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Saturday, 21 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Obzidian By Paul H

Obzidian Interview

Back in the freezing cold of February 2017 we were honoured to have 20 minutes in the fresh (and I mean fresh air) with the beast of a machine known as Obzidian, not long after they had smashed their set at HRH Metal. The band, Matty Jenks (vocals), Baz Foster (guitar), Paul Hayward (drums) and Matt Jeffs (bass) are stalwarts of the UK metal scene and with four albums under their belt, have been invited to play at Bloodstock on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Sunday 12th August. This will be an unmissable set, so it was great to be able to catch up with them ahead of the festival for an update on all things Obzidian.

Paul: When we first caught up with you it was at HRH Metal in 2017 and it was bloody freezing when Matt and I met up with you. We covered the history of the band in that interview so bring us up to date with all things Obzidian since February 2017.

Obzidian: “Good to be in touch again guys! Enjoyed our “chilled” chat last time. 2017 was a bit of a blur to be honest with you. We played some awesome shows around the country and visited some first-time locations for the band, which is always exciting. Uprising was a major date on the calendar that year and we really enjoyed the setup and the show as a whole; we also played some really cool support slots for bigger bands which are always a good opportunity and good laugh. Also, things with FatAngel Management have been going from strength to strength since our manager Dan Carter joined forces with them.

Coming into 2018, things seem to have exploded: New album on the way and mostly written now, Hammerfest slot, Thrashersaurus slot, Amplified Festival slot, Bloodstock slot coming up, shows far and wide both with and without our FatAngel buddies. Lots more to come this year and next but it’s all been a bit of a blur since HRH Metal to be honest.”

Paul: Your fourth album, Obliteration Process is still on regular rotation in my house. How are things progressing with album no 5?

Obzidian: “Very well now actually. We have 10 tracks with basic structures that I don’t think will change too much. At the moment, it’s all riffs and drums but we should have a single out later this year and the full album mid next year, which is really exciting. It’s always a buzz writing new material and getting to decide what makes the cut live etc. I think writing and performing live is our favourite part of being a band.

Paul: If I remember rightly, didn’t you recently finally manage to get to Swansea for a gig? If I’m wrong this will be a short answer but assuming you did, how was that?

Obzidian: “Yeah we did, with our FatAngel buddies Blood Oath (who we are playing a few dates with again later this year actually). Crowley's Rock Bar in Swansea, great venue and amazing sound guy. Really enjoyed the trip and the show down there and hope to be back to South Wales soon! Even though my 2nd home is technically Anglesey is the North haha!”

Paul: When we caught up with you you’d not long joined FatAngel and you were very positive about them. How has the last 18 months with them been?

Obzidian: “It’s been great! They have got us in front of people and press that we never would have got close to if it wasn’t for them. Massive props and thanks to Dan, Chris and Angel for that. We also recently played the 3rd instalment of Mosh Against Cancer in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust, which was an epic weekend of great bands and managed to raise well over £1500 for the cause”.

Paul: You recently played at the Amplified Festival, one of the real up and coming UK rock and metal festivals. It was baking all weekend. How did your set go down and what was your overall experience of the event?

Obzidian: “The set was awesome! And we cannot thank all the people (a surprising amount) that turned out of bed on technically the 3rd day of a festival for 10.30am! The support was amazing, the crew are and were amazing and the weather was almost too amazing! Gary has a very good thing going there and we cannot wait to see what happens next! I am ordering my early bird tickets next week for 2019 actually and can’t wait to get back there and support the event as a punter. Let’s just hope it’s a little cooler this year, although it’s never good to complain about good weather haha”.

Paul: On to Bloodstock 2018. You are one of the most experienced bands on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. How did the invitation come about?

Obzidian: “To be honest I think it was right place at the right time kind of thing and we owe pretty much 100% of being able to play to Dan Carter, our manager. We have always supported Bloodstock as paying punters for many, many years, we have always supported the Metal to the Masses competition and related tours as much as we possibly can and have appeared as guests a few times over the years as well! It’s a dream come through and I think this year was just our time and seemed to fit well with the flow of shows we have been getting this year.

Every year we would hope for our chance, but there was something that felt different about this year, an optimism in the camp and also with every fan who we spoke to, who were all certain we would be offered a slot. So, when the call came, we were blown away and cannot thank our management and the Bloodstock crew enough for the opportunity”.

Paul: You are on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Sunday. What can we expect from you guys and why should the undecided come and watch?

Obzidian: “30 minutes of fast, powerful, aggressive Thrash Groove metal with moments of Death and Doom. But most of all, we have a good time and project that to the crowd and hope they come along for the ride. Also, we will be using the professional filming crew services to film for a later video release, so come and make that video look even cooler with your lovely faces!”

Paul: I know you guys are veterans of Bloodstock as I’ve seen you there several times. For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?

Obzidian: “It is literally the pinnacle of the Metal calendar and for most of us regulars, the year as a whole. There is a reason that the extended weekend in August is booked off for us as soon as possible from work and the ticket is secured as soon as possible also, even without any band announcements. It’s the atmosphere and the special relationship the organisers and crew have with the fans that makes it feel special and almost homely in a way. Bloodstock really is like coming home to a metal fan, and newcomers are welcomed with open arms and always return, just how it should be! There is no festival like it out there and long may it continue to not only put on the best in major Metal acts but support the next up and coming headliners and grass roots bands with M2TM”.

Paul: What does the future for Obzidian look like?

Obzidian: “I have to say, in the last 17 years I don’t think we have ever been so positive and excited about where the band is going. It seems weird to say it after all these years plying our trade, but the material we are working on, the shows we are getting and the response from the people out there is amazing, and we hope it continues to grow”.

Our huge thanks to Obzidian for answering the questions. Having seen these guys live, and being a proud owner of all their CDs, I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you want something to clear the fuzz in your head on Sunday 12th August at Catton Hall, get your arse to the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage where these Black Country boys will destroy everything in sight. Sins will indeed be purified.

Reviews: Dee Snider, Exlibris, Big City, Ravage (Reviews By Paul H & Matt)

Dee Snider: For The Love Of Metal (Napalm Records) [Review By Matt]

Our head writer Paul H (check out his reviews below) reviewed the previous solo album from lead singer of Twisted Sister, reality TV star, Broadway alumni, horror movie director and radio host Dee Snider and he called it, and I quote "a steaming turd of an album". So I wasn't holding out much hope for Mr Snider's newest offering For The Love Of Metal however how wrong I was as it seems apparently a lot of the metal community felt the same about that album so Jamey Jasta took it upon himself to challenge Snider to make a contemporary metal record. All I can say is well done Mr Jasta as this is most vicious and vital Snider has sounded since he finished his recording days with Twisted Sister.

I'd say it reminds me a lot of Rob Halford's Fight project which all but revived his career and while Snider is too high profile to need that it establishes him as one of the premier frontmen of his generation. From the aggressive but melodic I Am The Hurricane, through the chuggy Tomorrow's Of No Concern it's a distinctly modern metal record as I've said it's got a real toughness to it even on the flag waving American Made you get caught up in the machismo of Snider's vocals and his presence and you can feel the hatred directed towards the target of his ire on Roll Over You.

He's not alone either as the record is produced (skillfully) by Jamey Jasta and features Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), Mark Morton (Lamb Of God), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Joel Grind, Nick Bellmore (both Toxic Holocaust) and Charlie Bellmore (Kingdom Of Sorrow) all contribute their own styles to the record which takes metalcore, thrash, a ballad Dead Hearts (Love Thy Enemy) which is a duet with Alissa and of course some classic metal styling (Become The Storm). On the back of the last album anything Snider released would have been better (especially an apology for his previous record) but For The Love Of Metal is a great return! 8/10   

Exlibris: Innertia (Self Released) [Review By Paul H]

Sweeping orchestral arrangements, powerful riffs and big melodic hooks dominate the fourth album from Polish progressive power metal outfit Exlibris. Innertia follows 2014’s Aftereal, which received a decent 8/10 in these very pages. Well, Innertia continues very much in the vein of Aftereal with the duelling guitar work of Daniel Lechmanski and keyboards of Piotr Sikora once again central to most of the good work on the album. However, there have been a couple of line up changes since Aftereal, most notably the change on vocals to Riku Turunen whose powerful high voice fits the band’s huge sound perfectly.

This is an album of well-constructed hard melodic rock metal, which varies from the frantic drama of Gravity to the slower paced Shoot For The Sun with it’s calming piano playing ying to Lechmanski’s guitar yang. With choral harmonies impressing, and the epic orchestrations adding depth and feel, this is another quality release which adds to the already notable catalogue of work that the band are building. If you like your music crammed full of action, melody and Germanic style power metal, Innertia is well worth a listen. 8/10

Big City: Big City Life (Rock Of Angels Records) [Review By Paul H}

Big City is a five-piece melodic/hard rock outfit from Norway. The driving force behind the band is guitarist Daniel Olaisen, formerly of Scariot, Satyricon and Blood Red Throne. The band released their debut in 2013, Wintersleep and Big City Life is the follow up to that album. It is a polished affair, comprising ten tracks of solid melodic hard rock which are radio friendly whilst retaining sufficient thrust to appeal the more hardened rock fan.

The exception, as in so many of these type of releases, is the ballad From This Day, which doesn’t do anything expect allow the guitarists Olaisen and Frank Orland (also ex-Scariot) to show their chops a bit. The remaining members of the band comprise vocalist Jan Le Brandt (Memoria Avenue, Northquake), bassist Miguel Pereira (Withem) and drummer Frank Nording Roe (Withem, Maraton) and the combination of these experienced musicians allows for a decent quality throughout the album. 7/10

Ravage: The Derelict City (Swwr Recordings) [Review By Paul H]

With themes of destruction and war, you know that Ravage isn’t no progressive flower sharing outfit. The Boston five-piece deliver five insanely fast chunks of powerful speed metal which should appeal to fans of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Hammerfall, Grand Magus and every power metal outfit in history. With a history that dates to 1995 and a list of former members longer than your arm, Ravage possess the experience and style to deliver this EP with ease. Frontman Alec Firicano’s vocals veer more towards Blaze Bayley than Bruce Dickinson but he has the same soaring high pitch that both front men possess(ed).

