Gig review: Venom Inc slays Tokyo

Venom Inc on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Mikio Ariga

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Venom Inc’s Mantas, Abaddon and Demolition Man destroy Tokyo as they kick off their “Blood Stained Earth Tour” in style.

Venom Inc at Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo, 15th February 2018

Mantas, Abaddon and Demolition Man were part of the best-ever line-up of British black metal pioneers Venom in the late 80s and early 90s. Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on bass and vocals took the band to a new level then and he leads from the front now. He has a stage presence that commands your attention. Jeff “Mantas” Dunn on guitar and Anthony “Abaddon” Bray on drums have developed into fine musicians too, having started from nowhere four decades ago. The primitive start of Venom has over the years developed into some serious extreme metal with even progressive rock elements in the mix. There is some serious songwriting talent here. This trio also knows how to perform the songs and give their audience a great show in the name of black metal.

A few years ago, this line-up reunited under the name Venom Inc and started touring. In September 2017 they released a brand new album, “Avé“ (via Nuclear Blast internationally and Ward Records in Japan), which was named Extreme Metal Album of the Year in The Roppongi Rocks Music Awards. With the Venom back catalogue and a terrific new album, Venom Inc has a treasure trove of music to choose from when putting together set lists.

As they walk on stage in Tokyo, following energetic sets by local opening acts Survive and Neuroticos, they kick off with the epic new track “Avé Satanas” from the latest album before they play the classic “Welcome to Hell”. Many old Venom favourites – such as “Die Hard”, “Live Like an Angel”, “Warhead”, “Don’t Burn the Witch”, “Poison”, “Leave Me in Hell” and, of course, “Countess Bathory” – are mixed with fab new songs such as “Metal We Bleed”, “War” and “Preacher Man”.

Venom Inc on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Mikio Ariga

“We like our metal black,” says Demolition Man as he introduces the classic “Black Metal”, indirectly reminding the younger generation that Venom not only influenced the black metal genre, it named it. We also, of course, get the classic “Sons of Satan” before the evening is over. This trio is in fine form, absolutely killing it musically. While on the surface there is aggression and anger, underneath the Venom cheekiness and playfulness shine through. They’re loving it up on stage and they are soaking up the love and respect they get from the Japanese fans. Abaddon can’t help himself but stands up behind his drum kit and screams “Fuck yeah!” several times during the set.

It’s great to see these veterans better than ever and having some great new material in the show as well. Terrific stuff.

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Thrash Domination live report: Californian thrash at its best with Testament, Exodus and Warbringer

Testament at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With two legendary Bay Area thrash metal bands and one splendid newer thrash metal band from LA, it was an all-Californian affair at this year’s Thrash Domination festival at Club Citta. And what a night of thrash glory it was! Roppongi Rocks reports from the first day of the latest edition of Thrash Domination.

Thrash Domination with Testament, Exodus and Warbringer at Club Citta, Kawasaki, 10th February 2018

Club Citta’s mini thrash metal festival Thrash Domination premiered in 2004 and this past weekend’s festival was the 12th edition. Exodus and Testament have both appeared multiple times and they are always welcomed with open arms by their Japanese fans.

Warbringer at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Warbringer

As opening act, LA thrash metal band Warbringer has a 50-minute set and they use their limited time wisely. They perform the 2017 album “Woe of the Vanquished” in its entirety. The eight tracks from that album are terrific and straightforward thrash metal, a perfect opening set for Thrash Domination. They round off their set with “Combat Shock” from “War Without End”, their 2008 debut album. Vocalist John Kevill is the only original member still in the band, but despite a bit of a revolving door with members coming and going, Warbringer has somehow managed to keep it together musically. This afternoon in Kawasaki, the band’s second time playing in Japan, they deliver and they get the respect they deserve from the audience. As long as they can establish a somewhat stable line-up, I reckon this band will continue to grow and become bigger. They’re already a terrific act.

Exodus at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Exodus

Due to Gary Holt’s commitments with Slayer, Exodus has in recent years been forced to tour with a replacement guitarist. Not so this time. With Slayer having some time off before they embark on a massive farewell tour, Holt was available and joined his Exodus mates on stage. From the very first song he seemed so fired up and eager to perform, one could almost touch his energy. It was so great to see Holt back on stage with the band.

