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Exclusive Q and A: Her Bright Skies Talk ‘Rivals,’ Setbacks, Swedish Rock

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsPrepare yourself, America. Swedish rockers Her Bright Skies are bringing their potent blend of post-hardcore, punk, and modern rock to the rest of the world with their most recent album, Rivals. Inheriting the mantle of fine Swedish rock exports from the past, the band’s songs brim with unstoppable power and energy. We caught up with guitarist Petter Nilsson to chat about Swedish musical history, breaking out stateside, and the message behind the new album.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Her Bright Skies Talk ‘Rivals,’ Setbacks, Swedish Rock’

Artist Feature: The Glass Child

From Sweden to London, England, with nothing but her guitar, a few clothes and a heart of gold, Charlotte Eriksson AKA The Glass Child has poured countless hours of blood, sweat and tears into her craft. Spending sleepless nights on the floors of generous strangers, scraping by for change to make it to the next city, and singing her heart out to audiences every night, Eriksson knows the life of a struggling artist.

With several Top 40 achievements on OurStage and an incredibly strong, captivating voice, The Glass Child is an obvious example of passion, hard work and dedication come to life. Listen to “Best Part Of Me” below.

 

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Refused Announce End Of Reunion

That’s right folks. It was fun while it lasted, but the gentlemen in Refused have decided to call it quits again. I guess they just wanted one last taste of the punk rock lifestyle before returning to whatever adult life they live now. According to Pitchfork, the band’s final show will be in their homeland of Umeå, Sweden on December 15. Part of the announcement on their facebook page:

“And now it is coming to a close. It’s been kind to us. And that old punkrock golem ‘The shape of punk to come’ has done good. The hatchet is buried, 1998 is not such a terrible memory for us anymore. We’re going home. And we’re doing it in style.”

You can read the rest of the message here. Hopefully some of you got to see Refused this year. Looks like this may be the final goodbye… unless perhaps they decide to give it another go in 2025!

If you like Refused, then you might also like OurStage’s own Throw The Goat.

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Metal Monday: Katatonia’s Dead End Kings

In Katatonia‘s 21 year career, they’ve managed to avoid putting out a single subpar album; even with a slowly rotating cast of members — vocalist Jonas Renske and guitarist Anders Nyström seem to be the only permanent members. On their new Dead End Kings, they’ve even played without Fredrik and Mattias Norrman (yes, they’re brothers) for the first time in about 13 years. It would appear that the supporting cast for Renske and Nyström isn’t of much consequence, as they haven’t skipped a beat with their followup to 2009′s Night Is The New Day.

On recent albums, Katatonia developed a truly unique sound, a perfect blend of sulking heaviness and shimmering beauty. Combining the thick, heavy riffs and chords of Nyström with the clear, haunting vocals of Renske, Katatonia create deeply emotional soundscapes on just about every track of Dead End Kings. Frank Default contributes a lot to the atmospheres and textures that coat many sections of the album, adding some sparse percussion, keyboards, and strings. As on Night Is The New Day, producer David Castillo aptly handles the mixing and production of the album, and the overall sound is second to none.

Perhaps the biggest difference for Katatonia on this record is the songwriting. While the album is not at all a sonic departure, many of the songs on Dead End Kings feature elements that Katatonia have shied away from on their last few releases. The most obvious changes, as heard on the lead single “Dead Letters,” are the inclusion of more groovy riffs (likely to the extreme pleasure of Tool fans). But it’s not just heavier, groovier parts they’ve added, either (granted, it doesn’t get much more heavy and groovy than “Forsaker“). Songs such as “The Racing Heart” and “Leech” show us that Katatonia are also quite capable of moody, somber passages.

Ultimately, Katatonia aren’t adding anything particularly new to the mix, but rather are refining and perfecting what they’d already achieved on Night Is The New Day and The Great Cold Distance. In 21 years, they’ve managed to very slowly evolve into something uniquely their own in all the right ways. When you’re so far ahead of the curve, does it really matter if you’re not constantly making massively different music? I’m not so sure it does. I’ll be happy if Katatonia keep making only slight tweaks to their current formula, as they’re already in a league of their own. One listen to Dead End Kings further drives this point home.

Dead End Kings comes out at the end of August worldwide. You can grab your copy from Peaceville Records’ online shop. Get a taste of the new album below with the lead single from the album, “Dead Letters.”

Staffan Johansson on Minimalism

OurStage, Guitar Player magazine, and Ernie Ball are teaming up this summer to offer aspiring guitarists a chance to win the ultimate Grand Prize, and there’s only one day left to enter! Enter the Guitar Player “Take The Lead” Competition by August 17 for your shot to win your very own feature in Guitar Player magazine, and a year’s supply of strings and accessories from Ernie Ball! Throughout the competition, we’ll be bringing you exclusive editorial content fresh from guitarplayer.com—enjoy!

