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Monday, 24 December 2012

Best Of The Year 2012

These are in no particular order and I'm doing 20 because...well I can so there. This has been a good year with some cracking albums. These are my top 20 that I have enjoyed numerous times some I have played more than others. I have also included some of the albums that have dissapointed me greatly and these are also included.

Have a merry gift season and heres to a glut of great albums in 2013!

Best Of The Year
  1. Dave Kilminster: Scarlet
  2. Doogie White: As Yet Untitled
  3. Shadow Of The Sun: Monument
  4. Simon McBride: Crossing The Line
  5. Docker's Guild The Mystic Technocracy - Season 1: The Age Of Ignorance
  6. Headspace: I Am Anonymous
  7. Foxy Shazam: The Church Of Rock & Roll
  8. Red, White & Blues: Shine
  9. Sylosis: Monolith
  10. Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
  11. Slash: Apocalyptic Love
  12. Triaxis: Rage & Retribution
  13. Gene The Were Wolf: Rock N Roll Animal
  14. Black Country Communion: Afterglow
  15. Kamelot: Silverthorn
  16. Rival Sons: Head Down
  17. Threshold: The March Of Progress
  18. Baroness: Yellow & Green
  19. Rush: Clockwork Angels
  20. Gojira: L'Enfaunt Sauvage 
Worst (or most dissapointing) Of The Year
  1. Meatloaf: Hell In A Handbasket
  2. Axewound: Vultures
  3. Steve Harris: British Lion
  4. Manowar: Lord Of Steel (Hammer Version)
  5. Blazre Bayley: King Of Metal

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Live & Dangerous: Limehouse Lizzy

Limehouse Lizzy The Globe Cardiff 22/12/12

One last gig to end the year, I'm not usually one for tribute acts but I have seen Limehouse Lizzy a couple of times and this seemed like a good way to get one last pre-Christmas gig. After a very long wait for the band to appear they finally did explaining that there had been some problems meaning they wouldn't be as loud or move as much as they usually would due to the venues P.A and the 'slippery' stage. The band kicked things off with the one-two punch of Jailbreak and Waiting For An Alibi before launching into a set filled with Thin Lizzy classics with Suicide, Do Anything You Want To Do and Don't Believe A Word all aired in the first set. The large crowd ate it up with smiles all round. The band also threw in a couple of covers with Parisienne Walkways and Out In The Fields added to the main sets, although with the amount of back catalogue that Lizzy have I felt these were a bit needless but maybe I'm just a grumpy bastard as everyone else didn't seem to care. Still after an intermission the band returned full of power and incredible precision, with Tim and Greg peeling off the dual-guitar attack of Robbo and Gorham and Andy Fox smashing the hell out of the drums, the obvious selling point is Wayne Ellis who slings his bass like, has all the charisma and the voice of the late Phil. The band mixed up the set list with the heavier tracks like Cold Sweat full of roaring metal swagger and also played Sarah as a request from an birthday girl who shared the same name. The classics continued with the still awesome Emerald before the main set closed with double whammy of Cowboy Song and The Boys Are Back In Town. Which was met with cheers before the encore of Me And The Boys was followed by a choice of either Black Rose or Whiskey In The Jar however due to overwhelming demand from the very vocal audience they played both ending the set in fine style merging the original three-piece Lizzy with the post-Live And Dangerous era band. This was a great fun gig full of some of the best known songs in rock expertly delivered by possibly the best tribute band on the circuit. 8/10

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Reviews: Absolva, Pig Iron, Dave Kilminster

Absolva: Flames Of Justice (Rocksector/Code 7)

When a band splits because a member leaves there is usually some trauma, when a band splits and the member who leaves is your brother you might be forgiven for years of feuding and backbiting (e.g. The Kinks, Oasis etc.) however Chris Appleton didn't do this after his bassist brother Luke left to join former tour mates Iced Earth, he put their band Fury UK on indefinite hiatus and then set about forming a new band with Fury UK's drummer Martin McNee adding a bassist and a second guitarist. They also adopted a new sound stepping away from the proggy, power metal sound of Fury UK and replacing it with dual guitar harmonies of classic British heavy metal. This is an album imbued with the sound of Priest fighting with Maiden while being fronted by the gritty Mustaine-like vocals of Chris. Speaking of Chris his and Tom Atkinson's guitar interplay weave a very impressive tapestry with lots dual rundowns and some very killer duelling guitar solos, with Martin McNee's drums and Tom Date's bass all adding to the metal attack. Things kick off with Flames Of Justice, Hundred Years and Code Red show the band firing on all cylinders. There is a break in proceedings with the acoustic State Of Grace before the heaviest track on the album From Beyond The Light explodes. This is a great modern metal album that takes influences from classic metal bands. 8/10

