Nikolo Kotzev

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© Hannu Juutilainen

NIKOLO KOTZEV

A Steel Mill Interview

Interview by Ville Krannila / March 2012


The fans of melodic heavy rock are more than familiar with the name of Bulgarian composer, guitarist and producer Nikolo Kotzev. He’s written and recorded five excellent hard rock albums with Brazen Abbot and in 2001 unleashed a rock opera masterpiece “Nostradamus.” During a long career he’s also worked as a producer and mixer for various rock bands.

Kotzev recently visited Finland in order to appear on the All Night Long – Tribute to Rainbow concert arranged by the Perfect Strangers of Finland Deep Purple fan club. A day before the show, Steel Mill sat down for a lengthy chat with Nikolo covering his career, influences, Nostradamus and future plans.

So the reason you are here in Helsinki is to play a few songs in the Rainbow tribute evening organized by Perfect Strangers of Finland. What can we expect from the gig?

Well, I don’t know a single person I’m playing with – which I think is very exciting. Obviously I’ve always been impressed with the quality of Finnish musicians so I can only expect the best. It’s a challenge which I welcome with high expectations because I appreciate situations that enrich something by being something different. We only have couple of hours to go through everything and if I understand right there’s going to be quite a few singers and guitarists. It’s a heavy set list to go through just before the gig. But I think it’s going to be a blast because when things are approached this way, then usually people come well prepared. I’m looking forward to have lots of fun.

Have you ever done this kind of show before?

No, but I have been in difficult situations before. And I love to do these kinds of things, because most of the time everything works out fine. After all this is what it’s all about. I don’t like well-rehearsed things and prefer improvisation. Okay, you might make a little mistake here and there but I believe in the philosophy of never playing the same solo the same way twice. People know it from the record so why give it to them the same way all the time

The songs by Rainbow and Deep Purple must also be great to play live, with both bands being influences on your own playing and material?

Absolutely. I grew up with Deep Purple and Rainbow, in the far away Bulgaria which was locked by the iron curtain. We could only hear good music via radio, and we had some friends coming from Yugoslavia where you could get the latest LP’s from some of these bands. So we had to go to a friend’s house who had the record and listen to it there. That was like music from another planet. We grew up thinking that foreign bands were something we could never touch. They were like gods to us. Obviously I tried to pick up every single chord I heard on these records because I thought if I could play these, then I was worth something. You could have a scale to judge how good you were because nobody was really able to provide that expertise and knowledge. So my teen years went into picking up this music.

What other bands or artists influenced you, both in regards to your guitar playing and otherwise?

Well, I have a doctor’s degree in music. It is a very broad aspect of music knowledge that I cover by my education. I firmly believe that a musician who respects him/herself should always try to become better and add to their knowledge. I’m not receiving any financial income for the fact that I have a PHD. But I had to become one because that’s the highest level of academic education unless you actually start teaching. It was purely for me because I wanted to respect myself. Once you respect yourself, others will respect you too.

But coming back to the question, strangely enough in parallel with Deep Purple and Rainbow we listened to a lot of jazz rock music. Artists like Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin. They were strong influences because these guys played rock anyway, just in a much more advanced technical way. As young kids we really wanted to push the limits, see where it would go. We could play a lot of that difficult stuff; some of us even scored it down note by note. That was the ultimate test of achievement and we were constantly competing with each other. It was a good way to grow up as a musician.

The other rock bands we liked and listened to were Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC but somehow these bands could not impress me as much as Deep Purple and Rainbow. We regarded Deep Purple and Rainbow more as players. We thought that Ritchie Blackmore was the best guitar player, Jon Lord the best keyboardist, Ian Paice the best drummer and so forth. The other bands were cool, heavy and their image was impressive but we were never as much into them as Deep Purple. But having said that, we were really impressed with Queen. Queen songs were very difficult to perform with big choirs, harmonies and guitar parts. And Pink Floyd was special to us with the mood they set, they never played difficult stuff but found an atmosphere which was – and still is – unique.

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© Ville Krannila

Before picking up guitar you started out with violin, which you have also played on your later records. What did your violin playing bring to the way you played the guitar?

