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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Reviews: United Progressive Fraternity, Starset, Black Trip

United Progressive Fraternity: Fall In Love With The World (InsideOut)

Formed from the ashes of Australia's premier progressive band Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity features Unitopia founder member, Mark Trueback playing in a band for the first time without long-time collaborator Sean Timms who withdrew upon the collapse of Unitopia. He has taken some members of the previous band with him the most notable of which is guitarist Matt Williams, along with Williams he has drummer Dave Hopgood and percussionist Tim Irrang both coming from Unitopia. Trueback has also recruited several other progressive all-stars to the group, multi-instrumentalist Guy Manning, bassist Daniel Marsh, sax/keys player Marek Arnold and wind player Ian Ritchie all adding their skills to the group. As you may have noticed I've said UPF are a progressive group, not a progressive rock band, they incorporate all manner of sounds into their work, with orchestras, jazz, world music, rock and all manner of other styles thrown into the progressive melting pot. As the cinematic overture We Only Get One World opens the album, we can see that the almost shamanistic, hippie spirit of Unitopia still lives on through UPF as the songs are odes to the world with "thought provoking and meaningful lyrics with an emphasis on the human condition, the state of the environment and how we as the human race arrived at where we are today" so this is all very highbrow stuff but it is not pretentious, the music is melodic, inspiring and intensely musical. Choices starts off with a tabla backed beginning, some silky guitar playing, world music influences throughout, before moving into a wind instrument filled middle section and a short sharp solo from Williams before Arnold and Ritchie put their mark all over the tracks finale, before starting proceedings on the funky but rocking Intersection. Trueback's voice is fantastic, soulful and emotive carrying every lyric on his golden tonsils, this is progressive music for old-school prog fans, with elements of Yes, Spock's Beard, Pink Floyd, Pallas, IQ and even Toto. The albums two shortest songs are firstly the percussive The Water which has an environmental message about the bands drought prone country and features the unmistakeable vocals of  former Yes man Jon Anderson, which goes straight into Don't Look Back - Turn Left which is nice little break from the overarching progness of it all (it is a world). The albums Pièce de résistance is the 21 minute plus Travelling Man (The Story Of ESHU) which is the best song on the album steeped in majesty. This is a truly stunning album, can I rewrite my top 20 please? 10/10   

Starset: Transmissions (Razor & Tie)

Upon finding a mysterious signal from the Ophiuchus Constellation, that foretold humanities demise, the Starset Society commissioned a group of musicians and scientists to assist them in spreading the knowledge to a broader audience. This group are collectively known as Starset. This of course is the storyline (or is it?) for Starset's debut concept album and I will say they go all out with an official website dedicated to storyline, videos and updates on the official website all pushing the story forward. So with such attention to detail what is the music part like? Well the band are classed as cinematic rock and this is a very apt description of their music, for the most part the album is modern, American alternative rock, with electronic elements that make it sound symphonic and yes cinematic. The bands only named member is Dustin Bates who is the singer of alternative metal band Downplay and as the dubstep influenced First Light starts things off with an intro of sorts before the first real song is Down With The The Fallen which is pure alternative metal with heavy riffs, angsty verses and huge hooky choruses all sung with great power by Bates who alternates between melodic crooning and the occasional scream for good measure but the sound is fleshed out by the electronic elements that are present throughout. If I was to make a comparison the band sound a lot like latter period Linkin Park mixed with Muse or Biffy Clyro and Breaking Benjamin with huge measure of 30 Seconds To Mars thrown in; especially on the choruses which have the right amount of emotion and power to appeal to radio stations and harder rockers see one-two of the majestic Halo and the dirty electronic dub of CarnivoreTelescope is a bit of transition track which shows off the orchestral nature to it's fullest and straight into the second part of the record which starts with It Has Begun that is pure and orchestral and moves straight into the obvious first single the electro thump of My Demons before Antigravity once again sets a scene and splits the album in to segments with some thrusting orchestral passages that Hans Zimmer would be proud of. This is an album that will not be to everyone's taste, if you like your metal heavy then this won't be for you but fans of radio friendly American alternative rock/metal with a distinct theatrical flair then this will be for you, I for one think it's a great album and one that will get many replays on my stereo. 9/10

Black Trip: Goin' Under (Threeman Recordings)

Black Trip are somewhat of a Swedish metal supergroup with members of speed metal maniacs Enforcer and ex-members of both Exhumed and Entombed. However this album is not extreme metal neither is it leather clad speed metal, no Black Trip are stuck rigidly in the pre-Dickinson Maiden era, the songs are about dirty women, politics and the occult with Peter Stjärnvind and Sebastian Ramstedt's guitars echoing Murray and Stratton's original twin axe attack, see Voodoo Queen, Jonas Wikstrand's drums rumble like thunder and Johan Bergebäck's bass gallops like Steve Harris on amphetamines, see the bass intro on Radar. The album is engrained with classic early Maidenisms with the trademark riffs, progressive changes of pace, melodic guitar playing backed by the thumping rhythms which is especially prevalent on No Tomorrow which could sit on Killers perfectly. The early Maiden style is topped off by Joseph Tholl's DiAnno style vocals, he has gruff but strong voice that fits the music perfectly. With so many bands ploughing the NWOBHM furrow it's nice to have band not going for the siren scream style vocals but focussing on the very early days, still this album does lean more towards the pastiche than anything else albeit one that is done very well indeed. 6/10  








Another Point Of View: Dub War (Review By Neil)

Dub War, The Bassment, Newport

It's virtually impossible to mention Dub War without also mentioning Skindred, not least because the formation of the latter was purportedly borne out of frustrations and a tricky contractual situation involving the former. 2010's The Dub, The War & The Ugly compilation I believe sorted out the contractual situation with Earache and with enough time and water under the bridge to evidently appease the remaining frustrations so it was that Dub War returned in front of a rapturous Newport crowd a mere 16 years after their “final” UK show (the aforementioned compilation states that final show took place in London in January 1998, so the promo material hyping this as the bands' “first show in 18 years” was a little out unless it referred specifically to home town shows).

Anyone who ever saw Dub War live in their 90's heyday could probably tell that the band looked to be going places. With a unique sound and a massively charismatic front man their live shows at the legendary TJ's and other South Wales venues were the stuff of local legend. Thankfully the charismatic front man has in fact gained more charisma in the intervening years and the bands live show is still as tight as a very tight thing.

Strolling on stage clutching an air raid siren and sporting a fetching top hat Benji took the crowd into the palm of his hand as usual and did not let go until the last notes of the show had echoed out of the venue. Sounding said siren (just like old times!) the band launched straight into Psycho System followed by Respected and in doing so lived up to their pre-show promise of lots of old material getting an airing. Indeed, even Crack – a song that only appeared on their début Dub Warning EP until 2010's posthumous compilation was given a rare outing here.

The venue was packed with pretty much every patron in there moving to the stage area as soon as the band came on which made getting a good vantage point to actually see anything quite difficult until things calmed down a few songs into their set – “calm” in a relative sense of course! Even though the majority of the crowd could probably not be described as young they still gave it their all bouncing and moshing their way through the set and giving off an energy that would be impossible for any band to not react to. Judging by the near-permanent grins on the faces of Benji, Jeff, Richie and Ginge it's probably fair to say that the band were having as much fun as the audience were.

As they progressed their way through what was essentially (and necessarily) a greatest hits set I started to notice that Benji wasn't his normal wise cracking, audience baiting self. No, this was a slightly different side to the man, more humble and serious than when fronting Skindred this is yet more evidence of why he is one the best (and most versatile) front men in heavy music today.

As the likes of Nar Say A Ting, Dub War, Fools Gold, Strike It and Gorrit were my own personal highlights of the set it was the closing track that stuck with me the most. That track? Over Now, with one very simple and obvious riposte from myself and every other person crammed into the Bassment to witness a gig 16-18 years in the making that we all probably thought we'd never see (10/10).

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Reviews: Black State Highway, Khaos, Psychostick

Black State Highway: S/T (Self Released)

Former Brighton Institute Of Modern Music graduates Black State Highway are here to give hard rock a good hard kick to the balls. Formed by guitarist Ollie Trethewey, bassist Gordon Duncan, drummer Harry Bland and singer Liva Steinberga the band gigs in the local Komedia but realised they need another guitarist so quickly recruited Yonnis Crampton who gelled with the band just in time for their performance. Since then they have risen through the local British rock scene with some high profile supports and lots of press from Classic Rock Magazine and others, still as with all bands it's all about the music and with the glut of female fronted hard rock bands around at the moment, see for example Saint Jude, Blues Pills, No Sinner etc Black State Highway could fall into obscurity at any time if they didn't have the songs. Luckily as Conclusion kicks of with it's slide driven intro, propulsive rhythm section, bluesy riffage and Steinberga's holler, who exudes attitude as she tells an unnamed former lover to "Get the fuck out of my life". So far so good then and the swagger continues on Ain't Got No which really shows off Duncan and Bland's hard hitting aggressive bottom end which despite it's power also has a lot of nuances to it. The guitars ring out with huge slabs of riffage throughout on the rockier tracks like Free and Tekkers but also the solos sizzle on the slower paced Broken which oozes with class and sleaze and shows off Steinberga's voice to its full extent. For a band so young this debut is very dynamic, vibrant and very mature, the band are steeped in the 70's blues rock of Rival Sons but also they have a modern edge which stops them from getting stale and being more than just revival act. A young band with real fire in their collective bellies and a collection of songs that translate to a searing live show. Pick it up and play it loud!! 8/10  

Khaos: Risen (MRR Records)

