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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Reviews: Turisas, Revamp, Newsted

Turisas: Turisas2013 (Spinefarm)

Finland's premier exponents of Battle Metal Turisas have continued in the vein from their last albums slight change in style, with a more straight power metal approach rather than the folk metal of their first two albums. Things are taken further on this album as the opening track For Your Own Good has a elements of bands like Kamelot or Sonata Arctica with its heavy piano/keyboard led riff and big background vocals. Ten More Miles has a more classic Turisas sound with the driving drums and some big folk metal arrangements. This album is a bit more guitar driven than previous efforts but the solos are still handled by violinist Olli Vanska. Despite some strong tracks on this album with Piece By Piece and the excellently titled No Good Story Ever Started With Drinking Tea however this album just doesn't really do it! It sounds like Turisas are trying to be something they are not with tracks like Into The Free and We Ride Together sounding like generic Power metal rather than the folk influenced battle metal of the band's past. Yes Warlord still has a great voice and the band are all very talented but by trying to change their sound so much they have managed to become just another band. 6/10     

Revamp: Wild Card (Nuclear Blast)

So former After Forever and current (stand in for the time being) Nightwish vocalist, Floor Jansen returns with her second album with her new band Revamp. Since the first album Jansen has experienced a burnout and got the Nightwish gig which has postponed this instalment of the album but it was worth waiting for. More streamlined than the first effort this combines Gothenburg style sometimes even djent style guitars, blast beat drums mixed with more symphonic elements of Jansen's past. Much like on the first album three of the tracks are part of a concept called Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown which builds up into the heavyweight third part Neurasthenia which features the mad Canuck Devin Townsend who provides some unmistakeable demented vocals to the breakdown. The musicianship is of the highest quality throughout with some killer riffs and solos coming from the two guitarists, some huge hooky keys but most impressive of all are Floor's vocals she is equally at home in the upper operatic register as she is grunting like Corpsegrinder, she provides both styles throughout the album but most effectively on the superb I Can Become. The final track Misery's No Crime features guest grunts from her After Forever cohort Mark Jansen (no relation) and ends the album in sine style (unless you have the bonus tracks). Still this is a much more streamlined concise but hard hitting album that is a lot more satisfying than her debut, with an album like this part of me wishes she wasn't frontrunner for the Nightwish job. 8/10   

Newsted: Heavy Metal Music (Chophouse Records)

Jason Newsted has always been 'the other guy' stepping into the world’s biggest thrash band after the death of their superstar bassist. He was always standing in Cliff Burton's shadow and only ever had a few writing credits while in Metallica, along with the famous case of his bass being all but mixed out of ...And Justice For All. After a few years in the wilderness he is back with a solo album which consists of the man himself on bass and vocals and a band consisting of some heavyweight players. Be sure that the bass is loud and proud on this record standing head and shoulders above the rest of the instruments. Now with all the mentions of Metallica you'd expect Heavy Metal Music to sound like Lars and co but it doesn't, it has more in common with Megadeth than it does with 'Tallica Newsted's voice has the same shredded quality as Megadave's and the riffs vary from being fast and furious (Soilderhead is the best Megadeth song they've never written) to big heavy ragers like the opening Heroic Dose and ...As The Crow Flies. However Jason doesn't just stick to one style he runs the gauntlet making sure this album brings as much Heavy Metal Music as possible with Long Time Dead and Above All having the bass heavy blues metal of Lemmy and co, Ampossible is AIC under another name, punk comes in the form of Twisted Tail Of The Comet with King Of The Underdog and Nocturnus being pure doom metal. Newsted has brought all of his influences together and created an album of strong heavy metal tracks that stand shoulders above anything his former band have done in recent years. 8/10

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

View From The Sunny Field: Bloodstock Day 3

Bloodstock Festival, Catton Hall, Burton On Trent Day 3

So our final day on BOA's hallowed turf had a leisurely beginning and a hectic end. We missed the two opening bands and made our way in for the third band on the bill as once we were in the arena it would be all systems go!

Sacred Mother Tongue

These Northampton bruisers came out flying with riff after riff from virtuoso Andy James peeling off heavy grooves and technical solos with every song. His muscular riffage is as always complimented by the strong melodic vocals of Darrin South. The band does what they do very well and were a nice mid paced start to ease into the day. However my one criticism would be that they only played tracks from their latest album and nothing from their debut. I can see the logic in this but as a fan of the band since the first album I would have liked Two Thousand Eight Hundred but we got Demons, Bleeding Out and Seven. So a strong showing from SMT but not one for the hardcore. 7/10

Passing up Fozzy we had a small break before our party halved with half going to see Amorphis and the others heading towards Evil Scarecrow

Amorphis (Chris Hutchings)

Looking at the 45 minute set and thinking “wow, only 7 songs; that’s not very much at all”. However,
watching Amorphis was pretty damn absorbing and those seven songs went by extremely fast.  Tomi Joutsen (Vocals) did an excellent job, chatting to the crowd in-between songs whilst keeping it short and kept the rhythm going making it a pleasure to watch as well as wind milling with his extremely long dreadlocks which was incredible! His microphone was also uniquely shaped and rather impressive to see. There were not many technical difficulties for these guys at all considering that all weekend there had been problems although they did come on stage about 5 minutes late.  When they did arrive, they paced the set just right, interacting with the crowd just enough to not over play it. The atmosphere down the front for these guys was superb and it was very easy to get caught up in it and sing along and head bang and just generally rock out to this band. From the set list, it was clear that Sky Is Mine was the favourite song of the set and the most commonly known judging by the reaction of the crowd who comprised of some diehards and more than a few first timers. So when Amorphis next tour I would definitely go and check them out. Well worth it and to quote the wise words of Mr Brett Perry get down the front! 7/10

Evil Scarecrow

The Sophie tent was at first empty while the band warmed up however it filled quickly, as we waited two lovely girls came through the crowd and handed out party poppers and gave specific instructions that they should not be used "Until Dr Hell tells you". With the instructions taken on board we waited and the band stormed on stage to Verdi's Messa da Requiem throwing their trademark shapes to this classical piece. From then on it was outright metal from the off, things started with Choose Metal their opening track of choice and the now massive crowd was shouting right back, banging heads, throwing horns and enjoying the metal party for what it was. Some call Evil Scarecrow a parody band, they aren't they are a band that have more fun than any other playing the music they love! With the first song out of the way the noticeably impressed Dr Hell exchanged expletives that were used to convey his disbelief and then plunged into the second song the bands emo anthem Blacken The Everything which was the first part of the bands legendary crowd interaction, getting the packed tent to fake cry (although Hell do it for real) for them. The song is led by the hypnotic drums of Monty Blitzfist and the keys and samples of Princess Luxury and got the crowd chanting along with its hook filled chorus. After this brief slowing in pace we were told that the bands and I quote "no expense spared" pyro display would be used during the next song so we got out party poppers ready and let them off when told to during the song War And Seek covering the metal heads in attendance with coloured streamers adding to the party atmosphere. More crowd participation on the fantastic new song Crabulon which involved much pincer moving, scuttling form one side of the tent to the other and the disturbing sight of man mountain bassist Kraven Morrdeth sitting on Dr Hell's knee. The early guitar filled Ra Vs. Thor was next showing off the guitar talents of Dr Hell and Brother Pain, before things got serious for the future classic Robotoron which came with the obligatory perfect robot circles and the massive metal knees up of cover Final Countdown which I'm sure they will stop playing at some point and we were treated to the bands resident mad man Brother Pain solo from atop the bar and crowd surf at the end of the song. This was a triumphant show from the Nottingham natives that left no doubt in anyone's mind that Evil Scarecrow are defiantly one of the best live bands in the UK. 10/10

So suitably knackered with the largest grins ever seen on our faces we made our way back to rendezvous with the rest of our group.

