on the singing-along, perhaps because my throat was getting dry. This was in early August, remember, and the mass of bodies was making the heat more and more apparent. When they got to 'Poison Was The Cure', the band went back-stage to swap instruments, while Ellefson kept us entertained with the song's bass-intro. Shawn Drove returned to the drum-kit and added the next ingredient, closely followed by Dave and Chris on guitar. Then, right on cue with the song, the intensity was back, and the crowd resumed undulating with headbanging and moshing!

Megadeth continued to fly through this masterpiece album! Some other highlights of the performance for me were Dave Ellefson's bass spotlight during the track 'Dawn Patrol'. During that number, David Ellefson was alone on-stage, while Dave Mustaine spoke the dialog/lyrics from back-stage somewhere. Also, this was the part of the show where Vic Rattlehead walked onto the stage and pointed intimidatingly at us. After this number concluded it was on to 'Rust In Peace... Polaris', the last track on the Rust In Peace album.

Megadeth still had more for us, and they played about 5 more numbers from the rest of their catalog. They saved 'Peace Sells' for their closing number, but it came with a nice twist this time... As the song was about to end, they surprised us by jumping back to the guitar solo from 'Holy Wars...'! The band jammed a few more minutes on that number, during which Dave Mustaine introduced the band, traded several solos with Chris Broderick, and then wrapped it up as 'Holy Wars...' ended: "Next thing you know, they'll take my thoughts away!"

I couldn't imagine a better way to see Megadeth for the first time, except maybe for a longer set! During this intermission, I finally chose to give up my front-row location to seek out the water fountains- I was pretty dehydrated! I found them, and waited through the line to get replenished, then returned to the arena floor. By this time I think I had lost track of some of my new friends, but before the show resumed I did bump into one of them again. But now, it was time for SLAYER!

In slightly different fashion, Slayer kick off their set with 2 tracks back-to-back, from their newest album: 'World Painted Blood', and 'Hate Worldwide'. Then, the anticipated 20th anniversary celebration of their classic album Seasons In The Abyss began as Tom Araya shouted, "WAR ENSEMBLE!"

Seasons In The Abyss (which I reviewed earlier this year already) starts off with 3 tracks that, on the recording, pick up after each other with barely a pause between the tracks. To the best of my recollection, Slayer played them live in a similar fashion: 'War Ensemble', 'Blood Red', and 'Spirit In Black'. They continued through their classic album, with true-to-the-recording accuracy, much like Megadeth had done before them. Again, they added a few of their best known songs after the Seasons In The Abyss performance was over.

To me this was a legendary night of thrash-metal icons performing at their best! From the golden opportunity of meeting the members of Megadeth, and hanging with the before the show, to the KILLER performances of all three bands, to the new friends I made on this day, I'm tempted to say this was the best concert of my life! I hope to catch each of these bands again at points in the future. For now, I'll leave you with their set-lists so you can listen for yourself to at lease some form of this night's great metal music!

-For the Glory of...
-More Than Meets the Eye
-Dog Faced Gods
-The New Order
-Practice What You Preach
-Into the Pit
-3 Days in Darkness
-The Formation of Damnation

-Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
-Hangar 18
-Take No Prisoners
-Five Magics
-Poison Was the Cure
-Tornado of Souls
-Dawn Patrol
-Rust in Peace... Polaris

-Head Crusher
-A Tout Le Monde
-Symphony of Destruction
-Peace Sells/Holy Wars (reprise)

-World Painted Blood
-Hate Worldwide

-War Ensemble
-Blood Red
-Spirit in Black
-Expendable Youth
-Dead Skin Mask
-Hallowed Point
-Skeletons of Society
-Born of Fire
-Seasons in the Abyss

-South of Heaven
-Raining Blood
-Aggressive Perfector
-Angel of Death

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eliminator-Breaking the Wheel

Post #164
Eliminator are an independent metal band out of New Jersey. When I first heard about them through another heavy metal music blog I follow, I thought, 'OK, here's another one out of countless black/death metal bands. What could it hurt to check 'em out?' In this case, I was glad I did. I downloaded their debut album Breaking the Wheel, and gave it an honest listen. The first thing that impressed me about the sound on this album was how they seem to hearken back to the early days of thrash and speed metal, rather than just grinding out riffs. I found enough intricacies in their guitar work to hold my interest.

