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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Reviews: Anvil, Trillium, Tedeschi Trucks Band

Anvil: Monument Of Metal (Camden)

Monument Of Metal is a compilation album compiled by Anvil in the wake of their career resurrection created by the rockumentary Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil. Singer/Guitarist Steve 'Lips' Kudrow and Drummer Robb Reiner are the only original members with current bassist Glen Five being present since 1996. This album is a great career overview which even features the title track of their latest album Juggernaut Of Justice. The Canadian band have influenced Metallica and Megadeth, these influential tracks are heard in the riffing and in 'Lips' vocal delivery which is very like Dave Mustaine's and sometimes verges on Rob Halfordesque screams. Some of the earlier tracks such as 666, Metal On Metal are the re-records from their This Is Thirteen album. However that doesn't really matter as the album contains 19 slabs of prime heavy metal that will be a great eye-opener for people discovering the band and wanting to have a nice career overview (like me I must admit) but also for fans who maybe want a collection on their iPod. This is only Anvil's second best of and as they are still releasing albums (and were way before the film re-kindled interest) it doesn't smack of the commercial cash in many compilations have. Great release form an underrated band rediscovered. 8/10

Trillium: Alloy (Frontiers)

Amanda Sommerville is known as the major vocal coach in the metal world as well as appearing on albums by After Forever, Kamelot, Epica, Edguy and being a major part of Tobias Sammet's Avantasia and metal opera Aina. Following on from the duet album she released with ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske she has released her first all-metal album. Alloy is pure symphonic metal with dark lyrical content and orchestrations galore. Ms Sommerville's voice is exquisite, her range is fantastic dripping with emotion and power, she has also managed to acquire a top-notch supporting band with Sascha Paeth and Miro handling the production and guitar and keys/orchestrations respectively, the rest of the guitars are handled by Epica's Sander Gommans and the rest of the band are the cream of the power/symphonic/progressive metal crop. As far as the songs go they are prime slabs of symphonic heavy metal filled with heavy guitars, ominous keys and tight solos. Best tracks are the opener Machine Gun, Mistaken and Scream It which features Jorn Lande. The album is overall excellent quality (as it would be with the members involved) however if you are not a fan of female-fronted metal this will not convert you however anyone else will get discover an excellent metal album featuring one of the best voices in modern metal. 8/10

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator (Sony Masterworks)

Most spouses would love their other half being away from home on tour with The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton but the majority wouldn't go and join them but Susan Tedeschi is not most people as she is a great blues artist in her own right. Both she and her husband Derek Trucks have their own bands which they put on hiatus to focus on their family. What followed was that in between being parents they managed to record this album that features the pair backed by members of both their solo bands. The album is a blues masterpiece with Tedeschi's soulful yet gritty voice crooning over the traditional blues style tracks that feature funky bass, percussive jazz and blues drumming from their two drummers, parping brass all drenched in Hammond Organ and is accentuated by the excellent slide guitar playing of Trucks. The album is 12 tracks of soulful blues slow burners that give the whole album a relaxed 'family' atmosphere. The tracks feature virtuoso playing but those who prefer the rockier blues of Bonamassa, Poppa Chubby, Oli Brown and even Truck’s solo band may find this a little too  mellow but for fans of traditional blues will love this soulful effort from this husband and wife team. 9/10

Live & Dangerous: Wolfsbane, Obsessive Compulsive

Wolfsbane & Obsessive Compulsive (Clwb Ifor Bach Cardiff)

Obsessive Compulsive

Female fronted Obsessive Compulsive play a brand of spiky, politically motivated punk that is somewhere between System Of A Down and Hole. The band all were pretty good with vocalist Kelli having a rough and ready voice and guitarist Giz playing like Daron Malakian. The real star however is drummer Dani who seems a little out of place with his blast beat drumming and speedy runs. Overall they do well and would appeal too many but not to me I'm afraid I just found them a little too angsty and a bit lacklustre. 5/10

Wolfsbane

If there was a heavy metal newspaper in Cardiff then the headline would have read "Tamworth terrors return to tear Cardiff a new one!" because Blaze Bayley and his reunited Wolfsbane did just that. While in Blaze and his self-titled group he was one of the "serious po-faced metal bands" as he so eloquently put it however now he has returned with original members Jason Edwards (guitar), Jeff Hateley (bass) and Steve 'Danger' Ellet (drums) to as their new album suggests "Save The World." They have rediscovered something that was lacking in heavy metal music and brought it back to the masses that thing being 'fun' and this gig brought fun in spades. Bayley has the energy of a man half his age he bounds around the stage shouting and sounding better than he has in years, the rest of the band are excellent with Edwards solo's tearing faces and Hateley's bass coupled with Danger's drumming crushing skulls. Even the sound in Clwb was pretty good which is unusual; this was rip-roaring run-through of Wolfsbane classics and material from the new album. With standards such as Loco, Kathy Wilson, Black Lagoon and the turbo-charged Manhunt the gig was 1 and a half hours of feel good heavy metal that got the Howling Mad Shitheads into frenzy. Many have waited 16 years to see a Wolfsbane gig, as long as they had for Manowar. Still Wolfsbane managed to be better and louder than Manowar were. Top-fucking notch. 10/10   

