Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 69: Fred Estby

Fred Estby in Tokyo in 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish musician Fred Estby co-founded pioneering death metal band Dismember in 1988. The band released its debut album “Like an Ever Flowing Stream” in 1991. Fred was the band’s drummer for most of its existence. After some years apart, the original line-up reunited in 2019 and remains active. Fred has also played in several other bands such as Carnage, Necronaut and The Dagger. Additionally, throughout his career as a musician, he has been engineering and producing music, both in the studio and live. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Fred to find out about the five records that made him feel the darkness.

KISS “Rock and Roll Over” (1976)

“During the first week of first grade, a class mate brought this album and a couple of other albums of theirs along with the KISS dolls. The music and image stirred something in me that I couldn’t explain.”

KISS “Dynasty” (1979)

“The first record I bought with my own money when it came out in 1979, 47 skr = $5.”

Judas Priest “Defenders of the Faith” (1984)

“I was at summer camp in 1984 and my dad sent me a copy on a cassette tape since he found the vinyl record when I was away. It wasn’t easy to get hold of the latest hard rock and heavy metal albums where I lived back then.”

Metallica “Kill ‘Em All” (1983)

“Together with the ‘No Life ‘til Leather’ demo, my heavy metal world upgraded to something I didn’t think was possible. There was a band that was faster and more aggressive than Motörhead?!”

Slayer “Reign in Blood” (1986)

“The extreme metal album of that time that presents never-ending hooks. That record influenced my riff writing immensely.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 68: Mantas

Mantas backstage in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Jeff “Mantas” Dunn co-founded British heavy metal band Venom in 1978. When they released their 1981 debut album “Welcome to Hell” they changed metal forever. Venom had a massive impact on thrash metal and all forms of extreme metal. The black metal sub-genre got its name from Venom’s second album. In addition to his pioneering work with Venom, Jeff has released albums and toured with his own band Mantas and reunited with former Venom frontman Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan in the band M-Pire of Evil. The two Venom brothers are now carrying on the Venom legacy in the band Venom Inc. Venom Inc released its debut album “Avé” in 2017 and has toured globally. A new album is currently in production. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Mantas to hear about the five albums that changed his life.

T. Rex “Ride a White Swan” (1972)

“The first album I bought as a kid with my own allowance money. My first immediate memory of this album is the majestic ‘King of the Rumbling Spires’. Released on Music For Pleasure/Fly Recordings and produced by Tony Visconti, probably the most notable songs on this album are the title track and the simply brilliant ‘Debora’. At this point all I had was magazines with photos of Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn, I had no idea what their performance was like. Then one day I vividly remember being at primary school on a rainy day and because we couldn’t go into the playground at break time the teacher put the radio on for us. It was the top 10 countdown and I waited eagerly to see if my favourite song, T Rex’s new single, at that time would be number 1. ‘And this week’s number 1 is, ‘Metal Guru’ by T Rex! This meant a guaranteed appearance on the BBC Thursday evening show ’Top of the Pops’ and that was my first ‘live’ visual experience of Marc Bolan. I’m still a fan to this day and have often wondered where his music would have gone had he still been with us. In mannerisms and movement, he could have been the prototype for Paul Stanley. But more than anything he was a great and innovative songwriter.”

Slade “Slayed?” (1972)

“Bought for me by my parents as a Christmas gift. Slade were definitely my first favourite band. Great guitar driven rock’n’roll with that voice that could break the sound barrier. ‘The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazee’, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, ‘Gudbye T’Jane’… One of the most consistently successful bands of the glam era of the 70s and this album, for me as a young fan way back then, was just pure Slade. As a footnote, is it just me or was there some similarities between the costumes of Dave Hill and Ace Frehley, hmm, I wonder? Actually, I think my first experience of what I would call a guitar solo was on the track ‘Look Wot You Dun’.”

