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Monday 30 September 2013

Another Point Of View: Motionless In White (Guest Review by Neil Lewis)

Motionless In White / The Defiled / The Glamour Of The Kill – Bristol Fleece

Unfortunately The Glamour Of The Kill started their set when I and many others were still filing into the venue. As it happens though the queue for the Fleece passes right around the stage area, so we could all hear everything. By the time I got inside the band were about halfway through their second song. Their style of melodic post-hardcore was certainly a little different on this bill and I enjoyed their energetic if brief set. Their reliance on backing tracks for the "woah-oh" gang vocals however was a bit of a disappointment in this writers view; more on that later. 7/10

Next up The Defiled – a band who I personally was very much looking forward to, and they did not disappoint. Opening up with Sleeper from their very excellent and highly recommended sophomore album Daggers they didn't so much take the stage as grab it by the scruff of the neck and shake it violently. The Defiled's brand of industrial flavoured metalcore peppered with huge sing-along choruses went down a treat in the venue, with Keyboardist The AvD and vocalist/guitarist Stitch D's enthusiasm and energy being thoroughly infectious. The AvD revealed during their set that they were all hung-over from the after party of the previous night's London show and if this is what they are capable of when feeling somewhat under par then I can't wait to see what they're capable of when sober. Of the many highlights of their set, the most memorable was probably the bassist, Vincent Hyde, crowd-surfing to the soundboard at the back of the venue and back. The aftermath of their set saw The AvD leaving his keyboard in the stage area, hanging from the roof, which made for an excellent and memorable visual. 10/10

As the sounds of Rob Zombie (and only Rob Zombie, which was an interesting choice) filled the ensuing interval the anticipation for Motionless In White – on their very first headlining UK tour – was palpable. The Slipknot-esque Devil's Night heralded the start of their set, which following The Defiled's excellent performance, simply had to be very good indeed. Thankfully, it was. Blasting their way through all the fan favourites from their back catalogue (including a ferocious rendition of Abigail) as well as a generous helping of newer material from their latest Infamous long player the band put on an excellent show. Technically extremely proficient (as you would expect) my only gripe would be the unwelcome return of one of my personal bugbears – the backing track. There were two songs during which it was plain that vocalist Chris “Motionless” Cerulli was, shall we say, “assisted” in his duties. As it happens the two tracks in question (America and Infamous) are my two personal favourites from their new album, which did spoil it a little bit from my own perspective. Judging by the crowd reaction however it looked as though many others did not share my opinion. As the band are transitioning their sound from their pure metalcore origins to a more industrial, electronic driven sound it would appear from tonight's evidence that their fan-base is enthusiastically coming along for the ride. And what a ride it looks to be. 8/10

Overall this was a superb show. Every band on the bill have recently released their second (official in the case of Motionless) album which shows to this writer at least that their respective futures are very bright indeed.

Friday 27 September 2013

Reviews: Alter Bridge, Onslaught, Venrez

Alter Bridge: Fortress (Roadrunner)

After a brief hiatus of the band which featured frontman Myles singing for the legendary Slash and guitarist Mark Tremonti releasing his first solo album, Alter Bridge are back looking to reclaim their throne as the kings of American metal. With any new AB release I always have to compare it to Blackbird which I consider their magnum opus; ABIII was cathartic for the band with Myles releasing his inner demons through music, however Fortress returns to the bands fist pumping metal sound but brings a grown up twist with more progressive elements to their sound. This progressive tinge can be witnessed from the first track Cry Of Achilles which features an acoustic intro before building in the verses and bursting into life for the meteoric chorus and the sublime solo's after Brian Marshall's bass break and also on the final title track which clocks in at over 7 minutes and twists and turns throughout. So far so good then with a great opening which is followed immediately by the thrash-like riffage of Addicted To Pain and the swinging Bleed It Dry which is a mid-paced rocker with a massive hook and a blues guitar break in the middle. Lover gives you a rest bite with a haunting acoustic melody that explodes into a majestic chorus. What is most noticeable about this album is that Alter Bridge sound more like a band on this record than any of their previous records, the guitars of Tremonti are excellent as usual but Myles' bring an extra edge to things especially on the heavy as hell tracks like the djenty Peace Is Broken and the head crushingly heavy Farther Than The Stream and the awesome Waters Rising which features Mark on lead vocals and again shows the unison between the band with the dual vocal style bringing to mind AIC. This is a fantastic album that really shows off Alter Bridges strengths mixing melodic metal with anthemic choruses, a heavy as steel rhythm section from Flip and Marshall, some amazing shredding and melodic leads from Kennedy and Tremonti and its all topped off with the best vocalist in the world, who sounds even better on this album than anything previously. So my comparison to Blackbird, well Fortress is equal to and may become better than their best album after repeated listens. 9/10           

Onslaught: VI (Nuclear Blast)

Onslaught have always had a bit of special place in my heart as they are one of the first true British thrash bands that were able to compete with the big Yanks. Well after a two year wait accompanied by relentless touring the Bristol thrashers are back with their sixth album (thus the title) and since the previous album Sounds Of Violence the band have changed very little aurally with this album retaining much of the unrelenting ferocity of the previous effort. Chaos Is King immediately sets things aflame with its blast beat drumming from Mike Hourihan and the razor sharp riffage of Andy Rosser-Davies and Nige Rockett. The album blends enough modern and classic thrash to keep fans of 'Tallica, Megadeth head banging with glee with the old-school tracks like Children Of The Sand and Enemy Of My Enemy both of which have that Bay Area feel to them. Onslaught also have enough venomous, pit inciting shred for those brought up on Machine Head and LOG; see Slaughterize and Cruci-Fiction for total pit devastation. All of the tracks are strong, full of face ripping riffage and Sy Keeler's snarling vocals which could strip paint. Another killer album from the thrash crew, which will really slay the live arena. Get ready for pain! 8/10

Venrez: American Illusion (Monarch Music Group)

