Sven Gali

GALLERY: A Sven Gali Christmas

Being a pack rat has its advantages.  It means I have loads of fun little pieces of memorabilia to share.  Enjoy these scans of some seasonal Sven Gali mailings!  First is the 1992 Christmas postcard they sent out, signed by all five members.  Including drummer Gregg Gerson (Billy Idol) who left the band not long afterwards.  A cool set of autographs to have, and they’re real.  And let’s not forget it also has the lyrics to a naughty Sven Gali version of “The 12 Days of Christmas”!

The second item is from 1993, and it’s their fan newsletter.  Kinda neat.  The Sven Gali logo on this is not one I’ve seen before.  It was never used on an album.  Cool little keepsakes!

Part 237 / REVIEW: Sven Gali – Inwire (1995)

Second of a two-part series, by request of reader Deke! This part grew so large that I ended up splitting it up between a review and a Record Store Tale. If you missed part one, Sven Gali (1993), click here.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 237:  Sven Gali – Inwire (and Peter the Rocker)

When Sven Gali released their anticipated second album Inwire, Peter the Rocker was not impressed.  Not in the least.  A few weeks after it came out, Peter stopped by the record store.  He picked up one of the M.E.A.T Magazines sitting on our front counter and opened it to a page.  He pointed.

“Have you heard this Sven Gali?” he asked me in a semi-shouted voice.

SVEN_0005“No I haven’t, I responded, “I’m waiting for a used copy.  I do have a four song sampler and it’s pretty good.”

“It blows,” he fired back, eyes wide.  “Sucks.  Shit.  Garbage.  Piece of fucking shit.”  He paused to take a breath.  “They fucking sold out man!  You know what they did?  It’s grunge.  It’s pure shit.”  He raised his hands on either side, as if to emphasize the weight of the turd that Sven Gali had laid.

“Seriously?” I queried.  “The songs I heard were OK…”

“Listen to me man.  It’s fucking shit.  Garbage.”

Alright then!

Peter the Rocker came in periodically over the months.  Sven Gali didn’t come up very often, but having heard it since that conversation, I was inclined to agree with Peter.  Maybe not to the same extremes, but we saw eye to eye, more or less .

A year or two after the initial conversation, Peter came in to the store once again to discuss Sven Gali.

“Guess who I fucking saw this weekend.”

Not having a clue, I shrugged my shoulders.  “I give up.  Who?”

“The fucking bassist from Sven Gali man!  Shawn.  I told him that second album fucking sucked man.”

I had to laugh at that.  “You did?  What did he say?”

“He fucking agreed with me man!  He said they sold out on that album.  He said they fucking sold out and went grunge!”

Take that as you will.  It’s an old story heard second hand from Peter the Rocker.  I wouldn’t use it as a Wikipedia source, but it does shed some light on the album we’re about to discuss.

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SVEN GALI – Inwire (1995 BMG)

Kelly Gray (Tateryche) really helped fuck up this album.  Sven Gali went to Seattle, and hired Mr. Gray, who had recently co-produced the 4x Platinum debut album by Candlebox.  It’s rarely a good idea for hard rock bands to go grunge, but it’s doubly bad when they work with Kelly Gray. [More on this tomorrow.]

Gray encouraged the band to experiment.  I guess part of this experimentation was hiring one of his Seattle buddies on drums.  Mike Ferguson was in a band was Dog Daze with Mr. Gray.  Additionally, the songwriting on Inwire is credited to Sven Gali and Yard Dog.  Who the fuck is Yard Dog?  I suspect Gray’s got a writing credit on every song.  His buddies from Candlebox show up on guest vocals, and even Christopher Thorn from Blind Melon plays mandolin (one of the best moments on the album during “Tired of Listening”).

SVEN_0012In a M.E.A.T Magazine write-up, writer Carl Begai said that the album Inwire would “leave people awestruck and impressed”.  Awestruck, yes, but not very impressed.  I got this CD for free, which is the only reason I have it.  It was simply too alternative for most fans, who ignored it in droves. It also had the unfortunate problem of being very weak on songs.  There are a handful of must-haves here, along with a whole bunch of don’t-needs.  When things click occasionally, it’s on songs like “Truth”, “What You Give”, and “Make Me”.