Dual guitars of Eli Joe Firicano and Nick Izzo add depth and harmony, whilst the thundering gallop of Tommy Grimaldi’s bass combined with Derek Jay’s solid drumming comfortably anchor the band. The tracks themselves are well composed and structured, albeit with an unsurprising blueprint which is heads down heavy metal. The title track couldn’t be more Blaze era Maiden and whilst the band do sail close to Eddie’s wings at times, there’s enough here to keep the interest. 7/10

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Shayan of Trivax By Paul H

Trivax Interview

Of all the Metal To The Masses finals to win, winning in the home of metal, Birmingham must be one of most rewarding. If seven years ago you were only playing metal underground with constant fear of being caught by the culture police, then this makes this year’s winners even more impressive.

I caught up with the main force behind the band, Shayan to find out a bit more. I started by asking Shayan to give us a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up.”Trivax was formed by myself as a one man project back in Tehran, Iran in April of 2009. The reason as to why it started as a one man project was due to the fact that I didn't know and couldn't find any other metalhead musicians at the time. In 2010 I managed to put a line-up together, although there was a lot of differences and problems within the band and we had a lot of difficulty staying active due to the strongly enforced legal and cultural restrictions against rock and metal music. In 2011 I was lucky to be able to move to the UK, and within a few months I reformed Trivax with Ben Sheldon and Matt Croton who are still performing with me to this day. We have more or less been the same line-up since the British reformation, with the exception of a few changes in bass players.

As Shayan said, the project was originally formed in Tehran before Shayan came to Birmingham in 2011. I’ve read that it was very much an underground scene over there which doesn’t surprise me. However, I’m ignorant of life in Iran (our media isn’t to be trusted on honest reporting if you ask me) so I asked Shayan to explain the challenges that he faced?

“Absolutely” he said. “It is very much an underground scene and in my personal experience it was a literal situation. We practised in our drummer's basement where he had made a DIY acoustic room using egg cases and cement. While we tried our best to keep this hidden, we still received threats from the neighbours in the area that they would call the police, or even worse the culture police to come and arrest us all. Fortunately no such thing happened within the 8 or 9 months that I was there, but we did have friends who then ran into trouble and had all of their instruments broken and their hairs forcefully cut by the authorities. There was also once where we were auditioning to play a small fair in Niavaran park and initially as we were doing the first track, they cut the electricity to stop us from playing, and this was just an audition with barely anyone there and we were only playing an instrumental version of Enter Sandman. We certainly faced a lot of abuse from people and had a lot of close calls with the authorities, but thankfully with got away with things for the most part. Myself and our bass player at the time, Sina, generally tried to keep a low profile anyway which helped, our drummer however attracted a lot of unwanted attention which I didn't appreciate”.

It’s only when you read this that you realise how easy life is over here. Without wanting to get into the politics though, we moved on to the debut album Sin, which is pretty brutal. How does the band describe the Trivax sound? Shayan begins “Thank you. The first thing that I can say is that we are in no way limiting ourselves in what we create, so the extremity and aggression but also the melancholy that lies within our music is just a natural translation of our own black hearts. There is no way to really label our band, however I can say that there's a lot of old school rock influences while the general vibe and structuring is very much on the Extreme Metal side of things. We always look at ourselves as a Rock n Roll band, but this is a "Rock n Roll" band who have completely given into demonic possession and have gone feral, so that they almost sound like Black Metal by accident.

So who are the main influences for the band? This is pretty clear. “Black Sabbath, Metallica, Dissection and Celtic Frost are probably our biggest influences.”

A solid response to my next question when I asked about any the guilty pleasures?

“I don't really ever feel guilty about what I like, but have you ever heard of the Swedish band Kent? They are still one of my favourites. Obviously a lot of classics like Depeche Mode, Fields Of The Nephilim, Camel, Abba and so on... have a big place in my life. To be honest, very few of my favourite bands are actually metal. I'd feel more guilty listening to a gimmicky metal band like Dark Funeral or Alestorm”. An interesting take on Dark Funeral although I’d agree about Alestorm.

I moved onto the road to Bloodstock and asked Shayan a bit about their progress to the final. “Did you feel confident you could get to the final?”

Shayan responded “I'm not sure if it was that difficult to be honest, more in the sense that we didn't expect anything out of it and didn't approach it like our lives depended on it. We had done this before and we had seen that it can sometimes get a bit ugly when everyone gets too competitive. We just had to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, we're here to play music and enjoy our freedom of sharing that music with like-minded people, not to win a competition. We played each gig hoping to make it a good one and during none of those I expected to go through and when we did, I was just grateful that it happened. All shows were pretty decent too. We were playing a lot around the country and this also became an excuse for us to do some hometown shows and to keep a bit more active, so it was great really. We had nothing to lose but everything to gain.

What about the final itself? How did that play out and how did it feel when you heard your name announced as the winners I asked.

“It was a great show actually. It was a very warm gig, and I mean that in the literal sense. Every time you walked in the room the felt a massive layer of heat hit your knees. But everyone was really going for it and a we had a truly great reception. In the end before we heard our name, I kept telling myself that it's already been so good and all of the other bands deserve to win and brought myself at peace with it, but as soon as our name was announced I screamed and everything that I was just thinking went out the window”

Trivax play the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Friday. Whilst I’m sure any day would be great, I think Friday is a real win. I asked Shayan about what we can expect and why should the undecided come and watch?

“I agree with you” said Shayan. “Normally I can be a stress-head at gigs and I think that if it was on the Sunday, for example, it could have almost ruined the festival for me, but now we can play to a decent and not overly-tired crowd and actually enjoy the rest of the festival. Trivax will be there for people to witness something genuine and heartfelt. What we do is not for the sake of entertainment or pleasing anyone else, but rather to celebrate our own freedom. To celebrate the fact that we are here, but also to rebel against the prison of life. It doesn't matter if you are a Black Metal fan, a Power Metal fan, Death Metal, Pop, Rap or whatever genre there is out there... if you are present in the room while we are playing then you will feel the hypnotic force behind the spiritual magic that is Trivax. We give it our absolute heart and soul and play every show like it's our last, just like any moment the Iranian police could break in and take our instruments away and arrest us. You should expect a truly intense and emotional experience”.

The band know Bloodstock well. So for anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?

Shayan is clear: “I think that it's a great festival. I have some really cool memories from being there, especially of seeing both Watain and Behemoth for the first time in 2012. It's a great atmosphere. It's everything that you would to experience from a big festival, but without it being too big so it's overwhelming or annoying. Everyone's chilled out and the music is great. If you fall in the pit then someone will help you up, although I nearly got squashed during Slayer in 2013 haha!”

Before we finished I wanted to know a bit more. Trivax have played with some decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far?

“Thank you. Yeah there's been a few really good ones. This might sound slightly arrogant, but my personal highlights are mostly from the headline shows that we have done, such as our album launch show for 'SIN' or the final date of our headline tour in 2016 and so on. Playing HRH this year was really good too. But yeah, as of supporting other bands, the show that we did in 2015 with Cradle of Filth was really great. I'm not personally the biggest fan of them, but their supporters were really into what we were doing and it was a pretty massive venue. We really felt at home on a stage like that and everyone else seemed to think the same”.

Finally what does the future for Trivax look like?

“We will be doing a headline UK tour in September and November called 'Hysteria Across The UK', which you can find out more about it from our Facebook page. This will be our last attempt to push our album SIN and afterwards we will be focusing inwards to record our next album for a 2019 release. The progression from the last record to this one is highly evident. We are only getting started.

Our grateful thanks to Shayan and Trivax. Make sure to catch one of the highlights of the entire weekend when they play the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Friday 10th August. It should be an epic event.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

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

Thunder, Hand Of Dimes & Cats In Space, Caerphilly Castle

As the splendid weather continued an outdoor gig in the heart of the South Wales Valleys was always going to be an attractive option but when it was housed in the concentric castle at Caerphilly, the second biggest castle in the UK and the biggest Castle in Wales with its famous leaning tower then it turned into a magical setting.

Entering the 13th Century structure across the moat and under the portcullis into the outer walls of the castle, the air of anticipation was palpable. Heavy rock blasted out from the guys at Fuel who were providing the tunes amongst the stalls, before crossing the second bridge and entering the arena, housed in the inner ward. The stage was bathed in sunlight, making it a nightmare for the two support acts, but for most of the sold-out crowd, the high walls and battlements kept the temperature at ground level mercifully cool.

Having suffered the usual Planet Rock style rock tunes from local radio GTFM’s rock show presenter Andy Fox, openers Cats In Space (6) took the stage to huge applause. I’d seen these guys support Deep Purple at the Motorpoint in Cardiff last year where their fluid enthusiastic performance had been impressive, more so that on record where their ELO style power pop rock doesn’t do much for me. The band had a 35-minute set, and are of course no strangers to the Thunder crowd, having supported them on their 2017 tour. With the sun blinding them as it dropped lower, CIS worked hard with vocalist Paul Manzi never still. Unfortunately, their songs were rather bland and as my better half commented, “if Andrew Lloyd Weber did hard rock this is the kind of shit he’d produce”. There you have it! Of course, many of the crowd loved CIS, clapping along throughout their set, and it was certainly polished and slick. Not for me.

Whilst CIS may not float my boat, there is no doubting that Hand Of Dimes (8) push every musical button. With Jim Kirkpatrick from FM filling in on lead guitar for the recuperating Colin Edwards, the band delivered another set of superb hard blues filled rock which rightly received huge roars of approval from the crowd. Early in the set front man Nev McDonald asked how many of the audience were not from Wales with a surprisingly large number raising their hands. With the usual local support there was never any doubt that HOD would get the backing needed but it was pleasing to see those that hadn’t seen them before enjoying a quality set. The sun was now merciless, with the shiny heads of bassist Mark Maybry and drummer David Stephenson glowing as they sweated in the heat. Whilst Mark dived around the stage desperately trying to avoid the rays, but never missing a note, poor David was held captive at his kit and played a blinder under extreme conditions. Alongside them, Neil Garland, with his customary top hat perched proudly on his head delivered the now expected stunning keyboards and harmonica.

As I’ve said several times when reviewing HOD, the band get better with every show and with Nev looking every inch the rock star up front, the band eased their way through a fine selection of tunes which took in several from their album Raise and even a track from former band Kooga, taking those of a certain age (of which there were many) back to the 1980s. Highlights once again was the stunning Jacob’s Ladder, which allows Nev to show his vocal prowess, whilst Guilty and Pinstripe Arrogance once again got the crowd dancing and singing. Closing with the inevitable Skin cover, this was another great show from a band who continue to improve with every show. How about a new album soon guys?

