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Monday, 30 June 2014

Reviews: Jack White, Mostly Autumn, Royal Southern Brotherhood

Jack White: Lazaretto (Third Man Records)

So the Detroit musical madman returns with a second album of rootsy music harking back to his musical and geographical heritage. The first White solo album was an excuse for him to spread his wings and indulge in his love of rock, blues, folk and beyond it was different to his other works to be admired on it's own merit but retaining enough of his style to be beyond doubt it was his work. The first thing you notice about the record as Three Women (originally by Blind Willie McTell) kicks in is that it does seem more upbeat than it's predecessor with the Hammond (courtesy of former Mars Volta man Ikey Owens) driven funk of the first song gets you moving in your seat, before the gonzoid garage rock of the title track harks back to his first band, the pace changes again with Lillie Mae Rische's fiddle and country vocals bringing a southern longing to the album something that is revisited on Entitlement on which you can just hear the tumbleweed and smell the moonshine. As usual the White provides the vocals and most of the guitars with a huge cast of musicians helping him, the most notable of which is the returning Ruby Amanfu who appeared on the first album who is at her soulful best on Just One Drink. The fuzzy Highball Stepper is an instrumental that shows of Whites prowess and in the process brings to mind The Black Keys with it's explosive, fuzz fuelled guitars. Yes this isn't The White Stripes, the riffs from that band are not present, but what is present is a man who clearly is drawing from his inspirations in the Blues, Country and Folk, to create an album that is a myriad of styles and filled with the oddball, off-kilter delivery and lyricism and best of all he seems to be enjoying himself, a quality that is evident throughout the record. Old school, retro call it what you will this music never dies. Well done Mr White another cracker! 8/10

Mostly Autumn: Dressed In Voices (Mostly Autumn Records)

Mostly Autumn are now deep into their second phase with guitarist Bryan Josh and Keyboardist Iain Jennings now the only founding members (although Jennings has been in and out of the band) but they are still releasing high quality records with an ever revolving line up of musicians, (the latest change is the departure of drummer Gavin Griffiths who leaves to focus on Panic Room) Since Olivia Josh nee Sparnenn joined and vocals the band have become heavier with every record and yet again they get heavier with Dressed In Voices. Bryan Josh describes this album as a concept album about a murder that is made to live the life of the person he has killed, their past, present and future. So this is not a smiley record by any means and as Jennings' keys kick off the first track you can hear the ominous tones that foreshadow the rest of the album with the massive guitar parts driving the songs and Olivia's voice perfect for the light and shade when merged with her husbands, a rocky opener then before Jennings gets to bring you to your knees with his plaintive keys on Not Yours To Take which also has some heavyweight guitars from Bryan Joshj and Liam Davidson (also now left replaced by former guitarist Chris Johnson) as well as the pace driven by Andy Smith's bass. It is also a chance for Josh to show off his rich vocals that are part whispered part bellowed and merge perfectly with the sweet vocals of his wife. Running is probably the most Mostly Autumn song on the album with an emotional delivery and a soaring Gilmour like solo from Josh who has never shied away from his Pink Floyd influences, these get more prevalent after See You welcomes you to the dark middle section and Home has some seriously evil synth and when combined with Josh's almost menacing but yet emotive vocals it is all reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall, as does The Library. The chills run down your spine on First Day At School on which is just vocals and piano for the most part until the final part moves into an explosive instrumental final section with Jennings, Josh and new drummer Alex Cromarthy driving the song into Jeff Wayne territory and the rock comes back with a vengeance on Down By The River which shows Josh in full Blackmore mode. despite the heaviness of this record the bands folk roots come through on Skin On Skin and The House On The Hill which features the whistle and bouzouki of Troy Donockley. Equally melancholic, uplifting, ominous and joyous Dressed In Voices is a modern day morality play that questions the nature of guilt while providing an amazing musical backing which ends with the MA classic ballad Box Of Tears which features former member Anne-Marie Helder on flute and vocals. A band that have always pushed themselves sonically have now created an album that sets them in great stead for the future, a heavy concept yes but it has made for a fantastic album. 9/10

Royal Southern Brotherhood: Heartsoulblood (Ruf Records)

Onto the second album and as Tiny Robinson said the train kept-a-rollin'. When a band is made of a Neville Brother and an Allman Brother you expect the best and this is what you get, classic blues, rock, soul, funk, country and jazz filling 12 tracks and leading to a hell of a ride fro blues fans, as they say on World Blues it runs through their veins and with the staccato riff and the slide guitar melody, you can agree but they don't limit themselves to one style, the ode to this music Rock And Roll sounds like the Eagles (Joe Walsh era) with a R&B backbeat. The band is based around the trio of Mike Zito's guitars, Devon Allmans' guitars and Cyrill Neville's percussion with Yonrico Scott's drums and Charlie Wooton's bass, filling in the gaps. Because of the dual percussion the albums have a definite element of funk drawing inspiration from Neville's own band see the smooth as silk Groove On and also features Neville's smoky vocal delivery and the almost tribal drums, the funky carries on with Here It Is and moves into Callous which sounds like a blues based version of Come Together by the Beatles with Wooton driving everything brilliantly. Zito's and Allman's guitars are awesome they compliment each other brilliantly and while Zito rocks, Allman has the blues touch of his uncle. Call it blues, call it blues rock call it whatever you want this second shot of rich, soulful, rootsy southern blues rock. A great second album from this so called supergroup, now a tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band calls...Please!!?? 8/10   

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Another Point Of View: Vintage Trouble (Review By Paul)

Vintage Trouble – Bristol Bierkeller

Vintage Trouble are addictive. That first taste leaves you craving for more and every additional hit provides an immediate sense of satisfaction that quickly disappears and intensifies the craving again. My first taste was in the unlikely setting of the tent at Sonisphere in 2011 and then at a very sweaty Glee Club in 2012. Having been unable to see them in the Glee Club last year, it was inevitable that a trip across the bridge was in the schedule to maintain the addiction when VT announced their latest tour. If you haven't heard of this band, then let me enlighten you. Formed in LA in 2010, VT are Ty Taylor on vocals, Nalle Colt on guitar, Richard Danielson on drums and Rick Barrio Dill on bass. They play a combination of soulful bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with a down and dirty delivery. Possibly the sharpest dressed band in the world, it is in the live arena where Ty and the boys really deliver the goods. The Bierkeller has been around for a long time, and it’s about time it moved with the times and invested in some bloody air-conditioning. Sweltering conditions inside, combined with a capacity sell-out crowd made for a slightly uncomfortable evening although getting a little moist is very much a ritual for the Troublemakers (as VT’s fans are fondly referred to). Kicking off with Jezzebella, the room was immediately in full swing with much jiving and dirty dancing as Ty demonstrated why he is one of the best frontmen in the business. His voice is stunning, soulful and enchanting and his energy is infectious. As the band played through a selection of tracks from their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions, their influences oozed through. From Ike and Tina to the Rolling Stones, this band capture them all in a perfect blend and spin it together with their own unique style and delivery. Ty is the perfect front of house, cajoling and spinning, encouraging numerous sing-a-longs and much air palming from the adoring crowd.

A couple of news songs were also delivered, including the excellent Low Down Dirty Dog. An acoustic session in the middle of the show was welcomed by all and allowed the pace to drop without losing any momentum. Not All Right By Me was performed to perfection. As the tempo built back up with the rocky Blues Hand Me Down, there was a real opportunity for the band’s high level of musicianship to come to the fore, with the guitar work of Colt spectacular. This band have been on a constant touring cycle ever since their formation and it really shows with extended and improvised versions of virtually every song. They are incredibly tight, clearly benefitting from playing support slots to a wide range of bands including the Rolling Stones as well as numerous headline shows. Nobody Told Me highlighted the softer side of the band before they played one of their most popular tunes, the infectious Nancy Lee which again featured extended improvisation and mass audience participation. It’s difficult to describe what it is about VT that is so addictive. Maybe it’s the humility in their delivery, maybe it’s the pure energy and infectious grooves of their songs or maybe it is a combination and the fact that you can't feel anything other than incredibly happy whilst watching them. As they closed their set, jumping off stage and heading straight through the crowd to sign items in the ‘Goods and collectables’ section, all around the ‘Keller were satisfied and sticky Troublemakers who will no doubt be back to see VT as soon as they can. A brilliant night once more. 10/10

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Reviews: Mastodon, Hellyeah, Protafield

Mastodon: Once More 'Round The Sun (Reprise)

Mastodon started their career as a bunch of stoner metal toting noise merchants from Atlanta and have rapidly become one of the biggest bands in progressive metal with their breakthrough coming with the gonzoid space/prog concept album Crack The Skye a theme that was continued on 2011's The Hunter which featured a myriad of genres throughout. Now with their sixth album they have dug back into their past for inspiration as much of this album harks back to the Remission and Leviathan albums with a lot more straightforward heavy metal with a few southern rock elements. With Tread Lightly you can hear the old aggression that stood them in good stead all these years but then with The Motherload the album gains a prog-pop bent with a massive chorus and some changes of pace and is the most sure fire single much in the same way Curl Of The Burl was last time. Yes the riffs of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher still come thick and fast and the bass of troy Sanders drives the groove, see the Sabbathy High Road and as usual Brann Dailor does a stirling effort behind the drumkit. The prog is most evident on the title track which has some serious psychedelic elements to it as well as little bit of Lizzy with their sample of their Cowboy Song. The psych to  features on Asleep In The Deep. Now this album does take a few spins to unleash it's treasures but when it does you get an album that is forward thinking but also backward looking in style. There are the prog elements from the latter period the pure furious riffs of the early period but here is the major thing, as much as Mastodon are hailed as progressive metal heroes and yes they have released some great albums however Once More 'Round The Sun just seems a little safe for them. It is all a little to similar to their previous records, whereas usually they have had massive leaps between each record this one seems a little like a backward step. Still it is a technically proficient, melodic, heavy and very good record, just one that doesn't break new ground for a groundbreaking band. 7/10