KISS “Hotter than Hell” (1974)

“My first KISS album, again bought with my allowance money from a department store in Newcastle. I still have that original copy and, apart from ‘Alive!’, definitely my favourite early KISS album purely for the concept of it and the memories it evokes. Whilst flipping through the vinyls in a city centre department store as a kid looking for some heavy music, I landed upon a battered copy of ‘Alive!’. I was fascinated by the creatures on the cover and was desperate to hear what they sounded like. Unfortunately, the money in my pocket wouldn’t stretch to the cost of this album but right behind was an equally battered copy of ‘Hotter than Hell’. Now this I could afford and so the purchase was made and as soon as that needle hit the groove I was hooked – instant KISS fan! This album probably doesn’t contain my absolute favourite KISS songs but it is the album that I clearly remember purchasing and the effect it had on me from the first listen. It still contains some great material though.”

Judas Priest “Unleashed in the East” (1979)

“I first saw Priest in 1979 and that night changed my life and this album captures them perfectly, even if there are overdubs. Who cares? it sounds great. Early Venom used to play ‘The Green Manalishi’, albeit a Peter Green song. For me ‘Exciter’ was most certainly the first double bass drum song I ever heard. ‘Sinner’ and ‘Victim of Changes’ are most definitely two of the high points of this album for me and who can deny the absolute genius of ‘The Ripper’? I’ve been loyal to Priest ever since and it’s no secret that KK Downing was a huge influence on me and in some way became a distant mentor as I began my journey in the world of bands and music.”

Motörhead “Overkill” (1979)

“An album that had more influence on my early songwriting than I realised and the first line-up of Venom with Clive Archer on vocals used to perform a very respectable version of ‘No Class’. It was only years later when re-recording some of the Venom classics and analysing the songs that I realised just how much of an influence Fast Eddie Clarke’s playing was in my early songwriting attempts. That loose clanging rhythm and blues infused solos certainly must have soaked into my musical subconscious. As a side note of interest, when I returned home with my newly acquired copy of ‘Overkill’, I eagerly opened it to discover to my delight that it was green vinyl. I still have it in my collection today.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 67: Tony Franklin

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

English bassist Tony Franklin, aka The Fretless Monster, made a name for himself performing with Whitesnake, The Firm, Roy Harper and Blue Murder. He went on to perform with artists such as John Fogerty, Marty Friedman, Kate Bush, Quiet Riot, David Gilmour and many more. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Tony to talk about the five albums that changed his life.

Queen “A Night at the Opera” (1975)

“I bought Queen’s ‘A Night at the Opera’ on the strength of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which ruled the UK charts in late 1975. I was transfixed. At 13 years old, I’d never heard anything like this album. Symphonic in its scope, musically diverse – from hard rock to vaudeville: operatic, adventurous and playful. I never realised that rock music could be so dynamic and daring. I went on to see Queen live six times from 1977 to 1986. Their recorded and live performances influenced me immensely. With innovative production techniques, bold songwriting, outstanding musicianship and powerful captivating live performances, Queen had it all.”

ABBA “Greatest Hits” (1975)

“My dad owned the album, and at 13 years of age I played the album repeatedly. I still love ABBA and consider them masters of pop music songwriting, production and performance. Even at that age, I was aware of how skillfully they created musical hooks and passages that filled every second with meaningful melodies, sounds and rhythms. As I grew older, I appreciated their talents all the more, as I understood how difficult it is to do what they did, especially in the pop music format. Anyone who wishes to better understand the art of crafting timeless pop music, should make a sincere study of ABBA’s music.”

Jaco Pastorius “Jaco Pastorius” (1976)

“This album was brought to my attention by brilliant British jazz pianist Johnny Patrick. The album was released in 1976, but I didn’t hear it until 1979 when I was barely 17 years old. I’d been playing fretted bass for six or so years. Johnny placed the headphones on me, late at night, simply saying, ‘listen to this’. I was astounded. I never realised that bass could do so much! Jaco’s harmonics, his tone, his groove, and his compositions spawned a complete paradigm shift in my musical journey. I had to have a fretless bass, which I did, later that same year. Fretless bass has become my signature instrument, and this was the album that ignited the fretless spark.”

