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Short Story: ‘The River’ by Daniel Aston

She hadn’t wanted him to go with her. Instead he stayed at home, waiting. Pacing around endlessly in quiet desperation as to what would unfold within the next few hours. Into the living room his feet took him, eyes glued to the floor, hands clasped behind his back. The world outside gleamed into the room. The sun was dominating the rich blue sky; the weather had not been this pleased with itself for weeks if not months.

‘Why?’ he kept asking himself ‘Why!’ did she not want him to go with her, why was any of this happening at all? Inside a voice reassured him, reassured him that everything was going to be just fine, after all, they’d look back on this day and laugh. A brief, rather forced smile dissolved within due time as his eyes landed upon a photo that sat peacefully on the mantelpiece. It was their wedding photo. Captured forever in that image was a moment of euphoria. Gazing upon her face he saw how happy she was, how free they both were from the dangers of the real world; he saw how foolish they were back then.

He removed a tear from his eye and moved on. Inside, his stomach had turned to dust, his heart was pumping fast and he began to feel a little faint. Back into the kitchen his feet went, and where his feet went he would surely follow. A mug of lukewarm tea rested beside a plate of half-eaten toast. Pinned to the fridge door was a list of possible baby names. They had been trying for a baby for a few weeks now, the whole thing was exciting for everyone. In their excitement came a frenzy of pre-preparation.  The names had already been shrunken to a final group of five, the many others crossed and scribbled out. His mind settled slightly as he pictured his future child, the three of them standing together as a family, living and enjoying life together. All the joys of parenthood awaited him, but his fantasy was rudely interrupted – by a knock at the door.

His heart lurched into his throat as he made his way for the front door. Everything slowed down, thoughts were no longer being processed, feelings ceased to function. Numb. All that mattered was the door. His sweaty hands gripped the handle and with one last forceful break, it swung open.

There she stood. Tears trickling down her face as her eyes stared softly into his. His heart remained wedged as he tried to speak, but try as he might words would not muster. In that moment he saw how beautiful she was. Her hair rested gently against her shoulders, her face pretty as ever. This was the woman he loved more than anything in the world. And then she said it. From her lips came the words he thought he would never hear. ‘It’s cancer’.

‘No, it can’t be.’ he muttered.

‘It’s terminal.’ she said. With that another steak was thrust into her husband’s chest.

‘Please to God, no!’

‘I love you.’ she cried as their bodies came together.

The man cradled his lover in his arms. He felt her body shake uncontrollably as his crumbled in unison. Outside the weather was in fine form. The best they’d seen in weeks.


THUMP! The football crashed against the garage door. The collision sent shockwaves through the house. An elderly gentleman struggled to his feet. He had been enjoying what he could of an afternoon nap in his recliner. Slowly and steadily, the old man made his way to the front door. The fury was churning up inside, but at the same time, so was the fear. The task of trying to appear menacing before a group of rebellious youths was something a man of his age could do without. One last deep breath and the door was open.

‘You damn kids clear off! If you put one dent in my garage I’ll put a dent in your reputation by calling the police!’ his lungs didn’t thank him for that burst of aggression, neither did his heart nor the rest of his body for that matter. Typically, by the time he’d got to the doorstep the majority of the ‘goons’ as he called them had dispersed.

‘Piss off, granddad!’ snarled the chief goon, who had stayed behind to collect his ball that was slowly rolling down the lawn. ‘You don’t have the guts!’ it snapped before returning to the rest of the pack.

The man was left beaten. Looking around he saw he was alone, nobody else had witnessed the incident. Upon checking the garage for any sign of damage it became clear there was none. No evidence. ‘Damn goons.’ he muttered, and stumbled back into the house.

That night he enjoyed a bowl of pasta alone. An old 70s hit was rambling on in the background. He gave up half way through – lost his appetite. His eyes gazed forward to an old mounted photo on the mantelpiece. It made him smile. It made him shed a tear. It was slightly faded, yet it still held its magic after all these years. ‘Damn goons.’ he spoke softly ‘They’ll never give me any peace.’ He spoke to the picture ‘Never mind, I’ll not be long now, dear.’

In the kitchen the clinking of cutlery and china sounded as they came together in perfect harmony. The man cleared away his meal and went to bed. As he lay there in the night he noticed that the wind was not howling and the rain was not tapping at the window. A silent night for once. He felt his eyes grow heavy and he soon drifted to sleep.

A bright light beamed. His eyes strained to open. The adjustment in vision was made and he couldn’t believe the sight he saw. It was as though an angel was floating at the end of the bed, smiling at him. He felt his heart stop. It was his wife before him. She was definitely there, he could see her. She was as beautiful as in the photo downstairs, no, even more beautiful. Her arm stretched out to meet his. Their hands touched. He noticed a small child beside her whom he didn’t recognise yet the child seemed to recognise him.

‘We’re free now.’


‘The River’ copyright Daniel Aston 2013

Interview: Zuberoa Aznárez – Diabulus In Musica

Spanish symphonic outfit Diabulus In Musica are producing some of the most intriguing sound waves in today’s metal scene. More than just a metal band, the group takes their gothic and classical influences to a new level with their second album The Wanderer. Their debut album Secrets was met with much appraisal with each band member bringing together their own musical styles to create a unique sound along with some special collaborations from renowned musicians. I interview vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez to find out more about the new release and delve into what lies behind the construction of their material.


Daniel Aston: What can fans expect from your upcoming album The Wanderer?

Zuberoa Aznárez:  An eclectic album, with big orchestra and choirs, hard guitars, new instruments such as the lute, different flutes, percussions, acoustic guitars… It’s an album that reflects many different feelings, emotions and sounds.

DA: How has the new material developed since your debut album Secrets?

