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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Live & Dangerous: Huntress & From Ruin

Huntress & From Ruin Bogiez Cardiff 27/10/12

From Ruin

Hailing from the Warminster, female fronted metallers From Ruin play Priest style speed metal with a large amount of modern thrash thrown in. Singer Anita has a great voice with powerful delivery and has a lot of stage generalship. The dual guitar attack was precision filled with melodic riffage and big solos. The songs were a little samey but it can be expected and the operatic delivery could be a bit grating if they were on for any longer but a perfect warm up for the headliners. 6/10

Huntress

Despite only playing a short set they made the most of it by exploding into their Mercyful Fate style metal. The band seemed streamlined and focussed and the pace was breakneck until there was a major gap in the set when frontwoman Jill threw a diva tantrum about a punter and wouldn't continue until he was ejected. This struck me as a bit petty and also as a waste of time in an already short set. The set continued but never really reignited the set despite the grizzled guitar trio playing for their lives and the drummer demolishing his kit, frontwoman Jill showed that she’s more than a pretty face by screaming, growling, shrieking and howling through every song all while stalking the stage like a serial killer. With big tracks like Eight Of Swords and Spell Eater the band have big brash tunes but they too are a little generic with much of their offering sounding the same. This was a short, sharp, shock of pagan metal that featured a little bit of unwanted tension during the middle of the set. 6/10 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Live & Dangerous: Evil Scarecrow and Counterhold

Evil Scarecrow & Counterhold: Bogiez Cardiff 26/10/12

Counterhold

On my now fourth viewing of the Cwmbran metal machine I can safely say that they have improved yet again. Despite having their lead guitarist missing (which unfortunately meant no solo's) the band still managed to produce a set of finely tuned head crushing metal that was filled with aggression, groove and nods to thrash and classic metal. The band ripped up the venue with some heavy metal destruction in the form of songs like The Beast Within, Children Of A Lesser God and the anthemic Fatal Taunt. The drummer Ryan, bassist Ben and guitarist Karl all made a hell of a racket and they were able to fill the breaks (where the solos would have been) with some quality riffage and drum fills. The highlight of their set is frontman Steve who not only has a powerful expansive vocal range but also is a consummate showman getting the crowd involved by stalking the floor and getting everyone clapping and chanting along. He also has a secret weapon in the form of his lovely wife spinning her poi during their set which was a great visual touch to the brutal metal rampage. Bolstered by some great sound (as were the headliners) Counterhold are defiantly one of the bands to watch as they have some anthemic arena ready songs and give a quality, professional performance that can get everyone head banging, singing and will fill arenas when given the chance. 8/10

Evil Scarecrow

There is a list of things I thought I would never hear or see at a metal gig and tonight many were ticked off that list: Windmilling drummer? Check! Metal cover of the Thundercats theme? (I shit you not) Check! 100 people doing the robot and then doing the can-can to rousing black metal rendition of The Final Countdown? Very much check. Yes Evil Scarecrow's set featured all of this lunacy and much more! To fill you in hailing form Nottingham these metal maniacs blend the black metal of Dimmu and Cradle with some old school metal riffage and shake it all up with Pythonesque madness thrown in. They were possibly one of the funniest, craziest and most entertaining bands I have seen. Opening with the very stupid but heavy as a really heavy thing War And Seek which became the scary (?) Vampyre Trousers. The band had syncopated guitar moves with guitarist Brother Dimitri Pain bassist Kraven Morrdeth and guitarist/singer Dr. Rabid Hell all pulled out their best shapes and were aided and abetted in their madness by keyboardist Princess Luxury and all round nutter (and set destroyer) drummer Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist. For a parody metal band they are no amateurs all of them are tight players and their songs like the bizarre Sixty Six Minutes Past Six are quite progressive. Their own songs are crazy enough with Godzilla's Lament inspiring monster poses, Morbid Witch a sing-along and Thundercats just bringing huge smiles. The set was flawless it was part heavy metal gig part stand-up routine and was filled with some absolutely excellent songs which climaxed in the aforementioned robot dancing during fan favourite Robotron and much can-caning during closer The Final Countdown. Evil Scarecrow are a band that you could watch every week and still be entertained their sense of fun is infectious and they left on as big of a high as the crowd did. Possibly the best, if not the most entertaining, live band on the circuit. 10/10

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Reviews: Kamelot, Malefice, Graveyard

Kamelot: Silverthorn (SPV)