Exodus at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Another returnee is frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza who returned to the band in 2014 for a third stint. Zetro is a great fit for Exodus and he delivers. I’ve said it before and I am saying it again: the current line-up of Exodus is the best ever. They’re working on a new album and no doubt it will be very heavy, fast and furious. They open their set strongly with “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles” before we get the title track from their most recent album, “Blood In, Blood Out”. Then we get the first of several old classics in “And Then There Were None”. We get many of my favourite Exodus songs this evening, including “Blacklist” “Body Harvest”, “Fabulous Disaster” and “A Lesson in Violence”. They close a high-energy set with a trio of classics: “Bonded by Blood”, “The Toxic Waltz” and “Strike of the Beast”. Another solid Japan win for this band who has a very loyal following here.

Zetro and Gary Holt of Exodus at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Eric Peterson of Testament at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Testament

Following last year’s headline shows in Japan, the Testament men are back once again and they, of course, deliver a great show which they open with “Brotherhood of the Snake”, “Rise Up” and “The Pale King”. This band has several things that make them stand above many other acts. The fine balance in the make-up of the current line-up is one of them. They have a rock solid rhythm section in Steve Di Giorgio on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums. On the guitars they have a perfect combo in two very different musicians: Eric Peterson is a terrific thrash metal guitarist while Alex Skolnick is a rare animal in the thrash metal kingdom. He’s more of a splendid mix of, say, Ace Frehley, Doug Aldrich and Marty Friedman, than your typical thrash metal guitarist. He’s an exceptional guitarist who brings in some great influences from far outside thrash metal into Testament’s music. Combining Skolnick and Peterson works a treat over the solid rhythm foundation. And when topped off with Chuck Billy, one of the best-ever thrash metal vocalists, it is very powerful. Testament now has a terrific line-up that I hope remains in place. A fab evening is finished off with “Practice What You Preach” and “Disciples of the Watch”.

Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy of Testament at Thrash Domination 2018. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Thrash Domination is always a terrific mini festival with world-class thrash metal on stage. I am already looking forward to future editions.

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Album review: Marco Mendoza “Viva La Rock”

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Marco Mendoza celebrates life and rock’n’roll on new solo album, “Viva La Rock”.

Marco Mendoza is mainly known as a bass man with The Dead Daisies, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders, Ted Nugent, Bill Ward, Blue Murder, Lynch Mob, Soul SirkUS and many more artists. But he is so much more than that. He’s actually a fully-fledged entertainer. On his new solo album we get to hear him sing, play and shine.

Marco Mendoza and Stefan Nilsson of Roppongi Rocks in Tokyo in July 2017.

Mendoza’s personality shines through on this album. This is him. It’s a funky rock album with influences from all over the place, but it is always built around Marco Mendoza. He is not only a talented musician and singer covering multiple genres, Mendoza has an ebullient personality. He is a larger than life type of guy so full of energy he can’t sit still.

He’s a hard working artist that never stops. During a short breather from The Dead Daisies’ busy schedule he has found time for making a solo album and to do some solo gigs.

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The album is loaded with great party music. It is a very personal album which is mainly filled with new music. We do, however, get a couple of nods to Mendoza’s past: Thin Lizzy’s ”Chinatown”, a phenomenal song, gets revisited here in a fab version with Richard Fortus (ex-Guns N’ Roses, The Dead Daisies) and Mike Tramp (ex-White Lion) guesting. We also get a good version of Ted Nugent’s “Hey Baby”.

The original material on the album comes with a funky attitude but in many different formats. “Leah” is an emotional love ballad while “Let It Flow” is a cracker of a song, perhaps the album’s best. “Love 2 U” is a funky, bombastic track about making love and “Rocketman” is a very catchy rock song. The title track “Viva La Rock” says it all about this artist and his album: It’s a celebration and the party is enjoyable. The album was recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark with Soren Andersen from Glenn Hughes’ solo band.

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

I love this album. It is such a Marco Mendoza album. It’s a terrific showcase of this high-class entertainer. Marco Mendoza’s album “Viva La Rock” will be out on 2nd March via Ward Records in Japan and internationally via Mighty Music. In February and March, Mendoza will do a solo tour in Europe before he will hit the road with The Dead Daisies again.

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Album review: Machine Head “Catharsis”

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Just over three years since the acclaimed album “Bloodstones & Diamonds” was released, Bay Area giants Machine Head have returned with an awesome, emotional and heavy album called “Catharsis”.

