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Saturday 30 January 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Raveneye

Raveneye & Reigning Days, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Forgoing my usual gig buddies I headed to Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff with the musical family at Retro-Vibe Records to see rock trio Raveneye in their first headline tour. The gig was off the back of Welsh promotion agency Pity My Brain's Brain Freeze festival where the three man rock unit went down a storm heating up a cold winter's night in Wales.

So into the small rock club we marched and waited to see if Pity My Brain and Raveneye could deliver again. First up were radio darlings Reigning Days (6) who played rock with an modern independent radio bothering edge bringing to mind Biffy Clyro et al. The trio all played well but did seem to be a little underwhelmed that they were playing such a small room to only a hundred people they had a couple of technical hitches but for the most part played well albeit rather statically. The band have been featured on Kerrang radio and channel and this gave them a cocky edge but the songs didn't really reflect this praise until the latter part of their set. Still worthwhile if you like the kind of rock that would be featured heavily on Radio 1.

A switch over and the 'older' members of the audience started to fill the room, Raveneye (8) have an old school style blending blues and hard rock all brought together by the guitar wizardry of Oli Brown, who has been on the scene since he was only really a boy but after a break the former blues-rock wunderkid has finally found a suitable vehicle for his scores of tasty blues rock riffs and has also managed to move away from the limelight with a band rather than as a solo artist. As the three men came on to the stage the sound gremlins crept in a again with feedback a gogo from Oli's mic meaning that his bluesy tones were not that audible to most of us in the room, these issues stayed around for a while, the sound man seemingly not being able to fix the problem, however with a switch of mics the reverb abated and things got a lot louder and tougher. Brown's guitar playing is excellent when he's not laying down thick riffs he's ripping up and down the fretboard soloing with all the passion of a blues legend, his guitar showcases are strongly backed by the boileroom powerhouse of bassist Aaron Spiers and drummer Kev Hickman who keep things groove-laden and thumping along as Brown shows his skills, Spiers also gets bonus points for strength carrying Brown on his shoulders for a solo set while also playing the bass. The set featured some new tracks that sat perfectly with the older material from their debut EP showing everyone that when the debut full length does come out it is going to be jam packed with cracking songs on this evidence. Yet again Raveneye set the night on fire with their high-energy blues-rock power, come back soon guys, I'm sure many will agree with me          

Thursday 28 January 2016

Reviews: Black Sabbath, Lost Society, The Slayerking

Black Sabbath: The End (Self Released)

"What is this? That stands before me?" with those immortal lines heavy metal was created by the Birmingham band known as Black Sabbath, if you don't know that stop reading and listen to some music, for the rest of you you will know that where as that immortal line was the beginning we are now at the opposite side of the coin with the current Sabbath tour touted as their last, to accompany the tour Sabbath have released a special EP, funnily enough called The End. It contains four unreleased studio tracks from the 13 sessions and four live performances of song from the 13 album, recorded on the 2013-14 13 tour. If you are an avid collector of Sabbath then this will get you as excited as Panda in snowfall, however for those that have more of a casual interest The End is not much of a loss, the live tracks are all poorly recorded and badly edited, as my compatriot Paul pointed out they are akin production wise to 1973's Live At Last, which as many will know is not a good thing.

So it's not worth buying for the live tracks, then what about the unreleased material? I hear you ask (through a written word blog) well that too doesn't cut much mustard, after listening to them you immediately realise why these tracks were left off the previous record they are just a bit...meh. It's Sabbath by numbers I'm afraid, the fodder for a thousand doom metal bands formed in Sabbath's wake, for any of them a couple of these tracks would be the lead singles unfortunately when you are the band that has Paranoid, War Pigs, Snowblind, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, N.I.B, Sweet Leaf, Fairies Wear Boots, Symptom of The Universe, Evil Woman a collection of top notch songs with their other singers and a even some excellent newer material in God Is Dead? then these four songs and this EP in general just smacks of cash in. Do yourself a favour, go and see Sabbath live on these tour dates; one it will probably be your last chance ever, two you'll get all the classics and maybe some rarely played material from the old days and finally you will see legends how they should be experienced, live with the masses gathered together for ta celebration of our favourite music. Just do one thing for me if you are a total completest then buy the The End but if your not then spend your pennies on 13 or any other album from their superb back catalogue as this is the Sabbath you'll want to watch and the songs you'll want to hear! 5/10             

Lost Society: Braindead (Nuclear Blast) [Review By Paul]

Finland has more than its fair share of metal outfits, and if a recent meme is correct, about 70% of them are wandering around forests, lost in the snow after typical pouting photoshoots. Lost Society don’t really sit comfortably musically with the majority of their countrymen, who tend to favour the melancholic, but have more in common with the Bay Area of the US, such is the ferocity of their thrash assault. Indeed, the UK will get a chance to see these boys in the flesh when they open for Exodus in March. Braindead is a mature piece of work and their third full release. Opening with I Am The Antidote, a six-minute chug, Lost Society mark their line in the sand immediately. Riot comes next, edges of nu-metal mixing with a Scott Ian influenced stomp. Samy Elbanna’s vocals are pretty standard for the genre, pushing and straining whilst giving 100% The guitar work of Elbanna and Arttu Lesonen feeds off each other, with powerful riffs and some memorable hooks. A more realistic and representative track in the shape of Mad Torture follows, with shades of early Evile and other champions of the new thrash wave.

The American influence looms large, with evidence of such giants as Overkill, Exodus and the mighty Death Angel liberally sprinkled throughout the release. Indeed, Hollow Eyes could be a mixture of the three bands. It’s decent if a little routine thrash, with a solid rhythm section courtesy of Mirko Lehtinen’s bass and drummer Ossi Paananen. Rage Me Up is almost a punk track, full of aggression and adrenaline. The masterpiece of the album is most certainly the Metallica styled Only (My) Death Is Certain. It is a cracking piece, building tempo in the way that all lengthy thrash tracks do before diving into a chugging riff that will get the windmills flying. It continues to build whilst stomping along, pounding drums and duel guitars vying for centre stage. Ironically, the track contains one of the few choruses on the album, and this is almost folk metal in style which brought a raised eyebrow or two. The song segues into the traditional lull before all hell breaks loose. It’s pretty formulaic but it works well.

If there is one criticism that I’d have to level, it’s the quality of the vocals which always seem to be slightly uncontrolled and too shouty. I’ll be interested to see how the band can deliver this live, as I’ve got a sore throat just listening to it. Still, as a fervent fan of decent thrash metal, I’ll certainly be giving up a pint in the nearest hostelry in order to get a view of these guys when they roll into Cardiff on March 11. 7/10

The Slayer King: Sanatana Dharma (Finisterian Dead End) [Review By Paul]

Greek metal? Yeah, we think of Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh Firewind and Nightfall for starters but here at MOM our European contacts are now providing us with a little bit more from a burgeoning scene.  The Slayer King, based in Athens and formed in 2013 are now firmly in the sights with their debut release Sanatana Dharma. Combining Doom, Progressive metal, thrash and even some industrial elements, Sanatana Dharma (the Hinduism term for eternal order) is a really interesting and complex release which demands several listens. Whilst the vocals of delivery Efthimis have a curious mix of Rammstein’s Til Lindermann, Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorff and Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, their sound often sits much more with the 70s sinister doom of Sabbath, Pentagram and Sleep. Opener She Is My Lazarus mixes crashing riffs with calmer moments, creating a wall of sound, fuzzed up guitar (courtesy of Kosta) solos which mix classic Iommi with Dave Murray.