Well, they are two totally different instruments – different number of strings, different tuning and all. Obviously the finger shape and having fast fingers on violin transfers well into guitar but mostly I gained the musical knowledge. It gave me a strong advantage when I started picking up stuff. When you are more intelligent musically your work becomes a lot easier. And maybe even without realizing, I shared the same musical background as our heroes. They all came from classical music.

Do you still play the violin regularly?

No, I will pick up the violin when I need and usually that’s a very tough period. Because the violin demands very much attention and work, it’s a very jealous instrument. When my fingers are in shape from playing guitar, they become bigger and harder in order for me to do the bends. That also makes them insensitive and wider than I would actually need for playing the violin. So when I’ve built my fingers for guitar, it’s impossible for me to play violin. And when I’ve become good on violin and want to transfer back onto guitar, it means couple of painful weeks of practicing. So it’s a give and take, I don’t feel comfortable to have violin and guitar on stage because I always have to compromise the violin.

Still have you ever thought about bringing violin into your recorded music more prominently like some other rock and metal band have done in recent years?

Not really. Including the violin was more like a moment of achievement. I sat there and thought to myself “Hey Nik, you have played the violin since you were five years old. You have all this knowledge and then you don’t use it?” So I played a violin solo on every Brazen Abbot- record just to show my respect to the instrument. Obviously my heart beats to the guitar and I’m just doing the best I can with the talent God has given me.

Do you still reside in Mariehamn, Åland?

Now basically I spend most of my time in Sofia, Bulgaria. It’s becoming a very interesting place, it’s grown and improved. It’s not the same gray city it was a few years ago. But obviously I come back to my home in Åland often because my house is there, my studio and my two daughters live there. So I have a connection to Mariehamn for the rest of my days. It’s just too small for me to live and create permanently. I can of course write music there but to have a proper contact with people it’s too small and too far away.

Coming to that, how difficult was to make all those Brazen Abbot albums in Åland as players came all from different parts of the world?

Well, it wasn’t difficult at all. In that case it was actually an advantage. I mean my phone didn’t ring all the time, I didn’t have to spend hours in traffic, I didn’t have to struggle to make a living. I found a way to play on the island and make some money to keep on existing. And the important stuff I was doing was all Brazen Abbot.

Once I had achieved a balanced living, it was all coming down to writing the music, calling all these people, getting them there, concentrating and doing the work. If I was living in Helsinki or Stockholm, that would have been much more difficult. It would have been very expensive to go into a studio, booking hotels and all that. When these guys came in they all stayed at my house as fortunately I had a lot of room. With some small exceptions in the beginning when we hadn’t yet broken the ice, all these people lived there. For example Joe (Lynn Turner) stayed at the hotel first time and then at my house after that. Having my own studio was definitely a huge advantage for doing productions like that. I possessed all the know-how; I wasn’t dependent on a studio engineer, technician or a coffee boy. So I didn’t need a staff of people to pay salary to. I was blessed and cursed with the ability to do all these things. So all I had to do was to work extra hard.

Did you ever thought about having someone from the outside giving input on production etc.?

Yes I did, very often. It was a heavy burden. You sit there and think: “Oh God, am I out of my mind? Is this really good or what?” When you don’t have someone to share it with, it makes everything difficult. Of course all the players, their opinion has always been valuable to me and I don’t remember anyone saying “this is not good.” I mean they are all professional nikquote1players and singers, so they came in, did their job and obviously they respected what I was doing. So I knew it was good and acceptable to a certain point, but on achieving greatness – it was all down to my shoulders. That was tough, but I tried to work hard, listen and compare. It formed a very strong opinion of a producer which I still carry with me.

How did you originally ended up building a studio in Åland?

It happened the usual way. I came to Finland with a top-40 band; we played in boats and restaurants all over the country. This was during the early 1980’s. One of the places we played was in Mariehamn and I met this girl. Couple of years later we bought a home there, so that’s how it went.

A wide line-up of musicians (Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner, Jorn Lande, various Europe members etc.) have played on all Brazen Abbot-albums. How did you manage to get such an impressive cast involved?

