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Wednesday 29 June 2011

Reviews: Devin Townsend Project, Rival Sons

Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction & Ghost (Inside Out)

Having started this quad trilogy in 2009 with the albums Ki (9) and Addicted (9). Ki was a prog rock record that had a very sinister undertone. Devin was exorcizing the demons of Strapping Young Lad and did so with great affect, he combined his technical ability as both a guitarist and singer with intense musicality. Each one of these albums is meant to mirror a piece of their creator’s personality. Ki is most likely the creators post metal comedown. Addicted on the other hand was a more spirited and upbeat affair with songs that straddled metal and pop and featured the vocals of Anneke van Giersbergen from the Gathering. This is the sound of a man falling in love with his art again.

We then come on to the newest instalments to Deconstruction is far heavier than any other chapters, however before you get your hopes up it is not a new Strapping album. The elements are there but are not taken to the limit. What it is is the schizophrenic humorous nature of Townsend's writing. The heaviness is mixed with electronica and progressive-jazz like riffing, guest spots from Mikael Ã…kerfeldt (Opeth), Ihsahn (Emperor), Joe Duplantier (Gojira), Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) and Floor Jansen (After Forever) means that the spirit of death metal with gruff vocals looms large. Devin himself reverts to his normal vocals rather than his Strapping screams leaving them to the guests. Deconstruction hits you like a ton of bricks and then proceeds to take off on a tangent all in the same song. Insane sounds of someone coming to terms with their past. 9/10

Ghost then is the final full chapter (before addition of extra album Ghost 2 available in September) and like the four parts that proceed it is totally different. Ghost is and acoustic based ambient almost New Age style record. The songs have little electric instruments relying more on acoustics, flutes, banjos, mandolins etc. All of this is put to an ambient backing that wouldn't be out of place on a chill out album. This does however seem to be the point as the two do need to be played together to appreciate, (or as I did play all four in order). If you’re a fan of Strapping then this album may not be for you however anyone who has heard Devin's solo albums will appreciate the understated pastoral genius of this album. 9/10

Rival Sons: Pressure and Time (Earache)

Coming out of the blocks like its 1970 Rival Sons are the newest in a long line of classic rock revivalists, having released one digital album and one e.p they release their newest album in Pressure and Time. Chock full of retro rock riffs the band brings to mind the late 60's and 70's San Francisco rock scene, equal parts rocking and bluesy some of the tracks have a hint of folk and a jam like feel, echoing the Grateful Dead. The band themselves play fantastically with every note coming through the retro but modern production. If you’re a fan of Zeppelin, early Aerosmith and the Doors then this will be one of your new favourite bands. On the other hand lack of originality can be a bands undoing. 8/10

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Out Of The Beyond Part 4

Due to the heavier nature of the new Journey album it got me thinking about other projects featuring Neal Schon and Journey members. One is The Storm that features members of the pre-Perry line up whose album I do not own but it is very Journeyesque. The other two I am going to review now.

Bad English: S/T

The band was formed after Journey folded in 1988. It is their debut album that is the better of the two they released. The album features Neal Schon and Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain, who reunites with former members of his old band The Babys. These are singer John Waite (who had solo success with 'Missing You' in '84) and bass player Ricky Phillips. The drum stool was filled by current Journey and session man Deen Castronovo. The album is filled with the 80's rockers and ballads and is many ways similar to Schon and Cain's day job, Schon's guitar playing is very intricate and melodic but also restrained. This isn't to say they are not heavy, on the opening track ' Best of What I Got' (featured in the movie Tango & Cash) Schon shows his chops in the intro and continues to do so throughout the album. The playing as usual is great but with a leaning towards, albeit heavier than Journey’s, balladry they album can drag slightly and may not be as rocked up as some may expect. Waite's voice is suited to this style though, he is not Steve Perry but he is not supposed to be. This is a band finding a new identity playing what they are good at. 8/10