Khaos are a modern hard rock band built around guitarist Mark Rossi's sterling guitar work, he moves between intricate melodies and big hard hitting riffs. Rossi has a great line up backing him with Trevor Franklin working over the drumkit and Nic Angileri providing the rumbling bottom end. The cherry on top though are American Chandler Mogel's strong, soulful vocals, Mogel will be familiar to those who have listened to Firewind offshoot band Outloud, Mogel is the vocalist for Outloud but Khaos are a different prospect all together, whereas Outloud are 80's style AOR band, Khaos are a more modern sounding band in the style of Alter Bridge, Shinedown mixed with the slinky smooth rock of The Cult. Rossi plays like Tremonti throughout with After The Silence, Imagined Danger and Loaded Question having the heavy, melodic riffs of AB and Loaded Question also having  guitar solo Slash would be proud of, End Of Daze is infused with the spirit of Ian Asbury and Billy Duffy on its snake like verses and explosive chorus, this continues on Ride The Chain. It's not all hard rocking however there are a few ballads on the record with Exalted, Hung The Moon and As FAr As We Go being three of the best. As good as the component parts of Khaos are they do try to sound a bit too much like Alter Bridge for my liking and Mogel's voice is good but he is no Myles Kennedy (but who is) and personally I believe his voice is better suited to Outloud. Still if you like muscular American rock played by the bands mention previously this will pique your interest however this might not appeal to everyone, still a nice modern rock album. 6/10     

Psychostick: IV- Revenge Of The Vengeance (Rock Ridge Music) [Review By Stief]

Opening with a movie trailer-esque intro to their fourth album, IV: Revenge Of The Vengeance, Psychostick let you know exactly what you're getting into. If you're already a fan of Psychostick, then you know exactly what to expect from the band that sang a sandwich (no missing words, they literally sang a sandwich). The first song of the album, Obey The Beard gives, in this writer's opinion, sound advice. Any problems, just grow a beard. This sets up the mood of the album quite nicely and without giving too much away, they cover a wide range of topics, such as being a dog in Dogs Like Socks, Anatidaephobia in Quack Kills, how to perform the heimlich and CPR in Choking Hazard and a love of Bruce Campbell in...well, Bruce Campbell. The band are clearly comfortable being a comedy metal band and the songs are interspersed with several skits and one in the case of Dimensional Time Portal (Skit, Kinda), a mix of short bursts of metal and a small tale of how reverb can cause a rift in time. The band are solid, Alex “Shmalex” Dontre's drumming heavy along with Matty J “Moose” Rzemyk's bass, Josh “The J” Key's riffs great, all supporting Rob “Rawrb” Kersey's quite frankly angry voice. The album gives two surprises, the first in the shape of a 3 minute medley of classical music consisting of several hundred fucks and one shit. This is immediately followed by the highlight of the album, a cover of Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone which the band embrace with classic Psychostick zeal, even treating listeners to a cover-of-sorts of the chorus of Berlin's Take My Breath Away from the same film. Overall, if you've listened to Psychostick before, it's pretty much the same as always, but if this is the first time, then I'd suggest you embrace the insanity. Great metal and laughs all round. 7/10

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Another Point Of View: Kreator (Review By Paul & Nick)

Kreator (December 17th 2014)

Shining & Marty Friedman

Norwegian jazz metal band Shining opened proceedings with a cacophony of noise, their saxophone driven metal was added to by the guitar histrionics of Ex-Megadeth man Marty Friedman, who really didn't add anything to the utter dirge the band were peddling. Not any good at all will be giving them a miss supporting Devin in 2015. 3/10  

Arch Enemy

This was the first opportunity to see the new line up of Arch Enemy following the change in personnel earlier this year when the ferocious Angela Gossow announced she was stepping down. Her replacement, former vocalist of The Agonist, Alissa White-Gluz had already shown her quality on their 2014 release War Eternal and the very recent addition of Nevermore guitar legend Jeff Loomis indicated this could be a tidy show indeed. Arch Enemy hit the stage at full pelt with the title track from War Eternal, with White-Gluz demonstrating that she can deliver vocally in the live arena as strongly as she can in the studio. She has a different style to her predecessor, never standing still, head banging and moving around the stage offering encouragement to the crowd and focusing attention on the excellent work of Loomis and co-guitarist Michael Amott when they were shredding. Ravenous followed, an older tune which got the heads in the audience nodding with approval. After My Apocalypse the band focused on some of the newer material from War Eternal and it was at this point that proceedings experienced a slight dip in energy and momentum. I'm pretty sure that it was the less familiar tracks that slowed the momentum, with Under Black Flags We March and As The Pages Turn generating a slightly less enthusiastic reception despite the enthusiasm of White-Gluz and long standing bassist Sharlee D’Angelo. However, Arch Enemy have several top quality songs in their armoury and the double whammy of We Will Rise and Nemesis ensured that the band finished on a massive high with a huge ovation from the crowd.  A solid if unspectacular set that demonstrated that Arch Enemy have plenty of life left in them yet, although I fear that it will be difficult for them to increase their popularity in the UK. 7/10

Kreator

After taking in a highly respectable performance from Arch Enemy it was now time for the moment I had been waiting for for many months now… Kreator. Hitting the stage, surprisingly without the backing of the ever trusted and impending sound of The Mars Mantra, Kreator entered with a projection show accompanied by the ever loved Age Of Aquarius backing. Without a second to lose and pleasantries deemed (as usual) not needed, the German gods broke furiously into an opening furore of Violent Revolution, Civilization Collapse and From Flood Into Fire… damn! Each of these opening tracks was delivered with the ferocity and power of a raging bull. Even the usually lighter Flood Into Fire was thrown into our ears with a blazing thump. As fellow Musipeadian Paul suggested during this opening; “they have just f**ked us in both eyes!”…This was the perfect analogy.

The set continued over the next 90 minutes with songs from across Kreator's back catalogue, including fan favourites Enemy Of God, Impossible Brutality, Phantom Antichrist and Hordes Of Chaos. Every single song was delivered with tight heavy pounding drums, precise and screeching guitars that dropped to deep thudding breakdowns with out a moments notice, and bass with a clout that could knock you for six by its self if needed! My personal favourite Voices Of The Dead was soon offered allowing the crowd a brief yet haunting interlude as Miland delivered the lingering opening lines before the ultimate kick of pure German thrash kicked us back in the face with full force resulting in the entire of the beaten crowd lowering their heads again and collectively banging heads and air guitaring with ultimate vigour. The set came to an end with the anthem Endless Pain that saw the crowd open up another wall of death swiftly followed by another giant pit that had opened up numerous times throughout the night. As the German legends left the stage the crowd burst out into a unified chant recalling the band back to the stage to their brilliant cover of the mighty Iron Maiden's Number Of The Beast, that once again had every individual singing on the top of their voices. Miland and Co then slid flawlessly into final tracks including surprisingly old school People Of The Lie and not so surprisingly Flag Of Hate… with the flag of hate in tow, leaving the crowd batter, beaten and bruised, but ultimately… beamingly happy.

Without question Kreator are one of the tightest live acts you will ever have the pleasure to see, they've been around for years and have adapted both on record and live to keep themselves where they are; the top of their game. Mix this with their unrelenting utterly heavy thrash that is capable of breaking both hearing and limb, and you've got a live show that will never get boring. 10/10

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Matt's Best Of 2014

So here we go folks Mr Hutchings has set the bar here is my (your fearless leader) Top 20 albums for 2014:

  1. Grand Magus: Triumph And Power
  2. Amoral: Fallen Leaves And Dead Sparrows
  3. Anathema: Distant Satellites
  4. Rival Sons: Great Western Valkyrie
  5. Dragonforce: Maximum Overload
  6. Unisonic: Light Of Dawn
  7. Opeth: Pale Communion
  8. Evergrey: Hymns For The Broken
  9. The Trews: The Trews
  10. Aeon Zen: Ephemera
  11. The Tea Party: The Ocean At The End
  12. Goat: Commune
  13. Robert Plant: Lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar
  14. The Blues Pills: The Blues Pills
  15. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye
  16. Fury: The Lightning Dream
  17. Dave Kilminster: ...And The Truth Will Set You Free...
  18. Vandenberg’s Moonkings: Vandenberg’s Moonkings
  19. Crobot: Something Supernatural
  20. Edguy: Space Police

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Reviews: Texas Hippie Coalition, Tarturis, Schysma

Texas Hippie Coalition: Ride On (Carved Records) [Review By Paul]

Ride On is the fourth release from Texas Hippie Coalition or THC. Unsurprisingly, the band originate from Denison, Texas. However, somewhat surprisingly, their sound is not just the sound of another Southern rock band but a myriad of different influences and styles.
Ride On is a solid release, featuring the powerful voice of “Big Dad Ritch”, who really dominates with the tracks. The album has a huge drum sound, very much in the Hell Yeah style of Vinnie Paul, although this sound is attributed to drummer Timmy Braun. The steady guitar work of Cord Pool combines with John Exall’s bass to provide a multitude of classic riffs. Monster In Me has elements of Down, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Mason whilst Rock Ain't Dead has all the hallmarks of Soil at their peak. However, there are many other influences which appear as the album progresses; Go Pro is almost a replica of Wanted Dead Or Alive by Bon Jovi with a much heavier edge, combined with the harder side of Molly Hatchet. Rubbins Racin has a splash of Shinedown, a dash of Godsmack and the drive of Down whilst the title track has one of the dirtiest Southern style riffs you’ll hear this year. This is decent, honest, American heavy metal delivered with quality and a vocal style from BDR which merges the grit of Anselmo with the balls of Ryan McCombs. Album closer I Am The End provides yet another reference point with some sludgy Alice in Chains guitar work and BDR’s finest vocals on the whole album. Decent stuff and well worth a listen. 7/10

Schysma: Idiosyncrasy (Revalve Records)

