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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Another Point Of View: Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost, Lacuna Coil and Katatonia – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

Paul casts his critical eye over a night of doom metal.

A midweek trip to the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton to celebrate 25 years of Paradise Lost, supported by the Italians Lacuna Coil and Swedish doom merchants Katatonia. Both bands cite Paradise Lost as a major influence although it is worth noting that Katatonia have been around for 20 years and Lacuna Coil celebrate their 18th anniversary next year. One of the major points of interest is the stability in these bands. Katatonia’s core has been intact since 1999 with the last line up changes four years ago, Lacuna Coil have had the same line up since 1998, and four of the five members of Paradise Lost have been in the band since 1988.

Katatonia

Having seen the Swedes on four previous occasions I knew what to expect from these guys. Late last year I saw them twice on their headline tour for the excellent Dead End Kings album at the Islington Academy and The Fleece and both times they were fantastic. With a huge back catalogue there was no shortage of quality. This time however, they had opted to play the whole of their 2003 offering, Viva Emptiness, as a 10th looked very appetising, as this is a very good album. However, like many albums, playing it live can highlight weaker tracks which are masked when listening elsewhere. The band opened with the album closer Inside the City of Glass and proceeded to perform it in reverse order. This was a smart move as it meant a set which built to a climax with fan favourites Ghost of the Sun, Sleeper and Criminals. Highlights included a stunning version of Evidence, the beautiful Omerta and Burn the Remembrance. This band doesn’t do huge posturing or have a massive stage presence, relying very much on the quality of the music to draw the crowd in. And here was the problem for me. Whilst Jonas Renkse’s melancholic delivery was pitch perfect as always, Niklas Sandin’s bass was turned up far too high in the mix, and the crushing vibration combined with Daniel Liljekvist’s exemplary drumming meant that the layered and delicate guitar work of Anders Nytstrom and Per Eriksson was lost for much of the set. This is an essential component of Katatonia’s sound and whilst others in my party didn’t feel the same, for me it detracted somewhat from the performance. Of course, it could have been that this was the first date of this run, and that some of the songs were being performed for the first time (ever in some cases I’m sure) but overall the band didn’t quite do justice to a very good album. However, I still can’t wait to see them again; hopefully
performing the Dethroned and Uncrowned album in its entirety instead. 7/10

Lacuna Coil

I’d only seen Lacuna Coil once before and that was at Sonisphere in 2010 so it with anticipation that I waited for the Italians to take the stage … and they didn’t disappoint. With more room on stage to move around than Katatonia, and substantially more lighting which was used to the full, they opened up with one of four tracks from the excellent Dark Adrenaline album I Don’t Believe in Tomorrow with the dual vocals of Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia combining superbly. One thing I always forget with this band is how damn heavy they are live. Using synthesised backing when necessary, the twin guitars of Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi cut some serious riffage throughout their set. A second track from the latest album Kill The Light followed before a couple of fan favourites from Karmacode and Comalies, Fragments of Truth and Heaven’s a Lie respectively kept the tempo high. The crowd, which had increased substantially by now, reacted very favourably with massive ovations and much fist pumping. Ferro may not be the best vocalist in the world, especially with Scabbia the main focal point of the band (for reasons that escape me), but he has boundless energy; constantly encouraging the crowd and leaping around the stage to good effect. The band’s driving force is bassist and main songwriter Marco Coti Zelati and drummer Cristiano Mozzati, and they kept the engine room ticking over nicely. Swamped was followed by the stunning Senzafine which was sung in Italian and then Without Fear from Karmacode. By now the audience was singing along and the band was having a great time on stage with broad smiles from all. A superb trio to finish, Intoxicated and the rocking Trip The Darkness led to the finale of Spellbound from Shallow Life, and a deserved ovation from the Black Country crowd. Lacuna Coil confirmed that they have finished work on a new album so hopefully a tour will be forthcoming next year. One not to miss. 9/10
 
Paradise Lost

Time for the headliners. The last time I saw Paradise Lost was in the Great Hall in Cardiff two years ago where their evening was destroyed by the sound gremlins. Vocalist Nick Holmes ended up storming off stage that night after his microphone picked up the transmissions from local cab companies (I kid you not, it was like the scene at the air force base in Spinal Tap). No such problems tonight as the band were on fire and stormed through a ninety minute set which contained a range of classics from their 25 year history and from each of their thirteen albums. Kicking off with Mortals Watch The Day from 1994’s Shades of God, the band were on inspired form throughout. The rhythm section of bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Adrian Erlandsson anchor the dark and doom laden sound of the band, and stand out particularly with the earlier works when the band were amongst the leading lights of the doom/death genre. They moved straight into So Much Is Lost from Host before Remembrance from Icon gave way to the title track from Gothic, the band’s second album and an all time gothic metal classic. Vocalist Nick Holmes, one of metal’s most underrated front men demonstrated his death metal qualities on this track, which was heavier than an anvil encased in concrete. Holmes has a wickedly dry sense of humour, and used it throughout, generating laughter from the fully engaged crowd. A quick blast from Draconian Times followed with Enchantment, rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy mouthing the words and generally rocking out, whilst lead guitarist Greg Mackintosh picked out solo after solo. The title tracks from Faith Divides Us and latest release Tragic Idol were followed by Never For The Damned from the underrated In Requiem before a blistering version of Isolate from Symbol Of Life. The first of two tracks from One Second, Say Just Words closed the main set. Throughout the evening Paradise Lost had numerous visual displays on a screen at the rear of the stage, with each track having separate illustrations linked to the relevant album. Clearly a lot of thought had gone into this and it was impressive. The band concluded the evening with a four song encore, all rarities. The encore kicked off with Rotting Misery from 1990’s Lost Paradise, all doom and death growl with possibly the heaviest sound of the night; the floor was shaking. Diehards around the audience beamed with delight as the title track from One Second was followed by The Belief from Icon and the set closer Over The Madness from Paradise Lost. A stunning evening from one of the UK’s most influential yet underrated bands that were on top form. 10/10