Pig Iron: IV (Cherry Red Recordings)

Always a band that seem to be lumbered in the underground Pig Iron have released three solid albums of heavy blues based rock. With their last offering Blues + Power = Destiny they showed more of their blues influence than on their heavier first albums. With this fourth album they have switched fully and have become a fully blues rock band. With this (almost) new direction they also have a new guitarist in the shape of Dan Edwards from former label mates and protégés Sons Of Merrick. He brings a very bluesy guitar vibe and provides swampy electric and clean acoustic playing to the songs as well as some great solos and riffs. The key sound of Pig Iron however has always been the rumbling bass lines of Hugh Gilmour and the ravaged vocals and mouth harp of Johnny Ogle who blows up a storm on the blues rockers like Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and Carve Your Name. The album opens with the very Zep-like stomp of The Tide Within it is punctuated by the acoustic Chapter 6 and Grave's End and ends with the fantastic Low Grade Man which has a terrific Sax solo! This is a very blues rock based album and anyone who cites their earlier heavier work as their favourite may be disappointed at their more bluesy direction but they can still rock with tracks like Good Man, Poor Man, but for everyone else this is great slice of blues rock that is both authentically old school and very modern. 7/10

Dave Kilminster: Scarlet - The Directors Cut (Self- Released)

This is a re-release of Dave Kilminster's debut (and only) solo album and it is simply awesome. This was always going to be the case as Kilminster is Roger Water's touring guitarist/vocalist (doing the Dave Gilmour parts) and formed a band with Keith Emerson. It is the rhythm section of that band that make up the other two players on this album and both of them are simply stunning supplying some cracking drums and some groovy bass flourishes. The album itself starts out with the strangest track selection, the proggy yet funk Silent Scream which is still a pretty good track but is just a bit lacklustre in comparison to the rest of the album however it starts things off nicely. Things pick up on the excellent Static which features some fantastic guitar playing and showcases Kilminster's great James La Brie-like voice to full effect and has all the elements of Dream Theater at their jazziest, the DT trend is continued on the ballad Just Crazy which has all the hallmarks of Hollow Years this is followed by the orchestral and simply beautiful Angel written about his long-time partner, and Panic Room singer Anne-Marie Helder (who contributes backing vocals to the album). The album then moves through genres ranging from acoustic pop ala Jack Johnson on Chance as well as a bit of The Police on Big Blue before really kick off on the latter part of the album with some jaw-dropping solos on Liar and Rain... (On Another Planet). As debut this is pretty much flawless especially for someone that could be lumped into the virtuoso category, it is an album of great songs that feature some fantastic musicianship. This album quickly builds into something very special indeed and is a must for any fans of guitar based music. 10/10

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Live & Dangerous: Devin Townsend Project, Fear Factory

Devin Townsend Project, Fear Factory O2 Academy Bristol 16/12/12

Tesseract were the openers but due to some timing 'problems' I missed them, which does seem to be a recurring problem with this band as every time they tour they clash with something else. Oh well I will see them at some point because by all accounts they were very good

Fear Factory

On the other hand Fear Factory were a different prospect as an instrumental band Fear Factory would work their industrial groove metal to perfection with the precision drumming of Mike Hellier and the unstoppable rhythm of Dino Cazares' guitar. The band were loud heavy and shook the foundations. However they do have one almost fatal flaw, these are the vocals of Burton C Bell who cannot sing, growl yes, sing no. I don't think he hit note while singing clean and this really grated on me. I realise he is a founder member and obviously hardened fans are used to it but it really annoyed me that his vocals were so poor. Still I'm sure if your circle pitting or bringing a wall of death (both of which happened) then you wouldn't notice this and just enjoy the super aggressive metal display. 6/10