Then I was further impressed by their song structures, which often incorporated significant break-down segments, where clean guitars were used in minor keys to enhance the dark, ominous tone and mood of the music. After further exploration of their music through their myspace page, I also discovered they have really begun to smash boundaries of their genre with their more recent works. Believe me, I don't use that term lightly. You really must hear it for yourself. But that's a story for another post...

For now, I am going to focus on Breaking the Wheel. This album bludgeoned my skull in ways it hasn't been abused since the days of early-era Sepultura. The guitar tones truly capture that early thrash-era tone. The drums fill a wall-o-sound with decadent blast-beats that challenge the upper limits of tempo. Warchild's vocals are demonic screams and shrieks, though he sometimes will drop into deeper tones that remind me of classic Slayer vocals.

Though it only contains 7 tracks, a couple of them are pretty long, making for a quality headbanging experience for about 40 minutes. The best ones I can easily recommend:
-World Obliteration (Eerie, old-school woman's voice begins your listening experience as she promises you 'Everthing is fine in Heaven...' Drums come into the mix, and after a few seconds kick into double-time. Just when you think Eliminator are ready to start thrashing out, you hear the drums double in tempo once again as the guitars come in at a break-neck pace!)
-Breaking the Wheel (The title track is my favorite on this collection. The song's most redeeming quality is found with the multi-tiered breakdown section about half-way through. The lyrics convey a message of fighting against cancer.)
-Prescription for Extinction (Closing number brings more speed-black metal riffage, but closes on an extended melodic break-down. Clocks in at over 8 minutes as the longest track on the album.)

To check out this album, and more of Eliminator's music visit their myspace page!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Iced Earth-Something Wicked This Way Comes

Post #163 [Poll Winner: Favorite Iced Earth album from the 90's]
Iced Earth released their debut album in 1990, and quietly built a strong underground following throughout the decade. By 1998, they had become one of the biggest names in American power metal. Something Wicked This Way Comes, their 5th album, saw the band touring more extensively than ever. The strength of fan support for this album also led to the recording of Iced Earth's first live album, Alive in Athens. Your votes last month for your favorite Iced Earth album of the 90's further confirms the significance of this release.

Something Wicked This Way Comes displays Iced Earth at one of the high-points of their career. Having established Matt Barlow as the band's main-stay lead singer, the band's stability was also at a peak. This album has several tracks that are now Iced Earth classics, as evidenced by their inclusion in both the Alive in Athens live album and their 2-disc compilation The Blessed and The Damned.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a well balanced thrash/power metal album, incorporating a variety of melodic guitar parts with Iced Earth's traditional speed-metal riffs. Matt Barlow's vocals are as strong as ever, as he displays his vocal range with mastery throughout this album. Jon Schaffer's songwriting and guitar playing are also above the standard the band had shown by this stage of their career. All in all, this is perhaps the best album Iced Earth have recorded. It certainly got your vote for the best album from this band in the 90's!

Though I have touched on this album before, I still have tracks to recommend, some repeats, some new:
-Burning Times (probably the best known Iced Earth song, a true classic!)
-Melancholy (Holy Martyr) (still a personal favorite of mine...)
-Stand Alone (this one has an anthem-like vibe in the chorus)
-Reaping Stone (a slow-tempo number, with plenty of dark-toned clean guitars mixed with heavy chord progressions)
-Something Wicked (trilogy); I: Prophecy, II: Birth of the Wicked, III: The Coming Curse (an epic 3-part concept suite depicting mankind's corruption, and the possible coming of the Antichrist... As intricate as these tracks are, Schaffer & company would return to this concept years later as the inspiration for a double-length concept album, but it began right here...)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DEADMANSWAKE makes Elbo Room debut on Sept. 27th!

Post #162
Hello again constant readers!

Today I'm writing to remind you that DEADMANSWAKE will be playing at Elbo Room in Chicago, IL on Tuesday, September 27th for the very first time! They're appearing as part of the "Project Independent Tour" along with Sins Of A Nation and several others. If you have no other plans for this particular Tuesday evening, why not come down and catch some great, live, Heavy Metal music?

Visit the Elbo Room for more details!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Remembering September 11th Through Music

Post #161
Two days ago, we observed the 10th anniversary of the Al-Queda attacks against the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon. Though this horrific event is doomed to live in the memories of everyone who lived and breathed on that infamous day, it is still a reminder that the values that unify the United States will always win out over anything that tries to divide us.

