DRAGONFORCE’s HERMAN LI: ‘I Don’t Think I’m An Extraordinary Guitar Player’

Australia's Wall Of Sound recently conducted an interview with DRAGONFORCE guitarist Herman Li. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. Wall Of Sound: It's no secret that much of the music world sees you as the most talented guitarist on the planet. Is there a pressure to maintain the unbridled pace and scale of your uplifting musical capabilities to a certain standard? Herman: "Thanks for that! But, to be honest, I'm very serious, right; Sam [Totman, DRAGONFORCE guitarist] and I have never said in interviews that we are great guitar players, and we don't think we are. We just do our best and have fun. That's what we've always done. Our approach to music is to have fun, not trying to be cool and outplay the other guy, or think we're better. We just have fun. I don't think I'm an extraordinary guitar player, and neither does Sam think he is! We just try to do what we can." Wall Of Sound: So whatever comes out, comes out? I guess that's often the best creative approach. Herman: "Exactly! Anything that anyone writes on the Internet that says we're horrible, terrible guitarists, we never get upset, because we never thought we were that great anyway. [Laughs] It doesn't make any difference to us. Just, like, 'Oh, yeah. Maybe they're right. We're not that great, but whatever.'" Wall Of Sound: Do you guys get competitive in the band to try and musically outdo each other? Herman: "I think these days we're less and less competitive with each other. I don't think we ever really were, but if there was an element of that, I don't think we really have it anymore. We try to get the very best out of each member and use their skills. We recognize that no one's good at everything, and we need to use the best of each person and what they're doing. If I can't do a certain thing, it's, like, 'Well, you do that, because you're going to do it better.'" Wall Of Sound: I read that bassist Frédéric Leclercq was doing a lot of writing for [the new DRAGONFORCE] album ["Reaching Into Infinity"]. Herman: "Yeah, that's true. Fred has written more songs now than he used to before. We needed something a bit different, so that's why we needed Fred to help out and bring in a different kind of vibe as well. Sam and I have been in the band since the beginning, so it's always good to get some ideas we haven't thought of before and work together afterwards from it. In the early days, there was more of Sam and I going, 'Okay, we're going to do these songs. That's it. You don't need to write songs for us. Thank you very much.' [Laughs] I guess you can call that a bit competitive, if you want. But these days we don't care who writes. We just want to make the best album, so whoever wants to do it, come on, help us out!" Read the entire interview at Wall Of Sound.
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Watch GENE SIMMONS Perform With His Solo Band In Philadelphia

Legendary KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons played a special concert dubbed "An Evening With Gene Simmons And His Band" on June 2 at Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as part of a partnership with Wizard World, Inc., the preeminent producer of Wizard World Comic Cons across North America. Fan-filmed video footage of the show can be seen below. "This is gonna be a first for me," Simmons told CantonRep.com about playing his own shows. "Outside of KISS, I've never done a solo tour. I never did anything like that. Every once in a while, I'll jump up on stage and do a song with somebody. Johnny Depp and I did a few songs together, a few other knuckleheads, but that's about it. When Wizard World and I agreed to do five events together, the idea of jumping up onstage and gulping it on for an hour or so came up. And I got a great bunch of guys, real rocking guys who are gonna get up with me, and we'll play all the hits and have ourselves a good old time." Simmons also spoke about performing some of the deeper cuts live with his solo band, such as "Charisma" and "Got Love For Sale". He told Michael Cavacini: "When the masses show up at our concerts, they're the diehards who've been with me since day one. If you're five years old, fifteen years old or even twenty years old, you still don't scratch the surface because we've been around for forty-three years. If KISS played what they used to call in the music industry a b-side of an album, some of the more obscure stuff, most of the people wouldn't know it. If you go to [see] THE [ROLLING] STONES and they play something obscure, everybody sits down because they don't know it. They know 'Satisfaction', 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' and a few others. Doing these smaller concert halls, which hold a thousand to three thousand people, means they get filled up by real diehard fans. They don't want to hear the same-old, same-old. They want to hear nuggets, as they say. It's a hoot for me because I've never really had a chance to do this stuff live. It's been a lot of fun. There's nothing like playing 'Charisma' and seeing a few thousand fans mouth every single word. Lot of fun." Simmons said in a recent interview that he was still working on his box set that will include "a hundred and fifty songs that have never been released. That news is gonna be released soon."