Exodus

Now I've never seen the American thrashers live but I've been told that they are excellent and boy was I informed correctly. After the initial strains of an intro faded it was full speed, head smashing thrash mayhem from the outset with very little let up. The Ballad Of Leonard and Charles was first and proved it is anything but a ballad with the razor-sharp riffage of Gary Holt (pulling double duty) and Lee Atlus trading riffs at light speed determined to kill the crowd and aided by Tom Hunting's drumming. The pit was ferocious for all of the songs especially on A Lesson In Violence and the perennial Bonded By Blood which was used as a tribute to Jeff Hanneman and former Exodus vocalist Paul Baloff. There were no safety warnings here oh no. The music was thrash in its purest form  and the imposing presence and shouts of Rob Dukes make Exodus a forceful live act that are quite willing to destroy the crowd with pit inciting songs and the occasional wall of death. By the end of Strike Of The Beast those down the front were battered bruised and some bloody but most of all they had been blown away by the full on fury of Exodus in full flight. Good show indeed! 8/10

Devildriver

I'm sorry Dez but I'm afraid you've lost your touch a little. First it was a Coal Chamber reunion and now it's tarnished your day job as on my third viewing of Devildriver it was them that looked like the parody band. While trying not to sound like an uncool parent every song does indeed sound the same and rather than aiming for new sounds with some melodic light and shade they just go for relentless fury primarily to incite pits. These were appearing but I think many were already beaten by Exodus and were saving themselves for Anthrax who were coming next. Because of this Devildriver would have been better suited earlier meaning there was a glut of thrash following each other before the main event. As it was they just got a little lost in the mix. 5/10

Anthrax (Paul, Chris & Alex Hutchings)

After a less than inspiring set by Devildriver the front of the stage rapidly filled as Worship blasted out into the summer evening.  Racing onto the stage, Anthrax flew into one of their many anthems, the appropriately titled Caught In A Mosh. Down the front the pits opened up, and every word was mouthed. Say what you want about Anthrax, but they sure have some tunes and the opener is an all-time classic. Frank Bello as always racing around the stage, Scott Ian exchanging some frank and what looked like harsh words to his guitar tech, and there he was, the human sultana himself, Joey Belladonna urging the crowd to sing along. Now Belladonna can be a bit irritating but he was on top form, hitting the notes and running across the stage throughout ensuring that everyone got his attention. Following the opener they launched into an awesome version of NFL before the obligatory cover of Joe Jackson’s Got The Time. A little momentum was lost with dedications to RJD and Dimebag for In The End, leading to a couple of questions about why there was no dedication to Jeff Hanneman, given their membership of the Big 4. However, the band picked it right back up with a blast from the first album, Fistful Of Metal, delivering the opener from that album Death Rider with full force brutality. New guitarist, ex-Shadows Fall’s Jon Donais looked right at home stage right, hitting the solos whilst Scott Ian continued his usual energetic performance. He really is a legend. Anthrax then treated the crowd to a storming version of TNT (sigh of relief it wasn’t Anthem!) from their latest release, before wrapping up with Indians, Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t, and then the arrival of Dredd, for I Am The Law. Belladonna brought out the Judge that had been stomping around the festival site all weekend. As the crowd lapped it up, Anthrax finished off with their third cover of the day, Trust’s Antisocial. Like Priest with the Green Manalishi, Antisocial and Got The Time are now staples of the set and are treated very much as their own. Like ‘em or loathe ‘em, they always put on a show, and at BOA 2013 Anthrax were very much in the mood. One of the sets of the weekend. 9/10

Slayer

So with everyone getting a 40 minute rest bite from the madness we waited eagerly as the stage was set. No fancy stage dressing no fireworks or props just one backdrop that had the one word bellowed by metal fans all around the world. Yes it was time for Slayer, probably the heaviest and still the most underground of all of the Big 4 a band that appeals to mainstreamers and those that worship at the tomb of Euronymous and everyone in between. No intro tape no fuss no messing the band were onstage in heartbeat and launched into World Painted Blood which was followed in quick succession by Disciple it is an odd sight to see thousands of heads all moving in tandem but Slayer are one of the few bands that command this. Unrelenting and violently aggressive they are band that don't do crowd interaction but let their music do the talking. A small break ended with Tom Araya's shriek that signals the still dazzling, breakneck riffage of War Ensemble which proceeded to incite the mother of all pits down the front forcing us at the back to take a few steps back. Not one to play a slow song the pace continued with Hallowed Point the Bill Bailey approved Mandatory Suicide before Altar Of Sacrifice and Jesus Saves continued to inflict more damage on those that dared to venture into the pit. With only two original members left Slayer are still a dominant live force with Gary Holt equally matching the speed and dexterity of Kerry King and Paul Bostaph showing why he has now replaced Dave Lombardo twice, Tom Araya was on keen vocal form hollering every line and shrieking like a banshee when needed. The set was punctuated by small episodes of silence meaning that it was not just one wall of noise, these little rests meant that the show flowed a lot smoother and stopped anyone from getting bored, although most of the crowd were mesmerised by the cacophony of violence unfolding before them. After Snuff and Hate Worldwide it was time for the greatest hits part of the programme the final crowd pleasing part of what had been a varied set. Firstly the dirge like doom intro of Seasons In The Abyss built up to its main pounding riff before another slow burner in the shape of the old school Hell Awaits this led to Araya's 'poem' of the refrain "Dance With The Dead In My Dreams" which signalled Dead Skin Mask which ended with the audio downpour that starts the evergreen(red) Raining Blood. Another pit and the main set was closed a small break and the back drop fell to reveal a large Hanneman memorial which incited a massive cheer from the crowd and was the only mention of it. Slayer are not a band to live in the past and dwell on sentimentality, no words were spoken the band just paid tribute to their fallen brother in the best way possible with two of his best songs the uber-doom South Of Heaven and the full on head ripper of Angel Of Death which showed both sides of the great man's talents. As the final chord hit there was silence and the band left the stage Araya walked straight off leaving Kerry King and Gary Holt to thank the crowd briefly before also making their way to the back. The crowd released their breath simultaneously and started to pour out of the arena. A simply stunning set from Slayer that will not be beaten for a good while awesome! 10/10

Roundup

So another Bloodstock and this one was the biggest ever mainly for the 'mainstream' draws of Slayer and LOG, it will be hard to see where BOA will go from here whether they will keep courting the arena bands or will go back to the more underground bands that made their name. Still a stunning set of bands, great music, great (and painful) memories and a hell of a good time! Roll on next year! My personal picks are Emperor (already confirmed), Amon Amarth/ Nightwish and Saxon!  

