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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Out Of The Beyond 26

Darkwater: Where Stories End (2010)

Where Stories End is Swede's Darkwater's second album and it is a far more direct approach to progressive metal than their debut was (if that's possible with prog). On the whole Darkwater have a style similar to that of Symphony X combining speed metal riffage with big keyboard runs and some powerful vocals from frontman/guitarist Henrik Bath. Things get off to flying start with the eerie keys of Breathe before the heavy guitar crunch kicks in, this is where the bands strength lay the keyboard and guitar interplay is excellent Magnus Holmberg's keys and orchestrations are dominant but not overpowering meaning that the guitars of Bath and Markus Sigfridsson can pull out some very heavy riffs especially on the 8 minute plus Why I Bleed which twists and turns throughout. For a band with only two albums these songs are very strong the instrumental passages are excellent and the vocals are also very, very, good. With tracks like the brooding Into The Cold, the evil A Fools Utopia and the very Dream Theater sounding In The Blink Of An Eye. Where Stories End is a very good album that will appeal to Symphony X fans and also fans of the darker side of progressive metal with some meaty riffs, classical keys and very strong vocals. 8/10

Innerwish: No Turning Back (2010)

A Greek power metal band formed by a virtuoso guitarist; sound familiar? However Innerwish are a band that may always be in the shadow of Gus G and his world conquering crew but despite this Innerwish deliver some top quality power metal that if I'm honest, sounds like Firewind a lot like Firewind. This is their fourth and most recent album and it is also probably their strongest. The Firewind comparison is clear from the opening riff of Signs Of Our Lives which has the dual guitars of founder member Thimios Krikos and Manolis Tsigkos shredding through some galloping Euro power metal style riffage backed by some blasting drums from Terry Moros and some very good keys and synths from George Georgiou (no Bob Katsionis style dual playing here!) all of this is topped by some very technical solos from Krikos and the strong and very European vocals of Babis Alexandropoulos (great name!). Like I said this is top quality power metal with some crunchy riffs and melodic solos and yes it does sound a lot like Greece's premier power metal band and this is not really a bad thing as if you are going to imitate then imitate the best, but with Firewind looking for a new singer this could be Innerwish's time to step out of the shadow and into the light! 8/10

Forever Never: S/T (2009)

Forever Never are a melodic metal band hailing from Essex and this was there second (and final) album. They mix tight, downturned, breakdown heavy, metal with massive melodic choruses and some electronic elements on tracks like Eradicated. The band are all very professional with the some progressive riffage coming from the guitars of George Lennox and an incredibly heavy bottom end from bassist Kevin Yates and drummer Sam Curtis on opener Empty Promises and T.I.T.S. However the bands ace in the hole is vocalist Renny Carroll who has an incredibly good voice equally adept to the soaring melodic clean parts of Broken Kingdom and the ballad of Lost Kingdom as well as having a strong scream on tracks like Break The Trend. Carroll's vocals are simply awesome and he is the perfect vocal foil for the heavy and melodic music as his vocals are so strong when screaming and when singing. This a great album full of huge melodic rock choruses and some massive metallic riffage. Forever Never is a great sophomore album from an underrated British metal band that proved to be not only their grand finale but also it became their magnum opus. 9/10

Monday, 29 April 2013

Another Point Of View: Kreator (Review by Nick Hewitt)

KREATOR & EVILE @ HMV FORUM LONDON

EVILE

So after making the long trip to London to get to this gig my excitement was getting stronger and stronger the closer it got. One solitary night where I would get the opportunity to behold Evile; the future of British thrash, and the one of my favourite bands Kreator; the past present and future of German thrash. Arriving just in time to see Evile breaking into their opening song of the set Cult, the lads from Sheffield powered their way through this catchy single with the ease I have come to expect from the foursome, hooking in the crowd with its brilliant chorus who responded with a loud ovation when the final note faded. Next two new tracks from Evile’s forthcoming album Skull, the songs of choice were Underworld and Head Of The Demon. Both songs were riddled deeply with the thrashing undertones Evile have become known for, but unfortunately lyrically, the songs were dull and very alike, meaning the crowd were visibly becoming disinterested including myself. Following a brief aside between Ol and Matt it seemed they decided to hit the crowd with what is usually their final song… The Thrasher. This instantly dragged the crowd back into a giant pit and back on Evile’s side. The final two songs consisting of Five Serpents Teeth and an encore of which was now In Dreams Of Terror were despatched by the lads perfectly, and kept the crowd going strong leaving the band with a loud chanting exit. Once again Evile showed to many their onstage class and pedigree to entertain. The set length for a main support slot was disappointing, but this didn’t really matter as this at times was loud brutal British thrash at its best. The only concern I had was the overwhelming mutual reaction to the two new tracks that were presented, if this is the best the new album has to offer it could be worrying for the band… we will have to wait and see. 8/10

KREATOR.

The main event loomed and the anticipation of the crowd grew as the set was constructed in front of us, the finished result appeared to be satans evil lair… so the ideal place for a band like Kreator to launch this brutal assault of sound. As the stage lights dimmed and a dull red light ascended upon the stage a murky mist of smoke grew, followed by the much-anticipated Mars Mantra opening music that Kreator have used so well for many years. The mere sound of the first few notes sent the crowd to the top of their voices, and then slowly, one by one Miland, Jurgen, Sami and Christian took their positions on stage starting their musical bombardment with the brilliant title track Phantom Antichrist without a moment’s hesitation. The crowd lapped up the pure thrash that was being delivered with pits opening up all around and air guitars by the handful could be seen. With little time to waste the German collective threw themselves into two more tracks back to back, treating the crowd to flawless renditions of From Flood Into Fire and fan favourite Enemy Of God. A brief pause and introduction followed before lead singer and guitarist Miland attempted to warm up the crowd for then next few songs that were to come, a mix of old and new including the likes of Phobia, Civilization Collapse and Hordes Of Chaos from 1986 all of which were supported by copious amount of smoke and steam cannons along with awesome thunder crack sound effects. Again Miland and Jurgen try to increase the vocal response from the crowd without too much effect, and notably to their annoyance at times. Nonetheless they carried on to deliver a hauntingly brilliant performance of my personal favourite Voices Of The Dead, during which smoke and dim lights filled the room. Again, with little hesitation Kreator ran straight into more classic old school tracks such as People Of The Lie and Pleasure To Kill, giving the crowd a feast of thrashing riffs, drums and perfect vocals to feed from. The movement in the room was unanimous and it stayed like this until Miland stopped the crowd and demanded they separate and prepare a venue-sized wall of death ready for the bone and ear-breaking track… Extreme Aggression. The crowd duly delivered. After leaving the stage there were mild attempts of chants to urge the German legends back to the stage but again, the crowd seemed reluctant to become vocally involved. Despite this, Kreator returned and dived straight into a brutal four track encore that included Betrayer, Violent Revolution and the song which every soul the HMV forum had been waiting for… Flag of Hate. (Miland of course supported the decades old flag of hate flag) The crowd’s physical passion was clear to see, with every body in the forum donating themselves to the thundering music that Kreator delivered. This, perhaps, was the reason for the poor vocal input from the crowd. Nevertheless, Kreator left the stage with a rye smile on their face knowing they had done a outstanding job and left behind them a slightly weaker building and a musically battered and yet beaming crowd. From a musical and performance point of view this was without doubt the greatest concert I have been to, but the lack of vocal support from the crowd did take the shine away from a mind-blowing performance of Kreator. I will forgive this as Kreator gave every shred of power and brutality they had on stage, and the crowd returned the favour with a physical show of appreciation I have never seen before. 10/10

Another Point Of View: Counting Crows (Reviewed By Paul Hutchings)

Counting Crows/Lucy Rose – Colston Hall, Bristol 20 April 2013
A welcome return to the lovely Colston Hall in Bristol and something a little lighter for a change.