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Another Point Of View: Ozric Tentacles (Review By Paul)

Paul casts his critical eye over Space Rock marvels Ozric Tentacles;

Ozric Tentacles – The Globe 27 October

Several weeks ago my boss, who is partial to a bit of space rock amongst his hugely eclectic musical tastes asked if I fancied going to see Ozric Tentacles. I have to admit that, although I had an idea of who this band was, it was hell of a long time since I could honestly say I’d heard any of their stuff. My hazy recollections were of Hawkind without words. Hey, I love Hawkwind so without hesitation I agreed and the night was suddenly upon us. A quick stop in the Andrew Buchan bar was very pleasant and a must for any real ale fans. I know I’m digressing but I don’t care. Two pints from the Rhymney Brewery for under a fiver. Result!

Forked Tongue

Anyway, we arrived at the Globe in time to catch Forked Tongue giving it a right good go. A cross between Skindred, Rage Against The Machine with massive space rock and reggae influences, they definitely had a hard core groove to their sound. Unfortunately they suffered from being the opening act and had to work hard to impress the hardy souls who had ventured out in ‘the storm’. I’m not particularly familiar with the terminology that describes this type of music; fusion I suppose is the best description. Full of energy, vocalist Pezmo gave his all and by the end of their set, more and more of the audience were starting to cut a shape or two as the groove driven by the drums and bass section of Vinny and Greg became quite infectious. A brave cover of Feur Frei, yes, sung in German, ended their set to a decent ovation. 7/10

I’m going to skip over the next act, as Israeli techno delivered by one man and his apple is just not my thing and move on to the main act.

Ozric Tentacles

Ozric Tentacles for the uninitiated were touring as part of their 30th Formed in Somerset in 1983, the band have released over 25 albums and amassed a hardcore following. The group have sold over a million albums worldwide, and are driven forward by the only constant band member, guitarist and keyboardist Ed Wynne. However, the band is no longer based in Wurzel country, having settled in Colorado many years ago. Now, I have to admit, that I know very few of their songs by name, which is probably unsurprising considering that they are totally instrumental so I won’t try to impress you (or not) by trying. Suffice to say that The Ozrics got straight down to business and proceeded to drive out and hour and a half of space rock combined with funk, jazz fusion, dub and reggae. The band is pushed forward by bassist Brandi Wynne who combined superbly with new recruit Bal√°zs Szende and percussionist Paul Hankin with thumping basslines throughout. For those of you old enough think Gong and you won’t be far away. Swirling keyboards from Silas Wynne, son of Ed (and whose biog on the band’s web page included olives and hummus amongst his favourite foods – you get the picture) all added to the psychedelic mixture. You will not be surprised to learn that The Ozrics music contains more time changes than a Cardiff Bus timetable. This combined with complex arrangements and regular key signature changes made it an interesting gig. As well as the progressive rock influences, the music included many electronic elements and effects with dub and techno influences running throughout. This was supported by a huge visual display behind them; a constant changing kaleidoscope as well as flying creatures of all sorts; a bat and pteranodon amongst them. Floating heads and all manner of other hippy induced bollocks raced across the screen, tied perfectly to the music’s tempo. This was a highly professional and tight performance, by a band clearly at the top of their game. If you fancy listening to them, start with Paper Monkeys from 2012 it will give you a pretty clear idea. Overall, this was a cracking night out with superb musicianship on display. A very healthy crowd provided suitable encouragement and the band responded in kind. All in all an excellent bit of entertainment which could be massively enhanced if it was 2am at a festival and you were completely off your tits. 8/10

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Mouths Of Metal

Mouths Of Metal is a new feature that that features am interview with band. First up is Venrez who you may have seen being reviewed on this blog. Here's what the guys had to say:

Please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are Venrez?

The band consists of lead singer Ven, backing vocalist & guitar player Jason Womack, formerly the basses for Julliette Lewis and The Licks, guitarist Alex Kane, formerly of LSD(Life, Sex & Death) front man for Anti Product, Bassist Michael Bradford, childhood friend of Womack, and drummer Ed Davis, formerly of Julliette Lewis and The Licks as well.  Ven writes the lyrics, Jason writes the music and produces the albums.

What are you about as a band - what makes you guys tick?

Taking responsibility for delivering a message by lyrics that not only talk about life experience, stories to learn from but taking a shot at government and corporate greed.  We live to be on the road and putting it out there live for the fans.

Please tell us about your latest album 'American Illusion'. It's interesting to read that this is very much a natural, organic album as opposed to thriving on technology. How was the recording process for you as individuals and as a band? Did you enjoy it?

