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heavy metal

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HAWXX – Interview with Hannah Staphnill!

We had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Staphnill, guitarist of HAWXX – an amazing all-female up and coming band!

Named after the bird of prey, with the double XX symbolising the double XX female chromosome. HAWXX write songs that reflect the lies of our current political climate, about self empowerment and how love’s a bitch.

Read the interview below and make sure you check out their new single ‘Deadlands‘!

 

How are you? How are you dealing with isolation and social distancing?

We’re missing each other! Getting very jealous of bands where members live together. We want to play and eat and drink together again!
Other than that, a mixture of fine and terrible.

 

When quarantine is over, who’s the first person you want to hug, first place you want to visit and first band you want to see live?

We want to hug each other, IN A PUB, and then get on stage!

 

How did it feel to win the PRS Women Make Music Award?

Genuinely screamed when we found out – it’s such an honour and amazing to think they see that potential in us – their support means a lot.

 

You’ve recently released your latest single ‘Deadlands’, what has the response to it been like so far?

It’s been great! It’s probably had the biggest number of streams within the first couple of weeks than any other track. Seems to have really resonated with our Israeli fanbase as the last I checked we had 1k listeners in Israel alone! It’s been great to see people connecting with the track.

 

Which of your latest singles is your favourite and why?

I guess we shouldn’t really have favourites as good song parents!

 

Does the band have any musical influences?

The band has so many influences! We are all lovers of all things heavy like Gojira, Deftones, Meshuggah and Tool but there is also a big influence from singer songwriters/poets in terms of lyrics and melody like Kate Tempest, PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi and Patti Smith.

We also all come from very different musical backgrounds – I come from a classical music background, Anna comes from a Greek folk/ classical music background and Jess and Iman come from a jazz background.

 

What bands/artists have you been listening to the most while in isolation?

Karnivool, Bjork, Kate Tempest, Code Orange, Deftones, Meshuggah, PJ Harvey, Angel Olsen, King Crimson

 

If you could be a superhero for a day, who would you be and what would you do?

I mean..if we didnt do something about Corona, we’d be dicks. Anti-viral Girls?

 

Do you have any favourite TV series that you could recommend to us?

I’m watching John Oliver‘s Last Week Tonight weekly, catching up on Walking Dead. Not a TV Series but I’ve just completed Lifers podcast with Ed Gamble on Spotify – he talks to musicians about their lives in the metal world and would def recommend that- really interesting.

 

Are any of you gamers? If so, which games do you play?

I’m in to my retro games on my Raspberry Pi – did a whole evening of drinking and Street Fighter recently. I’m from the school of mashing the buttons until something happens.

 

What can we expect from Hawxx in 2020?

A lot of social media action! We’ve been coming up with creative ways of getting HAWXX out there now that we’re not gigging so do follow us! (@hawxxmusic)

You can also expect a few more singles and hopefully an EP launch on October 8th at The Black Heart, Camden.

BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Of Mice & Men – The Story Of Resilience and Sacrifice

I don’t know if you ever read the depression-era masterpiece “Of Mice & Men” by John Steinbeck growing up? I never did but I did see a YouTube recap before writing this blog and I can see why the California based metalcore band took their name from the book. Of Mice & Men have always been ambitious, but even with their success they’ve faced their fair share of challenges. When Shayley Bourget (now Dayshell frontman) left the band in 2012, people thought the band was dead, but the band were adamant on keeping on  Jaime’s Elsewhere vocalist Aaron Pauley to the line-up as clean vocalist and bassist, and kept going with their 3rd album “Restoring Force”.

The band kept going for a few years until December 2016 when frontman Austin Carlile decided to focus on his health. Of Mice & Men being one of the heavy hitters in metalcore were now faced with an ultimatum: do they throw in the towel after losing Austin or do they keep going as 4 piece? The very fact that I’m writing this now should hint to their choice. Now they recently released “Defy” their newest album, to a decent reception, and when I talked to them they were closing in on the end of the European leg of their tour with Sylar and Wage War!