Saturday, 24 August 2013

View From The Sunny Field: Bloodstock Day 2

Bloodstock Festival, Catton Hall, Burton On Trent Day 2

So day two and the sun was still shining (and the hand still hurting) so after another round of bacon (from our endless supply) we venture once more into the arena.

Beholder

Firstly we gathered to take in Bloodstock's resident house band who stormed the main stage bringing their brand of hard hitting British metal to the early crowd. Simon and his merry men proceeded to crank out the riffs and stomp through the grooves providing some lunchtime aggression that drew a hearty crowd. With most of the songs coming from their new record it was tracks like Killing Season, Toxic Nation and the clarion cry of Liar that got the fist pumping and hopefully politicians running! A great heavy start to the day on day two. 8/10

3 Inches Of Blood

Now I didn't watch much of them as Cam Pipes voice irritated me but I heard their cover of Heaven And Hell and it was dire, however they committed a bigger sin by covering Tom Sawyer which made at least of my group completely dumbstruck and in considerable physical pain. So unfortunately they can only score. 0/10 

Hell

This was better! Full blown pomp and circumstance of British heavy metal. After the orchestral intro the band strode on bedecked in their paint and all black stage costumes and the riffage started the tri-headed riff machine of guitarists Kev Bower (with the dreadlocks), the freshly shorn Andy Sneap and the goblin-like Tony Speakerman all driving things along with their razor-sharp riffage that twisted and turned through tracks from their debut album, in the instrumental sections you could see that the band, backed by drummer Tim Bowler, were technical, rocked like anything. However as usual it was David Bower who was the star of the show as he strode around the stage giving off an aurora of authority, pouring emotion into every line, zipping around the stage like a cheetah and adding an air of Shakespearean gravitas to the proceedings. As well as being a great performer and a singer he also had a few new tricks up his sleeve, coming to the stage as mighty version of the hooved-beast himself he unleashed his firework shooting trident which left the crowd in awe and this combined with his self-flagellation and exorcisms of the front row combined to make hell (no pun intended) of a show. The final strains of Save Us From Those Who Will Save Us ended the band received a massive ovation from the huge crowd that had gathered for the mass ritual, the faces of the departing people was enough for any fan of metal to feel buoyed by (some were even brought to tears), the crowd loved it truly a band that should be headlining soon as they encompass everything heavy metal is about! Joyous! 10/10

After the experience of Hell it was time for a break before we returned to the arena for French bowel splitters Gojira

Gojira

Due to some British airline mix ups (sabotage?) Gojira were missing their backdrop and most of their kit however they still managed to come out and completely level BOA with their unrelenting heaviness. Things kicked off with Explosia which speaks for itself before The Axe and Flying Whales followed. Fighting against some sound problems that had dogged the main stage Gojira managed to make their sound even heavier with hardly any let up in the brutal pummelling Backbone came next where Randy Blythe received a massive cheer for helping out on vocals. the crowd were weakened by this onslaught and Gojira hadn't even got going. Watching this band at work is like a test of mettle for metal fans they are a bit of a tour de force that were dampened a little by the technical hitches but still managed to blow some eardrums with their metal beating. 7/10

Sabaton   

Sabaton too were victims of flight funniness as Joakim Broden came to the stage belting out evergreen opener Ghost Division not wearing his trademark vest. However all was not right in the Swede's camp as they hampered by technical issues which meant there was 10 minute break in their set in which Joakim did a heroic job of filling in cracking jokes and telling stories and borrowing a fan's vest to wear for the set. They then resumed with Gott Mit Uns and Carolus Rex. This was followed by another break before more songs from the new album was followed by a run through of classics with 40:1The Art Of War and Metal Crue all followed in quick succession. Their set did seem a bit disjointed but Joakim kept it going and the songs spoke for themselves. Not the best I've seen them but a heroic set from Sabaton. 7/10

Avantasia

Tobias Sammet's 'other' project made their first ever venture onto British soil. After the Also Sprach Zarathustra the band made their way onto the stage, he has amassed a great band to support him with power metal legends Sascha Paeth and Miro on guitars and keyboards respectively, the other guitars are provided by Oliver Hartmann, drums came from Edguy's Felix Bonhke. Together they opened with Spectres which saw Sammet prowl the stage decked out in his finery and showing of his amazingly powerful voice. This was the final song just to feature Sammet as Avantasia is a metal opera project so it has many guests and Tobi had brought some up with him. First up to bat was the muscular whiskey soaked vocals of Pretty Maids' Ronny Atkins who joined for two tracks before a prelude led to Reach Out For The Light and Breaking Light which showed of the absolutely stunning vocals of former Helloween man Michael Kiske who matched Sammet note for note as they both reached the upper atmosphere, Kiske hasn't lost it at all. What came next was the more AOR section of proceedings with local boy (is boy the right word?) Bob Catley who despite having a great voice Catley didn't seem to have a clue what was going on but he was enthusiastic and delivered his parts excellently before he took his leave and the final guest was Mr Big frontman Eric Martin who preened and pouted through his two songs one of which was the awesome Twisted Mind which led into the final songs which became full ensemble pieces mixing vocalists with Farewell introducing the amazing Amanda Somerville on lead vocals for the first time (she had provided backing vocals all set) before the set ended fully with Sign Of The Cross/Seven Angels. This was a great set from the debuting Avantasia that captured the majesty of their albums in the live setting. It was a real metal party atmosphere that bewitched the crowd, very awesome indeed. 9/10

Lamb Of God (Paul)

