Heavy metal is a way of life, but it is not for the faint of heart. The history of metal is strewn with fading memories of bands that fell apart when times were tough. But history is written by the victors, and Amon Amarth have been marching purposefully from triumph to greater triumph for the last two decades. Formed amid the fertile Swedish metal scene in the mid ’90s, these dedicated diehards brought a new sense of drama and destruction to the world of heavy music, propagating tales of Viking mythology and mortal combat over a devastating soundtrack of crushing rhythms, refined melody and rousing, rebellious refrains. From the release of their debut album Once Sent From The Golden Hall in 1998, Amon Amarth’s trajectory was firmly upward, as this band’s devotion to touring the world and spreading their inspirational creed began to resonate with ever-growing hordes of like-minded metalheads, first across Europe and then, in true Viking style, across the Atlantic and into North America.
With each successive album, Amon Amarth’s reputation grew; their arsenal of heroic hymns gaining strength and depth at the same time. Perhaps the most significant breakthrough came with cast-iron classic Twilight Of The Thunder God in 2008, wherein the band – vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen Johan Söderberg, then drummer Fredrik Andersson and bassist Ted Lundström – seemed to perfect their formula of pulverising, fists-in-the-air anthems and shift into a higher creative gear. The impact was immediate and vast, and since that moment they have been unstoppable, as Surtur Rising (2011) and, most recently, Deceiver Of The Gods (2013) consolidated that success and took Amon Amarth’s explosive and exhilarating live show around the world many more times, and in front of ever-multiplying audiences.
Once again waking from their post-victory slumber, Amon Amarth are due to return with their most monstrous and spectacular album to date. A tour-de-force of cinematic melodic metal that combines the best of the genre’s traditional wing with modern heft and heart, Jomsviking is a concept piece inspired by the elite Viking mercenaries of its title, conceived and written by Johan Hegg and brought to life by the band which for the recording sees drummer Tobias Gustafsson [ex-Vomitory] slotting in neatly as a special guest session drummer.
“Deceiver Of The Gods was very successful for us and we had a good run with that and did some really great tours,” says Hegg. “Even before we changed drummers for this record we had the idea to make a concept album. It was something we’d never done before and it gave us a challenge. I started writing the story, went into it wholeheartedly and once you start going down that path there’s really no turning back.”
By far their most ambitious project to date, Amon Amarth’s tenth album unfolds like a synapse-melting multi-dimensional epic, with countless moments of classic metal grandeur and deathly aggression but also a newfound mastery of atmosphere and evocative dynamics that perfectly compliment the highs, lows and furious battles of Hegg’s narrative.
“It’s a pretty simple story where a young man is in love with a girl but unfortunately she’s being married off. He accidentally kills a man when this happens and he has to flee,” the frontman explains. “But he swears to have revenge and win her back. He can’t let go of the past. He feels that he’s been wronged and his life has been destroyed. The story of the Jomsviking is the background – it’s the way he finds to go back and claim his revenge. The way the story evolves is not a happy story… it’s a tragedy, I guess! But I like sad endings, because they’re the ones that affect you the most.”
Veering from the thunderous attack of opening statement First Kill to the victorious heavy metal sing-along of Raise Your Horns and on to the brooding drama of the closing Back On Northern Shores, Jomsviking sounds colossal – thanks, once again, to the supreme talents of producer Andy Sneap – and confirms that Amon Amarth are bigger, bolder and better than ever before in 2016. Neither deviating from their trademark sound nor restricted by it, they have simply evolved to the next level of metallic might, broadening their sonic horizons while simultaneously glorying in their cherished metal influences.
“When you write an album like this one, you’re basically making music for a movie,” says Mikkonen. “You have to follow certain moods and we had to figure out where we needed the aggressive songs or the more mellow or sad moments, and then we had to find the right ideas for that. It was difficult and it was challenging, but it was more fun! Before we were writing typical Amon Amarth songs, but this time we felt like we had to write something different. After ten albums you really need a challenge. We rose to the challenge and we’re really proud of what we’ve created.”
Bolstered by the regal presence of legendary heavy metal vocalist Doro Pesch, who duets with Johan Hegg on the heart-rending squall of A Dream That Cannot Be, Jomsviking flies the flag for authentic, red-blooded and unapologetic heavy metal while skillfully tapping into metalheads’ unerring love for epic tales of heroism, struggle, love, death and glory. Plainly the finest record of their career to date, Amon Amarth’s tenth album is certain to thrill and delight their global fanbase while the irresistible allure of Jomsviking’s cinematic heart will surely draw many more people into this band’s extraordinary sonic world. This campaign will not be stopped: 2016 will be the year that Amon Amarth conquer the world like never before.