Hellyeah: Blood For Blood (Eleven Seven)

Out of the bands that came after the demise of Pantera and the subsequent, much publicised loss of Dimebag Darrell, Hellyeah is possibly the one band that is closest in terms of style to the mothership. It's the band Damageplan should have gone on to be, full of Southern groove, biting riffs, Vinnie Paul's driving drums and the Chad Gray's strong, shouted vocals. Now Blood For Blood is their fourth album and there have been some chnages in the band since Band Of Brothers guitarist Greg Tibbett (also in Mudvayne with Gray) and bassist Bob Zilla have both left the group leaving Tom Maxwell as the sole guitarist and installing Kyle sanders as the four stringer. The album kicks off the the head stomping Sangre Por Sangre (Blood For Blood) which has an industrial age but the BLS style southern riffage kicks in again with Demons In The Dirt which is like SOil if they were massively pissed off! Yep few bands do this kind of chest beating, riff fuelled metal than Hellyeah and Vinnie conducts from behind his percussive pit, and they write the kind of songs that mean even when gray sings a ballad like Moth he sounds like he could beat you to death. Blood For Blood will not reinvent the wheel but what it does do is give Hellyeah their heaviset album to date and one that is full of authentic Southern groove metal, with a modern kick. Songs like DMF short for "Die Mother Fucker!" would scare FFDP and quite rightly, this isn't the music for posers or flash in the pans, this is the Great Southern Trendkill played by the people that were there! Getcha Pull!! 8/10

Protafield: Nemesis (Devfire Entertainment/Universal)

Now humour me if you will. Protafield are what Rammstein would sound like if they came from Bridgend. Touted as an industrial/electronic punk(?) band Protafield are the brainchild of Jayce Lewis formerly of the band Losing Sun, Lewis himself has already one solo album to his name, a mega hit single (Icon) in India and a BBC documentary to his name. Now his first album was a mixture of electronic elements and metal and it showed off Lewis' talent on all instruments and also his great voice. Since then he has recruited some musicians to form a band and they are now known as Protafield, With the EDM pulse of opener God Forced the album immediately shows you what its made of with tonnes of synths and electronic drum loops being merged with the more traditional band elements of guitars (Marc James who appears on every track but one) bass and drums. Much like the Rammstein albums this album doesn't let up with every track full of rampaging electronic music that also brings to mind some Zombie as well as the legend Gary Numan (who actually appears on Redesign). Severe Sever has a club like feel with some serious drumming from Jack Slade who is part man part machine. =Pure is a song dark enough to be linked with Lewis' promoter Dave "Darth Vader" Prowse and it is followed by the uplifting Perfect Defect which has a huge chorus and again some killer drums from Slade. The most epic track on the album is Wrath which features drums from Queen's Roger Taylor, it is one of the best songs on the album along with the dub filled Make Believe and closer Revolution which has a drum duel between Slade and Lewis and features Lance Henriksen as a Droid (true story Sci-Fi fans!) For fans of industrial metal (not sure where the punk bit of their description comes from) this album is very good, but it is one that will not break any genre boundaries, if you like industrial, electronic metal then you will love it if not then you may find it a bit dull. 7/10

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World Of Metal 12: Crosswind, Krownn, EnkElination

Crosswind: Vicious Dominion (No Remorse Records)

Greek power metal is a genre that has produced some great bands, first is the mighty Firewind (from Greece you know?) then onto other bands like Innerwish and Phantom Lord who have been promoting Hellenic power metal for while now but Crosswind have come to threaten the crown and they do so with gusto! With the orchestral From Ashes Reborn everything goes a bit Stratovarius with some chanting choirs and an ominous movie-like feel which builds into a crescendo that ends with the first 'proper' track Lords Of Deficit which has some savage riffage, rampaging drums and the choral flourishes from the intro track (a theme that is continued throughout the album). From this track you learn everything you need to know about Crosswind they are a much heavier prospect than a lot of their peers with the kind of riffs reserved for Symphony X, a band with whom they share a lot of similarities. The guitarists Leon Tsorbatzoglou and Kyriakos Vasdokas play off each other very well providing some great guitar lines and sublime soloing, the rhythm section of Vasilis Kyrkos (bass) and Vasilis Mitsaris (drums) mean that the band are heavier much heavier in nature than some of the more poppy power metal out there. They have the same kind of blast beats Dragonforce, Brainstorm and indeed Symphony X use it just means that Crosswind have some serious grunt to their power metal similar also to kinsmen Firewind. Their jewel in the crown is singer Vasilis Topalidis who has a hell of a voice, it is quite literally perfect, his mid range is strong and gritty but his highs are stratospheric, see Angels At War for all the proof you need of this, he is part Russell Allen (Vicious Dominion) part Tony Kakko (Aeons). I haven't heard a power metal album this good in a long time, especially one from a band on their debut! This is stirring stuff, they have everything power metal is known for in droves, with the awesome songs, headbanging riffs, amazing vocals and production so clean you can hear every note this album could creep onto my albums of the year! 10/10

Kröwnn: Magmafröst (PRC Music)

A three piece from Italy that play traditional fuzz drenched, doom metal, steeped in slow moving, heavy downtuned riffs that are usually only the reserve of Electric Wizard and Cathedral with some nods to the stoner haze of Down and Monster Magnet. The 7 minute Skeksis Dance has the slow brooding riff that smashes your head for its duration, riff master general Michele el Lello Carnielli provides the six strings of terror leading the charge for his band made up of all female rhythm section of Elena Fiorenzano's drums and Silvia Selvaggia Rossato's bass, these ladies are no slouches either with the kind of muscular backing that Orange Goblin and indeed the mighty Sabbath have. Another monolith of a track is the 8 minute Wyvernking which moves through the phases with spiralling psych and swirling drug addled hysteria. Carnielli's voice too is good having the hazy drawl of Dave Wyndorf or indeed Zakk Wylde, this is most evident on Wölfhunt which has a great change of pace that Mr Wyndorf would be proud of. Kröwnn have the sound of band raised on nothing but the first four Black Sabbath albums (similar then to Electric Wizard) and when the homage is this strong this is no bad thing, every track has riff after riff Carnielli emulating the Iron Man but he does it with such skill that it's hard to find fault in that, To Minas Morgul (yes folks Lord Of The Rings references too!) shows this off best with the final 2/3rds of the song dedicated to heavyweight jamming. No nothing new, nothing post Vol 4 but you do get 6 (8 with an intro and outro) of bone rattling slabs of traditional doom metal ready for the next time you need to shake a house to its foundations or indeed attain a new level of consciousness this may just be your soundtrack. 8/10

EnkElination: Tears Of Lust (Self Released)

So yes I realise that this part of the blog is reserved from metal around the world but sometimes you have to look home to find a good band you may have missed. EnkElination have a Finnish singer so that puts them into this category and their name too is Finnish meaning Angel so theres that in their favour too (Anyway it's my blog I'll do what I want). I digress, so back on to EnkElination's debut album, with a female singer and an album called Tears Of Lust you are probably thinking of Within Temptation, Delain, Nightwish and bands of that ilk and as soon as the crystalline operatic vocals of Elina start on the title track you realise that you are spot on this is melodic, operatic metal with some hard rock flourishes brought by guitarist Shadow who provides a killer solos throughout especially on Never Ending, Lullaby and many others. He is aided by bassist Alasdair, drummer Ben and a great heaving whack of synths. Yes with a sound similar to early Within Temptation especially on Higher Ground and the piano ballad Lullaby but they add enough of their own flourishes to separate them from the other bands of their ilk. EnkElination have a sound that somewhat flooded the market a few years ago but they do what they do well, the songs are well written, well composed and most of all well played with everyone giving 100% to every song. Elina really does have an amazing voice full of soprano power and also some fragility much like Amanda Somerville and Floor Jansen, see final showstopping track Last Time Together. With the metallic chug of Gothic fantasy based Chimeras, which continues on Changeling, the relentless drumming on Abyss on which Elina turns to the dark side. A great debut by a band with a D.I.Y attitude, they have already gathered support slots for Van Canto and others and these look to continue on the basis of this album. A fine effort indeed! 8/10

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Reviews: The Atlas Moth, Darkest Era, Night Mistress

The Atlas Moth: The Old Believer (Profound Lore Records)

The Atlas Moth are post metal band from Chicago, Illinois and The Old Believer is their third album, I've never really heard much from them so I looked upon this as an opportunity to check out a band that I had heard of but never actually listened too. From the pulsing sonics of Jet Black Passenger things start off well with three guitarist bringing a wall of noise and meaning that the songs all have waves of noise throughout. The drums smash and clatter on every track, the bass rumbles and rolls with a massively heavy undertone. As I said with three guitarists the band have a sound that is like sludge/stoner metal with lots of atmospherics coming from Andrew Ragin who provides guitars and synths. The other two guitarists Stavros Giannopoulos and David Kush respectively also provide the vocals with mix of one being harsh and deathy and the other having a booming melancholia similar to Nick Cave see The Sea Beyond which is like the sound of a seance. Imagine if you will Mastodon playing Katatonia songs and you get the jist of The Atlas Moth sounds, now as far as an album goes it works through various moods from the downtuned psychedelia of Halcyon Blvd which sounds like a bad LSD trip. yes The Atlas Moth have released a good third album which is a rich tapestry of noise but the vocals do grate a little after a while, good musically but not quite my thing. 6/10    

Darkest Era: Severance (Cruz Del Sur Music)

