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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Reviews: Dunsmuir, Fury, Hammers Of Misfortune

Dunsmuir: S/T (Hall Of Records)

So super-groups, some are great, some are not so great but seeing as anything Clutch frontman Neil Fallon puts his hands on turns to gold, Dunsmuir has the prospectus to be a very big deal especially when you consider the other members involved, Fallon takes up the vocals, in the back room is Fu Manchu's Brad Davies, behind the skins is the legendary Vinny Appice and on the guitar is Dave Bone who also plays the riffs in The Company Band which also features Fallon and Fireball Ministry's James A Rota. So with a cast of characters that are mostly known for their weed smoking stoner riffage you'd think Dunsmuir would be some kind of stoner supergroup akin to Down but that would be a bit too easy, this project sees them indulging in the music of their influences, well Bone, Fallon and Davies', Appice has probably contributed to a lot of the influences so doesn't count. It's more classic metal sounding than the most of the day-jobs sounding more like Dio-fronted Sabbath of Appice's tenure, with the intelligent, engaging lyrical poetry of Fallon.  At 35 minutes its also all over in a flash but with Fallon's unmistakable vocals leading the way it's 35 minutes that you'll want to replay as soon as it finishes. Bone plays some massive licks, bolstered by the heavy backbone of Davies, who is no stranger to the power of bass in his day job picking up the rhythm parts when Bone solos, as all this happening in the top end, Appice who is a man who is from a drumming dynasty, plays his arse off in backroom even on easier tracks like Our Only Master he beats with power of men half his age. The sound of Sabbath can be found everywhere on this record but not in lazy way, this is a band paying tribute to the greats through homage rather than blatant copying, What Manner Of Bliss? is probably the album's biggest Sabbath moment. Dunsmuir may just be a studio project, it may become bigger touring prospect but with this debut it's certainly a statement of intent. 8/10     

Fury: Lost In Space (Broken Road)

The Worcester classic heavy metal heroes Fury have returned with their second full length, this time the fantasy lyricism takes place in a galaxy far away with the occasional swing back to earth for songs about Vikings, War, Dragons and of course Pirates (as anyone who has seen them will know frontman Julian seems to have a massive Pirate fetish). With the album called Lost In Space I was expecting the title track to be a cover of the famous surf-guitar theme written by John Williams, it isn't that unfortunately but it is a 7 minute plus mini-epic with progressive time changes a sing along chorus and some excellent solos, it's a definitive opening statement reaffirming everything that is good about this band, Martin Trail's bass work gallops as it should, occasionally giving a fret slide or a rundown in the gaps while Alasdair Davies' drumming pushes the songs forward sometimes at a terrifying pace as he blasts away easily, only reigning himself in on the reflective Sons Of War where he plays with a deft hand adding drama to the piece. At the front of the sound is the twin guitars of Julian Jenkins and Jake Beesley they duel, harmonize and peel licks off with great skill, Beesley letting loose on the solo sections as Jenkins riffs underscoring the fireworks with solid slabs of riffage. I've always likened Fury to Metallica playing Iron Maiden and this sound is still very audible on this record, with thrash sounding riffs on Start Trippin' (not sure if this comes before or after Space Truckin') they also know when to resort to chest thumping classic metal on When The Hammer Falls and Vallhalla both of which are songs that would make Grand Magus green with envy. Fury are superb live act, I've personally seen them a few times, but their albums are never just excuses for more songs they take time to craft them trying to put as much of their live force into them as they can, I think they've pulled this off yet again on Lost In Space aided by the production of Pete Newdeck (Eden's Curse) and mastering of Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) they let all the instruments breathe and also capture the unique power of Jenkins' vocals, which are hard to describe being both husky and shrill, however they fit the music completely. Lost In Space is the latest sterling addition to Fury's catalog, no difficult second album syndrome here just another excellent showing from Fury. 9/10

Hammers Of Misfortune: Dead Revolution (Metal Blade)

Well yet again I have to admit my ignorance and stupidity, in that I had heard of Hammer's Of Misfortune but had never really listened to them as I naively thought they wouldn't be 'my thing'. Well listening to their sixth album I can attest that they are most definitely my thing, they have a NWOBHM meets Doom sound all wrapped up in 70's hard rock retroism, founder member John Cobbett is the driving force behind the band his guitar the basis of everything the band do, ably aided by Leila Abdul-Rauf on six and Paul Walker on four strings and songs that move from wall of noise doom, through chugging NWOBHM, rampaging thrash metal and beyond it's the dynamics of the guitarists that are the important part of the record as Will Carroll carries the beat. With just the members I've mentioned Hammers Of Misfortune would be interesting enough their fusion of styles sounding both different and comfortingly familiar, however with vocalist John Hutton, who makes this his second record with the group and has booming set of pipes, they have a good singer who's vocals are counterpointed by the more ethereal vocals of keyboardist Sigrid Sheie who is the band's best weapon as well as her vocals her keys and organs are and important part of the sound of this record with the psych wurlitzers cutting through the heavy riffs of The Velvet Inquisition before going full John Lord on the title track using the organ as and extra lead instrument going toe-to-toe with the guitars. With the style of this record the use of keys along with the NWOBHM styled riffage really gives Hammers Of Misfortune a unique sound so if you like your music a fusion of past glories with a modern touch Dead Revolution will get you rocking! 7/10

      


Thursday, 28 July 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Airbourne

Airbourne & Leogun, Y Plas Cardiff

The Australian hard rock maelstrom that is Airbourne having been doing the rounds on the festival circuit culminating with Ramblin Man Fair which took place on the same weekend as Steelhouse Festival and looks like it will continue to be with both festivals taking place on the same weekend next year. Anyway back to the show and it was one of just two dates in the UK the band played post Ramblin Man, the first night was in Edinburgh and the second was right here in the fair city of Cardiff. Personally I was very impressed that Airbourne added Cardiff to their limited tour schedule so I was heartened to see that the Cardiff rock fraternity was out in force for the Aussie nutters.

This was to be my sixth viewing of Airbourne and even though they do sound like AC/DC, they have enough songs to keep you head banging, your fist in the air and you singing along all night. Due to a club night the support came on around 8pm after the 7:30 and went straight into their set. The band were London town's Leogun (6) who are a blues/soul three piece that do have a some great songs but their slow paced bluesy numbers were lost on the hard core fans in attendance that seemed more interested in getting drunk waiting for the headliners, Leogun in their own show would be better appreciated I think but on a Wednesday night in Cardiff the crowd, decked out almost exclusively with AC/DC and Airbourne T-Shirts (with the noted exception of one Chris De Burgh shirts), wanted beer fuelled hard rock.

As the theme from Terminator 2 played over the PA, it was time for the four piece to storm the stage and as the percussive piece ended the show kicked off with Ready To Rock guitarist Justin Rhodes and bassist Justin Street rocking in synchronicity as Ryan O'Keefe kept the beat hard and heavy then Joel O'Keefe made his shirtless entrance slinging his guitar like a weapon. From the chant of Ready To Rock it was back to the debut for Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast and due to this tour being a post festival bit of fun, the band set the tone by making it a greatest hits affair, not that anyone was complaining. I'm assuming that this will not be the case in their Autumn tour supporting their soon to be released album. Back to the show and it was two of their dirtiest numbers back to back with Chewin The Fat and Diamond In The Rough following each other allowing Joel to solo his heart out while gurning for Australia. The interaction was as you'd expect the same as if you'd walked into a bar in Warrnambool, Joel started by smashing cans of beer on his head, then proceeded to sit on a roadies shoulders for a solo section then moving into throwing out yet more cans to a more inebriated audience.

Black Dog Barking gave way to Girls In Black and Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women then one solitary new song the album title track Breakin' Outta Hell filled the gap as an hour neared we got the final two songs of the main set, No Way But The Hard Way twinned with Stand Up For Rock N Rolls which got the heads banging hard as it rumbled along. I was surprised how quickly the time went to be honest, a band like Airbourne (8) can make the time just melt away especially with a set full of anthems. Resuming the fun with an encore of Live it Up and the evergreen Running Wild in just over an hour it was all done and dusted the crowd were going nuts and the band were smiling from ear-to-ear. It's nice to sometimes see a jukebox set from a band inside a venue rather than in a field and it pays dividends as it keeps the band in peoples minds, expect the Autumn tour to sell very well, due to the evidence of the packed Y Plas there is a healthy appetite for their style of no-frills rock n roll, shame they are playing nowhere near us then...

Reviews: Revocation, Blizzen, Dream The Electric Sleep

Revocation: Great Is Our Sin (Metal Blade)

There's a part in the second Ghostbusters, where Bill Murray (Venkman) is explaining why Viggo is so angry, he blames it on Carpathian Kitten Loss, then tries to paint the kitten into the painting. Now this scene gives the perfect excuse why Revocation play music ripped from the bowels of hell, they too must be experiencing Carpathian Kitten Loss. The Boston technical death metal four piece play music that is a guitar fan's wet dream, full of complex polyrhythms, dual guitar interplay, face-melting leads, battering ram kick drumming and wide range of guttural screams that above all still gives an audible lyrical recognition. Not that you couldn't guess the lyrical content it's horror, war, death, pestilence, politics and religion the standard cheery subjects built upon some tasty musicianship with the guitar/bass interplay absolutely astounding as David Davidson (guitar), Dan Gargiulo (guitar) and Brett Bamberger (bass) weave in and out of each others riffs, meshing together perfectly for the tenacious thrash, galloping classic metal and even the occasional hard rock power chord that makes up this album.