With this post I will share some songs that live in MY memory, forever connected with September 11th, and many songs directly inspired by the events of that day.

This song comes from the album 'God Hates Us All', which was released on September 11, 2001. Though obviously not inspired by the events, it seems an ominous coincidence that it was released on the same day many Al-Queda followers slaughtered thousands in the name of their religion. I certainly recall thinking 'How could God let these events transpire?' that day. Surely the faith of many was shaken as planes crashed into buildings...

From their 5th album, released one week after the attacks. One of Chicago's radio stations began playing this song, with audio clips from news casts of the attacks mixed in. It became a song that many clung to as they tried to comprehend this tragedy.

The next few songs were all inspired by 9-11, and the lyrics reflect each bands perspective, attitude, and interpretation of our humanity...
Dream Theater-In The Name of God
Iced Earth-When the Eagle Cries
Testament-The Evil Has Landed

All these songs are inseparable from the event in my mind, however the one song that first imprinted itself in my mind about September 11th, and has the most lasting impression of how we all felt in the days, weeks, and months afterward, is "My City of Ruin" by Bruce Springsteen. Though he had written the song before 9-11, he had tweaked a few of the lyrics by the time he performed it on September 21st as part of the 'America: A Tribute to Heroes' telethon.

I remember watching the entire telethon. It made me realize how truly powerful music can be. Healing, unifying, and inspiring in the same instant. God bless our fallen heroes from September 11th, and in the 10 years since then...

These are just the songs I thought of off the top of my head. Feel free to share your personal songs about 9-11 in comments below.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

HEAVY METAL MADNESS!! (Coming in 2012)

Post #160
For those of you who've been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I usually use the phrase 'favorite' in all my reader's polls as opposed to 'best'. This is mostly because saying a thing is your 'favorite' is easier. 'Favorites' can be based on one individual's opinion, and requires no further justification. To say something is the 'best' requires more justification and explanation. Sure, I can easily say whatever I think is the best, but that may differ greatly from what the next guy would say is the best. On this blog I try to let the reader decide for their self what is best.

Well, coming up in 2012, I might make one exception to this rule of thumb I've been following, and try to decide who is actually the 'Best*' heavy metal band. The '*' would reference the following footnote: 'based on reader opinion'. How does that sound to you, dear readers? It will be called HEAVY METAL MADNESS, and be designed after the NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament. Spanning several months (possibly the entire year), I will post numerous reader's polls each month. Each poll representing one match-up in the giant bracket.

The bands I choose to include will represent the most influential bands I can think of from the most relevant genres and sub-genres in hard-rock and heavy metal music, from the early 70's up 'til now. The reviews of each poll-winner will be much briefer since there will be several results each month, but essentially a summary of who advanced and who was knocked-out should suffice.

Hopefully this tournament-style reader-opinion poll will keep your interest peaked, as each month you invest more and more of your own fanaticism into HEAVY METAL MADNESS. I've found that when the NCAA tournament comes around, I'm always more interested in the results in years when I participate in an office pool or two. Hopefully this can have the same effect with Heavy Metal music. Would you agree?

We'll begin to find out in 2012! I plan to initiate this tournament very soon after this fall's annual Independent Band Of The Year poll (formerly called the 'Myspace bands poll'). If all goes well, it will prove to be the ultimate contest for the BEST* Hard-Rock/Heavy Metal band ever!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blog Update: Check out new features!

Post #159
I want to take a minute to point out a few changes I've made to the blog recently. Most obvious is the relatively new banner at the top of this page. I've mentioned it earlier, shortly after I uploaded it. Again, thank you to Andy at Traynart Graphic design for that.

Next, I want to point out the box on the left hand column where you can now enter an email address for a quick and easy way to follow this blog. If you've enjoyed any of my posts, please take a second to enter your email, so you won't miss a single post!

Other changes I've made include the re-organizing of the links section. I've now split it into 3 sections. First are the links to off-shoots of this blog that I've created myself. These are called 'Happy Headbanger links', and include my Pandora radio station, a Facebook page, and Twitter feed. The second category 'Music, Rock, and Metal Blogs' includes the other music oriented blogs that I follow. The 3rd category, 'Other Blogs' contains the blogs I follow that don't necessarily relate to music or heavy metal in any way, but I still recommend them!

In my blog settings, I have now made comments open to all! This feature used to be restricted to google account holders, but not anymore. You should now be able to comment on any post, remaining anonymous if you choose.