Blasting out of Italy comes Schysma who have arrived in my inbox with an album of 10 progressive metal tracks, with technical guitars, a heavy bottom end and rich tapestry of keys fleshing out the sound. The band are kind of an industrial/electronic prog metal band if you want to be picky as their classic metal instrumentation accompanied by some pulsing synths from Martina Bellini, much like darker Amaranthe or a more electronic Breed 77, the band fuse the two genres together well and their obvious talent shows through. The one point I would raise though are the vocals of Riccardo Minicucci who has a distinctive voice but many may find it not to their tastes, however a lot of this could be due to the less than great production. Personally I think his Paul Isola-like holler/rasp fits with the music the band behind him are producing and it shines on Heremetic which moves between the fast and slow dynamic brilliantly with some great drum work from  Luca Solina. The rest of the band are no slouches either mind Giorgio Di Paola works with Solina provide a locked in rhythm section on all the tracks but they are especially effective on the heavier tracks like Pendulum he also shines himself on the bass intro and led Supreme Solution. Guitarist Vladimiro Sala provides some superb guitar work with his Eastern guitars on Migdal, the bluesy rock vibe of Need A Chance and his searing virtuoso solos throughout but most especially Time Man which sounds like it could have come from an 80's speed metal album and works well as the storming album closer. With slightly better production values this album would have be able to show off the myriad of genres better. Still that aside the album is a progressive trip through multiple facets of metal music all brought together by some fantastic musicians, if you like your music unique but familiar and played with style then Idiosyncrasy will be for you. 7/10

Tarturis: Life Lessons That Only Death Can Teach (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

Kansas outfit Tarturis are a two person project who combine elements of progressive, symphonic, thrash and melodic metal with interesting yet slightly disappointing results. Delivered in advancing year segments, Life Lessons... is a concept album with a building story from birth to death, with whispered narrative providing a haunting atmosphere to many of the tracks. Steve Hall and Craig House contribute all parts of the album, with both delivering vocals, guitars, bass and drum programming. Starting with Year 0: Exchanging Flesh For Iron, Tarturis deliver a pretty devastating opener which sounds like a hybrid of Dream Theater and Wintersun, galloping fretwork slowed by more melodic keyboard parts. Year 5: Before Life Even Began is a much calmer track before some of the most out of tune singing I've head in a long time emerges in the middle. This is a lengthy track, clocking in at over ten minutes and I have to be honest, it gets a little lost. Year 13: Placebo Salvation begins with a keyboard and drum build up over the Lord’s Prayer before driving headlong into symphonic thrash once more. The brakes are then briefly applied before all hell breaks loose with a charging onslaught, ferocious drum sounds combining with slicing guitar work and layered keyboards and much more aggressive vocals more at home to Testament than some of the other bands referred to here. Another ten minute plus song follows; Year 17: Fall Of The Iron Kingdom, which has some deliciously delicate acoustic guitar work before a more traditional metal ballad type sound leads into more progressive, symphonic style music with string elements all making an appearance. Year 22: Her continues the sedate pace with acoustic build up and atmospheric vocals reminiscent of Katatonia and Pain of Salvation amongst others. However, it is really pedestrian and to be honest just a little too far on the left of depressive melancholy for me, especially with the vocals struggling to stay in tone at places. Year 24: The Atlas Punishment opens at a blistering pace, blast beats combining with some heavy thrashing guitars but by this stage I've lost a little too much interest. So what is the problem? I think it is the fact that this album is really disjointed and difficult to follow. Sure, the musicianship is pretty good, and these guys can clearly play but the way the moods change mid-track too often, combining far too many elements of too many genres is just a little too overwhelming.  In fact, the length of the album also contributes to the loss of interest, a mighty 75 minutes in total, and by the end, it’s just a little staid and boring. 5/10


A View From The Back Of The Room: Triaxis (Review By Paul)

Triaxis: Fuel, Cardiff

The crew of the good ship Musipedia Of Metal gathered for our annual winter gathering in the Rummer Tavern with the absolute bonus of having the opportunity to take in local favourites Triaxis a mere stone’s throw away at Fuel for our final gig of a quite stupendous year of live music. Having supped a couple of scoops of the Rummer’s quite excellent selection of real ales, we left it right until the last minute before heading across the city and straight to the front of the cramped venue, leaving a few members of the party to continue the merriment.

 A quick greeting with Krissie and the band and then it was time to party. Triaxis is a band that just improves with every show. Kicking off with the storming Sand And Silver, the band left the blocks with startling speed and didn't let up for the entire hour. Our last viewing was a mere seven weeks ago in The Exchange in Bristol but as headliners the band really stepped up a gear. Giles’ consistently excellent drumming propels the band forward, and his relationship with the brilliant Becky on bass continues to provide the band with a powerful rhythm section on which to build the dual guitar attack of CJ and Glyn. Krissie's voice is always stunning live, and despite the usual Fuel “sound”, her quality cut through crisply to once again demonstrate why we rate her as one of the top vocalists in metal today. Triaxis delivered a pacey set with a mix of tracks from their two albums along with three new tracks, all of which sounded very promising and will appear on the new album (which has pleasingly reached its Pledge target but there are still some goodies to be had so if you haven’t pledged yet, get on it).

Throughout the set Glyn's soloing was fantastic, ably supported by the sterling rhythm work of CJ. Becky’s talent is obvious as she wields her Rickenbacker around the stage with ease and with each viewing you appreciate how well she has made the transition to the Triaxis ranks. As well as the stunning vocals, Krissie has a warm and affable stage persona; no diva here ladies and gents oh no. Closing with Lies and then Black Trinity, all around the room the reasonably sized crowd were smiling and the faces of the band suggested that they too had enjoyed their return home.  A final cover of Hallowed Be Thy Name brought the musical part of our evening to a close and the curtain down another year of hard gigging. I can’t think of a more fitting band to end the year with. Triaxis: check them out! You won’t be disappointed! Roll on 2015 and our next encounter with one of the UK’s most promising bands. We love ‘em. 9/10

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Reviews: Saracen, Panzer, Red Zone Rider

Saracen: Redemption (Escape)

The name Saracen may conjure up some good memories for older readers, Saracen were and still are a melodic/progressive rock band that came to fruition in the 1981 with muscular symphonic rock etched in the NWOBHM vein but with more melody and drama than many of the meat-and-two-veg bands that came out of that scene. Saracen is driven by Rob Bendelow's dexterous guitars, Richard Lowe's powerful keys and Steve Bettney's strong vocal, they released their first album to critical acclaim but as happens so often with these things the band split reforming in 2003 and since then they have released a comeback album and two concept albums, one Vox In Excelso being continually on my player. Their last album Marilyn in my opinion was a misstep (a bit too soft) but when Bendelow was challenged to write a 'classic' Saracen album he set about writing the tellingly titled Redemption. Has he achieved the old school sound of Saracen perfectly, as the one two punch of rock rifffests Rocamadour and Reacher finish you are immediately taken back to the bands early 80's hayday with some great rock riffs from Bendelow and Simon Roberts interweaving with huge slabs of keyboard from Paul Bradder providing the symphonic edge. Then comes the huge ballad Give Me A Sign before Purple-esque Geraldine (replete with big organs fit for Jon Lord). Steve Bettney's voice is still awesome, he has great power and range meaning he can mold his voice to fit any style. Swords Of Damascus is Iron Maiden meets Jeff Wayne where as Roads To Yesterday is once again in Coverdale realms with Bettney crooning before unleashing his scream in latter parts. In a tribute to their glory days, they have two re-recorded tracks from their debut album Heroes, Saints & Fools the epic and glorious Crusader which starts with searing guitar solo and continues in the same hands up high, shout it out loud manner, second in the rerecording is the rocking Ready To Fly which is a great ender for the album after the pop-rock of Let Me See Your Hands. With a pacier rock tracks interspersed between more progressive songs like the Floydian Catch The Wave, the poppy AOR of More Than Missing You,  the symphonic epics of the title track and previously mentioned Crusader. Saracen have been quietly releasing classy, rock records for years now and with Redemption they have successfully merged their past and present on a record expertly produced by Tommy Hansen (producer of choice for power/traditional metal). If you like your rock'/metal with a real old school vibe brought bang up to date Redemption is the album for you! 9/10     

Panzer: Send Them All To Hell (Nuclear Blast)

Panzer (or The German Panzer) play heavy metal machine music, don't worry though folks a Lou Reed collaboration is nowhere to be seen. No Panzer as you may have guessed from the name, are Germanic metal through and through, pitching themselves as a German Motorhead this three piece is two thirds Accept and one third Destruction; the artillery shell drumming comes from Accept's sticks-man Stefan Schwarzmann, the guitars are from the laser guided, razor sharp guitars of Herman Frank and the bombardment of bass is from Destruction's Schmier who also lends his abrasive vocals the recordings adding real menace to the delivery of these fast paced, Teutonic metal tracks. The assault and battery starts on the rampaging Death Knell which has the hard metallic delivery of German metal but also harks to Lemmy and co. The album rarely lets up in pace and blurs the line between old school metal and thrash playing to all three men's strengths. As you can appreciate their aren't any ballads on this record, most of the songs are about war, politics and death and Panzer do all these topics justice, albeit with no innovation at all, although none was expected with the trio involved. This is straight up, go for the jugular heavy metal and with Temple Of Doom, Freakshow and the thrashtastic Mr Nobrain.  It goes without saying that the musicianship is flawless and any band that writes a song called Hail And Kill without any fear of DiMaio reprisals has to have some massive balls, something that this album has in spades. It's not all killer though Panzer is a rubbish song and a few others are clearly filler but for the most part this is fist in the air shout along heavy metal German style!! 7/10

Red Zone Rider: S/T (Magna Carta)