Completing the line-up is drummer Anna who pounds away, combining with Efthimis’ bass to give the band a really heavy crushing sound. Black Mother Of The Lord Of The Light changes direction with a much more traditional vocal delivery, snarling guttural lyrics and more aggressive riffs, and more than a hint of reverence to their compatriots in Rotting Christ (no bad thing there).  It’s good stuff. It gets even more interesting too with We Are The End merging some really different styles; along with the crushing doom I hear the industrial edge of Rammstein and some hooks which would be totally at home on King Of The Dead, the 1984 release from Californian outfit Cirith Ungol. My Lai is an atmospheric piece, almost haunting in places with a sinister undertone. The Man That Never Was contains the heaviest riff on the album, a colossally heavy piece which crushes with its weight. Album closer Southern Gate Of The New Sun builds slowly with a demonic bass line and increasing in strength and power as it develops into a brooding behemoth of a track with almost death metal vocals giving it another change of direction. The Slayer King merge a range of old influences into something quite different and fresh. This is a solid debut with real promise. 8/10

Reviews: Nawather, Rhine, Widower (Reviews By Paul)

Nawather: Wasted Years (M & O Music)

Full of Eastern promise, Wasted Years is the debut release from Tunisian outfit Nawather. Formed in 2013, Wasted Years is full of soaring orchestral movements, thunderous drumming and crashing riffs which mold into a melting pot of excitement and intrigue. Unfortunately, all of this is severely damaged by the gruff death vocals of Raouf Jelassi which sit uncomfortably with the band’s sound. The elegant voice of Ryma Nakakch really enhances the duets whilst the fusion of musical styles is entrancing. Although I’m a long way out geographically, the obvious comparison is with Israelis Orphaned Land or Palestinian group Kalas.

After the atmospheric Portals to Edinya, opener Falling Down The Slope is followed by a solo vocal effort from Nakkach on Daret Layyem which provides a much more authentic feel. However, the male vocals cut back in and again really detract from the tune. Much like Lacuna Coil, it’s the female vocals that really grab your attention and this is a shame as the oriental metal style of the band is excellent with some exquisite guitar work from Yazid Bouafif and Nidhal Jaoua on the Qanûn (a stringed instrument rarely heard in our metal world).

And so it progresses in a similar pattern. Raped Dreams is a confused mess of thrash, oriental sweeps and intricate movements; it nearly works but just falls short. The majority of the album is sung in English which is impressive. I really hate being negative about a release that for massive parts is really fresh and exciting. Broken-Winged Bird for example, has some stunning vocals from Nakakch, chunky riffs with Jaoua’s playing adding melody to great effect. Nawather don’t sit in the one style though, and each track has some subtle differences. Unfortunately for me, the combination of gruff and clean vocals just doesn’t work and ultimately distract from the overall quality of the release. 6/10

Rhine: An Outsider (Self Released)

Badged as progressive death metal, Seattle based Rhine is the brainchild of Gabriel Tachell, who started this as a solo project in 2011 with a debut release, Duality out in the same year. Having written and performed all of the instruments apart from the drums on the album, new members have now been added and the band now comprise Alex Smolin (guitar), drummer Carlos Delgaudo and James Porter (bass) in addition to Tachell.

An Outsider is one of the most confusing albums I think I’ve ever heard. It contains possibly the most chaotic mix of styles I’ve ever heard in one place. It features the most complex and intricate time changes, multiple instrumental breaks and a multitude of vocal styles. Death growls, clean vocals, female voices all feature. The album is lengthy, clocking in at 71 minutes and features stunning musicianship. However, the schizophrenic nature of the changes throughout the release make it an album that even after repeated listens confuses the hell out of you. There are brass sections, folk and classical, white noise along with heads down death metal, thrash segments and then several progressive and complicated Dream Theater type meanderings. With several songs clocking in at over eight minutes, there is lots of scope for expansion and creative flow and this is exploited to the max.

Does it work? Well, I don’t know whether to be impressed or to dismiss it as over the top egotistical mayhem. I’ve read a couple of reviews that make reference to the masterful Blackwater Park, Opeth's ground breaking release. I wouldn’t provide any such eulogy, but it is an interesting and powerful piece of work requiring commitment and staying power for the listener to really appreciate it. If I had to recommend one piece to have a listen to, check out Paralyzed. At over 10 minutes long it’s ironically the single off the album but it is really well composed. 7/10

Widower: The Unholy Oath (Self Released)

Austin, Texas is not synonymous with brutal black metal but it soon will be if Widower get their way. The Unholy Oath is a blistering five track assault which rips your neck off early on and then continues to pummel you into a gibbering wreck. The EP contains all the mandatory requirements for a black metal release: massive blast beat drumming, unintelligible vocals delivered in a style that makes Abbath sound like Aled Jones, huge accelerated riffs which shred like a turbo charged meat counter slicer and the obligatory crass song titles (Whore Crusher?) as well as a pretty dreadful album cover. Underneath it all lies some impressive hooks and the odd ear scorching solo, as well as a bass line so deep it must have rattled Lucifer’s chandelier. If you like your thrash blackened and delivered at 110mph then you’ll probably like Widower. If you like Halestorm, steer clear. This will kill you. 8/10

Wednesday 27 January 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Steven Wilson (Review By Paul)

Steven Wilson – Bristol Colston Hall 26 January 2016

A virtually sold out stalls only gig at the lovely Colston Hall witnessed possibly the most technically brilliant gig of 2016 (already, yes, I know). Steven Wilson and his magical band of musicians arrived with their musical mojo well honed after ten dates in Germany and with the latest release, the “interim” 4 1/2 threatening to breach the UK top ten.

We've reviewed the latest release  and 2015’s stunning Hand. Cannot. Erase was one of the highlights of last year. The band arrived onstage with Wilson’s usual eye for detail in evidence. Who else could engage a theatre full of mainly middle aged men with a visual that consisted of lighting changing in a tower block? Not only that but fully grasp the audience's attention. A low key entrance, initially by long serving in keyboardist Adam Holzman who began the chords for the opening track First Regret and then by the rest of the band began the first set; the indulgence of the whole of Hand. Cannot. Erase. Thanking the audience for attending, Wilson observed that on every night of the tour he was having to comment on the seating arrangements and lamented the potential absence of energy for the band to fed off. Unfortunately, with a band of such quality, the trade off between a venue with standing and one with decent acoustics which supports such complex and intricate music is often at odds. A word with your promoters might be in order?

With that off his chest, This talented quintet delivered an absolute masterclass with the rest of the album, which included the arrival of Israeli vocalist Ninet Tayeb, who provided the haunting vocals for the depressing Routine, complete with video playing on the huge screen behind. Indeed, the screen was used to great effect all the way until the final song of the evening where it couldn't cope and froze. Tayeb was superb, her voice uplifting and powerful and it was a joy to experience her live performance in such illustrious company. Other highlights of the first set? The multitalented Nick Beggs moving from bass to eight string Chapman Stick to guitars to synth was just brilliant whilst new drummer Craig Blundell and the amazing Dave Kilminster on guitar slotted in perfectly. Their playing was sublime. Tayeb returned for a duet on Ancestral which captivated the audience and whilst I appreciated Wilson’s sentiments about the response from the audience, it was songs such as this where you really had to sit back and allow the sheer quality on display to be absorbed.

