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Saturday 29 November 2014

Reviews: Neonfly, Axenstar, Yama

Neonfly: Strangers In Paradise (InnerWound)

Neonfly's first album Outshine The Sun is played often on my stereo so I was looking forward to their follow up and thankfully it is here and delivers what their debut did in spades and also improves on it greatly. Having witnessed the band supporting Dragonforce I was blown away by how great they are live and this bombastic, melodic heavy metal translates on to this second album. The multi-European crew bring, dual guitars galore from Patrick Harrington and Frederick Thunder, a hearty bass gallop from Paul Miller and some amazing drums from Boris La Gal. The band merge the classic metal of Maiden, the melodic metal of Firewind, the huge hooks of AOR, the baroque nature of Met Loaf and loads of technical progression all thrown into the mix. Highways To Nowhere is a great example of Neonfly at their best as it has huge modern sounding metal riff, a percussion driven Middle Eastern middle section, tight concise solos all of which is paired with some rapid fire vocals from Willy Norton to create a song to too dissimilar to Disturbed. However they can also deal with the pomp of AOR on Better Angels on which Norton shows off his excellent and somewhat unique set of pipes, the 80's sheen continues on the overwrought Bon Jovi-esque Rose In Bloom and indeed the entire album sounds like it could easily fit in that decade due to the production of  Pink Cream 69/Unisonic's Dennis Ward This album works through all types of music hoovering them up and adding them to the mix, the double header of Heart Of The Sun and Aztec Gold have a symphonic metal basis with some great keys from Gunter Werno and some great bass and drum work on the instrumental Aztec Gold. Before being plunged into the war on the Dragonforce-like Fierce Battalions and the rampaging Chasing The Night before the album ends with the firelight acoustic balladry of Falling Star which is pure cheesy but is an uplifting climax to this excellent album of glossy, crunchy melodic metal that will appeal to a wide audience. If you love some excellent songwriting, powerful tracks and a huge mix of ideas thrown into the pot then Neonfly could be your new favourite band. 9/10    

Axenstar: Where Dreams Are Forgotten (Inner Wound)

Swedish power metal, it's nearly always a by-word for quality, not necessarily invention but quality nonetheless. Axenstar started plying their brand of power metal in 1998 (as Powerage before changing to Axenstar in 2001) and now they are on album number six (I do sometimes wish I lived in the middle of the EU so I didn't find these bands so late). As the rapid fire drumming kicks of Fear all bets are off this is Euro power metal at its most bombastic, the guitars soar and Magnus Wintefield provides the bottom end, the keys and the strong European vocal style. With nods to Sonata, Dragonland and countrymen Hammerfall fans of Power metal will eat this up as the songs gallop like a band of wild horses, the vocals are emotive with choirs galore, the solos burn up the fret board, the keys are tasteful and understated and the album rarely gives you a break from the madness songs like My Sacrifice (thankfully not a Creed cover), the drum heavy Curse Of The Tyrant, the thrashy stomp of Greed and the Maidenesque The Reaper Axenstar really show off their power metal credentials, they a definitely a band that have been doing this for a long time indeed and as I've said the album doesn't slow down until the mid paced Sweet Farewell which is a very modern sounding track with a cracking choir in the chorus and a chugging middle eight that builds into a solo any power metal fan would get excited by. As with many genres of metal these days Sweden seems to be the place to be at the moment, but they do seem to excel at power metal and Axenstar are no exception to that rule; strong songs, great playing and a big heaving whack of fist pumping metal tuneage. 8/10

Yama: Ananta (Lighttown Fidelity)

Big sledgehammer grooves from Tilburg, NL now with Yama's debut album. As the tile track swaggers in with cocksure stoner riff the scene is set for a album of bluesy, grungy, doomy metal with a narcotic haze. Yama are named after the Verdic God Of Death and their songs are the sound of of aural deafening in the style of former tour mates  Orange Goblin, Graveyard and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Anchor Of Time is bass heavy and rumbles along with aplomb, things slow down on the psych influenced Hollow which sounds just that with it's reverbed guitar which starts things off before crashing into the heavy middle section, but it still keeps things mid-paced with it's swirling riffs, the shadow of the blues comes a looming on the mouth harp driven Ruach Elohim. The four men in this band obviously know their roles inside out the drums drive the rhythm in conjunction with the big low end, the riffs come with big layers of thickness and the vocals shout and snarl on top of the aural assault. Over these eight songs Yama have constructed an album full of fist pumping rock anthems that will get heads nodding, beers drunk and weed smoked like salmon. If you like huge slabs of stoner rock with a grungy underbelly Yama will be right up your street. 7/10 

Thursday 27 November 2014

Reviews: The Tea Party, Benjamin Booker, Goat

The Tea Party: The Ocean At The End (InsideOut)

The Canadian originators of Moroccan roll have returned with their first album since 2004 (not to be confused with the right wing American political movement) . After their previous release the band all but gave up citing creative differences which led to frontman Jeff Martin's solo career and eventual downfall due to his extra curricular activities. The band seemingly buried the hatchet in 2011 reforming with their three original members all returning to the fold, most importantly Martin and drummer Jeff Burrows both of whom were the reason for the initial implosion. This reformation has led to a new album and thankfully very little has changed in The Tea Party camp, the band still merge, prog, rock and middle eastern influenced music flawlessly with Martin supplying guitar, sitar and a multitude of instruments and Stuart Chatwood handling bass, keys and again a plethora of instrumentation much of it coming from the Middle East, all these instruments are anchored by Burrows who is no slouch himself using drums, tabla etc to drive the songs along. Things kick off with The L.O.C which is sonically similar to fellow countrymen Rush albeit with Martin's sonorous baritone rumbling over the top of it, The Black Sea comes next and is a heavier track but still has the Middle Eastern flavour, something that continues on Cypher which also ramps up the prog stakes with it's big synths and off kilter rhythm straight into the airy electronica of Brian Eno's The Maker which shows off Martin's emotive vocal. It's a case of business of as usual for this virtuoso band as the songs move through various genres from progressive rock the title track, hard rock on The Cass Corridor, electronica on the industrial Submission as well as working through indie rock, soul, funk and of course their trademark Middle Eastern flavour see The 11th Hour. Black Roses is a countrified, shanty, Brazil has the percussive yet dark and political message built on Burrows drums and Martin's distorted guitars. The Tea Party are definitely back with a vengeance on The Ocean At The End this eighth album reaffirm the band as one of the most innovative and indeed exciting bands around. If you like your music intelligent, progressive and very competent then you need this in your life. 10/10         
Benjamin Booker: S/T (Rough Trade)

25 year old Benjamin Booker hails from Virginia and when he was younger he moved to Tampa Florida where he was involved with the the D.I.Y punk scene. This influence is paramount in Bookers debut album which is lo-fi, garage, blues with an attitude. Violent Shiver kicks you in the teeth as it starts the album with punk guitar stabs mixing with the  tumbling drums and Bookers superb howl screaming the lyrics at full force. For a debut album this is very accomplished Booker is a great guitar player relying more on the rhythm than the firework soloing of modern blues men like Gary Clarke Jr. and Joe Bonamassa, that's not to say he is a slouch or indeed adversed to some fret bending, he can still chuck in the odd lead break and solo; see Chippewa. In fact for the most part Booker has a lot in common with the modern main man of garage blues Jack White (a former tour mate of Booker's). For the most part Booker plays with a punk rock snarl and stabbing his guitar violently, but he can also slow down on Slow Coming and I Thought I Heard You Coming, he brings in some hip shaking R&B on Have You Seen My Son? which features a drum solo and moves seamlessly into the organ drenched country of Spoon Out My Eyeballs. He also adds the 70's rock vibe of Happy Homes before returning to the explosive blues finale of By The Evening. The myriad of influences on this record means that it is never boring or stagnant, which does do a lot to set Booker apart from the many garage blues propagators around at the moment, the songs are immediate, punchy and played with a real fire. A great debut album from this young man who has a huge career ahead of him. 8/10

Goat: Commune (Sub Pop)

Swedes Goat are not strictly metal but I think they will appeal to any fans of powerful music. The band play experimental music fusing hard rock, world music and psychedelia endowed with a sense of power that many heavy bands don't possess. The bands music is pulsating, percussion driven psych rock that will take the band and the listener on a journey and will help them reach a higher plane of conciousness (or something). Commune is a perfect name for this record as it is the type of music that would be played in a bazaar or in the presence of the Maharishi, this is a musical journey that at it's core is the kind of voodoo psych that the 60's was made of. the band themselves are an enigma as they wear colourful costumes and masks and as yet have not revealed their identities (going by names only); with the two female vocalists who's echoed chants are backed by the reverb drenched guitar, funk laden bass work and overarching percussion that is at the core of their sound. The trippy, hallucinogenic music is punctuated by the occasional spoken word piece that gives breathing room between the freak outs, however despite the louche, lucid almost liquid natural nature of the music and possibly even because of it; the band are all clearly top drawer musicians moving between the frantic driving delivery of Talk To God and Goatslaves, the Nick Cave goes funk of Goatchild and the hippy trail serenity of To Travel The Path Unknown. As I've said the power behind this album is very strong, the percussion particularly is fantastic, it draws you in and helps you just enjoy the vibe the band are trying to create, this is not the kind of album that will have hit singles and it is indeed hard to mark out individual songs. Commune is a collection of music that winds its way around your mind and takes you on a journey, that sounds like a cliché but when music has the power to move you like this then really it's the only way to describe it, I can only imagine what this band are like in a live setting with their propulsive music merging with their dervish of colours and movement, I hope I can see it soon! For now though I'm giving the record another spin, I urge all music lovers to do the same!! 9/10        

Another Point Of View: Skindred (Review by Stief, with contributions by Nicola and general ramblings by Rhod)

Skindred, The Globe

After a quick drink in the Pear Tree with our designated driver, Nic and our designated drinker, Rhod, we headed down the road to what seems to now be a frequent haunt for the Musipedia crew, The Globe for a night of English, Polish and pure welsh metal.

