Focus: Tom DeLonge’s and Blink 182’s separate ways

Tom DeLonge’s reunion with Blink 182 is definitely not on the agenda.

Former Blink 182 guitar player and singer Tom DeLonge recently disclosed an excerpt from the book he wrote with fiction writer Suzanne Young in Rolling Stone. The book, entitled Poet Anderson… Of Nightmares is supposed to be the first tome of a trilogy. The book tells the story of two young brothers whose parents have died in a plane crash. In Tom DeLonge’s own words, the story is set in “an unknown world where dreams meet reality and the chasm between the two sometimes disappears.

Angels and Airwaves, another band Tom DeLonge founded, released an EP “… Of Nightmares,” about on the same themes on Sept. 4. The alternative rock band has four other members: guitar player David Kennedy, bass player Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Ilan Rubin.

Tom DeLonge’s adventure with punk rock band Blink 182 ended in early 2015, when he abruptly left the band. But he recently confessed to the magazine NME that he hopes Blink 182 remains a part of his life: ‘I loved that band, I started that band. That’s me. I named the band – that shit came from me. [Being in Blink] cannot the only thing in my life, or can it be the absolute priority. But can it be a part of my life? Absolutely.’

Asked whether he would consider reuniting with Blink 182 if the other members invited him back, he replied: “No, no, it’s much more complex than that. It has to map up with everybody’s life. I think if all the roads that we’re travelling connect at the same intersection, which is usually a location and a date, then we’re good.”

Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus, the remaining members of Blink 182, who were recently joined by guitarist Matt Skiba, said in August they were heading into studio.

Blink 182 has a long and winding story. Originally formed in 1992 in Poway, California, the band was first constituted of drummer Scott Raynor, bass player Mark Hoppus and guitar player Tom Delonge. In 1997, after the release of their second album Dude Ranch, the drummer left and made way for a new one, Travis Barker. Because of internal difficulties, the band had to split in February 2005, before getting back together in 2009. They announced their reunion during the 51st edition of the Grammy Awards. Below is a mash-up of the main Blink 182 hits, and some of its history’s highlights. The first sentences are taken from the video clip First Date. The last seconds of the mash-up is a nice love declaration from Tom to his fellow musicians…

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Royal Blood keeps gushing out louder

The Brighton-based rock band Royal Blood has been nominated for Best Live Act at the 2015 Q Magazine Awards, an update on the band’s website read on Sept. 25. On Sept 23, another post informed us that they had been nominated in two categories for the MTV Ema Awards: Best Rock and Best Push. A few days earlier, an update read that the band was also been nominated for Album of the Year at the Classic Rock Magazine for their debut album “Royal Blood”.

Cascading nominations for the two years-old British rock band is another sign of Royal Blood’s rapid breakthrough and inexhaustible recognition. The band formed only two years when, Mike Kerr, the singer and bass player, gathered with Mike Kerr, the drummer, in the coastal city of Worthing near Brighton. They managed to create a rich and heavy sound thanks to the techniques used by the bass player to create the sound of an electric guitar.

In June 2013, Matt Helders, the drummer of world-famous British rock band Arctic Monkeys, wore a Royal Blood T shirt at their Glastonbury headline – a move certainly not devoid of consequence as the festival is known to attract millions of people every year. The Royal Blood also opened up for the Arctic Monkeys at their London’s Finsbury Park concert that year.

In 2014, they released their first album, an enraged 10-song work, critically acclaimed. They quickly garnered success, aided by the Arctic Monkeys’ earlier push. In 2015, they joined the Foo Fighters for their Sonic Highways Tour to play the opening gigs.

The British duet did not need much time nor many musicians in the band to access fame. Eyes and ears are now riveted onto their upcoming songs, admittedly written in their tour bus. They have kept gaining momentum over the past months thanks to live shows at renowned festivals.

Watch the epic gig they performed at the 2015 Reading Festival. A 30-minute blast.

Listen to a bombastic and bloody mash-up of their album’s songs.

Nightwish rocked in Rio

Nightwish performed a 1-hour concert at the Rock in Rio on September 25. They had invited Sonata Arctica singer Tony Kakko, who stepped onto the stage during “The Islander” and sang “Last Ride of the Day” along with Nightwish.

The theme for Hans Zimmer movie Crimson Tide provided the build-up to the concert, while the members arrived on stage. The gig started off with the bombastic “Shudder before the beautiful,” the first song of the latest album called “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. The rest of the set list featured several other songs of the album such as “My Walden”, “Elan” or “Yours is an Empty Hope”.