Although we do use Pro Tools HD in our studio, we are a bit of a throw back to the 70's in regards to the fact we record our music live.  There is no copy pasting going on and our live shows will back up our recordings.  American Illusion was the first album we recorded with our own gear.  We recorded it over a 4 month period at our leisure and it was a very relaxed and positive process.

I like the fact that you guys are hard rock but there's subtle grunge and stoner vibes going on.  Was this deliberate or something that happened naturally?

Well Jason writes the music and was born in the late 70's.  So there is a big influence there, along with The Jesus and Mary Chain and the bands where also influenced by them.  The Venrez sound is all natural.  We don't do anything that is not real.  The fans seem to really get that, and I am convinced that is why we have been a band that has had the fortune to be successful in a world where it is next to impossible for a new rock band to make it.

You've recently played shows with Slash featuring Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy. How did those shows go for Venrez, did you have much time to hang out with Slash and Myles?

The Slash tour was amazing.  The venues were all sold out for every show and we were received the best by his fans of any previous tour we have done.  Slash hung out with us a bit after the Park City, Utah show.  He is a very cool guy and amazed me at how fresh he is after a show when he just kills it up there for 2 hours night after night.  We hung out a bit with Myles before the last show in Las Vegas.  He is also an amazing artist and person.  Before the last song of their set every show, he put a shout out to the opening bands.  I have never seen that before ever. The gig was streamed live all over the world so the bands really took it up a few notches. We just went to another level that show and I just cannot wait to get back up on stage with the boys on this tour in November to continue what began on the last Slash show.

Unforeseen has been released as a music video.  Are there any plans for new videos - Silver and Gold would be an interesting choice perhaps?

Well we did make two music videos from the album. "Sanctity" is the second video and it will release on October 25th.  It was directed by Nicholas Cage's brother, Christopher Coppola. He is a dear friend of mine and when he first heard the record he really identified with the lyrics.  I think our fans will love it.  Silver & Gold is a song I wrote after I saw the film "300".  It's about ancient wars, babies thrown over the cliff upon birth if they do not meet the warrior status and the horror of war in those times.  It's one of the band's favourite songs and a music video of it would be very cool but also it would demand a very high budget to make the right video for the song.

Venrez heads out on a European tour with Buckcherry and Hardcore Superstar in November.  Are there any places you're looking forward to playing and anywhere you haven't played yet?

We always look forward to returning to the UK and Italy where we have been a few times before, and are well received.  We get to play Germany, Switzerland, Austria and N. Ireland for the first time.

Ven.  You're quoted as being the Howard Stern of rock n' roll. How did this come about and have you and Howard met?

I look very similar to him with the curly hair and sunglasses i wear, due to extreme light sensitivity to my eyes.  It's my look and has been my look for many years.  I have never tried to look like him.  But i have been mistaken for him for years now and since the TV show, its really ramped up quite a bit.  I have gotten used to it, but clearly would prefer to be recognized for myself not him.  We have never met but i do admire his talent, and the hard work for years he did to get to where he now is.

What does the future hold for Venrez, are there plans for future releases and new tours in 2014?

 American Illusion just released on July 30th of this year.  So we plan to tour well into 2014 behind the album.  We have recorded several demos of new songs and will record another album sometime next year.

 
Thanks for your time guys, all the best for the upcoming Buckcherry tour.

 

Friday, 25 October 2013

View From The Back Of The Room: Alter Bridge

Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Halestorm Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

Into Cardiff's major venue (apparently) for a night of modern American metal, this was as well attended gig especially by members of the Musipedia who were out in force. After a small wait it was time to get going:

Halestorm

First out were Halestorm who immediately burst into their feminist anthem Love Bites (But So Do I) which is all power riffage and snarled vocals from the very visually appealing Ms Lzzy Hale, (leather hot pants is a look many singers can't pull off) who has a more raw voice live than usual especially on Mz. Hyde and Freak Like Me, next was a drum solo which went into a cover of Priest's Dissident Aggressor which to be honest was not needed but then the set finished strongly with I Miss The Misery and the mega ballad Here's To Us. The set was over quickly with five tracks of the bands greatest hits getting everyone ready for what was to come. 7/10

Shinedown

So Shinedown were up next and things started well with their big rocker Devour which started things off in muscular style and then...a break...the band went off stage and a intro tape played which totally killed any momentum and led into Sound Of Madness which I will admit is a great song and was then followed by...another intro tape...this started to get worrying as it seemed to be a running theme, the next two songs both had long taped intros which did nothing for the set at all, neither by the way did the long rambling speeches about faith and humanity, the only things they did do was annoy me to hell as they took up the space for more (rockier) songs. Still weirdly the crowd seemed to go nuts for every song, maybe it’s just me then. The band came back with Diamond Eyes (Boom Lay Boom Lay Boom) which again is a great song but was followed by too much faffing about and every song was marred by frontman Brent's use of backing tapes to increase the range of his voice, in some places it did sound like listening to a CD rather than a live show. Another two ballads including the massively over played Second Chance came in quick succession and then the part where I physically left the venue, this was during their cover of Skynryd's Simple Man which is awful mainly due to the fact that I've seen the same song done 100 times better by the band that wrote it in the same venue. Finally came Bully which ended the disjointed set, yes the songs are good in places and if they had had a similar set to Halestorm where they just came out and played we could have forgiven the taped vocal help but with the breaks and their reliance on ballads it meant that for me it was a very frustrating set to watch. 4/10