Feral Sun

Starting the night off is London based Hard Rock band Feral Sun. Although playing to a small crowd, the quartet seem to enjoy the atmosphere nonetheless. Their slow-to-medium heavy rock, chugging riffs seem to be a strange fit considering the headliners of this gig, but their sound is pretty much solid. Mick Burns' voice (which, although good, doesn't jump out), Alex Nikitin's heavy bass riffs paired with Marco lo Coco's guitar gives a good steady flow to the beginning of the night  The highlight of the band however is drummer Jay Stephenson, whose expressions range from determined to pure happiness, showing he's there to have fun and play music. 6/10


Next up is Chemia from Poland...or Isengard as lead singer Łukasz Drapała keeps telling us. Much like Feral Sun, Chemia start off with heavy riffage, sounding very much like a lesser Grand Magus at points. This isn't a bad thing, however, as Łukasz's singing sounds just shy of JB Christofferson's soulful voice. As they continue through their set, Chemia pick up the pace with each song building with tempo, getting the crowd pumped up for the headliners. Having already played Hard Rock Hell earlier in the month, I'd say Chemia are a band to look out for. 7/10


Not many bands can get away with using two songs to introduce themselves, but Newport's Skindred are one that are exempt. After pumping the crowd up with AC/DC's Thunderstruck in its entirety, the band file on stage to a remixed Imperial March, with the crowd going haywire at the sight of front-man and all around snazzy dresser, Benji Webbe. Adorned in a white top hat, dyed white Jacket and white sunglasses, he immediately tears into Rat Race. Throughout their entire set, Skindred keep it going with Benji giving no quarter to the Cardiff crowd, letting us know exactly how he feels about sub-par responses to Cardiff chants and lack of dancing. Benji's vast vocal range is backed up by the excellent musicianship of his fellow band members, Mikey Demus' guitars, Arya Goggin's drums and Dan Pugsley's bass relentless in their attack on the crowd's ears. Songs from this year's Kill The Power are mixed with classics such as Pressure and Destroy The Dancefloor, the night ending with crowd favourite Warning. We're even treated to a few remixes over the night, the first being Macklemore's Thrift Shop,which is interwoven with Metallica's Sad But True and Skindred's own Trouble, which the band blast into afterwards. However two major highlights of the night occur towards the end of the night, the first being a singalong of Slipknot's Duality which breaks unexpectedly into a huge, heavy drop halfway through. The second highlight of the night is a Christmassy singalong of McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime with a personal spin on the lyrics by Benji. Overall a blistering set and as we file out of the venue, there's not a single frown to be seen. 10/10

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Reviews: In This Moment, Bloodbound, Celestial Decay

In This Moment: Black Widow (Atlantic Records)

In This Moment are totally unrecognisable from the band they were 7 years ago, gone are the American metalcore, band fronted by a shy female singer with a great voice but who seemed naive in the face of the music industry. As they evolved their sound, getting more melodic elements along with their trademark heaviness, culminating in 2012's Blood which was a industrial flavoured, stomping metal album that melded big metal anthems with melodic sensibilities and frontwoman Maria Brink's newfound confidence and liberation. She became every inch a rock Goddess on that album using her supreme vocals and an almost animalistic sexuality to eat up and spit out any other band that wants to fuck with them. Black Widow has the same producer as Blood (Kevin Churko) and stays in the same vein as the previous effort. There is atmosphere in the intro taking in ITM's (and Brink's especially) penchant for the dramatic before the pulsing electronics kick in as Sex Metal Barbie starts things off in real modern style with the industrial song starting the album with Brink almost speaking her vocals and crooning on the chorus. The music as usual is all the work of Chris Howorth who provides the guitars and is the silent partner to Brink's OTT image. Big Bad Wolf is a little more straight forward maintaining the industrial theme, before Dirty Pretty has to be a lost Marilyn Manson song before things slow down on Sexual Hallucination which features Brent Smith from Shinedown and is a sexually charged duet. Brink's voice is truly unique and she effortlessly switches from singing to screaming like a demon and she is complimented by the bouncy riffs of Howorth and co. All the songs on this album ooze sex, violence and empowerment in equal measure. Since their last album and indeed their last tour (which tried to out prop both Messrs Cooper and Zombie) In This Moment have reinvented themselves as a modern metal tour-de-force providing the missing link between Lady Gaga and Rammstein (in fact that would be a hell of a tour package). 8/10         

Bloodbound: Stormborn (AFM)

I first witnessed Swedes Bloodbound at Bloodstock and their brand of cheesy power metal left me banging my head and smiling like a loon. Their music is very feel good with songs about fantasy and metal (and that's about it) throughout, meaning that they are as cheesy as fondue however when the songs are played by a band with some serious chops you know they are not a joke. Stormborn is the bands sixth album and it kicks off with Satanic Panic (which I will admit brought a snigger) on which the band starts as they mean to go on with rampaging speed/power metal with speedy dual guitars riffs from Tomas and Henrik Olsson, blasting drums from Pelle Åkerlind, the big keys of Fredrik Bergh and vocals from Patrik "Pata" Johansson that are part Halford part Hammerfall, part Sabaton. From here the pace rarely lets up with Iron Throne having chanted gang vocals, Nightmares From The Grave has a swaggering delivery and really emphasises the bands power metal roots until things slow up with the sledgehammer march of the title track which is pure Sabaton with it's huge keyboard stabs throughout, in fact the spirit and sound of their Swedish brethren looms large on this record as fans of there brand of epic power metal will really get a kick out of this album with it's big synths, gang shouts and powerful metallic anthems. Things pick back up on the classic metal styling's of We Raise The Dead before everything goes all Grand Magus on Made Of Steel which has the chorus "Made of metal, made of steel" and gave me a smile a mile wide! Then everything goes super speed again from then on with Blood Of My Blood before Anders Broman's bass drives the brooding When The Kingdom Will Fall. Stormborn is yet another great entry into Bloodbound's power metal legacy. 8/10  

Celestial Decay: Quantum X (The Music Alliance)

More Swedish power metal but this time with an emphasis on the symphonic, Celestial Decay is made up of guitarists' Hobbe Houshmand and Freddy Olofsson and they bring together a group of musicians to create this album of symphonic, progressive, power metal that is part Blind Guardian, part Rhapsody Of Fire, and on Enlightened they have the sugary elctro-pop sound of Amaranthe (who's Andreas Solveström provides the screams). This is a cinematic musical journey playing to all the session players strengths with two drummers sharing the tracks they both have the pacey and powerful style favoured by the genre, the bassists both show their metal anchoring the rhythm so Olofsson and Houshmand can show off with some neo-classical guitar wankery. As I previously mentioned there are screamed vocals but the major vocals come from unmistakeable Aeon Zen front man Andi Kravljaca which means that the band share similarities with the British mob as they blend prog and power effortlessly see tracks like Ashes Of Decay for the faster, heavier side but equally on Power Of Will they show how well they can deal with slower more romantic songs (and also throw in the odd heart stopping epic solo). This album is a real journey and earlier I mentioned that it has a cinematic feel and the metal combined with the orchestral elements topped with Kravljaca's emotive and adaptive vocals, the album also flows like a film building in it's latter half into more complicate compositions including a metallic cover of Total Eclipse Of The Heart which leads into the stunning Final Symphony. Sometimes bands like this can get a little lost in their own virtuosity Celestial Decay don't they write strong songs with passion, melody and incredible skill. 8/10

Saturday 22 November 2014

Reviews: Foo Fighters, Nickelback, Sister Sin

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (RCA)

The Foo Fighters have gone through an interesting career, starting as almost a Nirvana offshoot, they have now overtaken Nirvana in terms of popularity and recognition eight albums into their career and The Foo's seem to be in a position where they can do whatever they want; their previous album Wasting Light saw them turn into a five piece and expanded their musicianship a lot as it was a very organic record drawing from their influences. Sonic Highways then carries on this audio experimentation as the album is an accompanying piece to a documentary which sees Grohl travelling around America taking in the music of those cites. Grohl wrote all the music for the songs after the visit to each city and then recorded the vocals later taking lines from the interviews he conducted. So a difficult recording process then but how does that translate to the album itself, each track is representative of a city so it is eight cities, eight tracks starting with Something For Nothing (Chicago IL) which has a echoing opening and turns into a stomping blues piece with a little bit of funk in the middle with guitar by Rick Nielsen, next up is Feast And The Famine (Arlington, VA) which is snotty punk rock featuring members of Scream (Grohl's first real band). Congregation (Nashville, TN) which definitely evokes the spirit of Country with it's uplifting message and jangly guitar lines, while also staying true to the Foo Fighters sound. Things get a little more soulful on What Did I Do?/God As My Witness (Austin, TX) with a really rocking track with some big guitar riffs from Texan Gary Clarke Jr. and a real change of pace in the final part. The album is a little disjointed but for the most part the songs are strong enough to stand on their own, one of the best is Outside (Los Angeles, CA) which features Mr California himself Joe Walsh on guitars. As the album draws to a close the songs we get the excellent Subterranean which is a laid back paen to his adopted home before we get the finale of I Am A River  (New York, NY) which is a swelling ballad on which Grohl sings his heart out. Overall this is another solid album of arena baiting rock music aimed at a wide audience, but Sonic Highways shows that Grohl and his band can now do whatever they want to and Sonic Highways is a testament to a band unafraid to whatever they want. 8/10     

Nickelback: No Fixed Address (Republic)

Are Nickelback the most hated band in the world? Well some would say yes, but I've always had a soft spot for Mr Kroeger and co but it seems even his long term supporters are casting him adrift as this is the first album not on their long term label Roadrunner, they are now on Republic home to  Amy Winehouse, Akon, Lil Wayne, Nelly, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Lorde, Drake, Lil Wayne, Weezer and Enrique Iglesias to name a few, so not a step down really but a shrewd marketing step; cast off the hardcore rockers and pitch yourself to the manstream. But I digress No Fixed Address is Nickelback's eighth album and as such it is the sound of a band with nothing to prove, they don't care what people think. From the bass led punch of A Million Miles An Hour which is a thumping rocker to start proceedings straight into the government baiting Edge Of A Revolution which has a chanting clarion cry chorus, cue mass gang shouts. So here is where things start to get a bit weird, What Are You Waitng For? is a typical Nickleback ballad but features some chart style synths in the background (it is also the first song co written by rapper Jacob Kasher), She Keeps Me Up is almost Stevie Wonder mixed with Maroon 5 style funk with Kroeger trying his hand at rapid fire rhymes and duetting with a female almost Rhianna-like singer. The most jarring track on the album is Got Me Runnin' Round which features rapper Flo-Rida doing his trademark stuff on a song laced with horns. So a bit of a weird one this there are some classic Nickelback-style songs, a lot of ballads mainly with very few rockers but most of all there are just too many songs that are a bit too poppy, meaning that this album is very disappointing especially when compared to their last album and their mid 2000's heyday. Many may have thought Nickelback sold out years ago, I never did, I always thought they were a rock band that have appealed to the mainstream however unfortunately this album reeks of a sell out. 2/10
Sister Sin: Black Lotus (Victory)

