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Saturday, 28 December 2013

World Of Metal 2: Ragestorm, Broken Fate, Barque Of Dante

Ragestorm: The Thin Line Between Hope And Ruin (Independent)

Ragestorm hail from Italy and they play true death metal with a massive modern groove metal hook thrown in. This is their first full length and it's a bit good, full of technical riffage, harsh guttural vocals and the modern American screaming favoured by Randy Blythe. The vocals are shared by Marke and bassist vocalist Kolla neither of whom have a clean vocal between them but when the music is this fast, loud and brutal, the guitars of Tele (lead) and Rufio (rhythm) are razor sharp running through thrash influenced death metal of The Meatgrinder Theory and Idiocracy as well as breakdown fuelled American Groove of tracks like Debt Ritual and Acid Tears which has some killer drumming from Bonny and massive breakdown. This is an accomplished album from the Italians who have a similar sound to British Death metallers Bloodshot Dawn with their technical death style but with the added bonus of some chunky American style metal they have a wide ranging sound that will stand them in good stead. A good debut and for any fans of the genre. 7/10   

Broken Fate: Rising To The Dream (Independent)

Broken Fate hail from Switzerland and they play some seriously quality heavy metal with lots of great guitar riffs, drum passages and some strong vocals. The band go for the traditional Metallica set up with drums from Alessandro De Cicco, bass from Dario Stutz with lots of sterling lead guitar work and some guttural roars from Roman Leeser and the riff frenzy's of Tobias John Bänteli on rhythm guitar and lead vocals which are somewhere between Matt Drake and Tom Araya. With some amazing tracks like The Way In Your Eyes which has huge chugging riffage before exploding into Eternal Memories which turns into a Fade To Black-like middle section and then erupts into a super speed solo. The band mix modern American metal in the vocal department, but merge it with classic thrash which and some massive clean leads and lots of pit starting snarling thrash. Things slow down on the acoustically dashed Fate before ending with the instrumental. This is a killer E.P from the Swiss crew one which cannot be ignored, lets hope their debut (slated for a 2014 release) is as good as it might be something a bit special. 9/10

Barque Of Dante: Lasting Forever (Mort Productions)

China, a country not really known for its heavy metal output, but much like their neighbours Japan they do seem to be obsessed with power metal with massive progressive/symphonic influences as well as some Asian ones on tracks like the mega-ballad I Will Never Forget which is an excellent duet with a great female vocalist. Things start off with the electronic instrumental The Light Of Polaris before we are brought straight home with the title track which is very Stratovarius like, with some powerful guitars, huge keys and driving rhythms. The band all play excellently and really bring the power metal home with some killer solos, great galloping riffs and lots of keyboard and some progressive passages throughout. The band have English lyrics with vocals coming from Thomas Winkler who fans of cheesy power metal may recognise as the singer of power metal lunatics Gloryhammer, his vocals are similar to those of Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica (another band Barque of Dante sound like) as well as the Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius. For fans of progressive power metal this is a dream, full of pomp and massive hooks then look no further, for anyone else this may be overkill. Still from a country that doesn't do a lot of metal this is a well written, well produced and most of all very strong power metal album. 8/10     

Saturday, 21 December 2013

View From The Altar Of Metal: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, Birmingham N.E.C

So as we gathered in our masses at our newly christened Sabbath-mobile my compatriots and I were all full of excitement for the night’s events. We piled into the van and were on our way to Birmingham with a metal jukebox playing throughout the trip, the banter was as usual interesting with thoughts turning to end of year lists and summing the year up in between the occasional drink and lots of crap food, except for Mr Hutchings homemade sandwiches.

After a long trip we arrived in the car park of the world’s most clinical arena, part airport, part hospital and completely isolated from humanity the N.E.C (or LG as it is now branded) is not the most awe inspiring place to go but ho hum a quick pre gig snack and pint and then into the mouth of hell we marched.

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats

For a band that have not been around for long (founded in 2009) to be opening for Black Sabbath in their home-town and indeed their whole UK tour must have been huge for them and many bands would have fallen apart with such pressure on them but Uncle Acid handled it well coming out with Mt. Abraxas moving straight into Mind Crawler. Their set was tight concise and full of heads down British psychedelic doom metal that the headliners helped invent, the excellent I'll Cut You Down came with the haunting dual vocals of guitarist Yotam Rubringer and lead guitarist K.R Starrs (Uncle Acid himself). The set blended into one big malaise of doom stoner metal perfect for those that partake in the sweet leaf and it was the perfect opening for Sabbath as it showed how long their influence has lasted. The band were amazing playing with gusto and guts and they honed their song craft with Poison Apple and Valley Of The Dolls. Coming in quick succession before the dusty Desert Ceremony ended their set. Not a band suited to arenas but still excellent, if there had been any other band next they would have got full marks however with the masters (of reality) next only silver was available. 9/10 

Black Sabbath

So with a short turn around the demon child shone through the curtain and we got the clarion call of "I Can't Fucking Hear You!!" from the Ozzman over the P.A and the crowd were uproarious with their cheers. So with a small wait the curtain dropped and the first classic chord of War Pigs rang out through the arena. The crowd sang every word of the song back with Sabbath as they cranked out the 6 minute plus song. With Ozzy inciting cheers claps and woah's all while jumping around like a mad man, the Iron man himself Iommi and Geezer butler were stoic and statuesque but brought every crushing classic riff as Tommy Clufetos imitated and at times excelled Bill Ward on the skins. The political rallying of War Pigs moved into the dirge-like Into The Void which distilled stoner metal into one song and was followed quickly by the awesome doom-laden Under The Sun. The band paced themselves with a wide ranging set list and seemed to be on top form. Iommi is still one of best guitarists around bringing the riffs and killer solos, Geezer also is a supreme bassist his fleet fingered playing most visible on the intro to N.I.B which is his masterpiece. The wild card as always is Ozzy who can be hit and miss however his voice was on top form throughout singing like a man a third of his age, and every occult, political, drug worshipping note audible with the crystal clear audio. Speaking of which Ozzy is still an excellent frontman making light of his recent problems and mentioning Christmas and the bands former love of the white stuff just before going into the driving Snowblind the newbie Age Of Reason before taking back to the very beginning with that one genre defining riff of Black Sabbath which went into the bluesy Behind The Wall Of Sleep. Back to number one album 13 with End Of The Beginning which blended in seamlessly with the rest of the Sabbath classics and moved into Fairies Wear Boots which was accompanied by a video that wouldn't have looked out of place in a German club with all of the leather and chains, and was just one of the many amazing visual feasts that accompanied the band throughout. The instrumental Rat Salad came next and gave Clufetos a chance to show off his mettle in an amazing drum solo (two words that don't really go together usually) this small break in proceedings was followed by the stone cold classic of Iron Man (Tony's showcase) which still sends chills down the spine with Ozzy's vocoder vocals and that riff which was quickly followed up by God Is Dead? and the final one two of Dirty Women (which I've never really liked as a song to be honest) but it led to the amazing Children Of The Grave which ended the main set with a mass jump along. The lights went out and all was dark as Ozzy started his chant of "one more song" which rang out as the band came back on to the stage to another rapturous applause. The first chords of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath filled the arena and then burst into their uber anthem Paranoid which left everyone on a high as they sang every word along with it. Seeing as they are all in their 60's (except for Clufetos) Black Sabbath are still about 50 times better than any band on the circuit it's both nostalgic and modern an ageless band playing the songs that made a genre in their hometown. I can think of no better way to end 2013!! Simply staggering! 10/10              

Friday, 20 December 2013

Reviews: Toby Jepson, Aeon Zen, Jizzy Pearl

Toby Jepson: Raising My Own Hell (Self Released)

Veteran singer Toby Jepson is coming off something of a resurgence these last two years with a successful run in GUN as well as the amazingly well received Little Angels reformation and farewell tour and producing some of the rock albums of the year with The Answer's scorching New Horizon, Saxon's Call To Arms and Chrome Molly's latest album Gunpowder Diplomacy and also Classic Rock Award winners The Virginmarys. This E.P goes back to Jepson's roots as it is acoustic based blues with lots of Bad Company-like organ drenching tracks like Patience Of A Saint, the plaintive Shoes which has a whiff of Phil Collins about it, the celtic flavoured Four Letter Word, the jazzy Shadow Boxing and the awesome title track which sounds like a song out of Jepson's past with its huge chorus. It's on an E.P like this that you see how versatile Jepson is as a songwriter, the music is great with all the instruments playing with gusto, Jepson's production is crisp and sonorous and his voice is the same with a bluesy soulful wail. I do hope this is just a stopgap as I think a full album from Jepson in this style would be great as he has the talent to make this genre spanning acoustic rock last over 12 songs. This is great little E.P from the singer of a band who holds a special place in my heart much like compatriots Thunder. 8/10

Aeon Zen: Self Portrait (Self Released)

