Joe Hasselvander
Joe Hasselvander.jpg
Hasselvander (Right) with Dickie Peterson circa 2004.
Background information
Birth Name Joe Hasselvander
Alias Matthew Hopkins, Wolfgang Messerrine Gundermann II
Born 30 December 1956
Occupation Musician
Genres Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Doom Metal
Instrument(s) Drums, Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Years active 1966 - Present
Labels Black Widow, Peaceville, Season of Mist, Steamhammer
Associated acts The Boyz, Pentagram, Death Row, Blue Cheer, Cathedral, Black Manta, Raven, The Hounds of Hasselvander, Armageddon, Jack Starr's Burning Starr

Joe Hasselvander is a musician originating from Woodbridge, Virginia, USA. Self-taught and performing on a professional level since the age of nine, Hasselvander is best known for his drumming roles in Pentagram, Death Row and moreso the NWOBHM band Raven, Raven in particular he had been active with for nearly thirty years.

Along with the drums, he also performs violin, bass, guitar and vocals, having also composed solo albums in the doom metal genre and establishing a reputation as a legend in the genre. With a musical career spanning over fifty years, Hasselvander has performed with a whole host of heavy groups be it heavy metal, hard rock, doom or thrash.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Bands[edit | edit source]

Early on in Hasselvander's career regularly played the military club circuit in and around the Washington, D.C. area until 1973, when he was asked to join The Platters after playing a show with them in Waldorf, Maryland. Hasselvander declined, saying he had to finish high school. He later joined a jazz fusion ensemble called the Ra Notra Sextet that was writing and performing music similar to Chick Corea or The Mahavishnu Orchestra. In 1973, Hasselvander, citing a desire to play heavier music and knowing the limited accessibility of jazz fusion, began playing with the Washington D.C. band The Boyz in the Washington/Baltimore area. The Boyz would gain a sort of popular reputation in the area, even if the majority of their set was just covers (And Hasselvander claiming they'd practice Mountain songs just to warm up.) In 1976, Hasselvander was asked to play in Mountain with Leslie West in a small club in Alexandria, Virginia. West would invite Hasselvander to tour with the group full-time but Hasselvander ultimately declined. However a few weeks after the performance with Mountain, members of The Boyz and Pentagram would form a "supergroup" known as Sex. This would lead Hasselvander to moving in with one Bobby Liebling to join Pentagram as the band's drummer and fellow songwriter, along with filling Hasselvander's desire to play heavier music.[1]

The Boyz would end up releasing an EP entitled Bustin' Out in 1981 followed by a Falls Church, Virginia show with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. However by 1982, Hasselvander was committed to performing in metal bands and had put the group in the past.

Pentagram and Death Row[edit | edit source]

In 1977, Hasselvander joined forces with Bobby Liebling and started a new and serious working version of heavy metal doom band, Pentagram. Hasselvander's first single, Living in a Ram's Head" b/w "When the Screams Come, was recorded with Hasselvander sharing the producing duties with Liebling. In 1979 Pentagram opened for Judas Priest on the Hell Bent for Leather tour and later that year Hasselvander formed Overlord with members of Pentagram and Link Wray's The Pack. However this "High Voltage" lineup of the band would dissolve by 1979.

In 1980, bassist Lee Abney and guitarist Victor Griffin formed a Knoxville, Tennessee (later based in Northern Virginia) doom metal band named Death Row. Shortly thereafter, drummer Hasselvander joined, and the group recruited Liebling on vocals. Former member Swaney soon replaced Abney on bass and the classic Death Row lineup was forged. Following two demos in 1982 and 1983, Hasselvander left the band in 1984. Stuart Rose was picked as his replacement, and the band soon assumed the Pentagram mantle. The 1982 demo, All Your Sins, was then remixed and partially rerecorded in 1984 for release in 1985 as the band's eponymous debut album. Several recordings of the early Death Row era would make it to archival releases such as Death Is Alive: 1981 - 1985 and Alive In Death among other releases.

In September 1987 Hasselvander made a cameo appearance on Pentagram’s second album Day of Reckoning, filling in on the song "Burning Saviour". Later on for the 1993 CD reissue, Hasselvander would record drums for the remaining tracks, with his version appearing on every issue of the album since. Pentagram would perform a host of shows in 1993 and 1994 and release Be Forewarned on Peaceville. However the lineup would change with Hasselvander concentrating on other projects.