Lucy Rose

23 year old Lucy Rose is a folk/indie folk singer from Warwickshire. She made her way onto the stage in an unassuming manner and proceeding to play a half hour set which consisted of tracks from her debut album Like I Used To. She was backed by an extremely competent group of musicians who allowed her to take centre stage. So, what is the music like? Well, a number of influences are clear; elements of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young are evident and comparisons with Anna Calvi and Laura Marlin would not be unkind; there were also elements of PJ Harvey present. With an unassuming but captivating stage presence, Lucy spent the entire set seated centre stage with her guitar and appeared genuinely delighted that the already packed venue provided her with well-deserved applause after each song. She was canny enough to acknowledge that the audience were not there to see her and her self-depreciating humour went down very well. If you fancy a bit of chilled out folk/pop then she is well worth checking out. 8/10

Counting Crows

The main event and two hours of the highest quality musicianship from California’s Counting Crows followed. Led by the energetic and extremely charismatic Adam Duritz the Crows already had a sold out Colston Hall completely won over. Opening with Sullivan Street the band cruised through 18 songs with ease. Duritz is such fantastic singer with a great range, and the band are all consummate musicians. The interchanges throughout were breath-taking at times, with virtually every member of the band change instruments, the only exceptions being Jim Bogios on drums and the excellent lead guitarist Dan Vickery. The set list contained five cover versions, not surprising given the band’s reputation for doing this. Still, you don’t often hear covers of Teenage Fan Club (Start Again) or Grateful Dead (Friend of the Devil). What you do expect from the Crows is Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell) and this was duly played towards the end of the set.
Other highlights? Well, fans favourites Round Here , Hangin Around and Mrs Potter’s Lullaby were all brilliant, with Round Here especially enjoyable as it always substantially extended by Duritz who put in an inspired vocal performance. Throughout the show the band appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, with much interplay and fooling around. Of course, a band that has sold over 20 million albums should be pretty tight. The rhythm section of Bogis and Millard Powers kept everything ticking along and the triple guitars of Vickery, David Bryson and David Immergluck ensured that the guitar based sound of the band was at the forefront of their sound. You can hear the bands influences throughout; Van Morrison, REM, Dylan and The Band are all evident but the live performance reminded me massively of The Eagles which is no bad thing. They finished with Rain King and Holiday in Spain to a massive and deserved ovation. A welcome break from my usual metal nights and highly recommended. 9/10

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Reviews: Within Temptation, Orchid, Sacred Gate

Within Temptation: The Q Music Sessions (Roadrunner)

A covers album from a symphonic metal band? Well that's what you get from Dutch band Within Temptation's new record recorded for Q Music radio in The Netherlands this is a selsction of tracks from various genres but mainly pop, all done in the style of the band. First is a cover of Bruno Mars' Grenade which has the big powerful hooks that WT are known for and sounds like a pulsating rocker that would be at home on their most recent album. As usual Sharon Del Adel's vocals are superb and the band add a metallic crunch to the more radio friendly tracks. The cover of Titanium is excellent and actually shows that David Guetta's writing sounds better with real instruments. The production varies as does the sound quality as these are cut from a radio show but that doesn't matter with some well chosen songs to cover, like the rocked up version of Lana Del Rey's Summertime Sadness which still maintains the orginals haunted vocal delivery but replacing the strings with some pulsing keys. Radioactive too is transformed into a euro-pop/metal anthem (the orginal is by Imagine Dragons) by the bands symphonic metal chug. Crazy (Gnarls Barkley) is now a restrained piano ballad. WT have made these songs their own with the lesser known tracks sounding like orginal compositions. They even do a good job with Behind Blue Eyes (much better than Limp Bizkit's version) turning it into a searing ballad full of remorse and a killer solo. This is a good stop gap album and won't be to everyone's taste but it's a good collection of well chosen covers. 7/10

Orchid: The Mouths Of Madness (Nuclear Blast)

Orchid are a Californian doom metal band and as such they sound like Black Sabbath, as well as Pentagram, Sleep and even the modern retro riffage of The Sword. But mainly Sabbath, this is blatant wholesale copying but if you are going to copy make sure you do so from the best. With down tuned fuzzed up riffage, voodoo drumming, some heavy bass and the pulsating synths of frontman Theo Mendell who has a gritty rock voice that works well with the retro styled heavy metal. The Sabbath influnces is at it's biggest on Marching Dogs Of War which has the reverbed vocals of Ozzy and some Iommi-like guitar and Geezer style bass riffage. Despite the Sabbath stealing Orchid also sound very American having a destinctly Californian sound coming with elements of surf rock as well as some hazy psych that comes straight from The Grateful Dead. This is a good album but it just doesn't seem to have the spark and the typically English love of the occult, as I have said the band sound a lot like Sabbath and if you like them (and if you don't I forbid you to read this blog!) then you'll like The Mouths Of Madness but just remember Iommi and co. still exist and they don't need to be replaced just yet. 7/10

Sacred Gate: Tides Of War (Metal On Metal Records)

"Spartan's What Is Your Profession!?" is the chant that reverberates around the festivals of England in the wee hours, it refers of course to the famous line from the film 300 which is set during the heroic battle between the Greeks and the Persians. Despite how annoying this chant can be it seems that Sacred Gate have taken as an influence and based Tides Of War around the legendary battle as well. However it may also be that this is a cool story to turn into an album and that two of the members are from Greece. The instrumental opening has all of the orchestral gusto of a historical epic soundtrack before the distinctly German Teutonic riffage kicks in on The Immortal One. Guitarist Nicko Nickolaidis riffs like a demon and pulls out some sweet solos too, he shows his prowess on the instrumental riffest of The Final March. He is ably backed by some strong percussion from drummer Christian Wolf and heavy rhythym from bassist Peter Beckers. Like I said this is a concept album so it follows a story meaning that lyrically it is very rigid to the story of the battle but musically the band sound like a lot like Iced Earth with their riff heavy delivery and the powerful Halford like vocals of frontman Jim Oliver (albeit without the Earth shattering screams). With tracks like the pulse quickening Gates Of Fire (which has some intensely melodic guitar lines), the power (metal) ballad Never To Return, the thrash ferocity of Spartan Killing Machine and the grand finale coming with the 12 minute  The Battle Of Thermopolyae which encompasses all of the hallmarks of the Iron Maiden epics. This is a great album if you are fan of real heavy metal so grab your Corinthian Helmet, strip naked and get ready to dine in hell! 8/10

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Paramore (Guest review by Mike Chapman)

Paramore: S/T (Fuelled By Ramen)

Paramore is the first album the band have written and recorded since the Farro brothers rather public and venomous departure. Hayley Williams recently told us Paramore listens as "a diary of the last year" covering much “emotional ground”. Examples of this can be found on the first track Fast in My Car in which Williams sings 'Been through the ringer a couple times/I came out callous and cruel'. What follows is a mature, articulate, and wholly entertaining walk through the minds and emotions experienced by the band throughout the last year. The crunching guitars and layered synths of first single Now hits us right between the eyes before we are lulled into the quirky pop dream that is Grow Up perfectly summing up Williams and the bands current mind-set, that ‘some of us have to grow up sometimes’. Second single Still Into You displays the band at their catchiest, a piece of sweet addictive pop with slick production and lyrics you can really sing along to. As you can tell, plenty of genre hopping can be found on Paramore. Tracks such as Daydreaming treat us to shoegaze influenced anthemic stadium rock, whilst Part II display the trademark Paramore sound, only refined by the fantastic production from Justin Meldal-Johnson (Gnarls Barkley, Beck, Nine Inch Nails). But for me the stand out track and a personal favourite of mine Ain’t It Fun perfectly sums up Paramore’s evolution. The track is something new and fresh, with a gospel choir lending their powerful vocals to a rousing finale. It shows us that Williams and Co are really having fun experimenting and utilizing every instrument, sound, and idea in which to channel the highly emotive content of every song. In a week where the album went number 1 in both the USA and the UK it’s hard not to see its appeal. Paramore’ explores new and exciting territory that may confuse some but delight many, summing up what has been a turbulent couple of years for the band. But if there is anything to be gained by all that life experience, its music in its purest form, good, honest and most of all fun. 10/10

