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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Reviews: Ultha, Iamthemorning, Snakes In Paradise, Junkyard Drive, Into Eternity (Reviews By Paul H)

Ultha: The Inextricable Wandering (Century Media)

Black metal huh? A massively wide-ranging genre which encourages the elitists amongst the metal community to exercise their ‘superior’ knowledge of Bathory, Behemoth and Belphegor whilst mere mortals merely dabble. There are so many black metal outfits around these days that it’s nigh on impossible to keep tabs on them all if you also want to listen to any other genre. Hailing from Koln in Germany, Ultha’s melancholic yet ear splitting dark art peaks interest from the opening bars of The Avarist (Eyes Of A Tragedy). Although reminiscent of the atmospheric power of Wiegedood, Fen, Wode and Wolves In The Throne Room, Ultha instead insist they are focused towards the thicker end off grunge (Alice In Chains), noise rock (Helmet) and the gothic style of The Sisters Of Mercy and this certainly plays out.

Whatever they insist, the Germans third full length is a superb collaboration. Consisting of only six songs, it manages to clock in at over 65 minutes in length. With Knives To The Throat continues in the frenzied technical blur of the opening track before There Is No Love, High Up In The Gallows changes direction completely. Opening with haunting bird calls, this is six and a half minutes of electronic tone, individual notes held for the duration whilst an eerie symphonic concerto reminiscent of the music from the opera in The Phantom Menace plays out.

Cyanide Lips opens with ugly down tuned guitars, the beat of a lonely drum merely a precursor to the hell that follows, the track building incrementally on a single guitar riff before exploding into chaos. Use of repetition has long been a favoured tactic for the black metal musician and Ralph Schmidt and colleagues employ it to great effect throughout this descent into melancholia. We Only Speak In Darkness is mesmeric, the slow beat, darkened lyrics and echoing tone transport the listener into The Fields Of Nephilim territory before the quite magnificent 18 minute I’m Afraid To Follow You There, with its opening coldness enveloping the listener and draws you in. Whilst Ultha start this album in a true black metal style, there are many more elements in this complex machine. The Inextricable Wandering is an album that demands attention, commitment and repeated plays. The rewards for committing to this endeavour are massive with one of the most richly crafted releases of 2018. 9/10

Iamthemorning: Ocean Sounds (Kscope)

Russian duo Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina, known as Iamthemorning, have already released three albums, with their last two Belighted and Lighthouse highly-praised. Ocean Sounds is a new intimate studio film shot and named after a remote recording studio on Giske, a Norwegian Island. As well as the film, there is an accompanying CD with a setlist from the three albums along with an unplugged recording of Blue Sea, from their forthcoming fourth album (only on the Blu-Ray release unfortunately). With Lighthouse winning the 2016 Progressive Music Award for Album of the Year and Semkina also winning female vocalist of the Year in Prog Magazine in the same year, the band has clearly laid strong foundations on which to build.

Ocean Sounds is certainly a delicate and delicious release. Semkina’s vocals are a delight, crystal clear, ranging from ethereal to full out rock chick, whilst the beautiful compositions of Kolyadin and the additional musicians provides an almost spiritual experience. Unlike many of their peers, the tracks are not unduly long, with only three of the 12 tracks lasting over four minutes. Ocean Sounds is at times totally captivating. There is the dramatic Scotland with its spiralling string section. Or the thought provoking Os Lunatum with its wild solo piano accompaniment joined towards the end by additional strings and drums.  Although there is no doubt that chamber prog rock is not a taste shared by all, Ocean Sounds is an album that is well worth a listen, even if just for a change from the norm. 8/10

Snakes In Paradise: Step Into The Light (Frontiers Records)

Another Frontiers band to cross our paths, Snakes In Paradise are from Stockholm, Sweden. Step Into The Light is the band’s fourth album, but their first since 2002’s Dangerous Love.  Having released their debut album way back in 1994, you kind of wonder why it’s taken until now to get album number four out. Heavy on the 1980s melodic rock style, rich synthesisers merging with dual guitar work, smooth bluesy vocals and soaring harmonies as 12 tracks of pulsating melodic rock cascade over you. With a huge nod to the late 80s Whitesnake present throughout, it’s nothing new but AOR is always a bit of fun when done well. Will You Remember Me is super ghastly, but like a rabid earworm the bastard is also hauntingly catchy, much like an STD. Think Asia’s most stomach-turning tunes and this is roughly where we are.

There are elements of Europe, Eclipse and the like all over this album. A couple of ballads, such as After The Fire Is Gone, ensure the full AOR album blueprint is followed. “From a distance, I can see those broken lips, that used to be full”, Wow! Things ensures that at least one anthem is on board, and yes, the lyrics are spectacular here too: “remember the summer nights, when we were making love”. It’s so bad it’s great. Liza encapsulates everything about AOR in under four minutes. Catchy high-pitched harmonies in the chorus, awful lyrics, (“let me be the one to take you through the night”), thumping rhythm section and jumping keyboards all combine to hideous effect. If you love your AOR you’ll no doubt be familiar with Snakes In Paradise and so you should be. Melodic rock at its worst and its best. 7/10

Junkyard Drive: Black Coffee (Mighty Music)

Apparently, if you are into straight forward honest rock and roll, Denmark’s Junkyard Drive are the answer to your prayers. I assume that’s if you ignore the thousands of other bands who deliver the same type of generic rock today. Black Coffee is the follow up to the band’s 2017 debut Sin & Tonic (aha. See what they did there?) and it is a reasonable piece of work. Southern swagger mixed with melodic hard rock, there is a touch of Guns n’ Roses and Aerosmith about them. Sweet Little Dreamer offers some neat guitar work, and you can’t fault the smokey roar of vocalist Kris. The problem I have with Junkyard Drive, is that they offer absolutely nothing new.

So, in a similar vein to Those Damn Crows, Ginn Annie and the myriad of other bands who churn this stuff out, they are enthusiastic, powerful and create decent music; it’s just so bloody generic. I have no doubt that in the burgeoning world which is the new wave of classic rock Junkyard Drive will go down a storm. Black Coffee is perfectly listenable, and the band are tight. Good luck to them. However, I like my coffee hot and this just leaves me cold. 6/10

Into Eternity: The Sirens (M-Theory Audio)

A sweeping orchestral introduction momentarily disorientated the listener before the battery of blast beats and power metal scales crashes in. A brief pause allows you to catch your breath before The Sirens really opens out into a rather schizophrenic cacophony which combines progressive rock with death and black metal in a somewhat uncomfortable merger. It’s fast, to the point of Dragonforce pace, and just about controlled in the same way that a race horse may push the limits. Into Psychosis follows, in much the same vein, although we do get the first vocals from Amanda Kieran, who provides clean vocals alongside the growls and screams of guitarist Tim Roth and bassist Troy Bleich.