The army of Thunder shirts on display in the arena left you in no doubt of the pulling power that the Londoners retain. As Messrs Bowes, Morley, James, Childs and Matthews entered the stage as the strains of AC/DC faded and Thunder (8) kicked into Wonder Days, one of four tracks from the 2015 album. In a set which covered the entire band’s career, there were some stunning highlights; a raucous Backstreet Symphony set the arena alight, whilst Low Life In High Places received its usual mass participation as emotions peaked. Thunder are a class act, despite the sometimes pantomime feel of their show, full of charisma with Danny Bowes’ measured approach usually spot on. The undoubted star of the band is guitarist Luke Morley, a sorely underrated player whose performance throughout the evening was breathtaking. Smoother than silk, Thunder know what their audience want and spoon feed it gently as the tempo increased. As the set moved towards its climax, Love Walked In ensured that the cabaret element of the show was completed in style. As usual, the encore, the magnificent Dirty Love provoked much shape throwing and ‘dad’ dancing around the arena, before the set concluded bang on time.

This was a fabulous evening with great company. The splendid setting and some stunning music as we basked in the early evening sun was just perfect. Congratulations to Orchard Entertainment and the bands that played. What an evening and this now lends itself to more events in the future.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Dead Before Mourning By Paul H

Dead Before Mourning Interview

Few of the Metal To The Masses qualifying competitions would have been as competitive as the London event. London based four-piece Dead Before Mourning came through as winners to earn themselves a slot on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on the final day of this year’s festival. The band has been around since 2012 with a couple of line-up changes along the way.

I asked them to provide a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up. “Back in 2012 Steve (drums) and Matt (lead vocals/guitar) started jamming riffs and rhythms, the neighbours objected so we moved to a studio in Leatherhead where the inevitable happened and we hooked up with fellow thrashers Dom Harvey (lead guitar/backing vocals) and Pat McGarvey (bass/backing vocals). Dead Before Mourning was spawned and the ride began. Starting with local gigs in Surrey and occasionally venturing in to other counties to ‘find our feet’."

They continued "Things were ticking along nicely, and in 2014 we became a part of Metal 2 The Masses, Kent. Anyone will tell you when you do M2TM it opens a world of bands to each other and gigs just start becoming more and more frequent as bands contact each other directly alongside the promoters, all hands-on deck! It’s fantastic. We got to the final in Kent and that spurred us on to head to the Smoke for London M2TM in 2015 where in the face of fierce competition we made the semi-finals and recorded our first EP titled The Storm."

"More and more shows, new songs and growing momentum coupled with making it to the finals of M2TM 2016 saw our fan base grow and demands for a full album were hard to ignore. Pat McGarvey parted company with us at the beginning of 2017 to pursue a personal career and continues to be a close friend and fantastic bass player. Before we could worry Mr. Stephen ‘Gus’ Mussett arrived and the band were once more complete and stronger than ever. We had narrowed down our album to 9 tracks, we had everything in place and the recording of Killing Time began at Barnstorm studio’s (camp D.B.M.), Surrey, with Rob Barry co-producing and engineering. All on the hottest day of the year, I do not think Steve will forget it! 7 Months later as the snow fell, and we waved goodbye to 2017 and emerged with the finished product ready to be packaged and unleashed. And there we were fresh out the studio applying to take part in M2TM London 2018, and our road to Bloodstock began again, and this time really did become a reality!"

The band is:

Matt Hockham-Lead Vocals/Guitar
Dom Harvey-Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals
Stephen ‘Gus’ Mussett-Bass/Backing Vocals
Steve Ebsworth-Drums/Percussion

If you’ve listened to Killing Time you’ll find it is a savage thrashy affair; I had a listen before the interview and it’s an impressive debut. How would DBM describe their sound for those who haven’t heard them?

“Wow thank you very much! I think you just did an excellent job with ‘Savage Thrashy affair’ lol. Our roots stem from the bay area thrash sound that we all know and love and is alive and screaming today! If I had to describe us from an outside point of view I’d say pounding catchy changeable rhythms, shredding guitars and blistering solo’s, lyrics that get you involved in a story dictated by angry, honest and decipherable vocals. But it’s always best to let the listeners describe us so here’s one of my favourite quotes ‘“you lot are like watching all my favourite thrash bands all at once, with heavier bits added in”. That will always bring a big grin to our faces”.

To be fair, you can’t really argue with that quote can you!

So, whilst we clearly have a good idea, who are the main influences for the band?

“Slayer/Megadeth/Metallica/C.O.B./Exodus/Lamb Of God/Machine Head/Anthrax…………blimey, there’s loads lol”.

That was not a surprise but how about the guilty pleasure? “Oh dear, ok but don’t tell anyone I told you! Matt-Ska-Roots reggae-Frank Zappa! Steve-Siouxsie and the Banshees Dom-Lady Gaga, Gus-Ska-Reel Big Fish”. I can’t see anything wrong with any of those to be honest; who isn’t partial to a bit of Siouxsie?

DBM have described their history in some detail already. Every band we’ve interviewed has worked incredibly hard to get to a position where they were ready for Metal To The Masses. I asked DBM to tell us their road to the MTTM final. “Hard work is indeed the key and with the right drive and dedication hard work becomes fun and something you want to keep on doing. Rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse again! As you can see in our answer to the first question it takes a while for a band to establish itself and grow in to more than just people playing music, it becomes a way of life. And with the support and encouragement we have had from family, friends and fans on the way our road to the final story was phenomenal, and to win, well we are still on the ceiling!  Don’t listen to us though, if you have a band get involved in M2TM The Road To Bloodstock and plough your own road, ‘if you ‘aint seen, you ‘aint the scene’! Go for it and enjoy”. Sound advice methinks.

Whilst I manage to get to a few gigs each year in the Smoke, I know little about the London area metal scene. London obviously gets most of the bands we want to see (that don’t come to South Wales) but what’s the London scene like? “We are very lucky being involved in the London metal scene, it’s fantastic and there are more than enough metalheads in the big smoke to keep the scene growing. No matter what you hear about London you would soon change your mind at a metal gig when you meet the most fun and friendly bunch you could imagine. Not to mention hundreds of quality bands and a constant gig list at your disposal from open mic nights to the o2 and Wembley. Spoilt really!”

In my usual style my questioning hops around like a demented frog. Back to the MTTM. Did DBM feel confident that they could get to the MTTM final? “You would think so after being in 2 previously, but not at all to be honest, the other bands made sure of that. But you dare to dream”.

As the dream became real, what about the build-up to the final; how did the band manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone? “It is a tricky thing. You don’t want to bully everyone and say, ‘without your vote and support we will be sent to the colonies and have all our instruments confiscated’, but you need to get people there. I think there is a tendency to get stuck in the mindset of hiring coachloads of conscripts to secure a voting win. But to be honest if it is all about putting on a show that will stick in people’s minds, even if most of the audience has never seen you before you get up there and do your best to woo ‘em. I guarantee they will be there at the next one giving you 100% support, and the snowball keeps getting bigger”. I think that is a good work ethos. Wow them so they keep coming back. It’s a solid plan and one that works.

So, what about the winning moment? With the inevitable range of emotions, how was it for DBM?
 The band explains: “Total disbelief followed by elation, if you want to see the looks on our faces there a couple of videos of the announcement on our Facebook page shot by our loyal mourners (pet name for our fans!). It has not worn off since, absolutely fucking awesome”. DBM have secured a Sunday slot at Bloodstock. What can we expect from you guys them? why should those who are undecided come and watch? “We are gonna hit hard and fast and enjoy every second, a pick of tracks from Killing Time and maybe one extra from The Storm for the Mourners that are travelling up for the weekend. If you’re up for a new breed of thrash and a whip that will take your nether regions off see you at the New Blood stage, Salute”. Well, that’s an invitation although most punters nether regions are in no condition for a good whipping by the Sunday morning.

So as metal fans as well, who are DBM looking forward to seeing at BOA this year? “As many bands as possible. We are on a mission but I’m sure we can sneak away now and again over the 3 days to get ‘pit side’. Hoping to see Onslaught, The Brood (New Blood), Priest and everyone we can really lol. Especially looking forward to seeing all the regional M2TM winners”. And what about the weekend itself? For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go? DBM are clear: “Go online, research B.O.A. and there you go. If after seeing all that goes on and the sheer significance of this event you don’t want to go, then you ‘aint metal!”

Having been around for a few years, what about some of the bands highlights so far? “Most of them would not be allowed in print but yes there are quite a few moments along the way. A couple I can pluck from the air are not once but twice sharing a stage with punk legends Sham 69, Being a part of Sarcoma fest 2016 raising a shed load of cash to help fight Sarcoma whilst having fun in Kent. There have been thousands of memories, but the highlight so far must be playing Bloodstock, bar none”. And after Bloodstock what's next for Dead Before Mourning? “A shower, comfy toilet seat, cup of tea then World Domination. Have a great Bloodstock everyone!”

Massive thanks to the London MTTM winners Dead Before Mourning. They are well worth checking out on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Sunday 12th August. Just watch your nether regions okay!

