Posts Tagged ‘ Groove Metal ’

In Memoriam Warrel Dane 1961-2017

Less than an hour before writing this post, word had reached me that former Nevermore and Sanctuary singer Warrel Dane has died in the middle of the recordings for what was to be his second solo album. Since Dane was one of the biggest influences on how I used to sing – if not the biggest – this news came as a shock to me, despite his history of health issues and addictions. Ever since hearing his voice on Nevermore’s ‘Dead Heart In A Dead World’, I was grabbed by his sense of drama and the operatic nature of his voice. It was an inspirational experience.

Many acquaintances of mine claim that they would have liked Nevermore if they had a grunter instead of a clean vocalist, but Dane was a significant part of Nevermore’s charm for me. Without him, Nevermore would have been just another technical groove metal band with a remarkably good guitarist. Due to the voice of Dane, Nevermore became the band that brought traditional metal and more contemporary sounds together. I have lost track of how many times I have listened to ‘Dead Heart In A Dead World’ and ‘This Godless Endeavor’, but it is likely that it will be more than a thousand times each.

Originally, Dane was the type of singer that so many metal bands in the eighties had, only even higher. His rise to prominence was Sanctuary’s Dave Mustaine produced debut album ‘Refuge Denied’, on which he occasionally went so high that I suspected helium may have been involved. Despite his obvious skills, it was apparently too much for Dane as well, as he sings significantly lower on the album’s follow-up, the delightfully dark near-masterpiece ‘Into The Mirror Black’.

After Sanctuary folded the way many eighties metal bands did – a silent break-up after disagreements over musical direction after grunge took over the guitar landscape – Dane formed Nevermore with Sanctuary’s bassist Jim Sheppard and live guitarist Jeff Loomis. Nevermore was notably different. Slower, down-tuned and more technical. A dark, heavy band that outdid the grunge of their shared native of Seattle in terms of sheer cynicism and dreariness. With a highly skilled guitar player, an extremely passionate singer and bass drums that pounded like there was no tomorrow.

Nearly a decade ago, Dane released his first solo album ‘Praises To The War Machine’, which I at the time described as Nevermore light with a larger number of introspective moments. Though it lacked the consistency of Nevermore’s best works, I loved the album’s goth-ish feel – its cover of ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ introduced me to the music of The Sisters Of Mercy – and personal themes. The ballads ‘Brother’ and ‘This Old Man’ still stand as the best ballads Dane has ever recorded for me, together with the title track of Nevermore’s ‘Dreaming Neon Black’.

Of course, criticism of Dane is justified. He didn’t always take proper care of his voice and his live performances varied wildly in quality. I have seen Nevermore live at least four times and he was only truly good at half of them. The last time I saw Dane perform was two and a half years ago when a reformed Sanctuary opened for OverKill in Zwolle, promoting their excellent comeback record ‘The Year The Sun Died’. There, he actually showed that he could work with his diminished range, resulting in a good, if somewhat restrained performance.

Ultimately, I will always remember Warrel Dane for how unashamedly emotional his vocal performance was in a time when tough guy posturing seemed to be the norm in contemporary metal. He left behind a legacy of excellent metal. I’m just sad that this is it.


Album of the Week 08-2014: Rise To Addiction – A New Shade Of Black For The Soul

Sometimes you stumble upon a fantastic opening act when you’ve come to see the headliner. Case in point: when I went to see Trouble with Eric Wagner singing seven years ago, Rise To Addiction was opening for them and they simply blew me away. Their heavy riffs, fantastic songwriting and Leigh Oates’ powerful, raw-edged vocals combined the best elements of contemporary Heavy Metal and nineties Rock music into an irresistible, catchy, groovy and – given the amount of melody – surprisingly heavy cocktail. It’s too bad the Brits haven’t been all that active lately, because I still listen to ‘A New Shade Of Black For The Soul’ with a great deal of delight.

Rise To Addiction was founded by guitarists Steve Wray and John Slater after they left former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley’s first backing band.┬áThere’s definitely traces of the heavy modern Power Metal sound heard with Blaze in Rise To Addiction’s music, but the dark vibe and Oates’ vocals give the music a more than passing resemblance to Soundgarden and the way the songs are structured points towards Hardrock rather than Metal. The band chooses to label this Heavy Metal, but any fan of melodic, guitar-driven music with great vocals and a healthy dose of groove should be able to find something of their liking here.