Alter Bridge

After the dejection I had after Shinedown Alter Bridge needed to blow me away, luckily they are fucking Alter Bridge and all doom and gloom disappeared with the opening thrash riffage of Addicted To Pain which was quickly followed by White Knuckles this was one-two punch that managed to stagger the crowd before Come To Life and Before Tomorrow Comes brought the uplifting euphoria. These first four songs show everything that Alter bridge is about with Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall holding down the bottom end, the guitar god Tremonti riffed like hell and soloed like a demon and was backed ably by the rhythm guitar of Myles Kennedy who also shone on the mic with his velvet voice. The set was drawn mainly from the last three albums with Brand New StartCry Of Achilles (which is modern classic in the making) and then the haunting Ghost Of Days Gone By which moved into one of my favourites Ties That Bind and then Tremonti took the lead vocals on the heavy Waters Rising which had its live debut tonight. The band have little crowd interaction they just shut up and play something that Shinedown failed to realise. The band took a small break where they told us that the next song was put back in the set due to fan demand and with that the opening blast of Metalingus filled the arena and was met with a roar from the members of the WWE Universe that were in attendance! With the metal blast out of the way next it was time to open up and feel with the majestic Blackbird causing a mass sing along which moved into an acoustic version of Watch Over You which was a duet between Myles and Lzzy and signalled the end of the main set with the euphoric Rise Today and Open Your Eyes. The lights went down and we waited the band arrived again and the trippy Slip Into The Void kicked off the encore which was brought to a close with Isolation which is probably the best track on ABIII. This was a great set filled with the right amount of light and shade and it showed why Alter Bridge are one of the best bands around. It's just a shame so many left after Shinedown's woeful performance; I do sometimes think it may be me...9/10   
      

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson, Colston Hall, Bristol

After a pre gig steak dinner (and of course a couple of pints) we made our way tot he still visually striking Colston Hall for a night that promised to be interesting. I've followed Wilson since he was in Porcupine Tree and I genuinely believe that The Raven That Refused To Sing is probably his finest work and I'm sure he thinks that too. As we entered the hall, we were told that show will begin at 8 and finish promptly at 10:10, a nice 2 hour set from Wilson and his all-star band. As we took our seat we were greeted by the projected footage of a street, with cars moving around people walking back and forth that as the time went on all got a bit eerie as a busker appeared and proceeded to smoke and stand around before finally tuning the guitar and setting up just as Wilson himself came onto the stage with an acoustic guitar and proceed join in with the man in the video as part of a string rendition of PT's Trains which is one of my favourite tracks so a good start, then as the band came on stage they moved into Luminol which was the first excuse for the band to show off their chops, they are truly a stunning group of musicians, the drums of Chad Wackerman are amazing, merging power and technique (what else would you expect from a Zappa alumni), the keys of Adam Holzman added jazz, blues, prog and massive Hammond driven atmosphere to every track and were a major part of the sound, as was the bass of Nick Beggs (yes him from Kajagoogoo) who's meticulous bass playing was a marvel especially his Chapman stick slap playing on Holy Drinker. Guthrie Govan as usual was mesmerising on the guitar, he is one of the best guitarists not only in Britain but possibly in the world, his solos were jaw dropping and he worked well as tandem with Wilson. Last but not least was the sax and flutes of Theo Travis added a new dimension to the sound which harks back to King Crimson and even Jethro Tull in places. Wilson himself was bag of energy jumping around in the instrumental breaks, moving between guitar, bass and his keyboard set up, I was quite surprised how many times Wilson didn't have an instrument considering how solo his records have been in the past.

After the 15 minute opening the shorter Postcard followed introduced by Wilson's self-depreciating humour where he mentioned that we would be hearing some new material later in the night, however first was The Holy Drinker and the dreamy but ominous Drive Home. More Wilson banter followed this near 20 minutes of music as he introduced the new song which we were told was 15 minutes long and not finished but it was pretty good and bodes well for the new album (expected this year). This was the end of part one of the set, as the audience caught their breath a sheet fell in front of the stage and onto it was the intro video for The Watchmaker (cue an exodus for the toilets, for most of the audience your hardened reviewer excluded) The band then came back and plunged straight into song itself which brings me to my only criticism, during this song the lights and video footage was used to great effect, however when the screen was down the video was obscured by the retina scorching lights which for me was major downer as I wanted to see the visuals and the light show but I found that the one was more prominent than the other. Ok so mini moan over and back to the show we had Index and Sectarian and the curtain fell again for the final furlong. Harmony Korine followed (Steven Wilson's hipster moment) before an edited (to 15 minutes) version of Raider II and The Raven That Refused To Sing brought the main set to a melancholic but strangely euphoric end. 