Melodic metal band Kamelot return with a third concept album about a young girl's murder and cover ups and it is also the first release with Tommy Karevik of Seventh Wonder fame replacing the long-term vocalist Roy Khan who left in 2011. The album is pure Kamelot of old, symphonic, majestic and filled with some excellent musicianship. There are choirs, orchestrations and guest female vocals, with the lovely Elize Ryd of Amaranthe and The Agonist's Alissa White-Gluz both contributing. The drums and bass are propulsive on the rockers and understated on the ballads. The guitars of Thomas Youngblood are as fantastic as usual and he has brought back the guitar solos in a big way and Oliver Palotai's keys are melodic and weave fantastically with the guitars also providing his fair share of solos. Changing singers can be a bands downfall however I already know how talented Karevik is due to his work in Seventh Wonder and he is the perfect replacement for Khan as his voice has the same mid-ranged sonorous voice that Khan possessed meaning that very little has changed vocally. After the choral intro the opening track Sacrimony (Angel Of The Afterlife) has all of the Kamelot hallmarks and has all of the three vocalists interplaying brilliantly with Karevik's operatic delivery contrasting with Ryd's haunting classical style and White-Gluz's guttural roars. The rampaging style continues until the haunting Song For Jolee which shows just how good Tommy's vocals are on slower tracks. The pace shifts throughout the album with a mix of rampaging metal and big ballads before the organ drenched 8 minute epic ends the album in truly awe-inspiring style. Like with nearly all of Kamelot's albums the production comes from Sascha Paeth and Miro (who also helps with the orchestrations) and has the same clean style that they are known for. This is Kamelot returning to their classic best after the slightly patchier Poetry For The Poisoned took them into some unknown territory. Concise, powerful and full of pomp this new album could be the start of a second classic era for the band. 9/10

Malefice: Entities-Anniversary Edition (Metal Blade)

British ragers Malefice have remastered and re-released their debut album on the back of their meteoric rise in the metal circles. As this was originally released in 2007 it was always going to sound different to their newest release Awaken The Tides however what is evident is how different it is, this is the sound of a band chomping at the bit, young, hungry and ready to show the world. The album is produced by Justin Hill and Dan Weller of Sikth (with Weller providing guest vocals on Dreams Without Courage). The band are far more aggressive on this album without the years of touring and refinement it means that they have an early Killswitch Engage style with some very violent death vocals and less clean delivery than they have now. Having not heard the original I don't know how good the remaster is but the album sounds bright and modern. The band thrash, blast beat and breakdown through the 12 (original tracks) broken up by two short instrumentals. The additional track Reasons Lost added to this re-release shows how they made the jump to their sound now. Its metalcore sound is of its time but this is a piece of Malefice history and is fitting to show how far they have come since its original release. 7/10  

Graveyard: Lights Out (Nuclear Blast)

The psychedelic Swedes return with their third full length and its more doomy 70's psych rock, lots of fuzzy jangling guitars, jazz drumming and lashings of Hammond organ (especially on opener An Industry Of Murder) this is followed by the gothic soul ballad of Slow Motion Countdown which has a very dark, slow beat and the fractured vocals of Joakim Nilsson ring over the top. This is an album of riffed up retro rock from a band that are truly making waves in the rock world and you can see why the band have all the hallmarks of classic 70's rock the bluesy, bass heavy boogie of The Suits, The Law & The Uniforms through the punky Endless Night and the very Nick Cave sounding Hard Time Loving all of which come together to make this another very good album from the Swedes as it features many of the songs that will sound electric live (this is where the band really shine). Good old school psychedelic hard rock with some new little elements here and there thrown in for good measure. 7/10  
 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Reviews: Manowar, Cradle Of Filth, The Sword

Manowar: The Lord Of Steel (Retail Edition) (Magic Circle Music)

Yet again I review Manowar's new album, this time however it's the 'Retail' edition rather than the edition that came with Metal Hammer magazine. Now as many of you would have read in my previous review I didn't think much of said album mainly because of its hideous disco fuzz bass sound. Now from the opening title track you can hear that it is still present but it has been mixed better meaning that now it fits in with the normal Joey DeMaio soul rattling bass playing. From the sound of this albums production and studio additions I now realise that the 'Hammer Edition' could be seen as a demo version of this album which features the full Manowar production rather than the lack of production that the previous version featured, which meant that the fuzzed bass was the only thing you could hear in most of the songs. Now everything works in conjunction and even on bass heavy Born In A Grave it doesn't overpower the rest of the band. Eric Adam's vocals are still at their meteoric best mainly on uber-ballad Righteous Glory and Karl Logan's guitar brings some chunky riffage and some OTT soloing. The record itself has all been produced so it sounds best when played loud (as all good Manowar albums should be). There are still some of my reservations from the previous review Manowarriors and Hail, Kill And Die still feature some hideous lyrics but the rest of the album is pure Manowar metal with the heroic El Gringo now extended to nearly 7 minutes and the explosive Expendable both bringing a true metal noise, the pulsing Black List is perfect for slo-mo head banging and bonus track The Kingdom Of Steel has all the hallmarks of another live epic. This is what a Manowar album should sound like which begs the question why did they lead me to the depths of despair with the previous edition when they could have just released this much better version in the first place!? 7/10 (Purely for the emotional trauma first time round)

Cradle Of Filth: The Manticore And Other Horrors (Peaceville)

Dani Filth and his not so merry men return with the bands 10th album and they have shedded some of their symphonic skin that had built up on the last few records. The female vocals of Sarah Jezebel Deva are gone as are the 7 minute epics and the cinematic scope. This record seems much more concise and streamlined than previous efforts and it is better for it. The riffage is angular, heavy, melodic and even punky in some respects especially on For Your Vulgar Delectation, the drumming is relentless extreme metal blast beating and Filth's vocals range from scarred singing to guttural roars and banshee like shrieks. Opening track The Abhorrent comes after the intro The Unveiling Of O and while (like with a few of the tracks) it features some orchestration it is not overpowering and you get a sense that COF have returned to sounding like a straight up extreme metal band again with bludgeoning riffage and Filth’s schizophrenic delivery. The lyrical content is a semi-concept as it based upon monsters and horrors with lycanthropes, vampires and Lovecraftian horrors all alluded to with the latter coming in the form of Siding With The Titans. This is a full on blast of extreme metal and is all the better for its concise and more natural sound which makes it sound a far more violent and powerful record much like the COF of old as it aims straight for the throat and doesn't let go. One for old-school fans. 7/10

