Sunday, November 28, 2010

Destiny's End Rarities!

Now that I've shared Joe Floyd's original mix of Transition and the sordid story behind it, I'm going to move on to some ultra-rare Destiny's End studio material. As usual, right click on the links below and "save as" to download the MP3s. [Update - 29 Nov.: Had some technical difficulties with the server housing the MP3s, but it has been fixed. Comments have also been enabled and fixed. Feel free to leave one. Happy downloading! ;) ]

Breathe Deep the Dark cover painting by Rainer Kalwitz

"Thief of Life" was recorded during the Breathe Deep the Dark sessions in early 1998 at Bill's Place in North Hollywood, CA, with Bill Metoyer behind the board for engineering duties. It was meant to be the Japanese bonus track. The reasoning being that kids in Japan usually had to shell out the equivalent of $30 (U.S.) for a single CD, so bands usually gave them a little something extra. Metal Blade had a habit of licensing their releases to JVC in Japan, and we were told by Brian Slagel and Mike Faley that this would probably be the case with Breathe Deep. Somehow, despite the fact that the album was well received in the Land of the Rising Sun as an import, Metal Blade dropped the ball and Breathe Deep was never licensed to JVC or another Japanese label. Breathe Deep remained on Burrn Magazine's import metal chart for several months, and I'm sure if there had been a Japanese release, it would've been far easier for Japanese headbangers to get their hands on the album. Metal was at an all-time low in America (it was the saggy-pants era), but the Japanese were still devouring it like candy. The studio recording of "Thief of Life" never saw the light of day, though we played it several times live in Texas. We nicknamed it "Thief of Beef." Not many people are aware this one exists, so it's definitely time to share.

Ray Bradbury and his cat
"Thief of Life" started out as several riffs bassist Nardo Andi brought to rehearsal, inspired by King Diamond. Dan DeLucie and I interpreted and embellished them on guitar and added a bunch of parts, while drummer Brian Craig honed the arrangement and dynamics. Dan and I are both big Ray Bradbury fans, and Dan loaned James the collection Quicker Than the Eye to read Bradbury's short story "The Finnegan." No theme or message involved. It's just about a giant trapdoor spider. James was responsible for most of the lyrics. Like many of King Diamond's songs, this one became a fun little horror yarn. 

I played the opening solo. When I doubled the lead, I was a bit behind the first track, which made for a trippy delay effect. Dan's solo comes in the middle of the tune. There's a short dual guitar harmony in between the verses which spiced "Thief" up further.

Another tune we worked on during the Breathe Deep sessions was something Nardo wanted to call "Symbol of the Soul." I wrote some riffs for it too and toyed around with an alternate set of lyrics, this time called "Demise of a Lie." Those words never would've flown in DE. Anyhow, "Symbol of the Soul" was left unfinished, and part of it still remains on the multi-track ADATs wherever they're hiding now.

In late 1998 we were approached to contribute a track for Necropolis Records' King Diamond tribute album. Being enormous fanboys of the King, we accepted and picked this song off Fatal Portrait, the first KD album. It's my fave of the two tributes we recorded. Because this one was banged out quick there are a couple of rough spots in the guitar solos. Our pal Mike Grant didn't beat around the bush in making that observation when he visited the studio. Who can outdo Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner?! They are two of the most tasteful and skilled axemen in all of metal. Andy's lead tone is like melted butter! This marked our first time at Silver Cloud Recording (the old Burbank location) with engineer/co-producer Joe Floyd (also guitarist for '80s metallers Warrior). We stayed very faithful to King and really didn't alter anything outside of some improvised guitar solos. 

This is an immortal metal classic. Everybody, non-metalheads included, knows it, and it's always kinda foolhardy to mess with perfection. Ronnie James and Co. were a force to be reckoned with. But Century Media wanted us on their Dio tribute and we were able to piggyback it with King Diamond's "Dressed in White." Again, it was a rush job. Unlike the original, there are no keyboards on DE's version. Dan tackled the solo and did an admirable job, considering he had to live up to Viv Campbell's shred-tastic lead. We didn't change too much, and I almost feel like it was a waste of time to attempt the flawlessness of Dio. Our studio time could've been better spent on an original tune. Oh well, it's another rare piece of DE history.

4. Rock 101 FM KLOL radio ad for Breathe Deep the Dark and DE's debut gig in Houston, Texas

KLOL is a sadly defunct pure rock radio station that was based in Houston. It was a lot like KNAC (105.5 FM) in SoCal. This MP3 is a plug for our first gig (3/20/98) at Cardi's, Houston's premier club for heavy rock and metal. I love how the voiceover dude pronounces it "Deshtiny's End." Classic! How 'bout the ticket on the right?! Tiny?! I hear she's downright small. :P Spelling wasn't high on the priority list at Cardi's. When I first heard the ad I was reminded of the cool promo clip that starts off Coroner's self-titled disc. The cassette of this is one is probably long gone. Luckily I copied it off James many moons ago. I was pretty nervous about our first show. Hell, I'd never gigged out of CA before. Cardi's was packed to the rafters, a major contrast to the reception a traditional metal band would've received in '98 on the Sunset Strip in Hollyweird.

I had some trouble with the little rack I was using for my tuner and effect unit and nearly missed the first song. James had the sound guy play a suitably spooky Dead Can Dance track off Within the Realm of a Dying Sun as our intro, and I just barely managed to bypass my rack and go direct into my amp. Fixed the connection after the first song. I was a tad sloppy at first, but warmed up pretty quick. I think a lot of people don't realize how much pro metal bands do things themselves. No roadies, no management, etc. Especially in the late '90s. It was the same for Iced Earth and Nevermore when we toured in May-June '99. Dan and I were changin' strings alongside Jeff Loomis, Tim Calvert and Jon Schaffer. Not to mention loading the gear trailer. Not a stereotypical singer, Matt Barlow actually lifted plenty of amps and speaker cabs. It was a breath of fresh air to actually have a guitar tech in Europe in Aug. '99, and I was very appreciative for all the grunt work Sacred Steel's crew did on our behalf.

Members of different Helstar lineups got up and did a set following DE at this gig. Larry Barragan borrowed Dan's Ibanez Joe Satriani signature and Aaron Garza played my B.C. Rich Warlock.

'83 Warlock at Cardi's, courtesy of Dave Rivera
Aside from this promo, DE did tons of radio interviews. Unfortunately I don't have any of those. What I do own is the goofy DE appearance on the Nastyman Show. The Nastyman was a comedy shock-jock a la Howard Stern. He was actually on the same station as Howard (KLSX 97.1 FM). Dan, Brian, Nardo and I were invited to be guests by Nastyman's pal Sheena Metal (an alias for Jenny Sherwin). Dan couldn't make it, but we were joined by Kragen Lum and Vince Levalois from Prototype. Nardo basically took over. It was hilarious and extremely dirty ("doity!"). We didn't talk much about metal. The boisterous babble ranged from flavored lube to the stripper who wanted to "try out" for us in person. Ironically, my mom was the one who stayed up late and taped it for me. Nice! I might unleash it on the unsuspecting world later. Until then, enjoy these odds 'n' sods!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Destiny's End - Transition (Joe Floyd's Mix)

I’m now going to share a very controversial recording with you: Joe Floyd’s original mix of the second  Destiny’s End album, Transition (March 2000).