Sister Sin are one of theses bands that have been on my periphery, having seen a bit of them at Bloodstock I was impressed enough to give this latest album a spin. Sister Sin hail from Sweden and as such they play old school, leather clad heavy metal straight out of the 1980's with the banshee like vocals from Liv Jagrell echoing Warlock, the Teutonic axe attack of Accept,  the bouncy hard rock of former tour mates Lordi. Jagrell's vocals are scarred and raw but they fit the music perfectly with bass gallop, stun gun riffs and pounding drums. Au Revoir has the same metallic swing as Grand Magus, Desert Queen is a doomier feeling song with some big organs augmenting it. This is Sister Sin's fifth album and it continues in the same old school style they have played on their last four albums but this doesn't mean that this album is repetitive in fact far from it Count Me Out is a orchestral backed hard rocker and The Jinx is straight out of the Halestorm song book (Jagrell sounds a lot like Lzzy vocally actually). Sister Sin are a great little band from Sweden that play some top quality metallic hard rock. Well worth checking out if you like your metal with a female bite to it. 7/10 

Reviews: Ancient VVisdom, Pain Of Salvation, Cavalera Conspiracy (Reviews By Paul)

Ancient VVisdom: Rise Of An Ancient Evil (Prosthetic)

Texan outfit Ancient VVisdom have been plying their dark material for several years, with their 2011 debut A Godlike Inferno virtually all acoustic but having some of the most sinister undertones around. What struck me at the time was how demonic the band could sound, much of this due to the clarity of the vocal delivery of Nathan Opposition. The construction of their songs was complex and yet straightforward, acoustic riffs combining with the percussion and bass. Their latest release, Rise Of An Ancient Evil builds on the debut and their last release, Deathlike. With a heavier guitar sound chugging away throughout the album, the Sabbath influence oozes throughout. However, as well as the guitar work of Michael Jochum and Justin Mason, there are several other musical comparisons, most notably the melodic yet eerie delivery of Ghost. The title track opens the album before the distinctive acoustic guitar of Mason leads into Chaos Will Reign, Jochum’s electric riff kicking in. Blood Offering is possibly the outstanding track on the album, a colossal doom laden dirge, with Opposition’s melancholic tones underlying the heavy satanic themes that are the staple lyrical themes of the Ancient VVisdom stable.
 As the album progresses, the darkness increases; The Devil's Work needs no explanation, grinding guitar work and homage to the dark one continuing, underlined with a healthy dollop of groove and melody. Ancient VVisdom’s lyrical focus is on one subject and they do it well.  Blind Leading The Blind maintains the momentum, leading to the downright rifftastic doom-laden Worm Ridden Skull (great title), which really takes a massive scoop of Sabbath guitar and crunches on the back of your neck. And so it continues throughout, huge riffs, pounding bass lines and Old Nick as the subject matter. Opposition’s vocals fit ideally with the monster sound that the band generate, melancholic and angst ridden. By the time you arrive at the penultimate track, City Of Stone, you've kind of heard it all and are beginning to think that their approach is slightly formulaic but suddenly they change the tempo slightly, sludgy guitars with a couple of brief solos cutting through the mist. Album closer Higher Into The Black Flames opens acoustically before crashing riffs bring a decent album to a fitting close. Definitely worth a listen, VVisdom have built on their two opening albums to deliver another work worthy of an audience with the Devil himself. 8/10

Pain Of Salvation: Falling Home (InsideOut)

Well, if the Devil has all the best tunes, he may well wonder what the fuck to make of this album. I first saw Pain Of Salvation a few years ago supporting Opeth in Birmingham. Their progressive tinged indie and gothic fusion of rock was enjoyable to watch and listen to and I picked up a couple of their albums to follow up.  However, I've not followed them with much intent although I realise that this is a band who stretch boundaries with each release. Falling Home is their first album since 2011’s Road Salt Part 2 and it’s a reworking of several of their songs in an acoustic setting, something that they have wanted to do for some time. Full of jazz, funk and reggae elements, Daniel Gildenlöw’s outfit ramble their way through some of their previous works. It certainly takes a few listens to get your head around. Opening track Stress has shades of Zappa, whilst the reworked Linoleum echoes the purple one, Prince with a deliciously weighted duet. The progressive side of the band reveals itself on To The Shoreline, with some deeply crafted harmonies, oscillating time changes and almost a country rock feel to parts of it (at one point I thought it was going to merge into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!).
 And then comes the track that has divided opinion on social media; the lounge room cover of Dio’s Holy Diver, which I have to admit is so smooth I thought it was Richard Cheese on first hearing before it morphs into the reggae breakdown halfway through. This is a brave move, given the reverence that RJD has been held in since his death. I've listened to it several times and I can't quite make my mind up about whether I like it or not. It’s not offensive and it certainly is more original than the highly rated KSE version. Maybe this is one which really is reliant on each listener to make their own mind up! 1979 highlights the keyboard quality of Daniel Karlsson and is a slow burner that increases into a rather pleasant meander with some quality guitar playing from Gildenlöw and Ragnar Zolberg. Long serving bassist Gustaf Hielm and drummer Léo Margarit comprise the rest of POS and they kick into action on Chain Sling, one of the favourites amongst the die hards. One new track, Falling Down completes an eclectic package which has ignited some strong opinions. As someone who is not massively familiar with the back catalogue of Daniel Gildenlöw, it is a rather relaxing album with some very accomplished acoustic works. If you are a diehard POS fan, I'm sure you have a different take on it all together. I like it. 7/10

Cavalera Conspiracy: Pandemonium (Napalm)

Well, if you want to be hit by the biggest truck in the world, step out in front of this bad boy. Kicking off at 150mph with Bablyon Pandemonium, the Cavalera brothers appear intent on destroying all in their path. Max stated in his recent autobiography that he wanted to get back to the heaviest ways he knew and this is one hell of a statement of intent. Hammering drums from Iggor, wailing guitars and vocals that sound like oompa loompas on speed. Three and a half minutes after the opening salvo, it’s time to catch one last breath before it starts again with the hysterical Bonzai Kamikazee; I think this got past 150mph to be honest but my head was pinned against the wall at the time so I can’t be sure. A demonic bass line from Johny Chow leads into the mind stomping Scum. A swift change of intro to Apex Predator explodes into an all-out race to get to the end of the track. Not Losing The Edge provides a welcome return to the old-school Sepultura/Soulfly that Max has patented and destroyed with over the years. This one has a massive hook and the slightly slower pace for their first few minutes is a welcome change amidst the all-out charging. And basically, that’s how it is for the entire album. Massive sound, swirling guitars from Max and the ever faithful Marc Rizzo who adds some vicious fretwork, head crushing drumming from Iggor, frantic direction and time changes combined with the usual guttural snarling and straightforward chant your nuts off choruses from Max. It’s no-nonsense in your face thrashing metal. If you like it hard, fast and totally aggressive, have a punt on this. You won’t be disappointed. If they tour, people will lose limbs in this pits. If you have a hangover or a nervous disposition, stay the fuck away. This will damage you. Permanently. 8/10

Friday 21 November 2014

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Temperance Movement (Review By Paul)

The Temperance Movement, Bristol

Following a hard weekend of some excellent quality classic rock and metal at Hard Rock Hell, a quiet night would have been welcome for some of your intrepid reviewers. However, because we are plain stupid, a mere four hours after getting back home, Matt and I (accompanied by Mrs H) were off to Bristol for another viewing of one of the most exciting live bands that the UK has produced for a long time.

Support band Raglans (7), disappointingly from Ireland and not the dirty ‘Port, were the second support act up (apologies to the openers but we were in the Hatchet). Delivering pretty standard indie style rock, they received a good reception from the already heaving Academy crowd. Energetic and enthusiastic, Raglans sounded rather generic to me but I'm probably not the most well placed to rate such a band. Mrs H appeared to enjoy them, and she knows a bit about indie.

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to see TTM twice in three days. Their sets back in April and early May oozed class and energy, as they worked through a set that comprised mainly tracks from their self-titled debut which had been finely polished in the live arena as a result of the endless touring that new bands have to do these days. Both of those gigs were special, with large crowds and massively enthusiastic responses. Having been holed up in Rockfield for several weeks, this gig was a bit more of a challenge for them. It was the start of another short tour and that difficult period in the career prior to the new album release where unfamiliar material has to stand shoulder to shoulder with the established songs in the live arena and hold up.

Well, I'm happy to report that TTM managed to dovetail their set splendidly, with a generous helping of new material (including a beautiful closing track) sandwiched in between some of their superb debut songs.  TTM picked a balanced set, ensuring that frontman Phil Campbell could deliver in his usual energetic style delivery, whirling around the stage like a dervish in the manner he has made his own. Decked out in leather coat, shades and Cossack hat, he sensibly had the lyrics for the new songs on a stand at the front of the stage although I'm not convinced he looked at them more than to change to the next song. The new stuff, as you’d expect, didn't quite have the smoothness of their earlier material, but demonstrated a more thoughtful, layered and textured level of composition; the creative juices are obviously flowing well within the band and they've been allowed to move away from the immediacy that any debut album has to have. Of course, they still have to deliver the goods on the older stuff and they did that all right. Midnight Black, Only Friend, Be Lucky and Take It Back got the crowd bouncing whilst the delicate strains of Smouldering and Chinese Lanterns slowed the pace at appropriate junctures.