ZA: I think The Wanderer it’s a big step forward. We kept our main influences: classical music and metal, but the arrangements are more ambitious and there is space for more ‘mystic’ sounds as well. I’d say this second album reflects a clear and natural evolution and maturity.

The main difference between Secrets and The Wanderer is the concept, as the new album is a conceptual one. We first thought about what we wanted to tell and then start to work on the songs, having a very clear idea about how they should sound. We maybe were searching for something more like a ‘soundtrack’. Music had to fit what we wanted to tell in each song, it had to recreate the atmosphere we had in mind in each ‘scene’.

I would say that The Wanderer is a very passionate album. All the feelings are perfectly captured. It’s also denser, more bombastic… but also more refined than Secrets.

DA: Your debut featured contributions from a number of respected artists, can we expect any on the new record?

ZA: Yes! We were honored to have Mark Jansen from EPICA grunting and screaming in the track ‘Blazing a Trail’. We invited again our friend and great soprano Maite Itoiz (for the choir, for a duet and to play the lute in one song) and her husband John Kelly (Elfenthal) who is singing in the beautiful ballad ‘Sentenced to Life’.

We also invited some great classical soloists for the big choirs, most of them colleagues from classical ensembles I sing in. And well, I invited myself too hehe to play the baroque and traverse flute as well as some Celtic whistles.

DA: What has been the inspiration for the lyrical side of the new material?

ZA: The World itself. I usually write about my personal worries, which are mostly related with nature, freedom, spirituality and social problems.

In the case of The Wanderer, it talks about a girl who has something ‘special’, ‘different’ and somehow feels isolated. She wanders searching for a place where she can finally be accepted.
The whole concept is an allegory of Mother Earth, the future of humanity and human corruption and the shock among people who stays ‘pure’ or linked with Nature and modern society. It is not easy to reconcile this way of being with all the changes that society is suffering, and above all, with human corruption in all its sides. All these ‘special’ people are unfortunately starting to disappear and in my view, they are the last hope to change the World. It is so sad that human beings are forgetting where we come from!

It is also kind of odd that after thinking about the concept, I’ve seen many artists talking about something similar in their works. It seems that many people perceive that society is not walking towards the right way… It is clear that some of us have this kind of ‘apocalyptic’ thoughts… Maybe that’s a good sign and we can still change?

DA: The band has many musical influences and that is expressed through your music, who would you cite as your main influences?

ZA: Our influences are mainly classical music and metal, although each one has a different musical background. Anyway, not all of these styles have to necessarily influence the music we write.

In my case, what I like the most in the classical field is Early Music, from medieval to baroque. In rock, I started listening to hard rock bands of the 80’s when I was a child. After that I was introduced into power metal and now maybe what I like the most is symphonic and folk metal. I also love ethnic or World music.

In short we don’t have only a musical influence, we like different stuff and we have no boundaries in creating music. In our music it can be found a lot of classical stuff, but also sometimes a folk-ethnic touch, electronic sounds… You can expect anything from us!  ;)

DA: How would you describe your music?

ZA: I would say we make ‘passionate’ symphonic metal surrounded by a magic mystic halo…

DA: Do you think it’s important now more than ever for a band to have a unique sound?

ZA: What it is necessary is to stay true, no matter where. If you are searching for something totally different only because you think you have to, you’ll never give the best of yourself. If you are a true artistic spirit, your inspiration will guide you towards the right place, evolution is a natural thing. You need to follow your musical instincts, trying to do your best, of course.

Anyway I think people should focus more on enjoying the music when they like it and when not, forget about it. I listen to the music I like, so the more bands I find of the style I like, the better for me! It’s not a matter of style, but a matter of quality and musical taste. I’m not going to like or not a band only because it is totally different from others or because it cannot be tagged.

DA: How did Diabulus In Musica form originally?

ZA: We all are from Pamplona, which is a small city, so almost all the metalheads here know each other. We were friends since years. I played with Gorka in a local band and Gorka played with Adrián in another one. Xabi and were also involved in the local music scene.

I decided to start the project with Gorka after our previous band disappeared. We immediately thought about Adrián and he accepted immediately. Xabi and Álex joined us later.

DA: What is your opinion on the current music scene with the opportunities and obstacles that appear for bands compared with previous generations?

ZA: Obviously the music scene has changed a lot recently. We couldn’t say if it’s for the better or not… On the one hand, thanks to the Internet you can listen to whatever you want, before we were more limited. Also, it is easier to spread your music, but it’s more difficult to grow and also to get some money to make better albums, gigs, etc… I think there are not going to be ‘icons‘ as Metallica or AC/DC anymore… To make this possible, the music industry needs to earn a lot of money to invest in only a few bands, but as I said, there’s no money and there are many bands nowadays…

DA: Are there any plans for touring once the album has been released?

ZA: We are working on it. At the moment we can only confirm some gigs in Benelux and Spain. We will open for Tarja in Brussels the 27th February and for Leaves Eyes in Spain the same week.
We hope we can visit more countries in Europe this year.

Interview: Allen Tvedebrink – The Kandidate

Danish thrash-metallers The Kandidate ready the release of their highly anticipated second album Facing the Immanent Prospect of Death and it promises to be another dose of high octane heavy metal! The band have worked hard on developing their sound, incorporating a ‘more diverse and powerful’ approach from the new line up. I talked to guitarist Allen Tvedebrink about the band’s transition from their debut release, their musical influences that have helped define this album and his take on the current musical climate.


Daniel Aston: What can fans expect from your upcoming second album Facing the Imminent Prospect of Death?

Allen Tvedebrink: An energetic, sombre and intense album. Those familiar with our debut will hear that a few things have happened since then. Until We Are Outnumbered was a half hour furious kick in the balls, which really got this band fired up. On the new album you will experience a more diverse and powerful band and a dark malicious atmosphere.

DA: Did the writing process and creation of this new record differ from your debut?