Transition cover painting by Brom

Transition CD tray card with art by Brom

Some of my close friends know that the Metal Blade CD release of Transition is actually not the first mix of that recording. Nor is it my preferred mix! Unfortunately Metal Blade decided to send the multi-track tapes over to Germany for a remix after our engineer and co-producer Joe Floyd (Warrior guitarist) completed a killer initial mix at the end of March 2000. Achim Köhler was the remix engineer. Now, I don't know Köhler personally. Metal Blade farmed him the work, and I suppose he had to make a living like anyone else. But all the money in the world isn't going to change the fact that his mix is one-dimensional and lacks the texture of Joe Floyd's. Certain key elements were either buried, chopped or missing altogether. While Dan publicly seemed to like Köhler's work, I recall a different sentiment when I met up with Dan and Mike Grant to get my few copies of the Metal Blade CD in May 2001. Dan was more or less resigned to "that's the way the cookie crumbles" and accepting how it turned out.

I was really stoked with Joe Floyd’s work, and loved the recording experience with him. Joe had engineered and mixed a couple of tribute album tracks for DE—King Diamond’s “Dressed in White” and Dio’s “Last in Line”—in 1999. Joe was always a pleasure to be around, and he managed to help DE finish the album quickly and solidly. Internally DE may have been splintering, but Joe helped keep us on target in the studio. There were very few problems with the actual recording process. It went far smoother than Breathe Deep the Dark. A few times Joe suggested I play some less “graveyard” chords—like in “Vanished”—to keep things more accessible and less dissonant.

Lunch time at Silver Cloud! Me and assistant engineer Rick Carrete, Joe Floyd in the background - March 2000

Joe also offered us some viable gear variables—lotsa guitars and amps on hand at Silver Cloud—which resulted in some different colors and textures that kept Transition from being monotonous. I played a lot of clean guitar parts on Joe’s 12-string Rickenbacker electric (listen to “The Suffering”) and also some 12-string acoustic on my Fernandes Palisades or Joe’s thin-line Yamaha.  Nardo’s bass went through a voluptuously vintage Vox amp. Fat!! (I absolutely love how loud his bass is on Transiton!) Try as it might, the remix couldn’t kill the vintage analog effects I’d committed straight to 2-inch tape. Listen to that lush ’70s ADA Flanger on my solo in “The Suffering” or the rich Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble on my clean guitar in the verses of “Vanished.” 
Why, then, would Metal Blade decide to mess with Joe’s nearly perfect handiwork? I don’t know. I wasn’t there for the German remix. Hell, I’d left the band a week after overseeing Joe’s last days of mixing in Burbank, CA. None of the other DE guys were there for the remix either from what I’m told. That, dear readers, is a travesty in my opinion. If you only knew how DE operated, you’d be aware just how much time and effort Dan DeLucie (the other half of DE’s dual axe team) and I put into the mix of Breathe Deep the Dark. Sure, Bill Metoyer was there to twiddle faders and knobs and Brian Slagel gave Bill instructions, but Dan and I really gave a shit about the process. Our recordings were a reflection of ourselves, and we didn’t want to be half-assed about anything. Similarly, with Transition, Dan and I were in the studio as much as possible during mixing. Dan actually missed the last day, and I was the one who went home with the final mix CD-R and burned it for the rest of the band. I had a nice celebratory dinner with Joe Floyd and a few of his studio friends before heading back to the west end of the Valley. The celebration was a double-edged blade, as the DE splintering was well underway at that point…
I officially left DE around April Fool’s Day 2000. I wasn’t sure if the songs I’d penned or co-written or my guitar tracks would remain on Transition, but I knew I had to get out while the getting was good. I didn’t want to go down with the sinking ship. In the end, the tunes and tracks I’d poured my blood, sweat ‘n’ tears into remained on the album. The band went through the motions for a year, but finally got dropped by Metal Blade and faded out.
In hindsight, the fact that James lived in Houston–while the four DE instrumentalists called L.A. home–kept us together longer than we would have if we’d all been in the same locale. Early on I was kinda disappointed that our singer resided over a thousand miles away, but after a while it worked about for the best. James spent most of his time in Houston and sang Dio and Sabbath covers with some hired guns, meanwhile we had our friend Mike Grant come down to rehearsals and sing for us so that we weren’t just practicing instrumentally. (It got to the point where I felt like Mike was part of our band!) There was terrible tension at the close of our otherwise successful May-June 1999 U.S. tour with Iced Earth and Nevermore. Coming off the road was a hazy nightmare. Dan DeLucie didn’t witness the bad juju. He chose to spend a few days in NY with his family and fly back to L.A. The rented tour van carrying Brian, Nardo, James and I lumbered through Houston for a couple of days, where James got busted in a drug-related arrest. An attempt was made to steal the tour van containing all our equipment. It resulted in a shattered window. The window was the least of our trouble, but it sure was symbolic. We were worried that we wouldn’t make it out to Europe for Wacken and the post-festival tour in August ’99. We feared our singer might be serving a jail sentence. Though Nardo had his share of drug trouble in the early days of DE, I think losing his license and car taught him a bit of a lesson. Nardo’s pot bust at Jaxx in Virginia on the tour was a almost a walk in the park by comparison to James’ whole Houston mess.