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Meat Loaf

Meatloaf: Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff


So the Neverland Express makes last stop in the UK after few cancelled shows it was all or nothing for this final show on the UK leg of the Last At Bat Tour. Luckily this is Meat Loaf who despite advancing years and declining health will never give less than 100%. This was all Meat for two hours. With an intro tape of The Beatles When I'm 64 its clear that Meat Loaf doesn't take himself seriously and is quite aware that to still be selling out venues at this age is a feat. The first song was from the newest album Hell In A Handbasket and opened the show with the hard rock gusto of Runnin For The Red Light (I've Got A Life) before it segued into Life Is A Lemon with its primal cry of "I want my money back!” For these first two tracks the sound was muddy (par for the course in the Motorpoint) but it cleared up as the piano and sax led rock and roller Dead Ringer For Love got the audience clapping and singing along with aplomb, the hard rocking continued with If It Ain't Broke Break It and the modern classic of Los Angeloser. Mr Aday still has a powerful voice although not as good as it used to be however he still gives 110% in his performances making sure that the pomp is ramped up to its full. He is also backed by a superb band with long-time associates guitarist Paul Crook, drummer John Miceli and vocalist Patti Russo (who has more costumes changes than an entire West End show!) it's his band that save the missed notes on many occasions and keep your spirits high throughout. Then it was time for the final three tracks from the first set, first was the newer track The Giving Tree which is a great ballad with a rocky end but pales in comparison to the soaring reflective super ballad Objects In The Rearview Mirror... before the almost train-like chug of Out Of The Frying Pan (and Into The Fire) and with a flash of colour the first part was over, the screens that had been broadcasting images throughout interspersed with the original music videos faded to black with the words "Intermission" followed by "Next...Bat Out Of Hell".

Yes Meatloaf and Jim Steinman's seminal debut album in its entirety and while the songs were spaced out with excerpts from the "Behind The Music" special, the songs themself still packed the punch they did back in 1977. From the opening keys of the title track through its 9 minute runtime the crowd were in awe singing along with every line before clapping along to the vocal break in You Took The Words... Meat then was joined by Justin Avery on piano and started to cry as he told the story of Heaven Can Wait (how genuine this was I don't know seeing as it was replicated every night, however he did seem moved) before the rock began again with All Revved Up With No Place To Go. the crowd were eating out of his hand by now fully enthralled by the magic happening on stage, on to the modified country ballad of Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad before the vaudeville duet of Paradise By The Dashboard Light and then it was time to end with the rarely aired For Crying Out Loud. When Meat introduced this track he started talking about Jim Steinman and again he began to cry (!?) but you can see why as Meat without Steinman is really not the same (as many of his albums have shown) so as the final crescendo of For Crying Out Loud the crowd were on their feet in rapturous applause. Then for the encores (not finished yet folks!) another huge cheer greeted I Would Do Anything For Love...which was followed by Boneyard a very heavy song that was a bonus track on the iTunes edition of Hang Cool Teddy Bear, the song showed off both Patti Russo's vocals but also Justin Avery (who has a great voice) and then burst into solos halfway through before adding the solo from Skynyrd's Freebird and ending in a reprise of All Revved Up... and with that it was no more the thank you’s came and went and the final tour (as yet) was all over in a standing ovation. yes he hasn't quite the voice anymore but his band compensate for this, but for entertainment purposes alone Meat Loaf is in a league of his own, not bad for a self-confessed "65 year old man with a busted knee" 10/10
   

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Reviews: Avantasia, Gama Bomb, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Avantasia: The Mystery Of Time (Nuclear Blast)

Tobias Sammet has returned once again to his Metal Opera project and once again he is joined by an array of guest performers and this time the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg which takes a lot of the pressure off keyboard extraordinaire (and composer) Miro. At its core Avantasia is Sammet on vocals and bass, long time co-conspirators Sascha Paeth and Miro on guitars and keys and long-time session stickman Russell Gilbrook (who replaces Eric Singer). The orchestra really lend a movie-like feel to the record which makes it sound very similar to Trans-Siberian Orchestra in terms of the soundscapes it creates. Spectres kicks things off with Sammet showing off his amazing set of pipes, this track features Joe Lynn Turner who is the first of the usual host of guest vocalists that appear in this project, however unlike the previous efforts a few of the guest vocalist are drawn more from the hard rock and AOR scene than the metal one with Pretty Maids' Ronny Atkins providing gravelly tones to the rampant Invoke The Machine and Mr Big's Eric Martin making his presence felt on the radio rock ballad of What’s Left Of Me which would be at home on a Meat Loaf record. On the other side of the coin; Michael Kiske, Biff Byford and Bob Catley all return to their recurring guest posts supplying their unmistakeable vocals in spades. Thankfully Cloudy Yang, who made a fantastic impression on Angel Of Babylon, returns on the Mystery of Time and impresses again when dueting on the electronically backed ballad Sleepwalking. Again this is a concept piece (about science and religion) so it takes time to truly appreciate but after repeated spins this album shows just how good it actually is. Back to the guest front the only other outsiders come in the form of axe-slingers with Bruce Kulick and Oliver Hartmann providing the lions share but the most interesting to me is the contribution of Ayreon's Arjen Anthony Lucassen (who also not averse to a concept album or 6!). This is a fantastic album that moves between hard rock, power metal, AOR with some big progressive tendencies. It looks like Sammet has done it again creating another bombastic, dramatic, engaging and mostly an incredibly entertaining listen that is more of musical journey than and album. 9/10

Gama Bomb: The Terror Tapes (AFM)

Northern Ireland's premier thrashers return with their fourth album (their first in four years) in that time they have lost a founder member in the shape of guitarist Luke Graham and vocalist Philly Byrne has undergone vocal surgery. However they have now returned with a new guitarist and Philly's voice sounds exactly like it used to. Now Gama Bomb have never been the most serious of bands their crossover thrash has always been in the same vein as Municipal Waste their songs are full of horror, sci-fi, weed smoking and beer drinking. Clocking at just over thirty minutes this is a rapid thrash assault that encompasses hardcore punk as well. The riffs are honed like laser beams and the drums don't relent in their double kick smashing, Philly spits his vocals with tongue tangling speed. Gama Bomb are never going to change the world but with tracks like Beverly Hills Robocop, Terrorscope, Smoke The Blow With Williem Dafoe, Metal Idiot and the 18 second Shitting Yourself To Live, Gama Bomb are the sound of a booze fuelled party full of 80's action movie re-runs. 7/10

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats: Mind Control (Rise Above)

Uncle Acid follows up on his 2012 album Blood Lust by releasing his follow up in under a year. Mind Control picks up where the last album left off with riff heavy, Sabbath worship heavy on the fuzz and brimming with occult imagery. Opener Mt. Abraxas sets the tone with some doomy riffage that changes pace throughout its 7 minute runtime before ending in a hammering riff that will incite some drone style head banging. The production and album presentation are both very retro with some definite hints to Ozzy and co. The eponymous Acid handles the Iommi like riffs, eerie Hammonds and fractured unholy vocals with his Deadbeat cohorts handling the drums and bass respectively. With tracks like the trippy 60's psych of Poison Apple, the stoner rock haziness of Desert Ceremony evokes the spirit of Sleep, the folky disarray of Follow The Leader which has the smoke-filled haze of Planet Caravan and the voodoo chug of Devil's Work. This is a great album from Acid and his not so merry men, classic British doom right from the heart of its birthplace. 9/10

