Wednesday, June 28, 2006


It's interesting to think of which current rock bands will last long enough to reach that coveted spot some of us know as 'dad rock'. I know that may not exactly sound like a good thing but to many people that I've talked to bands like AC/DC, Zeppelin and the Stones fall into this category. To me that's pretty good company so if that means being known as 'dad rock' then I'd consider it an honor. The reality is that the reason the label 'dad rock' exists is because there haven't been many worthy heirs to the great rock throne from my generation thus leaving an enormous gap with seemingly only late 80's Guns n' Roses invited to the party. Now obviously there are all sorts of bands that will be regarded as classic but I'm talking about good old party Rock n' Roll.

Part of the problem is that too many bands conciously try to be the instant classic and the ones that don't are dismissed as going for an old sound. The problem is that a successful rock bands sound isn't necessarily defined by it's ability to play the genre's famliar elements but more importanly take that style and craft solid, catchy material. Let's just say that melody becomes really important.

So, I'm not sure if it's a trend, most likely luck and timing but here we go again with another interview. Here I talk to Mikey, the vocalist and one of Priestess' two guitarists and he confirms some of the things that I've always felt would make rock one of the hardest styles to attempt. They're a really hard working band and as far as I'm concerned have the right elements to do really well.

CB: Firstly, where are you and how did your last show go?

M: We’re on our way to Portland, our last show was in San Francisco, and it was great, one of our best.

CB: Does it frustrate you that people are so desperate to find a new replacement for their favourite classic rock bands? And how depending on what approach you take to your songwriting you can immediately be labelled or dismissed by someone because you're not who they want you to be? Like, "They're from ______? Great! I can finally put away my _____ records!"

M: It’s only frustrating when people dismiss the music because they think we’re trying to sound “retro”. We write songs to be songs on their own, not to be cast into a style. I don’t even think we sound retro, we sound modern to me.

CB: It would seem to me that playing straight up rock would be one of the toughest styles to tackle. While the pay-off could be huge it doesn't have the same kind of committed community like hip-hop or metal and the conversion factor would be more difficult because people generally think that as far as rock goes they've heard it all before. Do you find that you've struggled with this at all?

M: It is a tougher genre in many ways. Metal music can often just rely on super-technical playing and crazy fast riffing and stuff. When melody and feeling is the main focus, it makes songwriting a little more painstaking. And then you are forced to straddle that line, are you a pop rock band, or a metal band? To us it’s very simple, it’s just rock music.

CB: Some bands would strive to record an album that closely captures the live presentation of their music while others would be conscious of maybe holding back a bit more on record to insure a bigger difference between the live element vs. the album. A kind of way to create more of an impact. Do you think Priestess takes one of these kinds of approaches to recording and if so, which?

M: Well, we definitely weren’t holding back in the studio, but we were conscious that we were making something that would differ from our live show. Everybody would agree that our songs performed live are a lot heavier. We wanted the record to capture the songs as clearly as possible, but live we kick the shit out of them.

CB: One mistake a lot of bands make is failing to recognize that the audience is a reflection of the band on-stage. They can get too caught up in not wanting to make mistakes that the crowd most likely won't notice anyway. Was providing an energetic or risky performance the approach from the start or would you say it was more of a trial and error process?

M: No, that’s just the natural way for us to perform, we get intense feelings of passion on stage from the crowd, it’s that mutual relationship of crowd-feeds-band-feeds-crowd.

CB: When it comes to bands that have proven successful playing the style of music you do there has always been a balance between catering to those who just want to have a good time as well as pleasing the more musically technical fan. In the case of Priestess, a song like Run Home is a good example of a song that features both of these approaches. You have your clear melodic focus for the 'beer in one-hand while the other hand punches the air' element but you also have moments like the quick drum fill after the first chorus or the twin guitar lines for the more trained ear. How conscious of this balance are you or am I over-analyzing it?

M: There is a balance there, although we could fill our songs with crazy guitar passages and time signatures, we prefer them in moderation. One guideline we sort of follow is the “less is more” idea. But, at the same time, I could listen to Mastodon and Yes all day.

CB: When a band releases their debut it's not unusual that the songs on it are ones that have been honed and refined for quite some time, years even. Are you at all concerned about the idea of writing a follow-up under more pressure without the freedom to road-test material as much?