Well, I guess I was lucky. But I must say the Japanese market was the main reason I succeeded because they basically bought everything that came from Scandinavia. They really wouldn’t make a difference between Bulgarian, Swedish or a Finnish band; it was all northern Europe to them. So I made a couple of records with a band called Baltimoore and from there built a circle of acquaintances, of people that I knew. I also used connections of a manager who was handling Baltimoore and sold the Brazen Abbot–thing to Japan.

After that basically everything I earned went to paying the productions, the fees and everything. I never made a single penny out of it. I got paid but everything went back into production. So every Brazen Abbot-record is a testament to how strong I had decided to succeed. I had to pay to make them so it wasn’t like I could make a living for myself that way. I succeeded in doing those albums but for me having to retain a living and paying the bills – it was all coming from other things I was doing. I was playing with different bands in different places, sometimes playing music I didn’t approve of. But it was enabling me to do Brazen Abbot so it was all worth it.

Brazen Abbot released three albums in the 1990’s. All were excellent melodic heavy rock, which of course was totally out of style back then. Most of the magazines like UK’s Metal Hammer, gave most of the older classic bands bad reviews. Did this create a harder climate for making that kind of music?

Actually Metal Hammer was very kind to Brazen Abbot. I even got a 6/6 review once. That was the German version of the magazine and there was a guy working there who wrote about Brazen Abbot all the time. But I guess the English people didn’t get it. Classic Rock wrote that “Nostradamus” was the biggest piece of shit they ever heard. Their review was devastating. But who cares? I create music not for the magazines to say if it’s good or bad, but because I want to create it and that’s how I see it. And it was enough for me that 300 other people wrote it was brilliant.

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© Hannu Juutilainen

Speaking of “Nostradamus,” where did the idea of creating a rock opera such as this came from?

Well, it came from me having all these classical skills. I was trained in orchestration and conducting. I was also a concert maestro of a symphonic orchestra during my school days. After the third Brazen Abbot- album “Bad Religion” was made, Joe was the last one to do his vocals for it. We sat there after everything was completed listening to it, having few drinks. We were really happy with the results so I shared my idea about making a rock opera and the concept behind it. Joe was impressed and told me it would be great. I thought well, I had at least one approval there so I went ahead and made it! It seems it took a long time but actually working time was only seven months.

A research for the character of Nostradamus must have taken some time though?

Yes it did and then I had to wait for the schedules of different people. I spoke to Ronnie James Dio about doing the part of the Inquisitor. I also spoke to Bruce Dickinson about that same part and possibly another role. Bruce was interested in doing it. I remember this funny story about him: He said he had a plane and was coming down, so I said “Ok, I’ll buy you a ticket and arrange everything.” After exchanging couple of lines I realized the guy has a private jet and he flies himself, so he was talking about coming with his own plane straight to Mariehamn! (laughs) It was all set but then Iron Maiden reunited and that put an end to that.

Later I met Ronnie Dio on a boat between Sweden and Finland. He was crossing over with his band and I was following his tour in order to meet him. He was informed of this and agreed to see me. We talked for several hours, but he was just starting to work on his own concept album called “Magica.” He was a very nice guy and we talked a lot about music styles, my career and so forth. But obviously it would have been stupid for him to do another concept album just before his own – at least that’s what he told me.

And at that point my album was almost ready, it was just waiting for the singers to come in and do their parts so that didn’t work out. But then there was this Norwegian journalist who recommended Jorn Lande to me and he gave me a bunch of records to listen to. So I did just that and I liked Jorn, liked his voice very much. I called him and he agreed to do the part. And I’m very glad it happened because he did a fantastic job.

You had some of the best rock singers on the planet singing on “Nostradamus.”

Yeah. Joe and Glenn did the Hughes/Turner Project right after that and the first time they sang together was on “Nostradamus.” Joe has even commented it here and there, and the idea originated from their collaboration on my record.

Didn’t “Nostradamus” also get a prize or a nomination of some sort after its release?