AT: Yeah, but not much. KB and I still write the majority of the material. The really big difference is that NP and Jacob care more than the previous members of the bands, that they’ve replaced. They are actively involved in the arrangements and in that effort and in their playing/singing style, they have a great impact in how and what KB and I are writing.

DA: Where did you gather inspiration for the new material?

AT: Hmm… Inspiration. A hard thing to pinpoint to certain things or artists. We dig and love the same bands and of course we get a lot of inspiration from them, but I think that also everyday life and the stuff you think about and reflect on have a great impact on you as a human being and therefore also the creativity. As I kinda mentioned before, the qualities and talent of the band members has also been a major contributor as a creative unit.

DA: Is there a moment or song on the album that the band are particularly proud of?

AT: Well, that kinda changes day by day. But the overall thing that I’m most proud of on this recording is the correlation of the music, the sound and the lyrics, which for me have resulted in a very special atmosphere.

DA: Give Up All Hope from your debut record was released as the band’s first official music video, can we expect a follow up from the new album?

AT: We are actually working on that as we speak. We have been a bit back and forth with the guys producing it and as it seems right now, it will be something pretty special. But it’s all too early to say anything really, as we haven’t decided on the concept and that might change, and so might the song we picked…

DA: What is your opinion on today’s metal scene and how do you feel The Kandidate fits into that?

AT: I think the metal scene is strong. The diversity and availability have never been greater than now. That speaks to me as a proof of the great demand and amount of fans and followers. The industry may not be as good as it used to be in the term of profit, but to me that was never what music is all about, it’s about artists wanting to express themselves and the audience seeking that.
I love that there are so many talented bands out there. Of course there are a lot of really crappy bands if you ask me, but luckily we all have different preferences and with all the bands around it’s just exiting to go hunting for those special gems. I love that a lot of them has their own expression and that they are serious about their music and touring and playing live.
I believe that we have our own expression and sound and that we are doing our own thing adding to the diversity I’m talking about, and we have the quality to stand out as one of the stronger bands despite we are an underground act.

DA: When would you say was the ‘golden era’ of metal?

AT: I think that there are a lot of different golden eras of metal. As you can probably imagine, I’d like to believe we are in one right now. There were other eras that were golden for the record companies and the bands earning good money on what they do. The bigger bands still do that, but the golden aspect of present time is the availability of the art. Lots and lots of bands are touring and this is where the bands are earning their money nowadays, where you can just download or stream whatever you like. The golden thing about present time is that metal is more recognised be the society and that the fan base is growing and supporting the bands at concerts instead of spending their money on albums.

DA: Do you think new bands struggle in today’s music scene with the current state of the music industry?

AT: I don’t think that bands are struggling more today than earlier. It’s a different struggle but also with a lot of tools that we didn’t have 20 years ago. Modern technology and the especially the internet have made it possible for even the most crappy bands to produce and distribute their offer to the whole world. I guess you can say that bands competed and struggled to earn the favour of record companies where today we compete and struggle to earn the favour of the fans, which to me seem more right.

DA: What advice would you give to bands starting out?

AT: To believe in what you are doing and earn the respect of the fans and other musicians. Grow your network and your relations, and also – and maybe most important – be your own biggest critic! It takes effort and hard work to grow as an artist, but it also takes a great amount of self awareness to succeed. Be yourself and dare to make a difference.

DA: Who would you cite as the band’s main musical influences?

AT: We all listen to many different styles and artists, but of course we also share the same preferences in metal, which combines in our sound. For me, it’s everything from Foreigner over Dream Theater to Autopsy, but I guess that the common denominator for all of us is bands like Entombed, Disfear, Trap Them.

DA: Are there plans for a tour this year, if so where are you going to be playing?

AT: We are going to tour a bit in our home country Denmark, and we are going to China in April. We are working on summer festivals at the moment and we are hopefully going to tour Europe in the fall, and I believe it’s going to happen, but I have no clue where it will take us… Hopefully also UK! We had a blast when we went there with Rotten Sound last year.

DA: If you could only take three albums to a desert island, what would they be and why?

AT: Oh shit, that is a tough one… It would definitely be an Entombed album. If I had to choose, I guess it would be Morning Star, it’s gotta be my favourite all round album by them. I listen to Entombed every week, and I’d hate to live without them. Another classic of mine – and maybe my favourite album that I just keep coming back to – is Slaughter of the Soul by At The Gates. I’ll never get tired of hearing that. It’s got the perfect mix of melody and aggression and fucking brilliant song writing. Last one would be an old hard rock classic of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy or Black Sabbath. Hmm, today I’d probably go with Back in Black.


Interview: Kirk Backarach – Iron Fire

Danish metal band Iron Fire prepare to release their seventh studio album on January 27th (Europe) and February 7th (USA) and it will be the third consecutive release for the present line up. The band has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years with shifting line-ups and clashes with record companies testing the strength of the group’s foundations. However, they now set themselves up to release what is their most anticipated album to date, Voyage of the Damned, via Metal Blade Records. I spoke to guitarist Kirk Backarach to find out more about the upcoming record and discover more behind the roots of the band and what the future holds for their fans.


Daniel Aston:  What can fans expect from your forthcoming album, Voyage of the Damned?

Kirk Backarach: With “Voyage of the Damned” You can expect an album like no other Iron Fire album before it. It’s an epic space adventure, with a horror twist, it is also the most eary and symphonic album we’ve done so far, as well as it’s the most well written, I think. And to top it all off we have guest appearances from legendary vocalists such as Nils K. Rue from Pagan’s Mind and Dave Ingram from Benediction.

DA: You’ve fought hard to get where you are today and have overcome many hurdles including consistent line-up changes, how did you find the making of this record compared to the ones previous?