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Reviews: Volbeat, Ghost, Gary Clarke Jr

Volbeat: Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (Vertigo)

Denmark's premier (and the world’s only!?) Elvis metallers' new album is one that will not open any new minds it is simply the new record of a band that know how they sound and wouldn't change it if they could. With the last couple of albums the band have focused on gangsters and women this one still has songs about the lawless and the women but it also focuses on a new era of the Old West. Now don't worry frontman Michael Poulsen hasn't started wearing a Stetson he is still very much the rockabilly busting out Metallica riffs his deep crooning vocal is still at the forefront of their sound on the outlaw loving tracks like the thrashy Black Bart, the hook laden Doc Holliday and the melodic Pearl Heart. I used the word thrashy deliberately as Volbeat have added a new lead guitarist to their ranks in the shape of Ex-Anthrax man Rob Caggiano who has definitely brought the noise (sorry) on the speedier tracks like The Hangman's Body Count. He also has produced the record adding his years of experience to the band. This album has many highlights two of which are the bluegrass/rockabilly track Lonesome Rider which features Sarah Blackwood from Canadian indie band Walk Off The Earth and Room 24 which is graced by the vocals of Danish metal legend King Diamond who adds a whole new layer of evil to the track with his demonic wails, the track also gives Caggiano a chance to show off his guitar prowess. Like I said this album isn't going to set the world on fire, if you are a Volbeat fan then you'll know what to expect and you will enjoy another trip through history with these metalbillies (is that a word?), if you don't get Volbeat then there's is nothing here to change your mind, although if you don't like them why not? Another solid slab of Metallica riffage and Misfits vocals joined together perfectly. 8/10

Ghost: Infestissumam (Lorma Vista Recordings)

The 'newly' instated vocalist Papa II leads the Nameless Ghouls in another album of top notch occult rock that still straddles the boundaries between Blue Oyster Cult and a poppier Mercyful Fate. Papa II is the same man in different suit (or is he?) and his voice is still a melodic demon summoning croon. Much remains intact from their debut but everything seems ramped up on this record, it's the sound of a band aiming for arenas backing up the hype that surrounds them. The chamber choral chant of the title track leads into Per Aspera Ad Inferi which has a relentless riff and a very percussive chorus. The guitars still have that classic twin guitar sound with the stripped back bass and drums and lashings of keys and organ all lending to the bands retro 70's sound. The evil carnival sound of first single Secular Haze follows with its tribute to psychedelic occult rock. It's from here that you can see that the band are making taking their shot at the mainstream with the glam stomp of Jigolo Har Megiddo which is like a Satanic T-Rex track and is followed by the progressive schlock horror ballad of Ghuleh/Zombie Queen which is a swaying trippy ballad that starts out as The Eagles before turning into a voodoo Beach Boys. Perhaps the best track on the album is the heavy rocking Year Zero which features some serious guitar work from the Nameless Ghouls which is followed by the AOR of Body And Blood and the eerie 60's power pop of Idolatrine before the album ends with doomy, darkly psychadelia of Monstrance Clock which ends with the chant of "Come Together For Lucifer's Son". Ghost have produced another retro slice of occult rock that will satisfy the faithful and move them in the right direction which in this bands case is to the top! 9/10

Gary Clarke Jr: Blak And Blu (Warner Bros Records)

Gary Clarke Jr. is being billed as the next big thing in blues with Entertainment Weekly calling him "the chosen one". So is this hype warranted? In a word yes, Texas Bluesman Clarke Jr. is doing something that no-one else is he is he is almost reinventing the blues As well as playing in front of Barack Obama and guest appearances on Eric Clapton's Crossroads festival as well as jamming with the Rolling Stones and B.B King. Handling the guitar and the vocals Clarke Jr. does both excellently his guitar sound is fuzzed up and his voice is truthfully soulful showing that this is man that has been doing this his whole life (which he has been receiving his own day in Texas when he was only 17) Things start off with the hip shaking old school R&B of Ain't Messin' Round which is straight off the Stax production line, this record is all about juxtaposition as the second track is a chugging When My Train Pulls In which is a moody, blues piece drenched in organ, a simple guitar riff and some reverbed vocals the song builds up for its seven minutes into a frankly jaw dropping guitar solo, which then turns into another solo. Clarke Jr. has been interviewed many times and has said that his mission is to trace all music back to the blues (clearly a man possessed) and the title track shows this, it is for all intents and purposes a hip-hop song with some processed beats and a sprinkling of staccato guitar that works well with the hip hop backing. This is then totally reversed on the analogue country boogie of Travis County is another one designed to get your feet moving along with the acoustic countrified picking of Next Door Neighbour Blues. It's here that I will mention the cast of extremely talented backing musicians who all contribute their individual instrumentation to Clarke Jr.'s guitar and vocals. The record is also produced by Clarke Jr. Mike Elizondo and Rob Cavallo in various couplings and it means that many of the tracks sound different production wise, this gives the record an almost jukebox feel with its different production techniques and genre shifts. More Hip-Hop comes in through with The Life, with a funk style playing on Glitter Ain't Gold and the doo-wop of Please Come Home as well as a Hendrix cover in the shape of Third Stone From The Sun which shows off Clarke Jr.'s guitar stunning prowess As I've said this is an awesome album moving effortlessly between genres but all with Clarke Jr.'s signature voice and guitar phrasing. Every now and again there are artists that come along and shake up the standard order and just like Joe Bonamassa is headlining arenas without any label backing and his own interpretation of Blues Rock, Gary Clarke Jr. is drawing from a much wider palate and has the technical prowess and songwriting to become bigger than John Mayer, however Gary Clarke Jr. has something Mayer now lacks; individuality. 10/10

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A View From The Front Of The Room: Ill Nino

Thanks to our resident thrash fanatic, (thus the slight change in title) Mr Chris Beynon for the review (and his lovely wife for the edit)

Ill Nino, Sacred Mother Tongue and Fhobi, Bogiez Cardiff

I attended this “sold out” show at Bogiez Cardiff, expecting to re-live my teenage years when nu-metal was at the height of its power. They were dark days for a lot of us but you can’t argue that they provided some of the most unique parts of alternative music’s history.

FHOBI

Saying this, when the first band Fhobi took to the stage with the lead singer wearing a backwards baseball cap I was dubious at best. They also entered with their backs to the crowd and then proceeded to call us “mutha******s”. This can play to the crowd if the band has the calibre to do so, however, Fhobi did not. Their brand of rap and funk metal did little to engross the crowd. The set included moments of enjoyment mainly down to an incredibly talented bassist and occasional good riffs, but all too soon they were being rapped over poorly and killed any momentum a song had gathered. To some up: Fhobi are a South American version Limp Bizkit without Wes Borland.