“We just want to be more,” Mikkonen concludes. “Bigger shows, more production, everything bigger and better. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be that way too. There’s a very good vibe in the band and I think it’s gonna be one hell of a year.”
“The shows are always absolutely fantastic,” Hegg enthuses. “When you’re onstage, performing, whether it’s a festival or a club, and you have that connection with people and you feel that reaction to all the hard work you’ve put in, that’s when you know that all the hardships you’ve experienced over the years were worth it. We are still growing. We grew with each album and we were never a trend. We’ve never followed trends and no trend has ever followed us. We’re on our own. We do what we love. There are so many shows planned in 2016 that it’s almost insane, but that’s what we live for.”
One of the most successful acts in rock history, Red Hot Chili Peppers, have sold more than 60 million albums, including five multi-platinum LPs, and have won six GRAMMY Awards, including “Best Rock Album” for Stadium Arcadium, “Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group” for “Dani California,” “Best Rock Song” for “Scar Tissue,” and “Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocal” for “Give It Away.” The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2012.
Between 2013 and 2015, The Pretty Reckless traveled the globe touring in support of their second album, the raucous, roaring, Catholic guilt-inspired Going To Hell. A bruising blend of ferocious rock and roll and inky blues, the album debuted in the Top 5 on the Billboard Top 200 and spun off three No. 1 Mainstream Rock singles, “Fucked Up World,” “Follow Me Down” and 2014’s most successful song at the format, “Heaven Knows,” which spent a total of 18 weeks in the top spot. Going to Hell’s success meant strong live demand for the New York City band, which is anchored by its songwriters, singer-guitarist Taylor Momsen and guitarist Ben Phillips, who have been making music together in partnership for ten years, and rounded out by bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins. The Going To Hell Tour sent The Pretty Reckless off on four separate jaunts across North America and three trips to Europe. Their explosive shows earned them legions of new fans at home and overseas.
Despite feeling physically and emotionally spent after returning from their two-year odyssey, Momsen and Phillips jumped right into writing the songs for their third album, the scorching yet soulful Who You Selling For, which will be released by Razor & Tie in October. “We had so much we wanted to say, it was like shaking a can of soda on tour, and then when we started writing we cracked the seal,” says Momsen. “The touring life is very isolating. You look at the world through a bus or airplane window. But music is the healing factor. It’s the one thing that is grounding and a true companion through the forest. It saved us — again.”
The necessity of music as a balm for the soul is a theme that threads its way through Who You Selling For, which finds Momsen and Phillips dealing with emotions ranging from confusion and frustration to depression and despair. “I think we felt a dire need to express those thoughts,” says Phillips. “And they’re things I think most humans feel on a daily basis but don’t always have an outlet to express. In the end we’re saying, ‘Don’t give up, your soul is all you have, so you’ve got to hang onto that.’” The album’s opening track, “Hangman” (which was inspired by a poem by Chidiock Tichborne written on the eve of his execution), tells a story of having control over your own mind and soul no matter what is happening to you. From there, Who You Selling For delves deep into the psyche of Momsen and Phillips — two artists who believe very much in the fiery redemptive power of rock and roll.
The album’s first single, “Take Me Down,” is a story of desperation, with Momsen delivering such lyrics as “I spend all night and day / How much harder can I play? / You know I gave my life to rock and roll?” “It’s about wanting something so much you’d sell your soul for it,” Momsen says, adding that she and Phillips were inspired by blues artist Robert Johnson’s song “Crossroads,” which some have interpreted as Johnson singing about selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical ability. “Back To The River” is about the desire to get away from everything, to go where no one can reach you, while the strutting “Wild City” is influenced by being young and on your own in New York (“We wrote it while walking down Rivington Street on the Lower East Side,” Momsen says). The most aggressive song on the album is “Oh My God,” which Momsen describes as “self-confession right out of a journal. I think it speaks for itself.” And finally “Who You Selling For” testifies to music being a form of salvation and describes how the rest of the album reaches into all forms of rock and roll looking for “The Answer.” The song inspired the album’s title, asking listeners to take a look at their own lives with its provocative query. “For me, it’s a question that challenges what I’m doing with my life,”
Momsen says. “It questions the meaning of my actions whatever they are. It also defines the record in a grander way by asking the listener to look into the meaning of each song past the obvious.”
Sonically, Who You Selling For alternates between blistering hard rock (“Oh My God,” “Prisoner,” “Wild City,” “Living In The Storm”) and gentler, more downtempo moments (“The Walls Are Closing In,” “Take Me Down,” “Back To The River,” “Who You Selling For,” acoustic ballad “Bedroom Window,” and closing track “The Devil’s Back”), giving Momsen a platform to showcase the power and versatility of her voice. She is one of rock’s most compelling contemporary frontpersons, capable of being both brash and confrontational and sultry and seductive, daring listeners to ignore her at their own peril with a fiery swagger that has only grown more fascinating as Momsen gets older. (She was 15 when The Pretty Reckless wrote and recorded their rock-grunge-blues debut album Light Me Up, which was released in 2010.)