It’s frenetic stuff, with frequent time changes and movement of styles. At times it feels more a showcase of how fast the band can play. Which isn’t particularly exciting. Add in elements of classical to the mix, as well as acoustic moments, such as the opening to Sandstorm which is quickly consumed by a viciously heavy riff and it all appears a little uncoordinated. The Canadian outfit has been together since 1997 and have released several albums, experiencing several line-up changes since their formation. Whilst the band are technically superb, The Sirens feels as if the very soul of the band has been sucked out and replaced by ludicrously complex and unnecessarily overblown lengthy pieces. It’s all rather unsatisfactory. 5/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: MAN

Man & Glas, The Globe Cardiff

So when a band is on their 50th anniversary tour it would be remiss of us not to attend, when that band is from Wales and something of a legendary act round these parts then it would be positively criminal. Playing just three dates in Wales I went down to the show in The Glob and as the room filled with a mature fan base, sprinkled with the odd younger psych fan like myself, there were stories of the band Padget Rooms Penarth gigs. their early tours and multiple member changes.

First up though decked out in the best shirts of the night was Blackwood trio Glas (8) opening with Blackwood Boogie this three piece then proceeded to get the crowd going with classic R&B that brings in country, rock n roll and blues for a very loud noise, Dai John on vocals and bass, works it playing some groovy finger-style rhythms that could have been coming from a stand up bass rather than the electric, he's got the tick-tock drums of Sam Andrews behind him adding the shuffle to every track. On lead guitar James Oliver peels off lick after bluesy lick bobbing his head like Wilco Johnson as he plays surf slides and staccato jagged riffs. A rollicking opening band who were forced into an encore by the crowd taking full advantage of The Globe's drinks offers, a neat country number later and they managed to leave the stage.       

So with the crowd now filling the room the Welsh psychedelic rockers Man (8) took to the stage with longest serving member Mark Ace (bass/vocals) leading from the middle of the stage. He's flanked by Josh Ace on guitars/vocals/keys, James Beck on guitar either side of him, Malcolm Morley on keys and acoustic guitar (who was member of Man between 1974 & 1976) with over 423 releases, on 75 labels they had a lot songs to choose from so to take a risk on two new unreleased songs called Manor Farm and The Holy Flame Of Freedom but they mixed it with classics like Romain which had James Beck playing some mean slide. Long psych jams turned to short blues driven rockers in an instance Mark is a warm, mild mannered frontman cracking jokes with his Welsh humour striking a chord with the audience. Backed by the young(er) band the performance was infused with energy as Mark and Josh traded vocals replicating the sound of the early material well. With a new album on the way there seems to be no signs of slowing down so here's to another 10 years of Man!

Monday, 24 September 2018

Reviews: The Bleeding, Allegiance, Deathhammer, Leatherjacks (Reviews By Paul S & Rich)

The Bleeding: Rites Of Absolution (UKEM) [Paul S]

The Bleeding are a four piece based in London, they have been going since 2010 and have released one EP in 2013, this is their first album. The band play a combination of death metal and thrash. The feel of the material is fairly old school in both areas rather than the more modern sound of the other bands playing this combination of genres (Revocation and Reprisal).

After a short intro, the album blasts off with the thundering Consumed Existence, which sounds like great old school death metal, reminds me of Asphyx’s track Deathhamer. Second track Dreams Of Hatred has a bit more of a thrash feel to it, tight fast riffs, crashing drums, just great thrash. The album carries on like this, always surfing that knife-edge between thrash and death metal, so some songs move from one sound to the other in a way that is really effective.

Crook And Flail is a slower, heavier, more powerful track that just crushes the listener. Rights Of Absolution feels a little like early Slayer, do I need to say more about it than that? The album is brought to an end with a cracking cover of Death’s Open Casket which is fantastic. If I was going to criticise this album, it would be that it isn’t long enough, but that isn’t really a criticism, I wanted more! Really great album, full of energy and creativity. Highly recommended. 8/10

Allegiance: Beyond The Black Wave (Self Released) [Paul S]

Allegiance are a black metal band from Toulouse, France. They have had as many as 5 members, according to the bumf that I got with the album, but by the time of writing this they may be down to 3 or as few as 2 (the bumf is a little confused). Although there is a much bigger problem with the press release than a little confusion about how many members this band has. The PR refers to the band as being ‘Emperial’ black metal, the band has tied their whole sound to the Norwegian black metal band Emperor. Those are big shoes to fill, and they haven’t done a very good job. This album is a massive rip off of Emperor. This isn’t an homage, it’s simple copying.

First song The Fall Of The Black Heroes is Ye Entranceemperium, pretty much note for note (yes including that really distinctive riff). And it’s like that all the way through, it’s all made up of bits and pieces of Emperor’s career. The song I Wrath I Death has the spoken word bit from The Loss And Curse Of Reverence in it. Sorceress Queen is I Am The Black Wizards. You’ll find one track that is Beyond The Pantheon, up to about halfway through when the strings from In The Wordless Chamber come in and really confuse things.

There's bits of Curse You All Men, An Eulogy Of Icarus, there's even an outro to one song that is Opus A Satana. Ok I’ll admit it, these guys have got some balls to rip off one of the biggest and best black metal bands of all time, and to tell people they are doing it (Emperial Black Metal) takes even more bare faced cheek. But I can’t see the point of this album. The few bits that aren’t nicked are lack lustre and lacking in imagination. The only good thing about this album is that it has reminded me of what a great band Emperor were. Just listen to the originals, they are so much better! 6/10

Deathhammer: Chained To Hell (Hells Headbangers) [Paul S]

Deathhammer are a duo from Oslo, they have been going since 2005 and this is their 4th album. The 2 piece play black trash / early eighties style thrash. The album kicks off with the track Rabid Maniac Force, a song that kicks you in the bollocks, nicks your wallet, and spends the money in it on cheap speed. Just total blasting fast thrash, in an early Sodom, Slayer or Kill ‘Em All era Metallica mould. Fast simple riffs, screamed vocals that do that slightly weird early eighties thing where the last word of each line is sung in FALSETTO. I think Tom Araya used to do this on Slayers first 2 albums. Pretty much all the album is in this style. More modern bands to compare this to would be Toxic Holocaust, Necromantheon or Nifelheim. 

