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Wednesday 30 November 2016

Another Point Of View: Alter Bridge (Live Review By Stief)

Alter Bridge, Volbeat, Gojira, Like A Storm - Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

With the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena deciding to open doors at 5, it meant Nic, Dan and I got into the arena in time to catch the end of Like A Storm's (6) final song Love The Way You Hate Me. Pretty decent fare, and a band I'd probably check out another time.

However, when French Metal titans Gojira (9) take the stage, it's a whole other level, their brutal riffs and earthquake-inducing bass threatening to tear apart our quaint little arena. Starting with Toxic Garbage Island and L'Enfant Sauvage before treating the crowd to a triple whammy of heavy hitters from Magma, including the awesome Silvera. As the band close with fan favourite Vacuity, it's evident that many minds have been well and truly blown.

Volbeat (8) are another flavour altogether, tearing straight into The Devil's Bleeding Crown, their rockabilly inspired heavy metal sound causing an infectious wave of dancing and headbanging through the entire arena. Fan (and personal) favourite Lola Montez also elicits a similar reaction. Other noteworthy moments include a quick cover of Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire followed by Sad Man's Tongue and one of Volbeat's heaviest songs, Evelyn, where the vicious growls of Barney Green way of Napalm Death were adequately performed by Michael Poulsen who's voice is both powerful and soulful, the northern twang in most songs fitting perfectly with the Rockabilly vibe.

After an announcement that tonight's performance is being recorded for a live CD, Alter Bridge (8) take to the stage to tremendous applause, opening with The Writing On The Wall from this year's The Last Hero, following it up with Come To Life. The band give a good show, their performance including songs from throughout their career, from the aforementioned The Last Hero to debut album One Day Remains. Frontman Myles Kennedy has a brilliant stage presence, constantly engaging the audience and the man admittedly has a great voice, although it's not to my personal taste.

He's backed up vocally by guitarsmith Mark Tremonti, who even takes centre stage for Waters Rising. Tremonti's voice is excellent, and even when he isn't singing, his guitar work is brilliant. The band's sound is tight, with Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall keeping the rhythm on drums and bass respectively. Overall, an enjoyable night with some brilliant music.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Lazuli (Live Review By Paul)

Lazuli: The Fleece, Bristol

Last year the overwhelming highlight of an otherwise bloated performance from Fish at the O2 Academy was the support band, French outfit Lazuli, whose unique progressive rock fused with Eastern influences was quite fantastic. Their modest reaction to a massive ovation was quite humbling.

Roll forward almost a year and Lazuli (10) are back in Bristol, at one of our favourite venues, The Fleece. This was a gig we’d been looking forward to for some time and it proved to be ever so worthwhile. A sparse crowd of around 70 people allowed for plenty of space on the floor but that didn’t faze the Frenchmen who took the stage just before 8.30pm. Over the next two hours the band treated the audience to a masterful demonstration in pace, power and passion. Lazuli’s strengths are numerous, but a huge factor in their appeal is the eclectic sound. At times heavy and hard, often delicate and precise and always superbly performed, the band have few peers and deserved a much larger audience.

Opening with the beautiful Le Temps Est La Rage from their recent Nos Ames Saoules, Lazuli played a magnificently paced set which combined tracks from their latest album with older material, including several from 2014’s brilliant Tant Que L’herbe Est Grasse. With the diminutive Dominique Leonetti the focal point as vocalist and guitarist, the band demonstrated their skills throughout. Guitarist Gederic Byar was exceptional, his guitar work intricate. To Dominique’s right his brother Claude whose self-designed Léòde is still an instrument of mystery but boy can he play it. Behind the front three, drummer Vincent Barnavol whose percussion was a thing of beauty whilst keyboard and French horn player Romain Thorel added layers onto an already stunning sound.

The band appeared to be delighted to be playing live, with broad smiles and much laughter. Dominique apologised for his faltering English, something that there was no need to do at any stage. He read out some introductory pieces from a sheet of A4, taking the opportunity to demonstrate a wicked sense of humour. What also impressed was the crowd response which was first class. There may have been few of us there but the thunderous applause after each song demonstrated that there is an appetite for much more. Lazuli closed their set with two pieces of magic. An enthralling drum versus keyboard duel between Vincent and Romain before the band joined forces for their magical marimba finale, complete with a snippet of Heroes in the middle..

As the applause rang out around The Fleece I reflected on the similarities and differences between Lazuli and the incredible performance I’d witnessed by Opeth at Wembley the week before. Two bands who follow their own musical path, regardless of pressure. Both humble and modest in approach and performance, both musically magical and enchanting despite at times being poles apart in content. Sometimes live music lifts you to places where you cannot otherwise reach. This was another of those evenings.

Monday 28 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Planet Of Zeus

Planet Of Zeus & Welcome Back Delta, Exchange, Bristol

A Saturday night in Bristol can always be hit and miss, mainly due to the traffic situation, however with a pretty smooth ride into the city we managed to arrive 15 minutes before show time ready for a night of gargantuan riffs. Many of those in attendance would have first seen Welcome Back Delta and Planet Of Zeus supporting Clutch and by the numerous Clutch T-Shirts (and one Clutch hat) you can tell that POZ and WBD made an impact. It also gives away the sounds of both bands, this is groove-laden, riff heavy stoner rock with both bands taking the riffs and giving them a good seeing too. There was supposed to be a thrid band Baron greenback on the bill but they apparently pulled out of the show so at 7:30 Welcome Back Delta took to the stage.

What was immediately striking about Welcome Back Delta (7), other than the additional Clutch shirt of frontman Joe Kelly was the extremely natty Xmas jumper worn by guitarist Rob Duncan (In November no less), we found out later this was due to a work enforced jumper day. (Still it's fucking November). WBD are four very affable chaps, they thoroughly enjoy what they do and don't take themselves too seriously, the stage banter was abound from the off as all four of them sparked off each other and we were let in on the joke, special kudos to bassist Phil Davies who did seem to be dying of Man-Flu but continued to bring the low-down grooves for tracks such as Jeremy's Iron and the colossal Thrones.

Playing most of the tracks off their most recent effort, Preacher brought a Clutch-like swagger while Dadgerous ramped up the heavy. Halfway through the set they got slinky as four white boys from the Cotswolds played the blues (their words not mine) and towards the end they filled the set with more riffage and bluesy, heavy rock. WBD were an excellent opener, getting the heads nodding and feet tapping ready for the Greek style stoner rock to come.  

With small change over the Greek four piece took to the stage, possibly the most Hellenic looking band I've seen, they clearly have an attraction to their fellow countrymen as they pulled in a lot of the Greek rockers from around Bristol and Cardiff. As the room filled with both enthusiasm and the use of Greek as a language increased with the band kicking off with the anthemic Loyal To The Pack the title track of their most recent album, which saw them gain a lot of recognition in the UK.

While it wasn't a sold out crowd much like the venues in their native country the response of the crowd for every song was rapturous, the pace rarely dropped as Babis' wild eyed, shouted delivery set them apart from their support, Planet Of Zeus (8) have a gritty, Southern metal swagger with songs about "rock an roll" as Babis put it, but they also have the more melodic, psych sounds of the stoner scene (I've talked about the Greek stoner scene before), think Sabbath jamming with Skynyrd as Danko Jones cuts in and you've got it. 

As Babis (rhythm guitar), J.V (bass) and Skye (drums) lay down the thick riffage, Yog contributes the simmering leads. The hairy, bearded bastards on stage were the mirror image of the majority of the crowd, this is probably why they have a devoted following they seem like an everyman band just plugging in and playing with cuts such as Sky High Heels, Your Love Makes Me Want To Hurt Myself, The Great Dandolos, Little Deceiver just small snippets of full impact set that allowed the riffs to flow over you. 

As the set wound up there was no drop in ferocity or enthusiasm the band had the crowd clapping, shouting and jumping right up until the final chord, then at 9:50 as quickly as they entered the stage they exited leaving the crowd shouting for more. Little gigs like this make doing this worthwhile, just over 2 hours of fat, thick heavy rock with admittedly small but responsive crowd making the band play at 110% "Efcharisto Poli!"  