Venrez are a hard rock band that are soon to be touring with Buckcherry and Hardcore Superstar so expectations of sleaze based rock was at a high when I received this album. However I was massively surprised when I heard the band's grunge/stoner rock vibe on the opening track Unforeseen. Venrez bring fuzzy riffage from the two guitarists and a driving rhythm section which creeps menacingly on the opening track before the swaggering Sanctity brings a real hard rock vibe. The band have a sound that mixes Monster Magnet and Stone Temple Pilots with some voodoo rhythms and lots of reverbed guitars, these two bands are brought to mind because of the vocals of frontman Ven who sounds a lot like Dave Wyndorf. They do have some faster tracks that bring to mind some of the American sleaze rock scene however it’s on the grungy tracks that the band do best at case in point is the excellent Intellectual Drool which is Alice In Chains by another name. A good album from Venrez who are a band still finding their style but if they continue to focus on the grunge aspects then they will definitely move further up the bill. 7/10

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Reviews: Dream Theater, Michael Monroe, The Temperance Movement

Dream Theater: S/T (Roadrunner Records)

With their last album A Dramatic Turn Of Events being a big U-turn away from the heavier elements brought in by Mike Portnoy since Train Of Thought I believed that Dream Theater were trying to rediscover themselves and it seems things have continued on this album. They have returned to the prog-metal scene with their second album featuring drummer Mike Mangini. Most notably it is self-titled which is usually a sign of a band either defining or more likely when this is your 12th album re-defining yourself. Things start off simply enough with the cinematic instrumental (which features a full orchestra that I'll get to later) False Awakening Suite which does sound like something from a Hans Zimmer would write if he had a metal band after it's crescendo the first song proper is the fast and furious The Enemy Inside which kicks off with all the DT hall marks of Petrucci's amazing guitar work, Jordan Rudress' melodic and sometimes mental keyboard runs, Myung's workman-like bass and most noticeably of all Mangini's superb drumming (this is the first album he has had creative input into) finally the song has the unique and soulful crooning of James LaBrie meaning that it is the perfect distillation of DT's sound. So all in all it's a very good start and things continue in this strong vein as The Looking Glass is a homage in terms of sound to Petrucci's heroes Rush with some technical bass brought to the fore, lots of melodic guitar lines a Lifeson-like solo and shed loads of off-kilter drumming. This is not the end though as all of the tracks are very strong and they show that Dream Theater are once again a cohesive unit, they also bring some of the heaviness back with the instrumental The Enigma Machine which moves into the obligatory ballad The Bigger Picture which could have been lifted off Octavarium, more looking back comes on Behind The Veil which has evil verses and a euphoric chorus. Yes this is definitely the sound of a re-energised Dream Theater and after the amazing 22 minute plus finale of Illumination Theory which has the aforementioned full orchestra and takes you through every emotion possible (and gives you a hell of an ending!) you find yourself wanting to play the whole disc again. Welcome back guys I've missed you. 10/10

Michael Monroe: Horns And Halos (Spinefarm)

The former Hanoi Rocks frontman swaggers back into the scene with his follow up to the unanimously excellent Sensory Overdrive however this time he is sans Ginger Wildheart however he has still managed to mix glam, hard rock, punk together to form a swinging party record. The record immediately blasts out of your speakers with a snotty punk sucker punch to open proceedings, the guitars of former New York Doll Steve Conte and new boy Dregen scythe and slice through the garage rock backing of Sami Yaffa and Karl Rosqvist which is all fuzz and pop. The punk overtones are the most pressing sounds with most of the songs filled with a huge amount of attitude mainly due to Monroe's vocals which sound like they've come from the gutter however he still has the glam rock stomp with Ballad Of The Lower East Side mixing both the punk and glam to encompass the two big sounds of this city, this is followed by the bluesy Eighteen Angels which features Monroe's simmering saxophone. I've made much of the punk influence but he does widen his remit too as Stained Glass Heart shows as it is very Foo Fighters sounding Soul Surrender has a reggae/dub back beat to the verses. Monroe has done it again with a sprawling rock album that still has the genre spanning elements of The Wildhearts even without the genius of Ginger on the writing staff. Another strong, eclectic, rock n roll album 8/10

The Temperance Movement: S/T (Earache)

 From the first, soulful blues guitar licks of Only Friend this album immediately latches on to you and transports you to the sunny climbs of California by way of Alabama. Over the course of the next 11 tracks The Temperance Movement move through the highest quality blues-based rock that this island has produced in a long time. Yes you read that right THIS island, The Temperance Movement are a British band taking on bands like Rival Sons at their own game. Musically the band mix the honey toned rock of The Black Crowes if they were fronted by Rod Stewart (in his Faces days). It’s the emotion that really draws you to this album, all of the songs sound real this is a band that love their music and take pride in it. The guitars of Luke Postashnick and Paul Sayer are equally strong when fuzzy and raw, clean and melodious and even beautiful on the more acoustic numbers like Pride and the understated, stripped back beauty of Lovers And Fighters. The rhythm section is made up of Aussie Damon Wilson who handles of the percussive shuffles and flailing smashes and Nick Fyffe, who was previously the bassist for Jamiroquai so adds a liberal amount of funk, see Be Lucky. Like I said before the band sound authentically American as if they've been taken straight out of the delta and lot of this is due to vocalist Phil Campbell (no not the Motorhead one) who has a staggering voice, its gritty on the rockers like Midnight Black and croons like Willie Nelson on the countrified ballad Chinese Lanterns (which lots of tasty slide guitar). This is a superb album that features some excellent songs that are made for the live arena especially Know For Sure along with the bouncy Take It Back and its "Woah woah" refrain This is one of the strongest debuts I've heard in years, pure, authentic, rhythm and blues for the modern generation! 9/10      

Sunday 22 September 2013

Another Point Of View: Justin Currie (Review By Nick)

Justin Currie, The Gate Cardiff.

So my long… long awaited chance to see one of my favourite singer songwriters of all time finally arrived set in the perfect back drop of The Gate. A reasonably sized crowd of around two hundred filed into this old church to see the unarguable talent and sometimes-cantankerous personality of Justin Currie. First up the support.

Del Barber.

