On their first three albums, SATYRICON, frontman Satyr and drummer Frost adhere to the fairly traditional black metal sound, earning them a reputation as one of the scene’s leading acts.
Then on album number four, ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ (1999), SATYRICON shed their black metal skin and venture forth, exploring and pushing genre boundaries. Following their epic period they switch to post-black, including the integration of industrial elements, but on their most recent albums they’ve gone in search of the essence by stripping the music of its frills and leaving nothing but the skeleton. The speedometer is dialled way back, giving the songs a more thoughtful character. Strong releases such as the self-titled ‘Satyricon’ (2013) –featuring a collaboration with Madrugada frontman Sivert Høyem – and ‘Deep Calleth upon Deep’ (2017), the talented Satyr/Frost tandem continues to diversify and enrich Satyricon’s discography. They’re only playing a limited number of shows in 2020 so don’t miss out!
CRADLE OF FILTH is the kind of group you either love or hate. The extreme metal band formed nearly three decades ago in Suffolk and their dynamic mix of fast black metal and NWOBHM-inspired guitar work is infamous and instantly recognisable.
The lyrical content on CRADLE OF FILTH’s concept albums ranges from Vlad Tepes and Countess Elizabeth Bathory to Gilles de Rais and she-devil Lilith. Their style has continued to evolve over the years and the band openly renounce any attempt at categorisation. CRADLE OF FILTH’s music is drenched in a gothic horror atmosphere typified by classic heavy metal guitar leads, resulting in an inimitable signature that defies genre definitions. Some fans have criticised the band for abandoning their early style but their willingness to evolve is probably why they’ve remained relevant all these years. Dani Filth is the only remaining founder by now by but this hasn’t slowed them down. On the contrary, their last two studio albums ‘Hammer of the Witches’ (2015) and ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay’ (2017) blend power, thrash, goth, black, symphonic and death metal in that unique Cradle way.
Last year the much-anticipated European debut of VIOLENCE filled a rare gap in our Bay Area track record. Formed in 1985, VIO-LENCE release their full-length debut ‘Eternal Nightmare’ in 1987: a gem crammed with finger-licking riffs and Sean Killian’s unique vocal style as the standout features.
Sean Killian’s acrimonious, repetitive vocals ooze punk attitude, a style that also characterises the band’s live gigs. Follow-up ‘Oppressing the Masses’ sounds more balanced overall. The songs still cut concrete but the songwriting is more mature; the vocals still sound perpetually enraged but the delivery is more rhythmic. Unfortunately, personnel changes halt the band’s momentum and they never cross the Atlantic. Rob Flynn goes on to become successful with his newly founded band Machine Head and apart from the 2001-2004 period VIO-LENCE lies dormant. Then in early 2018 they perform at a benefit for the band’s vocalist Sean Killian, who was suffering from a serious health condition. He recovers and the reunion extends into 2019 with a memorable first-ever European gig right here at Alcatraz. Meanwhile a new album is in the pipeline and the Alcatraz inmates are looking forward to a repeat of last year’s soul-eviscerating thrash gig.
Alcatraz festival likes to bill the prime movers of classic genres and New Orleans sons EXHORDER certainly fit the bill.
Two years ago they delivered a scorching set and now they’re back in support of their new slab ‘Mourn the Southern Skies’ (2019). Founded in the mid-80s, their 1990 maiden album ‘Slaughter in the Vatican (1990) was a pure thrash metal album that made a huge impact on the local metal scene. Their sophomore effort ‘The Law’ (1992) is regarded as an influential release in pioneering the groove-oriented thrash metal sound that would later be made successful by the likes of Pantera, Machine Head and others.
They split in 1994 before the all-important third disc could materialise. EXHORDER was resurrected between 2008 and 2011, a reunion that ended with the passing of bassist Frankie Sparcello. A new full-length wasn’t released until 2019 with ‘Mourn the Southern Skies’. Good things come to those who wait because this is an all-out assault that ventilates all of the pent-up energy of more than two decades. The sludgy/doomy title track sets the stage for the groovy thrash attack that follows. EXHORDER are back… with a vengeance.
The popularity of this Swiss pagan/folk metal band, ELUVEITIE has soared in recent years.
ELUVEITIE (‘The Helvetian’) is formed in 2002 in Switzerland by Chrigel Glanzmann as a studio project. Their music is a combination of traditional Celtic folk music and melodic death metal with obvious Gothenburg-style influences such as At the Gates and In Flames. In addition to the traditional instruments, the nine-piece uses an array of more unconventional gear including flutes, bagpipes and Celtic snare instruments. Mostly written in Schwyyzerdüütsch (old Swiss) and Gaelic, the lyrics focus on old Celtic wars and spiritual myths. Their debut ‘Spirit’ drops in 2005 and despite a mercurial line-up every new release signals the next step in a steady climb to prominence. On their most recent outing ‘Ategnatos’ (2019) the voice of new singer/harpist Fabienne Erni blends beautifully with that of founder Chrigel Glanzmann and the band as a whole demonstrate their 2019 incarnation has outgrown the label of their pagan/folk/melodic death beginnings with their most mature CD yet. If you’ve heard their recent live recording ‘Live at Masters of Rock’ (2019) you will know this music is made for the live stage.
Spawned by the NY hardcore scene, LIFE OF AGONY is an American alternative metal band with a very eventful history.
When their debut ‘River Runs Red’ (1993) was met with huge critical acclaim, critics predicted a stellar career for the New York foursome and they were right – initially. ‘Ugly’ (1995) and ‘Soul Searching Sun’ (1997) perpetuated the band’s success but as a transgender, singer Keith Caputo was trapped in a man’s body and LIFE OF AGONY’s success didn’t help things. In the end he couldn’t cope anymore and left; the remaining band members eventually decided they didn’t want to continue without Caputo and folded in 1999. Fifteen years and two reunions later, the original line-up reformed and Keith Caputo is now Mina Caputo. Her voice is as powerful as ever and their performance at Alcatraz Hard Rock & Metal Festival in the summer of 2014 proved that old flames can be rekindled, even after fifteen years. 2017’s ‘A Place Where There’s No More Pain’ (2017) reacquainted us with LIFE OF AGONY’s ability and their new record ‘The Sound of Scars’ (2019) is literally the sequel to their debut. ‘River Runs Red’ ends with the leading character trying to take his own life but the opener on ‘The Sound of Scars’ reveals paramedics saved his life. The new album brings the process full circle – call it redemption. The combination of their oldest and newest contribution will make for an amazing set list at Alcatraz 2020.
TARJA TURUNEN is a Finnish female vocalist who trained as a classical soprano.
TARJA TURUNEN was one of the driving forces behind the soaring popularity of the symphonic metal genre and set the standard for female metal vocalists as the lead singer for Nightwish. After nine years she decided it was time to focus on a solo career and in 2007 she released her first solo effort, ‘My Winter Storm’, an album that also marked her songwriting debut. Known for her exceptionally powerful and emotional sound, she has lent her voice to a variety of projects ranging from classical performances to rock and metal. ‘In the Raw’, her fifth and most personal rock album yet, dropped in August 2019. Her classical, passionate voice perfectly complements the beautifully elaborated arrangements. At Alcatraz she will have the opportunity to highlight her exceptional three-octave reach that allows her to switch seamlessly from the intimate to the epic. If you’re unfamiliar with her solo work then her fourth solo disc ‘The Shadow Self’ (2016) is an excellent place to start because it shows how much more versatile she has become since striking out on her own.