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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Reviews: Lesoir, Galactic Cowboys, Stalker, King Bison

Lesoir: Latitude (Gentle Art Of Music)

Netherlands band Lesoir are an interesting act, they bewitched me with their previous record so it's with great anticipation that I delved into the fourth album from Lesoir. They are a band very difficult to pigeonhole classing them as artrock means that they have a very broad palate (no pun intended) to play with, they have the cinematic textures of Anathema, the progressive heaviness of Tool and the fiery attitude of Skunk Anansie or Alanis Morissette. Whereas the previous release Luctor Et Emergo was a rockier record with big heavy riffs, Latitude is a much more artistic, experimental and ambitious, creating beautiful multi layered soundscapes as frontwoman Maartje Meessen along with guitarist/keyboardist Eleen Bartholomeus harmonize beautifully with distinctly empowering lyrical content that deals with climate change, mankind’s role on this planet and the band's friend who survived the Bataclan terror attack.

The music is melancholic but pins it's impact on the existence of hope, for all the bad there will be good you just have to find it. The slow burning Modern Goddess starts with a single piano before the rest of the band come in and with a dynamic drum fill from Bob van Heumen the strings swell and as quickly as it begins it ends. It's the beginning of 13 song journey, the dramatic In The Game follows with chunky riffs from Ingo Jetten's bass, it moves into the dark, uneasy and fidgety Icon which is the first time guitarist Ingo Dassen can let rip. The album progresses with more dense music that really needs to be listened to intently so you can get the full effect, In Their Eyes once again relies on a slow building delivery that explodes at the end with Maartje giving a brilliant, emotive performance.

I mentioned Anathema earlier and the Liverpool band can be heard right the way through the record, they have similar panache and use of musical alchemy to hit you right in the feels, the employment of orchestral elements are measured but let rockers such as Gone And Forgotten have more of an impact for every orchestral epic though they also bring some attitude filled alt rock on Cheap Trade which is followed by the Portishead ambience of Comforting Rain. This fourth album will be hard work for those looking for a quick musical fix but if you think an album needs multiple listens to really appreciate it then Latitude will satisfy your needs, it's fantastic. 9/10  

Galactic Cowboys: Long Way Back To The Moon (Mascot Records)

I’d never heard of Galactic Cowboys before but apparently they were a band originally between 1989 and really 2000 with members shedding like skin before that leaving only bassist Monty Colvin and vocalist Ben Huggins by the end. However after a few reunion shows in 2009, the band reformed in 2016 with all of the original members and Long Way Back To The Moon is their long awaited new album, their first since 2000. Galactic Cowboys are apparently a progressive metal band who cite The Beatles and Anthrax as major influences, as this record opens up it’s very easy to see why, all the band contribute to the harmonic backing vocals but it’s at odds to the chunky stomping thrash riffs.

A song such as Drama highlights this very well, however you can also hear the more traditional prog metal of Dream Theater on Amisarewas which builds on Dane Sonnier’s intricate guitars with Alan Doss steadying the pace with his drumming. Now I’m not going to criticise the music on this record it’s clearly the work of talented individuals but much like King’s X (a band who Galactic Cowboys are often compared to) I just can’t get into this record, having listened to it a few times it doesn’t leave me with an impression, it does get better as it progresses, getting proggier later but for the most part I think this is technically proficient but I don’t find it particularly memorable. 6/10

Stalker: Shadow Of The Sword (Napalm Records)

Shadow Of The Sword is the debut album from squealing speed metalllers Stalker who hail from the foreign shores of New Zealand. Speed metal tends to come from either the Nordic countries or Canada so it’s time to hear a band from the Southern hemisphere doing this leather clad machismo. They really ramp up the retro, the production has an 80’s hollowness, the guitar riffs are distorted and too busy playing at a million miles an hour to really give much differentiation, while the vocals are scratchy and go into the high squeak once too often. It’s pretty standard fair and if you’re into retro metal then you’ll lap this up, otherwise you might actually find it a bit annoying. 6/10

King Bison: Snake Head Burial EP (Self Released)

King Bison are what you’d get if Viking Skull got into a bourbon soaked brawl with Motorhead and Pantera, it’s dirty mudslinging metal riffs, piledriving groove and raw vocals galore with songs named Filthy Son Of A Bitch and Demon Tongues & Leather you already know what you’re getting. The four tracks on this EP give you enough of a flavour to want more (hint the flavour is Southern smoked chipotle), it’s all over in flash of heaviness as the Plymouth band batter you from the outset. Snake Head Burial is a mere taster for the band’s bludgeoning heaviness, a full length will need a bit of variation, maybe a couple of cleaner bluesier tunes, to keep the attention the maximum but these four songs do enough to get the blood pumping and your drinking hand active. 7/10

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Joanne Shaw Taylor (Live Review By Paul)

Joanne Shaw Taylor, Colston Hall Bristol

This was a rescheduled gig, owing to Joanne’s illness at the time of the original date. Coming five days after the eight-date tour ended, JST was due to be home in Detroit but had stayed on to fulfil this date so much appreciation to the Black Country guitarist for not just cancelling the event. The rescheduling to a date so close to Christmas and a Saturday had the inevitable fall out though, as throughout the stalls in the Colston Hall there were pockets of empty seats. The balcony was closed and there was a real end of term feel about the gig (without the board games – which may be puzzling to younger readers but would have been fully appreciated by much of the mature audience).

The original support act for JST’s tour was Dan Patlansky but we were treated to Nashville’s own Sonia Leigh (9) who has been on tour in the UK herself for several weeks. Supported by the precocious talent of 20-year-old Katy Hurt and The Healers, Leigh pulled out the performance of the evening. Playing a range of tracks from her albums, her Nashville drawl fitted in perfectly with the low-key level of the evening and received a huge response from those who got in early. With a number of albums to her name, Leigh chose her tracks wisely, including Walking In The Moonlight and the smouldering Jack Is Back. With confidence oozing through the band she turned the microphone over to Hurt at one stage, and we got an extra treat as she has a voice which is just fabulous. A cross between Stevie Nicks and Dollie Parton, this Country lady has a fantastic career ahead of her. Leigh was gracious, humble and her who show was just superb. You can check her out supporting Broken Witt Rebels on their current tour. They play the Thekla on 7 December.

13 months ago, we’d been wowed by the sheer talent of Joanne Shaw Taylor (7) at a rammed and raucous gig in The Globe in Cardiff. I was sufficiently impressed to have written in my review, ‘Joanne Shaw Taylor is a bit special. Her latest tour, for a girl who gigs as hard as she rocks, took in The Globe, probably for the last time as she is surely destined for much larger venues in the future’.  Well, she remains a stunning talent and she and her band coped well with some prolonged technical difficulties with her wireless guitar connections, but the feel of the event was somewhat lessened by the larger, all seated venue which, whilst welcome to many in the audience served only to stifle any atmosphere. This meant that there was complete silence between songs after the applause had died down, something very unusual. The sound throughout the evening was poor, with the balance causing us to question our own hearing. Now I realise that sound is subjective and a very technical matter but when you are paying decent cash for a show in a venue of the Colston Hall’s calibre, I expect better.

At one point a member of the audience quite rightly shouted his frustration and eventually JST’s sublime guitar work began to cut through the mix. With a catalogue of blues rock to play, JST also threw in two covers to the set, which was similar to that of the previous tour. Bones, by a relatively obscure band called The Hoax and Wild Is The Wind, the Johnny Mathis song made famous by David Bowie and covered on JST’s last release Wild. A single encore of Tied And Bound and the gig was over. Relief on the stage that it was over and probably in a great number of the audience. JST is a fabulous talent, an amazing guitarist and her band are spectacularly good musicians. But get to see her where you can move, dance and sway and close your eyes whilst she envelopes you in her music, not in an uncomfortable fold up chair. That’s what the blues is all about.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Reviews: Daniel Cavanagh, For All We Know, Dirty Thrills, Idlewar (Reviews By Paul)

Daniel Cavanagh: Monochrome (Kscope)

Listening to The Exorcist, the opening track on Anathema main man Daniel Cavanagh’s debut solo release Monochrome, you immediately understand what he meant when he described his album as having “a late night, candlelit feeling, evoking the light of dusk as the summer sun sinks below the horizon, setting the scene for thoughts and meditations that many people will relate to.” A beautiful, evocative piece which wrenches at the heart and soul, full of emotion and feeling. It’s a song that could easily be accompanied by a chilled glass of wine as the evening tapers. Perfect in front of a roaring fire with a loved one. If it had surfaced in the middle of The Optimist or a future Anathema release you wouldn’t have been disappointed. This track was apparently considered so good by Anathema that the rest of the band would have made this the centrepiece of an album. Cavanagh said, “taking it from the band was not an easy decision – but I’m glad I did!”

Monochrome features guest appearances from Anneke van Giersbergen, with whom Cavanagh has worked with on several occasions before and who is perhaps more widely known for her work with Devin Townsend. She adds some deliciously delicate vocals to several tracks including This Music and the stunning, haunting Soho. Cavanagh played virtually everything on the album, highlighting just what a fabulously talented musician he really is. He has enrolled another brilliant musician in Anna Phoebe, whose violin work adds texture to the piano on The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours. Cavanagh described the album as “a deeply reflective and personal offering, inspired by internal feelings of love and loss” and you truly feel that as the album progresses. Soho is the kind of track that would comfort in those long hours of despair after losing a loved one. Monochrome contains some lengthy tracks, with three songs close to ten minutes each in length but what that allows Cavanagh to do is build his melancholic pieces.

The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours is a perfect illustration of this, solo piano joined by violin before synths reminiscent of Cavanagh’s Floyd influences intertwine with the piano, allowing a peak that then slows and falls to more dramatic piano. Dawn is short at under three minutes but is one of my favourite tracks, the combination of looped acoustic guitar and Phoebe’s violin just magical. Penultimate track Oceans Of Time is a delightful duet between Cavanagh and Van Giersbergen, subtle piano and simple drum beat all that is needed to guide the track perfectly along its path. And then you arrive at the simply blissful Some Dreams Do Come True, which is mesmerising. It is simple, a lone piano riff looping for part of the track, but with added effects and tempo. The waves crashing on the shore provides a calming effect, whilst Phoebe’s violin is subtle and understated. It’s an instrumental which brings a lump to throat, such is the emotion pulsing through it.