 Another break another chance to regroup and then the final return, the end came with one of his earliest solo tracks and the closest thing he has to a hit in the PT classic Radioactive Toy which brought the house down. That was it, it was over an amazing ride through the multi-faceted sound of one of the most talented performers in British music and this was a musical experience that left you in awe of what was unfolding in front of you. Half way through the set Wilson encouraged the crowd to cheer a bit louder, Steven this wasn't because we weren't enjoying the show it was because you and your band managed to silence an audience with your music. Well done you sir! 10/10   
     

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Reviews: Motorhead, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Red Fang

Motorhead: Aftershock (UDR)

21 albums into their career and you know kind of what to expect with Motorhead and that is hyper-speed rock and roll and that is what you get on Aftershock from the opening bars of Heartbreaker through the heavy blues of Lost Woman Blues and End Of Time which does a good job of ripping off the Ace Of Spades! As usual Mikkey Dee continually smashes the hell out of his drums on every track as Phil riffs and solo's like a man possessed and Lemmy himself beats up his bass and sounds in fine fettle as he growls every line, now as I said most of the album is your normal Motorhead fireworks but the band do mix I up a bit on this album with the almost psychedelic Dust And Glass which features Lemmy singing (!?) and has a hell of a guitar solo from Phil but as you relax your head is again smashed by Going To Mexico (which conjures up images of Lemmy in a sombrero). After 21 albums and nearly 50 years Motorhead are still one of the most distinguishable bands in rock and metal, yes they have had a few duff albums (Lemmy will admit that) but since 2004's Inferno the band have hit somewhat of a purple patch, yes they will always sound like Motorhead but that's part of the appeal, no nonsense rock n roll played with more gusto than bands a third of their age! Aftershock is yet another quality addition to the Motorhead catalogue. 8/10     

Fleshgod Apocalypse: Labyrinth (Nuclear Blast)

Italian's Fleshgod Apocalypse are now onto their third album and from the opening track Kingborn you can see why the band are being hailed as one of the leaders in their genre. The band have some massive classical piano runs, operatic backing vocals from soprano Veronica Bordacchini that wouldn't seem out of place in a Puccini opera but they counteract this with light-speed wall of sound riffage, some chain gun blast beating, face melting soloing and growls that come straight from the bowels of hell! The album is based on the legend of the labyrinth of  Knossos and is conceptually played out like and opera, could this be the first tech-metal opera? Anyway as I said the playing is simply amazing, the drums of Francesco Paoli could level a building and are up their Mario Duplantier in terms of pure gut churning brutality, the dual guitar attack of Christiano Trionfera and Tommaso Riccardi is breath taking in places full of laser guided ferocity and precision, enhanced by Riccardi's vocals demonic vocals, which he shares with bassist Paolo Rossi. The band's real power comes from their orchestral backing which is present throughout and swells the band’s sound to something more than your normal technical death metal fodder, they are a musical tour-de-force and through the 11 tracks on this album you are taken on a journey with no let-up that leaves you gasping for air at the end and that's exactly what an album should do. There is a lot to absorb on first listen but after you have been aurally abused a few times you realise that this album is nothing short of amazing. 10/10 

Red Fang: Whales And Leeches (Relapse)

Red Fang are now on their third album and they still are treading the same down and dirty stoner furrow they have been in since their debut. They are very reminiscent of touring buddies Mastodon with some heavy down tuned bass from Aaron Beam, fuzzy guitars from Bryan Giles and David Sullivan as well as some powerhouse drumming from John Sherman who tries to rattle your brain cells. The band have the great line between shit kicking punk-metal on Blood Like Cream and No Hope and head melting stoner rock on Dawn Rising and Failure the band are very like Mastodon in terms of presentation they even have the dual vocal with both Beam and Giles contributing shouts and howls to the album, however the band also have elements of The Sword on tracks like Behind The Light. This is yet another good album from Red Fang who have really stepped up their came in terms of song-writing the arrangements are in places complex and in others straight to the point jugular, a good album. 7/10





Saturday, 12 October 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Persian Risk

The NWOBHM was a time the revolutionised British metal as well as the springboard for Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Def Leppard, however for every band that 'made it' there were many that didn't, however nostalgia is a powerful thing and Cardiff NWOBHM legends Persian Risk have come back with not only a new album but also a date in the town where they were formed. We also got a special treat with a special guest appearance by founding Guitarist Phil Campbell who is currently Lemmy's axeman. But more on that later:

Switchblade Overdrive

As we descended into the bowels of Bogiez we were introduced to Switchblade Overdrive who stormed the stage with some heavy metal fury. The ploughed through some heavy Metallica style metal with lots of grit but not really a lot of power. Yes they played very well, and the singer had a strong voice but their sound didn't really have enough oomph. Still they were a good warm up for the main event and any band that has the balls to cover Maiden must know how good they are (only really Triaxis can get away with it) with a little bit more power to their sound Switchblade Overdrive will go far. 7/10

Persian Risk

So this was it, as Bogiez filled out with those that have been there since the beginning, some of whom were ex-roadies and 'true' fans. So those of us that have never seen the band were waiting with anticipation. After the band came on stage to a hero’s welcome we knew we had nothing to fear as from the opening track Hang On the band proceeded to blow Bogiez away, the guitar of Howie G brought that classic sounding NWOBHM riffs, throughout and the bass and drums of Wayne Banks and Tim Brown brought the thunder with their galloping rhythms and even a solo for both respectively. The band stormed through their set with aplomb led ably by frontman Carl Sentence who has an amazing voice and is the brainchild of the reunion due to his long-term residency as the bands singer, he has very powerful voice that is up there with Biff, Rob and Bruce. Taking most of their tracks from their second album released last year they have written some hard rocking material that got the big crowd pumping their fists and shouting along with every line! The set came to a close with a killer cover of Dio's Stand Up And Shout and Persian Risk left the admittedly partisan audience wanting more, and they weren't left waiting too long. After a brief confab at the side of the stage Mr Campbell came back on with the band and they kicked into two of the tracks that he wrote in his time with the band which got the faithful full of beans and rocking like it was 1980! A great end to a great set, this was a triumphant return from the band that will forever be part of Welsh rock history, come back soon guys! 9/10  