Reviews: Devildriver, Golgatha, Beyond The Katakomb, Barkasth (Reviews By Paul H)

Devildriver: Outlaws ‘Til The End Vol 1 (Napalm Records)

Album number eight from groove metal monsters Devildriver and it’s a brutal affair. What’s unusual with this monstrous offering is that it contains 12 covers of outlaw country music, albeit with a ruthless reworking which never lets up on the aggression from the start. It features a plethora of punk and metal stars who add their own energy to an already incendiary release. There’s the unmistakable presence of Fear Factory’s Burton C Bell on Dad’s Gonna Kill Me, originally recorded by Richard Thompson, the snarling of Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe on Willie Nelson’s Whiskey River and the country legend Ghost Riders In the Sky, which is probably the most recognisable song on the album, as well as 36 Crazy Fists main man Brock Lindow on Steve Earle’s Copper Head Road. I’ve not been a fan of Dez Fafara and co since Pray For Villains in 2010 and this release, as thunderously heavy as it is, does little to change my view. Fafara’s screeching delivery continues to sound like nails down a chalk board, and whilst the riffs flow freely, the drums are blisteringly and there is sufficient here to satisfy their army of fans, it fails to ignite any kind of passion within me. If you like Devildriver, then this will be another to get your teeth into. If not, like me you are likely to avoid their set at Bloodstock this year in search of something a little more creative. 6/10

Golgatha: The Ascendant (Self Released)

This is the debut album from the progressive rockers who hail from Denton, Texas. The band comprises Zach Goodenough on vocals and brother Alex on guitar and Hunter Kyle on guitar and vocals. With a blend of rock, blues and a range of progressive influences, The Ascendant moves from the Djent style of Indigo to the pop rock of Unity. Heavy sections with growling almost death metal vocals seem somewhat out of place at times but fit snugly into the blistering Sons Of Fire and Muse. Well-crafted and developed songs with intricate guitar breaks intermingling with heavy synth sections make it hard to stick one label on this release, which is probably a good thing. A solid range of alt-rock with a heavy edge make this album one of the year’s more interesting releases. 7/10

Beyond The Katakomb: Beyond The Katakomb (Black Lodge Records)

Beyond The Katakomb is the melodic epic metal solo project of Swedish vocalist LG Persson, main mover behind power metal outfit Storyteller. Produced by Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry, and with inspiration drawn from gothic mysticism and the underworld, Beyond The Katakomb is 55 minutes of anthemic, soaring power and melodic metal which comprises everything from death growls to full Europe style radio friendly songs. Like so many of the bands that deliver this type of music (and of course, you could argue the same about any genre), it follows a well-worn blueprint.

Underpinned by swathes of deep rich keyboards, courtesy of Matt Guillory (James LaBrie), the 12 track album certainly contains sufficient to interest most metal fans, especially those who veer towards the majesty of Blind Guardian, Firewind Freedom Call etc. Alongside Persson and Guillory, the slick guitar work of Daniel Palmqvist, solid bass lines of veteran Johan Niemann (Evergrey, Therion to name but two) and skin pounding of Scar Symmetry’s Henrik Ohlsson who also provides the excellent death growls. We Rule The Night has the hook of Arch Enemy with the hook of Malmsteen whilst Sin Healer is supercharged rock. There is plenty of potential in this band and it would be great to see them in the live arena at some point in the future. 7/10

Barkasth: Decaying (Svarga Music)

There’s been a real surge in quality metal from the Balkan states in recent years and whilst Ukraine isn’t technically within that group of countries, they have also been amongst the front runners in the contributions. Decaying is the debut album by black metal four-piece Barkasth, who have been developing their sound since 2015, and for a first outing it certainly is no slouch. With each track punching way above the five-minute mark, four hitting over six minutes, there isn’t any throw away sub three-minute songs here. With themes of anti-religion dominating, it’s easy to summon the storm clouds, rain and ice and huddle in misery as the band blast beat their way. 

Begging By Freaks opens the album in dramatic fashion, with atmospheric effects enhancing your introductions. Alone is a more structured and composed affair, slowing the barrage and whilst still moving at a pace that most mainstream metal bands can’t cope with; some neat guitar work from Arkonth who also works with guitarist Goreon on the demonic black metal growls as the track meanders its way forward. The album loses a little direction on Blood & Flesh, which is a rather mundane track but my attention was restored fully with Soul Away, a mighty beast of a track, with imperious time changes, bizarre vocals, classic tremelo picking and blast beats a plenty. The remaining tracks are solid, impressive and in the case of Shepherd, outstanding. 

Plenty of hand clawing potential, some visceral riffage throughout closed by the sinister and malevolent …Where Was The Son Of God. This is an impressive piece of work which demands repeated plays. 8/10

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre- Bloodstock Interview with Seven Hells By Paul H

Seven Hells Interview

Seven Hells are a Leicester band formed in late 2016. They recently won the Leicester Metal To The Masses Final, no mean feat and are lined up to play the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Festival. The band were kind enough to answer some questions for the Musipedia and we started by checking out the current line-up. “We formed in 2016, then had a few member changes with Marc joining us in 2017 and Ollie joining in 2018. The current line-up is made up of Marc Cross – vocals, Dan Nelson – guitar, Simon Crofts – guitar, Oliver Wellings – bass and drummer Kris Elliott.

If you’ve checked out the band, you’ll find their single Resist. Resist is full of huge riffs. It’s a fine listen and certainly whets the appetite for the forthcoming EP. How does the band describe the Seven Hells sound? “Thank you! Huge riffs, melodic leads, crushing vocals and plenty of groove definitely sums up the sound of the band and is what people can expect to hear plenty of on the EP” With such a crunching sound, you kind of guessed at the bands main influences but they confirmed that their main influences are “Lamb Of God, Metallica, Pantera, Parkway Drive, Machine Head and many many more! Individually we have such a wide range of influences and a combination of all these is what creates the sound of Seven Hells”.

So, what about something that isn’t bone snapping? I wanted to know what was the Seven Hells guilty pleasure? This obviously opened a can of worms as the band stated “Where to begin…. N Sync, One Direction, the Biebs…..if a song is catchy there's a chance we will like it! (But don't tell anyone at Bloodstock, we don't want to ruin our reputation)”. Sorry lads, your cover is now blown! Back to the serious stuff and MTTM. With the band only forming in 2016, and like every other band working their asses off what was the road to the final story? “Our debut gig was actually at Metal To The Masses 2017 where we reached the semi-finals; after coming so close we were determined to go all the way in 2018. The addition of Marc and Ollie really strengthened the band and with a lot of hard work we made it to the final where we had the honour of playing main stage De Montfort Hall. We loved the big stage experience which we won't be forgetting any time soon”.

With the scene in the Midlands and Leicester particularly strong, did the band feel confident they could get to the final? “As always there is such a high quality of bands in metal to the masses, our focus was just to be the best we could be and hope it was enough to make the final. That's the great thing about metal to the masses, it isn't about putting other bands down it's about supporting each other and strengthening the metal community”. And that is the sentiment that comes across time and time again. This is about supporting metal in general, and whilst the prize is massive, every band is in it because they want to give something back.

So, what about the build-up to the final; how did Seven Hells manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone? “During the build-up we tried to avoid playing Leicester and instead focused on other shows around the country. This meant we could continue to improve as a band and keep people at home eager to see us and support us in the final!” That winning moment, when the winners are announced is something special. How did it feel when it finally was announced? “Well there was a long wait for the announcement…. we played around 5pm and didn't find out until 11pm! By this time, we had all had quite a few drinks which made hearing our names announced as winners that little bit more emotional (there was even a few tears). There was a massive sense of achievement and we felt honoured to be able to go on and represent Leicester at Bloodstock”.

Seven Hells have a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage, sharing the stage with our Welsh brothers in Democratus. I’d say that Friday is a score but are the band happy with that? “For sure, we are so excited to be playing so the sooner the better! It also means we can then relax, enjoy the rest of the festival and check out all the great bands”. So, who are Seven Hells looking forward to seeing at BOA this year? Like many, it’s a long list. “Judas Priest, Gojira, At The Gates, Bleed from Within, Devildriver…. the list goes on. Yet again another killer line up from Bloodstock \m/”.

So, what can we expect from the band? Why should those who are undecided come and watch? “We’re a band that loves to put on a show and really get the crowd involved. We've been steadily making a name for ourselves as a band you need to see live and can guarantee a high energy show full of great songs!”

For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, here is Seven Hells reasons for going: “Bloodstock has such a great vibe, the community is so welcoming, and you really do feel like one giant family! They deliver every year with the line-up and everything is so well organised, it's easily our favourite festival and not one to be missed”.

Away from Bloodstock, what are the highlights for Seven Hells so far? It’s clear that one event stands out. “Playing the iconic De Montfort Hall and winning metal to the masses has been our goal since we formed and achieving that so soon is a real highlight and an unforgettable experience”. The band has several UK gigs lined-up in the next few months including a fabulous looking MTTM showcase in Leicester the weekend before Bloodstock.

What's next for Seven Hells? “The M2TM showcase in Leicester on the 3rd of August is where we will be releasing our debut EP Prologue, we have a few more shows announced for the rest of the year and will be looking to add to this. We have also just been announced for HRH metal in Birmingham next February which is being headlined by the mighty Decapitated and Trollfest!”

Many thanks to the guys from Seven Hells. Make sure you check them out at Bloodstock on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Friday 10th July.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Reviews: Traitor's Gate, Chandrian Kill, Motorowl, Seven Hells

Traitors Gate: Fallen (No Remorse Records)

Yet another ‘cult’ NWOBHM returning nearly 30 years after their original break up, the ‘classic’ line up of Traitors Gate was active from 1985 to 1989, but split up only to reactivate in 2016. Since then vocalist Dave McLean departed with ex-Mayhem Messiah vocalist Sy Davies taking the mic. His power metal pipes are perfect for the battle infused traditional British metal Traitors Gate, so with all the pieces in place we get Fallen, the bands first full length album, (although their Devil Takes The High Road EP is considered a ‘classic’) which has been released through Greek record label No Remorse Records. So how is it will it reach the heady heights of reactivated NWOBHM act Hell? Or fall by the wayside like so many?

Well it sits firmly in the middle of both, it’s strictly meat and potatoes British metal, galloping bass, chugging riffs and fists aloft choruses. I’d continue to plug the NWOBHM tag but Traitors Gate have more of the barrel chested machismo of Manowar due to Sy’s vocals however just as you’re settling into the Manowar influences they bring Halford squawks on Edge Of Destruction. Fallen serves as a compilation album for everything you love about traditional metal, it’s not going to change the world and the ‘cult’ status of Traitors Gate is a little suspect but in 2018 they’ve released a fine album. 7/10

Chandrian Kill: Bring Out Your Dead Bar3 Records

Bring Out Your Dead is the first part of a sequence of EP’s based on a loose concept of “life, being self aware, our experiences, relationships, knowing who we are and how we feel about our existence and place in the world." It’s the debut release Chandrian Kill a band made up of only two members, behind the mic is Nic Whitmore previously of Number One Son and joining him is songwriter/guitarist and former member of Moesaboa and My Life In The Making, Ted Clark. The two set about creating a new vehicle for both of them and on the back of those sessions we have this initial three track record which is a far cry from their previous projects having a post-grunge style to it the passionate vocals of Whitmore acting as foil for the emotive compositions of Clark.