Folk and metal go together very well indeed and with the added traditional metal riffage it gives Darkest Era an edge. Hailing from Northern Ireland Darkest Era merge classic metal with a folk edge to give them a feeling of Iron Maiden if they had Celtic roots. The riffs come thick and fast from Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Weighell with lots of modern metallic riffs but also the dual guitar attack of old Songs Of Gods And Men shows this with it's NWOBHM style guitar rundowns but also it has a percussion based middle section before the solo's kick in. As far as the rest of the band goes Lisa Howe's drums are great with lots of pace and precision, Daniel O'Toole's bass is the bands anchor and the vocals of Krum are like Hansi Kursch in his mid-range and all the better for it, they fit perfectly and on The Serpent And The Shadow they have the same kind of rampaging metal of Grand Magus and also Twilight Of The Gods with it's chant of "Blood for Blood" and it moves into the slower paced Beyond The Grey Veil which brings the Celtic flair to things. Yes any band from Northern Ireland will be compared with both Thin Lizzy and Primordial and Darkest Era merge both with some excellent black metal drumming on Trapped In The Hourglass which big headbanging section at the last third! Finally the album is rounded off with the most epic track on the album the 7 minute plus Blood, Sand And Stone. This album is very good, filled with lots of dark imagery, some powerful emotive songs, strong vocals and some seriously good musicianship. The production too is great highlighting all of the best areas and showing all of the bands great songwriting. If you like your metal with a bit of Celtic flavour, lots of riffs but not full of the normal myths and monsters schtick then check out Darkest Era as you won't be disappointed. 8/10

Night Mistress: Into The Madness (Power Prog Records)

So if you are on a record label called Power Prog Records then that does kind of limit to what style of metal you play. No Br00tal deathcrust here I think! No this is rampaging riffs, killer solos and sky cracking vocals with all the other speed/power metal bands. With an over arching similarity to latter Priest, Beyond Fear and German loons Primal Fear, these Poles are very much in the speed/power metal bracket with all of the things I just mentioned. Chris Sokolowski's voice soars; part Ralf Scheepers, part Tim 'Ripper' Owens and with a big range and ear shattering high notes that mix perfectly with the twin guitars of Robert Kazanowski and Arek Cieśla both of whom do their best Downing and Tipton impression with their thrash-like riffs and melodic twin soloing that is aided by the superior drums of Dominik Wójcik and the galloping bass of Artur Pochwala who also provides the Scorpions-like intro to Walking On Air. Hand Of God is pure Priest, Madman and Hell Race have the silliness of Primal Fear while The Place I Belong has more of an Iced Earth feel to it with the mix of thoughtful lyrics and massive riffage that Mr Schaffer would be proud of. Oh yes this not your regular cheesy power metal this is heavy, thrash influenced speed metal with lots of Judas Priest sounding tracks straight out of the Painkiller era, with a bit of Maiden thrown in on Longing For The Devil. This is the album Ripper should have made with Priest back when he was a frontman, it's a good job that Night Mistress have done it for them then!! 8/10  

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Another Point Of View From The Back Of The Room: Winger (Review By Nick)

Winger, Jettblack & Blackwolf: O2 Academy Bristol

Cards on the table I hadn't even heard of Winger until they were introduced to me a few weeks ago. Since then they have been playing on my iPod incessantly along with the likes of Ratt, Motley Crue even Night Ranger and the rest of those slightly cheesy rock/metal bands. So again a journey to the not so brilliant but now second home, Bristol O2 Academy was ahead of Matt and I to check out Kip Winger and his nearly complete original line up on their post Donnington UK dates with Black Wolf and Jettblack.

Black Wolf

The Bristol based band are a band that I have heard a lot of great things about over the past year or so, so I was looking forward to catching them for the first time. Unfortunately due to a following club night the night at the Academy the evening started early meaning Black Wolf opened at 6.30 and were playing predominantly to an empty venue… a real shame. Nevertheless this did not stop them giving it all they had and impressing the fans that had arrived early. Combining classic heavy rock with  bass lines full of swagger, Black Wolf offer up the type of music that just keeps your head bouncing throughout the set. Jason Cronin on the rhythm guitar and Ben Webb on bass ensure the songs slide along nicely with some great bluesy undertones. The highlight of Black Wolf however is the voice of Scott Sharp on vocals, damn what a voice! Silky smooth with a bucket load of power behind it. Sharps vocals were able to compliment every song be it more bluesy asking for the deeper range or a powerful screech when flying through the more demanding power rock tracks. Every member of Black Wolf were energetic all over the stage showing that despite the empty room they were there for one reason; to play some stonking rock music and have some fun! A band I definitely want to see again soon, hopefully with a bigger crowd. Turns out the rumours were true, these guys were brilliant! 8/10.

Jettblack

Having seen Jettblack many times before I knew what we were in for and with Jettblack that is always smutty sex driven hard rock at its finest. Entering the stage with their half lit (half broken) logo behind them the London lads burst open with fan favourite Get Your Hands Dirty.  This groove-laden anthem ensured the now growing crowd were on their feet and moving around the floor with arms aloft clapping. As the set progressed band showed off a lot of stuff from their latest album Raining Rock. Full of sharp edge ecstatic riffs Jettblack always prove they know what they are doing musically. The fans joined in during the obligatory Two Hot Girls and Prison Of Love bringing smiles to the fan around the room. Bassist Tom Wright jumped about the stage headband donned as usual interacting with the crowd at every opportunity however the other lads didn't seem quite so energetic tonight. Very static in their position and content to run off the set one song after another with unquestioned quality, however this didn't really feel right as usually when I think Jettblack I think fun and mayhem on stage and we just didn't get that tonight. Not the best I've seen them, but we all know what these lads are capable of, so there is no doubt I will be catching them again for sure 7/10.

Winger

With no thrills Winger entered the stage one by one holding a grinding riff as we awaited the arrival of Kip, as his silhouette turned into the figurehead of Winger no time was wasted as the New York formed band steamed full throttle into Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine and the anthem Easy Come, Easy Go to which the entire room gladly joined in when prompted. A brief pause as Kip told the crowd how he felt that even after all these years Winger are once again on the up. If any proof was needed Winger had already been promoted to the main stage of the O2 where only last year they played in the box room known as the Academy 2. Filled with honest appreciation and clearly humbled we were next treated to another run of great hits and anthems including Hungry and Down Incognito both of which showed that if anything Wingers voice had vastly improved since the 80’s. The passion in which not just Winger, but the entire band showed for their music as they swung about the stage was a great sight to see, this in turn transmitted to the hardcore fans who returned the favour by singing every note of every song while giving each track its deserved ovation.
Soon we were treated to a glorious bluesy solo from John Roth (also of Starship) as the rest of the band left the stage. Showing off his 40 years of talent, Roth presented us with a brief yet faultless solo that was as smooth as cut crystal. Moving up the timeline now and a few tracks from Winger's latest albums Better Days Commin’ and Karma were dispatched with equal skill and ability. The stand out of these tracks was Rat Race which was delivered with energy and vigour that some modern bands could only dream to provide... believe me, I've seen it. After a solid and tight drum solo Kip retreated behind a keyboard and once again showed off his voice and songwriting skills as the band flawlessly delivered ballads Miles Away and Heading For A Heartbreak. With some arms in the crowd swaying and the odd lighter and phone held high it was clear that both the crowd and the band were loving every second of this gig. To pick up the pace again we were given what was to be the third and final solo of the night, this time provided by Reb Beach (not before Kip jokingly listed twenty plus bands that Reb had played for). But that didn't matter as right now he was on stage for us… and wow! The guy delivered a stunning face melting, glass shattering solo that brought the crowd to a bellowing applause. Alas everything great must come to an end but not before the band thumped out two final tracks; the career making Seventeen and to finish an energy filled cover of Van Halen's Ain't Talkin 'Bout Love with the lucky Nigel on bass who was plucked from the audience allowing Kip to jump about the stage and mingle in the crowd to finish. And a fine job Nigel did too, well done sir!
There were no patronising comments or looks of annoyance as the crowd joined in with the banter in between songs here, and this is what live music should be about. As far as the band were concerned they were one on the same as their fans, the only difference being they had come with instruments and boy, did they know how to play them?! Whether or not you really like this brand of in your face bouncing slightly cheesy rock, it doesn't really matter as the sheer enthusiasm and love that these guys showed for their music, together with their honest appreciation to be back where they belong made this a classy yet fun filled brilliant night of old school 80’s rock that everyone could enjoy. Proving once again that even bands getting on for three decades old can still wipe the floor with Modern chart music.  10/10

(If I could add my two cents as it were I agree with Nick 100% I've seen Poison, Ratt, Motley Crue, Cinderella etc and not one of them came close to Winger the only ones that could ever or would ever would be Van Halen but as it looks like we will have no chance to see them, Winger are possibly the finest example of 80's rock. Don't let the Beavis and Butthead ridicule fool you, Winger are 50 times heavier live than on record, they seem to be enjoying every minute of playing and they show a technical ferocity that many bands even today lack. As I said to Nick on the night Winger could quite possibly be the Dream Theater of hairspray fuelled 80's rock)



Thursday, 19 June 2014

World Of Metal 11: Psycrene, Sylvatica, Skyconqueror

Psycrene: A Frail Deception (Steel Gallery Records)

Progressive metal is one of my major passions; I do love it, the technicality, the songwriting, the sheer madness of it sometimes. So when I found about Psyrene I was slightly excited a Greek progressive metal band that play 7-string guitars and cite Dream Theater, Symphony X, Nevermore and Pink Floyd as influences, with Hold Close The Flame sounding like a Queensryche offcut. So they claim to "combine the aggressiveness and heavy sound of 7 string guitars with melody and atmosphere" but do they succeed? Well the Symphony X similarities are huge on A Losing Game which has a classical piano intro before the heavyweight riffage kicks in, with double kick drums and some technical playing abound. Yes folks so far so very good, the 7 string guitars come from Michael Aggelos and Kimon Zeliotis and they are excellent, technical, precision and heavy, they are backed by the tight, downtuned heavy rhythms of Thomas Kouris' finger flying bass and Timoleon's expert drumming, the man is like a machine gun, they are rounded out by vocalist Takis Nikolakakis who is a dead ringer for Bruce Dickinson. I know that prog may conjure up images of 25 minute guitar solos but not here, yes there are guitar solos, lots of them, all of them very technical for the six (seven) string lovers but none outstay their welcome and the same can be said of the songs they are all concise, tempo shifting, mature songs full of virtuosity but also melody meaning that there is none of the silliness that is rife in progressive metal/rock. Mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Soilwork, Symphony X, Paradise Lost etc.) This is an album that will appeal to fans of any of the bands influences as any that know Borealis, Above Symmetry and Mutiny Within. This is such a strong album for a debut and it shows on tracks like Subconscious Eyes, Mortal Decay, Incsiced Path which has some killer riffage in itand the nearly eight minute Reflection. If you like your progressive metal with a bit of muscle to it check out these Athenians you will not be disappointed! 9/10