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Reviews: Trivium, The Answer, Death Dealer

Trivium: Vengeance Falls (Roadrunner)

Following swiftly on from In Waves which was an album that many saw as a massive return to form and also huge step forward in Trivium's evolution, the band have changed very little on Vengeance Falls they still have some simply staggering guitar riffs and solos from Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu, the opening track Brave This Storm has a distinctly djent palm muted riff that came on about during the last album. The bass of Paulo Gregoletto and the drums of Nick Augusto are both amazing, with Augusto just drumming like a demon throughout! The album is a continuation of Trivium's emergence as a band with their own identity after a career trying to find it; the title track has all of their hallmarks with heavy verses and a huge sing along chorus that really shows off how good Heafy's vocals have become, he has taken his singing to a new level, gone are the days of The Crusade where he was aping Papa Het', here he has found his own style effortlessly blending clean and harsh vocals with at least another octave to his clean vocals, he's able to hit notes that I have never heard him hit on any of the previous albums! Part of this all round improvement could be because of producer David Draiman's, he has put a lot of his own influences on this album with some massive sing along hooks, some excellent riffs and melodies that hark back to his own band and a production is crisp and modern. What is abundantly clear (and was also pretty transparent on In Waves) is that Trivium are now making music for themselves and not because its popular, with tracks like the amazing Strife the very Disturbed-sounding No Way To Heal (which is only lacking Draiman's signature monkey howls), the thrash along At The End Of This War which starts off with gentle acoustics and then proceeds to rip your face off. Trivium have now managed to create 3 amazing albums in Ascendency, In Waves and now Vengeance Falls which is good going for any band, add that their catalogue of anthems, their unmistakeable live talent and when you couple this with the current drought of headline material bands, the Florida natives look set to be finishing festivals with a bang in the next few years! 9/10    

The Answer: New Horizon (Napalm)

Northern Irish rockers The Answer are now on their fourth album and they have honed their craft to a point where quality can be assured. So again on this album we see Cormac, Paul, Micky and James busting out the hard rock grooves. The album is again pitched to the fans of swaggering hard rock pitched between Zeppelin's thunder see the opening title track, Free's bluesiness, some funk on Leave With Nothin' and even some 90's style rock that would be at home on a Thunder or Little Angels album, this must be deliberate, as the album is produced by Toby Jepson of Little Angels (who also co-writes 5 of the tracks). Ok some may say The Answer are bringing nothing new to the table but they have a formula that works and it is at its best here. The guitars of Paul Mahon are excellent bringing the rock riffs and bluesy melodies and a killer solo on Speak Now, the rhythm section is a powerhouse driving things along nicely see the percussive Somebody Else and Neeson's vocals are nothing short of Spectacular on the track of the same name and also on the Zep-like ballad Call Yourself A Friend. This is another hard rock master class by The Answer who continue to be leagues away from any of their compatriots and will only get better, this is a must for fans and anyone that likes a little hard rock boogie (having Stu is optional). 8/10

*I also need to mention the front cover which is the final project of the legendary Storm Thorgerson a man who produced some of the most iconic album covers of all time and will be greatly missed by the music community. RIP Storm thanks for all the memories*

Death Dealer: War Master (Self Released) 

With a name like Death Dealer I'll give you one guess to what kind of music they play, well the answer comes in the first thirty seconds of the opening track Death Dealer which features furiously fast shredding and a scream that could shatter glass! This is true heavy metal full of songs about war, death and cars played at high speed with all of the bombast of Painkiller era Priest; Rippers band Beyond Fear and Teutonic power metallers Primal Fear. Now there is one more influence that hits you like a mace and that is Manowar, this is because Death Dealer's drummer is former Manowar man Rhino and one of the six-stringers is Manowar founder Ross 'The Boss' Friedman, so the powerful riffage that is present on the early Manowar albums is evident here. Ross takes a bit of backseat in terms of solo's as he leaves that to one of the bands founders Stu Marshall who pulls out every trick in the book during his face melting solo spots, however the band are not all about the shredding they have a killer rhythm section with Rhino charging the drums like his animal namesake and bassist Mike Davies plucking the four strings like a demon rumbling bones along the way. Last but not least is frontman Sean Peck who has simply staggering voice that is part Tim Ripper Owens, part Eric Adams. So with all that out of the way let’s get down to the music well right from the off its full steam ahead with Death Dealer moving like light speed, then Never To Kneel is a pounding, bouncy anthem with loads of shout along potential, then comes the title track which has all the pomposity of Ram It Down. Rest bite comes with Children Of The Flame which is ballad straight out of the Dio songbook. However this doesn't last long as the following five tracks proceed to rip your head off until the final track Wraiths In The Wind finishes the album with the Accept style euphoric chorus. This is a killer debut from Death Dealer, now how do we get them to Bloodstock!? 9/10    