With so much going on from the string instruments and the violent vocals of Davidson you'd often forget about the drumming however Ash Pearson remains vital to the sound throughout his drumming more than a match for his predecessor, founding member Phil Dubois-Coyne. Great Is Our Sin is another intense listening experience from the Boston natives with Davidson's guitar solos greatly impressive so much so that you can't see the join when the shredmaster general Marty Friedman joins in on The Exaltation, from the opening shredfest of Arbiters Of The Apocalypse, through first single Communion right until the closing moments of Cleaving Giants Of Ice (which drives into the 100 mph cover of Slayer's Altar Of Sacrifice) this record is a non-stop technical metal masterclass, whatever the cause of this aggression is Great Is Our Sin is the cat's pajamas (Pun intended). 8/10

Blizzen: Genesis Reversed (High Roller Records)

Another High Roller Records release and once again it's traditional metal of the highest quality, Germans Blizzen are a twin axe toting, drum blasting, bass galloping classic metal and their debut full length is a proto-thrash, speed metal triumph. The four men are all killer musicians and the opening track Trumpets Of The Gods and follow up Masters Of Lightning are really show you what the band are about with Teutonic speed on the latter and a chunky NWOBHM sound on the former. Yes the lyrics are generic but they are played with pure passion and this is reflected by the strength of the songs, similar to bands such as Enforcer and Cauldron there is the strong scent of denim and leather but the rampant retroism on this record is a very much welcome from the squealing solos, to the piercing vocals the old school sound is done with class. Genesis Reversed is a strong debut for a band that have only been around for two years and it shows real promise. 7/10     

Dream The Electric Sleep: Beneath The Dark Wide Sky (Mutiny Records)

I think I probably owe DTES an apology, back in 2011 I reviewed their debut and it made my top 10 of that year, however when they released their previous record Heretics I ruefully overlooked it on the blog, so to make amends I picked up that record and this their newest release and I'm glad I did as it's got all of the hallmarks that drew to to the band to begin with but with a more mature sound. DTES are a hard band to categorise but the core of their sound is in the classic prog of experimental bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Genesis (pre -Duke) as well as the more modern soundscapes of Radiohead and 90's shoe-gazers Catherine Wheel with touches of the heartfelt emotion of U2 and even The Foo Fighters.

This indie-prog/post rock three-piece is made up of Matt Page on vocals/guitar, Joey Waters on drums and Chris Tackett on bass and the sounds that the trio make are impressive by anyone's estimation but as the melodic beauty of Drift starts the record it's quite clear that the three men are immeasurably talented, Drift builds in layers having the kind of sound that Coldplay bring, as it builds it explodes into Let The Light Flood In which conjures the more modern power rock sound of bands such as Coheed & Cambria and more definitively 3.

Like I've said with a melting pot of influences DTES albums are always a real treat to listen to and they stand up to the modern genre leaders such as Steven Wilson, portraying the same kind of hurt, love, passion and longing he can, most notably the passionate and percussive Flight which is built on Water's and Tackett's rhythmic genius, while We Who Blackout The Sun merges Floydian guitar playing with the instant encompassing sound favoured Anathema. I think I've been an idiot for missing Heretics however I'm extremely glad I haven't missed Beneath The Dark Wide Sky as it reaffirms my love for this band, it's brilliant piece of work from a band that should be much more recognised and respected than they are, hopefully this will help. 9/10

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A View From The Mountain: Steelhouse Festival 2016 (Review By Paul)

Steelhouse Festival, Hafod y Dafal Farm, Aberbeeg 23-24 July 2016

The Welsh Classic Rock Festival is now in its sixth year and continues to improve. Building on such previous stellar acts as Europe, Magnum, Michael Schenker, Saxon and UFO, Steelhouse combines the cream of long established bands with up and coming exciting fresh outfits. This is the event where we first saw a youthful The Temperance Movement, the power of Northern Ireland’s Trucker Diablo and a resurgent The Treatment amongst many others.

A change to the layout of the site this year meant a slightly longer walk from the car park (probably a whole two minutes!) and the camping relocated to another field due to the arrival of a large number of solar panels on the previous camping area. The rest of the layout remained as before and the road to the site continues to take no prisoners. The large stage dominates the small arena with a limited number of decent catering wagons including crepes, pizza, pulled pork and burgers all doing a roaring trade. In the large bar area the Tudor Brewery competed with Trooper ale and the usual Tuborg lager alongside a couple of bars doing cocktails and spirits . As a real ale fan, the Tudor Brewery always get my full patronage with their Mountain Rock ale brewed especially for the festival and the pomegranate and sherbet Blitz kicking hard at 5.0% 

Day 1

So what about the music. Well, as the sun blazed through the cloud to create a blisteringly warm afternoon, Wigan’s Bigfoot (9) kicked off proceedings with an addictive display of ballsy gritty hard rock which got a very solid response from the early crowd. Frontman Antony Ellis refused to let their status as openers have even the slightest impact on him or his band mates as they put in a really great performance. In fact, they played like they were the headliners. Songs from their debut EP Stone Soldiers were cheered loudly by the band’s hard core contingent and the double guitar of Sam Millar and Mick McCullogh provided Steelhouse with a hard and heavy opening set.

London’s Dirty Thrills (7) arrived on stage with all the swagger and confidence of a band from the smoke. They also had a slightly less engaged approach, and although they warmed up as their set progressed with their bluesy rock their slightly aloof attitude was in stark contrast to the enthusiasm of the previous band.
The sun was blazing down on the field by now, factor 30 and a good hat very much the order of the day. Unsurprisingly the beer was also going down a treat and Stratford Upon Avon’s AOR maestros Vega (7) made sure that everyone continued to have a good time. They do little for me but as AOR outfits go, Vega sit in the higher levels. Their saccharine coated melodic rock does what it does, and approving nods from around the field complimented the die hard fans who really gave it their all. Vocalist Nick Workman is an engaging front man, whilst the Martin twins on keys and bass caused the odd double take. New tracks from their recent fourth release Who We Are were mixed with older tunes in a forty minute set.
Great things are expected from Tax The Heat (8), one of the UK’s hardest working bands at the moment. They are getting a lot of promotion from Planet Rock and their debut album Fed To The Lions  is receiving decent reviews (especially this humble blog - Ed). The Bristol based outfit started slowly but soon increased the temperature higher in the arena with their hard yet melodic rock. The band’s dapper image was severely tested by the high temperatures but although jackets were removed the smart shirts remained. Another well received set with a fair proportion of the audience impressively familiar with the band’s material. I hadn't seen them since they opened the second stage at Download in 2014 and they have improved immeasurably with a confident delivery. Set closer Highway Home aptly demonstrated why Tax The Heat could be much higher up the bill in a couple of years. 

Finally, a non-British band. It was starting to look like a Brexit convention! No, I jest but it is rare these days to have such home grown talent in front on you. Thankfully Steelhouse have a good strike rate on talent from the UK, and the classic rock field is very healthy at home these days. Still, a bit of continental influence is never a bad thing and The Von Hertzen Brothers (8) are a class act. Kicking off with New Day Rising, the title track from their latest album, the band were supercharged from the start and delivered an hour of absolute quality. Brothers Mikko, Kie and Jonne are the focal point of the band with their interaction just fabulous. The solid pounding of Mikko Kaakkurninemi and Juha Kuoppala’s layered synths add to the overall sound of a band who have already been around for nearly two decades. The Finns really know how to put on a show and with five albums worth of material are now in the fantastic position of being able to vary their set although unsurprisingly the majority came from the more recent and less prog tinged releases. A few new fans gained no doubt.
Now I was surprised that Blues Pills (8) were higher on the bill than VHB but they demonstrated their quality with a splendid set which held the attention from start to finish. The Blues tinged psychedelia which is the band’s main sound fitted perfectly in the sun drenched hillside. Opening with their debut album’s opening track, High Class Woman, the stunning voice of the beautiful Elin Larsson, complete with tasseled cat suit and high energy tambourine continues to astound. Of course, the band are made up of three other magnificent musicians with Dorian Sorriaux transfixed in his own world as he continues to play some of the best guitar I've ever seen. The debut release formed the bulk of the set, but we also got the treat of a couple from the soon to be released Lady In Gold. The band were also bulked out with a second guitarist who played a fine rhythm which allowed Damian to unleash his trademark riffs. Highlights also included the slower paced Black Smoke which quickly makes the transition to a wild gallop and the raucous Devil Man which closed a brilliant set. Well worth making the trip to Bristol in November to catch them with Kadavar.

Few bands sit as comfortably at Steelhouse as those from Northern Ireland. Twice Trucker Diablo have really impressed but the band that are guaranteed to make you smile, clap and sing is The Answer (9) who were making their third appearance on the mountain. Now I've seen these guys a lot and they never disappoint. This year the band were celebrating the tenth anniversary of their debut Rise which they played in full. Clearly massively popular with the very healthy crowd, the band started at speed and didn't let up throughout their hour and quarter set. Frontman Cormack Neeson was in fine form, evangelical and charismatic, encouraging audience participation at every opportunity. He may be greying at the temples but he still retains the Robert Plant hair and swagger. He can also sing quite magnificently with Preaching a huge highlight. The band closed their impressive set which had focused mainly on the past with Spectacular and two new songs, Thief Of Light and Solas, the title track of their new album which will be released in October.

It was going to be tough to follow that set but if there is a band better equipped to headline a UK classic rock event than Thunder (10) then I'd love to see them. Full of the confidence that their many years rocking across the globe has given them, Danny Bowes, Luke Morley, Harry James, Ben Matthews and Chris Childs were in imperious form. Backed by a fine light show Thunder tore through a set packed with their classics which had the crowd eating out of their hand from the opening bars of Wonder Days. Thunder’s stock in the UK has risen greatly over the last couple of years and they fully deserved the headline status. Bowes is quite the front man, combining a rock star’s swagger with a humility often absent (comparisons with the approach of the Dead Daisies John Corabi spring to mind). The band’s music is strong enough to throw Back Street Symphony into the middle of the set. A stunning Love Walked In complete with excellent Welsh singing closed their set and with the crowd baying for more, Thunder duly obliged and rounded a fantastic first day off with everyone’s favourite Dirty Love.