“Catharsis” is Machine Head’s ninth studio album since forming in 1991. “Volatile”, the first song on the new album, shows a band that never gets tired of making heavy riffs and putting their hearts on display through Robb Flynn’s lyrics and screams. The album is very versatile, but for the most part dominated by the heaviness they are known by. “Bastards” is a ballad composed of acoustic guitars and Flynn’s voice speaking words of protest based on a conversation he had with his sons after the Trump election in the US. “Hope Begets Hope” and “Screaming at the Sun” are two songs in the classic Machine Head style, alternating fast drumming by Dave McClain with the amazing bass lines of Jared MacEachern. The second ballad of the album, “Behind a Mask”, is another beautiful song about sadness, grief and depression, subjects present in many Machine Head songs. Once again, Flynn does a perfect job, bleeding his heart out as the song goes on. The four last songs are as heavy as they must be, reminding the listener why this band has become one of the most acclaimed metal bands of this era. The closing track, “Eulogy”, shows a combination of different vocals and a melancholic melody. The guitar duo of Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel did a great job on this album, not losing their essence, while at the same time trying new elements.

On their last tour, they performed two and a half hour shows of classic and new songs, with no opening acts, billed as “An Evening with Machine Head”. They are doing the same this time around. With a new quality album out and many old classics piled up over the years, it is almost impossible to pick a set list without missing one or two favourite songs.

Machine Head will be back on stage in Japan in July for five shows. Full details here: https://wardrecords.com/special/machinehead.php

Machine Head’s album “Catharsis” is out now via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

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Album review: Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons “The Age of Absurdity” | Motör-Phil marches on

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell soldiers on in the name of rock’n’roll.

Phil Campbell made a name for himself as the long-term lead guitarist in Motörhead, from 1984 until Lemmy’s death in December 2015.

In his own band Phil has teamed up with his three sons Todd Campbell (guitar), Dane Campbell (drums) and Tyla Campbell (bass) and vocalist Neil Starr. Like Motörhead, this is hard rock music based on straightforward riff-heavy rock’n’roll. The opening track, “Ringleader”, has some obvious Motörhead echoes and they appear here and there on the album. But overall the music on this album is a bit different, not least because Starr is a very different kind of singer than Lemmy (obviously as there is only one Lemmy). Starr has more of a mainstream rock voice but it actually fits well with the music on this album.

Songs like “Freak Show”, “Skin and Bones” and “High Rule” sound rather modern while “Into the Dark” has more of a retro feel. “Gypsy Kiss” and “Dropping the Needle” are punky rock songs while “Dark Days” is blues rock. We do get some great variation on this album which very well showcases the different capabilities of this band. Yes, we do get a Lemmy tribute, but it’s a Hawkwind song rather than a Motörhead one. “Silver Machine” was a 1972 single released by Hawkwind when Lemmy was its bassist and he also sang lead vocals on the original version of this song. The Japanese bonus track, “Shit Happens”, is good fun and a terrific rocker of a song. It’s great to see Motör-Phil continuing the Motörhead legacy he helped create. But it is also great to see he’s not standing still, but moving on and creating some new stuff that is not trying to be Motörhead . Great stuff that will no doubt work well live.

Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons’ album “The Age of Absurdity” is out now via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

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Album review: Michael Schenker Fest “Resurrection”

Michael Schenker on stage in Japan in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Guitar legend Michael Schenker successfully combines old and new on a new studio album with his old MSG colleagues.

Following some very successful touring with Michael Schenker Fest, including two Japan tours in 2016 and 2017, Michael Schenker is now taking the next logical step: a Michael Schenker Fest studio album with all new material. In Michael Schenker Fest, Schenker has reunited with six of his old MSG colleagues – Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley, Ted McKenna, Steve Mann and Chris Glen – to play classics from his past with MSG, Scorpions and UFO.

On this new studio album, Schenker adds vocalist Doogie White (Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock, Rainbow) to the mix and thus have four splendid vocalists to help him deliver a great album. We also get a terrific guest appearance (“No guest, no Fest!” as Schenker told us the other week during the Tokyo stop of his promotion tour) by Exodus and Metallica guitar legend Kirk Hammett on “Heart and Soul”, a great song sung by Irish powerhouse Robin McAuley. “Take Me to the Church”, with Doogie White on lead vocals, is one of my favourite songs on the album. “Warrior”, a bit of a bombastic track on which all four singers perform together, is good fun and something that will no doubt be performed live.