Sunday 27 November 2016

Reviews: Dark Tranquility, Graham Bonnet, Scattered Hamlet (Reviews By Paul)

Dark Tranquility: Atoma (Century Media)

Melodic death metal legends Dark Tranquility, godfathers of the “Gothenburg scene” return with their 11th album and it’s a solid affair. Fusing Mikael Stanne’s traditional death growls with some rather tidy clean vocals Atoma contains a mix of all out brutality with many calmer and melodic passages. It is the first album without rhythm guitarist Martin Henriksson who left in March 2016 after 26 years with the band.

New bassist Anders Iwers makes his debut on this follow up to 2013’s Construct. Much emphasis is placed on the song composition with the synth work of Martin Brandstrom providing a nice counterfoil to the frantic drumming of Anders Jivarp and the scorching guitar work of Niklas Sundin. Tracks such as Neutrality, Forward Momentum and Force Of Hand provide all the evidence you need that the Swedes are still a major force in the melodic death metal arena. 7/10

Graham Bonnet Band: The Book (Frontiers)

Born in Skegness in 1947, Graham Bonnet still possesses on of the finest and most powerful voices in rock. The Book is a new album with 11 freshly recorded tracks by The Graham Bonnet Band along with rerecorded versions of 16 ‘classics’. For a man whose first hit was way back in 1968 with The Marbles (Only One Woman, written by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees pop pickers), his longevity can only be admired. However, I have long taken umbrage with the word ‘legend’ that he has been labelled with.

On the plus side, he provided Rainbow and Ritchie Blackmore with fresh impetus and two hit singles in 1980. All Night Long and Since You’ve Been Gone have long sat in the classic rock file, although both are lyrically creepy. His sole album with Rainbow Down To Earth also contained two real solid other tunes, Lost In Hollywood and the stomping Eyes Of The World. His time with Michael Schenker in MSG was slightly less impressive. One album, the rather weak Assault Attack and one gig in Sheffield where he appeared pissed and with his cock out. Yes, legendary for all the wrong reasons. Alcatrazz contained more guitar virtuosos than he had a right to expect, with Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai and three albums failed to produce much unless you happen to be Japanese where the former crooner is idolised like CP3O at an Ewok Convention.

So, let’s get CD 2 out of the way first. A list of 16 reworked classics which includes the four tracks from his stay with Mr Blackmore, albeit devoid of the man in black’s bluesy Fender Stratocaster magic. A few from Bonnet’s sole MSG outing including Assault Attack, Desert Song and the pop-influenced Dancer, all of which suffer without metal Mickey’s guitar work. I had cause to put on the original Assault Attack track just to refresh my memory and it was so much better than this version. Still, Bonnet’s vocals hold up well to the original and if you get the opportunity check out the You Tube recording of Bonnet singing this with Schenker at this year’s Sweden Rocks. In fact, it’s his solo stuff that works best here with a blistering version of Night Games, which is still a brilliant tune; pop rock at its best.

The re-workings of his time with Alcatrazz and Imperllitteri, well, yeah, they are okay. It’s better fare on CD1, which has the original compositions. A throwback to the pomp of his Rainbow days, there is some good hidden amongst the 11 on offer. Of course, it’s a matter of taste, but Bonnet’s vocals performance is impressive. The classic rock vibe is really in evidence with Jimmy Waldo’s keyboards duelling with Conrad Pesinato’s fine guitar work in much the same way Blackmore did with Don Airey in those halcyon days of the first Monsters Of Rock. Opener Into The Night is a storming track, fluid and fast. Rider powers away, full of melody and pomp whilst The Book is a genuine rocker. I’ve never really liked Bonnet, his suited image and apparent self-importance always made me feel uneasy. Credit where credit is due, The Book is a very decent melodic rock release, full of the classic rock feel of the 1980s but with a modern angle. It really demonstrates that the man can still sing and write good tunes. Much better than I was expecting. 7/10

Scattered Hamlet: Swamp Rebel Machine (Buck Moon Productions)

No pretence with this lot. It’s balls out dirty whisky soaked blues hard rock with a red neck stomp. Hell, the band list a whole slab of bands who would have you breaking the speed limit if they popped up on shuffle and Scattered Hamlet nestle in there, nicely situated alongside the likes of Texas Hippie Coalition and Hogjaw. These boys play hard and if you like your music powered by Skynyrd, Hatchet, Clutch and Sabbath with a serving of New Orleans sludge then this is just for you. It’s not subtle, it’s not sweet but it does the fucking job. Grab a beer, get your cowboy hat and jump aboard the Swamp Rebel Machine. It’s one hell of a ride. 8/10

Saturday 26 November 2016

Reviews: Maschine, Apollo, Baleful Creed

Maschine: Naturalis (InsideOut)

Pipes, Beards, Real Ale and Spectacles at the ready folks it's prog time and I mean 'proper' prog not this modern stuff, think the jazz influenced-likes of King Crimson, ELP, Genesis (with Gabriel and Hackett) and if you want to be recent Steven Wilson. Luke Machin is the band leader/vocalist and most importantly guitarist of Maschine and much like Robert Fripp in King Crimson, Maschine is his way of expressing himself totally. Machin has guested in other bands but none have been as traditionally progressively minded and defiantly non conformist as Maschine.

Along with the band leader, the rest of the band are all virtuosos at their respective instruments, behind everything changing the pace and playing with a hell of a lot of power but also nuanced spatial awareness that let's the longer songs breathe, is drummer James Stewart. Thickening Machin's guitar sound are the heavy riffs of Elliot Fuller who maintains the groove with bassist Daniel Mashal who's bass work is thick, funky and adds soul to what can sometimes be a stale, cerebral genre, just check out Resistance and Megacyma for a full display of his ability.

Finally rounding out the the band is Marie-Eve de Gaultier who adds the colour to these pieces with her soaring, honeyed vocal matching well with Machin's lower more spoken style as she also provides the keys, organs and flute to really make this record an eclectic piece. Building upon the ideas of their debut record and focusing them into a more cohesive, accessible but still unflinchingly complex unit, with an album dealing with man's devastating encounters with nature (something  actually happening outside of MoM towers at the time of this review). Naturalis is a sublime record and it puts Maschine at the forefront of the new prog resurrection. 9/10

Apollo: Waterdevils (Escape)

Many will be familiar with vocalist Apollo Papathanasio the Swedish (from Greek descent), singer is the current vocalist of Spiritual Beggars and is probably most well known as the frontman of Greek power metal band Firewind, he was the singer during their breakthrough and most successful period from Allegiance onward. Now however he has taken a break from contributing to other peoples music and has focused on creating his own record under his own name.

In what is a sharp contrast to the Firewind days Waterdevils is hard rock album with touches of classic rock and AOR defined by big choruses and chunky riffs, Apollo's vocals take centre stage as he really unleashes his full range emotive and triumphant he is a great singer with a unique delivery. Revolution For The Brave has nods to Spiritual Beggars with organ stabs powering the song, while I Need Rock N Roll wouldn't sound out of place on a KISS album.

There are various influences shining through on this record giving a rock jukebox feel, but the title of the record belays it's nature, Waterdevils are "a weather phenomenon. It's a small, weak whirlwind over water that's (sic) pretty rare. You never know where you'll see it or if you'll see it again" this record acts a tribute to the artists that Apollo has grown up with but also to the musicians from King Diamond, Gamma Ray, Arch Enemy, Grand Magus, MasterPlan, that contribute to the record. Will we see it again? I can't say but for now Waterdevils is a great accompaniment to the rest of Apollo's achievements. 7/10

Baleful Creed: S/T (Self Released)

Straight out of Belfast with fist full of riffs and a belly full of groove Baleful Creed are a band with a sound born in NOLA and created with help Mr Jack Daniels this is fuzzy stoner rock that has some psych vibes, low slung heaviness but also shovel loads of melody from the dual guitar interplay of Fin Finlay and John Allen weaving in and out of each other creating a thick seam of riffage as Stephen Fleming and Mark Stewart are the rock solid backroom driving the title track like a truck rolling down the highway, with nods to Sabbath (Thorazine), some Alice In Chains (Autumn Leaves), Fireball Ministry (especially in the vocals) and even the now finished Black Spiders.