Sylvatica: Evil Seeds (Self Released)

the waves crash, the piano kicks in and the ears prick up, these are the synths of power metal with lots of layering that builds into the blast beats and dual guitar riffage of opening track Psychopatica. As soon as the death metal roars kicked in it all came together, Sylvatica share many things with Amon Amarth, the death metal drums ably smashed to fucking pieces by Pelle Buch, the melodic power metal like guitars and heavy roars, both coming from Jardén Schlesinger, and when all this is mixed with  the folk flourishes it means their songs swing and sway like the best Viking Metal band but then being from Denmark they have more claim to that title than most. Despite the similarities the songs are not solely Viking based, they actually draw more from black metal with lots of Satan and evil imagery albeit with intensely melodic guitars from Schlesinger. The pinched harmonic filled Winds Of Decay conjures images of the seven seas however with its big backing vocals and mead hungry rhythm. All the songs on this debut are the songs are heavy, melodic, technically proficient and also progressive with many twists and turns likening them to both Bloodshot Dawn and the masters of folk/death metal Wintersun. The guitar playing is excellent from both Schlesinger and bassist Thomas Haxen who steals the show with his immense drumming, the man is like a demon behind the kit! (See the title track for proof). Now usually I'm quite picky with my death/black/Viking metal but Sylvantica tick all the right boxes for me. The drumming is insane, the guitars shred your face off the vocals are perfect, This band will slay the pits!! I intend to play the album very loudly in my car for the foreseeable future! Get to the UK now! 9/10    

Skyconqueror: Under The Pentagram (Self Released)

Germany and heavy metal the two things just go together from the legacy left by Helloween and more importantly for Skyconqueror Accept. Yes it's more NWOBHM (or should that be NWOGHM?) folks and with the rampaging riffage of Jan Tappert, the galloping basslines of Mirko Jankord, the metronomic drumming of Carsten Stiens and the powerful vocals of Daniel Hiller who has a great battle horde leading roar not the normal shriek that is part and parcel of the trad metal vocalist. This is a retro styled record with The Sanctuary Of '83 is a homage to this as Skyconqueror's riffage and songwriting is straight from the year when denim and leather was firmly bringing us all together. With Enforcer, Cauldron, Holy Grail, White Wizzard and Monument all doing their bit for the NWOBHM cause Skyconqueror are a great addition to these bands purely due to the great riffs, smashing drums, wide ranging vocals and lots of light and shade see the melodic, emotion filled The Dusk which will get everyone nodding their heads in rhythmic unison. The band have the Accept style Teutonic metal prevalent in all German trad metal bands but they also have a heaving slab of Saxon thrown in especially on Frozen Rainbow Warrior which is supreme Saxon territory. This is a great debut album from the Germans showing that it's not just us Brits or indeed the Swedes that do trad metal full of dragons, warriors and jolly good rocking!!! 8/10

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Reviews: Rival Sons, Vader, Seprevation

Rival Sons: Great Western Valkyrie (Earache)

Four albums into their career and the trajectory of Rival Sons is going through the roof, the band are possibly the most authentic of any of the 'retro' style bands currently doing the rounds. They have been compared to The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and various others but for the most part they are blues based hard rock full of fuzzy garage riffage, funk, soul and dust bowl Americana so much so that to my ears they sound more like The Black Keys meets Jim Morrison than Zep and the like. So what about album four does it reach the heady heights of Pressure And Time or Head Down? Well the answer is yes...and then some!! Things start off with the surging (sorry) thrust of Electric Man and we are back on the rocking ride again ready to be brought through the booty shaking analogue rock n roll of the Rival Sons. With Rival Sons they have always been more focussed on the 60's style or rock than say bands like The Answer meaning that they have a huge amount of soul much of that coming from the new bassist; David Beste who brings a thick, funky bottom end to the album he is the perfect foil for Scott Holliday's razor sharp guitar lines, Mike Miley's shuffling drums and Jay Buchanan's perfect blues holler, witnessed at its best on the Belle Star which channels Mr Page and Mr Plant with it's stop-start riffage. The fuzzed up Good Luck has all the hand-clapping rhythm of a Vintage Trouble track, while Secret has the same bass-led intro and huge keyboard riffage as Deep Purple's Burn (replete with mid-section scream). Play The Fool is a Zep moment fresh from Physical Graffiti where as Rich And The Poor is a Springsteen-like tale of young love, popping the cherry and a femme fatales with a massive chorus and it is quickly followed with the soulful, country lament of Where I've Been which is a break before the album is rounded out by the progressive guitar freak out of Destination On Course which has a huge final section full of Holiday's guitars and Mike Miley's drums. Can Rival Sons get any better? I don't think so but then I said that about their last album. Buy.This.Now 10/10

Vader – Tibi et Igni (Nuclear Blast) [Review By Paul]

Polish Death Metal veterans Vader return with their 10th album Tibi et Igni, which means For You and Fire in Latin. It is a fine example of death metal, with the expected powerful drumming, riffs dropping from the sky and smashing you in the face and a pounding rhythm section. Opener Go to Hell commences in classical style before the band blast away the cobwebs with four minutes of brutal assault. Frontman and original member Piotr Wiwczarek delivers trademark death metal vocals throughout whilst the guitar and drum work of Marek Pajak and James Stuart is top drawer. Armada on Fire leaves the listener with blood dripping from the ears, such is the intensity. Triumph of Death continues in a similar vein with a huge riff and hook that is going to incite many a pit in years to come.  This is a thrasher which would sit comfortably on any Lamb Of God release. It rocks! Hexenkessel has a more dramatic intro, sweeping synths and the tolling of bells conjuring images of ancient Rome before dropping into a stomping march with driving rhythm, massive riffs from the twin guitars. The track then expands into all out death with Wiwczarek’s vocals snarling and guttural. Abandon all Hope and Worms of Eden continue the in-your-face attack. The album’s stand out track, The Eye of the Abyss follows. A choral vocal with synth backing to start, organ chords and the sound of thunder build an atmosphere which reaches a crescendo as Vader crash in with a hook so large you could catch Moby Dick with it. The choral parts continue as the band riff their way through the intro. The Wiwczarek’s vocal cut in and it is all out war. Blast beats aplenty with more driving riffs to propel the listener deep into the track. The hook continues and if you close your eyes you can visualise the pit at BOA should these guys get a slot again in the near future.  Finishing the album is the appropriately titled The End, which is a slow burning thrasher with old school Metallica and Slayer  flavourings, clean vocals and narrative. A massive head banger, this has to be a set closer as Wiwczarek growls “Is this the end now?” In a year of some impressive death and thrash releases, Tibi et Igni can rightly sit alongside the best. 8/10

Seprevation – Consumed (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

Youthful Bristol outfit Seprevation’s debut album combines old school death metal with the melody of the newer school outfits such as Bloodshot Dawn. The result is a slab of metal that really should be changed with ABH. This is infectious and groove laden, but retaining the all-out attack that differentiates Death from other genres. First track Divine Devastation starts with the customary instrumental acoustic style, stopping as the guitars and drums kick in. Lluc Tupman’s vocals are delivered with gusto and the typical gargling with gravel style that you would expect. The twin axe attack of Ian Aston and Joss Farrington provide the riffs, with several time changes and some meaty hooks to get your teeth into. Jamie Wintle’s drums batter the fuck out of you.  The production level for a new band is excellent with Stefan Morabito having done an excellent job in the Roman studios where the album was mixed. The album won't provide anything particularly new but then again it’s pretty difficult to do so in the Death scene. However, there is plenty on offer here for the listener and it is a stompingly good album. Sarcophagal Chamber drips with hooks, inviting you to loosen your head from your neck with a good old bang of the head (Warning: Don't listen to this on the tube. I almost started moshing with the other suits!) whilst Slave to the Grave powers along and featured in the recent Metal Hammer thrash CD.  Ten songs in total and by the end you will need a lie down with a cold beer to get your breath back. The final track Between Two Worlds concludes the album nicely, with a blasting punch in the face as the wall of sound engulfs all in its path along with some excellent Maidenesque breakdowns and soloing.  Another stonking release in a year of stunning music and a debut to be proud of. 8/10

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Another Point Of View: Anathema (Review By Paul)

Anathema  - Gloucester Cathedral 15 June 2014

The opportunity to see one of my favourite bands in a unique setting was far too good to turn down and so, two days after seeing Anathema at Download CMH and I arrived in Gloucester with eager anticipation.
Anathema’s set at Download had been a little subdued; blighted by sound problems and glitches in the new technology that has allowed them to continue their progression on their most recent release, the stunning Distant Satellites.  However, in the gothic surroundings of Gloucester Cathedral, over 1000 years old, and a sell-out audience there were no such mistakes again.

To call this Anathema acoustic is possibly a little misleading.  Three members of the current line-up were not present (still partying at Download apparently!) and there was a fair usage of the loops and samples that have become an integral part of the band’s sound.  We did get the three members of the band with the highest profile, brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh and vocalist Lee Douglas.
The set opened with The Lost Song Part 2 from the latest album before the only tracks from 2012’s Weather Systems, Untouchable Parts 1 & 2. These were three beautiful songs to open the evening with acoustics that allowed the songs to be transferred to the acoustic setting with ease. I felt a lump in my throat as the Untouchable double was played, such is the emotion that courses through these tracks. The evening continued with a range of tracks from their back catalogue. Thin Air from We're Here Because We’re Here was breath taking, whilst the combination of Inner Silence from Alternative 4 and the delicate One Last Goodbye from Judgement were superb.

