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Wednesday 21 November 2012

Reviews: Soundgarden, The Trews, StoneRider

Soundgarden: King Animal (Seven Four Entertainment/Republic)

The Seattle rockers return with their first album since 1996 and with all the original members returning this was set to be a return to their seminal early 90's heyday. From the offset the band gel together as well as ever with opening track, the perfectly named Been Away For Too Long, having a grungy rhythm and Kim Thayil's bright psychedelic guitar. This album certainly has more of the classic rock stylings of Badmotorfinger and Superunknown than the early grunge works; however there is still the odd nod to Seattle miserablism and lashings of trippy psych showed on Non-State Actor which also has a huge Hammond riff. Cornell sounds the best he has been in a while clearly buoyed by revisiting his glory days, I have already mentioned Thayil's guitar sound and with Ben Shepherd's bass being big and billowing, and drummer Matt Cameron gets to stretch himself here more than he does in his day job (Pearl Jam) with the countrified A Thousand Days Before being an example of his propulsive percussion. The entire performance is bolstered by stripped back live sounding production which benefits the natural sound of Soundgarden's new material. After the release of their 'best of', King Animal is the sound of a band both rediscovering their sound but also moving back into their comfort zone ready to show why they are considered to be the top of their genre. 8/10

The Trews: ...Thank You And I'm Sorry (Bumstead)

Canadian rockers The Trews follow their last release Hope & Ruin with a new EP. This is a deliberate shift in style from the last album as this has more of an upbeat party atmosphere. Kicking things off with the fantastically named The Power Of Positive Drinking which is followed the bouncy rocker Leaps And Bounds. The silliness of Herm- Aphrodite (She Was A Guy). Three of the seven tracks feature the guitar presence of Black Crowes' Rich Robinson; he lends his talent to the acoustic blues of Lord Keep Me In Mind, the jangly indie of Oblivion and the big ballad of Not Yours To Love. As usual the production of Geordie Johnson and John-Angus MacDonald is excellent and the band are as usual on form with Colin MacDonald's strong sonorous voice being the main hook over the great musical backdrop of John-Angus' guitar, Jack Syperek's bass and Sean Dalton's drums, all of which are added to by keyboards and organs from Jeff Heisholt. As many who know me will know I love The Trews and this EP is them in their melodic, majestic best giving a small snapshot into their radio friendly but authentic sound perfectly summed up by final track ...And We Are The Trews. Another great little album from the Toronto band. 8/10

StoneRider: Fountains Left To Wake (Self-Released)

StoneRider's last album was released in 2008 and this follow up sees them losing a member and reduced to a trio they have improved their sound, the first album was strong but was a hodgepodge of influences ranging from Zeppelin, to Free bringing in elements of some of the bigger classic rock vibes with fuzzed up guitars and psychedelic elements. This second release has more of a bluesy vibe with many of the songs having the same laid-back rock feel of The Rolling Stones, opener When I Was Young illustrates this perfectly, however there are still some nods to the classics with Hot Summer Nights having an acoustic Led Zeppelin III to it. The vocals of Matt Tanner are gritty and his guitar playing is very good. Stonerider have made an album of hard hitting blues/psych rock that features distorted, feedback guitars, funk bass and some jazzy drumming, they also have more than enough harmonica fill their blues quota (When The Sun Goes Down) and just the right amount of jamming freak-outs and The Doors like groove on Say I Won't and El Dorado. All in all a very good retro rock affair with lots of Stones/Zeppelin. 7/10

Sunday 18 November 2012

Live & Dangerous: Revoker, Sacred Mother Tongue & Cry Havoc

Revoker, Sacred Mother Tongue & Cry Havoc - Bogiez Cardiff 17/11/12

So another night in Bogiez Rock Bar and Nightclub for a night of British heavy metal. I will admit that I went to this gig for Sacred Mother Tongue as Revoker have never really done it for me, however tonight was my epiphany as they really impressed me but more on that later. First up however were Exeter's Cry Havoc.