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Reviews: Daughtry, The Magnificent, Bill Bailey

Daughtry: Break the Spell (Sony Music)

Former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry returns with his third album and it's more of the same. This is mainstream American radio rock that sounds like Nickelback or Shinedown at their most commercial. The album clocks in at 12 tracks but the four bonus tracks bring this up to 16. This is fine if there was some variety but three best songs on the album are the first three Renegade, Crawling Back To You and Outta My Head. The rest of the album borders on mid-paced pop rock songs and ballads, too many ballads. Chris has an excellent voice that suits these tracks, all of which are played excellently, with the album being expertly produced as well, however there are just too many slow tracks on this album which is a shame because the band sound good in full rock mode but they just seem to use it too sparingly on this record. A good album that is let down by song its lack of variety. 6/10

The Magnificent: S/T (Frontiers)

This new Scandi melodic rock band features the talents of Torsti Spoof who is the guitarist of the Power Metal band Leverage and Michael Eriksen the vocalist of progressive metal band Circus Maximus. Whether you recognise the names or not is immaterial this album is excellent in its own right the tracks are all prime examples of upbeat melodic rock with luscious guitar licks and lashings of keyboard. Be warned this isn't AOR like Brother Firetribe (fronted by Leverage's singer) there are elements of hard rock and some nods to power metal as well. Eriksen's voice is brilliant mixing power and emotion with Spoof's guitar playing both virtuoso and understated filling the tracks with big riffs and sublime solo's. It is impossible to pick a favourite track from this album as they are all equally great and full of supreme musicianship and great song writing. The rockers jump out at you and the ballads make you want to hold lighters aloft in salute. For fans of melodic rock bands such as Europe, Journey, 80's Whitesnake (especially on Satin and Lace) and Magnum will love this album but anyone who enjoys bouncy, euphoric melodic rock will get goose bumps from how good this album is this album that for once shows a band that lives up to their name. 10/10 

Bill Bailey: In Metal (Self Released)

This download only album follows on from Bill's career defining show at Sonisphere festival where he reinterpreted some of his best material so it had a metal edge. Kicking off with Lazer Gazer his ode to self-service checkouts. He then kicks into the prog-epic Leg Of Time and the emotional Love Song. Bill's playing is great as his the bands and his voice is also good showing that his music and comedy are equal parts of his appeal. Bill shows his talent for languages with the bouncy and ominous Rammstein version of Scarborough Fair and the Gary Numan's Cars is played with car-horns and sung entirely in French. This is a very good album from a very talented man who shows just how talented he is. 8/10

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reviews: Staind, Jane's Addiction, Michael Monroe, Savage Messiah

Staind: S/T (Atlantic)

Alternative metallers Staind return with their new album and it's more of the same the angst ridden, bitingly political, lovelorn alt-metal that made them famous in the early 2000's. However unlike the popular tracks like Outside and It's Been A While Staind have always had a heaviness that has more akin with Deftones and other 'proper' metal bands. This album is no exception with tracks like Paper Wings, The Bottom and opener Eyes Wide Open all having heavy bass driven riffing and almost shouted vocals from Aaron Lewis. The rest of the album mixes genres with Wannabe veering into nu-metal territory and Throw It All Away and Something To Remind You harking back to the angsty ballads that Staind have always done so well. This is continuation of Staind's career and will not win over anyone who has a dislike for them, however those who have like alt-metal and heavy tracks with intelligent lyrics will enjoy this album every time they play it. 7/10

Jane's Addiction: The Great Escape Artist (Capitol)

This is only Jane's Addiction’s fourth album, mainly due to the fractured nature of the band. With the major factors of the band returning they release an 'interesting' fourth album. Starting out with Underground which is almost Sisters Of Mercy electro-Goth, the only give away is Perry Farrell's distinctive vocals. This trippy electronic vibe continues for the first 5 songs which all have quite disturbing lyrics and dark overtones. They are well written and performed, with the production being excellent but they are not really Jane's, there are elements of Radiohead, Muse and even U2 which makes the beginning of this album a very interesting listen. Only on Twisted Tales and Ultimate Reason do we get closer to 'classic' Jane's with Navarro able to flex his guitar muscles. Fans will see the album as just another part of Jane's Addiction's on going experimentation but rock fans may see something a little bit out of their comfort zone. Well performed if a little ill-conceived album. 6/10