I arrive at KOKO in London late afternoon and after a quick chat with the fans waiting in line (you with the Shrek mask, if you read this say hi!) I got a text that it was time. I got to chill a bit backstage before Aaron and Tino came in and had a quick chat while setting up, and we got to chat a bit about touring, albums and me managing to mispronounce Tino’s name 5 minutes after meeting. Anyway check out the interview below and enjoy!

Check out our Of Mice & Men and more band merch!

BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards – An evening with Parkway Drive, Ozzy Osbourne and a lot of fire

Us metalheads have to face the harsh truth that the Grammy’s is never going to acknowledge our genre. It is true that they give out an award for “Best metal performance” but it’s usually announced before the actual show during an un-televised event where the house band introduce Megadeth with “Master Of Puppets” and the bands just show up for the open bar. Luckily the magazine Metal Hammer decided to take matters into their own hands and founded the “Golden Gods Awards” in 2003. EMP have been invited to many over the years and here we’re going to give you the low down on what happened on the 16th anniversary!

The evening started off on the black carpet. Artists and journalists alike were all excited to see who would take the awards home and were all mingling in front of the media wall sharing laughs and stories. I had the honour of once again bumping into Betraying the MartyrsAaron Matts, whom the observant EMP follower would know I interviewed a few months ago and we had a quick catch-up before heading upstairs to catch the main event!

 

 

The show started off with a hilarious MC warming up the crowd, mostly by making us yell, growl and scream in a matter that took me back to my college days studying music. After the vocal warm-up, the show started with a brilliant performance from “Carpenter Brut” firing the starting gun. After a performance with a ton of energy to make sure the crowd was in a good mood, it was time for the awards.

The time from there on out flew by! The ever so talented Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed guided us through the nominees and guest presenters brilliantly and it was exhilarating seeing bands like Wolves in The Throne Room and Code Orange getting the awards and recognition they deserved! (full list of winners at the end of the blog)

After the first half of the awards the stage was made ready for the band that would win the Inspiration Award later in the evening: Meshuggah! Meshuggah, to no one’s surprise, delivered an amazing show with great songs and a performance for the ages, showing that even though they have been around a while and are starting to get older, they have no intention of stopping! After the progressive-djent metal that is Meshuggah wrapped up their last song, it was time for an acoustic performance by Myrkur! She walked on stage with a cello and a single drum preforming a haunting song that instantly took you to the dark forests of Scandinavia with trolls and hulders – a truly a mesmerizing performance that proved she was worthy the “Best album” award. The last band before the second half of awards were Grammy nominated band Baroness. Baroness preformed a set that combined punk and sludge in a fun way and was the perfect choice to wake up the audience before the last half of the awards with heavy hitter awards like the “Icon” and “Golden God Award”!

 

The second half of the show starts of Jamey Jasta making some jokes and once again introducing guest presenters to give out awards like “Defenders of Faith” and the “Inspiration award” One of the highlights however was the “Global Metal Award” that made its debut this year, and the recipient Kaoteon from Beirut was well deserving. Kaoteon came from a world where they’ve been arrested and beaten simply for playing the music they love; they truly deserve our respect for standing steadfast and facing adversary for the genre we all love. The last award of the evening however was the famous “Golden God” award introduced by none other than Zakk Wylde himself honoring the winner Ozzy Osbourne with a brilliant speech about Ozzy’s accomplishments throughout a 50-year long career. After Ozzy received the award with a simple “Thank you, it’s an honor” it was time for the main event and fresh “Defender of The Faith” winner: Parkway Drive!

Parkway Drive is a band I’ve seen 4 times already and their shows always include a lot of fire – something which the fire department in Oslo, Norway can attest to after a show I went to 2016 where front man Winston got a bit too excited playing with flares. This show also included a lot of pyro and the stage production quality was through the roof with drummer Ben Gordon spending a large portion of the set playing upside down in a huge hamster-wheel! The set (which I wish never ended) flew by playing both new and old songs; but alas it had to come to an end and with it a brilliant evening honouring the musicians and bands we all love.