It kind of sounds like atmospheric rockabilly, but that doesn’t account for the strains of tango, 1920’s jazz, and “Weimar Republic cabaret” that Carver Combo bandleader Peter Murphy (not the Bauhaus lead singer) cites as his band’s influences. In any case, the broad musical spectrum of the Stockholm, Sweden group definitely keeps its guitarist Staffan Johansson on his toes. But rather than attack Carver Combo’s stylistic Smörgåstårta with multi-textural orchestrations, Johansson embraces savvy dashes of minimalism to punctuate the music’s ebb and flow.

Read more: http://www.guitarplayer.com/article/staffan-johansson-on-minimalism/148953

 

Metal Monday: France, The Metal Up And Comer

Throughout the life of the Metal Monday column, I’ve written posts about what countries produce the best metal. No real surprise that the focus of these posts fell on Norway, Sweden, The UK and the US–after all, they’re the countries with some of the most prominent metal subcultures and scenes. One country that isn’t getting its due diligence, however, is France. Yes, that France. In the last ten years, France has made huge strides in producing powerhouse metal bands on a consistent basis.

Prior to the twenty-first century, France wasn’t exactly known for it’s metal acts, especially on an international level, but the ones they had were pretty fantastic—the monstrous avant-garde black metal band Blut Aus Nord and the consistently great heavy/power metal band Nightmare come to mind. Beyond that? Well, there wasn’t much else. Fortunately for everyone, that’s changing.

Much like Godzilla, Gojira are beasts

Continue reading ‘Metal Monday: France, The Metal Up And Comer’

Metal Monday: Arch Enemy Q&A

Arch Enemy are no rookies to the melodic death metal scene. The Amott brothers and company have been around since the early ’90s, churning out solid metal album after solid metal album. It seems that their musical prowess might be approaching its climax, as Khaos Legions is their most prolific, varied and technical work to date. We got a chance to ask Michael Amott some questions regarding the new album, his guitar playing, influences and working with his brother. Check out what he had to say:

OS: Khaos Legions is a bit of a departure from Rise of the Tyrant. What sorts of ideas did you have coming into writing and recording it?

MA: We really had a “no rules” approach during the writing and pre-production phase of Khaos Legions. Arch Enemy has always encompassed a wide spectrum of influences. We have influences from thrash and death metal, but also classic metal/hard rock. The idea from the very beginning of the band was to blend heavy and extreme sounds with a lot of melody. I had so many guitar ideas for this album, it was just a matter of getting everything to fit together and make good songs out of all the riffs and melodies that we all had been writing and collecting over a four-year period. As you said, there are some new sounds on Khaos Legions— and I am really happy about that! We don’t want to become too predictable as band. We want to continuously progress, yet remain true to our “core sound”.

OS: The guitar work on Khaos Legions has a lot of variation, more so than usual. How much of this was a conscious effort?

MA: We always try to have a lot variety and exciting, quality guitar parts. I think on this new album everything just came together in a very cool way for whatever reason. In the writing and pre-production phase we could tell that we were more inspired than ever before, we had an absolute abundance of riffs and melodies to work with and we had a blast arranging the material.

OS: What sort of dynamic do you and Chris have when writing? How do you think it changes how you write, compared to when you were writing with Carcass or other bandmates?

MA: As Chris is my brother, we have played guitar together so much that we have a pretty non-verbal and very intuitive relationship when we write and arrange guitar parts and songs. I very much enjoy writing and recording with other players, but obviously it will always be special with Chris.

OS: The break between Rise of the Tyrant and Khaos Legions is the longest yet–how much of an effect do you think that had on how you approached Khaos Legions?

MA: Well, the riffs just kept piling up you know? We never stop writing really, we always jam and come up with new ideas backstage before a show or on the bus or in a hotel room. We’re always playing guitar! The longer break between albums meant we had more material to choose from and also Khaos Legions captures the bands sound over a longer time period (four years). I personally think this is obvious when I listen to the album and I hope the fans will appreciate the work that went into the creation of the music.

OS: There aren’t really any acts out there that share yours and Chris’ guitar style, primarily that found on the new album. Where do your primary influences come from?

MA: Our influences cover a wide spectrum of music styles and genres. Of course we have the Metal influences that you’d expect, but we listen to a lot of music that might seem like an odd fit for a band like us. As we all know, there’s only two kinds of music: good and bad! We are not afraid to play major key stuff for example—we try to paint with all colors that are available to us.