The light dipped, and to a surprisingly excitable applause Del Barber hit the stage. I guess very few (including myself) new what to expect as the clearly slightly nervous young man as he steadied himself and broke into the first few chords of his first song Love & Wine. From the very first line of this song there was an overwhelming sense that the crowd had been taken in by this young mans delightfully soothing southern voice and carefully precise guitar plucking from the get go. This continued throughout the set with well received songs such as Running On A Wire, The Waitress and what was clearly the crowds favourite The Right Side of Wrong in which most people in life could relate to. Del also had what at first, was annoying habit of rambling on between songs, this soon became quite endearing as he told stories that inspired his songs that clearly meant a great deal to him. At times he managed to bring a unified laugh or chuckle out of the crowd as he enlightened us with the story of how he came to be where he stood. As the short lived set drew to an end with the heartfelt song Everything Is Not Enough it was easy to see that if crowd weren’t expecting the main act, they’d have wanted Del to carry on singing and regaling us for hours. This young man from Manitoba Canada clearly knew his roots and had nothing but thanks and respect from where he had come from, making this one of the most gracious performances I’ve seen in a while. His voice was delicate and almost peaceful and he certainly new his way around a guitar. For me, a great all round support act that I hope to see again in the future. The crowd seemed to agree as he left the stage a loud applause. 8/10

Justin Currie

As Justin Currie walked onto the stage he immediately broke into a mini set of songs from latest album Lower Reaches. Emotive songs such as Every Songs The Same, Into A Pearl and Pricilla plunged The Gate into a looming dark shadow of thought that Justin is known for and so does incredibly well. A brief aside and Justin promised a lighter pace later on, not that many people seemed to care as the quality of his conveyance and voice was purely outstanding… despite the characteristically depressive nature of his songs. This theme continued with songs from further back into his back catalogue such as The Way That It Falls and a fan requested, and heart breaking song If I Ever Loved You. Many fans visibly tearing up as Justin delivered this anthem with pure perfection as the masses joined in. One thing to note about Justin Currie is that despite his aloof and at times grumpy personality, he fills his songs with nothing but truth an emotion and could almost be considered as an emotional outlet for the talented Glaswegian. Shortly after this, as promised the pace was picked up with a plethora of songs from Justin’s original 90’s band project Del Amitri. Classics including Always The Last To Know, Tell Her This and a personal favourite Driving With The Breaks On which contains a powerful message that every person can relate too in life were set free into the beautifully lit room. After a back and forth between the crowd Justin then settled down behind his Piano and invited a friend onto the stage, preparing himself to deliver songs from his album The Great War. Gold Dust, Half Of Me and the deceivingly cheerful song, Falsetto were introduced with new added depth with assistance slide guitarist Mark Greenshaw, as these songs were offered the atmosphere became more personal as more and more members of the crowd headed to the floor to surround the front of the stage and listen intently to lyrics that were being sung. More requests followed as Justin delved again into his Del Amitri back pocket and satisfied fans with Spit In The Rain and This Side Of The Morning both of which were supported by the fine voice of the Welsh crowd. Following this Justin informed the crowd that he would be leaving the stage, but, if we were loud enough he would “surprise” us with an encore… the crowd duly delivered as they burst out into rapturous applause of whistles forcing the man of the hour to return to the stage after a minute or so. The encore consisted of four songs, the first persistently crowd requested Little Stars to which Justin's voice added a chilling atmosphere as each word was milked of every ounce of feeling possible. Then the outstandingly well written and, what I have always thought to be the unbelievably eye opening and thought provoking No Surrender Pt 1 & 2 were delivered with the spite hatred and anguish that they emote… that was until, Justin forgot the words… oops! About 6 or 7 minutes in he jokingly suggested, “Should I start again?” Instead he returned to the guitar to give the crowd Del Amitri’s biggest hit Nothing Ever Happens to which finished with the statement “professional experience, if you f*ck up pull out your biggest hit”… to right sir! Finally the evening drew to and end as the sensationally moving song Be My Downfall was released, this a song that I have waited a long time to hear live and wow… I was not let down. Again many of the crowd were visibly tearing up as the lyrics were expertly delivered via the deep rough voice, the crowd sang along belting out every last word much to pleasure of the Mr Currie. Too soon the song finished I briefly sat contemplating what I had just heard before joining the massive applause that lead Justin off the stage.
This night was truly a roller coaster of emotion; highs, lows, laughs and poignant moments ensured the crowd and myself were left in no doubt that Justin Currie is one of the leading, but sadly underrated songwriters of our time. The Glaswegian voice with its rough undertone, together with the earlier mentioned personality meant that every song was conveyed honestly and touched the emotions they were clearly written to evoke. A brilliant night of acoustic music that I honestly cannot wait to experience again… once I have recovered 10/10

Another Point Of View: Nile (Review by Paul)

Nile/Ex-Deo – Bogiez

An early start to proceedings meant that I missed the opening acts (sorry but I was there by 8:00).  I am led to believe that I missed a good set from Svart Crown so that was a bit of a pisser. I blame Mr Ruddles. Anyway, just over a month since Ex-Deo stormed the main stage at BOA, Maurizio Iacono’s side project arrived in Cardiff. I have had them pretty much on repeat in recent times and have to admit that their brand of death metal is right up my street. Cramming onto the stage in Bogiez is a far cry from the space they were afforded at BOA but they got straight down to business and were greeted like conquering heroes (sorry!). One of the largest crowds I’ve experienced in Bogiez were in appreciative mood, pits opening up on a regular basis and as you’d expect lots and lots of fists in the air. Tracks aired included The Tiberius Cliffs, The Final War and the opening track to their last album I Caligvla. As we’ve come to expect at Bogiez the sound was top quality and this allowed the guitars of Stephane Barbe and Jean Francois Dagenais to feature prominently. The set ended with the anthemic Romulus and an ovation from the assembled crowd. Excellent stuff. 9/10