Stevie Wonder “Talking Book” (1972)

“This album has appeared at various times in my life, each time presenting me with different gifts and inspiration. This might well qualify as my sole desert island disc if I was forced to choose. First introduced to me by a friend in 1980, it covers many aspects of music that are dear to me. Pure inspiration, phenomenal songwriting, great performances, daring creativity, passionate vulnerable love songs and a funk and groove like no other. Stevie Wonder taught me more than anyone about groove and pocket. His use of complex chords and harmonies in essentially ‘simple’ songs – as in the opening track, ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ – is nothing short of genius. Emotionally he shifts gears on ‘Maybe Your Baby’, which also has one of the nastiest and most innovative grooves I’ve ever heard. ‘You and I (We Can Conquer the World)’ is possibly my favourite love song, succinctly expressing vulnerability, inevitability, spirituality and commitment. Home to the iconic ‘Superstition’, ‘Talking Book’ is a stream of consciousness of consecutive musical gems that never fails to uplift, inspire and touch me.”

“Standing in the Shadows of Motown” soundtrack (2002)

“In 2008 I became aware of the powerful and emotional movie ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown’. Featuring the legendary Funk Brothers, the band that played on almost every Motown song from 1959 to 1972, it highlighted the little-known heroes and innovators of this groundbreaking era in Motown’s history. A friend of mine sent me the Deluxe CD of the soundtrack from the movie. Disc 1 featured music from the movie. However, Disc 2, is musical treasure – select (mostly) instrumental remixes of the original Motown masters. My appreciation for Funk Brother bassist James Jamerson went through the roof. My respect for him was already sky high, but hearing these remixes brought my love for him to a whole new emotional level. His creativity, boldness, vision, execution and pure instinct elevated him to an almost other-worldly status in my estimation. The inspiration I received from this album is boundless. While there are plenty of Jamerson bass-only versions available, as well as the original songs themselves, to my ears, nothing comes close to highlighting his brilliance (and the rest of the Funk Brothers) as this little-known album.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 66: Biff Byford

Biff Byford of Saxon. Photo: David Charles

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Biff Byford co-founded British heavy metal band Saxon in Barnsley, England in 1977. Now, at the age of 70, he remains the band’s lead vocalist and continues to tour and record with the band. Saxon’s most recent album, “Inspirations”, was released by Silver Lining Music in March 2021. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Biff to find out what five albums made him put on his denim and leather to become a metalhead and a solid ball of rock.

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin” (1969)

“This for me was the first heavy album. It changed everything with its power and pomp. A truly ground-breaking sound and four young guys going for it. Classic British rock based on American blues and no compromise: heavy blues rock, even the soft bits are hard.”

Yes “Close to the Edge” (1972)

“This album introduced me into prog rock. The musicianship is superb. The only way to describe it is “melody and power”, blending jazz, blues and classical. It’s a magical journey into their musical minds. It ebbs and flows through making its way to the last note.”

ZZ Top “Fandango!” (1975)

“The first time I heard Southern blues rock. These guys were taking things to another level, mixing live with studio, great playing masters of groove and feel and that guitar sound was to die for.”

Alice Cooper “From the Inside” (1978)

“Loved this! I used to listen to it all the time. Its sound and autobiographical lyrics are great writing. Top notch.”

Deep Purple “Machine Head” (1972)

“All-time favourite! The playing on this is brilliant. Shades of classical, blues, R&R, a ground-breaking album. Vocals are on another level: took the screams of Little Richard and turned them into his own.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 65: Lenny Bruce

Dust Bolt’s Lenny Bruce on stage in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lenny Bruce is the guitarist and lead vocalist for the German thrash metal band Dust Bolt, a band known for its high-energy stage shows. They released their debut album “Violent Demolition” in 2012 and their fourth and most recent album, “Trapped in Chaos”, came out in 2019. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson talked with Lenny about the five albums that changed his life.

“I tried to mix it up a little bit with musical styles, which probably describes my personality and taste in music best. I am a metal lover, with the blues in my heart, that grew up with the 90s grunge era music around me when I was a kid.”