In 1996, Hasselvander, along with Greg Reider and Ned Meloni, would join Pentagram and record a demo to send to potential labels (Later released as 2012's Change of Heart. By 1998, Hasselvander would work with Leibling on two new albums with Hasselvander taking on all instrumental duties. Signing to Black Widow Records the band would release Review Your Choices in 1999 and Sub-Basement in 2001. While Hasselvander was especially proud of the latter release, he also spoke out in The Obelisk commenting on an interview with Liebling that he handled the entirety of the production and recording of both records while Bobby largely slept and contributed his vocals when needed. Between both of these Pentagram albums a string of Death Row reunion shows happened in 2000 and 2001. Hasselvander's last associations with Pentagram came in the form of two failed reunion shows: One in 2001 where Liebling no-showed until the very end of the set and in 2005 at The Black Cat when Liebling was clearly in no condition to perform, forcing former members (Including Hasselvander) to take over on vocal duties for what was an important set. Hasselvander would speak candidly of both failed reunion attempts in Last Days Here.

In 2003, Black Widow Records would release A Keg Full of Dynamite, a live recording from the 1978 "High Voltage" era which featured Hasselvander on drums.

From 2010 - 2011, Death Row would reunite once more for a short string of shows in the United States and Europe, including an appearance at Roadburn Festival. This lineup comprised of Hasselvander, Swaney and Griffin.

Raven[edit | edit source]

Joe Hasselvander would join the NWOBHM power trio known as Raven in late 1987. At the time the band was known for an outlandish image and by the time of Hasselvander's arrival would change to a more conventional denim-and-leather look. Raven's first album with Hasselvander would be 1988's Nothing Exceeds Like Excess, self-produced and continued the band's return to form with fast, involved compositions. A concert at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia was released by Combat Records as Ultimate Revenge 2 in 1989, and featured the band on 4 cuts, alongside a number of thrash bands such as Death, Forbidden and Dark Angel. Next was a US tour opening for Testament and then a European tour with German band Kreator. The advent of grunge and the dissolution of their record label Combat Records led the band to concentrate on continental Europe and Japan, where they retained more of a following.

In 1990 the band recorded the album Architect of Fear in Germany (again self-produced) showcasing the band's heavier side. They toured Europe in 1991 as special guests of German band Running Wild. 1992 saw the band releasing an EP called Heads Up, featuring 4 new studio songs and 3 live tracks from the 1991 tour. They again toured Europe with German band Risk as openers.

The band spent the first half of 1993 writing and demoing new material, delays ensued due to John Gallagher having a house fire and thieves stealing guitars from the remains. In the following year, the band regrouped and inked a deal with Japanese label Zero - an album entitled Glow was recorded at Showplace Studios, Dover NJ (notable for having a strip club connected to the tape closet!) The album was self-produced and varied in feel. Also in 1994, the band attended and played live at the Foundations Forum metal convention in Burbank, California, alongside acts such as Korn, Yngwie Malmsteen and Machine Head. Raven would tour Japan for the first time in May 1995, a live album called Destroy All Monsters/Live in Japan was recorded and released late that year on the Fresh Fruit label.

1996 was spent writing and recording a new studio album Everything Louder. The sessions would place in Manassas VA at future Brett Michaels guitarist Pete Evick's studio and the recording was a frantic affair done over 4 weekends with almost no reheasal - the better to get a "live" feel onto tape. The album came out in 1997 in Japan, Europe and the US, and the band went on the road in Europe with support acts Tank and HammerFall. The band also reunite with early producer Michael Wagener and worked on an album titled One for All recorded at Wagener's Wireworld Studio in Nashville TN. Following its release, the band toured opening for U.D.O. in Europe and also with them in the US in 2000.

The band recorded and toured until 2001, when a wall collapsed on guitarist Mark Gallagher, crushing his legs. Raven went on hiatus for nearly four years, from 2001 to 2004, while the guitarist rehabilitated. A number of shows were played in 2004 with Mark in the North East of the US with him in a wheelchair.

Following a number of United States shows and European festival appearances (Bloodstock Open Air in the UK in 2005, Keep it True in Germany in 2005, Bang Your Head!!! in Germany in 2006) the band started work on the new album Walk Through Fire, initially released in Japan on King Records in 2009, then securing releases in 2010 for Europe on SPV and in North America on Metal Blade. The album was well received both critically and by the fans, and the band have been steadily playing live, playing the European festival circuit, making a triumphant return to Japan, and playing their first shows in South America, returning there in 2012.