Michael Monroe: Sensory Overdrive (Spinefarm)

The former Hanoi Rocks singer returns with his first solo album since 2003 and it is a cracker Monroe himself calls it "the best album of his career" and it's hard to disagree with him. With a backing band made up of former members of Hanoi Rocks, The New York Dolls and the irrepressible Ginger from the Wildhearts Monroe has assembled a stellar motley crew on this solo flight. The album itself is heady mix of glam, punk, sleaze and good old fashioned rock and roll and with Ginger writing or co-writing nearly all of the tracks there is a striking similarity with Ginger's day job in the Wildhearts, not that this is a bad thing. Monroe’s voice is on top form and the band are all excellent providing every track with excellent hooks and rocking rhythms. Monroe also handles the Saxophone and harmonica on some of the more bluesy tracks. Some of the highlights are opener Trick Of The Wrist, Bombs Away and Debauchery As A Fine Art which features and is co-written by Lemmy. This is a fantastic rock and roll record that should be bought immediately. 9/10

Savage Messiah: Plague Of Conscience (Earache)

This is Savage Messiah's third album and it will be released in January 2012. This is a free copy that is available at: http://www.earache.com/misc/downloads/savagemessiah/. The album is chock full of thrash/speed metal tracks that are both modern and classic, looking back as well as going forward. With elements of Megadeth, Metallica and even Priest (especially in Dave Silver's vocals) this third album is a rip roaring, fret melting, thrash album that will appeal to all fans of metal. The drumming is excellent and the dual harmony guitars are present throughout. The first two tracks Plague Of Conscience and Six Feet Under The Gun are modern sounding with elements of Trivium and modern thrashers before third track Carnival Of Souls is a superfast head banger. Beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt is an ominous, dark heavy track which explodes into the speedy Architects of Fear. The band are able to mix up the tracks meaning the album does not get boring it also features one epic in the shape of The Mask Of Anarchy which has Metallica written all over it. A stonking album from a very fast rising British metal band. 8/10

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 20: Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Theory Of Deadman

Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Theory Of Deadman (Motorpoint Arena Cardiff)

With doors open at 6:00 Theory Of A Deadman came on promptly at 7 and played a short half an hour set plagued with sound problems to a relatively small crowd. This was a godsend as they are not the best live band in the world; the songs were generic and laboured with the majority of the set focussing on their more commercial latest album. The band also made the mistake of covering JJ Cale's Cocaine something that really can only be done by Old Slow hand himself Eric Clapton. With that boring most of the crowd they resorted to the opening of G'N'R's Paradise City to get the crowd growing (and adding a rubbish Axl Rose joke) before finishing with Bad Girlfriend which was the only passable track of the set. A poor showing from these Canadians. 5/10

No such problems Black Stone Cherry who managed to sell-out the Cardiff Solus on the day before their Download set this year. Playing to a bigger crowd than TOADM the track list differed little with a mix of new and old entering the set, the band seemed to be having a ball onstage with even frontman Chris Robertson channelling his inner rock god and guitarist Ben Wells and bassist John Lawhon running around the stage like mad men. New tracks Blame It On The Boom Boom, White Trash Millionaire fitting perfectly with the rockier older tracks like Blind Man, Maybe Someday and the heavy as led Rain Wizard (which was introduced with a quick run through of Sabbath's Iron Man). It was there raucous cover of Adele's Rolling In The Deep that provoked the biggest cheer of the set however. If I were to have a criticism it would be that there were maybe a few too many ballads for a 45 minute set. Other than that another great performance from these Kentucky rockers. 8/10

When a band features the one of the best guitarists in the world and possibly the best vocalist in the world today the shows are never going to be lacklustre and the Cardiff show was anything but. Kicking off with new track Slip Into the Void and oldie Find The Real the band came out all guns blazing, the rhythm section blitzed with the drumming and bass playing superb, Tremonti was dazzling on the guitar with Myles being no slouch himself in the guitar area. However it is his voice that makes the man, he was on form despite the sound problems and forgetting the lyrics to One Day Remains. The band filled the majority of the set with their brand of upbeat turbo rock with I Know It HurtsWhite Knuckles and the thrash riffage of Metalingus. He is also quite a showman when not attached to a guitar, letting the crowd sing when needed and commanding the stage. His voice was at its best on the solo acoustic tracks he played which interspersed Watch Over You and Wonderful Life these two showed he could be introspective without the pomp before the epic Blackbird caught the full majesty. The band then revved the engines on Before Tomorrow Comes, Ties That Bind and Isolation ended the main set. The encore consisted of Open Your Eyes before a guitar duel between Mark and Myles which Mr Tremonti won by a country mile despite Myles giving an impressive display. The final song was the fantastic Rise Today which left the crowd in good spirits. Another great show from one of the best modern bands around, festival headlining beckons. 9/10 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reviews: Nickelback, Megadeth, Uneven Structure