TTM is not just Phil Campbell of course, and the rest of the band really does provide the musical support that allows him to lead from the front.  Technically, TTM is as good as anything that is around these days, with their combination of The Faces, Stones and Black Crowes style attracting a wide cross section in the audience.  Earlier in the year I felt that the band was on the verge of getting almost mainstream appreciation. Now I am convinced of it. Their next album is likely to climb high in the charts and I would not be surprised if the next time we get the opportunity to see them it will be in venues substantially bigger than the O2 Academy. Their end of year tour will be followed by their first venture to the USA, supporting another big favourite of the Musipedia crew, Blackberry Smoke on a tour I would kill to witness. At this stage, the world is there for the taking. Once again, something special and a pleasure to be present. 9/10

Thursday 20 November 2014

Reviews: I.N.C, Sleeping Pulse, Morning Dwell

I.N.C: Black Hearse Serenade (Rising Records)

I.N.C stands for Indestructible Noise Command and that really is all you need to know, the band from Bridgeport Connecticut are old school thrash with some leanings towards the extreme side of things, the band originally broke up in 1988, but they built up enough funds to finance themselves without record company help and reformed in 2010. Black Hearse Serenade is their second album since their reformation and serves up a big heaving slab of intelligent thrash metal that bursts at the seams stretching the genre to its furthest point. The album is a concept album  "Set in Southern California, about a broken man, his congregation of runaways, junkies and lost souls and a murderous path to finality. A childhood filled with embarrassment and shame, born of religious zealotry and an overbearing mother, that broken child has now become a man." A real near the knuckle experience then with the story being backed by some razor wire riffs, machine gun drums and vocals that would make Anselmo quake in his boots, in fact think a thrashier Pantera and you wouldn't be far off this albums sound; especially on the groove filled Sainted Sinners which turns into Cyanide & Whiskey which funnily enough sounds like Down with it's big beatdown verses. The music in this album is a veritable mix of thrash, Southern rock and a heap of attitude all topped with sterling musicianship ; see The Lies We Devour guitar fans and some nice snarling vocals which turn to a solemn croon on the final track the atmospheric Love Like Napalm. I haven't heard much of I.N.C but this album is testament to their ability and most of all one that will get heads banging throughout. 8/10  

Sleeping Pulse: Under The Same Sky (Prophecy)

Sleeping Pulse are a two person project from Michael Moss from Liverpudlian dark, progressive band Antimatter and Portugeuse multi-instrumentalist Luís Fazendeiro. Moss has the same, unmistakable sonorous crooning vocal that has been heard in Antimatter for all these years and he uses it to full effect on this record of anthemic, multi-layered, genre splicing piece of dark progressive music that sits alongside Anathema (who's former bassist formed Antimatter with Moss) and even Katatonia in terms of pulsating intelligent rock music that has melodic guitars and a dark electronic back beat that Antimatter fans will recognise. Lyrically the album has semi concept based on "The abysses of the human soul and grounds his lyrics on an elaborate concept about sociopathic manipulation" so high concept indeed, the complicated and indeed sinister nature of the lyrics are reflected in the music. The tribal Gagging Order is in direct contrast to the raw, acoustic beauty of Backfire which is bolstered by some beautiful string work and shows off Fazendeiro's guitar work in it's solo. Many may think that this album is a bit to 'light' and for those that like metal and rock with a bit of grunt yes this hasn't got 90mph riffs and breakdowns but it has a heaviness in both a musical and emotional sense with down tuned guitars (Noose), dark atmospherics (The Puppeteer), haunting ambience (War) and Moss's vocal work all combine to provide this album a real sense of bleakness but with a hint of light on the horizon with the final title track. Yes the album is dark, brooding and in parts miserable but it seems to reflect some parts of life. If you want instant madness then go elsewhere if you want something with understated beauty try this. 9/10

Morning Dwell: S/T (Doolittle Group)

Sweden's Morning Dwell do more than draw on their influences they downright copy them; the Intro is from Holst Mars:Bringer Of War which is, as you will all know the opening strains of Am I Evil? This moves straight into Unlock All The Doors which has the same rapid fire delivery of bands like Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and most importantly Helloween. In fact they are almost exactly alike with fast paced guitars, blast beat drumming and lightning keyboard riffs throughout. This is Ecliptica, Visions and even Keeper Of The Seven Keys territory especially on Orange Moped. The music is fine, very generic but fine the solos are great the songs are strong but they are let down a little by Petter Hjerpe's vocals, he can hit the highs excellently and the lows too see the heaviest track on the album Predator, but his mid range is a bit sketchy meaning that he can sometimes be a little off key, the production too lets them down, it is very tinny and is most noticeable on the drums which are very trebley. The band do have some good songs on this album but pick of the bunch are The Pirate Song is a bit mad, the rampaging and cheesy as hell The Gatekeeper and the slightly epic The Story Never Ends which takes us back to The Keeper Of The Seven Keys territory. A good album let down by the lack of creativity and the issues previously mentioned, if you are a power metal obsessive then pick it up, if not then you may be a bit disappointed. 5/10  

Wednesday 19 November 2014

A View From North Wales: Hard Rock Hell

Hard Rock Hell, Hafan-Y-Mor Park, Pwllheli

The five-ish hour drive to Hafan-Y-Mor is always a good run with friends and stopping at The Sportsman's in Porth Madog for the finest pub sandwich I've ever had along with some locally made ale (which we duly stocked up on at the brewery) was a great idea by Mr H who was driving and using is knowledge of the area to make sure everything went swimmingly. After buying all the bacon and cider we could then we finally set off on the final leg of the journey to the hallowed ground of Haven. Check in was at 4pm and we arrived duly at 3:59, before joining the queue to get our pack and then on to finding our Caravan (yes folks no tents here) and unloading. After this it was time for some drinks before heading into the arena for do what we came to do; watch some fine rock music.


Midnight Messiah

First up were Midnight Messiah comprised of former members of NWOBHM also-rans Elixir, these two men were the leather clad, silver fox Paul Taylor, who has the best hair this side of Biff Byford and sunglasses wearing axe slinger Phil Denton. They were the writing team in Elixir and to be honest MM sound like Elixir they are bouncy, competent classic metal with dual guitars, coming from Denton and wunderkid Dave Strange, the bass gallop of Alex Machell and metronomic drumming of Darren Lee. With some good songs getting heads nodding and fists pumping MM were the perfect opening to this festival for the drinking masses gathered there. Nothing special but a band I'd see again due to the entertainment value alone. 8/10

The Earls Of Mars

An now for something completely different with The Earls Of Mars, the mental, madcap jazz/doom metal of The Earls Of Mars, having seen them before I wondered whether they would win my compatriots around and as Poor Whores Petition started things off with frontman Harry Armstong smashing his piano and shouting the lyrics as the band backed him with vaudevillian, jazz fuelled rock full of stomping guitars upright bass and technical percussion, the band are still promoting their debut album with The Swinger (which surprisingly is a swing style song) and the mighty The Astronomer Pigs making up the set, however the band were not all old stuff as they have a new song called Fisticuffs which bodes well for album 2. A great change of pace and one that encourages quaffing beverages. 8/10

Massive Wagons

Massive Wagons are hailed as the greatest new thing but they really...aren't at all. They are very samey, generic modern rock with almost unlistenable vocals, still somehow the crowd were going nuts to the band. Maybe it's just me... 4/10

Lizzy Borden

 Things unfortunately were about to get worse as the man who I've always thought of as a budget Alice Cooper and my thoughts were proven right. The visuals were there with frequent costume changes from frontman Lizzy. However the music was dire American sleaze metal which was made worse by a fucking BASS SOLO!! That was enough for us and we retreated back to the frozen wastes of the caravan for some more warming beer and some rest ready for our full day on Friday. 3/10


Friday and as the dust of the previous day settled and indeed the minor hangovers subsided (due in part to the lashings of bacon) it was time to put down a couple of drinks and once again heading into the arena.


First up were Piston who played a solid chunky style of blues rock with a southern swagger and indeed Northern accents. Their songs were good and one even had a element of CCR to it, what really struck me was the voice of singer Steve Nunn he can really belt it out however I was a bit sad to learn that this was going to be his last gig with the band due to other commitments and throat problems, that is a shame but he powered through their set which culminated with a turbocharged version of CCR's Proud Mary. I'll be interested to see where the band go from here but on this showing they have some big shoes to fill. 7/10


Next up was Leicester power trio SKAM who bring some riff heavy, radio friendly songs and buckets of attitude to the table. Having seen them at the Steelhouse Festival, I knew what to expect form this trio but the band are now armed with a great second album which has some big tunes on it so I wanted to see how these translated into the live arena, luckily the answer is bloody well indeed with big riffs from Steve Hill's guitar and Matt Gilmore's bass and a rigid backline from Neal Hill. SKAM are a great band who have become a real live draw from their tours with Airborne. Worth seeing if you like your rock big, ballsy and ideal for drinking beer. 7/10

Fire Red Empress

Having recently watched FRE in Bristol it was great to see them again utilising their big stoner riffs to beat the second stage around the head, once again it was the job of enigmatic frontman Nik to bring everyone together with his affable style and his great voice. Fire Red Empress bring some hefty slabs of rock to the table and got the crowd joining heartily, beer in hand, pumping their fists and bobbing their heads. A perfect band for  heavy drinking session. 7/10

Persian Risk

So then to business, nothing (depite my protestations) was going to stop us seeing Persian Risk. The band were from the NWOBHM era and hail from our home town of Cardiff, formed by Phil Campbell, now of Motorhead and John Deverill who went on to join Tygers Of Pan Tang. The band are now lead by vocalist Carl Sentance with bassist Wayne Banks providing the four string attack. The band maintain the classic British NWOBHM style that they started with all those years ago. Because of the emotional attachment we turned up and immediately the party started mixing their last album Once A King and their new album Who Am I. The riffs came thick and fast with Carl's excellent voice bringing everything together. The abnd has as much charisma as they did back in Bogiez and they also have some great metal tunes ripe for shouting along to. Pure leather clad Brit metal supreme!! 9/10

Electric Mary

Over then to the main stage for Aussie hard rockers Electric Mary who play classic Stones-like retro rock, with jangly guitars, a bluesy beat and smoky vocals. I've been waiting for this for a while and the band didn't disappoint, we only caught the final part of their set but they were the perfect come down after the excitement of Persian Risk. Bluesy, rocky and with real charm Electric Mary were worth the wait. 7/10

Buffalo Summer

The summer rock vibe continued with yet more Welshies this time Buffalo Summer who kicked things off with She's All Natural and A Horse Called Freedom the band blend classic Zep style rock with a modern rock twist and they managed to weave their spell over the crowd with their mature hard rock. As the percussive stomp of Down To The River which led into the Into Your Headand ended the set in style, a band that is going places fast. 7/10

A break for food and I must say that the Fish and chips (and of course mushy peas) are very good at HRH better than any of the other fast food places on the site. (7/10) Still on to the next with two of us really looking forward to this one:

The Brew

We have seemed to have a problem with the The Brew, every time we've gone to see them they seemed to have cancelled the performance. So now they were cornered and we had to see them this time. What we got was solid blues rock form a talented  three piece drawing most of their set from their latest album with Repeat, Mute, Pause, Skip, and Shuffle. Their hard rocking music perfectly compliments fish and chips and the band themselves draw elements of Zeppelin, The Who and those classic hard rocking bands. Jason Barwick is a hell of a guitarist channelling Jimmy Page and has a great blues howl as well, bassist Kurtis Smith is completely mental and his son smashes hell out of the drums. Finally Booing is full of screaming guitars with Barwick going full Page using a bow on his guitar, however the band made a small faux pa by ending with a bloody DRUM SOLO!!!! Still it was great to finally see them in the flesh and I can't wait to see them again. 7/10

Y&T (Again)

I'm not going to linger on this one but I will say they were still as good as they had been in Cardiff. A greatest hits set with I Believe In You ending the shorter set to a packed crowd. Overall they were great one punter in the loo put it played all the hits except the famous one (that being fan pleaser Forever) 7/10