This is guitar heavy stoner rock that relies on huge grooves, some trippy sounds, touches of rumbling doom and desert rock like blissed out passages, Crazy Man is a great demonstration of this with it's slow burning build and chord heavy chorus. I've been dealing with a lot of US and Greek stoner rock recently and happily it's nice see that bands this side of the pond can wade in with a strong collection of stoner rock riffs like this a great full length for those that love their music with double shot of bourbon and tonne of grit. 7/10

Friday 25 November 2016

Reviews: Kentucky Headhunters, Herman Frank, Demon, Tiebreaker (Reviews By Paul)

Kentucky Headhunters: On Safari (Plowboy Records)

Any band whose opening track is called Beaver Creek Mansion should automatically receive a 10 rating. Kentucky Headhunters roots sit all the way back in 1968 when brothers Richard and Fred Young started Itchy Brother in Metcalfe County, Kentucky. Kentucky Headhunters become a thing in 1986 with lead guitarist Greg Martin on board. Debut album Pickin’ On Nashville in 1989 was widely acclaimed. The current line up is completed by Doug Phelps, lead vocals since 1995 and bass since 2008.

On Safari is a mixture of country, blues and rock with a metal edge. Tracks like Deep South Blues Again, I Am The Hunter and Lowdown Memphis Town Blues all flow with soul and passion, with some typically free flowing guitar work beloved of the Southern rock style. It makes you want to grab a cold one and stomp that foot on the porch. It's not all brilliant mind, with some of the more religious themes a little hard to stomach.

God Loves A Rolling Stone is not a homage to Jagger and co, but an evangelical tinged Jebus hymn which I could do without. This is probably unsurprising given the band's side projects include a gospel rock album (Martin was part of The Mighty Messiahs) Still, when the band do let go, the music is mighty fine and Phelps voice sits comfortably with the band’s southern swagger. 7/10

Herman Frank: The Devil Rides Out (AFM)

Guitarist Herman Frank is probably best known for his work with German legends Accept. Having left the band after 1983’s Balls To The Wall, he forged a career with Victory as well as producing numerous bands including Saxon. A return to Accept for Blood Of The Nations, Stalingrad and Blind Rage saw him leave the band again in December 2014.

It won't be a surprise to discover that his third solo release, The Devil Rides Out sticks pretty rigidly to the formula of the aforementioned metal outfits. Blistering solos, thunderous drumming and average lyrics are all firmly in place for a pretty formulaic release which ticks all the heavy metal boxes. Thunder Of Madness may be the stand out track with its ferocious speed and aggressive power.

Part of the difficultly is vocalist Rick Altzi, mouthpiece of several other bands including Masterplan, At Vance and Frequency, whose gritty gnarly voice just grates a little as the album progresses. On the plus side, Frank’s fretwork skills are stunning, shredding for fun with a sharpness that’ll cut you. Bonus track Forever is the obligatory power ballad and adds nothing. Average heavy metal by numbers. 6/10

Demon: Cemetery Junction (Spaced Out)

When I was 13 years old I was fixated by an album called The Plague by Demon. A family holiday in the Isle Of Man was made tolerable because of that album, on cassette, which spent the entire trip on a loop on my Sony Walkman. I was vaguely aware that the band had already released their two most highly rated albums, Night Of The Demon in 1981 and The Unexpected Guest the following year.

I don't even know why I loved The Plague so much as it really hasn't stood the test of time very well. After 1985’s British Standard Approved interest waned and it was with some surprise that Cemetery Junction appeared recently. It transpires that the band has maintained momentum since reforming in 2001, with three albums and an appreciative audience still out there to welcome them. I bet the Germans bloody love them.

With a pretty  stable line up in place, the band knit around original vocalist Dave Hill. Drummer Neil Ogden has been on board since 2002, guitarist Dave Cotterill since 2007 whilst bassist Ray Walmsley has previously played guitar for many years. Ken Wayne’s keyboards and Paul Hume’s drums complete the line up.

Unfortunately Cemetery Junction isn't very good. Opener Are You Just Like Me is okay, but second track Life In Berlin stinks. Musically the band are incredibly competent but it's just so pedestrian and rooted in 1986. This is the kind of stuff Magnum churned out around the Vigilante era (shudders - Ed). Turn On The Magic, The Best Is Yet To Come (if only) and Queen Of Hollywood are all Synth heavy average rock with Hill’s slightly strained vocal style possibly the only thing connecting the band with their past.

By the time you get to Thin Disguise it's pretty desperate stuff. The title track doesn't make it any better but I can see this lot going down a storm at Hard Rock Hell or some other nostalgia drenched festival. I'm astounded the band are still plugging away and full kudos to them for that. It's just a shame that the atmospheric intent never quite translates to top class tunes. 5/10

Tiebreaker: Death Tunes (Karisma Records)

Tiebreaker play Norwegian rock ‘n’ roll. Death Tunes is their second full release, following on from 2014’s We Come From The Mountains. With a mix of influences including a healthy dose of Pearl Jam, this is a pretty decent album full of Melody and power. Thomas E. Karlsen’s vocals are gritty and powerful, with his performance on Cannonball reminiscent of Chris Cornell in his prime. If you like guitar driven rock with a melancholic edge combined with the raw passion of early garage rock then check this release out.7/10

Reviews: Ulcerate, The Von Deer Skulls, Skyliner (Reviews By Rich)

Ulcerate: Shrines Of Paralysis (Relapse Records)

Ulcerate are one of those bands that I have heard nothing but universal praise for but for some reason I have just never got round to checking them out.  Now is the time to remedy this with the release of their fifth album Shrines Of Paralysis. Ulcerate play a unique variant of technical death metal. Unlike the deluge of masturbatory guitar widdling that plagues most technical death metal bands today Ulcerate's focus is on atmosphere kind of sounding like a cross between Gorguts and Neurosis.

From the moment you hit play you are plunged headfirst into a swirling abyss of chaos and bombarded by a whirlwind of dissonant guitar riffs and disgustingly guttural vocals all held together by some incredibly complex drumming. There are moments where the eye of the storm passes over and the music takes a calm yet atmospheric turn which allow you to take a breath before the storm whips you back up and throws you back into the pandemonium. It is difficult to pick any stand out tracks from the album as Shrines Of Paralysis works better when listened to as an entire album instead of cherry picking certain tracks.

The album flows so perfectly that at times I did not even know the track had changed. It can be an endurance test to listen to the nearly hour long album in one sitting though.  This is not music for the faint of heart or mind. Shrines Of Paralysis is a masterclass in modern death metal and the only minor criticisms I have would be is that the length of the album is slightly excessive and could be reduced a small amount and it can be a bit repetitive throughout but overall this is essential listening for any fans of extreme metal. I will definitely be checking out the Ulcerate back catalogue. 8/10

The Von Deer Skulls: The Rest Is Silence (Wraith Productions)

The Von Deer Skulls are a French based band who play an interesting mix of doom metal with prog and post-rock influences and some avant-garde leanings.  It's a sometimes overwhelming listen but the band just about pull it off on their latest release The Rest Is Silence. Instruments such as bow and bagpipe are combined with guitars, bass and drums to create a twisting maze of doom-laden riffs and atmospheric post-rock passages whilst the heavily accented vocals of frontman Peter range from throaty spoken word passages, gravelly cleans to savage screams.