M: Well, it’s not going to be easy, but it won’t be hard either. We’re already writing songs that we are excited about, and we’re really looking forward to having a new record.

CB: In reference to the last question, considering the more recent, bigger support behind you have you thought about any kind of experimentation or ideas you'll be able to work with given the fact that the next recording process will probably not be as limited for you?

M: I think we’re going to keep the approach fairly similar. We will likely go for a sound that compares closer to our live sound. But again, we won’t drown our songs in complicated production calls, so that the songwriting remain the focus

CB: A band that always seems to be forgotten as far as influence goes is 70's era Aerosmith. Seriously, when listening to Appetite for Destruction I hear a lot of Aerosmith, especially stuff from the Rocks record. I mention this because your song 'Time will cut you down' has a 'Last child' feel to it. Is this news to you or am I way off? Either way, take it as a compliment because Aerosmith Rocks is a killer record.

M: Ha! We all love Aerosmith, so that’s a great compliment. They are amazing, cause they are the only band from that era who aren’t considered a dinosaur band, and have consistently released awesome records.

CB: Does it sometimes feel like all your hard work is paying off in the form of more hard work? That's not meant to imply anything negative, just that your former struggles can now become bigger pressures. Are you the types that try to prepare for what is to come or will you do your best to take it as it happens?

M: We started this band about 4 years ago with our only goal being to be able to play music as much as possible, and that’s what we’re doing now, and that’s all we ever want to do. So, as long as we can stay on the road, I think we’ll be OK.

CB: Lastly, as this is primarily a metal site and given Quebec's huge scene are there any bands that you can think of that deserve to be heard?

M: There’s a great metal scene in Montreal, people should check out The Expectorated Sequence, Hands Of Death, Mad Parish, and obviously Cryptopsy and Voivod. For more hard rock bands, people should check out Tricky Woo, Bionic and Starvin’ Hungry.

So that's a pretty good list Mikey's left us with and the bands that I knew get a Chaosbeard seal of approval and the ones I didn't know I checked out and you should too.

Priestess site and Myspace

Previous Chaosbeard post

Sidenote: Flo Mounier from Cryptopsy is from planet Ridiculon.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Norwegian Black Metal has been in a bit of a strange place for a while now and the reasons for this are a bit scattered. Bands like Dimmu Borgir took the genre to an over the top extreme with their last release 'Death Cult Armageddon' with songs that were so bloated that they almost developed a genre of their own, sort of an Indiana Jones Metal. It didn't take long before a backlash began and people started to complain that Black Metal had drifted too far from it's roots and bands began to lose sight of what made it distinct to begin with. Whether or not the tides will shift remains to be seen but when Darkthrone releases new material with lyrics like 'Nothing to prove/ Just a hellish rock n' roll freak/ You call your metal black/ It's just spastic, lame and weak', you know that some are calling for a change.

This brings us to Enslaved, a band that has certainly justified their brand of Norwegian Black Metal but has since chosen to evolve in a way that elevates them into far more interesting territory. Like Opeth, Enslaved has in a way evolved by seemingly de-evolving, or digging up the past. Lately these two bands have recorded music that easily could have been found on 70's psychedelic or prog records adding organ instrumentation and taking more time to focus on dynamics and groove based riffs. This isn't to say that they've abandoned their black metal foundation, just listening to Grutle's vocals is enough to distinguish them in that sense but they've clearly made a shift on their two most recent releases (Isa and Ruun) that proves their willingness to take chances.

Here's a video of the first 'single' from Ruun called Path to Vanir. It's proof alone that Vikings are no longer myth and have traded in their swords and clubs for Les Paul's, SG's and Rickenbacker's. Watch the video now, then again tomorrow and I swear you'll be hooked. Like all good music it requires patience and after a few listens you will find yourself rewarded. For those of you complaining about David Gilmour and Roger Waters not making up don't worry, Enslaved are happy to be your friends, as proven in this song.

Sidenote: Although I am not Norwegian I will do my best to justify naming my children Norwegian names, Grutle?? Ivar?? Awesome. 

Please listen to more of their songs at their MYSPACE.

Indiana Jones John Williams Metal

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


1. Here's the new Lamb Of God single. Sounds pretty good, a bit more straighforward. The production is amazing, of course. A whole lot of Phil Anselmo/Pantera in there.