A couple of the new tracks from Distant Satellites were also played. These included my favourite Ariel and the title track. The Cavanagh brothers were on excellent form, bantering with the audience, especially Daniel who described how he had seen and managed to be introduced to Status Quo at Download the day before. The band was clearly inspired by the surroundings, the gothic arches and stained glass windows catching the last rays of sun from the day. Simple and sensitive lighting enhanced the atmosphere throughout. A sing along to Flying demonstrated how tone deaf some of the audience was before we were treated to a short individual set from Daniel including a couple of covers, High Hopes by Pink Floyd and Glory Box by Portishead. Both were fine with the Portishead cover allowing Lee Douglas’s incredible voice to shine, but we did question the necessity when the band has such stunning tracks in their arsenal. Surely Deep or Pressure? Next time guys.

A Natural Disaster and Fragile Dreams from Alternative 4 closed the main set. A Natural Disaster allowing Lee Douglas to once again take the breath away whilst Fragile Dreams got the audience clapping and singing along. After a rapturous ovation an encore of Distant Satellites and Anathema brought a most incredible evening to a close.  A unique setting; a unique band and an honour to have been present. 10/10

Another Point Of View: Download 2014 (Review By Paul)

Download 2014 – Friday 13 June

In a moment of impulse, I decided to return to the endurance test that is Castle Donnington for the first time since 2011. The main draw for me, as you will have worked out quickly was the headline set of Sweden’s finest, Opeth. Okay, headline set on the third stage, but still a headline set and their first in the UK since BOA in 2010. More of Mr Akerfeldt and Co. later.

Accompanied by my gig partner and eldest son Ant, we left home at just after 7:00am with substantial excitement which had increased in the previous days with the rather unlikely promise of dry and sunny weather. As we travelled north, it appeared that just for once the lying bastards at the Met Office had actually produced a forecast which resembled the weather outside my window. Scorchio! Having made excellent time we were parked up in West 5 by 10:15am and ambled towards the main entrance, unable to contain our total smugness as we watched hundreds of campers slogging their gear many miles to the hell of the coloured campsites. No doubt most got in for the headline acts but it would have been a tough call to have made it back for the opening acts.

Bang on time the gates opened and the hordes poured into the arena. Unsurprisingly given their headline status, Avenged Sevenfold t-shirts were everywhere. Ant, in a rare move, changed out of his usual Clutch garb and sported a fine Anathema Weather Systems shirt. Unsurprisingly, we didn't see another piece of Anathema gear, apart from my fleece and Distant Satellites T-shirt (a Father’s Day gift – cheers lads!) all day. I was slightly more in with the crowd, spotting a mighty five other Opeth shirts during the day.

We had a choice of opening bands and opted for Tax the Heat over Miss May I. The Bristolian based outfit were a good choice with their straight forward rhythm and blues based rock well appreciated by the early afternoon crowd. Looking very dapper in their s, the band charged through a swift set led by energetic and charismatic Alex Veale on vocals and guitar. A nice gentle opening for the day 6/10

Moving across to the main stage I gave up the opportunity to watch 80s veterans Tesla in order to check out Crossfaith from Japan. And boy did I wish I had stayed put. Crossfaith were awful.  They are everything I hate in the new metal world today.  Immediate demands for circle pits and lots of posturing. However, they seem to attract a lot of the younger generation and the reaction on the twitter stream on the main screens later suggested that I’m just old and grumpy. Still, I think they are shit. 1/10

Luckily, as Crossfaith were so bad we were able to catch the last few songs from Bad Touch in the Red Bull Tent. An enthusiastic five piece from Dereham in Norfolk, Bad Touch play classic hard rock fused with a blues undertone and were well worth the 15 minutes that we managed to catch. Some good riffs, catchy hooks and an excellent stage presence, especially lead singer Stevie who has the rock star look. 6/10

One of the finds of 2014 for me has been the band Brother and Bones who blew me away when I saw them support the Temperance Movement at Shepherds Bush Empire in April. An acoustic set from lead singer Rich Thompson at the Temperance Movement’s Cardiff show confirmed that this is a band worth seeing in both electric and acoustic settings. We moved to the Jagermeister Stage for Brother and Bones ‘acoustic set’ which turned out to be a non-acoustic set. Playing a number of tracks from their two EPs, Brother and Bones turned in a highly energised performance with the band allowing Thompson to steal the limelight in the reserved manner that he has. This was the first real highlight of the day with Ant very impressed. Given his penchant for Slayer this is saying something. A massive ovation from the healthy crowd was unsurprising and I’m already looking forward to seeing these guys again soon. 9/10

From the lighter acoustic based sound of Brother and Bones I then wandered back into the Red Bull tent to check out doom merchants Bloody Hammers. For more detail about the band check out Matt’s recent review of their warm up gig. Suffice to say that they would be always be more suited to a day when the weather is overcast and storm clouds are gathering but Bloody Hammers drew a decent size crowd who enjoyed 30 minutes of excellent Sabbath style riffage from the North Carolina outfit with the imposing figure of bassist and vocalist Anders Magna the main visual attraction. 7/10

Meanwhile, fool that he sometimes is, Ant had headed over to the main stage to watch Powerman 5000. As Bloody Hammers drew their set to a close I scuttled across to catch PM5K delivering probably their best known track, Bombshell to a reasonably animated and busy arena. PM5K are fronted by Spider One, otherwise known as Michael Cummings, brother of one Mr Rob Zombie. However, whilst Spider One has some of the Zombie’s energy, clearly his big brother managed to get all of the front man gene. It’s possibly too harsh to rate a band on three songs but what I saw was pretty dire with little impact on me. A mixture of nu-metal and attempted shock rock, it did nothing for me. 4/10

However, the afternoon was about to get a whole lot better as we headed over to the Zippo Encore Stage (that’s the second stage in old money) for Northern Ireland’s favourite sons, The Answer. On St Patrick’s Day I had seen these guys deliver a quite brilliant night of rock ‘n’ roll and I'd also preferred to watch these to Slipknot at Sonisphere in 2012 so you could say I’m a bit partial to a bit of them. Although The Answer can be a bit hit and miss on record it is in the live environment that they excel and once again they were quite exceptional. Opening with New Horizon from their latest release, they had a healthy crowd rocking from the start. The band moved swiftly into Spectacular which is a real anthem and excellent in the hot sun.  As usual with this band, the three musicians are comfortable laying down the tunes whilst allowing frontman Cormac Neeson to do what he does best. A natural showman with a mane of blond hair and excellent voice, he captivated the crowd throughout, especially during an extended Preachin’ where he ended up in the front row. Finishing with Under The Sky, The Answer departed to a rousing cheer and the sight of beaming faces all round. Stunning stuff. 9/10

A quick trot back to the main stage for the afternoon’s first real heavyweight action. This was where the day splits had not been kind to us as Black Label Society clashed with The Temperance Movement. Having seen TTM twice this year it made sense to catch up with Zakk Wylde and gang for 45 minutes of electrifying soloing. The problem with BLS is that there is very little to get that excited about. Yes, Zakk has a bag full of tunes, and several were aired here, with Godspeed Hellbound, Concrete Jungle and My Dying Time from the latest album amongst the highlights. However, it is always going to be the Zakk Wylde show and that means numerous lengthy solos. Although Ant reliably informs me that there were far fewer solos than 2012, (he is correct- Matt) Zakk still delivers them in excess which makes it a little tedious at times. However, some of the solos were superb, especially towards the end of the set where he headed down the walkway distributing licks like they were going out of fashion. A crushing Stillborn brought the set to a close and rescued a point in my review. 7/10

A little break for a rest and then dilemma number two. Rival Sons on the Zippo Stage or Dutch outfit Within Temptation on the main stage. Given the exhaustion that was now kicking in, we plumped for fish and chips and a little rest on the hill whilst watching Sharon Den Adel strutting her stuff. A good move it proved too, because Within Temptation turned in a magnificent hour of symphonic metal with Ms Den Adel in superb form. A powerful set which was heavier live than on record included five songs from the recent excellent release Hydra and combined with an impressive stage set and clever tapes for the guest vocals from Tarja Turunen (Paradise (What about Us?)),  Howard Jones (Dangerous) and Xzibit (And We Run) captivated the large crowd. Closing with Ice Queen from 2000s Mother Earth, this was an hour of top quality music which received a well-deserved reception. 8/10

As the audience in front of the main stage began to swell, Ant and I moved stage right in anticipation of our move to the Pepsi Max Stage for Anathema. 20 minutes of Rob Zombie preceded this and although Mr Z blasted out of the traps with Teenage Nosferata Pussy, Superbeast and Living Dead Girl in quick succession, there was something missing. Zombie’s voice was off key, lyrics were missed and lapsing into a drum solo after four songs killed any momentum. We left as the solo kicked off so it’s a mini review but I'm afraid that, unlike the previous three viewings where he has killed it, this time it was very much below par. 5/10

And so to the first of the bands I had been so keen to see. Liverpool outfit Anathema have just dropped one of the year’s finest releases with Distant Satellites; a quite stunning piece of work and probably their best ever release. However, the band are reliant on substantial amounts of samples, loops and electronic effects and unfortunately this hampered their performance. As did the sound which saw the ludicrous situation of both Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh gesturing wildly at the sound engineers throughout the set. This impacted on them both and obviously infiltrated through to the rest of the band who must have sensed the tension. Opening with a very aggressive Fragile Dreams, Anathema still turned in a decent performance with Thin Air, The Lost Song Part III, Untouchable Part I and Closer all delivered with style and quality, especially when the beautiful vocals of Lee Douglas were included. Bringing the set to a close with the title track from the latest album, there appeared a collective sigh of relief from the band that it was over, although they conveyed their thanks to the sparse crowd who had tried throughout the set to encourage the band.  Slightly disappointing overall. 7/10