Well, it got nominated by the Nordic Music Council for the Nordic Music Prize. Or accordingly I was nominated by Åland’s Cultural Legation to the Nordic Council. And it’s a tough competition. I was competing with Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the guys from Abba and artists like that. People get nominated with the works they have done because this prize is always having a theme. They said this time it’s going to be a musical stage work, instrumental work and all that. There were various conditions. So getting the nomination was like receiving the prize on its own, who actually won was less important.

Few years ago Judas Priest released their own version of “Nostradamus.” What is your take on it?

I have only heard bits of it, not the whole thing. It’s obviously a very different approach so I don’t really want to comment on it.

Although some people claimed Priest were the first to attempt the story in heavy rock/metal field, your album did come out first back in 2001…

Yeah, I haven’t invented the theme of Nostradamus but as for putting it on rock opera, true in this form it was done first by me.

What’s the story behind “Draconia,” your rock opera – follow up to “Nostradamus?”

It’s been put on ice for the moment. It’s almost finished and written. Jorn Lande has actually confirmed he’s going to do the lead role. But I can’t complete the bloody thing, because if I do it it’s going to cost me a mountain of money again. So it comes down to “shall I sell my house and everything I own?” and only to be able to do this. It’s not worth it. With illegal downloading the fans are killing music. Without illegal downloads “Draconia” would have been on the market already two years ago at the latest. But I cannot make it because I know how much it’s going to cost me.

And obviously there’s going to be hell of a work, a big orchestra, many lead singers and artwork among other things. I mean the story’s already done and I’ve written 14 songs out of 21. So I have only eight songs left to write which I could easily do in couple of months. But every time I start thinking about it, I realize I don’t have the force to sit there and become a slave for another 3 or 4 years. If I had to do it, I have to make a plunge and send myself to economic crisis. And then it’s going to take me another two years of work to get out of it. And for what? For people to steal it from the web?

Is that also the same reason why record companies don’t seem to support the bands anymore?

Yes, that is exactly the reason. How can I get paid by the record company if they cannot sell the final product? It’s a no-win situation and it’s a pity because the fans are killing the artists. If these people stopped downloading and went to shop demanding to buy the record, things would turn around and musicians would start making money on what they were doing. It’s not enough anymore they say “Oh Nik, that’s great!” and tap you on the shoulder because when I go to the shop to get stuff I’ll still need the money. They aren’t going to give it to me free just because I wrote “Nostradamus” no matter how big a fan they might be. The butter and the bread still cost in the shops. So in order to make a living I have to go to the office and work 9 to 5 every day. And that doesn’t give me time to make rock operas. Unless fans realize what they are doing to the artists, things are not going to get better.

Some of the classic bands are still playing because they have the power to draw people. But if Brazen Abbot for example would come to Helsinki and play, we could pull in 600 people at the most. What am I going to do with those 600 tickets? If I get 40 euro from everyone that’s about 25 000 and 12 % goes to taxes and fees straight off. Then I have to split the rest between the band and pay taxes from it so what happens after that? How am I going to the pay the transport, hotels and backline? It’s not worth it either. I just turned 50, and I don’t have the time for that anymore. I want to get paid and to get paid I have to redesign the way I work. And that’s definitely not by releasing records.

I can create new songs and give them for free via internet. This is exactly what I’m doing with a brand new band I started in Bulgaria. It’s a Bulgarian band only for Bulgaria and I’m not going to sell any records. I make new songs; I put them on the net. They have provocative lyrics, rougher than what people are used to in Bulgaria. I want to awake a social discussion, a movement. I want people to say “we don’t like that” and other people to say “yes we do like it.” And those negative and positive opinions always create energy. By doing that, I can bring people to concert and then I can play to those who want to hear and see the band – not to steal our music from the web. I’ve already given the music to them.

Do you agree that the problem lies more in the newer generation of fans, who are somewhat used to getting access to their music easier than fans from the 1980’s?

Well, they don’t know a better way because they cannot find these records in the shops. Worst thing about it is that they develop a position that everything on the internet is free. I’ve had people coming in to Brazen Abbot website – a site which I am paying to retain so the fans can have a forum – and start demanding for me to post the lyrics for my songs. Those lyrics are all on the records so why not go and buy them? Then they say “Internet’s free, why should I pay for the lyrics?” People just don’t understand. That’s why I’ve stopped posting my lyrics on the net, and there’s been some parasite’s stealing them just to make some money off advertisement. It’s very unfair. Even some Russian sites are selling my music for money; they are exploiting my work, my property. Russia doesn’t have a law against it so they can do it.

