Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Through the Storm: Joe Lynn Turner's Adventures on the Edge

An active musician since the late 60s, New Jersey-born Joe Lynn Turner has fronted some of the most powerful ensembles in the history of Hard Rock and Metal. Best known for his stints with the early '80s incarnation of Rainbow and the Slaves and Masters era of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Deep Purple, the guitarist-turned-singer has provided his voice to a staggering array of projects including (but certainly not limited to) Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, Mother's Army (with Bob Daisley, Jeff Watson and Carmine Appice), Brazen Abbot, The Jan Holbert Project, Hughes Turner Project (HTP) and Rated X (with Appice, Blue Murder'Tony Franklin and guitarist Karl Cochran). Additionally, he has pursued a fruitful solo career that began with 1985's Melodic Rock classic Rescue You.

On May 13, Frontiers released Edge of Tomorrow, the long-awaited fourth album from Turner's Sunstorm project. Backed by a new Sunstorm band featuring producer/keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio, guitarist Simone Mularoni, bassist Nik Mazzucconi and drummer Francesco Jovino, Turner delivers yet another treasure for any fan of radio-oriented Hard Rock. I recently had an opportunity to touch base with him regarding Edge of Tomorrow, his long career and his current relationship with Deep Purple/Rainbow guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore.

Why did you choose to go in a heavier direction than on past Sunstorm albums with this new release?

We had good feedback from fans about the Rated X CD, so that was part of what inspired that direction. It was also the songs, as they were more geared toward taking the project in a harder, heavier direction with all the powerful themes.

What led to the creation of this new lineup, and why did it make sense to move forward with new players?

I wouldn’t call it a new lineup; it’s just a different lineup that Alessandro chose to better suit the types of songs. I was very happy with the musicians used on the previous releases and also very pleased with the group on this CD as well. They all have great talent and are quality players.

What was the greatest impact that Alessandro had on the album?

The production and the fact that he was very willing to take direction from me. I had a lot more input on this CD versus the others. Being he was very collaborative - yet also had great vision - helped give the record the incredible sound that it has.

In your mind, which songs on Edge of Tomorrow best represent the spirit of the new album?

All of them are special and represent the spirit of the album, but I admit that the title track is especially powerful, which is why we chose to make a video to go along with it. It is a song about the apocalypse that's happening right now and the geopolitical situation in our world. So I went to Vikos [Gorge, in northern Greece] - the deepest and longest canyon in the world, the canyon of the Gods. The video director and producer, Menelaos Sykovelis, is an incredible artist. He knew that this particular location was where we should do this, where we should show the world what is happening in symbology, in symbolic form.

What was the first thought you had when you saw the Vikos Gorge up close for the first time?

I was in awe. All of the scenes you see in the video are real, except the eagle, which is CG. I was really walking along the ledge with this huge drop off below my feet. When I was standing on some of those mountainous peaks, I did get a little vertigo, but got used to it after a while. As for the eagle in the video, it represents the freedom that people should have instead of the enslavement which the world has become from the geopolitical powers. That is part of the essence of what the song is about.

You began your career as a guitarist. What is your relationship with guitar these days?

I often write my songs on guitar, and I have been playing a lot more on some of the acoustic shows I did in the UK and in Greece. I’m hoping to line up a few more later this year.

Much has been made in the press about your comments about Ritchie Blackmore’s new incarnation of Rainbow, while a recent statement from Ritchie was very complimentary towards you and your work in Deep Purple. How would you best characterize your current relationship with him?

We do not talk in person or on the phone, mostly due to our schedules. We send messages through email, mostly through his manager because that is the way he likes it and I respect that. I was very pleased and humbled by his kind words about how I should have been inducted [into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] also, and he has often said Slaves and Masters is one of his favorite Deep Purple albums.

Hindsight seems to have been very kind to the Slaves and Masters album, with many fans discovering or re-discovering it as time carries on. Why do you feel the album keeps growing in popularity year after year?

The strength of the songs and musicianship keeps it 'alive.' It is the kind of record that stands the test of time very well.

Of all your many past musical projects, which ones would you like to create new music with if given the chance?

Most all of them... but Rainbow, Deep Purple, Malmsteen and Hughes Turner Project [HTP] would be great to resurrect. I do not think it will ever be possible, but I also always say, 'Never say never.'

What has been the key to your longevity in this industry?

I think maybe my diversity and passion. I am able to write and sing all genres of music and all sub-genres of Rock music...melodic, Metal, symphonic... you name it! And my passion also drives me. I am so grateful to be able to make a living doing what I love. Not everyone in the world can say that. Of course, I have to mention that the fans keep me going as well. As long as they want me to continue making music, that helps drive my passion.

You’re always keeping busy. What can fans expect from you in the next 6-12 months?

I am trying to play as many shows as I can! I have some gigs coming up in Bulgaria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, a big festival in the UK and then some dates in Spain. Lots more being talked about; once we confirm them, we will post on my Facebook page and website.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com
(NOTE: Due to the high volume of emails received, a response is not guaranteed.) 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

REVIEW - Dark Funeral: Where Shadows Forever Reign

Sweden’s Dark Funeral have never been your typical Black Metal band.

When more than a few corpse paint-donning ensembles were building careers with cacophonic compositions and sub-basement production, Dark Funeral established an international reputation by adding genuine craft and melody to their musical menace. With sole original member Lord Ahriman leading the charge, the band have reached a new creative level on Where Shadows Forever Reign, their first album since 2009’s Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus and their debut full-length release for Century Media.

The release of Where Shadows Forever Reign comes at an important time in the history and development of Black Metal. With the scene a good three decades old at this point, its survival depends on bands’ willingness and ability to take their sounds into new and more accomplished territories. Fortunately, Dark Funeral raise the bar for the genre with a sonically mature album fueled by their strongest performances and songwriting achievements to date.  

While the forceful grunts and screams of new singer Heljarmadr would already make Where Shadows Forever Reign a captivating experience, drummer Dominator is the true star of the show, delivering blistering blast beats and double-kick fury (“Beast Above Man,” “As One We Shall Conquer”) along with a heavy dose of sinister mid-tempo groove (the epic “As I Ascend”). Although Where Shadows Forever Reign is a vicious listen from beginning to end, Lord Ahriman and company have the skills and musical vocabulary needed to elevate the proceedings beyond a typical noisefest. This is a rare breed of truly sophisticated and structured Black Metal that boasts as much intelligence as it does primal power. (The album's greatest moment, The Eternal Eclipse, is essential listening for any fan of extreme music.)

It’s obvious that Dark Funeral worked hard to make Where Shadows Forever Reign a landmark album, and the effort has paid off in spades. This is the record we’ll all be referring back to years from now as the moment Black Metal took a major leap forward.

While Where Shadows Forever Reign points to an intriguing future for Dark Funeral, the album is also an undeniable nod to a past. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the band’s classic full-length debut, The Secrets of the Black Arts – the only other album in the band’s discography to not feature a Latin title. Additionally, Black Arts album artist Necrolord returned after two decades to create the perfect visual accompaniment to the new record. Playing both albums back to back, it’s amazing to hear the progress made over two decades. In a sea of throwaway bands, Dark Funeral are the real deal. 

Where Shadows Forever Reign is a bulletproof high-water mark of an often-misunderstood genre and the most essential album of its kind since Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.  

Pre-order Where Shadows Forever Reign

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com
(NOTE: Due to the high volume of emails received, a response is not guaranteed.)