Slipknot “Iowa” (2001)

“I remember getting into heavy music basically through this album. After exploring bands like Green Day and Nirvana when I was 11 or 12, I suddenly felt the need to find something more aggressive and more absurd somehow, without knowing that something like that would exist, you know? Back then there still wasn’t the internet or smartphones where everything is available. I didn’t go into records stores yet because I actually didn’t know what I was looking for. One late night I put on the TV and saw Slipknot’s ‘Before I Forget’ as a music video, which is on the 2004 album ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’, and I was blown away. I’ve never heard something like that before and I didn’t know there was music where people would just scream. My sister told me that fans of that music are really insane and that I should stop asking. But one day she brought a CD with Slipknot songs which turned out to be the ‘Iowa’ album. I would listen to nothing else for three years straight. The songs and lyrics, the aggression, pain and anger were exactly what I felt and needed at that time. This definitely changed my life. This might have been the beginning of exploring and actually playing metal music afterwards.”

Pearl Jam “Ten” (1991)

“I am an absolute grunge kiddie when it comes to the music and bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Mudhoney and more. But the band I found out about later was Pearl Jam. A friend put on the music in the car on our road trips and the songs just wouldn’t get out of my head. Later on, I found their Pinkpop live performance on Youtube and that was just it! Great drumming, bluesy guitars, extraordinary singing and beautiful lyrics. This is how emotional rock music can get. At least that’s how I feel. They are still probably my favourite band when it comes to their message, behaviour, responsibility and political encouragement. I won’t go into details at this time, but this album definitely saved my life and gave me hope when I needed it.”

Jackson Browne “Running on Empty” (1977)

“Such a classic! I love Jackson Browne and 70s music! This album is just beautiful. It’s crazy that it’s all been recorded live! I just love the simplicity of the songwriting and performance. The songs are so strong and they tell a story. I just love that. I you don’t know that record, get into your car, drive down into the sunset and get yourself some Jackson Browne, trust me!”

Jack White “Lazaretto” (2014)

“Uff… It’s hard to say anything about this one. It speaks for itself. Such a beautiful piece of art! This album got me into being interested in music production and recording. I love how Jack White breaks all the modern rules of production – because there are none! And that´s what makes the music sound so organic, special and beautifully imperfect. It’s about the mistakes, the heat of the moment. And not about quantizing and make humans sound like robots.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble “Texas Flood” (1983)

“Last but not least – Stevie! I actually wanted to list a punk record here, as I’m a great 80s punk and hardcore punk fan, but Stevie won the race as this is probably one of the records I´m listening to the most. When I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan´s ‘Lenny’, I knew how I wanted to play the guitar. His music gives me goosebumps every time, any second. He’s just my favourite guitar player in blues next to BB King. Could listen to him all day long.”

Album review: Red To Grey “Balance of Power”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Meat-and-potatoes thrash metal from Germany.

Red To Grey is a German thrash metal, founded in Munich in 1998, that plays a kind of thrash metal that is somewhat closer to American Bay Area thrash than many other German thrash metal bands. This is straight-up thrash metal with plenty of catchy melodies thrown in with the guitar riffs. It’s melodic yet very thrashy with an underground feel to it. It’s uncomplicated and uncompromising meat-and-potatoes thrash metal. Fronted by vocalist Gaby Weihmayer, the band also features Manfred Uidel Kollmann on bass, Florian Botschek on guitar, Elmar Nuesslein on drums and Tino Bergamo on guitar. “Balance of Power” is the band’s third full-length album and the first one with Gaby on vocals. It contains nine high-energy tracks. My favourites tracks are the fast-and-furious yet melodic “Hellburner”, “We March” with its punky chorus and the fierce “Within Grey Rooms”. The album’s peak is the terrific anthem-like “Vanity and Pride”.

Red To Grey’s album “Balance of Power” will be released on 22nd October via El Puerto Records.

EP review: Cult Burial “Oblivion”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Very promising extreme metal from London. Cult Burial is heading deeper down the underground on its new EP.

