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Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Kamelot

KAMELOT

Interrview by Dave Cockett

In the increasingly congested market place that is the Symphonic Power Metal scene, it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish one band from another. Yes there are some great musicians, great singers and even great songwriters, but that special ingredient that makes one act stand out from the rest remains as elusive as ever. Thankfully, a beacon of light is about to be lit once again with the impending release of 'The Shadow Theory'. Fireworks celebrate the return of Kamelot with THOMAS YOUNGBLOOD and TOMMY KAREVIK ...


Kamleot

For more than twenty years now Kamelot have been captivating global audiences with their ever more spectacular stage shows; their steadily growing back catalogue of classic songs allied to increasingly ambitious visuals making them the 'must see' ticket when their tour hits town. Their last tour in support of 2015's 'Haven' being perhaps the most ambitious yet.
"There were so many highlights," Tommy enthuses. "It was a two year long tour in the end with additional shows in Israel, Russia and Greece. The Loud Park festival in Japan was just one of many memorable shows for me personally."

"We visited more cities than ever in the USA and around the world," adds Thomas, "but we approached each and every show, large or small with the same attitude."
Playing anything from small clubs to massive festivals can be a complex logistical challenge in itself, but the band pride themselves on delivering to the best of their abilities whatever the size or make up of the audience.

"We never want to cut corners with our show," states Tommy emphatically. "We feel that every paying person, no matter how small or big the room is, deserves the full Kamelot experience. The quality of music, the energy and the crowd interaction will always be there. Of course on a bigger stage we can bring a bigger production and that is something we always strive for."

The 'Haven' tour ran for the best part of two years, the last tranche of shows wrapping up the whole cycle happened as recently as November last year. Work on the songs that would ultimately make up 'The Shadow Theory' however began in earnest more than a year ago.

"We started as far back as December 2016," remembers Thomas, "when I travelled to Germany to work with Oliver (Palotai, Kamelot keyboard player) on new song ideas. We didn't have much downtime in between the various legs of the 'Haven' tour, but to be honest we work well in a crunch situation anyway. Plus, I get bored really being on vacation ... I'm still thinking of ideas for Kamelot even on a cruise to the Bahamas, ha!"

Back in the early days of the band songwriting was largely down to Thomas, but these days it tends to be much more of a collaborative effort.
"Right now it's split between me, Tommy, Oliver and Sascha (Paeth, long-time producer)," Thomas clarifies, "it takes the pressure off us all as individuals, and is really a great working situation because everyone stays true to the Kamelot sound."

Ah yes, that Kamelot sound! Described by many as 'Symphonic Metal', its combination of lush orchestration, grandiloquent arrangements and poignant melodies is arguably the closest thing you'll find anywhere to the classical symphonies of Beethoven, Wagner et all.

"Kamelot to me is more than Symphonic Metal," agrees Tommy. "It's more an entity on its own with a distinctive sound, and that's something we want to stay true to. What it all comes down to in the end though is just making the best music we can. The creative process, inspiration and where it comes from is very personal ... I know for example that Oliver must sit down to work to get inspiration. whereas others can only be fully creative while detaching their brains by doing something completely different."

"We try to pull in new ideas and sounds to create something fresh with each new album," Thomas continues, "but we're also conscious that we need to maintain our identity as a band. It can be difficult to work around sometimes; there always needs to be someone that says 'This is cool but it's not Kamelot'."

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Although not a full blown concept album in the same sense as 2012's 'Silverthorn' opus, there is an embedded lyrical concept that binds the songs together.

"Thomas came up with the idea of basing the lyrics on Carl Jung's psychological theory around 'The Shadow Aspect'," says Tommy. "According to Jung, everyone is carrying a shadow being (your subconscious self) and the less it is embodied, the blacker it is. That of course paved the way for the self-reflecting and existential lyrics that have also become a Kamelot signature. Personally speaking, these are some of the most honest lyrics I've ever written."

"It's based around the three pillars," he continues. "'The Shadow Empire' represents the handful of people at the very top with all the money and power. They are shaping the world to fit their own agenda. 'The Shadow Key' is the resistance to that, the growing numbers of people with increasing awareness about what is happening around them. Knowledge is power, power to take control of you own life. On a personal note 'The Shadow Key' is also an encouragement for people to unlock their own inhibitions, to face their own fears in order to be able to fully achieve their potential. Finally 'The Shadow Wall' is the smoke screen they throw in front of our eyes to keep us thinking that we are making our own decisions and to stop people from asking why."