In 2013, a retrospective DVD was released, entitled Rock Until You Drop - A Long Day's Journey, featuring never before seen footage of the band from 1982 onward, interviews with musicians including; Lars Ulrich, Dee Snider, Dave Ellefson, Chuck Billy, Jon Zazula, and Chris Jericho. The band played the first full-scale tour of the US since 1989 headlining on the East Coast and joining forces for a double headlining jaunt through the West Coast with fellow UK NWOBHM stalwarts Diamond Head. November and December had the band playing Europe with Girlschool as support.

In January 2014 the band were featured on the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise from Miami to Mexico and played South America in March. Metallica invited the band to open for them at a soccer stadium in São Paulo Brazil in March 2014 in front of almost 70,000 fans. The band started work on a new album ExtermiNation in September 2014 and were special guests on three United States showcase gigs with Accept. They then played a 43 date United States tour in October.

In order to cover additional recording costs for a new album to be titled Extermination, the band initiated a Kickstarter crowdfunding project; in the process they recorded 11 songs for a cover album entitled Party Killers exclusively for the contributors. The album rehearsals & recording of "party killers" were held at Etching Tin Studios in Richmond VA.

As with the Walk Through Fire album, Extermination was recorded at Assembly Line Studios in Vienna VA USA with Kevin "131" Guitierrez engineering and the band producing. Recording took place in August 2014 with a short break as the band played special guest on three shows by the German band Accept in the USA. The band spent a lot of time in the writing/arranging phase of the project. The actual recording took approximately 2 weeks.

ExtermiNation was released in late April 2015 and consists of 14 songs plus the bonus track "Malice in Geordieland" (sung entirely in the Newcastle "Geordie" accent). It was released worldwide via SPV, except in Japan via Spiritual Beast and in South America via Die Hard. The album garnered both favorable fan reaction and critical acclaim noting the production, songwriting, performances and especially the aggression of the band which harkened back to the early albums.In 2015 the band played their first shows in Colombia - in Pereira & Bogota, where they were present for a 6.2 earthquake....then the Pentaport Festival in South Korea was followed by dates in Japan. After a two-week run of dates in the USA the band embarked on their longest headline European tour for many years from September through October, visiting a number of countries for the first time.

In May 2017 Joe Hasselvander suffered a heart attack 2 days before a string of US/European dates, requiring various drummers to fill in throughout a 2017 tour of the United States and select European shows. Since then Mike Heller has taken over the drumming role in Raven.

Solo Career and The Hounds of Hasselvander[edit | edit source]

Hasselvander would record a second solo album in the late 1980s known as Road Kill, later released in 2000 via Bad Posture. This album would be recorded with a host of different musicians including Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin. Road Kill and Lady Killer would be released together (Though two vastly different sounding albums) in 2007.

In 2007, Joe Hasselvander began work on a new solo project known as The Hounds of Hasselvander, handling all instruments and vocals in the studio while handling guitar and vocals live. Kayt Vigil (...Of The Horizon, Sonic Wolves) and Gary Isom (Iron Man, Spirit Caravan, Unorthodox, Wretched) served as the rhythm section for initial shows. At least one show featured Bobby Liebling as a guest.[2] The band's eponymous debut would be released in November 2007 via Rock Saviour Records. The band would tour the US in 2009 which included appearances at D.C. festivals such as 20 Buck Spin and other festivals like Templars of Doom. An EP entitled Further Torments of The SG would be released that November.

A second studio album by The Hounds of Hasselvander (And Hasselvander's fourth solo album overall) would be released on 15 December 2011. The Ninth Hour would be released via Black Widow Records and notably featured Martin Swaney on bass. Two more solo albums would come in later years in 2015's Midnight Howler and 2016's Ancient Rocks (A covers album), the latter entirely recorded in the same sessions as The Ninth Hour.