Lastly, the "Coming Soon" section will slowly be phased out. I still want to write about these topics, so I will leave the list there until I get to each item on it. However, since I have a bad habit of adding items to this list faster than I get around to writing them, I'll simply stop adding topics to it.

The "Honorary Vice President" spot was created for the winner of last year's 'Independent Bands Reader's Poll'- DEADMANSWAKE. Unlike the 'President' spot, which lasts for a term of 2 years, the VP spot will last for 1 year (until the next 'Independent Bands Reader's Poll'). Watch for the new 'Independent Bands Poll' coming in October!

I hope these changes make the blog a more enjoyable experience for all of you! I am always open to suggestions. If you have any ideas, feel free to email me at


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

PANTERA-Cowboys From Hell

Post #158 [Poll winner: favorite Pantera album 1990-2000]
With Pantera's major-label debut, Cowboys From Hell, they became an instant success in the extreme/thrash metal scene in 1990. This was around the peak of the thrash-metal scene, before the alternative and grunge movement had established a grip on the heavy music market. Though Pantera would go on to become one of the biggest metal bands in the world in the coming years, it was the strength of Cowboys From Hell that gave them the fan-base upon which to grow.
In last month's reader's poll you chose Cowboys From Hell as your favorite Pantera album. Although there is a definite sense of the kind of hardcore band they would become in the next couple years, Cowboys From Hell still shows some residual influence from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal era, at least in some of Phil Anselmo's higher pitch screamed vocals. Songs like 'Psycho Holiday' had some verses that sounded like they could easily have been sung by the likes of Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson. Others, like 'Primal Concrete Sledge' or 'Domination', showed us the direction they would choose to pursue with their future releases.

The most memorable, and most accessible, track on this album is without a doubt 'Cemetery Gates'. This song features prominent clean, melodic sections that seem to show the band's influence from early-era Metallica. Even as early as 1990, some of the harder-edged radio stations dared to play this track. I believe its wide-spread exposure is partially responsible for Pantera's die-hard following they maintained throughout the 90's, in spite of heavy metal's general decline in popularity. At the same time, they became a primary inspiration for a new generation of hardcore metal bands.

Pantera's influential legacy began with Cowboys From Hell. Check out these tracks from this heavy metal classic!
-Cowboys From Hell
-Primal Concrete Sledge
-Psycho Holiday
-Cemetery Gates
-Clash With Reality
-The Sleep
-The Art of Shredding

Friday, August 26, 2011

DAME NATION 2011 (Concert review from July 29th, 2011)

Post #157
In part thanks to DEADMANSWAKE being the current independent band-of-the-year for this blog, I have been looking forward to DAME-NATION 2011 for months. They returned to this Female-Fronted Metal Fest, along with fellow Dame-Nation veterans Losing Scarlet for a truly memorable show. The show went down at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago's south loop on Friday, July 29th, 2011. This unique festival drew in not only the best female-fronted metal acts of Chicago's local scene and their followers, but also several other like-minded independent bands from across North America.

DAME-NATION is the brain-child of Chicago-area music promoter Eric Sanchez. It was an idea conceived to give female-fronted metal bands a place where they can be in the spotlight, rather than an afterthought in the sub-genres of heavy metal music. The ladies that fronted these bands knew this was their place to shine, and they performed like it!

I made the trip to Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago's south loop by about 5:30 pm, hoping I wasn't running late due to the rush-hour traffic. As it turned out, one band, The Unvoiced, was unable to make it to the show, so the start of the show was delayed a bit anyway. I had a few minutes to browse the venue before things got underway, so I mingled. I got to meet Eric in person, which was a pleasure. Then I began to notice a couple familiar faces as I spotted members of Losing Scarlet and Deadmanswake in the crowd. A few minutes later another friend of mine from the band Sutured Psyche arrived. We spent a few minutes catching up before the first performer went on.