 So, a year after Testament hung ‘Free Randy’ banners at Bloodstock, Lamb Of God arrived at Catton Hall to a massive ovation. Given the huge support that Randy Blythe (Check Spelling) received from the metal community during his trial for manslaughter in the Czech Republic, this was always going to be one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend.  As the day wore on, it was clear that a large
number of the crowd had bought day tickets and the arena was rammed by the time the lights dimmed. The omens during the day had not been good. Gojira’s set had been interrupted earlier in the day due to concerns about the strength of the barrier at the front of the stage, whilst Sabaton had endured huge technical difficulties which had resulted in at least two songs being cut from their set.
 As the intro music blasted out, LOG stormed on stage with Desolation from their latest album Resolution. However, it wasn’t long before the gremlins re-emerged and there was a gap after Ghost Walking whilst some of the previously mentioned technical difficulties made an unwelcome appearance. After ripping through Walk With Me In Hell, with Morton and Adler’s twin guitars finally getting some benefit from the mix (which took some time to sort out) the band kicked into Ruin only for Randy to call a halt very quickly. Having earlier asked the crowd to take three steps back, it appeared that the earlier concerns about the barrier had not been resolved and a prolonged break of around 15 minutes ensued whilst emergency repairs were undertaken. A couple of pit survivors were brought through the crowd during this time and it was clear that at the front no quarter was being given.
 Eventually things got underway and Ruin was completed with no further problems. LOG then picked up their game and managed to deliver the remainder of the set without further distractions. Obviously by now they were slightly disjointed and some of their balance had disappeared. Energy levels in parts of the crowd had also dropped which was understandable given the delays and frustrations. I have to say that I am full of admiration for the way the band picked it back up, delivering storming versions of 11th Hour, newbie Undertow and a quite breath-taking Omerta. LOG finished the main set with Contractor; Chris Adler’s drumming resembling a heavy metal octopus. The encore kicked off with In Your Words before Laid To Rest and the unstoppable Redneck led to a brutal Black Label, complete with one of the biggest walls of death ever seen at BOA. LOG were understandably knocked off their stride at BOA. However, they were pretty heroic in the way they battled through the challenges that were presented. I’ve already got my ticket to see them at Bristol in January. 8/10

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

View From The Sunny Field: Bloodstock Day 1

Bloodstock Festival, Catton Hall, Burton On Trent Day 1

This should usually start on Thursday however I missed much of Thursday due to a tin related accident that meant I had to spend two hours in a nearby hospital having stitches: See Paul's bonus review at the end of this post.

So we start at the beginning of Friday with fresh bandages and an 11am start on the main stage in good weather (at last): 

Earthtone 9

Earthtone 9 reformed in 2010 and they opened Bloodstock with a bang showing their brand of alternative metal would fit with the more underground style of Bloodstock, they drew quite a large crowd who all seemed to be into the band meaning that their set went by in flash. 7/10

Absolva

Over to the Sophie Tent (Stage 2) for the second band of the day. Absolva are a classic-style British metal band that formed from the ashes of Fury UK after bassist Luke Appleton left to join Iced Earth. This trio (although they are only a trio recently) play riff heavy metal with lots of solo's that's sits somewhere between Judas Priest and Megadeth and different to the more progressive Fury UK. Frontman Chris Appleton has a great voice and can play a mean guitar, although I think he has watched a bit too much Michael Angelo Batio with his lightning fast solo's and his fleet fingered fretting. The rhythm section of Martin McNee (drums) and Dan Bate (bass) provided the heavy metal backing to Appleton's fret wankery. With songs like Code Red, Flames Of Justice, Frome Beyond The Light Absolva entertain the small partisan crowd, and draw a bigger one by the end of their set with their impressive display. 8/10

Death Angel (Paul)

Second on the main stage on Friday afternoon came Californian thrashers Death Angel. Now I for some reason have never managed to see these guys and I was looking forward with much anticipation. I loved these guys in the 80s and their early albums Frolic Through The Park and The Ultra Violence were played relentlessly. The Ultra Violence would sit comfortably in the top 10 thrash albums of all time in my view. Kicking off with Evil Priest from The UV, the band signalled their intent with a brutal assault on the eardrums. Clearly stoked by their first ever UK festival appearance, the band made sure that the very healthy crowd got stuck in to some early pitting, vocalist Mark Osegueda clearly enjoying himself immensely. Either side of him guitarists Rob Cavestany (the other old school member) and Ted Aguilar laid down the riffs, whilst a relatively new rhythm section of Damien Sission and Will Carroll kept the band driving forward. Time flew by, the band quickly getting through some classics with Voracious Souls, I Chose The Sky and Truce before a blistering Lord Of Hate from the quite stunning Killing Season album.  It’s such a shame this band aren’t bigger than they are, 12 years since they reformed. Wrapping up with Thrown To The Wolves the band clearly looked happy to be at BOA. I for one was pleased to have finally been able to catch the band and was not disappointed. I’m hoping that they will return to somewhere accessible in the near future where I can get a couple of my favourites from Frolic included in the set. 8/10

Bloodbound

Forgoing Ex Deo on the main stage I went back to tent catch Bloodbound who I had heard of but I have never listened to. I'm glad I did as they were possibly the most entertaining band of the day, much like Freedom Call last year. Bloodbound were an outright riot from start to finish, they play OTT power metal that reeked of 20 year old Stilton. Yes this was pure cheese but the large crowd lapped it up, these Swedes tend to have a particular lyrical fixation on metal, every song they played seemed to be about our collective religion with Metalheads Unite and Metal Monster. The songs were all similar and this meant that they did tend to blend into one but with the huge keyboard hooks, dual guitar delivery, galloping bass and drums and helium vocals from frontman Patrik, no one seemed to care  and they jovially sang along with every huge chorus, myself included, meaning that this was a massive metal party that showed that everyone was there In The Name Of Metal. A great band that do what they do very well, they need to support Sabaton next time they tour I think my face my split from smiling. 9/10

A brief rest-bite for me but Paul stayed to watch Shrapnel

Shrapnel (Paul)

Hailing from Norwich Shrapnel play melodic folk songs based entirely on themes of knitting and flower arranging. DO THEY FUCK! Although they do hail from Norwich they basically rip your face off with total thrash metal in an old school style. Influences are clear; Slayer, Testament, Exodus, Megadeth etc. You get the picture. I only stopped for 20 minutes of their set, as the Sophie Tent is strategically placed between the main stage and our tent full of booze, but was left banging my head as they tore through some tracks from their debut EPs and debut album The Virus. Subtly ain’t these boys thang, oh no. However, if you want to have half an hour of full on thrash metal delivered with enthusiasm and no little skill then these guys are worth a watch. Expect them on a support slot with some thrash icons at some point soon. 7/10  

Firewind

So Firewind (from Greece) once again return to the Catton Hall however this time they did seem to be at a bit of a loss, yes Gus G still showed off his fretboard fireworks, Bob worked his fingers to the bone on the guitar and keyboard but it was in the vocal department is where they had their weakness, gone is Apollo, who since 2006 has been the voice of the power metallers slowly getting stronger with every show. However he has gone leaving stand in vocalist Kelly Sundown Carpenter to fill his sizeable shoes and while he is a good vocalist he is just not suited to the band, he has a higher register than Apollo but he hasn't got the strength behind it. The band played a fan favourite set opening with Wall Of Sound and Head Up High Carpenter was struggling to match Apollo on these tracks and it did seem the band were at their best on the instrumental The Fire And The Fury (coincidence?) However after the instrumental the vocals did get better and the band left a better impression after the one-two punch of Till The End Of Time and the anthemic Falling To Pieces on which Carpenter sounded his best. Firewind will always be a strong live act but I do hope that Carpenter is a stand in and not permanent as he is not a good fit for Firewind. 7/10

Skiltron (Paul)