Momsen’s voice sounds all the more intimate thanks to the unvarnished way that she and Phillips, along with their long-time producer Kato Khandwala, recorded the songs. “It’s the most natural recording possible,” says Phillips. “It’s all performance-based, nothing was fixed. If Taylor walked in and sang the song and it didn’t work, she’d walk right out.” When more than just guitar, bass, and drums were needed, additional musicians were invited in, including guitarist Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers), guitarist Tommy Byrnes (Billy Joel), and keyboardist Andy Burton (Ian Hunter), as well as backing vocalists Janice Pendarvis (David Bowie), Jenny Douglas-Foote (P!nk), and Sophia Ramos (Rod Stewart). “It was so great having that many musicians in a room playing together and just hitting the record button,” Momsen says. “It’s very gratifying to feel the players and singers represented as they are. It gave life to these songs that were written tucked away in a bedroom and it enabled us to really deliver the most honest performances possible. What you hear is what it sounded like, no frills. That’s it.”
It’s the band’s willingness to bare their souls that has earned them such a passionate fan base — people who identify with the raw candor of the lyrics and fearless way they are expressed. “I’ve had such a strange life,” Momsen says. “I’ve always felt on my own, running around the world on some mission that I barely understood. Our fans have been the ones who were really there for us. They have supported us through the good times and the bad. I owe them gratitude. They are the inspiration when things look too bleak to keep going. I know it’s been said a million times, but it’s true, I wouldn’t be here today without them. They make this all possible.”
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have announced dates for their 40th Anniversary Tour, which includes a stop at Sprint Center on Friday, June 2. The iconic band will be joined by legendary rocker Joe Walsh as direct support. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers return to Sprint Center for the first time since 2010 celebrating their place in American music history.
With Vertical Horizon and Fastball
Art Alexakis – Vocals, Guitar
Davey French – Guitar, Vocals
Freddy Herrera – Bass, Vocals
Jake Margolis – Drums
It’s been 20 years since Everclear released their 1997 multiplatinum smash So Much For The Afterglow, yet the album remains a beloved fan favorite, and continues to inspire new generations of musicians & fans today. Bolstered by the record’s enduring popularity, Everclear are about to embark on a highly anticipated tour celebrating its milestone anniversary, with plans to perform the album front to back, including some tracks the band has never played live.
As the band’s third full-length, So Much For The Afterglow built upon the momentum of 1995’s Sparkle And Fade, with a slew of unforgettable songs that permeated MTV and alternative rock radio. The album—which remains Everclear’s best-selling release to date—quickly won over listeners with its trademark combination of melody, rhythmic energy, evocative lyrics and thundering guitar crunch.
“It makes me feel really good when I read a lot of what people still think about the album, and how many bands have been influenced by it—how much impact it had on them—and I think about how much impact it had on me, in a different way of course,” says singer-guitarist Art Alexakis. “It’s still a thing; it’s still relevant and real 20 years later.”
Formed by Alexakis in 1991 in Portland, Oregon, Everclear has enjoyed a lengthy career spanning 10 studio releases, numerous videos, thousands of shows and accolades that include a 1998 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental, for the Afterglow track “El Distorto de Melodica.” Like a true survivor, Alexakis has soldiered on through multiple lineup changes over the years: During the Afterglow era, the band also included Craig Montoya on bass and Greg Eklund on drums; the forthcoming anniversary tour features current Everclear members Davey French (guitar), Freddy Herrera (bass) and drummer Jake Margolis. In recent years Alexakis also created and runs the annual Summerland Tour, which features a package of popular ’90s alt rock bands.
Amid all of Everclear’s accomplishments, the Afterglow period remains a pivotal moment. After enjoying a taste of success with Sparkle And Fade and its still-prevalent hit single “Santa Monica,” Everclear returned to the studio in 1996 more determined than ever to perfect their sound. By the end of the year the band had already completed an album, tentatively titled Pure White Evil, but after one particularly blunt conversation with an A&R executive, the singer/guitarist/songwriter Alexakis knew there was more work still ahead.
“He told me, ‘It’s an ok record, but it’s not going to do what you want it to do, and it’s not the best record you can make’,” Alexakis recalls. “He said that, and I just knew he was right. I knew I wasn’t digging deep enough.”
Alexakis spent roughly the next week living in a New York City hotel, contemplating his next move. He walked the city streets and went to multiple showings of the film Jerry Maguire. Inspired, he went back to his hotel room and started anew, while taking close stock of the existing Pure White Evil material. With the band and label on board with the new plan, Everclear continued to write and refine the new material over the spring of 1997 until Evil morphed into what eventually became So Much For The Afterglow.