The Sword: Apocryphon (Razor & Tie)

This is The Sword's fourth album and first to feature new drummer Santiago 'Jimmy' Vela III after founder Trivett Wingo left on the previous tour. After the very retro and technical/progressive/conceptual Warp Riders the Texans have returned to the big, stoner metal vibe seen on their first two albums. Things kick off with the riff-fuelled The Veil Of Isis which gets the head nodding nicely, J.D Cronise's vocals are still unique and his guitar interplay with Kyle Schutt is excellent. Many of these songs are set in the mid-pace but have all the elements of genre leaders Sleep and obviously Sabbath (Hidden Masters). However it's not all back to the drawing word some of the innovation from the previous effort has remained but it has just been made to fit. As this not a 'retro' sounding record like the last one was the production is crisper and more modern and yet despite this this sounds like The Sword in their Age Of Winters phase all big riffage and lyrics straight out of Game Of Thrones, Cloak Of Feathers has more mythical beasts than you can shake a Sorcerer's staff at. Also this is the first The Sword record that doesn’t feature an instrumental. Despite how critically acclaimed Warp Riders was it is not my favourite The Sword record, that will always be their debut, this new record however with its classic sound and some newer ideas tastefully added puts it a close second behind. 8/10

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Reviews: Stone Sour, Triaxis, Doogie White

Stone Sour: House Of Gold & Bones Part 1 (Roadrunner)
                                                         
No longer Corey Taylor's 'other' band Stone Sour have become more of a going concern than the 9 (now unfortunately 8) man killing machine that made his name. If I'm honest I have always preferred Stone Sour over Slipknot as it shows what a good vocalist Taylor actually is. As you can tell this is the first part of a two album concept and it is also the first studio album to feature former Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan rather founder member Shawn Economaki (touring bassist will be Johny Chow). This album manages to move away from the soft and slightly too melodic previous effort and ramps the metal back up to eleven. The album ranges from alternative to full on heavy metal with opening track the thrashy Gold Sovereign which moves into the pulsing Absolute Zero which opens the album in great style. What is evident from the first few songs is that James Root and Josh Rand have been given free rein on the solo's front as nearly every track features either a guitar solo or a killer instrumental break, as in A Rumour Of Skin. The band can still pull out the occasional slower song with the acoustic and orchestral The Travellers Pt. 1 before it turns into the doomy Tired which is full of the world-hating, self-depreciating lyrics that Taylor does excellently. Speaking of Taylor he is as usual on top-form but seems to have brought some of his Slipknot venom to Stone Sour especially on RU486 but this is opposition to his croon on the super-ballad lament of Taciturn which shows his subtle side when backed by a simple acoustic guitar and piano. This is a very good album that will probably only be fully appreciated when the second part is released next year however it is shaping up to be the best Stone Sour release yet. 8/10

Triaxis: Rage & Retribution (Rocksector Records)

Welsh metallers return with their second album and by Jove they've done it again as the long period of touring since the last album has made this one heavier, louder and much with a much more defined sound. The first album took a huge amount of Iron Maiden influence and this one too has some of 'Arry's Army key sounds with the galloping Black Trinity and the progressive Some Things Are Worth Dying For (which has to be the sequel to These Colours Don't Run or Coming Home). There are also some nods to other classic metal bands such as Priest (step forward Under Blood Red Skies) however the band have also brought in some Megadeth thrash on the blitzkrieg opener of Sand & Silver they have also embraced more modern metal with The Infected illustrating this perfectly. The production is great very crisp and clean and the band are all playing their hearts out, the guitars shred with some fantastic soloing also making its presence felt. The drums are big and propulsive and they work with the bass to anchor all of the tracks with supreme power and as on the first album Krissie's vocals are excellent with some awesome range which is illustrated perfectly on Asunder which is followed by the off-kilter and proggy And Shadows Creep and the instrumental showcase of XGP. This album has no filler and every track will be fantastic in the live setting but mostly it shows that Triaxis are producing some top quality British metal and this album is a testament to that. 8/10     


Doogie White: As Yet Untitled (Metal Mind)

Scottish vocalist Doogie White (La Paz, Cornerstone formally of Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen and every band ever at some point) finally releases a solo album and really there was no doubt how this was going to go down as the album is chock full of hard rock which is something White is very suited to doing as he has one of the best voices in rock. Things kick off with the Deep Purple pastiche Come Taste The Band which features the unmistakable vocals of long-term Meatloaf alumni Patti Russo, this track is drenched in organ form Tony Carey and really gets things moving. White's vocals has elements of Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Glen Hughes, Biff Byford and Brian Johnson on Time Machine. He shows some immense vocal power on every track backed by a cast of excellent revolving door musicians, Hammerfall guitarist Pontus Norgern supplies the majority of the six stringing and also all of the production, Paul Logue of Eden's Curse handles most of the bass and the drums are shared between Patrick Johansson and Thomas Broman. Despite not having a 'stable' line up the album is consistently full of powerful hard rock the pacey Land Of The Deceiver (which is a great Saxon-like song) and the epic Dreams Lie Down And Die. The Rainbow link runs throughout with Secret Jesus being the most similar, the AC/DC homage of Catz Got Yer Tongue has all the swagger of Angus and Co, it is followed by the 80's style rocker Living On The Cheap which has some great keys from Derek Sherninian, the acoustic Sea Of Emotion shows the fragility of White's voice before the album ends with the storming Times Like These. This is one of the best hard rock albums I have heard in years big ballsy and full of great rock homages all of which handled by one of the most expansive vocalist in the business. Simply a flawless example of its genre. 10/10