When things fall apart, it sounds like bad U2 demos, disjointed parts connected together, boring melodies and underwhelming guitars.  I hate the needlessly distorted vocals on Inwire.  They dominate the whole album.   “Helen” features two David Wanless lead vocals, one distorted and one more distorted, yelling at each other.  More singing, less yelling Dave! Kelly Gray, I’m looking at you.

No sir, I don’t like it.  Down from the 90’s shit cover art through the 90’s shit distorted vocals to the 90’s shit songs, I don’t like it.  Except for a few sparkling moments, Inwire smells like a turd.

2/5 stars

EPILOGUE:  The band never made a third album.  After breaking up, bassist Shawn TT Mahar joined Forgotten Rebels.  When guitarist Dee Cernille was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, the band organized two reunion concerts.  These concerts were attended by Mif from Slash Puppet, who was quoted as saying, “Went to the Sven Gali show at the Sound Academy the other night to watch Dee rock out. I gotta tell ya, if I didn’t know any better I wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with the fucking guy. He was shredding all fucking night.”  Unfortunately Cernille died on February 25, 2012.

REVIEW: Sven Gali – Sven Gali (1992)

First of a two-part series, by request of Deke!

 

SVEN GALI – Sven Gali (1992 BMG)

Sven Gali were a good band. To put this into context, in the early 90’s Canada was home to a growing hard rock scene that combined traditional metal with the harder alternative sounds that were coming out of Seattle. I Mother Earth was probably the first band to combine these sounds into one unique whole. Sven Gali were more on the rock side, but they did combine the groove and heaviness that was coming out of Seattle with hard rock. The first single “Under The Influence”, which was a hit on Much, is a great example of this.

Comparisons with forebears Skid Row were added to album cover stickers, and the talented drummer Gregg Gerson was poached from Billy Idol’s band.  (Prior to this, Steve Macgregor and Rob MacEachern occupied the drum stool.  MacEachern would later go on to play with Helix.)  While nobody in the band were slouches, singer David Wanless boasted a tough, powerful voice able to handle the heavy material, similar to someone like Johnny Solinger of Skid Row.  (I have heard that Mr. Wanless worked at Home Depot in St. Catharines after Sven Gali.)  Also notable was the late guitarist Dee Cernille, who recently lost his long battle with cancer.

Sven Gali is stacked top-heavy with standouts.  This means it tends to have a stronger side one vs. side two.  The first two songs were singles (the video hit “Under the Influence”, the helicopter whop-whop of “Tie Dyed Skies”).  Both these songs walk a fine line of heavy but singalong choruses, while maintaining its gritty 90’s-ness.

The generically titled “Sweet Little Gypsy” is a strong, Crue-like album track, but it is followed by another single, “In My Garden”.  This is a dark ballad, demonstrating the 90’s side of the band.  It too was a video hit.  “Freaks” is a hard rocker that could have been a single in my books.  I had this one early on a Sven Gali sampler cassette mailed out by M.E.A.T Magazine.  I’d be happy to show that cassette if it wasn’t packed up in a box.  Side two was finished with the excellent ballad “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”.  It’s obvious that Sven Gali were going for the Extreme/Mr. Big template with this one.  There are no drums, the lyrics are sentimental, and it was designed for the female side of the hard rock fan spectrum.  But it’s still a good song, and performance.  I’d rate this one as a solid-also ran behind “More Than Words” and “To Be With You”.

SVEN_0002Side two commenced with the furiously heavy “Stiff Competition”, once again firmly planted in Van Skid Crue territory.  Far from the best song on the album, it’s certainly the heaviest, gratuitous “F-bomb” included.  “Real Thing” is pretty poor.  It’s an annoying and grating throwaway.  “Whisper in the Rain” is another ballad, this one is a little more generic than the preceding two.  And didn’t you just know it was going to be a ballad by the title?  It has a moment or two, but in general I’ve heard this kind of song done better before by Skid Row…Killer Dwarfs…Motley Crue…Guns N’ Roses…etc.