Nickelback: Here And Now (Roadrunner)

The second biggest selling foreign band in American history. Return with their latest album of radio-friendly alternative rock. The band is continuing in the vein of their last few albums with heavy rockers mixed with over-wrought ballads. They have also kept the same production techniques that Robert John ’Mutt’ Lange showed them on their last record. Mutt doesn't produce this album as it is veteran Nickelback collaborator Joey Moi and the band that are at the helm and are aided by Brian Howes who has produced bands such as Hinder and Daughtry. The big gang vocals are back as is the muscular riffing and gritty vocals of Chad Kroeger. The lyrics also are similar with songs about love and partying mixing with strong global messages and some filthy Steel Pantheresque innuendo, most notably on Midnight Queen where the titular character is asked to "Lick my barrel clean". All in all this is just another Nickelback record that unlike Silver Side Up or All The Right Reasons doesn't have a genuine UK super single on it. Not that Nickelback will care due to the massive success they have across the pond. Not an essential but a good listen nonetheless. 6/10

Megadeth: Th1rt3en (Roadrunner)

The 'Deth return with their 13th album (the title gives it away) and first to feature classic era bassist Dave Ellefson for over a decade. The album sees them back in the mainstream form that they found success with in the early 1990's unlike their last album Endgame, Th1rt3en has more in common with the Countdown To Extinction/Youthanasia era. The songs are shorter and commercial, there is some super speedy riffing with the opening 2 tracks Sudden Death and Public Enemy No. 1 and the super-fast Never Dead. However the rest of the album is mid-paced riffing that is more hard rock than thrash metal. The lyrical content is the usual Megadeth anti-governmental jargon mixed with dark love stories. The playing throughout is superb but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Mega-Dave. A band who I have found to be hit and miss live have (nearly) always delivered on record and this is no exception however it just isn't as exciting as Endgame and not in the same league of their early material. (Still beats the hell out of most of Metallica's recent drivel). 7/10

Uneven Structure: Februus (Basick Records)

Another band coming under the Djent banner meaning that Messugah-like riffage is abound however this 6-piece from France are more than blatant rip-offs they manage to add some progressive influences as well as a heaving does of ambient experimentation to create a unique sound. This album flows fantastically and so it is hard to pick out one song as it very much and 'album' rather than individual tracks. The production is extremely clean and is very multi-layered to give a hazy tone to the polyrhythmic guitar playing from the three guitarists, the drum and bass lay a heavy foundation that is beefed up by the tuned-down guitars and the Fripptronic ambient soundscapes, these are topped by Matthieu Romarin's excellent clean and harsh vocals which are used sparingly. This band are obviously all about the music as there are no gimmicks just well played technical metal with heaps of dreamy ambience, mainly on the last track Finale, that bewitches the listener. A cracking debut. 8/10

Monday, 21 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 19: Dimmu Borgir

Dimmu Borgir (Great Hall 2 Cardiff)

Again we arrive at the Great Hall 2 (the Great Hall curtained off) but this time just to see one band. Billed as an evening with Dimmu Borgir this was two sets from possibly the best Norwegian Black Metal band around. The first was a complete performance of their seminal Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album which was one of their first albums to include the orchestral flourishes that they are now known for. Despite not being the biggest Black Metal fan and not really having too much Dimmu stuff the performance was fantastic with the set roaring past with pace and precision with every song meaning horns in the air and voices chanting. There was a reasonably big crowd yet the gig still felt intimate with the band playing on top form. The sound was not great for the first three songs from what I could hear (I had an ear infection so earplugs for me I'm afraid) with Shagrath's vocals suffering but then then sound came alive with the roars and growls coming clear as Hell itself. Giving the fans a break from the madness there was a brief intermission with a drum solo after the break had ended which was the start of the 'greatest hits' set, of these Ritualist, Puritania, The Serpentine Offering and the terrific Gateways were the highlights. The band showed that they are one of the best live prospects on the scene with Shagrath easily getting the crowd to follow his every satanic verse and the dual guitars of Silenoz and the heavyweight Galder were riffing like demons over the frenetic blast beating of Daray easily mimicking the style of original drummer Tjodalv. Even the clean vocals of former bassist ICS Vortex were not missed as all backing vocals were done from backing tapes as were the orchestral elements. In short this was a great show that validates the statement I made about them at the beginning. Some may say they sold out by changing the Black Metal formula and adding symphonic elements but I think this makes them all the better. 9/10