“We would like to play you a song, a very old Nightwish song. Are you ready for a golden oldie?” Floor shouted halfway.  What an introduction to the song “Stargazers,” the first track of the Oceanborn album, released in 1998. It was recently reintroduced in Nightwish’s setlist during the Endless Forms Most Beautiful Tour, making numerous early Nightwish fans ecstatic. It had not been played live for about 10 years.  No other song from the Oceanborn album has yet been reinvigorated, but the band still plays songs from their 3rd Tarja Turunen-era album: “Wishmaster”. It was the case at Rock in Rio as they play the epic title-track “Wishmaster.”

Miscellaneous songs from the albums Once, Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum were also part of the list. The majestic 10-minute song “Ghost love Score” wrapped up the concert.

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Nightwish frontleader Floor Jansen at Rock in Rio 2015 (Picture by Rolling Stone Brasil. More info)

Edit: The full video of the concert was available on Youtube a couple weeks after the festival but was removed due to copyright violation. 

Epica reveals new festival season aftermovie

The symphonic metal band Epica released their festival season aftermovie yesterday, with footage from concerts they performed at festivals during the summer: Wacken Open Air (Germany), Graspop (Belgium), Hellfest (France) and Fortarock (Netherlands). The soundtrack is the studio version of “Chemical Insomnia”, the 8th track on their latest album Quantum Enigma album. Jen De Vos and the Panda Production team filmed the band on stage and backstage.

Several concerts are on Epica’s calendar. They will play at Maximum Rock Festival in Bucharest (Romania), at Rock Your Brain Festival in Selestat (France), both in early October, and have scheduled a European Tour for late 2015.

They recently cancelled the remaining dates of the North American tour because of an emergency in Simone Simons’ family, according to an update on their website on September 16. The North American tour in support of the Quantum Enigma will be rescheduled for early 2016.

Watch the performance of Epica playing “Chemical Insomnia” at the Hellfest festival this year.

Royal Blood, Dropkick Murphys and Foo Fighters (Fenway Park, Boston, MA)

It may be one of the most famous tours of 2015: the Sonic Highways Tour by the Foo Fighters. And as Dave Grohl, the singer, recently broke his leg after falling off the stage in Sweden, it is also known as « the broken leg tour ». On Sunday 19 July, the Seattle-based band played at Boston, Fenway Park, the legendary stadium of the baseball team Red Sox. It was their second date in this venue for this tour. And the rock band hit it right. Their first parts was Royal Blood and Dropkick Murphys.

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Boston, the birthplace of such mythic bands as Aerosmith, once more has been infused with great music. Before the beginning of the concert, people were hanging around in the streets, or in next-door bars such as the fancy “House of Blues”. They made their way around the stadium, passing by statues of famous Red Sox players. Some wore Tshirts of the Foo Fighters, with all the dates of the broken leg tour, while others preferred to displayed the colours of Nirvana.

From 5 onwards, people began trickling into the stadium. Queues progressively formed at the drink and food stands in the basement, while waves of people moved toward their seats in the stadium. Rows of chairs had been installed on the whole half of the turf. The other half was for the standing crowd. The sun was beating down, making the atmosphere stuffy.

Royal sound

Two English men appeared on the stage at 6 : the Royal Blood. The Boston crowd barely knows them, while they are huge in Britain, their home country. Only a few people danced or clapped to their songs. However, the – very short – history of this band is impressive. The Brighton-based heavy rock band formed in 2013 and released their debut album in August 2014, only a year ago. The hindsight is worth considering. Now they have already been chosen to play first parts for one of the biggest rock bands in the world, the Foo Fighters. Their breakthrough was as fast as impressive. Plus the band is only composed of two men – a bass player and a drummer – while they sound like a 4-member band.

Bloody hell, they sounded good live. The sound-maker definitely did a great job that night, but the musical performances of the two players were remarkable, practically stainless. It sounded like listening to the original record. Their heavy riffs and catchy chorus tunes brought some people to their feet. A lot of them were just discovering them. One of the spectators deemed them really good, and thought that they could be considered as the new « White Stripes », another 2-member British rock band.

Promotional photo for the Royal Blood.
Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr from Royal Blood. Promotional photo

I’m shipping up to Boston !

After a few minutes, the Dropkick Murphys went on stage. At that moment, more people had come into the stadium. The venue here is symbolic for the band, as they are from Boston. So they played at home. The importance of their hometown and their family has always been significant for the band. Al Barr, the singer, was interviewed in 2008 on the radio station Celtic In a Twist: “family has always been important to us in the band, growing up.”

Their Celtic punk rock resonated for about 45 minutes, climaxing with the last song : ‘I shipped up to Boston’. No particular highlight can be picked out, except the most famous songs such as “Rose Tattoo”.