First up was Lindz Riot, from the band Mary and the Black Lamb. She was from Canada, and was performing solo this day since the band couldn't afford visas for everybody to enter the US. So not only did she have the pressure of opening this multi-band show, but she was also on her own. If she felt the pressure, she didn't let it show. She sat behind her electronic keyboard, and let the music do the talking.
It was really nice mood-setting music. Many of her songs reminded me of some of Evanescence's ballads. Then, after she'd performed a couple numbers, noting which ones were from her band's CD, and which are from her upcoming solo project, she announced that Grace Meridan from Shield of Wings would join her for a duet. Together they covered Evanescence's 'Haunted'. Very well performed too, as both Lindz and Grace have a similar vocal range, and were both capable of covering Evanescence on their own. Together they brought a new dimension to the song. What's more is they had only rehearsed the song together over the internet!
Lindz ended her set gracefully, and then the stage was prepared for the next act, Solarsphere. Now it was time for fully amped metal! They kicked off the show with heavy guitar-riffs accompanied by keyboards in the background. Then when Rachel Sabine delivered the vocals, they revealed their true genre: symphonic metal. The operatic style vocals brought a nice contrast to the music. They played a good variety of songs, many with prominent melodic sections, others that were quite heavy. Before they were finished, Rachel made a comment on how they came to the last Dame-Nation as fans, and this time they were there as performers. The sincere gratitude for being included was a nice touch. It was just one of many instances throughout the evening that illustrated how strong the camaraderie was among the bands and the promoter.
Next up was A Sound of Thunder, from Washington, D.C. Lindz came back to the stage to introduce them, so she asked us if we were ready for some 'epic, power-metal'. The crowd gave a loud cheer, then the band took the stage...

What might I have expected from an intro like that? Heavy riffs, check. Catchy chord progressions, check. Shredding guitar solos, check. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, powerful vocal delivery... CHECK! Lead singer Nina Osegueda has a voice that was made to sing power metal. Nina sang with more of a straight-forward hard-rock style vocal, as opposed to operatic. A fitting complement to the band's heavy groove, she packed a lot of power into her voice! Her range, style and delivery may have been quite different from the first two acts, but it was no less entertaining. In  fact I was probably enjoying this band the most so far!

A Sound of Thunder kept hitting us with their best, song after song. Then when you think a band might start to tire out, Nina says to the crowd, "Hey! I don't think my band's working hard enough. C'mon, let's hear you guys work it!" As she turned the spotlight over to guitarist Josh Schwartz we soon found out we were in for a killer guitar solo. Josh proved quite skilled with the fret-board, but cleverly kept the crowd into it as he threw in a couple classic metal riffs from the likes of Sabbath and Deep Purple.
For their closing number they played 'Archangel (Wings of Steel)' off their self-titled EP. However, before they finished the song, they slipped into Dio's 'Holy Diver', closely followed by Black Sabbath's 'Heaven & Hell' riff. I pumped my fists in the air, and cheered as loud as ever. Then I held my right hand high in the air with Dio's traditional devil-horn/evil-eye salute '\m/'. If any band want's to know how to win me over with a live show, paying tribute to one of metal's legends is always a plus!

After their set, and stage equipment was swapped out for the next band, Lindz came back onstage again (apparently she had been made the M.C. for the evening as well!) This time she was introducing her duet partner's band, Shield of Wings. We had been given a preview of Grace Meridan's voice during that duet, but how would she sound backed by her own band?
The answer: Incredible! Shield of Wings hit us with heavy riffs and symphonic backing elements early and often. Grace's operatic voice elevated the music to a level somewhere in the stratosphere. Then, in places where the songs kicked up in intensity, I couldn't help but notice this blur of blond hair on stage-left. Guitarist James Gregor easily had 4 feet of length to his hair, and when it came to headbanging, it did not go to waste! This band was clicking on all levels. They were heavy, melodic, symphonic, employed good stage-craft, but then they gave us yet another dimension. A couple songs into their set, Gregor was on backing vocals, screaming with a death-metal-esque fervor. It was definitely something new that none of the previous bands had displayed. It was such a contrast to the almost angelic vocals from Grace that you could not help but be captivated by the change-offs between the two.

Shield of Wings played out the rest of their set with grace (literally!) Hearing a band so accomplished in a metal style that brings such contrasting elements together is always an aspect of metal I've found rewarding. From the Metallica albums of the mid-80's to today's melodic-metalcore bands like All That Remains, I've always enjoyed songs that switch gears somewhere in the middle. I'll be sure to pick of Shield of Wings' CD before long!