KB: To me this have been one of the most calm and easy going albums, production wise, we’ve done so far, because for the first time we had a good amount of time on our hands to finish things before the different deadlines. Of course… Like always we did some arrangements and some rearrangements in the studio, in the last minute, but this is however how it always is.

DA: This is the current line-up of the band’s third consecutive record together, how does this line-up compare with previous ones?

KB: The current line-up is by far the most effective, when it comes to arranging. With the ones before we tended to choose the easy way out, or just to play it safe instead of going into long arguments about how we each would like it to be. With this line-up I’m sure you will hear on the new album, that we’ve spend a lot of time in rehearsals, to get a little extra detail in the arrangements and variations.

DA: Is there a particular song or moment on this record that the band is particularly proud of?

KB: As a band we are very proud of what we’ve achieved with the new album in its entirety. For my own personal part I’d like to mention the title track Voyage of the Damned. That track in particular have exceeded all of my expectations, because of its structure and the grandeur of the extensive arrangement / orchestral score. Very epic.

DA: You know how hard it can be for a band to get a record deal, with the state of the music industry
today how do you think new bands will be able to cope and achieve their dreams?

KB: Maybe they should try to think a little more out of the box… And I think that in this day and age you have to be extremely persistent and devoted to achieving your goals. This is where the most bands nowadays fail. Otherwise the possibilities of exposure are almost limitless, with the help of the social medias and networks we have today you really can achieve a lot.

DA: What are your plans to tour the new album?

KB: Currently we don’t have any decisive plans, but something will happen, that’s for sure.

DA: There’s no disputing Iron Fire’s dedication and hard work ethic with your string of consecutive releases over the past few years, when and where does the band find time to write new material?

KB: At the moment we are two songwriters in the band, Steene and me (Kirk), I don’t know what Steene does to make things happen.
For me in the early days music was always like an addiction, so I didn’t have any second thoughts about spending a lot of time writing or practising. Nowadays we set a time frame… Let’s say one month, then we both agree that when this month has passed, we both will have to bring two new songs to the table each.

DA: What is your view on today’s metal scene?

KB: I find it more exciting than ever. Never have there been such big variety of different bands and styles like there is today. Any thing you can think of is available. I think that’s very exciting and inspiring.

DA: Has the band ever contemplated a live release?

KB: This is something we’ve never discussed and we have no plans about doing it at the moment.

DA: We look forward to hearing the new album, is there anything you’d like to say to the metal masses?

KB: Look out for the new album, it will really be worth wile, otherwise I’ll be looking forward to seeing you all out there, hopefully within the next year we’ll be playing a venue near you.

Kirk Backarach

Interview: Joey Eppard – 3

American progressive rock outfit 3 have recently released their new album The Ghost You Gave to Me. The album is a continuation of the band’s intriguing musical style and has been met with appraisal from fans and critics across the globe. I interview frontman Joey Eppard and find out more behind making and influences of the album, the band’s current direction and Joey’s fascination of the number 3.


Daniel Aston: How would you describe the musical direction taken on your new release, ‘The Ghost You Gave to Me’?

Joey Eppard: I think this record is a logical evolution from The End Is Begun.  The music is more compositionally creative this time around which adds some challenges.  The songs tend to have more scene changes, which makes for a more dynamic, almost cinematic type of listening experience. The biggest challenge becomes weaving a strong lyrical and melodic thread through these progressive soundscapes.   The better part of my time was spent on making the flow of the melodies and vocals really live up to and even enhance the music.  I think this is our most cohesive record yet even though it is very diverse.

DA: What inspired you to write the music and lyrics on the new album?

JE: After we’d done all this touring with the likes of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Opeth, BTBAM and even Scorpions, we had a voracious creative appetite.  We were feeling very inspired to write and by the time we finally got a chance to do so we were on fire musically. We had so many Ideas for this album…. there are another 13 songs that didn’t get finished.  After making Revisions, which was a collection of revisions of some of our most pop-like material we were ready to break out of standard. We knew we wanted to allow the compositions to go where they wanted, we weren’t going to try to limit song lengths unless it made the song better.  We wanted to push ourselves on every level, making a cinematic record with lots of scene changes while still making every song memorable and potent. I think the idea for us is to always push ourselves farther on each record. I found myself writing stuff that I had to work hard at being able to play well, and then coming up with elaborate vocals on top of that.

Lyrically, there are some over-arching themes. Right around the time we began writing for The Ghost You Gave To Me I found out I was going to be a father. It was a wild ride for me, and it had a huge impact on every aspect of this record. Something that came up for me was becoming aware of my own mortality. I think when you are bringing a new life in you can’t help but see the other side of the equation, that in a sense your time is running out. Many lyrics on this album deal with this, in fact some passages are written to my son directly, for a future when I may no longer be here. “But if I should change before your eyes, don’t be fooled by my disguise. You were born of my demise and I’m a willing sacrifice. Should you wake before you die, don’t let a day go by. Don’t believe a word they say, I’ll be back again one day.”

When you’re going through a lot in life I think it tends to translate creatively. Not only the fatherhood thing but as a band we’d been on a roller coaster. We’d signed to Roadrunner Records, gotten dropped before we even made a record, and then returned to Metalblade. We were reeling from it all but in the end it brought us to a place where we just wanted to focus on making a great album. We realized the only power we really have is in the music and all the other bullshit has to take a back seat. React really exemplifies our attitude about all we’ve gone through in the last few years. It is a story but it’s also a metaphor for all we’ve been through as a band and still kept at it. The girl in the song represents the dangling carrot, the dream, the ghost we’ve been chasing all these years trying to “make it” as a band. We’ve signed two major deals in our career and both times got dropped before we could even make a record. “She came to me twice but she fell through the ice, I watched as she sank like a stone.”  The song is about taking ownership over our career and the anthemic chorus exclaims  “I’m not gonna give up this heart attack, I REACT!”