Out of the three tracks on this record check out Remain Alive which gives the best overview of this project nailing down exactly what Chandrian Kill are trying to do. Painfully modern in their sound it’s writ large and name checked by the band, as having the influence of Deftones and Stone Sour but with three tracks this is just an embryo, I’ll be paying close attention to the next instalments to see where the band can go. 7/10

Motorowl: Atlas (Century Media)

Atlas is the second release from German band Motorowl and frontman Max puts it like so: “The new album is definitely a step forward. I don't know which direction it is but it feels great.” Well I’d say that the direction is towards Krautrock as along with the normal psych rock tropes of doom laden Sabbath worship and the hard rock posturing, they use of sweeping organs and swirling synths means that Atlas is treat for those who love a good keyboard. A track such as To Take is a key example of the synthesis of styles Motorowl deal with, it’s got a big lumbering guitar riff that is augmented with the organs for a Gothic sounding doom track where Max rings out the emotion in his voice before it breaks into a sparse almost Muse-like middle section.

If this doesn’t give you an indication of what Motorowl sound like then I’d liken their sound to Baroness or the most recent releases of Opeth. Although a Maiden influence creeps in on Infinite Logbook as max admits the whole band “loves Iron Maiden”. It’s modern retro recorded on analogue equipment and harking back to the days of real music, recording the album live in 10 days you really hear the symbiosis of the group come through as they all head toward one common goal. It’s trippy, heavy hard rock raised by its influences but firmly in the now like Atlas had the world on his shoulders Motorowl have the it as their oyster! 8/10

Seven Hells: Prologue (Self Released)

Leicestershire is a hot bed for metal in the UK so here’s another up and coming set of metallers from the region. Seven Hells formed in late 2016 and they are the winners of the 2018 Leicester Metal 2 The Masses competition meaning they will be playing Bloodstock this year. In anticipation of that they have also released a four track EP (coming out August 3rd) to whet the appetite on what to expect in the New Blood Stage, well folks I’d expect some pits as Prologue is a lesson in brutality, at just four tracks it doesn’t stick around but from the outset it grabs you by the scruffs and gets your head banging with modern groove metal taking a bite out of the Machine Head pie on The Prophet and defiant opener Resist. Prologue has blistering thrash solo sections, massive beatdowns and harsh vocals making for an aggressive listen, another band added to the ‘must watch’ list. 7/10

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Reviews: Resin, Manes, Exocrine, Torqued

Resin: Cycle Of Need (Self Released)

Have you ever listened to Alice In Chains or Soundgarden and thought? “What this needs is more violin” well now you’re in luck as Leicestershire band Resin have gone where no grunge band have gone before. On the back of their acclaimed 2015 EP the band have added Emma Bennett to their line up and it means that they have a sound that is the same but different, take Monster which has percussive power of Seether but the violin just adds a new edge, while on Shitstorm it brings some country to the Southern grooves of a song that has an echo of Them Bones (it’s those backing chants).
What you hear on this record are a band that have been honed on stage Bloodstock Festival, Uprising Festival, SOS Festival, Dementia Aware Festival, Amplified Festival plus countless others they have really laser focussed their grunge metal sound, playing on a trio of guitars from Dave Gandon, Mark 'Chez' Rosebys and Simon Yarwood, a sturdy rhythm section from Drask George (bass) and Ryan 'Sticks' Hextall (drums)and Gandon’s deep Eddie Vedder vocals Resin are a group with dense challenging music that can be anthemic and heartbreaking at the same with the heaviness counterpointed by the delicate violin. 

The album is a mixture of new songs and revisiting old tracks from their first album to show the evolution of their ever changing sound. Produced by Krysthla’s Neil Hudson Cycle Of Need is complex piece of work that belies its rigid grunge trappings, in a genre that it is all to easy to fall into the same old same old Resin try something different and succeed. 8/10

Manes: Slow Motion Death Sequence (Debemur Morti Productions)

This is something we don’t usually review here, but I’m always open to something a little different. Manes are a Norwegian act who clearly languish in misery, this album is about as depressive as it comes echoing the processed electronic nihilism of NIN, VNV Nation or latter day Depeche Mode, with Therapism having the throbbing pulse and the industrial discord. Manes describe the album like so "Slow Death Music Sequence shouldn't be seen as a glass-half-empty, but more like a pile of dry, broken glass on a hardwood floor." The overall theme is one of darkness and unwavering pretension, the band quite happy to lead you down the garden path before totally changing their musical landscape, case in point being the almost whimsical start to Last Hope which builds into a cinematic Katatonia styled epic and features some raw emotion in both sets of vocals. Taking rock, jazz, electronica and trip hop Manes don’t have any borders to their music like an audio chameleon much like Bowie at his most experimental (Poison Enough For Everyone) this is a band who thrive off oppressive darkness and their audience never truly being at ease with the music. Less a band more a collective Manes new album will hopefully let them reach a wider audience as in a world full of paranoia and disquiet they have managed to bottle it and express it over these 9 tracks. 7/10

Exocrine: Molten Giant (Unique Leader Records)

Like the lumbering, fire breathing, Kaiju of their album title Exocrine are born from the bowels of the Earth and look set to destroy it! Building on the monstrous template of countrymen Gojira and German technical masters Obscura, the music on this record has grooves deep enough to contain a lava flow but also astounding feats of virtuosity wrapped up in a progressive extreme metal mantle. With the opening salvo of Scorched Human Society you realise that there is no way this record is going to be an easy listen, the track rapidly switches time and pace, one minute breaking down the next led by furious blastbeats as the guitars provide intense lead harmonies and solos. 

It’s short shock to kick things off as things settle down a little with Hayato which although still schizophrenically changes throughout but manages to integrate them into longer more traditional structures. It’s also the first song that adds more electronic loops/synths that burble at the bottom of Backdraft, the first song to where its melodic middle section that slows as the synths bring the tempo back up into a battery, it shifts into the chunky opening of the title track which features some insane drumming and blistering guitar work (can you sense a theme?). The final track The Shape Of A New World is probably the prog on the record but don’t think of ethereal Floydisms, Exocrine just get more cinematic and bring this conceptual piece to an end. Who knew that the idea of a lava monster and remaining humans could be told so vividly with breathtaking musicianship and the harshest roars I’ve heard in a while. Molten Giant towers over the competition it’s a gargantuan record capable of levelling cities! 8/10

Torqued: Resurgence EP (Self Released)

You’ve probably seen Torqued’s name on a poster somewhere, the groove metal monsters from the South West of the UK have done more rounds than your local milkman, bludgeoning stages around the country with aggressive LOG-esque battery and nu-metal groove. There live shows have included The Mosh Against Cancer, Ashesfest, Wildfire, and Bloodstock. The deep basslines of Hollow Core remind me so much of Korn as does the vocals but elsewhere on Follow Me it’s straight up rage guaranteed to get a pit going. What’s remarkable about Torqued is that they are a three piece so they benefit from the layered production on this record which was recorded, mixed and mastered Elliott Alderman- Broom of Mortis Music. This EP has four studio tracks and two live tracks from the Firebug in Leicester where they performed at Uprising Aftermath and gives you a feel for their live power. I suggest you pick up this EP, bang your head and then find out where they’re playing live to really give yourself a neck ache! 7/10

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Reviews: Decayed, Gluttony, Tornado, Ageless Summoning (Reviews By Paul S & Paul H)

Decayed: Of Fire And Evil (Lusitanian Music) [Paul H]

One of the oldest Portuguese extreme metal outfits, Decayed has followed their own path since their formation in 1990. This is their 12th album and follows a live release in 2017 and The Burning Of Heaven which arrived in 2016. Of Fire And Evil is a ferocious 40 minutes of rampant black metal which ticks all the right boxes. Plenty of atmosphere, haunting melodies and thunderous visceral riffs which tear at the flesh, claws scraping uncomfortably down the spine. Guitarist J.A does a fine job, massive guitars combining with the brutal bass of lead vocalist Vulturis, whilst GR’s drumming is typically impressive of the genre. If you fancy some true Lusitanian black metal, then tracks such as the marauding Black Moon, the thrashy Firestorm or the rampant Across The Sea with its real old school feel then get your listening holes around Of Fire And Evil. It’s a pure black metal experience. 7/10

Gluttony: Cult Of The Unborn (Gravework Media) [Paul S]

This is the second album from Gluttony. The band featuring Anders Harem, John Henriksson and Max Bergman from the band My Own Grave, and Magnus Odling from Sorghegard on vocals. This album does not mess about, 9 tracks coming in at 31 minutes of fast, slightly grindy death metal. The style is definitely old school, there's a late eighties feel to all the songs. Tight riffs, when there are solos they’re in a screaming, atonal form and don’t hang around for long. The vocals are harsh and growly and fit perfectly with the music.

Although the songs are fast, there isn’t much in the way of blast beats, this adds to the old school feel of the album. The production is also old school, this isn’t a huge, overproduced ‘Nile’ style production, you can hear the individual instruments, it sounds like there was very little messing with the bands basic sound. Cult Of The Unborn is an enjoyable death metal album, it isn’t groundbreaking, it’s style is fairly simple. But, thats one of the things that make it work, the nine songs don’t outstay their welcome, so they never feel boring. Definitely worth a listen. 7/10

Tornado: Commitment To Excellence (Extreme Metal Music) [Paul S]

Finnish thrash band Tornado, formed in 2010, are on their 3rd album with Commitment To Excellence. What have they got for us, other than an album title that sounds like a corporate mission statement? Well, we get 11 tracks (10 of them original) of fairly standard thrash metal. The feel is more American than European. This feels like it’s been influenced by Exodus and Overkill rather than Kreator or Sabbat (although a couple of tracks remind me of early nineties, British band D.A.M.). Unfortunately, it sounds like the less impressive output of American thrash. A lot of this album is a little lacklustre and generic. The band have a nasty habit of starting songs with nice, tight, fast riffs, but as soon soon as the vocals come in the songs slow down and plod. The vocals from Superstar Joey Severance (I didn’t add the ‘Superstar’), quite reminiscent of Bobby Ellsworth mixed in with a little bit of Mike Muir, are quite often a little grating, not the best thrash vocals I’ve heard. The lyrics are also a problem.