Devin Townsend Project

Having only released his new album 'Epicloud' this year, and after a phenomenal show at the Roundhouse with the 'Retinal Circus' I was expecting yet another good show from Mr Townsend and I was not disappointed. Despite spending much of this year touring and with this end of year show he was visibly suffering with a cold but still managed to kick things off in fine style with the start-stop riff of Supercrush! Before Truth was followed by the instrumental ZTO which led into the very heavy and very long Planet Of The Apes. This managed to heave the crowd along nicely, with all Devin gigs they amount to a very good or very bad trip with the songs shifting genres and acoustics nicely, this is combined with the constantly adapting backing images and Devin's strange sense of humour that includes pointing out his 'invisible choir' on (their Def Leppard song) Where We Belong and the taped vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen. After the kinky monster lust of Vampira Devin (and us) indulged in some jazz hands to new song Lucky Animals before the heaviness resumed with Juular and Grace. He then treated a fan to an acoustic rendition of Hyperdrive! before ending the set with the epic if a little slow Deep Peace which did strike me as an odd choice to end a primarily heavy set with. Redemption came at the hands of the explosive Liberation which was followed by the SYL speech again and then a sped up Bad Devil to end properly. This was a master class of performance with the right amount of peaks and troughs in the set to maintain interest; Devin even managed to get a good sound out of the weirdest venue in the Britain (probably). Can't wait to see him a bit closer to home next time though. 9/10

Friday, 14 December 2012

Reviews: Wolfsbane, Electric Wizard, Shadow Of The Sun

Wolfsbane: Down Fall The Good Guys: Remastered (Self-released)

So on goes the re-issue campaign from Blaze and co Down Fall... is the band's second album and continues in the same vein as there EP and debut album, with songs filled with booze, money, women and politics. Kicking things off with the funky blues of Smashed And Blind before the shout along You Load Me Down. Jase Edwards’s guitars are far more prevalent filling most of the songs with some tight soloing. That's not to say that the bass and drums are slacking as they are both vibrant and driving. Bayley does seem to give a better vocal performance on the Wolfsbane records than he does on his Iron Maiden outings which might be because he is a better fit, his vocals are especially good on tracks like Ezy which ends with a blood curdling primal scream. The album is full of live staples like Black Lagoon and Temple Of Rock. Down Fall The Good Guys still has all of the dirty sleazy hallmarks of Wolfsbane's sound and also improves on it with big ballads like Broken Doll and the blues of Twice As Mean which show their improved songwriting prowess. This remastered edition includes two new tracks that have been taken from original album demos and they fit in with the rest of the album and make two good additions to an already good album with a wide musical scope. 7/10

Electric Wizard: Legalise Drugs and Murder (Satyr IX Productions)

This is cassette that was presented free with Terroriser magazine and has already been released as 7" Vinyl single. It is six tracks long and features the same deep, dark, dope-smoking, doom metal that Electric Wizard does so well. Starting things off with the simply evil, fuzzed up, knuckle dragging riff of the title track you know Electric Wizard are in their comfort zone. The audio is all over the place but this is obviously to give a very retro cassette feel, with the snaps, crackles and lots of tape hiss. Jus Oborns hollered, echoed vocals are still as haunting as ever and his and Liz Buckingham's guitar interplay is great as usual. Satyr IX comes next and is sparse and even slower than the opening track with even more vocodered vocals and some very cultish drumming. As ever Electric Wizard have created six more tracks of headphone music, best enjoyed with some chemical 'accompaniment' (though not needed in my case) the tracks are full of occult lyricism, back masking (on Murder And Madness), head rattling bass and some titanic slabs of doom riffage. There are only really three full songs on this EP with two being instrumentals and one being really an outro piece however the band are still one of the genre leaders, kneel at their altar. 7/10

Shadow Of The Sun: Monument (Self Released)

Hailing from the Rhondda Valley, Shadow Of The Sun have honed this album in the live arena, and all of the band bring their respective talents to it resulting in a very accomplished, grown-up album that draws from neo-prog of Porcupine Tree, some Pink Floyd influences and a very hearty does of Tool. The vocals of Matthew Alexander Powell are strong and have a very wide expressive range meaning he is equally adept to the hard rock of Rising and the acoustic folk of My Heart Is Wild And Overgrown, he is backed by the propulsive percussion of Rhys Jones, the dexterous, voodoo rhythms of Lee Woodmass' bass and the melodic, technical and emotive playing of Dylan Thompson's guitar. These are truly four incredibly talented musicians working together to create a very good album that stretches between the modern metal of Hourglass, the reflective Halo, the technical heaviness of I'm Coming Home, the anthemic Crimson Flags and the almost Beatles-eque Who Cares? This is a fantastic debut album from Shadow Of The Sun and has been expertly produced by Lee Howells. If they continue to create music this good they will be something very special indeed. 9/10

