Film Review: Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes (Cleopatra Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

Those who know me well, know what a huge fan of ’80s metal veterans W.A.S.P. I’ve been since day one (frontman Blackie Lawless was even the first major interview I ever conducted as a professional journalist more than a decade ago). Guitarist Chris Holmes no doubt played an enormous role in their early sound, yet never really got his just due…until now.

Following heavily in the footsteps of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Mean Man is the ultimate underdog story that finally answers the question (one that I’ve even been asked a time or two over the years) “Whatever happened to Chris Holmes?” perfectly (for those who don’t know, he now resides in France these days with his wife, still making music albeit on a smaller scale).

Current and archive footage, as well as interviews with numerous musicians including Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, and Holmes’ own former bandmates Johnny Rod and Stet Howland, help tell the tale of this once revered guitarist, who no doubt got the raw end of the deal from his former band mate Lawless.

I only wish more of Holmes’ former bandmates might have been included, especially early (and somewhat elusive) members like Randy Piper or Tony Richards, or even Lawless himself for the sake of transparency (although I knew going in the likelihood of that wasn’t very promising). Still, this quite possibly might be the closest the world is ever getting to a straight forward W.A.S.P. documentary, and I can live with that.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Queensryche and Fates Warning at The Plaza Live on 3/2/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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Unlike other bands from their era simply running off nostalgia (Ratt, Quiet Riot, etc…), bands like Queensryche are still releasing more-than-respectful material, and not relying solely on their past. And while they may still be largely ignored by modern radio these days, bands from said era such as them (along with Iron Maiden and Megadeth, among others), are still just as strong as ever. After catching them live this past weekend for the second time, there’s no denying these bands are still able to pack a house.

Fates Warning have always been somewhat of interest to me, especially since Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax bassist Joey Vera first came aboard. And with a solid lineup that also includes original guitarist Jim Matheos, joined with other longtime members Frank Aresti (guitars) Ray Adler (vocals), and current Sebastian Bach drummer Bobby Jarzombek, I was looking forward to actually seeing what they could do on stage when they opened the first night of this current tour. But for the most part, they focused a tad too heavily on their (not so) new album, 2016’s Theories of Flight, performing “From the Rooftops,” “Seven Stars,” and “The Light and Shade of Things.” The furthest the band even went in their own catalog was “Life in Still Water” from 1991. While it’s understandable they had limited time to work with (only able to squeeze in eight tracks) this is one case where it would have been nice if they dug just a little further back in time (at the very least 1988’s “Silent Cries” should have still found its way in the set list somewhere).

And finally, Queensryche took over. The last time my wife/photographer and I saw them live, they were still touring for their first album with current vocalist Todd La Torre in 2013. Since then, the band has released a couple of more albums, and were not swayed from playing material from any of them (despite knowing many likely still come to hear their Geoff Tate-era hits). One thing’s for sure, their stage/light show has definitely improved over time. However, it was somewhat disappointing to see original drummer Scott Rockenfield was not on board this time around, though Kamelot’s Casey Grillo filled in just fine.

Opening with “Blood of Levant,” the band continued with mostly newer tracks such as “I am I,” “Man the Machine,” and “Condition Human,”  but managed to throw one from their debut album, “N M 156” in there before finally breaking out with one of their signature “classics” (“Queen of the Reich”) six tracks in. “Selfish Lives,” “Open Road,” “Light-Years,” and “Eyes of the Stranger” all followed before the band took a quick reprieve.

It didn’t take long for the band to come back with a trio of their most well-known hits for their encore, including their biggest (and in my book, extremely overrated) power ballad “Silent Lucidity,” as well as “Jet City Woman,” and finally “Empire.” I say it all of the time; if ever you doubt the ability of a band that’s been around as long as Queensryche, wait to see them live before judging. These guys have been going strong since 1980, and it’s clear they don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Fates Warning opening the show.

Interview with Anthrax Bassist Frank Bello Words and Photos By Jesse Striewski

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In 2010, I was fortunate enough to photograph thrash metal legends Anthrax live (along with two other fellow heavyweights in the field, Slayer and Megadeth). The end result produced some of the best live shots I have ever personally captured, largely attributed to the charismatic stage presence of Anthrax bassist Frank Bello (see above photo). So it was my pleasure when Bello recently took the time to speak to Rewind It Magazine while in Canada on their current tour supporting Slayer on their historic final outing.

Frank describes said current tour as the go-to event of the summer for metal fans. The tour also feature such metal giants as Testament, Behemoth,  and Lamb of God, which Bello says, “Is a great package, and for us, very family-like. We’ve literally grown up with a lot of these guys.”

The band also just released their latest live album/DVD, Kings Among Scotland. The concert itself was filmed at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, which Bello praises; “We always have great shows there, and such great fans. But the footage really makes you feel like you’re there, and that’s what I really love about the DVD.”

Although the band performs the Among the Living album in its entirety on Kings (along with several other staple tracks), they don’t have as much luxury to do so on their current tour, sharing the stage with four other bands.  Bello explains, “We have forty minutes on the stage every night, so it’s really just hit ’em hard and leave. It’s been a really great experience though, most of these shows have been packed, if not sold out!”

I also couldn’t resist asking Bello if he and the band ever felt the urge to resurrect more obscure, almost forgotten numbers such as the Beastie Boys-inspired “I’m the Man” (or anything off of the band’s 1984 debut album Fistful of Metal, for that matter). Frank tells me, “The hardest part at this point is picking the songs and set lists. Everybody has their favorites, and that’s great, but it’s definitely hard to make everyone happy at the same time – but we try! You never know though, we like to mix it up and surprise people.”

Aside from Anthrax, Frank has also done some acting over the years, and he currently has a side project with Megadeth bassist David Ellefson dubbed Altitudes and Attitudes. Frank explains, “It’s a different side of Dave and I that a lot of people seem to really dig, and I’m really proud of it.” Expect a full length album from them by early next year.

With Frank’s own band mate Scott (Ian, Anthrax guitarist) having recently penned his own autobiography, I had to ask if he foresaw writing one himself someday. “Eventually one day I’m sure I will. There’s a lot of in-depth stories that I have, not only about the band, but my life in general.”

Keep up to date with the band on social media or Anthrax.com for show dates near you. Central, FL fans can catch Frank and Anthrax here next month at the Orlando Amphitheater on June 15.