DIRKSCHNEIDER Plays First Show With New Guitarist BILL HUDSON (Video)

DIRKSCHNEIDER — the band fronted by former ACCEPT singer Udo Dirkschneider — made its live debut with new guitarist Bill Hudson Sunday, June 4 at the Rock Hard Festival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Fan-filmed video footage of the concert can be seen below. Hudson was in the middle of a European tour with I AM MORBID — the new band featuring former MORBID ANGEL members David Vincent (vocals, bass) and Tim Yeung (drums) — and was forced to miss a couple of shows with that group in order to make the DIRKSCHNEIDER gig at Rock Hard. Hudson will rejoin his I AM MORBID bandmates on stage on June 5 in Mörlenbach, Germany. Hudson hooked up with DIRKSCHNEIDER and U.D.O. as the replacement for the recently departed Finnish guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen. U.D.O. and DIRKSCHNEIDER said in a statement: "Bill fits in, in every way, perfectly with us and builds a fantastic guitar team together with Andrey Smirnov. He is very experienced and has shared the stage with several known bands, most notably CIRCLE II CIRCLE, JON OLIVA'S PAIN and TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA for the last few years. It's not really necessary to talk about his skills; simply check it out on our next tour and you will see what we're talking about! "After Kasperi left the band, we have received many suggestions and applications from great guitar players from all over the planet. At the same time, we started getting hints from different and unrelated people in the business pointing straight into the same direction, telling us to check out this Brazilian/American guy. Once in Germany, he convinced everybody from the get-go and it was very clear that this guy had all the requirements to become the new band member." U.D.O. has commenced work on the follow-up to 2015's "Decadent" album for a tentative late 2017 release. Heikkinen left U.D.O. and DIRKSCHNEIDER in February for personal reasons. Udo spent the last year touring under the DIRKSCHNEIDER banner, performing classic ACCEPT songs for the last time. "Decadent" was released in Europe in January 2015 via AFM. The disc was recorded in Udo's current home, Spanish island Ibiza, and also at Redhead Audio Productions in Wilhelmshaven. The current U.D.O. lineup includes Udo's 23-year-old son Sven Dirkschneider, who joined the group as the replacement for drummer Francesco Jovino. DIRKSCHNEIDER released a live album called "Live - Back To The Roots" in October via AFM Records. The effort, which was recorded on April 2, 2016 at Kaminwerk in Memmingen, Germany, was made available as two-CD digipak and gatefold three-vinyl in four different colors (black, gold, silver and clear).

Video Premiere: MR. BIG’s ‘Everybody Needs A Little Trouble’

The official music video for "Everybody Needs A Little Trouble", a brand new song from MR. BIG, can be seen below. The track is taken from the band's ninth studio album, "Defying Gravity", which will be released on July 7 via Frontiers Music Srl. The effort will be available at traditional retail and all digital service providers, as will a deluxe edition version with CD and bonus DVD that features music videos and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new album. The album will also be made available on vinyl in the coming months. "Defying Gravity" deftly showcases that patented MR. BIG blend of crunch and melody, from the freight-train ride of opening cut "Open Your Eyes" to the harmony-laden wonderment of "Damn I'm in Love Again" to the grateful/wistful nostalgia of "1992" (recalling the days when the band was flying high atop the singles charts with their international No. 1 smash "To Be With You") to the barnburning slide-blues closer, "Be Kind". Overall, "Defying Gravity" is prime evidence that the only thing MR. BIG remains tethered to is their ongoing pursuit of achieving creative excellence. Original members Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums) reunited with producer Kevin Elson (who was behind the boards for the band's 1989 self-titled debut, 1991's "Lean Into It" and 1993's "Bump Ahead") for an intensive six-day recording session in Los Angeles. While Torpey was unable to perform some of the songs on "Defying Gravity" due to a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, Matt Starr has been filling in for him on a majority of the album. Starr also been touring with the band for the past couple of years, with Torpey able to play a couple of songs at each stop. "It was great to get back in the studio with our original producer, Kevin Elson," says Gilbert. "Kevin recorded all of our original classic albums from the '80s and '90s, and we immediately felt that magic chemistry with him on 'Defying Gravity'. We basically played live in the studio. "Over the years, we've all had a chance to experiment with every recording technique possible, but it's still always the best just to play together as a band. Most of my guitar solos were tracked live with the band. I've worked hard on my improvisation in the last few years, and it really paid off on this record… both melodically and on the face-melting stuff." MR. BIG is gearing up for the launch its latest worldwide tour, which starts May 31 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Potowatami Casino. "2017 is filling up quickly with tour dates all around the world," proclaims Gilbert. "I can't wait to play the new songs, and, of course, our favorites from the old days, like 'Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy', 'Just Take My Heart', 'Green Tinted Sixties Mind', 'Wild World' and 'To Be With You'." "Defying Gravity" track listing: 01. Open Your Eyes 02. Defying Gravity 03. Everybody Needs A Little Trouble 04. Damn I'm In Love Again 05. Mean To Me 06. Nothing Bad (About Feeling Good) 07. Forever And Back 08. She's All Coming Back To Me Now 09. 1992 10. Nothing At All 11. Be Kind Photo credit: William Hames