OS: Do you think taking the short break from writing/playing with Arch Enemy to do a few shows with Carcass have anything to do with the evolving sound of Arch Enemy?

MA: I think you are right—that had an impact on Khaos Legions. With Arch Enemy we had been in the album-tour-album-tour routine for so long, I think it was a good idea to break that and have a new fresh perspective on what we do with Arch Enemy.

OS: You’ve played/wrote a ton of albums at this point in your career, whether with Arch Enemy, Carcass, Carnage or guest spots. Which of these are most special to you, and why?

MA: That’s a tough question for me to answer, but I have to admit that the new Arch Enemy Khaos Legions strikes me as being one of those defining moments as I managed to get what’s in my head out and capture it perfectly. Other recordings I am proud of are Arch Enemy’s Wages Of Sin and Carcass’ Heartwork.

Do yourself a favor and check out Khaos Legions.  It’s hot off the presses via Century Media records—and it’s a really good album (especially if you love face-melting guitar solos and really good female vocalists). You can grab the album from iTunes, Amazon or your local record store (if those even exist near you anymore).

Q&A With Peter Bjorn And John

They’re the trio behind the insanely catchy whistle solo that infected everyone’s brain back in the summer of ’06, but Stockholm’s Peter Bjorn and John have a lot more to offer than  “Young Folks.” The Swedes just released their sixth studio album, Gimme Some, and are gearing up for a tour with one-woman psych-pop outfit Bachelorette at the end of the month. We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Peter Moren to talk about Gimme Some, the double meaning behind PB&J’s album art and his favorite up-and-coming Swedish musicians.

 

OS: So how do you guys feel now that you’ve released Gimme Some?

PM: Great. Better than ever.

OS: Do you feel like seasoned vets now that you’ve put out your sixth album?

PM: Yeah, we’re a bit more relaxed and a bit more mature and we know that we’re going to survive no matter what happens. It feels more fun than being, like, a cool new band.

OS: A lot of critics had mixed feelings towards 2009’s Living Thing, did that affect the way you crafted Gimme Some?

PM: No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s a reaction to the album before—Living Thing—but not to the critics. You always want to do something different than the time before. We talked about, quite early on, that we wanted to do something that would be really fun to play live. Living Thing was kind of hard, we had to bring along a lot of synthesizers and, you know, practice a lot. [Laughs] We wanted to do something that was a bit more simple and that was based off the way we usually perform live, which is guitar, bass and drums with a bit more energy and punk to it. So that’s what we did. It is very fun to play live.

OS: This is the first time you brought in an outside producer. Why did you make that decision?

PM: Partly because we wanted to make this kind of record that I was talking about, and we felt that in order to be able to get the great live takes where we’re all playing in a room together, it’s nice to focus on playing and being the band and not being a producer at the same time. We wanted some outside ears and some fresh input. But it’s also, of course, that we’ve been a band for almost twelve years, and we felt that we could stand to have a fourth opinion for a short period, you know? Just bounce things off his head. Also, the thing is when you vote when there’s just three people there’s always two against one. So now it comes out two against two, or three against one. It’s another dynamic, and that’s pretty nice.

OS: Can you tell us about the album art?

PM: Actually, we did a photo session of the band for a magazine, and in the picture we all did thumbs up. We didn’t use that picture, but we liked the idea of the three thumbs up. So we talked to a graphic designer we knew, Jonas [Torvestig], and he came up with this deformed, three-thumbed hand. It’s just a great image because on one hand it’s colorful and positive and peppy, and on the other hand it’s cut off so it’s a bit morbid and scary. And I think that describes the music accurately. It’s positive pop music that’s energetic, but at the same time the lyrics are pretty dark and negative. It’s like a description of the album.

OS: You have to answer questions about Sweden all the time, so I apologize, but what are some cool Swedish bands that listeners should check out?

PM: Well, I actually just learned about a band yesterday that just released one song. It’s a brand new project, but I actually found out who they were. They’re not brand new people, but I’m not going to say how old they are. [Laughs] But it’s a very good song. They’re called the Serenades, very good song. I think they have a Web site, like, serenades.com. And there’s another new band I like a lot, which is called Into the Woods. And they haven’t put out anything yet, I think. Really new. New, new stuff.

OS: You guys have said before that you get asked about your homeland so often that you sort of feel like “music ambassadors for Sweden.” Do you like that, or do you get tired of being “that Swedish band”?

PM: I mean we are a Swedish band, so it would be hard to get rid of that. But I feel we’re part of a long and proud tradition. And also the not-so-well known indie scene in the nineties, which is kind of what made us start to play. Per [Sunding], the producer, he was in a band called Eggstone in the nineties before we started Peter Bjorn and John. There was a lot of bands at that time, too, that are not so well-known to the rest of the world. But it’s not a new thing with the Swedish, the indie thing. It’s just that after the Internet came it was easier to get out there. We always had some really good bands over time.