4/10

Sacred Mother Tongue

I was introduced to this band on record fairly recently and was looking forward to seeing this upcoming British Metal Band. They were delayed for at least 20 minutes as they had problems with their backing track, and there lies my main problem with Sacred Mother Tongue. The band took the stage and held a lot of promise; clearly they were a very tight band and played with a high level of precision. The lead singer who is clearly very talented and has great showmanship blasted through the verses of their songs with ease. For reasons I can’t explain, every chorus and I do mean every chorus, was sang by a backing track with the singer helping it and from the evidence I heard in the verses he did not need it at all.
Also as this band was a replacement for the thrash titans Shadows Fall. The new melodic vocal style of this band did not necessarily play to the intended crowd. Saying this, I enjoyed the vocal changes as the lead singer clearly has an excellent voice but when replacing a band like Shadows Fall you’re not going to wow the crowd with that style of vocals. I would like to see them again after I have listened to the new album, but I’m still disappointed at the use of a backing track and for that Sacred Mother Tongue get…

6/10

Ill Nino

To the main event and to be honest I was expecting Ill Nino with the nu-metal roots to rely on the past to carry them through the set. What I did not expect was the sheer level of aggression that followed. They played like it was their first show, opening with, If You Still Hate Meand straight into God Save Us, two of their biggest songs. It was abundantly clear that Ill Nino love what they do and their mix of brutally heavy metal and powerful choruses lead by an incredible double percussion performance had the Bogiez crowd in a frenzy. The pit was plenty brutal and spilled over a few times, but was always handled well by the band. Songs like This Is War and I Am Loco offered little let up in pit, so when they played the songs Liar and Predisposed, songs that could get the whole place jumping; it almost felt like a respite from the intensity of the pit.
They were engaging the crowd at every opportunity and even when they played new material (which sounds as heavy as ever) the crowd lapped it up. One of the highlights of the set was a double percussion solo that stirred up memories of Sepultura at their best, then ending the set on a brutal high. On the night I was expecting to enjoy the power of nostalgia, but Ill Nino’s wave of aggression reminded me why I liked this band in the first place. I’m now looking forward to the new album and look forward to seeing them again in a bigger venue.

9/10

Reviews: Rob Zombie, GraVil, So-Do-Ko

Rob Zombie: Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (Zodiac Swan)

The new album from the Godfather of Heavy Horror metal sees him coming off a tour with Marylin Manson (and blowing him off stage every night) and before he releases his new movie, it's because of these other projects that sees this being Zombie's fifth album. Musically it follows on from his last release Hellbilly Deluxe 2 which saw Zombie going back to his roots with industrial horror themed metal. This record adds to the madness with lashings of horror movie samples and some sprawling Hammond organ from the producer which adds that vaudeville element to the tracks. Ah the tracks they are all classic Zombie hard rock stompers with the heavy duty riffage coming from genius John 5 bringing the glam stomp of Teenage Nosferatu Pussy, the heavy rock of Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown is the clear single. Zombie looks back to his White Zombie days with the industrial electronic thump of Revelation Revolution. All of the tracks feature John 5's guitar wizardry; he not only pulls out some great riffs but some unique lead breaks and solos see; White Trash Freaks. The rhythm section can't be ignored either with Murderdolls man Piggy D slapping those four strings as if his life depended on it and new drummer Ginger Fish proving the perfect replacement for Joey Jordison. This is an album full of the fist-pumping, foot stomping, head banging heavy metal that he does so well and it also mixes things up with the electronic industrial elements of White Zombie, it also has a very heavy cover of Grand Funk Railroad's We're An American Band which is surely one for the live crowd. This is a Rob Zombie celebration album one man looking back while going forward doing what he does best! 8/10

GraVil: Thoughts Of The Rising Sun (Self Release)

I have known about GraVil for a while now ever since I acquired their EP Age Of Corruption through the Metal To The Masses campaign. This is the London mob's debut album and it moves on from where they started on their EP and expands on it bringing a much more rounded sound on the EP. At their heart GraVil are a death metal band featuring blast beat drumming, down tuned technical riffage and some very evil vocals from frontman Grant Stacey who also has some good clean vocals to on The Struggle. Musically the band sound like a mix between Children Of Bodom, especially on the hook heavy keyboard driven Enemy Within; Cradle Of Filth, who's guitarist James McIlroy appears on the militaristic industrial stomp of March Of The Titans and also some of the pit inciting madness of Devildriver, Beyond Reprieve. Guitarists Tony Dando and Andy Slade trade crushing heavy riffage and technical solo's that rip your face off. GraVil have bolstered their sound with electronics as well as the odd orchestral backing track or a piano here and there; see Something Worth Chasing and the Interlude before the excellent title track. This is a great debut that has some seriously heavy guitars, demonic vocals and best of all some excellent songs. 8/10

Sa-da-kO: Awakening (Self Release)

Sa-da-kO are a British metal band with some high hopes and an already storied history, having already won the Metal To The Masses in 2012 and getting a chance to play Bloodstock of that year, this is the band’s debut album and it is full of heavy as hell metal, the band have the groove/thrash influence of Lamb Of God mixed with some of the bass heavy drops of Nu-Metal and metalcore. They have some great drumming from Gregzilla and the down tuned riffage of Carl and SIMo moving between crushing breakdowns, thrashy pit starting riffs and some string snapping solos. The vocals too are excellent with some guttural shouting coming from Jim. The songs too are strong with the trashy Limit Of Resolution, the stomping riff of Milwaukee Protocol which has some Alice In Chains style backing vocals and a massive breakdown in it which will slay the live crowd. This is a strong debut album showing why they won the competition, the Bloodstock crowd will eat this up and as will any metal loving pit forming metal freaks. My one criticism is that there are a couple of songs that could have been left out with Final Solution: Death being the most notable however as a debut this is good work. 7/10


View From The Back Of The Room: Rival Sons

Rival Sons, Graveltones and Ulyssess: Solus, Cardiff

So a night of classic rock was in order after the metal of last week and the prog on the weekend and that’s precisely what I got.

Ulyssess

Coming on to the stage with very little fanfare Ulyssess are bad that merge trippy psychedelic hard rock with bouncy power pop and have their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. The band also has a penchant for funky headgear and off kilter playing. They were a great warm up act that were a bit Hendrix in the guitar freak-outs, a bit The Who like with the almost mod-style power pop and also they have definite similarity to the Fab Four's later years especially on closer Taxi Driver which has the Drive My Car "Beep, Beep, Yeah!" refrain in it. Ulyssess were a slow burner they started out with their wilder sprawling psychedelic songs and then progressed through to the heavier stuff before the set climaxed into all four men playing cowbell at the end. A good band with a strong future they managed to win over the crowd bringing them in early. 8/10

Graveltones

I'll level with you I thought the Graveltones were the best support band I've seen since I first saw Vintage Trouble. Never have a band enthralled me straight from the off. Just a two piece made up of Jimmy O on guitar and vocals and man mountain Mikey Sorbello behind the skins (seriously the man looks like tank!) I was expecting Black Keys/White Stripes like garage blues, which in fairness is what I got but also so much more. From the off you can see that both of these men are supremely talented. Jimmy pushes pulls and hits his guitar to bring out all manner of feedback before cranking out some seriously heavy fuzzed up and distorted riffs and searing solos while accompanying them with his strong bluesy wail that is similar to Mr White's. However the real star of the band (backed up by the cheer he received) is Mr Sorbello who possibly hits his drum kit harder than anyone I've ever seen, he literally smashes the symbols and brings out a wall of noise however as a counterpoint he can also handle jazz percussion using little wrist techniques to break up the wall of sound. The two of them build quite a racket and seem to be having a ball while doing it with so much energy on the stage that you'd have to be made of stone not to like them. A great set that meant that the Rival Sons had a lot of work to do following this. 9/10 *As a little note I have never looked forward to a drum solo but with this band I was crying out for one and the crowd erupted when it came!

