#936: Happy birthday to this guitarist who played for King Diamond, Megadeth, and Testament

Q #1,932: Happy birthday to this guitarist who played for King Diamond, Megadeth and Testament

A.

Canadian guitarist Glen Drover turns 47 today – Happy Birthday, Glen!
Glen Drover (@glendrover555 on Twitter) is most known for his lead guitar work with King Diamond, Megadeth and Testament, despite releasing a large body of work with his original band Eidolon. Glen and his brother Shawn (Act of Defiance, ex-Megadeth) released three Eidolon records prior to Drover landing the King Diamond gig in 1998. Glen would only appear on the studio album ‘House of God’ and would leave the band by 2000. Three more Eidolon albums later and Glen would then become the new lead guitarist in the reincarnated Megadeth in 2004.

Initially this new Megadeth lineup was an entirely different touring lineup from the lineup alongside Dave Mustaine on ‘The System Has Failed,’ and the touring lineup briefly included longtime drummer and fan favorite, Nick Menza who recently passed away last Saturday night at the age of 51. When Menza was deemed an improper fit for the next Megadeth line-up, Drover’s brother Shawn was brought into the fold. Almost fifteen years prior, Mustaine had turned away Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell before the release of ‘Rust in Peace,’ as ‘Dime insisted that his brother Vinnie join the band, too.

Drover would remain in Megadeth through 2008, with his brother Shawn remaining long after his departure, recently departing in 2014. Glen played on one studio album (‘United Abominations’), and appeared on the live ‘That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires’ release. After his departure from Megadeth, Glen Drover also served as a fill in guitarist for Testament’s Alex Skolnick multiple times up until present day.

What an unbelievable group of legendary bands to be a part of in less than a 20 year span. It should go without saying that Drover’s guitar abilities are in the top tier, as he has been tasked with filling in for and replacing some of metal’s most legendary guitarists. During his Megadeth years, he’s had to fill multiple pairs of shoes, including Chris Poland and Marty Friedman. In King Diamond, he had to replace the ridiculously underrated Pete Blakk. This reads like a metal guitar player’s list of dream gigs, but it can also start to slip into nightmare territory fairly quick. Drover recently commented on being tasked with being the new guy in such a prolific band like Megadeth with such a devout following.

“… there was a lot of force of trying to be somebody else to a tee. And I don’t think that’s right, because I think that — like I said — you should try to keep certain pieces intact, certain melodies and certain key points of solos or whatever it is. But everybody’s got their own DNA, and that should be injected. You shouldn’t try to play something note for note… for me, it didn’t take too long to get to the point where it became boring.”
Glen Drover, 2015

Now for me personally, I don’t know how playing for a band like Megadeth cold be boring, when you are tasked with covering some of the intense guitarists the genre has ever seen. Recently former Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero posted a link to all of Chris Poland’s isolated guitar solo tracks on ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?’ You’ve never heard that record correctly. Never. Listening to those in isolation is a real eye-opener. Nobody has played those Poland leads “note perfect,” and it’s likely no one else will at this point. So if Marty Friedman isn’t playing Chris Poland to a tee, but everyone loves Marty anyway because of the material he was fortunate to be a part of, why are fans so unforgiving with other players? Is it because they’re really in love with the material, and want to listen to the record live instead of seeing someone try to make it a bit of their own?

Earlier I used the term “fill multiple pairs of shoes.” It never struck me until writing that in this email, that guitar players are about as likely to fit another guitarist’s personal style as they are fitting in another guitarist’s actual shoes. Sure, there are some guys out there who can seemingly recreate any number of other players, but do they then also maintain their own style? When listening to ‘House of God,’ a lesser of the King Diamond releases, and something that has remained largely off my own radar while still holding King Diamond as one of my all time favorite bands, I instantly hear Glen playing, just as I can always pick out Andy LaRocque’s playing. Whether it was on Death’s ‘Individual Thought Patterns,’ At The Gates’ ‘Cold,’ or Sylencer’s ‘Afflicted,’ you can hear everything about Andy coming through in his work. There’s something to be said for the ability to carve out your own sonic footprint, especially in the overly saturated Internet age.

Being comfortable in your own shoes and knowing your own limitations and embracing them; that’s what I would argue makes for some of the most interesting guitarists. These guitarists master playing to their own strengths and make it work within the material they either created or were given to contribute to. But I can also understand the fan’s eagerness and – let’s call it what it is – selfishness to demand the utmost respect be paid to their favorite musical soulmates. You don’t want to go see a band play a bunch of songs that become unrecognizable as the night goes on, but there needs to be some sort of room for interpretation, if not simply error. These days when I see anyone make subtle mistakes, I love and appreciate the authentic nature of what’s going on. If someone is putting their whole body into a performance, and you hear some differences, or a flub or two, you know they’re not faking it. They’re not using backing tracks. I’m sure some bands use backing tracks because they couldn’t perform in the studio either, but are some bands feeling too pressured to deliver the note-perfect album like performance that so many seem to long for?

Like anything else, I would argue that moderation is the key to finding the musical middle ground between fan expectation and a band’s musical execution. Drover’s time with King Diamond and Testament didn’t prove to be as harsh. “You know, when I played in bands like King Diamond and Testament, where it was okay to be, like ,’Okay, try to play the solos like they are, but you’re not that guy, so you inject your own personality into that.'” said Glen, “For me, even outside of that, just watching as a fan, I wanna see what the guy has to offer. I don’t wanna see somebody being a complete clone. That’s boring. I can listen to the album at home, man. That’s the way I see it. But not everybody sees it that way. And that’s cool.”

