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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Out Of The Beyond 30

Katatonia: Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)

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

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

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

Crystal Breed: The Place Unknown (2011)

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

The Winery Dogs: S/T (2013)

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

 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: The Darkness

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

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

The River 68's

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

Lostalone

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

The Darkness

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

Thursday, 21 November 2013

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

Alice In Chains, Ghost & The Walking Papers Newport Centre

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

The Walking Papers

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

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

Ghost

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

Alice In Chains

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

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

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

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

Eden's Curse: Symphony Of Sin (AFM)

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

Iron Man: South Of The Earth (Rise Above)

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

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

Defenders of the Faith Tour – Bristol O2 Academy                                                  

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

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

Bleed From Within

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

Carcass

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

Amon Amarth

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

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


Orphaned Land – The Garage, Islington

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


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

Khalas

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

Klone

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

Orphaned Land

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

  

Friday, 15 November 2013

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

Karnivool & Tesseract, Anson Rooms Bristol

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

Tesseract

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

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

Karnivool

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

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

Satyricon – Limelight, Belfast

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

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

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


Out Of The Beyond 29

A special feature length retrospective review by Nick Hewitt

Michael Kiske & Amanda Somerville: Kiske Somerville (Frontier Records)

While rummaging through a local record shop I stumbled upon what I thought could be a little gem of a find that I did not know existed, this album excited me. So, without hesitation I handed over some of my hard earned money in exchange for the first collaborative effort from, in my opinion, two of the finest voice in metal; Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville. The album opens up nicely with the pacey track Nothing Left To Say. Filled with thumping drums from Martin Schmidt (Atrocity and Leaves Eyes) and a solo from Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear and Bob Catley) that could melt your soul. Dominated by Kiske this track welcomes us into the album well. Next, the two singles released from the album: Silence and If I Had A Wish. Both undoubtedly chosen for their catchy riff, melody and anthem like lyrics. Again Kiske takes the lead for If I Had A Wish, his voice carrying the song majestically with backing from Somerville behind almost ghost like. Silence is more of what I expected from this album, a slower track with both Kiske and Somerville’s voices chiming in together forming a smooth duet, while Karlsson strums along kindly in the background with some epic orchestral strings to finish. Anthem brings on more of the same, this time with a little more power behind it, short, blunt and to the point. This track could almost be perceived as a tête-à-tête between the two vocalists as they alternate at time with some passion.

Next End Of The Road which is a particular favourite of mine; a slow beautiful ballad that opens with a magnificent symphonic backing that carries the song throughout, but the real strength in this track is the way that Kiske and Somerville complement each other, both voices smooth, flawless and at times seem intertwined as one. This track really had me thinking, why did this album not happen sooner?? Don’t Walk Away and A Thousand Suns are up next, both of which are taken right from the hands of power metal itself. Brilliant riffs and solos fall perfectly in line with Somerville who has the dominance in these tracks. These really are the only tracks, which I feel we see the full range and brilliance of these two individuals voices (which I will come on too later). A Thousand Sun’s in particular really starts to showcase what Somerville is capable of, but for me, I know it only the tip of the iceberg. This track and the next to follow definitely have reverberations on late Queensryche and at times a notable Helloween influence (Surprise!)

Coming to the final few tracks Kiske and Somerville offer us a few rocky songs in the form of Rain, One Night Burning and Devil In Her Heart. Rain, a fast paced in your face track that leaves Kiske handling the verses and Somerville taking the lead on the slightly predictable chorus. One Night Burning is another flash of what both voices have to offer when really tested, supported brilliantly by a symphonic base it’s really hard not to appreciate Schmidt’s pounding drums here. Jimmy Kresic (Voodoo Circle) keyboards follow the orchestral symphony with some quick yet soft fingers flowing seamlessly into the third single and penultimate song from the album Second Chance. Another delightful soft ballad we are offered another chance to hear Kiske and Somerville’s voices bended into one, lyrically this is the most pleasing track and seems to hold great emotion for Kiske (maybe reflecting on his religion). Again Karlsson hammers out some fine solo’s here, especially prior to the final chorus. Although short each note rings in your ear as it fades. Finally the bonus track which sums up the album fairly well, outstanding musicianship from the band, loud, thumping and this time… heavy metal Set A Fire culminates in a bruising breakdown to finish with Kiske and Somerville stretching their voices the most they do throughout the entire album, and here lies the problem I have with this album…

Musically this album is up there with some of the best album’s I have heard in a while, the musicianship is second to none. The blend of orchestral symphonies with epic riffs and breakdowns one track to beautiful ballads the next somehow works, as each track slides into another with reasonable ease. Karlsson and Schmidt especially on impressive form throughout. Sadly, what people buy this album for is to hear the voices of Kiske and Somerville unite and make us regret turning the volume up to 11 when we first play the CD, and I just didn’t get that here. Yes their voices in this album are flawless and yes when the come together (for the ballads particularly) they combine perfectly, it just all seems to easy for them… at times, lazy. Kiske and Somerville are at their best when letting everything they have out of their lungs, reaching every note from the highest to the low. During this album we only really have one opportunity to hear this, which to me is a great disappointment. I read recently that album two is on its way early 2014, so I hope for more of the same only this time a lot more oomph! Musically this album is easily 10/10 but for what this album promised and was meant to represent it lets me down a little. 7/10.