Ford Triton V-12 tour van in front of my parents' old pad, post-tour, June '99

When I explained the Houston horror to Dan in SoCal, he said, “I wish you hadn’t told me that.” But somehow Europe went ahead. Post-Euro tour, the four L.A. DE dudes hunkered down to work on album no. 2. We didn’t have to see James. Out of sight, out of mind. We already had a few tunes in the can, “Transition” (written by Dan), “The Legend” (a Dan/Perry/Nardo co-write, with lyrics by James) and my “First You Dream, Then You Die.”
Supporting Mercyful Fate in Houston, TX
Time for the gory details of the straw that broke the camel’s back in 2000… As soon as singer James came up to L.A. from Houston to lay down his vocals for Transition there was friction in the air. Instead of worrying about his vocal performance, James kept badgering me, Dan, Nardo and Brian about some one-off gigs in Texas in April. We knew we were meant to play the Bang Your Head festival in Germany in June, but we didn’t have any other gigs on the horizon. I’m going to digress for a moment, because we’d been down that road before.  James had supposedly organized three Texas dates with labelmates Mercyful Fate in August 1998. Two dates were set for San Antonio at the White Rabbit and one for the Abyss in Houston. We were meant to play the first San Antonio gig on a smaller stage inside the club, then return to the White Rabbit and go on just prior to Mercyful Fate on the big stage the second night. But James obviously hadn’t taken care of business properly (no contracts were ever exchanged), and when the promoter told him he’d see DE back in the small room the next day a massive argument—nearly a punch-up—erupted between the club chap and James. I literally felt what it was like to be two-inches tall, because one of my metal heroes, Solitude Aeturnus guitarist John Perez, was looking on during James’ standoff with the promoter. Dan, Brian Craig and I were the voices of reason and managed to drag James out of the club. We headed straight to Houston. Luckily James managed to call a friend and a spur of the moment gig materialized at Area 51. Brian, our level-headed drummer, took the reins and smoothed things over with MF’s tour manager to make sure Houston was still all right. It was okay, but we were only allotted a 20 minute set. We were just happy to play, regardless of the short set, but we didn’t want a repeat of the lame drama we’d experienced in San Antonio.
At Area 51, Houston: Sadus & the Warlock!
Fast forward to March 2000, and James was gung-ho to put us in the same compromising position as he had in San Antonio in ’98. Dan was the first to nix James’ scheme. No, he wasn’t going to go down to Texas just to do a couple of haphazardly thrown together gigs. Dan had just taken a couple of weeks off his job to record Transition, and he couldn’t afford to take more time off. Certainly Dan’s fiancée Bessie was thinking about kids, a family, and that job was Dan’s livelihood, not a band that was draining his dough. I was fairly against the gigs already, but as soon as Dan spoke up, I rallied with him. James’ response was to say that if Dan wouldn’t play the Texas gigs, he’d just have to get his “buddy Cowboy” from San Diego to do them instead. Now, none of us in L.A. knew or had ever jammed with any guy nicknamed “Cowboy,” but we instrumentalists took affront at the lack of loyalty James was showing to Dan. The technical and complicated DE tunes were not something that a scab fill-in guitarist could figure out in a few days, especially without any full band rehearsals.  The verbal scuffle was going down in the studio office/lounge while James should’ve been singing.

The matter was left unresolved for over a week. But by the time mixing was underway, James was pestering all of us again about the gigs. Dan had put his foot down, “No way! I’m not going.” We’d made many previous trips to Texas, the four of us L.A. dudes shelling out money for flights, U-Haul trailers, gas, etc.  Dan wasn’t the only one who had to be back at work early. My boss informed me that if I didn’t return ASAP he’d be letting me go. I was pretty sick and tired of not getting ahead in L.A., considering the horrendously high cost of living. Being jobless intermittently may have allowed me plenty of time to work on music in my late teens and early 20s, but I wasn’t about to be a loser living at my parents’ house at the age of 30. That’s really metal, isn’t it?! It may have been okay when I was 22, but I had just turned 25, and the prospect was pretty grim. I’ve heard there are plenty of metal personalities who are “cellar dwellers” in their folks’ pads, but that’s a pretty sad quagmire. I didn’t want to sink. It was definitely, “Swim ahead!” So, I went back to my “day job” at Sampson Advertising West while we were mixing. James was calling me like crazy at work during the day trying to get me to go (against Dan’s wishes), but I refused to let my axe-wielding bro down. The long distance argument continued that night with James when I got home.

I confronted James about the coke use, that I felt it was really affecting him, to which he replied, "You know Perry, I only do blow when I'm too fucked up at the bar to drive home. You do things that annoy me too, like leaving hairs behind in the shower on tour. Gawd told me he has great things in store for this band."

It got to the point where I felt his tactics were those of a desperate drug addict. James harped that he had to do the gigs, regardless of whether Dan was present or not. He could betray an important band member, apparently, at the drop of a hat just to be worshipped like a god and handed free blow. He had no loyalty to Dan, a guy who had invested so much time, money and effort in making DE a fiercely functional band. Enough was enough already.

James quipped “I paid my dues with Helstar,” and I replied, “But James, I wasn’t in Helstar. Destiny’s End isn’t Helstar. If this keeps up , maybe one of us shouldn’t be in Destiny’s End anymore.” I could look past Dan’s and Brian’s Euro power metal leanings (a la Helloween and Gamma Ray—not my cup o’ tea), but the other conflicts were too huge to be ignored.

Area 51, Houston, TX - Aug. '99
The next day I quit. I had a long talk with Brian and Nardo in the parking lot of our rehearsal studio in Vernon and another with Dan on the phone. Brian and Nardo told me they’d follow James wherever he led them. I wasn’t about to follow anyone blindly, especially irrational decisions made under the influence of hardcore drugs. Outsiders don't realize the music biz is often about all about who you know, who you blow, and especially who you do blow with. Many think blow goes with the territory. Hang out in the toilet with other guys shoving shit up your nose. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. If you ask me, coke is a sure-fire way to ruin a band, a family, a friendship, any kind of relationship... I've personally seen it cause psychotic behavior and wreck lives. Lie, cheat, steal, even from those you love, just to get more and feed the euphoric delusions of grandeur. Obviously Dan disagreed with Brian and Nardo about “following James” to the ends of the earth, but he thought I was overreacting. That was kinda easy for Dan to say, as he hadn’t witnessed the Houston drug debacle.

Taking aim with the '99 B.C. Rich Eagle inside the control room at Silver Cloud, March 2000

With Bill Metoyer's Camaro outside Silver Cloud, Burbank, CA - March 2000
Our old pal Bill Metoyer, engineer of Breathe Deep the Dark, got the email announcing my imminent departure and thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Nope! Months later I saw Bill at a metal gig.

"You're a dick," Bill told me."

"I love you too, man," I answered.

We've since exchanged friendlier pleasantries, but I rarely hear from Bill. To this day I don't think Bill will forgive me for bailing DE. I dig Bill as a person. He's generally an easy-going bloke with a good sense of humor. To top it off he holds a special place in metal history. But in terms of my overall recording experience, I enjoyed working with engineers like Joe Floyd, Chris Kozlowski, Andreas Libera and Michael Hahn more than Mr. Metoyer.