Aeon Zen are one of Britain's premier Progressive Rock/Metal bands and this E.P shows that they are the best imitation of themselves as it compiles 1 new song and three re-recorded tracks that originally appeared on their debut A Mind's Portrait all with abbreviated titles. So what has Richard Hinks, the mastermind of Aeon Zen, done differently on this E.P well first is the almost ethereal Psych! which goes past in just over 2 minutes and opens things up nicely, then it's Portrait (originally A Minds Portrait on the debut) in a big change this song now is a heavy djent fuelled rocker rather than the dreamy acoustic ballad that it was on the debut. This seems to be a theme for this E.P as Rain too has shifted from progressive rock of the original Blinding Rain to progressive metal with its heavy bass lines, some growled vocals and even a saxophone solo! Until finally Demise closes things strongly in its shortened (To 8+ minutes form!) Hinks has outdone himself on these re-recorded tracks it has brought Aeon Zen's original compositions into the present and shows what the band can do now. A great little album that can be downloaded from the bands website as a pay what you want price (don't worry I paid for mine). 8/10  

Jizzy Pearl: Crucified (Self released)

Love/Hate came out of the Sunset Strip at the same time as G'N'R and Skid Row and were burning brightly for the brief time in the early 90's before grunge came along. Led by the sleazy vocals of Jizzy Pearl the band had two massive albums (Blackout In The Red Room and Wasted In America) one massively stupid stunt involving the Hollywood sign and a crucifix and then faded into relative obscurity with Jizzy fronting  few bands of similar ilk most notably Ratt until the return of Stephen Pearcy. So now Jizzy has returned with a mini-album that kicks off with the punk like Hanging You Out To Dry before the more old school hard rock swagger of Sunny Day and You're Making Me Nervous. This is an album of two parts with the first three songs hard rocking tracks with Pearl full of gritty aggression and the last three are more laid back balladic affairs with the sun (and organ) drenched I Don't Want To Be Your Baby sounding like The Black Crowes mixed with Rod Stewart (Faces) the middle eastern flavour to Love Is All is a trippy spiralling song with lots of guitar solos which is followed by the country/blues of Too Late. If I'm honest I prefer the second half to the first as I think it suit Pearl's vocals more. Now whether you were a fan of Pearl's work is immaterial this is the sound of a Sunset Strip survivor all grown up. 7/10

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

World Of Metal 1: Rose & Milk, Rainwill, Dark Season

World of metal is a new feature that will concentrate on underground and unsigned bands from around the world. It's a little bit of something new! I hope you guys like it! First we have Alt-metal, melo-death and thrash from across the globe.

Rose & Milk: Manekeni (Global Metal Promotions)

Rose And Milk are an alternative rock band from Belarus. Manekeni is their first EP and it is made up of 7 strong songs. I don't know any of the songs, but with help of Google Translate I found the track names (they are in Russian) and the EP kicks off with the driving Exception To The Rule, which mixes some chunky riffage, with some synths and samples giving the band a sound similar to a more upbeat NIN or even Linkin Park in some places (mainly though they are similar to little known American band RA). The band have some great songs with some excellent solos, see Calendars To... and you can feel the emotion in the lyrics even though they are in Russian, especially on the ballad I Release. Like I said despite the language barrier this is a well-produced album full of strong Alt-rock songs that would be excellent in a live arena. The EP is crisply produced and the band work through 7 great rock songs with excellent musicianship and uncapped enthusiasm. A great little EP that I implore you to look for if you get the chance. 7/10

Rainwill: Zeroed By Progress (FONO Ltd)

Rainwill are a Russian melodic death metal band hailing from Voronezh. Zeroed By Progress is their second album. This is Melo-death by the numbers with blast beat drumming, heavy as iron guitar riffage full of twisting rhythms and relentless, guttural death vocals and clean vocals mixing well together on tracks like Pleasure From Amusements and the synth heavy Value Of Life. Things take a break with the acoustic Starving before the Trivium-like Hatred Rises. Yes it has been done before but if you want a circle pit starting thrash fuelled melo-death album or something to fill your ears until Soilwork release their new album then Zeroed By Progress will give you your recommended daily allowance. The songs are strong, the musicianship precise and the synth elements add a bit of texture to the brutality meaning especially on instrumental break Model2 which is just synths and some clean guitars and gives way to the djent like Last Man Who Saw The Day which is one of the best tracks on the album. It's these synths that make the band stand out a little from their peers and also brings comparisons to Soilwork. This is a must for fans of the genre but it has enough variety to entice those who pick and choose as well. 7/10

Dark Season: Cruel Domination (Self released)

Dark Season are a metal band from Italy and they play blackened thrash with some electronic elements. The riffs come thick and fast from the Shadow Of The Evil with Neshmet and Artax shredding for their lives and Zaurak having a gruff delivery which gives the band a similar sound to Children Of Bodom and a thrashier Lordi in the vocal department. This can be seen at its best on Channel 666 which has some huge keyboard riffs and face melting solos. This is and album full of great tracks such as the head splitting Going Down which has a killer solo in the middle that just gets faster and faster before a massive breakdown outro, the final heavy hitter This Cruel Domination which is full of modern metal riffage and some huge keys, Interceptor changes tact and is just old school thrash. This is an album that merges classic sound of Testament with the modern thrash Trivium as well as bringing in some electronic and black metal elements to create a great sound that is split over 8 excellent tracks. Some nice new noise from Italy go check them out. 8/10

Monday, 16 December 2013

Another Point Of View: Electric Six (Paul Hutchings)

Electric Six – Glee Club Cardiff

A Monday night and time for the annual pre-christmas party with Detriot’s finest, the amazing Electric Six. Having missed these guys last year where they performed Fire in full, there was no way I was missing out on them again.

A quick warm up from Andy D Presents the Weekend (8/10) had the audience laughing and in a very good mood for the arrival of Dick valentine and Co. The band opened with Nom De Plume from their very good recent release Mustang before firm favourite Jam It In The Hole got the place moving. The audience, as usual an eclectic range of old school metal heads through to young hipsters, was in fine spirit, and DV’s usual zany onstage charisma only encouraged the crazies to greater efforts. Dick is the central focus of Electric Six and is one of the funniest front men around today. He constantly referred to the "nine available Electric Six albums available at the Merchandise stand at very reasonable prices" before hitting the audience with a quick Ian Watkins joke, complete with cries of "too soon" from the audience.

The band played a mix of old favourites and new tracks from Mustang. Down at McDonnelzzz was followed by Heavy Woman and Jimmy Carter from 2005’s Senor Smoke. After Dirty Looks it was time for the introduction of the ‘white wolf’ guitarist Johnny Nashinal who started the opening riff to Gay Bar: cue moshing and a wide variety of shapes being thrown by the audience who by now were going for it big time. Throughout the set Valentine engaged with the audience with his trademark deadpan delivery. However, it would be nothing without the rest of the band and this is what makes Electric Six so good. They can play. Alongside the white wolf was Da Ve on guitar, supplemented by the keyboards of Tait Nucleus and the rhythm section of Smorgasboard and Pecussion World. These guys are just consummate professionals. As you look at around at an Electric Six gig all you see is smiling faces as people have a really good time. Despite a few sound problems which necessitated Dick Valentine providing a rendition of one of his solo pieces, Show Me What Your Lights Mean, there was little let up and a cracking Clusterfuck led into the final few tracks which were just awesome. The always brilliant Danger! High Voltage was followed by the hilarious Adam Levine, the less than complimentary ode to the Maroon 5 singer, and then the triple whammy of Dance Epidemic, I Buy The Drugs (Mrs H whirling like a demon by now) and finally Dance Commander to top of a truly fabulous night of entertainment. If you aren’t aware of this band (how could you not be? Editor), check out Fire and last year’s live album Absolute Pleasure for a taste and then make sure you book yourself a ticket next time these guys are in town. You won’t be disappointed. 9/10

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Another Point Of View: Triaxis (Review By Nick)

Triaxis, Counterhold and Blacksphere, Fuel Cardiff.

Ok, so first thing is first. I have never liked this venue for live music events as the sound is always dire and well... its just flat out not appropriate for live music either. I mean a "Cardiff's biggest rock club" playing Keane and Aqua in between sets? No, no thank you.
Annoyingly I experienced much of the same tonight but thankfully it wasn't quite enough to take the shine of a night of true honest metal music. Well, what I could hear of it anyway.