Friday, 19 October 2012

Live & Dangerous: Triaxis, Primitai, Darksite, Insuna

Triaxis, Primitai, Darksite & Insuna: Bogiez Cardiff 19/10/12

Insuna

Insuna are a Cardiff based metal band that play intelligent, progressive metal with some good female vocals. They have a sound that features lots of snarling guitars, some heavy breakdowns, big solos and a powerful vocalist in the shape of AK who is an excellent singer but did seem a bit nervous. All in all a good set of songs and  not your normal female fronted fodder, they reminded me of American band Echoes of Eternity but this is a good comparison as they two blur genre lines. 7/10

Darksite

Heavy groove metal was the order of the day for Darksite, the band had a similar style to Pantera's bruising riffage Adam Redpath doing his best Dimebag throughout, and the vocals of Robert Garlick are similar to those of Panic Cell's Luke Purdie both melodic and aggressive. This was apparently one of Garlick's final gigs with Darksite before he leaves which is a shame because he is talented singer and compliments the music. The majority of the songs were heavy barrages of groove, however there was bit of rap metal thrown in for good measure, I personally thought this didn't fit but Darksite did enough to impress me here. 7/10

Primitai

These guys seem like the band I'm destined not to see as every time they have played I have always been indisposed. But tonight was the night and am I glad I did see them in such a small venue, if you want to know what they sound like then guitarist Srjan's Sad Wings Of Destiny t-shirt summed things up. Primitai have all the hallmarks of classic Priest and NWOBHM with some twin lead shredding and some shrieking vocals from frontman Guy Miller. The band have a great set of songs with The Line Of Fire and the swaggering Sin City being set highlights. They also threw in two gut busting new tracks for good measure which bodes well for their third album. The singer is a great frontman who got the unfairly sparse crowd going (mainly by being in their midst) he like all good singers must be a frustrated guitarist because his air-guitaring was top notch and all the band seemed to be having a ball on stage. A cracking band evoking the spirit of Priest with a tiny bit of Megadeth thrown in for good measure. 9/10

Triaxis

You know a band are preaching to the converted when they open with two songs from an album that has only been out a week. (Although they have been touring these songs for a while). Both Sand And Silver and Under Blood Red Skies (which caused a pit) opened the set with some high velocity riffage and powerful hooks. Next came Gates Of Damnation before some more new stuff in the shape of the thrashy Sker Point which was followed by the majestic Some Things Are Worth Dying For this track is akin to the more modern progressive Maiden and featured some Maidenesque whoa's. This was followed by the horror break with the bass heavy ...And Shadows Creep and the evil Infected both of which come from the second album. The fact that this set was drawn heavily from the new record (and why wouldn't it be) shows how talented Triaxis are as these songs sound more mature and distinctive than those on the (still excellent) debut and they are perfect in a live setting. The set came to a close with classic rabble-rouser Lies and the headbang inducing Black Trinity which brought the set to a fittingly monstrous end with the final chords of The Trooper added for good measure. The entire band seemed to be on form with shapes being thrown by bassist Owen, guitarists Glyn and CJ had the twin guitar gallop down pat and all the while they were anchored by Giles precision smashing which rattled brain cells. As usual front woman Krissie was enchanting, bewitching and very bloody loud! (the sure sign of a good singer) All of this lead to an excellent headline set for the locals with some fantastic songs and lots of head banging. What more could you ask for on a Thursday night? 9/10  
 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Reviews: Kiss, Sacred Mother Tongue, Black Wolf

Kiss: Monster (Universal)

Is there a band more divisive than Kiss equally loved and loathed around the world it is usually their flamboyant image and Gene Simmons' penchant for putting his foot in it and his obsession with merchandising, that gets them a lot of heat form their detractors. However if you ignore the politics and the shameful self-promotion; then Kiss have always produced some absolutely awesome Rock 'N' Roll. Paul Stanley (the man who has always been the musical force of the band) stated that he didn't want the under par Psycho Circus to be the final Kiss album and because of that we got 2009's Sonic Boom which brought back Kiss' musical credibility and showed they were capable of writing great songs again (Danger Us excluded). That albums success has obviously buoyed the band as Monster is even better it's louder, harder and contains all of the classic era Kiss sound (I'm talking Black Diamond rather than Crazy Crazy Nights) this might be because of Stanley's analogue production and also that songs themselves are stripped back to just four guys rocking hard as they can. There are no ballads, no disco, no AOR just straight up hard rock. As usual the majority of vocals are split between Paul and Gene with the subtle as a brick Take Me Down Below featuring both in duet. Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer both get a lead vocal (continuing a trend from Sonic Boom) Thayer's is on the shredding Outta This World (well he is the Spaceman) and Singer's is on the bluesy All For The Love Of Rock & Roll. The rest of the album is full of big ballsy rock tracks like the explosive opener Hell or HallelujahFreak which is more Alice Cooper than Alice and the Simmons showpiece Back To The Stoneage which features bass as heavy as a Brontosaurus. Who could have predicted that one of the best Hard Rock albums of 2012 would come from Kiss? 9/10  