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Reviews: Disturbed, Electric Mary, Furyon

Disturbed: Lost Children

An album of B-sides from Disturbed would fill many with fear as tracks that are purposefully left off an album have been left off for a reason. However this doesn't seem like an album of B-sides but just another Disturbed album, yes you can hear the differences between their earlier material and their newer stuff but then there is not a huge void between the two. The album features the bass-heavy riffing, the intricate guitar playing of Dan Donegan and the machine-gun vocal delivery of David Draiman. The album also features one unreleased songs and two covers in the shape of Faith No More's Midlife Crisis and Judas Priest's Living After Midnight. This like all of their albums is a solid release that doesn't do anything new but yet doesn't need to, like with all Disturbed tracks if you've heard Down With The Sickness you know what you’re going to get but for fans and completists this is definite buy. 7/10

Electric Mary: III (Listenable)

These Aussie retro rockers return with their third full length (as if the title didn't give it away!) again the band play fuzzed up, heavy riffing hard rock in the vein of Lizzy or AC/DC with some Zeppelin thrown in as well. The album opens up with the propulsive O.I.C which sets the tone with its bluesy but heavy vibe, unlike their previous album this album does shake the sound up a little with both Stained and Long Time Coming having a very Soundgarden vibe which is mainly due to frontman Rusty Brown's voice having a Cornell-like rasp. This album is well played classic rock that is exciting and blood-pumping, they are not treading any new ground but it is still great stuff. 8/10 

Furyon: Gravitas (Monster Energy)

Modern heavy metal band Furyon hail from Brighton and mix Southern style rock, heavy metal with some progressive rock thrown in for good measure. The album is produced by Rick Beato who has produced albums by Fozzy and Shinedown and brings a very modern touch to the proceedings. Pat Heath and Chris Green's guitars are brilliant with the dual leads tight and the soloing melodic. The majority of the songs are heavy riffing anthems with empowered vocals by Matt Mitchell, the band are a mix of Black Label Society with pinched harmonics and heavy riffing present on most tracks and they also have elements of Alice In Chains especially on the fourth track Don't Follow with Mitchell's voice and the riff itself coming straight out of AIC territory. A good album made even better by the fact that it's free with this month's Metal Hammer (December 2011). 8/10 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Out Of The Beyond 10

Orphaned Land: The Never Ending Way Of The ORWarriorOR

This band hails from the troubled Middle East and show that music defies all boundaries. Half come from Israel and the others are from Palestine. As for genre the band play progressive metal infused with barking death vocals and Arabic instruments. Think a Middle Eastern Opeth with Pink Floyd guitar solos and you'll be half-way there. The vocalist Kobi Fahr mixes Akerfeldt style clean vocals and growls, his performance is stellar and he is backed by a band of stunning musicians with lead guitarist Yossi Sa'aron playing some of the most stunning guitar work I have heard for a while, just check out The Path Part 1&2 and Warrior for examples of his brilliant playing, the sound also is different from many similar bands as they make use of native Middle-Eastern instruments like Ouds, Bouzouki and Saz as well as female Yemenite vocals from Shlomit Levi who's voice is beguiling and really adds to the colour of their musical talent. The band are going to appeal to fans of Opeth as this is who they share the majority of their style with but also there are elements of Porcupine Tree to be found with Steven Wilson both producing the album and providing the keys for it. This concept album is one of the best I have heard for a long time and comes from a band that need to be heard, truly inspiring stuff from a fractured region. 9/10

Royal Republic: We Are The Royal

This Swedish four-piece play turbo-riff rock with a punk attitude and some tongue in cheek humour. They are all quiffs and leather jackets and this is reflected in their Garage rock style. The album is 13 tracks of punchy, poppy rocking songs that have real bite to them. They are based on the subjects of sex, drink and parties and you can hear that this is the life that the RR has lived. Especially on the track President's Daughter which is the story of a true-life romance between the frontman and the Swedish president’s daughter. Tracks like Underwear and Tommy Gun are filled with great lyrics and good time attitude. This is a great party rock album form a band that I think would be excellent live. 7/10