After an intermission which was appreciated by the majority of the audience (these ain't young bladders you know) the second half of the evening began with the real treat of the opening track from Wilson’s 2012 Storm Corrosion collaboration with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt. Drag Ropes was quite breathtaking, with the sinister and disturbing video playing in the background.

During the evening Wilson had touched on a number of topics, including the demise of the annual release, something which he often touches on when being accused of prolific. He expressed his opinion that the norm of a band releasing an album every year allowed them to experiment with styles without the pressure from management. Now, I'm not convinced that this is fully accurate, but certainly the current style of an album every four years is not something that endears bands to me and I endorse Mr Wilson’s sentiments. He also touched on the death of musical innovation, and in a heartfelt manner paid tribute to David Bowie, citing him as an inspiration to hundreds of musicians. Dedicating Lazarus, one of five Porcupine Tree numbers, to Bowie, Wilson and the band hit just the right note. A rare and powerful Index from Grace For Drowning was preceded by the opening track on 4 ½ My Book Of Regrets, one of three which were played. The others were a blisteringly heavy Vermillioncore which followed more haunting vocals from Tayeb during Don’t Hate Me. I make no excuse for my repetition about the quality of the musicianship on display. Kilminster is an incredible guitarist who was equally at home fiercely shredding or adding subtle notes to enhance the depth of a song. Beggs meanwhile is just astonishing, adding enough grunt and rumble with his bass playing whilst his backing vocals really supported each track merging with Wilson's sublimely. 

After a lengthy and fully deserved standing ovation, the audience was encouraged to remain standing for a further Bowie homage, a lovely Space Oddity before The Sound of Muzak and the harrowing yet enchanting  The Raven That Refused To Sing concluded the evening to wild applause. If there is a better way to spend £22.50 then please do tell me, because I don't believe that it exists. 10/10

Sunday 24 January 2016

Reviews: Megadeth (Monster Review By Paul)

Megadeth: Dystopia (Nuclear Blast)

Dave Mustaine is one of the most enigmatic and interesting men in metal. Just look at the list: Inextricably linked with Metallica, a born again Christian, huge drug addiction in the 1990s, self-taught guitarist after nerve damage in his left arm meant he was unable to grip let alone shred and a reputation as an egotistical maniac who has split several cracking line-ups of his own band. However, what I’ve missed from this list is that Mustaine is also responsible for some of the most technically excellent thrash metal albums of all time. Tagged in as part of the ‘Big 4’, there isn’t a metal head in the world unfamiliar with the snarling of Peace Sells, the brutally sweet Hanger 18 or the tongue in cheek Sweating Bullets.

Over the years Megadeth has produced some absolute corking tunes, as well as some pretty shocking stuff as well. Risk immediately comes to mind, whilst 2013’s Supercollider was received with all the joy of a fart in a spacesuit. Despite this, the main man has continued to write and in 2014 changed his line-up again. Out went guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover, and in came Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb Of God pounder Chris Adler. This immediately pricked up the ears of the metal fraternity, with Adler in particular noted to be one of the best stickmen around today. The band have been out on tour, with Adler notably doing double duty in Europe at the tail end of 2015. All the reports I read were extremely positive, with Megadeth holding their own with LOG; no mean feat in the live arena.

So, what about the studio results? Well, Dystopia dispels any negativity left over from the previous release. It is a ferocious slab of technical thrash metal, containing all the ingredients that you would demand of a truly top class Megadeth release. Opener The Threat Is Real sets the scene, with a killer double riff launching into a galloping thrasher. Soaring guitar work, Mustaine’s trademark snarl and Adler’s frantic yet controlled double bass underpinning the rhythm section with the reliable and solid bass lines of David Ellefson rampaging alongside. The title track follows at a similar pace, loaded with hooks and melody and some stunning guitar work from Loureiro and Mustaine. In fact, the guitar work throughout this album is just brilliant, classic Megadeth with solo after solo filling every possible space. Mustaine’s lyrics focus once more on the state of the world, his frustration with American foreign policy and the corruption of politicians.

It’s not just eleven recycled tracks though; Death From Within has a more standard Megadeth stomp, Adler hitting his form with ease, that double bass absolutely blistering whilst vicious fretwork drips from the ceiling. Bullet From The Brain has a classical guitar intro, backed by military style snare before developing slowly into a monster, with a brutal riff and meaty hook. A tale of forbidden fruit; biblical reference anyone? Regardless, some of the fretwork in this tune is stunning. Loureiro’s playing is magnificent; Mustaine has unearthed another guitar god. The pace changes with Poisonous Shadows, another classical guitar introduction leading to a symphonic powerhouse of a track. Surprisingly, there are elements of the Middle East with an orchestral arrangement and the additional vocals of Farah Siraj (also present on the opening track) and this is possibly the best track on the album. It is also the longest at over six minutes. Poisonous Shadows is a slower paced track than the majority on Dystopia but that actually enhances the quality and as it builds the backing vocals allow the composition to build before a piano led conclusion.

Conquer Or Die follows, an instrumental which is deftly split into two; opening with a classical piece of guitar before a heavy metal stomp. Any thoughts that the band are mellowing clears immediately with the full on thrash assault with Lying In State which motors along at 100mph, Mustaine’s cutting social commentary at the fore once more. However, it is the playing which once again grabs you by the throat. This track just doesn’t let up from start to finish; I was exhausted just listening to it as it arrived at a frantic finale. Onto the final two tracks of the album; The Emperor confronts the reality which afflicts so much of the Western World. A powerful driving track laced with riffs and solos that cut deep. Foreign Policy, a cover of Californian punk outfit Fear brings the album to an aggressive close, the title and the anger dovetailing seamlessly with the themes running through the album.

An aggressive return to form for Megadeth. Dystopia has enough about it to sit comfortably with much of the back catalogue. Having seen Megadeth several times over the years, it will be interesting to see how this new line-up delivers the new material in the live setting in June at Download. It certainly makes them unmissable, which is not something I’ve always said. Until then, goodnight and have a safe journey home. 9/10

Saturday 23 January 2016

Reviews: Steven Wilson, The Anchoress, Crippled Black Phoenix

Steven Wilson: 4 1/2 (Kscope)

Is Steven Wilson the hardest working man in music? This is a question I and probably numerous music journos have posed since Porcupine Tree first came to precedence in the mid-nineties, he has gone on to have a successful career with that band and now with his solo career he is taking to new heights with his latest album Hand.Cannot.Erase breaking chart records around the world, between any of his own endeavours, recording and touring mostly, Wilson produces and mixes numerous albums for many other bands meaning that he does seem to be constantly working. So now not long after the release of his fourth album, Wilson has released a stopgap EP that collects songs that were written during the sessions for Wilson's previous two studio albums, the aforementioned Hand. Cannot. Erase. and The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories). Thus why the record is named 4 1/2.