I’ve played this release at least once a day for two weeks and it continues to improve. It will not be to everyone’s tastes but there will be few modern-day Anathema fans who will find this anything but genuinely magical. 9/10

For All We Know: Take Me Home (Self Released)

The solo project of Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie is a mellow affair, with relaxed, almost pop style rock on the first listen. Peel away the outer layers though, and on second run through you are suddenly confronted with some much more complex compositions. The album features a host of guest musicians who add to the melody and quality of the songs. It’s mainly light, delicate and rather fine at times. The vocals of Wudstick (Ayreon) are smashing, clean, gentle and soothing. With members of Pain Of Salvation (Leo Margarit on drums and ex POS bassist Kristoffer Gildenlow), the ivories of Marco Kuypers (Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer) and Thijis Schrijnemakeo (Hammond) and the lovely vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen adding to several tracks. The overriding progressive elements on tracks such as Let Me Fly, Fade Away, The Big Wheel and the retro sounding We Are The Light, would sit on either Devin Townsend or Steven Wilson releases all grab the attention. Jolie’s guitar playing is understated, and becomes more apparent on repeated plays. It takes time but has become an album of real enjoyment. 8/10

Dirty Thrills: Heavy Living (Frontiers)

London based blues rockers Dirty Thrills make no pretence about their influences with Led Zeppelin and Rival Sons most prominent. Heavy Living is 45 minutes of superb, cock strutting blues rock which is pleasing to the ear. Louis James’ vocals are full of heart and soul, hitting the notes with the same effortless ease that Sons’ frontman Jay Buchanan does. Add in a dollop of The Temperance Movement and the sweetness of Vintage Trouble on tunes like Lonely Soul which sees a beautiful piece of interplay between James and guitarist Jack Fawdry and it’s not hard to see why these guys have picked up some prestigious touring slots over the past two years. Impressing at events such as Ramblin’ Man Fair and Planet Rockstock, I’d say that Dirty Thrills are heading upwards at speed. It’s simple, quality music which appeals to the connoisseur. If you like your Thrills Dirty, then Heavy Living is going to get you even messier. 8/10

Idlewar: Rite (Off Yer Rocka Records)

This beauty has been out for a few weeks now but it’s better late than never. Rite is the second album from the South Californian power trio whose recent set at Hard Rock Hell was well appreciated by the Musipedia crew. The band kick out the jams from the off, their high velocity stoner sound warm and inviting. The difference with Idlewar in comparison to many other bands is that these guys have a real Soundgarden feel. Check out the opening salvo of Sullen MoonBreak and Keep Your Word. James Blake’s vocals haunt and mesmerise in equal measure, whilst Rick Graham's jangling guitar turns into crushingly heavy riffs in an instant. There’s more than a nod to Alice In Chains as well with the likes of Strain and Panic echoing shades of the Seattle grunge masters. James fuzzy bass and Pete Pagonis’s accurate drum work support Blake throughout. Rite is a solid, impressive release from a band who are as good on album as they are in the live arena. 8/10

Reviews: Houston, The Mighty Wraith, Kinjiru, Sounds Of Insane Music (Reviews By Stief)

Houston: III (Cargo Records)

A pure slice of the 80's here in the late noughties, Houston's third album is a fun, lighter-waving experience that epitomises the AOR feel with a slight pop tinge. It ranges from the emotional Lights Out to the wonderfully cheesy with lyrics such as "This is my twelve step programme/for getting over you." (Twelve-Step). Bear in mind, I'm not saying anything negative against the band, as this is the sort of stuff I live for when it comes to AOR. Hank Erix's emotional vocals are backed up by equally emotion playing by Victor Lundberg on the keyboard, as well as the guitars of Calle Hammer, the drumming of Soufjan Ma'Aoui and the bass of Oscar Lundström. If you're a fan of bands such as Work Of Art, or any of the ballad-playing bands from the 80's, Houston is definitely a band for you. 8/10

The Mighty Wraith: Dragonheart (Independent)

Generic but great power metal. As soon as you see the title of the EP, you know exactly what you're getting from this 4-piece from Birmingham. Matt Gore's vocals are perfect for power metal, working extremely well with Azza Potter's melodic guitarwork. Overall there's not much that pulls The Mighty Wraith out of the vast amount of power metal bands that are out there, but this EP is still a great listen. 7/10

Kinjiru: 4D EP (Independent)

A one-piece from Edinburgh, Kinjiru is a delightfully mental piece of music, as if Rob Zombie met Mindless Self Indulgence at a J-pop rave. Consisting of only 4 songs, it still gives a good taste of what Roger B is capable of, each song a brilliant mixture of frenetic synths. blast beats, vicious growling and bouncing drums. The guitar work is brilliant, and each song is a tight composition that gives the listener an insane ride. It probably won't be to everyone's taste, but if you enjoy industrial metal with a bit more oomph, or if you're a fan of the aforementioned bands, this might be worth a look! 8/10

Sounds Of Insane Music: The Mask (Independent)

Another one-piece a bit closer to home, from Neath here in Wales. However, it is slightly disappointing, as while the guitar playing is pretty decent, the quality as a whole is brought down through the use of midi-level background synths and drums. There's a broad mixture of styles, which showcases Elliot Cadmore, the sole member's range and it's apparent there's something there. According to the SOIM facebook page, there is a call out for other band members, which I feel is what this project needs. I mean nothing against Cadmore as a person, but it feels that with a band to support in the background, he could focus more on the guitar-playing and often brutal growling he is obviously capable of. 5/10

Monday, 27 November 2017

Reviews: Communic, Transit Method, Voice, The Dirty Denims (Reviews By Paul)

Communic: Where Echoes Gather (AFM Records)

If you fancy something a little more challenging then Norwegian three-piece Communic will be of interest. The band formed in 2003 and Where Echoes Gather is album number five. For a three-piece their sound is impressive with a progressive style akin to Dream Theater and Queensryche.  Hauntingly heavy at times, the album is split into four sections, with The Pulse Of The Earth Pt.1 and Pt. 2 leading into the title track, again split into two parts before three lengthy tracks make up the middle section of the album with the crushingly heavy Black Flag Of Hate full of huge riffs and massive groove. The Claws Of The Sea Pt.1 and Pt.2 close the release. It’s not an easy listen, demanding several plays to appreciate the time changes, polyrhythmic movements and the intricacy which cascades like a waterfall. Vocalist and guitarist Oddleif Stensland delivers a mighty performance, whilst his support from bassist Erik Mortensen and drummer Tor Atle Andersen is solid from start to finish. If you can invest the time then this is an album that will provide rich rewards. 8/10

Transit Method: We Won’t Get Out of Here Alive (Brutal Panda Records)

Crashing riffs, a psychedelic edge and the raw passion of early Jane’s Addiction all combine in this interesting release by Transit Method, who are a three-piece outfit from Austin, Texas. From the opening smoking tentacles of Snake Wine, past the trippy Cloud Zeppelin to the rampaging Parasight there is a diversity here that demands your attention and repeated plays. At times the band merge into the territory of early Rush circa Fly By Night, with their straightforward rock interspersed with journeys into the land of the progressive, time changes but retaining their cutting edge. Snake Wine sets their stall out with some fine guitar from Matt LoCoco, whose Perry Farrell meets Geddy Lee vocals are quite spectacular whilst there is an underlying funk groove to Beside Moonlight. The more I played this album the deeper immersed I became. The Rush style of Clones was well appreciated and the nine-minute Outlaw By Disguise closing track is just an epic worthy of greatness. This is an essential listen. 9/10

Voice: The Storm (Massacre Records)

Powerful melodic rock from Germany? Well apparently Voice (stupid bloody name) has been around for eons with a couple of albums under their belt since their debut Prediction in 1996. This latest offering is the band’s first release in 14 years. Worth the wait? Probably not. Apart from the uncanny vocal resemblance to Bruce Dickinson that Oliver Glas possesses, the rest of this album is generic hard rock that so many German bands seem able to churn out at will. If you like Grave Digger and the like then you’ll no doubt dig The Storm. It plods a bit in places, dips more and more into the Maiden catalogue as it develops; check out Your Number Is Up or Kingdom Of Heaven as a prime examples. It is rather routine stuff, not offensive in the slightest but nothing to grab you by the cohunes either. Possibly not album of the year. 6/10

The Dirty Denims: Back With a Bang! (Self Released)

Eindhoven four-piece The Dirty Denims play the kind of music you’d expect. It’s rock in the vein of AC/DC, Joan Jett and bands like The Amorettes and Girlschool. Having been around for over ten years they are slick and good at what they deliver. Tracks like Can’t Get Enough Of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Don’t Waste My Time and Make Us Look Good are pub rock with a little bit extra. Simple, straightforward and if you saw them at a festival with a beer you’d probably stay and watch. Buying their album may be a push too far but for what they do, yeah, it’s perfectly fine. 6/10

Reviews: Ne Obliviscaris, Tankard, Eric Bell, Warrior Soul (Reviews By Paul)

Ne Obliviscaris: Urn (Seasons Of Mist)

Australian extreme progressive metallers Ne Obliviscaris have been bubbling under the rock radar for several years. That might be about to change with their third release, Urn. The band’s dynamic and fluid balance of pace and styles is an intoxicating blend that will capture the imagination of a wide range of metal fans. There’s the devastating guitar riffs which can crush one minute, the violins and string sections which change the atmosphere and tempo at a stroke and the intelligent use of clean and growling vocals. Each track is an intensive experience, soaring highs and sweeping passages quickly capture your attention and embrace you closely in their grasp.

Having formed in 2003 but only released their debut Portal I in 2012, the band followed up with their sophomore release Citadel in 2014 and Urn continues their Avant Garde approach, with a range of styles which sees jazz, flamenco alongside the progressive and death metal staples. Six tracks clocking in at 45 minutes tells you that it isn’t the easiest listen in the world, but it is well worth dedicated time to let the album cascade over you whilst you gasp for air and try to take in everything that is happening. This is a musical journey well worth taking. 9/10

Tankard: Hymns For The Drunk (AFM)

It's quite astonishing to think that Tankard have been pursuing beer and thrash since the early 1980s without ever stopping, kind of the runaway train on the never-ending track. Hymns For The Drunk is a best of from 2002-2010 while the band were signed to AFM records and is an excellent summary of a rather underrated outfit, who revived their career with 2002’s B-Day. A constant force in German thrash alongside the big 3 of Destruction, Sodom and Kreator, it could quite easily be argued that they have never been given the credit they deserve.