Foo Fighters: Break a leg!

The concerts may have been really good so far, the real fun had not actually begun. The first two shows were a “warm-up” as Dropkick Murphys lead vocalist Tim Brennan described. What is important to know with the Foo Fighters, is that Dave Grohl talks. A lot. He made breaks in the set to make sure the audience was alright or to tell a 15-minute story. At some point during the gig, he came back on his accident some weeks ago in Sweden, when he broke his leg. He had prepared several slides just for the occasion. The Foo Fighters leader may not be able to run on stage, he has however found a way to ride the emotional wave. He has even designed a magnificent chair for him, with guitar necks sticking out all around.

Dave Grohl at Fenway Park, Boston, on Sunday 19 July.
Dave Grohl at Fenway Park, Boston, on Sunday 19 July. Photograph by Andrew Bruss. More photos

Technically and musically speaking, the show was really well-woven. They began with their famous first-album song “Everlong” and went with their big hits such as “The Pretender”, “Monkey Wrench” or “Learn to Fly”. Along the way, they played classic rock songs such as Queen’s and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” or The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” – sung by Dave Grohl’s Swedish orthopedic surgeon, a huge moment – proving once again how well Dave Grohl has made the most of his accident. Playing classic songs is entertaining but there were many of them during the show. The musicians did not seem to be as comfortable with them as with their own songs, so there was no real use.

The first words of the last song resonated like bullets. “I’ve got another confession to make!”, from “Best of You”. The whole crowd sang the lyrics at full throttle. Several times during past shows, the crowd also sang the choirs during the bridge on their own – the concert at the Invictus Games is telling for this matter (from 5’44). This time, the crowd did not sing loud enough, but Dave Grohl played a solo which does not appear on the studio version anyway.

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Getting out the stadium took time but finally, people managed to flow into the surrounding streets, saturated with the heat of the Boston night. It is difficult to pick which band was the best. Royal Blood were a definite hit, but the Foo Fighters rocked the stadium down as well. The Dropkick Murphys sure led a good show for the fans. The ambiance in the venue was absolutely pleasant. It is simply a shame that there were so many chairs and people sitting. The moment would have been more enjoyable if more people stood and had the ability to dance. More like a festival lay-out. The night was nonetheless magical.

Clotilde Percheminier

Concert review: AqME, Loudblast and Erazer (Auxerre, Burgundy)

Tonight, I am taking you to a shadowy part of music, and as shadowy a part of France. Three metal bands played in Auxerre on Thursday 13th May: Erazer, AqME and Loudblast. Auxerre is a 35-000 inhabitant city in the center of France, in Burgundy. The region Burgundy is well known for its wine all over the world. But from time to time, out of these lonely juicy meadows, come very good metal bands. Erazer is one of them. They do death metal, which is the extreme side of heavy metal. It is characterized by guttural vocals and complex rythmic patterns. A few years ago, they played first parts for Lofofora or Mass Hysteria, some pillars of the death metal. On Thursday, they were followed by two other famous  French death and thrash metal bands: AqME and Loudblast. The concert can be divided into three acts, with different moods.

Erazer: the warm-up gig 

9 pm. The doors of the venue, called the Silex (“the Flint”) opened up. The concert hall got crowded little by little, while the first notes of Erazer could be heard. All in all, about 250 people  came to listen to Erazer, about half of the hall’s capacity. The group played their songs from their latest album, L’Océan des Ames (The Souls’ Ocean), released last autumn. This album received critical acclaim. “L’Océan des Ames is a masterly pure piece, its cold beauty is incredible,” wrote a music critic on SoilChronicles.  And during the concert, people seemed to enjoy it. Even though Peter, the singer, complained the public lacked energy. Indeed, the listeners barely moved or danced until the last two songs.  At some point, Peter even came out with: “God, that’s hard to make you move!” The gig was nice to listen to all the same. It definitely prepared the ground for AqME.

Peter, Andy, Jeff, Vinct d'Erazer.
Peter, Andy, Jeff, Vinct  from Erazer.

AqME: the storm

AqME faced a huge challenge in 2012 with the departure of Thomas, their lead singer. But they came back all the same in 2014 with a new record and a new singer, Vincent. And on stage, he was uncontrollable, running from one end to the other, and interacting with the audience very often: “When we were told we’re gonna play in Auxerre, we did not know how it would go. But now we can say that Auxerre sounds really fucking good!” The energy was palpable and the listeners were on fire. They pogoed, jumped, screamed on and on. If Vincent’s voice sounds similar to the former singer’s, his stage acting is fundamentally different. Etienne, the drummer, confessed backstage after the show: “Having Vincent with us changed a lot of things on stage for us. He moves all the time.”