Brazen Abbot released “Guilty As Sin” in 2003, en excellent melodic hard rock album with songs that would have surely been hits in the early 1980’s. Then it was followed with “My Resurrection” in 2005, which more or less continued the same uprising trend. However, no albums have been released since then – obviously because of the financial reasons you mentioned earlier?

Yes I can’t afford it. And nobody calls me and offers a deal on that project. That’s sad. People say: “oh he’s a big rock star, he can make as many records as he likes” – that’s not true. Of nikquote2course I want to make records but I’m not stupid. I’ve got a house and a car to pay, kids to maintain and another life in Bulgaria. All these cost a lot so I cannot spend it all on a record that everybody’s going to steal. And I haven’t had the luck to be big enough so that people will put me on their festivals and stuff like that. I mean Brazen Abbot was a project for many years, it was never established as a playing band. Although when we do get together on stage we kick ass.

And you can witness that from your DVD’s, the first one “A Decade Of Brazen Abbot” (2004) and latest “Live At Berkrock” released couple of years ago..

“Live At Berkrock” is available only from the Internet. I couldn’t sell it to a record company so I put it on the Brazen Abbot website where you can buy it by PayPal. From those two live releases “Live At Berkrock” is way better. “A Decade Of Brazen Abbot” was not made to be a live album, it was a documentary. I got really upset when Frontiers put it on CD as well. I was against it. If I wanted to make a live record, I would have picked different songs and built the whole thing differently. You do get a good vibe and feeling from it but “Live at Berkrock” is a much more like a real live DVD because what you see is what happens and it’s a whole show from the beginning to the end.

The last gigs so far with Brazen Abbot took place in 2010 in Bulgaria, right?

That’s right, we did three shows. I’m actually releasing a live DVD from that tour as well. I filmed one gig properly, a beautiful place on the outside, an amphitheater or a Greek theater type of arena in the middle of a field. It was in the city of Plovdiv, right next to the music academy where I was studying. It was cool and hopefully it’s coming out this year. I was supposed to be finished with it by now but the guy who was going to edit it had some problems and couldn’t do it. It was originally fixed for Christmas but now I’ve got to find somebody else to edit.

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© Hannu Juutilainen

During your career you have also worked as a producer and engineer for various bands from Saxon to Molly Hatchet and Rose Tattoo. How did your collaboration With Saxon for example came about?

I also worked with Foghat. And Company Of Snakes, when they had Don Airey, Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden. That was the band then, but they changed the line-up later. For Saxon, I did the “Killing Ground” album in 2001 and I believe I mixed a best of-album of theirs called “Heavy Metal Thunder” (where the band re-recorded their old classics). But that was only the mix, “Killing Ground” I did from the beginning to the end. And couple of records with Molly Hatchet. Both bands asked me to work on their albums. How it happened was that the owner of USG records went bankrupt and he was a friend with the guy who was managing all these bands. He had a production company working in Germany, renting studios and making productions for SPV. At one point his sound engineer went to Mallorca to do a Helloween- record. They had a studio there. The manager’s name is Rainer Hänsel, he manages Manowar among others. So he had a few productions lined up and no engineer to work with. The director of USG records said “well, I know this guy who has done great sounding productions” and played him Brazen Abbot and Nostradamus-records. They called me and I agreed to do it so from then on I worked with their productions for two or three years. From 2000 forwards I worked in Germany for quite a lot of projects.

Can you compare working with other groups as an engineer/producer as opposed to doing your own albums, what was the main difference?