“25 Hours A Day” is back to rock.  It’s not a stinker, but aside from a good chorus, the song doesn’t stand out.  “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” is back to the speedy rock sounds of “Stiff Competition” with which we began this side of the album.  If anything these two songs show off Gerson’s incredible drum chops.  Shame he left the band after this album…

Sven Gali closes with the Teenage Head cover “Disgusteen”, saving the best for last.  Frankie Venom himself (R.I.P., cancer again) performs the exorcism scene.  Awesome!

Sven Gali earned the band two 1993 Juno Awards nominations:  Most Promising Group, and Hard Rock Album Of The Year.  They won neither, but good on them.  Aaron would be pleased to remember that Skydiggers won Most Promising Group that year.  Hard Rock was won by rival band Slik Toxik.

Unfortunately, all would not go well for our friends in Sven Gali.  Seattle came a-knockin’, and they answered.  Or was it the other way around?  It doesn’t matter; it ends the same way.  Find out tomorrow when we finish the tale.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Slash Puppet – Slash Puppet (EP, 1993)

I found much to my horror that my original Amazon.ca Slash Puppet review had been taken and credited to some defunct site called “bandfocus.net”!  I thought it would be wise to re-claim it for myself.  Here it is in slightly revised form.

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SLASH PUPPET – Slash Puppet (Fringe EP, 1993)

A short while ago, I reviewed the debut release by the legendary Toronto glam metal band, Slash Puppet. For a while there, it looked like Slash Puppet was destined to be the “next big thing”.  They were winning awards, had national video play, and a stunning collection of hard rock material to draw from for their well-reviewed gigs.

Well, you know what happened next. Grunge took over, and the Toronto metal scene never exploded the way it was hoped. If it had, Slash Puppet would have been the band leading the charge. (With Winter Rose, I Mother Earth, Sven Gali, Russian Blue, Slik Toxik, Attitude, and so many others right behind…ahh, but I digress.)

This 1993 EP was their second release (the afformentioned debut is now available on CD as No Strings Attached, on Sun City Records).  It is solid from start to finish. The singer, Mif (better known as Anthony J. Mifsud; you’ve seen him acting in the Norm McDonald comedy Dirty Work!) has a soulful, gritty, and gravelly voice that has elements of Brian Johnson and Lemmy, but really sounds like neither. Really, Mif sounds like Mif, and you have to hear the voice to get it. The band were tight, emphasizing tough riffs, killer choruses, and street-smart lyrics. No wimpy songs here. Even the sole ballad “Eyes Of A Child” isn’t a wimp-out. Not with lyrics like those, and a soulful delivery from Mif.

The lead track from No Strings Attached, “Slow Down”, reappears here, now parsed as “Slowdown”. (I believe this song is a remix with a new bass part, based on the credits. Peet Dove played bass on the original demo version but is not credited here, which leads me to believe the bass was re-recorded by new bassist Dave Carreiro. Otherwise, the song sounds almost identical to the demo version.)

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

Every song smokes.  Slash Puppet down-shifted on speed for these songs, but traded that in for a slightly bluesier, soulful vibe.  Their songwriting abilities grew by leaps and bounds between releases, no doubt enhanced by their live experience.  When their debut was recorded, the band had not even played a gig yet!  Slash Puppet is much more melodic than No Strings Attached, but still tough as nails.

If you’re into tough, glammy rock n’ roll with great musicianship and songwriting, Slash Puppet are the band to check out. This EP just shines.  If you’re into collecting obscure albums from the era, or Canadian bands, this CD is an absolute must, although I saw one guy on ‘net claiming to have sold his copy for almost $200!  I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay that much.  Check thrift shops and used CD stores.  I used to sell this in my store for $5.99.

This EP was mixed by Rich Chycki, probably best known for his 5.1 work with Rush!