Having never seen Krokus I was kind of looking forward to Long Stick Goes Boom and as they kicked off I was appeased. The band are competent but this Swiss band sound so much like AC/DC it hurts something that shocked Mr Hewitt to his core much to our hilarity. The set was full of rockers with LSGB, Hellraiser, Bedside Radio all getting an airing however they killed momentum a bit with ballad Screaming In The Night, but for the most part good solid hard rock that pleased our old school leader Paul. 7/10

Last minute headliner replacements Queensrÿche were next and I was hoping they were going to be better than when I saw them with original singer Geoff Tate. New singer Todd LaTorre sounds so much Tate on record I was interested to see how he would fair live and also how they would win over an audience expecting W.A.S.P. They coped brilliantly with a simply flawless delivery of a hit filled set that covered all bases. As opener Nightrider kicked things off LaTorre proved all the doubters wrong with his voice, it is truly spectacular if you close your eyes you couldn't tell the difference between him and Tate. The band worked through the anthemic Walk In My Shadows before going through The Whisper and En Route and into Warning. For a band that had one hell of a trip in, this was their only show in UK and after playing they went straight back to the USA after the show. The band made up for a dual guitar solo set with The Lady Wore Black, Eyes Of A Stranger and the finale of Empire. The band were on fire with original member Michael Wilton shredding up a storm, unfortunately there was a much smaller crowd for Queensrÿche than for Y&T, but their progressive style metal is more of acquired taste. Still we were loving it Mr Hewitt especially was in another place for most of the set and as the triple encore of Queen Of The Reich, Jet City Woman and Take Hold The Flame ended we were all losing our voices shouting along. An amazing set from an amazing band who have risen above the legal shenanigans to readdress what's important. Now who's for a UK headline tour!? 9/10


Saturday and again we shook off the night before to head into the arena for Black State Highway

Black State Highway

Black State Highway play earthy rootsy blues rock by a young band with great chops. Formed at the Brighton School of Modern Music they are all accomplished musicians with a worldwide membership, the guitarists Ollie and Yonnis are English and Swedish respectively, bassist Gordon Duncan is Scottish, their drummer is ginger (so his biography says and I can confirm) and singer Liva is from Latvia. The band play 70's style grungy blues rock with big meaty songs bolstered by the bombshell up front as she has both a hell of an attitude and a great set of pipes, she wins ballsiest singer of the weekend hands down. A great set that was let down a little by the muddy sound, still a band full of passion and a real fire for performance, ones to watch for sure. 7/10

Blues Pills

More female vocals but a total change of pace as the bluesy, psychedelic retro rock of The Blues Pills was coming up and they impressed with some superb musicianship the thunderous drums of André Kvarnström were the perfect anchor for the driving finger picked bass of Zack Anderson and it was all topped by the sublime flowing guitar passages from Dorian Sorriaux who plays the guitar deftly providing the songs with their otherworldly quality. Finally the bands ace in the hole are the Joplin-like vocal preach from frontwoman Elin Larsson who is a woman loses herself in the music as she rocks out while the bands play their extensive instrumental sections, drawing much of their set from their debut the songs translate from the record well and the band jam a little on them too allowing them to show off their chops and create a real vibe from the opening double song transfer to finale of Devil Man. The Blues Pills are a genuinely excellent rock band that draw from their influences and bring them bang up to date. 9/10


Having morphed from a NWOBHM artists into a blues band, Vardis still don't so much for me so onto the second stage. 5/10


This is better!! Solid stoner riff rock with, big songs, big beards and a cover of Fairies Wear Boots? Count me in! Never heard much of Grifter but they won me round with their huge stoner riffs and gruff vocals, I think I may be checking out more of Grifter soon as they sounded very good at HRH. 7/10

Big Elf

Back to the mainstage for prog mentalists Big Elf. Musically the band were excellent but they were (perhaps deliberately) disjointed in terms of delivery. The key to the bands appeal is frontman Damon Fox who is part Lennon, Wood, Bolan mixed with John Lord, singing with vaudeville delivery and handling dual organs, keys and synths. No Mike Portnoy on this show but no matter John Wesley handled the guitars and Duffy Snowhill (like a hippy Sabertooth) handled bass and provided the rock riffs as a counterpoint to Fox's weirdness. However unfortunately for the band they were just too much of an acquired taste for the meat and two veg crowd so with much of the crowd disinterested they looked a little ponderous and a bit to much like hard work. Shame. 6/10

Thunder Mother

Over to the second stage with something a little more immediate with SheCee/DC of Thunder Mother. An all female group with hopping Angus aping guitarist and a set full of Acca Dacca riffs with country decked singer. Rocking and brainless music ruined for the most part by the terrible scratchy vocals. 4/10


Thankfully things got a lot better with a Musipedia favourite the always very good, Bristol based Blackwolf. Straight out of the blocks their smooth blues based hard rock got the packed audience boogying away merrily with much shaking of hips and nodding of heads. The band always have such great playing and the irrepressible Scott who has great voice. Their brand of funky, hard rock with real swagger is always welcome and it was nice for more people to see how they've grown into a real red hot live act! 8/10

Diamond Head

The NWOBHM legends and Metallica's main influence were debuting a new vocalist who was good at the high stuff but lacked a little in the lower register. Still the band raced through a classic set with Lightning To The Nations and Helpless all getting an airing but still despite all the aggrandising the band are still middle of the road NWOBHM with the crowd really only coming alive for the perennial Am I Evil? 7

Michael Schenker

WOW!! That is really all the review you need but I'm afraid Schenker stole the show. He and his all star band really blew the roof off the place, kicking off with Doctor Doctor the set started as it meant to go on, with classic Scorpions Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz as the rhythm section, Wayne Findlay in the Paul Raymond role of guitars and keys and Doogie White on vocals he has assembled a band that could tackle anything. Luckily that is good as he does indeed tackle everything with UFO, MSG, Scorpions and of course their own songs, with Natural Thing, Armed And Ready, Victim Of Illusion, Lovedrive all making an appearance, Schenker showed off his guitar prowess with the instrumental Coast To Coast where he soloed like the legend he is. Lord Of The Lost and Lonely is a real romp and sets up Shoot Shoot very well which in turn exploded into Rock You Like  A Hurricane this got the crowd rocking like hurricanes indeed and allowed Findlay to show his solo chops. The show was spectacular with Schencker saying very little but White is a confident master of ceremonies getting progressively more Scottish as it went on turning into somewhere between David Coverdale and Billy Connelly. Finally it was time for Rock Bottom which once again ruined our voices and blew the guitar freaks mind as Schenker ripped up his fretborad like a demon casting light and shade in the mid section. Schenker rendered me and my colleagues speechless with  all the hits you need packed into one set. 10/10

Blue Oyster Cult

A real American legend of a band Blue Oyster Cult rarely play the UK so I couldn't pass up a chance to see them in the flesh. Playing a greatest hits set what struck me was just how slick the band were every member is a total pro playing their part beautifully and effortlessly, you get the feeling they could play any song from their repertoire at anytime and make it seem like they meant to. Buck Dharma is every inch guitar god with his headless guitar and Eric Bloom is the stoic frontman driving the rhythm with his guitar merging perfectly with Richie Castellano who contributes guitars and keys as well as vocals. In the back room they have Jules Radino on the tubs and Danny Miranda on bass who has served time with both BOC and Meat Loaf and seemed to enjoy playing tricks on Castellano throughout. Despite their aura of complete professionalism they have the aura of a pub band inviting Bikers, Beer Drinkers and Beatlemaniacs all to worship at the altar of the Cult. Starting with The red And The Black kicks things off before Golden Age Of Leather and Burnin' For You. Dharma got ample time to show off in Buck's Boogie and also during the frankly stunning middle eight of Then Came The Last Days Of May which built up and up into a groin moistening crescendo and the reptile stomp of Godzilla brought back the hits before Hot Rails To Hell began to end the set and but took a mis-step with both a Bass and Drum solo consecutively, still if you are going to do something like that then follow it up with your biggest hit and as the cowbell struck Don't Fear The Reaper kicked in to full flight. With the crowd singing along the night was unfortunately over but with their big vocal harmonies and some killer songs the Cult climaxed in a triumphant end to their set. It has been a long wait but well worth it Blue Oyster Cult are a simply amazing live band and I was honoured to see them in their natural habitat. 9/10

So all in all a great weekend of rock, 20 something bands over three days, great friends, good times and a whole lot of awesome music. I love these events as they attract some fantastic bands and they have a much more relaxing atmosphere than most of the camping based festivals. Roll on March and lets do it all again!!

Monday 17 November 2014

Reviews: Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd: The Endless River (Parlophone Records)

Never a band to rush things legendary prog veterans Pink Floyd finally release a new album, 20 years after their last album Division Bell. Now I say this is a new album when what I should say is that The Endless River is the most recent album as much of it is not entirely new, much of the music was recorded during the Division Bell sessions and latterly David Gilmour has built up the majority of this album from keyboard passages that the late Richard Wright created for their 1994 album. Wright has writer credits for most of the album with Gilmour and Mason taking up the other parts.

Things start off in the age old fashion of an atmospheric introductory piece to set the mood Things Left Unsaid is possibly one of the most emotive pieces on the record with Gilmour's guitar building and simmering before Wright's organs kick in on It's What We Do which shows this similar in style to Shine On... and the opening salvo from Division BellCluster One. It's here we finally get the guitar flourishes Gilmour is known for as Wright's keys become the backing they have always been, he truly was the master of atmosphere, the concrete that the rest of the band can build on, Mason's drums too are jazzy and lucid keeping the beat as again we are transported into Ebb And Flow on which Gilmour matches Wright's piano with an E-Bow. This brings to an end the first part of this four part record, each 'side' is linked but distinctly different.

Side 2 starts with Sum which builds on a repetitive synth riff with Mason bringing a more tribal style of drumming, all toms, and once again the guitars touch the sky, Skins continues the theme with more toms and even a gong with Youth adding effects to the track, Unsung is a bridge between things transitioning into Anisia is a piano Gilmour-only track based track mainly which has some soulful sax added for good measure and indeed posterity (what is Floyd without the addition of Sax). The album is mostly instrumental with the occasional choral chant adding to the songs but for the most part their are no words, it is Floyd at it's purest taking you on a journey through the bands varying style and also indeed their emotions for their lost friend.

Side 3 is the shortest made up of a few just over a minute track and one longer one. It starts with the plaintive The Lost Art Of Conversation starting things off with a solitary piano, before the jazz of On Noodle Street does exactly that, noodle, before Night Light shines (sorry) on Cluster One with it's atmospheric E-Bow, the oldies will be pleased with Allons-Y (1) and Allons-Y (2) as they have the staccato guitar of Run Like Hell, they bookend the the dreamy Autumn '68 which features Wright on the Royal Albert Hall's organ, the final part to this side features the first 'vocal' with Professor Stephen Hawking once again contributing on Talkin' Hawkin' which is a sequel too and outtakes from Keep Talking on Division Bell.