Blacksphere

This female fronted band haling from South Wales hit the stage when the venue was practically empty, taking advantage of this I wandered to the front, pint in hand to check these guys out. Only having the chance to see Blacksphere once before from a distance I was pleasantly surprised by what they had to offer. A short set of about 5 songs offered us 4 rhythmic and groove filled power metal songs with a booming bass provided by a man who was simply known as "Carl". It was clear to see that Blacksphere enjoyed what they were doing here with smiles across their faces. The crowd seemed to agree as of the few people who had arrived had made their way straight to the front too. The highlight of this band was lead singer "Gayn" such a powerful and smooth voice
coming from a lady built so pettily was very impressive. Although due to the sound issues it was very difficult for her to really hit her heights as anything too powerful seemed to break the system. All in all a great little set from a band I would like to see again in different circumstances. The only downside, the encore? ...a cover! A cover of My Immortal by Evanesence to be exact. Despite it being a cover of decent quality, I am never a fan of band such as this finishing sets with a cover. I always feel they should leave us with their best and all being well, hopefully wanting more. 7/10

Counterhold

Counterhold are classic heavy metal 5 pieced band from Cwmbran. Laced with grungy undertones Counterhold threw themselves into their set with some good energy. Front-man Steve Jenkins doing his best to involve the crowd as they slowly started to filter in, who, in the most part responded well. Similar sound issues meant that unfortunately the vocals and lead guitar we're at times barely audible and muffled. This was a shame as on occasion when Jenkins's voice was clear it was obvious he possess a voice that a capable of both silk like melody and a sharp howling growl when called upon. However this didn't stop the band from powering on. Offering up a set that contained tracks from their new album All Of Them Slain and what they professed to be a couple of oldies that they hadn't performed in a while. Each song was delivered with some definite passion, and this we can have nothing but respect for. The grunge and sprinklings of aggression make Counterhold a similar band to the mighty Beholder live, the breakdowns make it hard for you not to bounce your head up and down as the set progresses. The only concern I did have is that despite the set being enjoyable and the love these guys show for their music, the songs did seem to all roll into one with little variance that I could detect. On this night it didn't really matter at all as the crowd interaction from front-man Steve and the traveling support made the set a good laugh. However I feel a longer set on a different night may struggle to power on with such aplomb. Finally the lads gave the crowd a choice of two songs for their finale, a nice touch I thought. A unanimous vote for Stand Or Die lead Counterhold to deliver what I had come to expect from them, a wholehearted song that finished with a bang. If you haven't seen these guys check them out. On another day I would liked to have given these guys a little more but I feel I would be overselling a little bit despite the positives. A band that have a lot to offer in the coming years in my opinion, keep an eye! 7/10

Triaxis

Now for the main event and a band I have held close to my heart since the first time I saw them, Triaxis. Haling from Port Talbot way these guys have proven to me on many occasions they know what they are doing and how to do it, tonight was no different. This slightly shortened set consisted predominantly of tracks from latest album Rage & Retribution and wow were we treated! The set opened up strongly with the in your face track of Sand & Silver... shredding riffs and mini breakdowns galore supported perfectly by one of the finest voices in music, supplied by the birthday girl Krissie Kirby. Each time I see this band I become more and more memorized and stunned by the quality and power of this ladies voice, simply immense. With no let up the band slid straight into the next tracks consisting of favourites Under Blood Red Skies and Sker Point, both delivered flawlessly and again with great passion from the band. The front row breaking out into air guitar and song united...
From drummer to vocals Triaxis to me really are a complete band, and this showed in the offering of The Infected... Clare Wilson laying down some fantastic rhythms while Owen pounded away on the bass standing on every object that he can find... a real highlight of this song is the jaw dropping talent of lead guitarist Glyn, fingers flailing up and down the neck of his guitar producing some of the finest sounds you could hope to hear from an instrument. The set moved on with a track from debut album Key To The Kingdom; Lies. Another favourite of the fans... and clearly the band also as they again threw themselves full force into the moment. As the set drew to a close some good and bad news was announced. The good news is that Triaxis are hitting the studio to start work on their 3rd album, the bad news; no more live gigs as a result (Booo!). Anyway, the final two songs were dealt with the in the manner that Triaxis only know how, a full on assault of music and vocals as Owen and Glyn undertook a fine impression of Status Quo mid track.
The final track was some what of a let down initially when announced for reasons I mentioned earlier... a cover. This though was a fine cover with a Triaxis twist. Iron Maidens Hallowed Be Thy Name rang out through fuel supported on mass by the fans as Krissie hit every note perfectly which taught me a lesson, if you are going to end a set with a cover do it properly and most importantly do it your way. The only disappointment that struck me in this set was again the sound, at times the wonderful voice of Krisse's was muffled and you could see that as the set went on she unfortunately was having to pull back a little vocally and with the microphone. Not the bands fault but this seemed to be a theme throughout the night, as I expected...
I cannot wait to see this band live again and hopefully many more times after that because they are quite simply a treat! If you want to see how metal should be produced performed and delivered live look no further than Triaxis 10/10

Another Point Of View: Death Angel (Review by Paul)

Death Angel – Underworld, Camden

My penultimate gig of 2013 arrived and I found myself at the Underworld in Camden for a night of old school thrash. The Underworld is a 500 capacity venue and is ideally suited to rock and metal gigs. What is also particularly pleasing about the venue is that the bar is located in a different part of the building to the auditorium, which allowed me to focus on the music without being disrupted by those in need of booze flavoured beverages.


Adimiron

I arrived too late to catch to catch Italians Adimiron but did catch fellow countrymen Extrema’s set. Apparently these guys have been around as long as the headliners but I have to admit that my knowledge of Italian metal is limited to Lacuna Coil and Fleshgod Apocalypse and I was unaware of them. Extrema delivered a strong set of Pantera style thrash with vocalist GL Perotti animated throughout. His vocal delivery is very much in the Anselmo mode, snarling and guttural and large amounts of audience encouragement. The band played eight songs from their catalogue of albums including a couple of tracks from their latest release The Seed of Foolishness. A relatively sparse crowd gave Extrema a pretty positive response with the front row warming up for the evening with a cracking display of wind-milling. The band closed with a track called From The 80s which was probably an apt summary of the entire evening. 7/10

Dew Scented

The main warm up quickly followed in the shape of German thrashers Dew Scented. Now if you like your thrash, Germany is possibly THE place to look to. The likes of Kreator, Destruction and Sodom have long been leading lights in the thrash movement and Dew Scented are of a similar ilk. And they were damn good too. Decent thrash does exactly what it says on the tin and Dew Scented didn’t deviate from what you would have expected, producing a fine 40 minutes of powerful and groove laden Germanic thrash which was appreciated by the crowd which had by now increased substantially. Opening with Sworn to Obey, Dew Scented made it clear that they meant business. Twin guitarists Rory Hansen and Marvin Vriesde laid down riff after riff along with some excellent soloing. Driving the band forward were the rhythm section of drummer Koen Hefst and Dutch bassist Joost Van Der Graft who was celebrating his 40
th birthday. Later in the show Van Der Graft was covered in beer whilst the crowd sang a quite awfully out of tune ‘happy birthday’ to him. The focal point of Dew Scented is clearly frontman and original member Leif Jensen. Not only does the man possess a decent set of pipes, his interaction with the crowd was pretty impressive too with Jensen very keen to say thank you to all of the hardy souls who turned out on cold but dry London evening and constantly encouraging the formation of the inevitable circle pits.

Dew Scented have been around since 1992 and have released eight albums, all bizarrely starting with the letter I. Highlights from their set included Never To Return and the fast paced Thrown To the Lions from the 2012 release Icarus. Closing with Acts Of Rage from 2003’s Impact, this is a band who would go down a storm in the tent at BOA. Well worth checking out if you like a decent bit of thrash. 8/10


Death Angel

No messing about from Death Angel. Storming Straight Into Left For Dead from this year’s quite exceptional The Dream Calls For Blood, the Bay Area thrashers made it clear from the start that their only UK date on the European tour was going to be a memorable one. Anyone who witnessed their excellent set at BOA this summer would be aware of exactly what was going to be served up. Another track from TDCFB followed, Son Of The Morning before the first cut from their Debut album The Ultra Violence followed. Mark Osegueda is one of the most engaging front men I’ve ever seen, and as well as being able to deliver vocally in the live setting, he appeared genuinely grateful that there was a healthy turnout. Grateful I hear you ask? Indeed, because this was on the same night that a certain Black Sabbath were packing out the O2 arena not a million miles away. This meant that this was really a diehard crowd who were extremely engaged with the band. Over the next hour and a half Death Angel proceeded to deliver a quite brutal set combined of some older classics such as Thicker Than Blood from the Art Of Dying, Sonic Beatdown from the underrated Killing Season integrated with further tracks from TDCFB. Original guitarist and clearly the beating heart of Death Angel Rob Cavenstany was in particularly inspired form, shredding like crazy whilst maintaining the cool stage persona that he has always maintained. He was ably aided by Ted Aguilar on stage left along with the ripped Damien Sisson on bass and Will Carroll on drums. Death Angel have always had numerous time changes in their writing and their tracks contain intricate technical aspects not always associated with this genre. The evening flew by with one of the more interesting highlights a truncated cover of Love Gun by Kiss. A quick breather at the end of the main set was quickly followed by the killer encore of Lord Of Hate and Thrown To The Wolves which saw a final circle pit run for the entire the length of the song. Osegueda thanked the crowd several times during the show and provided a lesson in the art of being a metal front man. Death Angel are a band who should have been much bigger than they are in the UK. Tonight was an excellent reminder of the technical excellence that set them apart from many around them when they burst onto the scene in the late 1980s. 9/10

Friday, 13 December 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Airbourne

Airbourne, Orange Goblin & The Treatment, O2 Academy Bristol

So once more across the bridge to Bristol and into the Academy for night of rawk! Into the arena (Michael Schenker) and up to the balcony (Romeo and the Juliets?) we waited for the first act after filling up on rock juice from the bar.