“Time Knows When It’s Time”, with Robin McAuley on lead vocals, has some terrific guitar work on it, creating a great balance between McAuley’s voice and Schenker’s guitar. “Anchors Away” has somewhat of a Rainbow touch to it and fittingly it is sung by former Rainbow man Doogie White. Another former Rainbow man, Graham Bonnet, gets to shine with his characteristic voice on “Night Moods” and “Everest”. I love Bonnet’s voice. Gary Barden, who sang on many of the original MSG classics, gets to have some fun with the songs “Messin’ Around” and “Livin’ A Life Worth Livin’” which both show the playful side to this band.

Graham Bonnet on stage with Michael Schenker Fest in Japan in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

On “Salvation”, the only instrumental track on this 12-track album, we obviously get a lot of guitar ear candy from Schenker. Interestingly enough, Schenker, unlike some other guitar wizards, never overshadows the music on the album. He obviously gets to shine and demonstrate why he is one of the best and most influential rock guitarists of all time, but it never overflows into guitar wankery that destroys the songs. Schenker knows that his amazing guitar work needs to live within the songs and not overshadow them completely.

The album closes with “The Last Supper”, which again features all four singers. This is a varied album built around melodic hard rock in the well-known MSG tradition. Michael Schenker has been wildly successful with his Temple of Rock and Fest concepts. There is certainly a place for nostalgia and reunions of old favourite bands in today’s live market. But seeing these veterans create new music as well is terrific and keeps things interesting. Hopefully the band will include quite a few of these new songs in their set list as they start touring again in March.

Gary Barden and Michael Schenker on stage in Japan in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Michael Schenker Fest’s album “Resurrection” will be released on 28th February in Japan via Ward Records and internationally on 2nd March via Nuclear Blast.

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Album review: The Dead Daisies “Burn It Down” | Catchy hard rock of the best kind

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Dead Daisies are back with a new album that is as good as we have come to expect of this terrific band.

At the end of 2017, just as it seemed that The Dead Daisies had finally established a stable line-up, drummer Brian Tichy decided to leave the band. He was quickly replaced by Deen Castronovo (ex-Journey, Bad English, Ozzy Osbourne) who was already playing with Doug Aldrich (ex-Dio, Whitesnake) in Revolution Saints. The current line-up of The Dead Daisies, in addition to Deen and Doug, consists of Marco Mendoza (ex-Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent) on bass, John Corabi (ex-Mötley Crüe, Union, ESP, The Scream, Ratt) on vocals and Australian founder David Lowy on guitar.

Immediately when Deen joined the band in November they started writing songs and record. The result is now here. “Burn It Down”, the band’s fourth full-length studio album, is a fabulous bluesy hard rock album. The are some immediate favourite tracks here, such as the title track “Burn It Down” as well as “Rise Up”, “Resurrection”, “Leave Me Alone” and “Dead and Gone”. Fantastic catchy hard rock of the best kind. This is one groovy rock band. “Judgement Day” starts off slow and then goes back and forth tempo-wise with some subtle but terrific guitar work going on. “What Goes Around” will no doubt be a great addition to the band’s live set. “Set Me Free” is a slow song but a great one with plenty of emotion.

There is so much talent and playfulness in this band that it bubbles over. And the chemistry is there too: they’re having fun together and it shines through in their music. But while these lads seem laidback and fun-loving, they have the songwriting skills and the musical talent to perform as well. Somehow, and thankfully, the producer Marti Frederiksen manages to maintain the rawness and straightforwardness of this rock’n’roll circus in the studio. With a band like The Dead Daisies, an animal that feeds off raw talent, energy, chemistry, war scars, personal chemistry and attitude, the magic can easily be destroyed in a sterile studio environment. Not the case here. It sounds as if this merry band of rock brothers brought their tour bus into the studio. There is road dirt in the production and that is a good thing.

John Corabi has really grown into a seasoned frontman whose voice fits the Daisies’ blues-based hard rock like a glove. It is now hard to imagine the band without him (most listeners now don’t remember that he didn’t sing on the band’s debut album). This is a band who is having fun performing for its fans. The band’s shows are laidback but high-energy festivals of rock’n’roll. This studio album captures a lot of that spirit. Another solid album from a terrific rock band. Well done.