From Dan there were repeated pleas of, “Come back to DE and metal magic,” but I was through. I wasn't receiving any support from a single Metal Blade "officer" or my bandmembers about James' antics. No amount of carrot-dangling was going to make me reconsider. My departure from the band was clean. I was more disappointed that I didn’t see two of my fave ’80s metal acts, Manilla Road and Watchtower, than not playing with DE at the Bang Your Head festival in June 2000.
There you have the whole sordid mess, people. There were serious issues that kept reoccurring in DE. You can definitely see it in rock and metal bands of far greater stature. Sometimes the culprits go to rehab and still don’t resolve their problems. The old rock cliché. Drugs and ego. That said, there were some benefits of having James in DE. He is the kind of high-ranged singer that fits the sort of metal we played. Undoubtedly DE would not have had as many opportunities with a different singer. Some DE fans level harsh words and unfounded rumors in my direction without knowing the facts. DE was conceived as a team, not four sidemen backing a singer. Look, I’m a fallible human being too! I’ll be the first to admit it. I was pretty young when I was in DE, and I didn’t always have as much worldly experience as the other guys (most of whom were 10 years or more my senior). Regardless, I’d already seen enough of the effects of hardcore drug-induced nonsense to last a lifetime. Some think it’s funny. Yup, it’s a real laugh riot, the concept of choking on your own puke a la Jimi Hendrix or Bon Scott, isn’t it? What a way to go out, joining the fabled 27 Club!? Become an icon, all while drowning in your own vomit! Two guitarist friends of mine died of drug complications between the ages of 19 and 21. Always a sad reminder of wasted lives…
Me? I’ve always been determined to continue playing music and experiencing different parts of the world. I made a decision and stood by it. I didn’t grow up in a convent, and I love kickin’ back with my mates over some tall, frosty beers. But I don’t get euphoric and think my shit doesn’t stink or that I’m the ruler of the universe, ya know? There are a lot of musicians out there who shred me to pieces. I realized that eons ago and am very humbled! (Maybe I had a chip on my shoulder in my high school days but that wore off fast!) Here I am, over a decade after bailing DE, still playing music. I’m more than content to do my own thing, on my own terms. It doesn’t pay my bills, but music (metal!) flows in my veins. I play guitar and sing in Falcon. I like to joke that I’m my own worst enemy. If I shoot my mouth off, I have only myself to blame. :P
Insults to Transition injuries? Though I played all over the album my credit appears in tiny fine print on the rear panel of the booklet. That was, without a doubt, the price I paid for leaving when I did. Oh well! So be it! Bill Metoyer is erroneously listed as mixing engineer on on the tray card, though Bill only assisted a little with the triggering of the snare drum. The real assistant engineer on Transition was Rick Carrete, a smokin' guitarist, who did some amazing work on cutting Nardo's bass tracks. Rick briefly played in Bruce Dickinson's solo band when Adrian Smith had other commitments. I took part in the Transition photo shoot at Silver Cloud, but there was a second shoot without me. No offense to Eric Halpern, who is pictured in the CD booklet. He helped DE through a few gigs, including the aforementioned November to Dismember, but he didn’t play a note on Transition. I saw DE once live with Eric, and he did a decent job as a fill-in. Both Dan DeLucie and I have corrected many metal journalists and webmasters on the Transition credits. People still get it wrong to this day. Dan further explained to me nearly a year after I’d quit DE that Metal Blade had lagged on paying Joe Floyd both for his engineering services and the studio time for the sessions at Silver Cloud. I was extremely bummed for Joe, who was a breath of fresh air amid the lameness of the cutthroat music biz.
Thankfully, Mr. Floyd eventually got the funds he was due, even if the fans got what I believe is a very lackluster remix. Part of me was like “I don’t care!” I wasn’t going to move backwards and worry about all those negative vibes. I had my post-DE metal band Artisan to worry about. I’d decided to leave DE, and my decision was final, despite the fact that James was asking me at the November to Dismember festival in San Bernardino, CA, in 2000 whether I might write some songs for the band or rejoin. The answer was a resolute “no way, José!” Another part of me definitely wanted folks to hear what I felt was the one and only true version of Transition. I was always quick to hook friends up with CD-Rs of Joe Floyd’s mix. Now the time has come to share it with the metal community at large! Compare it  with the "actual" CD and see what you think!

Transition shot by Alex Solca
Right click and "save as" on the links below to download the MP3s!
'99 B.C. Rich Eagle Archtop
Dan’s science fiction tune about humans being overthrown by self-aware computers and machines with an intro from Colossus – The Forbin Project. We started playing this live nearly every date on tour in ’99. Brian’s ever-present double-kicks set the frantic pace for the rest of the album.
Dan’s galloping tune with lyric input from James. Sorry guys, but “scopic” still isn’t a word! :P Some of my fave DeLucie riffage is in this tune, including the early Fates Warning-like pre-chorus and the Savatage-like bridge. As with much of the album, I used my 1999 B.C. Rich Eagle Archtop custom. 
Another DeLucie-penned tune with a very neo-classical intro. Lyrically it’s pretty grand in its cosmic scale. Dan was getting way into his SF, and I was going more human in the lyric department it seems.
1967 Rickenbacker 330 12-string
This started as a couple of acoustic parts bassist Nardo brought to the table—which wound up in the bridge. For the first couple of weeks of our U.S. tour we had Nardo’s battered Jasmine acoustic with us, and that gave us something to work on when we had time off. Dan and I added the bulk of the heavy riffs and refined the the mellow bridge. Brian, as usual, helped arrange cohesively. In keeping with Nardo’s Middle Eastern vibe—he’s from Iran—I slapped a wahed-out melody similar to the one I wrote for “Idle City/The Fortress Unvanquishable” in the intro. Notice how different the middle section was originally! The remix has James voice pitch-shifted down to an unnaturally low tone. Sorry, but that’s not what we intended. Dan, Joe Floyd and I spent a lot of time on a vintage Mini-Moog to get a cool nuclear explosion sound for the heavy bridge, but it was excised from the remix for no apparent reason. Also listen for my final chord, struck on the 12-string acoustic. This one is a cautionary tale about the endless vicious cycle of war and absolute political power corrupting absolutely. The lyrics were a collaboration between me, Dan, James, with a few ideas from Nardo (“Throw in Babylon!”).
A pumping power metaller about the Big Bang theory by Mr. DeLucie.
Dan wrote the music to this one for Crescent Shield, then a side-project he was forging with vocalist pal Mike Grant. Crescent Shield is now Dan’s main thing. Anyhow, James heard the demo and loved it so much that it received the full DE treatment instead. It became our big power ballad, complete with Dan’s beautiful acoustic work and my Maiden-like arpeggios during the chorus. Dan joked that it’s the only DE song about “bitches.”
I wrote the lyrics and music to this tune as a tribute to one of my fave authors, Cornell Woolrich, and his bio-bibliographer Francis M. Nevins. The title itself is one Woolrich coined but never got around to using. Nevins dubbed the Woolrich biography First You Dream… two decades after the author’s death. It’s an existential set of lyrics encapsulating many of the bleak beliefs and themes found in all of Woolrich’s gritty and grim crime tales. Part of the tune is in an odd key, and I chucked in some jazzy octave chords and melodies for good measure. Dixieland it ain’t, but I wanted to do something different. The remix removed some tasty texture from the album: the guitar in the intro was fed into a modified 1970s Marshall head as a contrast to our Mesa/Boogie Mark IVs. My second fave guitar solo is on this track. 

Master Volume mod 1971 Marshall 100 watt Super Lead

 8. The Legend

A DE team effort between me, Dan and Nardo for the music. I wrote nearly half of "The Legend," including the chorus and the dual guitar harmony. We were all very big fans of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, so the intro and verses were a tip of the hat to metal masters Kim Petersen, Hank Sherman and Michael Denner. James threw some lyrics over it which I’ll leave you to discuss amongst yourselves. Dan whipped out an Adrian Smith-like lead with a lot of feeling in this one.
My tune about the perils of drug addiction. Originally I called this tune "Solar Winds," with lyrics adapted from a poem I wrote in 1993 called "Rush of the Solar Winds." Because we already had too much clean-tone guitar, I canned the spooky clean intro. Lyrically, Dan and Brian objected to my omnipresent theme of individuality. I whapped out a new set of lyrics and under a new title "Requiem," loosely based on my old guitarist friend Jesse Wenick's peripherally drug-related death. The line "you had a choice of paths to walk, a choice of graves to dig" gave way to the less generic title. James changed some of my lyrics around (he tried to coerce me into "Drowning in Shame") and added a few lines of his own. It was a lot like having Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling singing my anti-smack lyrics on the Falcon tune “On the Slab.” I recall using my 1976 B.C. Rich Eagle for one of my two rhythm tracks on this one. Had some trouble with the bone nut, so only got to use it on a coupla tunes.