Wandering into the Sophie Lancaster tent on Friday afternoon to avoid the last rites of Firewind I was confronted folk metallers Skiltron. Now, I’ve heard of them, but knew nothing about them and I can’t list a song they played. Well, that’s a lie. They use bagpipes, bizarre considering they are apparently based in Argentina, and so of course they played It’s A Long Way To The Shop (If You Want A Sausage Roll) (AC/DC). A quick bit of research at home had me even more confused though. Their album titles are extremely Scottish. The Clans Have United and The Highland Way suggesting they have roots far North of the border. A new album is due out soon, entitled Into The Battleground. If you can’t work out what they sound like by now, then they probably aren’t your cuppa. However, I really enjoyed them in the way that you sometimes do when not expecting anything. Tight guitars, a bit of groove and bagpipes that didn’t sound like someone was strangling a cat! What’s not to like? A reasonable crowd in the tent provided enthusiastic encouragement throughout. One to check out at a later date …and to hunt down for a few more tunes. Good fun. 7/10

Xerath

As Muncipal Waste kicked the living crap out of the hard-core thrashers on the main stage we opted for the orchestral technical metal of Xerath. They quickly ran through their set of groove infected orchestral metal, unfortunately the band didn't do it for me live as the symphonic elements were barely audible over the too heavy guitars and the unintelligible grunts of singer Richard Thompson who was irritating with his constant goading of the crowd throughout the set. Xerath are a band that defiantly sounds better on record than they do live. 5/10

Xentrix

Xentrix are a thrash band from Preston that can be considered to be one of the founding fathers of thrash even though they are a fair few miles away from the hallowed Bay Area. Xentrix split in the 90's but have recently reformed again to support Evile and Kreator on their recent tour. What came after their intro was a very strong set of Metallica style thrash that had both the lightning fast fretwork on a few songs along with some mid-paced stompers. The band are all excellent musicians with the twin guitars of Chris Astley and Kristian Harvard were the mirror of Hammet and Hetfield although Astley's vocals were not as booming preferring the more ragged vocal delivery. The band delivered their set in powerful style to a packed tent who threw the horns and fists throughout the set. With tracks like Balance Of Power and Questions the band were rattling through a great set. For a band that have had so many hiatus's they are tight as hell and have back catalogue of great songs, including a cover of Ghostbusters! Truly a band to check out live purely because of how bloody good they actually are and the crowd agreed with the band receiving a fantastic ovation from the crowd. Awesome showing! 8/10

Accept

So back to the main stage for the Teutonic Terror's Accept. A band that I've never seen live but I've always loved and here they were only a few feet away. So it was with great anticipation that we waited the storming German's attack on Bloodstock. So without warning the band stormed the stage and kicked off with Hung, Drawn And Quartered and Stalingrad both from their brilliant last album Stalingrad. The twin guitars of Wolf Hoffman and Herman Frank, cut like lasers throughout the set bringing the precision German metal to the masses, the riffs and solos of the thrashy songs ripped off the faces of the crowd who ate up every classic metal riff. The band had the bewitching stage craft with Wolf, Herman, bassist Peter Bates in perfect sync throwing clinical, robotic shapes with their axes. The band stomped through the classic Restless And Wild before going through Breaker, Princess Of The Dawn and Losers And Winners every song had the crowd throwing horns and air guitaring along. What I was impressed with was the vocals of Mark Tornillo who has his own style different from the mighty Udo Dirkschneider but he does a good job of mimicking the man on his classic songs. These kept coming with the final three killers of Metal HeartTeutonic Terror and the still brilliant Balls To The Wall which got the crowd singing along with its powerhouse chorus. This ended the main set with style and gave a short rest bite before the metal maelstrom resumed with the lightning speed riffage and full falsetto scream of Fast As A Shark which brought the house down leaving the crowd with huge grins on their faces. A great live set from the German metal legends who more than lived up to my expectations, a cracking set from a fantastic band! 10/10

King Diamond

So this was it the final band of the day, Danish metals premier vocalist King Diamond brought his full stage show to the UK. It was an impressive setup looking like a full church, the stage was flooded by dry ice and the King's band came on the opening chords of The Candle ringing out over Bloodstock. Then it was time for the King himself who unleashed his deadly scream for the first time which pierced the ears of the crowd. The King's show was part metal show, part Alice Cooper Schlock-horror and part vaudeville show. The King went through a set of his solo songs all of which told a bit of story full of smoke, fire and guest appearances from a female dancer/performer who worked the hardest of everyone. The guitarists ran the length of the stage interacting with the crowd through the large gate set that was at the front of the stage, the King himself prowled the stage bewitching the crowd with is shrieks that I must admit did get a bit wearing. Personally I found a lot of his solo stuff quite samey and it wasn't until Mercyful Fate song Come To The Sabbath that I found myself knowing the songs and it was during the two Mercyful Fate tracks (the other was Evil) that the King gave his shrieking a rest sticking to a normal voice. However it was after Evil that we left, the King is an acquired taste and I'm afraid although he is good he just didn't do it for me which is a shame as he is a legend but one that I can only take so much of. 7/10      

So it was after this we retired to the tents for a night of drinking and reminiscing about the bands that passed. The first day had been patchy but with two more days left we had plenty of metal moments to come!

*BONUS*

Burton Accident And Emergency (Paul)

And before a band had played, we had an opportunity of a bonus review. Yes, courtesy of old man Bladen and his fondness for Corn Beef (how old is he really to eat such shit?), we were treated to the most blood BOA had seen since Watain last year as the Corn Beef tin opened up with a massive salvo of skin shredding riffage and promptly cut Matt almost to the bone. Cue a sprint to the Jonnies (St John’s to you) who stared at the wound as if it had a cock growing out of it. Once we’d established that they didn’t even possess any steri-strips (unlike a certain very tall nurse who shall remain nameless…. HEWITT!!!)  it was the inevitable trip to A&E in Burton. However, this was preceded by some excellent comedic value from said Jonnie who firstly asked if anyone could drive Matt there (given that we’d been drinking solidly for five hours I was sorely tempted but thought I’d come off second best to a tree if I tried)  and was then observed to comment “I’ll give it a go” when asked if he could wash out Matt’s wound. Congratulations must be awarded to Matt at this stage, who promptly told said Jonnie in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t “having a fucking go on my hand”. Runner up for the whole weekend. (Winner by the way, Brett’s tears after Hell). Following an expensive cab ride (thank Slayer I grabbed Matt’s wallet!) we found ourselves in Burton A&E along with many of the patrons from The Cantina in Ep. 4. Luckily, being pissed and Welsh, we quickly pushed our way up the list and Matt duly received his three stitches in super quick time. This probably had something to do with me moaning about sobering up and grizzling about the lack of a toastie machine in the waiting area. Anyway, a big thanks to the efficiency of the staff there, and we were soon heading back to Catton Hall for a little more refreshment and the first round of bacon. Burton

A&E … we salute you. 10/10 (for service) 0/10 for the toastie machine though.  