The Treatment

First up were Cambridge rock upstarts The Treatment. I've been following their progress for a while and tonight was the slickest I've ever seen them. They not only have the songs but the look and the attitude. The look was leather biker jackets, tight jeans and Union Jack motifs that made them look visually like a mix of The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Guns N Roses. The band were on top form crashing out with the rip snorting Drink, Fuck, Fight, from their last album which started things off nicely meaning that drummer Dhani Mansworth could crash and smash, bassist Swoggle (who looks like he should be in Game Of Thrones) ran around the stage like Steve Harris on steroids! The twin-guitar of Ben Brookland and Tagore Grey meant that the songs had classic hard rock delivery to them and Matt Jones' vocals fit the music but can grate somewhat. The band took a risk and ploughed through a set of new tracks from their unreleased album but they were all strong full of chunky rock riffs and solo's meaning that their new album should be something a bit special as live they are now better than I've ever seen them they have worked hard on their delivery and most importantly their song-writing. With their sizzling opening ending with the sing along Shake The Mountain. 8/10

Orange Goblin

The band that have probably taken the award for hardest touring band several times over made their way to the stage as Ozzy blared from the speakers. Led on to the stage by Jon Hoare the one man riff machine began to blast out the riff for Scorpionica he was joined by the face smashing rhythm section from the suitably bearded Martyn Millard (Bass) and Chris Turner (drums) before finally the giant (continuing with The Game Of Thrones theme) himself Ben Ward marched out and began to roar, straight then into The Filthy And The Few which garnered the fans into a frenzy. Between every song Ben did the Ozzy two fists in the air hailing his hero and decked out in an old school Sabbath t-shirt. Goblin then slowed things down this the trippy Saruman's Wish. Before coming back to bludgeon us again with Acid Trial and the evergreen Some You Win, Some You Lose. This was a short sharp shock of a set in which Goblin came, saw and conquered and as the final duo of Quincy The Pig Boy and Red Tide Rising rang out the crowd had been welcomed to the house of Goblin. Still one of the best live bands out there, no bullshit, no sermons just straight up British heavy metal. 9/10

Airbourne

Airbourne hail from Australia, they play hard rock rooted in the blues and they have two brothers in the band. Yes the scene is familiar (as too is the sound) and the joke has worn stale but still it's when you see Airbourne live that it reinforces that they do sound an awful lot like AC/DC. With the Terminator 2 intro finishing the band came rushing onto the stage and dove headlong into Ready To Rock from the new album before Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast and Girls In Black brought the classics. The band are always full of energy and frontman Joel O'Keefe is like a psycho with his wild eyed stare and shirtless antics. However it's this unhinged madness that I wish to focus on as I've seen Airbourne a few times now and this crops up every time. Yes they have some good rock n roll songs that are perfect for a party atmosphere however Joel's insistence for having beer throwing competitions (which lasted about 5 minutes), doing solo around the crowd and then doing his obligatory climbing shtick meant that nearly 30 minutes of the set was taken up by guitar soloing and tomfoolery than actually playing the songs. Now maybe this is me being a cynic but the odd piece of theatre is great but when you are playing what is essentially bar room boogie, the long instrumental passages become more of a chore than a treat. Still I enjoyed Diamond In The RoughBlonde Bad And Beautiful and Stand Up For Rock N Roll. As they closed the main set leading to the Thunderstruck moment of Live It Up to start the encore. This moved into Raise The Flag which went on far too long with all the running about by O’Keefe and the final song was Runnin’ Wild which ended the set on a high. Like I said musically they are just what you want from a live band however they need to think about pacing a bit more. 8/10   
    

Friday, 6 December 2013

Reviews: Ayreon, Avatarium, Kadavar

Ayreon: The Theory Of Everything (InsideOut)

Arjen Lucassen has returned to the project that was his first massive project. After 8 albums the project spiralled out of control getting more and more elaborate, bringing more musicians on his albums than any other project. He took a break from Ayreon and moved into other areas of music but now he has returned to it. Gone is the story of the Universal Migrator, The Theory Of Everything starts another storyline set in the modern era, rather than the previous albums sci-fi concepts. The album is made up of 42 separate tracks (Hitchhikers Guide...keep up at the back) split into 4 sections. This album also moves away from the previous albums as having few guests. The story follows a genius savant trying to find the theory of everything and the trials and tribulations he goes through, ranging from drug trials, to completion to death. The parts are all played by different singer with the two standouts being Kamelot/Seventh Wonder singer Tommy Karevik who plays the savant, and Nightwish's Marco Hietala as his rival. Other voices lent to the project are Michael Mills and Christina Scabbia as the boy’s parents, Grand Magus' JB as his teacher and Asia's John Wetton as the psychiatrist. So while the vocalists have decreased the guest musicians are ramped up in terms of legendary status, Lucassen plays all of the guitars and most of the keys (drums are handled by Gorefest's Ed Warby) Lucassen is aided by a plethora of classical instruments, but it’s in the keys section where the stars really shine, Jordan Rudress (Dream Theater), Keith Emerson (ELP) and the wizard himself Rick Wakeman all contribute solo's to the album and on the guitar front the only (and I use the term only loosely) is Steve Hackett. So to the album, it is hard to pick out a favourite song as this album is meant to be taken as a whole, but it moves and shifts through various phases each one sounding like an amalgamation of amazing progressive rock bands with huge keys and flowing guitar passages. The Theory Of Everything is meant to be taken as a whole and when it is it is simply stunning and brilliantly majestic. Yet another flawless entry into Arjen's magnum opus. 10/10           

Avatarium: S/T (Nuclear Blast)

Doom big heaping slabs of doom, something Leif Edling knows a lot about having been the bassist/lead writer of doom legends Candlemass. This is his new band, the songs were written with fellow Swede Mikael Akerfeldt in mind as vocalist but as he is phenomenally busy with his own band plans had to be changed somewhat. For the better well we'll see, the rest of the band are made up of Evergrey guitarist Marcus Jindell, drummer Lars Skold (Tiamat) and keyboardist Carl Westholm. The riffs are heavy slabs of heaving doom from the opening planet crushing chords of the 8 minute Moonhouse which turns into an acoustically led track in the verses, this change is straight out of the Akerfeldt playbook and it shows the startling nature of this new band which is fronted by the smoky jazz inflected voice of front woman Jennie Ann-Smith who is this bands key she has the perfect style for this misanthropic malaise. Pandora's Egg has more doom riffage and occult/mystical imagery than you can shake a stick at, this moves into the heavy as a led opening of the bands title track which has the creepy, haunting organ. This is an album of 7 massive doom tracks that will please Leif's hardcore following as well as welcome new fans. It strikes the right balance between being fresh and new as well as having that nod to things past. A great album for those who like their doom at its darkest. 8/10 

Kadavar: Abra Kadavar (Nuclear Blast)

Kadavar play 70's inspired rock and hail from Germany. Abra Kadavar is their second album and it follows on from their debut. Yes they can be seen as doom but they are so much more vocally they sound like JD from The Sword, and their weird beard persona and jangling psychedelic delivery brings to mind Hawkwind see the pulsing Come Back To Life which is driven by some pulverising bass. The doomy/blues comes to the furore on the howling Black Snake which moves into the jazz influenced Dust which goes all krautrock on our asses and Rhythm Of Endless Minds is a trip through a chemical addled brain. The band have just come off a long tour of the UK and Europe tour and I can see that this kind of retro, psychedelic rock would go down well in the live arena as they can stretch their muscles a bit and jam something bands like this do very well. On the album however they can flex just enough to keep your attention. All in all zehr gut!! 7/10

 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Reviews: Hell, Ghost, Switchblade

Hell: Curse And Chapter (Nuclear Blast)

The re-activated Hell have returned with their second album and their first of original material. (The first album was made up of songs that had been around since their first incarnation in the 1980's) so could they have as much impact as their debut did? The answer is yes, without changing very much the band have managed to create another album of top quality British heavy metal that draws from the NWOBHM as well as the proto-thrash (seen in guitarist Andy Sneap's original band Sabbat). Sneap and Kev Bower bring the riffs with every song chock full of their breakneck and chunky riffage as well as some massive solos, backed by the percussive onslaught of Tim Bowler and the bass attack of Tony Speakerman see the opening of Deliver Us From Evil, again the band's main piece-de resistance is singer David Bower who's theatrical banshee-like delivery is what separates them from the rest of the NWOBHM worshiping crowd. The opening track Age Of Nefarious has a great riff and rips off the peace and love anthem Age Of Aquarius in the chorus. The riffs fly thick and fast on The Disposer Supreme, the heavy stomp of Darkhangel is next and is the longest and most progressive song on the album Harbinger Of Death is the most NWOBHM song the album full of duelling guitar riffs. The keys come on strongly for the opening of the instrumental Deathsquad which moves into the Macbeth inspired Something Wicked This Way Comes. In this humble reviewers opinion if Hell hadn't faced so much adversity in their early career they could have been as big as Maiden, however they are not resting on their past victories they are pushing forward with some high quality British Heavy Metal. This album is a must for any true metal fan. Go! Buy It! Now! 10/10      

Ghost: If You Have Ghost (Universal)