Due to the technical problems that Anathema suffered, the headline set in the Pepsi Max Stage was delayed which meant that the assembled Opeth devotees were able to get a full wallop of the opening from main stage headliners Avenged Sevenfold. As the monstrous PA blasted out the strains of Shepherd of Fire, it was clear that Mikael Akerfeldt and co. were going to face a battle to be heard. However, as the opening strains of Opeth’s intro music finally drifted out, the pyro to the left of us was forgotten. Opening with The Devil’s Orchard, Opeth provided an hour of prog, death and rock which was second to none.  A crushing Heir Apparent indicated that the band were intent on providing the heaviest of sets. Mikael was in his usual form, dry wit at the ready. “We are doing this all for you … and the money!” A surprise inclusion in the set was Demon of the Fall from My Arms Your Hearse which has a combination of death growl and clean vocals. As the PA from the main stage threatened to drown out any narrative that Mikael tried, he commented “Is that Avenged Sevenfold? I saw them once. I didn't like them!” to cheers from all around. A beautiful Hope Leaves from Damnation was followed by the brutally heavy Deliverance before Opeth finished with the masterpiece of Blackwater Park. A brilliant headline set, flawless in delivery and paving the way for their Autumn UK tour. 10/10

And so we headed out of the tent and up the hill past the throngs assembled to watch the headliners. I’m not an Avenged Sevenfold fan, but we stopped and watched a few songs. One of the few I do like is The Beast and the Harlot from City of Evil and we timed it well enough to catch AX7 blast it out. With a very impressive stage show including tons of pyro, AX7 are a very slick outfit and we could see and hear this. Powerful riffing, close harmonies on the chorus and a frontman in M Shadows who has a set of pipes and a large dose of charisma. We headed off as the dying strains of Unholy Confessions were supplemented by the obligatory firework display. I’ll give AX7 8/10 for the tightness and stage set alone. Their fans are a bunch of tits though. 1/10

Monday, 16 June 2014

Out Of The Beyond 33

Virgil & The Accelerators: The Radium (2010)

Virgil McMahon is a 22 year old guitarist from South Africa who and the Accelerators are his band consisting of his younger brother Gabriel on drums and Jack Alexander Timmis on bass. He is the youngest man ever to be nominated for the 2010 British Blues Award. He and his band have been compared to Cream and from the massive guitar crescendo to the bluesy as hell Working Man (not a Rush cover Paul) you can see why, this is some amazing guitar playing from the youngster who draws on his influences of Hendrix, SRV and ZZ Top in every song to create some amazing blues rock, he is also blessed with a voice that is far beyond his years rich and sonorous with the right amount of guts and grit to it. After Working Man we move into the rocking Top-lik Refuse To Believe with more ZZ Top style naughtiness in the shape of the funky Bad Girl which is straight off the Eliminator album. McMahon's influences shine to on the dirty Rory Gallagher style blues of Backstabber and Racing With Life. For a debut album this is a great one full of some of the most accomplished blues rock I've heard since I heard and album called New Day Yesterday by a man named Bonamassa. McMahon is a killer guitarist and on the instrumental The Storm he shows that you don't need fancy solos to show that you are talented. If you like your rock full of blues swagger and your blues with a rockier back beat then The Radium is for you Virgil McMahon has all the potential to be as big as Joey B mark my words and if you want proof just check out Fell To The Floor which is showstopper of a ballad. 9/10

Blues Pills: Devil Man E.P (2013)

With all the amazing doom/retro rock bands coming out of the woodwork at the moment any band that delves into this world of voodoo grooves and occult mysticism. Hailing from Örebro Sweden The Blues Pills are a female fronted blues band that sound like Lynne Jackaman fronting Graveyard, front woman Elin Larsson has blues howl that many men cannot attain, it is pure, unrestrained and tribal in it's delivery. She is backed by some fuzzy bass led, retro riffage with Cory Berry's drums, Dorian Sorriaux's guitar and Zack Anderson's bass all providing some psychedelic, hazy and blissed out retro rock. See The River which is everything I just mentioned distilled into one perfect slab of doomy, psych rock and is followed by the distinctly Sabbath-like heaviness of Time Is Now. They then have the riff fuelled opening title track and the jazzy, percussion filled final track Dig In which ends things in a blissed out way. A nice little snippet to get you ready for their forthcoming album, it shows what this band are capable of. One to seek out before their full length debut is released 7/10

Europe: Last Look At Eden & Bag Of Bones (2009 & 2012)

Yes THAT song will forever haunt them but Europe are and have always been more than a one hit wonder. They have always been a talented band but on their two most recent albums, the second and third releases since their early 2000's reformation as a band the first being 2006's Secret Society. They have really pushed the boat out delivering possibly their two career defining albums.

Last Look At Eden

First up was Last Look At Eden in 2009 which brought a huge dollop of Zeppelin and some Whitesnake to their sound with this album. From the orchestral opening which leads into the title track which has all the glorious pomp of Kashmir with its big orchestral backing, massive guitars from John Norum big John Lord like organs from Mic Michaeli, all topped with Joey Tempest's awesome voice, he is channeling the Coverdale for the most part. In fact the entire album is very similar to Whitesnake's last few albums all of which have been very strong hard rock focussed affairs full of big riffs, massive keys and the unmistakable voice. Well if you didn't know this was Europe then you would think it was Coverdale and co see New Love In Town for pure bonnet frolicking rock balladry. The riffs come thick and fast on The Beast on which the vocals change to become more like Ian Gillan and the song has more than a hint of Black Country Communion to it as does U Devil U. Yes this is far removed from the early 80's euro metal of their early career but the sound of a band aging gracefully and maturing their sound with more blues influences throughout. 9/10

Bag Of Bones

With Bag Of Bones the band expanded their sound a little more becoming more bluesy on what is their ninth album in total, much of this blues influence may have come from guitarist John Norum who released a blues album in 2010. The album brings a lot more stripped back pure rock to proceedings do away with the orchestral pomp of the previous release, a lot of this comes from Kevin Shirley's analog style of production technique which means that everything is a little more authentic. The Ian Gillan style vocals are back with Tempest blasting it out directly from the offset, Shirley's work with BCC is prevalent throughout especially on Not Supposed To Sing The Blues which with it's "Boy you're not supposed to sing the blues where you come from" refrain could be the band's mantra on this album. Yes this album is very good with all the band playing their hearts out, Caveman (Shirley) has his imprints all over the record, which is no bad thing, Joey Bones himself pops up on the title track providing some killer slide guitar. Yes the maturity of Europe shows through and so does their songwriting skill, channeling Free, Bad Company and Deep Purple this is yet another great addition to Europes catalog of great albums! 8/10

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Reviews: Crowbar, Anathema, The Algorithm

Crowbar – Symmetry in Black (Century Media) [Review By Paul]

Symmetry In Black is the 10th Album from New Orleans Sludge Metallers Crowbar, led by the formidable Kirk Windstein. This is the follow up to 2011’s Sever The Wicked Hand, which was a stomping piece of down tuned sludge. However, Windstein and his crew have pushed the bar up a couple of notches, and Symmetry in Black really smacks the previous release around the chops and tells it to sit back down.
Opener Walk with Knowledge Wisely kicks hard, with a huge drum sound and massive riffs. It also moves with surprising pace, Windstein’s trademark vocals straining along with the big guitar sound. Symmetry in White follows, delivered at a more expected pace, crushing guitars and pounding drums combining to pin you to the flow with a wall of power. Variety is not a word you'd usually associate with the sludge genre, but The Taste of Dying challenges that assumption with a number of time changes; true sludge at one point followed by some galloping and driving riffs from Matthew Brunson and Windstein’s guitars. This is a crushing album, full of robust and driving riffs with massive hooks raising up and catching you across the back of the head. Reflection of Deceit is almost doom metal with a mammoth imposing sound. Tommy Buckley’s drumming is intense with a constant pounding whilst Jeff Golden’s bass work combines to create a colossal backline.
 However it’s not all slow stuff and Ageless Decay would sit alongside the best that the thrash department can offer, powerhouse drumming and speed-driven guitar wicked all support the guttural drive that only Windstein can provide. Amaranthine provides a brief respite from the intensive crushing, with delicate guitar work and some heartfelt vocals. Indeed this is as soft and delicate as Crowbar get, but it also sits well within the overall album. The band return to more familiar ground with The Foreboding, which is very accurately titled. Mountainous and intimidating, this is a beast of a track which lumbers along stegosaurus like but with much more aggression. This album is also a bit of a grower, improving with repeated listening. However, if you don't like sludge then this won't change your mind. This is New Orleans driven metal and in Windstein and the rest of Crowbar you get a band who deliver their particular brand of music without giving a rat’s arse about what anyone else thinks.  Shaman of Belief combines elements of sludge and punk with a weighty breakdown that kicks you hard. By the time you get to Teach the Blind to See the heaviness of the album should start to create cracks in your cranium. This is tied to an anvil heavy and once again the pounding driving assault combines to blow a hole in your abdomen. Album closer The Piety of Self-Loathing finishes the job, a monumental instrumental laced with the classic New Orleans sludge sound, heavier than a blue whale dropping from 60,000 feet. Having seen these guys earlier in the year I am looking forward to seeing some of these new tunes in the live arena at BOA. Intense and enormous. 8/10

Anathema  - Distant Satellites (Kscope) [Review By Paul]