Saturday, 17 August 2013

Reviews: Five Finger Death Punch, James LaBrie, Buffalo Summer

Five Finger Death Punch: The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell (Prospect Park)

So FFDP have done a Stone Sour and instead of releasing one whole album (or double album) they have decided to release two separate albums. The album itself is made up of 11 tracks with the last three being repeated tracks but with guest vocalists. As far as the band themselves go they are firing on all cylinders from the opening chugging riff and machine gun drumming of Lift Me Up which features the Metal God himself and sounds like Halford's Fight project. The riffs shred like hell on every track with the bass and drums battering you around the head and bringing the groove. This is some of the heaviest material FFDP have released showing that they have rediscovered their anger that was present on their debut see to this though they have also added some heavy grooves, lots of hook filled melodies and some killer solos (all featured on the second track Watch You Bleed), much of the melody comes from the superb voice of frontman Ivan Moody who is a very good singer moving between snarling aggression and lovelorn crooning perfect for the bands muscular ballads as witnessed on Wrong Side Of Heaven. The band do sound revitalised on this record with everything sounding tighter than the top of jar of beetroot, yes there are some filler tracks with Burn MF being one such example of the bands default brand of 'macho metal'. However the band have got some pretty great songs on here with all of the special tracks being superior to the originals I.M.Sin is far more powerful with Max Cavalera providing his gruff bark over the top of it, Anywhere But Here is made ten times better with In This Moment's Maria Brink giving her siren like vocals to it and Dot Your Eyes seems far more like a massive pit starter with Jamey Jasta raging with Moody (despite the horrible lyrics). The most interesting track on the album however is the cover, for a band that have covered Bad Company and Faith No More on previous efforts, a cover of LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out (featuring rapper Tech N9ne) was not really a surprise but how good it actually is was a massive surprise indeed, this could be a FFDP song! So it's a case of a first round knockout for FFDP with this album, bring on round 2! 8/10

James LaBrie: Impermanent Resonance (InsideOut Music)

The Dream Theater frontman comes back with a vengeance with his new solo album and it's very similar to the vibe on his last release Static Impulse blending Gothenburg melodic death metal with LaBrie's signature vocal delivery, he is joined on the vocal front by the melo-death screams of drummer Peter Wiloder who also handles the blast beats that litter this album. From the opening track Agony the scene is set, blistering guitar lines from long time contributor Italian virtuoso Marco Sfogli, the double-kick drum assault and the massive keyboard lines from Matt Guillory who is the co-writer of the album with LaBrie (and was on the previous album). Let's get things straight though this is progressive and it is metal however the only similarity to Dream Theater is that they share the powerful delivery of LaBrie's voice, this solo effort has more in common with bands like Soilwork, whose Peter Wichers contributes guitars and writing, but with the pulsing keys of Guillory the songs also have an element of up and comers Amaranthe which is bolstered by the shared clean and shouted vocals most of the songs have rip roaring metallic battering but on a few tracks LaBrie's penchant for a ballad comes across on Lost In The Fire  and Say You're Still Mine but he still rocks up on Letting Go which has a djent style riff, the stomp of Amnesia and the speed delivery of Undertow. This is another great solo release from James LaBrie who has done well to distance him from his day job while creating a totally new branch of his career without much compromise. This is an old master in a new role and he seems to be revelling in it. The voice is the same but the songs are not, this is a fresh enlightening experience for all DT fans. 8/10   

Buffalo Summer: S/T (Cargo Records/Retrobution Records)

Hailing from South Wales This is Buffalo Summer's debut full length and it is packed with classic blues rock riffs and soul grooves. The band mixes some Black Crowes with some funkadelic riffage of The Electric Boys and a lot of Free to bring together a cool classic rock vibe with lashings of funk and blues. The drums and bass of Gareth Hunt and Darren King pound along with a hard rock groove that holds everything together; they are matched for power by the bluesy riffage of Jonny Williams who contributes the muscular riffs and some dreamy solos and the soulful voice of Andrew Hunt who is a definite highlight. Things kick off with the bluesy She's All Natural which has a killer tone shift in the middle, followed by the soulful Down To The River which has its gospel percussive middle section, songs continue in this groove filled rock vibe bringing to mind the sands of California, this is perfect music for driving with the top down, loads of sing along choruses and some killer solos means that these tracks really swing with a dirty blues vibe witnessed on Rolls On Through which has an almost Extreme-like vibe. Over the course of 10 tracks Buffalo Summer reveal themselves to be a very tight, hard rocking young band with some killer tunes that would be real rip-roarers in the live arena (the call and response of Ol' Duke). A band that are definitely worth checking out both live and on record as this album is an excellent introduction to the bands funk filled blues rock sound, cracking stuff indeed! 8/10 


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Reviews: Karnivool, Powerwolf, Axxion

Karnivool: Asymmetry (Cymatic Records)

Australian's Karnivool have returned after a five year absence with an absolute stormer of a record, the nu metal influences of Themata are all but gone and the Tool-like progressive soundscapes of Sound Awake are back but they have been pushed right to the limit. The album reminds me of Tesseract's magnificent new album, the band have guitars that instantly switch from clean melodic lines to heavy metallic riffage, some punching drums and low rumbling lead bass but mix it with evocative electronics. There is a heavy Tool influence on this record which is evident from the dark Nachash which follows the electronic instrumental Aum, the influence continues throughout the album with bass heavy riffs, time changes and Ian Kenny's, Maynard style injured wail vocal before turning into Dream Theater on A.M War, this album is an intriguing, challenging but ultimately rewarding listen, the songs are complex but accessible however this is not a band that deal in radio play the songs are all key to the flow of the album. The band work through many styles in this album as well as the ones previously mentioned the bands bring The Mars Volta style oddness to The Refusal, a hypnotic repeating melody on the title track, before some Porcupine Tree style reflective, acoustic based prog follows in the shape of Eidolon and Sky Machine. This is a majestic album that has the right amount of light and shade to mean that it never gets boring or repetitive just an almost perfect progressive rock album that stays with you long after it stops spinning. 9/10       

Powerwolf: Preachers Of The Night (Napalm Records)

German Werewolf metal returns with a vengeance and bucket loads of OTT fury! This is Powerwolf's fifth album and it's more of the same schlock-horror, power metal with the organs of Falk Maria Schlegel at the forefront pounding with the all of the Gothic bluster of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, albeit one performed by Iron Maiden, straight from the opening track Amen & Attack. The fantastic dual guitars Matthew and Charles Greywolf (who also handles the bass) power all of the tracks along at full tilt in true NWOBHM style and mixed with the pulsing keys along with the sound of Attila Dorn's powerful vocals the band are reminiscent of a Gothic Sabaton (As I've said before). From the thrash of the opening to the jack boot metal stomp of Kreuzfeuer which is very Rammstein-like to the chanting finale of Last Of The Living Dead which has all the occultism of Swedes Ghost (B.C). Again the lyrical content focuses Paganism and the Occult although with tongues planted firmly in cheeks on tracks like Cardinal Sin and Lust For Blood still they manage to deliver some seriously strong metal, full of clich├ęs, yes but still it will make you want to raise your fist in the air and yell at the top of your voice. This is the band that Iron Knights (formally Stuka Squadron) should be. However that would mean that Powerwolf would not exist which would be a massive shame. So disengage your brain (or give it to a local voodoo priest), turn up the volume embrace the beast within. 8/10