There is a small amount of progression on this album with the song Into The Burning Pentagram, which is a little slower and has some more complex riffs and a bit more of a structure (most of the other songs don’t really have a structure, insanely fast all the way through, isn’t a structure). The album doesn’t have many solos, but in the few places they are used, you can see why they don’t do many solos as they are crap! But that just fits into the early eighties/ black thrash style. The album cover is also very eighties; it’s awful. Looks like a still from a Commodore 64 game, absolutely, goppingly awful, but again that's very eighties thrash; remember Artillery’s Terror Squad, or Anthrax’s Fistful Of Metal covers? This isn’t in any way groundbreaking. It isn’t big or clever, but my god it’s a lot of fun. If you want to be reminded why thrash was so exiting when it first appeared, buy this album! 7/10

Leatherjacks: Leatherjacks (Self Released) [Rich]

Leatherjacks is a self titled EP by the Brazilian hard rock band which works as a preview for the upcoming album Songs For The Strangest Ones which is due to be released later this year. This EP is the first release under the bands new line up with the previous album The Lost Arks Of Rock And Roll all written and performed by Mauro Cordeiro. The EP is made up of four songs one of which (I Hate To Fall In Love) has previously been released as a digital single. The EP is pretty bog standard hard rock with a few influences from old school heavy metal and AOR. The playing throughout is pretty good but the vocals are very weak and quite strained. This is a pretty average release with no songs being particularly memorable and the poor vocals standing out particularly. 5/10

Reviews: Stoned Jesus, Be The Wolf, Groundbreaker, Enterfire (Reviews By Rich & Paul H)

Stoned Jesus: Pilgrims (Napalm Records) [Paul H]

Formed in Kiev, 2009, Stoned Jesus play a blisteringly heavy style of stoner and doom rock which is guaranteed to trip you out. The band’s doom-soaked occult sound incorporates a range of styles which include the likes of Mastodon, Tool, Neurosis as well as the riff heaviness of Sabbath and Zeppelin. Most of the tracks on this 50-minute album are lengthy animals, winding and meandering through several musical territories whilst always bringing the heavy.

It starts with the pulsating Excited, all bristling energy and spunky groove. Then you have the Mastodon feel of the trippy Hands Resist Him which contrasts with the thundering journey on the nine minutes plus Water Me, with its soaring space rock style. Stoned Jesus won’t meet the requirements of all, as some of their direction takes a more indirect path. With several albums already under their belt, Pilgrims is a solid addition to a catalogue of high-quality music. 8/10

Be The Wolf: Empress (Scarlett Records) [Rich]

Empress is the third album by Italian hard rockers Be The Wolf which is due out on Scarlet Records. Be The Wolf play melodic hard rock with a number of different influences from classic rock to modern hard rock to traditional heavy metal resulting in a variety in the songs from the heavy metal driven Burn Me Out to the hair metal swagger of You’re My Demon Tonight and the groovy hard rocking of Trigger Discipline. The only song which sticks out like a sore thumb is the pop and electronic inspired Action which is a truly dreadful song. Empress is a solid hard rocking album played with love and passion which whilst not groundbreaking by any means is an album I would recommend to hard rock fans. 7/10

Groundbreaker: Groundbreaker (Frontiers Records) [Rich]

Groundbreaker is the self titled debut album of the new project featuring FM singer Steve Overland where he is collaborating with Robert Sall of Swedish melodic rockers Work Of Art. With these two collaborating the style of this album is as you guessed is melodic hard rock. This is very saccharine coated melodic hard rock with soaring melodies and hook laden songs. It’s a decent album for those that love this style but it’s very much by the numbers with very little variation throughout the album and so the songs do seem to all blur into one.

There are one or two which stand out a bit more such as the ultra saccharine Eighteen Til I Die. All the staples of the genre are in place here - super sweet vocals, melodic lead guitar playing and retro sounding synths but there’s very little to differentiate between the countless other melodic hard rock bands out there. If you are a big fan of the genre you will love this. Groundbreaker is out now on Frontiers Records. 6/10 

Enterfire: Slave Of Time (Self Released) [Paul H]

London based Enterfire’s debut album, Slave Of Time is an average affair. Melodic thrash in the vein of Bullet For My Valentine and Trivium, the songs are well constructed and performed. Driven by vocalist/lead guitarist Niki B, a Greek born musician, the opening salvo work well, with the title track a driving thrash tune. Open Sky follows and it’s from here on in that interest in the album starts to wane. Throw away tracks which last seconds in the memory. Weapon Of Broken Dreams starts like a BFMV track but morphs into a Maiden-style romp before fading. Unfortunately, most of the 29 minutes here are rather mundane and the album fades from the memory shortly after it finishes. 5/10

Sunday, 23 September 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Necrot, Shallow Graves, They Live We Sleep, Void Titan

Necrot, Shallow Graves, They Live We Sleep, Void Titan, Fuel Rock Club

So this was a pretty mixed group of styles from those folks from Eradication Festival. The original opening band was supposed to be Pupil Slicer however they were not able to make the show so it was Bristol doom crew Void Titan (7) who opened the evening with some lumbering heavy doom with lyrics inspired by the Warhammer universe, playing about 4 songs one of which was the first half of a 20 minute track!

The young band were very accomplished musicians and there music was heavy as all hell. It was a low turnout unfortunately (wet Wednesday's in Cardiff a week before freshers can be like that) but for those in attendance we were already getting our ears abused by the heaviest band on the bill. Void Titan will be supporting Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard in Bristol at the end of the month and there they will fit right in to the sonic discord.

Next to up to bat were South Wales act They Live We Sleep (7) who played an aggressive, frenzied style of hardcore, crust, grind which had the crowd getting involved due to the frontman getting in the thick of it while the band riffed like fuck on the stage. Bringing to mind Converge, Nails and All Pigs Must Die they were uncompromising with their live style the only issue for me was their excessive use of feedback which really affected my tinnitus so I retreated outside (getting old) but outside of that they really took the crowd by the scruff of the neck after the deliberately slow start.

Bringing the biggest crowd of the night was Shallow Graves (6) who are a Cardiff based hardcore outfit, hardcore is a genre I've never really warmed too but as the performance area of Fuel filled up I did start to question whether I'm wrong. Shallow Graves play your typical style of breakdown heavy hardcore with breakdowns moving into breakdowns causing pits to open. A great band (especially the drumming) but I'll never be a fan of the style.

Finally the band I was there to see, Californian trio Necrot (8) they're marketed as death metal crossed with punk but I'd say there was less punk and more proto-thrash, covered in studs and bullet belts Luca Indrio, Sonny Reinhardt and Chad Gailey have been touring the UK demolishing stages. With a reasonably small but dedicated crowd still there the pits started again this time old school thrash pits. It's the sort of early thrash Venom invented and Slayer perfected with songs about death and horror such as Blood Offerings, The Blade and Rather Be Dead, Chad Gailey beat seven shades out of his kit as Sonny Reinhardt plays vicious riffs. Their set flew by in a frenzy Luca barking down the mic while keeping up with the blasting drumming. I'd expect better from the South Wales metal scene (still a long way to go) but for anyone that missed this show, you missed a variety of South Wales/South West's most interestign acts along with some good old American death metal.         