JORN: Video For New Song ‘Fire To The Sun’

The official video for the song "Fire To The Sun" from JORN can be seen below. The track is taken from the vocalist's brand new studio album, titled "Life On Death Road", which was released on June 2 via Frontiers Music Srl. Easily one of the greatest rock singers of the 21st century, Norway's very own giant Viking warrior Jorn Lande's vocals are resoundingly strong once again on his ninth original studio album, "Life On Death Road". This absolutely brilliant new album sees Lande attacking the microphone with rejuvenated vigor, accompanied by a new band and a bigger and stronger sound. "Life On Death Road" took several months of hard work for the songwriting vision to come together. Jorn needed to take the music to a new level to push the concept of the band further than it has ever gone before. The result is a record that is deep, strong, full of groove and powerful with anthemic songs aplenty. Songs like "Man Of The '80s", "Love Is The Remedy", "Life On Death Road", "Insoluble Maze (Dreams In The Blindness)", and "The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)" capture the essence of Jorn as a singer, songwriter and lyricist. Jorn says: "It's easily one of the best albums I've ever recorded. This was all about putting the right people together for the right result, and about taking the necessary time to work more thoroughly and in depth with the material we chose for the album. "The older I get, the more I feel it is necessary to listen to my heart and look for that genuine and honest feeling that made me take interest in music in the first place. "Back in the '70s and early '80s when I grew up, people and music were more free and so the presence of feeling and soul came more naturally and was expected from an artist or a band. This is the energy and craftmanship we've been looking for, but still keeping a pulse on the modern times we live in. "'Life On Death Road' is an original album that is pretty much summing up the last 40-50 years of rock and metal and has become a hybrid modern heavy rock album without losing those tasty elements of a good aged wine. Regardless, we're all products of our time, and the feeling, soul and symbioses we've achieved for this album is a rarity in today's music world, so in that sense this album is a true old school sailors' 'tall ship adventure.' From start to finish, it took us nearly three years to finalize and I'm really proud to say that this album is the proof that classic albums can still be made." The album also marks the debut of a new lineup of very experienced and gifted musicians around the Norwegian singer. On bass is Mat Sinner (PRIMAL FEAR, SINNER, KISKE/SOMERVILLE) who needs virtually no introduction to European heavy metal fanatics. On keyboards and production is Alessandro Del Vecchio (HARDLINE, REVOLUTION SAINTS), who already joined JORN for the recording of his last covers album, "Heavy Rock Radio" and was the glue that helped Jorn to create the feel and the direction for the new album. Francesco Iovino (PRIMAL FEAR) is on drums and Alex Beyrodt (PRIMAL FEAR, VOODOO CIRCLE) handles guitar. Truly a recipe for a roaring success! Jorn had no desire to do "just another" JORN record. The aim was to do the best record possible and it took almost two years of writing, arranging, and producing before wrapping this all up. The performances are thunderous across the board and you can hear the urgency of these songs in Jorn's singing! Jorn's catalogue is getting too long to include in brief overviews and his innovative and creative skills as a vocalist and music visionary have led to him selling millions of albums worldwide while being a frequent entrant on sales charts around the world, including Billboard. Worth a mention here though are his years fronting MASTERPLAN, whom he recorded three albums with. He has also recently collaborated with the world's biggest online gaming company, Riot Games, providing vocals for the virtual band "PENTAKILL" in the game "League Of Legends". Claimed to be the biggest-selling Norwegian musical export since the pop band A-HA, Jorn continues his rock crusade and there are no signs of him slowing down and "Life On Death Road" is a magnificent testament to his abilities! "Life on Death Road" track listing: 01. Life On Death Road 02. Hammered To The Cross (The Business) 03. Love Is The Remedy 04. Dreamwalker 05. Fire To The Sun 06. Insoluble Maze (Dreams In The Blindness) 07. I Walked Away 08. The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope) 09. Devil You Can Drive 10. The Optimist 11. Man Of The '80s 12. Blackbirds JORN is: Jorn Lande - Vocals Alex Beyrodt - Guitars Mat Sinner - Bass Alessandro Del Vecchio - Keyboards Francesco Iovino - Drums
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METALLICA’s ROBERT TRUJILLO Says His Son Was ‘Fearless’ While Touring As Bassist For KORN