Next up was Angelical Tears, all the way from Oklahoma City, OK. They launched into their set with a ton of energy. Again, they brought a mix of heavy riffs and classical-inspired backing elements. Singer Julia Flansburg delivered vocals that show inspiration form classical music, but also had moments where she let loose a bit and sang in a gothic-metal style. Their music had a good ebb and flow to it; thrashy segments mixed with melodic break-downs, and good soloing on lead guitar by Steven Bittle.
In some ways Angelical Tears reminded me a bit of the previous performers Solarsphere and A Sound of Thunder, but they had a tight chemistry and confident stage presence all their own. They took a moment near the end of their set to thank the event organizers, and of course the fans for coming out & supporting female-fronted metal. Then they closed their set with the song 'Queen of Hearts'.

After another stage change-over the crowd braced themselves for the next act: Losing Scarlet. Losing Scarlet are a Chicago-area band that I've been following for a couple years already. They were the first band of the evening whose music I was already familiar with, so I was more than psyched up to hear what they had in store for this show.
The band members took their positions on stage, and a hush fell over the crowd. Then we heard.... thunder? Rainfall? BOOM-BOOM-BOOM! (The triple bass-drum thundered loudly) I cocked my head with wonder and recognition; it was the intro to Slayer's 'Raining Blood'! Sure enough, they launched into the speed-thrash classic, as Jodi Kell ran to center stage and instantly got the crowd into it. "C'mon Chicago, let me hear you!" she yelled, then instantly broke into a furious head-banging fit and the band thrashed on, flawlessly chugging through Slayer's most classic of riffs. Jodi came to the forefront again and urged us the get louder, and we obliged.

Right as 'Raining Blood' hit its lull before the lyrics kick in, Losing Scarlet switched gears in a heartbeat, and kicked into 'Learning to Bleed', the title-track from their second CD. Jodi sang with everything she had, and she packed a lot of power into her voice. A perfect voice for melodic metal, with the band keeping it heavy, Losing Scarlet were stealing the show! If their influence from classic thrash metal wasn't apparent from their intro, the riffs their songs were built upon were an easy clue. During the instrumental passages of their songs, Jodi periodically broke into her intense headbanging. Now, I know I call myself 'The Happy Headbanger', but honestly, Jodi brought the art of headbanging to a new level this night!

After a couple songs from their new album, they changed things up a bit as they treated us to a new cover, Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie". The crowd got into the show a little more, as Losing Scarlet added their heavy touch to this song, and made it their own. They followed it with 'Dick, Whiskey', a song that has quickly become a favorite sing-along for their fans. "Hey, now. Who are you to judge me? With my empty bottle of whiskey..." They dedicated their next song to Eric Sanchez, Dame-Nation's organizer. It was 'Call Me', a cover of the Blondie classic. They wrapped up their set soon after that, but they were going to be a tough act to follow. I could hardly believe they were the same band I first saw over a year and a half ago! They've really improved their sound, style and confidence in that time. Jodi Kell in particular has become a confident front-woman for this up-and-coming metal band.

Next came DEADMANSWAKE, current independent-band-of-the-year on this blog, and the penultimate performer of the evening. If they felt any pressure in following such a powerful act as Losing Scarlet, they didn't let it show. If anything they seemed the most cool and collected band yet. DMW kicked off their set with 'Screaming In Silence', a real thrashy yet classic sounding metal song. It's the second time I've heard them play this song, and I must say it's my favorite song in their live set.
Another factor that was playing into their hands was the fact that, like Losing Scarlet, they were local to the Chicago and suburban area. The crowd's enthusiasm may have been a hint that they were a fan favorite, but the most obvious clue was the sea of DMW t-shirts that were present in the audience. The backs of these shirts included the lyric "When I said 'I wanna bury the hatchet...' ...I didn't want it buried in my back!" That was from the song 'Back to Blood', and not one to disappoint, they performed that song as well.
They took a moment between songs to thank Eric again, for organizing the show. Other times they would be goofing around and teasing each other between songs. They had a great sense of humor that was entertaining, and it kept everyone's spirits up. These guys were having fun, and it was contagious. Of course it helped that they also played great metal music too. Kryssie Ridolfi has a smooth, bluesy voice, but she can belt out some angst when she wants to! Their guitar tandem of JP Soule and Josh Barker delivered ripping guitar solos that simply sounded classic. Kryssie kept interacting with her band-mates throughout their set. They delivered a great set, mixing a couple cover tunes into the fray of their best known tracks from 'It Comes to This'. They closed with an unexpected cover of Cee Lo Green's 'FU'.