The View From The Back Of The Room: White Wizzard

White Wizzard, Monument & Blackwolf; Bogiez Cardiff

Weird things happen at gigs sometimes and the White Wizzard show at Bogiez was one that maybe historic for all the wrong reasons, but first let's back track and start at the beginning:

BlackWolf

The last few times I've seen Bristol's Blackwolf they have really impressed me with their classic hard rock sound full of swagger, groove and a hell of a lot of rock crunch. The hard rock back beat is provided by Ben Webb and Thomas Lennox Brown on bass and drums respectively they are topped off by the Malcolm Young worshiping rhythm guitar of Jason Cronin. The soulful grooves then are the other side to the band’s sound and come from the fluid lead guitar of John Greenhill and the great vocals of Scott Sharp. The band played a couple songs of their album with the excellent Stairway Ticket being one of the highlights. Blackwolf continue to impress and just need that one big support slot to be boosted to that next level. 7/10

Monument

So this is where things get complicated, Monument are British trad-metal band formed by Vocalist Peter Ellis after he left White Wizzard, as my friend (and fellow contributor) Paul explained it to his wife earlier in the day Monument sound like Iron Maiden on speed. This proved to be an accurate representation as the riffs fly at lightning speed and the dual guitar harmonies of Lewis and Dan soar above the galloping bass and drums of Matt Scott and Matt C. With tracks like the pulverising Fatal Attack along with Midnight Queen and Rock The Night (not the Europe version) the band had the crowd eating out of their hand, raising their fists and shouting along with every air-siren-like note from Ellis who is a great frontman and has a killer voice that is like Dickinson in his prime. A great set form Monument that also included a cover of Deep Purple's Black Night that fits surprisingly well in the NWOBHM style. 8/10

White Wizzard

After Monuments triumphant set...nothing, well lots of tuning up from the two guitarists, the drummer and Bassist/band leader Jon Leon. Then we got the bad news, Leon informed us that their singer Joseph Michael was out getting pissed somewhere and didn't want to play. Now many weren't surprised by this as White Wizzard's luck with singers is legendary, but this was all a bit Spinal Tap. Leon then opened it up to the floor, if anyone could hit the notes and knew the words they could be the singer for the night, now no-one from Cardiff took the challenge, but the band vowed to put on a show and plunged straight into Strike The Iron which saw Leon taking up the vocal duties, now he is not a singer, not by a long shot but to sing in front of a crowd they have never played in front of before takes some bottle. He was helped though; like a conquering hero Pete Ellis arrived on stage and proceeded to sing the earlier Wizzard songs that he sang during his tenure, the band felt at their most whole when Ellis was shrieking through High Speed GTO and 40 Deuces and it meant that Leon could relax a bit, the set was mixed around and had to be truncated a bit due to the singer search at the beginning however White Wizzard did well with what they had even though the set was a bit shambolic at times. I was very disappointed, not with the band but with singer Joseph Michael, whatever the reason he had for staying away from the gig is not good enough, your letting all the people that came to see you down which is very unprofessional. As for the band like I said they were far from on form but they did what they could, they do however need to think long and hard about who they have as their next singer otherwise they will descend into a farce. 6/10

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Reviews: In Solitude, Twilight Of The Gods, Counterhold

In Solitude: Sister (Metal Blade)

Three albums into their career and In Solitude have cemented themselves as one of the biggest bands in occult rock and with every album they become more obscure in their dark malaise. The riffs range from Sabbath doom and early Maiden galloping with frontman Pelle Ahman bringing his bewitching vocals to every song. With bands like Ghost bringing occult rock to the masses In Solitude have focussed more on their occult influences while expanding into some overt doom on A Buried Sun, some pulsing bass led metal on Pallid Hand and Horses In The Ground which also features guest vocals from ex-Swans singer Jarboe. This third album is very good and it shows why In Solitude are seen to be one of the brightest lights in the underground scene, the production is authentically, scratchy and analogue like an old LP, the band have also tried to bolster their sound with melodic and acoustic guitars see He Comes and the 8 minute plus freak out Inmost Nigredo and they have also added vibraphone/pianos from Martin Konie Ehrencrona add some real depth to the voodoo rhythms of Lavender and shows that the band are trying to bolster their sound away from the other occult based retro-styled bands in this overcrowded genre. Yet again In Solitude have come up with the goods and with this more varied album they have set out their stall not to be the next Sabbath but the first In Solitude. 8/10

Twilight Of The Gods: Fire On The Mountain (Seasons Of The Mist)

TOTG started life as a Bathory tribute band made up of Black Metal superstars, however after a tour playing homage to the band, the five members of TOTG were offered numerous deals to re-record Bathory songs but they instead took the only honourable course of action, taking a leaf out of the Black Star Rider's book they kept the name but instead of covers they focused on writing their own material. The band are made up of Primordial's Alan Averill on vocals, Rune Eriksen (Ava Inferi) and Patrik Lindgren (Thyrfing) on guitars and a rhythm section made up of Frode Glesenes on bass and Nick Barker on drums. So because of this membership you would expect this album to one that is full of Nordic Black Metal anthems with guttural vocals and icy sharp guitar riffs. How wrong you would be as this sounds nothing like Bathory or any bands in their genre, Fire On The Mountain is an album that harks back to the mid-seventies and early 80's bringing to mind Black Sabbath (both Ozzy and Dio era's) This is glorious riff heavy retro metal in the style of Grand Magus, every song has Sabbath like bottom end, that brings the overarching doom to every track but especially on Preacher Man and the 8 minute plus The End Of History. The album is full of endless guitar licks that make you want to raise your leather studded arm in the air and bang your head furiously. Every song tells of pagan ritual and ancient warriors and it is just the kind of fodder that you want from this kind of metal, this is a heads down worship at the altar of the almighty riff that is topped by the surprisingly great clean vocals of Averill who has a brawny signing voice that fits perfectly with the music. This album is excellent for anyone raised on Sabbath, Dio and even Manowar, chest beating heavy metal at its best! 9/10