Ghost have slowly but surely taken over the word through word of mouth, great live presence and celebrity endorsement, Phil Anselmo and James Hetfield to name two. This is a covers EP and can be seen as a stop gap between albums, it also serves as a way for Ghost to expand their remit a little tackling songs that are not necessarily of their genre. The album opens with a cover of psychedelic rocker Roky Erickson's If You Have Ghosts which is suited perfectly to Ghost's cod-occult delivery with blasting organs and riffing guitars and Papa's vocodered vocals. This is followed the most evil ABBA have ever sounded as the band storm through the creepy I'm A Marionette. It's here I'll mention the production which is sterling proving once again that Dave Grohl is a man of many talents as he handles the production duties on this EP. Army Of Lovers' Crucified is next and the album is rounded off by an organ drenched, fuzzed guitar version of Depeche Mode's Waiting For The Night. The live version of Secular Haze is not really much of an addition, but this is a nice package for a completest and serves its purpose as a stopgap. 7/10 

Switchblade: Heavy Weapons (Killer Metal Records)

Switchblade are metal band from Israel and they play metal that is straight out of the early 80's, the killer riffage, the pounding drums, the retro production and the Dickinson-esque vocals. This is the music Maiden was writing on the first three albums. The band are not reinventing the wheel, but they are carrying on a legacy like Enforcer, Grand Magus and Holy Grail, a legacy of NWOBHM inspired pounding metal full of face melting solos and shout along choruses. All of the band are equally talented with the rhythm section of Sascha Latman (bass) and Moshe "Moshpit" Sabach (drums) anchoring the metallic riffs of guitarist Federico "FedeRock" Taich and the siren-like vocals of Lior "Steinmetal" Stein who sounds uncannily like Bruce Dickinson. Yes the songs are your general metal fodder of fantasy, war (title track), women (Metalista) and leather and the production is authentically 80's e.g. slightly thin but this just makes the band sound more like the real thing. they do shake up their sound a little bit with the instrumental The Lost Kingdom which goes down the power metal route a bit with its synth backing As a debut this is a pretty good one filled with some fist pumping metal anthems, one massive metal ballad (Lost Lovers Unite) and enough old-school nostalgia to bring out the harlequin spandex, bullet belts and white trainers! 8/10


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Out Of The Beyond 30

Katatonia: Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)

Katatonia's path towards giving up metal completely now seems complete; Dethroned & Uncrowned is an acoustic re-working of their most recent album Dead End Kings. There are little to no electric guitars on this album just acoustics, mellotrons, synths, dulcimer hammers, pianos and orchestral backing throughout. It means that the songs have much more impact in their stripped back form meaning that the band have echoes of Porcupine Tree at their most introspective, bringing huge soundscapes that explode from the stereo but are equally at home when listened to late at night on headphones, drawing you in with their bewitching melodies and Jonas Renske's deep sonorous voice. This is a life affirming album that shows that Katatonia have some excellent songs that translate just as well in this setting as they are on the full electric version of the album, Dead Letters is a highlight as always as is opener The Parting. This is Katatonia casting their net for the future, they do not need to worry about any further experimentation as they have shown that they are quite capable mixing up their style. 9/10

Slave To The System: S/T (2002/2006)

Slave To The System released their debut and so far only album in 2002 before it was re-released with an extra track in 2006. The band are made up by former Queensryche guitarist Kelly Gray and former Queensryche drummer Scott Rockenfield, in a change to their day jobs the album is hard rock mixed with some alternative moments. The band is finished off by members of the alt-rock band Brother Cane composed of bassist Roman Glick and vocalist/guitarist Damon Johnson (Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders) and guitarist Scott Heard. As I've said the band have hard rock mixed with alternative metal, Stigmata sounds like Velvet Revolver with Johnson doing his best Weiland, before Ruby Wednesday which is very Pearl Jam like into the title track which sounds like Soundgarden and Cruz Out Of Control is Audioslave at their heaviest. As you can see many of these tracks have similarities, most of which are because of Johnsons' Cornell-like vocals. This is a good album full of chunky rock tracks and massive ballads like Abyss. If you like American metal throwing in grunge, hard rock and acoustic balladry then Slave To The System will tick all your boxes. 7/10  

Crystal Breed: The Place Unknown (2011)

Crystal Breed are a Prog rock band from Hamburg and that's all you really need to know, they play pure progressive rock full of massive synths and keyboard runs, chunky/melodic guitar passages, driving bass lines and some technical drumming, the band have also got some amazing vocal harmonies from lead vocalist/guitarist Niklas Turmann, keyboardist/vocalist Corvin Bahn and drummer/vocalist Thorsten Harnitz. From the synth driven opening Lies the band spiral out of control into a massive crescendo that immediately changes pace with the acoustic opening to Floating On Waves which brings light and shade with its quiet/soft dynamics, as well as the classical piano middle eight. the band have a similar sound to The Von Hertzen Brothers (which could be why I like it!). The band bring together a lot of elements from prog-legends the title track is part Marillion, part Barclay James Harvest with its country refrain which turns into a heavy as lead breakdown at the end! This is a band with some sublime songs and amazing song-writing, there's Rush, Pink Floyd, Marillion and even the Beatles present on this album and it all works perfectly. This is a bit of a hidden gem for prog fans, an amazing album from a band you may not know too much about. Give it a spin, live with it for a few weeks and you will love it I promise! 9/10    

The Winery Dogs: S/T (2013)

The Winery Dogs are a rock trio like no other; the three members are all virtuosos in their own rights and have appeared on hundreds of album between them. The three men in question are tub thumper extraordinaire Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Transatlantic and every other band under the sun, master of the 4 stings Billy Sheenan ex-DLR and Mr Big and the third part of this trifecta is the perhaps lesser known Ritchie Kotzen who is a solo singer/guitarist and did a stint in Poison. Together they meld to bring some muscular blues based hard rock full of virtuosic flourishes, a drum fill there; We Are One, a bass solo here see Desire for an example and lots of Hendrix-like freak-outs from Kotzen who not only plays a means strings but has the smoothest rock voice this side of Chris Cornell. Things start strong with Elevate which has a euphoric chorus; in fact this word can sum up the album to a tee. Three men playing up lifting rock music that is as life-affirming as it is technical. Portnoy is a genius equally adept to smashing out rock rhythms as he is playing stripped back jazzy refrains. Sheenan plays his bass like a lead guitar contributing funky leads and rumbling rhythm and Kotzen howls and croons while shredding and rocking like a motherf*****! The band get plaintive on I'm No Angel showing their stadium rock leanings are not far away. This is an album full of strong tracks that are both catchy and beautifully played. if you are a fan of any of the contributors work then you will love this and if you're not then really you shouldn't even be reading to here. 9/10  

 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: The Darkness

The Darkness, Lostalone & The River 68's, Solus Cardiff

The Darkness were at one time the biggest rock band in the world but drug use, fall outs and general madness led to them splitting but you can't keep a good band down and now they are back with a new album named Hot Cakes. However this tour is a retrospective celebrating the tenth anniversary of their debut Permission To Land by playing the album in full. Still with excitement in the air the first support act came on stage.

The River 68's

The River 68's as a full band are a soulful blues rock band, but in this setting they were playing as an acoustic duo with Craig McGabe and his guitar playing brother Chris stripping their songs back to their roots. Chris' guitar and harmonica was very good and their songs were soulful and sounding like The Black Crowes and Neil Young. The bands power lies in Craig's voice which is staggeringly powerful. I'd love to see them as a full band as they were impressive as a duo. 8/10

Lostalone

Dire, totally dire, a horrible mix up of cocksure indie/pop punk, emo and rubbish songs. The band seemed amateur and confused about what they wanted to sound like. If I never see them again that will be too soon. I'm sorry but it's no from me. 0/10

The Darkness

Finally the moment we had all been waiting for, the PA blasted out The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy before another intro introducing the Hawkins brothers killed the momentum, however as The band took to the stage to a rapturous reception they went straight into Makin' Out from the last record before following up with the hard rocking She's Just A Girl Eddie which was an opening salvo that showed that the band had missed a step since reforming, Dan was resolute as the riffmeister extraordinaire peeling off riff after riff, Frank Poullain pulled his four (g?) strings with a dignified precision and Ed Graham silently smashed the hell out of his drum kit. The focus as usual was on Justin who told us early on that his voice was going due to illness, but if it was I couldn't hear it, it was there in full falsetto glory screeching and screaming over the riotous rawk! Hawkins (J) moved between guitar and straight vocals doing his best Freddie when not hindered by the axe. Throughout the band straddled the line between Spinal Tap and Queen merging majesty with mayhem. Is It Just Me? followed before we were welcomed into the dirty world of The Horn and Every Inch Of You. A gap in proceedings and Justin offered £100 pounds to anyone that knew the next song and true to his word when two people down the front he borrowed £100 pounds and gave it to the shouting fans. The song was The Ballad Of The Tollund Man which featured some extremely high vocals from Poullain, who was inaudible until Justin sorted the sound out by shouting at the sound man. The song faded into Street Spirit (Fade Out) ironically. The final song of the main set was the ode to the white stuff One Way Ticket which featured the deliberately worst drum solo of all time! The fans rolled and rocked to the main set but another (slightly long intro) led into the opening to of Black Shuck (that dog don't give a fuck!) before they rolled through the Permission To Land album mass sing-alongs erupted to Get Your Hands Off My Woman, Growing On Me, I Believe In A Thing Called Love and Love Is Only A Feeling. There was jumping, shouting, clapping and fist pumping throughout all led by the ringmaster Justin who was bedecked in a bright pink cat suit. The band tore through Stuck In A Rut, Givin Up and Friday Night before the set piece of Love On The Rocks With No Ice set the place on fire as Justine soloed around the crowd on top of a roadies shoulder before arriving back on stage for the finale of Holding My Own. Thoroughly exhausted both the band and the fans took a break, what more could they play? we asked ourselves but we were quickly answered as the band came back out with their Crimbo garb on for the seasonal hit (it's only November guys!). Still we gleefully sang along and cheered when they ended the set proper. Yes they are like audio marmite but The Darkness are possibly one of the most entertaining live bands this side of Evil Scarecrow merging the sublime and the ridiculous. They are well worth watching and I'm just pleased I saw them on this special tour. 10/10 
 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains, Ghost & The Walking Papers Newport Centre

Once again we step into the weird world of the Newport Centre, half venue, half swimming pool it is truly a sight to behold as the black t-shirted hordes queued for entry as families frolicked in the pool. Still once inside the oddness was replaced by the familiar sight and smells of a rock venue, albeit one that doubles as a squash court. There was talk of Joey Jordison's band Scar The Martyr being one of the supports but that honour was bestowed upon The Walking Papers.