Cry Havoc

Billing themselves as Thrash 'n' Roll Cry Havoc delivered just that with equal parts thrash, groove and sleaze metal. The band are lewd, rude and tattooed featuring a dual guitar attack and some screamed/clean vocals from frontman Gav. The band exploded into a short opening set that perfectly showed their obvious talent. They reminded me of Avenged Sevenfold in their City Of Evil phase using classic metal riffage with modern sensibilities and dousing it all with a fuck it all attitude. A7X have never been my favourite band and Cry Havoc are also not a band that I would go out of my way to see but they deliver a feisty cocksure set that will see them gain a lot of fans (that will be considerably younger than me). 7/10

Sacred Mother Tongue

The band of guitar virtuoso Andy James, Northampton's Sacred Mother Tongue mix rock and modern metal to bring a very explosive but melodic attack to their set. The band played a mix of old and new with a lot of the set coming from their new EP A Light Shines the highlights of which were Bleeding Out and the monstrous Seven. Andy James' guitar playing is as usual simply phenomenal his rhythm is chunky, heavy ad filled with groove and his solos are masterful and have melodic precision. This is not a one-man-band however bassist Josh Gurner has his own extreme technical gifts and bounces around the stage like a kid on a sugar rush, the drumming of Lee Newell is also great and shakes the foundations. It's the vocals of Darrin South, who looks like a cross between a giant and a mad wizard, that are also a revelation as they are equally at home screaming as they are producing a powerful croon and can switch with ease. The band continued to rip Bogiez a new one (even when the vocal P.A onstage had exploded) with the would-be classic Two Thousand Eight Hundred. SMT played a set full of groove laden, heavy metal with lots of melodic rock styling’s, which was helped by the great sound that the venue continues to deliver. Great stuff from these modern British metallers. 8/10


Rhymney Valley natives Revoker returned to their nation’s capital to prove why they have been featured as support on so many bands UK tours. Their brand of modern thrash that is part Machine Head, part Pantera and part fellow countrymen BFMV has always left me a little cold the last few times I've seen them however they certainly managed to stoke my fire here tonight from the opening shout along chorus of opener Stay Down which features the refrain "It's just another Saturday night in my hometown!" and in the nation’s capital this was close enough to their hometown to incite a riot. They were on fire running through their debut on which they have been touring for a good few years now, as such this is both a blessing and a curse as tracks like Time To Die, Psychoville and Nature Of The Beast were all delivered with extreme tour honed precision however it does mean that their set has become a bit predictable. Despite this Jamie Mathias' voice has become strong with all of their touring. The band's modern thrash inspired many pits and crowd surfing and managed to pull quite a considerable crowd. This was the best I've seen the band, who aired a new track called Killing Floor which was the heaviest track they played and also put in a cover of the TNT that they managed to turn into a Pantera song. Ending on Hate Inside the boyo's managed to create a set of finely tuned thrash that left the crowd battered and grinning from ear to ear. They just need a new album and some new songs to propel them to stardom. 8/10

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Live & Dangerous: Opeth & Anathema

Opeth & Anathema - Rock City, Nottingham 12/11/12

Thanks to Paul Hutchings

So it was another road trip to see Opeth for the 8th time, the nearest they've got to home being the O2 in Bristol. This time some strategy was employed, and an overnight stay at the very comfortable Ibis in the City Centre proved the right move


When the dates for this tour were announced, one of the things that excited me most was the inclusion of Anathema as support. I've loved their music for a long time, and Judgement ranks in one of my all-time favourites. They aren't prolific at touring so it was with eager anticipation that I waited as the house lights dimmed and they entered stage right. I was not disappointed. Opening with Untouchables Part 1 from the awesome Weather Systems album. The band appeared in total unison with Lee Douglas' vocals supporting the lead from Vincent Cavanagh. The band then went straight into Untouchables Part 2 before five other classics wrapped up their set. These included Thin Air from 2010's fine We're Here Because We're Here and my overall favourite Deep from Judgement. There are few gigs where you find yourself catching your breath but this was genuinely one of those moments. The Cavanagh brothers may lead this band but this is one unit where the sum of the parts is definitely greater. I can't wait to see Liverpool's sons again. 9/10