As usual the songs are of the highest possible quality, the first song is the immediate My Book Of Regrets that has a lazy summer riff leading the opening part that moves and switches between pop and prog at the drop of a hat and then bursts into a bass led middle eight that features some superb soloing from the keyboards and guitar of Dave Kilminster before moving back into the dreamy verses again, this is the nearest thing to Porcupine Tree Wilson has done in years. The EP features contributions from Wilson's touring band Adam Holzman (Keyboards), Nick Beggs (Bass), Guthrie Govan (Guitar), Dave Kilminster (Guitar-Replaced Govan), Craig Blundell (Drums -Replaced Wackerman), Marco Minnemann (Drums), Chad Wackerman (Drums - Minnemann) and Theo Travis (Sax, Flute, Clarinet), with Wilson himself taking up any instrument he sees fit a well as supplying that unmistakable vocal. Year Of The Plague is a shimmering acoustic instrumental augmented by the synths that leads into the Happiness III which merges melancholic lyricism with jarring pop arrangement and Govan's trademark jazz guitars.

Another instrumental this time the swirling Sunday Rain Sets In bleeds into Vermillioncore which is darkly heavy with an electronic ambience similar to Wilson's No Man project with Tim Bowness. The haunting finale is a cover of a Porcupine Tree song Don't Hate Me which originally appeared on Stupid Dream, this remake is close to the original but the powerful chorus is taken by Ninet Tayeb who can be seen showing off her fantastic voice on both Hand.Cannot.Erase and in Wilson's live band. This is a brilliant precursor for Wilson's fifth album and is a testament that Wilson even creates magic on the songs he leaves off the album! 8/10       

The Anchoress: Confessions Of A Romance Novelist (Kscope)

Catherine Anne Davies is Welsh born multi instrumentalist, songwriter and author who has performed with numerous artists, most notably Simple Minds, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as Ed Hardcourt, Martha Wainwright and Emmy The Great. As well as her musical endevours she has a PhD in Literature and Queer Theory, has published a book and contributed as a writer to NME. So much like Steven Wilson (as mentioned above) Catherine AD (her abbreviated guise) is a bit of a workaholic, as well as being a workaholic she also has the same penchant for genre straddling as Mr Wilson meaning that her debut album under the pseudonym of The Anchoress has been quickly picked up Kscope who deal in all things quirky and artistic. Let me get this out of the way Confessions Of A Romance Novelist is not prog rock, far from it but it is an album that draws from art rock, electronica, indie rock and mainstream pop and throws them all together with some excellent musicianship, songcraft and a fierce feminist attitude. For The Anchoress project Catherine AD has teamed up with Mansun's Paul Draper who supplies his production, guitar and vocals to the synth powered indie of You And Only You. As I've said this album encompasses many genres and works them all perfectly to create an album of progressive pop.

 From the Nick Cave meets Portishead darkness of Long Head through the jazzy What Goes Around which sounds like Kate Bush in her glorious heyday, to the off kilter attitude drenched One For Sorrow that blends seamlessly into the angry, vengeful, explicit ballad P.S Fuck You which is mid album show stopper that's followed by the jaunty Popular that brings an element of that other Welsh contemporaries Marina & The Diamonds. Catherine AD is a superb musician and one look at the liner notes, which are beautifully designed to look like a Penguin Classics book, you can see that she handles most of the instrumentation with piano being her main weapon of choice. Just listen to the solo piano piece Bury Me to hear the beauty of just a single voice, a piano and some synths for atmosphere and you will realise that Catherine has sculpted this album for a while making sure that it represents her musical vision of telling stories to music using intelligent lyrics and a broad musical palette. As the album winds up with the excellent title track and a cover of Simple Minds' Rivers Of Ice you feel as if the album has told you the story stylised by the packaging and you are all the better for it. A beautiful album from a woman that is positively brimming with talent. 9/10 

Crippled Black Phoenix: Spider Island (Seasons Of Mist)

Finally CBP are back in business after a long time in the wilderness, I've noted their membership problems in the live reviews I've done but they have now put out this excellent EP that reminds you of how good they are in the recorded format. It comprises four tracks, two new songs and a cover of Pink Floyd's epic Echoes, the ominous heaviness of Spider Island starts things off with a huge slab of monolithic doom that harks back to main man Justin Greaves time in the metal underworld, the  rhythm guitars of Greaves are down tunes and rhythmic with Mark Funeverall and Daisy Chapman's synths and keys leading the mind expanding as the engine room of Niall Hone and Ben Wilsker power the tracks slow, brooding beat. On both this song and the second new track New Dark Age new lead guitarist Jonas Stalhammar shows his mettle as a guitarist especially on the ethereal beginning of this 16 minute track that has all the hallmarks of Floyd from the stabs of organ to the careening, emotive lead playing, this twist and turns giving CBP yet another huge epic to add to their live show, on the record it neatly leads into the cover of both parts of Echoes which sees CBP collaborate with Belinda Kordic who Greaves collaborates more frequently with on the Se Delan project (in fact this cover has already appeared on Se Delan's Oh'Ech-oes) the cover is almost perfect for CBP as it shows Floyd at their most experimental and also their most ant-establishment something that suits CBP's take no prisoners attitude. Spider Island is an excellent little EP that sees CBP come back with style and a renewed life. 8/10

Thursday 21 January 2016

Reviews: Abbath, Cauldron, The Radio Sun

Abbath: Abbath (Season of Mist)

To say that what seems to be the end of Black Metal legend Immortal was dramatic is an understatement, the split was rife with all the mud slinging of an episode of Eastenders with frontman Abbath leaving the group he founded with guitarist Demonaz in 1990. Now the band wer in a legal battle over the rights and Abbath dissolved the band to continue under his own name however Demonaz and drummer Horgh will apparently continue the band without him and are said to be recording a new album. Now what will come of this I'm not going to speculate, but what I am going to do is review Abbath's heralded debut solo album. Before the release of the solo album yet more departures have happened with album sticksman Creature and live guitarist Per Valla both leaving the group before the album was even released, but now lets get away from the comings and goings of the personnel and focus on the music contained on this disc.

Lets address the elephant in the room right away shall we, this is black metal, in fact it's the kind ov Norwegian Black Metal that Immortal were at the forefront of for many years, blending finger shredding thrash with Satanic lyrics and Abbath's croaking vocals to brooding, dark metal, just listen to the propulsive blast beats of Count The Dead and Fenrir Hunts and you can hear the band Abbath started. There is also a lot of classic and modern metal on this record with the atmospheric Root Of The Mountain sounding like it could come from Mercyful Fate and the brutal Winter Bane sitting at home on a Devildriver record. So fans of Abbath will get a lot from this records but it's not perfect it suffers from sequencing issues, the best tracks coming towards the latter part of the album, there also one or two duds with To! War sounding like it was recorded in a dustbin and Ashes Of The Damned being totally rubbish having the jarring synth horns slicing through it. For a first shot away from his previous band it's got enough to win over the doubters but there are a couple of risks that don't quite pay off, still for the most part it's fast, furious black metal fun! 7/10

Cauldron: In Ruin (The End Records)

Four albums into their career and Cauldron are showing no signs of releasing that disco-funk album we've all be waiting for but they still seem able to drop a heaving slab of bullet-belt wearing, leather clad, NWOBHM worship, so for now we'll just have to deal with the fact that this is what Cauldron do and do very well indeed. The threesome, led by founder members Ian Chains and Jason Decay, once again have every old school pastiche covered with galloping bass runs from Decay leading the charge backed by the thundering toms of new boy Myles Deck, topped with some tasty shredding from the Flying V of Chains. Yes Cauldron do stick rigidly to a formula but it's one that seems to really make them shine, from the first chords of No Return/In Ruin you are drawn in with the schlocky B- movie horror lyrics and the songs direct go for the throat riff. It's this immediacy that the Canadian three piece have repeatedly brought to their previous albums, there is no real let up as every one of these nine tracks has either a swift thrash riff case -in-point Santra Mira or as on Hold The Sky a strutting punch the sky rhythm, more melody comes in the shape of Corridors Of Dust which is possibly the albums most Maiden moment while Delusive Serenade is an instrumental that gives you time to breathe and nods to Ride The Lightning. I have to reiterate that Cauldron do what they do well, the proto-thrash, the ghostly reverb of Decay's vocals and the prerequisite admiration paid to the old school are all in abundance and hopefully Cauldron will still continue to keep the spirit of NWOBHM alive. 7/10    