OS: The tour with Bachelorette starts at the end of the month, are you looking forward to that?

PM: Yeah, that’ s gonna be fun. I haven’t really, to be honest, I haven’t heard a lot from her. But I think it’s going to be good. I’m really looking forward to the shows, and playing the new album.

OS: Is there a different energy when you play shows in Sweden and Europe compared to those in North America?

PM: No, I mean we always essentially do the same thing. We play and jump around and sing and dance. [Laughs] I don’t know. Audiences might be different here and there, but American audiences are usually very, very good. So I’m not worried about that. Sometimes it might be different at different venues, actually. Even if you’re just playing the same town, if you’re playing a bigger room or a smaller room sometimes the audiences are different. I don’t know why, but I think it’s more about the venues than the city. If people like a venue, they’re more happy. I don’t know.

OS: We’ve noticed that you’re constantly updating your Web site with hilarious bits of your life—do you do that more for your fans or for your own amusement?

PM: I guess we maintain the blog and the Twitter because of fan interaction, but I definitely think that part of it is amusing ourselves. Most of the funny pictures, actually, that’s John. John is a really funny guy. I think he puts them up to amuse me and Bjorn, maybe. And the fans as well [Laughs] And the fans as well. It’s really good.

OS: After six albums, is there anything new you still want to explore in your music?

PM: There’s always new things that you want to try, and even when you sit down to do something it usually ends up being something else. You can’t really plan to much, but you can have an idea beforehand of what you want to explore. And it’s not so much about songwriting. The songs you can really mold in any kind of way. You can actually write the song first, and then you can decide afterwards how you’re going to perform it. Like now on the tour, we rearranged some of the Living Things songs, for example, and they really fit in with the new songs because we play them differently. What we have been talking about for the next album, and I’m not sure that’s going to happen, is a bit more funk and soul and blues. That’s the next thing we’ve been talking about.

Check out Gimme Some, available now, and don’t miss PB&J on tour!

Metal Monday: Are The Swedes Best At Metal?

There are certain countries that are considered to be a cut above the rest in terms of the metal they produce. At the top of the metal food chain are countries like Canada, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the UK and the US—but who reigns supreme in the metal world? There is a strong case to be made for each of these countries, but in the last two decades it’s hard to argue against Sweden as metal’s capital.

Alternative metal band, Katatonia

Though Sweden might not have the most metal bands out of all these countries (that title probably belongs to the US), they have birthed a few bands in the last few decades that have gone on to pioneer, revolutionize, or create a new sub-genre of metal. Bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates are the forefathers melodic death metal (and what would be come to known as the “Gothenburg sound”). Meshuggah are often considered one of the most unique metal bands of today, inspiring countless bands to come after them are—they’re also often cited as the main influence for the recent trend of “djent” bands). Opeth is largely considered the pinnacle for progressive death metal bands, with each of their nine full-length albums earning extremely positive critical response. Candlemass is one of the original epic doom metal bands that would carve the modern and current definition of doom metal.

The legendary Dark Tranquillity

Even if you take out the list of heavily influential metal bands that shaped the current lay of the metal land, you’re still left with a list of massively talented bands: Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Katatonia, Bathory, Hypocrisy, Bloodbath, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, Cult of Luna, and the list goes on. One of the biggest deciding factors, in addition to the quality of these bands, is their longevity. Even pioneering bands like Dark Tranquillity, Opeth and Meshuggah are still putting out landmark releases. That’s what it’s all about: sustained, high quality, albums year after year.

Of course, there can be strong arguments made for any of the aforementioned countries—the UK produced Motörhead, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and creating the entire genre of metal. The US can be credited for producing the “big four” of thrash, among countless other great bands. Still, even considering all of the arguments for other countries to reign supreme, it’s hard to argue against Sweden.

Needle In The Haystack: Oh My!

This week’s Needle In The Haystack is a mystery wrapped in good tunes. While Oh My! seems to have accounts on a respectable number of various sites, they choose to let the music do the talking, leaving little to be said by way of bios, etc. We do know that the five-piece hails from Sweden, which we had to correct ourselves in thinking was the land of the wooden shoes (that’s Holland, by the way). And that they are “defying the icy chill, delievering the rock, bop and swing.” Our favorite tid bit has to be them citing Christopher Walken’s hair as an inspiration. Isn’t it always, my friends.

Listen and learn more about these Swedish imports below, and stay tuned for more from Oh My! throughout the week.

For fans of: The Strokes, The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys

 


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