From the first writing sessions back in December 2016, the album was gradually pieced together over the course of the next year under the aegis of long-term producer Sascha Paeth.
"As Thomas said earlier," Tommy recalls, "it all started with Thomas and Oliver getting together and working on song ideas. Once they had some solid ideas I started working on the melodies. Then I met with Sascha to tweak those ideas and to do some rearranging and restructuring to fit the vocals. Some lyrics we worked on together but most of them I wrote on my own. I recorded the vocals as we were progressing and at the same time Oliver was working on the keyboards. It is always a race to the finish line and most of it comes together in the end, but the whole process took about a year."

"The actual recording started in February last year," Thomas adds, "and we worked here and there over the year. The final recording sessions were done in Wolfsburg in November. We've been working consistently with Sascha since 'The Fourth Legacy' album back in 2000, so it's almost twenty years. He brings an outside point of view and high level of experience. We love working with him!"

"He's the producer and always has great ideas in terms of arrangements," interjects Tommy, "but he is also one of the songwriters. He is just a super talented guy with tons of experience so of course he has lots of input. The great thing is that he is able to capture and amplify the Kamelot spirit through his mixes and accentuate the essence of the band time and again!"

Continuing the well-established tradition of guesting female singers to enhance the final audio experience, this time around the band chose Lauren Hart (Once Human) and Jennifer Haben (Beyond The Black), neither of whom have been involved with Kamelot before.

"Lauren was recommended to us by my girlfriend Kobra Paige (from Kobra And The Lotus)," nods Tommy. "We needed a growler for when we opened up for Iron Maiden last year and she did a great job. Jennifer is a friend of Sascha's. They'd been working together on the Beyond The Black stuff and he thought she'd be perfect for us."

As is also now customary, the artwork that adorns 'The Shadow Theory' enshrines the Kamelot ethos perfectly.

"We got Stefan Heilemann to do the cover again," Thomas explains, "he also did the covers for 'Haven' and 'Silverthorn'. We wanted it to symbolize both the past and the future. If you look you can see that there are elements from 'Silverthorn' in the artwork, but also new and modern elements to represent the future."

Although it's very much business as usual with the Kamelot machine, one major change for the band came with the departure of long time drummer Casey Grillo earlier this year.
"Casey has many touring opportunities that conflict with the Kamelot schedule," admits Thomas, "and he has his own company now which takes up a lot of time. After twenty years, I think we can understand why he would want to do something different and we wish him every success with that. We've known it was coming for some time, but we couldn't say anything until all the contractual stuff was cleared. We knew Johan (Nunez) already; he was the drum tech on our last European tour so he just seemed to be the natural replacement."
"Johan plays all the drums on the new album," adds Tommy. "We wanted to give him the chance to get right in there and integrate as a full time member of the band right away. I think he's done a great job on the album."

With the press machine now in full swing and dates already booked well into 2019, the upcoming world tour is set to be bigger than ever.

"The response so far has been amazing," Thomas enthuses. "It's crazy how many offers we've had so far. Japan is confirmed, 90% of Europe too ... and we start here in North America in April. We're planning to have even more lighting and theatrics than last time, we've revamped our live sound gear and full stage mixing gear, and full rehearsals begin imminently. We've rented a huge room with full PA and lights, which is another first for us! We're planning on doing three or four new songs and then trying to figure out what works best from the past. With 2019 already 60% booked, we're going to play it by ear but it looks like we'll be touring this album well into 2020."

Finally, if you thought their 2006 DVD 'One Cold Winter's Night' was an impressive piece of musical theatre; plans are already well advanced to capture this tour in its full glory. And with a theatre three times bigger than last time, the possibilities are endless!

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with James Christian

JAMES CHRISTIAN

Interview by Fabiana Spinelli

James Christian is a man who really shouldn't need an introduction to readers of Fireworks Magazine. Singer of House Of Lords for 30 years, Christian released his first solo album, the classic 'Rude Awakening', on fledgling AOR label Now & Then back in 1994. Now on the cusp of releasing his fourth solo offering, 'Craving', Fireworks caught up with the man himself to get all the latest...