Sacred Mother Tongue: A Light Shines (Transcend/EMI)

This is an E.P from British metal band Sacred Mother Tongue. It is a four track release record with three studio tracks and one live from China. The E.P is a prelude to their second album, tipped to be called Out Of The Darkness. It kicks off in great style with the pacey single Evolve/Become which features all of the SMT hallmarks; some fantastic guitar playing from Andy James (who is a one of the best guitar players in the world), the aggressive yet melodic vocals of Darrin South and the heavy engine room of bassist Josh Gurner and drummer Lee Newell. The groove riffage of Bleeding Out  bludgeons and then breaks into a short but searing solo before the machine gun drum intro of Seven knocks your block off and makes you want to head bang and windmill throughout with its catchy riffage. The final live track hasn't really got the best production but the band still sound powerful even if the bass and drums are barely audible. This is a nice little introduction to SMT sound and it sets the tone for the sophomore album perfectly, although as with a lot of E.P's it is a bit short at just over 17 minutes. 7/10

Black Wolf: Taking Root (Self-Released)

Bristol 5 piece Black Wolf play ballsy hard rock which features some big riffs, powerhouse drumming, soaring solos and some powerful vocals. This 4 tracker shows how good the band as they create a Zeppelin groove mixed with some of the modern sound of bands like Soundgarden and the solos of Slash. The vocals of Scott Sharp are powerful and melodic and have the Percy Plant swagger to them with the slight gruffness of Cornell. Considering this is a self-produced release the production is very good and the songs sound bright and most of all they are well written and performed. The storming Seeds is definitely the stand out track but the entire E.P is a must for fans of groove-laced, funky old school hard rock. This is a band that will go on to big things with the right backing. Check them out now before they explode into arenas. 8/10 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Live & Dangerous: The Reasoning, Touchstone & Kyshera

Adventures In The City Tour: The Reasoning and Touchstone & Kyshera, The Globe Cardiff

Two for one of modern prog rock tonight with both London based Touchstone and Wales' own The Reasoning both having headline sets. First up were Cardiff locals Kyshera;

Kyshera

A three piece alternative metal band, they really didn’t seem suited to the night as they were playing slightly progressive alt metal with some very political lyrics that made them have an air of RATM about them. Don't get me wrong they did what they did very much and seemed to have an explosive amount of energy it was just that it really wasn't my thing at all and by the time there set ended they had outstayed their welcome a bit. 5/10

Touchstone

This is where the evening actually began for me with Touchstone hitting the stage with Corridors from their latest album before rocking with Zinomorph which became Shadow and then it's sequel When Shadow's Fall as front woman Elkie told us these three tracks all stem from Keyboardist/vocalist Rob's obsession with killers and assassins (a dangerous man two know obviously!) The band played a mixed set from all three of their albums with Being Hannah, Strange Days and the folky Half Moon Meadow all given an airing. The band were all having a blast on stage with the interplay and between song banter coming to them naturally and bassist Moo seeming to be the cause of most of the mischief. Elkie has developed into a great front woman and her powerful but not operatic voice is a perfect fit for the melodic keyboards and heavy guitars and drums. The band wound up their set with the wonderfully epic Wintercoast before a change over break. With the band on top form and a set of great songs Touchstone laid down a pretty impressive baton for their tour mates. 

The Reasoning

The locals were always going to end the night and as they came to the stage to the strains of the Theme From The Great Escape before launching into Hyperdrive which morphed into Dark Angel. Unlike Touchstone, The Reasoning have a new album to promote (the excellent Adventures In Neverland) so the set relied heavily on this however this not a bad thing as it is one of the strongest albums of their career. Omega Point, No Friend Of Mine and the duo of Forrest Of Hands And Teeth/Adventures In Neverland were all cut from the new record and all went down brilliantly with the guitar playing of new boy Keith Hawkins reach Floydian proportions on Forrest Of Hands... the key to The Reasoning's sound though are the unique vocals of Rachel Cohen which weave their magic over the fantastic keyboards of Tony Turrell who is the bands ace in the pack providing slick melodic keys and some excellent co-lead and backing vocals. The band invited Touchstone's Moo onstage for as Bassist Matthew Cohen put it "A beer and a song" which brought their set to an end with the classic Aching Hunger which featured Moo's shouts and cheerleading on the chorus.
 This led to a three band pile up with Touchstone and Kyshera all taking Rachel's percussion and all three bands joining in on a group sing-along of Queen's Tie Your Mother Down on which features TT on lead vocals and ended the night with a party atmosphere (what's more fun than Queen?) overall this was a great night of prog rock with two bands currently on the top of their game in a very reasonably priced package. Three bands, two headliners, a pretty packed house and everyone having a good time what more could you ask for on a Sunday night? 8/10

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Live & Dangerous: Jettblack, Night By Night & Black Wolf

Jettblack, Night By Night & Black Wolf: Bogiez, Cardiff 13/10/12

Having won over many fans after their last performance in Cardiff supporting Fozzy, 80's metal revivalists Jettblack returned on their first headline show to a very packed Bogiez.