Day 2

Day 2 saw a return to more typical British weather conditions although for those of us who had been to Download this year this was more of a light drizzle. Arriving in time for the openers Last Great Dreamers (6), a British band who operated in the 1990s before splitting and then reforming in 2014, we grabbed a beer and watched from the beer tent. To be fair, the Sunday morning slot in drizzle after a day on the lash in glorious sunshine has got to be a bit shit. Last Great Dreamers didn't float my boat but gave it a good go and the relatively sparse crowd gave their dirty rock ‘n’ roll a decent enough reception. A much more enthusiastic reception awaited Steelhouse regulars Hand Of Dimes (7) whose brand of soulful melodic rock was a welcome lunchtime sound. The Welsh roots stretch far with this lot, the older members of the audience possibly might have remembered Kooga from the 1980s which was where frontman. Nev MacDonald and keyboardist Neil Garland first cut their teeth. Nev still leads from the front and the band played a range of songs from their self-titled release.
As the rain struggled to make up its mind whether to totally empty down or stop, the all round pretty boy of lightweight pop rock James Toseland and his outfit arrived on stage. Having seen Toseland (7) at The Globe earlier this year, I was familiar with the band and they do what they do well. Pretty generic rock in the Alter Bridge/Shinedown ball park. James is a good solid frontman who engaged well with the crowd. Playing a range of tracks from their earlier release as well as newie Cradle The Rage they delivered a decent 40 minutes which made me forget the rain. A slightly shambolic ending as they overran meant they didn't get the finale they deserved but overall a solid performance from a band who have already obtained support slots with the likes of Deep Purple.
Three piece rock outfits are quite rare these days but RavenEye (9) have more balls about them then many quintets. Led by the charming and totally crazy Oli Brown whose manic running around whilst shredding like Hendrix on heat is an absolute joy, the band kicked hard from the start and provided an absolute treat for those unfamiliar with their energy and quality. Tracks from their EP Breakin’ Out mixed with a couple of newies from the soon to be released debut Nova. Bassist Aaron Spiers makes sure that all four legs of the outfield part of the band are working hard as he ventured out onto the walkway although it was Brown as ever who stole the show. Whether he is talking shit into the microphone, jumping off Kev Hickman’s drum kit or being carried across the stage on Spiers shoulders, Brown is simply mesmerising. He's like a metal Russell Brand with more flexible fingers (I'd say their finger work is on a par but used for entirely different reasons - Smut Ed) As the band closed their set, with Brown bemoaning the fact that their van broke down leaving them devoid of merchandise, the best news of the day broke with the news that the band will be back in South Wales later in the year.
By now we were a little weary and Mrs H, whose festival days were thought to be long behind her was flagging somewhat. Although the rain had eased, standing in a field for two days is quite knackering work. Up next were the Dead Daisies, a supergroup of sorts from the USA. And yes, you knew the Americans had arrived as soon as they hit the stage. The charm and humble status of Oli Brown was replaced by a brash arrogance of a band that, let's face it, are a bunch of also-rans. With the sound hitting a new level, Dead Daisies (5) took to the stage to a huge reception, the vast quantity of air play that Planet Rock have been providing them obviously working. For the uninitiated, the band was formed in 2012 via Australia and California and have had a number of members in various line ups. The problem for me, and I appear to be in a very small minority judging by the online reaction, is that Dead Daisies are just a competent collection of session musicians who managed to litter an hour’s set with six cover versions (Free’s All Right Now being the most recognisable and average) interspersed with some really average rock songs from their two full length releases. Lock And Load is about as close to a rock painting by numbers as it gets, whilst the new tracks such as Make Some Noise contained as much subtlety as the early works of Kiss.
What was even more infuriating as the crowd lapped it up was the sheer arrogance of the band. John Corabi strolls around like a Steven Tyler who’d had to eat his way out of a pie shop, whilst Marco Mendoza morphed in Derek Smalls early on. The fact that this guy played in a Thin Lizzy line up is a disgrace to Phil Lynott’s memory although if I remember correctly he was just as much of a strutting cock when he played in the Lizzy line up at St David’s Hall in 2012. Newest recruit Doug Aldrich, a journeyman guitarist who spent time with Whitesnake and Dio looked relatively constrained by the limited opportunity to cut loose. Meanwhile David Lowry stood in relative anonymity with his rhythm guitar work stage left. The fun didn't stop with covers though and a Brian Tichy drum solo was just the icing on the ego. By the time cover number five arrived (Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival for those interested enough) my patience had just about run out. A final cover of the Beatles Helter Skelter saw the band obtain a raucous response. I just don't get it. Maybe the Steelhouse crowd wants unoriginal covers more than fresh new music. It certainly helps when you are on your eight pint to have something to sing along to. Who knows?

Flashback to Download 2016 and after several hours in the pissing rain The Wildhearts put a smile back on my face in the tent with an hour of Ginger’s inimitable throw away rock. With a billing far higher than warranted, and even I would admit that Dead Daisies should have been higher, another of Ginger’s projects, Hey! Hello! (6) careered onto the stage for the tea time slot. With the band having hemorrhaged female vocalists, Ginger had recruited a new singer whose name I was unable to catch. Unfortunately she couldn't sing and her interplay between songs suggested that she was incredibly nervous (or a little bit thick). Opening with Swimwear the band, completed by The Rev, Toshi and drummer Ai got into their stride quickly. Unfortunately their generic brand combined with the vocal quality of a cat with it’s paws in the mangle didn't enhance the experience. By the end of their set we were ready to leave and get home in the light due to a concern about the strength of a back tyre that needed some TLC. Trooping out in advance of Terrorvision is always a good feeling and we forwent The Darkness in order to get home.

Editors Note: The Darkness by all accounts raised the roof as the headliners. Their set was full of the tongue-in-cheek bravado and more importantly massive self-penned sing-alongs, basically everything The Dead Daises seemed to lack. They showed that they were well worthy of being the headliners of this festival and reinforced that the UK is indeed the home of rock music and that you don't need to have a history with famous bands to be popular, you need great songs, the right attitude and a shit load of good-humoured British fun.

So, a record crowd, some stunning weather and enough good bands to support the appetite of the rock palette. Steelhouse once again came up trumps with the goods, with a friendly and family vibe throughout the site. Next year Mrs H is insisting on camping – it is seriously that good.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Reviews: Honky, Svartanatt, Fake Idols

Honky: Corduroy (Housecore Records)

A bearded Texas three-piece playing booty shaking boogie music? Yeah yeah I know there aren't many bands that can successfully try and compete with Dusty, Frank and The Reverend Willy G but Honky are out to at least bask in the reflected glory by playing the same kind of swaggering Texan blues rock as The Top with the Southern Trendkill of Pantera thrown in to make sure your hips are shaking and your teeth get kicked in. Honky are no amateurs either they've been doing this stuff since 1996 and Corduroy is the bands 7th record, at this late stage they aren't going to change their formula, the band call themselves Superboogie and that is what they do, moving away from the heaviness that infected their previous records, the general mood is more upbeat and laid back, think Texan BBQ with a side order of sunshine, beer and a mountain of reefer.

Honky is made up of guitarist Bobby 'Ed' Landgraf (Down, Gahdzilla Motor Company), Michael ‘Night Train’ Brueggen (Blackula) on drums and band mastermind/bassist/vocalist J.D Pinkus (Butthole Surfers), his Texan drawl and blue collar hollar are a key part of Honky's traditional sound, but behind the waves of big riffage, squealing leads and Redneck bravado, the band do a stock-in-trade for intelligent often funny lyrics with theme of this record to have a damn good time, hell they even chuck in Pat Travers' Snortin' Whiskey as the album draws to a close. At the top of the record though is the fuzzy title track, the parping brass runs through Outta Season, then as we go through the Southern rock builds until I Don't Care brings things back to country after the cover, with oddness returning on an all vocals version of Zeppelin's Moby Dick named Mopey Dick.  Corduroy is Honk doing what they do, they will never change and more power to them, this is good shit. 8/10

Svartanatt: Svartanatt (The Sign Records)

Right you know the drill Swedish, retro, 60's and 70's loving rock with funky riffs, lots of organs, no complications, no B.S just honest good old fashioned hard rock. Svartanatt have swirling psych, an analogue sound, righteous drum fills, groove bass breaks, big stabs of organs, clean flowing guitars and howling vocals and that's just on Times Are Changing, a bit of 60's balladry creeps in on Thunderbirds Whispering Winds, there's a Deep Purple break in Nightman and it's all just been done before and again, there's nothing to make this stand out from the retro rock pack. For completists it's worth listening to but there are so many bands making this style of music fresh and exciting unfortunately Svartanatt aren't. 4/10   

Fake Idols: Witness (Scarlet Records)

Witness is the second full length from Italian melodic heavy rockers Fake Idols and their first for Scarlet records. The press release makes it known that the band is made up of ex-members of such bands like Raintime, Slowmotion Apocalypse and Jar Of Bones, which means precisely Sweet F.A to me as I have no idea who any of these bands are. Still that does mean I can be objective in this review as I have no past glories to compare it too. Luckily the album is chock full of modern hard rock songs that full of muscular hook and heavy riffs, it has distinctly modern flavour of bands like Papa Roach, Skillett and even Shinedown. For an Italian band they seem to have good contacts as Motorhead's Phil Campbell adds guitar to the albums fastest track on the record Mad Fall and they are not adversed to cover either as on this record they tackle The Chemical Brother's Go which works surprisingly well in a hard rock style. Fake Idols are a good band and write some great songs, if you didn't know you'd think they were from the US such is their radio bothering songcraft. If you like your rock with a touch of heaviness and heap of melody then Witness is well worth exploring. 7/10

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Reviews: Temperance, Palace Of The King, (Hed) P.E

Temperance: Earth Embraces Us All (Scarlet Records)

Italian symphonic metal troupe Temperance are a pretty prolific band by modern standards, Earth Embraces Us All is their third record in as many years and by rights they should have made at least one mis-step by now, thankfully there is no sign of one on this record, in fact it builds upon the the two previous records and makes for a more mature, progressive listen with the songs a lot more complicated and featuring more musically intensive compositions than before. Much of this is due to the impressive keyboard/guitar dynamic that sets pulses racing from the first song A Thousand Places on a trajectory similar to Amaranthe with the keys pumping out pulsating dance vibes as the crunching metal riffs drive the songs hook.