“Looking back, I remember just how balls-out and brash I was,” Alexakis says. “I just had a vision and after Sparkle I was desperate not to have a sophomore slump and be a one-hit wonder. I was just going forward with my vision and dragging my guys behind me. We just believed that we were on a mission to make a great record. To this day, it’s probably my favorite Everclear album.”
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Afterglow is its visceral, infinitely relatable lyrics, some of which are autobiographical. Although, according to Alexakis, many people think the majority of his songs are.
”I like storytelling…writing from the first person perspective,” says Alexakis. “’Father of Mine’ (the hit single which expresses the singer’s feelings of estrangement and abandonment by his father) and a couple of others are stories from my life.” While other tracks, meanwhile, offer the singer’s wry observations on the world around him. The common thread, and the message that’s most powerful amid all of Alexakis’ lyrical soul baring, is that no matter how hard things get, there can always be better days ahead.
“From my perspective, the album told stories of an American life that had gone through ups and downs and still wasn’t 100 percent,” Alexakis says. “I still had to deal with issues like parental abandonment, poverty, abuse and drugs. But even though those things are there, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel, though it’s hard to see sometimes, and even though the record’s dark and heavy at times, it convey’s a sense of hope, which is probably why it seemed to connect with a lot of young people at the time, because even though it sucks being a teenager, or in your early 20s…you want to know there’s a chance. I’m an optimist; There’s always an upside somewhere.”
Since the album’s release, the songs have taken on a life of their own through the interpretations of listeners, who’ve made their unique personal connections with record. However some of the tracks still remain deeply personal to Alexakis, and there will likely be emotional onstage moments during the upcoming tour. For this reason, some Afterglow tracks will be performed live for the first time in years, if not ever.
“There are still songs on this record that I have a hard time singing, because I get so emotional,” says Alexakis. “We don’t play them a lot, ever, but we will on this tour; we’re playing all the songs. ‘Why I Don’t Believe in God,’ is an especially hard one to sing. That’s a song about my mom.”
Other tracks promise to be great fun. The kinetic energy of So Much For The Afterglow makes much of it ideal for concert stages, and Alexakis is eager to share and experience the material again in a live setting along with fans. On a personal level for Alexakis, who’s a married father of two daughters, it will undoubtedly be a much different tour here in 2017 than when the band was young and hungry and just promoting the album for the first time. But some things—namely the remarkable quality of the songs and the enthusiasm fans have for the record—not only remain steadfast, they’ve even continued to grow and appreciate over time.
“’California King’ is a blast to play,” he says. “The harder rock songs, like “One Hit Wonder,” are going to be fun to play. We’ve been breaking that one out in rehearsals over the last couple months; it’s tight and sounds really good. I still like playing the hits, too. I love the way people respond and sing along with the songs. That’s something songwriters never get tired of.”
It’s likely that crowds will have plenty to sing about when the So Much For The Afterglow Tour—which also includes ’90s compatriots Fastball and Vertical Horizon—hits a nearby venue later this year. Alexakis says that the roughly 90-minute set will also include other favorites from Everclear’s back catalogue, but will feature So Much For The Afterglow in its glorious entirety, performed with the loving respect it deserves. Beyond his own gratification, Alexakis says the forthcoming Afterglow tour is very much a gift—and a thank you—to fans of the album.
“A lot of people really identified with the songs off this record and it meant something important to them,” Alexakis says. “That means a lot to me, that I’ve had a positive impact in someone’s life. As a dad, and a person who’s constantly trying to do the right thing, that’s big. It just makes me feel really good that people connected to what we were doing, and that it still means something to them. What more can a guy in a rock and roll band ask for?”
With two prestigious Diamond Awards to their credit, Def Leppard—Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell, Rick “Sav” Savage and Rick Allen—continues to stand tall in the music industry and deliver some of the most iconic rock melodies and memorable anthems of all time. The tour also marks the first time in over 5 years that Poison will tour with all original members, including Bret Michaels, CC DeVille, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett.
Since their first meeting on the final of American Idol in May 2009, Queen + Adam Lambert’s magical combination has been recognized worldwide. Brian May, Roger Taylor + Adam Lambert will debut a brand new show specially designed and created for this outing, bringing fans all their favorite Queen hits, like “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are The Champions”. The high-energy concert will bring their history alive in all its passion and glory.
Iron Maiden’s hugely successful ‘Book Of Souls’ tour will return to North America for an extensive series of shows this summer including a stop at Sprint Center on July 11. Known for their unique stage designs and production, Iron Maiden has been a must-see act since their first world tour in 1981. Comprised of bandmates Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Niko McBrain and Janick Gers; the band has won countless awards include a GRAMMY in 2011 for “Best Rock Performance.”