Cult Burial, formed in 2020 in London, England, released its self-titled debut album last year and has also released the “Sorrow” EP. On this new EP, “Oblivion”, we get a little taste of the band’s musical direction. They are going deeper down in the basement, under the floorboards where the sun doesn’t shine. This is cockroach territory. “Oblivion” is a damp and brutal three-track EP. It’s a gloriously stenchy celebration of despair. The band has its roots in doom which is evident in some of the songs. But Cult Burial is a crushing extreme metal band with plenty of tempo changes and style drift going on. It’s a dark and smelly soup of black/death/doom/sludge metal with some industrial bits as well. The EP’s three songs – “Oblivion”, “Parasite” and “Paralysed” – all leave the listeners floored, as in knocked down by a freight train. It’s heavy, sinister and lives deep down in the catacombs. The band’s main characters are César Moreira (lyrics and vocals) and Simon Langford (songwriting, guitar, drums) with Felipe Grüber contributing some guitar playing. This is shaping up rather nicely. A new full-length album is planned to be released in 2022.

Cult Burial’s EP “Oblivion” is out now.

Album review: David Reece “Blacklist Utopia”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Accept frontman David Reece is not stuck in the past on his great new album.

Unlike another former Accept vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, American singer David Reece is creating new music which no one will mistake for Accept. David replaced Udo Dirkschneider as frontman for the German heavy metal band Accept in the late 1980s. He sang on the terrific “Eat the Heat” album and performed on the following tour to support the album. He knew he couldn’t become the new Udo and thus he brought his own game to Accept. Since leaving Accept, David has had a good solo career as well as fronting bands such as Bonfire, Bangalore Choir and Sainted Sinners. He has continued putting his bluesy American hard rock voice to good use. I have always dug his voice and on this new album he’s showing us that he’s still got it. “Blacklist Utopia” offers its listeners 13 tracks of melodic hard rock with David’s voice at the heart of it all. It’s a high-quality and quite diverse album. Immediate favourites for me include the opening track “Utopia”, “Red Bloodied Hell Raiser”, “I Can’t Breathe” (perhaps the album’s highlight), “Most of the Time”, the ballad-like singer-songwriteresque “American Dream”, “Devil at My Doorstep”, “Save Me” and “Highway Child”. It is melodic and good hard rock built around David’s voice and its capabilities. It has great guitars but sounds quite different from the German metal of Accept. David is backed up by a band of seasoned musicians: Andy Susemihl (ex-U.D.O., Sinner, Bangalore Choir) on guitar, Malte Frederik Burkert (Victory, ex-Sainted Sinners) on bass and Francesco Jovino (ex-U.D.O., Sinner, Primal Fear, Jorn, Sunstorm, Voodoo Circle) on drums. It’s a solid band that backs up David very well. As you notice, two of the band members have played with Udo Dirkschneider in U.D.O. and one has been playing with former Accept guitarist Herman Frank in Victory. To take the Accept references up another level, it was recently revealed that David Reece and Francesco Jovino have founded a new band called Iron Allies together with Herman Frank.

David Reece’s new album “Blacklist Utopia” will be released on 29th October via El Puerto Records.

David Reece Official | Facebook

Video premiere: Creeping Flesh “Like So Many Before Them”

Creeping Flesh, an old-school death metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden, debuted with the EP “Unravelled by War” in 2014. Since then the band has released several more EPs and the full-length album “Into the Meat Grinder” in 2019. Today, Roppongi Rocks is proud to premiere the video for the song “Like So Many Before Them”. The track is taken from the upcoming Creeping Flesh album “…And Then the Bombs Came” which will be released via Emanzipation Productions in 2022.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 64: Brittney Slayes

Brittney Slayes. Photo: Shimon Karmel

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Canadian vocalist Brittney Slayes is one of the most powerful voices in heavy metal in recent years. She co-founded heavy metal band Unleash The Archers in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 2007. The band debuted in 2009 with the album “Behold the Devastation” and its most recent release was the album “Abyss” which came out via Napalm Records in 2020. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Brittney to find out about the five albums that made her carry the flame of metal.

Megadeth “Countdown to Extinction” (1992)

“This is the first heavy metal record I ever heard. My brother had ordered it from a Columbia House Records mail order catalogue and liked it but wasn’t the hugest fan, so he passed it over to me and said ‘maybe you’ll like this’. He was right. I remember putting the cassette into my little boombox and sitting on the floor with the lyric booklet in my hands and just falling in love with the album. I loved everything about it, from the cover art to the heavy chugging guitars to the overly theatrical vocal performance. I still think it’s one of the greatest metal records to this day!”