In the Spring of 2019 Hasselvander would make various announcements about The Hounds of Hasselvander re-forming with a new lineup and ultimately, a new album in the works.[3] On 9 May two live shows would be announced (2 November 2019 at Scotty's Martini Lounge in Erie, PA and 3 November at The Foundry Concert Club in Lakewood, OH).[4] Along with re-signing to Rock Saviour for the band's fifth studio album. With Hasselvander handling guitar duties, The Hounds of Hasselvander would announce new members in Bob Mitchell on Vocals, Robert V. Ives on drums[5] and finally Martin Swaney on bass.[6]

Other Musical Contributions[edit | edit source]

Between a stint in Death Row, Hasselvander would briefly join White Lion as the drummer in 1983 while also performing as guitarist for Reactor from 1983 to roughly 1987. In 1984, Hasselvander would be touring with French guitarist Jack Starr (Specifically Jack Starr's Burning Starr). That same year Dutch East Records commissioned Jack Starr to record three albums at a reduced cost (Estimated to be about $800), each recorded and mixed in 12 hours. For all three albums, the line-up was supposed to be Jack Starr, Joe Hasselvander and Ned Meloni. Devil Childe and Phantom Lord's debut albums were the first ones to be completed, both of which were Speed Metal bands and the members adopting pseudonyms. The third album on this list with Joe Hasselvander's first solo album Lady Killer. Initially, Lady Killer was going to be the band's name, featuring a phoney all girl band on the cover, with Joe Hasselvander playing all the instruments (Jack Starr performed as the lead guitarist under the pseudonym "Tim Legrette") and the singer from a Long Island-based band called "The Poison Dollys" as the vocalist. Joe Hasselvander wrote all the songs with that in mind, but when she did not appear on the day of recording, he ended up doing all the vocals himself, and the label put it out under his name. Phantom Lord would release a second album entitled Evil Never Sleeps in September 1986. Both Devil Childe and Phantom Lord would be inactive some time later.

1985 found Hasselvander working with British blues legend Kim Simmonds performing 2 years' worth of shows throughout the U.S. under the names Savoy Brown or The Kim Simmonds Band. Only one studio demo and one live recording exists of this line-up including players from Blue Cheer, Cactus, The Plasmatics and The Rods.

Some time after Pentagram released Be Forewarned, Hasselvander and Victor Griffin would be offered to join Cathedral for a tour of Europe alongside Godspeed and Black Sabbath. Also in the lineup along with Cathedral core members Lee Dorrian and Garry Jennings was Repulsion/Death bassist Scott Carlson. A live recording of this lineup performing "A Funeral Request" would appear on The Serpent's Gold.

In 2003, Hasselvander went to Florida with Jack Starr to record the album Under a Savage Sky under the banner of Jack Starr's Guardians of the Flame, featuring the vocals of Schmolik Avigal (ex-Picture, The Rods). Joe Hasselvander was the producer on this album.

In 2004, Hasselvander was asked to play two concerts in New Hampshire with his childhood idols, Blue Cheer. The shows went well and they got along famously. This would lead to Hasselvander performing drums on the band's tenth album (Though only half of Hasselvander's tracks would be used out of respect for Paul Whaley). Ultimately What Doesn't Kill You... would be released in 2007 via Rainman Records. Around the same time, Hasselvander would contribute his drums to the Maryland doom band Black Manta, performing on their only EP Fuck Them All But Six.

Bands[edit | edit source]

  • Ra Notra Sextet - Drums (1973 - ?)
  • The Boyz - Drums (1973 - 1978, 1981)
  • Mountain - Drums (1976)
  • Pentagram - Drums (1978 - 1989, 1993 - 2002), All Instruments (1999 - 2002)
  • Death Row - Drums (1981 - 1983, 1999 - 2001, 2009 - 2011)
  • White Lion - Drums (1983)
  • Reactor - Guitar, Vocals (1983 - 1987?)
  • Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Drums (1984)
  • Devil Childe - Drums, Vocals (1984 - 1985)
  • Phantom Lord - Drums (1984 - 1986)
  • Savoy Brown - Drums (1985 - 1986)
  • Raven - Drums (1988 - 2017)
  • Cathedral - Drums (1994)
  • Guardians of The Flame - Drums (2002 - 2004)
  • Blue Cheer - Drums (2004 - 2005)
  • Black Manta - Drums (2004 - 2006)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - All Instruments, Vocals (Guitar and Vocals live) (2007 - Present)
  • Mind Assassin - Drums (2015)

Discography[edit | edit source]