Side 4 is the finale of all that has come before the haunting sadness of Calling does it's best to break your heart as it manoeuvres into the acoustically led Eyes To Pearls, which has throbbing bass behind it as well as effects to layer it, again we get the stunning guitar work of Gilmour on Surfacing as the emotion ramps up for this final part, the 'oohs' in the background are the fore runner for the final track Louder Than Words which repeats the outright emotion of the first track while adding a string section and finally vocals from Gilmour who hasn't changed vocally at all, the song is a romantic paean to days gone by and also to Wright who is indeed the soul of Floyd and is the final notes you hear as the track fades.

So is the record a masterpiece or is it just a hodge-podge of Floydisms that much of the media and indeed the recording notes suggest? Well in truth no it isn't either of these things Pink Floyd don't need another masterpiece and there are many will just see this as a over indulgent piece of work that draws to heavily from the bands history without really trying to improve anything, but these people miss the point, what this record actually is, is a glowing tribute to a fallen friend and the last compositions in an incredible career of of one of the most influential bands in music history. The story for Floyd is over (if you believe the members) and I for one think that there really isn't another way to end their career than with a record like The Endless River as the band have tied up all the loose ends and finally put the beast to sleep, not with a bang but by lulling it into a blissful retirement. 8/10        

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Reviews: At The Gates, Warrant, Enemy Of Reality

At The Gates: At War With Reality (Century Media) [Review By Paul]

It has been 19 years since At the Gates released Slaughter of the Soul, widely regarded as a classic in the world of melodic death metal. At War with Reality continues with the driving no-nonsense attack that SOTS left back in 1995. A concept album based on the literary genre of magic realism (Okay!), At War with Reality showcases the vocal prowess of Tomas Lindberg, whose screaming strained delivery launched many a Swedish and Scandinavian death metal outfit. The drumming of Adrian Erlandsson combines with Jonas Björler’s soaring bass lines whilst the twin guitar attack of Anders Björler and Martin Larsson supply heavy riffs, driving melodies and subtle movement. Opening with Death and the Labyrinth, it is full of the melody and groove that compatriots such as In Flames possess in spades. As befits the concept, many of the tracks are laced with haunting atmospheric almost operatic style breakdowns; case in point being Heroes and Tombs. As the album builds the songs increase in intensity and speed; The Conspiracy Of The Blind for example; all thrash attack with the rhythm section propelling the band forward. It certainly doesn't feel like these guys have been out of the studio for nearly two decades and tracks such as Order And Chaos and The Book of Sand is complex in their construction. A welcome return to a band that was so influential first time around. 8/10

Warrant: Metal Bridge (Pure Steel Records)

Firstly this is not the american Glam metal band, whose singer Jani Lane tragically died recently, no this is the German Warrant a band who released their first album in 1985 and split shortly after, still they worked through it and have finally reformed and have finally released their second album called Metal Bridge. Strangely enough it's not a tribute to Victorian bridge builder Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which was disappointing but still it is an album filled with the kind of Teutonic speed metal the Germans do so well. After the intro comes Asylum which is atypical of German heavy metal with rampaging riffage from Dirk Preylowski, driving drums from Thomas Rosemann and a hearty gallop from bassist Jörg Juraschek who also provides the gruff vocals that are slightly Udo-like. Yes sorry folks we've arrived at that juncture where I have to make a comparison and the comparison is with Accept, Warrant do sound a lot like Accept and after 15 tracks it does get a bit wearing. This is just relentless metallic assault that simmers but never really boils over. This could in fact be a contributing reason why Warrant are only on their second album since 1985! They are competent but not a lot more, Metal Bridge is not a particularly inspiring record, well played but as I have said it is a bit over long with one too many filler tracks, meaning that it becomes a test of patience towards the end. For die hard Teutonic metal fans this will appeal but like I said for everyone else it is competent but nothing more. 6/10

Enemy Of Reality: Rejected Gods (FYB Records)

Enemy Of Reality are a Greek symphonic metal super group featuring members from a few other Greek bands, they are traditional symphonic metal with the vocals coming from Soprano Iliana Tsakiraki who has an astounding voice, similar in power and style to Tarja, she soars above the crunchy metallic backing of Steelianos' great guitar playing, Marianthi's keyboard flourishes, Thanos' bass and Phillip Stones drums. Opening track My Own Master is a speed metal track that has elements of Symphony X on it due to a driving bassline from Mike LePond who aides the speedy riff, next up is the slower more orchestral Lifeless Eyes which is a real anthem and features Marianthi's keys prominently, Needle Bites is a progressive track with shifting backing a hell of a solo and features Iliana duetting with Sirena's Ailyn Giménez their two voices interplaying excellently. The songs on this record are brilliantly delivered with all of the musicians working well together, the rhythm section is heavy and technical, the guitars shred and solo with aplomb, the keys are melodic and epic and the vocals are astounding. In what is a very congested genre Enemy Of Reality stand out as they give much heavier and indeed progressive style of music than many of their peers and to this writers ears they sound a lot like American band Echoes Of Eden who have the same style of progressive/symphonic metal, they are their most progressive on Her Descending Ghost and their most rousing on the heavyweight choral/classical crossover The Bargaining which has heaps of power behind it. Rejected Gods is a real treat for symphonic metal fans but it will also bring in others with it's progressive tendencies. 8/10   

Monday 10 November 2014

A View From the Back Of The Room: Robert Plant

Robert Plant & Last Internationale, Newport Centre

To see the mighty Percy in such a small venue is a rare treat and our number lapped it up as we walked into the venue nice and early, the security still waiting outside, as one of our number was not at all well we had negotiated early access, however as we sat in the bar we were suddenly ushered out, in what was starting to turn into a clusterfuck, as the minutes wore on the cluster exploded into a supernova of stupidity, with no one, especially the security knowing what the hell was going on. So apparently we all had to be searched in, even though 10 minutes previously we had strolled in nonchalantly. So our poorly member was allowed to stay with one 'helper' and the other two in our party (including me) had to leave and queue, in what seemed to be a never-ending line.

Still after this rampant fuckwittery, we managed to get in and the rest of our party had secured a seat near the back of the room (as is the norm of course). With the room filling and the electricity building it was time for the support band The Last Internationale.

Last Internationale

As Gil Scott Heron's vitriolic anthem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised came over the P.A many guessed that The Last Internationale may have a message and as frontwoman Deilia Paz arrived on stage she slung on an acoustic and started to play, the song was Worker's Of The World Unite (based on Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto) and Deilia began to roar, her voice supremely powerful and her resolve unwavering, this indeed was a band with a meaasge and indeed chops as when the rest of the band arrived guitarist Edgey Pires began to peel off riffs and solos like a certain Mr Page merged with a certain Mr Morello (who himself is a fan of the band). Paz took the bass and began to stalk the stage providing the funky bottom end and her primal shout, part Krissy Hynde, part Suzi Quatro she is a fire cracker frontwoman, the band moved through Killing Fields, Life, Liberty And Pursuit Of Indian Blood, Fire and We Will Reign from their latest album of the same name (available on the merch stand for £15 folks!!). These New Yorkers have a lot of fire and fury delivering their agenda with passion and power, the set concluded with Paz adopting the acoustic guitar again, along with a harmonica to play a note perfect cover of Neil Young's Hey Hey, My My. You don't have to agree with the ideology but you can't fault the music, sledgehammer riffs, reverbed solos and a siren with a banshee's voice. Perfect opening fodder for Zep/Plant fans. 8/10

Robert Plant

Seeing the set lists that Percy had been playing it was a solid mix of his new stuff, old solo stuff and obviously some Zep classics (albeit slightly re-imagined). The throbbing electronic beat of No Quarter opened the evening sticking to the original for the most part before his multi instrmental band the switched instruments to bayou banjos and mandolins for the swamp stomp of Poor Howard. This would be a theme for the night as the much of Plant's set and indeed the songs on Lullaby.... And The Ceaseless Roar are all influenced by or indeed drawn from the Mississippi Delta. Bassist Billy Fuller and drummer Dave Smith left the stage leaving just the leonine Plant, Mountain man Skin Tyson on banjo, rockabilly madman Justin Adams on acoustic guitar and John Baggott who was bedecked in a leather shirt on keys,, loops etc for a run through of All The Kings Horses from the Mighty ReArranger album (these three men were all part of the Strange Sensation group, that performed on this album). So far so awesome, Percy can still sing like a man a third of his age, he is still every inch a rock god strutting and prowling the stage, he is also affable making jokes and putting everyone in the audience at ease (and thereby resisting the urge to shout "We're Not Worthy!!" at the the top of your lungs). Next up was Thank You which is still as emotive as it ever was before they worked their way through more songs from the latest album all of which brought together world music and especially the amazing Ritti from Juldeh Camara who is this bands secret weapon, he adds his flourishes to both the originals and the blues covers, as far as the original songs go Embrace Another Fall is majestic and features the Welsh language vocals of Julie Murphy and Rainbow is a percussive clap along with a drum for everyone and a hand full of joy, Plant crooning like it was the old days. After building throughout the set came to it's conclusion with the Adams playing the 12 bar boogie of Hoochie Coochie Man, which shifted into Etta James' I Just Wanna Make Love To You (possibly a 50+ Diet Coke moment?) but as the shuffle continued Plant uttered those immortal words "You need coolin', Baby I'm not foolin'" which in turn led to THAT riff and the evergreen Whole Lotta Love to finish the main set. With the crowd in his hands Plant could have read the dictionary for the encore but he didn't a short break and he was back with a lounge jazz version of Nobody's Fault But Mine which warped the original brilliantly before the folk/trance of Little Maggie ending things on a fantastic high. Seeing Percy in his natural habitat is always a treat but he does seem to be enjoying himself thoroughly on stage every night, with Page concentrating on remastering the past, Plant looks to the future and steadfastly refuses to look back. Still he will always be in the shadow of Zeppelin something highlighted by iconic feather symbol on the drumkit of Smith showing that it will always be there in the background as Plant and his Space Shifters progress on their cosmic journey. Simply stunning!! 10/10                

Saturday 8 November 2014

Reviews: Devilment, The BossHoss, Giant Squid

Devilment: The Great And Secret Show (Nuclear Blast)