METALLICA bassist Robert Trujillo spoke to NBC Boston about having his twelve-year-old son, Tye Trujillo, a member of NorCal group THE HELMETS, filling in on bass for KORN's recent South American tour after that group's regular bassist, Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu, was unable to make the shows due to "unforeseen circumstances." "Every night he's fearless and he's just bringing the performance, playing the songs, even improvisational moments within the set," Robert said of his son's two-week stint with KORN (see video below). "Which is really a challenge, especially for… for anybody, let alone a twelve-year-old." Robert Trujillo previously told Brazil's Globo Play that he "never forced" Tye to play music. He explained: "I always felt that if he wanted to embrace an instrument, great; I'd try to help him with it. So initially, at first, it was drums. And then around that same time, when he was one, he had a little plastic guitar, and he would play it all the time, just strumming it — always strumming it everywhere, to the point where the plastic was worn down." He continued: "It's a beautiful thing, 'cause he's still a twelve-year-old, and he still acts wild and crazy, as a twelve-year-old should, but when it comes to music, he's very focused." Robert Trujillo told the Huffington Post that Tye is "an amazing bass player and a really great writer. The bass lines that he's writing and the riffs, I'm like, 'Man, I wish I had written that.' He's coming up with stuff on his own, but he's also been influenced by players like Jaco Pastorius, but also Miles Davis or BLACK SABBATH or LED ZEPPELIN. He's like a sponge. He loves funk. He loves James Brown, he's this little twelve-year-old who's soaking up and embracing all this different music and I can tell that it's helping him creatively in what he's writing with his band." Tye's own band, THE HELMETS, counts TOOL, ALICE IN CHAINS and METALLICA among their influences. Tye told Billboard last year, "We hate pop, we despise it. It's all the same sound."

GUNS N’ ROSES Has Been ‘Assembling Ideas’ For Possible New Studio Album, Says RICHARD FORTUS

Richard Fortus says that the reunited partial classic lineup of GUNS N' ROSES has begun "assembling ideas" for a new studio album. Fortus, who joined GUNS N' ROSES in 2001 and became the band's longest-serving post-Slash guitarist, spoke about the possibility of new music from GN'R during an interview with the new "StageLeft" podcast. He said: "We haven't started recording anything. I mean, when I say that, as far as in the studio, doing an album… We've been recording a lot of stuff, just ideas, sort of assembling ideas, but not going into a studio and actually tracking a new record." Asked if he thinks a new GN'R album will happen, Fortus said: "Yeah, I do. It's sort of too good not to happen at this point — that's how I feel about it. This band is really a force right now, and I definitely hope that we do, and I think we're all sort of counting on it, and we're also planning on it." Fortus was also full of praise for GUNS singer Axl Rose, saying that "the genius of Axl is his ability to assemble songs from different parts and make them feel cohesive as a song. And I've never seen anybody able to do that in the same way." A St. Louis native, Fortus got his big break when his band PALE DIVINE opened for THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS. This led to Fortus forming the band LOVE SPIT LOVE with PSYCHEDELIC FURS frontman Richard Butler and future GN'R drummer Frank Ferrer. In 2000, Fortus and Ferrer became touring members of the reformed PSYCHEDELIC FURS before Fortus hooked up with GUNS N' ROSES. Ferrer himself joined GN'R in 2006. GUNS kicked off its long-rumored and long-awaited reunion tour in April 2016 with a club show in Hollywood and appearances in Las Vegas and at California's Coachella festival. The "Not In This Lifetime" tour features classic lineup members Slash (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass) and Rose backed by Fortus, Ferrer, keyboardist Dizzy Reed and new second keyboardist Melissa Reese.