James-Christian

Let's talk about your new solo album, 'Craving'. Four solo albums in 24 years? Does that means that you really dig deep into yourself before publishing something just in your name?


I don't go out of my way to make solo albums because I love the feeling of being in a band rather than being a solo artist. But if I do a solo CD, I like to step outside of what people expect. It's a time for me to record songs that have a very personal connection to me, a time to try things that I might not do with House of Lords. I have a very broad range of taste in music, it's not all Rock. When my daughter Olivia decided to choose a path on Broadway I went head first into it with her. I now consider myself pretty adept in Show Tunes. They are actually very complicated pieces of work. I love how the singer sings and acts the song on stage. I'm into many different styles of music as long as there is a melodic element to it.

'Craving' is beautifully crafted, a delicate and intense album. I'm impressed by the lyrics, so can you please tell us something more about its contents?

'Craving' has a lot of very deep and thoughtful lyrics. I worked with various songwriters who contributed so much to this CD. I'm a very spiritual person and this time around I let myself express that belief. I am aware that the older I get the closer I get to the other side. I find that faith gives me as much joy as music does so why not sing about it? The lyrics are always important to me. They can be sexy, political, spiritual, funny ... as long as it says something that I can relate to. On the this new album there are a lot of spiritual moments. There are a couple of songs I wrote with my partner Jeff Kent. I had a few songs that we did that we never got a chance to finish, so I finished them in his honour.

You wrote a long and interesting biography on your website, closing with a sentence that I found inspiring: "My dream was fulfilled on the day I signed my first legitimate record deal." Does it means that dreams are a starting point, but it's our daily commitment that realises them?

No, for me the signing of a record deal was the dream and everything else that happened was a fringe benefit. My dream was always getting a deal. I don't know why, but that was what I thought about. It made me so happy to accomplish that. It was no easy task and took many years in the business. When I was out looking for a record deal, it was a very difficult process. I made a lot of trips into NYC. I played all the dive clubs in the city. CBGBs was one of them. I remember the place was a dump, but everyone was playing there. It has its own history, but my dream ended up being fulfilled in Los Angeles, California. I have Gene Simmons to thank for that. It was a great time to be in the business. It's not like that anymore.

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You are songwriter, producer and performer. Which aspect of your career do you think is most difficult?

Writer is the hardest for me because I sometime like to do things that fall outside of what is expected of me. I hesitate to release those songs because I feel that it might not be accepted in our community. I sang a song on this album which I sing in a falsetto voice in the vein of The Beach Boys. This was a band that I loved, growing up. 'Pet Sounds' was one of my favourite records. I decided to record the song because it made me feel good. The song is called 'If There's A God'. I'm not sure how my fans will react to it. It is kinda like The Beach Boys meets George Harrison! I'm always happy to work with other songwriters and it does not matter if I write it or someone else writes it. I have songs on here from Cliff Magnus, Richard Hymas, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Daniel Volpe. If it's a strong song I wanna sing it. I also have a song I wrote with my guitar player Jimi Bell. In closing, I find that willpower is an important element in creative writing. Good songs don't just appear, they take time and you need the willpower to wait for it.

I find 'Craving' so elegant, starting from the artwork. It reminds me a piece of an old manuscript. Is there a special meaning in it?

I have a great CD designer, his name is Richard Jones. That is his work. He understands that I am an old soul. I have always loved album covers that had a grandiose look to them ... bigger than life. That's what I loved about the 80s. There was so much mystique in the bands and their look. We used to prance around Sunset Strip and the Rainbow. It really was a magical time.

'Amen' and 'Jesus Wept' are two intense songs. I would like to ask you something more about your vision of religion and spirituality. I firmly believe that, as the songs says, 'Love Is The Answer'. Would you like to give us an opinion about connections between faith, love and music in these hard times?

Those three songs are all meant to be a message of hope to those who have lost faith. I wrote 'Love Is The Answer' with Jeff Kent. He was a close friend and co-writer. This song was written over three years ago but after his passing. I wanted to record it and have it out there.

Are you going to start a tour to support your new solo album? Have you ever thought about something special on stage with your wife Robin and your daughter Olivia?