Ohh its like the 70's all over again just when you thought it was safe to put away those Purple, Zep and Free records along comes UFO's Vinnie Moore with a new band steeped in the funky, hip shaking rock these bands were known for. Now recently this kind of music was mainly the soul trade of Messrs Coverdale and Hughes but Vinne Moore has created a little trio built around his explosive guitar prowess, Scott Coogan's (Lita Ford, Ace Frehley) tub thumping and Kelly Keeling's (Baton Rouge, MSG, TSO) powerful (fretless) bass thud, humming organs and blues rasp, which is very much like Mr Hughes' and works in conjunction with Coogan's more melodic vocals to create an expansive vocal delivery. So another power trio peddling the music of yore, but they do it very well from the Purple-like By The Rainbow's End (which is a tribute to both Blackmore's bands knowing or otherwise), through the smooth organ drenched House Of Light, the blues balladry of Cloud Of Dreams which would have Mr Coverdale weeping into his silk sleeves, the booty shaking rock Save It which sounds like a Grand Funk Railroad cut Hit The Road has the spirit of Hendrix coursing through it's stop start guitar riff and There's A Knowing echoes the great Gary Moore in his old Parisian Days. All of the tracks on this album reek of the Golden era of rock music when the bands rocked hard with bluesy soulful vocals, a funky thunderous rhythm section, huge helpings of organ to flesh everything out and guitar solos galore from Moore who's guitar pyrotechnics light up every song. The three men on this record are all excellent musicians and their craft has been honed over hundreds of tours with numerous artists meaning that the songs on this record all feel, professional, authentic and most importantly they rock like hell making for a fun rock record that the oldies (physically or mentally) among you will lap up with gusto. 8/10

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Review: Avenger, Astralion, Exlibris

Avenger: The Slaughter Never Stops (Rocksector)

With Hell, Satan and Angel Witch leading the way, the fashion for NWOBHM bands reforming in the present day seems to be very 'on trend' at the moment, the next in line are Avenger who gave up the ghost in 1985 after two albums before reuniting in 2005. As is the case with most NWOBHM bands their history is shambolic at best losing their first singer Brian Ross to fellow Geordie's Satan (where he remains to this day) Avenger promptly recruited Satan's singer Ian Swift to replace Ross. Like Ross, Swift is still firmly in place at front of the band his sonorous voice fitting the music excellently on Race Against Time, Fields Of The Burnt and he screams for his life on Into The Nexus. Founder member Gary Young still blitzkriegs the drums and as with most NWOBHM bands the guitars duel and the bass rumbles like cannon fire. Avenger sound like a band revitalised and they much like their revitalised peers they are unafraid to expand their sound incorporating other genres and more modern sounds Decimated is old school thrash with a Maiden-like finale something which continues on their cover of Maiden's own Killers. As good as the NWOBHM was for British metal for every Maiden, Priest and even Def Leppard there was a Hell, Raven, Satan and Avenger; bands that were followed with a passion at the time but were over shadowed and eventually forgotten, however in the intervening years these bands have become revitalised and have blasted back into the public conciousness. The Slaughter Never Stops is a testament to bands that never give up, yes they may drop out of sight for a while but musicians (especially those in the NWOBHM) never really give up so long as the music burns within them. Some may think that the music industry is dying but I think it's just pushing bands more underground meaning that older bands like Avenger are on more of an even playing field now. Grab your leather pants, hi-tops and some beers and get ready for a damn good thrashing. 8/10          

Astralion: Astralion (Limb Music)

As is the norm with bands on the Limb Music roster, Astralion play rampaging power metal with a huge amount of virtuoso guitar playing thrown in echoing Stratovarius and even Mr Malmsteen with the neo-classical over tones seen from opening salvo of Mysterious & Victorious. The Finnish band have risen out of the ashes of Olympos Mons with singer Ian E. Highill and Bassist/Vocalist Dr K. Lundell recruiting a new ivory tickler, tub thumper and axe wielder to the fold to unleash some strong power metal with lots of classical influences. The keys sparkle on At the Edge Of The World which is prime Helloween in it's composition and this style continues on When Death Comes Knocking all of which have that Germanic heavy metal feel, they even dip into Dream Evil territory with We All Made Metal which is a thunderous mid rocker about how we indeed all make metal, Black Sails moves into Rockin' Rolf territory with a Pirate shanty made with added embellishments that merge it with Alestorm albeit with less silliness. Highhill's vocals are great especially on the soaring ballad To Isolde. The album moves between rampaging metal tracks like Mary (Bloody) and Five Fallen Angels and slower classically influenced piano-led ballads like Last Man On Deck. A great little album from these Finns steeped in the elements that make power metal exciting, one for fans of keyboard and guitar driven neo-classical metal that is technically precise but with a reliance on songs rather than showing off. 8/10

Exlibris: Aftereal (Metal Mind)

More power/heavy metal now, this time from Poland, unlike Astralion though Exlibris come from the heavy end of the spectrum with nods to Beyond Fear and Primal Fear this is because of Krzysztof Sokołowski's glass shattering vocals, people may recognise him as the singer for Night Mistress (reviewed earlier this year), his vocals are very similar to those of Tim 'Ripper' Owens with the crooning baritone and the screeching highs. The musicianship behind it too is heavyweight with big guitar riffs from band leader and guitarist Daniel "Dani" Lechmański, who spars with keyboardist Piotr "Voltan" Sikora throughout and they even duel with renowned Polish violinist Zbigniew Wodecki on The Day Of Burning. Like I've said this is an album that harks to the gruffer, some would say more Germnaic style of power metal with tracks like In The Darkest Hour echoing Primal Fear, Omega Point having the Teutonic rush of Accept. However the band also encompass more progressive tendencies on the piano led interlude Before The Storm which features some great female vocals before King Of The Pit slithers with some fist pumping metallic stomping before it concludes with some orchestral backed Maiden-like galloping. Closer has the epic heaviness of Evergrey and actually features the pipes of Mr Englund himself who croons majestically his voice blending well with Sokołowski's harsher tones. Exlibris have displayed real panache and flair on this album so if you like technical, intelligent power metal then Aftereal will really float your boat. 8/10  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The View From Another Country: Crippled Black Phoenix

Crippled Black Phoenix - Gagarin 205, Athens, Greece

Travelling to Greece for gig may seem a bit extreme but let me put it into context. As Paul was knee deep in brutality, I was in Greece visiting my other half for a short holiday and the British post rockers happened to be playing the final show of their tour in the city on the second night I was there. Having never been to a gig in Greece I didn't know what to expect but as myself and my gorgeous companion entered the venue we were hit by the fug of tobacco smoke in the room, this harks back to when I first started gigging and you could still smoke indoors, no there is no smoking ban in Greece folks (the government tried but the Greeks hilariously ignored it blatantly) so the dry ice the blew just as the band came on stage made surrounded the stage haze.

As founder Justin Greaves and frontman Daniel Änghede ploughed straight into stomping clarion call riff of Rise Up And Fight the excitement piqued as CBF are a band I've always wanted to see but one who tour the UK rarely. Their brand of heavy, modern, Pink Floyd-like metallic rock with lots of electronics is a very unique prospect and as the first song developed, the synths of Mark Furnevall and piano of Daisy Chapman both add atmosphere add melody to the tracks as Ben Wilsker added the percussive thump from behind the kit. Staying in heavy territory we were whisked away next on the White Light Generator which was driven by Wilsker's drums and some gut rumbling guitars from the two rhythm guitarists with a third who's name escapes me adding some Frippesque elements over the sledgehammer battering. There is a reason why I can't remember the new guitarist and indeed the bassist's name, as both were recent additions to the band, their actual bassist recently had child so a friend of their's stepped in with limited practice time, still he managed brilliantly but it meant that throughout Änghede took over the bass duties for a few of the songs, the third guitarist was picked up in Sofia, Bulgaria and had no practice time for these gig, he was stunning adding a lot of Gilmour like guitar trickery to fill out the songs.

All the band pulled together to play the heavy, stirring music for a crowd that started out as quiet, but more on that later, Greaves did most of the talking during the gaps, introducing the band members and goaded the audience to make more noise. The doom of Jonestown Martin creeped in giving Daisy Chapman the first chance to shine with her haunting vocals on the disturbing song, No! is a ringing propulsive track from their last album which moves between light an shade. Änghede's voice is good being both emotive and fractious adding a real human element to the music especially on Song For The Loved and the romantic sounding Fantastic Justice which is built on Chapman's piano riff. Because of the problems we were promised a longer show in future and then the challenge was set down, the band incite a sing along to Burnt Reynolds, a tradition that started in Athens, the song is an atmospheric track that builds to its shout along section, it was the first song to really incite the crowd, the Athenians roared at the top of their lungs for the entirety of the song and for around five minutes after the song ended which prompted the encore to start with a reprise of the track inciting yet another sing along with the crowd giving their all, the band were visibly over awed with the response claiming it to be the best on the tour, it was hard to argue, as the crowd continued after the song had finished, the smoke filled room exploded into rapturous applause once again. It was time for the finale and the last song was a short, sharp, shock in contrast to the progressive, sprawling epics that had proceeded it and with the final chord of Samhain's Let The Day Begin it was all over for another tour cycle the band were elated and relived at the smiling faces in the audience. I myself was in awe of the band who seemed to give every ounce of energy to the set. Where CBP go and what they do after this is anyone's guess but hopefully it will be more UK dates nearer me after the next album. If not I know there is always Athens! A great gig in fantastic company! 9/10 

Another Point Of View: Behemoth (Review By Paul)

Behemoth: O2 Academy, Birmingham

Potentially one of the most explosive and exciting packages to hit these shores for many years, the four band line up of Winterfyllth, Grand Magus, Decapitated and Behemoth captured the imagination several months ago and tickets were duly snapped up. The anticipation had been heightened as all bands on the bill have released possibly their best works this year. It was therefore incredibly disappointing to discover a few days before that the curfew at the venue was 10 pm due to the 02's weekly Propaganda club night. This is clearly a nationwide policy as members of MoM have experienced the same problems at Bristol and Islington venues in the past few months. The challenge of getting to Birmingham from Cardiff for 6pm doors was incredible, and although I was lucky enough to take a half day to ensure early arrival, poor Ant and Elle didn't actually make it to the venue until the end of the Decapitated set, at a ridiculously early 8:10pm. Clearly something that we have to take into account for next year’s gigs, especially when the majority of our events take place away from our home soil. Food for thought. So, what about the actual music?