Gibson Vanguard GA-77RV
An epic and very personal track I brought to DE. Another power ballad you say?! How could it be? Two on one album?! I originally wrote it on a guitar tuned to C#. I had the axe tuned low for doom metal jamming with my old metal bro Aric Villareal. I’d been listening to a lot of Solitude Aeturnus and had fallen in love with the post-psychedelic L.A. band Red Temple Spirits on the road in May ’99 (many thanks to friend Natalie Vlahovic). On one hand I was thinking demented gothic, and on another there was a very commercial AORish tinge like Journey or Boston. The third alien hand was progressive, thanks to all the wacky arpeggios and chord inversions. The sort of stuff Alex Lifeson did/does in Rush. I used Joe Floyd’s 1960s Electro surf guitar (a lot like a Rickenbacker) through an ancient Gibson Vanguard combo with spring reverb for the clean parts. The title and lyrics are pretty ironic, considering I bailed DE after it was recorded. In a nutshell, this one is about kids having to live up to the expectations of their parents and other authority figures. I borrowed some horror imagery from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” too. My favorite solo of the album is on this song. I played slow and with a lot of emotion. Dan’s closing harmonized solo is melodic Neal Schon-like gold. I even told James to think Steve Perry all the way on the outro! Nardo’s tasty bass fills stand out in a big way. The demo version of “Vanished” bears my “graveyard” chords, instead of the more melodic offerings on the finished product. The demo will be coming to a blog near you soon!

Michael Whelan's rendering of "The Outsider" in the window.

Aric "The Prophet" Villareal and me - May 14, 1999

Transition photo courtesy of Alex Solca

The Transition Cutting Room Floor
Two songs never made it past the embryonic stages during the Transition sessions. One was Dan’s “Separate Strains,” based on the Walter M. Miller Jr. science fiction story “The Ties That Bind.” The lyrics were a Dan/Perry co-write. There’s a full demo of “Separate Strains,” which I’ll post in the near future. The other, my tune “Rise and Defy,” was demoed instrumentally. Drums and a scratch guitar track were started but abandoned at Silver Cloud. In a rush, Dan sent the original cassette to James in Houston without making a backup copy. It was lost.
Transition photo by Alex Solca
Transition disc

Transition was released in the U.S. on March 6, 2001. I met up with Dan DeLucie and Mike Grant for dinner at the Northridge Mall to get my few contributor copies of the American and German versions of the CD. Seeing as my thanks list wasn't included in the booklet, I posted it on my personal site and am now publishing it here. I don't want anyone who helped, especially during the tours or the recording, to feel left out.

Perry's thanks: My parents, my bro, Richard (good luck in Chi!); my grandparents, Harry & Evelyn Blaufarb (RIP); Sandy (RIP); Mike Bear,  Ana "12-string acoustic Death" Greco and Matt (McMetal) Conley; Ed & Teresa Laing; Rob Preston; Mark Greenbaum; Ike Henry; Aric "Relentless" Villareal; Donald Sidney-Fryer; Scott Briggs; S. T. Joshi; Al Gullette; Ben Indick (RIP); MDG3; Elan & Emily Hekier; Bill and the crew at Sampson; Bessie Mantas (DeLucie); Oli Grosshans, Matze Straub, Gerrit Mutz, Jens Sonnenberg and the Sacred Steel crew (for saving the day @ Wacken '99); Verena Jerabeck; Rich & Lucy Walker (Solstice & The Miskatonic Foundation rule!), Chuck (RIP), Steve, Shannon, Scott & Death/Control Denied; Tony, Frank, Frankie & Bang; John Perez & Solitude; Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles (thanks for the tuner @ Wacken!) from Agent Steel, The Nevermormons; Eric Goerisch; Michael Wolf, Jimbo, Johnny Tolarski & Mesa/Boogie; Jeff Wagner; the Protodudes; Kurt Farrow; Jim Powell; Sandy Feeser; Derin & Susan "Metal Mom" Argon; Conan Hultgren; Greg Hultquist, Damian Smoklo; Denis Recendez; Mel "Bassbitch" Sisneros, Glenn Watson & family; Oren Yaniv; Mike Scalzi & Slough Feg; Michael Kohsiek (Sacred Metal); Rob Garven, Greg Lindstrom & Cirith Ungol; Brian Harris; Mark "The Shark" Shelton and Manilla Road (Up the Hammers To Stay!), Mike Nevins & Cornell Woolrich (noir!); Frank B. Long. A big special thanks to all the DE fans for their headbanging support. It is not the beginning, nor the end!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Artisan - Pull the Plug (Live - 7/17/02)

Visual evidence of Artisan paying tribute to the late/great Chuck Schuldiner (Death and Control Denied) on 7/17/02 at the Key Club in Hollywood, CA. This video was taken from an old VHS tape. The audio is straight from the mixing board, but unfortunately not the best mix. Still, it's a piece of my metal history, and I'm happy to share it with you folks! Artisan covered Death's "Pull the Plug" at nearly every gig to help keep Chuck's memory alive. Chuck was/is my biggest music hero, and he deserves an enormous amount of credit for creating 8 slabs of uncompromising heavy, aggressive and melodic metal!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Destiny's End - "The Obscure - Live in CA (4/5/98)

Here's more Destiny's End live video!

Click this link to go to YouTube and watch "The Obscure" live in Fullerton, CA (April 5, 1998), or simply check out the embedded player below.

This was our first SoCal gig at a defunct venue called Club 369. The audio goes a little wiggly for a few seconds, but otherwise quality is quite good for an ancient VHS tape. I believe this one was shot by Linda "Tiny" DeLucie, guitarist Dan's sister. Though we'd just finished recording the album, Breathe Deep the Dark wasn't released in the U.S. until September.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Destiny's End - "Breathe Deep the Dark" - Live in Houston (5/5/99)

Further excavations in my video archive... I unearthed more Destiny's End footage.

Click this link to go to YouTube and watch "Breathe Deep the Dark" live in Houston, TX (May 5, 1999), or simply check out the embedded player below.

It was the first night of our U.S. tour with Iced Earth and Nevermore. We shared a backline (drums and speaker cabs), so you may notice the Something Wicked artwork on the kicks. Cheers to Ajax Rodriguez for his assistance at this and other TX gigs. Ajax appears for a few seconds on my side of the stage. Massive thanks to my fellow Rush fanatic Mike Simons for sending me the entire show on DVD-R!

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Destiny's End - The Fortress Unvanquishable - Live in Austin

Head on over to YouTube to watch or check out the embedded video of Destiny's End performing the two-part epic "Idle City / The Fortress Unvanquishable" live in Austin, TX (May 6, 1999) on the Rebirth of Metal tour (with Iced Earth and Nevermore). This entire gig was capture by a pro video team and aired on Robb's Metalworks in '99.