Black Wolf

First however were Bristolians Black Wolf who I personally have not seen before but I must say they left an impression, kicking things off with hard and heavy rock vibe the band certainly drew my attention with their big ballsy rock sound that had a solid blues vein to it. Both guitarists were rocking with foot stomping, four on the floor Young Brothers rhythm of Jason Cronin and the Slash-like guitar heroism of John Greenhill both equally impressive and rocking. The band were anchored by some big smashing drums and a rumbling bass line from Thomas Lennox-Brown and Ben Webb respectively. The big cherry on top for me though, were the vocals of Scott Sharp who had hint of Plant and Cornell to his delivery which made a few of the tracks have a very Audioslave vibe to them, this was helped by the cosmic, spiralling solos also, they also had some similarities to modern world beaters Rival Sons which stands them in good stead for the future. The band really impressed me with their hard, heavy professional performance and a setlist that just got better until its big rocking climax. Definitely a band to watch out for in the future 8/10

Night By Night

Night By Night are a band that bring the melodic sensibilities of AOR and merge them with the metallic crunch of modern metal. The band boast big three part vocal harmonies in the style of Def Leppard and play songs that are not too far away from the sound that latter period Avenged Sevenfold produce. The band were all proficient and had some good stage craft and some well written and well performed songs. However this mix of AOR and modern metal did give me the slightest hint of emo style rock and the band didn't really do it for me but they did seem to pull the crowd so what do I know, personally though they just weren't my thing. 6/10

Jettblack

As if the 80's never ended Jettblack stormed the stage all permed hair and no shirts and low slung axes. The band kicked things off with favourite Get Your Hands Dirty before moving on to Temptation from the new album, this was a running theme with a mix of old and new working great together and showing these songs are made to played live. The superbly named Less Torque, More Thrust was next and then the rampaging Slip It On. Vocals were split as usual between guitarists Will and Jon, who both have a similar style, there guitars were ferocious and the solos were face melting, this mixed with the drumming and bass meant that it was hot and heavy with the crowd loving every minute of the 80's revival. The very Y&T Sunshine slowed the set for the mega-ballad Not Even Love before things were rocked up again for the final furlong until Prison Of Love and the sing along Two Hot Girls ended the main set. With the pumped up crowd baying for more there was a brief break before they returned for the encore of Raining Rock (which actually caused a pit) and their absolutely fantastic cover of Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins which got the crowd shouting along like it was 1986 all over again. All in all Jettblack are a great live band providing some serious entertainment and some catchy melodic metal that looks back at rocks glory days and lets people get loose and enjoy themselves. It's not big or clever but it's rock and roll (and I like it) 9/10

Friday, 12 October 2012

Reviews: Sylosis, Cauldron, Soulicit

Sylosis: Monolith (Nuclear Blast)

Reading is for the most part not somewhere you would associate with metal, it is the home of indie rock due to the festival however the exception are Sylosis as they bring bone crushing, face melting modern thrash metal to the masses. Since the last record (the fantastic Edge Of The Earth) the band have streamlined their sound and it finally feels like they have found their true sonic pitch which is somewhere between the modern thrash of Machine Head and the classic sound of Metallica, the band are technical, aggressive and heavy as hell and on Monolith this has all been maxed out to it furthest end. The lead guitar of Josh Middleton is absolutely awesome with the progressive Behind The Sun providing some fantastic solos and lots of amazing lead breaks. The drumming also is phenomenal with A Dying Vine (which also has some sublime acoustic playing) and the metalcore title track providing the best examples.
 The album is bookended by two fantastic songs the first is the thrash attack of Out From Below which wouldn't have looked out of place on The Blackening or ...And Justice For All and final track is the crushingly heavy Enshrined which ends the album in brilliant style. There is just so much to like about this album, it encompasses everything that makes these British thrashers great, Middleton's voice is the best it has ever been, the songs vary from classic thrash to groove metal on All Is Not Well, add to this the Gothenburg sound of Paradox and even a bit of Toolesque darkness on What Dwells Within. This is a thoroughly modern metal album full of technical playing, great songs and crisp production; Sylosis are a British band doing this type of things as good as or even better than their American counterparts. 10/10 

Cauldron: Tomorrow's Lost (Earache)

Canadian NWOBHM revivalists Cauldron return with their third full length and it's a case of business of usual with the high pitched shrieks of Jason Decay over the propulsive rhythm of his bass and the drums of (the now departed) Chris Rites. The guitar of Ian Chains rips up especially on the galloping Nitebreaker which features some killer lead breaks. The band do seem to have brought a darker sound to this record with Summoned To Succumb having a very Mercyful Fate vibe to it offering an evil bass heavy sound.  This is in total opposition to the following song which is the thrashy Burning Fortune which melds the new harder edged sound with classic NWOBHM sound. They also have seemed to dropped some of the more tongue in cheek elements from their last two records and they have brought the darker themes to their lyrical content as well. As with their previous efforts this album has a very retro vibe to the production with the bass low and fuzzy and the guitars very distorted and scratchy. This is another good addition to their retro revivalist catalogue and shows that if something ain't broke don't fix it. 7/10