Manchester’s Winterfylleth (8) were afforded a mere four songs in a 25 minute set. Hitting the stage bang on 6:15pm, the black metal titans wasted no time in ensuring that all of those lucky enough to get into the venue early were fully rewarded. Building on their storming sets at BOA and Damnation (which I sadly missed) Chris Naughton and Mark Wood’s excellent guitar work combined with the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Simon Lucas and bassist Nick Wallwork to create a wall of death metal laced with delicate and technical elements which sets the band apart from many others in this genre. A double serving from their recent superb release The Divination Of Antiquity, the title track and the quite breath taking Whisper Of The Elements demonstrated why this band are much loved in the underground metal scene. Sheer endeavour, hard graft and excellent technical skills: hopefully their star is in the ascendency.

Swedish power trio Grand Magus (9) are no strangers to the MoM crew, although for Alex and Chris this was their first time and the very reason for their attendance; they captured pride of place on the centre of the barrier for the mighty Swedes (and indeed for the entire evening – much to the admiration of the rest of the crew).  JB and the band were also afforded limited stage time and they got straight to it, blasting off with I, The Jury, a svelt and shorn JB peeling off riffs ably support by bassist Fox and drummer Ludde. Grand Magus have an old school heavy metal sound, but there is also something refreshingly new about them. Inciting much fist pumping and head banging, Like The Oars Strike The Water was quickly followed by the title track of this year’s brilliant Triumph And Power before JB encouraged the ever increasing numbers in the crowd to sing along to Steel Versus Steel, which to be fair they did. Set closer Hammer Of The North proved that the audience were now totally engaged with the Swedes and a huge ovation indicated that they are well loved on UK shores.
As the strains of War Pigs kicked in over the PA, the lights dropped to announce the entry of Polish technical Death Metal outfit Decapitated (8) Another extremely short set saw Vogg and his band demonstrate that sometimes quality over quantity does work. A mere five tracks allowed, with the engaging and intimidating front man "Rasta" Piotrowski dominating the front of the stage, dreads flowing freely and guttural death vocals repeatedly delivering tough jabs to the ribs. Blistering drumming and fast moving songs helped ensure that the crowd were still engaged. A couple of tracks from the excellent Blood Mantra combined with some old school stuff such including Spheres Of Madness allowed the band to deliver nothing more than a taster of their music. This band are brutal live and it was a shame the serving was so limited.

A 30 minute change over saw the O2 change in atmosphere as the impressive stage set for Nergal and his cohort was constructed. A huge backdrop, the traditional star of chaos microphone stands and platforms for the band to stand on. Combined with an impressive light display that adapted to each song throughout the set, Behemoth (9) always put on an impressive visual show. As the house lights dimmed, orchestral music heralded the entrance of the band, complete with capes and hoods. Opening with Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel, the next 90 minutes mesmerised, enchanted and captivated the crowd. The fury and sheer assault of the Black Death metal which has become so recognisable incited some very aggressive pits at the front of the stage and some impressive head banging in the rest of the venue. The set comprised a fair slab from the quite mind-blowing The Satanist, including the title track which was quite stunning. The drumming of Inferno throughout was absolutely destructive, powerful double bass pedals combining with rapid fire snare and symbol action. The band powered through tracks from Demigod (Conquer All And Slaves Shall Serve), Evangilon (Alas, Lord Is Upon Me) and the brutal Ov Fire And The Void along with cuts from Satanica And The Apostasy, Nergal and Seth laid down demonic riff after riff, moving around the stage with authority, and combined effortlessly with the imposing Orion on bass who stalked the stage with a demonic grin, like a serial killer hunting his next victim.

Each track was accompanied by different intros and the band slowly shed some of the stage outfits they had started with. Of course, Behemoth wear the corpse paint and this remains an intimidating element of their stage presence, adding a sinister edge to the already deathly satanic edge to their music. Closing with Chant For Eschaton 2000 the band took the obligatory photo in front of the crowd before departing.  As the encore commenced, spotlights picked out each member of the band, cloaked and complete with devil goat masks with huge horns. The lighting creating a black mass type atmosphere, adding the already dark imagery. Behemoth ripped through O Father, O Satan, O Son with the crowd going crazy. A huge crescendo brought the evening to an end bang on the 10:00pm mark. Behemoth are a force to be reckoned with live and a match for anyone. The joy of seeing a fully fit Nergal is simply magical. A set worth waiting for. Just a shame the other bands didn't have enough time to really get into their own sets.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Reviews: Primordial, Lonewolf, Temperance (Reviews By Stief)

Primordial: Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade)

The first album from the band in 7 years, Primordial's Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a great return. Title track and album opener Where Greater Men... immediately grabs you and doesn't let go, with pounding drums and grinding guitars. Alan Averill or Nemtheanga's voice does take some getting used to if you haven't listened before, but generally, fits well with the distorted guitars and heavy bass that come with the territory of black/extreme metal. The album is relentless in its heaviness, Babel's Tower and Come The Flood are both slow and heavy before The Seed Of Tyrants rips you right back up again. There are some great riffs throughout and Primordial show their Irish roots in nearly every song, especially Born To Night, which includes a heavy, almost folk-like 4 minute intro before getting into the song. Album closer Wield Lightning To Split The Sun is just as heavy as the rest of the album, the chanting of the band reminiscent of later-era Rotting Christ. Founding members Ciáran MacUiliam and Pól MacAmhlaigh (on guitars and bass respectively) are supported by Simon Ó Laoghaire on drums and Micheál Ó Floinn on guitars. A brutal and heavy album throughout. 7/10

Lonewolf: Cult Of Steel (Massacre)

There's something about European power metal bands with wolf-based names that just seems to capture me. Lonewolf is no exception with Cult Of Steel, their follow up to last year's The Fourth And Final Horseman. Album opener Cult Of Steel builds up with an eastern-style sound, before breaking into fast paced guitars and heavy drums. Lonewolf pretty much keep the speed throughout the entire album with solos galore and the lyrics are basic power metal fare, promoting the religion of heavy metal and (as the name would imply) wolf-related subjects, Werewolf Rebellion and The Grey Wolves being prime examples. Both Funeral Pyre and Mysterium Fidei are highlights of the album, breaking away from the quicker pace of the rest of the album for a heavier, slightly slower sound. Lead singer Jens Börner's voice is a mix between Powerwolf's Attilla Dorn and a less gravelly Lemmy, which, when combined with the guitar of Alex Hilbert, the bass of Rikki Mannhard and Antoine Bussière's drums give a great sound. Overall a great album with some brilliant music 8/10

Temperance: Temperance (Scarlet)

The first full release from Italy's Temperance, their self titled album does not disappoint. The opening track Tell Me is an uplifting track with soaring vocals from lead singer Chiara and awesome riffs from Marco, who provides the backing vocals and growls, as well as some of the clean vocals on songs such as Breathe and Stronger. While it would be easy to compare Temperance with other female fronted symphonic bands, I don't think it would do them justice. The band seem to mix the clean vocals with growls perfectly, neither seeming too much at any given time. The solos are great too, not taking up too much of the song, but providing a great bridge between the verses. The album has something for pretty much everyone; from  in the form of Stronger, more dramatic songs like Lotus and The Fourth Season. A personal favourite is To Be With You which feels like a love song to the fans and how it feels how to be a fan of a band. The special edition has a surprising addition with a cover of Christina Perri's A Thousand Years, which seems to fit extremely well with the band's vocal style. With a new album out early next year, this is a band to look out for. 9/10

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Another Point Of View: Electric Six (Review By Paul)

Electric Six: Islington Academy

A disappointing absence of the annual Welsh date for the Detroit powerhouse that is Electric Six was turned into an excellent opportunity for a weekend visiting friends in London whilst also managing to ensure that we were able to catch the irrepressible Dick Valentine and his cohorts.

Electric Six are best viewed when well on the road to destination “bladdered” and this year was no exception. I've described this venue before; located in North London it is an 800 capacity and it was very close to capacity as Dick and the boys took the stage for 70 minutes (inclusive of encore!) of their tongue in cheek rock infused rock with disco, funk and a dash of new wave thrown in for good measure. Kicking off with Karate Lips from their excellent 2014 Human Zoo release, Electric Six were in fine form, with Mr Valentine stalking the stage, wisecracks and deadpan delivery after every song. If you've never seen these boys live you really need to sort it out as there is something for everyone. The band delivered tracks from nine albums, including some of their lesser known stuff along with four tracks from the new album. As you would expect, the older “classics” always provoke the most vigorous reaction and Gay Bar part 1 and part 2 incited parts of the crowd to deliver some rather dodgy shapes whilst spilling Hobgoblin all over themselves! She's White was rabidly received with the guitar riffs strong enough to please the metal loving elements of the audience. New track It's Horseshit prompted a smashing sing-along whilst Improper Dancing was exactly what it said on the tin!

