Tag Archives: heavy metal guitarists

Remembering Savatage’s Criss Oliva; Gone Twenty Years Today (10/17/93-10/17/13)

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It was twenty years ago today that the Metal world lost Savatage guitarist and co-founder Criss Oliva to a drunk driver and the fans of his music still miss him as strongly as when this first happened. He was only 30 years old when at the time and was growing in popularity by leaps and bounds based on his incendiary skills on the lead guitar. Born Christopher Michael Oliva in 1963, he is the brother of Savatage’s own Jon Oliva (the legendary Mountain King) and together they formed Avatar which eventually took new musical shape and life as Savatage in 1983. Metal was about to get a dose of something different care of these guys and the ride was an exciting one to me as a new fan.

Photo - Criss Oliva

I was first turned on to the music of Savatage by my friend Rizzo who I eventually worked in a band with together for a few years and I guess that the time of this Metal referral was around when “Power Of The Night” was already released. I was a drummer and I loved the power of the riffs over the title track and used to rehearse against that tune regularly. I became more of a diehard to the band’s output with “Hall Of The Mountain King” and honestly who didn’t love almost all of that one in the Metal circles of the time. To continue to speak personally on this, our band Machine was floored when the legendary L’Amour’s in Brooklyn booked us to be the opener for the Savatage and Trouble show that was going to take place. The band had just released “Gutter Ballet” and I ran over to The Record Factory to buy a copy on this new CD medium that everyone was beginning to talk about a lot more. I liked that they had cool booklets and inside this one were individual pages with the members of the group.
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Randy Rhoads: Thirty Years Gone (3/19/2012)

Thirty years ago today the Heavy Metal music scene lost one of its most inspiring and acclaimed guitar players. Yep, if you are old enough to remember this event happening, it has been thirty years since Randy Rhoads was killed in a tragic and altogether stupid, unnecessary accident. He was twenty five years old at the time of his death.

While I realize that I am dating myself, I will admit to the first time hearing Randy play was when I was turned onto the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album that had just come out. My Metal and Rock friends used to regularly convene at the local record shops and my neighborhood had two of them. We had Record Factory and the Little Record Store and while the first one was the larger supplier of stuff, the smaller shop always seemed to have the Metal stuff there a little earlier than the others. When you listened to Randy do what he could do on the guitar you were instantly floored. It was so good, and so interesting and for its time so very, very unique. It was another case of the musicians doing something that was not often done at this time, and we had experienced something similar only a few years ago when the first Van Halen album had come out.

Back in these bygone years everyone was paying attention to the Ozzy debut release and its followup “Diary Of A Madman”, well if you were a Metal head that is, and these became a very important albums in the collections of so many fans based on how hard it hit us and just how solid and strong the playing was across the board. The depth of guitar work we heard Randy doing instantly inspired legions of guitar players and resultant of that the instructors of the time had their work cut out for them as many students showed up wanting to learn “what Randy was doing”. His creativity surely gave them a run for their money and made them earn the lesson fees that they were charging.

It’s very easy to decry the incident that took Randy’s life and let’s face it, it was an absolutely foolish and stupid prank that went horribly wrong and not only killed the the talented musician but also two other people in the process. Rock and roll mayhem does sometimes come at a terrible cost when fueled by alcohol and other substances. What a shame. It’s the kind of story that ends the musical chapter far too early where Randy was concerned and one has to wonder what kind of music that he would b delivering in this day and age had he still been alive and even performing for that matter. The adult Ken feels that he would not be playing anything even resembling Metal at this time as he very likely would have felt that he had done all that could be accomplished for the genre. Perhaps he would have gone Classical or even Progressive Rock or maybe just became an in demand studio session player or respected producer. Sadly we shall never know and the “What If” case scenario is something that only plays out in the comic books. What a shame.

Last year Epic Records re-released two incredible remasters of the first two albums by Ozzy Osbourne that nothing short of “must have in my collection” pieces. They feature bonus tracks and expanded artwork and the special edition of “Diary” even gives us an unreleased live concert that staggers the Metal senses. I’ve placed links for your perusal below.

Let’s never forget Randy’s musical and Metal memory, especially today. Thanks for the music that you left us with Mr. Rhoads, I hope you are watching what it has set in motion since you left.

R.I.P.: Riot’s Mark Reale (1/25/2012)

Wow. I had to say that I really didn’t expect this news to be the case even though the Metal Republic and I had been informed about the critical shape that guitarist Mark Reale was in when I attended the New York City based band Riot’s gig last week at B.B. King’s. The band had recently released the album “Immortal Soul” and it’s been receiving some really great reviews and while I still need to get a copy and focus my thoughts on it, I had to say that I really enjoyed what the band did live. The guitarist had been suffering from Crohn’s disease for most of his life and even though he was often in considerable pain according to press reports, he would press on and perform for his fans again and again. Shortly before the tour began it was reported how Mark was in the hospital in critical condition based on complications from his illness but the band would press on in his name and not let the fans down. Singer Tony Moore had us remaining hopefully but few actually knew that the guitarist was actually in a coma all this time since January 11th.