Some songs have a very psychedelic feel to them albeit drowned in darkness with the highlights include the more riff-driven Twilight Of Innocence and Tabula Rasa. This is an enjoyable if rather disjointed album. There is so much going on throughout that it is difficult to consume it all in one sitting but fans of experimental metal should find much to love about this album. 7/10

Skyliner: Condition Black (Limb Music)

Skyliner are a Florida-based progressive power metal band and Condition Black is their second album. Progressive power metal is a genre awash with a million Dream Theater soundalike clones which is where Condition Black is pleasing as it's influences seem to come more from the thrash influenced U.S. power metal scene and also from some modern day technical death metal bands. It's a refreshing change but unfortunately what lets this album down is the distinctly average songwriting.

There is much fat that could be trimmed from this album with way too many pointless instrumental interludes and a lot of aimless meandering on some of the lengthier songs. The songs that really work on here are the shorter more direct ones such as the impressive title track and my personal highlight the energetic Starseeker. Performance wise frontman and guitarist Jason Becker is the standout with his nicely varied vocals ranging from a mid to high range very reminiscent of Warrel Dane to death metal growls which thankfully are not overused as they do not really fit in with the music. Condition Black is not a bad album by any means but with a reduced running time and more focused songwriting this could have been brilliant. 6/10

Thursday 24 November 2016

Reviews: Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, Rick Emmett & Resolution 9, Robert Pehrsson Humbucker (Reviews By Paul)

Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons: Self Titled EP (Motörhead Music)

The long-time Motörhead legend has not sat idly by since the passing of his Captain, almost a year ago. Changing the name of his band to the Bastard Sons (from the All-Star Band - Ed) may not have gone down well with Mrs Campbell, but it probably serves the band well. Their non-stop touring has honed their skills and this five track EP is a groove fest of high quality rock ‘n’ roll with the bluesy undertones that Campbell’s guitar playing always added to the Motörhead sound. It’s party rock, well-crafted with Neil Starr’s dirty vocals spot on.

Lighter than much of his previous work, the stomp of Spiders, the American sleaze of Take Aim and opener Big Mouth all demand you to move your feet and bang that head. Phil’s three lads are a tight unit, Dane and Tyler laying down the rhythm whilst Todd adds to the old man’s superb guitar work with his own axe. No Turning Back has the pace of the Motörhead of old but moves away from being a straight forward replica in any way whilst the acoustic closer Life In Space demonstrates a much gentler side to a man renowned for turning everything up to 11. Life in an old dog for definite. I like this a lot. 8/10

Rik Emmett & Resolution 9: RES 9 (Provogue Records)

In the guitar world, Rik Emmett is an absolute legend. One of the founders of power trio Triumph, who he left in 1988, his discography is impressive with a variety of styles from rock to flamenco and all stations in between. RES 9 is his latest release and very eclectic it is too. Predominantly blues based, with guest appearances from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and Dream Theater’s James LaBrie, it’s a relaxing listen with some stunning guitar work from the main man.

Some of the tracks are ghastly, namely the hideous My Cathedral but the blues soaked The Ghost Of Shadow Town and the brilliant funk infused End Of The Line (which features a storming performance from LaBrie and Lifeson’s dazzling guitar) make the god bothering palatable. The bonus track sees Emmett reunited with Triumph band mates Gil Moore and Mike Levine for the first time since 1987. Grand Parade is a mellow tune, and you can take your pick about whether it is the softer side of former glories or a just a bit gut churning. Very much an album for the muso and diehard fan. 6/10

Robert Pehrsson Humbucker: Long Way To The Light (High Roller)

Robert Pehrsson is a Swedish guitarist, singer and song writer who has been in a multitude of bands since he started recording in the late 1980s. His history includes thrash and death metal but that is very much history. Long Way To The Light is a solo release which sits very much in the genre of ‘classic rock’ (which appears to have become a thing now). With a sound that contains elements of Thin Lizzy, Pat Benatar and even a bit of The Cars, its very much aimed at the AOR market. It does it very well, combining some excellent guitar work with melody and harmony. It’s a bit cheesy at times but overall a perfectly listenable inoffensive release. 7/10

Wednesday 23 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Opeth (Live Review By Paul)

Opeth: An Evening Of Sorcery, Damnation and Deliverance, SSE Wembley Arena

When Opeth announced a one-off November gig at Wembley Arena several months ago, it was touch and go whether we went. The price tag of over £50 plus the trek to London on a late autumnal dark day wasn’t the most attractive but Matt and I decided to take the punt. By 11:00pm on 19 November we were so happy we had. Wembley is reasonably straightforward to access from South Wales without the ball-ache of having to dip into Central London and we were there with a couple of hours to spare. Straight in at doors and having picked up the customary special event shirt we headed to the much vaunted sold out standing area.

First surprise and the only disappointment of the evening. The promoters had obviously underestimated the interest and had plumped for a “half size” event. Yes, the stage had been moved half way up the cavernous venue to cut the capacity in half. Yes, it became intimate but it appeared a strange move and considering the apparent demand on social media for standing tickets clearly a potentially missed opportunity to make a bit more cash and gain wider exposure for the band. Mikael Akerfeldt commented on it during the Opeth set, and not in the complimentary manner either.

Two weeks earlier we had seen Anathema perform a quite amazing set at The Globe, a 350-capacity venue in Cardiff. It was understandable that the band were apprehensive yet obviously delighted to be the support act for the evening. The band go back a long way with Opeth and I’d seen Anathema support the Swedes at Nottingham Rock City over five years ago. Despite the obvious nerves that appear to initially impact on Danny Cavanagh, Anathema (8) were on fire from the start and as the crowd swelled and became more engaged so the band visibly relaxed. Opening with Thin Air, Danny, brother Vincent and the rest of the group soon got the temperature rising and as the ever-emotional Untouchable Pt I allowed Lee Douglas to demonstrate her amazing voice the inevitable lump in the throat arrived.

A wry smile directed in my direction by Danny (I think in recognition of my Anathema hoodie) reassured me that he was finally enjoying himself. The band have honed their live skills recently and it showed with a flawless A Simple Mistake before the completely remodelled Distant Satellites got more heads nodding and the applause cascading around the venue. In a truncated set, obviously, many of the favourites can’t be played but Anathema chose a set list that really played to their strengths. A Natural Disaster is one of their most beautiful songs and this version was perfect, with Wembley Arena lit up with the mobile phone lights that has become synonymous with this song. Lee’s haunting closing vocal had the Arena holding its collective breath.

Usual set closer Fragile Dreams followed with the crowd by now fully participating before the band took the brave step to close with one of their new tracks, yet unrecorded but aired on the recent tour. Having only heard it once before I can’t be sure but we thought it was Springfield. It sounded even better than first listen. The band left the stage to a huge ovation, and I hope rightfully gained a few more fans in the process. They deserve it.

Opeth (10) don’t need any introduction. The band has grafted blood, sweat and tears to get to this place in their 25+ year career and they really went for it. The lighting for the evening took the visuals to another level, with many an appreciative gasp from the crowd as the evening progressed. A back screen which enhanced the mood was impressive too and the wider space on the stage allowed the frontmen to move around with more freedom, although Martin Mendes remained in his customary position throughout the evening. 

A crystal-clear sound was an even bigger bonus. Given the complexity of Opeth's songs, the opportunity to hear their often crushingly heavy tracks with a ‘big’ sound was so welcome. The delivery was perfect. Opening with Sorceress, which interestingly elicited a massive cheer from a crowd obviously well acquainted with the new release, Opeth were just blistering. An unbelievable set list combined old favourites with newer material, although only The Wilde Flowers made the cut from the new release alongside the title track. I’ve reviewed Opeth several times before and it is hard to maintain the superlatives without sounding even more of a fan boy than I am. 

However, polished and professional just aren’t sufficient. This is a band who make everything look incredibly easy despite the fact their music is intricate and complex. Multiple time changes, tempos and variations make even the simplest tunes interesting. Let’s just say that this was a band at the top of their game. Alongside Martin Mendes, drummer Martin Axenrot makes the drumming look stupidly easy whilst keyboardist Joakim Svalberg has given the band an extras dimension with his harmonies on the backing vocals a brilliant addition. His keyboard playing isn’t shabby either. That leaves the guitar work of Fredrik Akesson and of course, Mikael Akerfeldt. Just amazing. Akerfeldt’s vocal prowess allows him to switch between delicate clean vocals and brutal death growls in an instant. 