At 9.15 the unmistakable entrance music of South Carolina’s Nile blasted out and the band launched into one of the most brutal aural assaults that Bogiez has ever witnessed. Karl Sanders guttural vocals led the band through opener Sacrifice Unto Sebek with the technical skills of this extremely heavy band clear for all. Nile moved swiftly into Defiling The Gates Of Ishtar before personal favourite Kafir incited more pit action and much windmilling – both on stage and off. The drumming of George Kollias is quite incredible; think Mario Duplantier and then add some. There is absolutely no matching this band in terms of technique in the death metal field. Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade are both quite brilliant guitarists and the intricate duelling between them is breath-taking at times However, in such a small venue it was sometimes difficult to see anything on stage. This isn’t often a problem but, and it this is my view, with death metal sometimes the wall of sound can become a little similar and attention can wander. Anyway, the majority of the crowd seemed very happy and Nile blasted through a set which contained tracks from a number of their albums. The Howling Of Jinn and offerings from the latest album At The Gate Of Sethu came and went and suddenly that was it. 10:10 and it was all over. I think that the band made a comment about Bogiez bringing the finish time early but I couldn’t say that for definite. A slightly confused and disappointed crowd milled around for a bit before streaming out into the evening air. I saw Nile last year at BOA for the first time and was massively impressed. Tonight it was Ex Deo who stole the show. 7/10

*Editors note* On further investigation with the venue it was bad time management from the band that meant they had curtailed set and nothing to do with the venue itself

Thursday 19 September 2013

The View From The Side Of The Room: Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

Joey Bones has been coming to Cardiff since 2008 (to the Point as he himself pointed out) and for the last few years he has headlined the Motorpoint arena by himself with no major label backing at all, which is impressive. So the question arises who do you get to support Joe Bonamassa? Well last time it was David Ford, this time it was Joe himself doing some acoustic numbers backed by Tal Bergman on bongos and new boy Derek Sherinian, who jumped ship after the implosion Black County Communion, on grand piano. When a show starts off with Joe's own Palm Trees, Helicopters And Gasoline followed quickly by Bad Company's Seagull you know that the set can only climb higher. Next were Jelly Roll and the awesome Athens To Athens before the acoustic showcase Woke Up Dreaming brought the first part of the set to a close. The crowd got their breath back and the band walked back on stage to take up their electric positions. Tal Bergman and his wild hair took his place behind the kit, Sherinian placed himself behind the massive keyboard set up he had and Carmine Rojas strolled on bass in hand filled with his infinite coolness. Joe the plugged in and kicked things off with the atmospheric Dust Bowl and then Story Of The Quarryman which immediately showcased Joe's strengths, his amazing guitar work which is at times emotive and uplifting, other times its heavy and powerful enough to knock you out. His other strength is obviously his voice which is almost unique for blues based rock; it has a mid-range delivery which is at odds with the usual gruff whiskey soaked vocals of the blues legends.

Much of the set was taken from Joe's last few albums with his usual mix of originals and covers, Howlin' Wolf's Who's Been Talking came next with its calypso back beat, before Dislocated Boy, Driving Towards The Daylight and Slow Train were all brought together one after another for a full showcase of Joe's emotive, soulful guitar playing and also his song writing as all three were originals. Three covers were next with Gary Moore's Midnight Blues and Jeff Beck's Spanish Boots harking back to the blues legends that inspired him. The final cover (of the main set) was Song Of Yesterday which is originally a Black Country Communion song so not strictly a full cover, however it fit into the set well and was another showcase this time for Sherinian who used his entire keyboard range bringing in organs, keyboards, B3's and even Wurlitzers to his solo, the band then jammed for a bit before they moved into the familiar drum break of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again before ending the jam with that songs guitar stabs. The final songs of the main set were the stirring instrumental Django which moved into Mountain Time to end the main set on a huge high, bringing the crowd to their feet in rapturous applause.

A small break and the encore came in the shape of Joe's showstoppers, the man himself said that he has tried to drop Sloe Gin from the set however when it is delivered with as much emotion as he does I think he will be playing it until he retires, after this catharsis it was time for the blues-rock stomp of The Ballad Of John Henry which got the crowd shuffling and clapping in their seats and then went into a huge solo at the end to satisfy the fret lovers in the crowd. Again with the final chords the crowd erupted with everyone standing. Joe has a very partisan crowd all of whom enjoyed every minute of this set and Joe himself made sure that he played the best set he could and as a veteran of such gigs this was one of the best sets I've ever seen him play, it was powerful, emotional, technically perfect and immaculate (much like Joe's suit). It was a set like this that shows why Joey Bones is able to headline a venue this size on his own back and draw a big crowd. 10/10  

Reviews: Avenged Sevenfold, Trouble, Jettblack

Avenged Sevenfold: Hail To The King (Warner Bros.)

A7X return with their second album since the death of their drummer Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan and this one is not the tribute that Nightmare was this is a band finding their sound again. From the bell tolling, Sabbath-like intro to Shepard Of The Fire which bursts into a riff that Metallica would be proud of, this then moves into the first single Hail To The King which is classic A7X with some tasty guitar work from Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates. These similarities can be forgiven if it was one or two tracks however it does become abundantly clear that it is every track yes this is an album is full of well written metal tracks well played however it does all sound very familiar, like I said the first two tracks are Metallica, Doing Time is a G'N'R track from the Appetite For Destruction era, and the album continues in this way with This Means War being Sad But True under another name. They have the obligatory ballad in Crimson Day which is Sweet Child 'O Mine I'm afraid. So yes this has been hailed as A7X best album and it did go to number one however this might be because the album is essentially a covers album bringing together Metallica and G'N'R tracks but with different lyrics. If it was a homage I could deal with it however this seems to be an outright rip off of classic bands work. 5/10 

Trouble: The Distortion Field (FRW Records)

Doom metal veterans Trouble return with their first album of new material since 2007's Simple Mind Condition. It also sees a new vocalist at the for front long gone is the original doom monger Eric Wagner and also his ill-advised replacement Warrior Soul's Kory Clarke; in their place is former Exhorder, Alabama Thunderpussy and Trouble live vocalist Kyle Thomas who brings his burly Anselmo-esque singing to the 'White Metal' attack. So what is the first Trouble release without Wagner at the helm like? Well musically it's big doomy, Sabbath worshiping riffs that kick off with When The Sky Comes Down and move swiftly into the swinging Paranoia Conspiracy. The guitars of Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin bring the down dirty doom riffs and Thomas does a great job on this album, I've always loved his voice and I actually prefer it Anselmo's, he brings a real Southern style to the quicker tracks like Sink Or Swim and also the mega doom monsters like One Life. Yes there are many bands doing the doom at the moment but Trouble are up there as legends of the genre. At 13 tracks you get a lot of Trouble for your money and even for fans that are late to the party this album is a notable addition to the Trouble catalogue and shows they still have it. 7/10 