The other side of the lyrical coin are those songs that were last minute efforts lyrically. For the song “Numbers,” I had one day to write and record my vocals. I had to get in touch with my frustration about how things work here in the US. Our government usually favors large corporations over people and it has to change. For example, I believe that as an American I should have the right to choose whether or not to eat genetically modified foods. I don’t have that right in this country though because our government sides with big agrabiz and refuses to enforce the labelling of GMOs. Hopefully this will change. There are many other examples of this type of thing and the lyrics for this song are all words I can stand by. “You look down on me, all your eyes can see, numbers on a screen, looking back at you I can see right through, you’re not what you seem.”

DA: Is there a particular moment on the album that you and the rest of the band are particularly proud of?

JE: I think the song “Numbers” is probably the best example of our band firing on all cylinders. Everyone equally contributed to the music so it really exemplifies our four personalities. You really get  a strong sense of who we are and how we play.

One of my favorite moments is the solo of “Only Child.” There is some really intricate tapping going on underneath the prime melody. It’s a very unique combination of elements and is such a twist from the verse that proceeds it.

DA: You have a busy November tour schedule supporting Cynic in the US, are there any plans for further dates across the globe?

JE: We do have aspirations to tour the world. We plan on running a kickstarter campaign this winter to help raise the funds to do it. I did one to raise funds to make a DVD of my solo set and it was hugely successful.

DA: How much of the new material can we expect to hear in the new live set?
JE: Depends on how much time we get. Most likely it will be at least 50% new material.

DA: You have played alongside many progressive bands over the past few years including your slot at 2008’s Progressive Nation tour, would you call your music ‘progressive’?

JE: It is the only genre classification that has really stuck for us. I do think it fits us, because we take the term “progressive” to heart. It’s not just stacking up a million different parts for the sake of sounding complicated. To me there are much deeper ways to be “progressive.” They involve the lyrical imagery and melody as well as the structure and intricacies of the music.  It’s also about musicians having their own voices and approaches so that you are really creating something new. Something that hasn’t quite ever existed before. It’s about pushing your own boundaries, and not living inside a 1- dimensional box. It’s about generating a musical persona that allows for transformation, growth and evolution. So that people expect it, crave it and grow with you. Music has always had the power to influence the expansion of consciousness and that is truly the most progressive aim I can think of.

DA: You were personally chosen by Mike Portnoy for that tour, how did that feel?

JE: It felt pretty damn awesome. We put a lot of hard work into this band and it feels great when you get some acknowledgment for your efforts. It was a huge tour for us. Mike is a really great guy and a true rock soldier.

DA: You have also had successful live shows supporting the likes of rock legends Scorpions, would you say this is a testament to your music’s strength and wide appeal to fans of multiple genres?

JE: That’s always been one of our strengths. We reach people of all races and ages with our music. Often we have entire families show up to our gigs because we’re the only band they can all agree on loving. Seriously, kids, parents and grandparents! We have fun when we play and that translates to almost any audience.

DA: Your music has fallen into a variety of different genres during your career, who would you say are your main musical influences as a band?

JE: We each bring our own influences to the table. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and King Crimson are strong contenders.

DA: You have been reported to have a fascination with the number 3, what can you tell us about that?

JE: Ever since I was a kid there was something about the number 3 that always really inspired me. I used to have these dreams about it… I think it is a key of sorts. We live in a 3-dimensional physical space, on the 3rd planet from the sun experiencing time as past, present and future in a form that consists of a body, mind and soul. Musically we try to create music that is 3-dimensional.


Interview: Richard Christy – Charred Walls of the Damned

American metal supergroup Charred Walls of the Damned have recently released their highly anticipated second album Cold Winds on Timeless Days receiving rave reviews across the metal community. Richard Christy (Death, Control Denied, Iced Earth), Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen), Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Control Denied, Testament) and producer/guitarist Jason Suecof join forces in what is undoubtedly one of metal’s most exciting outfits today.

I caught up with drummer and songwriter Richard Christy and found out more about the band, the making of the new album and also the latest on the highly anticipated second Control Denied album.


Daniel Aston: Congratulations on the new album, how did the making of the new record compare with Charred Walls of the Damned’s debut?

Richard Christy: This record was much easier to make and went much smoother, not that we had any trouble with the first album, but with the new album, the demo tapes that I wrote and recorded for the album were much more detailed and complex so once we got into the studio we had a very good idea of how this album was going to sound, which made it much easier to record this new album.

DA: The recording process for the new album was completed very quickly with the drums only taking two days, was that a natural occurrence?

RC: I think that’s because we were all very well rehearsed. I played the 12 songs for the album every day for two months on the drums in my rehearsal room in Queens, New York so by the time I was in the studio I knew the drum parts like the back of my hand. It’s the same thing with Steve, Jason, and Tim too, I sent them the demo recordings for the new album about two months before we started recording and they were very well rehearsed by the time we got into the studio and they knew their parts very well. We were able to get a very raw, live, and tight sound on the album because everyone was so well rehearsed.

DA: You wrote the material on this record to cater to each members’ personal playing style, was that a particular challenge or did it help with the writing process?

RC: It definitely helped, when I was working on the vocal melodies for the demo tapes I would definitely think about Tim’s singing style and put plenty of screams and high parts in there because I know he would sound amazing singing in that style. Same with Steve and Jason, I can’t play guitar or bass anywhere near as good as them but when I wrote the guitar and bass parts for the demos I would tell those guys to improve the parts and make them their own and I knew that on the final album the bass, guitar, and vocal parts would sound amazing once Tim, Steve, and Jason played them.

DA: What was your inspiration behind the lyrical content on this album?