 

 

 

I must give a huge thank you to Metal Hammer for putting this together. Metal is a wonderful genre in that it’s so vast and inclusive: you could stand in the crowd and see strangers from all walks of life hugging and having a great time because at the end of the day, we were all there sharing the same passion and same love; and with that it’s okay that the Grammys might not ever properly acknowledge us. Us metalheads are a huge family with friends at every show, and that shared community is worth more than all of Kanye West’s awards multiplied by 4. (he got 231 if you were wondering)

-Alex Dante

All the winners:

Best New Band: Lovebites

Best Underground Band: Wolves in The Throne Room

Best UK Band: Judas Priest

Best International Band: Arch Enemy

Best Event: Download Festival

Best Live Band: Lacuna Coil

Best Independent Label: Sumerian Records

Breakthrough Artist: Code Orange

Riff Lord: Wes Borland

Defender Of The Faith: Parkway Drive

Inspiration: Meshuggah

Best Album: Myrkur“Mareridt”

Global Metal Award: Kaoteon

Spirit Of Hammer: Jessica Pimentel

Icon: James Keenan

Golden God: Ozzy Osbourne

EMP, Music, Special

Ghost – Prequelle: Album Review

Ghost have been going from strength to strength in recent years. When they burst onto the scene in 2010 they were more of a curiosity than a full-fledged part of the metal world, thanks to Papa Emeritus’ extravagant costumes, the fully disguised ‘nameless ghouls’ and the band’s knack for mixing blasphemous themes of death and the devil with downright catchy music and clean vocals. Certainly, they’ve never been a band that you could be indifferent about. And whilst the gimmicks might have been a nice way to get attention, it’s the music that keeps the fans there. Music which has remained of an extremely high caliber since day one (or Year Zero, if you will). So naturally there was considerable hype regarding the release of the band’s new album ‘Prequelle’ with a brand-new member of the satanic clergy at the helm.

In a way, the choice to ‘fire’ yet another Papa Emeritus (we were already on Papa Emeritus III by the third album) in favour of the significantly less intimidating Cardinal Copia looks quite a lot like a deliberate step away from their satanic image towards something which is still quirky but a bit less cumbersome. Since the satanic pope’s real identity has been making its way into the media anyway thanks to the legal quarrels between (nameless) band members, it was probably time for Tobias Forge to shed a couple of layers of papal robes and be a little freer. What does this mean for the music, though?

Whilst the band’s image and music have always been separate beasts, there is certainly something of a trend going on. When I last saw Ghost at Bloodstock festival in 2017, Papa/Forge shed most of his costume halfway through the set anyway, opting for a mostly black ensemble and a corpse-paint makeup style instead, marking a shift from the band’s first two albums to the slightly more classic rock style of Meliora. Yet another image change and (mock) personnel change looks to herald another significant shift in musical style for the band. In my opinion, it seems that they’re gradually trying to drop some of the gimmicky elements which made them famous but have gradually begun to hold them back in terms of experimentation. We can no longer expect spooky organs, satanic invocations and liberal use of slightly grammatically-incorrect Latin. Instead, the band have gone full steam ahead with the energetic classic rock with a twist that’s been part of their sound all the time, but has now come to the fore.

(Photo credit: www.rocksins.com)

The album opens with a creepy kids’ nursery rhyme which introduces the theme of the Black Plague / apocalypse that loosely ties the album together, then plunges straight into the lead single ‘Rats’. Straight away, you can recognize that typical Ghost sound, with the characteristic vocals and keyboards, although with a more simplistic structure and a slight 80’s touch, especially the OTT backing vocals. Is this a good direction? In my honest opinion, this isn’t one of the best tracks they’ve ever produced, which is a shame, although it’s certainly on the catchy end of the scale. As with any band, over the years the style does change and some will be more or less happy.

Faith’ kicks in with an utterly epic metal riff, which unfortunately doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the album. Whilst Ghost have never been extremely heavy, I sense the metal elements dropping away – none of the songs here have the heavy edge that, say, Mummy Dust did on the previous album. I’d have liked to hear a bit more of that riff, for sure.

Unfortunately there are one or two weaker moments on this album, especially ‘See the Light’ and ‘Dance Macabre’. ‘I wanna be wit’ you in the moonlight, I wanna be wit’ you all night’, Forge sings on ‘Dance Macabre’, a track which wouldn’t be terribly out of place on an Abba album. They are fellow Swedes, after all.