The Radio Sun: Heaven Or Heartbreak (Melodic Rock Records)

When you think Aussie rock the usual suspects come to mind, however The Radio Sun have about as much in common with AC/DC as Behemoth would. There are no bluesy pub rock vibes here just big slick saccharine melodic guitar rock rhythms that take you to hazy summer nights as the mist descends over the beach and that bikini clad beauty cuddles up to you to keep warm...*cough* sorry drifted away there. Starting off with Caught Between Heaven And Heartbreak we kick start with the huge riffs Stevie Janvski who plays like EVH in his heyday soloing mightily when he gets his time to shine. The groove of bassist Robbie Erdmanis and drummer Ben Wignall's is sturdier than Locktite, this powerful boiler room is the perfect foil for Janvski's guitars and the impressive but understated synths that fill the background at their poppiest on Science Fiction Make Believe which features Danger Danger frontman Paul Laine helping with vocals, as well as doing a sterling production job, ensuring everything is very glossy. This is uncomplicated, polished, accomplished melodic rock that has an ear to bands like Winger, Nelson, Night Ranger, Def Leppard and even Queen on Hanging By A Thread in places, much of these comparison can be drawn because of the soulful vocals of Jason Old who has the perfect vocal for this kind of unfussy melodic rock giving the same heartfelt performance on the rockier tracks as he does on the emotive ballad Dying Without Your Love and the radio bothering Do You Remember Me? The Radio Sun perfectly execute a mix of hard rock with a keen ear to the 80's FM radio era. Heaven Or Heartbreak is a melodic rock masterclass and The Radio Sun couldn't be more aptly named, this album is a ray of sunshine shining out of your speakers (if that's possible). 8/10     

Monday 18 January 2016

Reviews: The Temperance Movement, Primal Fear, Skunk Anansie (Reviews By Paul And Myself)

The Temperance Movement: White Bear (Earache [Review By Paul]

2013 saw the emergence of one of the best British bands in absolutely ages; stunning live shows over the next two years cemented this reputation and the band’s self-titled debut contained a slab of bluesy rock of the highest quality. Three years on and the sophomore release by The Temperance Movement moves the band up a notch and surely even higher acclaim. If I had to pick five words to use within the description of this album they would be: Soulful; swagger; confident; development and polished. Following such an excellent debut release was always going to be difficult and on first listening much of White Bear is not as instantaneous as TTM. However, get into the second and third listen and you begin to pick up the areas of  improvement; the guitar work of Paul Sayer and (now ex) Luke Potashnick soars and dives all around you, intricate and delicate yet aggressive and gritty too. The bass of Nick Fyffe is superb, underpinning the frantic yet controlled drumming of Damon Wilson; a fine example shown in A Pleasant Peace I Feel. The opening stomp of Three Bullets and the driving Modern Massacre show the band’s steel whilst allowing the cigarette drawl of frontman Phil Campbell to really come to the fore.

If you've seen this band live (and I've been fortunate to several times) you’ll know that Campbell is the beating heart of TTM. His energetic and dynamic delivery has moved up a level. Both Battle Lines and the title track have shades of last year’s US tour mates Blackberry Smoke, all swagger and pomp with some excellent bluesy guitar lines, although White Bear also provides opportunity for Campbell to demonstrate his softer side with some delicate vocals contrasting with his more usual rasp. Established live favourite Oh Lorraine has received substantial air time already and is a fine single, classic rock music for radio and as infectious as a dose of scabies on a Newport bus. Time to explain one of my five words; confident. Throughout White Bear there is an air of confidence which has been hewn from hard work, both in the studio but mainly on the road where these guys have really developed and honed their craft. Their sound has added an extra layer, subtle and often almost unnoticed, skillfully created to enhance TTM’s sound. Credit to Sam Miller who produced the album along with the band. White Bear isn't a long album, 35 minutes and ten tracks but there is no filler on this release.

The influences remain; The Stones, The Faces, The Black Crows and Zeppelin to name but four but all pretty damn fine. Listen to Magnify, nothing new but damn fine rock ‘n’ roll. Penultimate track, The Sun And The Moon Roll Around is a blues soaked sojourn, whilst I Hope I'm Not Losing My Mind slows the pace and closes the album perfectly. Back in 2014, after I’d seen the band for a second time at The Empire in Shepherd’s Bush, I predicted this band would be immense. I said it again later that year after a stunning show at the O2 in Bristol and I repeat it now. This band are incredible. One of the albums of 2016 – without a doubt. Hear it, see them, enjoy. 10/10

Primal Fear: Rulebreaker (Frontiers)

Come one, come all as we once again worship at the altar of The Metal Gods Judas Priest with their Germanic counterparts! Yes I'm talking about Primal Fear and they are back with a new album and a three guitarist set up welcoming founding member Tom Naumann back to the band to compliment the axe wizardry of Alex Beyrodt and Magnus Karlsson, this isn't the only change in the line up as they have brought in Francesco Jovino in behind the skins who applies his rumbling backbeat throughout. Rulebreaker has all the prerequisites of Primal Fear's sound, the supersonic speed metal with opener Angels Of Mercy and Constant Heart sounding like they could have come off Priest's Painkiller, as an antidote to the speed is the chunky grinding heavy metal of The End Is Near which shows off Ralf Scheepers' amazing vocal range. After all these years he doesn't seem to have lost a single octave still having the same snarling mid-range and ear piercing highs of Rob Halford in his glory days. There is so much Priest worship on this record it could be the follow up to Redeemer Of Souls but this is not a bad thing as Primal Fear have never shied away from sounding like the metal legends, Bullets And Tears sounds a lot like Breaking The Law with the title track jumping straight off Killing Machine they do the impression so well that they have really made the sound their own.

However the band still have the bouncy power metal blueprint that bassist Mat Sinner started all those years ago with In Metal We Trust the spiritual successor to Metal Is Forever. Now Primal Fear have never been afraid to take risks 16.6 had more of a progressive vibe and on Rulebreaker the band have gone all Blind Guardian with the albums' symphonic (added by Karlsson's keys) 10 minute plus centrepiece We Walk Without Fear which really displays the incredible musical dexterity of a band many would write off, this can also be witnessed on the ballad The Sky Is Burning which is a stirring track that emotes real passion. With a three part guitar harmonies adding a new dimension to the bands now trademark metal assault Rulebreaker is the latest in a long line of Primal Fear albums, their eleventh in fact, that just grabs you from track one and doesn't let you go until you are pumping your leather clad fist in the air. Another superb release by the German metal maniacs. 8/10

Skunk Anansie: Anarchytecture (100% Records) [Review By Paul]

Anarchytecture is the seventh release from Skunk Anansie, a formidable part of the 1990s Britrock movement, and the third since the band reformed in 2009. This release follows on from the rather average Black Traffic in 2012 but in every other sense this is a cracker of an album. Skunk Anansie are not metal, that’s for certain. However, their musical combination mixes reggae, electronica, punk and even the odd bit of hip hop whilst also laced with a vicious element of rock. This release has the aggression of Ace’s fine guitar work which melds with bass and drums of Cass and Mark Richardson respectively. Victim and Beauty Is Your Curse for example, contain a driving tempo which propels the songs along. Lead vocalist Skin needs no introduction, being one of the most inspiring and captivating female vocalists in rock. Death To The Lovers, a tender electronic tune is one example which showcases the beauty in Skin’s voice.