The link is:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Destiny's End - Live in San Francisco, May 15, 1999

Falcon's Fortress entry no. 2 is here! In this one we're going to focus on a Destiny's End live crowd recording from San Francisco, California, May 15, 1999.

From May to June 1999 Destiny's End toured the U.S. with fellow stalwarts Iced Earth and Nevermore. There was a true metal famine going on. Most people were still in the grips of the dreaded word "nu." Nevermore left halfway through, as they had tour commitments overseas, while we soldiered on and played longer sets directly before IE. Though it was my first full-scale U.S. trek, it was not my first touring experience. Destiny's End previously played some regional jaunts around Texas in '98 and early '99. Among other things, we did a couple of haphazardly thrown together dates supporting Metal Blade labelmates Mercyful Fate in San Antonio and Houston and two other headlining Texan trips. Being that singer James Rivera was a Texan, we spent more time playing shows there than SoCal. Still, I must let it be known that there were four guys working their asses off as a team in L.A. I can assure you that Dan DeLucie (guitar), Brian Craig (drums), Nardo Andi (bass) and I were no mere sidemen.

Say no more. "Destiny's End Rulz!!"
When the "Rebirth of Metal" tour landed in California, we'd already been on the road for over a week, so we were picking up steam and far from rusty. Dan DeLucie and I had to play for a crowd who'd be seeing some of the best metal lead players of all-time. My jaw was on the floor every night watching Tim Calvert and Jeff Loomis shred in Nevermore and Jon Schaffer's tight rhythm playing and young but able Larry Tarnowski's leads. I especially loved Tim Calvert's work in Forbidden, and was blown away by Nevermore when they opened for Death on the Symbolic tour. Both Loomis and Calvert were really friendly toward us, which was definitely a relief. We had nothing to worry about from the other bands, but getting screwed out of playing the Hollywood gig on our own three-band package tour by a shonky promoter gave us a real pissed-off edge to play better. The Hollywood show was the only one DE would sit out, aside from a cancelled gig in Kansas due to a torrential storm and tornado warning. On May 14th we played the Shack in Anaheim in "the OC," which isn't quite the same vibe as the infamous Whisky. Still, we had a blast playing for plenty of close friends and fans at the Shack. A devoted DE nut even went as far as to deface the men's toilet tank with "Destiny's End Rulez!" grafitti. I even snapped a photo for evidence, mellow-yellow 'n' all!

We drove all night and arrived in the Bay Area on the morning of the 15th. No motel room, no showers, just a bunch of sweaty musicians hungry to play for another hall full of metalheads. Pulling up outside Club Cocodrie after prowling the town and gulping down some greasy fast food, tour manager Beau King flagged us down. He flogged a few rolls of quarters our way and told us to go kill some time across the road at the seedy, sleazy Palladium. Trying not to stick to the floor, Dan, Nardo, Brian and I waltzed inside to watch a few minutes of cavorting nude chickies. Probably could've used a good shower, but I didn't complain.

I was stoked that we'd be joined that night with support from (The Lord Weird) Slough Feg, led by the inimitable Mike Scalzi. It was a reunion of old friends also, as my pal Rob Preston (Doomed Planet Records) was then living in the Bay Area. Rob had come down to L.A. to witness DE's album release gig the previous September with Flotsam & Jetsam and Prototype. As Scalzi and company hitched their signature tiki torches to the stage, Rob introduced me to his friend Jeff who wanted to tape the gig on a portable DAT machine with a big shotgun mic. I put Jeff on the list and made sure there was no hassle about the recording gear.

With that out of the way, I have to admit I was both daunted and thrilled by the fact that we'd be playing for a batch of consummate Bay Area pros like bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Control Denied, Testament, etc.) and guitarist James Murphy (Death, Obituary, Testament, etc.) Well, okay, Steve D. and I had known each other for a few years, but he'd never seen me play my axe before. To this day, I think Steve's a little ticked over the pic of us together at the gig. He thought he looked too lit--and I seem to have posted it all over the bloody place!? Bro, it was all done in good fun and with mucho respect! Any reservations I had were quickly doused by the microbrewery ales Rob and I downed at a tiny pub across the street. The slight buzz loosened me up, and we took to the stage for 35 minutes of metal fury. Here it is, preserved for the metal community to hear as though it was captured yesterday! Thanks to Rob and Jeff for preserving this slice of heavy metal history.

I recall Tales from the Pit videotaping the gig for their public access show, but I never did get a copy of the footage. If you're reading this and have the episode, please be sure to get in touch and hook me up!

Now for the nitty-gritty. The audio of this gig is one full chunk and has not been split into separate tracks. Feel free to chop it up on your own if you like, but I've preserved it as a continuous recording with absolutely no editing whatsoever. You'll notice we were already playing a new tune, "Transition," which would wind up as the title track of our second album. We also changed our setlist around many times on the road, sometimes including my two-part tune "Idle City/The Fortress Unvanquishable," which appeared in many other bootlegs from the Rebirth of Metal tour.

Destiny's End - Live at Club Cocodrie, San Francisco, California, USA - May 15, 1999
1. "Unsolved World"
2. "Breathe Deep the Dark"
3. "Under Destruction's Thumb"
4. "Transition"
5. "Rebirth"
6. Judas Priest medley - "Beyond the Realms of Death / Living After Midnight"

Right click on the title link above, "save-as" and enjoy!!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome to the Falcon's Fortress, Now Listen to the Artisan Demo/EP 2002!

Hey & G'day Folks!

Perry Grayson here. Welcome to this new-fangled and feathered blog. Many of you already know I have a personal blog called Peregrine's Prattle. The Falcon's Fortress is going to be slightly different. Here I'm going to focus solely on sharing sounds and videos of my past and present bands.

I'll start off with a batch of complex metal tunes, the 2002 Artisan demo/EP. Just listened to them on my MP3 player last week for the first time in ages. Have to admit these four songs sum up the style of technical, melodic and aggressive metal that I decided to pursue with two of my best friends back in 2000. I'm talking about bassist/vocalist Mike Bear (ex-Prototype) and guitarist/vocalist Ana Greco (ex-Rapture [L.A.]). Metalheads who had followed my six-string slinging in Destiny's End finally got a chance to hear me handle a hefty amount of vocals in Artisan too. Credit must be given where it's due, and I definitely have to say Mike rose to the occasion and handled the majority of the "clean" singing in Artisan, with plenty of harmony and backup from Ana. While I injected a few little "clean" words, the majority of my vocal contributions to Artisan were of the growled sort popularized by aggressive metal heroes Chuck Schuldiner (Death), Darren Travis (Sadus), Rob Urbinati (Sacrifice) and Mille Petrozza (Kreator). In short, the kind of pissed-off stuff I loved most in high school. Some of it still stands the test of time in my creaky ears 20+ years later.