Saturday, 22 September 2018

A View From Another Country: MetalDays 2018 (Review By Rich)

Metaldays Festival 2018

Metaldays is truly an experience and an experience that I recommend all heavy metal maniacs to experience in their lifetime. The first thing that has to be mentioned is the setting which is the beautiful town of Tolmin in the Soca valley in Slovenia. It’s difficult to describe how stunning the scenery is but the town is surrounded by mountains some of which are snow peaked. The festival site itself contains fields, forestry and also has the Soca river running through it which you can swim in (but beware the water is cold!).

 The festival runs for five days Monday to Friday across three stages so there are an astounding amount of bands to see. The Newcomers stage runs for seven days with some bonus bands on the preceding Saturday and Sunday. The bands don’t start until later in the day giving you plenty of time to explore the town, get supplies from the nearby supermarket, swim in the river or simply relax in the sun.

My party arrived at the festival on the Sunday afternoon and after grabbing our wristbands plus some supplies from the supermarket we had the daunting task of setting up camp during a thunderstorm. It was hard not be in awe at the lightning striking the surrounding mountains but at the same time you did not want to be outside in it especially when the rain came falling down. With the campsite all set up and a few drinks down our necks it was time to explore the festival site, get some food and sample a few drinks from the various bars dotted around the festival site.

 The site itself is fairly expansive and due to a lack of signage it was very easy to get lost as I did when the night plunged the site into darkness, I only managed to catch one band on the Newcomers stage and that was Dutch symphonic death metallers Bleeding Gods who despite playing on the smallest stage at the festival brought enormous stage presence and an enormous crowd. I only managed to catch the last two songs of their set so cannot provide a score for their performance. With the festival starting good and proper the following day an early night was had ready for the next five days of metal…


Monday 23rd July

After the rainy Sunday evening the sun came out for Monday morning and thankfully stayed for the remainder of the festival. Following a refreshing morning swim and some food it was time to grab a beverage and head over to the Ian Fraser Lemmy Kilminster stage to watch some bands. Starting the day off for me was the magnificent VUUR (8). I am a massive fan of Anneke Van Giersbergen and the only times I have seen her perform live have been alongside Devin Townsend so it was a joy for me to see her perform her own material live. The majority of the set was taken from VUUR’s sole album In This Moment We Are Free - Cities with songs such as Time - Rotterdam and Days Go By - London sounding magnificent. We were also treated to a brilliant cover of Strange Machines by The Gathering. Throughout the whole set Anneke sounded phenomenal and the band played fantastically.

Next up were Jinjer (8) who are a band I have reviewed an album previously and didn’t impress me very much. Live though it is a different matter as Jinjer put in an incredible performance with their fusion of metalcore, death metal and progressive metal. Highlights from their set included Words Of Wisdom, I Speak Astronomy and Pisces. Frontwoman Tatiana Schmailyuk absolutely commands the stage with her incredibly versatile vocals. Her range is absolutely incredible.

It was time for one of my most anticipated sets of the week by one of my favourite bands the mighty Leprous (8). I have had the pleasure of seeing Leprous perform live multiple times and they never disappoint being one of the finest live acts I have seen. This was no exception with a set covering their last three albums including Bonneville, Stuck, From The Flame, The Price, The Flood and Foe. Frontman Einar Solberg sounded as mesmerising as always and the whole band put in a exceptionally tight performance despite seeming to be suffering in the strong Slovenian sun. There are more songs I would have liked to have heard but the band unfortunately only had a short time on stage.

The next band I managed to see was Carpathian Forest (4) playing on the Bosko Bursac stage. I was very much anticipating this set having never seen Carpathian Forest perform live but wish I hadn’t bothered as the band were clearly drunk as shit especially frontman Nattefrost who could barely get a coherent word out. The band were appallingly sloppy and were just frankly an embarrassment and a huge disappointment. I headed back over to the main stage to catch the majority of Eluveitie (8) who I should have watched from the start as they were magnificent. It had been a while since I had last seen Eluveitie live and the first time since their dramatic lineup change. It has to be said that getting Fabienne Emi as the new singer is a brilliant move as her voice is absolutely incredible. The band performed a great set including songs such as Thousandfold, Quoth The Raven, The Call Of The Mountains before closing with fan favourite Inis Mona.

Headlining the first night were the mighty Behemoth (9) who brought their full show to Metaldays complete with pyrotechnics and theatricality. We were treated to a fantastic set which delved into the Behemoth back catalogue with opener Ov Fire And The Void setting the scene. Plenty of fire and smoke engulfed the stage as the crowd fervently responded to Behemoth classics such as Demigod, Conquer All, Alas Lord Is Upon Me, Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Decade Of Therion, Slaves Shall Serve, Chant For Eschaton 2000 and O Father O Satan O Sun. We were treated to two special songs as well the first being a brand new one entitled Wolves Of Siberia which shows great promise for the new album plus a cover of The Cure’s A Forest where the band were joined on stage by Shining frontman Niklas Kvarforth. Behemoth showed themselves to be worthy headliners and brought the first night of the festival to a very satisfying close.

Tuesday 24th July

The second full day of the festival involved a lot more running in between stages. Due to the cancellation by Lords Of Black the first band of the day I managed to see was Italian doom merchants Caronte (7) whose huge crushing sound threatened to level the second stage. I had not previously heard any Caronte but was suitably impressed by their performance.

Another band who I am not very familiar with was Pallbearer (8) who played an absolute beauty of a set of emotionally charged doom metal had me absolutely mesmerised and rooted to the spot for its entire duration.

It was over to the main stage for the next band Battle Beast (9) who seriously brought the party to Metaldays. Battle Beast inject a big wedge of pop music into their power metal sound and the audience reacted very positively partying away to tunes such as Straight Through The Heart, Bringer Of Pain, Bastard Sons Of Odin, Black Ninja and Touch In The Night. The band have tremendous energy on stage running around but none more so than frontwoman Noora Louhimo who runs and jumps around the stage yet still manages to sing flawlessly with her powerhouse vocals sounding absolutely incredible.

Back over to the second stage for something more on the violent side of things and suitably delivered by Rotten Sound (8) who played a blistering set of HM-2 charged grind with savage riffs, devastating blastbeats and plenty of groove which is what separates Rotten Sound from the majority of grindcore acts and in my opinion makes them better. It was my first time seeing Rotten Sound live and they definitely did not disappoint.

After a swift walk back to the main stage I managed to catch the last half of Coroner (8) who gave Metaldays a much needed thrashing. Thrash was one genre fairly lacking on the Metaldays lineup so it was nice to see one of the few thrash bands on the bill put in a suitably savage performance and full of classics from their back catalogue such as Masked Jackal, Grin, Reborn Through Hate and Die By My Hand.