Hardline: Double Eclipse

Originally meant to be just a producer, Neal Schon managed to take the position of lead guitarist on this album. The majority was written by Schon and Brothers Johnny and Joey Gioeli who were on vocals and guitar respectively, the drum stool is again filled by Mr Castronovo with bass handled by session man Todd Jensen. This is the album that Schon should have made years ago suitably heavy and rocking with the right amount of balladry to even it out. From the opener 'Life's A Bitch' we know the score heavy blues influence rocking that screams hair metal. Despite coming at the end of the hair metal era (1992) it still manages to hold its own against other giants. The tracks are all fairly heavy with 'Rhythm from a Red Car' being one of the best rock songs I have heard from that era. The album itself should have been huge and would have been had it been released in 1984 alongside Whitesnake's album of the same name. While the other Hardline albums don't feature Schon's magic touch, they are also good which shows why Johnny Gioeli is in demand as rock and metal vocalist (as well as being the voice of the Sonic theme tunes). This album is well worth your time if you’re a fan of Journey, Neal Schon or 80's rock in general. Well worth seeking out! 9/10

I will review The Storm if I can get a hold of the album

Bad English: http://youtu.be/sfpTt6t1cUc
Hardline: http://youtu.be/dk42XZFRQLk

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Reviews: Journey, Black Country Communion 1&2, Symphony X

Journey: Eclipse (Frontiers)

After returning with Revelation, AOR veterans Journey return with their second album with new singer Arnel Pineda. However something must have come over Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain as they have broken away from their sugar coated past and released a hard rock album. Starting out with City of Hope they immediately hit their stride rocking and rolling like a band renewed. through some more heavy riffing tracks Journey are back with a vengeance a slight detour to the not great Tantra throws the listener off slightly, it seems like the obligatory ballad but it just isn't suited to their new harder style, the album then gets back on the rails with Resonate and the thrilling She's A Mystery a song that starts off with a poppy vibe and then morphs into a Schon guitar freak-out. If I had to have one criticism of the album it would be the production, Kevin Shirley is a great producer (see Maiden and the next review for proof) but he does work better with 'natural' sounding bands, unfortunately this doesn't work that well with a band like Journey who need that 80's polish to give them that 'big' sound. Despite this small mishap the album is very good and will appeal to fans and new listeners, just don't expect it to appeal to Glee fans. This is an album for rockers only! 8/10

Black Country Communion: S/T & '2' (Provogue/J&R Adventures)

I couldn't review the new BCC album without first reviewing their debut to give background to what I am going to say (I could have reviewed it separately but this is my blog and i wanted to do it together so there) BCC is a 'Super group' formed by Vocalist/Bassist/ 'Voice Of Rock' Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Solo, Tony Iommi) Guitar Virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, Drummer Jason Bonham (Airrace, Zeppelin son of original Zeppelin drummer John) and Key/Organ player Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater). The band was brought together by producer Kevin Shirley (that man again). After some initial problems they quickly recorded their debut. The album opens with the storming bass line and then power riffing of Black Country this shows the bands statement of intent. Moving into the funky One Last Soul we see that Hughes definitely has reclaimed his title as one of the greatest rock singers of all time. The band merges effortlessly and the tracks have a jam like feel to them with Stand (At the Burning Tree, Song of Yesterday and Too Late for the Sun all clocking in at over 5 minutes. The rockers rock and the ballads sway, Bonamassa's guitar playing is fantastic as is his voice when he shares vocals with Hughes. In fact the entire band is on top form and definitely live up to the tag of super group. 9/10

The second BCC comes less than a year after the first, this album shows a more gelled sound than previously, they now sound like a 'band' rather than a collection of musicians. Sherinian and Bonham have more influence on the songs with Jason playing as well as his dad ever did. The song writing has improved with elements of Free, Purple and Zeppelin all featuring in the tracks. The atmospheric Save Me sounding very similar to Kashmir (Although is it plagiarism if you have been in the band?) Crossfire also has very Purple inflections with it being heavily organ led. There are fewer epics on this album with only two tracks breaking 7 minutes. Most of the songs are heavy and rocking in equal measure but also they show their prowess on the acoustic Battle for Hadrian’s Wall and Bonamassa really lets rip on An Ordinary Son. So BCC '2' is equal if not better than the debut albeit for different reasons. Whereas the first is a collection of gifted musicians with something to prove, this is a band trying to conquer the rock world. Just fantastic 9/10

N.B Small note on the production Kevin Shirley excels with bands like this as he really gives them a warm, rich organic 70's sound.