Rival Sons

With the gauntlet set Rival Sons had a lot to do thankfully due to a partisan crowd and an almost flawless set they easily reached and exceeded the challenge. The set was taken primarily from their excellent new album Head Down and was mixed with their second album and their EP to create a career spanning set. Things kicked off with The Who-like percussive intro an roof raising Rock N Roll of You Want To before the jumping wah-wah drenched riffage of Get What's Coming followed and with those two songs the crowd were hooked watching every tub thumped by Mike Miley every string plucked by Robin Everhart, every riff strummed and every solo peeled off by Scott Holliday and they also watched as frontman Jay Buchanan wailed his way through the songs and moved around the stage like Tyler in his prime. The man has a seriously good voice able to switch from hard rocker to soul crooner in an instant. Next up was the voodoo of Wild Animal which was followed by the fuzz and distortion filled Gypsy Heart before the stomping blues of Torture was the first sing along. The blues theme continued with the gospel, storytelling of All The Way and ended with the almost Stax records sounding Until The Sun Comes Up. The set then became slower with Buchanan showing off his almighty voice to full effect on the awesome Jordan which is prime Woodstock material this was followed by a short explanation of the haunting, brooding, Zeppelin-like next song Manifest Destiny Part 1. The rock was brought back with a vengeance with two singles Keep On Swinging and Pressure & Time before the main set ended with the excellent Face of Light a song dedicated to Buchanan's son. A short break a short drum solo (not as good as the Graveltones' I'm afraid) and then the last two songs which were the soul-rock stomp of Burn Down Los Angeles and then finally the enlightening and uplifting Soul which came to a climax with a massive guitar solo from Holliday. As a live act Rival Sons are excellent enthralling, bewitching, soulful and seriously rocking they deliver everything you expect and more, future arena headliners in the making. 9/10


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Out Of The Beyond 25

Keith Emmerson Band: Keith Emmerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla (2008)

Everyone knows about Keith Emmerson's time in 70's progressive rock legends ELP, he has appeared on many albums in a special guest capacity and also on solo albums but this is his first album with a new band and he has acquired some fantastic musicians s to help his sizeable keyboard playing talents. The main talent is that of Marc Bonilla who provides some virtuoso guitar playing as well as the vocals, the guitar of Bonilla is in perfect harmony with Emmerson's keys and organ and they make a fantastic musical tandem, the writing too is split between Bonilla and Emmerson and the album itself is one conceptual piece split into 15 tracks, most of which are instrumental, with the fantastic Marche Train being the first fully formed rock track and a track that shows off Bonilla's voice and also his superb guitar playing, ending in a fantastic explosive guitar solo, the acoustic A Place To Hide is also a real standout because of its jazz piano and strong relaxed ballad delivery. After the concept piece comes four separate tracks that all differ massively The Art Of Falling Down has a classic ELP sound due to its synths, moogs and organ. Malambo a Latin instrumental, Gametime is the soundtrack to a bluegrass and baseball and then final track The Parting is another powerful ballad. This is an excellent album that shows really how talented it's two creators are, if you dig classic real prog then you will love this. 9/10

Bloodshot Dawn: Self-Titled (2012)

Bloodshot Dawn are a melodic death metal band from Portsmouth and this was their debut album, it is an absolute cracker of a debut featuring some sterling guitar work from Josh McMorran and Ben Ellis who provide some serious guitar chops with technical speed riffage and some dual guitar solos that will tear your face off. McMorran also has a fantastic voice with some very guttural roars that complement the technical ferocity of the riffage; the band has a sound similar to Arch Enemy, At The Gates and Amon Amarth with the progression of Cynic. The drums and bass playing are also excellent with the blast beats coming thick and fast as the tracks move between thrash speed metal riffage and heavy riff breaks for head banging. From Beckoning Oblivion through the progressive Godless to the final track Archetype this is a melo-death tour de force with some frankly fantastic guitar playing and more importantly some great songs to just bang your head too. 8/10

Enbound: And She Says Gold (2011)

This is Swede's Enbound debut album and they immediately set out there stall. The band play big bold and hook filled power metal in the style if Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica. The album is full of some very good riffage from Martin Flowberg who straddles boundaries between poppy power metal and some heavy speed metal most prevalent on the progressive Shifting Gears; he also pulls off some excellent soloing on every track. Not to be outdone however bassist Swede and drummer Mike Force both play at near virtuosic levels with Swede being especially good. So then we move onto vocalist Lee Hunter who is also fantastic having a very Tony Kakko style vocal and thus the inevitable Sonata comparisons especially on Under A Spell. The band are not just your run of the mill power metal band they add some very good additions to enhance their sound. There are a lot of keys and pianos on ballads like beautifully orchestrated The Broken Heart and the acoustic Frozen To Be which is a duet with female singer LaGaylia Fraizer. They also have lots of electronics with a very dance like feel to Untitled X. Enbound have released a very good debut that has a the hallmarks of their peers. They also do an excellent supercharged cover of Beat It! 8/10

Lost In Thought: Opus Arise (2011)

Dream Theater, America's premier prog metal band has a signature sound. Lost In Thought have taken this sound to heart, they have copied it wholesale but do it in such a way that they have made it their own. For a band on their debut these songs are of fantastic quality they soar majestically and then drop into some snarling metal riffage bolstered by some rapid fire keyboards and drumming and that’s just the opening track Beyond The Flames. The Dream Theater comparisons come from the vocals of Nate Loosemore who is a dead ringer for James LaBrie. What is really striking about these songs is just how good they are, many would be right at home on the new DT album as well as those by Symphony X or Pagan's Mind. The guitars of David Grey are great providing some sublime solos and monster riffs, the drums of Chris Billingham guide all of the time changes and the keys of Greg Baker bring an electric pulse and some classical melody to all of the tracks. The time changes and genre shifts are all very well done and the band are far more talented than their years suggest. In the live field Lost In Thought didn't do it for me but on record these Welshmen play some seriously good progressive metal. (This is a similar reaction I have to their American influence). 8/10

*Addition as of April 2013 Lost In Thought are no more, another promising band gone...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

View From The Back Of The Room: Von Hertzen Brothers

Von Hertzen Brothers, Haken & Enochian Theory, Bogiez Cardiff

Once more into the bowels of Cardiff however this time it was for an entirely more cerebral affair, this was a night of prog rock and my what a night it was.

Enochian Theory

First up was Enochian Theory who I have heard of but I have never heard and from the opening 10 seconds I wondered where I had been. These three men deliver a fantastic modern progressive rock noise that was enthralling to behold. With some excellent drumming and bass work keeping the off kilter and melodic rhythm it was up to singer/guitarist to work his magic over the six strings providing a sprawling musical base for his soft vocals. The perfect openers to the night Enochian Theory won me over with their sprawling modern prog with a dark heart that put me in mind of Porcupine Tree. 8/10

Haken

I love Haken on album; both of their records are fantastic slices of British prog rock with some metal crunch to them. This was my first time seeing them live and they are very good, with all 6 members filling the stage, Haken immediately burst into Drowning In The Flood which featured the fantastic arpeggio guitar playing of virtuoso player and founder Richard Hensall who is backed by Charles Griffiths on second six string as they dual with the extremely melodic keys and electronics of Diego Tejeida. Then came the rest of the band who are very bass heavy, which is no bad thing considering the talent of Thomas Maclean. The keys then picked up for the second song Eternal Rain with Hensall showing he is also excellent tinkling the ivories as well. The band then moved onto a new song which bodes well for the new album as it full of the bands trademark time shifts and little odd flourishes of jazz and other forms of music built in. The intensely melodic and euphoric The Mind's Eye came next which showed off the absolutely awesome vocals of Ross Jennings who hit some huge notes and then threw shapes through the instrumental Portals before returning to the finale of Shapeshifter. The band sounded great (as did Enochian Theory) and their playing was immense, bolstered by the infectious enthusiasm of Jennings. I'm glad I waited as they were excellent laying down the gauntlet for the headliners. 9/10