The main attraction of this band has always been the variation in their styles, crossing boundaries and genres, following their own style. The electropop drive of In The Back Room contrasting with the industrial-tinged Bullets, complete with anthemic chanting and marching beat. Although Skin’s voice grabs the attention, it would be wrong to write off the rest of the band and similar to the vastly underrated Killing Joke, the sum of the parts really is the key. Anarchytecture clocks in at a shade over 37 minutes, with the majority of the songs short, sharp and to the point. That Sinking Feeling, full of punky riffs and aggressive punches you in the face (and sure to be a live favourite) whilst Suckers! is a short powerhouse of an instrumental. Album closer I’ll Let You Down is perfect, highlighting the sensitive side of the band and another beautifully constructed song with a stunning performance from Skin. An excellent album that grows on you the more you listen to it. A welcome return to form from a classic British band. 9/10

Thursday 14 January 2016

Reviews: Stone Cold Dead, Chronos Zero, Serpent (2015 Reviews Catch Up)

Stone Cold Dead: Lava Flows (Volcanic Music)

Stone Cold Dead is a collaborative project between a few Greek musicians, the idea is a conceptual album that merges the extreme sides of metal with progressive and more mainstream sub-genres. The main contributors are Ex Rotting Christ and Nightfall man George Bokos who handles vocals, guitars and production and Charis Pazaroulas who adds bass and contrabass (this is what gives the album it's gut punching bottom end). These two are the only ones that play on every track, they have recruited Dimitrios Dorian, Yannis Stavropoulos and most notably Nile man George Kollias as the drummers on this record each one drumming for of the albums three 'parts' (labelled Stone, Cold and Dead). Opening track Climbing The Cage thunders ion with blast beats and Gojira-like groove full of fret slides and low level punching bass as well as roaring vocals from Bokos, the band continue with this no nonsense brutalism on Cyclone Speaking which will have you bouncing in your chair with it's bass-heavy down tuned power and amazing drums as everything gets a bit early LOG, the title track slows things down with a percussive intro that brings elements of Max Cavalera fronting Sabbath. Part 2 starts with the thrashy Death Drive which yet again sounds bit like Soulfly and has Pazaroulas' bass leading everything, this album is great very brutal and aggressive but with a keen ear for melody and some progressive touches throughout, tracks like Hubrisim have elements of Deftoneswhile Deconstructing The Architect has Maiden flavour in it's opening before the final track And The Tree Becomes A Sphere brings everything together in great finale. These Greeks can do muscular metal very well, yes it can blur into one at some points but this style of music is all about feel and Lava Flows will kick your head in and possibly rupture your spleen, which I guess is a feeling! 7/10   

Chronos Zero: Hollowlands (Bakerteam)

Wel well well, what do you get if you cross Symphony X, Amaranthe and Rhapsody? The answer would be something close to the sound of Chronos Zero who hail from Italy and boast a progressive metal sound, a futuristic concept album dealing with science fiction and fact and three vocalists; two male, one female all of whom weave complex vocal melodies together. The band have added the growling vocals of Manuel and the soaring classically trained pipes of Margherita since their debut meaning that the Russell Allen-like throat of Jan Manenti (from Love.Might.Kill) now has two perfect foils to tell the complex story. Luckily he is also aided by the virtuosity of the band who rely on the tried and tested method of having the single guitarist playing with insane skill, a rhythm section that changes the time signature and pace at will fluidly adding twists and turns to the songs and a whole load of keyboards from a dedicated keyboardist as well as the from the guitarist, this means the whole thing is cinematic in scope and like I said the Symphony X looms large but not enough to overpower what the band are trying to do, they have enough individuality to separate them from the pack. As I said the album is a concept and as I haven't read the booklet, or heard the debut album, I can't really tell what it's about but it seems to be set in a futuristic world which means that the prog/power of the band is perfect fit, the album weighs in at 14 songs an none of these are short full of instrumental sections, solos as well as barrages of riffage, especially Shattered which tries to throw in as many as possible with three time changes in the song, so if you are not a fan of prog metal it may be a slog but for those that like their metal clever, vivid, huge in scope and full of technical musicianship then Hollowlands - The Tears Path: Chapter One (to give it it's full title) will be sitting somewhere near the top of your must buy list! Expressive, symphonic metal from this Italian metal mob. 8/10 

Serpent: Nekromant (Transubstants)

Swedish band Serpent have a particular sound and that is spacey doom rock, with Sabbath and particularly The Sword with the same kind of chunky guitar riffs that are placed between NWOBHM and doom metal topped by the keening vocals of frontman/bassist Mattias Ottosson, who sounds very like The Swords J.D Cronise, in fact everything about Serpent sounds like The Sword Demon On Our Side could have come off any of their albums while Hey You creeps, and the swaggering chest beating of Praying For A Curse has another similarity to that of Grand Magus. Serpent are a good band but they do sound an awful lot like The Sword so if you like the Texan fuzz merchants then Serpent will be up your street however many will just slither away and seek out the originals. 5/10

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Reviews: David Bowie, Anthrax, Fleshgod Apocalypse

David Bowie: Blackstar (RCA)

*DISCLAIMER: This review has a certain new poignancy to it now after the events of the 11/01/16 with the untimely passing of David Bowie. Now the listening sessions took place before his death shortly after the albums release on Mr Bowie's birthday. All the opinions formed are based solely on the records merits, any sentiment has been added after the fact.*

David Bowie has always been one of musics great chameleons, be it his look, style, sound, he seems to be able to adapt and indeed improve any genre he cares to dip into, his twenty fifth album The Next Day was released out of the blue in March 2013 and was somewhat of an homage to his successful and creative Berlin years. The album saw Bowie team up once again with Tony Visconti and it took the world by storm, every Bowie album is seen as an event so when Blackstar was dropped on 8th January 2016 it shook up the music scene coming without warning and supplying more Bowie quirkiness and musical genius. Once again Blackstar has Visconti producing along with Bowie, as well as a great team of musicians aiding him to create this avant-guard, jazz like album, the key addition to the band is Donny McCaslin whose saxophone, woodwind and flutes are the real keys to this album. The album opens with the then title track which features a repeating drum machine underneath the dreamy keys and Bowie's otherworldly vocals before the orchestrations stir in the background and the sax kicks in. So far so Bowie with madness meeting majesty on an understated slow burn of an opener, that owes as much to trip-hop as it does to jazz. The electronic discord makes way for plucking strings which sees Bowie croon on the smooth middle section, before the darkness creeps back in.