I remained at the main stage to catch Ensiferum (8) who managed to absolutely pack out the field with their epic brand of folk metal. There was a definite party atmosphere throughout their hour set ably helped by the fact that most people had been drinking for several hours. It was very much a greatest hits set with songs such as For Those About To Fight For Metal, Twilight Tavern, Token Of Time, Lai Lai Hei and Iron going down an absolute storm with the crowd.

It was finally time for the nights headliners and possibly my most anticipated set of the entire festival. A band I had been listening to for around 15 years and had never had the chance to see live - the German heavy metal legends Accept (10). They played an absolutely flawless set which was definitely worth the 15 year wait with a perfect sound, note perfect performance and a setlist containing all the classics new and old. It’s testament to Accept that their latter day material is just as strong as their classic 80’s material and the set was a nice balance between the two with modern day classics such as Die By The Sword, Pandemic, Stalingrad and Teutonic Terror sitting comfortably alongside Restless And Wild, Princess Of The Dawn, Metal Heart, Balls To The Wall and I’m A Rebel. The entire set was an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.

It was back over to the second stage for the final set of the day which was a fiery performance from Watain (8). With all the flames the second stage looked like an inferno which was very suitable for the savagery of Watain’s set with songs off their fantastic new album Trident Wolf Eclipse sitting alongside older numbers such as Devil’s Blood, Malfeitor and Waters Of Ain.

Wednesday 25th July

Day three of Metaldays and although tiredness was starting to set in there was no rest for the wicked. First band of the day was 1000mods (8) who although playing early in the day absolutely commanded the main stage with their groovy stoner rock tunes. Not a band I am very familiar with but one I would 100% watch on stage again in the future.

The next band I watched was over on the second stage and that was old school death metallers Gruesome (7) who played a solid yet fairly unremarkable set of Death inspired death metal. The set was a mix of new songs such as Inhumane and A Waste Of Life played alongside older ones like Dimensions Of Horror and Savage Land. The band brought their set to a close with an awesome cover of Death’s Pull The Plug. A good set but just missing the wow factor.

Next up on the second stage were Swiss black metallers Schammasch (7) who were suitably impressive but their brand of avant-garde metal was difficult to get into and more suited a dark and gloomy stage indoors rather than an outdoor stage in the forest in glorious sunshine.

It was over to the main stage for one of the most crazy and unusual acts of the weekend and that was French genre defying project Igorrr (9). Igorrr incorporate an insane amount of different genres into their sound mixing extreme metal, dubstep, breakcore, classical and French baroque amongst other things. The majority of the instrumentation was pre-recorded and mixed and triggered by Igorrr himself who was backed up on stage by a live drummer and two live vocalists - Laurent Lunoir who handles the extreme vocals and the jaw droppingly awesome Laure Le Prunenec who handles the classical vocals. With all the different genres on display and smashed together in psychotic style Igorrr are a massive head fuck of a band but the on stage performance was simply sublime and truly memorable.

Next up on the main stage were Soulfly (7) who performed their groove thrash attack to a huge crowd. Kicking things off with the ferocious Frontlines the band ploughed through staples from their back catalogue such as Prophecy, Blood Fire War Hate, Rise Of The Fallen and Back To The Primitive. New song The Summoning sat well with the audience and showed promise for the new album.

Headlining the main stage this evening were Canadian death metal masters Kataklysm (9). Kataklysm are a band who have never gained a massive following in the UK usually playing small clubs whenever they tour but over in mainland Europe it is a whole different story as Kataklysm had one of the largest and most enthusiastic audiences of the entire festival. It was fantastic to see Kataklysm command such a large crowd and play easily the finest set I’ve ever seen them play.

 The band had huge circle pits, walls of death and crowd surfers galore to accompany crushing death metal anthems such as Like Angels Weeping (The Dark), As I Slither, Push The Venom, In Shadows & Dust and Crippled & Broken, Songs off new album Meditations such as Guillotine and Narcissist also went down a storm with the fervent metal hungry crowd. Kataklysm played easily one of the best sets of the entire festival and proved they are more than worthy to fill a headlining slot.

It was back over to the second stage for the final band of the day Austrian blackened death metal horde Belphegor (6) who brought the day to a bit of a disappointing end. The band had the longest intro tape which tested the patience of a lot of the crowd and when the band hit the stage the band sounded flat and lifeless. Too much was played off latest album Totenritual which whilst a good album fans were hoping for more from the back catalogue. Things did pick up when older songs such as Hell’s Ambassador - Belphegor, Stigma Diabolicum and Lucifer Incestus but the band seemed to be uninterested and just going through the motions.

Thursday 26th July

I had started feeling unwell from the Thursday onwards so unfortunately didn’t get to the stages as early as I would have liked. I managed to get to the second stage to catch the end of the set by death metal pioneers Master but didn’t see enough to justify scoring the band. I remained at the second stage to catch another of the festival highlights which was New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry (9). This band has been making big waves of late due to their young age plus their unique incorporation of the Te Reo Māori language into their music. The hype though seems more than justified as the band put on an absolutely jaw dropping performance. The music is a mix of groove and thrash metal and whilst fairly simplistic it is devastatingly effective and it is impossible to resist the urge to bang your head along. The Te Reo Māori language mixed with aggressive metal riffs is such a winning combination and it really pumps and psyches you up. Alien Weaponry left the stage leaving an audience hungry for more.

I stuck around at the second stage to catch a band who have been on the line up of many festivals I have attended but have always clashed with someone else so this time it was time to give Wiegedood (8) a chance. Black metal is a difficult genre to get right at festivals due to so much of it being based on atmosphere but despite performing in a sunny forested area Wiegedood managed to perform a brilliant set and also maintain the atmosphere of a black metal show. Highlight for me was the fantastic title track of their latest album De Doden Hebben Het Goed III.

It was time for some good old classic rock ably provided by the fantastic Black Star Riders (8) who performed an energetic and particularly loud set. The band played a nice mix of songs from their three albums including All Hell Breaks Loose, Heavy Fire, Soldierstown and Bound For Glory. Of course having a certain Scott Gorman in your ranks you get the obligatory Thin Lizzy covers with Jailbreak and The Boys Are Back In Town going down a storm with the festival crowd.

The main stage arena was filling up nicely in anticipation of the nights headliners which meant that Hatebreed (7) played to a very sizeable audience. Hatebreed are one of those bands I find fairly monotonous on their albums but live are absolutely brilliant. It could be I was getting tired or the fact I wasn’t feeling 100% but I didn’t enjoy Hatebreed as much as I have previously. Another factor could be this was the longest set I have seen them play and an hour of fairly repetitive hardcore may have tested by patience. The band played a great set taking songs from their entire back catalogue including As Diehard As They Come, Live For This, Last Breath, Tear It Down, I Will Be Heard and Destroy Everything. It was a good set but I think I was feeling too burnt out to appreciate it plus I was saving my energy for the headliners…

Headlining the main stage and the main headliner of the whole festival were the legendary Judas Priest (10). The arena was absolutely jam packed for the metal gods and the excitement in the air was electric as Black Sabbath’s War Pigs came blasting out of the speakers. What followed was a fantastic set with a bit of something for everyone - a nice mix of new material, Judas Priest set staples plus a few more obscure ones for the hardcore Priest fans. The band kicked off with the title track from stunning new album Firepower and followed it with an all you can eat platter of heavy metal deliciousness including Grinder, Sinner, Lightning Strike, Bloodstone, Saints In Hell, Turbo Lover, Freewheel Burning, Hell Bent For Leather before the main set was brought to a close with the crushing ferocity of Painkiller.