Saint Jude: Diary Of A Soul Fiend

Rocking out of London like it's the 1970's Saint Jude are the newest force in the on-going Rock 'N' Soul (their description not mine) revival. The band are Hammond a fuelled 5 piece play classic hard rock with a major soul edge in the style of The Faces, Zeppelin and Big Brother And The Holding Company. Sultry, mystical and gorgeous front woman Lynne Jackaman is the mistress of ceremonies with her powerful, gritty, soulful voice is drenched in emotion and blues. She has an almost Janis Joplin-like voice that also has some Aretha Franklin elements to it. The band that back her are as tight as bicycle-shorts with all of them playing with technical expertise and a professional loucheness that the Stones do so well. Adam Greene's guitar playing is very like Keef's with the added element of Joe Glossop's Hammond adding a bluesy touch. Their debut album is full of rocking tracks and touching soul ballads, the opening track Soul On Fire gives a good introduction to the band’s sound as it full of blues and bluster, this gives way to the soulful Garden Of Eden. The acoustic Down This Road breaks the flow with a small folk detour before the powerful blues ballad Down And Out really stops the show a moment that is repeated on the moving Angel. Saint Jude are one of the best of a new breed of modern blues rock bands, now they just need to tour with The Answer and I'll be in heaven.  8/10

Orphaned Land: http://youtu.be/DUi1yf97paw
Royal Republic: http://youtu.be/dhcGNN9r1D4
Saint Jude: http://youtu.be/P64RGr8twaQ

Live & Dangerous 18: Turisas, Chthonic, Kiuas

Turisas, Chthonic, Kiuas (Cardiff Great Hall 2)

Kiuas

Coming from the Great Hall 2 (which is just the Great Hall but with areas curtained off) this was going to be a modern metal showcase with 3 genres on show tonight. Kiuas have always been something of separate entity to many other power metal bands as they are from the darker side of power metal not the magic and fantasy of bands like Dragonforce and Hammerfall. Having never seen them with their original vocalist but having heard all the albums I was curious to see how new vocalist Asim Searah would be able to handle former frontman Ilja Jalkanen's wide raging vocal range, however fates conspired and this will have to wait as apparently he was stuck in their native Finland so could not be in Cardiff however instead of cancelling the band played a full force speedy set with guitarist Mikko Salovaara handling the vocals with the growls coming from bassist Teemu Tuominen. Both had adequate voices for a short set and they played with ferocity and genuine enjoyment, a great set that was a triumph over adversity. 7/10

Chthonic

The band that was really the odd-one-out on this tour were able to raise the heat in the room as well as permanently damage my hearing (but not in a good way). Taiwanese black metal band Chthonic played a set full of furious keyboard backed black metal that had the addition of the traditional Asian instrument the erthu. Many of the bands songs blended into one with only their most recent tracks standing out, with bassist Doris being the focal point of the band (unless you like keyboard players in masks that summon vampires) the rest of the band were visually arresting but not particularly enjoyable musically. This was mainly due to the appalling sound quality and the horrendous feedback that stemmed from singer Freddy's mic. These two factors were instrumental in decreasing my enjoyment of this somewhat generic band. 6/10

Turisas

A band that is still on the upward path of their career original battle-metallers Turisas brought their epic brand of Nordic metal to Wales once more. Supporting their great new album Stand Up And Fight the band played the best tracks from this album with the title track, Hunting Pirates, The March of the Varangian Guard, The Great Escape and Take The Day! Making up the bulk of the set with classics such as One More and To Holmgard And Beyond filling in the gaps. New faces were about with the new bassist filling Hannes shoes nicely and keyboard player (the band’s first since 2007) Robert Engstrand adding an extra layer of depth to the older songs. The band played a concise set before returning for an encore of the Disco classic Rasputin and their own classic set ender Battle Metal. All of which were received by a pumped-up Cardiff audience who sang along to every line showing that the disappointment of Manowar was just a blip. Another great show from a fantastic metal band. Hail Turisas! 8/10

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 17: Manowar

Manowar (Great Hall, Cardiff)