The focus of the band is always on Valentine whilst the rest of the group remain firmly in the background; however, they are all fantastic musicians, whether it is the White Wolf on guitar cranking out the riff to Danger! High Voltage, “My drummer” pounding the rhythm to the disco funk irreverence of Adam Levine or the smooth keys of new wave infused Synthesiser. Added together they produce a heady mix which absolutely screams for a balls-out good time, something lost on a few members of the audience near us who complained about our dancing; “She’s bumped into me five times”.  Unsurprisingly, the shortest of shrift was supplied and they wisely moved out of our way. The majority of the audience were quite happy to lose their shit, especially as set closer and firm favourite I Buy the Drugs swept all before it. What a song. Epic shapes thrown all around.
A raucous evening was brought to an end in fine style with the infectious Dance Commander providing the opportunity for some final brutal riffs to encourage a last boogie. As always, the band delivered a fine set, oozing with quality and fine musicianship. This band don’t take themselves seriously but are always serious about delivering a good performance. Roll on December 2015 … in South Wales this time lads please. 9/10

Another Point Of View: At The Gates (Review By Paul)

At The Gates - The Globe, Cardiff

Morbus Chron

First up on a night of sheer brutality was Stockholm outfit Morbus Chron. The band have been in existence for seven years and create a formidable noise. An amalgamation of old school death metal and the more melodic groove of the progressive death scene, the band powered through a short set with aplomb. Musically they were tight, with plenty of riffs and hooks to get you interested whilst vocally Robert Andersson (according to their FB page anyway) has a tried and tested death growl approach. A decent reception was afforded from the relatively healthy but not sold out crowd (shame on you, Cardiff). 6/10

Triptykon

The opportunity to see Thomas Gabriel Fischer in the dry and in my home City meant I was always buying a ticket and was as much as a draw for me as the headliners. I have a long affection for Fischer’s (or Warrior’s) work, dating back to the early Celtic Frost days and I hold fond memories of seeing them in the long defunct Top Rank Club in the mid-1980s. I've already reviewed Triptykon this year in the live arena at BOA and on record with their excellent Melana Chasmata release earlier this year. The band battled with an appallingly fuzzy sound (which Fischer painfully acknowledged) to deliver one of the heaviest slabs of metal The Globe will have ever witnessed. Opening with Goeita from Eparistera Daimones, the room was filled with that unique skull crushing doom laden mid-paced delivery that has been the hall mark of all of Fischer’s bands. Altar Of Deceit followed, surprisingly the only track from Melana Chasmata with the huge bass sound of Vanja Slajh combining with the furious percussion of Norman Lonhard. A real treat followed with a double Celtic Frost serving; the mosh inducing Circle Of The Tyrants which got the room moving in earnest followed by The Usurper with Fischer and V. Santura combining brutal riffs with sledgehammer intensity.  The final song, The Prolonging from Eparistera Daimones closed the set, albeit in a slightly extended manner. Few bands close out a five set song with a 20 minute track but this is Triptykon. Throughout the set, Fischer was engaging in his interaction with the audience and it was a pleasure to see the band and the great man in such close confines. What the hell he must have made of it all I’m not sure.  7/10

At The Gates

At War With Reality, ATG's first release for the best part of 20 years ensured that Gothenburg's death metal legends put themselves firmly back in the shop window for this tour. However, nothing could prepare for the onslaught that hit the crowd. Hitting the stage to the strains of El Altar, the band blasted into Death And The Labyrinth from At War... at full steam, pits kicking off immediately. However, any band that hits track two with Slaughter Of The Soul has serious confidence in their set list. Pulverising guitar work from Anders Björler and Martin Larsson combined with Jonas Björler’s cement mixer heavy basslines and the breathtakingly fast drumming of Adrian Erlandsson provided a captivating spectacle throughout the hour and a half show. Vocalist Tomas Lindberg delivers whether his is playing to 300 people or 3000 (This band sold out the Forum in London with ease).
A liberal dose of stuff from the new album, seven in all, was interspersed with several classics from Slaughter Of The Soul as well as a representation from their other three releases. Cold, Nausea and Under A Serpent Sun received fanatical responses whilst many of the crowd were just as familiar with some of the new stuff, such as the title track and The Book Of Sand. ATG deliver with a high degree of intensity, Lindberg urging the crowd to give as much as the band, whilst the band continue to layer slab after slab of melodic death. Closing with Blinded By Fear, Kingdom Gone and The Night Eternal, ATG demonstrated why they are revered and remain one of the metal legends in the death arena. 8/10

The only shame was that there were so few there to witness it. As a metal City, Cardiff may be able to see out Slipknot at the MIA but this is where it’s at and the South Wales metal community rarely delivers. Get into the smaller gigs, see the band really close up and have an awesome time.

Reviews: Bloodbath, Emigrate, Incinery (Reviews By Paul)

Bloodbath: Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville)

The long awaited fifth long player from death metal super group Bloodbath has landed and dear reader, it is fucking evil. Hammering drums from Opeth sticksman Martin Axenrot, bone crushing bass lines from the normally eloquent and softly spoken Jonas Renke combine with terrifyingly heavy guitar work from Katatonia’s Anders Nystrom and Per Eriksson to deliver one of the blackest, nastiest releases of the year. After two years of speculation since the departure of Mikael Akerfeldt, it was revealed earlier this year that Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes would deliver the voice. Questions were asked about his death metal vocal credentials and if he would be able to continue the Bloodbath sound. The answer: Oh yeah. An absolutely devilish opening scream on Let The Stillborn Come To Me leaves you in absolutely no doubt that Holmes is the perfect fit. Total Death Exhumed hammers that final doubt deep in the metaphorical coffin, with a guttural growl of such intensity I struggle to find a more sinister voice this side of Nergal. Of course, early Paradise Lost had a very similar vocal delivery from Holmes but he hasn't had to perform like this for a few years now.

The album is pure death metal, the majority of it played at absolutely breakneck speed, with the guitar duels lacing the tracks with a visceral undercurrent. Renke and Axenrot revel in their freedom and cut loose, driving the tracks forward at unstoppable speeds. There are moments of calm hidden within the assault. You just have to hunt bloody hard for them. Anne is an eerie composition which takes a quick pause before assaulting you whilst Church Of Vastitas opens with an atmospheric build up, doom laden drums combining with slower, crushing riffs and Holmes allowed a slower more measured delivery. And the rest of the album just pulverises you with its demonic overtures, clawing at your intestines and ripping you apart. Mental Abortion, Infernal Necropsy and My Torturer, all are dripping with malevolence and vile intent. Dripping with possibly the most brutal work that Bloodbath has ever delivered, Grand Morbid Funeral just destroys. Even the album closer, the title track is absolutely brutal with a combination of every element of the album; the cloisters echo with chanting until Holmes provides the killer conclusion with the rest of the band blasting away. The Devil does indeed have the best tunes. 9/10

Emigrate: Silent So Long (Vertigo)

The second release from Rammstein guitarist Richard Kruspe is a powerful chunk of industrial soaked rock with a plethora of guests scattered across the album. Emigrate’s first album was released seven years ago and had a slightly less industrial tinge than Kruspe's main gig. Silent So Long has a much greater industrial feel to it, with flavours of NIN, Kraftwerk and Marilyn Manson hitting you in the face from the off. Opener Eat You Alive features Frank Delle from Seeed and is very much a classic opener, rocking guitars hitting the down tuned delivery that immediately brings Manson’s sound to mind. Get Down has a guest appearance from Peaches and is a slower, grittier tune. Rock City features Lemmy leading on the vocals and sounds like a Motörhead track; pounding drumming and a fast pace as Lemmy delivers his unique style of vocal. The god of fuck himself appears on Hypothetical and is one of the stand out tracks on this solid album. Manson's voice combines perfectly with the pulsing techno back beat, huge riffs and dirty guitar. “Let's fuck” commands Manson. It's anthemic and would stand alongside any of Manson's own compositions. Rainbow has a real Depeche Mode feel with synths merging with the driving guitar work. Two other collaborations feature at the tail end of the album; firstly Margaux Bossieux, a French expatriate who was former bassist of punk outfit Dirty Mary and who is Kruspe’s partner and collaborator on his other side project, Slippin Away. Bossieux provides backing vocals on both Emigrate albums and on Happy Times sings a duet with Kruspe. Final track Silent So Long features Korn main man Jonathan Davies and like the rest of the album fuses the  guitars of Kruspe and Olsen Involtini with thumping bass lines of long time Emigrate member Arnaud Giroux and Apocalyptica drummer Mikko Siren in an industrial maelstrom bringing the album to a fitting conclusion. It takes a few listens to get into this album and if the darkness of Reznor, Manson et al isn't your thing then it's unlikely that this will do much for you. It's a solid release and certainly worth a spin. It would be interesting to see Emigrate in the live arena at some time in the near future. 7/10

Incinery: Dead Bound and Buried (Independent)

Nottingham based thrashers Incinery's debut album is a fine reminder that the UK can still deliver quality thrash metal. In a year when some of the old school from across the pond have punched hard, (See releases from Exodus and Overkill for starters), Dead Bound And Buried builds on their two earlier EP releases, Nothing Left and Dawn Of War. After the obligatory atmospheric opener With Strange Aeons, it is heads down thrash all the way with riffs screaming out through Death May Die. Deceiver delivers a slightly slower paced track with skull crushing, grinding chords and some awesome solo work from the dual axe attack of Chris Kenny and Jason Chaikeawrung. Having caught some the Incinery set at BOA this year this was an album which contained no surprises but delivered brilliantly. Sometimes you really want to have the comfort of solid, well played music which kicks you in the nuts and this album does that alright.  Whilst it won’t win awards for originality, it should win something for the sheer effort and drive that courses throughout. Tragedy Of One only needs the drawl of Chuck Billy to sit comfortably on the next Testament release, though James Rawlings vocals deliver in their own excellent style. Destroy The Gods pinches part of the riff from Sad But True before building into the mid-point epic of the album, slow paced power chord action moving through the Anthrax stomp before a Slayer style full frontal attack rips off the majority of your face in one hit. There is a mass of influences coursing through this release and it is monstrous. With the seemingly hopeless state of once great UK hopes Evile, Incinery along with bands like Seprevation have grasped the UK thrash mantle with both hands and are intent on maintaining a firm grip. Their appearance at Hammerfest already has classic stamped all over it and I can see a number of the MoM crew losing their shit in the pits. Devastating stuff. 8/10

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Reviews: Will Wallner & Vivian Vain, Kaledon, Black Book Lodge

Will Wallner & Vivian Vain: The Battle For Clyst Heath (Self Released)