Counterhold: All Of Them Slain (Self Released)

Counterhold! No strangers to this blog have FINALLY! released their debut album, well they have at least given a copy to me so I can review it. (I am truly honoured honest). So what is it like? Well the first thing I noticed was that the production is crisp and punchy meaning that the band sound like a metal freight train kudos then to Triaxis' Glyn who took the producers chair. The band are no slouches either the drums of Ryan Salter power through like a wrecking ball, the bass of Ben Saunders rumbles with a bone shaking power. Both of the rhythm section anchor the bands melodic modern metal sound that merges the cutting guitar tones of Killswitch Engage, with the dual leads of the Maiden (Out For Dead) and the massive breakdowns of LOG (Time To Die) et al. Speaking of the guitars both Karl Silverthorn and David Birbeck do a stellar job on the six strings laying down some killer riffage and some serious fret wankery on the solo front with guest solo on Stand Or Die by Andrew Moyes (Ben's cousin.) The strong musical foundation is topped by the superb vocals of frontman Steve who has a mighty bellow and can also bring the odd scream/roar to proceedings see Hellsgates which also has a progressive thrash element which moves into the huge hooky chorus of The Beast Within the band widen their sound with the acoustic opening on the 8 minute plus mega ballad Walk On Water and live favourite Fatal Taunt is only topped in the best track category by the awesome Children Of A Lesser God however every track on here is a testament to the bands obvious talent. British (or should that be Welsh?) metal is definitely alive and well. 8/10

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Another Point Of View: Fleetwood Mac (Paul Hutchings)

Fleetwood Mac – O2 Arena London 24 September 2013
 
It was time for a rare to visit to the vacuous O2 arena in London for an equally rare visit from the British-American super group Fleetwood Mac as part of my year of classic rock and oh my, were they good. The Mac are a band that I’ve lived with for a long time, with Rumours possibly my favourite non-metal album of all time. However, I’ve never seen them live before and given their history it appeared likely that I would never get to witness them in the flesh. When the opportunity presented itself earlier in the year it was just a case of making sure tickets were purchased. No easy task given the speed they sold out. We spent a while before the show marvelling at the age range of the audience. A few metal heads, many old hippies and I suppose the type of audience you would expect them to attract; a real cross section and many there for the event as opposed to real fans of the band. However, just for once I shall concentrate on the events on stage rather than the annoying fucks sat around me.
 
Kicking off with a triple header from Rumours, the band were on excellent form from the off. Second Hand Dreams moved nicely into The Chain which everyone obviously knows thanks to its use for a zillion years on Formula One racing and then a stunning version of Dreams. In between songs Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks duly entertained us with some rambling commentary and recollections. We were treated to a range of tracks from their vast back catalogue, including Sad Angel and fans favourite Rhiannon before a groan from Mrs H as they launched into a four song
selection from Tusk, not one of our favourite albums although Sara was as haunting as ever. A rare trip to the 1980s saw an acoustic version of Big Love from Tango In tTe Night which allowed Buckingham to release the ego for a bit. He’s a bit strange on stage, slightly autistic in his delivery but as we discussed after, if you were in Fleetwood Mac for all these years then you’d be a little different too. The Rumours tracks continued with Never Going Back Again and Gold Dust Woman which really allowed Stevie to prove that she still has that golden voice. There really is no-one like her. However, the highlights of the night were still to come and as the band launched into I’m So Afraid from their self titled album, it was time for the musicianship to really come to the fore.
 
Throughout the evening Buckingham’s guitar playing was exquisite and I’d really forgotten how damn good this man is on the six strings. Of course, like Beck, Hendrix and Knopfler, Buckingham doesn’t use a pick which makes his sound quite unique. I read a description of his playing recently which referred to his style as ranging from beautifully simple to almost careering out of control and that sums it up well. His solo on I’m So Afraid was amongst the finest I’ve ever seen. Backed by the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, this band can rock out with the best of them. A true highlight. We were then treated to Stand Back which is a Stevie Nicks solo track and this allowed Nicks the spotlight. The swirling dress and hippy scarves were present as they always have been and her voice was quite captivating. I can see why Mrs H loves her so much. The main set ended with another from Rumours, Go Your Own Way before the encores and predictable drum solo from Fleetwood led to Don’t Stop which had the entire arena dancing and singing along. After introducing all the members of the band including those who provided backing support, we were treated to a quite spine tingling version of Silver Springs. This is one of their most delicate songs and the only one from The Dance. This song highlights just what a stunning voice Stevie Nicks really has. Just Beautiful. They finished with Say Goodbye, a duet between Nicks and Buckingham to conclude a quite stunning evening. The fact that Christine McVie made an appearance the following night does not detract from my rating of 10/10