Jettblack: Black Gold (Spinefarm Records)

British macho rock exponents Jettblack have released this album based around a song from their last album Raining Rock usually this would be a stopgap E.P however this album has 13 tracks made up of unreleased tracks, covers and acoustic versions two of these are versions of the song Black Gold one is the full length version and the other is an edited version that featuring Damon Johnson from Black Star Riders, if I'm honest the full version is better however the rest of the album has some real highlights. Feel The Love and Weapon are both full power electric Jettblack songs that are full of the macho almost chauvinistic lyrics that Jettblack are known for. Feel The Love has a special guest in the shape of Deep Purple's Ian Paice who provides the skins for the song, which makes it sound like Fireball. The acoustic versions of their songs are all very good as they all translate very well to the acoustic style with Not Even Love still having the emotional power of the electric version. The covers are a slightly patchier story, Let Me Put My Love Into You (AC/DC) has been previously released and is a good fit for Will Stapleton's voice as is Name In Vain (Motorhead) too which they bring the punk power of Lemmy and co, on the other hand their cover of Barracuda is well played turning it metallic but neither Will or Tom's vocals will be able to match Ann Wilson but they put their own spin on it I suppose. A good stop gap, that is a money making exercise yes, but one that will keep fans happy. 7/10 

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Reviews: Volture, Lancer, Sign Of The Jackal

So I thought with this review I'd bring together a few retro/trad metal revivalists for one review, because I'm a bit of a fan of tight jeaned, bullet belted metal!

Volture: On The Edge (High Roller Records)

High Roller Records is quickly becoming the place for retro infused sneaker wearing metal with the likes of Enforcer and Axxion on its role call you can now add to that list Volture who play twin guitar infused trad-metal. The band hail from Virginia and are the brainchild of guitarist Nick Poulos and Ryan waste who plays bass in this project but most will know him as the guitarist of crossover thrash maniacs Municipal Waste. The album is full of hard hitting anthems full of scything guitars from Poulos and partner in crime Dave Boyd, rumbling galloping bass from Waste, smashing drums and some high vocals from singer Jack Bauer (no not that one). From the opening riff of the title track you know what you are going to get but this album stands above many others in this genre as the band have the hallmarks of early Maiden or Priest but with a distinctly European flavour of Enforcer despite being from America. The song lyrics as per usual with trad metal are about bikes, women and the joys of heavy metal and with song names like Ride The Night and Desert Pursuit the band focus more on the Iron Horse, with Desert Pursuit sounding like it should feature on Killers in fact it’s the early Maiden influence that is the most overriding sound on this album, yes the songs are samey but Volture deliver them masterfully meaning that this album is definitely one to pick up for retro fans. 8/10    

Lancer: S/T (Doolittle Group)

In a slight change of style Swede's Lancer are from the power/speed school of metal but they maintain the trad-metal sound of dual guitars etc. The album kicks off with Purple Sky which features a dual guitar rundown for the main riff, some cracking drumming from Sebastian Pedernera, and classic European-style vocals of Isak Stenvall who sounds a lot like Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius and in places like fellow Swede Joey Tempest. In fact the band sound a lot like early Stratovarius albeit without the massive keyboard passages that Strato are known for. They do however fill their songs with guitar solos (see The Exiled) rampaging blast beats (Young And Alive) and even some progressive influences on the 7 minute plus Seventh Angel which is a ballad that Timo Tolkki would be proud of (and features some keys!). The production is not as crisp as Strato (and nowhere near as clean as Europe's) but with big backing choruses and lots of meaty guitar action this is a solid power metal album that will entice completists. 7/10    

Sign Of The Jackal: Mark Of The Beast (High Roller Records)

Another treat from High Roller this time with more of an occult vibe, so you need to be thinking Angel Witch, Mercyful Fate, Withcfinder General, Venom and more recently In Solitude. In a twist of (Mercyful) fate though the banshee at the microphone, is not some tall, dark stranger but a small perfectly formed woman; in the shape of Laura Coller who howls the occult lyrics over the retro metal blast. Coming from Italy the band should be well acquainted with the works of Satan and with tracks like Hellhounds, Night Of The Undead and Queens Of Hell they are defiantly in the Angel Witch school of occult metal. The album is good with lots of little B-movie references sprinkled throughout (and lots of Italian) it makes for an authentic 80's sound, obviously you know what the music sounds like but it’s the vocals that will make or break this album, you will either love them or hate them but still in the right frame of mind and with Halloween on its way this is one to put on at a party. 6/10  

Sunday 15 September 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Attica Rage

Attica Rage, Tidal & Black Light Machine; Bogiez Cardiff

So into Bogiez again for another night of heavy metal, this time the headliners were Scottish road dogs Attica Rage and support was coming from to local bands.

Black Light Machine

Swansea's Black Light Machine play riff heavy metal with some progressive influences. However from the off it was clear that something was wrong as the band did sound a little out of sync, this may have been because of the lack of Chris Angelow's lead guitar which had been waylaid by some technical hitches, the sound engineer John valiantly tried to make BLM sound as good as possible through the trouble but ultimately the first two songs felt a little flat due to just having the one guitar. However when normality resumed the band continued with their riff driven metal. Frontman Andy Markin has a strong keening voice and lays down a functional rhythm on guitar that adds to the powerful rhythm section, however despite their prowess as a band a few of their songs did drag on a little too much, there is a fine line between progressive and boring. A good opening set that was plagued by some pretty major problems. 6/10