So what was in the set list? Well, it played out like a fan boy’s wish list. After Sorceress, the monstrous duo of Ghost Of Perdition and a welcome return for Demon Of The Fall from My Arms, Your Hearse kept the old school happy. It was crushingly heavy all the way for the first set, except for the calmer parts of Face Of Melinda from Still Life and a blistering Drapery Falls, the only inclusion from Blackwater Park. Cusp Of Eternity from 2014’s Pale Communion, Heir Apparent from Watershed and Ghost Reveries’ Grand Conjuration closed set one with the foundations of the venue shaking such is the heaviness of these tracks. Having already played for an hour and a half, the final hour was the Damnation and Deliverance set. 

A beautiful contrast of acoustic (ish) tracks from Damnation, four in total that allowed the arena to brace for the brutal finale. Opening with Windowpane, the band whistled through the rarely played Death Whispered A Lullaby, In My Time Of Need and the Eastern flavoured Closure, all of the tracks flawlessly executed. The big finale hit hard, with several pits opening up in very strange places around the floor. Master's Apprentice was immense with the heaviness maintained with track two from Deliverance By The Pain I See In Others making only its third ever outing. It was stunning and a privilege to be present. 

Of course, if you’ve seen Opeth in recent years you’ll know that the finale is often Deliverance, a blinding 13 minute epic. And so it was tonight. Heavy as fuck, intricate and just pure essence of a band who deserve all the plaudits they get. As the band took their final applause it was time to reflect on THE GIG of 2016. Absolutely brilliant and well worth the appalling weather on the drive back to South Wales.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Review: Pretty Maids, Devilment, Enbound

Pretty Maids: Kingmaker (Frontiers)

Danish rockers Pretty Maids have been kicking out the jams since 1981 and since then the only two constants have been founder members Ronnie Atkins (vocals) and Ken Hammer (guitar), it's this songwriting partnership that has seen the band still going even after all these years, now they may not be a household name to some (except in Japan where they seem to be revered) but longevity is something not be sniffed at in the cut throat music industry. As with all bands that are experienced there are parts of their career that shine and there are parts that are best left be, happily since 2010's Pandemonium Pretty Maids have been in a bit of a purple patch making some of the strongest, toughest and heaviest songs ever.

Kingmaker is their 15th album and sees Ken Hammer once again peeling off some heavyweight riffage on the opening two tracks When God Took A Day Off and the title track, these are real head kickers, with some excellent shredding and a powerful rhythm section guiding the musical backing it allows Ronnie to snarl viciously. The entire record is bolstered by Jacob Hansen's (Volbeat) production, it makes the entire record sound vibrant and heightens the piercing clarity of Hammer's guitar and the nuances of Atkin's expressive vocals.

Many will see Pretty Maids as an AOR styled band but this record may change that opinion as much of this record is menacing with distorted riffs and an aggressive streak see Bullseye, on the other hand there are of course some lighter melodic touches on the flirty Heaven's Little Devil and of course a mega power ballad in the shape of Last beauty On Earth where Atkins' croons like a natural balladeer. Kingmaker sees Pretty Maids still in playing top quality melodic metal. 8/10

Devilment: II - The Mephisto Waltzes (Nuclear Blast)

Devilment are notably the band stated by Daniel Finch back in 2011, they struggled to find a vocalist until Finch's friend Dani Filth agreed to do some guest vocals and eventually becoming the full time vocalist and sticking around for the debut album. In interim however Finch has left the group, leaving Filth as the sole 'original' member, this means that this second album can be seen as the reinvention of the band. I'll get this out of the way now, I've never been a fan of Filth's vocals, well one part of them in particular, I like his growls, roars and screams but I can't stand the high-pitched screeching he uses, I realise that it's a skill it just grates like nails on a chalkboard, especially live, it was a distraction when we saw Devilment live at Hammerfest and it's always been the major reason that even though I do like Cradle Of Filth I can never play there stuff for too long.

So with this in mind I pushed play on the second album from Dani's now 'other' band with a hint of trepidation, as the record kicks off Judasstein has the squeals but thankfully they don't appear very often and do add to the duality the song. From here the record improves well on Hitchcock Blonde which is a thumping rocker with the schlock horror tendencies and sees Filth using just his scarred main vocal, he works in conjunction with keyboardist Lauren Francis very well on Full Dark, No Stars which is the record's most dramatic piece with the soaring female vocals in juxtaposition with Filth's guttural grunts. II: The Mephisto Waltzes is a strong metal album, full of tasty extreme metal riffage, drum barrages and symphonic styling, its more concise and there is much better quality control than on it's predecessor and where Filth uses is brutal lower register the record is great, I just still can't get past the screeches. 7/10

Enbound: The Blackened Heart (Inner Wound)

Finally a new Enbound album! Who are Enbound? I hear you cry. Well they are a Swedish power metal band that play hook filled, fist punching, music played with a musical dexterity and a symphonic sensibility. Their debut record And She Says Gold was a triumph of furious riffs matched by waves of glorious keys and massive harmonies (even a stonking cover of Beat It) so I was anticipating that their second album would live up to expectations if not exceed them. Joyously it does and then some, more concise than it's predecessor at 10 tracks it's 40 minutes of classy power metal with a shine that comes from frontman Lee Hunter's smooth as silk vocals that some may recognise as the singer of modern AOR masters Work Of Art.

Here once again he is on top form with emotionally charged vocals that display his vocal range, he also provides some additional keys on the melodic Holy Grail. More than ably supporting Hunter's is the clean, crisp guitar work of Marvin Flowberg and the intricate bass of Swede (although Symphony X's Mike LePond plays the bass solo on Feel My Flame) everything on this record though is orchestrated and directed by the band's producer/lyricist/songwriter/drummer/keyboardist/vocalist (on They Don't Really Know) Mike Cameron Force who is really the architect of Enbound. What he has both designed and helped to construct is a very solid slab of bouncy power metal, yes it's standard fair in a shiny candy wrapper but that's not reason not to suck it and see. 7/10

Monday 21 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Delain & Everygrey (Live Review By Paul)

Delain, Tramshed Cardiff 17 November 2016

A cold rainy night in Cardiff but a reasonably sized crowd inside the Tramshed was already enjoying Canadian outfit Kobra And The Lotus (6) when I arrived. Their generic wail does little for me but they were enjoyable enough. Full credit to vocalist Kobra Paige who gives it everything and a decent reception from the crowd. Plus points for Kobra’s tolerance of a rather drunk fan at the mercy stand later in the evening.

The band many had clearly come to see arrived with an impressive intro before blasting into opener Passing Through from the rather good The Storm Within. Evergrey (9) rarely come to the U.K. and as Tom. S. Englund, frontman and guitarist of the band later noted, this was the first time they had ever been in Wales. With their dark, misery ridden themes this was never going to be a party knees up but Englund’s dry Swedish humour hit the spot exactly. Live the band are crushingly heavy in parts, the twin guitar attack of Englund and Henrike Danhage pleasantly soothed at times by Rikard Zander’s keyboards. A shortish set focused on songs from the most recent albums including three from 2014’s Hymns For The Broken. Polished, technically superb and with a crystal clear sound, Evergrey were quite fantastic.

Disappointingly the crowd thinned substantially for headliners Delain (9) but the Dutch outfit didn't care spite the gaping holes in the crowd. Front woman Charlotte Wessels has improved over the years, her stage persona full of confidence and her voice quite beautiful. With a set that focused largely on this year’s fine Moonbathers release, seven tracks in total, the band cranked it up to 11 and hit Cardiff hard. The last night on a energy sapping tour of 28 dates across Europe, band found their adrenaline and were excellent.