Von Hertzen Brothers

It is a long flight from Finland to Wales so you could forgive the Von Hertzen Brothers for scaling down their production. Nope. Bringing everything but the kitchen sink (even their own sound engineer(s) VHB had every single piece of equipment imaginable to make their set go without a buzz of feedback. Focusing heavily on the (excellent) new album the brothers opened with furious Insomniac before Writings On The Wall which was followed by new single the excellent ballad Flowers And Rust. Straight from the first three songs you could tell just how professional VHB are they have everything down to a tee and their music is just all encompassing bringing every genre imaginable conducted by the three brothers on stringed instruments, the resolutely strong drumming of Mikko K and the engaging, ethereal and energising keys of Juha. The spiralling Wurlitzer of Coming Home came next showing that Kie Von Hertzen has an excellent baritone vocal that perfectly compliments his brother (and main vocalist) Mikko VH's higher register, in fact the three of them have some unbelievable vocal harmonies that only Brian Wilson could beat. The set continued with the shout along Always Been Right, the Middle Eastern style Angel's Eyes and the hard rocking of Freedom Fighter. Thrown into this myriad of perfectly executed songs was a cover, now many bands can do a cover justice however this is not just a cover, VHB set the bar high by covering perhaps the most revered and downright weird progressive bands in history, King Crimson, takes a lot of balls. However the VHB totally nailed 21st Century Schizoid Man staying true to the original but also adding their own style to it. The main set ended with Let Thy Will Be Done before an encore of the majestic and beautiful new song Prospect For Escape ended the show on a relaxed but euphoric note. The Von Hertzen Brothers really can put on a show and they give their all to the show making sure that everyone goes home feeling elated. The may bring more equipment than any band I have ever seen but I’m sure none of it is superfluous. An absolutely fantastic show! 10/10

Reviews: Stone Sour, Glory Hammer, Warbeast

Stone Sour: House Of Gold & Bones Part 2 (Roadrunner)

So the second part of Corey Taylor and co.’s two part concept opus and I was impressed with the first part http://musipediaofmetal.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/reviews-stone-sour-triaxis-doogie-white.html. And I continue to be impressed with this second part, the record opens with a funeral doom-like dirge in the shape of Red City which sees Taylor singing and then reverting to Slipknot mode with his guttural scream. Next up is the heavy metal riffage of Black John which is classic Stone Sour with big riffs and Taylor's intelligent lyrics. The solos from the first part are still firmly in place with Jim Root and Josh Rand both showing off in great style. The introspective Sadist follows which starts off with a clean arpeggio before the heaviness kicks in with a vengeance. The dark, brooding side to Stone Sour seems to be the one on display most on this record, all of the songs have a bad atmosphere around them and most stick to this style throughout, Peckinpah (which is not about the director) again starts at a moody pace and then picks up the tempo for the bridge, what I also noticed on this album is the usage of keys and pianos to add atmosphere, even on the faster paced tracks like Stalemate they are still featured as well as the electronic pulses on '82 and also the haunting electronic Blue Smoke before it breaks into the heavy industrial barrage of Do Me A Favour. On its own this is another good album but one that shows the more conceptual nature of this project. Part 1 was a collection of songs; part 2 is a lot more like a thematic soundtrack. It is when this album is played with part 1 that it really shines through, they are two parts of one whole and together they build to one great album. 8/10

Glory Hammer: Songs From The Kingdom Of Fife (Napalm Records)

Chris Bowes is the mastermind (or is that Captain?) of Pirate metal band Alestorm however this is his new side project on which he only plays keyboards letting Thomas Winkler handle the vocals. Winkler does a very good job having that classic power metal voice. The rest of the band too are excellent with bass and drums of James Cartwright and Ben Turk galloping throughout and the guitar of Paul Templing providing the riffs and the stirring solos. Bowes' keys are obviously quite prominent to providing the orchestral back drop to this concept album. Ah yes I forgot to mention this is a concept album about the alternate history of Fife, focusing on magic, swords and sorcery. It makes for a very entertaining and slightly cheesy listen and means they share a lot of audible similarities (as well as a name) with power metal legends Hammerfall with the big keyboards of Swede conquers Sabaton. The conceptual and swords and sorcery style also means that they can get away with titles such as The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee, Silent Tears Of Frozen Princess and the ten minute The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder. This is not music to be taken seriously with a po face, its music that will give you a shit eating grin and make you raise your fist (sword/shield/mace delete where applicable) in the air! Chris Bowes has set himself up nicely for when he inevitably runs out of songs about rum. 7/10

Warbeast: Destroy (Housecore Records)

Phillip Anselmo's protégés have released their second album off the back of their split EP with the man himself. Warbeast are a traditional thrash band that sound like Slayer, Exodus et al. After the very Slayer-like instrumental of Cryogenic Thawout it’s on the second track Nightmare In The Sky that the riffs begin to fly like ninja death stars. The song is propelled by some light speed drumming as well as the aforementioned guitar blitz of Bobby Tilloston and Scott Shelby. The songs move from pit forming thrash, face smashing hardcore and head crushing doom, but for the most part this is angry violent old school thrash metal full of snarling riffs and the scarred shouted vocals of frontman Bruce Corbitt. The album is produced by Phil Anselmo and he keeps it old school having the very analogue 'live in the studio' feel to the record meaning that you will either love it or hate it. The band have some serious riffs and songs but on the whole they are a run of the mill thrash band. Those who still rock the high tops will lap this up however everyone else will play once and then only again at parties. 6/10

 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

View From The Back Of The Room: Scar Symmetry, Beholder & Bloodshot Dawn

Scar Symmetry, Beholder & Bloodshot Dawn: Bogiez Cardiff

Another nice tour line up bringing together three similar but still different bands. This was the final night of the tour and the whole gig was filled with pranks, madness and general high jinks that are the norm on the last date. But as the lights went down the show began.

Bloodshot Dawn

After the instrumental intro had ended the band began the barrage of explosively tight riffage straight from the off with first track Beckoning Oblivion. I have heard nothing but good things about Bloodshot Dawn and thankfully they were all true, the band are very impressive, they play their brand of melodic death metal with the utmost precision, both guitarists Josh and Ben firing off riffs like lasers bent on decapitating the audience who lapped it up banging their heads along with the enthused band. The band had very little movement mainly due their stage banners however very little was needed as they ripped out riffs and peeled out solos, Josh also has a very good DM guttural roar however it was very hard to hear it still they delivered a great set full of some extremely tight, face melting melo-death, plus a stage invasion from a half-naked robot man! A band well worth seeing if you want to just bang your head and be astounded by some technical guitar playing! Praise also to their stand in drummer who learnt all of the songs just before the tour! 8/10

Beholder

Again another band I've wanted to see for a while and on the night I was disappointed, however in the cold light of day I can see that this wasn't because of the band. The drums and bass smashed into you and the guitars let fly with aplomb pull out heavy riff after heavy riff. Beholders new stuff merges well with their old and the thrashier passages were perfect for people to pit. However this seems to be the problem, Beholder are a band that feed off the energy of the crowd and on this night there didn't seem to be much, very small pits and a lot of standing around seemed to be the order of the day during Beholder's set much to the chagrin of man mountain frontman Simon Hall, who was on top form vocally. Again their set was filled with strange goings on mainly from the Bloodshot Dawn boys but songs like Liars did connect with the crowd but they did seem a bit reserved. Beholder had the best sound of the night but in my opinion they need to feed off the crowd to really get going and the already quite sparse crowd didn't help matters by standing still for the majority of the set. Beholder are a band that have had some tough breaks in their career and are steadily trying to work their way back. However on this night the crowd weren't really feeling it as much as they should have been considering how much power and professionalism the band were showing. 7/10