Doors opened at 7pm on Manowar's first show in Cardiff but the band didn't come on stage until 9pm. This I could deal with despite the tickets specifically stated Plus Special Guest, what I couldn't deal with was that despite Manowar's place as one of the greatest classic metal bands in the world the Great Hall was only half-full which was disappointing as I expected more from the usually ecstatic Cardiff crowd. The band however were brilliant starting the set by playing their Battle Hymns album (admittedly in the wrong order and missing out William's Tale) however they were on top form with Eric Adams screaming and singing with power and prowling the stage with the energy of a man half his age. Joey DeMaio ripped up and down his bass with precision rumbling the bowels of every member in attendance; he stood the whole gig po-faced and menacing leading the band from the left side of the stage. Karl Logan sped up and down the fret board throughout the night ripping of riffs and solos but despite this he still managed to fuck up the intro to Battle Hymns (Ross The Boss wouldn't have done that.) There was then an intermission before they returned for the second part playing the now live staples Hand Of Doom, Call To Arms, Thunder In The Sky before launching into the classic Hail And Kill, Warriors Of The World United, Kings Of Metal, Black Wind, Fire And Steel. Which managed to lay waste to the crowd, and like that it was over the band had played a tight and concise two-hour set, which some would say is not worth the £38 ticket price but just to see Manowar is enough for some. Yes they are clich├ęd, OTT and very silly in some respects but they are still a killer live act, the only disappointment was the size of the crowd and the hard-core enforcement of the no photo rule. Both of these were downers on the night but the size of the crowd proved that Manowar are more of a one-off show than a touring concern. A great night but with some small annoyances. 7/10

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 16: Fozzy, Jettblack, Verses

Fozzy, Jettblack, Verses (CF10 Cardiff Uni)

Verses

When a band realises that they do not fit on a bill you know that maybe they shouldn't have said yes to the booking. This band had poppy metal tunes, 'popular' haircuts and more merch than good songs which meant that I couldn't warm to them. Despite how good they were as musicians, their singer hit a few bum notes (something I was expecting later in the evening) and like a said their music was just not inspiring. I'm afraid a band that just failed to click with me and a majority of the already small audience (except the drunk ones). 5/10

Jettblack

British 80's metal revivalists Jettblack pulled no punches on their support slot, the ballads form their debut did not feature at all. This was pure straight up rock 'n' roll. Opening with perennial fave Slip It On the band came out all guns blazing the riffing and solos from Will and John tearing the audience a new one. Will's vocals were spot on John's however were slightly croaky but this added to the raunch of the songs such as Two Hot Girls, When It Comes To Loving and Fooled By A Rose the bands set was short but was able to feature a guitar duel between the two frontmen which culminated in final song Get Your Hands Dirty. Jettblack was able to win over audience convincingly with their turbo-charged metal and are a great band to see live. 8/10

Fozzy

What was I expecting to see from the band fronted by WWE Superstar Chris Jericho? Well I had both glowing and abysmal reviews of their past performances, so it was time to make up my own mind by seeing them live. Coming on to Queen's We Will Rock You the band came out to large cheers and Stuck Mojo man Rich Ward immediately started to riff like a bastard. Jericho prowled the stage and sang mostly from the lighting rig and barrier, enticing the crowd to join in with the heavy noise. For the first three songs the sound was muddy with Jericho's voice being drown out (whether his is good or bad is your own opinion) but after three songs in and during the Maiden sounding Pray For Blood his voice was clear and really not bad, admittedly he is not the best singer technically but neither is Ozzy Osbourne, he is however able to work a crowd, mainly due to his other 'job', this was most evident during Martyr No More and God Pounds His Nails. This isn't to say I wasn't surprised by his voice on a few occasions; one scream made me think "Ok that was pretty good." Rich Ward and the band played brilliantly equally blending heavy biker rock, with groove and thrash metal to create a surprisingly heavy combo. If I was to sum up this gig, which ended with the favourite Enemy, in one word it would be surprising as I came in with my hopes low but I came out with a grin on my face from this very entertaining live band, entertainment always wins out over technical ability in the end. 8/10

Friday, 4 November 2011

Reviews: Steel Panther, Sylosis, Redemption, MaYaN

Steel Panther: Balls Out (Universal Republic)

The most serious band of the 1980's have returned with their new album which is filled with anti-government protest songs with deep meaningful messages...PSYCH it's actually the new filth ridden Sunset Strip homage from 80's throwbacks Steel Panther. With lyrics such as "Hit her in the shitter, treat her like a Critter. Fuck that lady right!" You know what to expect from this second album. Firstly and foremost has the joke worn thin...well not really as the music is still as authentic as always showing that unlike many 'real' bands the Panthers can play. The jokes are still pure filth and puerile but it's how far they go that makes them funny; many lines are crossed in this album but all of them with the trademark humour that endeared the legions of fans to them in the first place. So secondly is this album as good as Feel The Steel well the cultural references are still there with Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown all mentioned in the songs. The Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard style songs are still there, the latter most prominent on the misogynistic That's What Girls Are For. The large ballads such as If You Really Really Love Me and Weenie Ride (Which has to be the sequel to Community Property) are still epic and the songs rock hard however the album just doesn't seem to have the overall zing of the first album, I think this may be due to the lack of special guests on this album, obviously Panther wanted to make an album that was more 'them' but I think it suffers for that, on Feel The Steel appearances from Corey Taylor, M Shadows, Scott Ian and Justin Hawkins made the album funnier as it featured 'proper' musicians having fun like the massive metal party Steel Panther is supposed to be, the fact that in my opinion It Won't Suck Itself featuring Chad Kroger (who is not ad versed to writing filth himself, and co-writes this track) is probably best track on the album and features a killer solo from Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme makes it even better and illustrates my point. Panther should have continued to be the party rock band they are live and invited even more diverse artists to feature. (My own choice would be Lou Reed, as it would have stopped LULU). A well-played, produced and written album that is equal but certainly no better than their debut. 7/10