Bang on 9pm (both timing and sound impeccable - full marks to Rock City for that) and Opeth's familiar intro music filled the air. As always, little pretention as Mikael Akerfeldt and the group ambled on before launching into the ferocious The Devil's Orchard. What followed for the next 100 minutes or so can only be described as breath-taking. Those who know me are aware that I can easily run out of superlatives for this Swedish unit, so suffice it for me to say that the musicianship was simply stunning. The band have clearly been preparing for this tour and despite a few first night niggles there is a quality and professionalism about them which sets them apart from many so-called bigger metal brothers. The set list itself was immense; Ghost Perdition and main set closer Harlequin Forest came from the Ghost Reveries album; Burden and Hessian Peel from Watershed, a hauntingly beautiful Hope Leaves from Damnation as well as possibly the heaviest track of their career Deliverance. However more incredibly, given that mouth-watering selection, the Swedes (and Uruguayan) pulled pout White Cluster from Still Life and when I had finally picked my jaw up from the floor they threw in their first live performance of Famine from Heritage which was delivered flawlessly. Throw in the double cover of You Suffer from Napalm Death and Mikael's dry banter and you couldn't have stopped me grinning if you tried. Concluding with, unbelievably, Blackwater Park, this gig moved very close to my second best. This gig was second only to their impossible to beat, Royal Albert Hall show. Overall, as you may have gathered this was one of the best evenings for many a year. Awesome 10/10

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Reviews: Wolfsbane, Orden Ogan, Diagonal

Wolfsbane Remasters: All Hell's Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson's Place & Live Fast Die Fast (Self released/Orginals on Def America)

Tamworth terrors Wolfsbane will always probably be known as Blaze Bayley's pre-Maiden band. All Hell's... is the band’s first E.P and Live Fast Die Fast is their first full length. These albums have just been remastered and re-released and like with most remasters this is the most recent part of a money spinning exercise, both of these albums have not been available on CD for a while and with the reformation of the band and their newest album the band have remastered these original albums. This is a good thing because the albums sound much louder than the originals and with this increased clarity comes a reflection of the bands power.

Live Fast Die Fast

As a first introduction to a new band you could do worse than Man Hunt which has a relentless riff some explosive drumming from Steve 'Danger' Ellet and its shout-along chorus. This is Wolfsbane's manifesto writ-large, barn-storming muscular metal mixed with bruising hard rock, it's the sound of a young band showing their chops and also showing their hunger. With the benefit of hindsight it baffles me why with a debut like this the band were so overlooked, admittedly they were better known for their live performances than their recorded output, but this is great debut filled with big songs that match Bayley's big voice. The remaster has made the songs clearer and louder and it shows that if they had the breaks they could have been as big as some of their compatriots. Money To Burn is what they could be making if they had been given the breaks. So Wolfsbane's debut is the sound of a band in their young, greasy, turbo-charged glory. 8/10

All Hell's Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson's Place

From the opening staccato riff of Steel which is a perennial live favourite and bursts into a great guitar solo from Jase Edwards the foot of the band is never really off the gas pedal with every track having a full-on party metal vibe with all the songs about drinking, fighting and generally having a good time. The frankly mental Loco follows until the break with the acoustic Hey Babe which shows that Bayley can actually sing before the dirty Totally Nude ramps up the filth factor before the Sci-Fi title track finishes things off in truly 'theatrical' style with one of their biggest tracks. This is a great mini-album that has had everything ramped up to 11 and was a great stopgap between full lengths as it perfectly distils Wolfsbane's sound. 7/10

Orden Ogan: To The End (AFM)