Another Swansea based band in the shape of Tidal who have groove laden classic hard rock that spans Led Zeppelin, Clutch and even throws in some funk and blues into the proceedings. The band stormed through songs from their debut album, whipping those that were near the front into some serious head-banging. The band are made of Adam Vaughn's guitar prowess melding light and shade, dirty riffs and soaring solos, the drums of Joe Wilkes were tight propulsive and in places deafening, through Caged Bird, Like The Wind and Beautiful Ugliness the band rarely let the pace drop except when needed and were driven by the ripping bass of man-mountain Joe Lewis and huge range of Adam Payne who has a cracking voice that can hit stratospheric high notes and also has some great stomping and leg shaking on the guitar solos and lead breaks. Their set was over in a flash and by the time The Tide was played the band had won over the crowd that were there with their excellent groove filled hard rock sound and great live performance that should be in arenas. 9/10

Attica Rage

Attica Rage have been doing the rounds for a few years now and have gathered a loyal cult following due to their relentless touring and no nonsense attitude. The band have the ethos of Lemmy and co which is; plug in, shut up and play Rock N Roll in its purest form, big dirty riffs, pounding rhythms, shouted vocals and bags of attitude. I know very little about the songs they played but what I could tell is that they were all big, heavy biker rock anthems, delivered with authenticity and gusto, that got the partisan crowd going, the set came from their three albums with a focus on their latest release 88 MPH and they built the set up to a great crescendo of their anthem Back To The Old School. The band were very professional and obviously honed from their years of touring meaning they had razor  sharp delivery but enough louche-ness to be an authentic hard rocking hard drinking band. Together Jonny, Ritchie, Stevie and Colin make a hell of a racket that is enough to get the heads banging and the fists pumping. They also do a heavy metal version of Crazy Horses which was very silly but still heavy as hell! 8/10 

Saturday 14 September 2013

Out Of The Beyond 28

So I haven't done one of these for a while but I've managed to pick up three great albums that many of you might have missed. So without further ado...

Morpheus Rising: Let The Sleeper Awake (2011)

Morpheus Rising are a British Rock band, from North Yorkshire, that bring a myriad of influences to the table covering NWOBHM, elements of prog and the post millennial metal of bands like Alter Bridge (most notably on opener Daylight). They have been supporting bands from the British prog circles with The Reasoning, Panic Room, despite this they are not a prog band, yes they have progressive influences but they are more hard rock/heavy metal inclined. After losing their original vocalist the creation of this album stalled until they were joined by Si Wright, who is a perfect fit with his muscular, burly scream that immediately grabs you with its power, range and uniqueness, at certain points he's Biff Byford and at others he's Graham Bonnet. Musically the band have killer dual guitar attack from Damien James Sweeting and Pete Harwood (who is pulling double duty as part of Panic Room) that has Messer's Smith and Murray written all over it, lots of syncopated dual riffage and killer solos that really sizzle from the fret board, they are backed by Paul Gibbons who smashes his kit with aplomb throughout and Mostly Autumn's Liam Smith on bass who does his best Steve Harris impression throughout and shows of his chops on Those Who Watch. The songs are amazing with the heavyweight title track stomping like Godzilla in a marching band, Lord Of The North which half inches the riff from Ozzy's No More Tears, the melodic Shades Of Grey which would be at home on one of last couple of Maiden albums, very progressive with thought provoking lyrics. This album is full of some top notch heavy metal, lots of light and shade, power and progressive prowess. It brings to mind the classics of Maiden and Priest and even Thin Lizzy on Fighting Man but mixes them with the modern influences to make this album an absolute cracker! 9/10

Sebastien: Tears Of White Roses (2010)

Sebastien are a Czech power metal band founded by vocalist/guitarist George Rain, he is aided by a crew of excellent musicians that play the kind of metal that Kamelot are the leaders at times heavy and dark and at others melodic and even romantic, Rain even sounds like Khan vocally. The rhythm keeps everything moving in the pacey numbers, the keys bring the hooks and the guitars shred and solo like mad with rain crooning over the top, however he is rarely alone, there are only three tracks where it is just Rain singing as this album is chock full of A-List power metal guests. First off on the instrument front we have Tore Moren from Jorn providing solo's on the opening track and Masterplan and ex-Helloween man Rowland Grapow ripping faces on Voices In Your Heart. However it’s on the vocal front that they really go for it the bewitching chanteuse Amanda Sommerville provides the duet vocals on Femme Fatale and the final track. Grapow too has the chance to show off his snarl on two tracks however its ex-Riot screamer Mike DiMeo and Rhapsody (Of Fire) crooner Fabio Lione that get the main roles featuring on two tracks each. All the vocals mix together well providing the album with a strong vocal track that is backed by the perfect power metal backing, see the Gothic organ on Dorian, or the epic stomp of Silver Water which has the mighty Apollo Papathanasio contributing his pipes. This is a very strong power metal debut a must for any fans of Kamelot or Serenity, or if you're just a power metal completest like me. 8/10 

Tidal: What Will Remain... (2012)

Tidal play riff heavy classic rock straight from the shores of South Wales!? Yes that's right Tidal bring American style hard rock to the valleys. This is the band’s debut album and it is really something special, its ballsy, funky, rocking and full of groove, the first four tracks give you everything you need with Lost In Thought putting the pedal to the floor early, before groove-laden Caged Bird shows off the incredible rhythm section of Joe Wilkes' powerhouse drumming and Joe Lewis' heavyweight bass riffs which also have the lead on the funky Beautiful UglinessCaged Bird also shows off the bands more progressive touches with an emotive middle section showing off the full light and shade of Adam Vaughn's guitar which soars, weeps and shreds throughout the album providing the horizon reaching instrumental intro Behind Closed Doors which is followed by the almost metallic Can't Turn Away. The band is finished off by the amazing vocals of Adam Payne who has a perfect hard rock voice. The band  have a myriad of styles in parts they are Soundgarden with a grunge like metal roar, in parts Zeppelin with a powerful hard rock delivery and they even have some Zep styles on the softer side like the acoustic Guilt Trip. The album crescendo's perfectly with two amazing tracks in the heavy metal sounding The Tide and Flowers On The Battle Field both of which end the album in very strong style. This is a great debut album full of strong muscular hard rock with a rich bottom end and some superb solos and vocals, well worth checking out if you want some high quality British rawk. 9/10

