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MANOWAR has confirmed the impending release of "The Final Battle I", an EP comprised of eagerly awaited brand new material. Fans will first get their chance to own this initial instalment in a trilogy of thunderous EPs in an exclusive pre-sale at the merchandise booth of the band's "The Final Battle World Tour 2019", starting with MANOWAR's show in Frankfurt, Germany on March 29. An exclusive digital presale period will start on iTunes the same day. The rollout will then continue into retail and online stores on May 30 and digitally on Amazon and Google Play. The first of three parts which will constitute the highly anticipated new MANOWAR album, this EP is "destined to go down in heavy metal history as one of the most insanely epic releases of all time," according to a press release. "An imperious demonstration of the band's undisputed mastery of both skull-crushing metal anthems and extraordinary feats of symphonic bombast, these four new molten metal tracks have been inspired by MANOWAR's 'The Final Battle World Tour' and fuelled by the support and energy of their fans. All music was conceived, recorded and mixed at MANOWAR's very own Valhalla Studios, utilizing the unparalleled power of their PMC statement monitors with over 27,000 watts of ground-shaking clarity." Says MANOWAR bassist and leader Joey DeMaio: "The sheer power of these four songs is mind-blowing! We simply couldn't release more songs at one time; it's just too much. We want to give our fans the chance to take in every note, every word. Gain more strength from this experience and then be ready for the battles they fight every day. And join us on the road, on 'The Final Battle'!" "The Final Battle I" covers a vast amount of musical ground in its quest to deliver the ultimate heavy metal experience. The opener, the epic fantasy-brought-to-life "March Of The Heroes Into Valhalla" reimagines MANOWAR's music in vivid, cinematic form, providing a deeply moving journey through the warrior's life, from bloody battles to ascension into Valhalla. The battle-filled mood continues with the spine-shattering might and fury of the new anthem "Blood And Steel". Next is "Sword Of The Highlands", one of the most explosive and dramatic songs DeMaio has ever penned: a profound and stirring tribute to heroes long perished, it begins with exquisite elegance before erupting into a grand crescendo of power and glory, exemplified by a possible career best vocal performance from the ever-impressive Eric Adams. Finally, the most startling surprise arrives in the dark, lurking, brutal and merciless form of "You Shall Die Before I Die"; a hypnotic and coruscating epic that delivers a vengeful statement of intent and invincibility… with lead vocals by DeMaio himself. "The Final Battle I" comes with a crushing new artwork by iconic fantasy artist Ken Kelly, masterfully echoing the emotional roller coaster you'll be taken on. Parts II and III of the trilogy will arrive in course, inspired by MANOWAR's adventures on the remainder of "The Final Battle World Tour". [youtube]

German industrial metallers RAMMSTEIN are teasing what appears to be the first video from their long-awaited new album. The band has uploaded a series of video snippets that contain Roman mumerals which seem to point to this Thursday's date (March 28), presumably the official release date for the new clip. Earlier this year, RAMMSTEIN posted a slideshow of photos from what appeared to be a video shoot for its new disc. The band is reportedly once again working with director Jonas Åkerlund, who made his mark directing music videos for artists from Madonna and THE ROLLING STONES to MAROON 5 and Beyoncé. RAMMSTEIN's first studio album since 2009's "Liebe Ist Für Alle Da" is tentatively due in late spring or early summer. The effort was mixed at a Santa Monica, California studio with Rich Costey, an American producer who has previously worked with MUSE, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and FRANZ FERDINAND, among others. RAMMSTEIN guitarist Richard Kruspe told Metal Wani about the making of the band's new album: "Well, when I thought to do another RAMMSTEIN record, I was like, 'No, I'm going to do that. I'm not going through more suffering,'" he said. "That was four years ago. But what we did in the beginning is we said 'Let's get together and try to come up with three or four songs.' We didn't really put any pressure on us, which was very important at this time. While we were starting to rehearse and stuff and getting ideas, I thought, 'Wow, it's actually very good. Things have changed.' All of a sudden, there's a certain kind of respect that I always missed a little bit. We just had good chemistry, which reminded me of the first time when we started. Then I felt, like, 'What would interest me on a new RAMMSTEIN record?' I thought, 'Every time people talk RAMMSTEIN, it's about fire. It's all about the show.' Nobody talks about the music anymore for RAMMSTEIN, and it kind of bothered me. I was thinking, 'I want to do another record. It has to be musical in a way that can really stand out from other records.' That was my goal, or our goal." As for the disc's musical direction and how it compares to the band's previous efforts, Kruspe said: "It's so hard to say it, because I'm working four years on the record, I'm so close. I think when I listen to the record — we're still in the process, but it's almost 'RAMMSTEIN 3D' is how I describe it. We have written a lot of stuff, but we recorded, I think, 16 songs right now. We're probably going to mix 11 songs because we're running out of time right now. I think it's going to be out in April, which will be the release date. Then, we'll be on our first stadium tour, which is very exciting." RAMMSTEIN recently announced a batch of summer 2019 European tour dates. The run of stadium and arena shows will kick off on May 27 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany and end of August 23 in Vienna, Austria. [youtube]