When talking about German Symphonic Power Metal it's immediately Krefeld's Blind Guardian that comes to mind however the mighty Bard's now have some serious competition from Orden Ogan who have the same lightning fast guitars, thundering drums, huge choirs and lots of symphonic elements. Things kick off with the awesome title track which after the rampaging first part breaks into a huge guitar dual between guitarists Seeb and Tobi. Despite sounding exactly like Blind Guardian this is by no means a bad thing as if you’re going to imitate then imitate the best. The frankly epic The Things We Believe In comes next with its huge sing-along chant refrain of "Cold, Dead and Gone!" this is a very epic album that features all of the hallmarks that make symphonic power metal so entertaining and will remind fans of why they love the genre. The album is filled with light and shade with folky The Ice King bringing to mind the Bard's Song with its acoustic melodies, the tornado riffage of Dying Paradise and Mystic Symphony both hark back to the speed metal classics before the technical Angels War shows that the band are not averse to 7 minute plus tracks filled with time signature changes. Frontman Seeb has a very Hansi Kursch-esque voice albeit with a lower register but he fits the music perfectly with a wide range which is added to by the fantastic choirs. This is essentially the best Blind Guardian album Blind Guardian never released and Orden Ogen have taken the classic Imaginations From The Other Side sound and made it their own. A great album of stirring power metal that despite its similarities to their countrymen is still very worthy on its own merit. 9/10

Diagonal: The Second Mechanism (Rise Above)

After some severe line-up changes Brighton prog-rockers Diagonal have somehow become less accessible on this sophomore effort than they were on their debut. Having shed at least two members the band have also shed most of their rock leanings now favouring a more jazz orientated approach which brings to mind Van Der Graff Generator and many of the Krautrock originators. The band are very ambient with their keyboard, organ and synth based with jazz drumming and lots of parping sax. The five tracks on this album are very instrumental based with vocals only appearing on the 10 minute mammoth Hulks. This is less of an album more of an experience, it will alienate many people with it's almost anti-rock approach to progressive music but those of more of a 'chemically dependent' lifestyle and anyone who favours the output of Tangerine Dream and Can to Pink Floyd and ELP will discover that this is just one long strange trip. 6/10

Sunday 11 November 2012

Live & Dangerous: Sabaton, Eluveitie, Wisdom

Sabaton, Eluveitie & Wisdom Great Hall 2 Cardiff 10/11/12

So again to the Great Hall 2 for another night of metal mayhem


So Helloween is the word best to describe Wisdom's sound, the Hungary band have all the hallmarks of the Kiske era of the band sing songs of battle with galloping bass, dual guitars and shrieking vocals. The band were competent if a little generic until they played their penultimate track, preceded by a "Scream For Me Cardiff!" (which drops them a point) the then decided to launch into Maiden's Wasted Years which despite many singing along seemed a bit of a cop out for a band that should be showing off their own songs. This huge faux pa was saved by the final track but I for one was underwhelmed by Wisdom. 5/10


What is it about folk metal that unites all metal fans? You could be the deepest darkest blackest underground-core metal fan and still have to jig when a band like Eluveitie come on the stage? Folk metal seems to stir the soul of any fan with its mix of full metal band backing and folk instruments. it also stirs every man and woman's desire to drink copious amounts of alcohol. Eluveitie have definitely found their niche as they have all of the hallmarks of Gothenburg death metal especially in frontman Chirgel Glanzmann who snarls and growls with the likes of Anders of In Flames. The electric part of the band play with extreme speed and tenacity ploughing through thrash style songs that are enhanced by the pipes, flutes, violins, hurdy gurdy and Glanzmann's array of wind instruments. The band stormed through their set causing both mass dancing and pitting which was strange to watch but just the sort of reaction that folk metal inspires. This was a great set from a band that plays full throttle folk metal that will inspire even the most hardened and po-faced metal fan to crack a smile. 8/10