Maybe it’s the humour which masks some technically excellent thrash metal but as our Rich commented in June when reviewing album 17, One Foot In The Grave, ‘the riffs are so good you’ll be too busy banging your head to care’. So it is on this mighty compilation, which contains 15 ball-busting monsters including Need Money For Beer, New Liver Please and the classic Zombie Attack. If you don’t know Tankard, this is as good a place as any to start. Bang your head and raise your glass. 8/10

Eric Bell: Standing At A Bus Stop (Off The Edge Productions)

Forever known as one of the founding members of Thin Lizzy, Eric Bell has had a varied and interesting career. The originator of that riff in Whiskey In The Jar, who famously quit Lizzy by throwing his guitar and amps off stage mid-gig, Bell has released several solo albums over the years, soaked in the blues rich sound that he has always played. Standing At A Bus Stop is the follow up to 2016’s Exile, which was Bell’s first release for a decade. The bitter sweet lyrics and melodies are present and correct. Covers of Howlin’ Wolf’s Back Door Man and the classic Elvis tune Mystery Train allow Bell to transport you back to a simpler time. The rest of the release is a mix of blues and country with slight rock leanings and whilst it certainly won’t appeal to all it’s a pleasant change from the blast beats and crashing riffs that sometimes occupy our aural capacity. 7/10

Warrior Soul: Back On The Lash (Cargo Records)

Big, brash and in your face, Warrior Soul led by the infamous Kory Clarke return with Back On The Lash, nine tracks and just over half an hour of stomping sleaze ridden rock n’ roll. The band, formed by Clarke way back when has been around for many years, earning a reputation for the unpredictable and the chaotic. Clarke, from the mean streets of Detroit, is a loose cannon, a poet, political activist and artist whose reputation is much bigger than his standing.

Back On The Lash makes the sleaze of Poison and those pretty boyz of the 1980s and 1990s look like a school trip from St Joseph's. If dirty, swung from the hip sleaze is your thing then you’ll be over this like the fat bird in the cake shop. Think the Dogs D’Amour on steroids. If, like me, you hate sleaze, you’ll hate this shit too. 7/10

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Reviews: The Dark Element, Mount Holly, Almanac, Secret Rule

The Dark Element: S/T (Frontiers Records)

The Dark Element is a band formed by two former members of well known acts. I realise that this can be said for most of the Frontiers roster but The Dark Element is not a melodic rock or AOR album, it's a melodic metal album with pop edge. The two members in question are Jani Liimatainen former guitarist of Sonata Arctica and the leader of the romantic power metal act Cain's Offering and on the vocals Anette Olzon the much maligned former singer of Nightwish, in her first band project since leaving Nightwish.

Now I said much maligned as Anette really wasn't given fair treatment while at the helm in Nightwish, her vocals are very good they are just nearer the pop side than the classical influence that band has. Luckily Liimatainen understands this and has crafted The Dark Element album to suit her vocals, the record is full of bouncy but dark Euro-electro metal with Jani's guitars, keys and programming the main elements, it's a similar style to Amaranthe or current Battle Beast a genre that is rapidly becoming over saturated but with the draw of Olzon and Liimatainen The Dark Element is likely to stand out.

There isn't any of the light-speed pace of the early Sonata albums, this isn't a slow album by any means, with the exception of the epic Someone I Used To Know it speeds along at a fair pace in a symphonic metal style. It gets the head nodding and Jani's guitar playing is great as usual. Olzon has a good voice as I've said but she's let down by the mix of the album, there's not as much bombast as I'd like and it runs a little too long getting a bit flabby towards the end. Still it's pretty damn good and serves an ideal showcase for the two recognisable members of the band, maybe with a bit more experimentation next time, it could really stand above the others. 7/10

Almanac: Kingslayer (Nuclear Blast)

Ex-Rage guitarist Victor Smolski returns with the second act of his Almanac project, the first album Tsar back in 2016 was wild ride through Russian history built on the tough cinematic power metal Victor has always been associated with. The main draw of the band for me was that there are three singers, Brainstorm's Andy B Franck for grit, David Readman (every band ever) for soulful power and Jeannette Marchewka for a melodic female edge. Once again this sophomore album deals with historical themes but this time the concept surrounds regicide in all its forms. Funnily enough Regicide is the track that opens this record and it pretty much kicks things off as it means to go on, some great vocal interplay between the three singers, tough heavy riffs and a dramatic interplay. It’s an interesting way to start the record as I feel the more straightforward Children Of A Sacred Path would have been a better opener but that’s my personal opinion.

The record is full of symphonic styled power metal, but there is nothing lightweight, much like Victor’s previous band the riffs are heavy and come thick and fast throughout as the focus on this record seems to be on the Franck’s rougher edged vocal for the thrashier songs with Readman’s vocals used to great effect on the harder rock sound of Hail To The King. Both of them are aided by Jeanette’s beautiful pipes as she provides a richer texture to all of the songs meaning that nearly everything has at least two singers. Kingslayer retains everything that made the first album great and it will hopefully be the second chapter in a long story for Almanac. 8/10

Mount Holly: Stride By Stride (Razor & Tie)

Mount Holly was a band formed by former Silvertide guitarist Nick Perri (brother of pop star Christina), singer Jameson Burt, bassist Brian Weaver (formerly Deanna Passarella) and drummer John Bach. The eagle eyed amongst you will noticed I said was, well shortly after this record was released Jameson Burt said he was leaving the group and the remaining members decided not to continue the band. Stride By Stride then is both the debut and final record from Mount Holly, which makes reviewing it difficult as it's the only thing we have to get a feel for the group, this one record is not the best evidence to really hear what might have been. It's a bit like judging all of Ancient Rome on on Amphorae, still I put the needle to the groove (so to speak) and let Mount Holly's musical epitaph ring out through the 'Decks Of Doom'.

What played out was classy Southern Californian alternative rock, Perri's mastery of the hip shaking reverbed guitar riff gives the record a soulful feel complimented by the hollow sounding analogue production and excellent use of backing vocals, your feet are tapping from the opening salvo of Get Up, you can't help but get a groove on to the smoky vibe of Barefoot (nevermind that it half inches the riff from Zep's Heartbreaker), it's this classic blues vibe that resonates through the album, it's mixed with a psyche touch on the smoldering Playing Dead,  Jamerson Burt's vocals are an ideal mix of modern alt rock and classic bluesman while the songs are all packed with some killer riffs, some stomp and clap work on Burning In Colour and the gospel infused title track. It's this myriad of styles that make Stride By Stride an excellent debut album that has bittersuite air to it, the strength and breadth album indicates that Mount Holly could have really gone anywhere on their now never to be released second album, it's a shame but Stride By Stride stands as a fitting epitaph for what could have been. 8/10   

Secret Rule: The Key To The World (Pride & Joy Music)

I reviewed Secret Rule's previous album a while ago now and while I praised it, I noted that it still had some way to go. Yet again on their third album the band have stuck to their Within Temptation-like symphonic style with keys once again coming from guest Henrik Klingenberg (Sonata Arctica), other guest featured on this record are Henning Basse (Firewind and MaYan) and Ailyn Giménez (ex Sirenia). It's with the guests though that the flaw in this record reveals itself, the vocals are not particularly good, I'm not sure if it's the production or singer Angela but they seem very flat, meaning that when they are mixed with the uninspiring riffs The Key To The World just doesn't do much for me I'm afraid. 5/10

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Opeth (Review By Paul)

Opeth O2 Academy, Bristol

I’ve written several reviews of the Swedish masters Opeth for this blog. Each one is crammed full of superlatives about the musicianship, the interplay, the complexity and the dry wit of one Mikael Akerfeldt. If you don’t know how I feel about this band by now, then you must be a very new reader (welcome by the way!). With the bonus of Norwegian powerhouses Enslaved on the undercard this was a tasty bill not to be missed.

With limited space at the front of the stage for the Norwegians to move around in, Enslaved’s (8) show was static but that mattered not a jot as the band blasted through five lengthy tracks from their last three albums. Unsurprisingly, given the high quality of their recent brilliant album E, Enslaved opened with Storm Son. The interchange between light and heavy, melody and death metal and clean and gruff vocals really worked on the album and transferred very comfortably to the live arena.

Original member Grutle Kjellson’s complex bass work and growling death metal vocals were accompanied by the rhythm guitar of other remaining founder member Ivar Bjornson, a man mountain whose dexterity in his playing was impressive given his massive frame. Lead guitarist (and Audrey Horne member) Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, clad only in leather trousers and shoes ripped out solo after solo, and although it was slightly lost in a muddy mix this was quality. Behind the drums Cato Bekkevold held the ship steady, his double bass drumming and complex fills looking easy.

Full marks to new man Håkon Vinje, whose smooth keyboards and clean vocals balanced the death growls perfectly. The epic Roots Of The Mountain from 2012’s RIITIIR followed, all ten minutes of it before the very apt One Thousand Years Of Rain from 2015’s In Times continued the progressive theme. Although Enslaved has moved away from their death metal sound in recent years, the band are still damn heavy and the final two songs, The River Mouth and Sacred Horse (both from E) were perfect examples of how impressive this band has become.

The instantly recognisable Through Pain To Heaven heralded the arrival of three fifths of Opeth (9) to the stage as Martin “Axe” Axenrot, Martin Mendez and Joakim Svalberg quickly got into the jazz intro of Sorceress, the title track of last year’s excellent release. Joined by guitarist Frederik Akersson and front man Akerfledt, the track progressed into the heavier freestyle with the audience captivated. What followed was Opeth in their comfort zone, and dare I say it almost cruising such is their sheer capacity for making the complex look easy. Akerfeldt’s between song banter was as superb as always, despite being lost for words when one punter shouted, “it’s a little flat” when Akerfeldt had asked how it sounded.

The band follow a reasonably standard set list throughout their tours and to be fair, it’s complicated enough to play so no complaints here. Highlights of the evening? Well, the hysterical acoustic cover of Napalm Death’s You Suffer, the rare outing for Häxprocess from Heritage was interesting, the intricate Moon Above, Sun Below from Pale Communion magical and the return of Hessian Peel from Watershed welcome. An impressive light show including retina scorching spots and a big screen with projections on it enhanced the show but ultimately it was the music that delivered.

No ego fuelled solos, just a confident two hour set that once again demonstrated why Opeth are one of the most interesting and relevant bands in the hard rock and metal scene today. As they departed for their final show and a period of relaxation, I was left already excited for their next release and the magical experiences that will bring.

Friday, 24 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Deep Purple (Review By Paul)

Deep Purple Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

It’s been a long time coming but I finally got to see Deep Purple. One of my favourite bands of all time, but bizarrely I’ve never been in the right place at the right time. Putting things right at last, the band returned to Cardiff for the first time in 12 years and treated a sold-out Motorpoint Arena to a master class in hard blues soaked rock on a drizzly November evening.

First up, the hard-working Cats In Space (7), who I’ve avoided on the basis that their two albums did little for me. Hell, I even went to their headline show in the Globe a few months ago and left before they came on. As the all-seated arena filled up, Cats In Space were already into their first song and their sound was big. Their power pop filled the arena and with a bit more space for the six members to move around they impressed far more than I was expecting. Tracks from recent album Scarecrow and their debut Too Many Gods went down well and the Horsham based outfit received a deserved ovation for their short 25 minutes. The band are back on the road with Quo in December and based on this showing are worth getting in early for.