Monday, 10 December 2012

Live & Dangerous: I Scream For Crow, Dodgem X, Shadow Of The Sun

I Scream For Crow, Dodgem X, And Shadow Of The Sun: Buffalo Bar, Cardiff, 09/12/12

So another night of rock in the capital and yet another poor showing from the Cardiff rock fans, playing to a grand total of four paying customers (who were refunded by the nice chaps) the bands put on their respective shows with aplomb. I feel sorry for anyone that missed this because it was a showcase of some fantastic local talent.

Shadow Of The Sun

The Rhondda Valleys finest noise was in full swing tonight with Shadow Of The Sun bringing their progressive, impressive and joyous rock/metal to the capital. Anchored by the hard hitting drumming from Rhys Jones, some very nifty lead bass playing from Lee Woodmas, the heavy rhythm is then enveloped by the hard rocking, crunchy and at times almost ethereal guitar playing from Dylan Thompson; the four-piece are rounded off by the Maynard James Keenan-like vocals of Matthew Powell. Shadow Of The Sun plough a very unique furrow mixing heavy metal with tripped out prog rock and adding a hearty dose of virtuoso playing. So they have a sound that spans Tool, Floyd, Soundgarden and beyond. In such a small space with great sound it is easy to see that with the right breaks this is a band that could really do something huge. They are truly an asset to the Welsh rock scene. 8/10

Dodgem X

And now for something completely different, transporting us back to the late 70's Dodgem X play angry, abrasive, shouty punk rock with tongues planted in their cheeks. The between song banter was excellent describing horrific gym scenes, and being mental. The band were straight up four-chord punk and despite this not really being my thing my head was nodding throughout their alcohol fuelled set, With songs about starting fires, rape and war Dodgem X rally against the norm with their power chord assault that incited some shirt spinning (albeit from SOTS's drummer Rhys). Dodgem X are a real riot of crazy stories and hard hitting punk rock. 7/10

I Scream For Crow

This was I Scream For Crow's first gig as a four piece (after their second guitarist stepped down the night before) however I have never seen the band before so I have no comparison to what they did sound like. On tonight's evidence they are very good, despite this being in their own words a 'posh practice' the band pushed through their set with vigour. I Scream For Crow are a band hard to describe, they have elements of the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and even Biffy Clyro mixed up with some off-kilter heavy metal with pulsing funky bass and some clever guitar work. The vocals of Rob Thompson are powerful and perfectly suit the multi-genre assault that the band bring. This means that their songs grow on you developing as the set progresses. Upon first viewing, they really impressed me with their style, songs and general good humour about the ridiculous situation of having more bands than punters (in fact all the bands were very good natured about this). I personally will be seeking out I Scream For Crow again if not just gain a better understanding of the band. 8/10

All in all very good night of local rock, however the support from the so called 'scene' was simply abysmal. Three talented bands, in good venue missed by the general populace. I do hope this trend doesn't continue.

 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Live & Dangerous: Cauldron & Preacher

Cauldron & Preacher: Bogiez Cardiff 06/12/12

I am sure more than 25 people in Cardiff like heavy metal however you would not know that if you only attended this gig. If band comes all the way from Canada to play then they should play to more than 25 people in my opinion. Even with the frankly disappointing crowd the night was enjoyable as you will see:

Preacher

Welsh metallers Preacher had an extended set due to the absence of Hate Gauge and they took the extra time with aplomb weaving a web of classic progressive metal with elements of Maiden and Dream Theater, opening with two full on progressive metal tracks the band really impressed me, the guitars were technical and also heavy as lead, the bass and drums worked in glorious tandem and finally the keys added a great melodic edge to proceedings and also keyboardist James Letson is the strangest member of any band gurning, snarling and jumping around like a man possessed. The prog was balanced by some thrash style songs which sped along nicely and with a bigger crowd could have incited some massive pits. However the band do have a slight problem and that is the vocals of Owain Williams, he is a great vocalist with a hearty growl much akin to Phillip Anselmo however it does not fit this type of music. Still the talent there and a band that are visually and musically a very appealing prospect. 7/10