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Reviews: Black Spiders, Reckless Love, The Jokers

Black Spiders: This Savage Land (Dark Riders)

The Black Spiders have balls, massive brass balls that AC/DC sang about see Balls. They are the type of band that play during a bar fight, the type of band that bring a knife to a gunfight and win (they even say as much on Teenage Knife Gang). They are sleazy, punky and raw as hell ready to punch you in the mouth and then drink a case of beer (or the other way round). This is the band's second full length album and it much like its predecessor it grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go until you're a quivering mess. From the rip-snorting opening of Knock You Out which sums up what rock n roll is about, this moves into the punk spit in your eye attitude of Stick it To The Man. The band are all killer musicians but deliver the songs in a louche but amazingly focused style full of swagger but also substance. The three way guitar sound of frontman Pete Spiby, Andrew Lister and Mark Thomas is key to the band’s sound as it means they can add a lot of subtleties to their old school hard rock sound but the rhythm of Si Atkinson and Adam Irwin are determined to punch you in the guts. There is very little slow down, a band that don't really do ballads the nearest they get is the dreamy psychedelia of Put Love In It's Place but that breaks into a heavy chorus. However by and large this is another album of big, brash hard rock that Sabbath (Sleepy Demon), Motorhead (Trouble) and AC/DC (Raised By Wolves) did in their heyday but aimed at both their fans and the thousands of new fans discovering real hard rock. Black Spiders make no apologies and take no prisoners and they are all the better for it. 9/10  

Reckless Love: Spirit (Spinefarm)

Finland's Reckless Love are now onto their third album and they have continued to be the premier glam metal band who bring together all of the sounds of the 80's together in one place. From the guitar runs of Pepe who is part EVH part Mick Mars and can move from sleazy Sunset Strip riffs of Bad Lovin' or the crystalline AOR of Runaway Love. He is backed by the rhythm of Jalle and Hessu who show their mettle (or should that be metal?) on Metal Ass which has the hallmarks of Skid Row's Slave To The Grind. This is one of the major reasons I like Reckless Love as they are the sounds of an age distilled into one band but not a parody like Steel Panther, yes ok they do have their tongues in their cheeks on tracks like I Love Heavy Metal which is the band naming their influences to a Def Leppard style rhythm. Frontman Olli Herman has an excellent voice melding DLR (in looks and voice) and even has some Steve Perry in their in the ballads like Edge Of Our Dreams and the slow burning Hot Rain. Yes it's a dated sound but it's still fun and still very cool to listen to if you need a light relief and want to party. 7/10

The Jokers: Rock N Roll Is Alive (SPV)

The Jokers hail from the Northwest of England and it has been 5 years since their debut album hit the rock community with its bombastic brand of classic, hard and glam rock, the band were part Stones, part AC/DC, part T-Rex in one big rock and roll party. So after a long wait they have returned with their sophomore album and it moves the band more into a blues rock territory of early Zep and even Aerosmith. The album kicks off with the laidback rock of Silver City which wouldn't sound out of place coming out of a Cadillac on the Sunset Strip. The album has some cool riffs from guitarist Paul Hurst and bassist Simon Hurst, some brick house beats from drummer Chris Poole (who shows his prowess on the frenetic Night Driver) and the band have a diamond in vocalist Wayne Parry who sounds like a mix between Ian Gillan and Robert Plant especially on the title track which has some Page-like riffage and leads into the acoustic based Radio. Like I said the band are the epitome of a classic rock band full of bluesy riffs and swagger throughout and even though the glam influences of their debut are missing for the most part the band have made up for it with a lot of hard rocking songs filled with big hooks and tasty riffs and solos. The production to needs to be mentioned to as it's crystal clear and has a rich warm tone throughout. A band that draw on their influences rather than copy them The Jokers have created a very good follow up to their debut that will draw any fans of AC/DC with Let It Rock, Led Zeppelin with the title track and Free with Find My Way Home. If classic blues rock is your thing then you will love The Jokers who prove that British rock n roll is indeed alive! 8/10  

Saturday 7 September 2013

Reviews: Ashes Of Ares, Western Sand, Chelsea Wolfe

Ashes Of Ares: S/T (Nuclear Blast)

Ashes Of Ares is somewhat of a prog/power metal supergroup as it features ex-Nevermore stickman Van Williams on the skins and THE voice of Iced Earth Matt Barlow, together they are joined by ex-Iced Earth bass man Freddie Vidales who handles all of the strings on this record. So what does the album sound like I hear you ask? Well it's straight up old school metal with some heavy riffage that emulates the mighty Schaffer, pounding drums and Barlow's amazing multi-layered vocals, the man can roar, bellow and scream as well as anyone else but he can do it all at once in some songs. From the slow burning opener of The Messenger which also has some synth bass on it before the main riff kicks in forcing your head to bang, the album then picks up a gear and moves into the speed riffage of Move The Chains. The album moves between the mid-paced and the furious thrash style riffage, bringing to mind both Iced Earth and Nevermore with its use of light and shade bringing in acoustics on On Warrior's Wings and The Answer adding the progressive touches to the album. A good solid album that doesn't break the mould of these men's past bands but does continue in the same vein in fine style. One for any Nevermore/Iced Earth fan. 7/10

Western Sand: S/T (Self Released)

This is Western Sands debut E.P and it features 4 songs of blues influenced hard rock that has a lot in common with Brit rock heroes heaven's Basement and Voodoo Six. The band oozes swagger and sleaze on these 4 tracks that will see them in good stead when they support Black Star Riders at the end of the year. The band have a cool dual guitar attack from Jimmy Bradshaw and Tyler Hains that mixes dirt with some killer slide and a shed load of attitude especially on the guitar wig out on final track Welcome To The Badlands. Hains' smoky whisky soaked vocals providing the perfect voice for the bands hard rock attack. That's not to say the rhythm section of Finlay Hotchkiss and Nathan J Kay don't pull their weight especially on the cool rhythm break on Take It Away. The songs are really sparkle with just the right amount of hard rock riffage and old school blues which is mixed with some soul especially on the acoustic desert rock of Broken Bones which is part Bon Jovi, part Soundgarden. Like I said this is an impressive debut EP that shows a lot of promise for this hard rocking 4-piece and will go down a storm in the live arena. 8/10