Main support Europe (6) have recently released their rather fine Walk The Earth album, which I really enjoyed. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the Swedes and once again they bored me rigid. Their sound was thin, the music in desperate need of beefing up, and apart from Joey Tempest, the band was static. Guitarist John Norum and bassist John Levén hardly moved for the entire show. Despite some heroics from Tempest, such as taking a walk into the audience early in the set, and some neat licks from Norum, they plodded through a set which could and should have been much more entertaining. A decent set list incorporated tracks from Walk The Earth, War Of Kings and some oldies including Rock The Night and a horrible Carrie came and went before they launched into that tune that got the audience on its feet. By then I’d returned to the bar.

With the band image from Infinite cast on the big screen, the lights dimmed and with little pomp or ceremony Deep Purple (9) hit the stage and launched into Time For Bedlam, the first of four tracks from Infinite. There’s little showmanship with Deep Purple, as they just let the music do the talking. For a band whose average age is 69, they are astoundingly good. The fastest Fireball I’ve ever heard was quickly followed by Bloodsucker from In Rock before Ian Gillan addressed the audience who were already on their feet and loving every minute. The jazz fused All I Got Is You was amazing before the tribute to the late Jon Lord through Uncommon Man from Now What?

By now it was clear that Don Airey’s magnificent keyboards were main billing, dominating the intros and mid-sections of the songs. Indeed, Airey was the only member of the band to deliver a full solo, and it was quite something with a strong finish including Mae Hen Wladd fy Nhadau and Men Of Harlech winning big with the crowd. Not to be outdone, Steve Morse delivered some fine guitar work, none better than his astonishing solo on the awesome Birds Of Prey. He is an underrated guitarist and his duelling with Airey was reminiscent of the Lord vs Blackmore jousts in the 1970s.

Holding it all together, Ian Paice remains an amazing drummer, locked in tightly with Roger Glover whose thumping bass lines cemented everything. Glover is not afraid to soldier forward either, interacting with the crowd from the edge of the stage, swapping sides with Morse and generally prowling like a cat on a hot tin roof. Paice’s jazz tinged drumming remains a thing of total beauty.

As the band cruised through the middle of their set, hitting the Perfect Strangers double of Knocking On Your Back Door and Perfect Strangers, I was struck with how impressive Ian Gillan’s vocals remain. Unlike his successor in 1973, Gillan can still hit the higher notes, albeit not in the same way he could in 1971. It’s astonishing to think of the longevity of a band who have always been unfashionable.

A wonderful meandering Lazy, a rampant Space Truckin’ and of course, the inevitable but irresistible Smoke On The Water concluded the main set before the double encore of Hush, and then a Glover and Paice duet which segued into the final song of the evening, the iconic Black Night. If this was the Long Goodbye, then I’m glad that I was able to say my farewells to a band that are as important as Sabbath and Zeppelin to the rock world.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Think Floyd (Review By Paul)

Think Floyd, Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

I have two confessions. 1) I’m not the biggest fan of tribute bands and 2) In my youth I was never that excited about Pink Floyd, a band who were lumbering around with their legacy from the 1960s and 70s and who released The Wall which scared me and irritated me in equal parts. I bought A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987 when it was released on a whim and it didn’t really change my view at the time. However, over the years their music has become much more appealing and interesting. Discovering their back catalogue has certainly helped me appreciate their magic. Now I rarely see the point of tribute bands; in fact, I’ve only ever seen Limehouse Lizzy and a couple of others, but I’d heard great things about Think Floyd (9), a band who never set out to be a Floyd tribute outfit but who started in a pub in London over 20 years ago and learnt Comfortably Numb in a week at the request of a punter. The rest as they say is history.

A packed Borough Theatre whose average age was, well, let’s say a good few years North of mine took their seats for an evening of quite spectacular entertainment. Four unassuming blokes ambled on to the stage and began to deliver a stunning version of Astronomy Domine from Floyd’s 1967 release The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Think Floyd then provided a musical tour through each of Floyd’s 15 albums, picking choice cuts and some rarer tracks along the way. Remember A Day from A Saucerful Of Secrets followed as well as tracks from More, Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother before a blistering One Of These Days from 1971’s Meddle led into a number of tracks from Dark Side Of The Moon. Naturally The Great Gig In The Sky was a breath taking highlight, with singer Rosie excelling in the Clare Torry role from 1973’s masterpiece.

An interval followed, probably to allow for the prostate challenged audience to sort themselves out and stretch the aching limbs from the rather small seats. Back into the albums and it was time for the band to really show their craft with Richard Morse’s superbly dexterous guitar work for the lengthy Shine On You Crazy Diamond a highlight. All three parts of Pigs from 1977’s Animals followed, Lewis Hall’s vocals spot on whilst the interplay between drummer Steven Farmer and keyboard player Kirk McLeod was captivating. The band are consummate professionals and note perfect on some very complex music. Farmer’s backing vocals were another stand out element of the show.

As we reached 1979 and Floyd’s most famous album, The Wall, Think Floyd played it safe with Hey You, which to be fair, is what all the audience wanted to hear anyway. It was a magnificent rendition which raised the hairs on the back of the neck. After a track from the rarely played The Final Cut, a surprise with the impressive Sorrow from 1987’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, which allowed Morse to excel in his six string delivery once more. After a contribution from The Division Bell the final track of the journey took us to 2014’s The Endless River, with the track Louder Than Words which concluded a fabulous evening. Or so I thought but no, the band returned for a deserved encore which inevitably treated us to Wish You Were Here followed by the track that started it all for the band, Comfortably Numb, which was delivered with aplomb.

If you closed your eyes, as I did frequently during the evening due to the comfortable warmth, heavy cold and relaxing sounds, you would not have been able to tell the difference. In fact, these guys are probably better due to the numerous times they have played each track. With a stunningly simple but effective light show and crystal-clear sound, this was a quite superb show. If you like Floyd, or just fancy an evening in the company of some quite brilliant musicians, I’d highly recommend an evening with Think Floyd.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Reviews: Savage Messiah, The Atomic Bitchwax, In Search Of Sun, Black Water Rising

Savage Messiah: Hands Of Fate (Century Media)

We've had a few ups and downs with Savage Messiah, the London band came around at the same time as the thrash resurgence of of about 10 years ago, along with Evile, Reign Of Fury, Municipal Waste and others Savage Messiah set about bringing back old school thrash as nu-metal died out. On record the band were pretty good their 2012 record Plague Of Conscience and 2014 release The Fateful Dark saw them pretty much nail their colours to the mast with the right concoction of 80's thrash and classic metal leanings. However in the live arena they did always strike me as a little haphazard. Now on their fifth album the logo has been revamped, their line up has changed with Dave Silver the only remaining original member and the album cover is subtle and understated, it seems like Hands Of Fate is something of a rebirth for Savage Messiah, so with anticipation I pressed play.

The title track opens the record with chunky, choppy riff, it's got a gang chorus and the handprints of Metallica circa 1991, the middle eight even has a phased out part where you can just hear "hush little baby..." Hands Of Fate is a natural single, anthemic enough for rockers but with a lot of heft. It also sets the tone for the record as Savage Messiah have really highlighted their more traditional metal influence, Wing And A Prayer sounds as if BFMV are playing a Maiden track. However they do retain their thrash roots with Blood Red Road which has Dave doing his Megadave snarl, while Lay Down Your Arms bring back the Metallica stomps, the band sound revitalised by the changes as Dave leads the way with his impressive vocals and riff hungry rhythm guitar backed by Mira Slama's bass grooves and Andrea Gorio's drumming skills, check out Solar Corona for the fattest of classic metal riffs on the record, before Sam S Junior brings some flashy lead prowess.

Hands Of Fate
takes Savage Messiah in to their tenth year as a band with a new found confidence and hybrid style that will hopefully see them as much more in-sync metal machine ready to devour the live stages. 8/10

The Atomic Bitchwax: Force Field (Tee Pee Records)

If you can say anything about The Atomic Bitchwax it's that they are 4:20 friendly band of current Monster Magnet bassist Chris Kosnik who with guitarist Finn Ryan and MM drummer Bob Pantella play mind expanding psychedelic stoner rock that has got a bit more oomph to it than their colossal riffing day job. With Finn Ryan's guitar slinging wildly TAB have perfected their self described "thunder boogie" over the course of a long career and this seventh record is just another chapter of their story.

Force Field doesn't do anything different to their previous albums but it it's a headbanging ride through riff driven boogie rock with a distinct smell of weed permeating through every retro groove. It's a wild ride that doesn't stop with Alaskan Thunder Fuck the albums wildest track sitting in between some Grand Funk Goes Punk heavy rocking. Spark one up, grab some buds and let the good times roll! 7/10

In Search Of Sun: Virgin Funk Mother (Spinefarm)

A long time ago there was band called 3 they were progressive rock band from Woodstock New York, formed by multi-instrumentalist Joey Eppard and drummer Josh (who later joined Coheed & Cambria) they played dark, yet uplifting music that owed as much to hard rock as it did pop, they were unafraid of genres adding as many as possible to their music for maximum effect. I've only opened this review with a history lesson as 3 are the band that I'm most reminded off when I put on the second effort by London act In Search Of Sun, now I've heard the name but I've never really investigated the bands music until now.

Much like the New York band mentioned earlier In Search of Sun know their way around a genre for maximum effect, it's prog Jim but not as we know it Bad Girl has bass heavy poly-rhythms but uses them in time signature more used to ska or reggae, Petrichtor does the same but has jazz drumming in it's stop-start sound and lots of dexterity in the guitar playing. In Search Of Sun are forging their own path music with style all of their own, heartfelt emotional vocals, a virtuosity in their playing but some very poppy hooks that slither their way into your psyche, it's refreshing to hear music like this and if you have been a long time fan of Coheed & Cambria, InMe or even 3 then Virgin Funk Mother will get you moving. 8/10

Black Water Rising: Electrified (Pavement Music)

Brooklyn band Black Water Rising deal with heft, they say their music is "No Frills Riff Rock" and they've nailed that description, thick syrupy riffs thunder through your speakers with the viscosity of Fu Manchu, Fireball Ministry or Monster Magnet. The politically charged, emotive lyrics are delivered by Rob Traynor's excellent vocals but he and the rest of the band use a chunky wall of riffs to hammer the point home.

Even on the lighter Don't Wait Up and World Of Frustration they still retain a heaviness, they add a mainstream edge to Higher but on the title track, Obey, Payback and Buried In Black they crank the amps up to 11. This is the band's third album, which is not bad when you consider the project started as a vehicle for Traynor, they bring the heavy stoner rock riffs from the opening track but they also add in some of the more accessible touches of Nickelback et al. Electrified is a good album, it's nothing new or too complicated just good honest, riff friendly rocking. 7/10

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement and Naked Six, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Sometimes this music blogging lark is just a shed load of luck over any talent we may posses (we'll leave that question up to you). The 14th of November we were supposed to be seeing the excellent blues rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor in Bristol's Colston Hall, soon after we secured the tickets though another of MoM's favourites The Temperance Movement announced a tour of very small venues, unfortunately their Cardiff date clashed with JST.