RC: It was many different things that inspired the lyrics for this album. It’s just things that I see every day and things that inspire me enough to write lyrics about them. I’m inspired by a lot of things in New York City where I live, like the song “The Beast Outside My Window” which is inspired by the Queensboro Bridge which I can see out of my bedroom window and every day I see it I’m very inspired because I love living in New York City and I’m very thankful that I live here.

DA: What creative input does the rest of the band bring to the song writing process?

RC: Once we get into the studio to record the album they have a lot of input. I originally write all of the music and lyrics and record everything on our demo tapes, but once we get into the studio I tell Jason, Tim and Steve to put in their ideas and suggest any changes or improvements, so once we get into the studio everyone works together to make the songs amazing.

DA: It is perhaps unusual for a drummer to have such a large role in the music writing within a band, how would you describe your own personal writing process?

RC: I’ve been playing guitar since 1992 so my songwriting usually starts with guitar riffs, although my writing process differs from song to song, like the song “Forever Marching On” which was written around a drum beat that I came up with at drum rehearsal one day. Usually though I start with guitar riffs and then build from there. Even though I’m mainly known as a drummer, I also play guitar, keyboards, and bass so I’m able to write songs.

DA: Is there a song or moment on the record that you’re particularly proud of?

RC: I’m very proud of the whole album but if I had to pick one song it would probably be “Forever Marching On”. I love the drum beats in that song and I’m really proud that it was all written around the drums, and I also really love the middle part where it goes from super technical to straight forward and epic in the middle, the middle part in that song gives me chills.

DA: How did the band form originally?

RC: I had been writing songs for fun from about 2004-2008 and when I realized I had enough songs for an album, I decided to call up Steve, Tim, and Jason and ask them to join a band that I was forming and they were totally into it. At first it was something we were just going to do for fun, record an album of songs that I had written and see how it turns out, but once we got a record deal it became much more serious and I knew this band would be around for a long time.

DA: You’ve worked with some iconic bands in your career, how does this supergroup compare to them? Is there ever a battle of egos within the band?

RC: There are no egos at all in this band, that’s why I chose Steve, Tim, and Jason, because they’re super cool down to earth guys and I knew that we would have a lot of fun in this band and there would be no egos. I’ve been very lucky because out of all of the bands I’ve been in, there have never been any egos in any of the bands I’ve been in.

DA: As individuals you all undoubtedly must have heavy schedules but for you and Steve there is a particular interest from the metal faithful to hear the long awaited second Control Denied album (myself included!). Will you both be going back to that project now this album has been completed and do you know when it is likely to be finished?

RC: Yes we’ve actually been working on finishing this album for a while now. The legal issues were finally cleared up a while back and now we’re working on getting everyone from Control Denied’s schedules and also Jim Morris’ schedule situated so that we can finish the album and hopefully it will be ready for release in early 2012! Chuck’s family is working with Relapse records and we’re all very excited about finally finishing this album so the fans can finally hear it!

DA: Can we expect a tour from Charred Walls of the Damned any time soon?

RC: Yes definitely! We’re speaking with some booking agents now about doing a Charred Walls tour in 2012 and also doing some festival shows. I’m so excited to get out on the road and play all of these new songs, and now that we have two albums worth of material to play so we’ll have plenty of metal to bring the fans in 2012. We should have some show announcements very soon at www.RichardChristy.com and www.MetalBlade.com/cwotd!

DA: What’s next for the band?

RC: We filmed a video for the song Zerospan which we will be releasing very soon and I’m so excited about it! It’s going to be like a 5 minute horror movie and people are going to be blown away by it! We’re also planning on touring next year so I’m really excited about that as well! Thank you so much for interviewing me and for all Charred Walls info you can go to www.RichardChristy.com and www.MetalBlade.com/cwotd! Take Care!

Live Review: Animals as Leaders

Headline Act: Animals as Leaders

Support: The Bad Channels, Convex

Venue: Bunters, Truro

Date: 26/08/2011

All the way from California, acclaimed jazz-prog-metal act Animals as Leaders ventured down to Truro for a free-entry performance at Bunters. The fans could hardly believe their luck, and perhaps the band could hardly believe how their booking agent had allowed it to happen. Tosin Abasi and co have been embarking on a heavy touring schedule that has seen them play virtually every day for the past few months. Fears that the trio may be suffering from fatigue were put to rest as the band effortlessly ploughed through a set demonstrating high-calibre musicianship.

In today’s musical climate it is harder than ever for a band to get the spotlight and accumulate the following it needs in a landscape that is cluttered with music piracy and immeasurable competition. Kudos then to Animals as Leaders, their ambitious world tour on the back of their debut album has shown their passion and dedication in getting their music heard across the world.

Support came from two local bands. Convex opened up the night with a set of grunge rock. Sounding like a modern Nirvana, the band managed to deliver a decent set yet bizarrely managed to not acknowledge the audience once. The Bad Channels’ then swiftly succeeded in rallying the audience with an excellent set of high-energy stoner rock. During this time, Abasi was perched by the merch stall. Seemingly warming up by playing through the night’s set alone, a small audience had gathered around him simply to watch his virtuosity up close.

When the headline act took to the stage the room became full to the brim and the venue erupted in a roar of cheers. Animals as Leaders played for just over an hour, displaying excellent performances of fan-favourites such as Wave of Babies, Tempting Time, and CAFO. The band were somewhat taken aback by the high positive reception and shouts for an encore left Abasi in a state of bewilderment, resorting to apologetically packing away his gear. An impressive set nevertheless and a promise to return in the future left all those who witnessed the magic hungry for more.


Reviewed by Daniel Aston 28/08/2011

Photography by Daniel Aston

Film Review: The Wall Movie – Pink Floyd


Feeling alienated? Well, by the end of watching this, the chances are you will be, at least that’s the idea. When Pink Floyd were touring their latest album Animals in 1977, front man Roger Waters became enraged with members of the audience who seemed more intent with screaming and shouting than actually enjoying the music; this lead to him spit in the face of a member of the audience, and, the birth of an idea for their next album. The Wall was born, a double-length concept album that was semi-autobiographical from its primary creator, Roger Waters.