 The band returned for an encore of material off the classic British Steel album with Metal Gods, Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight prompting a huge singalong from the audience. The band performed brilliantly with Richie Faulkner performing fretboard pyrotechnics whilst Andy Sneap did a more than admirable job standing in for Glen Tipton. The metal god himself Rob Halford despite being 67 years old sounded absolutely incredible with his voice sounding like a man less than half his age. Judas Priest showed exactly why they are legends bringing the main stage to a close in epic fashion. The only drawback is I enjoyed it so much that it seemed over way too quickly.

Friday 27th July

Unfortunately I felt even more unwell on the Friday morning and it didn’t improve throughout the day so I didn’t end up seeing a single band instead wallowing in misery and self pity in the campsite. There wasn’t loads I really wanted to see on the final day but I did miss sets by the likes of Demonical, Goatwhore, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Primordial, Municipal Waste and Cannibal Corpse.

Overall despite a disappointingly ill end to the festival I fully enjoyed my Metaldays experience and highly recommend it to anyone. It’s like having a holiday and attending a festival in one. I for one will definitely be returning in 2019 in improved health and enjoying the full experience.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Reviews: Alter Bridge, Alkaline Trio, Liar Thief Bandit, Ravenlight (Reviews By Alex & Paul H)

Alter Bridge: Live at the Royal Albert Hall W/The Parallax Orchestra (Napalm Records)

Evolving from post-grunge band to theatrical metal outfit, Alter Bridge have always been unafraid to be ambitious. This live album recording just that by incorporating songs from their discography into a phenomenal set at the Royal Albert Hall, accompanied by a full Orchestra, a move which makes perfect sense considering the evolution of each album. Blackbird proved staying power with powerful anthemic choruses, and sweeping emotional moments. ABIII mastered a darker sound, with introspective lyricism. Fortress proved some of their most visceral and commanding work yet, while The Last Hero incorporated theatrical and symphonic ideas into their style. Myles Kennedy’s stunning vocal range and Mark Tremonti’s signature guitar stylings, both playing off the musical expertise of the Parallax Orchestra, only adds to the epic atmosphere that these songs embody.

None of the live ferocity which Alter Bridge bring to traditional live settings is lost. Addicted To Pain, The Writing On The Wall and Cry Of Achilles to name only a few, are performed with the same vigour as those who have seen this band live, except galloping perfectly in time with the rhythm section are is a chorus of stringed instruments, and providing atmosphere to the suspenseful moments is a company of brass instruments. We even see the band taking the opportunity to perform some live rarities, including The End Is Here and Words Darker Than Their Wings. Perhaps the instants where this interplay is played out best however, is on the ballads. Before Tomorrow Comes is transformed splendidly from a pleasant rock tune, to a joyous and euphoric anthem. Wonderful Life and Watch Over You which are played side by side in what you can only imagine must have been a particularly moving moment for the audience have their subdued beauty complemented yet not overwhelmed. Even Blackbird, one of my personal favourite songs, has its sincere emotionality and lyricism about moving on or losing a loved one, made to paint a yet more vivid picture, and flies us from through each sombre or determined moments in that songs progression.

Of course, I have no doubt that there are some moments in which the magnificence of the show is lost on the production, no live recording is going to replicate the experience of going to a concert. Yet, we have all heard it argued that metal is the closest music musically to orchestral or classical music. While that’s a debate for another day, shows like the one remembered here lend the idea some accuracy, by carrying a commanding atmosphere, and carrying emotion as well as loudness. 8/10

Alkaline Trio: Is This Thing Cursed? (Epitaph Records)

Alkaline Trio occupy a musical space also laid claim to by the Offspring or Green Day, balancing traditional, frenetic, Ramones style punk, while also embodying some of that pop-punk immaturity, enjoyed as a near-generation spanning guilty pleasure. In fact, frontman Matt Skiba, has showed his allegiance to both, collaborating with members of NOFX and BADCOP-BADCOP, for the low-budget punk musical Home Street Home, and more notably becoming a full-time member of Blink-182. ‘Trio themselves though are returning to that mid-way point after spending a few albums dabbling in darker and less carefree waters, proving a welcome decision. With thirteen songs and a running length of just over half an hour, Is This Thing Cursed? is full of short, sharp an catchy punk songs which don’t dump the personal or political lyricism of the past few records. 

Tricking you for a moment into thinking it might be emulating the musical direction of them, the opening title track begins with a pretty piano melody, before the familiar sound of a bouncy rhythm section, simple yet striking four chord riffing and back and forth singing exchanges kick in. "Maybe it’s some kind of spell that I’ve been living under, collecting coins found near a wishing well’" Skiba sings here, using his penchant for mythic terms of phrase to allude to his drinking problems Blackbird and Demon Division immediately follow, proving effective for making the heart race, the later declaring ‘’you’re not in love your just insane’’ humorously, yet with a large nod to the more serious topics of fear and paranoia. Little Help? and Pale Blue Ribbon are more traditional, paying homage to the strong folk tradition in their genre, seeing our frontman adopt a familiar snarl, as if playing a character. 

 Owing more so to Skiba's time in a musical, Goodbye Fire Island and Throw Me To The Lions use light and shade to create a sentimental feel. Indeed, Stay and Krystalline are two songs relying on a more stripped down composition, to carry emotion, proving again that you don’t need a doctorate in musical theory to be a great songwriter. I find Skiba's knack for taking seemingly tiresome concepts like romance or alcohol and transforming them into something deliciously dark intriguing, yet if we are to acknowledge how lyricism walks hand in hand with the playing, I can only admire the instrumental interplay here. No one is showing off, but are instead coming together to a sound which is crisp and warm, yet bursting with attitude. 7/10

Liar Thief Bandit: Straight Ahead (7Hard)

Liar Thief Bandit have a sound which is about as forthright and fiery as the name suggests. A rock n roll so imbued with huge choruses and distinctive guitar licks, that even a massive music snob like me, can’t help resist. Just something about the no frills work hard play hard attitude of Fire It Up, the frantic and rebellious sting of Head Down, or the cheeky boldness of Liquor And Poker embodies a charm so closely associated with a local music scenes, and traditional bluesy traits, which punks and meatheads alike can’t help but enjoy for the honesty and straightforward sound. 