Axxion: Wild Racer (High Roller Records)

Axxion are a retro-metal band from Canada and like Swedes Enforcer (who started their career on High Roller) they play riff heavy NWOBHM style metal full of dual guitars and helium filled vocals. The album kicks off with the title track which is all choppy riffs/opening scream of the Dirty D Kerr, the lead off solo from Sir Shred, along with the galloping bass of Chris Riley and the one-two pounding of the aptly named drummer Alison Thunderland (former drumme rof fellow Canucks Skull Fist, who brings some much needed glamour to this band of hairy Herbert's). The pace rarely lets up from here with every track full of the same retro riffs and high pitched shrieks, however they do fall upon a problem, they are in a very saturated genre where you need to be special to stand out and unfortunately Axxion are not special they are consistent but that is not enough, yes the riffs are strong and the vocals are glass shattering but they are just another retro metal band looking backwards without moving forwards and even with my love of retro metal this is just a bit too samey for me. 6/10

 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The View From The Muddy Field: Steelhouse Festival (Day 2)

Steelhouse Festival, Hafan-Y-Mor Farm, Aberbeeg, Ebbw Vale

Day 2

A rain soaked night but in the morning there was sunlight with scattered showers predicted so after a hearty breakfast and some more beer inside us we once again ventured into the arena

Blackbyrd

Blackbyrd are a classic rock style band from South Wales with some Alter Bridge tendencies, the songs were again strong and the band provides another nice dose of rock and roll to blow away the hangovers from the night before, a nice short blast of hard rock for lunch. 7/10

Skam

Leicester's Skam are a three piece rock band that deal in no nonsense hard rock in the style of AC/DC with some Foo Fighters melody thrown in. A good band whose set improved as they carried on, they were the first band to suffer from the strong wind that had picked up throughout the day however the bands immediate approach meant that the few that were there to catch them thoroughly enjoyed them and the muscular rock style. 7/10

Trucker Diablo

Hailing from Northern Ireland I have only recently discovered this band so I was keen to see them live as I a m a bit of sucker for Southern style American rock and I'm very glad I did as the band are a rip roaring party from start to finish, yes their between song banter was very haphazard, possibly due to too much alcohol, however there songs are excellent although mainly focusing on girls, booze and trucking the songs were well written, well played and full of BSC style hard rocking although with a bit of Lizzy grit thrown in for good measure. The band worked through their set of Drink Beer, Destroy, Juggernaut, Voodoo, Big Truck, the mega single Drive and a brief snippet of Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Trucker Diablo are a very fun band with some killer songs that deserve to be much bigger than they are, a very good show. 9/10

Vega

More AOR from Vega who are revivalists, unfortunately their saccharine tones were awful in a live setting with the keyboards being too heavy in the mix and the singer was abysmal. It was time for lunch during this so after a song and a half we sought out some of the tasty treats on offer, mainly the Wild Boar and Red Wine pizza. My gig going mates and I sought shelter from the rain with our pizzas while Vega played. 3/10

Heavens Basement

The latest incarnation of this band seem to be its most successful and you can see why, mixing the snotty attitude of G'N'R with the modern rock styling's of Seether or other American acts. This band has had a lot of hype surrounding them and from the opening chords you can see why as the band is full tilt in your face rocking from the word go. Pulling songs from their debut the band roared through Fire, Fire, Nothing Left To Lose and Lights Out In London to a raucous crowd that, as the guitars brought the rock frontman Andrew Buchanan screamed like banshee bringing a huge amount of energy to the bands set, they really stood up to their next big thing tag on this evidence however they need to bring some more songs like Executioner's Day to the party to really be arena headliners. 8/10

Snakecharmer

Snakecharmer are a British hard rock band and a 'supergroup' of sorts. Formed by former Whitesnake men the very underrated guitarist Micky Moody and Neil Murray the bring along Thunder's Harry James on drums, Wishbone Ash's Laurie Wisefield as Moody's six string foil, a keyboard player that was not the usual Adam Wakeman who is probably busy with Black Sabbath, by way the star of the show (other than Moody) is vocalist Chris Ousey who is somewhere between leather lung David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers. Fighting with some sound problems throughout their set, possibly to do with the weather however the band made their way through their own tracks like Accident Prone and To The Rescue but where the crowd really got going was during the Whitesnake covers from the Moody era. With such strong tracks of Ready An' Willing, Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues. There was a break in the proceedings where Moody showed of his slide talent before the set ended with a few stone cold 'snake classics in the shape of Slow An' Easy, Here I Go Again and the encore of Fool For Your Loving ending the set on a high. In the comparison between this and the actual 'Snake then Snakecharmer have Cov & Co pipped in terms of vocal and musical talent, Moody is still a guitar hero, Murray is the strong silent pulse and Ousey has a voice that Cov would kill for all in all they are the ultimate tribute to 'Snake and a great addition to this bill. 8/10

Magnum

British melodic rockers Magnum were up next as the timings were starting to slip, Magnum arrived on the stage later than expected (again weather related) and kicked things off with All The Dreamers, the set was a wide spectrum of songs drawing from their vast career throwing in the classics of How Far Jerusalem, Les Morts Dansant, The Spirit and All England's Eyes. Clarkin is still a guitar hero in the truest sense of the term as witnessed by the riff of Kingdom Of Madness. Bob Catley cuts a small figure but delivers a huge voice however everything was obscured by the over loud keys which meant that many of the songs weren't as impressive as they should have been, the running time issue also reared its head as the band played a three song encore when many assumed they had finished. Still a great addition to the bill but slightly out done by their heavy keys. 7/10

Michael Schenker

So finally it was time for the main event, the German guitar legend was ready to rock Steelhouse and rock it he did. This was the Temple Of Rock/Lovedrive reunion tour shows so naturally the set opened with the Lovedrive before moving into Another Piece Of Meat, this began the start of what was a career retrospective for Schenker bringing songs from The Scorpions, UFO and MSG. The man with the Flying V was backed by Keyboardist/guitarist Wayne Findlay (also with a Flying V) the stinging (sorry) rhythm section of ex-Scorpions men Francis Buchholtz on bass and Herman Rarebell on drums, vocally he couldn't have picked better with Scottish singer Doogie White ably mimicking Klaus Meine, Gary Barden and Phil Mogg while holding his own on the one new track from the Temple Of Rock in the shape of Horizons. Some between song banter followed with a short story about band getting lost (maybe a reason for the lateness) but after the one-two shot of the Scorps, we went into MSG territory with Assault Attack, Armed And Ready before Into The Arena was the first guitar showcase of the night with the three Germans locked in for the instrumental, before this was followed closely by Attack Of The Mad Axeman. There was then a huge chunk of UFO with Shoot Shoot, Only You Can Rock Me, Let It Roll, Too Hot To Handle and Lights Out providing a greatest hits of Schenker's former band unfortunately this run of successes, I am big UFO fan, was followed by The Scorpions' Holiday which is one of my least favourite songs ever but they followed it with Rock You Like A Hurricane (even though Michael was not in the band by this time) which gave Herman the German a chance to instigate some crowd participation and the closing shot of Rock Bottom which had another guitar showcase. It was the end of the main set and in the now relative dryness we were waiting for the encore and like a flash it came in the shape of Blackout and the evergreen Doctor Doctor which sent home the crowd very happy. This was an amazing run through of Schenker's career that kept the older gents and the newer fans happy, the quiet man of rock thanked the crowd and that was that a great end to a great weekend. 9/10