As the strains of The Final Countdown ended and The March To War kicked in the anticipation was a tantamount and then it was the first fantastic blast from perennial set opener Ghost Division which got the entire crowd jumping. Then there was some of Joakim's quite entertaining stage banter before the band played a few from their last two albums which despite still being ott power metal full of big riffs, melodic vocals and lots of gusto however they just don't seem to have the same oomph that their earlier material possessed. They then launched into two classics in the shape of 40:1 and Cliffs Of Gallipoli the latter having just a little bit more emotional bearing considering the date. The next song was the fans choice and was between Uprising and Midway it was Uprising that was decided by a nice bit of pantomime before the piano led The Hammer Has Fallen was introduced by both Jump and Abba's Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie which the frontman played on a keyboard. This slowed the set considerably and broke momentum before The Lion From The North and Into The Fire finished the set with furious style. The encore came in the shape of The Art Of War, Primo Victoria and Metal Crue. This was a good set but not the best I've seen them yet it sent the people in attendance home happy and that really is all a band like Sabaton are about. 8/10

Friday 9 November 2012

Live & Dangerous: Gojira, Klone & Trepalium

Gojira, Klone & Trepalium Great Hall 2 Cardiff 08/11/12


Didn't see much of these but from I saw they were slightly generic death metal with some progressive flourishes, they seemed to have the breakdowns and riffage to move the set along but did nothing much to get the already and unfortunately small crowd going. 6/10


Klone on the other hand seemed to have an identity crisis, they were unsure whether they wanted to be Pantera, Tool, Alice In Chains or Killswitch. They had groove metal breakdowns and furious thrashy riffage before the next song moved into more progressive arty territory. This did make for a somewhat disjointed listen. They seemed to have the chops but they were not my cup of tea. 6/10


No such ambiguity from the French progressive metal merchants as from the end of the intro tape came the mighty heaviness of Explosia and from there on the extreme noise onslaught refused to lament. This gig was probably one of the loudest I have ever attended in such a small venue and in some parts it actually physically hurt. After the first song came Flying Whales and The Heaviest Matter In The Universe and Backbone all came in quick succession insuring that the pit that opened was filled with ferocity. The riffage of the Joe, Christian and Jean-Michel was frighteningly mechanical and intensely technical, with bassist Jean-Michel the main focal point as he jumped around the stage. Gojira have always been defined in my eyes by the drumming of Mario Duplaniter and on this occasion he failed to disappoint bring his double kick barrage to every track making sure that there would be no-one left standing at the end of the show. The band then talked about their love for their large stage head before launching into the title track of the new record L'Enfant Sauvage. With this being a tour for the last release I thought more would be played but the classics came with The Art Of Dying and Toxic Garbage Island following before Wisdom Comes and Ourobouros led to the obligatory drum solo which considering Mario's form throughout the night didn't need to happen as really he had nothing to prove. The main set ended with Clone, The Axe which is not for those with tinnitus and Vacuity the short break gave everyone time to breathe before the encore of new track The Gift Of Guilt which left everyone well and truly destroyed by a truly brutal metal assault. Gojira are not a band that conjures violent pits like say LOG or Slayer but they don't need to, they can do as much damage to an audience with just their instruments and sheer volume than most bands fans could ever dream of doing to each other. Simply an awesome live band! 9/10


Wednesday 7 November 2012

Reviews: Aerosmith, Black Country Communion, Andre Matos

Aerosmith: Music From Another Dimension! (Colombia)