The Dead Daisies’ album “Burn It Down” will be released on 21st March via Ward Records in Japan.

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Album review: John Corabi revisits Mötley Crüe songs on “Live 94 (One Night In Nashville)”

John Corabi in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

John Corabi revisits his Mötley Crüe past on new live album.

Vocalist and musician John Corabi has made a name for himself in several bands. He is currently the frontman of The Dead Daisies and has also played with The Scream, Union, Ratt, Eric Singer Project, Brides of Destruction and much more. During his few years as frontman of Mötley Crüe in the 90s, where he replaced original singer Vince Neil, he co-wrote and recorded the band’s self-titled album which was released in 1994, the only Mötley album not to feature Vince Neil on vocals. It’s a great and vastly underrated album. The absence of Neil means it is natural for some die-hard fans to hate it. But it is a great album. On this new live album, “Live 94 (One Night In Nashville)”, recorded in Nashville on 27th October 2015, Corabi has re-recorded the entire “Mötley Crüe” album live plus an extra song, “10,000 Miles” which was originally released as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Mötley’s “Quaternary” EP.

At the beginning of John Corabi’s new live album we can hear him saying to the audience: “Nashville! We’re gonna have fun tonight, right?” That is exactly what this is all about: a fun look in the mirror, a revisit of an album that is underrated, ignored, forgotten or misunderstood. On the original 1994 studio album, Mötley not only had a new vocalist, it also had a different sound seemingly inspired by the changing music climate in the early to mid-90s. This live album reminds us of the many great songs the studio album had. “Hooligan’s Holiday” is splendid and could easily have been a The Dead Daisies song and so could “Misunderstood”. “Smoke the Sky” is another terrific song and “Droppin’ Like Flies” also stands out.

It also shows us what a great vocalist Corabi is. On this live recording he’s backed up by Tommy Daley (guitar), Topher Nolen (bass) and his son Ian Corabi (drums and percussion) as well as guitarists Jeremy Asbrock and Phil Shouse, both of Gene Simmons Band. Corabi has an easily recognisable voice and I love it. It has character, it has sway and it rocks.

When I interviewed Corabi here in Tokyo last year, he talked about the recording of the forthcoming live album. “We went into a club in Nashville, where I live. I literally called the club owner, it was like two weeks out. I go ‘Do you have a day available?’ He goes ‘I can give you like a Tuesday.’ Fine, whatever, it doesn’t matter and I promoted it for two weeks really hard. I probably had 300 or 400, 500 people in the place. I just set it up, we recorded everything and videotaped a bunch of shit from the show. I basically gave it to Michael Wagener. I asked him to do his thing. He was like ‘Do you want to fix anything?’ I’m like ‘No! As is.’”

John Corabi in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

John Corabi’s “Live 94 (One Night In Nashville)” will be released on 16th February via Rat Pak Records.

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Interview: What rattles Dirk Verbeuren’s cage when he’s not Megadething?

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

2018 marks 35 years of Megadeth. Roppongi Rocks decided to check in with our mate Dirk Verbeuren to see what he gets up to when he’s not behind the drum kit in Megadeth.

Recently you were a guest DJ at a club in California. How did that come about and how did it go? “A friend of mine named Jason Todd, singer for Spades & Blades, is the house DJ at the Slide Bar in Fullerton. He has a guest over once a month and in November I happened to be the lucky guy. It was a ton of fun, just a chill night, lots of drinks and loud as hell metal!”

Do you often do guest appearances as a DJ? “This was a first. I’d be happy to DJ on a more regular basis. When something new catches my attention I always feel this irresistible urge to play it for everyone and DJ’ing would definitely scratch that itch. I used to co-host an extreme metal radio show many years ago and that was a total blast.”

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo in 2017.

Do you ever spin any of your own records when you’re DJ’ing? “I spun a couple of Megadeth and Soilwork tracks because I figured people would expect me to. And I was right because I got requests for more. You can’t escape playing some classic tunes but hopefully those in attendance discovered new music as well. I know that’s what I would want.”

You’re well-known for your work in extreme metal. But I also know that you listen to many different kinds of music. How does your diverse music taste show in what you play as a DJ? “Well, this particular night was metal themed. I had to resist playing Run The Jewels or Autechre. My tastes are all across the board and tend to include a lot of weird stuff. A set spanning my collection would probably frustrate the hell out of some folks so I should totally go for that one day. Haha!”