Guitarists Timo Somers and the latest recruit Merel Becktold swapped sides at random, drummer Ruben Israel held the beat and the finest named bassist in rock, Otto Schimmelpennicick Van Der Ojie laid the rampaging bass lines and occasional death vocals (which in my opinion do nothing to enhance the songs). At the back of the stage, proud Martijn Westerholt stood over his keyboards. As the original member and creator of the band, he must be proud. As they got into their stride, the crowd engaged more and more and although it got progressively smaller, the noise levels increased and by the time We are the Others hit it was rocking.

A rare opportunity to see some of the lesser known bands in metal in our backyard. An excellent evening and just a shame that there weren't more there to enjoy it.

Another Point Of View: Mono & Alcest (Live Review By Rich)

Mono, Alcest & Sinistro, The Globe, Cardiff

A highly anticipated evening of atmospheric music hit The Globe as Alcest & Mono brought their co-headlining tour to the Welsh capital.

There was no support act advertised on the poster for this show so it was a pleasant surprise when I arrived at The Globe to find a band on stage that was neither Alcest or Mono. Kicking off the proceedings were Portugeuse band Sinistro (6). Sinistro played a mix of doom/sludge metal and post-rock combining dreamy atmospheric passages with dense pulverising riffs. The band gave a confident performance but failed to exude much energy or stage presence which also resulted in a half-hearted response from the audience.

Next up were for me the main attraction of the evening the mighty Alcest (10).  They also appeared to me the main attraction for the majority of the audience as they came onstage to rapturous applause and cheers. Alcest's blend of atmospheric black metal, post-rock, shoegaze and dream pop was executed perfectly with songs from the newest release Kodama sitting comfortably alongside older songs such as Autre Temps and Écailles de lune Part 1 and receiving a highly positive response from the audience, as the set progressed it was the absolutely beautiful performance of Délivrance brought it to a stunning close.

The final band of the evening were Japanese post-rock masters Mono (6).  The audience had thinned out very slightly by the time Mono hit the stage but those that remained responded very enthusiastically to the performance. Mono played an enjoyable if rather repetitive set. All songs followed the same pattern of a soft and quiet intro which slowly built up and gathered steam, kept building in intensity before reaching a deafening crescendo and a very abrupt end. After several songs following this same pattern I unfortunately found my interest waning. Sadly due to an extremely early start the next day I had to leave the show early but what I managed to see of Mono's set was enjoyable, just not very enthralling.

Sunday 20 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Lordi

Lordi, The Scene Club Swansea

Myself and Brett left Cardiff at 7 ready for a slightly later arrival than normal. Both us have never seen Lordi live, despite my love of them since Get Heavy and Brett's penchant for anything the slightest bit ostentatious and grizzly (mainly GWAR). So we were both a little excited, however we became less so when we arrived at the venue and saw the enormous queue that stretched around the block, meaning the show was starting late (little did we know).

First up was Silver Dust (7) a bunch of Victorian Steampunk vampires playing industrial metal. They definitely had the look, but the music was a little lackluster and after a few songs, the throbbing bass riffs all sounded a bit samey, still the capacity crowd lapped up every minute of it. Myself and Captain Wales debunked to the pub next door for a pint and waited for the second band of the evening. The second band were Shiraz Lane (6), I didn't have too much to say in my review of their debut album earlier this year and on this bill they were the obvious odd band out. A glam tinged hard rock band complete with pretty boy, high voiced singer, part Skid Row, part Steel Panther (but without the humour) replete with big hair, posturing and the twirling scarves. They did very little for me on record and live they were about the same, although the frontman's vocals are less annoying live (due to the fact you couldn't hardly hear them)

As the pretty boys wrapped up we moved nearer the stage and then we waited... and waited... and waited. The crowd rapidly began turning nasty calling the band out, finally an hour after Shiraz Lane had left the stage, KISS's God Of Thunder blasted out of the speakers and with that the mighty Skeletor introduced us to the Finnish Mon-Stars who kicked the set off with Let's Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be The Beast-Man In The Master's Of The Universe) as Ox and Amen cranked out the riffs the timing faux-par was all but forgotten as the crowd bounced along to one of the band's most recent songs (one of three from their new record). 

After the first song we got the explanation for the wait, a dodgy curry the culprit, Mr Lordi the victim, rookie error made and apology accepted, it was then time to dive into the metallic Babez For Breakfast with Mr Lordi prowling the stage and snarling the lyrics with his gritty vocals and was inciting the fans to pump their fists, throw their horns, clap and scream like a demonic ring master, he had everyone under his spell as they cranked out The Riff (an ode to the basis of all great rock songs). Despite this being a tour in support of their latest album, most of the setlist came from their debut record Get Heavy, they even played deep cuts like Hellbender Turbulence which if I'm honest showed it's age with it's simplicity. 

So here's where things get a bit weird, for a band already late they kept in all the solo spots, now some like Ox's bass solo were actually quite good as they featured schlock horror theatrical elements but most including the drum and keyboard solo were superfluous and added very little, they were however mercifully short and we got back on track with nasty Bite It Like A Bulldog which had Mana bashing away with power. Then for the old school fans in the crowd the inclusion of Icon Of Dominance proved to be a big hit Hella's keys leading the charge as Mr Lordi crooned. Despite their rock credentials and sheer force live, they have always been a band that can slow the pace with a horror-themed ballad and It Snows In Hell/Children Of The Night medley displayed this skill well getting the near-sold out crowd singing along with every line. 

Down With The Devil served as the change the set needed, from here it was time for the more well known songs in the bands catalogue, we got Blood Red Sandman, Hard Rock Hallelujah (their Eurovision winners song), Devil Is A Loser, Who's Your Daddy (possibly the most misogynistic song imaginable, yet sung with gusto by the corset wearing ladies in the front row) and then the closed out as usual with the awesome Would You Love A Monsterman? With a glut of anthemic songs and a heavy as hell delivery and a great visual show featuring Nun disemboweling, Priest defiling and the still impressive demon wings, Lordi (8) lived up to my expectations and then some, next time though try a pre-gig sandwich or something yeah?     

Saturday 19 November 2016

Review: Metallica (Review By Paul)

Metallica: Hard Wired...To Self Destruct (Blackened)

If you were around when Episode 4 hit the cinema for the first time, the anticipation for episodes 1-3 and the excellent number 7 could just not match that first time you saw the titles roll across the screen back in 1977. Why the Star Wars analogy? Well, because it’s here. The tenth album by the biggest metal band on the planet. The first since 2008’s Death Magnetic. And like Episode 3, for those of us around in the early 1980s, early Metallica was just ball dropping and any new shit just doesn’t fully compare. But that’s not to say this is a crap album. Far far away from that.

Like Star Wars it’s been almost impossible to ignore the launch and unless you are a real elitist then it is still something to get a bit excited about. And in the main it is worth the wait. The haters are going to state that it isn’t Kill, Ride, Master or Justice and the main streamers are going to be disappointed that it isn’t Black part II. But it is Metallica, it stomps hard and heavy and contains a couple of pretty choice cuts.

Produced by Greg Fidelman alongside Papa Het and Lars Ulrich, Hardwired is the first album since 1983 not to feature any compositions with any input from lead guitarist Kirk Hammett who allegedly lost his phone containing over 250 riffs. So we rely on the writing prowess of the main engine of the band, Hetfield and Ulrich with only ManUNkind having the additional input of bassist Robert Trujillo.

We already know three of the tracks that we’ve been drip fed over the past couple of months. Album opener Hardwired kicks hard, a ballsy three-minute blast to grab your attention. Yeah baby, Metallica are back in your yard. This is quickly followed by the aggressive Atlas, Rise! A six-minute power drive that grows on you quicker than mould on a damp wall, hooks galore and some pounding riffage. Now That We’re Dead is weaker but still grounds the stomp on your sorry arse whilst Moth Into Flame is just a beast.