My exposure to Riot was limited at best and yet everything that I ever heard I seemed to like. It’s almost funny for me to wonder why I was never following them before or outside of the one album that I owned. That just happens sometimes because there really is a ton of Metal and Hard Rock to enjoy if you choose to expand your horizons past Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. If you love the heavy side of things and cannot move past those legends I strongly suggest you try because its a wonderful world. Despite Mark’s absence from the appearance, the show that I attended was nothing less than kick ass and I was very hopeful that he would be able to pull through and be rocking for his fans once again. Sadly this would not be the case and the dire complications from this illness would take him from us. He was 56 years of age.

Mark Reale was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1955 and his love of the artists of the day would lead him to form Riot in 1975. The band became a staple on the New York City Hard Rock and Metal scene and throughout the bands often tumultuous lineup shifts he would remain its sole original member from their first album “Rock City” until their 2011 release “Immortal Soul”. There are seventeen albums in total available on labels like Metal Blade Records, Epic Records, Capitol Music and SPV Records so the new and legacy fans really have their purchase work ahead of them if they do not have a complete set of their catalog. The question remains as to whether or not the band shall continue on without him, because he was not only the founding member but also the only one left who was touring with them at this point in music history. I’d like to keep positive because this was such a good show and the band has numerous killer tunes. Of course I also have my doubts about it as do many other fans in media. It’s hard enough for newer in the public eye regularly bands to keep going on much less a legacy group that has just lost its founder. Only time will tell right?

On behalf of the PiercingMetal brand name I send sincere and heartfelt condolences out to Mark’s worldwide fans, friends, band mates and of course his loved ones. He really did some good for the Metal scene and his music shall live on forever. Rest in Peace Mark Reale.

Official Riot Website: http://www.riotrockcity.com
Mark Reale’s Wikipedia Entry HERE.
Learn more about Crohn’s Disease via this Wikipedia Entry HERE.

R.I.P. GWAR’s Cory Smoot, aka “Flattus Maximus” (11/3/2011)

While attending the NYC performance by Mayhem last night I suddenly noticed a large amount of emails and texts asking me if I knew what happened with the band GWAR and their guitarist. Sadly I hadn’t and did an immediate search thanks to the trusty Droid phone and learned the sad news about their guitarist Cory Smoot aka Flattus Maximus”. The musician had been found dead in his bunk on the bus by the other members of the band, he was 34 years of age and had been in the lineup for about ten years to my knowledge. No cause of death was disclosed at the time of this posting.

GWAR's Flattus Maximus in Action (12/2009)

Despite my greatly enjoying their visual antics on the stage I had only seen GWAR three times over the course of my life and two of those instances allowed me to witness Cory’s character Flattus as he did his thing. I can say that he was a solid player and one that brought a lot of good to the lineup and the shenanigans happening up on the boards. He will very surely be missed by the fans and we send condolences to his family, band mates and the worldwide supporters of the band.

An official press statement that came from band leader Dave Brockie or Oderus Urungus to the world said that “Out of respect to Cory, we have officially retired the character of Flattus Maximus. Flattus has decided to return to his beloved “Planet Home”, and will never return to this mudball planet again. And this is a sadder place for that”.

“Axes 2 Axes” by Eddie Ojeda

Artist: Eddie Ojeda
Title: “Axes 2 Axes”
Label: Black Lotus Records
Release Date: 11/3/2005
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
Rating: 5.5/10

Twisted Sister’s well-known axe man Eddie Ojeda has signed to Black Lotus Records and given us his very first solo recording. As a long time fan of his work with Twisted Sister I was interested in seeing what the end result would be on a solo effort that was for a change completely under his direction and control. Eddie performs a large amount of the lead vocals and his band is made up of Joe Franco (drums, who also played in Twisted Sister for an album and was a member of Dee Sniders Widowmaker) and Chris McCarvill on bass guitar. As I listened to the whole CD I felt myself wanting for something a little better and felt a tad disappointed in it more than I was put over the top. Eddie does not have a bad voice but I felt it would have been better to have someone else perform the vocals on the release who really could stand out and help him hold a great solo performer identity. He did have help from such vocal powerhouses as Ronnie James Dio, Dee Snider and Joe Lynn Turner but the Dio song seemed like Ron was just going through the motions on “Tonight”. Dee’s contribution is a very Twisted Sister-esque version of the Beatles classic Eleanor Rigby and I thought this was just terrible. Perhaps if it was featured on a Twisted album I could have looked at it differently but in this context it was awful. Joe Lynn Turner’s assistance on “Living Free” is not bad but I would have liked to hear the pipes that he possesses in an effort to kick the album up a little more. Eddie’s voice did manage to shine on “The Reason”. This power ballad worked for him since the vocals are in a lower register and did not push him to a point he could not attain. He also did pretty well on “Love Power” which is an overall throwback to a 70’s kind of groove. “Please Remember” was ok but that reminded me a lot of Sister in its main riffing.
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