Etienne, Vincent, Julien et Charlotte d'Aqme. Photo promo de l'album Dévisager Dieu, 2014. Crédits: AqME
Etienne, Vincent, Julien et Charlotte from Aqme. Promotional  picture for the album Dévisager Dieu, 2014.

Loudblast: the sound of the trolls

Last, but not least. For the record, Loudblast brought death metal to France – along with other bands. The group was created in 1985 in Lilles (North of France) and recorded 7 albums. Their agressive and gloomy music is their trademark, even though it evolved throughout the years. Thursday night, the audience was not as crowded as it was for AqME – but despite a few sparse places, the room was full. The metal fans looked appreciative, even though calmer. Technically speaking, the gig was stainless.

Stéphane Buriez, Drakhian, Alex Lenormand et Hervé Coquerel de Loudblast
Stéphane Buriez, Drakhian, Alex Lenormand and Hervé Coquerel from Loudblast

The concert finished at 12:30 am. An early time for the Auxerre residents. They all continued talking outside the concert hall, debating about which group was the best. Paul was certain of it, :Aqme was the best because the most energetic. A few people agreed. Pierre was not so sure however, he argued: “Come on guys, Loudblast were the best, they know what they are doing. When I entered the hall, I felt vibrations in my jacket and all the way down my body. I loved it!”

Clotilde Percheminier

Nightwish: the evolution

Endless Forms most beautiful is the 8th album of symphonic metal band Nightwish, the first with new singer Floor Jansen and uillean pipes player Troy Donockley. The expectations were high : “In all objectivity, I think it’s the best Nightwish album ever,” confessed Troy in an official trailer. This is definitely Nightwish, but evolved.

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The whole band at the end of the concert in Buenos Aires on 15.12.2012 (from left to right): Marco Hietala (bass), Floor Jansen (singer), Tuomas Holopainen (keyboard), Troy Donockley (uillean pipes), Jukka Nevalainen (drums, had to step aside last year because of backaches) and Emppu Vuorinen (guitar).

Welcome back to the Nightwish world. This 8th album will take you on a long and winding path. The album lasts 80 minutes but the last song (“The Greatest Show on Earth”) occupies 24 minutes and is divided into 4 chapters. The orchestra and Floor’s voice give a powerful epicness to the whole thing. The influences and the atmosphere are in line with Imaginaerum or Dark Passion Play.

Floor Jansen has already received critical acclaim. And rightly so. Her voice is incredibly varied. She can be moving (“Elan”, “Our decades in the sun”, “Edema Ruh”) as well as heavy and bombastic (“Yours is an empty hope”, “The Greatest Show on Earth”). Floor’s voice is consensual and reunites different styles. I interviewed a former fan of the group before the official release of the album and she admitted: “Now that Floor is in the group, I’m ready to give Nightwish a second chance.” On top of that, the singer gives great live performances.

Like every album, this one has a general theme: the amazement before the wonders of earth and nature. This is why some lyrics echo that of “Wanderlust” (4th track on Wishmaster album). The first song introduces the theme: “The music of this awe, deep silence between the notes, deafens me with endless love.” Throughout the album, Tuomas Holopainen, the composer and keyboard player, wants to pay homage to everything nature has to offer, particularly the sky and the stars. On the one hand, Tuomas explores the mysteries of evolution and the emergence of life on earth. On the other hand, he makes us wonder before all we have left to discover in the universe. Carl Sagan, a famous American astronomer, is quoted in the leaflet provided with the album: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Reflecting the sky, the sea also has an important place in this new album. In “Shudder before the beautiful”, the lyrics read: “Tales from the seas, cathedral of green”. And this focus on the sea has always been present in Nightwish songs since the beginning. With that, the new album falls within the Nightwish heritage.

Old and new

Tuomas declared that the new album sounded more like “old Nightwish”. Let’s assume old Nightwish means the first albums from Angels Fall First to Wishmaster. Nightwish was essentially in its power metal phase. They used the keyboard and guitar solos a lot.

While it is true some songs echo former ones, present Nightwish as a whole is definitely something else. It boils down to one key element : the orchestra. The first albums of Nightwish did not have the huge presence of the orchestra and the choirs, which now give this monstrously epic touch to the Nightwish sound. The London Phiharmonic Orchestra was first introduced for Once, released 10 years ago. From that moment on, the Nightwish sound became singularly different from the older stuff. At that time, Tarja’s voice was epic enough. No orchestra was needed.