What's interesting about this opening song is the vocal interplay between frontwoman Chiara Tricarico who has a powerful classically trained vocal but can adapt it to numerous styles as guitarist Marco Pastorino's gruffer pipes are the counterpoint much like fellow Italians Lacuna Coil. At The Edge Of Space and Unspoken Words keep the pace high, as Unspoken Words adds a folk element and the electronics cut through again on Empty Lines that has some excellent 8-bit sounding keys a cracking dual vocal chorus and Tricarico at her poppiest.

With the impressiveness of the vocals it can be easy to overlook the musicianship but gold stars all round to bassist Luca Negro and drummer Giulio Capone who not only blasts away with his expressive drumming but also provides the keys and finally as well as his vocals guitarist Marco adds rocking riffs and searing solos. Earth Embraces Us All has a modern sound and like I said it expands on the bands previous records by giving a more exploratory sound than before, see a song like Haze which is one of the most interesting songs on the record effortlessly blending the throbbing electronica with galloping metal. It's a great album that puts Temperance three out of three in terms of quality as this record is yet again filled with excellent, premium quality symphonic metal. 8/10     

Palace Of The King: Valles Marineris (Listenable Records)

I gave Palace Of The King's last record White Bird/Burn The Sky a hefty 9/10 based on the quality of the bluesy retro psych rock that was featured on the record. The Aussie six piece tip their hat to the past masters while also fitting squarely in with the modern revivalists. The rumbling organs give way to guitar riffs on Let The Blood Run Free with two guitarists the band are a heavier prospect than many of their contemporaries. The opening salvo turns into a slinky bass driven middle section which has some blue-eyed soul to it this carries through to the funky Beyond The Valley on which Tim Henwood shows his vocals chops and the dual guitars of Leigh Maden and Matt Harrison build in conjunction with Sean Johnston's keys to a crescendo of power.

Palace Of The King have a spirit of Zeppelin flowing through them but drawing heavily from the Houses Of The Holy era when they experimented with more textures, witnessed on electric piano thumping soul Black Cloud which also has some gospel vocals over the top of a shaking percussion from Travis Dragani. Valles Marineris (Named after Latin name for Mars' Mariner Valley fact fans) eases off a little on the bluesy hard rock of it's predecessor instead adding different flavours to the band's sound with funk, soul, psych and more blues adding to the record's appeal.

They can still bring a heavy rock riff on We Are The Vampires which shows off Andrew Gilpin's bass playing to it's maximum as does the strutting, mind bending Sick As A Dog. On the heavy psych of Empire Of The Sun the band bring more big riffs as Henwood wails with his unique shamanic vocal phrasing. Yes you can say they sound like Zeppelin in places but they also have hints of Stevie Wonder and The Doors as well as having nods to contemporaries such as Scorpion Child and fellow Antipodeans Wolfmother. Is this record as good as it's predecessor? Yes of course it is, not as immediate or direct but it does open itself up after a few listens to be another stunning record! 9/10

(Hed) P.E: Forever! [Review By Paul]

I’ll be totally honest with this one. I’ve never got (Hed) P.E. Their fusion of gangsta rap and punk (G-punk) has never moved me in the slightest and their latest release, album number 11 Forever! is no different. There are moments: Opener Live is a cacophony of styles whilst the aggression of Pay Me combines Korn and Hatebreed with massive grinding riffs from new guitar man Gregzilla (that’s Greg Harrison to you and me) pique the interest.

The various vocal styles of main man and only original member Paulo Sergio "Jared" Gomes range from rapping to death growls and it probably adds to the difficulty in liking this. I just don’t like rapping. Closer is just an angry wall of noise, a mixture of Skindred and Limp Bizkit and Hurt does exactly that … to my aural senses.  This contains the full range of Gomes’ delivery and I can imagine if you like this then it will get you very excited.

Maybe I’m not best placed to review this as I found it difficult to get through the whole album more than twice. I fully appreciate how (Hed) P.E. may well be revered in certain circles and the music certainly mixes up genres, with prime examples being One Of A Kind which sits fully in the reggae box before it aggressively explodes into life and the reggae lifeblood that pulses through Shadowridge and Together. (Hed) P.E are clearly a Marmite band and if you like this type of Marmite then I’m pretty sure it will appeal. Unfortunately it does little for me. 6/10


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Reviews: Heart, Cold Truth, Dust Bolt (Reviews By Paul)

Heart: Beautiful Broken (Universal)

Four years since their last release, 2012’s Fanatic, Heart roar back into the rock world’s gaze with Beautiful Broken, a collection of new tracks and a few reworked older tunes. It’s a pretty fine release too, with some harder edged songs balancing the calmer power ballads which you’d expect from the Wilson sisters. Opener Beautiful Broken originally featured on deluxe editions of Fanatic, and is beefed up with the addition of Metallica’s James Hetfield on co-vocals. It’s a strange combination, a heavy rocker with Hetfield’s distinctive gruff vocals working surprisingly well with Anne Wilson’s powerful mezzo soprano. Some neat guitar work gives it a heavier edge than one would expect. The band’s cover of Ne-Yo’s Two is quite something; a beautifully paced ballad which opens with Anne Wilson and Chris Joyner’s delicate piano before the rest of the band join in as the track builds. It’s a pretty saccharine coated track with some delicious harmonies from Nancy Wilson. Sweet Darlin’ first featured on 1980’s Bebe Le Strange and the comparison with that version is very interesting with the addition of strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra providing a much deeper, fuller and different version.

Its been no secret that Heart love their Zeppelin; their records are laced with Zeppelin covers and anyone who saw the band reduce Robert Plant to tears at the Kennedy Centre Led Zeppelin tribute in 2012 will have been blown away. I Jump, the second track to feature strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra has a huge Kashmir riff and hook. With Anne’s vocals stunning and the band cutting it tight with the strings, I Jump is probably one of the outstanding tracks on the album. Interestingly it contains no guitar work from Nancy, Craig Bartock taking the fretwork riffage. Another reworked track follows, Johnny Moon, from 1983’s Passionworks. This is pretty faithful to the original version, enhanced with some fine tap steel guitar from Dan Rothchild and subtle keyboard work with Nancy enhancing the complexity with marxophone. By this stage in the album, you are once again realising what a superb voice Anne Wilson still has. Her performance throughout the release is just amazing.

However much attention the Wilson sisters draw, they have always had pretty solid musicians alongside them and Heaven, another hugely Zeppelin influenced track is the perfect illustration. Nancy adds bowed acoustic guitar whilst Dan Rothchild adds bass, moog bass, upright bass and acoustic guitar. Craig Bartock’s subtle guitar work is Page-esque whilst Ben Smith’s drum sound is perfect for this multi-layered track. City’s Burning ups the tempo, a faster paced tune with some delicious string work from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra and some neat guitar work from Wilson and Bartock. Down On Me is the most straightforward track on the album, a fine meandering five-minute tune which builds in a classic rock style. Penultimate song One Word is about as classic a Heart track as you can get, with Nancy taking the lead with some aplomb, Anne adding beautiful harmonies to a smouldering gentle track. Language Of Love closes the album, another gentle ballad with more strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra adding acres of depth and feel. Having seen the band perform a superb set just a few weeks ago, it’s pleasing to review what might be the easy listening album of the year. It’s just magic (man) 9/10

Cold Truth: Grindstone (Blue Rose)

Grindstone is the third release from power blues rock quartet Cold Truth who come at ‘ya straight from Nashville. Grindstone is no-nonsense high quality music deeply soaked in the blues with a hard edge. Yes, it may only be their third album in over 12 years but it’s damn fine stuff. Thane Shearon (vocals, guitar), Kurt Menck (guitars), Abe White (bass) and Matt Green (drums) have produced just an hour of foot stompin’ guitar driven hog roast themed tunes which make you demand sunshine, beer and good times. It’s not ground breaking and I doubt that Cold Truth will get worldwide domination following this but if you want straight honest rocking driving music then feed this bad boy into the CD player, put on your shades and hit the pedal. Oozing quality with a fuzzy guitar sound to die for, tracks such as Where The Music Takes Me, Leave Your Leather On, opener Livin' Hard and Hands On The Wheel leave you with a smile on your face and the foot tapping. If you like your rock fuelled by the blues then check these guys out. 8/10

Dust Bolt: Mass Confusion (Napalm)

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be familiar with Dust Bolt, a thrash outfit hailing from Bavaria. Mass Confusion is their third full release, following on from 2014’s Awake The Riot. The band have been around for ten years and unsurprisingly throw down the metal in an unrelenting surge of power and chaos. A fusion of influences, with everything from the chug of Anthrax through to the power of Kreator and the chaos of Nuclear Assault, Mass Confusion is a riot, a full frontal assault. The title track gallops at 110mph with some neat breakdowns to get the neck muscles moving. I’m not a huge fan of Lenny B’s vocals which are a little too shouty for my tastes, but having played this release several times over the past few days there is enough to keep me interested. The slower paced thrash always did more for me than the balls out runaway train approach and tracks such as Turn To Grey and the Slayer influenced Blind To Art push a few buttons with some solid riffage from Lenny B and Flo D. It’s old school thrash, formulaic and follows the required blueprint but it works nicely. 7/10



Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Reviews: Tides Of Sulfur, Oceans Of Time, Steven Tyler

Tides Of Sulfur: Extinction Curse (Black Bow Records)

Finally after a long time and a lot of build up the South Wales merchants of heavy have released their debut album, the suitably doom-laden titled Extinction Curse is everything TOS have been working towards over these last few years of relentless touring and the occasional EP/Split albums. The three piece band of Chris Bull (shouting/bowel shaking) Anthony O'Shea (riffs/shouting) and Tom Lee (concussion) have made name on the local and UK scene with aggressive, ear bleedingly heavy metal that straddles the death and sludge sound, with some massive riffs, throat shredding vocals and drumming that can rearrange your teeth.

The record opens on a familiar note as the slow, creeping intro to Eternal Bleeding starts the record, many followers will know this song from the band's demo EP and it loses none of it's power, despite gaining a clarity from the production which in fact makes it hurt you more. This is what TOS try to do with their music, they bludgeon you into submission with the impressive hefty bottom end leading the charge as O'Shea plays some great lead guitar over the top as the song speeds up in the final part. After the opening gambit of sludge doom the second song ...Of Suffering And Grief starts with a slow spoken word intro and kicks into an ear splitting dose of blastbeat filled death. A theme that continues on Woe To You O Destroyer with yet more death metal battering.