The movie adaptation was originally released in 1982, following a period of the touring of the record in its entirety, in which the band put on a gigantic and expensive visual production; such was the cost of the show that it was only performed in a handful of major cities around the world; all this happened in the space of three years from the album’s release in 1979.

During this period, Waters had forced his way into the driver’s seat of the band, creating stress on the group, leading to the controversial departure of keyboardist, Rick Wright and in the years following, the departure of Waters himself. There’s no denying that he’s all over this production as well, as Waters is in charge of the screen play and the album is even credited ‘by Roger Waters’ during the opening credits; the only thing missing is Roger himself having the starring roll; instead, however, we get Bob Geldof who plays a respectable role as the story’s protagonist, Pink.

The film takes on an interesting mode of story telling as there is virtually no dialogue present, instead the music and visual imagery are left to do the talking. This works wonderfully, providing an eerie atmosphere throughout and allowing the artistic elements of the scenery and music to thrive. The plot, however, is at times a difficult one to follow because of this.

The original storyline tells of a burned-out rock star know as Pink who endures a troubled childhood haunted by the loss of his father in the second world war before he was born. Pink goes through a troubled period with his love life, where the people around him and time under the spotlight, lead him to gradually build a wall between himself and the outside world. From here he feels himself go insane, driven mad by the feeling of being alone, eventually he becomes a fascist dictator before the pressure amounts up and the wall falls down and the story ends sort of happily with Pink being reunited with the outside world.

The music and imagery tells the story well, yet at times fails to fully explain what’s going on, for example how did Pink suddenly become a rock star and a Hitler-like dictator, and has he really or is it all inside his head? This can lead to the plot becoming confusing at times; especially if you’ve never heard the album before or have know knowledge of its background prior to watching the movie.

One of the most interesting sides to this movie is that all the songs we hear have been re-recorded and re-arranged, which comes with some good and bad points. On the plus side, we get a studio version of What Shall We Do Now? which was dropped from the original record, we get a version of When the Tigers Broke Free which was also not on the original album but would feature on the follow-up The Final Cut, and viewers are treated to extended versions of tracks such as Mother and Outside the Wall; it’s also nice to hear Geldof putting his own slant on the two part In the Flesh. The downside is that some tracks don’t benefit from the new edits such asRun Like Hell which becomes significantly shorter and Hey You which is dropped completely. None of this would matter if the film didn’t rely so much on the music, which provides the only sound and dominant form of storytelling due to the lack of dialogue.

Perhaps the film’s greatest achievement belongs to that of Gerald Scarfe’s artwork and animation. The classic incarnations of characters such as the teacher and the judge appeared within the artwork of the original album, but here they appear in their full glory. Particular highlights include the war scene accompanying Goodbye Blue Sky and the grand finale in the scene that portraysThe Trial. In the former, Scarfe creates powerful images of the fallen soldiers and the power of Nazi Germany, whereas in the latter we see all the characters come together in perhaps the film’s most visually impressive moment before the collapse of the wall.

The colourful animation coexists with the human cast. It is here where we see the life of Pink unfold from a young child looking for his father, to the adolescent who begins the building of the wall after feeling the wrath of the teacher.

One of the most thought-provoking scenes is where the second version of Pink meets his future self in all his insanity; it asks the audience what would their past self think if they could see them now?

From the opening scene, the camera drifts slowly down a bleak hotel corridor, passing a cleaner before we enter Pink’s dark room where he sits staring blankly into the television set. In fact, the blank stare becomes the default expression from Geldof until the moment where he completely loses his marbles and throws a TV through his hotel window; and of course when he becomes a fascist dictator. Apart from that, the grown up version of Pink seems forever encased within his own thoughts, trapped within the wall around him.

In the end we have a great film that succeeds in many ways, but is not without its flaws. Fans of the album should love this, but newcomers are best starting with the original record first. The highlight here is the animation which gives this film and the music the character it deserves. For some though, the story may become lost in translation and lead to a general alienation of the audience…wait, isn’t that the whole idea?



Special limited edition packaging and a movie poster, on the disc is a documentary of the making of the film (25mins), a running commentary from Roger Waters and Gerald Scarfe, a documentary containing interviews with Roger Waters and others (45mins), trailers/stills and music videos taken out of the original film.




Reviewed by Daniel Aston 14/02/2010

Album Review: The Devil You Know – Heaven & Hell



Release: 2009

Artist: Heaven & Hell

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) Atom and Evil 2) Fear 3) Bible Black 4) Double the Pain 5) Rock and Roll Angel 6) The Turn of the Screw 7) Eating the Cannibals 8) Follow the Tears 9) Neverwhere 10) Breaking Into Heaven

Following the release of their reunion live DVD/CD, Heaven & Hell release their highly anticipated debut album. Don’t be fooled by the name, this is Dio-era Black Sabbath, the line-up that gave us Mob Rules (1980), Live Evil (1982) and Dehumanizer (1992) with the switch of Appice to Ward for Heaven and Hell (1980). Those of you who heard the three new recordings on The Dio Years compilation will be pleased to hear that they were, in all their brilliance, just a taste of the almighty beast on the horizon. The Devil You Know blows all the current metal bands out of the water as the grandfathers of metal (with a combined age of 235) return to show everyone how it’s done.

If you’re expecting something along the lines of Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules then you’re in for a surprise. Imagine Dehumanizer but heavier and more brutal, that pretty much best describes what lies in store for you. The riffs are slow, heavy and bone crushing. Most of this album is best described as doom metal. So for some this may be a disappointment, for others it’s a welcomed return to form.