Highlighting the album are generally the songs with the best choruses. ‘Falling As One’, for instance, has a passionate chorus with a brilliantly composed vocal harmony, but the way the song is built up and the melodic sensibilities heard throughout provide more than enough other reasons to love the song. ‘Everlasting Wave’ has a chorus with so many vocal layers that it’s easy to get lost among them. However, this band has made quite an effort to make it work. And it does.┬áThe songs amazing groove does the rest. ‘Low’ could have been a mid-nineties Hardrock classic and opening track ‘Cold Season’ has a couple of wicked riffs to accompany the brilliant chorus as well.

Critics could comment that the album doesn’t stray much from its chosen path style-wise, but the truth is that there’s quite a lot happening within the songs and that keeps ‘A New Shade Of Black For The Soul’ fresh throughout most of its playing time. It is remarkable however, that the band chose to close the album with the two most deviant tracks. Both ‘Fessonia’ and ‘The Hive’ are epic, somewhat progressive power ballads and the latter is vastly superior to the former, despite its interesting instrumental sections. ‘The Hive’ has a far more surprising and interesting structure. Those rhythms are amazing as well.

It’s a shame how bad luck in terms of record labels or other business decisions can keep a band from the recognition they deserve. Rise To Addiction certainly should have been much bigger than they were. This is one of those bands you can play any of your Rock and Metal minded friends. Most of them will like it. The Metalheads will go for the heavy riffing, the Rockers will probably be attracted to the songwriting and Oates’ amazing vocals. With their recent inactivity, it’s unlikely that another brilliant release will follow, but I can only urge everyone into good guitar driven music to check out ‘A New Shade Of Black For The Soul’. It’s very well worth your time.

Recommended tracks: ‘Falling As One’, ‘Cold Season’, ‘Everlasting Wave’, ‘The Hive’

Album of the Week 02-2013: Channel Zero – Black Fuel

While the commercial underperformance of ‘Black Fuel’ reportedly directly influenced Channel Zero’s split in the mid-nineties, it also shows the band at their most inspired and creative. Belgium’s biggest Metal band really is on fire here. ‘Black Fuel’ is a surprisingly varied, energetic batch of songs that emphasizes on all the strengths of the band: the incredible grooves courtesy of bassist Tino DeMartino and drummer Phil Baheux, the unconventional riffs of Xavier Carion and the powerful vocals of Franky de Smet van Damme. All are at the top of their game here.

Channel Zero was somewhat of an oddity in the post-Pantera world of Metal. Many of the nineties Groove Metal bands fully concentrated on the groove-part of the genre and though the Belgians did fit that description, they never fully let their Thrash roots behind them. De Smet van Damme’s vocals did go well with the tough machismo of the Hardcore-influenced Metal of the nineties, but it was an edge in his case; he had a much stronger melodic sensibility to it at times. And then there’s Carion, whose riffs were one of a kind. And his sound sets the band apart as well: the distortion on ‘Black Fuel’ appears to come from his amplifier rather than from a wide range of pedals, giving his guitar a surprisingly dynamic sound. But then again: producer Attie Bauw has yet to work on an album that doesn’t have a good sound.

But despite that all, the main reason why ‘Black Fuel’ is Channel Zero’s best album is because the songs are very strong. The opening title track became the band’s show opener and it’s not hard to see why: it’s built up incredibly powerfully, the riffs stomp aggressively and the rhythms really push the song. What follows covers every area of Channel Zero’s repertoire expertly. From the Hardcore-tinged Thrash of ‘Mastermind’, ‘Wasted’ and ‘Love/Hate Satellite’ to the almost Hardrock groove of ‘Fool’s Parade’ and from the midtempo anger of ‘Misery’ to the slow, atmospheric Black Sabbath references of ‘Call On Me’ and ‘Self Control’. My special mention would go out to the amazing ‘The Hill’, a dark, creeping monster of a track not unlike, but much better than what Loudness was doing at the time. The guitar work is nothing sort of magnificent, De Smet van Damme’s vocals grow with the increasing intensity of the song and its epic quality make this the single most underrated song in Channel Zero’s canon. It’s too bad no one made a song out of the great riffs in the outro.

About three years ago, Channel Zero reunited with Mikey Doling replacing the ear damaged Carion and released the more than decent ‘Feed ‘Em With A Brick’. Everyone who needs an introduction to the Belgian band in their prime, however, would find a great starting place in ‘Black Fuel’. Channel Zero was a glimmer of hope in a time when everybody trying to act like Pantera or Machine Head was making the scene a disgrace. ‘Black Fuel’ was the brightest glimmer.

Recommended tracks: ‘Black Fuel’, ‘The Hill’, ‘Self Control’, ‘Love/Hate Satellite’