Sean Williamson

VHS Archives #106: On the Tour Bus with Varga (1994 Power 30)

Varga were on the cutting edge of combining heavy metal music with the burgeoning industrial scene. Teresa Roncon of the Power 30 caught up with the band in Buffalo, on their bus. Looks like there was a bit of a party going on, but in the back of the bus was a makeshift recording studio where the guys were assembling ideas for album #2.  “Heavy and exploratory” was the promise!

Meet Varga & Ugly Kid Joe’s manager Dennis, and find out just how to get on a tour bus. A little bit of live footage is within, and the always likeable guys request a few tunes.

REVIEW: Sven Gali – 3 (2020)

SVEN GALI – 3 (2020 EP)

Sven Gali have not had an easy ride.  Their debut Sven Gali was just a year too late to make them into the rock heroes they seemed destined to be.  Had it come out in 1991, they would have had a massive hit on their hands.  The second album Inwire (1995) was a reaction to the 90s alterna-metal scene.  The band reunited in 2007, but tragedy struck when cancer killed founding guitarist Dee Cernile in 2012.

Against the odds, Sven Gali persevered and in 2018 added some heavy firepower to the lineup:  Dan Fila and Sean Williamson of Varga.  One by one, they began releasing new tracks.  Now in 2020 we have the first new Sven Gali release in 25 years:  an EP called 3.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sven Gali did not revert back to the hard rock anthemic sound that was the cornerstone of their debut album.  Instead they picked up where they left off on Inwire, with four new songs produced by David Bendeth who also produced their debut.  Incredibly it sounds like they haven’t missed a step.  Even more incredibly, it’s some of their best stuff!  Singer Dave Wanless has lost nothing.  The band is still rounded out by original members:  guitarist Andy Frank and bassist Shawn Minden.

The four songs all share melodic vocal hooks, heavy guitars and aggressive grooves.  With the addition of Fila and Williamson, the band have rebuilt themselves into a beast heavier than before.  Picking a favourite isn’t possible because this EP is not immediate.  Like many favourites that stand the test of time, 3 will take some listens to fully absorb and love.  Fortunately we have a whole summer ahead of us to do that.  The EP has the depth and potential to become a bit of a classic.  Even if Inwire wasn’t your thing, this EP is better.  The songs are more focused, heavier, with more hooks.  The vocal melodies sometimes veer into an old anthemic metal style, like on “Hurt”.  By taking their time, Sven Gali were able to make sure they had four excellent tracks for this release.

Good on Sven Gali for sticking it out, and not resting on their laurels.  Any band can get replacement members and reunite.  Fewer still put out new music, much less on a physical media.  Sven Gali have put together a slammin’ new lineup and a triumphant EP.  You just can’t write this band off.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Varga – Prototype (1993)

VARGA – Prototype (1993 BMG)

Joe Varga and crew started off as a Toronto-area thrash metal band.  There was a thriving thrash scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and Varga’s contribution were songs like “Mad Scientist” and “Shark Attack”.  They released an indi album (cassette only) called Multiple Wargasms.  As the 90’s progressed, Varga established a prototypical industrial metal direction, something perfectly mundane today, but new for the time.  Like some bizarre cross between thrash metal and ZZ Top, Varga attempted to bridge the gap between machine and man.  They signed to BMG and got David Bendeth to produce them, who had just worked his magic with Sven Gali.

Varga’s major label debut was called Prototype.  As promised, it boasts a mixture of metal and industrial.  Live drums, guitars and bass mix are augmented with samples and loops.  While Varga embraced technology, it didn’t seem fully incorporated into the music.  The songs are, for the most part, metal tracks with samples and effects added for embellishment.  Varga took the unusual step of listing everybody that inspired them in the credits.  Metal outnumbers industrial bands by 12-2.  Pornography had more influence on Varga than Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, according to this!

When it works, it works.  “Greed” is a prime example.  Had it been a typical fast-forward thrash metal song, it still would have been good.  The electronics and looped rhythms turbo-charge the whole thing.  “Freeze Don’t Move” seems built around the loops, and features rapping and a sung chorus.  Hearing it today, I think “Hello, Linkin Park!”  But there was no Linkin Park in 1993.  These two tracks were the singles, and they are easily the best two songs on the album.   Additionally, “Freeze Don’t Move” was remixed and extended by somebody called “KRASH” (all caps).  The original is all you need, but the remix is included as a CD-only bonus track.  (Quaint concept today!)

Prototype chugs along, like a finely tuned streamlined machine.  The musicianship is fine and dandy; Varga did not forsake guitar solos and there are several hot ones to choose from, not to mention diverse moments of instrumental brilliance.  “The Strong”, “Unconscience”, “Thief”, “Self Proclaimed Messiah” and “Wawnah Mère” are pretty good, and “Bring The Hammer Down” is galvanized metallic.  Recommended for metal historians and fans of the industrial metal sound.

4/5 stars

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