However fortune must have been smiling that day because on the 13th JST announced that due to illness her show at the Colston was being postponed until the 25th of November several hours later your writer was invited to the sold out The Temperance Movement show in Cardiff. So the next evening I picked up my dancing shoes and hit the town solo to witness the Scottish rockers do what they do in one of Cardiff's best sounding venues.

In the larger upstairs room, there were two young guys scurrying around sorting out cables and water, the room began to slowly fill, however it was the bar that had the most patronage, because getting pissed on a Tuesday night is apparently required. With a healthy crowd in the room the two young guys hit the stage and kicked off their set. This duo was Seb Byford and Tom Witts who form the Naked Six (8) they play a fuzzy alternative rock/grunge with some electric blues and 70's punk thrown in for balance.

Almost like The Royal Blood jamming with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion the Naked Six roared through their set list opening with Can't Trust The News the grab the attention with Byfords sneering vocal and distortion fuelled blues riffs being anchored by the wild shirtless drumming of Witts. The band received a great reaction from the almost full room, this sort of high energy rocking was the ideal opening for the gig, they were given enough time to show off their skills but it seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.

I do enjoy watching The Temperance Movement (8) on their 'between album' tours, it always means that you get an interesting set-list as they road test the new material in front of a live audience, refining them into the musical spectacles you'd want from band of this calibre. The only downside to this is that you do tend to get a lot of the crowd who are only there to hear the singles, talking and getting restless during the new as yet unheard songs. This was evident here not just with the new material but also more recent slower tracks such as Magnify from White Bear.

The Temperance Movement though did something a little canny here, they opened the set with two new songs then Magnify abut then a emotional Pride got the first applause of recognition rather than one of politeness. This formula was repeated with Higher Than The Sun followed by the grooving Only Friend, Another Spiral was backed with Take It Back. So it became a recurring theme that every time they played a new song (which I must say continue on the vibe established on White Bear) they followed it with a 'classic' normally from the debut album.

The band were on form as per, gelling into one tight but fluid unit kicking out the jams while frontman Phil Campbell let the riffs flow through him pulling shapes so illicit Mick Jagger would be embarrassed, he feeds off the music and it's a joy to watch as he croons through the songs with his cracked husky vocals, that did seem a little huskier tonight. It was yet again another cracking set that whet's the appetite for their tour next year after the album is released, these songs are better known and have been honed to live perfection.

I did feel pretty lucky to see the band again in such an intimate setting and it looks as if I was one of the last ones to see it as their following few shows were cancelled due to Phil Campbell's illness, these too have been rescheduled, but I can't help but feel a bit smug that it didn't happen earlier as having two shows cancelled on the same night is just bad luck indeed.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The View From The Back Of The Room: Royal Blood (Review By Nick)

Royal Blood, Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

A last minute phone call from a good friend offering me a spare ticket was a pleasant surprise, not being one to turn down the chance of live music I gratefully took them up on their offer and we headed in to Cardiff. Following the obligatory burger and a pint (or two) we made our way into the Motorpoint with a few minutes to spare for the main event. The supports Black Honey and At the Drive In not really tempting any of us...

Royal Blood have always been a band that have been on my radar, the lads from Brighton's self titled first album actually being a very good listen, while their new offering moves away from the raw heavy feeling and more towards synth effects on both instruments and microphone it still offers some individual beauties. The main hurdle that has always stopped me from really getting into these guys is their insistence of masquerading as a true two piece band; when quite clearly on album and live they are not. On album it is clear to hear multiple rhythm lines and bass lines along with the vocals, the same can be said live.

To be fair a lot of this is achieved with excessive use of a loop pedal, however there are times when there was no bass line, hands were off the guitar and rhythm guitar was still clearly heard, and vice versa dependant on the guitar of choice for the song. Although it is clear as day that their defence has no substance at all, I really wish they would either come clean and carry on as they are, or just add a third member... ultimately they're doing themselves no favours constantly denying the obvious and costing themselves a lot of potential fans in doing so.

All this aside, I had a freaking great night watching this band. Both lads knew their instruments inside and out. Mike Kerr more than efficient playing the rhythm guitar on the rare occasion he whipped it out, but its clearly the bass guitar where he is at home and most comfortable. Kerr's ability to pluck and flick the life out of the strings while seamlessly sliding up and down the frets made for some of the heaviest yet smooth bass I've heard in a long time, this guy is up there with the best. Vocally Kerr did not disappoint either, not dropping a note throughout the night and sounding identical to that which is presented on the album... never an easy feat.

Much the same can be said for Ben Thatcher on drums, this guy knows how to slam the living hell out of the skins with such ease, yet still get pounding bass drums and crashing symbols perfectly in line with the sheer heaviness of their set. Halfway through he was forced to pull back a little as the reverb on the sound he was creating did not go well with the Motorpoint, at one point sounding as if there was another kit being played a few seconds behind (thanks again Motorpoint). Kerr and Thatcher very much let their music do the talking, with little chit chat the guys made their way through a eighteen song set list consisting of old and new, highlights included the head beating opener Lights Out and other fan favourites I Only Lie When I Love You, Blood Hands, Figure It Out and the anthem of Ten Tonne Skeleton for which most of the sold out arena joined in. Nothing flashy when it came to the effects, just a simple laser grid falling down onto the stage from above, giving the simple yet emotive effect of the band being locked up in a cage, the only time the band were given freedom was when Kerr ventured out into the middle of the arena via the stage extension for the slower more intimate songs.

All in all this was a great gig and I was more than pleasantly surprised at the quality of the band and the amount of fun that I had, I didn't stop moving throughout, neither did the rest of the crowd. Both members of the band at times offering their clearly humble and slightly confused thanks in-between songs, which was always greeted with great applause and support from their die hard following. The music they played was short but heavy, full of chunky break downs and most importantly of a high quality that is definitely a bridge that can be used between heavy rock and metal.

Would I catch Royal Blood again if given the opportunity? Hell yes I would and I'd recommend them to anyone. I just hope by the next time they come around they've come clean regarding their overlays and backing sounds and have gone either to a three piece or the way of The Graveltones; make as much noise as you can with only two instruments. If they do these lads will carry on climbing, and quite frankly they deserve everything they get 9/10

Note: There was a drum solo during this gig but I haven't removed the extra point as the lads only have two albums so were unlikely to waste the time which could be filled with another song. Also said drum solo included vast amounts of cow bell and gong...which in my eyes saved them.

The Spotlight: Interview With Tim of The New Roses

Interview With Tim Of The New Roses At Hard Rock Hell XI

MoM: Hi Tim thanks for talking to us, great show earlier by the way. This show is coming towards the end of a tour...

Tim: I think we've actually got another 20 to go

MoM: Oh Christ! OK! (Note to self do more research)

MoM: This is only one of 2 dates in the UK. How is it going so far? How are the dates in the UK?

Tim: We love the UK it's like the birthplace of rock music, we're rock and rollers and you can feel that spirit, walking through London last time we were here, was really cool. We drove up here through the hills from Birmingham, it's a beautiful trip. I love the landscape, I love the people and I love that rock n roll has been loved here.

MoM: This only your second time in the UK? Have you noticed any difference between us and German fans?

Tim: Every country has a certain personality which I appreciate, as it keeps it exciting, I wouldn't go as far as calling somebody better...there is a difference some are more like rocking out, others are more anonymous, some like listening and then afterwards talk really closely. The UK for me the UK has been very, very heartful, they still love it here and after the show they just want to talk to you and buy you a beer.

MoM: Your style of music is not what many would consider stereo typically German, i.e power metal, thrash metal, The Scorpions. Who or what are your influences?

Tim: Where I came from was the very very old school rock music like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and I really went back to the blues of T-Bone Walker and Howlin Wolf and from there I build it up so Elvis to Chuck Berry, Berry to AC/DC. I went through the development of rock and roll in the right order. That's the way it sort of happened. I stopped somewhere so I'm not really into modern rock music, but I listen to soul and jazz. Anything that comes from the heart. The other guys in the band like punk and metal, Urban our drummer he loves Slayer and Pantera. We've got a great mix.

MoM: Your newest album ‎One More The Road is your second record on Napalm, but unlike Dead Man's Voice this one has seen you break through to the wider rock community, do you feel that's the case?

Tim: It definitely got us to the next level, the first record we only really sold at shows or out of a box but it had that Sons Of Anarchy song on it so that did really well for us, that's where we met our record label which has opened our doors to the radio, but no tour. This new record has meant tonnes more people are coming to the shows.

(As I was told to wrap up by the people buzzing around, I went straight in with our go to finisher)

MoM: ‎What's your favourite sheep?

Tim: *Laughs* Dartmoor, definitely a rock and roll sheep with his long hair and Hebredian, he's an epic sheep

As we said our goodbyes, Tim was whisked away to his next interview, he seems like a real rock lover and I think we could have talked for hours had he not been on strict schedule. Check out The New Roses on record and live when they are next in the UK or near you.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Spotlight: Interview With Jonne Von Hertzen Of The Von Hertzen Brothers

Interview With Jonne Von Hertzen, Hard Rock Hell XI

MoM: You're about halfway through a UK tour at the moment, how is it going so far?

Jonne: Good

(Panic set in as this may have been a one word interview)

MoM: I saw you guys in Bogiez, which was really little club in Cardiff, probably about 5 years ago and I remember you had the iPad sound desk because you couldn't fit yours in.

Jonne: Yeah I remember that show

MoM: I'd say it's been quite a big rise from playing there, to playing here to quite a big crowd, your show in Bristol on the last tour was sold out and Steelhouse (the one on top of the mountain where it rains all the time). Do you ever notice a difference between UK fans and European ones?

Jonne: If you look at the festivals in England and compare them to Finnish festivals, but we haven't done that much in other countries, but we have done Eastern Europe twice. We have noticed a difference between the UK and Finland, Eastern Europe there is a major difference

MoM: They seem a lot more hard core...

Jonne: Yes they are. I like the audiences here as they tend to listen to the band

MoM: ‎I'd like to talk about the fantastic new album War Is Over, I read that you recorded this record a little differently than your previous ones is that right?

Jonne: We wrote it separately yes, not like we've done before

MoM: Was there a concerted effort too bring back the longer song format rather than directness of your last records? Did you want to go back to the stuff on Arrival etc where it featured elongated tracks mixed with shorter songs?