Forces of the Northern Night – DIMMU BORGIR

One can only imagine what EMPEROR, accompanied by a full orchestra, might have sounded like, if the final album, "Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise", had been given over to such a prospect. Of course, metal and orchestral stage presentations have become passé, with black metal, as of 2011, representing the final. When mastered proficiently, the blazing velocity of guitars in black metal can produce a symphonic-replicated din, thus, the argument for mating the two has always existed. Why it took until 2011 for someone to merge black metal with a symphony is relegated for debate, and how pedants feel about what is likely constituted as a commercializing of their arcane sanctity is open for discussion. If this vast task of further breaking black metal out wasn't to fall upon BEHEMOTH, ENSLAVED or KEEP OF KALESSIN, why not the subgenre's poster child: DIMMU BORGIR? While the band puts the final twists to its long-processed ninth album, we get "Forces of the Northern Night". This package is a double DVD and CD DIMMU BORGIR presentation performing with KORK, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and the Schola Cantorum Choir, the latter having recorded on 2010's "Abrahadabra". If you can believe it, the performance captured at Oslo Spektrum was broadcast on Norwegian television as part of a one-hour documentary. Hell obviously froze beneath Norway. Perhaps only The Great Kat can outduel this shred-tastic neoclassical hell storm that DIMMU BORGIR and its symphonic elements conjured. Presenting the same set list on both "Forces of the Northern Night" at Oslo Spektrum, and "Northern Forces Over Wacken" (with the National Czech Symphonic Orchestra), both performances presented in this package, the primary difference between the two performances is forum. For aesthetic purposes, the outdoor Wacken show is the more visually appealing set, though both are undulating clamor with a smidge more echo to the Oslo gig. A Wacken fest mosher wearing an oversized monkey head during "A Jewel Traced Through Coal" is a freaking riot, even if black metal purists are unlikely to be amused. Nor are they apt to be pleased with random members of the orchestra bearing slashes of ghoul paint, much less Shagrath's routine accolade-summoning of the crowds. Such is the way when you're the biggest thing in your genre. Shagrath leads the rest of the ashen-clad band, cloaked by skeletal and snakeskin pattern sleeveless trench coats and undead face paint, contrast to the tuxedo-clad ensemble behind the band. DIMMU BORGIR is naturally twenty times heavier and faster than METALLICA or the SCORPIONS, both of whom successfully played the orchestral rock card. "Forces of the Northern Night" proves how much DIMMU BORGIR outclasses them—even EPICA, who put on one of the most masterful orchestral couplings in metal history, 2009's "The Classical Conspiracy". It's compelling to watch KORK impressively keep up with the flailing speed of "Born Treacherous", "Vredesbyrd" and "Chess with the Abyss", the orchestra's horns and flutes decorate the chaos with shrill note scales. The string section meanwhile supplements the gales and slices garishly across the breakdowns. The intro to "Gateways" is sensuous with the black-robed Schola Cantorum Choir chanting sedately before the calamitous thunder greeting its wake. Agnete Kjolsrud from DJREV, looking like Live Wire from Superman gone black metal, reprises her vocal contributions to "Gateways" onstage. "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" was written with a spectacle of this nature in mind, and DIMMU BORGIR and KORK elevate it so far that members of the orchestra waiting to join back in vigorously bob their heads in anticipation. It is a climactic point of the set, where the entire collective of musicians summon energizing power to sustain them through "The Serpentine Offering", "Kings of the Carnival Creation" and so on. The orchestra sweeps gallantly, at times summoning echoes of composer Basil Poledouris, through the breathtaking instrumentals: "Xibir", "Dimmu Borgir" "Eradication Instincts Defined", "Fear and Wonder", and "Perfection Or Vanity". It is thus a perfectly realized collaboration where KORK and Schola Cantorum are equal stars to DIMMU BORGIR. Only Danny Elfman, composing a black metal opera, would be equal to this.