Massive riffage, shredding guitar work from Hammett and Papa Het’s instantly recognisable vocal snarl. This is James Hetfield in 2016, not 1985 and his voice has changed. Substantially. It’s all good so far though with Lars’ drumming big, bold and as in your face as always. I’ve never understood the hate for this man’s drumming. Live he’s always cut it and on record he delivers what he needs to do. Dream No More returns to the Sad But True feel and the eight minute plus of Halo On Fire allows the frenetic pace to calm just for a second or two before munching you into a curled ball of sweat. Side one, not bad. Not bad at all.

Side two contains a little bit more filler, opener Confusion is powerful and heavy but ManUNkind is routine fare. It’s here that you suddenly realise that every song bar one is over six minutes in length and you begin to wonder where it’s going to lead. Here Comes Revenge threatens to return to Puppets era with a couple of promising hooks and some screeching opening guitar but it turns into a bit of a bloated trip, albeit one you can rock along to. Am I Savage? is confusing. It might be one of the best tracks on the release, moving about as far away from the stable sound as you can get and I like the jazz fused intro which ignites the waning fires of interest. It’s a smouldering beast that builds majestically, slower than usual and dare I say it, shades of Megadeth in parts.

The final two tracks are chalk and cheese. Murder One, the tribute to Lemmy is well intentioned but the weakest track on the release, plodding where it should be racing and lyrically both brilliant and dreadful. But Spit Out The Bone? Holy fuck. The heaviest thing Metallica have done for years, a full out thrash fest and a return to the days of Battery and Fight Fire With Fire. It opens frantically, pauses for breath and then kicks the hell out of you. Blasting drumming, crunching riffs and Trujillo’s bass rolling all over this bad boy. Yeah! This is the good shit alright.

I’ve listened to this album about six times already and it’s a real grower. For a band with nothing to prove it’s a damn decent release. Better than Death Magnetic? Probably. Not as good as the early stuff. Who gives a fig. The Metallica machine is moving again. Get on board or get the fuck off. They don’t care. 8/10

Friday 18 November 2016

Another Point Of View: SOiL (Live Review By Elle)

SOiL: The Globe, Cardiff

On Sunday night (ugh school night) I made my way over to The Globe. I arrived nice and early so the queue was minuscule, which was great as I could take my place upstairs at the centre of the balcony. It was unusually cold inside, as The Globe is normally fairly toasty, but I shouldn't really complain about temperature. Around 3 weeks prior to the gig it was announced that the American rock band, Saliva, would not be joining SOiL on their tour, due to health issues with one of their members. This was a big disappointment for most people, judging by the reaction on social media but I am personally not that familiar with them so this didn't faze me. In any case, there were other support bands, whose material I'd never heard, so I was excited to see if I could find new gems to add to my iPod.

First on stage was a local, Bridgend-based band, When We Were Wolves (5). This five-piece band, which is often described as post-hardcore and metalcore, consisted of a weird mix of men, perhaps in their mid-twenties and what seemed to be their younger brothers (one on drums, one on guitar). Their set consisted of a combination of songs from their three EP's and one full length album, Wolf House (2013). The frontman, Mitchell Bock, started off the show by shouting at the empty space in the middle of the floor. The guys on stage didn't seem to be bothered about the sparse crowd and even thanked us a few times for getting there early to check them out. I appreciate that it is very hard, especially for a new band, to get recognition but their performance was a bit of a poor effort. 

During Blind, Mitch tried to incorporate clean vocals with his screams and I wish he'd stuck to the screaming, which what the majority of the 5-6 songs in the set were comprised of. It was all very loud and erratic and the band seemed to create more noise than was necessary. The crowd, of what little people there were, were cheering and being supportive nonetheless. I'm afraid my ears were struggling to cope so it's a good job they weren't on for long. Now, I am not the biggest fan of post-hardcore so perhaps I'm being too harsh here but they could've sounded better if the clean vocals were up to scratch.

Next up, was another five-piece, English rock band from the Midlands, Liberty Lies (6). This bunch was also a comical looking mix of musicians. The bassist, Adam 'Wolfie' Howell, who was the smallest in the band, had the biggest guitar, which in all fairness to him he handled well. This, unfortunately unsigned band, has one full length album and two EPs. The vocals of the frontman, Shaun "ManBun" Richards, were not exactly weak but a bit flat and didn't really flow well with the music. I guess I should have expected this kind of generic sound as this is what you often get with hard rock. Or am I just getting too old and grumpy?! Unlike the previous band, these guys were going crazy in what little space they had on stage. 

I was surprised that no one got hurt, so they get an extra point for the effort. Half way through the set, Shaun pointed out that The Globe is the weirdest venue the band had ever played in, as he tripped over the amp in front of him and almost fell face forward. It would have looked like spontaneous crowd surfing if there were more people there to catch him. During the song Vultures, one of the guitarists bust a string on his guitar but luckily this didn't affect the sound and the band's energy didn't slip. Even though all of the songs merged into one, the tunes grew on me towards the end of the set.

A bit of a wait around until the next band, Sons Of Texas (7) graced us with their presence. The room, at this point, had filled up nicely, but with enough personal space left for everyone. The crowd mainly consisted of middle aged guys and a unique calibre of people that would not pass a face to face interview, well perhaps at a circus. 

This groove/southern metal band from Texas looked a bit more promising. Don't let this genre description fool you, the opener to the set was as heavy as lead. The frontman, Mark Morales, was spitting anger and hate at the crowd but it didn't take long to start appreciating how powerful his vocals were. The bassist, Nick Villarreal, was again, the smallest guy on stage so there must be a trend there, although, good things do come in small packages.

The band have only released one album, Baptized In The Rio Grande, which was out last year, so the stage was full of supporting fresh talent tonight. You could start to hear the southern notes in Mark's vocals for Pull It And Fire, which suited the song nicely. It went on to transform into jamming riffs and the satisfying heaviness of the bass and the drums. Top marks for the energy and effort from the band and the interaction and general charm the frontman had about him when speaking to the audience. The place was rocking and the already warmed up crowd were headbanging and moving around a bit more. 

The band themselves were lunging all over the stage and headbanging in synchronicity. I must say, they were not a bad looking bunch for sweaty, angry metal men. The guitarists, Jon Olivares and Jes De Hoyos were producing some juicy riffs and the singer was passionately pounding his chest. That's what I call a dedicated upkeep of his persona. Between each song, we were kept reminded of what the band is called by the frontman and I wish he'd rather told us the titles of their songs. Texas Trim, a song about sex and one night stands, was a groovy, country tune, sexy indeed, during which Mark plunged into the crowd. Sons Of Texas' songs were a great mix of cruel heaviness and jamming country, with bluesy notes. 

Towards the end of the set, the title track of their only album portrayed great energy between the band members. The finisher to the set was another rocker where Mark plunged down to the floor again and gave the front row handshakes, hugs and kisses. These guys exceeded my expectations and this being their first time out of the States I hope they do well in the future. I would definitely see them again.

The crowd moved closer to the edge of the stage in anticipation for the long awaited SOiL (8). The band came on stage to a massive cheer and went straight into Wide Open, which is such a tune, the crowd was dancing from the first note. The singer, Ryan McCombs, dressed in a checked shirt and a hillbilly cap looked tiny between Adam Zadel and Tim King, two tall, broad-built guitarists who looked like bookends on each side of the stage. I don't think the sound check guys were happy with the sound of Ryan's iconic mic for the first two songs as they were fussing around the stage and gesticulating to each other. Next was an oldie, Need To Feel, which sent the crowd wild. 

The reception to the band was astounding, which was to be expected for these nu-metal rockers. In contrast, Ryan was cool and calm when addressing the crowd but with a great dry sense of humour. More sound issues followed for Pride, as we could hear some screeching feedback coming from the singer's mic. This resulted in a 5 minute stoppage but Ryan provided the crowd with quality banter and light-hearted atmosphere by picking on the roadies for not doing their job properly. Couple more songs and the sound was restored to its clarity.