They’ve tried to write about social issues (just like late eighties/early nineties thrash bands did), but haven’t done it very well. The band have just had a video removed from YouTube for Hate Speech. The track Global Pandemic features the ’N’ word and the phrase ‘fuck you Jew’. I’ve had a look at the lyrics, and the song is clearly about hatred and intolerance, and they are giving examples of hatred. So the lyrics are well meaning, they just aren’t very well written. The album isn’t a complete disaster the track Endless Forms Of Torment is a pretty great piece of thrash, where the pace is kept at full speed, throughout the track, without descending into mid-paced plodding. But, the good moments are outweighed by the bad. The album features a cover of S.O.D’s United Forces, which is ok, but mainly made me want to go and listen to the original. Although there are the occasional good moments, Commitment To Excellence is mediocre at best. 6/10

Ageless Summoning: Demo (Self Released) [Paul S]

As the title suggests this is a demo, and a first one at that. Ageless Summoning’s members are culled from the ranks of several established UK extreme metal acts; Abyssal, Inculator, Of Spire and Throne, Haar, Uir, Scardatura, Laceration and several others. What we have here is 2 tracks of fairly old school style death metal. The style is fairly reminiscent of early Morbid Angel, second track Salvation In Ash is slower, more like Morbid Angel playing Hooded Menace or Asphyx. I also find it reminds me a little of Ageless Oblivion, but that might just be down to the similarity in the names. But Ageless Summoning definitely have their own sound and identity. The 2 tracks are really good, great riffs, enjoyable solos fantastic guttural vocals. This is also a very well produced demo, it’s not overblown, the instruments sound real and organic. In the last few weeks I’ve listened to several death metal albums that aren’t nearly as good as this. For a demo this is superb. For gods sake, someone give them a record deal! 8/10

Friday, 13 July 2018

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

Motörheadache & Holy Diver UK, The Globe, Cardiff

I’m not big on tribute bands. I struggle with the concept to a large degree although I admit I did see Kiss last year, a tribute band if ever there is one. Seeing a tribute band usually means that an original hard-working outfit loses out, with humans typically opting for comfort and familiarity over originality and change. In all my years watching hard rock and metal, I can list the tribute outfits I’ve seen on two fingers. So why Motörheadache? Well, you’ll never get the chance to hear a full set of Motörhead classics ever again, and apparently this lot are highly regarded. So, on yet another hot and steamy night in South Wales I trotted along to The Globe along with my oldest mate Brett, to see what all the fuss was about.

The first thing you noticed when arriving in Roath was the number of Motörhead shirts dotted around the place. One thing Motörhead fans like is their shirts and I was no exception, clad in my Motörhead Cymru shirt, which as usual drew many admiring enquiries. One of only 10, thanks at this point to Brett for getting me one and to long time MHB Gareth Richards who organised the print run. Brett incidentally, was clad in his freshly purchased Motorhead Rainbow Bar & Grill shirt, courtesy of his recent US road trip. Looked brilliant too! The audience were held on the pavement until much later than advertised, and as the cool of the night rolled in it was possibly the most pleasant time I’ve had stood outside a dubious pizza joint surrounded by Motörhead England shirts. A curious cross over of fans, with the usual Motörhead Bangers next to younger fans, maybe curious about the Motörhead sound and crusty old timers, anxious to keep the Lemmy name alive.

Opening proceedings was local outfit Holy Diver UK (5). As the name suggests, these guys are a Dio tribute act and whilst they did a reasonable job it’s fair to say that they were less than inspiring. With the lead singer doing his very best to hit the notes but failing far short, it’s difficult to be too critical. However, the point of being a tribute to one of the voices in hard rock is surely to be able to replicate their sound to a certain standard. Guitarist John Clark, who also manages the band and plays in Journey UK, was able to hit the riffs to staples such as Holy Diver, Rainbow In The Dark, Evil Eyes and of course opener Stand Up And Shout but there isn’t the visceral edge that was so essential when Viv Campbell first sliced the air with the opening track on Holy Diver. Focusing very much on early Dio, by the time the band has reached Heaven & Hell it was time for a breath of fresh air. Dio needs to be aggressive, fast paced and most of all have the soaring vocals. It wasn’t happening here. Still, the audience proved once again that old school metal is king in South Wales with a huge reception and plenty of horns raised.

Rob Campbell leads Motörheadache, his own tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister’s music. From Yorkshire, Motörheadache (8) has been doing the rounds for over 15 years and have earned a solid reputation. Looking every inch the main man, Campbell was joined by John “The Beast” on drums and stand-in guitarist Ian “Fast Hilly” Hill (Not the Judas Priest bass player - Ed). The set up was simple, but the attention to detail is impressive, with a Marshall stack and Murder One bass head incorporated. Of course, it’s no good having all the gear and no idea and it’s what the band delivers that forms the impression. Kicking off a strong 90-minute set with the rip-roaring Iron Fist, the band moved at pace with an opening salvo that included Stay Clean, Stone Dead Forever and (We Are) The Road Crew. If you were fortunate enough to see Motörhead live, one of the joys was that there were always a few mistakes littered throughout the set; hell, this is live music. And so Motörheadache proved, with a couple of ragged endings and some misappropriated lyrics (especially during Bomber) but this only gave an even more authentic flavour.

The crowd, around 120 or so, reacted in different ways, with some early moshing giving way to head banging and general shape throwing. Full marks to the lady who joined the band on Jailbait and gave a serious show of hard core head banging for the entire track, whilst the shapes thrown during Going To Brazil by a couple next to me was hilarious and admirable in equal measure. Few surprises in the set, with nothing included later than 1991’s 1916. Highlights included Campbell’s eerie Kilmister (or Lemmy Kidderminster as he is also known as) presence and vocal delivery; closing your eye transported you back to every Motörhead gig I’d ever been too, whilst the rendition of Killed By Death, Louie Louie and the thunderous Motörhead all earned massive cheers. 

Ace Of Spades inevitably drew the highest vocal participation from the crowd, whilst the closing Overkill was, in my opinion, well ropey. Overall though, Motörheadache is a band that is well worth a watch. It doesn’t change my opinion about tribute artists one bit, but if you want to wallow in nostalgia for a night, then these guys do the business.

Reviews: Lucifer, The Paradox Twin, We Are Sentinels, Haunt

Lucifer: Lucifer II (Century Media Records)

Lucifer is Swedish/German occult rock band that were formed out of the breakup of The Oath with singer Johanna Sadonis hooking up with Gaz Jennings if Cathedral (now Death Penalty) and a couple of others. After their debut there was a spell of line up shuffling with Sadonis the only remaining member of that debut line up. This follow up has been a few years in digestion but now the bewitching Johanna has returned to the retro styled rocking of Lucifer, backed by Entombed's Nicke Andersson (drums/guitar) and Alexander Mayr (bass) and three revolving guitarists.

Lucifer II expands on the sound laid down on the first album but brings in a bit more psych and folk giving them a wider range of styles to play with. It all kicks off with California Man a snorting hog riding pastiche of Easy Rider, it's the kind of music that will get you into the mindset of Henry Fonda riding that hog in the desolate desert, from there though the psych is ramped up for Dreamer while Phoenix has the occult rocking of BOC. Johanna's vocals are what give Lucifer their magic on their fuzzed up cover of Dancing With Mr D she's go impetus and passion, Reaper On Your Heels and Before The Sun is where she can rub a bit of soul on it for the better. As I said it maintains what Lucifer set out to do on their debut but it adds new expression which will see the band comfortably into their second incarnation. 8/10 

The Paradox Twin: The Importance Of Mr Bedlam (White Star Records)

White Star Records once again reiterate their place as the best up and coming prog label in the UK, encouraging all of their acts to integrate and play on each other's records both label co-founder John Mitchell (producing) and artist Kim Seviour (vocals on Moonblood and Planeta) appear on this new record from Berkshire band The Paradox Twin. The Paradox Twin is the creation of Danny Sorell who has more than hint of one Messer Wilson albut him, the band are cinematic, prog act with alternative soul who effortlessly blend rock, metal, electronica, ambient and all other manner of genres for these soundscapes.

Sorell explains the concept behind the record "(it's) influenced and inspired by conspiracy theories and the idea that humans on Earth are being controlled by extra-terrestrial beings" so the album is built around long sprawling instrumental passages, with emotive vocals added as another instrument rather than a focal point. As I've mentioned there's a Steven Wilson influence that runs rife throughout the record especially when they're transcending genres on the  galactic sized Earthbound, but there's also some Opeth darkness that permeates strongly. Ranging from 6 to 10 minutes the 7 (yes 7) songs on this record are lushly arranged with the soaring guitars and keys an obvious highlight on the beautiful Moonblood.

The current line up of The Paradox Twin is Danny Sorrell (vocals/guitar/keys) supported by Leland Freeman (guitar), Diane Fox (bass), Rob McGregor (drums) and The Importance Of Mr Bedlam is a fine album of expressive progressive music, another spectacular release from White Star Records! 9/10

We Are Sentinels: S/T (Saol)

Ummm what the heck is this? I found myself asking this question a few times while listening to this record, it's not metal, lets make that clear. We Are Sentinels is the project created by composer/producer Jonah Weingarten who provides keyboards, piano, percussion, orchestration, notice the lack of guitars, bass etc? That's because there aren't any, the entire album is classical music but played with the epicness of heavy metal, contributing to that epic feel is We Are Sentinels other half, the amazing vocals of Matt Barlow, who probably has one of best voices ever to contribute to an album. Life, Death, Rebirth is a beautiful example of this with Barlow at his most mournful and that's where this record loses it's way Barlow is best when he's using his harder edged metal vocals in conjunction with his crooning, here he's not utilized as much as he could be, with Battle In Winter the obvious exception. Unfortunately it means that much of this album sounds a little like a budget "rock" musical or when a band does those "with orchestra" shows. We Are Sentinels is ok if you're looking for something a little different or if you're a Barlow fanatic then try it, I'm not convinced. 5/10

Haunt: Burst Into Flames (Shadow Kingdom Records)

Haunt are a band that have a bit of a challenge ahead of them, the Fresno California based band is the work of one man Beastmaker's Trevor William Church who sings, plays guitar and bass, but with White Wizzard now on permanent hiatus it might be time for Haunt to take over the mantle of the USA's premier exponent of NWOTHM stylized by those glory days of British metal. Haunt certainly have all of the requite hooks, the galloping basslines, dual leads and analogue production it's Maiden, Priest, Lizzy and anything else from that era, with one man who clearly loves this style of music and is using it as another avenue away from his stoner/doom day job, tracks such as My Mirage and Wanderlust really hark back to those days and give you the confidence that Haunt could easily step into the void left by White Wizzard. Burst Into Flame has the rawness of the High Speed GTO record and while it's not perfect or anything new, but it's NWOTHM just crank it up! 7/10

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Steve Jenkins Of Democratus (Interview By Paul H)

Democratus Interview: Interview With Steve Jenkins By Paul Hutchings

With a month to go until we return to Catton Hall and the most exciting four days of the metal calendar, it’s time to start the build up with some interviews from the bands who will be melting our faces. First up, Paul caught up with Metal To The Masses South Wales winners Democratus and their frontman Steve Jenkins.