2. This is exciting (and too clever to be fair).

Friday, June 16, 2006


If you've been with the Beard for while now you may remember a previous post I did where I featured an artist that went by the name St. Vincent. Now despite the fact that St. Vincents material doesn't necessarily contain the more common elements of 'heavy' music more frequently seen on this page I did stress that her songs did have a distinct heaviness to them.

So after some communication with the friendly Annie Clark of St. Vincent we now have a Chaosbeard first, a quick interview. Now, for those who read my previous post and thought 'AAAARGGH, this isn't METAL!?' well, fair enough and you're right it isn't, but come back in a few days and I'm sure they'll be something new for you to smash your face against the wall to. For those however that were open to it and hopefully liked what you heard please read on. From her work with the Polyphonic Spree to Hungarian composers and, well, it turns out there's even a touch of Chaos in this Saint.

CB: Firstly, where are you and how did your most recent show go?

AC:I am in Philadelphia, PA, about to jump in a van with 4 lovely men to play
the Knitting Factory (NYC) tonight. The shows have been lovely.

CB: I don't think I'm making a big stretch when I say that the Polyphonic Spree create some, shall we say, happy music. I would assume that the results of your solo material is a reflection of your natural approach to songwriting but do you think that the darker mood of the St Vincent stuff is somewhat triggered by the Spree's poppier optimism?

AC: I thought I was making happy music! Back to the drawing board...There's a
lot of black comedy in my songwriting simply because it amuses me. I
don't think it's a reaction to the optimism of the Spree. On some level,
I wish what naturally came out of my mouth was, "Everything's going to be
alright." But at this point in my life, I need to say, "let's do what
mary and joseph did, without the kid."

CB: When you're an artist that is given the freedom to write and create music on your own terms the idea of 'making it' takes on a different meaning (well that's at least how I see it). By this I mean that it's not so much about the 'fame and fortune' as it is just about being able to go out and play cool places with cool bands and expose your music to as many people as you can. Considering you've been at this for a while are you able to remember what went through your head when a one-in-a million chance suddenly became a reality? Like, ok, I'm going to be doing this for real?

AC: Life is more surreal than real most of the time. I remember playing my
first show with the Spree in Spain on in front of 30,000 people, when a
week earlier I was sitting in my bedroom in Texas
practicing the songs for the audition the next day. Or, one day sitting
in my room singing along to "Marquee Moon" and then getting the call that
Television asked me to open for them. I think it can be a very positive
thing to simply dream your life as you want it, work hard in that
direction, and then be pleasantly surprised. Reality is so fickle anyway.
It begs to be manipulated.

CB: If I pick up a guitar and play without concentrating on what I'm doing my instinct is to plant my palm on the bridge and chug or riff away. What would you say is your natural instinctive approach to the instrument?

AC: It depends on how much caffeine I've had that day. My uncle is Tuck
Andress, one of the world's best fingerstyle guitar players ever, so
genetically, I've tended to be more of a fingerstyle player. The pick is
a new world for me...foreboding, exciting new territory. And it depends
on the guitar. Some guitars beg to be abused, knocked around. Some
require a more delicate approach.

CB: A highlight from an exchange we'd previously had was when you'd mentioned that in high school you did a stint in, and I'm quoting you here 'a maiden/megadeth/metallica cover band'(YES!!). Now, despite the fact that the list of influences on your myspace page doesn't include the names Harris, Mustaine or Hetfield (clearly a mere oversight, clearly) do you think it's possible that that experience may have subconsciously affected the development of your songwriting? If not feel free to lie.

AC: The Metallica documentary on the making of the Black Album has affected me
more than any 8th grade renditions of "Enter Sandman" or "The Trooper"
ever could. Black comedy at it's finest! Truthfully, I've just been
waiting for the right time to throw in the old Hetfield growl and don the
Halford leather.

CB:Your songs are very textured and layered. Is this something that develops throughout the recording process or do you actually hear all those elements in a songs beginning stages?

AC: Some is all part of the grand vision, some is trial and error.
I've found that if I have a clear vision of the song's meaning (lyric,
etc), arranging becomes very easy.

CB: I had said in my original posting that I considered your music to be heavy in its own way. One of the main reasons why I felt this way was because of your ability to create tension. Now tension can be difficult to convey in under four minutes but you have the ability to do this. Is this balance something you're aware of?