The Walking Papers

Made up of members of The Missionary Position, Screaming Trees and Guns N Roses The Walking Papers play blues based soulful rock with a slight alternative/punk edge. Bedecked in a suit Jeff Angell played a mean blues guitar and howled his way through tracks off the band’s debut album accompanied by the expert time keeping of Barrett Martin who knows how to smash a drum kit, keys, synths, orchestrations and general madness came from keyboardist Benjamin Anderson and Bassist Duff McKagan added a refined coolness that only someone of his magnitude can bestow by taking a backseat somewhat to Angell's bluesman persona. They were a good start to the night mixing some laid back blues with heavy punkier riffs. There was very little banter as the band locked into a groove that gathered a healthy crowd excited by what they saw as a new band (The Walking Papers' album was not widely released in the UK until this month). Worth checking out on both record and in a live setting The Walking Papers were a good warm up for the rest of the night. 8/10

Back to the bar for a few light refreshments (so long as it's Guinness or Cider) and then we took up our seat again. Yes folk’s seats, history dictates that you should not stand in close quarters to metal fans in a venue that is essentially a sauna...

Ghost

A band always seeming to play the odd one out, Swedes Ghost were next and the crowd gathered as the room filled for their grey mass (somewhere between black and white). Despite all their Satanic lyrics the band are a bit of fun and after the intro and instrumental of Infestissumam the Nameless Ghouls locked in for the retro occult rock set before the Cardinal of Sin himself Papa Emeritus (II?) arrived on stage for the pounding Per Aspera Ad Inferi which moved into Con Clavi Con Dio. The tracks are now ingrained into the bands set list and with the sweet smell of incense (that's INCENSE Newport isn't that bad yet!) wafting through the hall the band showed how heavy they are live in comparison to their albums which are bit lighter. The night of the witch began with of Stand By Him followed by Prime Mover got the crowd moving to the Devil's beat before the band did something that I haven't seen them do live yet. Papa began to talk to the crowd like a normal human, this took a little away from their ghostly aurora but it make them a little more accessible as they introduced their cover of Roky Erickson's If You Have Ghosts from their Dave Grohl produced covers E.P. The song fitted the band well and gave a brief break in the proceeding before awesome Year Zero and Ritual led into the sing along quasi-spiritual Monstrance Clock ended the set. This was a short, precise set that took a few risks that ultimately paid off for the band and brought the heavily grunge loving crowd on side, something the band do very well. 8/10

Alice In Chains

I have only seen AIC at a festival and I'll let you in on secret I wasn't that fussed, outside of their hits I didn't recognise much and thought they were a bit boring. However due to my good friend Lee's super fandom I picked up Black Gives Way To Blue and was impressed enough to seek out the back catalogue culminating with this years The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. So I wanted to give them another chance and I'm glad I did. The band came out and went straight into Dirt from the album of the same name, with the opening riff the roof nearly came off the place not only due to the ovation but the sheer power of AIC'c groove. The noise was up there with Gojira in terms of power, the riffs of Cantrell just ripped the crowd a new hole, the bass of Inez was big beefy and fuzzed to hell and drummer Sean Kinney broke every stick he used to abuse his kit. Special kudos too goes to William Duvall who truly is the singer of AIC now not just Layne's replacement he also plays a mean guitar. Speaking of guitar it is only in a love setting you realise Jerry Cantrell's guitar playing is, his riffs are unmistakable and his solos are explosive and to the point. The first five songs of the set went by in a big heavy noisy blast with no let up to catch your breath Again into the modern classic Check My Brain, then the classic Them Bones. The band mixed songs from their early albums with tracks off their latest album, the first of these was Hollow which was followed by my favourite track Man In The Box. The aural assault continued with light and shade mixing the slower more ballad-like songs with the harder rock edged tracks. Phantom Limb was excellent as was No Excuses, Stone and the final track of the main set the seldom played Sludge Factory. A brief break and speculation in which order the encore would come, it was quickly answered with the acoustics brought out for Down In A Hole (cue excited squealing from my right from Lee), the (downward) spiralling song set the tone for the encore perfectly and led into the fan favourites and perennial set closers Would? and the timeless and trippy Rooster which brought the house down! This was a hell of showing from AIC who more than justified their standing as one of the leaders of the Seattle metal scene. Definitely a band that have proved how good they can be live and one I would see again, just maybe at an indoor venue. 10/10 
     

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Reviews: Five Finger Death Punch, Eden's Curse, Iron Man

Five Finger Death Punch: The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Volume 2(Spinefarm)

Part two of the American bruiser’s fourth album and there is no sign of the band letting up and making an AOR album anytime soon. Again Moody roars and croons, Bathory brings some massive riffs and Hook adds the solos, backed by Spencer's drums and Kael's bass licks. So again we see FFDP crating a riotous, angry album full of groove filled American heavy metal. Unlike the first album there are no guests on this second part just the band playing their brand of metal that mixes heaviness but with melody, see semi ballad Weight Beneath My Skin and the euphoric Battle Born (an ode to the road) for the latter and Wrecking Ball (thankfully not  Miley Cyrus cover) for the former. This is another strong album that seems to have more of the big hook filled tracks and semi-ballads like Cold that the band are good at  rather than the aggressive razor sharp riffage, which is still present but not as prevalent as it was on part 1. Still it's a good album that works in conjunction with Volume 1 to give FFDP more songs to unleash in the live arena where they really excel, it also has quite a good cover of The Animal's House Of The Rising Sun which works quite well. 7/10

Eden's Curse: Symphony Of Sin (AFM)

Four records into their career and its all change in the Eden's Curse camp. They have done the make or break thing of changing their singer, and new boy Serbian Nikola Mijic has a tall order in following the unique vocals of founder member Michael Eden but luckily he is extremely talented and has voice similar to that of Edguy/Avantasia's Tobias Sammet. Mijic has entered the fray after Eden controversially left the melodic metal band stating that it was his creation and his idea and that he was being forced out by co-founder member bassist Paul Logue. But I digress into band politics which is always a bad idea so; I'll just focus on this album instead. What an album it is moving away from the more metallic offerings of their last two albums (the excellent Second Coming and the awesome Trinity respectively) back to the rockier melodic metal of their first album. This may look like a step backwards but as Edguy's Age Of The Joker showed sometimes variety is the spice of life and Eden's Curse have definitely spiced things up on this album. It moves and twists through several shades and genres. Take for example the opening title track, it has driving metallic riff from guitarist Thorsten Kohne, he is aided by the powerful keyboard runs of second new member former Dragonforce/Powerquest keyboardist Steve Williams who take over from the in demand Alessio Del Vecchio. Williams adds his years of experience to the songs with some amazing synths see Break The Silence, orchestrations and piano on the big show stopping ballads like Fallen From Grace which is Whitesnake by another brand. With all the talk of new members it's sometimes easy to forget the powerhouse rhythm section of Logue and drummer Pete Newdeck who keep everything nice and grounded in hard hitting rock. In terms of songwriting Logue has out done himself Evil & Divine sounds like Dio-Rainbow or Deep Purple, to the AOR of Unbreakable where everything goes all Journey. This is yet another sterling effort from Eden's Curse who have definitely come out of their line-up change on the right foot. With Mijic's powerful range and Williams’s keyboard prowess, Eden's Curse can step out of their genre domination into the world beating arena! 9/10       

Iron Man: South Of The Earth (Rise Above)

Stop the presses! A former Black Sabbath tribute band release an album of original material that sounds like Sabbath. Really this all you need to know. But in the name of information I suppose I should go on so I will. Formed by Maryland guitarist Alfred Morris III, Iron Man have all the hallmarks of Iommi and his Iron Men, the heaving slabs of doom riffage from Morris III the rumbling bass lines Louis Strachan who is channelling his Geezer Butler perfectly with his lead guitar like bass playing. The drums smash and tumble with equal power and singer "Screaming Mad" Dee Calhoun has voice that is a dead ringer for Grand Magus' JB. South Of The Earth is the bands fifth album with as many line ups (their ex-members list is huge!) yet they show little signs of changing or giving up on their Sabbath vibe yet. Yes as I've said the band sound like Sabbath and from the two opening tracks, the title track and the leaf worshiping Hail To The Haze the band show their intent to be as Sabbath as possible with driving riffage and some killer guitar playing before the doom creep of The Worst And Longest Day will get your head nodding in a smoke filled haze. The album takes a break in the middle with the acoustic Ariel Changed The Sky which is still hailing back to Sabbath and tracks like Planet Caravan or Laguna Sunrise. This album is perfect for doom fans as well as Sabbath worshippers. Spark up, sit down and let them take you on a trip Into The Void. 8/10 

Another Point Of View: Defenders Of The Faith (Review From Paul)

Defenders of the Faith Tour – Bristol O2 Academy                                                  

The Metal Hammer sponsored Defenders of the Faith tour arrived in Bristol with four bands on the bill representing pretty good value for money on paper anyways. Having wisely travelled across the bridge early in the afternoon, we were able to have our customary visit to the Hatchet before getting to the front of the queue for the ridiculously early start, thanks to the Ramshackle nightclub event that was taking place in the same venue later that evening.