WHITESNAKE guitarist Joel Hoekstra spoke to "10 Questions With The Musical Mind" about his contributions to the band's upcoming studio album, "Flesh & Blood", which will be released on May 10 via Frontiers Music Srl. The disc follows the 2011 critically acclaimed studio album "Forevermore" and 2015's "The Purple Album", a reimagining of DEEP PURPLE classics from WHITESNAKE mastermind's David Coverdale's time in that band. Asked about the songwriting process for "Flesh & Blood", Joel said: "I came in with some riff ideas, and Reb [Beach, guitar] came in with some riff ideas, but really, the way David seemed to prefer to get things going was he would have the basic idea of a song. He writes everything on kind of a smaller-scale nylon-string guitar — of all things. No one would picture that, but that's David's thing — he likes to sit at his desk and play on that. He comes up with all the foundations for his songs that way. So he had a lot of things to get the ball rolling. That was the way that, in general, it worked. There were exceptions to the rule, but he would either then say to me, 'Where would you go with this? or he would say to Reb, 'Where would you go with this?' or he would say to both of us, 'Where would you go with this?' 'Cause there was a period when Reb and I were both there, and that was when we were really trying to demo all the songs that were gonna be on the album and even some that didn't get on the album. So Reb and I would take that idea that we would hash out really quickly around the desk…" He continued: "David moves real quick — it's, like, 'Where would you go with this?' Your first idea has to be good. He doesn't like to overwrite. He likes the three-chord rock thing. Reb said it in an interview that I read, and I was, like, 'Well, that's an appropriate way to put it.' David likes to keep things simple and kind of guttural, which is great; he follows that songwriting instinct of keeping it simple. And then Reb and I would go down into the actual studio, demo up the song and present it to David and maybe make some edits from there, or something like that. And then, eventually, once everything was demoed with a drum machine, essentially, or drum samples, then we went ahead and tracked the songs properly with the band." On the topic of how the production process for "Flesh & Blood" was different from that for "The Purple Album", which marked Joel's first recording with WHITESNAKE, the guitarist said: "'The Purple Album' was creativity in terms of what guitar parts I was gonna play, and I had to invent guitar parts that weren't pre-existing on that stuff. 'Cause, obviously, PURPLE was more either Ritchie [Blackmore] or Tommy Bolin with Jon Lord, and we weren't gonna go as heavy on the keyboards, so there was more creativity than people realize. But certainly, 'Flesh & Blood' is the next step — actually co-writing with David and co-writing with Reb and having some of my ideas actually on the album. And in the end, actually, being brought in as co-producer, just for kind of big-picture ideas and things of that nature. So, yeah, it's definitely a step further for me." Joining Coverdale, Hoekstra and Beach on "Flesh & Blood" are Michael Devin on bass, Tommy Aldridge on drums, and Michele Luppi on keyboards. Since joining WHITESNAKE five years ago, Hoekstra has really come into his own, not only as a highly impressive axe-slinger, but also as a very accomplished songwriter too, co-writing six of the songs for "Flesh & Blood" with Coverdale. Of course, Joel's talents are hardly surprising, considering he's the son of two classical musicians. Hoekstra hooked up with WHITESNAKE following the departure of Doug Aldrich. The Chicago native's résumé includes a long stint in NIGHT RANGER, as well as a gig as the touring guitarist for TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. [youtube] [youtube] [youtube]

The official music video for the song "The Great Despair" from THE NEAL MORSE BAND — Neal Morse (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Randy George (bass), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals) — can be seen below. The track is taken from the band's latest double concept album, "The Great Adventure", which was released on January 25 on Radiant Records via Metal Blade worldwide. It is available in three formats: a two-CD package, two-CD/DVD special edition featuring behind-the-scenes video clips of the making of the album, and three vinyl LPs. The follow-up to 2016's critically acclaimed "The Similitude Of A Dream" is the ninth studio album with Morse, Portnoy and George, and the third as a true collaboration with this current lineup. Together, Morse and Portnoy have launched four bands, but the one that has endured the longest and thus with the most musical output has been THE NEAL MORSE BAND. "Let the great adventure now begin…" The closing line of "The Similitude Of A Dream" has proved to be strangely prophetic. The new album is exactly that: a perfect companion piece to "The Similitude Of A Dream"'s partial retelling of John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress". It has everything that fans would expect from an album by THE NEAL MORSE BAND, and more: rock, metal, classical and jazz elements appear throughout, as well as some killer melodies, all played faultlessly by some of the greatest rock musicians on the planet. As Neal Morse explains: "This band continues to amaze me! I have to say it was a little daunting to follow up 'The Similitude