I will tour with House of Lords but as far as doing a solo tour, it's just not my thing; I gotta have my band. Robin will do a tour this year and I will join her as a player and Olivia is very busy in New York. She is kicking ass there. HoL is gonna do more shows in the States this year.

Of course, I have to ask something about your future plans. Is there another House Of Lords album on your way?

Yes, of course, another album is in the pipeline. But we are just now starting to look at new tracks so it could be a while. We have really kept a rapid-fire pace for the past few years, so a little room now to write and enjoy life is needed!

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Animal Drive

ANIMAL DRIVE

By Alexandra Mrozowska

Some Fireworks readers might have watched the Junior Eurovision Song Contest back in 2003 and are thus likely to remember the name of the Croatian winner – Dino Jelušić. More of you surely recognise his name from Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 'The Ghost of Christmas Eve' 2016 Winter Tour. Fast forward to 2018 and here he goes again... unsurprisingly for the big Whitesnake fan that he is, he does so on his own. The band Jelušić fronts, Animal Drive, has just released their debut album 'Bite' and Fireworks caught up with the singer to get all the details.


Animal-Drive

Let's look back at 2017, starting from the deal with Frontiers and ending with putting the final touches to 'Bite'...

Well, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2016 tour led me to meeting Jeff Scott Soto, who became a good friend of mine. He heard some songs I'd done in the past and immediately sent it to Frontiers, and as soon as they heard them they wanted to sign me and the band that I have. We were in a hurry, because the contract happened really fast and we had six months to do everything. I'm really proud how the album sounds. I've had twenty different versions of lyrics, but sometimes the rhythm of words doesn't 'click' with the song, and then I have to change them even though I was 100 per cent satisfied with the line... and so on. Ivan Keller worked his ass off with the riffs, as well as Andreas Sala, our producer, who wrote 'Devil Took My Beer' with me, and Adrian Boric put down some really interesting grooves.

Are you satisfied with the band's first effort?

I'm never satisfied in total. I think this is a great record which has all the elements to show what this band actually is, but I think after three albums you'll get to know Animal Drive and my songwriting a lot more. We already have two new albums ready, lots of different songs and lots of experimenting with genres. As soon as I got back from the TSO tour, I went for a coffee with [Animal Drive guitar player] Keller, and he had so many ideas for the next album that when I heard some of them I was stunned. I wrote about fifteen more songs after we finished mixing 'Bite' so we'll have a lot of material. Very groovy, very Progressive but combined with Southern/Bluesy stuff. I also worked out some of the ambient piano ideas I've had in mind for a long time. If it doesn't fit in 'Animal Drive 2', I'll make it as a solo record.

In spite of your Classic Rock and Metal influences, 'Bite!' has an overtly modern vibe to it.

We mix modern and old school. We love Avenged Sevenfold, Alter Bridge, Stone Sour, HIM, Slipknot, Machine Head, Gojira... but we were born and raised on Led Zeppelin, Guns N' Roses, Whitesnake, Skid Row, AC/DC ... so that side also comes out. We want to create our own style. I love ambient and Progressive stuff so we put a lot of that in our songs.

Do you feel comfortable with performing such personal songs as 'Father'?

Along with 'Hands Of Time' and 'Carry On', 'Father' is the most personal song. I do feel comfortable; I feel it every time we play it. I think it's okay to be naked with lyrics in front of the audience. That's what art is about. I don't look at these songs as, "Oh, let's write this one for the radio." It's not a factor to me. Everything has to be honest, personal and come from inside.

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Talking about lyrics, what are your inspirations?

Lyrics are very different. Mostly frustrations and all the hard work I put in all these years that didn't pay off until recently just made me write. 'Fade Away' and 'Goddamn Marathon' are perfect examples. I won't talk too much about those lyrics as I want people to experience what I tried to say in the songs, but 'Tower Of Lies' also comes into that category. People constantly trying to put you down so you don't succeed... happened often to me in the past. 'Hands Of Time' is a love song, as well as 'Carry On'. 'Lights Of The Damned' is about signing a bad contract with a record label or a bad manager... been there too [laughs]. 'Time Machine' is about all the time that's lost and also that I still feel like a kid when I should act like a grown up. It's also about greed and human perception of life...