With a seven minute opener we go back to the percussive driven sheen of Tis A Pity She Was A Whore which once again relies upon the brass and the drums to move it into a cacophony as Bowie laces it with brief interludes of erudite verbal passages adding to the shimmying jazz shuffle "Man she punched me like a dude" is a great way to start a song in anyone book. With two tracks gone and there is no sign of any kind of cohesiveness on the album which spans several genres and sounds throughout, all taken in the long tall stride of the master of musical magic. Lazarus is a more guitar driven affair that slowly slinks along as Bowie talks of death and rebirth backed by some great synths and yes more sax  it is one of the best tracks on the album in it's complexity masking as simplicity, something that Mr Bowie has always revelled in (In light of current events this is clearly a dying man's parting gift). The middle part of the album has much more guitars with the frantic Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) and the bass heavy creep of Girl Loves Me both take the rock back a bit while remaining delightfully weird in a Peter Gabriel like way. With twenty five albums under his belt some could ask what more could Bowie do musically? Well on Blackstar he has once again re jigged his sound meaning that it is quirky, odd, beguiling and most importantly pure Bowie magic. 9/10

A fitting tribute to the legacy of such an important part of British Music history          

Anthrax: For All Kings (Nuclear Blast)

The eleventh album by Anthrax is one that shows the band revitalized, it is the first since the departure of long time lead guitarist Rob Caggiano (although he himself only played on two Anthrax albums in eight years) and on that front alone former Shadows Fall man John Donais has really taken up the baton in the shredder role. This album is guitar heavy, more so than ever before, with each song strewn with solos that rip, tear and bite at the leash as Donais manically slides up and down the fretboard. These guitar histrionics have added positively to the record as it has matured Anthrax's sound away from the thrash blueprint they have always been known for, yes the stomp is still there on tracks like Breathing Lightning but there is more modernity on the songs coming from the NWOAHM style of bands like Shadows Fall with tracks like Monster At The End and the brutal Suzerain having a bit more aggression to them. There is also some progression on the 7 minute opener You Gotta Believe and the superb Blood Eagle Wings which is big powerful fist pumping metal track. The thrash is still there but also there is wide stroke of classic metal on the title track on which frontman Joey Belladonna does his best Dio impression. Where as Worship Music saw the band trying to break away from their past by embracing that which came before it and looking forward to the future. I've mentioned Donais a lot (he really is very good) but he can only shine because of Scott Ian's trademark effortless riffs, bolstered by Frank Bello's furious bass playing and Charlie Benate's superb drumming see first single Evil Twin (which is about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris) which has Benate playing up a storm. Anthrax have really upped their game on For All Kings after a what has been a great 'live' period for the band finally their maturity has been reflected in their recorded output. 8/10

Fleshgod Apocalypse: King (Nuclear Blast)

Speaking of advancement it's time for the Italian masters of cinematic orchestral metal to once again arrive and blow away any previous effort with their latest album King. My initial thought upon my first listen was and I quote "Holy Fucking Shit!!" As Marche Royale builds with it's string led and choral vocals into the explosive opener In Aeternum which sees them on familiar territory, all incredible classical backing the insane drums of Francesco Paoli (who also plays guitar and supplies backing vocals) driving the wall-of-sound style of the band. The guitars of Cristiano Trionfera are there to riff furiously and supply the searing solos, underpinned by the piano and synths of Francesco Ferrini who adds a larger scope to the bands' sound than ever before, even on the pounding heaviness of Healing Through War he jars the listener with the orchestrations (aided by Trionfera) fleshing out (no pun intended) the songs giving Fleshgod their unique sound.

This like the previous record, is once again a concept album, built around the rise and fall of monarchy (I think), the vocal interplay between Tommaso Riccardi (harsh), bassist Paolo Rossi (clean) and the operatic vocals of guest soprano Veronica Bordacchini is perfect when used in unison on tracks such as the dramatic performance piece Cold As Perfection. Bordacchini is also brilliant on her own on Paramour which is straight opera that lingers momentarily before being washed away with the light speed assault of And The Vulture Beholds. The band are all top flight musicians playing every track with the right level of intensity and technical ability, Fleshgod Apocalypse have always been a band in their own league and on this record they have once again proved their immense talent and ability adding yet more layers to their sound with every release they have improved themselves fleshing out their sound, Labyrinth was damn near perfect but this release is coming close to being their magnum opus. Incredible roll on seeing them live in March!! 9/10

Tuesday 12 January 2016

A View From Another Country: Hammerfall (Review & Pictures By Konstantina Frasia)

Hammerfall & Elevnking, Fuzz Club Athens

So our first review from a European writer is here, just before Xmas our lady in the Hellenic heartland witnessed the return of Swedish Power Metal Gods Hammerfall, after an 18 year absence, in a packed Fuzz Club. Here is her view from the back of the room:


Italian folk metallers were brought along as the support for Hammerfall and they proceeded to warm the crowd up by bursting on to the stage with their power/folk mix working well, the band were energetic with the front five members all trading places as the raced through their set with enthusiasm, frontman Damnagoras was the preening frontman controlling the crowd, interacting, goading and prompting them when needed. He even took the time for a selfie with the crowd at the set's climax. The rest of the band were equally fun to watch as they played their instruments for their lives. Damnagoras' voice is nothing special (As I've noted before - Ed) but it fits the bands style, all of the players were tight the two guitars and violin duelled throughout as the rhythm section blasted out from the rear of stage. With their distinct, style the band are a visual force, due to the face paint and 'folk' styling but much of this was nulled by the cigarette smoke in their air and their unusual lighting rendering much of their set in darkness. A good set that did it's job but with a few things that could have improved the set, still the band seemed happy to be there thanking the fans after the gig outside the venue. 7/10   


After a change over the noise and anticipation in the venue rose as the band burst on to stage the applause was rapturous and as the fist chord of Hector's Hymn hit horns were thrown, voices were raised and every line was sung back, after the new boy was another recent on with Any Means Necessary which is one of the heaviest songs the band have produced with it's choir-like chant. Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren led the charge with the twin guitars weaving between riffs and solos, while bassist Fredrik Larsson and touring drummer David Wallin kept everything locked in tight allowing the guitarists to express themselves and finally let singer Joacim Cans unleash that amazing voice of his, he soared through classics like Blood Bound, Heeding The Call and the still awesome Let The Hammer Fall, which still has it's great call-and-response chorus. As the gig progressed one thing became clear, Joacim was having problems with his earpiece, he kept touching it and adjusting it, this might be because Athens was the last show of the tour so things were starting to stop working, what was also clear was that Oscar is the sweatiest man in metal having three T-Shirt changes in the space of the set. Cans is ever the frontman cracking jokes and telling stories about the band and their history with Athens before beating us down with more top drawer power metal madness.

 Live Life Loud is a call to arms that moved into a medley of songs showing their other tracks. The tour was in promotion of their most recent album and as such sacrifices had to made in the set with Dragon Lies Bleeding being the most obvious still with the progressive Threshold, the powerful Last Man Standing and the old favorite Glory To The Brave rounding out the main set with Hammerfall (plus a Warlord cover that was a little unnecessary) The set was pretty great for any fan of the band or indeed new covert to the true metal cause. Sensing the end was near the band came off stage only to return with a three song encore, the evergreen Templars Of Steel kicked things off with Oscar now shirtless playing the riff with intensity but more importantly a sense of fun that never left the show, newbie Bushido came next and was a brave move taking the place of a more recognizable song but it fits well, a future classic there, however the biggest cheer was reserved for the finale of Hearts On Fire which had everyone singing along until they lost their voices. With that it was done but Hammerfall were triumphant with this set making everyone in the place wish that it won't be another 18 years until they play Greece again!! 9/10

As an added bonus to this review Ms Frasia is an accomplished photographer

Find more of her work here: http://konaf13.wix.com/konasartwork and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FrasiaKPhotography

So here is a selection of images from the gig that give you an idea of what the atmosphere was like (Pictures like the blog itself are free to share but please credit the photographer and keep any watermarks)

Displaying DSCF8804.jpg

Venomous Thoughts 2015 Round Up

A very good ‘insert time of day you are reading this’ to you folks. Whilst I admit I haven't kept up with my friends at the Musipedia I have still been enjoying this years albums and here they are from 10 to 1.