This was a very good weekend of rock music with two amazing headliners and lot of great bands throughout, it was a great warm up for some of the bigger summer festivals and I will definitely do all again next year! 
         

The View From The Muddy Field: Steelhouse Festival (Day 1)

Steelhouse Festival, Hafan-Y-Mor Farm, Aberbeeg, Ebbw Vale

After years of travelling to gigs and festivals it was nice to have one on my doorstep, two days of classic rock in a field in Wales after a week of hot sunshine, so yes you guessed it on the first day (that I was there) it rained very heavily for most of the day, however due to the fact that everything was within walking distance it meant that there was time to retreat from the rain. Seeing as this festival is in its infancy there were a few teething problems, one was the incredibly rocky path leading to the top of the mountain where the festival was held, two was the sanitation there was just not enough toilets!! (Which can be a BIG problem) and three was the supply problems. However this was made up for by its intimacy, the general relaxed feel and a stellar line up of bands.
Steelhouse is a classic rock festival so the bands were not going to appeal to Dimmu Borgir fans (on the whole) however with the mighty Saxon and Michael Schenker heading we were in for a real treat. So at 12:30 we took a short walk to the arena and got down to business.

Day 1

Fireroad

First up were BOTB winners Fireroad who played a hard edged brand of Foo Fighter-like radio rock, they were solid enough but nothing special however there local fan base was out in force and were cheering the band who reciprocated with some on stage banter and some strong songs that warmed the crowd up nicely. 6/10

Dead Shed Jokers

DSJ can be classed as alternative rock if we're pigeon-holing, bringing in some classic metal with big heaps of QOTSA style fuzzed up garage rock to provide deafening aural assault the crowd lapped it up and the band were a more of left field choice that went down well converting a lot of the hardcore classic rockers in the crowd with their odd vocal lines and almost voodoo like rhythms that appealed to those who partook in some 'gardening' 7/10

Due to other pressing matters e.g. torrential downpours I missed most of Hand Of Dimes set but from what I heard former Skin frontman Neville MacDonald was belting out some high quality harmonica drenched blues rock with gusto, one to check out in drier conditions
As the heavens descended we ventured back in for one of the bands that I was really looking forward to seeing, the hotly tipped The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement

The five-piece came on to the stage with no fanfare and looking like a bunch of art students all bohemian clothes and odd headgear however when the clean Californian sound of Luke and Paul's guitars come in over the driving rhythm of Nick and Damon the band evoke memories of days past listening to The Black Crowes with whom TTM share a lot of similarities mostly in the scarred, scotch soaked vocals of frontman Phil who definitely moves like Jagger contorting his wiry frame into all sorts of mad shapes while the band rock out in their Gypsy-blues rock way. They definitely live up to the hype as their hour set is mesmerising to watch, the fire these men have is incredible every riff, every solo, every freak out is done with pure passion, it's like discovering a band on the brink of greatness, the first true standout moment. 9/10

However then we had:

Anvil

The Canadian also-rans first time on Welsh soil must have been quite a rush for Anvil however I doubt frontman/guitarist Lips knew where the hell he was! I've seen Anvil before and they didn't impress me then and they  still don't Lips' silly between song banter was only matched by his silly songs with their alliterative names and not mention the 'famous' dildo solo during Mothra which still seems to go on forever. Despite the furore their movie caused and the fact that they are revered by a lot of the metal and rock community for sticking with their chosen career through adversity, I can't always help but think there is a reason why some bands languish in obscurity, although maybe I'm just a snob...6/10

FM

So time for the AOR part of the evening breaking up the relentless metallic attack with some smoothly delivered prime radio rock. FM have had somewhat of a re-insurgence in the past few years mainly due to some strong albums and an appearance at Download where they filled in for Ratt and were rapturously received. The key to FM's popularity has always been Steve Overland's voice which is still as smooth as silk, yes the hair has gone but that voice remains. For those who enjoy AOR FM were manna from heaven filling the arena with their huge sing along hooks. There was waving, singing and lighters all while having the Welsh summer come down on our heads. If AOR is your bag then FM are the top of the heap, less cheesy than some of their compatriots (Looking at you Mr Jovi) and still releasing quality albums and playing slick, professional gigs. 8/10

Saxon

So now it was time for the main event, Biff and the boy's first show in Wales for a few years and they brought their European stage set up with them, after the intro of Procession it was all hands to battle stations as they plunged into the thrash-like riff of Sacrifice from their most recent album of the same name, heads banged, fists raised and horns pointed as this was followed by Power & The Glory and Heavy Metal Thunder. We had flames, we had smoke we had the band giving everything they had the twin guitar play of Scarratt and Quinn was smoking hot throughout as was the bass pulse of Nibbs Carter and the skin smashing of Nigel Glockler (who got his own solo complete with rising drums and his name in lights). We were told this concert was being filmed for a documentary and so with that the crowd picked And The Bands Played On  and the juggernaut tore on (like a certain princess) The Eagle Has Landed got the old school fans hot under the collar before Solid Ball Of Rock and Stand Up And Fight smashed out with Biff in full flight, his voice is still perfect and he is the ultimate frontman, witty, charming and a little bit nuts. The set then went into greatest hits territory with Dallas 1PM followed quickly by 747 Strangers In the Night during which the massive Eagle light rig was revealed and was followed by a thousand camera flashes, this was the first time the Eagle has appeared in the UK in approximately 20 years, and there it stayed resolutely at the back of the stage for set closer Wheels Of Steel. The crowd were wet, tired, hoarse and begging for more and after  a brief rest bite the band returned for a three song encore despite an 11pm curfew. First was the odd choice of Crusader which was followed by the two stone cold classics of fans anthem Denim And Leather and the turbo charged Princess Of The Night. With the final chord played the crowd erupted (the biggest of the day, perhaps the weekend) this was truly an all or nothing performance and Saxon showed once again why they remain one of best Heavy Metal bands the UK has ever produced. Top quality metal and a perfect way to round off the first day, maybe with a reception like that they will visit this side of the Seven bridge more often. 10/10