Tides Of Sulfur are definitely one band from the underground and as such their sound can be categorised as against the grain, not that they care as they worship at the pagan altar of heavyweights such as Crowbar, Iron Monkey and Neurosis especially on the progressive doom meets hardcore punk of MaltheistExtinction Curse serves as one of the records most impressive songs, the longest song on the record is a multi-faceted piece with a slow burning melodic haze punctuated by sludge slabs in the first section before ramping up to some heavier-than-thou doom for the rest of the song, it's a guaranteed live staple and one that insists you band your head until it falls off.

This is Tides Of Sulfur's statement of intent and it's one that grabs you by the throat and shakes you until your bones are dust, well done gents this is a lesson in making an apocalyptic impact. 9/10      

Oceans Of Time: Trust (Melodic Revolution Records)

Norway is usually known for it's black metal scene, but it does have a niche in progressive power metal too with Pagan's Mind and Circus Maximus being the biggest two names in the genre. Pagan's Mind vocalist Nils K Rue turns up on this record along with 'The Voice' Jorn Lande on the four part final suite sparring with the more than able voice of Oceans Of Time Ken Lyngfoss, who holds his own and impresses elsewhere.

This is melodic, dramatic progressive power metal with touches of Pagan's Mind, Kamelot and Serenity throughout the album, Nicholay and Geir's rhythm section is propulsive and technically proficient as you'd expect meaning that guitarist Lassse and keyboardist Nickolas can duel and play off each other on tracks like the fists in the air Save You which owes a debt to folk metal which is offset by the heavier sounds on Pray For The Dying which is drummer Nicholay's showcase as you get more of Ken's raspy but powerful vocals (which have a bit of Jorn about them) as well as a keyboard solo too.

Trust is the band's second record and it sees them continue their evolution into a more impressive metallic beast, none of the songs are particularly long but Oceans Of Time's songs contain more riffs, changes of pace and musical dexterity in their 5 minute tracks than many bands can do with 10 minutes plus. There's heavy riffs on the Purple-esque title track which also has some very welcome female guest vocals, Show Me The Way has huge gang chorus and a symphonic sound, 1865 builds on the fuzzy keys of Nickolas for a Wild West themed story that has a Maiden gallop but bridges it with layers of AOR sounding keys.

This record is one of those rare ones that get better and better as they progress, Black Death sounds a lot like Pagan's Mind or Symphony X with the off-kilter rhythms and the fusion of keys and guitar, Nemesis ramps up the heaviness and the climactic final suite Grapes Of Baccus really ends the record on a high note with the four vocalists, (the fourth being the harsh tones of Ole Myrholt) all interplaying brilliantly to interpret the narrative of the piece that switches between so many genre's sometimes you are unsure whether they are the same band.

With a fluid mix of prog, power and melodic metal it's the nuances of this record that are to it's benefit, I'd never heard of Oceans Of Time before but they have impressed me so much with this record that I will be keeping a keen eye on them from now on. 8/10

Steven Tyler: We're All Somebody From Somewhere (Dot Music)

Fuck off Steven Tyler, just fuck all the way off. I'm sorry for the language folks but I love Aerosmith, they've been a favourite of mine since I was young, I rate albums such as Toys In The AtticRocks as the blueprint for blues rock albums, then with their late 80's releases starting with Done With Mirrors through Done With MirrorsPermanent Vacation Pump and climaxing with Get A Grip they became one of the biggest bands on the planet receiving notoriety and global stardom without really giving up their influences.

However I've become weary with all of the in-fighting and general malcontent that seems to be affecting the band, much of this has come from frontman Tyler's extra curricular activities as a judge on American Idol, his numerous media appearances and the continuing friction between him and the rest of the band most of which has stemmed from the creation of this solo record. OK many band members make a solo record away from the mother-ship but most aren't this contentious, abandoning the hard rock sound he is associated with.

We're All Somebody From Somewhere is a country album of sickly love songs, down-home shuffling and if it was Garth Brookes then it would be a serviceable if formulaic country album. I like a lot of country music but this is not good only a few of the songs on this record suit Tyler's voice the, peace and love spreading title track is one and it should have opened the record rather than the tepid My Own Worst Enemy, although on it's down side it does have some terrible lyrics.

The record is let sewn by there being too many ballads on this record, yes I realise that Aerosmith are more known for their ballads these days but most of the songs are just ineffectual and a bit dull, the worst of the bunch is the sickly and naff Red, White And You, the unnecessary reinterpretation of Janie's Got Her Gun and cover of Janis Joplin's Piece Of My Heart to round off a 15 song album. This is nothing more than a vanity project for Tyler and really if you want him at his best go back to his day job, he's so much better there, get back to the band and finish it on high while you are all still defying the odds. 4/10

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Reviews: Jeff Beck, XII Boar, Wolverine

Jeff Beck: Loudhailer (Atco/Rhino Records)

Veteran guitarist Jeff Beck has done it all in his career, the 71 year old has been inducted into the rock n roll hall of fame twice, he was a member of the famous Yarbirds, has had a successful solo career and is recognised as one of the best and most influential guitarists of all time, constantly adapting his sound and style as his career wore on, settling recently for a blues/fusion sound concentrating mainly on the instrumental expression of his guitar surrounded by bands made up of other virtuoso's. On Loudhailer, his first album in six years, he has once again switched up his style and this time has teamed up with two young women that are the driving force behind the gritty London pop rockers Bones, Beck met guitarist Carmen Vandenberg at Roger Taylor's birthday party last year and in turn was introduced to singer Rosie Bones.

With these two women he found kindred spirits, allowing him to write an album to express his opinions at injustice and as he says "nasty things" happening in the world, through his preferred medium. Along with the fiery Femme duo, Beck also recruited Filippo Cimatti to aide him with production with Cimatti bringing in drummer Davide Sollazzi and bassist Giovanni Pallotti to round out the band. Loudhailer is not quite the album you would expect from Beck, it's got an defiant sound to it, the songs have an uncompromising message to them, it's the sound of man who has paid his dues, has something important to say and is using his music to say it, aided by two young musicians that are full of fire and passion.

For the first time in long time the album is primarily a vocal album with Rosie's London twang giving the songs a new edginess, giving a tough showing on Thugs Club which could be the anthem to Danny Dyer gangster flick. She switches to a defiant tone on The Revolution Will Be Televised which is almost like beat poetry and teases sardonically on the funky O.I.L (I Love That Sticky). The songs are vibrant, bright and chock full of Beck's guitar prowess, spanning a myriad of genres from the bluesy Live In The Dark which has an electronic beat and treated vocals but some ragged incendiary guitar playing, to the beautiful Scared For The Children which has some excellent phrasing and would sit comfortably on a modern pop record, highlighting Bone's huskiness.

Interestingly Pull It merges slicing guitars with a modern hip hop sound (Gary Clark Jr is the master of this) and stands out because of genre clash. Loudhailer is a truly eclectic, impressive effort the guitar playing aside, the performances by the rest of the band are incredible and happily are highlighted by the songwriting, there is no showing off for the sake of it on this record Beck at times seems restrained, content to play sideman while the song progresses and it's all the better for it. Loudhailer is Beck's message to the world, well it's loud and clear. 9/10       

XII Boar: Beyond The Valley Of The Triclops (Self Released)

Aldershot band XII Boar (12 Boar) only released their debut full length last year and hot on the heels of this they are now ready to unleash their sophomore album. The album's title and gratuitous cover will put many in mind of Manowar style metal but XII Boar are a dirtier, grittier prospect with a thundering kind of metal n roll that brings to mind the whiskey soaked vocals, riotous pummelling basslines, raucous drums and the sleazy riffs of Motorhead or High On Fire with the Southern stoner groove Corrosion Of Conformity. BTVOTT is a non stop, heavy record that barrels along with the force of a tornado the massive rhythms of Dave Wilbraham and Adam Thomas crushing from the opening title track as Tommy Hadrocks riffs like a bastard and barks down the mic with his scarred throat gruffly shouting the lyrics.

XII Boar have opened their sound up a little adding some Southern boogie on The Hustle with a parping harmonica infiltrating the Motorhead style rocking as a killer solo from Hadrocks slices through the middle of the record. The spirit of Lemmy still looms large on the metallic blues of Strange Kinda Lonesome which could have come off any of the more recent Motrhead albums. As well as the Motorhead sound there are nods to Volbeat (El Mucho Grande), Fireball Ministry (Abyssal Lord) and yet more heavy blues with the hammering Black And Blues, showing that XII Boar have focussed their sound, streamlining it into a record that is rich with colossal sonic destruction. Roll on Bloodstock to see these songs in the bands live wire stage show as it's guaranteed to be one big heavy metal party! 8/10      

Wolverine: Machina Viva (Sensory Records)

Doing what seems to be the now natural shift from death metal band to introspective prog band Sweden's Wolverine are the latest in long line to complete the transition and Machina Viva is their fifth album and sees them attempting their most complex pieces to date, the album itself opens with the 14 minute The Bedlam Overture which indicates the 'feel' of this record with sprawling, layered textured piece crammed full with technical, though not intrusive, instrumentals and some soaring downcast vocals from Stefan Zell. The record is about atmosphere with the mood moving from reflective on Our Last Goodbye to downright tragic on Pile Of Ash in some instances as the musical backing ranges from technical rock music (Pledge) that nods to melodic appeal of Haken,   progressive expression on When The Night Comes Down and even some electronic drum loops on Machina.