AC: I can't say, "people," because maybe I can't speak for everyone, but I
need to freak out once in a while. Right? Tension is only as good as
the release.

CB: Going back to your influences. When my ears hear the song 'All My Stars Aligned' I pick up melodic hints of John Lennon and sonic elements of Brian Wilson, two artists you cite as inspiration. Are these hints intentional or do you think that their styles have been so firmly embedded into you that they are naturally revealed?

AC: I have no qualms about admitting that "All My Stars Aligned" is my love
letter to Plastic Ono band-era John Lennon. I love you, Johnny.

CB: Lastly, is there still a place in Annie Clarks heart for heavy music? If so do you have any examples? Maybe even a song, new or old, that you think rules?

AC: Oh hell yes. It depends on what you mean by "heavy" music. Loud,
distorted guitars? Yes, if the expression behind it moves me. I like
music that scares me and sometimes the scariest words aren't screamed
but whispered with the most frightening intention. Nick Cave's "Red
Right Hand" still gives me chills. Gyorgy Ligeti's music is staggering
and scary as hell. Oh! Some of the most fun I've had was getting
kicked in the shins at a Lightning Bolt concert!

This girl's good, expect to hear more from her.



Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Although it may seem as though close to all major metal bands come from either the United States or Scandinavia to actually believe this would remarkably ignorant. Metal as a genre is actually at a point now where fathers and even grandfathers are fans meaning that its influence from the late eighties and early nineties has not only reached interesting places but also spawned bands.

This point ties in nicely with something that I've mentioned quite a bit which is how Metal music is influenced by its environment. So for example, the dark, gloomy and in some perspectives, oppressed culture and landscape of Norway created, well Norwegian Black Metal. Or the Sunset Strip biker lifestyle of California created Hair Metal and so on. Now, not to say that these are examples of places that
don't have a distinct culture but compare the images of culture that they invoke to that of say, Jerusalem. Now that's some heavy duty culture.

This brings us to Melechesh, a pretty special band. How often can you read a bands bio that states that they released a 7" EP in 1996 and went on to perform several successful shows in the Holy Land? Let me know. Aside from a few EP's they've put out three full-length records but didn't fully hit their stride until 2003 when they put out Sphynx, an album that is without a doubt very metal but with unmistakable trademarks of their cultural history. To quote their site, "this album presents the bands Mesopotamian/Sumerian Metal in a more aggressive and intricate manner", safe to say that not many bands will be able to say that. In other words, KILLER!

In all honesty Purifier of the Stars will speak for itself. The drum production is very very clean and sounds awesome and the vocal element is in a way the main hint of Black Metal. Aside from those things it's well...Mesopotamian? Or dare I say...Sumerian? How about thrashy-death and pretty damn good.

According to their site the new album was to come out early this year but production/mix issues have delayed it until early fall. This means that it will be released right around the time that they play the one-off Sacrifice reunion show in Toronto. Read that last sentence again if your jealousy hasn't quite sunken in yet.

To read the
very positive and articulate AMG review of Sphynx go here.

Melechesh website.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


As if having Thomas Haake in his band wasn't enough, Meshuggah's evil genius Fredrik Thordendal released a solo record and had a drummer named Morgan Agren stir up the rhythmic frenzy. At least he was generous to keep Haake involved and put him behind the mic for a pretty twisted vocal performance. The record is titled 'Sol Niger Within' and despite the fact that it is now out of print it would be worthwhile searching for as it is really something special. It has about twenty-something tracks but it plays as one continuous metal-meets-jazz-fusion science experiment of a song complete with typical Meshuggah-esque spiraling whirlpool riffage, a screaming girlfriend and an amazing saxophone solo.

Here's a video taken from Agren's DVD which features Thordendal. Together they are playing sections from Sol Niger as well as just generally stuffing enormous pieces of humble pie down the throats of aspiring musicians. If Frank Zappa were alive today he'd probably want these guys in his band.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


There are a pant-load of things that attract me Metal music. Too many for me to bother getting into now but it’s not really that complicated to figure them out. One thing that applies to this post though is quite simply the attitude of it. Yeah, it sounds pretty lame but it’s true. Sometimes you just can’t deny a raised clenched fisted moment courtesy of a good bit of attitude in your music. Obviously Metal isn’t the only music where attitude plays a factor which is why if I’m not listening to it I’m usually enjoying Lynyrd Skynyrd, Van Halen and The Allmans. That’s some serious clenched fist motorcycle rock with some attitude to spare.