Soulicit: Parking Lot Rockstar (Thermal)

Imagine if you will Nickelback fronted by Brent Smith from Shinedown with Mark Tremonti on guitar, playing an album full of should be classic tracks that also bring in elements of Buckcherry on the shout along Hell Yeah and Kroeger and co on the title track and with a huge dollop of Hinder on Beauty Queen. From here the album takes on more of a Creed/Alter Bridge vibe especially on super ballad Complicated. The songs slow in place after this but they are still full of muscular riffage, some great soloing from Dan Weaver and the perfect voice of Darick Parson who has a melodic southern drawl that suits this modern American rock to a tee. Despite there being possibly a few too many slower tracks all of them are well written and great example of their genre with all of them having a purpose, none outstaying their welcome and all of them having massive arena-sized hooks. This will be massive in America and should be here too with any justice, with a few more rockers on the next album Soulicit will be one of the best in their genre. I recommend that anyone that has even a passing interest in any of the bands mentioned seek out this album immediately you will not be disappointed. 8/10

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Live & Dangerous: WASP

WASP Great Hall 2 Cardiff

Thanks to Paul Hutchings for his contribution to the cause.

So on 3 October, the “30 Years of Thunder” anniversary Tour rolls into Cardiff.

According to the official WASP website this was meant to be " the biggest spectacle W.A.S.P. have ever created. The two hour show will consist of three parts. A one hour set contain songs from the first four albums. The second set will be a 25 minute shortened version of “The Crimson Idol” complete with the movie accompaniment. A third set will consist of material from the New Studio Album, older material and everything in between. This show will see multiple video screens, pyrotechnics, and elements from the early W.A.S.P. shows and Blackie’s moving microphone stand “Elvis”!"

It was with slight disbelief then that, rolling up to the Great Hall at 8:00pm, we were confronted with closed doors, and a very healthy crowd queuing in anticipation but also with an air of frustration. Doors were due at 7:00pm.

So doors finally open about 8:15pm and in we go. Crimes of Passion from Yorkshire were straight on, played a very curtailed set and to be fair, made a decent fist of it. However, they were fairly bland and forgettable; indeed, the most I can remember was the lead singer cajouling us to "treat ourselves" to their album, a snip at only a fiver. Suffice to say I didn't and wasted said cash at the extortionally priced bar.

WASP finally stormed the stage at 9:40pm, having tormented us to numerous false starts. Opening with On Your Knees, the band were musically tight, though Doug Blair's guitar was a little too quiet for my liking; at times I stuggled to pick out the solos, which was disappointing as he is undoubtedly an excellent guitarist. A string of fan favourites followed, The Torture Never Stops, a tasty cover of The Real Me ( a staple for many years) LOVE Machine and Wild Child before the pace slowed with Forever Free/Sleeping (In the fire).

The promised first section finished with a face melting I Wanna Be Somebody and then it was into the Crimson Idol part of the show. Very strangely, the band exited whilst the Titanic Overture was played on tapes, before treating us to some an excellent montage including The Idol and a breathtaking The Great Misconceptions of Me. All good, but then came the hammer blow. Blackie has, in recent years, become much less communicative with the crowd, allowing the music to do the talking. Tonight was no exception, until he announced that we had been done "a great injustice"; explaining that they had been late arriving and setting up, that there was a curfew at the venue and therefore they only had time for one more, the standard set closer Blind in Texas.

And then they were gone. No Heaven's hung in Black, Chainsaw Charlie, I don't Need no Doctor. The much vaunted two hour show reduced to one hour and ten minutes. As for the stage show, well there was no special mike stand and the video montages on three screens looked mighty similar to their last visit to Cardiff on the 28th anniversary tour. I can accept problems in setting up if the band had travelled from Glasgow the same day, but they played Wolverhampton on 1 October and had no gig the night before. UNACCEPTABLE. An huge air of disappointment at the end then, with a few boos ringing out. After recent gigs which have been sparsely populated, it was such a shame that a decent turn out was treated so shabbily. 8/10 for the music. 0/10 for the treatment of a sold out crowd.

Reviews: Muse, Simon McBride, Monument

Muse: The 2nd Law (Warner Bros)

Are Muse still a rock band? This was the main question I asked myself when I heard that they were bringing a new dubstep direction to this album (named after the famous laws of Thermodynamics). However I wasn’t surprised at this revelation Muse have never been an 'organic' band meaning that electronics have always played a major part in their sound. So to the album which yes does have some dubstep in the two part title track which I will admit is brilliantly done and the single Madness (which also has a massive Queen vibe in the solo). On the other hand they have expanded their sound in other ways, Panic Station is every 80's song in existence mashed together, Supremacy also has a lot of Queen in it, they go trance with Follow Me and then turn into U2 on Big Freeze. As for the rock there is plenty of it with the mid-section of the album classic Muse, bassist Chris Wolstenholme takes the vocals for two of the heavier tracks and the rest is the vocal histrionics of Bellamy. So are Muse still a rock band? The answer is yes but they are one with chameleon-like tendencies meaning that they can change and adapt, but they are always more than capable to pull it off. 7/10

Simon McBride: Crossing The Line (Nugene Records)