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#925: FIRST / LAST LETTER: This band features former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul

Q #1,921: FIRST / LAST LETTER: This band features former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul

A.

Vinnie Paul’s return to the world of metal came 18 months after the tragic death of his brother Dimebag Darrell, when he joined the supergroup, Hellyeah.’ Disbanding Damageplan after his brother’s death, Vinnie Paul didn’t know if he could ever bring himself to carry on musically in the absence of his brother. Dating all the way back to the earliest days of Pantera in the early 1980’s, the brothers Abbott were musically inseparable. This is perhaps most greatly exemplified by Dimebag famously telling Dave Mustaine that if he was to join Megadeth, his brother Vinnie would have to become the drummer as well. What a different world we could be living in had Mustaine agreed to Dime’s terms. Vinnie Paul told Chris Jericho on a podcast in 2014, “It was always, ‘We’re gonna do this together.’ ‘Cause we did everything together.” With that history and mindset, starting a band from scratch without his brother was likely looking like the biggest challenge of his life. After some persistence on the part of his friends and eventual band mates in Hellyeah, Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray and Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell repeatedly reached out to Paul until he felt that it was worth at least giving it a shot.

Prior to the year 2006, I can’t recall ever hearing the word ‘supergroup.’ My first encounter with the term came when VH1 launched a rock reality tv show called “Supergroup” that featured a house full of legends including Sebastian Bach, Scott Ian, Jason Bonham, Evan Seinfeld, and Ted Nugent. The group dubbed themselves Damnocracy and had to basically demonstrate the difficulties, or lack thereof, of joining forces from different walks of the same industry to attempt to write a song together. If I recall correctly, this did not go so well, as the clashing of egos and abilities lead to issues right out of the gate. That type of conflict is usually scheduled to appear much later in a band’s career path, but this showcased how a group of musicians each with their own varying degrees of success and fan base doesn’t necessarily add up to make a winning combination.

Hellyeah’s incarnation reportedly dates back to the Tattoo the Earth tour of 2000, where the members collided in their various bands and talked about forming a project together at some point. I seriously doubt that they actually called it a “supergroup” at the time, but that term has become the popular nomenclature for anything musically collaborative. Established acts forming new bands definitely do seem to pay dividends in the earlier rounds, as it’s much easier to get the word out to develop a fan base and get the wheels turning. That said, and as illustrated so well by the VH1 corporate think-tank, the whole “supergroup” thing is not always a recipe for success. Er, certain degrees of success as per the more recent industry standards.

Vinnie Paul climbing back behind the kit for the first time after his brother’s death was met by a group of band mates that he felt brought a level of positive vibes that helped to outweigh the negative ones that he was living with to that point. “Everybody had their head in the right place and that, “let’s tear the world a new ass attitude,” said Paul. With the timing and attitude in the right place, it was just up to the band to firmly earn and solidify their ‘supergroup’ status. Guitarists Tom Maxwell and Greg Tibbett (Mudvayne) handled the majority of the writing, with Paul and Gray only weighing in to give some songs a guiding hand with structures and arrangements.

This was a winning formula, propelling the band’s self-titled debut on Epic Records, led by the singles ‘You Wouldn’t Know’ and ‘Alcohaulin’ Ass’ which would reach #5 and #7 on the Hot Mainstream Rock charts. The album debuted at #9 on the Billboard Top 200, selling just shy of 45,000 copies in its first week. The debut would sell over 200,000 copies within six months of its release, and the band’s follow up album ‘Stampede’ would become the band’s highest charting album to date in 2010, debuting at #8, while only selling 28,000 copies at the time.

Even amidst the supergroup enduring a few lineup changes, the band is still going strong and slated to release its fifth studio album ‘Unden!able’ in 2016

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#920: What was Slayer’s first Top 10 album in the US?

Q #1,916: What was Slayer’s first Top 10 album in the US?

A.

Slayer’s very first Top 10 album chart appearance came with the release of Divine Intervention in 1994, shooting up to the #8 spot. Despite being viewed as a more commercially successful album, the previous effort ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ only made it to #40 on the charts, which was still higher than the more die hard favorites ‘South Of Heaven’ at #57, and ‘Reign In Blood’ at #94.

‘Divine Intervention’ sold a monumental 93,000 copies in its first week, which more than likely served as a warm welcome for new Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph. The album would hold the top spot for Slayer releases for twelve more years, finally being unseated by ‘Christ Illusion’ in 2006 which would hit the chart at #5, and their newest album ‘Repentless’ which is now the highest charting release in the band’s catalog at #4. That means that drummer Paul Bostaph has two top ten albums with Slayer, while Dave Lombardo only has one; the same amount of top ten records that Gary Holt has with the band.

Their record label thought the album lacked a “hit song” prior to its release, but selling 90K records in one week was a good start. It was Slayer’s first album in four years, and as a result the album was given far more production time than any record they had done previously. Even with Paul Bostaph injecting new energy and life into the tracks with his furious fills and explosively aggressive style, the songs appear to be far more deliberate in nature. With the band taking so much extra time on the songs’ execution, they felt that they could’ve paid more attention to the overall post production of the record, and have commented that this would be the number one contender for a re-master should the opportunity ever present itself.

Half of the ‘Divine Intervention’ was performed on the band’s first home video release, ‘Live Intrusion,’ in 1995, which likely helped propel the album to its eventual Gold status.

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