Symphony X: Iconoclast (Nuclear Blast)

After the heavier but slightly disappointing 'Paradise Lost' Symphony X return with their new album. A double album with the overarching concept of technology taking over humanity. They have produced great album for fans of Progressive metal. Continuing with the heaviness form the last outing they have however got rid of the fret wankery that started to get annoying and concentrated on song writing more. The industrialesque opener and title track is one of the few lengthy tracks on the album clocking in at over 10 minutes, but many of the tracks are shorter, with the next few bludgeoning the listener with razor sharp riffs and keys, precision drumming and Russell Allen's almighty howl. The band all play spectacularly throughout the album with guitarist Michael Romeo giving a tight and restrained performance. The songs are noticeably darker mirroring the lyrical content of destruction and doom. Older fans shouldn't worry though as there are a couple of tracks that hark back to Symphony X's past the last track on the first disk When All Is Gone is the most noticeable, the first 3 tracks on the second disc are also very classic sounding. The band are definitely back on track with this album, much like other bands such as Pagan's Mind and Hammerfall they have changed and refined their sound for the better so they can continue into the future. More please guys. 8/10

Thursday 16 June 2011

Reviews: Pagan's Mind, In Solitude, Hell

Pagan's Mind: Heavenly Ecstasy (SPV)

Pagan's Mind return with their fifth album in total and their first after the truly awesome God's Equation. Hopes for this album would be raised exceptionally high after the previous album but they do inevitably fail to meet the loft heights of God's Equation. That's not to say that Heavenly Ecstasy is a bad album, not by a country mile it is just trying to meet an unrealistic target. The progressive elements from the previous instalments have diminished slightly with a more overall melodic sensibility taking over the album. Some of the tracks are mid paced rockers some like The Master's Voice have the power metal element to their sound however it does counteract that with a nice breakdown at the end of the song. This album like the new Hammerfall one sees PM trying to adapt their sound to a more modern setting. The instrumentation is as usual excellent with Jorn Viggo Lofstad's guitar playing being a highlight that is beautifully counteracted by the jangly keys and powerhouse drumming. It is Nils K. Rue's vocals that are the star, he truly has a fantastic voice equally adept at soaring, crooning and screaming (sometimes in the same song) he is the icing on the PM cake. Some of the tracks on this album are samey because of lesser progressive touch, with Walk Away In Silence sounding very similar to I Don't Believe In Love by Queensryche. I am perhaps being overly critical only because it is hard to find any faults with this album; it is just that it is living in the shadow of God's Equation. By any other band this album would be their magnum opus, unfortunately Pagan's Mind have already achieved that. 8/10

In Solitude: The World. The Flesh. The Devil

It's 2011 and finally the legendary Angel Witch releases they're new...oh wait hold on In Solitude are a NEW band. Sorry it's just they are so retro it hurts (I mean really hurts but more on that later). With riffs straight out of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) In Solitude tread a fine line between homage and parody. The start of the album is strong bringing to mind the aforementioned Angel Witch, along with early Venom and doom like tendencies. Topped with Maiden style riffs, especially third track Serpents Are Rising which sounds exactly like Di'Anno era Maiden. The vocals however are from the King Diamond school of Demonic wailing this adds to the overall satanic atmosphere, when you can hear them. This flags up the first major problem with this album, bands that try to emulate the NWOBHM scene also try to emulate the production techniques of the time bands such as Cauldron do this well however In Solitude do not, whether there is a deliberate attempt to make the sound as muddy as possible I'm not sure but, on a few tracks the vocals are indistinguishable, the guitars seem to fade in and out as well. So despite the performance being good the production lets this record down. The vocals too much like King Diamonds can grate on repeated listens. All in all an album that is good for NWOBHM revival completest but not for anyone who has baulked at the mention of the previous bands. 6/10

Hell: Human Remains (Nuclear Blast)