Machina Viva has eight songs on it and they are all performed by virtuoso musicianship but like Katatonia and Anathema, the bands Wolverine share their style with, the impressive musical skill is used to enhance the songwriting and makes the tracks interesting rather than trying to take easier progressive route of rampant showing off. If you like this style of gloomy, progressive music then Wolverine will be on your stereo right after you want to give yourself a break from The Fall Of Hearts. 7/10

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Reviews: Dark Funeral, Chevelle, Trick Or Treat

Dark Funeral: Where Shadows Forever Reign (Century Media) [Review By Paul]

Black Metal bands from Sweden continue to deliver exceptional releases and one of the seminal bands from the second wave of Black Metal, Dark Funeral have delivered a stunning 6th album which cements them even more deeply into the legendary status. With the suicide of lead singer Blackmoon in 2013, the band recruited Cursed 13’s Heljemadar. Now I’m no expert on the moves or status of many of those in the Scandinavian Black Metal scene but Dark Funeral have provided some of the definitive moments over the past two decades and are rightly revered.

Where Shadows Forever Reign maintains the themes which have underpinned the band’s previous output, anti-Christian, satanic imagery and pure evil. Opener Unchain My Soul is atmospheric and crushing, with the typical trademark blast beats, thunderous riffs and guttural vocals. As One We Shall Conquer maintains the tempo, with a crushing assault combining with slabs of melody. The overall power of a black metal band in full flow is a fantastic thing and Dark Funeral get into top gear extremely quickly. Beast Above Man takes a slightly slower pace at the start, although the inevitable pounding drums never lets up before it opens out full throttle.

The tolling of a bell sets the scene for the doomy As I Ascend which oozes atmosphere, huge riffs and a narrative soliloquy. Eerie guitar work from Lord Ahriman introduces the hypnotic masterpiece Temple Of Ahriman whilst The Eternal Eclipse broods and bruises. The first release from the album, Nail Them To The Cross leaves little to the imagination. The track swells like a huge wave that then crashes down smashing all before it. The title track closes an absolute beast of an album which is very likely to feature in my top 10 come the end of the year. Quite blisteringly brilliant. 9/10

Chevelle: The North Corridor (Epic)

Chicago native Chevelle have been plying their trade in alternative, modern rock music since 1995, since then they have released 8 albums and toured the world many times. In what is unusual for many bands their line up remains relatively unchanged, formed by the three Loeffler brothers, bassist Joe left the band in 2005 and since then his place has been taken by Dean Bernardini who keeps in it in the family being the brother in law to his band mates.

The North Corridor is the bands eighth record and it's as immediate, modern and ambitious as their previous records, relying heavily on the three way interplay of the instrumentation with a groove provided by Bernardini's bass and Sam's drums as Pete adds his technical guitar riffs for what is a distinctly alt rock/post grunge sound, putting them musically on the same plateau as fellow Chicago band (and tour mates) Disturbed as well as Breaking Benjamin, Staind, Seether and also Tool due to the vocals of Pete mixed with the synth infected nu-metal grunt of bands such as Korn on Door To Door Cannibals.

There sound is that of big riffs, a dark tone, thought provoking lyrics and a chest beating bravado on Joyride (Omen) which has Pete add some strained aggression to his vocal which carries through on Rivers. In fact The North Corridor is one of the heaviest albums Chevelle have been involved in, there is a real fury about this record that means the first 6 songs don't relent at all coming in with some impressive guitar playing on top of the sledgehammer backroom.

Young Wicked even has an intricate lead break at the end, after the initial ferocity of the record Warhols' Showbiz slows a little but still has the fierceness that is evident throughout the record with a light and shade dynamic to the swaggering riff. Punchline is where Chevelle's electronic influences comes in with a dark industrial sound offsetting the thumping heavy rock power of the rest of the album.

The North Corridor is great album from a band that have a lot of experience doing what they are doing, they know  their sound and can create songs that are interesting, powerful and at times cathartic, packing a punch that many bands can't replicate, it's high quality post-millennial music that brings the genre into the the new decade. 8/10        

Trick Or Treat: The Rabbit's Hill Pt.2 (Frontiers Records)

Trick Or Treat started their career as a Helloween tribute act, this isn't obvious at all, in fact yes...it is...it's painfully obvious as Trick Or Treat sound exactly like Helloween, they have the high powered power metal sound of the legendary Germans nailed. Surprisingly the band aren't German at all they hail from the sunnier climes of Italy but the Teutonic power metal sound is the overriding factor to the album. The Rabbit's Hill Pt.2 is their fourth album and it's the sequel to The Rabbi's Hill Pt.1 released in 2012, both the records are concept pieces and are based on the very metal story of...Watership Down, yes the very upsetting book/film about the bunnies that made you weep as child.

Happily the albums are not as traumatic as the famous cartoon adaptation and don't worry folks they have already covered Art Garfunkel's harrowing Bright Eyes on Part 1 so no need to relive those memories, part two continues the tale which was called The Rabbit's Hill in Italian, with the darker tone of taking over the band's usually happy-go-lucky sound, this record like the previous one has guests helping the band with the characterizations.

The calibre of the guests involved has increased due to this being the band's first record for Frontiers, as Tim 'Ripper' Owens adds his devastating screams and growls to the aggressive They Must Die, Sonata Arctica frontman Tony Kakko lends his soaring melodies to the folky United and Sara Squadrani from Ancient Bards on the ballad of Never Say Goodbye. The band are all quality musicians and their standard of power metal is notable, but they can never really get away from the Helloween sound, still fans of happy power metal will love this album. 7/10 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Reviews: Stonewall Noise Orchestra, Tilt, Spellcaster

Stonewall Noise Orchestra: The Machine, The Devil & The Dope (SPV)

My first thought when I pressed play on my tower of power (I mean my stereo, you kinky buggers) was "Oh I like this...I like this a lot" my initial enjoyment was proven as the record progressed each song put a broader and broader smile on my face until I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Stonewall Noise Orchestra are Swedish stoner metal merchants, they have released four albums previously to this and I haven't heard any of them, however on the evidence of The Machine, The Devil & The Dope I really should as SNO are a band that do Sabbath better than Sabbath. They utilize a dual guitar set up giving their songs that extra dynamic and crunch with Snicken and Jansson, a driving back room that comes from Jonas and the amazingly named Mr Pillow, with heavy riffs reminiscent of Vol.4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath when Sabs put more melody into their music.

The key to the bands sound coming from Singe's Ozzy meets Dave Wyndorf vocals which are at their best on the wah-filled Superior #1, the psych-laden Stone Crazy and album opener The Fever which has meat and potatoes riff and a 1-2 drumbeat but is all the better for it's simplicity. Nearly all of the songs on this record bow down at to the altar of Birmingham's biggest band, the heavy riffs are omnipresent and they don't relent they only change and encompass more layers to them, especially on songs like I, Servant which builds upon the percussive mastery of Mr Pillow into a reverb drenched, solo filled song that has some swirling organs simmering under the surface.

I, Servant presents itself as one of the album's best songs in a style that evokes Orange Goblin playing The Who, while Welcome Home is a tour-de-force in Goblin-style stoner rock, On A Program is trippy break in proceedings before the slabs of riffage returns on the pot worshiping title track that closes the album strongly. The Machine, The Devil & The Dope is rapidly becoming one of my favourite albums of the year if you love classic metal chocked full of odes to the leaf then I'm sure it will be a favourite with you too. 9/10

TILT: Hinterland (Self Released)

Tilt stylised as TILT to distinguish them from the Californian punk band of the same name are a relatively new name in the prog game but they are no means upstarts the band was formed by Steve Vantsis who is the bassist and co-writer to Fish, he has got together with drummer Dave Stewart (also previously of Fish), studio guitarist/teacher Paul Humphreys rounding the band out with singer Paul Dourley so not a super group but a band of consummate professional musicians who have paid all the dues owing.

These four men are pretty much the core of the record contributing to nearly every song, especially Vantsis who I think plays every instrument ever looking at the credits, with only Humphreys absence being on No Superman. Due to the incestuous nature of Britsh prog TILT have sought help from Fish guitarist Robin Boult on No Superman and others, along with John Wesley, Fish keyboardist John Beck and It Bites/Frost*/Lonely Robot man John Mitchell giving a solo to Bloodline as well as expertly mixing the album (which of course is produced by Vantsis). So a glut of guests are present but the band themselves don't really need to rely on them as Hinterland is a strong debut record and is set deep into the neo-progressive sound that Steven Wilson is de-facto top echelon of.

Hinterland comes off the back of five years work, the 8 songs on this record are dramatic, emotive and played with precision that many bands would shy away from. A range of styles come through on this diverse sounding record, the opening pulsing electronics of _Assembly give way to the ominous title track and the more traditional prog rock/metal fare of Bloodline with No Superman also standing out from the crowd with it's melodic mastery, as a conceptual piece the same style electronic style of the opening is revisited on the closing Disassembly_ which is a chanting almost open ended track that nods to a continuation in the future. Hinterland stands up as one of the most interesting progressive albums of the year, almost out of nowhere TILT have suddenly shaken up the Prog scene with this excellent debut. 9/10

Spellcaster: Night Hides The World (Prosthetic)

Let's just start now, Spellcaster is not the best name for a band, maybe they settled on it because there was already a band called Wizard? The name just screams NWOBHM worship but when you consider the band used to be called Leatherwitch, it's a step up anyway you look at it. Night Hides The World is Spellcaster's third album and despite the name, what is contained on the record is actually superior to a lot of the NWOTHM bands currently doing the rounds. OK so there is a dual axe attack sound, well in fact there is a triple axe attack, giving the songs an added dimension and means they are heavier than a lot of their compatriots but also have more of the modern Maiden melodies where the harmonies are increased and shared between the three guitarists, add to this a galloping rhythm section and some strong vocals and Night Hides The World really has some serious oomph to it.

The title track just screams Iron Maiden and would fit in on any of the post Brave New World releases, despite it being an album that wears it's influences on it's sleeve there are some more modern heavy sounds on the record including touches of Metallica in there earlier years. There's an overriding element of darkness on the record it's the element of darkness that sets Spellcaster apart from the contemporaries, this isn't shiny, happy power metal there is a moodiness to the record that is counteracted by the lead guitar harmonies and the soaring vocals, it's almost like the mature power metal with progressive touches favoured by Iced Earth and Mystic Prophecy, it's this mature almost aggressive sound that makes Spellcaster stand out from the crowd. Night Hides The World really shows this bands talent, it's a powerful, progressive and heavy classic sounding metal album that shows you should never judge a book by it's cover. 8/10

    

 

Monday, 11 July 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Federal Charm, Mojo Sinners & Blackballed

Federal Charm, Mojo Sinners & Blackballed, Clwb Ifor Bach

It's been a long time since I've been to Clwb Ifor Bach for a gig and even longer since I have been to a gig in the downstairs area. It's a nice cosy room that slowly filled as we waited for the show to start, due to their being a club night after the gig it was an early start with opening act coming on at 8pm sharp, both the supports were hand picked by Federal Charm to get all three bands on the bill more exposure and trying to keep the scene alive. So the lights dimmed and the first band were up and it was time to rock.