Do you think the last and longest song on the album, 'Deliver Me', might be the future direction Animal Drive is going to head in?

I think yes. We had one more song in that direction called 'Reign Of Vultures' that didn't make it on to the album because I was afraid that Frontiers wouldn't like us being in the Prog genre. It was also seven minutes long, with very a melodic chorus and a lot of time changes. But yeah, I would love to go more that way than Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. The cool thing is that we have that kind of song and then we have a straightforward Rock song like 'Had Enough'. People will never be bored by one type of song on the album.

This year you're going to play at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, Italy alongside Jorn, Jack Russell's Great White and FM. What are your expectations? The band's former guitar player Alen Luke is joining you on stage at this festival, is it going to be a one-off reunion?

We can't wait to go there and do most of this album in total for the first time. Jorn was one of my biggest vocal influences and I loved his work with Ark. His vocal chops and those songs blend perfectly. I jammed with a drummer of Jack Russell's Great White in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. A great drummer and it'll be cool to see him again in Milan.
Yes, with Alen, it's gonna be one-off reunion. He's not interested in touring at all – that's why we decided to let him go. He is a great guy and a great guitar player who had my back for five years. I love him.

What can you tell us about your homeland's local music scene and the Croatian bands worth our attention?

Everything that is Rock or Metal is very unpopular and underground here in Croatia. But we have a good Metalcore and Punk scene, a lot of bands play together and a decent amount of people come to see it. As for the bands, check out Kryn, Cold Snap, The Ralph – the singer from Kryn and myself used to sing in that band – Musle Tribe Of Danger and Excellence, Jam Ritual, Pale Origins... There's a lot of really cool bands. I could make a big list and I hope some of them make it big.

Animal Drive have some concert plans for the UK, so if you get the chance, check them out.

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Signal Red

SIGNAL RED

Interview by Dave Cockett

Getting any new band project off the ground can be a challenge, especially with the number of new releases hitting the pavement on a daily basis seemingly on a never ending upwards spiral. Just being great at what you do won't cut it anymore, you need to have something that will fire the imagination of potential listeners from the off, and then keep them interested enough to want to hear more. 'Under The Radar', the debut album from Signal Red does just that. Fireworks recently caught up with Lee Small and Steve Grocott...


Signal-Red

After his former band Sevendayz imploded, guitarist Steve Grocott found himself disillusioned with an industry where the odds seemed increasingly against him.

"Despondency had started to set in," Steve explains, "so I decided I needed something to get stuck into outside of my comfort zone. I'd heard of Lee from the Shy album, so I just acted on impulse and contacted him asking if he needed any guitar parts doing for any future projects. Thankfully he got back in touch and we started talking ... simple as that really. He sent a few of his tunes over for me to add some rhythm and lead parts, which I did. Complimentary comments came back so it was clear from the offset there was a musical connection."
That was back in 2013, so getting Signal Red off the ground has been a somewhat protracted affair to say the least.

"I guess other things just got in the way," laughs Lee. "We did record some demos that we didn't use in the end, but the most important thing was that we connected, bounced off one another musically speaking. Steve then got the gig with Ten, and I was doing various other things to keep the wolves from the door, so yeah, this record has taken a while to see the light of day."

"Yes, between writing I went out on a limb and auditioned for Ten," adds Steve, "and was fortunate enough to get the gig. Obviously I had to shelve writing with Lee for a while as I had to learn the old Ten material and write solos for what would've been the 'Albion' album. But before you knew it another Ten album appeared, so I had to concentrate on that. Lee was also very much in demand, so it was a case of whenever time was available really. It has its benefits though as it does allow you to really analyse what you've recorded and get it right."
Bouncing ideas back and forth between the two of them in between other commitments, they eventually had enough songs to represent their shared vision for Signal Red.
"We started work almost immediately after I'd completed work on Lee's stuff," Steve confirms. "I just kept it simple initially and started to write and construct the music leaving space for the vocals. I did have melodies in my head, but it's weird because Lee would almost anticipate what was needed. Sometimes they would come back sounding almost as I'd envisioned, but others they would be completely different ... it was kind of exciting really. After a while though you just learn to play to your own strengths and weaknesses, so I'd get the music to where I was happy with it and then send it on to Lee."