Continuing on the theme of Satan and the NWOBHM, Hell were one of the bands that although good faded into obscurity due to lack of interest form the major labels and the suicide of original vocalist/guitarist David K. Halliday. Roll forward to 2011 and Hell are back with almost the original line up except for founding guitarist Kev Bowers's brother Dave on vocals and Sabbat guitarist and production legend Andy Sneap on guitar. The roles here are reversed In Solitude were a modern band trying to sound classic. Hell are a classic band that sound incredibly modern, mainly due to Sneap's world renowned production skill. This album was created from the original 1980's demos (also included on the ltd edition) and is pitched almost like a concept album about evil and the Devil. One song segues into another seamlessly yet they all sound different enough to keep it from being boring. Genre wise it ranges from galloping NWOBHM, to proto-thrash to crunching doom, very similar in fact to Sneap's other band Sabbat. The real hero here though is Dave Bower's vocals equal parts evil and theatrical. His delivery is fantastic and in places he can scream as high as Rob Halford. All the musicianship is excellent and the songs are brilliant, song short and punchy others are epics The Devils Deadly Weapon stretches to over 10 minutes and is full of atmosphere and heavy riffage. So it's a welcome back to Hell, who despite living in Purgatory for years are back with a vengeance. As their own song The Quest goes: "If you truly believe in what you do; Your dreams one day will come true" They have proved this prophecy to be 100%. 10/10

Tuesday 14 June 2011

A small detour

Due to the fact that the Millennium Music Hall in Cardiff is closing so it can move to a new location I will not be reviewing the GWAR/Clutch gig that happens there Tuesday the 14th of June 2011. The gig has now been moved twice, once to the Walkabout bar (!) and now to the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd. This is all well and good but I am unprepared to travel to Pontypridd just to see a band that should have been playing in my town. (It's a selfish reason I know but hey this is my blog)
 This brings me onto what I wanted to highlight in this particular blog entry, Cardiff (and Wales in general) has far too few legitimate concert venues. I have always known this but it was highlighted particularly to me when I saw Journey in Birmingham. Both the NIA and the LG Arena are huge venues and both are a short distance apart, they also have a HMV academy and a symphony hall as well as numerous other small venues around the city. Cardiff now have at the most 6 venues and these vary in size from very small e.g. Globe, Clwb, Solus to larger Uni, St David’s Hall, CIA and then the enormous Stadium. The MMH did a good job filling this hole between the mid-size venues but now we are going to have to wait again which means we are stuck with places that are far too small for big bands and larger arenas that are also small. The CIA (I refuse to call it the Motorpoint Arena) has a standing capacity of 7500 which although big is dwarfed by the NIA in Birmingham which has a seated capacity of 12,700. So with the stadium mostly used for what it is supposed to be used for i.e. sport. The only large arena we have isn't really that large.
I realise that part of the problem is the size of Cardiff itself, but surely we could find somewhere on the outskirts of Cardiff to build a large purpose built entertainment arena, perhaps attached to an exhibition centre like the NEC or the Expo centre in London. The ideal candidate for this would have been where the current Ikea Cardiff sits however obviously home furnishings do more business. This upsets me as music is a glorious thing that I feel strongly about, whereas sport, religion, politics etc. can cause rivalries music is a brother/sisterhood and brings people closer. So we are letting a whole generation down by not supplying adequate places for musicians to perform. Some have by passed Wales altogether because of this very reason.
I know some of you might be thinking, "Why don't you travel to the gig if you love music so much?" Well there is that argument although, this just adds extra cost, travel, hotel, etc. onto what is already an expensive hobby to have (Ticket prices are saved for another time) travelling to gigs only really works if you drive, and then this lessens some of the 'social' atmosphere or if you are there for more than one day e.g. a festival. I realise that most of what I'm saying will never be heard but I need to say it. Cardiff and Wales need more and bigger music venues; I mean we're the land of song for God sake! We need them now before all we have is shopping and silence.

With love from a Muso  

Friday 10 June 2011

Live & Dangerous 4: Black Stone Cherry & The Treatment

Black Stone Cherry and The Treatment (Cardiff University Solus)

The Solus is not a big place, so this gig was always going to have a level of intimacy that other big bands could not afford. Using this as a warm up gig for their Download appearance Black Stone Cherry played 3 dates on this tour the last one being in Cardiff. Despite taking another two bands on the other dates, one being the excellent Black Spiders, they only had one support slot from up-and -comers The Treatment.