Devilment was formed by guitarist Daniel Finch in 2011, but with ever changing line up Daniel reached out to his friend Dani Filth (he of Cradle Of Filth fame) to help out on a few songs, the two worked together on demos before acquiring a stable line-up of Nick Johnson bass, Colin Parks on lead guitar, Lauren Francis on vocals and keyboards and Aaron Boast on drums and percussion. The album is not what you expect this is more of a classic metal record than the black metal you'd expect from Filth with only Stake In My Heart sounding more like Cradle than the others. Yes even the tongue in cheek aspect of the Lovecraftian, horror theme lyrics remains from his Cradle project with titles like Even Your Blood Group Rejects Me which is almost Vaudevillian in it's sound but also bringing in elements of Type O Negative and southern groove swagger. But for the most part this is more straight up metal as I've said, with Summer Arteries having a groove based delivery backed with electronics, the twin guitars are excellent, the drums still blast beat away with aplomb, the keys and samples add an extra dimension to all of the songs with the jazz piano and violins on Staring At The Werewolf Corps. Filth giving his best vocal throughout his guttural roar and screech is still present but he sings a lot more on this record than on any Cradle release, his vocals too work well with Laura Francis who has a more ethereal quality of vocal. I don't really know what I was expecting from this album but I actually enjoyed it a lot, the music is good with lashings of groove, elements of thrash, a dollop of classic metal, Filth's vocals are enjoyable for the most part (his voice is one of the bugbears of Cradle for me), as a project this is great little distraction from Filth's day job with some very strong songs and perfect modern production from Scott Atkins, more of this please! 8/10    

The BossHoss: God Loves Cowboys (Independent)

God Loves Cowboys is a compilation album from German, Country rock and rollers The BossHoss, now if you've never heard of The BossHoss then they are a German band that dress as cowboys, adopt Southern mannerisms and play covers and originals in a country rock style along with other styles to boot. As I've said this is the seven strong band's UK only compilation released to coincide with their support of Motorhead on their UK tour. Now the band have called this a compilation album not a greatest hits or a best of because it is a collection of their most well known songs, live staples and two covers. The band mix rock, country, blues and as well as hip hop, funk and disco actually have a lot in common with Danes Volbeat. From the outset of Bullpower the scene is set for rampaging, cattle rustling rock and roll, that moves straight into Whatever which is percussive and off-kilter with some crazy brass and a stylophone (yes a stylophone). This song shows what a seven piece band can do with two guitars, drums, bass (upright and electric) as well as washboard, mouth harp, keytar and mandolin as well as some howling rockabilly vocals on top from vocalist Boss Burns and guitarist Hoss Power. God Loves Cowboy's is hip hop with processed beats and even a bit of rapping thrown in showing this bands scope as they drive straight into the funk of Do It which has the bassline from Superstitious driving it along. Stallion Battalion is an acoustic cowboy punk and Backdoor Man has swamp blues all the way through it and a party atmosphere. With this unique mix of sounds The BossHoss are a truly unique band and it means that this album never gets boring, with irreverent songs, a good time atmosphere and some top drawer musicanship the album has 14 excellent originals and two clever covers; a rockabilly, mandolin driven cover of Killers by their tour mates Motorhead and a cover of Word Up by Cameo (recently featured on a VO5 advert). God Loves Cowboys is a great album for people who are unfamiliar with The BossHoss and gives you a great incite into this unique band. 8/10   

Giant Squid: Minoans (Translation Lost Records)

Giant Squid are a post metal/progressive rock band from Sacramento California, Minoans is a concept album with a historically accurate perspective on the ancient culture of the Minoans who originated from Crete, so this is high concept territory folks meaning that many will be lose their way a bit with the lyrical content unless they read along with the liner notes. So then the band have to impress with the music, which is something they really do, encompassing doom riffs Thera and Palace Of Knossos, lots of instrumental passages, elements of jazz in The Pearl And The Parthanon, some modern prog metal lots of atmosphere see slow burning opener Minoans. Nothing about this band is simple, the songs are complex as is the bands line up with three vocalist working in unison one hollering lead, one higher cleaner lead and one female harmony which means the songs have an almost choral feel vocally. They also use the traditional instruments of a guitar from Aaron Gregory, the bass of Bryan Beeson and drums from Zack Farwell but also have keys from Andy Southward and a full time cello player on board in the shape of Jackie Perez Gratz which adds an extra dimension to this album. As is the norm with bands of this ilk this a record that needs to be taken in one sitting, not a flash in the pan instant gratification album, it is one that slowly releases its charms over many listens, for some that may not appeal but for others it will make them salivate at the thought. 7/10

Reviews: Machine Head, (Review By Paul)

Machine Head: Bloodstone And Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)

When Adam Duce left Machine Head in somewhat acrimonious circumstances at the turn of the year, questions about the future of MFH were asked by many. For a band that had released THE album of the 2000s in The Blackening, this seemed a little bizarre. Okay, we all know that Robb Flynn controls the band pretty intensely, but was there ever a doubt that MFH would return with a decent slab of metal? I don’t think so. The pressure that the band was under after The Blackening was immense. They toured their asses off on that album, hitting the UK a number of times and possibly suffered from over-exposure although I will state here that I have never seen a bad Machine Head show and indeed in the last ten years have spent more time pitting to this band than any other. The follow up release Unto The Locust in the autumn of 2011 was a decent offering with some great songs on it. However, there appeared to be a bit of a backlash to the band, possibly due to the decision to offer them the 2012 Saturday night headline slot at BOA, something which wasn't well received by some of the more extreme patrons of the festival. I have to admit I had my doubts and although I watched the show, it didn't grasp me by the bollocks like before. However, word from the front that night was that MFH were back on form. The last time we saw them on these shores was their arena tour later that year with the desperately awful Bring Me The Horizon in support, a choice that certainly impacted on ticket sales and led to the NIA where I saw them far from capacity. Still, they put on a decent show, and it is in the live arena where MFH live or die.

So what about Bloodstone And Diamonds? Well, it is a very good record, no doubt about it. Filled with the usual angst that fuels Flynn’s inner rage, the album has a greater number of songs on it than a normal MFH release; 12 in total. Is there a format to a Machine Head record? I suppose there is. A few fast thrashers, for example Killers & Kings, a lengthy epic that builds in the middle of the album, this time it is Sail Into The Black and a few weighty slabs of metal that get the head moving. Opener Now We Die is a stomping tune, huge hooks, string sections, catchy chorus and the obvious opener for their forthcoming UK shows. Flynn’s vocals are unmistakable, snarly and aggressive, spitting the words out with real venom and feeling. Killers & Kings is possibly the most instantly accessible track on the album, Dave McClain’s powerful drumming combining with new boy Jared MacEachern to form as cohesive a unit as McClain and Duce did. Ghosts That Haunt My Bones has a riff and a half in it, Flynn’s vocal calm and measured to start before it descends into classic Machine Head fare, elements of Descend The Shades Of Night combining with the power of Bulldozer, Phil Demmel and Flynn using their excellent guitar work to full effect. Night Of The Long Knives climbs from an atmospheric start into an absolute balls out gallop with McClain’s drumming quite incredible. This will cause some carnage in the pit. (Lucky I’ve got a sick note!) Sail Into The Black combines the intro tapes of Grand Magus and Dimmu Borgir, acoustic guitar and some piano dripping through whilst Flynn eulogises in the way only he can. The track stands alongside classics such as Descend The Shades Of Night and Darkness Within and will no doubt be the pacer track in the middle of their set. It then builds with MacEachern’s bass pounding before McClain uses blast beats as the track charges towards a massive crescendo.

Halfway point in the album and not a dud so far. Eyes Of The Dead continues where Sail Into The Black left off, an overture of doom before the dual soloing of Flynn and Demmel rip your eyes out. I think that Demmel in particular is a massively underrated guitarist and his work here is exceptional, peeling off the licks for fun, ripping through the track and cutting the listener across the throat. Although it is almost old school thrash, this track, like most on the album have numerous changes of direction and enormous dollops of old school MFH groove. Halfway through, and Flynn briefly turns into Dave Mustaine, all guttural and grimace before it kicks off again with rampaging solos and 100mph drumming. Beneath The Silt has a slower feel to it, with even bigger riffs and a true heavy metal feel. Andy Sneap’s mixing is of the usual high quality throughout the album. Another seven minute plus track follows in the shape of In Comes The Flood, string section and choral vocals layering the introduction before the slicing guitar work synonymous with MFH cuts across. The weakest track on the album follows, with Damage Inside a cathartic rambling construct which adds little. Indeed, it’s about here that the album starts to slow in pace and direction. Sure, it’s been a tough time for MFH of late and Flynn in particular carries spectacular amounts of baggage but there are times when you can’t help thinking that he brings some of the shit on himself. Game Over gets the show back on the road with some blistering thrash before instrumental Imaginal Cells leads to final track Take Me Through The Fire, an anthemic roller coaster of a track which combines some classic MFH thrashing to bring the album to a slightly overdue end.

Machine Head are still a vital part of today’s metal scene. Whether this album will put them back into The Blackening territory is questionable; they've public ally stated they are avoiding festivals next year to focus on their own gigs which I think is a good move. An intense Machine Head gig is one of the most incredible sights in metal, and for a band who have 20 years + under the belt, still damn fine going. Machine Fucking Head. Indeed. 8/10

Reviews: Obituary, Winterfyllth, Xerath (Reviews By Paul)

Obituary: Inked In Blood (Relapse Records)

The ninth studio release from Florida death metal titans Obituary, Inked In Blood pulls no punches. Colossal riffs destroy from the start, pounding bass lines and skull pounding drumming leave your innards contorted whilst the vocals of the legend John Tardy snarl and fight their way into your brain. This is one aggressively heavy album but don’t let that put you off. Although rightly masters of the Death Metal scene, Obituary deliver on a different level to their peers Cannibal Corpse, and whilst the pace is there in spades they also deliver some tracks with less speed and more power. Within A Dying Breed, for example, is as heavy as they come, but levels you with the most enormous riffs and groove. The double prong guitar of new guitarist Kenny Andrews and rhythm guitar man Trevor Peres provide both groove and frenetic fret board action. On Minds Of The World the all-out death metal assault morphs into a more evenly paced and totally crushing tune. What interested me with this release is how catchy and memorable the riffs are. Even when the band are going full out, with the battery of Donald Tardy’s drumming hitting you solidly in the abdomen, the songs are excellently crafted with Andrews solos peeling off at regular intervals. Frank Tardy’s voice is an acquired taste, plenty of roaring, growling and guttural snarls but fits the band’s sound perfectly. Opener Centuries Of Lies demonstrates this, allowing him to extend the full repertoire in two and a bit minutes. Thirty years since Obituary first started making their mark in the world of heavy metal, Inked In Blood is a blistering release, proving that the old school still deliver and do it better than any of the young pretenders. In a year of excellent releases, this stands comfortably amongst the leaders. Powerful, pulverising and pounding, Inked in Blood is a release you really need to listen to. 9/10