Live in Birmingham 2016 – RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW

Billed as a "return to rock", and under the name RAINBOW, legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore tantalized his fans with three highly anticipated sold-out shows last summer. Admittedly financially motivated, Blackmore assembled a live band that featured current and past members of his folk/medieval outfit BLACKMORE'S NIGHT. The first two German performances were filmed with the highlights released on DVD as "Memories In Rock", and the audio of this third and final U.K. date, widely considered the strongest of the three shows, now being released as a double CD. Since the last RAINBOW reincarnation, '95-'97, featuring the versatile Doogie White in the vocal position, there had been many rumors of a reunion with co-founder Ronnie Jame Dio. Sadly, that never materialized. Dio's death in 2010 would seem to exhaust all possibilities of seeing any version of RAINBOW, Blackmore being content pursuing the Renaissance-flavored direction of BLACKMORE'S NIGHT with his wife Candice Night. But the urge returned, and a vocalist was needed. The unpredictable Blackmore passed over both White and former RAINBOW/DEEP PURPLE pal Joe Lynn Turner for a wild-card choice: Chilean-born YouTube discovery Ronnie Romero. Blackmore's unpredictability is well known. A sadistic practical joker to his bandmates, a nerve-racking terror to music journalists worldwide, a pilgrim-hatted madman and a walking contradiction who can't seem to decide if he has the biggest ego on earth or no ego at all, Blackmore is at risk to storm off the stage whenever he is performing, among other stunts. And so here we are at the NEC in 2016. The last time Blackmore was here with PURPLE in '93—just weeks before ripping his visa up in front of the band and quitting for good—he baptized an annoying cameraman with a pitcher of water on stage, then soaked him with beer behind the amps for good measure. That was then and this is now. Things started off in familiar fashion with the sound of Judy Garland's voice coming through the P.A.: "We must be over the rainbow, rainbow, rainbow," before the first non-RAINBOW twist comes with PURPLE's Mark II opener "Highway Star". It's an odd choice to be sure, but Romero's voice stands out immediately. Throughout the set, he comfortably handles the unenviable task of recreating the voices, and registers, of Ian Gillan, Dio, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet: nailing it. His sharp South American accent intact on almost every syllable. If nerves were an issue in front of a crowd this size, it didn't show. The band, still in the development stage, performed mostly modestly. Drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau struggled to gel at times, possibly due to a non-rigorous rehearsal schedule, and song arrangements occasionally were tentative and endings awkward or abrupt. But these offenses were minor to the festive attendees who drank it all up and sang along impulsively. Then there's Blackmore. If you show up for this sort of thing expecting him to kick a security guard or throw his guitar, well, you just have to wait, don't you? Inspiration can come from unexpected sources, and Blackmore has historically been content to lay back and listen for that opportunity. When it happens, it's the reason that everyone is there. Never a "safe" guitarist, Blackmore always searches for that new source of inspiration—even in a song that he's played hundreds of times before. This particular evening was no exception. Four months after finger surgery on his fretting hand, the fully recovered Blackmore displayed a deliberate and melodic phrasing to his guitar solos. "Mistreated", originally a PURPLE song, perhaps got more mileage from the version from RAINBOW's 1977 double live album "On Stage". In fact, most of the Dio-era RAINBOW material presented here seems to use "On Stage" versions as a template. But "Mistreated" has a deliberate 1974 "Burn"-era feel, with Blackmore finding that sweet zone, and Romero rendering a Coverdale "California Jam" flashback, with crowd assist. "Difficult to Cure", the instrumental title track from RAINBOW's 1981 album also worked well with this lineup. It supplied the intended old-school nostalgia, including a shredding keyboard solo from Jens Johansson, the only other non-BLACKMORE'S NIGHT alumni besides Romero. The drum/bass solo then progressed into a sort of bass and keyboard smash-up while Blackmore took a break. "Catch the Rainbow", from the first album, kept the best part of the evening's momentum going. A tribute to the "On Stage" version. Elsewhere, fan favorite "Stargazer" starts off a little slow but gains steam showcasing background singers Candice Night and Lady Lynn, correctly introduced as Christina Skleros by Romero. A stout version of "Man on a Silver Mountain" along with PURPLE classics "Child in Time" and "Burn" kept the celebration going. The verdict? It's a rough one. Longtime RAINBOW fans will surely have a lot to bitch about here: a setlist with too many DEEP PURPLE songs, a drummer who doesn't play like Cozy Powell or even Blackmore not using Marshall stacks—he hasn't since '93. Maybe the question is, what does Blackmore think about this? He has expressed surprise at the turnout for these shows. On this night, he encountered a packed Genting Arena with a collective gathering who appeared to know all the words to PURPLE's "Soldier of Fortune" from "Stormbringer"! That's a very hard-core fanbase. With another handful of RAINBOW shows this summer, including a return to Genting Arena, better performances could render this set obsolete. So, do you need this? Maybe not now, but someday you just might.