Production, courtesy of Gustav Brunn, is incredibly polished, a trait which stands out especially on songs like I Stand Corrected and The Good Ones. Although this may ever so slightly take away from some of the raw liveness associated with acts as Motörhead and AC/DC, which these musicians undeniably take influence from, it’s a style which helps to bring out the hooks in the guitar exchanges and harmonies, while still keeping the crunch and fierceness firmly upfront. Overall, Straight Ahead gets you in a good mood with its catchiness, down-to earth lyricism and kind-hearted assertiveness. Sometimes that’s all great rock music needs. 7/10

Ravenlight: End Of The World (Self Released)

It’s no secret that I struggle with symphonic metal. I’ve dabbled, tasting the offerings of Within Temptation, Nightwish, Delain and Epica, but after a while I’m afraid I get a bit bored and in need of a new rush to stimulate me. Ravenlight is a two-piece outfit from Northern Ireland who formed in January 2018. This four-track EP described as the core pillars of the band is the result of their hard work since their formation. All the music is played by John Connor, whilst Rebecca Feeney provides the operatic vocals. Feeney’s high-pitched operatic vocal is an acquired taste, and one that doesn’t always work for me. The music is a typical mix of fast paced drumming, heavy synths harmonies and crashing guitar riffs.

At least on the rousing The Wild Hunt Feeney lowers the range a little and makes it much more listenable than opener Words Unspoken. The title track contains some of the most irritating keyboard work I’ve heard in years, and it’s at this stage that the weakness of a multi-instrumental musician surfaces. It’s hurried power metal, racing unnecessarily whilst being completely devoid of feeling and passion. And don’t get me started on the dull, plodding final track, Where The Stars Grow. I wish Ravenlight every success. I really do. However, if this is the end of the world, then kill me now. 4/10

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Reviews: Metal Allegiance, Freak Kitchen, Chthonic, Four Seconds Ago (Reviews By Paul H)

Metal Allegiance: Vol II Power Drunk Majesty (Nuclear Blast)

The success of the debut release from this admittedly mighty supergroup in 2015 earned an 8/10 from me. Live I wasn’t that bothered, only watching a bit of their appearance at Bloodstock but with the follow up release containing several of my favourite vocalists, this was an album that I was keen to listen to. I suppose it’s unsurprising that the tracks on Vol II tend to fit the vocalists rather than the other way round. Take Mother Of Sin for example. What else would you expect from Overkill’s Bobby Blitz than a stomping thrashing beast that takes no prisoners and allows Blitz to deliver his trademark scream? Terminal Illusion features Accept frontman Mark Tornillo and yeah, it sounds like a track of the next Accept album. Now, that’s no bad thing, as Accept fucking rule and I love his gravel-soaked delivery. It’s a thunderous track, with Mike Portnoy, for it is he on the drum stool once more battering the shit out of his kit.

King With A Paper Crown sees Alex Skolnick riffing for his life, with Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg delivering in the only way he can, gruffly. By far and away the best track on the album however, is the anthemic Voodoo Of The Godsend. Tribal drum patterns and down tuned guitar make way for Soulfly’s Max Cavalera who gives a stellar performance. In fact, this would fit perfectly on the forthcoming Ritual album. Elsewhere we have Troy Sanders from Mastodon and ‘house’ vocalist, Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda who not only delivers strongly on Impulse Control but gives his all on Power Drunk Majesty Part I before Floor Jansen adds a bit of feminine style to Part II. With Dave Ellefson and Mark Menghi superb in their execution alongside Skolnick and Portnoy, the musicianship is unsurprisingly first rate. This is an enjoyable release which allows all those involved to let rip. 8/10

Freak Kitchen: Confusion To The Enemy (Thunderstruck Productions)

One of the joys of writing for Musipedia of Metal is the range of music you are exposed to. Freak Kitchen is a typical example. A band I’d never heard before, they formed in Gothenburg in 1992 by guitarist Mattias ‘Ia’ Eklundh, Freak Kitchen soon earned a reputation for their ‘corny heavy pop rock Latin world jazz avant garde metal blues straight from hell’and Eklundh was in high-demand, with his guitar playing featuring on albums by Soilwork, Evergrey, Bumblefoot (Sons Of Apollo/Guns N Roses), Jonas Hellborg, amongst others. 

Album number nine reflects the band’s singular vision which has been a constant on all their albums. Citing influences as diverse as Dean Martin to Slayer, Kiss to Zappa and Indian Carnatic music, approaching Confusion To The Enemy requires an open mind. It is certainly as promised: a wide-reaching, experimental/progressive/metal smorgasbord. From the opening comedy skit of Morons, the Electric Six style Alone With My Phone, through to the mellow sentimentality of By The Weeping Willow, the thumping title track and the jazz fused The Era Of Anxiety, Eklundh along with Christer Hysén (bass/vocals) and drummer Björn Fryklund provide one of the more interesting and eclectic albums of 2018. Definitely worth checking out. 8/10

Chthonic: Battlefields Of Asura (Century Media)

I’ve seen Taiwanese black metal icons Chthonic twice live. Once at BOA in 2012 and supporting Satyricon at the Limelight in Belfast in 2013. Both times I was distinctly unimpressed. Battlefields Of Asura is their eighth album and their first since 2013’s Bu-Tik. In the intervening five years the band have focused on domestic issues, raising families and in the case of frontman Freddy Lim, who is one of the most principled and right on people in metal, forming a new political party and being elected to the Taiwanese parliament. Kudos to him for that achievement. 

However, despite that, and the presence of Randy Blythe and Denise Ho, iconic freedom fighter and singer from Hong Kong, this is an album I really struggled with. I love black metal but the vocals on this release are just appalling. I’m fully in favour of the concepts that run through the 11 songs on the album, depicting the adventure of deities in Taiwan carrying messages about resistance, freedom and fraternity. Musically there is much to be impressed about, with the synth work mixing neatly with the frantic blast beats and tremolo picking but I’m sorry, the vocals just destroy it. 5/10

Four Seconds Ago: The Vacancy (3 Dot Recordings)

The combination of Periphery guitarists Jake Bowen and Misha Mansoor, The Vacancy is the debut release on 3Dot Recordings, the label devised by the whole of Periphery. It’s fair to say that this is far away from our usual fare, with organic electronics, analog synths, lush guitars and ethereal vocals layered through 50 minutes of electronic music. The downtempo dreamscapes intertwin perfectly on an album which provides numerous calming tranquil moments, programming has never been particularly interesting or attractive but there are moments on this release which sweep over you in waves. Galaxy and Bloodfrenzy immediately catch the ear, the ambient sounds combining strongly. The album culminates with the title track, a seven-minute piece which explodes with high tempo in mid-section and which also features Axel Mansoor on additional vocals. Whilst I’m still not taken with the whole electronic music field, this is ideal for calm, relaxation as well as helping with insomnia. 7/10

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Sikth (Review By L'Angelo Mysterioso)

Sikth, Loathe, Malum Sky, The Globe Cardiff

A warm but rainy Sunday evening sees some eager prog and tech metal fans queue up early, eagerly awaiting entry to the well established, 350 cap ‘Globe’ in Cardiff.