Of A Dream' as it was such a special album and it delivered every night at our concerts, but I believe that 'The Great Adventure' will have a tremendous impact as well. This new double album is everything that I hoped it would be! I listened through last night and I was in tears at the end!" Mike Portnoy emphatically agrees. He says: "How do you follow an epic double concept album??? Well, create another epic double concept album!! Hahaha. I always knew topping 'The Similitude Of A Dream' was going to be difficult, if not impossible, as I held it in such high regard, but alas, I am absolutely blown away with what we achieved here! We've created what is the ultimate companion to 'The Similitude Of A Dream'." "Sometimes there are things that you just can't mess with," Randy George continues. "On 'The Similitude Of A Dream', we tapped into something special. I was sure that the follow up should be something quite different, but you have to follow your heart and follow the music where it wants to go. 'The Great Adventure' is nothing short of a miracle. It's similar to 'Similitude' in concept and form, but yet it's tougher and deeper in its tone! This is a powerful work and I look forward to playing it live! True to the album's title, the creative process was indeed a "great adventure." Unlike many previous Morse albums, which have often been written and arranged within weeks, this time around these prolific and world-class musicians spent almost a year working on the end result, producing an abundance of top-quality material. This meant some ruthless decision-making: some already completed songs and characters had to go, and — with studio time running out–new links and ideas were being composed and recorded up to the eleventh hour. "A lot of work and re-work has gone into this," says Morse, "but I know that some of the most successful and far-reaching albums I've been involved with have been just like that. 'Sola Scriptura' and SPOCK'S BEARD's 'Snow' album come to mind." Another key question that had to be addressed in the studio was how to pull all the ideas together into a coherent whole. In the end, what unlocked this "adventure" for Morse was the realization that 'The Great Adventure' needed a new voice and perspective. This time, it is that of the Pilgrim's abandoned son, a younger, perhaps angrier, voice than was heard on "The Similitude Of A Dream". Photo credit: Robert Smith [youtube]

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) has released the Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass. Inspired by the '80s Jazz Bass Special he played on GUNS N' ROSES' "Appetite For Destruction", the Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass is a growling evolution of his signature model — updated with a sleek new look and stealthy, stage-ready features like instant "Drop D" tuning and precise EQ control. In the late 1980s, GUNS N' ROSES' ferocious debut album, "Appetite For Destruction", took the world by storm, topping The Billboard 200 and going on to sell more than 30 million copies. Prowling around Axl Rose's vocals and Slash's guitar was bassist Duff McKagan, whose slinky riffs made hit singles like "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Rocket Queen" and "Mr. Brownstone" rock in ways previously unheard. Throughout the recording process and subsequent world tour in support of "Appetite", McKagan had one weapon of choice: a 1980s Jazz Bass Special. Fans of this iconic bass can now get their hands on a supercharged version — the Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass. McKagan kept all the unique appointments of his original Jazz Bass Special and added several player-friendly features informed by decades touring with GN'R, VELVET REVOLVER, JANE'S ADDICTION and the WALKING PAPERS. McKagan bought his first Jazz Bass Special at Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and it quickly became a favorite, appearing throughout GN'R's entire catalog. But when he formed VELVET REVOLVER alongside fellow GUNS N' ROSES founder Slash, the need to drop-tune his bass on the fly became more pressing. As the story goes, legendary bassist Reggie Hamilton gifted Duff with a bass that had been modified with a Hipshot Bass Xtender, which allows the player to detune with a flip of a lever. While he workshopped the Hipshot with VELVET REVOLVER, McKagan really put it to use with the WALKING PAPERS a few years later. "There were a lot of drop D songs with the WALKING PAPERS, but also a lot of standard tuning songs," McKagan said. "So instead of switching basses, I'm like, 'I'll bring the Reggie Hamilton and just switch back and forth, see if that works.' We went out and did a tour of Europe, and I just brought the one bass. The drop-D thing just came in super handy for me. I got a lot better at playing in D tuning." McKagan loved it so much, he wanted to incorporate it into his new namesake bass and take it out with GUNS N' ROSES on the band's recent "Not In This Lifetime" tour. To Duff, the Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass represents his own growth as a musician and another way for future bassists looking to unlock the mysteries of the instrument he fell in love with as a kid. "Fender, these are the gold standard," he said. "If you're a bass player, these are what you play, you know? I was just the guy trying to figure out how to play bass and play it right with some other guys who were trying to play their parts right. And we fell into a groove and that expanded my abilities through that little thing we started. "I moved onto a point in my late 40s where I wanted really to learn more about playing the bass. It's such a cool, cool instrument. You can play this all the way through your career." [youtube]