Obviously I learned a lot. It raised my standards to a higher level. I learned from different situations and how to make records when everything has to be organized, fast and smooth. Ok, I worked my ass off – my working hours back then were 18 hours a day. Because they had a whole band, guitar player, bassist, drummer and vocalist. I started to work with the guitar player for six hours and then when I was done with him, the bass player was full of energy and wanted to play. So nobody asked me whether I’d like a break – as I’d already worked for six hours. Soon it was 12 hours and the singer came in: “well, shall we do all the tracks now?” (laughs) It was hard work. But obviously the faster I did it, the cheaper the production would be, so I was loyal to my employer. I wanted to do the best I could and it was also a question of achievement again, proving that I knew what I was doing and was able to get good results fast. And I’ve heard that for example the Rose Tattoo album I mixed – it was recorded live at Wacken – actually got a first prize as a live record in Germany that year. So that felt good.

Saxon’s “Heavy Metal Thunder” was also one of the definite achievements, both in production and for the band – as it actually improved on the older versions, something that’s very rarely done. The songs were also faithful to earlier ones and there was no messing with the arrangements..

That’s interesting. Maybe you can make a test: you can play any of the Brazen Abbot albums and they will sound almost the same, even though there’s ten years between the first one and the last. But it never bothered me.

Despite the difficulties in musical climate, do you have any musical goals in the future, both as a music maker and as a guitarist?

Well, my guitar playing has never been a leading goal for my plans. That’s because the real achievement of a musician is in the composing and creating new music. That’s my opinion at least. For me the most important thing is creating new music which serves a certain purpose. And that is to combine the very best qualities of music. It doesn’t have to be classical, pop or jazz, just good music. It must be well produced, and I have always tried to keep very high standards for myself. So unfortunately guitar playing has never been a top priority for me. It was always the easiest thing. There are people who are very good guitarists, but their song writing is not up to that same level or some people who don’t write at all but are exceptional players. To me guitar playing was always a great pleasure but I don’t really want to spend any time proving that I’m a better player than this or that or the other. My main goal has always been to create good music that appeals to people.

Your projects do range wide between different styles..

Yeah, I also wrote a classical traditional opera. The story’s based on Åland artist who was living in the 1930’s. And Tarja Halonen (Finland’s president) came to the premiere as well. It’s a really melodic, traditional piece of work with a classical opera orchestra – although not as big as I wanted, still it was 32 people with many soloists. There’s even a DVD and audio record out of that. And I’m starting the second one now, this month actually. It’s also a classical opera based on a local story. You see I’m living in a world where achieving anything in music that I was not capable of before, is great. I’m writing film music and a huge symphonic project for 85-people orchestra which I’m mixing in February in Munich. It’s purely for film, symphonic orchestra with some modern stuff. I’ve never stopped trying to achieve something new, something I haven’t been able to do before.

And I’m learning from it because there was a time when I was achieving something and felt good about myself, I wanted to get another experience and do more. After doing that for a certain time I realized it’s been done before, I was only proving something for myself. So what’s the point of going to that level and not exceeding it by one notch? Then I learned that if I’m going to achieve something and I have a certain model, my achievement has to be on a higher level than that model. Otherwise what would be the bloody point? Someone has already done it, so it’s always got to be a notch higher for me.

Your songs never really brought you forward as a “guitar hero” – it was always more about the melodies and music, do you agree?

Well, to tell you the truth I never had the mentality of a guitar hero. Obviously people understand that Brazen Abbot is about songwriting and not about showing the world how good a guitar player I am. Being focused on classical music has a created a situation where I haven’t kept my guitar a main priority. When you write a classical opera, what the hell are you going to do with a guitar? It takes a year and a half up to two years, writing 85 or so pages for it. During that time if there’s a certain thing I have to do with guitar, I’ll sit down and work for couple of weeks to come up to shape and perform. Otherwise during those one and a half years I barely touch the guitar. There’s no practical reason for me to do it.

And is it like riding a bicycle, once you learn you never forget?

Not really, but I do get up to shape very quickly if needed. I can do it in few days!

Thanks a lot, Nikolo!