After releasing a fantastic debut album this year on Classic Rock magazine's Powerage label, I wanted to know if their stage show was as good as the album. This was confirmed from the first song as they hit the ground running rocking and rolling with experience of a band triple their age. Despite being young they have a lot in common with  early Aerosmith, with frontman Matt Jones has a similar voice to Mr Tyler and all the better for it. The band ripped solos and riffs out on every song and even got the crown swaying with lighters on the terrifically titled Nothing to Lose but Our Minds. The Treatment are a band out of time but are the perfect openers for a band that have as many classic as they do modern reference points. 8/10

Drums, Bass, Rhythm Guitar all start playing the opening to Change then as Ben Robertson steps up to the mic...nothing, unfortunately this is how the Black Stone Cherry set started, minor technical difficulties that were not resolved until the middle of second song Shooting Star with everything in working order again. BSC proceeded to pummel the crowd with their powerful live sound. The riffs for Blind Man and the evergreen Rain Wizard sent the crowd into a frenzy  before they slowed things down and invited the crowd to sing along with the beautiful Things My Father Said after that emotional moment BSC surprised many by playing a heavy but faithful cover of Adele's Rolling In The Deep before resuming normal service with Hell and High water the songs continued in this vain until a barnstorming drum solo from John-Fred Young brought the crowd to its knees for another sing-along with In My Blood. They then ended the set with the trilogy of Maybe Someday, Boom, Boom and Lonely Train, leaving fans wanting more, however they hinted that they would be returning with another band this year. So are Black Stone Cherry Worth seeing when they come back? Hell yeah they are! 9/10  

Thursday 9 June 2011

Out Of The Beyond Part 3

Draven: Eden

Coming from the U.K Draven are a band that released their debut album Eden in 2009 they have come on to the scene with more ingenuity and better songs that a lot of bands have ever had. They have been shown by critics as being part of the southern rock scene, but this isn't completely true as they exhibit more hallmarks of a British rock band than of any of their American counterparts. The album is a concept based on 'Paradise Lost' with all the tracks linking but not fully so they can be enjoyed on their own merit. Opener Blitz has a funky but heavy vibe that leads into the second track Itchy Finger which sounds like part of a heavy metal western. The title track has a sprawling powerful sound that gives it the kudos of being one of the best tracks on the album. Draven mix styles effortlessly on this album linking, country, blues, heavy rock and alternative metal to create a very professional album. That said the production is by Kevin 'Caveman' Shirley who produces Maiden and has produced Zeppelin and Metallica so it is immediately given an air of professionalism by his superb production. For a lesser band this would 'make' their album, in Draven's case it just adds to the overall sound as even with a lesser producer these songs would still be excellent. Draven then are a band that defy genres and do it well. Worth seeking out! 8/10

Yargos: To Be Or Not To Be

Yargos are a strange mix of modern progressive metal a la Theater, Threshold etc., classic progressive rock a la Yes; Gentle Giant etc. while also using electronics and then mixing it all together. They are hard to describe and sound unlike many other bands that are classed under the progressive banner, too heavy for pastoral proggers but possibly too lightweight for heavy fans. The band is made up of guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Wieland "Wielo" Hofmeister, keyboardist and drummer Ossy Pfeiffer and former Threshold vocalist Andrew 'Mac' McDermott they are backed by ex-Running Wild (see Pirate Metal) bassist Peter Pichl, guitarist Andreas "Andigitarre" Kienitz and female singer (and Ossy's wife) Anca Graterol. the band then all comes from prog or power metal backgrounds but despite the heavy backing this music has more in common with the classic 70's style prog bands. McDermott’s voice suits this type of music better than it did Threshold's (although he was in a Blaze Bayley situation with Damian Wilson the bands original singer being the fans favourite) he uses real passion over Hofmeister's and Pfeiffers' compositions. The tracks are all solid with the playing being virtuoso on all accounts, Mac's vocals take the front with Anca's mainly being for backing, although she does share lead with Mac on the Summer Tree #1. Despite this being a 'prog' record none of the songs are longer than 7 minutes but still include the time changes and instrumentation that are synonymous with the genre. This then is progressive music. They are a hard band to access but once your there a rewarding one to listen to. 7/10

