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!