So, while the previously mentioned bands are now considered classic rock they were not labeled as such when they were first starting out. This is interesting because in our modern age of flash in the pan rock it happens all too often where “this new band is so classic rock maaaan”. No they’re not, they’re just rock with no chance of becoming classic. Just because you’re from Australia and you play chords doesn’t make you AC/DC mainly for two reasons, the songs aren’t as good, and Angus Young. Just because you play slow blues based riffs doesn’t make you Sabbath for four reasons, the songs aren’t as good, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Supernaut. And lastly, just because you play blues licks and have a high pitched singer sure as hell doesn’t make you Led Zeppelin for forfty reasons. Most notably being groundbreaking production, crazy tunings, stunning acoustic songs, Page, Plant, Jones and the greatest rock drummer ever John Bonham (it’s the high-hat, you should know what I’m talking about).

Ugh, this post is stressing me out. Anyway, this brings me to Priestess, a band from Montreal who I’m pleased to say are showing a bunch of potential. They’re not hiding their influences but they’re willing to take those influences and craft them into a sound that defines them as opposed to adding themselves to the pile of imitators. They also write catchy songs with good melodies and have a good understanding of how to keep things interesting. This being said, and given my devotion to the Allman Brothers Band, the fact that they utilize harmonized guitar lines is a sure-fire way to reel me in.

Talk to Her – Good clean rock with a steady fist-pumping pace and a super catchy chorus. Are those maracas? Nothing like some Latin percussion to stir things up. It’s clear that these guys respect the importance of guitar tone and don’t feel the need to hide behind a mess of dirty gain.

Their MYSPACE has a few more songs from their solid record Hello Master which looks like is getting a big-time re-release. Good for them. They’re also touring right now (I don’t think they actually stop touring so it would probably be more worth mentioning if they weren’t on the road, lucky for you they are). They’re playing the Horseshoe this Thursday June 8th so check them out.

Sidenote: If you here someone say that ______ is the new Van Halen you can punch them in the neck screaming chaosbeard.

Sidenote part2: There will never be another Van Halen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


There's nothing like being really impressed by a band that you expected very little from. Especially when you'd heard them before and not been convinced. I saw Chimaira a few years ago when they opened for Soilwork and I don't know, maybe I wasn't in the mood but I just couldn't get into it. They're newest record came out last summer and I probably would never have given it a chance either had I not read the review on Blabbermouth. It was pretty positive and most importantly stressed the fact that it was a rewarding listen if given the chance. I'm glad I gave it the chance.

These guys really dug deep with this self-titled album. Lots and lots of riffs, solid grooves and it gets better and better every time you listen to it. For a while I just kept going back to it and I still do. It's like they found a style that really worked for them and went to town with it.

One of the things about this record that really stands out is their positive abuse of chugging low riffage combined with fast double-bass drumming. If you're familiar with Morbid Angel you'll know what I'm talking about. This album has so much of that but it's just so damn catchy that I'll be damned if you don't nod your head to it. The best way for me to describe their music is that it's really satisfying. Those of us who listen to metal know what it's like to feel the anticipation of a great moment and these guys have seemingly mastered that 'moment'.

Pray for All - It was another tough choice for Chaosbeard but I went with this one because it captures what I'm talking about. Big big moments.
:15 - the riff/double bass, start nodding your head.
:59 - keep nodding your head but raise your fist in the air.
1:20 - while half-time sections can normally cause a song to lose momentum it is welcome this time because it is fore-shadowing a killer moment.
2:12 - killer moment.
So the song pretty much carries on ruling while introducing riff after riff with the odd lead showing up. Seriously, give this full album a chance because it's really memorable and worthwhile.

Their MYSPACE has a few more songs from the new album, one being the first song called 'Nothing Remains' which has the same type of 'moment' at :47. Prepare to be satisfied.

Sidenote: A Chimaira is some kind of mythic beast with two heads, one being a lion the other a goat, the body is half of each animal and the tail is a snake. The cover of the new record is the three skulls of these animals and they form a triangle. It looks pretty cool.