Malum Sky (7) start the evening off with their mix of classic and contemporary prog metal. With 100 people through the door at this point means at first, the crowd is a little still but as the band power through their riff catalogue, reminding me of Dream Theater, Gojira, Tool and Textures, all at the same time, the crowd warms up to them as their rather outgoing front man boogies through the powerful instrumental sections. They’re the kind of band a young metal fan could take their dad to and he’d also enjoy them.

There’s no denying the band are skilled musicians but at times, things seem a little forced and don’t always flow. The more mainstream members of the crowd struggle to follow some parts of songs but as more people flood in from the rain, the room warms up and starts to move in and out of time with the band. Their applause at the end of the set is more than any local metal band the venue has seen for a long time. Overall, Malum Sky perform a technically proficient set with an intriguing front man making up for the rest of the band’s static (at times) stage presence while they nail their hard parts.

Up next, Loathe (9) set up with a good portion of the crowd eager for them to start. Sound checking and tech-checking in the dark, the mysterious five piece prepare themselves. Then it starts. Eerie sounds and visuals, dense grooves and dark melodies. The room instantly begins to move to their perfect blend of hardcore, deathcore and metalcore. Grooves, tempos and time signatures change with ease and the band are clearly having fun, being able to play the difficult material almost album perfect. As the set continues, pits start and the frontman, Kadeem France, has the crowd in his hands as they obey his every word. The 4 piece rhythm section beside and behind him power through the thickest sounding riffs to emotional soundscapes in what can only be described as an attack on all the senses. But one that leaves you wondering how and wanting more. However, despite all of the above, the band are humble. Thankful to be in the room with us all and thankful to the opener and headliner for helping them put together a fantastic evening so far.

The room clears down for cool down and cigarette breaks as Loathe load out and Sikth (9) load in. There’s no air of mystery surrounding Sikth. The crowd start to come back in and know exactly what they’re about to get. The band don’t shy away from testing their gear as the drummer, Dan Foord, gives the OK and the house lights start to dim. However, as the band kick off with their first song, it’s apparent they’re a man down. Guitarist ‘Pin’ is not with them and at first, you can really tell.
 
The band muddle through their first song to an overwhelming response. Clearly happy to be back after such a long time the dual front man approach is one of the few that works well as they hype the crowd up for more of their back catalogue. By the 4th track, the band’s sound finally tears through you. You’re hearing it exactly as it’s intended. Bass through your chest, tapping and dissonance over the top of shrieks and shrills and crushing riffs emphasising just how heavy they are, and all this while a man down. The crowd enjoys the good mix of old and recent material moshing to almost every song, singing along where they can and headbanging, air guitaring or just smiling in disbelief at the tightness of the band.

The band were ahead of their time when they released their first album 15 years ago. Yet there were people there that would have only discovered them this year and as such the crowd varies from 16-45 but this doesn’t stop everyone in the room coming together and appreciating a band truly at the top of their game. The crowd were left in disbelief at the range of textures throughout their set, playing favourites and a couple we just didn’t expect but ultimately how they didn’t disappoint in performance, despite being one of the most technical bands out there. 

A View From The Back Of The Room: BMF 666 Charity Gig Pontypool

BMF 666 Charity Gig: Isolation, Sepulchre & Eulogy, The Dragonflli, Pontypool

The second Bloodstock Metal Forum charity evening of the year was a slightly more muted affair than the previous one at Fuel Rock Club. This time the action took place at The Dragonflli in Pontypool, I bit further away than Cardiff centre but in true troubadour style we made our way against the adversity of a broken vehicle to the venue to support a glut of local talent. Upon arrival we were informed that Sounds Of Insane Music wasn't performing so there was only three acts playing this evening however the atmosphere was warm with everyone pulling together to raise as much money for Hope GB (Local Autism Charity) as possible. With an alcohol free Budweiser in hand (seriously this is great beer, sweet and moreish) it was time for the night to begin.

First up on the stage were Eulogy (7) a groove laden trio that did a stock in trade with stoner influence rock. Drawing similarities to Pig Irön (especially vocally) they rocked away with the crowd bobbing along nicely to the fat riffs. A slightly ropey start and a complete lack of lead guitar gave way to a more entertaining final third of the set where Neil's voice grew into a Mark Tornillo styled bellow and the band eased into a groove cracking jokes about the size of the crowd (it was still early) before finishing with a bang. Nothing like a bit of hard rocking to get the night off to a strong start, it was an easy way to kick things off saving the heavy for later.

As far as the next band on stage were concerned there is a simple question to ask. Do you like Slayer and Kreator? Well good because so do Swansea death thrashers Sepulchre (8), expanded to a four piece since I last saw them adding guitarist Dan Yeoman and bassist Ashley Quinton to the founding duo of Darren Evans vocal/guitar and drummer Aimee Coppola. The addition of the second guitar is pretty vital to their sound it's given them a much more vibrant and aggressive style meaning the riffs snarl as much as Darren's death metal vocal. He's an excellent frontman bare chested and headbanging with all and sundry (the wonders of a guitar wireless system) the major focal point while the remaining three members lock in for serious aggression. Tracks such as Dreadnought, Slave Psychosis and Betrayed By God were delivered with venom and got those who were straggling in the bar into the performance room to throwdown. It was injection of pace the night needed with the room filling during their set. It was great to see this band live again as they always impress but now they seem more ferocious than before.

Finally it was time to add a little theatricality to the evening with the headliners for the evening Isolation (7). Curiously the look of the band totally betrays their sound, with those on the instruments decked out in orange prison overalls and a corpse painted frontman arrived in a straight jacket and leather Lecter mask. Those expecting King Diamond, Cradle Of Filth or even Alice Cooper though were gravely mistaken as Isolation have a sound much more in tune with Ghost, it's NWOBHM styled melodic metal ripe with bouncy riffs, clean solos and horror lyrics. The gravelly vocals meant it was more Di'Anno than Dickinson but the songs were pretty decent although a cover of Breaking The Law wasn't totally needed but it's a Saturday night so sometime a singalong is just what the (mad) doctor ordered.

All in all it was another successful night from Jenny Lou and Craig of the BMF (South Wales Branch) who organised the show. They made £190 for Hope GB and got a lot of local bands a new audience. The next BMF outing is at Easter next year and is already looking to be a cracker with Witch Tripper headlining. Good work to all involved! Can't wait to do it again!