More news and info on Nikolo’s activities can be found on these websites:

http://brazenabbot.nostramusic.com/

http://www.draconia.nostramusic.com/

www.nostramusic.com

Special thanks to Jari Kaikkonen & Perfect Strangers of Finland

steelguide_nikolo
Where from:Bulgaria
Active: Early 1980’s ->
Style: hard rock / classical
www: see above
Discography (Baltimoore, Brazen Abbot, Nostradamus): Baltimoore – Double Density (1992), Baltimoore – Thought For Food (1994), Brazen Abbot – Live & Learn (1995), Brazen Abbot – Eye Of The Storm (1996), Brazen Abbot – Bad Religion (1997), Nostradamus: Rock Opera (2001), Brazen Abbot – Guilty As Sin (2003), Brazen Abbot – A Decade Of Brazen Abbot (2004), Brazen Abbot – My Resurrection (2005)
Trivia: Nikolo founded Nitrax Productions in 1990. They mainly work in the classical music field. Through his company, Nikolo has composed operas and film & TV music… “Nostradamus” released in 2001 marked the first time rock legends Glenn Hughes and Joe Lynn Turner sang together on the same album. They went to form Hughes/Turner Project right after it.
Essential releases (top 5):
ba_eots Brazen Abbot – Eye Of The Storm (1996)1996 saw the release of the second Brazen Abbot CD after the already promising debut “Live & Learn”. While that one featured the vocal maestro Glenn Hughes, “Eye Of The Storm” presented another classic hard rock singer in the form Joe Lynn Turner. Turner and Kotzev hit it off, vocalist then appearing on all subsequent albums. For “Eye Of The Storm,” the title track and “Road To Hell” are the Turner-fronted highlights while “Common People” and “Highway Cindy” sung respectively by Göran Edman and Thomas Vikström also hit a home run. This record does everything “Live & Learn” did, only a notch better.
ba_badrel Brazen Abbot – Bad Religion (1997)Impressive “The Whole World’s Crazy“” starts this conclusion of band’s 1990’s album trilogy – Turner again putting in stellar vocal performance. Performed by the same musicians and vocalists as “Eye Of The Storm” the album continued the band’s progression, yet remained truthful to its core sound at the same time.
ba_mr Brazen Abbot – My Resurrection (2005)The last BA–album – at least for the time being – continued the uprising trend from “Guilty As Sin.” The Europe men John Leven, Ian Haugland and Mic Michaeli who had played on all previous releases had now went off to reform their old band. The old guard needn’t have worried as the new backing group are doing a sterling job here. Tony Harnell (TNT) lent his vocal talents while Lande was absent, supplementing the concept perfectly. For further proof check out the rocking “Godforsaken.”
nostradamus_nk Nostradamus – Rock Opera (2001)In between Brazen Abbot releases, Kotzev rolled out a symphonic masterpiece with “Nostradamus.” The first of its kind in the rock opera genre, the concept of Michele De Nostradamus’s life was not an easy task to take under but the artist pulled off the impossible. The finished record is certainly not an album to just spin quietly in the background, as it demands a lot of focus. The experience is rewarding, with orchestra superbly conducted by Nelko Kolarov and several singers adding to the grandiose nature of the music. Beside the now familiar Turner, Hughes and Edman, the cast added Alannah Myles, Doogie White and Jorn Lande in various roles.
ba_gas Brazen Abbot – Guilty As Sin (2003)Possibly the greatest Brazen Abbot-album of them all, “Guilty As Sin” combined catchy melodies with heavy approach in both its sounds and subject matters. Songs like “Slip Away” and “Supernatural” would have been hits with Rainbow in the early 1980’s. The title track is epic with a guitar riff to die for and Jorn Lande again supplies his masterful voice to three songs. For a new fan, this might just be the Brazen Abbot album to start with.
Essential Guest appereance:
saxon_hmt Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder (2002)Nikolo engineered the vocals for this album, which saw Saxon re-recording several of their old classics in newly digital form. A trick now pulled by several artists, ten years ago it wasn’t as common as it is today. Yet Saxon remains possibly the only metal band around who actually improved on the original versions. While albums like “Wheels Of Steel” were filled with classic songs, their production didn’t do the tracks justice. But in 2002 Saxon were professional, driven and talented enough to not only replicate the old songs but lifting them to another level, the dynamic and powerful production was of course a big part of this so kudos to Nikolo and Charlie Bauerfeind! Thus the
definite versions of songs such as “747” and Princess of the Night” can actually be found right here.

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