Blackballed

Hailing from Manchester the dapper three piece took to the stage and indulged in some heavyweight groove rocking, the band's motto is "Play it like you mean it" and they really do formed by the Gill brothers (Leon drums/vocals and Marshall guitar/vocals) along with bassist Tom Wibberley the trio hit the stage with a confidence and a quirky attitude all too often overlooked by other bands, the music is groove-laden classic blues with Marshall playing a mean guitar in the ragged style of John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon while his brother destroys the drum kit like Keith Moon. Their set was drawn mainly from their debut full length with Olde England stealing the show with it's dramatic, atmospheric drum led opening, that builds into the bands heaviest song. A real treat to watch Blackballed's dual vocal fueled heavy retro blues approach was the best aperitif for what was to come. 7/10

Mojo Sinners

Another three piece this time from Wales, The Mojo Sinners are an interesting prospect live with Dane Campbell on drums and Ross McInch on bass they have a massive rhythm section that hammers away with the yet more heavy blues but it's David Williams' guitar prowess that shines through channeling Eddie Van Halen and the legendary Jimi Hendrix when he plays the elongated intricate technical solos, that also have the prerequisite amount of soul. The band only have a an EP but they breezed through it with some ease with Carousel the obvious standout. This was the first time I'd seen Mojo Sinners but this truncated set was enough to show me that their live show reflects the quality of their EP, bring on more music and more shows.7/10

Federal Charm

With short changeovers between all the bands I was only on my fifth beer when Federal Charm took to the stage. I haven't been the most familiar with the band if I'm honest but listening to their latest album Across The Divide released 2015 I was expecting a good show, however what I got was simply superb show, built upon the dual guitar playing Nick Bowden and Paul Bowe Federal Charm have been called nu-blues but what they are is band that bring the classic sounds of Zeppelin, Whitesnake and even Wishbone Ash to the modern era with a hefty blues base and a heavy rock riffage bolstered by L.D Morawski and Danny Rigg's fire breathing engine room, this allows Bowden and Bowe to trade licks and leads with Bowe possessed by the spirit of Angus Young as he duck walks around the stage peeling off solo after solo as Bowden sticks mainly to rhythm playing but can also slip out a solo or a lead harmony when required. The set commenced with the hard hitting Gotta Give It Up immediately showing the bands huge balls and swaggering, sleazy, bluesy riffs as well as Bowden's soul drenched vocals into the funky Tell Your Friends and one of my favourites Hercules.

The pace was kept high throughout the band blending classic influences with more recent sounds Guess What having a distinct Zeppelin vibe to it with the love lorn spirit of Paul Rodgers at work on These Four Walls and the blues rock fury of Rory & Taste was palpable on No Money Down. I have a lot of respect for Federal Charm as they have a very D.I.Y attitude promoting this tour with very short notice and insisting that it was also used to promote local and underground bands shows that they care about the UK's live scene and much like they have paid some of their dues they are using their inaugural 'headline' tour to demonstrate the healthy state of the British rock scene. As with a lot of bands there is nearly always a cover included in the set and Federal Charm were no different, they pitched from left field though as a nod to the bluesy side of Tom Petty came with a run through of I Should Have Known It that was proceeded by the double header of the rocking Reaction and the moody The Stray meaning that it slipped easily into the set.

Coming in at 15 songs it was a mammoth setlist but the band seemed like they could have played another 15, as the night wrapped up the final twosome of Master Plan and Silhouette was the best evidence that Federal Charm are a force to be reckoned with live and I expect to see them in bigger venue in the future. 9/10   
      

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Reviews: Motorhead, Rage, Hellyeah (Reviews By Paul H)

Motörhead: Clean Your Clock (SPV)

Filmed and recorded in Munich a mere six weeks before Lemmy sadly passed away, Clean Your Clock is a fitting epitaph to a band who meant so much to the whole music industry. The irony of Lemmy’s death is the fact that the metal world’s outpouring of grief is highly unlikely to be matched by a surge in sales of this final release. It is well known that Lemmy made some pretty poor business choices with regard to the copy right of Motörhead in the early years of the band, to the extent that it’s really difficult to establish which merchandise is actually official.

Clean Your Clock isn’t Motörhead in their prime, but it is a band defiant in the face of pressure and determined to deliver a show worthy of their reputation. What you get is a gritty, dirty recording which demonstrated the immense bond that the three members of the band shared. Plenty of feedback accompanies Phil Campbell’s superb blues filled guitar work and the massive power of Mikkey Dee’s thunderous drum sound dominate throughout. However, it is the incredible strength of Lemmy, who despite clearly being in a seriously unwell position, maintains the foraging runs on his Rickenbacker whilst also delivering a solid if unspectacular vocal performance.

The range of songs demonstrated the power and skill which the band maintained throughout their career. As always with Motörhead, the bulk of the set list is made up of tracks from the early classic albums, Ace Of Spades, Bomber and Overkill. Take your pick from opener Bomber, Stay Clean, Metropolis, The Chase Is Better Than The Catch, No Class, Ace Of Spades or a magnificent Overkill which concludes the set. The rest of the set contains a number of gems, with sterling versions of Lost Woman Blues from Aftershock and a melancholic acoustic Whorehouse Blues from the brilliant Bad Magic. For me, the absolute highlight comes in the form of a blistering Rock It, from the much underrated Another Perfect Day. Lemmy’s humour remained to the end with his albeit limited crowd interactions perfectly dry and full of wit.

If you want the definitive Motörhead live album, then you’ll need to go back to 1981 and the No Sleep Til Hammersmith album. However, for a snapshot in time, Clean Your Clock pretty damn good. As an epitaph to one of rock’s favourite sons, it’s just brilliant. 8/10

Rage: The Devil Strikes Again (Nuclear Blast)

Back in 2010 I had my first encounter with German power metallers Rage on the RJD stage at BOA. I have to be honest, they didn’t have me rushing to grab their extensive back catalogue but they were interesting enough to keep my attention for about half an hour in the damp. I hadn’t crossed paths with them again until recently when they released studio album 23, yes, 23, The Devil Strikes Again. I can only applaud Peter 'Peavy' Wagner, the one constant in a band of regular line-up changes. He has been at the helm of this band since 1984 and his angst ridden vocals and driving bass lines thrust the band, completed by newest members, guitarist Marcos Rodriguez and drummer Vassilios Maniatopoulos forward through 73 minutes of routine power and thrash metal which will no doubt be lapped up by the German fans whose appetite for this genre is insatiable. It’s fast and furious and technically absolutely solid.

After 13 tracks you arrive at the real gems of this release. Hang on, I know that riff. Yep, it’s the start of three cover versions designed to make you weep. First off, Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind, which sticks faithfully to the original but Wagner doesn’t have the chops Seb Bach had in 1991. And then the fun really begins with an ambitious but ultimately futile attempt at Rush’s Bravado. Now, any band that wants to over Rush really needs to have big bollocks and I have to admire this attempt. But hey, this is Rush you are covering. Fuck all the way off. It is dreadful. I’ve listened to this several times and musically the band have done a reasonable job although Rodriguez’s guitar work obviously lacks the feel of Alex Lifeson. What really destroys it is the appalling vocals. You can’t match Geddy Lee. I’ve not heard such a poor cover since Three Inches Of Blood had the audacity to try Tom Sawyer at BOA a few years ago, something that genuinely reduced me to tears. It’s not over yet though with Y&T next in the cross hairs. Boy do they get it. Open Fire is totally decimated. Wagner’s vocals are shot, and it is just rubbish. For a track that kicks so much ass live, this is just dog shit. And for that reason, The Devil Strikes Again gets a putrid 5/10.

HellYeah: Unden!able (Eleven Seven Music)

So, it’s album number five for Hell Yeah, the proclaimed heavy metal “supergroup” which comprises Vinnie Paul, Mudvayne frontman Chad Grey, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, Kyle Sanders and Christian Brady. And it contains a cover … of fucking Phil Collins’ I Don’t Care Anymore. After a solid start with their first couple of releases, I felt that HellYeah stagnated and I struggled to be enthused with them in the live arena at BOA. I’ve got to be honest, Unden!able doesn’t set my world on fire. I don’t care for Grey’s Corey Taylor style vocals, and whilst the rest of the band are tight musically, with an as expected huge drum sound from Vinnie Paul, it sits too far into the Nu metal genre. There is limited variation throughout, and even after repeated listens I found it hard to distinguish between songs. If you like the staccato fire of Slipknot and Sevendust then this may well be of interest but for me it was limited and overall pretty uninspiring. 6/10






Thursday, 7 July 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Struts

The Struts - Thekla Bristol

With loyalties torn I headed to Bristol for my first viewing US beating rockers The Struts, why were they torn? Well the gig happened to coincide with the biggest game in Welsh football history so unfortunately for the support act for the night House Of Thieves I pretty much missed their set as I was ear-wigging the 5 Live commentary of the game right up until the first part of the second half and the unpleasantness. Luckily The Struts managed to wash a way any negativity with a show worthy of arena headliners, drawing the whole set from their astonishing debut album. With the Grandstand theme blaring out of the PA (this band make a living on their Britishness) the voice over welcomed us to the show and drummer Gethin Davies, bassist Jed Elliot and leonine guitarist Adam Slack took to the stage and proceeded to open the show with some instrumental exploration which turned into the riff of album opener Roll Up as frontman Luke Spiller made his entrance decked out in the most shiniest cape/jacket combo this side of Rick Wakeman.