Magic Kingdom: Metallic Tragedy

No this is not a Disney metal album (no matter how good that would be) Magic Kingdom are a neo-classical/speed/power metal band from Belgium. Like with many of the bands of this ilk they have one focus in this case like so many others it is Guitarist Dushan Petrossi who is following the likes of Tony McAlpine And Yngwie Malmsteen in the virtuoso stakes. This is heavy and fast metal played to perfection, with solos galore. A true air guitarists dream. Petrossi also take the tried and tested route of adding classical nuances to his playing so to come across as more than just a guitar player. However the album itself is a joy to hear no matter how 'Spinal Tap' (Violin scene anyone?) its creator comes across. All blast beats and shredding with a large lunged vocalist screaming over the top. This is dumb and silly but ever so entertaining. The final and title track of the album adds a small difference in that it is a mini metal opera with various vocalists playing different parts. The Concept was expanded on the next album Symphony Of War with the second part of this 'opus' taking up the entire second disc. This is dumb fun for anyone who enjoys any of the genres I have mentioned before. Air Guitars at the ready. 7/10

Glyder: Playground For Life

Glyder come from the Emerald Isle and with that comes the assumption that they sound like Thin Lizzy and in some respects they do, but not totally. Led by guitarist Bat Kincade Playground For Life is their second and most accomplished album. Opening with the very bluesy Gambler's Blues Glyder immediately show themselves to be accomplished musicians. They have big heavy riffs and a lot of power, third song Puppet Queen is the most Lizzyesque of the album with vocalist/bassist Tony Cullen doing his best Phil Lynott impression. The rest of the album mixes these hard rock flavours together with a strong sense of modern playing to create a great rock album replete with two lighter wavers in For Your Skin and Sleeping Gun. Worth checking out if you are a Lizzy fan and also if you’re a fan of good rock music. 8/10

Yargos: http://youtu.be/J01G8x4J9q0
Draven: http://youtu.be/1zRkBFXWKus
Magic Kingdom: http://youtu.be/uI5zHA1RS90
Glyder: http://youtu.be/RJe8ojCbm4U

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Live & Dangerous 3: Journey, Foreigner and Styx

I know I know not the most 'metal' of bands but hey it could be Lady Gaga. Stick with it though because you will be suprised. Plus they are all rock bands and it's my blog so I'm going to continue anyway.

Journey, Foreigner and Styx (Birmingham LG Arena)

With Darren Reddick of Planet Rock (in) fame(y) MC the night we were introduced to Styx who came out with aplomb. Starting with Grand Illusion and Too Much Time On My Hands they got off to a good although not a great start. The band seemed to be enjoying themselves and trying too hard with their perhaps better known (in the UK) touring mates. Guitarists Tommy Shaw and James Young rocked out and soloed with cohesion and precision but it was keyboard player Lawrence Gowan's constant preening and pouting that eventually started to grate on me. His voice is fantastic very similar to the original singer Dennis DeYoung however whereas DeYoung was very theatrical in his performances, Gowan just seems a bit desperate for attention. The best part of their set was the epic Come Sail Away, was all rocking and rolling with very prog influences. They also had some technical difficulties which should be ironed out by the last dates of the tour. Styx then were an alright opener for a crowd that seemed to be only there for the other two bands and not reciprocating the effort Styx was giving. This was probably why they came off to me as slightly desperate. 6/10

Foreigner on the other hand overcame the notion of this being a 'one band show' by not trying to oversell themselves and just sticking to what they know. This was truly a 'Jukebox' (excuse the pun) show with it being straight hit after hit. All of the rockers were amped up and the ballads perfectly executed. Heading out with the one two punch of Double Vision and Head Games the band seemed to be enjoying every minute of it founding member and guitarist Mick Jones especially had a smile on his face throughout as his fellow countrymen cheered. The crowd were defiantly fired up by Foreigner’s incendiary set (Sorry again for the pun). Slowing things down with Cold As Ice and Waiting For A Girl Like You it was singer Kelly Hansen that rose above the band as his vocal theatrics managed to mirror both former singer Lou Gramm and even bordered on Mr Coverdale, he was interesting to watch and listen to constantly moving like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. More rockers followed and then came the show stopping I Want To Know What Love Is which got the LG on its feet and singing with every word. After the cathartic shout along Foreigner ended on a high with perennial favourites Hot Blooded and the heavier than usual Jukebox Hero (hence the earlier pun). Journey was defiantly going to have to work hard to beat Foreigner’s hell for leather display. 9/10