Current favourite tracks that you like to spin? “Dodecahedron‘s album “Kwintessens” is my number one record of 2017. These guys are pushing the black metal envelope in a fascinating way. New Godflesh and Portal are high on my list too. There’s a Swedish band named Chronus which is killer on all fronts, and I’m not just saying that because my wife and I manage them. Other than that, let’s see… Dead Cross, Aevangelist, Ho99o9, Satyricon, JK Flesh… Those are just a few of the artists I’ve been hooked on this past year. I have an ever-growing list of new music to check out.”

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

How do you deal with ridiculous requests from guests when you’re out DJ’ing? Do you sometimes feel forced to play some shite music you don’t like because you receive requests? “If I’m the DJ you’re not gonna hear anything lame. Shite requests will go right where they belong: down the crapper.”

Your wife Hannah Verbeuren is a talented photographer. I know she took some terrific photos for your Bent Sea records. How involved are you in each other’s work? “Thanks! Her work amazes me time and time again. She has an incredible eye and manipulates light as if it was the easiest thing in the world. We tend to do our own thing because it’s best to separate business and marriage. Every now and then we’ll collaborate such as for Bent Sea. I entirely trust her judgment and sense of composition. That goes for the layout of those records as well. Whenever I work with graphics or pictures, I always go to Hannah to make sure what I’m doing visually is cool.”

Apart from DJ’ing and doing session and guest appearances as a drummer with other artists, what keeps you busy when you’re not occupied with your day job in Megadeth? “I teach drums in person and online. It’s fun and keeps me on my toes. I also do drum clinics and workshops for Tama, Meinl and Roland. Outside of the musical realm, we have two dogs and two cats we spend a lot of time with. And with friends as well of course. I’ve been a video game fanatic ever since my folks got me a C64 back in 1982. It’s the perfect destresser for me. When there’s free time I’ll usually be toiling away at ‘Dark Souls’ or some other ridiculously intense game.”

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

You have always been involved with multiple projects and bands as well as teaching. In recent years you have been rather busy with Megadeth. Do you still have time for as many outside projects as in the past? “My focus is on Megadeth. I’m in the midst of assembling ideas for the follow-up to ‘Dystopia’. It’s very exciting to be a part of that whole process for the first time along with Dave, David and Kiko. It’ll be a great learning experience. My time for other projects has always been limited because Soilwork was super busy as well. But I always make it work. Speaking of which, there’s some new Bent Sea stuff on the way. There can never be enough music and drumming in my life!”

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo in 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Cheers. Keep grinding. “Cheers Stefan, you can count on that!”

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Album review: Neige Morte “Trinnt” | Uncompromising obscure experimental black metal from France

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

French experimental black metal band Neige Morte is back with its third album. It’s grim, bleak, frosty, inaccessible and rather brilliant. Like a soundtrack to being buried alive in an avalanche.

Neige Morte gives us rather obscure experimental black metal on their new album. Most of this album is splendidly inaccessible and bordering on bizarre. I love the noise. Some of this is head-cleaning stuff, or is it headache-inducing stuff? Not sure, probably both. It’s grim, bleak, frosty and for the most part brilliant (but in a dark and damp way).

This is a gloriously noisy and damp band that doesn’t make any compromises. It’s far away from the glittery road of mainstream music and the band has no interest in reaching the average listener. Two of the songs on the album have Swedish titles (“Du blev min demon” and “De dödas röster”) and the rest are in French. Neige Morte says that they intend to create the rawest and dirtiest black metal outside the Nordic scene. Well, there is plenty of raw and dirty noise in the underground black metal scene, so there’s a lot of competition. But this is so out there that it stands out from the pack on pure craziness. This is a band that combines black metal with more experimental sounds, especially on the atmospheric track “Le Lac”. This band somewhat partly reminds me of a weird mix of an eerie film soundtrack crossbred with black metal and some hints of German heroes Mantar. For unprepared listeners it is probably quite easy to choke on this or drown in this cesspool of rotten music, but for those of us who like something different and appreciate uncompromising noise, this is pretty interesting. It sounds like a soundtrack to being buried alive in an avalanche.

Neige Morte’s album “Trinnt” is out now via Division Records.

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