Will Wallner is the British born guitarist of the semi-defunct White Wizzard (It is too complicated for words) and Croatian singer Vivian Vain, their debut album was released in 2012 and now with The Battle Of Clyst Heath they have set about creating another album of hard rock that nods it's head at the more classic style of music from the late 70's and 80's. Wallner is considered a blues rock guitarist and while this album has got blues rock passages the over arching style is that of Rainbow, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy. Things kick off with a guitar rendition of Vangelis' Blade Runner theme which has the synth backing topped with some silky guitar lines from Wallner which bursts straight into the rocking riffage of The War Of The Roses which is a historical tale ripped right out of the Thin Lizzy song book, in fact Vain's strong, unique and smoky vocals are perfect for this kind of hard rock. She croons and crows on tracks like Eye Of The Storm which does sound a lot like vintage Dio and features some great guitar work from Wallner like the super speed solo at the end. Wallner has also got some great musicians helping him out too with Dio Disciples Bjorn Englen bassist and former White Wizzard drummer Giovanni Durst contributing to most of the tracks he also has both the Appice brothers drumming on the album Tony Franklin adding bass and final track the instrumental The Loner is a tribute to Gary Moore, the bluesiest track on the album if features Moore's former bandmates Neil Murray and Don Airey on bass and keys respectively. As I said the album draws from classic hard rock with Black Moon harks back to Wallner's Wizzard days with a NWOBHM stomp, You Won't Take Me Alive is a Purple-like propulsive rocker and the title track is pure Blackmore in his Rainbow days with some truly stunning guitar playing and some cracking walking bass. Wallner and Vain have produced yet another album of quality hard rock with top class musicianship and some great songwriting. 8/10  

Kaledon: Antillius: The King Of The Light (Scarlet Records)

As the orchestras swell we are plunged straight into symphonic metal territory here, with nods to Rhapsody, Sonata Arctica and even Blind Guardian, Italians Kaledon have been playing this kind of music since 1999 and this is their 8th album, much like countrymen Rhapsody the band rely on cinematic concept albums as their stock in trade with this being the second album in their second conceptual arc based around this albums titular King Of The Light. As far as the music goes that too is very similar to Luca Trulli's mob with dual guitar assault throughout with the solos coming from Alex Mele, rhythms from Tommaso Nemesio both of whom are founders of the band along with bassist Paolo Lezziroli, fast paced drumming from Massimiliano Santori, sweeping keys and orchestrations of Paolo Campitelli and the soaring Euro vocals of Marco Palazzi. The songs are well written but there are many bands already doing this sort of thing who have a bigger profile so that may mean this album will not be recognised. This is good album for power metal fans and it does have all the hallmarks of the more symphonic/cinematic side of the genre with some good musicianship from all involved but most, even dyed in the wool, power metal fans, will find it to be another album full of swords and sorcery gimmickry that sticks rigidly in the Rhapsody mold. 5/10

Black Book Lodge: Tundra (Mighty Music)

Black Book Lodge are a four piece band based in Copenhagen, Tundra is their debut album and is very hard to classify. For the most part they seem to be stoner based heavy rock with QOTSA, Monster Magnet, Soundgarden and even The Sword. Many of these comparisons are due to the vocals of Ronny Jønsson who also plays guitar along with Jonas Budtz Møller bringing some huge heaving slabs of riffage, Ronny's voice is similar to Audrey Horne's Toschie meeting Chris Cornell in a frozen wasteland. His vocals are especially prevalent on Black Sheep/Prodigal Sons which is a hell of a song with its swaggering riff and final swirling solo that melts into the chunky rocking of Pendulum which swings (sorry) with some gang chants and some perfect guitar work. As with all stoner style rock music the rhythm section that drives the massive riffage Trygve Borelli and Lund Jakob Gundel are the powerhouse engine room making sure the songs rattle your bones allowing Ronny and Jonas to rock like bastards on an album that has a definitive old school flavour sounding as if it was made to be on vinyl, the production and otherworldly songwriting creates soundscapes that many bands would kill for, see Thalassa as an example of this as the song still has the bulldozer guitars but also lots of dynamics that mean it doesn't sound same and also lets the screamed intro of The Call smash you in the face with it's fuzzed up distortion assault, which continues through the trippy Cripplegate as this fades out in a wall of feedback, things get all Planet Caravan on the title track which is an acoustic, percussion based track with a laid back sparse feel much like it's geographical namesake, with the break over we go back into electric territory as once again the fuzz is in charge with the finale of Empire which wouldn't seem out of place on a Josh Homme record and starts with some atmospheric guitar playing in the verses before the rock kicks in in the 'choruses'. These four Danes have created a storming debut filled with big juicy riffs, but they also have enough melody to make every song make it's own mark, all of this together leads to a great listening experience of an album that has snuck in at the end of the year and blown my face clean off . 10/10      




Reviews: Exodus, Bloodshot Dawn (Reviews By Paul)

Exodus: Blood In Blood Out (Nuclear Blast)

Building quickly with sirens blazing, the unmistakable thrash of Californian veterans Exodus unload immediately with opener Black 13. The incredible vocals of Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza make a welcome return to the Exodus fold, his first since 2004’s Tempo Of the Damned. For all that man mountain Rob Dukes filled the front of the stage, Souza’s voice really is the one for this band.  Since the initial days of Paul Baloff, Souza’s snarling slightly histrionic delivery have become synonymous with Exodus as he featured on several of their early albums post Bonded By Blood.
This is a straight down the line ferocious slab of classic Exodus. No holds barred attack from start to finish, driving rhythms from powerhouse drummer Tom Hunting and bassist Jack Gibson, slicing dangerous fretwork from the legend and Slayer member Gary Holt and long standing co-guitarist Lee Altus combine with the tried and tested chant along choruses which you would expect. I fucking love Exodus. They do everything you want from a thrash band. Collateral Damage is a galloping race, the guitar work frenetic with Hunting’s drumming relentless. Salt In The Wound features a neat solo from ex-Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett and is a tasty piece, grizzly vocals and a balls-out chorus from Souza, riffs galore and those hooks! Absolute killer hooks ooze through this album and the riffs are just brutal. Catchier than an STD, Exodus know that the formula for their music ain't broke … and they have no intention of fixing it.

BTK features another guest, this time the awesome Chuck Billy. This track opens with a stomping, thundering front section before Souza preaches away, duelling with Billy on the chorus. Billy has a definitive delivery and merges with Souza to magnificent effect. BTK has a huge slab of Testament about it, crushing riffs laced with lashings of melody. I always thought Exodus hit you hard and fast but several of the tracks on Blood In Blood Out clock in at over six minutes. My Last Nerve has a pulverising bass and drum line propelling it forward, with Holt and Altus peeling off licks like spitfires diving towards a squadron of Heinkels. Exhilarating stuff.  Some quick time changes and its back to the forward transmission; a good bloody wallop over the head. Penultimate track Food For The Worms builds slowly with massive menace before a double riff and staccato drumming powers the track into an all-out thrash monster which leads nicely to the special edition closer, Angel Of Death. Not the Slayer version, but a thrashing stomping cover of Angel Witch's track. It’s an impressive cover too, with Souza joining in vocals to excellent effect.

At several points in the album I pinched myself to confirm that I was indeed in 2014 and not the late 1980s, such is the retro vibe to this album. And I say that in a positive way, with Blood In Blood Out capturing the feel and sound of the emerging late 80s thrash era. This is my kind of thrash, and this album is about as good a release as anything this year. See you in the pit! 9/10

Bloodshot Dawn: Demons (Self Released)

UK outfit Bloodshot Dawn have been in our sights at MOM for a long time. Their spell binding self-titled debut caught the metal world by storm in 2012, a rather tasty long player of exceptional melodic death metal, full of technical musicianship which grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and proceeded to bang your head on the desk for the next 50 minutes. The band toured it relentlessly, and I think I caught them at least four times last year, each time happily observing their improvement. BD earned many plaudits for their debut including best unsigned band awards two years running from the mighty Terroriser magazine. An opening slot on the main stage on Friday at BOA this year pulled in a very healthy crowd and was reward for the hard work and promotion that the band had invested.
So, on the back of a very successful Pledge Music campaign, BD promised to deliver the follow-up Demons in the late autumn and they duly complied with their promise. This really was the difficult second album but holy crap, how they have delivered. The musical delivery on Demons is a massive step up from the already technically excellent debut. Smoke And Mirrors opens with the damaging drumming that you would expect from a death metal band, unstoppable pounding from new skins man Janna Jaloma merging with the brutal bass delivery of bassist Anthony Ridout. The vocals of Josh McMorran’s fit the track perfectly, whilst his guitar duelling with Benjamin Ellis is stunning. Intricate and immersed in technicality, they give BD a sound which is immediately recognisable as their own. Consequence Complex follows, an out and out face melter with the drumming almost unbelievable, it is so fast. Detailed time changes and memorable riffs emerge as the track develops, the solos still sharp enough to cut you. It is the next track, Unified where things really take a step up with one of the most stunning songs that BD have ever created. A brutal riff and blasting drums drive the track forward, the vocals guttural and insanely chaotic, huge hooks underpinning the chorus and solos pouring out from every side.

It doesn't slow down at any point; however what makes the album such a quality one is the ability of BD to create a moment of calm despite the maelstrom that they create around them. Inadequacy showcases a band anything but that, with a quite blistering bass delivery from Ridout, his lines ascending and descending all over the place, stomping you hard like a buffalo in a mud-hole. The middle section of the track develops into real old school stomping thrash for a brief minute before the pace accelerates allowing the guitars to shine; a brief period of respite then allows you to catch your breath before the charge recommences with a stunning piece of dual shredding. Black Hole Infinity is a mighty slab of death metal, yet retains a melodic element that makes BD that little bit more accessible than several of their older peers. The introduction of Ellis into the vocal fold has spiced up the delivery for the better throughout the album and having already seen BD perform a couple of these tracks, I can vouch for the live experience too. Black Hole Infinity contains some intricate breakdowns with subtle layered changes, all the while bound with the BD sound. Human Void has guest vocals from Aborted frontman Sven Caluwe whilst an all-star cast litter penultimate (and quite stunning) track The Image Faded. As well as an absolutely ball-dropping number of hooks and riffs, solos flooding this track, with some cutting edge axe work from guests Teemu Mantysaari of Wintersun, Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry, Andy James (Sacred Mother Tongue) and Chris Amott alongside the already flawless fretwork of Ellis and McMorran. This track is an absolute monster, groove coursing through its lifeblood. It is quite blindingly brilliant. Demons is a fittingly epic closing track, with Ellis’ vocals a neat addition whilst there are  huge shades of In Flames cascading through the track, string sections and some beautifully crafted solos.