Sylosis: Edge of The Earth (Nuclear Blast)

After seeing these modern thrashers live twice I decided to purchase their latest album to see if they translate as well onto disc as they do live. I'm pleased to say they do, their brand of technical modern thrash with melodic prog influences and death vocals makes for a very good listen and most importantly a very heavy one. The majority of the songs are heavy speedy thrashers or crushing metalcore style riffs much akin to heavier version of Trivium or a more modern Machine Head. After original vocalist Jamie Graham left many believed that they would fold however lead guitarist Josh Middleton has stepped up to the plate admirably giving growls, barks roars and the occasional clean passage real power as well as providing some incredibly tasty lead breaks, check out Empyreal for an example. The rest of the band are tight as they are heavy and give every song their all, the production is also modern and crisp meaning that this release is well above that of many of their peers. This album would only really appeal to fans of this type of modern thrash as I could see the vocals putting some people who prefer clean singing not going for it as there is very little. If Sylosis keep this up the future of British metal is in good hands. 8/10

Redemption: This Mortal Coil (InsideOut)

The US Prog-metal psuedo-supergroup Redemption return for their fifth album and it is more of the same, technical heavy and melodic tracks that come from the Fates Warning, Shadow Gallery, and Symphony X style of prog-metal. Current Fates Warning singer Ray Alder again takes the lead vocals on this album as he did on their last album the fantastic Snowfall On Judgement Day and again the writing is all done by guitarist/keyboardist Nick Van Dyk who on this album deals with his own morality after recovering from a rare cancer, despite the depressing subject matter (as Redemption seem to thrive on) the album is filled with melodic, technical metal that is based more on song writing than some of the virtuoso musicianship that comes from other bands in this genre. Stylistically I would make the link between Redemption and latter-day Symphony X. The keyboards are understated and flow with the heaviness of the tracks, the guitar playing from Van Dyk and Agent Steel guitarist Bernie Versailles is stunning with solos galore coming from both; check out the epic 9 minute+ Dreams From The Pit for all your soloing needs and Begin Again being the best introduction to Redemption's sound. The album clocks in at over 70 minutes but it really fly’s by with some of the shorter songs such as Noonday Devil and the opening track Path Of the Whirlwind filled with speedy riffing and classic metal pretentions albeit with odd time signatures. Redemption are no strangers to ballads ever with Let It Rain being one of the best  The album is nothing new as I have said (something that can affect a score) but when the quality is this high then that really doesn't come into effect. As starting point for Redemption This Mortal Coil is great but Snowfall... is still their magnum opus. 8/10

MaYaN: Quaterpast (Nuclear Blast)

Billed as a Symphonic Death Metal Opera, MaYaN is the brainchild of Dutch guitarist and grunter Mark Jansen formally of After Forever and founder member of Epica. Jansen handles the grunts and screams but not the guitars on this album. He has assembled and all-star cast to aide him with this concept 'opera'; the production comes from symphonic metal producer’s extraordinaire Sascha Paeth and Miro (Kamelot, Epica, Avantasia etc.) and features the vocal talents of After Forever/ReVamp vocalist Floor Jansen, Epica and Sons Of Seasons chanteuse Simone Simons and Sons Of Seasons/Metalium singer Henning Basse. The album mixes all of Jansen's former bands as it is equal parts Epica and After Forever with both Floor and Simone giving top notch performances, however there is an extra layer added to the standard symphonic metal sound with Miro's choirs and orchestrations being professional. Another revelation is Henning Basse who sings on nearly every track meaning that it isn't all death grunting and screaming from Jansen and his band who also handle grunts and screams meaning there are some different voices on each track. Some have a more classic/power metal sound like Bite The Bullet (co-written with AF guitarist Sanders Gommans), some are straight up death metal like War On Terror and the album is punctuated by small choral songs that are sung by choirs and soprano Laura Marci. This is an epic album that will appeal to fans of Jansen's other projects and also those of progressive/symphonic death metal in general. This is a great album from some of the industry’s best performers. 8/10