Simon McBride is now on his third record of Blues-rock and he improves on every album. He is a fantastic guitar playing and his whiskey soaked croon means that the record oozes with class and passion. This can be witnessed on the emotive No Room To Breathe which has the hallmarks of McBride's fellow countryman and guitar legend Gary Moore. However it's not just on the slower songs that he shines when he picks up the pace on the soulful organ drenched Don't Be A Fool McBride is almost untouchable. He also looks back to his last release which was a split live/acoustic record on the Celtic flavoured A Rock And A Storm. The years of touring have paid off as these compositions are his most accomplished yet, with staple leaders like Joey Bones (Bonamassa) relying more on covers than original material the mantle falls to artists like McBride to create innovative blues-rock and he does so in spades on this album, look to the horn backed Alcatraz as an example of just how good the compositions are. McBride’s smoky vocals are great truly bringing a sense of longing on the blues based ballads like One More Try (which has fantastically stirring solo in it) and a gritty croon on rockers like Heartbreaker (which surprisingly sounds like Free). This is a record for any fan of blues-rock and it is a testament to just how good Simon McBride is. 9/10 


Monument: Rock The Night (Independent)

Formed by another former White Wizzard vocalist Monument are a NWOBHM revivalist band and they wear their influences (and their studs) on their sleeves, they bring Priest thrash-like attack on the frenetic opening track (which features Richie Faulkner on guitar) and Maiden dual-guitar harmonies on the future classic Midnight Queen. The guitarists trade licks and solo's with aplomb on every track, the bass is straight out of the 'Arry playbook and the drums blast with the power of Scott Travis. This is just an EP but on these 5 tracks you can see that any full length release will be chock full of big hitters ready for any heavy metal party. The Dickinson merged with Ozzy vocals of Ellis means that this album is a cracking release that merges classic NWOBHM style songs that are bolstered by spotless production and some top-notch songs. This EP will truly Rock The Night! 8/10

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Reviews: AxeWound, Royal Republic, The Reasoning

Axewound: Vultures (Search And Destroy)

Formed by Bullet For My Valentine's Matt Tuck (who handles guitar and some vocals) the band also features Glamour Of The Kill's guitarist Mike Kingswood, Pitchshifter’s drummer Jason Bowld and the former bassist of Rise To Remain Joe Copcutt, with Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier taking lead screams and shouts, Axewound were pretty good when I saw them at Download, they were fast, furious and heavy. Unfortunately on their debut is none of these things. The album is essentially metalcore that finds a groove and tends to stick to it. With tracks like the Post-Apocalyptic Party which descends into a massive breakdown and the pacy Burn Alive the band have a clear idea of what they want to sound like however they come off as generic modern metal. Despite it being his project one can't help but feel that if Matt Tuck only contributed guitar the album would be little less tedious than it is a lot of his tracks sound like BFMV with Cold  and the piano backed and slightly wimpy Collide being the prime examples, Cormier does try his best to sound menacing but against this backdrop but it's only really Victim of The System that stands out. Both vocalists are on good form and the playing is tight however the whole thing is just really generic and a bit too safe for my tastes. Disappointing 5/10

Royal Republic: Save The Nation (Roadrunner)

The Royal Republic are a band or rebel-rousing Swedes that play dirty, ballsy, Rock N Roll with a punk snarl. This sophomore album expands the angular punk with its jagged guitar riffs from Hannes Irenard and some shoutier vocals from Adam Grahn. The band have still got their big hooky tracks and silly sense of humour with Make Love Not War (If You Have To Make War - Make Sure To Make Time To Make Love In Between) and Everybody Wants to Be An Astronaut but they also are taking hints from some bigger bands to make sure they have some songs ready for the arenas they will headline with Molotov and Revolution harking back to The Clash and the Pistols, Punk Drunk Love mirroring The Ramones, and You Ain't Nobody (Till Somebody Hates You) is the Foo Fighters All My Life by another name. Since their debut the band have become a major touring draw and on this album that confidence has grown, this is a band trying to capture their live ferocity on record and succeeding but also trying to show that they have their sights set firmly on the top. On this evidence they will be there in no time! 8/10

The Reasoning: Adventures In Neverland (Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red recordings)

Welsh progsters The Reasoning have been thought he mill as late with the sudden disappearance of their long time guitarist Owain Roberts, and while we all hold out hope that he comes back safe, the band were still in the formative stages of this album and the fact that they have now finished and released it is testament to their commitment to their craft. Trimmed down to just a 5-piece now the band have also streamlined their sound since their last record Adverse Camber. Things start strongly with the off-kilter Hyperdrive which features Matt Cohen's pulsating bass driving the track, the melodies coming from Tony Turrell's Keys and the harmonious voice of singer Rachel who soars with just a hint of beautiful frailty. The band have really gone back to sound of their first album albeit without the metal influence that was present on some of the tracks. This means that this album has more of a keyboard heavy melodic style with Marillion (Otherworld), Pendragon (Stop The Clock) and even mid-period Genesis coming to mind. The guitar playing has been handled by new boy Keith Hawkins who does an excellent job blending some very technical playing with mouth-watering solos, some of the solo's come from guest musicians, but you can't see the join. The album ends in tremendous style with the title track and shows that The Reasoning are doing what they do best which is old-school prog with nothing else to water it down. A terrific record. 8/10