It was never in any doubt who the headliners were from the opening strains of Separate Ways the crowd were on their feet, clapping along to its staccato riff. The band are clearly enjoying themselves and are, as you would expect, completely in  sync with each other as a band the sound was flawless. It was all eyes on new singer Arenl Pineda as the chorus kicked in and they weren't disappointed, although he has a slightly gruffer voice than Steve Perry he can hit the notes with ease. After a collective sigh of relief Journey continued with the hits and included some new tracks from their new album Eclipse (which I will review when someone gives me a copy) despite being much heavier than the earlier Journey output they fitted in perfectly with the rest of the set,  Resonate and the Zepplinesqe Chain Of Love being two highlights. Neal Schon opened up on the newer tracks his soloing being as good as anyone I've seen, leading to much air guitaring form the crowd (and me). However this was not just an ego trip for Schon all of the band were given room to breathe. with drummer Deen Castronovo taking lead vocals on Mother, Father and doing a damn fine job, that drummer can really sing. As the set came to a close the tear jerking Faithfully led into the upbeat Don't Stop Believing which got the crowd singing at the top of their lungs again. This then led into Any way You Want It ending the set. A short break was then followed by the encore of Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' which gave everyone that loved-up feeling and ended the set proper. Definitely a band I would see again and I urge people to see them when they come around again. 9/10

Overall then a very good gig and well worth travelling to Birmingham to see. The stage shows from Foreigner and Journey were awesome, lights, video, and effects the whole thing worked well together, the only slight disappointment was Styx who I was expecting more from. However any disappointment from Styx was destroyed by the rocking set from Foreigner and the emotionally charged set from Journey. Overall 9/10

P.S I'd like to thank Nick Hewitt for inviting me to the gig, cheers buddy! 

Saturday 4 June 2011

Reviews: Black Stone Cherry, Alestorm, Revoker

Black Stone Cherry: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea (Roadrunner)

Black Stone Cherry came about in 2006 with their debut album, hitting the scene like a modern take on the classic southern masters such as Molly Hatchet and Skynyrd, with their last album they expanded their sound making it more FM radio friendly, that continues on this album with the production of Howard Benson (Daughtry, Theory of A Deadman, Kelly Clarkson) bringing a commercial sheen to their southern hard rock sound. The vocals of Chris Robertson are as usual fantastic and very powerful with the rest of the band playing at the top of their game. What is evident on this album is that their song writing has improved with many tracks viable for hit single status Blame It On The Boom Boom and Let Me See You Shake being two notable examples, among the tracks are a few lighter waving ballads and some dirty rockers some with lyrics coming straight out of the 1980's Sunset Strip. BTDATDBS is an accomplished modern rock album with a great southern spirit. Definitely an album to play loud! 9/10

Alestorm: Back Through Time (Napalm)

Pirate Metal was sure to have gone the way of Nu-Metal but with Alestorm we see it continuing as if nothing has happened. With this third album they vary the theme focussing on historical figures as well as the well-worn themes of Pillaging and drinking, they even go as far as covering the Wurzels classic I'm A Cider Drinker. The key to Alestorm's survival has been their ability to mix up tempo folk metal with a tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation, ballad like Scraping The Barrel shows that Alestorm don't take themselves or their critical reception too seriously. All in all this is a great album to listen to when partying with your hearties (sorry) but definitely not a treasure trove. 7/10

Revoker: Revenge For The Ruthless (Roadrunner)

Imagine if you will Bullet For My Valentine took Roadrunner's offer to sign in 2007 instead of signing with Sony BMG you would get an album that would sound like Revoker's debut. Hailing from South Wales Revoker have many similarities with their Welsh breatherin in both musicality and vocally (Especially on the lead single Stay Down). Jamie Mathias' voice is pitched somewhere between Matt Tuck and Machine Head's Robb Flynn. this also goes someway to telling you what Revoker sound like, they have a mix of melodic gang choruses and MH style modern thrash. Revoker are talented musicians (I can personally vouch for their live prowess) however like with many of the label mates they share a similar sound that is not really breaking any boundaries. This being the case the album is good but not good enough to be genre defining ...yet. 7/10