Cauldron

Canadian NWOBHM (or should that be NWOCHM?) revivalists Cauldron hit the stage with their proto-thrash assault and the furious riff of All Or Nothing. With the set list made up of mainly their newest album they ran through a concise set of super-powered metal, with End Of Time, Born To Struggle, Nitebreaker, Summoned To Succumb and the speedy Burning Fortune all coming from newest disc. A few came from previous disc Burning Fortune but surprisingly there were none from their debut. Guitarist Ian Chains, drummer Myles Deck and frontman/bassist Jason Decay all had great chemistry and injected the between song breaks with dry humour before melting more faces with their metal. As usual the sound was great and really filled the room and despite the poor turnout the band gave their all and were warmly received by the fans that were present. Maybe a band of Cauldron's ilk don't have a place in Cardiff, maybe the recession is hitting metal, maybe people are just miserable but all I know is after seeing Cauldron live you can't help but smile. 7/10

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Reviews: Mustasch, Christopher Amott, Gene The Werewolf

Mustasch: Sounds Like Heaven, Looks Like Hell (Regain Records)

Sweden's Mustasch come to bludgeon the ears once again with their sixth album which has more of a stripped back live-in-the studio feel than their last self-titled effort. This is heavy metal at its purest big sledgehammer riffs, pounding drums and some snarling vocals from frontman Ralph Gyllenhammar who also provides the riffage with his rhythm playing which has always been the key to Mustasch's sound. Things kick off with the pacey Speed Metal which turns into the walking riff of The Challenger before the explosive It's Never Too Late which features some of Mustasch's intelligent lyrics that are also a trait of the band. This album doesn't have the little orchestral flourishes of the previous effort which still rates in my top twenty albums of all time but it does have some down tuned doom style playing on Dead Again and the stoner metal of Morning Star has more than an element of Clean My Wounds by COC, these all add variety to an album of powerful heavy metal. This is a good heavy metal album full of big guitars and beefy metal anthems I personally would start with their self-titled 2009 album and then pick this up but as it stands Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell is very good pure heavy metal album. 8/10

Christopher Amott: Impulses (Self Released)

Former Arch Enemy guitarist yet again leaves his brother’s band and goes out on his own and moves away from the super heavy Arch Enemy assault. This is Amott's second solo record and it couldn't be more different than Arch Enemy's melodic death metal assault and also it's differs from his power metal band Armageddon. Impulses is a hard rock record with big riffs and Amott's very melodic vocals crooning over his excellent guitar playing. After the big rock opener of Sea Is Black the second track is a trippy, progressive and acoustically laced track called Lone Wolf which is itself followed by the Pink Floyd-like soundscape Dream Away. This record brings to mind Black Country Communion with its mix of 70's prog and more metallic rock combined with Eastern influences on Back To The Jungle and full on heavy rock on The Storm. This is an accomplished effort of great vocal and instrumental tracks, with Under The Surface, being the pick of instrumentals, from a talented guitarist/vocalist. It's great to hear him expand his musical horizons and he shows that outside of the Arch Enemy fold he can really achieve his own greatness. 7/10

Gene The Werewolf: Rock N Roll Animal (Frontiers)

As soon as the opening chords of Wicked Love hit the volume went up and the beers started flowing, this is punchy, SG toting, party rock n roll from Angus Young's songbook (see the title track and Wicked Love) with songs about dirty women, horny men and the filth that inevitably creates. Frontman Gene (alias of Jon Belan) provides the very Paul Stanley-esque vocals as well as the rhythm guitar, the rest of the band are a ragtag bunch of vagabonds contributing powerful drumming, bruising bass and some sublime OTT soloing. This album however is not a pastiche of AC/DC there is obviously also some Kiss (due to the vocals) as well as any number of party bands you care to mention Light Me Up has the electronic drums sound of Def Leppard which contributes to the distinctly 80's vibe which means of course there are some big keyboards, especially on Heart Of Steel which has the sound of Fall Out Boy covering The Darkness (but is much better than that sounds). In fact the bad boys of Lowestoft are all over this album, it's big ballsy hard rock with tongue placed firmly in cheek which means most of all it's just bloody good fun. It's never going to win awards for originality but it will improve any grey day and bring a huge smile to your face and a steady nod to your head with its mix of bawdy, boozy good-time hard rock. Well done Mr Wolf you have certainly got me howling along too. (Sorry) 9/10