The development of one of the UK’s most underrated bands continues in stunning style with the arrival of their tenth album, Distant Satellites. Oozing with delicate layers and uplifting passages throughout, this is a work of sheer beauty and class. When Anathema released Weather Systems in 2012, it was difficult to believe that it was possible to actually improve; such was the quality of the compositions and musicianship. However, the band has progressed once more, with the introduction of electronica to their sound whilst retaining the undercurrent of heaviness which has long surged through their music. The album opens with The Lost Song Part I, a mixture of dreamy synths and swirling drums, galloping along apace. Full of introspective review, the track builds intricately to a crescendo, with Lee Douglas backing vocals beautifully complementing Vincent Cavanagh’s lead. The Lost Song Part II follows, slightly slower in the build-up, heavy on the keyboards and synth with additional string sections and the first opportunity to hear Lee Douglas’s gorgeous voice take centre stage. This is a quite breath taking track, full of sentiment and reflection. The Cavanagh brothers take a step back but provide harmonies in the chorus. "Come back to me" sings Douglas, "I can't believe it was just an illusion" as the track draws to a delicious close. This is going to be stunning stuff live. Dusk (Dark is Descending) begins in a moodier and darker style that has been trademark Anathema and as with every track on the album, builds and climbs. Although the guitars are tuned down on this album, they are in evidence throughout, with both Vincent and Daniel‘s playing prominent in parts. However, the change of tempo through the track allows Daniel Cardoso’s brilliant keyboards to take the lead. This combined with the sensitive and balanced rhythm from John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh’s bass riffs provide a multi-layered delivery. Possibly the stand out track on an outstanding album follows. Ariel may be the most beautiful track the band have ever written, with Lee Douglas once again providing an incredible vocal performance, backed by keyboards and strings. The Lost Song Part III concludes The Lost Song trilogy with the combination of keyboards, drums, bass and Vincent’s vocals perfect.
 As I keep stating, each of the tracks build with Cavanagh and Douglas’s duet simply spellbinding. “Now that I've Found You” they sing. We then arrive at Anathema, a self-titled piece that features more melancholic musings and again combines strings and the piano to hugely impressive effect. This is intelligent music, powerful in its simplicity. Repeated chords, drum beats and Cavanagh’s uplifting vocals telling the story. Nothing else is needed in parts as the song develops with a drifting sentiment to a driving middle section, full of sweeping and descending waves of sound, guitars soloing whilst the keyboards and strings propel the track to its climax. You’re Not Alone makes a departure from the usual direction of the band with a driving electronic beat supporting the Cavanagh brothers rapid vocal delivery. A huge riff and hook in this track propel it along, allowing a brief respite before blasting forward at breakneck speed, massive drum sound and waves of keyboards washing over the listener. Firelight would sit comfortably with some of their earlier works, in particular Judgement and A Natural Disaster whilst still being totally fresh; this is a sombre instrumental piece of solely keyboards which segues perfectly into the album’s title track. Take Shelter draws the album to a balanced and fitting conclusion, allowing the Cavanagh brothers to once again provide a vocal performance of absolute quality. Once again the electronica influence is evident; a direction that the band is keen to explore and use more in future works. This whole album is delicately crafted and constructed with thought and skill. It is the defining moment of a band who has consistently striven to better themselves and who has matured from their early doom and death metal days into a tour de force in the rock world. I am so excited to be able to see these guys at Download and again at Gloucester Cathedral two days later. It is very possible that I might shed a tear or two; such is the emotion that wells up when listening to this most excellent band.  This could possibly be my album of the year.  10/10

The Algorithm: Octopus4 (Basick Records)

Rémi Gallego aka The Algorithm is now on his second album of EBM (electronic dance music for the oldies) which may make people say "Thatz not metulz" well you are dead wrong sir! Gallego mixes djent/mathcore polyrhythmic riffage with drum & bass and dubstep drops to combine a very unique style of music. His first album The Polymorphic Code took the metal press by storm and his live shows caused excitement bringing a rave-like feel to the metal concerts and festivals he appeared at, so can his second album be as successful? Well from the pumping intro to Autorun which also has a repetitive synth riff running through it which has a Kavinsky (A man who is obsessed with OutRun) or indeed Deadmau5 electronic thump but still a lot of melody to it, perfect late night crusing music for the most part with a reducing final part before it wipes out into the funky Discovery on which Gallego uses his synths to go all 80's Axel F style at the beginning before things go drum and bass and the riffage kicks in and the bass drops for a passage in this twisting turning progressive song which is a myriad of styles, the almost 8-bit _MOS follows and it is then ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS that brings the heaviness with it's first dose of metal riffgae for an entire song and it blends seamlessly. There are very few times in music where something truly unique comes along and yes drum and bass, dubstep and electronic music has been merged with metal before with all the industrial bands dabbling in the EBM genre and Korn notably brought dubstep into metal, however none of these bands have successfully merged all the genres of electronic music and heavy metal so succinctly. Yes if you hate electronic music then you will hate this but for anyone with a wide musical palette this will appeal to them massively, personally I love Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Kavinsky and bands of their ilk, but also my love of metal knows no bounds (maybe not BVB) so I think this album is excellent, listen to it at night with headphones and it will take you on a journey!! 8/10

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Reviews: Winger, Shores Of Null, Pentakill

Winger: Better Days Comin' (Frontiers Records)

Winger have always had a bit of a hard time due to the fact that they around in the hair metal era and that Beavis And Butthead used them as a butt for many jokes. So yes Kip Winger was always a pretty boy but he and the rest of the band were all amazing musicians so they always had my respect. So when they announced they were working on their sixth album and that it featured the original members of Reb Beach on guitar and Rod Morgenstein on drums I got a little excited to say the least. With the police sirens kicking off Better Days Comin' the first song Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine gets things rocking from the start with it's steam train chug and Reb Beach's supreme soloing. Things go back to the early days on the Queen Babylon which is a little funky and has a lot of hip shaking boogie as well as heavy riffage; a theme that continues on the pedal to the metal rampage of Rat Race. It's here that I want to mention the band Morgenstein's drums are great, John Roth and Reb Beach's guitars soar, sear and solo with aplomb (this could be why Beach was picked by Mr Coverdale for his band) and Winger's voice is absolutely excellent with a bluesy drawl (see the title track) and a husky singing voice that puts you in mind of Chris Cornell in parts, obviously as usual  Mr Winger provides the bass and acoustic guitars, keyboards as well as producing and engineering the album. The songs are not all full on rockers though the serious Tin Soldiers is a triumph of songwriting and as usual there is the obligatory ballad and this one is Ever Wonder which is an amazing love and loss filled song, Storm In Me is one of the heaviest tracks on it the record and leads into the more mellow final two tracks. This is great album from the glam metal survivors and brings them into the modern era as well as harking back to their glory days! Better Days Coming Indeed!! 8/10   

Shores Of Null: Quiescence (Candlelight)

With bands like Katatonia and Anathema being the front runners for dark, doomy, post metal it is always hard for a new band to break into their style of music without being compared to the top two bands in their genre. So Italy's Shores Of Null have thrown their hat into the ring in the doom stakes and from the kick off they do a bang up job with some rampaging metal on the Kings Of Null coming on full throttle but with the down tuned, melodic but with the somber mood that Katatonia provide. The vocals of Davide are excellent he has a sonorous croon in the clean passages and also a rumbling growl similar to Jonas Renske's. With tracks like Night Will Come the melancholic Ruin's Alive and the head nodding Quiescent. When the band are in their slow moving doom mode they still have the relentless riffage from Raffaele Colace and Gabriele Giaccari which seems to be present throughout the, the album is very heavy but also melodic and it does indeed reach for and ascend to the heights of Katatonia, meaning that fans will certainly enjoy this release. For a debut release this is very strong indeed full of killer, melodic black/doom metal that will destroy live, go and seek it out, you will not be disappointed I promise. 8/10

Pentakill: Smite And Ignite (Self Released/Riot Games)

Pentakill are a fake band, let me explain they are a band from the PC game League Of Legends, made up of characters from the game. Now the band's name stems from when a player kills five players at once and all of the songs are naturally about the game. Now the album as you would think is prime power metal with lots of keyboards , guitar solos and songs about might and magic. As far as information on the band I just have the characters of Sona (Keys), Olaf (Drums), Yorick (Bass), Mordekaiser (Guitar) but the vocals of Karthus are shared between real life singers, Jorn Lande and ZP Threat. As far as songs go the first two tracks are heavy power metal, with third track Ohmwrecker is a electronic filled, djent track with Last Whisper is a big, melodic song that just fits ZP Threat's vocals perfectly. This is the kind of album that would be played in the game world itself, heavy, industrial and very metal. A great little curio that has two great vocalists on it, plus it's free!! Winning!! 7/10 

Friday, 13 June 2014

The View From The Back Of The Room: Bloody Hammers

Bloody Hammers, Ironbird, Lacertilia, Full Moon Cardiff

As part of the Download warm up shows that happen every year before the spiritual meet on the hallowed turf of Donnington. This year the Cardiff visitation was from Gothic doomsters Bloody Hammers and some local support. As I arrived at the Full Moon (a venue I've never been to for a gig) I acquired a beer (cider) and settled in for the opening act.

Lacertilia

This, as I have just discovered, was Lacertilla's (plural for a group of lizards) first gig as a whole unit. Made up of members from local acts Witches Drum, Culver, Akb'al, Thorun and SBF; Lacertilia came on to little or no fanfare with the instruments kicking in to some frankly heavy as fuck riffage to kick things off, there was little movement from the band but lots of thick sludgy, psychedelic riffs that took you on a trip, possibly similar to the one that shamanistic frontman Fry was on as he arrived on stage and became one with the music. Musically the band have a lot of similarities with early Orange Goblin with lots of time shifts, trippy blissed out passages and a HELL of a lot of heaviness. There was no between song banter just riff after riff after riff with a Fry jumping in and out of the crowd and head banging with the faithful down the front. This was a wild ride of a show, full of ferocity, some excellent riffage and a feel akin to a great trip. This was a great way to start a gig. 8/10

Ironbird

Next was Ironbird and yet more stoner-like metal this time with a punkier edge, musically solid but vocally awful Ironbird really didn't do it for me at all, they had the look of 'your dad's band' and like a said the vocals were not great. I'll leave it there I think. 5/10

Bloody Hammers

So the main event and after a set up the band arrived on stage looking like a Gothic Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Western hatted Anders Manga, his wife Devallia and their band arrived on stage and started things off with Black Magic and then continued with a set drawn mainly from their very new album Under Satan's Sun with the riff heavy Spearfinger, the funeral dirge of The Town That Dreaded Sundown both coming off the new record. Manga's bass was the lead instrument driving the band along with his down tuned rhythms and his strong vocals, he is aided by the drums of Doza that smash down throughout. On top of the voodoo rhythms from Manga and Doza there are the guitars of Bill Fischer that riffed mightily and powered through the solos, the sound was filled out by the organs and mellotrons of Devallia who brought the creepy Gothic vibe to their doom rock backing. With Witching Hour coming next the crowd were in the bands hand and then the Type O Negative slow burning Death Does Us Part and the freak out of Moon-Eyed People before the set enders of Witch Of Endor and Fear No Evil. A quick off stage swap and then back again for the final two songs to a receptive audience and as the last chords of What's Haunting You rang out there were cheers all around in this diminutive venue with surprisingly good sound. I hope Mr Hutchings will check these guys out at Download!! 8/10