Winterfyllth: The Divination Of Antiquity (Candlelight Records)

I have to admit that the underground black metal that these Mancunians bring has passed me by for several years. However, a 40 minute set at BOA, ironically as the heavens opened, changed all that and their fourth release is a thunderous affair. Now I'm not the world’s biggest black metal fan, finding much of it a little too similar and the unintelligible vocals often just amuse me. However, what I do appreciate is the technical talent of some of the top purveyors of the genre, and Winterfyllth are right up there. The title track opens the album, six and half minutes of blistering speed and blasting drumming complete with Chris Naughton’s death growls. The track does change tempo throughout, although rarely dropping below the speed limit until half way where a quick breather is taken before the band plunge headlong back into the powerful driving delivery. Simon Lucas’ drumming is phenomenal, blistering hand and foot work propelling the track towards the crescendo. For a band that look like a gathering of dentists, Winterfyllth make a quite awesome noise, once again proving that you should never go by appearances. Whisper Of The Elements provides even more evidence that these guys are a cut above the average black metal band with changes of tempo and mood throughout whilst regularly returning to the blasting delivery that you expect. How Simon Lucas drums at this speed throughout the album is beyond me but I've seen him do it live so I know it isn't fabricated. Naughton and Mark Wood provide delicate and subtle edits to each track along with the pounding riffs whilst bassist Nick Wallwork combines with Lucas to man the engine room that allows the guitars to do their thing. Whilst the album remains very true to expectations, each track contains little nuances that deviate from each other. Warrior Herd for example has them pounding rhythm section but huge melody and hooks, whilst The World Ahead, at a mere 3:26 starts with some fragile acoustic work, calm and atmospheric amongst the chaos around it. A beautiful track and a completely different piece of work. Another quite brilliant piece of work from one of England’s most underrated bands. 9/10

Xerath: III (Candlelight Records)

Another album, yet more superlatives. The third full release by British extreme metallers Xerath. Apparently named after some video game character (is this right? I’m an old man. I don’t do this stuff) [Mr H is correct League Of Legends fans - Matt], the band were formed in 2007 and have won a number of accolades for their music. I've got their first two releases, but III is a much more complete work. Opener 2053 contains elements of thrash, progressive and extreme metal, with the influence of Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, Opeth and Dream Theater all evident. Indeed, the Hevy Devy influence flows throughout the album which in my book is no bad thing. III also has lashings of symphonic metal, which combines with the other influences to produce a real fusion. Autonomous has huge riffs, string sections and keyboards combining with Richard Thompson’s excellent vocal delivery, at times Howard Jones, at times oh so Devin. This is a real groove ridden head banger of a track. As the album ebbs and flows, I found myself reflecting on the quality of the compositions. It’s a bit like someone has done the most perverse mash up of many of my favourite bands. Bleed This Body Clean would convince all but the most hardened DT fan that it wasn't the master on the vocals, such is Thompson’s combined melodic and growling vocal delivery. Huge symphonic riffs splatter all over the track, and combine with the powerhouse duo of drummer Michael Pitman and bassist Christopher Clark. Demigod Doctrine has a quite delicious collaboration of strings, power chords and blast beats with massive Devin sounding vocals merging into the complexity of the overall track. I Hunt For The Weak builds into a massive head banger of track, combining many of the previous elements with a pounding rhythm section, soaring strings and growling vocals which fit perfectly. The Chaos Reign swirls and dips, with the division of death growls and clean vocals supported by close harmonies working perfectly. Throughout the album there is some excellent guitar work from Conor McGouran. Veil Part 1 is soaring metal track that would be excellent for the soundtrack to a movie set in space as it climbs and builds. This is an album crafted to the highest quality, heavy enough to keep the extreme metal fans happy whilst the relatively unique combination of symphonic and almost standard metal really works. A work of absolute quality and well worth a listen when you can. 9/10

*Unfortunately I missed these guys at Damnation due to the confusion over the Bolt Thrower merchandise. I would really love to see how this works live*

Friday 7 November 2014

Another Point Of View: Damnation Festival (Review By Paul, contributions by Rhod)

Damnation Festival – Leeds University

A first trip to the Damnation Festival, brought to you in association with Terrorizer, Jagermeister and Eyesore Merch. A few musings before we get onto the bands. This is an excellent venue, with four stages and a host of bands mainly towards the heavier end of the metal spectrum. If you want your AOR or Black Stone Cherry this probably isn't your bag. If you want mind crushing riffage, indecipherable lyrics and beards that would have Amon Amarth retreating then get the fuck in. The organisation was decent, bands ran to time and the security and staff generally friendly. A few gripes have been raised on social media about the clashes and lack of space, but there is a balance that is needed and for me it worked a treat. Sure, the queuing for Bolt Thrower merchandise was a bit shambolic (although tee-shirts at £10 was very welcome) and the bar prices weren't great, but overall it ticked nearly every box.

Kicking off proceedings on the Terrorizer stage, Bristol death metal outfit Amputated (7) got the day off to a fine start with a solid 30 minutes of impressive extreme death metal. Amputated take no prisoners, inciting the day’s first pit action with some pile driving and quite terrifying riffage. The UK’s Cannibal Corpse, Amputated are similar in delivery and theme to their West Country cousins Flayed Disciple. Song title of the day was already secured with Repugnant Genital Deformity. If you can’t work out what they sound like you clearly need a subscription to Terrorizer for the next decade.

A packed PHD stage greeted locally based outfit Black Moth (7) with a very warm welcome and they soon got into their stride with opener Tumbleweave from recent release Condemned To Hope dark, doomy and atmospheric. Unfortunately a muddy sound masked the excellent vocals of Harriet Bevan and whilst the doom element of their music benefited the cutting edge of their more gothic and indie style got a little lost.

Meanwhile back on the Terrorizer stage Rhod was sampling the sounds of Aeon (8) from Osterund, Sweden. More death metal was the order of the day, with a startlingly good performance full of top quality crushing technical power. Our intrepid reporter was noted to enthuse “Pure death metal on an epic scale. I was this close to jumping into the pit”. No higher praise can be heaped onto a band than that.

First visit of the day to the smaller Eyesore stage for Glasgow’s Falloch (8) who delivered a stunning set full of introspection and melancholy, post-rock, black metal and rock. A large crowd reacted very favourably to Falloch’s 35 minute set, and their delivery was spot on, benefiting from a decent sound. Complex and intricate progressive tones combine with powerful riffs and breakdowns with Alcest amongst the obvious influences. Well worth checking out.

Whilst Rhod worked his magic at the Bolt Thrower merchandise stall, the unmistakable clatter of Raging Speedhorn (5) filled the Jagermeister stage and area. I'm afraid that I don’t get the ‘horn (sorry!) and their aggressive hard-core sound, with the dual vocals of John Loughlin and Frank Regan fail to inspire. A quick exit was called for.

Back in the PHD stage Icelandic outfit Solstafir (9) provided one of the weekend’s highlights with a 50 minute set which captivated the capacity crowd. A mesmerising delivery included two tracks from their rather bloody good Otta album. Front man Aðalbjörn "Addi" Tryggvason is enchanting, every inch the rock star in leather jacket, weaving a spell of light and shade around the audience, capturing your attention with his mere presence, vocals and guitar work. He is ably supported by æþór Maríus "Pjúddi" Sæþórsson who adds plenty of reverb, intricate fretwork and powerful riffs. Concluding the set of five songs with Goddess Of The Ages, Solstafir’s first UK festival performance was a true I was there moment. Beautiful stuff.

Racing back to the Jager stage in time to catch the final strains of Scorpionica, the mighty Orange Goblin (9) hit the stage at 100mph and absolutely destroyed the venue with a blistering set stuffed with more goodies than a Christmas stocking. A mixed set with old favourites like Saruman's Wish nestled comfortably alongside Sabbath Hex and The Devil's Whip from this year’s Back From The Abyss. Man Mountain Ben Ward stop grinning such is the rabid frenzy that greets each track. The guitar work of Joe Hoare sounds incredible, riffs and hooks raining everywhere whilst the driving rhythm section of bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner propel all of the songs along at breakneck speed. By the time that Red Tide Rising closes the set, Goblin have the crowd eating from their palms whilst Ward is probably still grinning today. A triumphant performance from one of the best UK bands.

Amongst the legends that are gracing the Leeds halls are American Doom Merchants Saint Vitus (7), who are performing Born Too Late in full. A strong turnout saw the band open with Living Backwards before I Bleed Black demonstrated why these guys are icons of the doom metal scene. However, even with the constant urging of guitarist Dave Chandler and Scott “Wino” Weinrich, it all appears a little dull and attention starts to wander. Saint Vitus went on to play Born Too Late in the second half of their set but by then the dulcet tones of Sunderland’s Wodensthrone had lured us back to the Earache Stage. Arriving half way through their set, this made up for our inability to get to Winterfyllth’s earlier set. Wodensthrone (8) deliver an infectious brand of melodic black metal and they capture the attention of those who weren't attracted to the main arena. We are rewarded with a powerful set mixing tracks from both Loss and 2012’s Curse.

German funeral doom merchants Ahab (8) deliver one of the heaviest sets of the day back in the PHD stage where huge guitar and crushing chords combine with Daniel Droste's evil and guttural vocals which sound like Satan if he’d stepped on a plug. Meanwhile Cannibal Corpse (9) demonstrate their billing as death metal kings with a steam roller of a set in front of a packed out Terrorizer stage, with hundreds queuing to get in throughout their turn. Opener Fucked With A Knife sets the tone for Corpsegrinder and colleagues to lay waste to all around them. Sadistic Embodiment and Icepick Lobotomy from the latest release A Skeletal Domain stands comfortably alongside old school classics such as Hammer Smashed Face.

Due to the capacity of the venue, not everyone can get into see Coventry’s finest Bolt Thrower (10) in their first UK Festival headline set. Those who don’t miss an absolute master class in death metal. Opening with War/Remembrance Karl Willetts and co are in stunning form, laying waste to all in the hall. There is little time to draw breath as the band grind out classic after classic, Anti-Tank, This Time It’s War and an absolutely pulverising No Guts … No Glory with Barry Thomson and Gavin Ward powering on the crushing riffs whilst Jo Bench adds a third guitar such is the thunderous delivery of her bass which welds with the blistering drumming of Martin Kearns. And then it arrived; The Killchain sets everyone in the arena bat-shit crazy, heads banging and pits galore. Willetts grins and leave the stage before the band return for a double salvo of At First Light and When Cannons Fade before a final hammer to the head with Silent Demise which leaves the audience battered, bruised and enjoyably damaged. Incredible stuff and as the crowd leaves, the smiles are everywhere. The stuff of legends. Roll on next year.