When I decided to depart Destiny's End in the aftermath of the recording of the second DE album, Transition, in April 2000, I didn't waste much time before conceiving Artisan with old pal Mike Bear. Mike encouraged me to join Inhuman Visions, the death metal band he was playing session in, but I realized it just wasn't for me. Instead, I told him, "If I'm gonna play this style of really technical extreme metal, I want to build a band from the ground up and write tunes with you, the way we've always wanted." We had a lot of history together--shared many laughs and even sombre heavy moments--like brothers. Mike coined the band name because someone had referred to him as a "6-string bass artisan" in a review of Prototype's Cloned. I felt Artisan perfectly fit the sort of progressive, aggressive and technical vibe--that it was totally in keeping with names like Cynic, Atheist and Watchtower. Bands who pioneered this genre while Mike and I were still rank amateurs. Initially, we stalled on asking Ana Greco to join Artisan. After all, she was Mike's girlfriend at the time! But we caved in within a few days, as we knew Ana was a shoe-in for the job. It seemed like predestined fate that the three of us were bandless simulataneously. We'd previously jammed for fun while I was a DE-dude, Mike was a Prototyper and Ana was a Rapture-chick.

Artisan was formed as a labor of love between three good friends, and it's always rough to find precisely the right member to complete a band like that. We wrestled with the idea of getting a vocalist, but none of the people who auditioned fit. Many of them were death-grunters, and I rationalized if we were gonna have that type of aggressive vocalizing, I'd rather that I did it on my own. We tried drummers out like mad. One of the first candidates was a very young, but nonetheless talented dude, named Aaron Rossi. Aaron later worked with John Sykes, Prong and Ministry. Aaron wanted to constantly gig, which was easy for him with local pop/punk outfits, but just wasn't an option in Artisan at first. For a while we thought we'd been cursed by the Spinal Tap green globule! We found quite a like-minded soul in Matt Conley from an Illinois band called Vigilance. He relocated to L.A. to play with us.

Artisan was in full-swing when we began tracking tunes for our debut EP/Demo. I'd kept in touch with Nevermore drummer Van Williams since touring with the Nevermormons while in Destiny's End. Van designed the Arti logo. You may notice some similarities between the NM and Arti logos for that reason! Van offered to play session on an Artisan recording if we couldn't find a drummer, but we never took him up on it. We played some cool gigs with Prototype, Onward, Dreams of Damnation, Zero Hour and Engine. At the height of my Arti membership we supported Arch Enemy (along with Hate Eternal, Nile and Origin) at the Key Club in Hollyweird on their very first US tour (second L.A. appearance for them!). We also played L.A.'s Gates of Metal fest in late Spring '03. A good friend of ours, Steve Aschenbrenner, recorded one full Arti demo/EP track as a project for his engineering degree at Loyola in L.A., and we arranged to complete the remainder of the tunes with our pal Vince Levalois (the Prototype guitarist/vocalist) behind the board.

All was not hunky-dory in the Arti-camp, however, and before the mixing phase of our demo/EP, drummer Matt Conley left. I was particularly bummed, because we'd built up quite a momentum. Not to mention I got on with Matt like a house on fire! We remained good friends, but Matt knew his path lay elsewhere. To be fair, I know Matt had it rough moving halfway across the country to play with three musicians as closely knit as me, Mike and Ana. Like siblings, we'd squabble passionately about the music. As difficult as it must've been for Matt, he adapted very well to SoCal, and we were far more than mere bandmembers. Total metal brothers! We shared a love for early Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and the rockier Carcass discs. Though Matt departed, his drum tracks remained on the recording.

It took us ages to find a replacement for Matt Conley. Likewise, it was an excruciatingly drawn out overdubbing and mixing process. Vince Levalois was consumed with work, family and  obligations to Prototype. It was impossible to get consecutive sessions booked with him. I preferred and was accustomed to taking no more than 3-4 weeks to finish tracking and a couple of weeks mixing a full-length album back in Destiny's End. Months dragged to over a year with Artisan recording/mixing. By which time my interest in Artisan was waning. I was far more excited about Falcon, the raw, loud and vintage heavy rock band I formed in '02 with Greg Lindstrom from Cirith Ungol. Hyperspeed technical metal with growled vocals just wasn't as much of a turn-on for me. In a way I was burning out on playing it. I stuck things out for a while.  I broke the news to Mike, Ana and new drummer Justin Bouchee before heading to Germany to record the Isen Torr Mighty and Superior EP with British metal bro Rich Walker (Solstice).

Though they were sad to see me go, the Arti-folks asked me to play a farewell gig in the fall of 2003. It was quite a send-off, jamming in front of a packed house at the Whisky in support of Cathedral, Samael and Strapping Young Lad. Though I had a blast at the Cathedral gig, I couldn't help but wish it had been Falcon opening the show. Certainly the Cathedral blokes were big fans of Greg Lindstrom's original band, Cirith Ungol, not to mention all the heavy/bluesy/psychedelic rawkers of the late '60s and early '70s who inspired me to form Falcon. So it goes, though. By Nov. '03 I was in the studio with Falcon cutting our first full-length. The S/T Falcon album recording beat the Artisan demo/EP to the punch, partially because I never want to overthink anything or ruin the spontaneous and raw vibe.

The Arti EP/demo received an internet-only release after I bailed. We distributed a batch of CD-Rs of "Goodbye," but no "pro" CDs of the EP/demo itself. My metal brother Ed Laing, who played previously with me and Mike in a short-lived band called Stormhaven in '95-'96 (no demos or gigs), was the perfect man to fill my shoes. But Ana departed Arti, and eventually relocated to Illinois. She played in a band called Blue Razor Rust for a while. Matt Conley is a professional psychologist and has taken up guitar in his days since leaving Artisan. Artisan still lives through Mike, Ed and Justin. They have taken much time to work on a full-length, with many breaks in between sessions. It's understandable, as they all have other priorities in life outside the band.

In a way, I felt like we were our own worst enemies in Artisan. Possibly we could've garnered greater success if we didn't take forever with the recording or overthink nearly every iota of the band. Perhaps we could've capitalized more on my recent history with international touring power/prog metal band Destiny's End. DE traveled with Nevermore, Iced Earth and Mercyful Fate. How 'bout Wacken '99, two full-length albums on a respected big metal indie and a couple of high profile tribute albums? That stuff ain't chopped liver! I know our second drummer, Justin, was taken aback by the fact that we didn't go around shooting our mouths off to the effect of "Yeah, we're gonna be the next Metallica!" Or somesuch boorish boasting. Truthfully, we downplayed our achievements and were far too realistic for our own good. If it was up to me alone, I would never have done even one pay-to-play (or gay for pay, as I call it) gig. I feel it shows promoters you are willing to take it up the arse with no lube. We might've gotten the same few big Hollywood gigs through other means. We didn't go around bragging about all my accomplishments in Destiny's End, nor Mike and Ana's in Prototype or Rapture, both of which were high-profile SoCal metal bands in the late '90s. To be fair, open and honest about that whole situation, I have to remind folks that Artisan was formed as a labor of love between three best friends. My dear friend Mike Bear happened to be chronically ill during the entire time I was in Artisan. Our hero Chuck Schuldiner was battling brain stem cancer, and I'd donated cash and an acoustic/electric guitar to be auctioned on Chuck's behalf. But Mike's illness hit even closer to home. I deferred a lot of creative control to Mike, and particularly wanted him to have a lot of freedom to express himself as a songwriter. Ana and I wanted Artisan to be a very positive force in his life, although we had our own share of struggling to make ends meet in the real world--beyond music concerns.