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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"Steve would sketch out the rough musical arrangements," Lee continues, "and then send them over to me. I would work to those to get a structure in place for the melodies and lyrics; then I would move on to the next one. Once I sent my versions back, Steve went above and beyond crafting them into what you hear on the final versions. I love to hear how a song grows, that's a really rewarding feeling. He's created his own sound on this album; there's some orchestrated guitar work and I think you can pick up on different things every time you listen."
Given that the songs were pieced together over an extended period of time, the whole thing – music, lyrics, packaging and even the Signal Red name (a label suggestion) – have a cohesion that suggests it was planned that way from the off.

"I can't remember exactly when we started," says Steve, "but I would just forward Lee a tune or two and just wait for him to work his magic ... these tunes kept coming back sounding amazing. When we were at around song six or so I contacted Escape Music and asked if I could forward some demos to Khalil who liked what he heard and signed us up. Around six months after that we had enough material for the album. There was no grand plan, I just got on with it and whatever it sounded like, it sounded like; I did want it to have a modern edge though. There are some real rockers on there as well as ballads, but we have tried to stay a little outside of the box. We just put our collective influences into a bowl, gave it a stir and listened to the outcome."

"I think the overall sound we achieved comes from his style of playing," Lee offers. "The layering of guitars in the way he has done on the album is very interesting not to mention complex at times, but the more you listen, the more you understand and the more you hear. Musically speaking it takes you on a journey without the need of my lyrics to help paint a picture; your imagination does the rest."

Originally Signal Red was just the two of them, but at the suggestion of the label, Brain J Anthony and Dave Anthony were brought in to give the project more of an authentic band feel.
"Originally, I played all the instruments bar the drums, which were programmed. I also drafted in Darrell Treece Birch from Ten to help us out on keyboards, but Escape suggested we might want to replace the drums and bass. They said they could have released it as it was but they wanted to push it further, which was good. Khalil put me in touch with Brian J Anthony, a bass player/studio engineer who had just finished recording the new Steve Walsh album. It was a bit of a learning curve sending sessions over to the other side of the world that were mixed to a degree already, but it all worked out well in the end. Brain suggested David Anthony for drumming duties which I'm glad he did as he's currently the metronome of choice for Dennis De Young. Brian asked me if the drums were to be played as I had programmed; I basically said yes but you can run with it if he's on a roll so to speak. I didn't want to go too mad with drums as I still wanted people to know which bit to tap their foot to!"

Frustratingly, most of these collaborative projects tend to be one offs, but I have a feeling that Signal Red might turn out to be more than that.

"It would be great to take it on the road," Lee muses, "but it's down to everyone's schedules and logistics etc., who knows, watch this space! The way we work together, I really can see us doing a follow up at some point if we are still in the business; the chemistry is there for all to see."

Fireworks Magazine Online 81: Interview with Absolva

ABSOLVA: Showing 'Defiance' with Absolva and Iced Earth man Luke Appleton

Words by Steve Swift

Hang on, are you with Iced Earth at the moment or is this Absolva you're with? Or on holiday?

'We're on tour with Absolva at the moment, day off today.'

Good to ask though, as Luke played with his brother Chris in Fury UK, then left to join Iced Earth. Chris formed Absolva from the ashes and Luke then started to turn up onstage with the Mancunian marauders; surprising to hear him taking this interview. Is he more stable now?

"A couple of years ago we thought, 'You write lot of songs on the album, you're now the full rhythm guitarist on every album and as many tours as possible,' so I'm now officially a full member," he calmly explains. "It's a lot of fun. It's amazing really, what we've done; a rollercoaster. It's a positive message we're trying to send with this album and I think it really does come across that way. Once people listen to it they immediately want to play it again and always finish the album with a smile on their face. That was the main purpose of the album. It's what we've gone for and achieved, I believe."

And after comings and going affected Absolva, from the first guitarist to bassist, there is relief at the new line-up. "This line-up is now settled. Chris is the main man, the Steve Harris of the project. Whatever he says goes ultimately, but he loves to hear everybody's opinion. Martin (McNee) the drummer, he's been with Chris for well over ten years now from Fury UK days and Karl (Shramm), the bass player, has been with us for a couple of years now and now I'm a solid member; it doesn't show any sign of changing, we're all very happy and committed to the cause."