For some reason the most interesting stuff was left for the end of the album. Both instrumental tracks have left space open for Ghost to try something new musically and flex their creative muscles. ‘Helvetesfonster’ in particular has a slightly medieval sound and picks up on some of the musical themes earlier in the album, gradually seguing from classical melodies into energetic progressive rock.

My favourite track is probably ‘Pro Memoria’, something that would probably sound a little ridiculous coming from many other bands ‘don’t you forget about your friend death’… but when Cardinal Copia sings these lyrics over a background of perfectly executed keys, it ends up being a rather anthemic pean to death, which almost makes the idea of dying seem rather cheerful and fun. The final track, ‘Life Eternal’ isn’t bad either though, albeit it on the power ballad side. Forge has always had an uncanny ability to awaken the emotions, which he does here almost as well as on epic tracks like ‘Cirice’ on Meliora. It’s something that should almost be cheesy, but just because it’s Ghost, it isn’t.

Prequelle is probably never going to be my favourite Ghost album, but I can see the value in their maturing away from the satanic gimmicks and costumes and developing their style into something more universal. Whilst moments hark back to the 70’s or 80’s, others look forward to a new era of Ghost, which will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

Can’t get enough of Ghost? We have lots of Ghost merch to feed that obsession!

Alex Turner

BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Venom Prison – UK Death Metal at its Finest

Venom Prison formed in 2014 and in the space of 4 years they have become one of the leading up and coming UK death metal bands.

In April, they embarked on a European tour supporting Trivium and I caught up with vocalist Larissa Stupar and guitarists Ash Gray and Benn Tomas before the show at London’s Brixton Academy speaking about all things Venom Prison and gaming:

 

After the interview, Venom Prison got ready to hit the stage and I went into the venue to get ready for the aural assault that they were about to unleash upon us. Brixton Academy is the biggest venue on the tour and when they appear on stage, they bring with them a wall of technical death metal that is not only played super tight (no easy feat) but with also so much energy that any newcomers to the band can’t help but be impressed.

Circle pits appear and Larrisa is dominating the crowd as Ben and Ash lay down riff after riff of technical brilliance. They are clearly on top of their game; I’ve seen them before and they were awesome but this show… this is something special and I cannot wait to hear what comes next from them. Like they said in the interview, a new album is being recorded in July so keep an eye out for that but in the meantime check out their debut album “Animus” and more band merch if you haven’t already!

Sam Kelly-Wallace
EMP Events Managers UK & IE

Venom Prison socials:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/venomprison
Instagram & Twitter: @venomprison

BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Interview with Aaron Matts from Betraying The Martyrs – London

Formed in 2008, Betraying The Martyrs is the perfect example of English and French cooperation, after releasing 3 albums they have proved themselves as a consistent and solid band known for heavy death-growls and incredible piano leads courtesy of their clean vocalist and keys player Victor Guillet.

I was lucky enough to sit down with their frontman Aaron Matts back in March when they played Borderline in London where we talked pineapple on pizza, their latest album and touring in America. See the interview below:

 

After a chat and a drink we went each to our own, and I got ready for the show. The opening bands “From Sorrow to Serenity” and “Modern Day Babylon” played tight sets and were perfect to get the crowd ready for the main event!

The show being in a tiny bar without a barrier already told me this would be a show for the books! Out walks Aaron and the rest of the band ready to go, towering over the crowd in an almost religious manner, and from the first note the crowd went insane. I stood as close to the stage as possible, turned around for a second and there I see a late 40’s Irish guy I met a few hours earlier going mental in the pit together with strangers from all walks of life.

For the next 45 minutes or so the entire room was taken by an incredible energy and Betraying the Martyrs sounded stronger than ever! There were mosh pits, jumping and hugs all around – even though we were all strangers, everyone was friends during that show. After the set, all the bands hung out at the merch table sharing laughs and having drinks, showing there were no room for egos on this tour.

All in all, the experience was incredible and if you haven’t seen Betraying the Martyrs but are intrigued after hearing their music, definitely go if you have the chance, and I hope to meet you the next time they are in London!

Check out our Betraying the Martyrs and more band merch!

-Alex Dante