Old Nightwish sounds like mysteries, adventures in fantasy worlds, buried secrets, quests and missions in dark forests. Present Nightwish sounds more like the soundtrack of an epic movie. It would be the story of an adventurer leaving on a majestuous ship, bracing himself for a storm.

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Tuomas Holopainen, the composer and keyboard player. Credit: Ville Akseli Juurikkala

The greatest show on earth

Let’s take a ride through the songs. The album begins with the bombastic “Shudder before the beautiful”, very much like the beginning of Once with “Dark Chest of Wonders”. It is a catchy song, as if the listener was invited to take on a journey full tilt. It even sounds like “Stargazers” at times (Oceanborn). There is a nice battle between the guitar and the keyboard, warning the listener that Emppu, the guitarist, will be very present on this album.

The second song, “Weak Fantasy”, is mainly composed by Marco. It starts off with choirs, which sent shivers down my spine. On the first listening, I had visions of a thief fleeing through the forest, trying to escape pursuers. The song is certainly meant to convey fear.

Elan”, the third song, is also the first single of the album. It is a nice song, and Floor’s voice is soft and touching. The lyrics correspond to the spirit of the album: “The cliffs unjumped, cold waters untouched, the elsewhere creatures yet unseen.” They also eerily remind us of “Wanderlust”’s lyrics: “I want to see where the sirens sing, hear how the wolf howl, sail the dead calm waters of the Pacific.” In “Elan”, the lyrics urge the listener to move, go on a journey, take the leap and revel in the discoveries.

WATCH: The official video of Nightwish’s song Elan 

Yours is an Empty Hope” starts with heavy guitar riffs, setting the atmosphre. They echo “Slaying the Dreamer”’s or, even more, “Romanticide”’s riffs. The first part is nice to listen to, but the melodies seem to lack inspiration, even though the duet of Floor’s and Marc’s voices is powerful. The second part is more interesting. The low sinister choirs, before Floor comes back shouting, set a nice build-up. All of a sudden, Floor uses her soft voice for the 5th song, “Our Decades in the Sun”. It is the only ballad. The tempo is thus slower but the guitar, the drums and the piano altogether bring up rhythm.

With “My Walden”, the listener is back to a fantasy world with its Celtic rhythms and sounds. Tuomas himself confessed in a track-by-track description: “This song is like a continuation of “I Want my Tears Back” from the previous album.” And consequently Troy has an important role to play here. 

Endless Forms Most Beautiful” has a quicker rhythm and begins with guitar riffs. The first part is nice g but seems too simple compared to the grand expectations that conveyed the title. The bridge, however, is more powerful. The piano, the choirs and the guitars follow each other, and then the chorus comes back.Then again, the soft voice of Floor comes back gently for the 8th song, “Edema Ruh”. Tuomas explains the origin of the term: “It comes from one of my all-time favourite fantasy books called the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Edema Ruh are these traveling musicians and actors who go from village to village to perform and make their living.” The highlight of the song is probably the guitar solo by Emppu.

“Alpenglow” starts off with keyboard and the guitar, echoing some of the first Nightwish songs. All in all, no surprise in this song. Classic Nightwish, even though the voice of Floor brings a new touch, close to pop. The Eyes of Sharbat Gula” is an instrumental song, with only children’s choirs towards the end. Nightwish usually compose very good instrumentals, and this is one of them too. It may be described as the calm before the storm.

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Troy Donockley, the uillean pipes player who joined the band in 2012. Credit: Ville Akseli Jurrikkala

Indeed, the storm is “The Greatest Show on Earth”. The last song starts off with the piano. As always, the orchestra, like bombs, arrives soon after. Long parts are dedicated to poetry reading, exactly like in Song of Myself in Imaginaerum. The 2nd chapter opens up like an explosion, with practically no transition – as very often in Nightwish 15-minute songs. Floor’s voice is impressive, she goes all the way from soft to heavy, from low to high. The beginning of the 3rd chapter is movie sounds, creatures going out of the water, gasping or shouting. They remind the listener of the very theme of the album: the wonders of evolution. These lyrics do the same: “After a billion years, the show is still here.” The 4th and 5th chapters do not have lyrics, only poetry reading at the very end, closing harmoniously this rocky album. 

In a nutshell, no disappointment from this album. All songs do not deserve special recognition, but the group has succeeded in releasing an impressive, powerful and catchy album. It is Nightwish, no departure from that. At the same time, the group has pushed back its limits once again, composing the longest song and experimenting new styles.

I beg you, give this album several listens. You will need them to truly appreciate the songs.

8,5/10

Clotilde Percheminier