It's good to have a history lesson; I've been following and writing about them from the start and even I'm confused. Nothing confusing about new album 'Defiance' though, their third has the hammer we'd expect, but as this band have always been interested in melody and there's more this time than ever.

"When Chris and I were writing the songs, the plan was to make as much melody and catchy choruses as possible. We still want it down, dirty and heavy with some great riffs and flashy guitar solos, but the main focus is the chorus. I believe we've got a lot of songs for crowd participation, tons of sing-alongs. The great thing is that on this album me and Chris have collaborated a lot more than before. We both sat in a room, came up with a riff and then threw things together; I think that's worked a lot better. We've taken ideas from when he's been working with Blaze Bailey and my time with Iced Earth, we've combined those songwriting techniques and made them our own and it's benefited Absolva. It's fantastic to collaborate with my brother. We love snappy songs but we've had six to ten minute ones as well! The length doesn't bother me as long as the song makes sense and keeps your attention."

And not only this, he's got his other band, a little combo called Iced Earth. You might have heard of them... "When I joined in 2012, that was a huge dream come true. One of my favourite bands. I was unbelievably shocked and happy. I treated the first few years more as a learning experience. I was jumping into some really big leagues here and I believe I've gained so much as a musician, songwriting wise, performance wise. Working with a genius such as John Schaffer has improved the way I play the bass and my vocal harmonies. I've tightened up on my vocals and it's broadened my mind to a lot of ideas for songs. I believe I can say the same for Chris with the work he's done with Blaze. He was in Iron Maiden, another guy who's been around the block in this business – it's done us both a world of good."

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Luke and his bro' are in an interesting situation. You know Rocksector, that smallish but exciting record label? That's their mum and dad, that is. "It's a fortunate set up. It's funny because parents always put a lot in when their kids want to go to university, so we think 'Okay, this is our university' because they helped us a hell of a lot, especially at the start. It gave us that stability at the beginning and now we're flying free. Chris does a lot of the booking of shows, travel arrangements, one of the main organisers, so it's given us a lot of independence. We're eternally grateful to our parents for that. We know where we want to go, let's just do it. We did made bad decisions, but we learnt from it. Touring is awesome at the moment and fans are receiving the new songs very well. Our main influences are Iron Maiden and bands like that who give it full pelt, so every time we go on stage we think, 'It's 110% energy time, let's give the crowd a show to remember."

Being born into that business has given Luke, and particularly Chris, a really hands on feeling for the record business. "'If the crowd are happy, that's my main goal; CD sales are a second thought. I know we've got an unbelievable fan-base and a good amount of pre-orders. I do think about the business side but it doesn't worry me because I just tackle the situation and do what we have to do, making sure everyone knows about the new album, the tour and the fans do the rest. So far it's been a working formula and it's grown every year. Chris has got things planned for a year in advance, he's on tour and has already booked the next tour!

"We've released the new album for Iced Earth recently, 'Incorruptible', and it's great for me because this year I've been able to release two albums with my two bands, two albums I'm extremely proud of. A couple of days after I finished in the studio with Absolva, I flew out to Spain to record with Iced Earth, so within two days I had to say to myself, 'Switch off guitar mode, I've got to go to bass mode.' With the bass I find less is more, let the bass breathe more and ultimately it fills up the song, makes the song sound bigger. For Absolva we've got a fantastic studio engineer, Matt Ellis. We always get a fantastic sound, which has improved every album we've done with him; we get an amazing drum sound with him, which we've never been able to get with anybody else. Drums first, guitars, then bass, guitar solos and vocals in the same day so that Chris or I don't get too burnt out. It's done in two or three weeks; a pretty straightforward process and its pretty similar with Iced Earth. Jonrecently bought a couple of buildings and made it into Iced Earth's headquarters, rehearsal rooms, studio, hangout place. It's gonna be brilliant!"

Luke tells me he's "...incredibly excited! It's a lot of work, but it's a big return and completely worth it. A dream come true!" Two bands, both Metal but different enough to keep him on his toes and both producing excellent music. 'Defiance' is another Absolva album that's anything but average; they are keeping this ball rolling just as Luke wants. In fact they've put it right into the top corner.


Absolva - Defiance

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