  • Pentagram - Livin' in a Ram's Head / When the Screams Come (Single) (1979, High Voltage)
  • The Boyz - Bustin' Out! (EP) (1981, Platinum Records & Merchandising)
  • Death Row - All Your Sins (Album) (1982, Self-Released)
  • Death Row - Through The Shadow (VHS) (1983, Self-Released)
  • Death Row - Whore (Demo) (1983, Self-Released)
  • Pentagram - Pentagram (Album) (1984, Pentagram Records; 1993, Peaceville)
  • Joe Hasselvander - Lady Killer (Album) (1985, Pentagram Records)
  • Devil Childe - Devil Childe (Album) (1985, Pentagram Records)
  • Phantom Lord - Phantom Lord (Album) (1985, Pentagram Records)
  • Phantom Lord - Evil Never Sleeps (Album) (1986, Pentagram Records)
  • Pentagram - Day Of Reckoning (Album; drums on one track on original issue, all tracks on reissues) (1987, Napalm; 1993, Peaceville)
  • Raven - Nothing Exceeds Like Excess (Album) (1988, Combat)
  • Armageddon - The Money Mask (Album; Drums on selected tracks) (1989, R.E.X. Music, Talkingtown Records)
  • Raven - heads Up! (EP) (1991, Steamhammer)
  • Raven - Architect of Fear (Album) (1991, Steamhammer)
  • Pentagram - Be Forewarned (Album) (1993, Peaceville)
  • Raven - Glow (Album) (1994, Fresh Fruit)
  • Raven - Destroy All Monsters - Live in Japan (Live Album) (1995, Fresh Fruit)
  • Raven - Everything Louder (Album) (1997, Fresh Fruit)
  • Pentagram - Review Your Choices (Album) (1999, Black Widow Records)
  • Various Artists - Blue Explosion: A Tribute To Blue Cheer (Tribute Album; Pentagram on two tracks) (1999, Black Widow Records)
  • Various Artists - Thousand Days Of Yesterdays - A Tribute To Captain Beyond (Tribute Album; Pentagram on one track, recorded 1994) (1999, Record Heaven)
  • Raven - Raw Tracks (Compilation) (1999, Massacre)
  • Raven - One For All (Album) (1999, Massacre)
  • Joe Hasselvander - Road Kill (Album) (2000, Bad Posture)
  • Death Row - Death Is Alive: 1981 - 1985 (2000, Game Two)
  • Pentagram - Sub-Basement (Album) (2001, Black Widow Records)
  • Various Artists - Death Row Reunion 2000 (Live Split Album; two tracks with Death Row) (2001, Doom Capital)
  • Guardians of The Flame - Upon A Savage Sky (Album) (2003, Cult Metal Classics)
  • Pentagram - A Keg Full Of Dynamite (Live Album; Recorded 1978) (2003, Black Widow Records)
  • Black Manta - Fuck Them All But Six (EP) (2004, PsycheDOOMelic)
  • Cathedral - The Serpent's Gold (Compilation: Drums on 2-6) (2004, Earache)
  • Raven - Keep It True Festival V (DVD) (2005, Nuclear Blast)
  • Blue Cheer - What Doesn't Kill You... (Album; Drums on selected tracks) (2007, Rainman)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - The Hounds of Hasselvander (Album) (2007, Rock Saviour)
  • Joe Hasselvander - Lady Killer / Road Kill (Compilation) (2007, Rock Saviour)
  • Blue Cheer - Rollin' Dem Bones (EP) (2008, Rainman)
  • Reactor - The Real World (Compilation) (2009, Shadow Kingdom Records)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - Further Torments of The SG (EP) (2009, Rock Saviour)
  • Blue Cheer - Rocks Europe (DVD; Cameo Appearance) (2009, Rainman)
  • Death Row - Alive In Death (Compilation) (2009, Black Widow Records)
  • Raven - Walk Through Fire (Album) (2010, Steamhammer)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - The Ninth Hour (Album) (2011, Black Widow Records)
  • Pentagram - Last Days Here (Documentary) (2011, 9.14 Pictures)
  • Pentagram/Death Row - All Your Sins: Video Vault (DVD) (2011, Peaceville)
  • Pentagram - Change of Heart (EP/Demo; Recorded 1996) (2012, Iron Pegasus)
  • Raven - ExtermiNation (Album) (2015, Steamhammer)
  • Raven - Party Killers (Album) (2015, Self-Released)
  • Mind Assassin - The Pay Off (EP) (2015, Alone)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - Midnight Howler (Album) (2015, Rock Saviour)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - Ancient Rocks (Album; Recorded 2011) (2016, Black Widow Records)
  • The Hounds of Hasselvander - TBA (Album) (2020?, Rock Saviour)

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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