Here’s hoping Mif and the surviving members reunite for a few more songs or shows. I’ll be there.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Slash Puppet – No Strings Attached (aka The Demo, 1989)

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SLASH PUPPET – No Strings Attached (2007 Sun City Records)

Slash Puppet were one of the biggest names of the burgeoning Toronto rock scene of the early 1990’s.  Unfortunately, unlike their competition Sven Gali and I Mother Earth, they never got signed to a major label.  They did, however, manage to sell out 2500 copies of their first recording, The Demo, an independent cassette, via mail order.  They were the darlings of M.E.A.T Magazine and appeared on MuchMusic’s Power Hour.  Slash Puppet signed a management deal with Ray Danniels and SRO (Rush) who later also handled Van Halen, King’s X, and Extreme.

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

I was one of the 2500 people who ordered The Demo.  Every mail order was accompanied by a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 autographed photo.  I still have mine, this is especially treasured since their talented lead guitarist, Lou Garscadden, passed away in 2001.   Today, lead vocalist Mif (originally billed as “Tony Terrance Dartanian”, for some weird reason) is a successful actor.   That’s him as the mob boss in Norm McDonald’s hilarious Dirty Work, billed under his real name, Anthony J. Mifsud!

Incredibly, for a band that never put out a major label release and split in 1994, Australia’s Sun City Records reissued The Demo on CD in 2007, as No Strings Attached.  A well-assembled package, it features liner notes, lyrics, and loads of photos.

This ass-kicker starts with a bang:  “Slow Down”.  This was the first video, and it even made a return appearance (in slightly remixed form) on the second Slash Puppet release, a self-titled EP.  “Slow Down” is an infectious hard rocker, a tougher and faster Faster Pussycat with a way, way raspier singer.  It has more integrity than most of the Sunset Strip of the time combined.  And this was from the bad bad streets of Mississauga!

The extremely catchy ‘Squeeze It In” follows, a mid-tempo groover, and my personal favourite song.  This one just drips sleaze with a knack for gritty melody.   Up next is “Hard On Love”.  It’s another concoction of raspy lead vocals, catchy backing gang vocals, and pure sex.  It’s twice as hard as anything Hollywood was producing at the time.  “Bad Girls”, which closed side one of the original cassette, is about the only misstep.  While the song is another adrenaline-filled sex romp, the chorus lacks punch.

It’s here that I think the CD edition of No Strings Attached differs from The Demo.  If memory serves correctly, side two began with “Overload” and closed with “Turn It On”.  On the CD, the track order seems switched.  Unfortunately, my original cassette copy is now lost.

Regardless, “Turn It On” is fast paced, raspy and built for sex.  It’s not an upper-echelon song, it’s more similar to “Bad Girls”, the chorus is a bit thin.  The band compensates with the excellent “Evil Woman”.  Great chorus, great hooks, and it sounds great in the car.  It also has a cool dual guitar solo by Lou Garscadden and Frank “Bart” Bartoletti, proving these guys had the chops.

The dark and slower-paced “Some Kind O’ Lady” provides some variety on an album that is otherwise very party-oriented.  This killer tune was always one of my favourites.  It has some killer soloing and a great riff.  The verses kind of remind me of a Testament ballad like “Return To Serenity”, but before Testament even wrote that song.  Maybe it’s the grit in Mif’s voice that reminds me of Chuck Billy.

“Overload” closes the CD on an upbeat note.  It has a fast, playful riff, sleazy lyrics and plenty of grit.  It’s totally headbang-worthy.  And with that, the CD ends, listener exhausted by half an hour of pure heavy glam rock!

The production values for this album are not the greatest.  Keep in mind this was originally a self-financed demo tape, never meant for wide release, and never intended for CD.  The guitar solos are often buried, and the backing vocals sound a bit thin.  What does come across is the grit of Mif, an underrated singer and frontman (by all contemporary accounts).

As mentioned, Slash Puppet returned with an EP later (released by indi Fringe), amped up, better sounding and more mature without losing an ounce of their street-tough sensibilities.  Look for a review of that ultra-rarity in a future edition of mikeladano.com!

As for No Strings Attached?

4/5 stars, baby!