Monday, 9 June 2014

Reviews: Pop Evil, Elvenking, Bloody Hammers

Pop Evil: Onyx (Eleven Seven Music)

Let's get it out of the way now, Pop Evil have a terrible name. However they are an amazing band and I do not use that word lightly. Imagine if you will an amalgamation of every post millennial American rock band together in one band, now before you say anything Pop Evil were formed in 2001 and released their first album in 2008. From the onset bass opening of Goodbye My Friend you are locked in for one of the rides of your life, now Goodbye My Friend is a good song but it is by far not the best on the album but from Deal With the Devil things really kick off with it's big Saliva style riff rock, a vain which continues into the rap-rock of Trenches which has a massive electronica thump that brings to mind Korn as well. They move into Creed territory on Torn To Pieces. The band are made up of lead guitars of Nick Fuelling, the rhythm guitars of Dave Grahs, the bass of Matt DiRito and the drums of Josh Marunde and the adaptive vocals of Leigh Kakaty all of which work together seamlessly. Back to the album tracks and Divide and Beautiful both have a Papa Roach style delivery with the rapping quick-fire delivery on DivideSilence & Scars has the same lovelorn style of Shinedown and ends the ballad portion of the album. The electronics come back on Sick Sense which is industrial at its core before the heavy as hell final part with the bass heavy Fly Away before the melodic Alter Bridge like Behind Closed Doors on which Leigh gives a hell of a vocal performance and has a killer breakdown/solo in the middle. The final two tracks (of the normal edition) are in fact the heaviest with some amazing riffage on the Disturbed sounding Welcome To Reality which has that same kind of chugging riffage as Damian and co before Flawed closes the album out in style with the albums heaviest track. Now we Brits get three extra tracks all of which are great Last Man Standing has to be a future WWE theme and the Nickelback baiting Boss' Daughter featuring Mick Mars ends the album proper. Through 15(!) tracks this album essentially takes you on the greatest hits of so called nu-metal and it is an album that left me reaching for the repeat button right after the last note rang out. Great vocals, excellent riffs and solos, amazing songs and crisp production, an absolute killer, these guys will explode in the next 12 months mark my words!! 10/10      

Elvenking: The Pagan Manifesto (AFM)

So Italian's Elvenking are now on their eighth album and yet they still remain on my periphery. I think it's time to redress the balance. As I said The Pagan Manifesto is their eighth album and it is filled with the same kind of folk/power metal that their previous seven instalments did so well. Yes this is the kind of metal Blind Guardian peddle albeit with more folk elements meaning they also have a lot in common with Korpiklaani, Turisas and bands of their ilk. With twin guitars from Aydan and Rafahel, bass from Jakob, drums from Symohn and a violin from Lethien all being the the major instruments in the band Elvenking are more authentic than most and with Damna's clean vocals they will appeal to the power metallers too with solos galore especially on the progressive twelve minute plus King Of Elves which starts(!) the album strongly with the big backing choirs, lots of solos as I said and all of the hallmarks of Elvenking's sound, as well as guest spot from Ms Amanda Somerville. If any track fully shows their sound it is this one, still there is another 10 to go and they all and on these tracks the sounds are fleshed out by bagpipes, low whistles and keyboards from Maurizio and Antonio Agate respectively. Elvenking have never relied on one genre drawing influence from many, but all have the same pagan lyrical content with songs about legions, the woods and mythical spells of all the other folk metal bands. Yes Elvenking's eight album continues their run of strong albums with the modern pop-metal of The Solitaire (replete with scream vocals), the flouncy folk of Towards The Shores and the swinging metallic chug of Twilight Of Magic. Yes they have been around for a while and they have been doing this for a while but they do it very well and if it ain't broke don't fix it! 7/10     

Bloody Hammers: Under Satan's Sun (Napalm Records)

Bloody Hammers are an American two piece that peddle a peculiar kind of Gothic, Doom-laden, Schlock-rock, imagine if you will Alice Cooper fronting Type O Negative and singing Misfit's B-movie style lyrics. Under Satan's Sun is their fourth album and from the creeping The Town That Dreaded Sundown the album takes you on a doom filled ride through the Viking-like frontman Anders Manga's spook-filled mind. On the album Manga provides the bass (his main instrument), guitar, drums and his voice which moves between Pete Steele and Kyle Thomas, the Steele is especially noticeable especially on Death Does Us Part. Manga also wrote all the songs, except one and produced the album, quite masterfully as well. He is aided by his wife Devallia on organs and keyboards, she adds the organ-grinder atmosphere to the songs with lashings of Hammond and even some Wurlitzer on the creepier tracks like Welcome To The Horror Show. For the most part this is straight up doom metal with down tuned riffs, lots of organ and tormented lyrics about death and the occult, but Bloody Hammers do it very well with the same kind of schlock and awe style of Manga's hero Alice Cooper who they dutifully pay homage to on Second Coming. So like I said this is Bloody Hammer's fourth album and one that is filled with some of the best Gothic/doom/stoner metal I've heard in a while; check out the album, see them live they should be something to behold. 8/10

Saturday, 7 June 2014

World Of Metal 10: Vainaja, Doublestone, Garuda Force

Vainaja – Kadotetut (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

The debut album from Finnish three piece death doom outfit Vainaja is about as heavy a release as you will find this year. Riddled with absolutely mammoth riffs, sludgy doom passages, blasting death metal which sears flesh from bone and a vocal delivery that must have been summoned up from the kitchens of Hades. This is epically brutal, but also combines haunting effects and atmospheric build up throughout.
The album is based on Finnish folklore’s tale of an evil cult which induced chaos among followers of old Finnish religions. Led by the preacher, cantor and the gravedigger, this cult was ended by the burning to death of the three men on the church altar. The album is based on the texts of sermons found in the preserved works of the preacher long after his death.
Album opener Lankeemus is an atmospheric piece, building the tension which explodes with doom laden riff heavy Vaaran Ristin Valtakunta. A plodding beast of a track, this begins at slow tempo before picking up speed to deliver a bit of death. Haunting screams and echoing calls end the track, clearly the souls of those under the curse of the cult. This segues nicely into another massively riff laden track, Kahleiden Kantaja. Slow powerful and immensely heavy, this would crush your rib cage if it sat on you. Think Gonga with a topping of blue whale. Yep, that heavy. And so it continues, with Valon Lapset building slowly before all hell breaks loose as thing speed up. This is fast, forceful and damn impressive. Blasting drumming, changes of pace and all the while the vocals continue to rip through with sinister surges. The tempo slows completely for Henkikaste which has an eerie narrative and echoing effects. The band line up is listed as The Gravedigger on drums and vocals, the Cantor on bass and vocals and obviously the lead voice and guitar delivery from the Preacher. These guys don’t work in your local supermarket, that’s for sure. Verin Lahde resumes with pulverising riffs and crushing rhythm, although there are some quite stunningly sinister breakdowns in the middle which continue to complement the album’s theme. The penultimate track Vimeinen Tuomio extends the albums ominous feel with Celtic Frost type percussion and gloomy bass overtures before the guttural growl of the Preacher propels the listener into the depths of hell. This is a lumbering leviathan of a track, colossal riffs dropping from on high with such weight that you literally sag as you listen to it. Album closer Kadotettu is an epic doom filled epitaph which quite fittingly brings this opus to a close. A stunning piece of work. 10/10

Doublestone: Wingmakers (Levitation Records)

Doublestone are a retro styled band from Denmark playing riff filled stoner rock with fuzzy guitars and hazy vocals. Yes this is music straight out of the vinyl era with some boogie riffs and lots of hazy guitar passages that break up the riff fest. For a distilled version of their sound look up opening track Save Our Souls which speeds along nicely before breaking down into a Hawkwind style guitar freak out at the end. The next track is The Bringer Of Light which has some sprawling hammond organs and a riff straight out of the doomy end of Sabbath's back catalogue and again it just ends in head nodding riffage. The drums of Mike James B, are heavyweight smashing with the occasional piece of percussive flair to balance out the aggression, the bass of Kristian Blond rumbles, rocks and moves your headspace with its rhythms. Finally the Bo Blond's guitars and vocals are the classic stoner rock style with a guitar that riffs mightily switching between fuzz pedaled riffs, trippy psychedelic guitar breaks all topped with his great vocals that give the band a sound similar to Priestess or indeed The Sword. With the title track the bass heavy Born Under A Hollow Moon, the short sharp doom riff of Fire Down Below and the almost Southern rock vibe of The Witch Is Burning. This is a great debut album from these Danes that shows that they are destined for bigger things, equally adept to being support for Uncle Acid, The Sword and even Hawkwind with their psychedelic, hazy, drug induced, occult rock. Roll it, light it, press play and enjoy Doublestone, they are the soundtrack to your next headtrip! 8/10    

Garuda Force: Blue Sky (Defox Records)

Garuda Force are a Indonesian Neo Classical metal band and Blue Sky is their first EP. They combine the styles of Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen and Symphony X. I have 2 of their songs from the EP and from what I have heard they are very good, the guitars of Jan an Iwan Stun are great with superb riffage and solos from Jay, the drums and bass to gallop along at a hell of pace with some backing keys running alongside with the guitars creating that classic neoclassical sound. Frontman Regi Weking's vocals are great considering English is not his first language although they are much better on the big balladic Bayang Malam which is full of Oriental sounds, as I said the vocals are good but lost a little in the mix but like I said still good. On the basis of these two tracks Garuda Force will give a good live showing and things look promising. 7/10