Scar Symmetry

So onto the headliners and I think the reason for a lot of tonight’s criticism, any band that have two lead vocalists will always be hard to engineer sound wise and Scar Symmetry proved that. From the off the sound was muddy with only one guitar in place of the usual two which didn't sound right despite Per Nilsson doing his best, the drums were too loud and the bass was no-existent. I was initially shocked as Bogiez usually has a very good sound so I came to the conclusion that it must have been something to do with the band. Then came the vocals and this is where the night unravelled Roberth Karlsson can growl very well and can even do some pretty strong cleans when needed however Lars Blomqvist has a good mid but his high vocals are awful, he was not able to hit many of the notes and this was added to by the very muddy sound meaning for large sections of the gig he was inaudible. It led me to the conclusion that sometimes two is not always greater than one as former vocalist Christian Alvestam handled both excellently from what I have seen. Despite these technical issues the crowd seemed to be lapping up the Scandi melo-death. Per Nilsson is a very good guitarist but the pre-taped keys did little to help his one man guitar showing. In conclusion then as a band Scar Symmetry are very technical and have some great songs like closer The Illusionist but tonight they were let down by the very poor sound which meant you could really hear anything that clearly. 6/10

View From The Back Of The Room: Hawkwind

Hawkwind Cardiff Coal Exchange

Thanks to Paul Hutchings for his review

I had been waiting for this gig with unexplainable levels of excitement. I can’t put my finger on what it is about Hawkwind I love so much and maybe that’s it. How do you categorise them? At times completely bonkers, often wandering off into different orbits but always with that swirling space rock sound that is so definitely theirs. The Coal Exchange was the destination for their latest visit to Cardiff and a healthy turnout greeted the support band. A Polish trio whose name I’m afraid I’ve totally forgotten (They were apparently Hipiersonik - Ed). They were good value though, playing fusion type jazz rock, plenty of saxophone and sampling, rapping and generally a little different.

Onto the main event, and with the audience swelling, mainly due to the expansion in waistlines, Hawkwind took to the stage. Throughout the show there was an ever changing psychedelic backdrop which amply supported the dancers and various creatures that prowled the front of the stage. I’ve always loved the fact that they take a little bit of trouble to put on a show and this was no exception with some great lighting too. As for the music, well, with 26 albums to choose from it is always hard to know what will come at you but some things in life can be predicted. Set opener Master Of The Universe was a given, with Dave Brock content to leave the imposing Mr Dibs to take centre stage on vocals and bass/cello. To his right Tim Blake prowled with his keys, but never far too far away from the apple Macs that run much of their trade mark space sounds. The band moved into You’d Better Believe It, which really did head off on its own for a good while before they powered through two tracks from 2012’s excellent Onward, namely Seasons and The Hills Have Eyes.

Then it was back to 1975 for the Warrior At The Edge Of Time. Now even though I was 5 when this first came out, I’ve always loved the album and it was a joy to see it performed. Opener Assault and Battery Part II is an all-time classic and the album also contains one of my favourites, Magnu. The audience were in their element, many of the old school singing along to ever track, whilst the band were extremely tight, and throughout it all maintaining that unique space rock sound that drives through the heart of all their stuff. All too quickly Kings Of Speed (no prizes for the subject matter) brought the main set to a close and was quickly followed by wild card of the night, a lengthy rendition of Arrival In Utopia, before the traditional Silver Machine rounded off a great night’s entertainment. If you’ve never seen these guys live then give it a go next time - a truly magical experience. 9/10

Footnote: During the gig I got quite annoyed when the band finished Warrior At The Edge Of Time with Kings Of Speed as my version has the bonus of the original Motorhead as the last track. However, a bit of research has corrected my view and I am at peace with them once more.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Reviews: Spock's Beard, Von Hertzen Brothers, Audrey Horne

Spock's Beard: Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (InsideOut Music)

Veteran proggers return with their eleventh album and their third singer. Long-time frontman/drummer Nick D'Virgillo and was replaced on the sticks by touring drummer Jimmy Keegan and behind the mic by former Enchant man Ted Leonard, this is a genius piece or hiring as Enchant have always been similar to Spock's Beard's style of song based prog where virtuosity takes a back seat to song writing, Spock's Beard have always been a song writing band with every member contributing, Leonard fits in amicably handling all of the writing duties for the opening track Hiding Out which is filled with big keyboard riff from Ryo Okumoto and then the unique melodic and soaring guitars of founder member Alan Morse. This is an album that sees Spock's Beard going back to their roots with long expansive tracks (all clock in at more than 5minutes) with the carnival folk of A Treasure Abandoned which is driven by some truly great keys and organs and with a huge crescendo. This is mixed in with the strong rock ballad Submerged the jazzy and electronic Afterthoughts and the album ends with the epic Waiting For Me (which was co-written by original vocalist Neal Morse). Every track is filled with great musicianship and some very intelligent and sometimes thought provoking lyrics. At 7 tracks (11 on the special edition) this is a very good album full and the sound of a band revitalised with new members after the concise pop sound of their last album X. With Leonard fronting the band he they will continue to provide energizing, emotive and in places excellent progressive rock. 8/10

Von Hertzen Brothers: Nine Lives (Spinefarm Records)

The Finnish trio of prog have again produced an album that stretches far beyond the realms of prog bringing in pop, alternate rock, jazz many other forms of music into one melting pot of an album. The Von Hertzen Brothers have always tried to challenge listeners and have done so again on this record with the myriad of influences. From the off they try to disorient and engage with the relentless rock of Insomnia to the euphoria of Flowers And Rust, before Lost In Time brings a doomy Sabbath vibe to the proceedings with its sledgehammer riffage, then we have the dreamy melancholic have of One May Never Know which segues into the almost choral chamber music of World Without which itself becomes a Pink Floyd song if they played with Asian instruments. The hallmarks of many great bands are here with Pink Floyd and King Crimson being the two major influences, however Mikko's voice sounds like Cornell's when he's in his upper range so some tracks have that Soundgarden edge to them. This five piece are all excellent musicians with the keyboardist Juha and drummer Mikko Kaakkuriniemi both adding their own talent to the brothers soundscapes. The brothers themselves hold down the string instruments (two sixes and a four) as well as a myriad of other instruments (I can pick out Balalaika, Theremin, banjo as a start) and the huge vocal harmonies. Again the VHB have created a fantastic, engaging and unique record that enthrals with its musicality. 9/10

Audrey Horne: Youngblood (Napalm Records)

Audrey Horne are now on their fourth album and follow a trend of Black metal musicians forming hard rock side projects. Audrey Horne features members of Enslaved and Sahg, founding guitarists Ice Dale (Arve Isdal) and Thomas Tofthagen, like I said much like Shagrath's side project Chrome Division, this is full on classic hard rock with some shredding dual guitars, pounding bass lines and some killer drums which is moving away from the slightly grungy sound of their previous records. The band have elements of early Van Halen, AC/DC and mostly KISS with tattooed vocalist Toschie having an uncannily Paul Stanley like voice. All of the tracks on this record are great with the propulsive Straight Into Your Grave, the melodic and uplifting title track, the acca dacca swagger of There Goes A Lady and the trippy ride of The Open Sea. Audrey Horne have been producing quality albums for a while now and Youngblood is another cracker, it has 11 awesome tracks all featuring some shredding guitars and solos as well as Toschie's great vocals. Another album brimming with cocksure hard rock power that once again why Audrey Horne are a great rock band, it's just a shame they are still on the fringes of the success mainly because of Isdal's workload in Enslaved, hopefully this release will see them propelled to the headliner status they deserve! 9/10