Many of you reading this will be aware of Democratus. They gig hard around South Wales and are fronted by the tireless energetic promoter of not only the band but metal in South Wales, Steve Jenkins. Steve has been around the local scene for the past ten years and with Democratus we think he’s finally got the line-up to a tee. A thrilling M2TM final in Cardiff in early June saw the band earn their spot on the New Blood Stage and the opportunity to gain musical exposure to the entire metal world. I began by asking Steve for a quick history of the band and to introduce us to the current line-up.

“We formed at the back end of 2014 and started gigging in Feb 2015. Line-up changes and dramas didn't stop the band powering on, but we basically cemented what I personally consider “the one” at the start of 2017. We are now: Steve - Vocals, Joey - Guitar, Kerrin - Guitar, Spoon - Bass and Zak - Drums. After getting Zak in, the game just naturally changed. We became tighter, more focused, more positive. Spoon, Kerrin and Zak are multi instrumentalists so song writing immediately became free flowing. Inspiring me to work on lyrical content I felt had to match the new material on offer. Joey now is much more confident in his abilities (when he auditioned he hadn't played guitar for several years) and is also beginning to contribute to writing processes too.

With a sound that cannot be easily pigeon holed but which is often labelled melodic death metal, how does Steve describe the Democratus sound? “It's a tough one that” he says. “We don't box ourselves in. There are songs that we think are straight up earworm type anthems like Damnation and Life For A Life. There are also the heavier hitting beasts like BTK and Deity. We write what we like to hear. If others enjoy our noise it's a total bonus!”

So, given that the band do indeed play a range of styles, who are the main influences for the band? Steve acknowledged a wide range and if you know their music you wouldn’t be surprised to hear his response: “They include but aren't limited to, Soilwork, Insomnium, Amon Amarth, Iron Maiden, Opeth, Devin Townsend. The list could go on for days!” So what about a surprise? I asked Steve to surprise us with something he also likes. The guilty pleasure? “Haha, I can only speak for me, but I went through school playing clarinet in orchestras and big bands. I'm also a fiend for pre-2000 dance n trance!” Personally, I think there is a deficiency of clarinet in metal so maybe the next EP will reveal Steve’s hidden talent!

The obvious place to go next was the South Wales M2TM shows. Although the band worked damn Having worked hard to get through to the final of the M2TM South Wales this year, some of you may not know that Democratus also got to the final last year, missing out to Malum Sky. How did that disappointment get channelled into this year’s assault? “I'm not gonna lie” says Steve, “I'm competitive. So, losing last year was a blow, but, we didn't mope or moan. We knuckled down, worked on new songs and improving the show. We did toy with the idea of not entering this year's competition. But, as well as sending our EP to Simon Hall, we covered all bases and entered again. Thankfully our perseverance paid off and we’re eternally grateful to all who supported us!” Indeed it did and as we’ve covered elsewhere, the atmosphere for this year’s semi-final and final was intense and better than I’d seen for a long time.

Did Democratus feel confident that you could get to the final? “We’ve always got confidence in our show. We knew we were good enough to do it. But at the same time, we never took it for granted. No one had to show up for us. No one had to vote for us, no one had to judge us good enough. But they did. We couldn't have done this without the amazing support, love and help from our fans, friends and family”. And that’s one of the great things about Democratus; they are a humble outfit who are genuinely pleased when they get support and praise. No egos here. Well, maybe a small one or two! But back to the final, which was an evening full of magical moments with four bands giving it all. I asked Steve to tell us about the build-up, and how the band managed to balance gaining support whilst avoiding saturating everyone?

“Ah, that final is gonna be a lifetime memory. Four bands of friends who’ve worked their asses off to be at the top of their game. I was gonna be happy whoever went through. But I also do not do well in these processes! I was anxious as hell. Not to mention I'd come down with a blood infection that gave me serious hot and cold flushes! But we did what we could. I felt the extra additions to the show added a little more to make us stand out. The thought process was basically giving whoever judged us, no reason to not put us through. In terms of gaining support, it was simply saying to our fans, without you we get nowhere. Ten years I've been a Bloodstock punter, and this is the dream to play it. It was honest, but hopefully not nagging!”

The culmination of the evening was of course, that winning moment and when Rob Bannister announced you were through it was something special. I’m sure there were a range of emotions going through but how did it feel? Steve explains “the biggest feeling was one of accomplishment. Like we finally completed the task of getting to a bigger stage. Then came relief that I never have to enter another band battle! We all agreed this M2TMs was the last time we do it! Then all in the split second came the happy, joy, excitement and thankfulness that our nearest and dearest helped us get there! Also, a fair bit of sympathy for our friends that didn't make it this year. Their time will come!” We can but hope, as Blind Divide and Incursion showed enough steel to make a real assault on the title next year, should they choose.

Away from M2TM, Democratus have played with a number of decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far? Steve has no doubt about which one lives in the memory. “Suffocation in Bristol was definitely the biggest … until this August. It was also the gig we debuted BTK live! The Eradication Festival slots have always been killer. Skiltron, Bloodshot Dawn, Chaos Fest. We’re in a great time for metal bands right now. The quality for all genres is huge and attitudes between the bands seem genuine and positive. I hope it continues!” Having been at many of those gigs, I can vouch for the ferocity of the Suffocation gig, where the death metal legends delivered a masterclass.

Inevitably, it was then back to Bloodstock 2018. Democratus has a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage. I’d say that is a score but are you happy with that? Steve laughs. “Easiest question of the lot, we’re on the same day as Judas freakin’ Priest! Playing a stage less than 200 yards away from them to the biggest potential crowd I've ever pestered to see us. Yes, we’re more than a little bit happy!” And of course, BOA is a bit of a Welsh invasion this year with the guys from Sodomised Cadaver and Cranial Separation also there. It should be a good vibe. I think Steve is looking forward to it. “Indeed, it shall! We’re already arranging a Welsh Death Crew Party while we’re there! Add in our Bristolian neighbours of Bloodshot Dawn, Onslaught and Body Harvest … it's gonna get messy!”

So for that 30 minutes of pure joy on the New Blood Stage, the main question is what can we expect from you guys? Why should those who are undecided come and watch? I think Steve is giving the whole weekend 110% “You can expect Thursday afternoon acoustic renditions of The End Of Heartache around the camps as I hope it'll jog memories of last year's karaoke fun! Then on the Friday Bloodstock will be well and truly DEMOCRATIZED”. If you don’t know what that means, you’ll have to get to the New Blood Stage on the Friday to see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed though.

As a veteran of the Bloodstock Festival, I thought it was useful to get Steve’s take on the event. For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go? “It’s hands down the most friendly, accommodating and accessible festival in the country. Everyone from the top down are approachable and helpful. Then there's the small point of the music! It's diverse, it's heavy and it's a celebration of the best music in the world!” There you are. If you haven’t got your ticket, then you know what to do.

Finally, time to find out a bit more about life after BOA. The band have plenty of UK gigs lined-up in the next few months. What does the future for Democratus look like? Steve is ruthless on this. “EP number 2 is being mixed by our Kerrin, and capitalising on our new title of M2TMs winners to continue our Democratization of the planet!”

So, there you have it. Friday 10th August 2018. The New Blood Stage. 30 minutes of solid heavy metal from the winners from South Wales. You’ll have to work hard to find a more enjoyable and honest band over the entire weekend. Make sure you get Democratised. It’ll be better than finding a tenner in a pair of jeans you haven’t worn for weeks. Yeah, that damn good. See you in the pit!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Reviews: God Is And Astronaut, Materdea, The Walking Dead Orchestra (Reviews By Rich)

God Is An Astronaut: Epitaph (Napalm Records)

are a band I've seen mentioned many times and one I know is very highly regarding within post-rock circles but until now are not a band I have checked out myself. Trinity is the ninth album by the Irish instrumental three piece and is an interesting and compelling album with a range of influences present throughout. Post-rock generally is either crushingly heavy or light and ethereal and God Is An Astronaut are generally on the light and ethereal side of the scale with atmosphere being the name of the game here.

 There's a very melancholic feel about this album which is very evident on opening title track plus the closing duo of Medea and Oisin. Instrumental post-rock is something that has to be done especially right in order to maintain my interest and whilst my mind did wander once or twice on the whole the album maintained my interest and didn't overstay its welcome. I can't say how this album compares to their previous works but Trinity whilst nothing mind blowing is an enjoyable piece of atmospheric and melancholic music. 7/10

MaterDea: Pyaneta (Rockshots Records)

Pyaneta is the fifth album from Italian symphonic metallers MaterDea. MaterDea are not a band I have previously heard of so this is my first exposure to their sound. Symphonic metal is a very bloated genre with a lot of lookalike and soundalike bands and it's difficult to stand out. MaterDea try and stand out to the crowd with the incorporation of folk music into their symphonic metal sound. There is plenty going on in each song with keyboards, cello, fiddle and even a children's choir at one point. 

 Unfortunately all these elements don't help elevate the songs as the writing is generally pretty mediocre, There's nothing especially wrong with the songs but hardly any of them stand out and the album ends up being background music. It also doesn't help that the album has a hefty running time of 63 minutes. When this album does shine it is enjoyable with songs such as opener Back To Earth and Neverland standing out above the rest but unfortunately these moments are few and far between. An unfortunately unimpressive release. 5/10

The Walking Dead Orchestra: Resurrect (Unique Leader Records)

This is a reissue of Resurrect the second album by French brutal death metallers The Walking Dead Orchestra. This reissue was released to coincide with the bands appearance at Hellfest. The reissue does not come with any bonus material. The Walking Dead Orchestra play a brutal form of death metal which also incorporates some influences from deathcore and also a few flourishes of technical death metal here and there throughout the album. Despite having some traits of deathcore this is far more a riffy brutal death metal album reminiscent of bands such as Aborted and fellow countrymen Benighted. 