Jonne: I think it was just on the last album, we kind of decided not to have those, we tried to make a short punchy rock album, that would get more rock audiences. We have always tried to make something different. I really liked the last album

MoM: It certainly brought you more acclaim

Jonne: Yeah but this one we didn't want to throw out good songs just because they are too proggy or long. If it was a good song then we'd keep it

MoM: Moving on from the albums you've played here before. What do you think of the Hard Rock Hell is playing a gig in a holiday camp your most surreal experience?

Jonne: Yes it definitely is surreal even after playing it a few times now (and again the following week). It's a weird place for sure

MoM: What does the next year hold for you guys?

Jonne: When we go back to Finland we go back to touring, then we break for Christmas, then the summer festivals but at the beginning of the year we haven't got anything planned yet but we'd love to play more German speaking countries for sure. (You hear that Deutschland)

MoM: So finally our killer question. What is your favourite sheep?

Jonne: *Thinks long and hard* I have a dog so I'm trying to see which one is most doglike...maybe this one The Herdwick.

Luckily we had a bit more time to chat to Jonne and before the interview we chatted with the other members of the band, down to earth rockers who genuinely take all the annoying side of being in band (interviews etc) in their stride (they did seem to be in high demand). If you've seen them this tour you'll know why we love them here a MoM, if you haven't then I urge you to see them on their next pass. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

A View From The Back of The Room: HRH (Review By Paul)

Hard Rock Hell 9th – 11th November 2017 Hafan Y Mor, Pwllheli, North Wales

It’s been a while since we’ve been to the holiday camp in North Wales for a weekend of rocking and rolling. The usual chaos that greets you as you attempt to check in shows no sign of improvement and the 40-minute wait after we’ve been seen because you can’t find our key isn’t an impressive start. The absence of much of an apology doesn’t help either. As a result we miss the opening act, Ryders Creed, so apologies to you guys. We also fail to get to see New Yorkers Killcode due to sorting the press passes out. We did manage to catch Orange County power trio Idlewar (8) whose set is captivating and just fantastic. For a three-piece their sound is solid and powerful and with tracks from Rite interspersing with their older material it was no wonder that the audience loved it. Well worth catching these guys if they are in your area.

Catching the end of Black Aces (7) in the rammed main arena, it was high spirits all round for the antipodean four bar boogie of one of many bands to sound like AC/DC this weekend. The four-piece have energy to burn and the crowd were certainly enjoying them, as was the case for Toby Jepson and his Wayward Sons (8) project who hit the stage confidently and moved smoothly through their set. Predominantly comprised of tracks from their debut Ghosts Of Yet To Come, the band were on fine form with Jepson looking and sounding every inch the rock star. A Little Angels cover was allowed and expected. I’ve never been a huge fan of TJ but he certainly hits the right notes at present.

The George Thorogood classic Bad To The Bone preceded the arrival of headliner Dee Snider (7). The temperature in the room was at melting point and was becoming increasingly uncomfortable as the former Twisted Sister frontman hit the stage with his three-piece backing band. Mixing the set list with the expected classics from his past with a sprinkling of tunes from his We Are The Ones album, Snider was in confident form as always, striding the stage. Unfortunately, his solo work isn’t anywhere near as good as the TS material and it was highlighted through the set. His on-stage presence and in between chatter is fantastic, and he was in fine form. Other covers included the Nine Inch Nails classic Head Like A Hole (which he did on the album) and Soundgarden’s Outshined. Sadly, the heat became a little too much and we headed out into the rainy night with no regrets.

Friday dawned fresh and bright and brought with it the anticipation of a day’s worth of quality bands. First up was the quite brilliant Those Damn Crows (8) from Bridgend whose enthusiastic efforts on stage were matched by an energetic audience. Vocalist Shane Greenhall was on fire from the start, cajoling the crowd and giving it everything. The band have some good solid material and their super set received a deserved ovation. Heading over to the main stage next for the psychedelic tones of Goldray (9), a band that was much anticipated. Goldray did not disappoint with a fantastic 45 minutes of music which prompted comparisons with Siouxsie Sioux, the Cocteau Twins, The Blues Pills and even Kate Bush. Fronted by the ever-moving twirling Leah Rassmussen, whose ethereal vocals were captivating, Goldray’s psych rock was enchanting and Kenwyn House’s guitar work quite magical. Tracks from debut release Rising were well received and the only shame was the small crowd.

Kingbreaker’s wailing did little for me so we headed into the main arena again for The Graveltones (7), whose White Stripes sound with added oomph had drawn a large crowd. Sweating profusely in the hideous heat, Jimmy O and companion Mikey Sorbello blasted through their blues rock set with aplomb. There’s only so long I can watch this type of band though and after about 30 minutes we headed out for some fresh air before catching an enthusiastic set from The Jokers (7) whose routine rock n’ roll was being lapped up from a decent crowd. A break for Mrs H’s magnificent homemade veggie lasagne allowed for a bit of carb loading to soak up some of the beer before we witnessed a stonking set from UK’s Fire Red Empress (8) whose stoner and punk infused riffage and inventive songs from the very good Black Morphine cleared any sluggishness, vocalist Jennifer Diehl a ball of energy and passion.

German outfit The New Roses (8) belied their Black Crowes sound to deliver a much heavier set, much closer to decent Black Stone Cherry and their honest show was greeted with gusto from a packed arena. Stand out track had to be Life Ain’t Easy (For A Boy With Long Hair), one of the most ridiculous songs ever written. The band are an engaging watch, full of bounce and with a decent attitude. Their music isn’t the most inventive, but it did the job and was delivered with passion and heart. Check out Matt’s interview with the band soon.

Whilst most of the punters at HRH packed out the main stage for Y&T we gave it the swerve and instead checked out the magnificent Sideburn (8). The Swiss band gave a superb performance, their honest rock n’ roll encouraging the party to continue. All members of the band played with huge smiles on their faces, and the energy on stage was reciprocated in the small but enthusiastic audience. It was good stuff.

Possibly the highlight of the weekend followed with an astonishing performance from Blind River (9) whose gritty thick sound was just brilliant. This was hard rock from the top drawer with the combination of members of Pig Iron, The Earls Of Mars and Godsized creating a fantastic noise.With no music published yet, we rely on those brief YouTube clips but when their material does hit the shops we at the Musipedia will be all over it.

It was a challenge for Chasing Dragons (7) to follow Blind River and whilst the band gave it a good go their mixed sound was a little too busy and interest wandered after about 30 minutes. With the main arena so busy for Airbourne that the entrances were closed it was time for an earlier night and we headed home after a very satisfactory day.

Saturday was an earlier start and at 12:00pm it was the Cardiff based outfit Beth Blade And The Beautiful Disasters (6) who, despite looking hung over to hell, put in a decent shift to get the day moving. Their ‘in your face’ approach certainly got the crowd up and interested. No-nonsense rock n’ roll guaranteed to make you smile with Beth’s gutsy voice impressive. After a quick walk to clear the head and take in the beautiful North Wales coast line it was the one disappointment of the day with the schedule clash between Buffalo Summer and Bad Touch. Giving priority to our fellow Welshmen, Buffalo Summer (8) took to the main stage with the swagger and confidence of a band who have been plying their trade for several years.

The Swansea lads big sounding blues rock is infectious, and a decent sized crowd were soon clapping along to songs from the band’s two albums. Andrew Hunt’s soulful vocals filled the hall with ease whilst the energy and gurning of bassist Darren Joseph-King was a delight. Cutting the set in half, a quick hop to stage 2 to catch 30 minutes of similar superb blues rock from Norfolk’s Bad Touch (8) who never fail to impress. With a similar heritage to Buffalo Summer, Bad Touch certainly pulled in a crowd as the room was very busy.

Whilst it is singer Stevie Westwood whose stunning vocals catch the attention; Bad Touch is very much a band and guitarist Rob Glendinning showed a quality rarely seen over the weekend with some beautiful playing. The whole band are a cohesive unit with tracks from this year’s Truth Be Told sitting alongside earlier tunes from Halfway Home. A brilliant set and a fine start to the day.

The Swedish metal of Syron Vanes (6) did little, the veteran Swedes enthusiasm not matched by the quality of their material although the sparse crowd did ensure the band received a decent reception. The main stage was substantially fuller for the arrival of Toseland (6), whose radio friendly rock was much more to most tastes. Whilst Toseland are perfectly competent, there is something about their polished, streamlined music which leaves me cold. James Toseland can sing, albeit in a Myles Kennedy falsetto, and the tracks are solid but there always seem to be an absence of passion. Maybe I am missing something as the band have recently signed with Frontiers Music but the smugness of bassist Roger Davis, whose front of stage presence is just irritating combined with the other factors meant that the second stage soon beckoned.

A good choice too as Scottish outfit Burnt Out Wreck (7) soon arrived on stage for 45 minutes of tub thumping old school hard rock. Led by former Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat whose Bon Scott style vocals were brilliant, the band crashed through their set of tracks from this year’s debut album Swallow. The band have an old school charm about them which was totally enjoyable, and a competent display was well received. Polished progressive rock in the main arena as a busy crowd enjoyed an hour of superb music from Finnish five-piece Von Hertzen Brothers (8). The Finns have just released their latest album, the excellent War Is Over and bookend their set with the records two monster track from that alongside some of their more recognisable tunes including New Day Rising, Diamonds And Rust and a blistering Coming Home. The brothers recently underwent a line-up change but showed no signs of slowing the momentum which has been building for several years with an excellent performance. With a slightly less progressive and heavier live sound the band are deservedly building a reputation and their live shows are always enjoyable.

If there is a band you want at your party, then it has to be the Scottish rockers Gun (9) who kicked off a brilliant set with She Knows from their latest album Favourite Pleasures. The Glaswegians, led by the unassuming Dante Gizzi had the crowd in the palm of their hands, hitting hard with their now legendary cover of Word Up which had the ladies in the room gyrating in ecstasy. So much heavier live than on record, the band played a set of new and older music, with highlights including Steal Your Fire which got huge responses from the audience. The guitar work of Jools Gizzi and Tommy Gentry was exceptional although closing cover Fight For You Right, although inevitable never appeals to me. Still, a magnificent set and one of the highlights of the weekend for sure.

Skipping the main stage for the rest of the weekend, a break was necessary before possibly the band of the weekend. Cornwall’s King Creature (9) drew a healthy crowd but few could have expected such a blistering show. Taking the stage with an energy of immense proportions, the band took the gig by the scruff of the neck and proceeded to own the event. Their hard rock and metal sound was thick and full, the guitars of matt Vincent and Dave Evans slicing and dangerous whilst vocalist and bassist Dave Kellaway owned the centre ground.

