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Saturday, 28 December 2013

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

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

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

Broken Fate: Rising To The Dream (Independent)

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

Barque Of Dante: Lasting Forever (Mort Productions)

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

Saturday, 21 December 2013

View From The Altar Of Metal: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, Birmingham N.E.C

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

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

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats

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

Black Sabbath

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

Friday, 20 December 2013

Reviews: Toby Jepson, Aeon Zen, Jizzy Pearl

Toby Jepson: Raising My Own Hell (Self Released)

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

Aeon Zen: Self Portrait (Self Released)

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

Jizzy Pearl: Crucified (Self released)

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

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

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

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

Rose & Milk: Manekeni (Global Metal Promotions)

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

Rainwill: Zeroed By Progress (FONO Ltd)

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

Dark Season: Cruel Domination (Self released)

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

Monday, 16 December 2013

Another Point Of View: Electric Six (Paul Hutchings)

Electric Six – Glee Club Cardiff

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

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

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

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Another Point Of View: Triaxis (Review By Nick)

Triaxis, Counterhold and Blacksphere, Fuel Cardiff.

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

Blacksphere

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

Counterhold

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

Triaxis

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

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

Death Angel – Underworld, Camden

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


Adimiron

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

Dew Scented

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

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


Death Angel

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

Friday, 13 December 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Airbourne

Airbourne, Orange Goblin & The Treatment, O2 Academy Bristol

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

The Treatment

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

Orange Goblin

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

Airbourne

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

Friday, 6 December 2013

Reviews: Ayreon, Avatarium, Kadavar

Ayreon: The Theory Of Everything (InsideOut)

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

Avatarium: S/T (Nuclear Blast)

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

Kadavar: Abra Kadavar (Nuclear Blast)

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

 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Reviews: Hell, Ghost, Switchblade

Hell: Curse And Chapter (Nuclear Blast)

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

Ghost: If You Have Ghost (Universal)

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

Switchblade: Heavy Weapons (Killer Metal Records)

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