The band had an added toughness live with the riffs having additional hard rock swagger to get the head nodding along, Spiller like all good front-men immediately draws all attention to him, his stereotypical English diction replete with trilling 'R's, uncontrollable body convulsions and preening rockstar sneer making him the bastard love child of Freddy Mercury, Mick Jagger and Noel Fielding, but also meant that the sizable audience that had gathered on Bristol's boat were eating out of his hand from the first song, as the pacey Roll Up ended it moved straight into the anthemic chant of Could Have Been Me which saw the first of many sing-alongs. As I said the band drew heavily form their debut album with every song played coming from the records, These Times Are Changing was another driving Stones-like rocker getting asses shaking and hands clapping.

The band are young, brash and fun but this gig did show their inexperience as with Spiller's three costume changes there were periods of silence, he even preempted himself before the massive regret fuelled ballad Mary Go Round which was greeted like an old friend and sung like an arena classic, despite the small breaks in proceedings, the band were on fire rapidly firing out their sublime glam-styled, swaggering rock songs with a ferocity rarely seen. Davies and Elliot made sure that the entire crowd (most of whom were female refreshingly) where shaking their hips to the sordid Dirty Sexy Money, the euphoric Put Your Money On Me, the band's fuck you anthem Kiss This and my personal favourite the tongue in cheek The Ol' Switcheroo which saw Spiller guiding the crowd in synchronized arm waving.

He is a master of his craft having the gathered mass eating out of his hands goading, encouraging and generally getting them to worship him, in almost total antithesis to guitarist Adam who is a quiet man on the side of the stage peeling off the fuzzy riffs and the scorching solos that were elongated in a live setting. Mentioned previously the four piece really stopped in the costume changes and these were a little obvious, distracting the punters a little, more so as the band wrapped up the set with Young Star and Only Just A Call Away which was triumphant end to the bands set. Plunged into darkness there was stomps, claps and cheers and then a return for just Slack and an acoustic, he welcomed Spiller back on to the sage and they played a raw, ragged version of Black Swan which showed Luke's voice to it's fullest as well as the intricate playing of Slack, it was almost cathartic for the two men and as they finished their was collective intake of breath before the eruption at it's climax.

The lights went down again and I feared the worst, only to have my fears confirmed, the band were going to do a second encore, a ballsy move for a band at the beginning of their career but they dedicated the song to everyone in the audience as they seemed to be in awe of what was happening, this is probably due to Bristol being part of the bands old stomping ground so the felt an affinity with the place, the final song was Where Did She Go which was the powerhouse way of closing proceedings properly while Spiller once again dazzled in another retro outfit. The like a brief fling it was over, leaving you in hot heaving mess and as the outro of Long Live Hooky Street from Only Fools And Horses, we were all very satisfied indeed.

You find yourself lost in the band when they perform, effortlessly likeable and welcoming, the songs all have hit potential but there is a certain laissez-faire attitude to the band that mean that nothing they do seems too much effort (but the contrary is probably true). With this triumphant tour selling out venues right and left it hopefully won't be long until the band return to these shores in a bigger venue where they belong. When they do return, do me and yourself a favour and watch them as on stage much like on record The Struts are almost perfect! 9/10         

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

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

Heart - Birmingham Symphony Hall

Heart are a curious outfit. One of those bands liked by millions. They appeal to octogenarians and youngsters. Black Metal fans and those who like trashy ScandiEuro pop. Like Fleetwood Mac, they appear to span all generations and genres. Unfortunately they are rare visitors to UK shores, with their last appearances way back in 2004. Before that, it was 1990 when I had been fortunate enough to see the band at the NEC. The opportunity to see the band in such close quarters at the 2200 capacity Symphony Hall was a must do.

Support band FM (8) had their work cut out but played a steady 35 minutes. The band have been around the scene a long time and held themselves well, with nothing to prove. They clearly enjoyed their brief set and a very positive response from the audience was good to see. Steve Overland is the ideal front man for this very British institution, relaxed and with the AOR voice. Long serving members abound in FM, although the reliable Merv Goldsworthy on bass and Pete Jupp on drums win the longest service awards having been with the band since 1985. Highlight of the evening? Has to be That Girl, the FM anthem.

Half an hour later and it was time. Lights out and there the band were. Heart (10) wasted no time in getting the crowd on their feet with opener Wild Child from 1990’s Brigade seguing into old school classic Magic Man. Whilst Nancy Wilson, blond hair flying and in mighty fine shape was content to hand lead guitar duties to long serving Craig Bartock, all eyes (and ears) were on sister Ann who soon proved that THAT voice, the mezzo soprano was still in top shape. Throughout the evening she just got better and better, and by the time the band reached Bad Animals sole representative, the power ballad Alone, the audience was mesmerised. In fact, for large parts of the evening I found myself holding my breath in the sheer joy of being there.

The set list was well paced and balanced, with a range of tracks from across their 40 year career. Bebe Le Strange and Straight On from Bebe Le Strange slowed things down; newish track Beautiful Broken (originally released on some versions of 2012’s Fanatic but now the title of the imminent new release) and I Jump, another newie rocked the place with a harder edge. This allowed both Nancy and Craig to show their chops. Of course, Heart are probably most well known for their calmer stuff and along with Alone we were treated to stunning renditions of These Dreams from 1988’s Heart, Sweet Darlin’ from Little Queen and the lovely Sand, a song from Ann and Nancy’s side project Lovemongers’ 1997 Whirlygig release, complete with Ann joining Nancy on acoustic guitar.

There have been many versions of Heart and there were a few changes in line up since the band last played in the UK. The reliable Ben Smith on drums has been there since 1995 and Craig Bartock since 2004. Alongside them were bassist Dan Rothchild, who joined in 2012 and the latest addition keyboard player and purveyor of fine hats Chris Joyner. The band were excellent, note perfect.

We were also treated to a couple of songs where Nancy took lead vocal. However, the moment I had wanted to see finally arrived when Nancy took her acoustic guitar to the max for the intro of Crazy On You from Dreamboat Annie which had everyone rocking in the aisles. Obviously it was then time for that riff and Barracuda. What a song, It never fails to get me going and the place was rocking hard by the time it brought the main set to an end.

Whilst the purist in me always finds cover versions a little bit of a let down, the affinity that Heart have with Led Zeppelin meant that three Zep songs to conclude the evening was not at all disappointing. Immigrant Song fed straight into a magnificent No Quarter which held the audience captivated before Misty Mountain Hop rounded a magnificent evening off. There are times when it is just enough to say I was there. This was one of those evenings.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Reviews: Candlemass, Copper Bones, Doomsday Outlaw

Candlemass: Death Thy Lover (Napalm) [Review By Paul]

If you like Candlemass, one of the forefathers of doom metal, then this tasty morsel of an EP will leave you desperate for more. With a relatively stable line up in place since 2012, Death Thy Lover has been written to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the legendary Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Leif Edling and co have provided four tracks which make a mockery of Edling’s statements about no new music from the band. Death Thy Lover is full of crashing riffs, darkness and doom with Iommi style fretwork cascading all over the place. As you’d expect from Sweden’s all-time favourite metal outfit, the crushing power which has always been a hallmark of their sound is here is full force; Edling’s thunderous bass and Jan Lindh’s huge drum sound combine with Mats Mappe Bjorkman’s rhythm guitar to anchor the razor sharp lead work of Lars Johansson. The brilliant vocals of Mats Leven always stand out and this is no exception with Sleeping Giant possibly the pick. A full album may not be beyond the realms of possibility. Yes, please. 8/10

Copper Bones: Exhibit A (Self Released)

Calling your debut record Exhibit A is a savvy move as Copper Bones' first record is a very in depth example of what they do, the band has gone through numerous changes in their short turbulent history as they have risen from the ashes of My Hotel Year. Frontman Ryan Fleming got together with some old band mates to put on a show among them was Greg Blachstein who stuck around so the two could write some songs that are now committed to vinyl on this record. Copper Bones had been previously been a four piece band but now it is just Fleming on bass (treated with effects for six string sounds) and vocals with Blachstein behind the drumkit, the now duo found time to record with Zach Swain (formerly of the four piece version) and the result is this monolithic slab of fuzzy desert rock that has a distinct punk edge to it. Obviously comparisons with Royal Blood, The White Stripes and Death From Above 1979 are going to be dime a dozen due to the 'power duo' nature of the band; but Copper Bones are so much more with a distinct post hardcore-alt metal vein drawing it's cues from Helmet, Quicksand, Fugazi and the more direct side of QOTSA. Monolithic riffs and bone shattering drumming is the order of the day as the band power through the 10 tracks on this record that does sound so much better when played loud as the bass-centric riffs move your internal organs as the drums hit you with a concussive blasts with Fleming booming on top of the noise. Exhibit A is a noisy, ballsy, heavyweight record for those that like their bands abrasive but bottomed out with a groove. 7/10       

Doomsday Outlaw: Suffer More (Self Released)

Doomsday Outlaw is an apt name for the Midlands based band, with the right amount Southern flavour to a doomy, modern heavy rock sound the Doomsday Outlaw's second record is full of swaggering riffs, a huge rhythm section and some soulful vocals that mean that the record is equal parts Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge with a distinct British hard rock sound cutting through the Kentucky fancying Southern rock mire. At 15 songs the record is a bit of monster but the first 10 all shoot by with Walk On Water having a chunky swagger, Fallback sounding like Alter Bridge, bolstered by the vocals of Phil that echo Myles and Toseland, a sound that continues on the punky Pandemonium. It's only after repeated listens you can sort the wheat from the chaff, one of my favourites is All That I Have which has a massive chorus and the Southern flavour I talked of before as the dual guitars of Steve and Gav add an acoustically laden backing to the heavy rock as does I've Been Found which even plays with some organs on top of Indy and John's throbbing rhythm section, there's even a banjo on the showstopping Blues For A Phantom Limb. With the heavy rock abound on this album the band can slow the pace with the beautiful title track which is massive, arms in the air muscular ballad. Suffer More is a great album with a modern American rock vibe totally opposite to to the bands Midlands roots, If you love your music honest, true and delivered with a handful of grit then Suffer More will be on your player for a good while to come. 7/10