With the audience loving every minute, the band tore through their set, audience participation on a new level with chanting long after the band had exited. Possibly the gig of the weekend, King Creature's heavy groove was just sublime. Time to check out Vol I as soon as possible. Sadly, Black Whiskey (6) had to follow King Creature, and whilst they drew a decent crowd of those who didn’t want to see the Black Star Riders, it was an impossible task and their sound was uninspiring.

And so we headed back to the deluxe caravan, which served our purposes very well. A thoroughly decent weekend, plenty of good music and a superb vibe with most of the crowd really pleasant and well mannered. If you’ve never been here then it really is worth a go.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Reviews: Annihilator, Evertale, Hanging Garden, Madam X (Reviews By Paul)

Annihilator: For The Demented (Neverland Music Inc)

Album number 16 for the crazy Canadians and it’s a quite fantastic return to form. It’s only been two years since the solid Suicide Society was released and is the second Annihilator release this year following the summer Triple Threat package.

Opening with the BOA previewed Twisted Lobotomy, it’s immediately apparent that Jeff Waters has returned to the snarling Megadeth style which the band followed on the first four albums. Skin slicing riffs, battering drums and the underlying melody which has been a constant in this band are all present. The speed is an essential component of decent Annihilator with that huge stomp which underpins all quality thrash. One To Kill speeds like a youngster in a stolen motor before the title track opens with a chunky riff before embarking on a slower paced chug which also contains an interesting breakdown with what appears to be some keyboards! Never! Yes, it’s almost Ghost like for a few seconds until a searingly hot solo snaps your attention back to the front.

The Demon You Know maintains the thrashing, whilst Altering The Altar changes pace once more with a synthesiser introduction quickly giving way to duel riffage and another battering from that drum programming which Jeff Waters seems to favour in the recording process. Indeed, Waters is credited with nearly all the vocals, guitars, bass and drumming on this album with the only other band member credited is guitarist Aaron Homma for a solo on On To Kill. However, bassist Rich Hinks co-writes all the music with Waters so maybe there is more to Annihilator than Jeff Waters these days.

The album closes with the eerie instrumental Dark before the poignant Not All There ends on with a disco-fused break down and numerous changes of pace. Consistently good over the past few years, For The Demented continues the quality that we’ve come to expect from a band that are as essential to the thrash genre as Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax. Their slot with Testament in 2018 will be one to savour. 9/10

Evertale: The Great Brotherwar (NoiseArt Records)

Power metal bands these days seem to be great in number but not always great in sound or quality. Few bands grab my attention in this genre except for Blind Guardian. However, their countrymen Evertale’s sophomore release, The Great Brotherwar is one of those albums that grabs your attention from the opening chords and holds your attention from start to finish. The band, who has been in existence as Evertale since 2006, comprises Matthias Holzapfel on lead guitar, Matthias Graf on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Marco Bächle on bass and new drummer Cornelius Heck. Empire Rising sets the tone, fast and frenetic power metal which has the speed of Dragonforce with the quality of Guardian.

The impressive speed is spot on whilst the vocals of Graf combined with the backing vocals of Holzapfel and Bächle superb. With fantasy lyrical content, huge slabs of imperious pomp and brilliantly crafted songs such as The Swarm, Chapter 666 and And The Dragons Return, Evertale weave their compositions cleverly. The title track is just magnificent, clocking in at over seven minutes but total quality. It’s rare that I get so enthused about power metal but there really is nothing wrong at all here. It’s simply a demonstration of how enchanting it can be when done right. This may well launch into my top 10 of the year. It’s that good. Stunning guitar work and a solid rhythm section with Heck’s drumming sensational throughout make The Great Brotherwar one of THE albums of the year. 10/10

Hanging Garden: I Am Become (Lifeforce Records)

This is the fifth album from the Finnish outfit and if you like a bit of black metal mixed with melancholic doom of My Dying Bride, Swallow The Sun you will certainly find enough within this 45 minute release to interest you. The album deals with emotions and feelings that we experience from loss, death and yearning and with subject matter like that you soon lose yourself in the swirling intricacies which cascade from the start.

With elements of progressive metal, black metal and even electronica and industrial (Konta), this is an detailed and thought provoking piece which envelopes the listener from beginning to end. The doom oriented feel is interspersed with light and dark moments, such as Heathfire which moves at pace, the clean vocals of Elysium and the female vocals that lift album closer Ennen. Whilst the band is relatively unknown, this is an album which is well worth a listen. 8/10

Madam X: Monstrosity (EMP)

Way back in 1984, this 14-year-old metaller couldn’t get enough music. In those days it was word of mouth and Kerrang! that were your main sources of information along with the two-hours on a Friday night. One band that arrived in a bang was American Glam Rockers Madam X, whose debut album We Reserve The Right was full of downright sleazy rock. The band comprised sisters Maxine and Roxy Petrucci on guitar and drums respectively, with vocalist Bret Kaiser and Chris Doliber on bass.

Their image was shocking for a young lad, Kaiser and Doliber glammed up to the hilt whilst the sisters appeared on the album cover scantily clad with massive hair. That was their only album but in 2014 the band reappeared and Monstrosity is their first release since that “classic” of 1984. You’ll probably be unsurprised to note that this album connects seamlessly to their debut with 40 odd minutes of wham, bam, thank you Mam throwaway hair metal. I can’t say it’s bad but if there is one genre I struggle with it’s the glam/sleaze vein and this is no exception.

Three-minute tracks are churned out with ease, and the reprise of the opener to We Reserve The Right, High In High School, which is the penultimate track sits so comfortably alongside the new songs that you seriously can’t tell the difference. It’s flashy, it’s trashy, it’s Poison, Crüe, Steel Panther and all the others rolled into one. I listened to it once – it bounced off me and that’ll do thanks. 6/10

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Reviews: Pink Cream 69, Jared James Nichols, Daydream XI, Mortishead

Pink Cream 69: Headstrong (Frontiers)

Headstrong marks 30 years of German metal/rock band Pink Cream 69, founded by singer Andi Deris, guitarist Alfred Koffler, and bassist/producer Dennis Ward, they enjoyed  a reasonably successful career despite Deris leaving to join Helloween in 1994. Since then they have forged ahead with David Readman behind the mic releasing albums every couple of years mainly due to Readman and Ward's numerous other projects and guest spots.

Throughout their history they have moved from metal, to rock, to AOR and now they have moved back into the melodic metal sound, their most recent effort Headstrong is a premium slice of melodic metal, layered with hard rock hooks and Readman's soulful vocals the music here is more Jorn than Whitesnake if you're comparing vocalists, crunchy riffs are the order of the day with the keys glistening over the top. See a tracks such as Path Of Destiny, We Bow To None both are rampaging tracks in the mould of Firewind, Walls Come Down are big chuggers, in fact the majority of this album is fist raising, getting you to bang your head with every riff.

Yes there are ballads the biggest of which is Vagrant Of The Night and the country-like The Other Man rounds out the record brilliantly. Headstrong is a cracking album I've played it multiple times and it doesn't diminish although the stand out track is the epic Man Of Sorrow. Pink Cream 69 have maintained a high level of releases throughout their lifespan as a band but recently their shift tot he heavier sound has seen them deliver some of their best records yet. 8/10

Jared James Nichols: Black Magic (Listenable Records)

Wisconsin blues rocker Jared James Nichols returns to the fray with his second full length record, his harder edged blues rocking has been honed in the live arena since the previous record and I must say he's on fire here, tearing his custom Les Paul 'Old Glory' to pieces and delivering his vocals with shot of whiskey as he leads this hard hitting trio rounded out by Dennis Holm (drums) and Erik Sandin (bass), Imagine a rocked up version of Stevie Ray Vaughn & the Double Trouble or Zakk Wylde jamming with Lenny Kravitz and you'd be in the right ballpark with Nichols.

His bluesy riffs are distorted but still shuffle, The Gun is great evidence of this sound, but they don't sacrifice the soul, check out the thundering talkbox fuelled Don't Be Scared or Honey Forgive Me a track with so much funk Glenn Hughes wants it back. He brings some Southern swagger of Home and Keep Your Light On Mamma has a leviathan stomp to it. Black Magic conjures up some very interesting electric blues rock that leaves you wanting more, these tracks have been developed for the live arena with the track times short enough for some sonic experimentation on stage, as a record though Black Magic casts a spell on you that isn't easily broken. 7/10

Daydream XI: The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn (Sensory Records)

Brazilian progressive/power metal band Daydream XI have returned for their second record. It's a concept piece that starts with a spoken word intro and an overture track, something that can be very annoying in today's shuffle generation, but for those of us that like to listen to a record front to back it draws you into the cinematic concept and with Open The Curtains it really hammers the virtuosity of the players involved, with the melodic touches of DGM and Circus Maximus fused with the heavier style of Symphony X or Pyramaze the record is a properly progressive affair, mood and time changes throughout, mind melting instrumental sections but also more importantly some canny songwriting chops to maintain the attention of non proggers.

The band are the trio of  Tiago Masseti guitar/vocals, Marcelo Pereira guitar, Bruno Giordano drums and guest bassist Benhur Lima, there musical chops are beyond reproach here, the record is incredibly cinematic, full of lush arrangements and terrific metal passages, it's very difficult to single out any one track though as they all contribute as part of the overall concept, if pushed though I'd say check out A Cup Of Agony to display how to be intensely progressive taking from both classic and modern prog metal while also having the brevity not to lose interest. The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn maintain's Daydream XI's incredible sound and bolsters it with the over the top nature of say the Ayreon project, it's a deeply conceptual piece, set to some incredible music. If you love progressive metal then you need this album. 9/10

Mortishead: Totality EP (Self Released)

I've Spent My Nights Terrified the intro to this record is probably the most disconcerting thing I've ever heard, it's David Cameron's "All In This Together" speech with the word "lies" screamed over the top of it. It's this anti authoritarian bile that Mortishead inject their songs with, they are here to bludgeon and their music is here to assault you. The Bristol/Portishead band have arresting visuals with the band taking on the persona of a dark parody of an authoritarian and malevolent totalitarian regime, but their music is truly brutal, this EP shows their extreme industrial metal at it's head bashing best huge grooves come through on Shitstorm while Aslaved Asleep has groove/thrash tenacity of LOG and Slipknot.