 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Reviews: Touchstone, The Graveltones, The Dead Daisies

Touchstone: Oceans Of Time (Hear No Evil)

British progsters Touchstone are on their fourth album now and this one amps up the rock to 11! The band have moved through the motions and have added more layers to their sound on every album. This one is harder edged continuing what they started on their last album The City Sleeps. Things start well with Flux which does just that moving from a propulsive rock opening, into an orchestral middle with a building guitar solo from Adam Hodgson who really shows his talent on this album playing some excellent riffs and solos throughout the record, see the bluesy Contract to show how expressive he can be with his playing. However he is not the only member of the band and all the others are extremely talented bassist Moo provides a steady, proggy, beat to proceedings wrapping his fingers around the bands progressive but also melodic and catchy see the folky Tabula Rasa which lasts for over 7 minutes but wouldn't be out of place on the radio. The album sounds much more grown up with a tougher songs and more hard hitting lyrics, showing that Kim Seviour has developed as both a lyricist and as a vocalist over the four albums, her strong voice fitting perfectly with the band’s music. What I did notice was that founder member Rob Cottingham has less of a role on this album providing fewer lead vocals and using his keys as more of an atmospheric tool than as a lead instrument, see Shadows End which is the continuation of Shadow from the band's debut album, which is followed by a reworking of Solace from the band's sophomore album Wintercoast and has itself a sequel in the shape of Through The Night adding to the bands tendencies for having links between their songs (a prog tradition surely?) Finally the band's Wintercoast storyline develops it's forth chapter with the title track (again a band tradition) and ends the album strongly and has a killer solo. Touchstone have yet again released a record full of powerful modern prog, one that should take them to the top! 8/10      

The Graveltones: Don't Wait Down (RSK Entertainment)

The Graveltones impressed me when they supported Rival Sons earlier this year so it was with real anticipation that I awaited their debut. My anticipation paid off this as the album is excellent, part White Stripes, part QOTSA and part John Lee Hooker. The band is made up of Jimmy O who rattles off the fuzzy, garage, blues drenched guitar riffs and screaming solos, while at the same time gives a mad-eyed, howling vocal performance. he is aided and abetted by man mountain Mikey Sorbello who is a demon behind the kit, never have I heard a set of drums played with such technicality and head crushing power, see Dying On Your Feet for sizzling example of the power and the jazzy off-kilter St. Lucia which displays the small percussive touches that sets him apart. This the band The White Stripes always threatened to be but could never achieve, stunning musicianship dabbling with modern soul; see Crime To Be Talkin' which is a duet featuring a Lauren Tate's, Joss Stone like vocals, Hendrix style blues-rock replete with guitar freak-outs and a ferocious live show. The band nod to the past with many of their tracks but after a small tip of the hat they run through their stripped down, garage noise with perfection. This is a killer debut from a band that have big things ahead of them. 9/10   

The Dead Daisies: S/T (Self-Released)

The Dead Daisies are a hard rock super group formed by ex-Noiseworks/INXS singer Jon Stevens and former Red Phoenix guitarist, no while their names may not sound familiar they are aided and abetted by guitarist Richard Fortus fresh from his stint with Axel Rose's travelling circus who brings GNR ivory-tinkler Dizzy Reed with him, the rhythm section are Rolling Stones bassman Daryl Jones and Charley Drayton who has played with everyone including The Cult. The band's sound is classic blooze-rock bringing together The Black Crowes Washington is Hard To Handle by another name, as well as Bad Company and Stones thrown in for good measure. The guitars are clean and bright bringing the blues rock riffs and acoustic rhythms. This is a real retro vibe that I last heard on The Temperance Movement album. The songs ring out like a hazy 70's summer record full of bell bottom blues and a lot of hair flowing American rocking. This is a cracker of an album Stevens has a tough, gritty voice that's sounds a lot like Buckcherry's Josh Todd. Phoenix plays a mean guitar, he and Fortus are a hell of team and are aided on Lock 'n' Load by Slash. As a debut album this is a great hark back to a a time when rock ruled the airwaves. 8/10      

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Reviews: Lissie, Exit State, The Earls Of Mars, Ravenous

Lissie: Back To Forever (Columbia)