Hell
Straight onto the barrier for the main reason for our trip. Hell. Following the quite stunning Human Remains album and the breath taking performance at BOA earlier this year, I really wanted to see the band again. Arriving on stage at the stupidly early time of 6:15pm, the band launched into The Age Of Nefarious, a new track from the hugely anticipated Curse and Chapter album. With Dave Bower delivering his vocals with the usual theatrical aplomb, the band kicked into On Earth As It Is In Hell with audience participation and the twin guitars of Andy Sneap and Kev Bower soaring through the mix. In an extremely short set, Blasphemy And The Master followed, complete with Dave Bower’s self-flagellation antics. This band are getting better all the time with sinister looking bassist Tony Speakman and drummer Tim Bowler content to maintain the momentum whilst Sneap and Kev Bower flank the ever moving frontman Dave Bower. At one point I’m sure I even saw Sneap smile! The band aired another new track, Something Wicked This Way Comes and finished with The Quest to a massive ovation from those who had ventured into the venue early. Hell will hopefully be hitting the road to promote Curse and Chapter next year and I will be waiting with much anticipation for both the album and the opportunity to see them again. 9/10

Bleed From Within

Now it may just be me but with these Metal Hammer tours there is always one band that does very little for me. Tonight it was Glaswegians Bleed From Within. Billed as one of the new generation of UK metal bands, they do absolutely nothing for me. I don’t like this genre at all. BMTH, While She Sleeps etc., all bore me rigid but that’s probably because I am very old and raised on classic rock. I’ll give BFW 7/10 for effort but 1/10 for music. Rubbish.

Carcass

UK Death Metal legends Carcass took to the stage with no fuss and proceeded to deliver 45 minutes of thrash and death metal to an expectant crowd who by now had started to fill the venue. Kicking off with Buried Dreams from Heartwork Singer and bassist Jeff Walker’s growling delivery incited some ferocious pit action. “Don’t make me tell you what to do” he threatened as the band launched into the old school Incarnated Solvent Abuse from their early years. Flanked by original guitarist Bill Steer and new boy Ben Ash, Walker’s bass combined with the hammering drums of Daniel Wilding. This was a 45 minute aural assault. Blasting through three tracks from this year’s bloody good Surgical Steel album, including the ludicrously named Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System, Carcass thrashed the O2 to within an inch of its life. Closing with a medley (Ha-ha!) of Ruptured in Purulence and Heartwork this is a band who have returned in a fitter state then they were when they originally split in 1995. If you like your death metal, get along and see these guys. 8/10

Amon Amarth

Headliners Amon Amarth need little introduction. The Swedish melodic death metallers have been part of the metal landscape for over 20 years and every time I see them they put on a storming show. Alas, no Viking longboat on the set tonight but an impressive array of backdrops opening with the cover to their latest offering, Deceiver Of The Gods. It was from that album that the band choose to kick off proceedings with the powerful Father Of The Wolf. Johan Hegg immediately filling the front of the stage with his imposing frame, head banging like a maniac and swigging from his Viking horn at his side. No respite as the band went straight into the title track from the new album before an old school one in Death In Fire was dispatched. Throughout the show Hegg demonstrated why he is perfectly suited to this band and the type of music they play. His low growl totally fits the speed and thrust of the twin guitar attack of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg along with the bass of Ted Lundström and the ferocious drumming of Fredrik Andersson. The O2 was by now rather full and the pit was in full swing, especially when Amon dropped in fan favourite after fan favourite. Free Will Sacrifice followed by As Loke Falls, Runes To My Memory followed by Varyags Of Miklagaard. You get the picture I’m sure. It is not only Hegg’s voice that suites this band though. He is brilliant on the microphone and engaged with the crowd, reassuring everyone that despite the early finish “don’t worry, we’ll still be giving you the full set” which they did. True to all my expectations this was another expert demonstration in how to deliver a headline set. Using all of the (admittedly small) stage the band ran around throughout, using just about every pose that is available in the heavy metal manual. But they are also fantastic musicians and damn heavy too. They headed to the encore with Cry Of The Blackbirds, Guardians Of Asgaard, Destroyer Of The Universe and War Of The Gods before a quick break for a well-deserved ovation. The icing on the cake came with the final two songs, Twilight Of The Thunder Gods and everyone’s favourite The Pursuit Of Vikings, complete with crowd participation. It’s not often at a death metal gig you get the entire audience signing “do, do –do, do, do” at the start of a song but it happened here! Once again, Amon Amarth delivered the goods and were worthy headliners of this tour. 9/10

Another Point Of View: Orphaned Land (Review By Paul)


Orphaned Land – The Garage, Islington

Following my earlier encounter with Norwegian Black Metallers Satyricon in Belfast next stop was the Garage in Islington for some Arabic influenced metal. Orphaned Land along with three supports for £13 promised a pretty good value for money evening and so it proved to be.


The Mars Chronicles
Opening band from France, The Mars Chronicles arrived to a sparsely populated venue at 7:15 and played a 30 minute set of alternative metal. The band, named after a short science fiction story from the 1950s, have an interesting stage presence with the band decked out completely in white including faces and hair. Formed in 2012, their set consisted of tracks from their first EP. Opening with Constant Show and then plunging into the 8 minute progressive track Abyss, there was certainly energy and enjoyment on stage. Guitarist and vocalist Devy Diadema possesses a decent voice, and supported by guitarist Yann Morvant, bassist Sebastien Ollive and drummer Morgan Berthet, the band are certainly watchable. Musically it is quite hard to put them in a category, but if you forced me I think of bands like Pain of Salvation or Junis. Their sound is complex with aggressive passages followed by periods of melancholic melody. Finishing with Scars Of Age and then Hell Is Born, where they were joined onstage by Yossi from Orphaned Land, the band were musically tight and honed, as you’d expect towards the end of a 40 date tour. 6/10

Khalas

A quick changeover followed and then it was time for Khalas from Palestine. The band are a mix of Arabic and oriental combined with more traditional heavy metal such as Sabbath with a sprinkling of System of a Down thrown in for good measure. Bursting with energy, the band ripped through a thoroughly entertaining set with tracks from their first EP and their latest release, Arabic Rock Orchestra. The next member of Orphaned Land to make a guest appearance during the evening was bassist Uri Zelcha who joined Khalas for a song towards the end of their set. A few of the crowd were clearly Palestinian and were having a great time at the barrier and as the band got into their stride the majority of the audience responded with much dancing and clapping along to their infectious style. Very much worth checking out. 7/10

Klone

Next up were Klone. I last saw Klone supporting Gojira in Cardiff in 2012 and to be honest I couldn’t remember much about them. However, this time I was impressed. Progressive metal is probably the best way to describe them; similar to their countrymen but with a slightly lighter feel although tracks such as The All Seeing Eye have elements of death metal about them. By now the crowd in the Garage had swelled to a couple of hundred and frontman Yann Ligner soon got heads nodding around the room. Guitarists Guillaume Bernard and Mika Moreau were excellent, trading the odd solo and riffing as if their lives depended on it. The band played a mix of tracks including a couple from their 2012 release The Dreamer’s Hideaway which increased in both heaviness and intensity and by the end of the set drummer Florent Marcadet and bassist Jean Etienne Maillard were deep in Gojira territory; yes, there was some Duplantieresque drumming which threatened to move internal organs. The by now customary appearance by a member of Orphaned Land featured lead singer Kobi Farhi who traded vocals with Ligner. A solid performance from a technically excellent band. 8/10