Even as a website-only release, the Artisan demo/EP wasn't widely distributed or reviewed. It went below the radar for most metal fans. It seems as though, perhaps like Cynic and Atheist in the early '90s, we pursued a style of music that just was not very popular. The tunes may have gone over the average listener's head. Despite its shoestring self-financed budget, I'm still pretty satisfied with how the Artisan demo/EP turned out. There was a bit of ProTools editing on "Goodbye," but it's nothing by comparison to today's inhuman standards. Yup, all four of us actually played our instruments. Mike and Ana sang their asses off. Some will find it surprising that I growled. It was far from surprising at the time. You will find no "auto-tune" here. (It's a dirty word in my book!) We began tracking a cover of Death's "Pull the Plug," but a corrupt session CD-R prevented us from completing on time, so it was abandoned. But Artisan did cover "Pull the Plug" as a tribute to our hero Chuck Schuldiner at nearly every gig during my stay, and below you can watch a live video to prove it.

Right click and "Save-As" to download the MP3s below!

1. The Stain of Life
(Music/Lyrics by Mike Bear)
While me and Ana may have added our little idiosyncratic styles to playing this tune, it was Mike who brought it to Artisan. I'm not going to take credit for writing it. I just reacted to what Mike played, like his bass tapping part. The octave chords and melody at the end were devised by me, but the tune itself is Mike's. End of story. I dig Mike's lyrics. Very mature and thought provoking. This tune forced me to pick fast. I have Mike to thank for pushing my right hand dexterity. The majority of the vocals are courtesy of Mike on "The Stain of Life." Ana did some cool harmony backups, and I only had a bit of background growling on this track. I think Mike's bass sounds almost as froggy in parts on this as Steve DiGiorgio's on the Death album Individual Thought Patterns. That's a good thing! "Ribbit!"

2. The Sickness
(Music by Perry Grayson, Ana Greco & Mike Bear / Lyrics by Mike Bear & Perry Grayson)
A team effort here. Most of the music was written by me and Ana. The clean-tone intro was a 50/50 Perry and Ana thing. Ana dug her extended power chords (root, fifth, root, fifth--a big stretch) and I'm very into Alex Lifeson's use of major 7th chords and open high E strings. The instrumental heavy parts after the intro were mostly Ana's work. I wrote the verse and pre-chorus and the bridge after the solo. I played some inventive chords in the crunchy parts. We were always shooting to do more than the stereotypical root-fifth power chords. Mike contributions to the tune were the solo riff and over half of the lyrics. Lyrically a very special song, considering our hero Chuck Schuldiner was battling cancer at the time. Deeper than that, though, there were health concerns within our own band. The solo section jumped around a lot, and I got stuck playing over it, as usual. There was some slight hemming and hawing from Ana and Mike about the solo not shredding enough. I tremolo picked one section, and that made things a bit faster. I used the wah, not in the conventional sense of rocking it in time, but by pushing it down to accentuate the treble. I harmonized 3/4s of the solo too. Vocally, I was really stoked with Mike's high-range on this one. I always thought it fit the tune. The growls are mostly me, although Mike gurgled lower through some parts.

3. A Silent War
(Music/Lyrics by Perry Grayson)
This was actually the second song I brought to Artisan. The first, "Unrepentant," was left undeveloped by the band as a whole. I wrote the chorus riff while I was still in Destiny's End. I always loved how Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing would dig in and pick the overtones on a single-note part, so I shot for that with the chorus in "A Silent War." There's a very slick doom section a la Solitude Aeturnus, Revelation and Candlemass. It gets thrashed out somewhat under the solos. I never would've injected loose, raw and bluesy riffage into Artisan. There is a right time and place for everything. Artisan was neither the time, nor the place, to rawk out. I saved that for Falcon. "A Silent War" was probably the most straightforward of all the Arti songs, but it was still pretty technical. The riff with the breaks in it reminds me of Fates Warning's Awaken the Guardian and No Exit. I harmonized the solo, but it's hard to hear in the mix. Our ears were shot from too many hours of playback. In retrospect I would've turned my lead up more. Lyrically this one was totally rooted in reality. I knew all too well that I'd get slagged in the metal press when I decided to leave Destiny's End. Not to go down with the sinking ship. I'm not into slinging mud, but I will always rise to the challenge and speak the truth in one form or another if dirt is dished at me. Mike sang the clean vocals, and I handled the aggressive growls.

4. Goodbye *
(Music/Lyrics by Mike Bear)
Another of Mike's compositions. Lyrically it has a lot in common with "The Sickness." Mike was shooting for a very David Gilmourish vibe with the vocals over the mellow bass part in the middle. We're both big Pink Floyd fans. Once again, I got stuck having to play lead over an every-moving and complicated riff. Instead of a traditional solo, I wound up playing two slow melodies with a fast muted fusion/prog-metal thing a la Cynic and Watchtower sandwiched in between. It worked and I was happy with the finished product. It doesn't always have to be about shredding in prog. Mike and Ana handled most of the vocals on "Goodbye." I had several lines of growled vocals and a Tom G. Warrior-like "Oooooh!!" in the middle.

[Updated Nov. 2]
5. Bonus: Pull the Plug [Death cover] live, 2/17/02 - Tarzana, CA
We played Death's "Pull the Plug" at nearly every gig as a tribute to our recently deceased metal bro and hero Chuck Schuldiner. We wanted people to remember just how important a figure Chuck was to the global metal community. This is still one of my fave metal tunes to play, and I love belting out the vocals on stage. At Death gigs it was always the most requested song by fans. Typically Chuck saved it for the encore. Ana played Rick Rozz's whammy bar fest and tapping lead, while I tackled Chuck's more melodic solo. Unfortunately, because the camera was on Ana's side of the stage, you can't hear my lead much. I tried very hard to be faithful to Chuck's original solo. Leprosy remains one of my fave metal albums of all-time. I include my fave lyrics in my email signature file. I'm known for quoting those all the time: "Life ends so fast, so take your chance and make it last." Chuck wrote some poignant words. Some might call them prophetic. It holds a special place in my heart because I first heard it when I was a freshman in high school. Primitive, yet somehow slick for death metal in 1988!

Mike Bear - bass/vocals
Perry Grayson - guitar/vocals
Ana Greco - guitar/vocals
Matt Conley - drums

All but * engineered/mixed by Vince Levalois at Utopia Studios, North Hollywood, CA
All but * produced by Artisan & Vince Levalois
* Engineered/mixed by Steve Aschenbrenner at Loyola Marymount Studios, L.A., CA
* Produced by Artisan & Steve Aschenbrenner