The mammoth doom anthem Atom and Evil is first up. A brief drum intro from Appice gets things going before the swirling current of Iommi’s riffs take over. Immediately Dio’s presence is made clear, he’s still got it and his vocals pack a mighty punch throughout. The track gets elevated as we’re welcomed by the first guitar solo, then it all falls back into the pre-chorus with various guitar parts churning away, adding to the madness.

The tempo is increased a notch with Fear, an eastern-sounding riff swirls round before switching to jabbing stabs and then returning to a doom sequence. Bible Black was the first single released and is one of the longest tracks here at six-and-a-half minutes. It opens with an acoustic section, similar to the kind of intros found previously on Children of the Sea and Anno Mundi (The Vision) where the track soon explodes into some chunky riffage. After a wild west-style soft opening, the song is the most energetic so far and captures the Sabbath days of old.

Double the Pain’s intro sees Butler step into the spotlight, executing the main riff through a synthed bass, this track is also fairly fast and the most upbeat one yet. Rock and Roll Angel provides the most interesting track musically, fusing energetic heavy metal with blues. During the track, everything is dropped to provide space for Iommi to play a heartfelt bluesy solo before bursting back into the main sequence, if you came here looking for solos then this is the best of the bunch.

The first half is definitely the stronger half, the album progressing through Turn of the Screw and Eating the Cannibals, decent tunes but not standouts by any means. Then we hit Follow the Tears and the record comes back to life. Here lie the darkest six minutes, a lengthy opening allowing Iommi to deliver his heaviest riffage in a long time (matching the likes of Into the Void and Zero the Hero). This is the track that truly reflects the evil of the artwork, this is Heaven & Hell.

The tempo is lifted once again with Neverwhere, proving itself another speedy number before Breaking into Heaven rounds off the album with the way it started, a fitting end to an excellent collection of songs.

The Devil You Know is the glorious return of Black Sabbath. It stands as one of their heaviest offerings and as one of their best, a definite improvement on Dehumanizer that takes on a sound of its own. The album art represents the music perfectly, horrifying and artistically masterful at the same time.


Rating: [9/10]


1)      Follow the Tears

2)      Rock and Roll Angel

3)      Atom and Evil


Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 11/01/2010


Album Review: Those Whom The Gods Detest – Nile



Release: 2009

Artist: Nile

Label: Nuclear Blast

Track Listing: 1) Kafir 2) Hittite Dung Incantation 3) Utterances of the Crawling Dead 4) Those Whom the Gods Detest 5) 4th Arra of Dagon 6) Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend to the Underworld 7) Yezd Desert Ghul Ritual in the Abandoned Towers of Silence 8) Kem Khefa Kheshef 9) The Eye of Ra 10) Iskander D’hul Karnon

Nile return with their latest album and according to Karl Sanders himself the band was looking to achieve ‘Abba-sized hooks’. I know what you may be thinking, but don’t worry, this thing sounds absolutely nothing like Abba whatsoever, yet it is their most tuneful to date.

The album starts off with a strong number in Kafir, a brutal piece of tech-death where at one point there is a melodic eastern native vocal exploring a harmonic minor scale over the top of a surging river of seriously down-tuned riffage and wild guitar-shredding. At the same time doom vocals growl ‘There is no God…’, it’s electrifying stuff.

Hittite Dung Incantation is more Slayer inspired, hammer-on riffs amongst a tide of rapid drumming, it’s safe to say this is high-speed death metal. The Egyptian mythology inspired themes is what really make Nile stand out from other death bands, the vocals I mentioned earlier and the whole atmosphere that is present within their music really gives their sound that extra dimension.

I guess a minor downside of this would be the track names can sometimes get a bit tedious, sure it’s great to see a band not going for the expected titles, I’m all for that it’s just when you’re trying to discuss songs with others it’s like ‘oh yeah there’s a really good track called Kem Khef…what was it??’ Other titles such as Utterances of the Crawling Dead are just plain awesome. That particular track is a fine highlight of the kind of seriously intense blackened-death strains you’ll hear on this album. Starts off fast, a simple yet effective riff holding the line before everything sinks into a whirlpool of doom. The guitars sludge to provide a stressed and painful slow chord sequence, so down-tuned it’s almost impossible to recognise the presence of pitch. At the same time the bass drum is rampaging at full speed and the vocals are low and indistinguishable from being spoken words, more like a dark murmur. All this before an epic breakthrough that takes us back to fifth gear and into a crazy guitar solo – brilliant.

The title track is a clear standout, you can just imagine the moshpits bellowing the words to the chorus ‘We are they whom the gods detest’, the band referring to death metal-heads everywhere. Once again there’s the switching from speed to doom thatNilepull of so well.

4th Arra of Dagon has one of the greatest openings to any metal track I’ve ever heard, the Egyptian atmospherics followed by a doom riff before the vocals roar and the bass drum spits like a deranged snake. Yezd Desert Ghul Ritual in the Abandoned Towers of Silence certainly spices things up a bit, an instrumental, well sort of, it’s a slice of the Egyptian melodic vocal with sound effects in the background, it definitely keeps things interesting.

The problem with this album is that it doesn’t quite go all the way in means of experimentation. A few more bursts of Egyptian atmospherics would suffice nicely, providing more areas of interest and development. Sure, this stuff is supposed to by full-throttle, but I sense more can be done with this band’s sound. The record is a step in the right direction nonetheless.

This is certainly not for the faint-hearted, Nile are a unique band, but it’s still technical death metal which ever way you look at it, and it’s not going to appeal to everyone, despite this being possibly their most accessible album to date. However, it’s a solid album, it won’t disappoint fans and will manage to consume new fans, hell, it got hold of me.


Rating: [8/10]


1)      Kafir

2)      Those Whom the Gods Detest

3)      Utterances of the Crawling Dead


Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 08/01/2010