Orphaned Land

And so to the headliners, a band I have wanted to see for some time. Orphaned Land are an Israeli outfit who really fuse a wide range of influences in their music. They combine traditional metal with death, doom and progressive elements as well as Middle Eastern folk and traditional Arabic elements to create some very intricate and interesting music. The band have been in existence since 1991 with three of the members having been there from early on. Lead singer Kobi Farhi is the obvious focus of the band, delivering both clear and death vocals throughout the evening. He is a tall man, clad in Arabic robes and has a very strong on-stage persona. Interacting with the audience throughout, he explained the meanings of many of their songs, emphasising that Orphaned Land are not a religious band. He did talk a little about the conflict in the Middle East, but for the majority of the evening let their stunning music do the talking. The band opened with Through Fire And Water and then the title track from this year’s brilliant All Is One album before Barakah from their last release, The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR. The band made clever use of some backing tracks to ensure that their complex sounds could be reproduced, including the use female vocals and keyboards that feature heavily on their more recent releases. Long-time guitarist Yossi Sassi played the entire evening with his double neck guitar and bouzouki combo, adding some of the Arabic elements as well as a number of blistering solos in the heavier songs. Bassist Uri Zechla headbanged and beamed all evening whilst combining with drummer Matan Shmuely to hold the band steady as the set progressed. Orphaned Land dipped back into their 2004 release Mabool next with The Kiss Of Babylon before returning to All Is One with The Simple Man and Brother, which Kobi explained was about Palestinians and Israelis living together. The audience was truly international, with Syrians, Israelis and Palestinians making up the majority of the front row. At one point Kobi did list the nations who had fans present in the audience which also included Greeks, Russians and Bulgarians. He missed out Wales but at least we know that we were represented! (As we always do! Editor) The pace didn’t let up and the band continued to plough through the songs with Birth Of The Three from Mabool followed by an assortment of tracks from ORWarriOR and then the Syrian conflict inspired Children from All Is One. The one down side of the evening then arrived in the shape of a rather poor drum solo which as is usually the case was tedious but mercifully short. The band were then joined on stage by members of The Mars Chronicles and encored with Norra El Norra/Ornament Of God before leaving to a huge ovation from the very happy crowd. Overall, a very strong performance from a band that are 20+ years into their music career. 9/10

  

Friday, 15 November 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Karnivool & Tesseract

Karnivool & Tesseract, Anson Rooms Bristol

A night of progressive djent style metal was the order of the day in Bristol's little known (to me anyway) Anson rooms. This is part of the University and was essentially a sports hall that can be converted to be a venue when needed. There was no support so we headed to a local pub for food and 'refreshment' and then walked in about 10 minutes after the doors had opened, after a minor debacle with the tickets we finally made our way in to the rectangular room with a hard wood floor and walls. The room looked either to be very new (confirmed by the sign outside as we left) or temporary. Anyway another slight wait so to the bar for some amazing Bristolian beer (something my brothers in ale Nick and Paul missed out on). Then finally it was time:

Tesseract

I've wanted to see this British modern prog crew for a while now but fate has always intervened. However here they were and opened with two tracks from their superb most recent album Altered State. First out of the gate was Of Matter-Proxy and then Of Matter-Retrospect both of which showed off the bands chops with the dual technical guitar play of Acle Kahney and James Monteith who played some intricate but heavy rhythms and leads full of palm muted riffage which is the major style of the genre. They were aided by the thumping 5-string bass of Amos Williams who has the nimblest fingers I've ever seen and when in a groove or breakdown with drummer Jay Postones they are hard to beat. The reason I've wanted to see them though is to see how well new vocalist Ashe O' Hara does in place of Dan Tompkins (one of the best vocalists in this genre), well he holds his own very well especially on the Tompkins songs, with much of the Concealing Fate suite being played. Williams has a great voice very clean and soaring and yes he is a match for Tompkins but he excels on the songs that he has recorded with the band. As far as performance wise the band do very little in terms of movement but with music such as this doesn't need to be visually arresting. The set was well structured and most importantly brilliantly played, technical, heavy and ethereal and as the final chords of Concealing Fate Part 1: Acceptance the already partisan crowd were giving a rapturous applause. 9/10

After that there was a break for many to catch their breath before Australians Karnivool took to the stage and as the crowd filed back into the venue after more 'refreshment'.

Karnivool

So the lights went down again and the band hit the stage. Karnivool I've always heard are an interesting prospect live so it was with lofty expectations that I watched. First round knockout from the Perth based band with The Last Few and A.M War coming right out of the gate with melodic, intricate guitar playing from guitarists Andrew Goddard and Mark Hosking who also adds the keys, samples and xylophone (!) to proceedings. Again like Tesseract the band work as perfect unit with the guitars at the fore providing heaviness and melody, then the bass providing the rhythms and drums leading the complex song structures, drummer Steve Judd is a monster behind the kit! The band went into Themata their biggest hit very early but it roused the crowd after their post break malaise with its chunky nu-metal riffs. With that out of the way the band were free to experiment with the set list and worm their way through all kinds of sounds that encompassed prog, pop, rock, some jazz, electronica, all with intensely agile musicianship and supreme dexterity. They mixed up the set drawing heavily from their latest album Asymmetry and their previous effort Sound Awake. Again visuals are not important as the music is the star but special mention to vocalist Ian Kenny who not only has one of the most keenly honed voices I've heard he also slithers around the stage like Bez from the Happy Monday's if he was being shocked by electricity. The set peaked and troughed and by the time they had finished the two song encore the crowd were mesmerised exploding into applause when the band finished. Despite the odd venue the bands did everything they could with the sound available this was night of incredibly modern and progressive music. Whether you call it djent or not both of these bands are at the top of the pile in terms of performance and song craft. 9/10 

Another Point Of View: Satyricon (Review by our intrepid traveller Paul)

Satyricon – Limelight, Belfast

A stroke of pure good fortune found me in Belfast on the same night that Satyricon rolled into town. It would have been rude not to have popped along so after a quick change out of the suit and into something black off I went, joining a healthy queue waiting to get into Belfast’s premier rock venue. My last visit to the Limelight was at the start of the year when Orange Goblin were in town so I knew what to expect. A raised stage is probably the best thing about the venue (after the Guinness obviously) as it affords all packed inside a decent view of the bands.

Kicking off proceedings were Taiwanese metallers Cthonic. I’ve seen this lot before, at BOA last year and they do very little for me I’m afraid. Their stage get up is great, with keyboard player CJ Kao decked out in an outfit that crosses the predator with Corey Taylor’s first Slipknot outfit, lead singer and erhu player Freddy Lim providing the energy and enthusiasm, bassist Doris Yeh the eye candy and a mean rhythm section when linked with drummer and mask wearer Dani Wang. Guitarist Jessie Liu, cut shapes and certainly laid down a couple of decent solos, but much of their music just blends into a wall of noise, albeit with a definite eastern influence. The band played about eight songs, including a couple of tracks from their latest album Bu-Tik. The band were confident with Freddy Lim in particular showing excellent stage presence and engaging in some self-deprecating banter including what appeared genuine excitement that a noodle bar had been found near to the venue.  Having done some research on these guys I am loathe to be too critical of them. Freddy Lim being the Amnesty International Ambassador for Taiwan is impressive and they have obviously come from a background where much of what we take for granted is not easy for them. They gained a great reception from the Belfast audience, and a number of people afterwards were commenting on how much they enjoyed them. Energetic and hard-working they definitely are. I just don’t find them that enjoyable. 6/10

After a brief break the opening strains of Voice of Shadows cut through the air, and Satyricon were there, lined up on the stage with backs to the crowd, dry ice billowing through the air. They launched into Hvite Krist Dod from the Shadowthrone album and immediately got the place moving. Although they started out as a black metal band, and to an extent remain so, their music has massive groove to it and head were nodding around the venue as the band got into full flow. Quick audience participation followed with the title track from Now Diabolical followed by the sinister Black Crow On A Tombstone from 2009’s Age of Nero. One of my favourite Satyricon tracks. The band were incredibly tight, with Frost’s drumming unbelievable. He is possibly the most underrated drummer in metal, not to mention one of the scariest looking!  Completing the rhythm section was the other full-time member of the band Anders Odden who stayed stage left and drove the band forward. However, the undoubted main man of this band is obviously Satyr. What I hadn’t realised before was how big he is and his frame combined with an imposing style cut an impressive image at the front of the stage. Using his trident microphone stand to great effect, he engaged with the crowd, constantly urging the fist pumping and shouts. A couple of new tracks from the latest self-titled album followed, Our World It Rumbles Tonight and the sinister Nekrohaven with some superb guitar work from Steinar Gundersen ably supported by rhythm guitarist Diogo Bastos. Repined Bastard Nation from 2002’s Volcano was followed by two other newies, Tro og Kraft and The Infinity Of Time And Space which as Satyr said, is possibly the song that captures everything about Satyricon. Essence of Satyr? The ideal Christmas present? Maybe not.  I forget to mention the keyboards of Anders Hunstad, but his role cannot be understated, with his layers of synths subtle but evident in the mix. This band are something special, and as they delved into their back catalogue for the last third of their set I was feeling pretty lucky to have managed to see them on one of only three UK dates. Three tracks from Nemesis Divinia, Forhekset, To The Mountains and The Pentagram Burns highlighted the incredible drumming skills of Frost, blast beats powering out whilst Satyr continued to deliver a master class in delivery. This is a band that have been around for 20 years and it shows with the show slick and musicianship of the highest quality. A three track encore of Mother North, Fuel For Hatred and massive favourite K.I.N.G concluded the set before the band lined up on stage for a deserved ovation which lasted over ten minutes.  One of my gigs of the year. 10/10