The riffs are down-tuned and heavy as lead, the drums beat you senseless but the band's real key are the schizophrenic synths and samples that add bite to the wall of noise and vocals so deep in the gutter Pennywise is scared of them. Mortishead bring the deep, dark and heavy with every song on this EP, it's an apocalyptic vision of the world from the album cover (from the talented Very Metal Art) right down to the disconcerting electronics that fizz at the lowest reaches of the record, after five tracks you're broken but want to do it all again, bring on the full length. 8/10

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Reviews: Europe, Appice, Trucker Diablo, Code Red (Reviews By Paul)

Europe: Walk The Earth (Hell & Back Recordings)

Album number 11 from the Swedes and it’s a fine piece of bluesy melodic hard rock. The band who will forever be associated with The Final Countdown have been ramping it up in recent years with Bag Of Bones and 2015’s War Of Kings both containing some belting tunes. Walk The Earth ramps it up another level with the stand out track GTO flying along at break neck speed. The interplay between John Norum and Mic Micaheli reminiscent of so many fine duels in the Deep Purple stable. Vocalist Joey Tempest delivers a fine performance throughout whilst the long-term unity of the band is underpinned by the imperious title track, the slightly sludgy Wolves and the Crusade themed Kingdom United. Leaning more towards Deep Purple than ever, Walk The Earth is a fine album that delivers well. Worth a listen. 8/10

Appice: Sinister (SPV)

The Appice brothers are pretty much the definition of hard rock drumming. Carmine with Cactus, Vanilla Fudge and a whole host of other legends whilst Vinnie first came to attention replacing Bill Ward in Black Sabbath before anchoring the Dio back line for many years. With a plethora of guest stars, Sinister is a polished, if somewhat routine hard rock album with the inevitable massive drum sound. Looking at the guests who contributed to this album, it’s unsurprising that many of the songs veer towards the 1980s feel of bands like Cinderella, Great White and Whitesnake. Whilst there is an undercurrent of the old school Dio much of the album sits very much in the American hard rock camp.

The list of luminaries on the album includes Joel Hoekstra, Craig Goldy and Bumblefoot on guitar, Tony Franklin and Jorgen Carlsson on bass and Erik Norlander on keys. Throw in the vocals of Jim Crean, Paul Shortino, Robin McCauley and Chas West and you get a clear idea of the sound. The album’s title track gets things off to a decent start, a chunky keyboard riff giving way to a heavy guitar sound which then opens at pace, drums unsurprisingly solid. Monsters And Heroes is next, a typical Motley Crue/Whitesnake hybrid. From there on its compact, slightly monotonous hard rock, with few stand-out tracks.

Drum Wars is uninspiring despite the two brothers battering and hammering away. Bros In Drums fairs slightly better for a few seconds but it isn’t ball grabbing and the lyrics are utter dog shit. Add in a bizarre Sabbath Mash which features excerpts of War Pigs and Paranoid (which neither drummer played on!) and ultimately, this is an album which is insipid and fades quick in the memory. 6/10

Trucker Diablo: Fighting For Everything (Self Released)

It is no secret that we have a big love of the Northern Irish big truckers. Album number 4, Fighting For Everything, will only enhance our appreciation of the band who saved our lives at Steelhouse Festival on that rain sodden Friday night with a set that allowed us to drink beer and forget about the 200% precipitation and mud up to our armpits. So, what about Fighting For Everything? Well, if you follow the Big Truck you’ll know that the band have fought through adversity and in many respects, it’s astonishing that they continue to deliver music at all. This album sees the band raise their game a couple of notches with some superb guitar playing and song composition. The guitar work of Tom Harte has improved on each release and listening to the middle section of Drown In The Fire is a clear demonstration of this. Whilst Trucker maintain their no-nonsense approach, and its heads down rock and roll all the way by god is it good stuff.

Listen to Voodoo II, a rampaging tune or the opening salvo of Born Trucker, and it’s impossible not to nod the head, tap the feet and crack open a cold one. The infectious Let’s Just Ride is essence of Trucker, strong chugging riffs, Tom Harte’s clean strong vocals supported by the harmonies of bassist Jim McGurk and Simon Haddock. The title track contains a riff which has Blackberry Smoke’s Up In Smoke all over it but hey, it’s a fucking tune so who cares. Unlike may albums the second half is as strong as the first, Over The Wall and Detroit Steel both quite magnificent tracks which maintain the momentum and keep interest high. The final track, When The Waters Rise, a calmer, highly emotional piece with a clear Irish lilt brings a superb album to a fitting conclusion. The Big Truck does indeed keep on rolling. That’s a big ten four good buddy. 9/10

Code Red: Incendiary (AOR Heaven)

I’m not sure how many more Swedish AOR bands the Ed can chuck at me but suffice to say that he’s testing my patience a little! Code Red, who are a six-piece outfit and who have starred at AOR Heaven are the focus of Ulrick Lonnqvist, who has been around for some time in a variety of bands. Incendiary isn’t the hottest album I’ve ever heard but if you like your music well to the left of the heavy spectrum then this may well be right up your street. Dominated by harmonies and the smooth keyboards of Kasper Dahlqvist, it is sweeter than a stick of rock in a bowl of sugar. The songs are polished, poppy and quite stomach churning in their lyrical content.

Yes, it’s the usual love based themes. Tracks such as I Won’t Be A Hero, My Hollywood Ending and Eternal Pretender ooze the charm of FM, Vega, H.E.A.T. alongside the giants such as REO Speedwagon, Styx and Journey. It’s either fantastic or horrific, depending on your leaning. If you don’t know, think of those 1980s soundtracks from Asia, John Farnham and Dare. I suppose for quality it’s got to be high up there. Makes my stomach churn mind you. 7/10

Monday, 13 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Damnation (Live Review By Paul)

Damnation Festival 2017, Leeds University Students Union

The annual gathering of some of the more extreme end of the metal spectrum boasted a rather fabulous line-up this year and it was no surprise when the event sold out many weeks before the date. An early start from South Wales saw us arrive in a bright but cold Leeds in plenty of time for lunch and a pint of Black Sheep before heading to the Union where we would spend the rest of the day.

My last visit to Damnation was in 2014 where the overcrowding was quite uncomfortable and the organisers have since cut the capacity by a quarter. It still meant that in many cases, early arrival was essential if you wanted to catch bands in all but the main Jagermeister Stage. So, apologies to Vallenfyre, Leprous, Nordic Giants, Dying Fetus and Grave Pleasures. We tried but couldn’t get near!

First up for me was the three-piece Belgian black metal outfit Wiegedood (8) whose recent support slot to Winterfylleth had received positive reviews. Their wall of sound is like the Manchester legends and it was no surprise that the Terroriser Stage was bursting at the seams when the band launched into their set. Blast beats, magnificent technical riffing and the darkest of vocals all combine to make a sound which is exactly as you’d expect for a band whose name translates to ‘death in the cradle’. With viewing severely restricted it was soon time to move on to the next band.

Arkansas outfit Pallbearer (6) were the first band to hit the main stage and a healthy crowd gathered as they were introduced in a fuzzy haze of green lights. Their album Heartless made a good impression earlier this year but unfortunately despite their sound being predominantly doom, the sound was so muffled that it was impossible to catch the melancholy of vocalist Brett Campbell clearly. Frustrated with the sound, we decided to seek out some refreshment at the overpriced bars before the next band.

In the Eyesore Merch Stage Italian outfit Psychedelic Witchcraft (8) took the stage with a crash and proceeded to deliver a set of Sabbath infused psychedelic rock which was most impressive. Their third album Magick Rites And Spells is a top listen and the band mixed tunes from this and their other two releases as they powered through their set. Vocalist Virginia Monti is the focal point of the band, dancing maniacally around the stage with great enthusiasm whilst guitarist Jacopo Fallai ground out his Iommi style licks and riffs.

Back to the Jagermeister Stage for the intriguing and mystical Myrkur (6) the black metal outfit which consists solely Amalie Bruun. Her second album was released about six weeks ago and is a more ethereal approach, which was demonstrated in the opening track before she and her band launched into a more traditional black metal track, complete with banshee screams! Unfortunately, despite being much anticipated, the wailing did little for me and I headed out for another beverage and more metal.

American two-piece Big Business (7) were making hell of a racket when we got to the Eyesore Stage and it soon became apparent that these guys would probably kick Royal Blood in the head rather follow their sound. Huge chunky bass riffs and chaotic rampaging drums filled the small room but with less blast beats than most, it was a welcome relief for a short while. By now the heat in the venue was beginning to kick in and despite the promises of a reduced capacity, there were people everywhere with large queues for the toilets and crushes at the bars.

A rare appearance by UK doom merchants Warning (8) meant a large crowd for the next act on the Jagermeister Stage, with Patrick Walker and co having reunited again this year after an eight-year absence. The down-tuned guitars, introspective lyrics and crushingly heavy doom allowed the hardcore fans an opportunity to relive The Strength To Dream and Watching From A Distance whilst those less familiar with their work could enjoy a stunning set. There was the sight of members of Winterfylleth losing their shit on the balcony and a marriage proposal delivered superbly by Walker. Whilst their lengthy tunes meant the set list was limited, Watching From A Distance was immense.

After a rather tasty hummus and falafel pitta time to get back into the main arena for the most anticipated set of the day. Halifax miseries Paradise Lost (9) delivered an hour of magic, despite some typically frustrating microphone problems for Nick Holmes which clearly pissed him off and enabled him to be even more dour than usual. With Gregor Mackintosh sporting a nifty new Mohican haircut and ripping out the riffs, it was left to Aaron Adey to inject a bit of happiness, his beaming face as he riffed the shit out of his guitar always a joy to watch. The set-list was crammed full of superb Paradise Lost classics as well as three from this year’s crushingly good Medusa in From The Gallows, Blood And Chaos and The Longest Winter. It’s taken a long time, but I truly believe that the band are now finally getting the recognition they deserve. Closing with Say Just Words a lot of happy punters left the main hall content.

One of the big three of Germanic thrash, it’s fair that Sodom (8) are classed as legends within the metal world. Now I think they are the weakest of the three, with Kreator and Destruction superior in my view. However, Sodom may have changed that with a blistering hour during which they blasted through 11 tracks and only stopped when bassist and vocalist Tom Angelripper was informed that they had run out of time. With Bernd Kost slicing and ripping flesh with his guitar and drummer Markus Friewald hammering away at the rear, Sodom hit hard with classics such as Outbreak Of Evil, Sodomy And Lust, Agent Orange, and Napalm In The Morning cheering the crowd and encouraging some brutal mosh pits. An excellent set which enhanced their reputation.

By now the day was running away from us and exhaustion had set in. It was a relief when headliners Bloodbath (7) finally hit the stage, opening with Let The Children Come To Me, Nick Holmes second shift fared better than his earlier mic problems with his growling vocals delivering the death metal to perfection. A set which was well paced and packed with favourites, highlights included So You Die, Anne and the ever brutal Eaten which closed the night off.

So, a highly enjoyable day, some good performances but oh so tiring and crowded. Will I return? I’m not sure. Despite the great value price of the ticket, the long drive and overnight accommodation make it a challenge. With a venue that has little flexibility I’m not sure I have the strength to manage it year on year. But a good day out and some excellent music.