Iron Maiden “Best of the Beast” (1996)

“I discovered Maiden later in my life, after I had graduated from high school and lost my way a little bit when it came to music. A friend put this CD on in the car on the way to a party one night and the metalhead in me was immediately reawakened. The duelling guitars, the soaring vocals; it was like I had finally found my calling. After the ride he gave me the CD. He said ‘I have a feeling you’ll listen to it more than I will’ and once again, he was right. That album started my journey into truly rediscovering my love of heavy metal. When I was younger, I listened to a lot of heavier stuff; White Zombie, Tool, Incubus – their early albums, but in high school I stopped. This album was the first time I had ever heard anything like ‘power metal’ or ‘trad metal’ or whatever you want to call it, but it changed me forever.”

Judas Priest “Painkiller” (1990)

“Again, I discovered this album late. After, illegally, downloading the entire Iron Maiden discography, I started to look for other bands that had a similar sound and inspired me in the same way, and of course that brought me to Judas Priest. ‘Painkiller’ introduced me to the ‘falsetto’ style vocals of Rob Halford and was the first time I started saying to myself ‘hey, I bet I could do this’ regarding fronting a band. I started going to more live shows, and checking out local bands, and seeing what the local metal scene was like. This album is hands down one of the greatest heavy metal records of all time, and if I ever had to show a non-metalhead a record to get them into metal this one would probably be the one I used.”

Queensrÿche “Operation: Mindcrime” (1988)

“The year was 2008, Unleash The Archers was finally complete with five members, we had a name, and we had our first show booked. We had five songs written but I was still struggling with finding my ‘metal voice’ after having sung classical and chamber music my whole life.  We had found our second guitar player Mike online and he was a bit older than us and knew the local metal scene really well, he was so awesome at the business side of things and as a brand-new band we were so lucky to have found him. He and I were talking about my struggle one day and he suggested I listen to Queensrÿche. I respect him a lot so I found them online right away and was blown away by Geoff Tate from the first listen. ‘Queen of the Reich’ and ‘Warning’ were exactly what I was going for vocally, but it wasn’t until I heard ‘Mindcrime’ that I really began to study his vocal style and emulate what he could do. His control and tone are just so rich and warm, and the emotion he is able to convey is still unmatched to this day in my opinion. My falsetto style is based solely on Geoff Tate, and I still strive every single day to achieve the extraordinary level of storytelling he did with this record.”

Soilwork “The Living Infinite” (2013)

“I had heard amazing concept records before, but nothing so cohesive and complete as this one. I had heard somewhere that this was the first time the vocalist Björn had taken on a lot of the writing himself and had a huge part in the entire direction of the record and that was why it sounded so much like one whole just split into twenty tracks. I had never heard of them before but got asked to fill in as their merch person at their Vancouver show last minute, so my first time hearing them was live and they were AMAZING. Björn was amazing. I had never heard someone go from such beastly screams to such a full clean voice like he does and I still don’t think anyone compares. OK, maybe Tomi from Amorphis, but they are equals in this for sure. A friend of mine came by the merch booth and I was like ‘are you a fan of these guys? Which album should I buy?’ He pointed to ‘The Living Infinite’ without a second’s hesitation. I am so glad that he did. This record directly inspired ‘Apex’ and ‘Abyss’. It is the reason they were originally going to be a two-disc record, and the reason I decided to write the story out in an outline with very distinct directions to the boys on how to write the guitar riffs. I wanted a record as complete as this one in sound, feeling, and tone, and I can guarantee you that ‘Apex’ and ‘Abyss’ would not exist without this album having existed first!”

Honourable mentions: These records may not have changed my life, but they were huge milestones for sure! Lost Horizon “Awakening the World” (2001) and “A Flame to the Ground Beneath” (2003), Iced Earth “The Crucible of Man” (2008), Fleshgod Apocalypse “Veleno” (2019), Dragonland “Under the Grey Banner” (2011).