So Boston mega-rockers Aerosmith return with their first album of new material in 11 years after various splits, reformations, solo albums and American Idol. Unlike the blues-covers album Honkin’ On Bobo this sounds like well Aerosmith, the two opening tracks shows this with the percussive Luv XXX which has an air of Love In An Elevator about it and is followed by Oh Yeah which is a rump-shaking blues-rocker with some soulful backing singing. Now this isn't the old Aerosmith with Perry and Tyler handling most of the writing duties, many of the songs are collaborative efforts with long-time collaborator Desmond Child, Jim Vallance and co-producer Marti Fredrikssen (who co-produces with the band and Jack Douglas). Beautiful has an almost rap verse before the lush chorus kicks in and it's followed by the acoustic Tell Me (which is Crazy by another name). All of the band are working at their best with Tyler's vocals a particular highlight, he sounds as good as ever proving that he was wasted on American Idol wannabe's and Joe Perry's solos are a louche and have a jam feel, which translates to the rest of the album. Many of the tracks seem to have that live-in-the-studio feel to them. This is Aerosmith doing what they do best with sleazy blues of Out Go The Lights which has a great harmonica from Tyler before a guitar solo reprises the funky laden rhythm. Legendary Child is quite a progressive track that brings to mind the eastern influence present on Nine Lives before the super-ballad What Could Have Been Love rock radio dream that segues into the blues/railroad folk storytelling of Street Jesus. At 15 tracks the album does feature some filler Freedom Fighter is one, although I've never liked Joe Perry's voice. It also means that it is quite schizophrenic in its delivery. Can't Stop Lovin' You features Country star Carrie Underwood and sounds like Lady Antebellum (Americans will love it!). Overall this is Aerosmith mixing their influences and harking back. "America's Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band" have some of the most well-known songs in rock so they don't need to produce an album that will change the world and this album won't it is however with some trimming and cohesion this would be miles better. 6/10

 Black Country Communion: Afterglow (Mascot Records)

There has been a lot of talk that this will be BCC's final album due to Joe Bonamassa's frankly excessive workload. If that does turn out to be true then they could do worse than finish with this album. It is the sum of all of its parts; BCC 1 & 2 was the sound of a band experimenting with their sound drawing together from their talent and influences. This album on the other hand is the sound of a band that have discovered their true sound. With nearly all of the songs penned just by Glenn Hughes it shows that he has not only re-discovered his mojo but also shows that this is what he always envisioned for BCC. From the two epics of the sprawling The Circle and the orchestral title track, along with The Giver (all of which wouldn't sound out of place on Physical Graffiti), to the blues stomp of This Is Your Time and the synth fuelled Midnight Sun which has all the elements of 70's The Who (and even has a drum solo outro Mooney would be proud of). All of the band are the best in their respective disciplines, Bonham’s drums thunder, Sherinian's keys and synths layer everything with huge hooks and melodies, Bonamassa's guitar playing is far more concise and focussed than on his solo works and Hughes voice is still one of the best in rock. This album features some of BCC's finest songs with the hard rocking Cry Freedom (which is Joey B's only vocal performance), the title track and Confessor being the best of a very good bunch. As I have said this is the sound of a band on top form and if this does turn out to be the bands swansong then they have left us with three excellent albums with this one being the most cohesive and possibly the strongest. 9/10

 Andre Matos: The Turn Of The Lights (Cherry Red Recordings)

Brazilian screamer Andre Matos returns with his third solo album and the ex-Angra singer has created another prime slice of melodic/power metal. Things kick off with the mid paced Liberty which has some sterling guitar work from Andre Hernandes and long-time Matos collaborator Hugo Mariutti. This album has a lot more of Matos keyboard talent on it which shows that it's just not his voice that is superb; the progressive and propulsive Course Of Life comes next and has all of Angra hallmarks. This album seems a lot more mature than his previous efforts with less of the balls to the wall bouncy power metal and more reserved, well written, adult metal. I am a fan of Matos screaming over some galloping power metal and this album is quite a big departure from that style. The sparse haunting Gaza shows this change with its big orchestral flourishes before the almost pop-like Stop! also shows how his sound has progressed for better or worse. This is a great album that is a little slower that the two that proceeded it but like I said it is much more mature and does pick up towards the end of the album with the thrashy Oversoul and the super-speed Light-Years. The cover of Fake Plastic Trees is actually quite good in its acoustic delivery. This is Matos expanding his musical palate and doing it well. 7/10