The album follows a set formula and sticks to it during its 12 song duration which does render a lot of the songs as unforgettable and a lot of it does tend to blend into one. There are a few exceptions such as proper opener Resurrect The Scourge and single Vengeful Flavors. There are moments of interest throughout such as the odd technical flourish on the guitars and the impressively relentless drumming but overall this is simply a rather forgettable album. With only a 40 minute running length the album doesn't descend into tedium and those who are looking for a lesson in brutality will enjoy but more variety would have vastly improved this album. 6/10

Reviews: Wolvennest, Wolfblood, Weed Demon, Message in A Cloud (Reviews By Paul Scoble)

Wolvennest: Void (Van Records)

Void is second album from Belgian six piece Wolvennest. This is a big album, big length wise, as it comes in at 69 minutes. It’s also big sound wise, this album sounds huge. What we have here is a combination of doom, black metal, drone and heavy psych. The songs are long, and take their time, this is a band that will not be rushed. The basic structure of most of the material on offer here is very simple, but the way the songs are played bring complexity into the mix. The riffs are mainly of a doom style, but are played with a bit of a black metal feel. The track L’Heure Noire has the most obvious black metal tremolo picking, but even where there is no obvious BM techniques, this album has the spirit of ominous darkness that is synonymous with black metal.

The rhythm section bring a drone feel to the album, the bass and drums pulse and throb in a meditative way that borders on being trance inducing. There is also a lot of electronics used on this album, and these help to back up the droning / pulsing quality of the album. The vocals are very distinctive, both male and female vocals are used, both in English and in French. The track Ritual Lovers is a stunning piece of work, a male and female voice combine to make this sound like a dark, smokey, clandestine version of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s Je t’aime.

The track is fantastic, and effortlessly sexy. There is a dramatic, gothic feel to a lot of the material, I get the feeling that Type O Negative fans would love this album. Most of the material on this album has a darkly religious feel to it, live this must feel like a ritual; pensive, reflective and thoughtful, but also theatrical and emotionally charged. The final track La Mort is a great example of how incredibly clever this band is. La Mort is 17 minutes long and it features one four note riff repeated for the entire track. The band constantly change how they play the riff, it starts quietly and slowly builds to be a huge, brooding monster of a song. The track doesn’t have any vocals other than a spoken word part in the second part of the song. At no point does this feel boring or repetitive, each member of the band subtly modifies how they play the riff, so the song has a sense of constantly changing and morphing its form.

This is a beautifully original album. Although I’ve tried to describe the album as well as I can, this sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. In many ways it’s a little like the Thy Catafalque album I reviewed a few weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t sound like that album, but it has the same level of originality and innovativeness that that album has. If you love heavy music, and have an open mind, I urge you to check this out. It’s a meditative, thoughtful, achingly sexy, pulsing, droning, heavy, beautiful, bewitching and exquisite masterpiece. 9/10

Wolfblood: Nightriders EP (Reaper Metal Productions)

This is the first Ep from Copenhagen based band Wolfblood. So, what has the first release from this four piece got in store for us? The EP features 5 tracks, 4 original tracks and 1 cover. All the original tracks come in at just over 2 minutes, and the cover is just over 3. The main sound on offer here, is perfectly described by the title of the second track Rot N Roll. Punky, sleazy rock and roll, and that should tell you who this bands main influence is. Motorhead are all over this EP. The tempo, the style of riffs, the lead guitar style have all been borrowed from Lemmy and his pals. There are other influences to be heard here, there’s a little of Aura Noir, I can also hear a bit of faster Orange Goblin in there.

But as all the bands that Wolfblood sound a little like were also massively influenced by Motorhead, that is the main sound on offer. The songs here, are breakneck rockers, fun, exiting, and everything that Rock (Rot) and Roll should be. The final track, a cover of Tank’s song Turn Your Head Around, brings the EP to a satisfying ending. Nightriders is not original or groundbreaking in any way. But, I think Wolfblood are far to busy snorting cheap speed and shotgunning cans of Special Brew to give a flying fuck about breaking ground! Great fun! 7/10

Weed Demon - Astrological Passages (Electric Valley Records)

Weed Demon are a 4 piece from Columbia, Ohio, Astrological Passages is the band's first full length, and comes 3 years after an EP called Stoned Yo Death. Astrological Passages features 4 long tracks, with the album coming in at 42 minutes. What we have here is hugely sludgy stoner doom. Everything about this album is massive; giant, towering riffs that have a groove the size of a planet. I genuinely don’t think it’s possible to listen to this album without banging your head, I get the feeling this is a band who excel live, this material must work so well in a live environment. The guitar solos are beautifully bluesy and fit perfectly with the songs.

The vocals are great as well, Jordan Holland (bass and vocals) has a gargantuan bellow, that works so well with these songs. Although there are similarities with other sludge / stoner bands like Nomad, Eyehategod and on the quieter moments a little of Sleep. Weed Demon have their own sound, there is a slight psychedelic quality to this album that suggests that there was a lot of jamming in the writing of this album. The album is brought to a close by the 12 minute instrumental Jettisoned. This track has the interesting addition of a harmonica. This works so well that it makes me wonder why we don’t hear more harmonica in sludge / stoner / doom. Its a great way to end what is a very satisfying and enjoyable album. Highly recommended. 8/10

Message In A Cloud - Anassa (Ikaros Records)

Anassa is the first album from Greek 5 piece Message In A Cloud. Message In a Cloud started out as a 1 man project from the bands main man Kikos Loukopoulos, before he decided to make Message In a Cloud a full band. The album features 6 instrumental tracks that come in at just over 40 minutes. The music on offer fits loosely into a post rock / post black metal / black gaze format. There are elements of Alcest and Violet Cold and maybe a little of Deafheaven’s softer output.

The overall sound is probably closest to Alcest, as far as how extreme and intense the album is. There is also an electronic feel to some of the tracks. You Used To Die In My Arms has a beautiful opening part that has a definite glitch techno sound to it that works really well, and fits with the overall sound of the album. The main feel of this album is beautiful and, although there is a melancholic edge to most of the album, cathartic. It soothes the listener, it feels like a cool hand on on fevered brow.

I recently did a (standup) gig in London during the current (horrific) heat wave. I had to endure a 4 and a half hour bus journey home on a bus where the air conditioning was not working, and I’d had to run from the tube to get to the bus in time. I was stressed, uncomfortably hot and in a very bad mood. Once we were moving I put this album on and in 40 minutes, this album soothed and calmed me enough to handle the journey home. If you’re planning on having a crazy time at Bloodstock this year, get this album for the journey home. Anassa is a beautiful, cathartic piece of work, I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. 8/10

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Reviews: Paul Rodgers, June 1974, Mindreaper, Dead Man's Boogie (Reviews By Paul H)

Paul Rodgers: Free Spirit [Live] (Quatro Valley Records)

One of the foremost and influential bands in the hard rock movement, Free were active for barely five years, 1968 – 1973. During that time the band carved out numerous classic tracks that continue to receive airplay to this day. Fifty years on from the band’s formation, vocalist Paul Rodgers took to the road with a backing band of top quality musicians to relive and celebrate the band’s music. Rodgers of course is something of a legend; his voice remains as impressive at 68 years of age as it did in those halcyon days, hence his nickname ‘The Voice’.

This release was recorded at a sold out Royal Albert Hall in London in 2017 and is 76 minutes of Free classics, from All Right Now, The Hunter and My Brother Jake through to rarer tracks such as Love You So, Catch A Train and Magic Ship. Whilst I have never really enjoyed Free’s music, much of it is uncomfortably misogynistic, there is no debate about the quality of Rodgers voice on this album. With an audience that probably in the main matched or exceeded Rodgers age, this is an exercise in nostalgia, delivered with quality. The sing-a-longs are frequent, with All Right Now and Wishing Well two of many that are very well-supported. If you enjoy the sound of the early 1970s, then Free Spirit will be a worthy purchase. If you don’t know who Free were, then I suggest you rectify it with this album. 8/10

June 1974: Nemesi (Visionaire Records)

Italian writer and composer Frederico Romano was new to me. His June 1974 solo project has been around since 2009 and as the press release says, is a challenge to label. Nemesi is the latest release and comprises 49 minutes of instrumental tracks, which unlike his previous releases which feature a range from electro-pop to heavy metal with all stations in-between, focuses very much on the metal, in various shapes and styles.

Plenty of heavy synth and powerful drums provide an interesting progressive feel to the release, which contains a range of guest musicians from bands as diverse as Sadist, Shining, Ishan and Obituary. The heaviest chunk is without a doubt Creed, which is a powerful thrash-infused romp with background strings and features James Murphy (Obituary, Testament, Death amongst others). The whole album is strangely soothing, with the orchestral additions providing a layer and texture which enhances each song. If you fancy something a bit different then June 1974 may be worth a punt. 7/10

Mindreaper: Mirror Construction - A Disordered World (Black Sunset)

Hailing from Wetzlar, Hessen in Germany, Mindreaper formed in 2001 and play a combination of thrash and death metal. This is their first release since 2012’s Human Edge ( … to the Abyss) it’s certainly big and in your face thrash alright, with pounding smashing riffs and drums, aided by some decent guitar work. It’s the vocal delivery of Sebastian Rehbein that I struggled with; his Johan Hegg growl just doesn’t do it for me. It’s a decent enough record but nothing that is going to get the world talking about them. 5/10

Dead Man’s Boogie: Devil Nation (Housemaser Records)

Quite a curiosity this one. Dead Man’s Boogie are German and play a range of hard rock styles that is ferociously resistant to pigeon holing. With more than a nod to the grunge soaked rock of Alice In Chains, check out The Devil’s Rejects and Jekyll & Hyde for evidence. The band comprises Michael Dietrich on vocals and guitar, Volker Zaucker on guitar, bassist Phillip Trenkle and drummer Timo Hilzendegen and was formed in 2010. Whilst there are moments when Dietrich’s vocals wobble and struggle to stay in tune, the rampaging energy of the band drives them through. There’s something different and yet familiar about this band and Devil Nation is well worth a listen. 7/10