For the last band, Lindz returned to the stage and said, "When it comes to Boston, I hate their hockey team. But there is one thing I love about Boston, and that's AVARIEL!!!"
The final performance of the evening was brought to us by Boston's Avariel. With this band closing out the evening, it seemed to bring the show full circle, as their style was symphonic metal. Lead singer Shannon Kelly delivered a soaring vocal performance of classical inspired tone and pitch. Perhaps not as high in pitch as Soalrsphere or Shield of Wings, but a masterful upper mid-range! The band was quite heavy as well, making for the perfect conclusion of a well-planned, niche oriented concert. A two-guitar attack, with keyboards filling up a wall of sound, not to mention a 6-string bass; this band was top-quality metal! On a couple tracks, one of their guitarists, Scott McDonald, provided death-style backing vocals. Not quite to the degree that we had heard from Shield Of Wings, but enough to add an edge to their sound.

By this point it was close to 2 a.m., and the crowd seemed to be showing signs of fatigue. Just as I thought that Avariel might have a tough duty in being the final act, they unveiled their trump-card that brought the crowd back to life... Towards the end of their set they started a number with a symphonic intro, and as the drummer began to pick up the rhythm, I recognized the song as Metallica's 'No Leaf Clover'! What a perfect song for a symphonic metal band to cover. They did the song justice too. This time guitarist Michael Rosati sang most of the verses, while Shannon sang the choruses. I got back into the throng and pumped my fists in the air, screaming my approval. I wanted the band to know I appreciated them coming from Boston to play this show. Rounding out this collection of talented bands couldn't have been better!

I am now following all of these band's through their various websites. I encourage you to do the same. If you have an appreciation for female-fronted metal, you can't go wrong with this collection of bands! I'll include links to each band's website as I summarize the set-lists below:

Lindz Riot
-Saturnine (The Gathering cover)
-Haunted (Evanescence- duet w/ Grace Meridan from Shield of Wings)
-Into the Night
(also check out her solo-page: Schoolcraft)

-Inner Demons
-Eternal Hunter
-Sick Pleasure

A Sound of Thunder
-Intro: Tubular Bells
-A Sound of Thunder
-Kill That Bitch
-(Josh Schwartz guitar solo)
-The Beast
-Blood Vomit
-Archangel (Wings of Steel) (included Dio tribute/medley)

Shield of Wings
-Carnival Mirror
-Essence of the Moon
-War & Rapture

Angelical Tears
-Tomorrow Happens Now
-Sunrise at Sunset
-With the Shadows
-Pool of Sorrow
-Queen of Hearts

Losing Scarlet
-Raining Blood (Intro- Slayer)
-Learning to Bleed
-Halo of Stone
-Shameless Prayer
-Love the Way You Lie (Rihanna cover)
-Dick, Whiskey
-Call Me (Blondie cover)
-Kiss the Guilt Away
-Shade of Hate

-Screaming in Silence
-Back to Blood
-Running Behind
-Flowers (Stand Between Us)
-(If You Need Me) I'll Be Bleeding
-867-5309 (jenny) (Tommy Tutone cover)
-FU (Cee Lo Green)

-No Leaf Clover (Metallica)
-In Heaven

I'd like to thank all the bands, and friends new and old, who made this event such a memorable concert: Eric Sanchez (Dame-Nation's organizer/promoter), Ryan Reilly (long-time friend, guitarist for SUTURED PSYCHE, and inside scoop for Chicago's local scene), Lindz Riot and Chee Kam (her manager); from SOLARSPHERE: Rachel Sabine, Brett Zweig, Adam Gordon, and Mike Rutledge; from A SOUND OF THUNDER: Nina Osegueda, Josh Schwartz, Chris Haren, and Jesse Keen; from SHIELD OF WINGS: Grace Meridan, James Gregor, Jeff Olsem, Pat Eulitz; from ANGELICAL TEARS: Glenn and Julia Flansburg, Steve Bittle, and JC; from LOSING SCARLET: Jodi Kell, Scott Haith, Petra Sith, and Shawn Kelly; from DEADMANSWAKE: Kryssie Ridolfi, JP Soule, Josh Barker, Troll, and Brandon Schabell; from AVARIEL: Shannon and Ryan Kelly, Michael Rosati, Jay Narbonne, and Scott McDonald.

I'll be sure to keep up with all your music. Keep an eye out for reviews of your albums here on Heavy Metal 107 in the future!

Until we meet again...
And as always, Happy Headbanging!