Back To Forever is the second album from California's Elizabeth Corrin Maurus and it continues in the same vein as her debut Catching A Tiger she peddles a modern kind of country and folk influenced rock that can only come from out of California. From the opening chords of the shimmering electronica based The Habit however you can tell that Ms Maurus has evolved her sound a bit as she has moved away from the Rumours era Fleetwood Macisms of her debut and stepped more into the Tango In The Night stages with the electronic loops and beats infecting many of the tracks. She seamlessly blends electronic pulse with acoustic strumming and some killer 80's guitar solos especially on the debut single Further Away (Romance Police) which has a killer chorus hook and leads into the paparazzi baiting  Shameless which has a repeating drum loop straight out of New York Hip Hop. Yes Lissie does mix up the sounds on this album but she still maintains the smoky vocals that set her apart from her peers merging Stevie Nicks see Sleepwalking and on the slower songs like the mega ballad They All Want You she has all the (summertime) sadness of Lana Del Rey. The album mellows out in the middle with the more country moments coming through and a defiant live sing-along in the shape of I Don't Want To Go To Work (which has a jarring guitar break in the middle) and even has Springsteen moment on Mountaintop Removal. This is a more mature album than her debut and some tracks to seem slightly out of place but for the most part the experimentation pays off and the album sounds big, bold and confident. Forget your chart nonsense; Lissie is the real deal, authentic musicianship at its purest. 8/10

Exit State: Let's See It All (Rocksector Records)

Roy Bright and his band of modern rockers return for their third album with a new guitarist in tow and Matt Harris puts his stamp all over this record straight from the off. Exit State have always been a band that have intrigued me as they combine some really heavy riffs with Bright's unique vocals that always seem at odds with the music but do seem to work. Their debut album is a very good full on party rock album and their sophomore release Black Veins brought a more adult vibe in terms of lyrical content. If I were to make a comparison I would say they have the same quiet/loud dynamics of The Foo Fighters (whether that's a good or bad thing depends on how much you enjoy Mr Grohl and co) personally I think if they were American and not from Lancashire. Still I digress and back to the album, they have started off the album strangely I think with a brooding track that features some electronic drum loops and heavy riffage before it bursts into the brighter, funkier Sun In My Eyes. This third has maintained the great compositions that the band has always had but it marries them with great production. The punky, voyeuristic title track follows and is followed by a stirring ballad in the shape of The Pain I Demand. As I've said before the band are somewhat of an enigma in the British rock scene as one minute they are poppy and the next heavy as lead, still they translate well and will appeal to a wide crowd with this strong third release. 7/10      

The Earls Of Mars: S/T (Candlelight Records)

The Earls Of Mars are on odd one, mixing rock, jazz and psych they are a full on head-trip featuring some percussive mastery from Dave Newman who bashes and crashes like a child in a kitchen, he is aided in his noisemaking by Si McCarthy who plays the doomy upright bass. From the first track Poor Whores Petition the band show their chops with a driving doomy dirge that features some fuzzy riffage from guitarist Harry Armstrong, the band then totally confuse you by diving straight into a 4 minute jazz rock anthem which shows off main-man Dan Hardingham who uses his organ to great effect making The Swinger a swaggering, acid tinged key workout with schizophrenic vocals also from Hardingham. Now I've seen The Earls Of Mars live twice and both times they have freaked me out and on record they are no more coherent, every track differs wildly and they can just as much get stuck in a groove as they can veer off on a tangent. The songs are strange, weird and in places terrifying but mostly very well constructed and perform by a group of talented (if a little mad) musicians, bringing to mind Captain Beefheart in his heyday, especially on The Astronomer Pigs (yes all the songs have very odd names). This is weird music for weird people and though some will hate it beyond anything else those who have opened (or indeed expanded) their mind will take it to their hearts. 7/10  

Ravenous: We Are Become Death (Coffee Jingle Records)

Ravenous are a thrash band from Southampton and they have shot out of the blocks with a killer debut. This get started with Abhor and you know where we're going from there with the razor sharp riffs, heavy drum licks, rattling bass lines and some face melting old-school soloing. The band bring to mind modern thrash masters Evile on the opening track and on the pacier tracks like Deathstiny which wouldn't be out of place on Five Serpents Teeth. However they are not all about super-fast riffs they also have huge amount of groove with second track Reverse with its breakdown outro and the heavyweight Suffocate bringing to mind Machine Head especially in the vocal department with Dave Game a dead ringer for Robb Flynn also the band look back to the legends of 'Tallica on the amazing Easter Island (We Are Become Death) which starts off slow before building into a massive arena sized stomper that Lars and co do best and then finally exploding into its finale, Ravenous too must be live killer too with its shout along one word chorus. For a band that are only on their debut record I was surprised how professional it sounds in terms of song writing and production, the songs are tough, heavy, melodic and feature all of the best thrash metal hallmarks, the production is excellent with all of the instruments and vocals given time to breathe. With Evile up in the air in terms of members it might be time for Ravenous to step up to fill the void. A killer debut that rips you limb from limb! 9/10