Reaching into Eternity – DRAGONFORCE

Now on its seventh album, DRAGONFORCE has a lot to live up to: namely its members' rep as meta-human musicians. The decision-making process on whether to continue dropping albums slung at two hundred miles an hour each must be as nerve-racking as coming up with extravagant guitar solos not yet heard by the metal public. Not that DRAGONFORCE isn't capable of slowing down; it's just that when the musicians are all but held accountable to keep up appearances as maestros of velocity, dropping back to 30 mph is a risky venture. Bassist Frédéric Leclercq, who wrote the majority of DRAGONFORCE's new album, "Reaching into Eternity", has publicly offered this bit of insight into the band's creative process: "It was very intense and very tiring... [I] lost my temper a few times – I think we all did at some point, because we wanted to deliver nothing but the best. I think we have proven that playing fast was something we were good at, so this time I wanted to bring even more diversity into our music. It's great to challenge ourselves instead of staying in a comfort zone". For DRAGONFORCE fans, this isn't so much a warning as it is assurance. "Reaching into Eternity" is still the most insane thrash prog you'd ever want, but this time, there's more to chew on. The instrumental title track sedately opens the album, giving DRAGONFORCE the opportunity to explore a more verdant realization to its epic-minded compositions. Instead of rushing out, all guns blazing, like the group is expected to, this careful plotting makes the listener wait for what they automatically know is coming: the rocketing fireworks on "Ashes of the Dawn". If there's any real difference to DRAGONFORCE's outrageous alacrity these days, it's more sanitization of their storming overcapacities. Trumpets and keyboards herald DRAGONFORCE's conquering speed, and though the whole scheme is nothing you haven't heard before, the refinement speaks louder than the technical proficiency—the band's prowess still being tremendous as ever. Of course, "Judgment Day" whisks even faster with keyboard blizzards vying to outclass even Thanasis Lightbridge, one of the apparatus's lower-profile yet super-skilled masters. Guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman remain Herculean with Marc Hudson leading the vocal charge like the four winds are at his command. Thus, you have a core summary of "Reaching Into Eternity", like all of DRAGONFORCE's albums, this one is concentrated on proving how fast metal can pushed. But wait... It's not just the sagacious rock jam dropped into the flurrying "Astral Empire" and the tranquilizing placidity forced into "Curse of Darkness" that gives this album an edge of delineation. More abruptly than you can say "Home Sweet Home", DRAGONFORCE drops an eighties-puckered ballad, "Silence". Obviously more textured and driven by contemporary chord structures, DRAGONFORCE defies its own propensities with a buttery love ditty. Then you're in for another new experience with the 11-minute epic "The Edge of the World". Not only taxing due to its length, in this song, everything except for DRAGONFORCE's berserker mode is loaded in, which is still a lot to take in. Even "Our Final Stand", at the end of the album, nudges prog metal and eighties hard rock in a cutesy curtain call. Fret not, speed freaks! "Midnight Madness", "Land of Shattered Dreams" and "War! " answer Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet's proverbial call for ludicrous speed. "War! " is appropriately nastier in spots than your average DRAGONFORCE number, courtesy of low end chords and manifest snarls amidst the tumbling scale theatrics. If you get the album's special edition, you can further satiate your thirst with the bonus tracks "Hatred and Revenge" and "Evil Dead", the latter being one of the rowdiest hell storms DRAGONFORCE has yet summoned. What it must be like inside the speed force that rules over this band and the lengths they go from album to album to continuously dazzle its audience! This time, however, DRAGONFORCE hit its own proverbial Flashpoint (apologies to Geoff Johns) where a slight reset has allowed the band to alter its existence, while remaining the fastest audible antimatter channeled through six bodies.