Bloodshot Dawn have provided a quite breath taking follow up to an outstandingly good debut album. They have combined power and brutality with technical delivery of sheer quality whilst firmly establishing their own unique sound. Lashed together with some intricate and quite delicious playing, this is an album that improves with every listen. It will be in my top ten of the year. 10/10

Friday, 5 December 2014

The View From The Back Of The Room: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel Motorpoint Cardiff

The Prog legend Peter Gabriel graced us with his presence on this tour that celebrated his breakthrough solo album So. To do this he was playing the album in it's entirety along with other tracks from his storied career. As we arrived at the Motorpoint myself, my brother and my father (A die hard Genesis/Gabriel/Collins fan) took or seats and waited for the show to begin; the irony of my situation wasn't lost on me that that the previous night I'd been watching heavy metal in smaller sweatier venue and would be doing so again the following night at Mastodon, this was in stark contrast to the large airy venue full of CEO's, Dentists and the upper middle class of a Gabriel audience.

The man himself came on to the stage and introduced the support act, this was comprised of the two female members of his band, Jennie Abrahamson on glockenspiel and haunting vocals and Linnea Olsson on cello and richer vocals, they played a laid back mix of their own songs which were beautiful lulling the audience into their world of haunting, ethereal music with intense musicianship from both. A short sweet set but one that was a nice interlude before the main event and after a short change around it was time for the main event.

Gabriel once again came out and introduced the band, Abrahamson on vocals and percussion, Olsson on vocals and cello, Manu Katche on drums, David Sancious on keys/accordion with the band being rounded out by his long term collaborators Tony Levin on bass and David Rhodes on guitar, Gabriel himself took on the role of pianist moving between that and his Fairlight synthesiser. We were told that the set would be in three parts, the first would be acoustic, the second part electric and experimental and then the final part would be So in it's entirety. Bravely the set started with a new composition called What Lies Ahead, which was so new that it didn't have any lyrics and it saw Gabriel mumbling for the most part as he played, working the occasional word in to a song that could be very very good when finished. Straight into Come Talk To Me which worked well in acoustic form as did Shock The Monkey which at the slower pace showed how good the lyrics in this song are. A rapturous applause and while looking at the crowd I noticed that the house lights were still on but all would become clear as the Gabriel crooned "The Streets Alive With Camera Crews" which beckoned Family Snapshot and as the key changed happened the lights shut down and the giant screens turned to monochrome. As the song moved on the lighting booms at the back of the stage also stirred rising above the stage like something out of War Of The Worlds, more latter period stuff with the industrial chug of Digging In The Dirt which was accompanied by some superb visuals and showed of Rhodes' guitar and Levins bass to the full, we were still in Us territory with Secret World which again was reworked slightly to make it a heavier prospect and saw Gabriel almost snarling in parts. Gabriels vocals throughout were amazing he can still hit the notes (although used the instrumental parts to recover his voice because of his previous tour halting illness). He can also still move like a man half his age with moves galore on No Self Control which became very dark as Gabriel was stalked by the lighting booms as if they were a nemesis, this accompanied with the video made for some fantastic audio visual performances, the light came on Solsbury Hill's upbeat mandolin and hints to the yellow brick road at the finale of the song with Gabriel, Levin and Rhodes following the spiral stage to it's conclusion and the main set ended with Why Don't You Show Yourself. With the experimental part finished it was time for, as Gabriel put it, our dessert. I personally enjoyed the heavier, darker arrangements of the songs but my father had some reservations about them (he is a traditionalist). Still now it was time for So in it's entirety.

As Katche started with the liquid percussion of Red Rain I personally squeaked a little as it one of my favourite songs ever and this was a perfect rendition of the emotive and explosive song which kicked off the album brilliantly and was immediately followed by the number one single Sledgehammer which did get the biggest reception of the night and is still a brilliantly funky song with it's strutting beat. Because I (and the rest of the crowd) knew the album so well we knew what was coming next with Levin's bass leading the way on the plaintive Don't Give Up which still brings a tear to the eye, especially when Abrahamson sang the Kate Bush part perfectly and received a standing ovation for doing so, directly into the more upbeat That Voice Again before the mood once again turned to the downbeat on Mercy Street which just featured Gabriel laying on the stage filmed from a ceiling based camera and surrounded by the lighting booms as he writhed while singing, he is indeed ever the showman and he bounded to his feet for the fame aping, horn fuelled Big Time which was slightly adapted and saw Gabriel singing slightly out of time with the song. The shade once again followed the light with We Do What We're Told (Milligram's 37) which took an Orwellian turn with it's fly on the wall CCTV style camera work, This Is The Picture once again added the weird dimension with both Abrahamson and Olsson handling the Laurie Anderson parts and the album set ended with the world music influenced In Your Eyes which came as an upbeat ending to the album set and got everyone's hands held high!

A break a rest and they came back on for the techno drum looped, industrial sound scape of The Tower That Ate People which was very visual with an alien orb descending from the ceiling and engulfing Gabriel as he moved inside as the song sped up towards it's climax. The final song was the still affecting Biko on which Gabriel preached against non-violence and injustice world wide, the song pulsed as Gabriel sang his heart out before leaving the crowd to chant, as he reeled off the injustices affecting the world today. As the crowd chanted the band left the stage one by one leaving Katche to just drive the song with his drums until its eventual end. That was it the lights when up the stage started coming down and we filed out in awe of what had just happened a perfect two hour set that oldies would love and even newbies would find something in. He is a master showman and one of the most unique vocalists in music. Simply staggering 10/10             

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Another Point Of View: Mastodon (Review By Paul)

Mastodon – Bristol O2 Academy

The O2 Academy was crammed to the rafters as Mastodon completed the last date of their latest UK tour in support of their latest release Once More Round The Sun.

Krokodil

Opening band Krokodil is hyped in some quarters to be one of the next big things in UK metal. Quite how I'm not sure. An assortment of members from other bands, their very recent release Nachash is one heavy slab of metalcore, although the similarity in their song writing means that the tracks tended to blend into each other. Live they fared little better although in fairness the upper balcony is never going to afford the best sound in this dire venue. Playing a selection of tracks from their debut release, the heaviness of the band’s sound dominated their set, with the bass of James Leach combining with Dan Foord’s drums to provide a huge foundation for the three guitarists, including Radio 1 ‘rock jock’ Daniel P Carter to riff away. Unfortunately those riffs were inaudible in the top part of the venue. Disappointingly, the screeching vocal delivery of frontman Simon Wright was audible and his guttural growling and screaming in general left me cold. I've said before that I'm not even a small fan of this type of band and their sound does absolutely nothing for me. A limited stage presence with restricted movement from the band apart from Wright meant that there was little to observe visually. Whilst many in the O2 appeared to respond favourably to Krokodil’s set, I’d love to know who would actually pay to watch this lot as headliners in a small venue. 5/10

Big Business

Next up were Big Business, a two piece from Los Angeles. Now these guys have been around for a while and both were members of The Melvins for a time, so it should be no surprise that their sound is sludgy yet frantic energy filled rock. As a two piece, much of the effort falls on excellent drummer Coady Willis who moves around his kit like an octopus. Bassist and vocalist Jared Warran completes the line-up and his dry wit was received warmly by the by now absolutely crammed in audience. However, once again, they were limited visually and I found my attention wandering at various parts of their set. Yes they are competent and make a demon sound and Warran's humour is very endearing, but once again they just weren't my cup of tea. 6/10

Mastodon

Once More ‘Round The Sun was released earlier this year and was another solid album. Not as instantly catching as some of the tracks on The Hunter, and certainly not as progressive as Crack The Skye, it still contains a wealth of decent tunes. Mastodon treated us to eight tracks from their latest release in a 90 minute set which kicked off in rip roaring style with Tread Lightly and Once More ‘Round The Sun as they signalled their intent. As the set developed, it was interesting to observe the change in dynamics within the band. Drummer Brann Dailor has come much more to the fore, delivering powerful clean vocals on several of the tracks. This compared to the less distinguishable drawl of Brent Hinds, who also appeared to have one of the quieter microphones for his vocal performance. Dailor is also one mighty fine drummer and his rolls and fills were quite impressive from our vantage point high in the venue. A storming Oblivion, one of two tracks from Crack The Skye received one of the biggest ovations of the evening whilst some of the newer stuff, Chimes At Midnight for example, unsurprisingly garnered a slightly less enthusiastic response.

As the show progressed it was evident that the change in the way the band are now composing has allowed bassist and main vocalist Troy Sanders to deliver a much more measured and developed vocal performance. Both Hinds and other guitarist Bill Kelliher delivered killer guitar throughout the evening, with old tracks Aqua Dementia and Ole' Nessie crushing all around. After a further two new tracks, Divinations encouraged the crowd to get even more involved before a brutally heavy Bladecatcher ripped the place apart. Sometimes you forget just how heavy this band is. As Black Tongue got the crowd singing, the first real shock of the evening hit like a hammer as Troy Sanders not only spoke to the crowd but then introduced Ember City, the last track to be played from the latest release. A triple whammy to conclude the evening was then unleashed with the powerful Megalodon, Crystal Skull and finally Blood And Thunder exhausting both the band and audience. There was also the rare sight and sound of Kelliher filling in on backing vocals for this final track of the evening. As we slopped out of the arena, Brann Dailor’s rather long “chat” continued to ring in our ears; both unexpected and interesting with a promise about a return to the UK festival circuit revealed. The rest of the band had already made a hasty exit as Dailor flapped his gums for about five minutes. Watch out for the Download announcement. Overall, a solid if unspectacular evening with the excellence of Mastodon compensating for the awfulness of the first two. 8/10