Chelsea Wolfe (Sargent House)

Well this isn't really metal, nor is it rock but its dark enough to be included in this blog because it will bring a chill to the heart to the biggest of Manson fans. Yes this is some very dark brooding music filled with eerie synths, pounding drum patterns, rumbling D-bass and some slick-drone like guitar from Ms Wolfe herself. She doesn't stick to any particular genre, switching between brooding goth on the opener Feral Love, heavy industrial rock on House Of Metal which also features some black metal flourishes, as well as some creeping psychedelia and almost folk-trance on The Warden. All of the songs have Wolfe's haunting vocals on them that stir the deepest recesses of your soul and bring them to life with a melancholy that is usually only reserved for Joy Division. Through the album Wolfe and her band take you through a journey of 'idealistic love' that gets more disturbing as the album progresses, from the Muse like electronica of Sick to the percussive Reins and then the dark acoustic folk of They'll Clap When Your Gone before the building cacophony that is The Waves Have Come which adds layer upon layer in its 8 and a half minute run time. This is a real journey through music that brings together many genres all of which collide together to create an excellent album. 8/10   

Monday 2 September 2013

Reviews: Annihilator, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Haken

Annihilator: Feast (UDR)

The most recent album from Canada's premier thrash band is nothing new, it is technical, speed driven thrash with some absolutely stunning guitar work from main man Jeff Waters. However since their last self-titled album they have had somewhat of resurgence. This album continues where Annihilator left off with lots of slick guitar work from a man that has always provided top notch fret-wankery. However what sets this incarnation of the band head and shoulders above much of their other work are the vocals of frontman Dave Padden who has a hell of voice that can snarl on the speedy thrashy numbers like Deadlock, No Way Out and the political Smear Campaign, however he can also croon on the almost Trivium-like ballad Perfect Angel Eyes and Fight The World which shows that Water's is not all about the head crushing riffs and face melting solos. Most importantly it also shows that he is in touch with the new wave of bands coming out of metal as there is an abundance of old-school thrash riffs but much like the last two Testament albums and indeed those of Exodus or any in the 'second wave' of thrash, Waters is keeping his head above water and looking forward with tracks like the almost death metal sounding Demon Code and the almost funk-metal of No Surrender. The special edition includes an extra disc of re-recorded classics with Padden on vocals which I haven't heard but it should be a great introduction of the band's classic songs but with their new vocalist and modern production. A great album that has a couple of slower moments but it is mostly pure metal fury. 7/10

Tedeschi-Trucks Band: Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)

Both Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are successful solo artists in their idea of splitting their bands in half and touring as one band was first realised excellently on the debut album Revelator but it's on this second album that they really have brought their blues, rock, soul combo to its only logical evolution. With influences drawn from the gamut of roots music things kick off with the chicken pickin' title track that has an air of Clapton's Crossroads about it, this leads into soul-tinged country ballad of Do I Look Worried which has some delicious slide guitar, some great brass parps from the trio of Kebbi Williams (Sax), Maurice Brown (Trumpet) and Saunders Sermons (Trombone) and Susan Tedeschi's gospel trained vocals, she has a voice that could soothe the roughest soul and she steers the ship admirably with her heavenly voice and some smooth rhythm guitar which lets her husband pull off some fireworks in the lead guitar department, Derek Trucks weaves some guitar magic throughout every song peeling off solo after solo which makes you realise why Clapton picks him as a side man on his tours, he also alludes to his Allman Brothers membership on Idle Wind which has all of the acoustic picking and slide guitar workouts of Jessica. The album moves through genres with ease showing off the impressive band that back the husband and wife, the Hammond's and B3's of Kofi Burbridge are brought to the front on the funk filled Misunderstood which wouldn't sound out of place on a Stevie Wonder album, the drums too need to mentioned as both drummers (yes two) both work in perfect synchronicity and provide the perfect backbeat for the rest of the players, Part Of Me continues in this funk vibe with some (Nile Rodgers style) staccato guitar and some Motown harmony vocals from Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers. This another excellent album from Mr and Mrs Trucks which is a menagerie of some of the best American music styles, one for fans of Rock, R&B, Soul, Funk, Guitar workouts and just general great music. Go out and buy it! (Then buy the debut too) 9/10

Haken: The Mountain (InsideOut Music)

The UK's prog/rock/metal merchants are now on their third album of genre bending prog however this time The Mountain has more of a personal feel which is reflected in the rawer edge to the music on this record, the songs come together and build into a whole piece of stirring music that ebbs and flows throughout the album. Things start off slowly with the piano led The Path which is a slow burning opener that sets the tone for the new record admirably; it’s haunting and plaintive and shows off amazing soundscapes that the band creates even in their quieter moments. The Path leads (no pun intended) to second song Atlas Stone which again has the simply staggering keyboard progressions from Diego Tejeida and Richard Henshall, these strong keys are a major factor in Haken's sound and run through the album lifting the tracks to a higher level. However the keys aren't the overriding factor they work as part of a whole, the guitars of Charles Griffiths and Richard Henshall are intricate and in parts very heavy, Thomas MacLean's bass is also an incredible addition bringing the amazing jazz inflected rhythm patterns in tandem with Raymond Hearne's drums and lastly it’s the unique vocals of Ross Jennings that complete the band's sound. Like I said Atlas Stone starts things off properly with the piano-led intro which moves into a heavy djent like riff, off kilter bass and drums after the solo it moves into a jazz break and it's here that Haken show that they above and beyond a lot of the progressive act as in places the band are hard to listen to and have lots of intricate passages that move through jazz, rock, metal and lots of other odd sounds. The band can be seen at their most weird on Cockroach King. They show their electronic and Gregorian influence on Because It's There which leads into the 11 minute workout of Falling Back To Earth which is all light and shade. In parts this album is heavy in others it's ethereal, an album that is hard to describe but an absolute joy to listen to as it's only with repeated listens that it's jewels are revealed. 10/10