10. A Light in the Dark- A Light in the Dark- 7/10

Surprisingly it was labelled as a black metal album. Whilst more melodic than anything else this is 43 minutes of instrumental music that whilst slightly repetitive still manages to encapsulate you if in the right mood

9. Slayer- Repentless- 8/10

I don't really need to say much about this album except that it's a testament that proves that Slayer can still carry on they're ferocious intensity even without Jeff Hanneman. They still have enough fuel in the tank and it’ll be interesting to see how their future relationship with Exodus’s Gary Holt will work out.
8. Kataklysm- Of Gods and Monsters- 8/10

The Canadian outfit return with their death metal album by numbers, but by Jove they know how to do it so well. One song on there I feel should've had a guitar solo on there (single The Black Sheep) but the constant riffing that makes death metal album like that enjoyable for me to listen to without guitar solos. Worth a listen if you love old school death metal.

7. Ghost- Meliora- 8/10
The Swedish occult rockers do it again with their third release. They're heavier, just as
melodic and Papa Emeritus III still holds a mystical grandeur from both image and vocals alike his previous two counter-parts. He Is and Majesty being 2 of my favourite tracks from the album. A shame I was not able to view their performance in the UK this December gone by.

6. Baroness- The Purple Album 8/10

A last minute album added to my list but still a very good choice to help some up the year. With sludgy riffs and solos that wouldn't have felt too out of place on a Mastodon album. Opening track Morningstar, Kerosine, and Chlorine And Wine are some of my favorites on this thick heavy album.

5. Lamb of God- VII Sturm Und Drang 9/10
A lot had happened to the boys from Virginia, most of it affecting Randy Blythe, but they have never let that stop them in the past. Moving on from the heavy album that was Resolution, VII continues from where they left off in terms of song structure quality but with lyrical themes that relate to Blythes experiences in prison both whilst inside and during the post-resolution touring cycle period. A quality record.
4. Krisun- Forged In Fury- 9/10
Another death metal album I fell in love with this year, whilst lacking something from some of their older material albeit quality solos, the song structure and the riffs heard from this album most certainly made it one of my death metal albums of the year.

3. Blind Guardian- Beyond The Red Mirror- 9/10
Blind Guardian have always amazed me, and with a back catalogue as extensive as theirs I still find it incredible how they're more recent songs always blend in so well. A concept album it maybe but the sounds of each individual chapter of the album could fit so well in a Guardian setlist. A very worthy power metal album this year.

2. Clutch- Psychic Warfare- 10/10
The funkadelic hard rockers returned to glorious form(like they can do any less) going hot on the heels of 2013's Earth Rocker, there are tracks like X-Ray Visions, Doom Saloon/Our Lady Of Electric, and Son Of Virginia, tracks I was fortunate to see live are amongst perfect staples of the ever changing Clutch set list. Definitely a brilliant album of the year.

1.God Is An Astronaut- Helios Erebus- 10/10
Earlier in the year I think I gave this a lower review but my opinion of this album has changed so much over the months that I got more and more addicted to its fluidity. With each song starting with a mellow Pink Floyd type intro to then ending on a heavy note so fluidly you don't actually notice it until you're listening to the next song. My own bias makes it my own personal album of the year though I do recommend this to a lot of people and can hopefully get constructive criticism out of others.

Special Mentions:

Joe Satriani- Shockwave Supernova- 8/10

Cradle of Filth- Hammer Of The Witches- 7/10

My Dying Bride- Feel The Misery- 8/10

Monday 11 January 2016

Musipedia Of Metal's Top 10 Albums 2015

Matt's Top 10

1. Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls

2. Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase

3. Blind Guardian - Beyond The Red Mirror

4. Triaxis - Zero Hour

5. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats - S/T

6. Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful

7. Lonely Robot - Please Come Home

8. Symphony X - Underworld

9. Blackberry Smoke - Holding All The Roses

10. Ascendia - The Lion And The Jester

Paul's Top 10

1. Blind Guardian – Beyond The Red Mirror

2. Lamb Of God – VII Sturm Und Drang

3. Clutch – Psychic Warfare 

4. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within 

5. Riverside – Love, Fear And The Time Machine 

6. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase 

7. The Sword – High Country 

8. Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses 

9. UFO – A Conspiracy Of Stars 

10. Motorhead – Bad Magic

Alex Hutching's Top 10

1. Paradise Lost - Plague Within

2. Iron Maiden - Book Of Souls

3. Ghost - Meliora

4. Lucifer - Lucifer

5. Clutch - Phychic Warfare

6. Lamb of God - VII Sturm Und Drang

7. The Darkness - Last Of Our kind

8. Saxon - Battering Ram

9. Slayer - Repentless

10.Wasp - Golgotha

Anthony Hutchings' Top 10

1. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

2. Iron Maiden – Book Of Souls

3. Lamb Of God – VII Sturm Und Drang

4. Parkway Drive - Ire

5. Slayer - Repentless

6. Paradise Lost – Plague Within

7. Prodigy – Day Is My Enemy 

8. Ghost - Meloria

9. Dr Dre - Compton

10. The Darkness – Last Of Our Kind

Chris Hutchings' Top 10

1. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within

2. Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls 

3. Clutch - Psychic Warfare 

4. Lamb of God - VII Sturm Und Drang 

5. The Prodigy - The Day Is My Enemy

6. Ghost - Meliora 

7. Lucifer - Lucifer 

8. The Darkness - Last Of Our Kind 

9. Saxon - Battering Ram 

10. Skindred – Volume

Elle Matthews Top 10

1. Lindemann - Skills In Pills

2. Prodigy - Day Is My Enemy

3. Fear Factory - Genexus 

4. Ghost - Meliora

5. Clutch - Psychic Warfare

6. Slayer - Repentless

7. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within 

8. Disturbed - Immortalised 

9. Lamb Of God – VII Sturm Und Drang
10. Sylosis – Dormant Heart

Lee Burnell's Top 10

1. Sylosis - Dormant Heart

2. Ghost - Meliora

3. Napalm Death - Apex Predator/Easy Meat

4. Slayer - Repentless

5. Motörhead - Bad Magic

6. Marduk - Frontschwein

7. Faith No More - Sol Invictus

8. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within

9. Parkway Drive - Ire

10. Swallow The Sun - Songs From The North I, II & III

Stief Illingworth's Top 10

1. MGLA - Exercises In Futility

2. Ghost - Meliora

3. Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls

4. Powerwolf - Blessed and Possessed

5. Temperance - Limitless

6. Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful

7. Gunship - GUNSHIP

8. Hate - Crusade: Zero

9. Triaxis - Zero Hour

10. Unleash The Archers - Time Stands Still