Next up was Amalgamation, Ryan joked about how he regrets getting drunk and suggesting to play this song live. Another song unwillingly sang by Ryan was The Lesser Man/Give It Up, which he went into after muttering: "Fuck my life". This song was done by the band with a different singer so it's not a surprise Ryan had zero enthusiasm towards performing it live. The band was served a shot of Jäger each whilst we encountered more sound issues. It's a shame I wasn't drinking as these technical hiccups in the 13 song setlist would've been more bearable. 

They cranked the mic up for Breaking Me Down and this was the first time ever I wished I had brought earplugs to a gig. The crowd were jumping and shouting the words. During Black 7 the frontman sat on the edge of the stage and unfortunately people started to act like animals at a zoo, practically jumping in his lap and taking pictures with him. However, Ryan, was being a total sweetheart and was really accommodating or perhaps he was just too drunk to care.

I thought I saw a pit start for Unreal but it was just three drunkards hugging and stumbling over each other. Top marks go to the crowd for lyric knowledge, shame I can't say the same about myself. Minor encore just so Ryan could sneak off the stage and appear in the middle of the crowd singing Halo. Needless to say he was instantly swarmed with people. I have no idea how he managed to breathe, never mind sing, amongst them all. It was such a cool thing to do and it goes to show how much this band really loves its’ fans. Black Betty, a Ram Jam cover, finished the set. As excited as I was to see these guys and as awesome as the gig actually was, they lose a point for all the tech issues, which broke up the fluidity of the set.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Reviews: Freedom Call, Wretched Soul, Atlas

Freedom Call: Master Of Light (Steamhammer)

Ninth album, no punches pulls, no quarter given, just bouncy Germanic power metal coming from the Helloween sound. Freedom Call have always had their tongue planted in their cheek much like their more well known countrymen, they understand that they can be seen as a bit of joke by the more po-faced metal crowd but true power metal doesn't and has never cared about what people think and seeks to unite all the fans of metal. So when this record kicks off with Metal Is For Everyone you have the feeling that Freedom Call consider this to be a clarion call to everyone to unite.

As the record continues it's what you would expect the galloping rhythm section on Kings Rise And FallA World Beyond, Hail The Legend with more melodic tendencies on folky title track before it turns into a symphonic driven piece showcasing Chris Bay's excellent vocals. In what seems to be a regularity with these records there are always one or two ballads and Cradle Of  Angels is the kind of ballad sung in a warriors tavern, mead in hand, awaiting the inevitable.

Master Of Light does have one major curveball to it though Ghost Ballet has almost EDM style synths and a huge riff that actually would fit very well on a DTP record, strangely it's one of the records strongest songs, unfortunately it's followed by the dreadful Eurovision fodder of Rock The Nation which is the records low point. The nature of power metal means that everything I've just said means nothing to be honest, good or bad fans of power metal will lap this up, sit back relax and just enjoy because Metal Is For Everyone! 7/10   

Wretched Soul: The Ghost Road (UKEM Records)

Wretched Soul don't play AOR folks, there are no nice fluffy keys or big emotive choruses on this record instead it's chock full of lightning fast drumming, dirty grooves and wild thrash riffs with death metal aggressiveness. I saw Wretched Soul at Eradication Festival this year and if I'm honest they blew me away with the sheer live power they had, heavy, violent, progressive and down right excellent I had high expectations for this their second album and it's one of the most exhilarating 39 minutes of music I've heard this year.

The Canterbury four piece have significantly upped their game since their debut, which I retrospectively sort out after their blinding performance at Eradication, the touring has paid much dividends as this record is as tight as a frozen tap. With a supremely wide vocal range Chris Simmons' leads from the front relying heavily on his booming clean delivery for Necromancer before adding the death-roars on War Wolf onward, underneath his vocals the instrumentation is top class, Luke Mayell's bass grinds your insides to mush, Andy Clifford's drums split your eardrums with every blast beat and his brother Steve plays the hostile riffs and explosive solos.

The lyrical content as you'd expect is anti-religion, anti-corruption but also deals with historical horror and fantasy literature, par for the course really but delivered with a nasty panache. Aiding the devastation of this record is the production of the legendary Chris Tsangarides (Google it) and the mastering of Dan Swanö (again Google it) who mean the record sounds both modern and retro simultaneously. With thrash, death and black metal all getting a good seeing to by Wretched Soul meaning that this second record will hopefully see Wretched Soul bring their brand of wretchedness to a much wider audience. 9/10

Atlas: Death & Fear (Self Released)

Do you long for The Sword to return to the sound featured on their first two albums, the huge Sabbath worshipping doom riffs, washing over the songs like a black tsunami of feedback and groove. well the second release from Swedish band Atlas could be the answer, it's all here the massive riffs, the psychedelic touches and the clean vocals which are all so scarce in the doom/stoner scene. Death & Fear plays it straight down the line with very little room for change, the pace is set by hypnotic low slung shoegazing and occasionally picks up with some chugging faster sections. You can hear Sabbath (of course) but also 90's Metallica and Alice In Chains, with psychedelic touches throughout this is heavy metal with the catchiness of hard rock. Death & Fear is a great album if like I said you miss the classic doom/stoner stylings of early records from The Sword. 7/10

Wednesday 16 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Graveltones

The Graveltones, Le Pub Newport

After three almost consecutive trips to Bristol in one week, a gig on our side of the bridge (just) was exactly what was needed, forgoing the car it was public transport all the way for a few beverages and sport watching pre-gig. Happily the public transport all ran very smoothly despite Cardiff hosting international matches in both Rugby and Football, I avoided the commotion by heading to Newport and meeting up with friends for a few pints of quality ale and intelligent discussion before the match took place.

Now during the gig the joys of social media confirmed that the band's van had broken down on route to the venue so after some frantic phone calling and a discussion with the head honcho of Pity My Brain (the show organiser) everything was up in the air. So we moved over to the venue which is excellently split into bar downstairs performance area upstairs, after a bit of waiting, some retro Mario Kart and yet more beer, we were given the green light that the band had arrived. By then we were starving so forgoing the support acts we headed for food and arrived back just as the band were about two songs in.

What followed was a completely raucous, unabashed celebration of garage blues from two men that when not on stage are softly spoken and humble but when on the stage and in full flow play with a searing fire, Jimmy O attacking his guitar, peeling out fuzzed up blues lick after, fuzzed up blues lick while he hollers down the mic and spends more time in the crowd than he does on stage. As the frenetic, kinetic front man he needs a rhythm to keep to and Mikey's simply astounding drumming is that rhythm, his intensely percussive playing is a wonder to behold using the entire drum kit to make the thundering noise at points even forgoing sticks for his hands.

With very little between song banter other than a few thank you's and humble free-spirited peace sharing it was all about the music and songs such as Forget About The Trouble, World On A String and Catch Me On The Fly got the small but enthusiastic crowd shaking their hips, nodding their heads, clapping their hands and using their voices to full effect. Drenched with sweat, voices hoarse and heads full of the devils liquor, few bands can get a party started like The Graveltones, honest music from honest people, no bullsh*t just rock n roll in it's purest form 9/10

Reviews: Vader, Avenged Sevefold, Crowbar, Taken (Reviews By Paul)

Vader: The Empire (Nuclear Blast)

Playing it safe has never been in Polish titans Vader’s vocabulary. Powering death metal since 1983, The Empire is a blistering follow up to 2014’s Tibi Et Igni, which was an absolute monster. The Empire starts at full throttle, Angels Of Steel kicking your face hard. The pace doesn't let up for a minute, unsurprisingly for a death metal band. Prayers To The God Of War and Iron Reign drip thick wedged riffs, with the latter’s stomping  chug conjuring images of 1980s era Venom.

Piotr Wiwczarek’s distinctive brutal vocals and the band’s no nonsense all out thrash approach remains as strong as it ever did. Brit James Stewart drums like there is no tomorrow. His bass drumming on The Army-Geddon ferocious. Album closer Send Me Back To Hell concludes another solid release from one of the most influential death metal outfits of all time. 8/10

Avenged Sevenfold: The Stage (Capitol Records)

Dropped without any fanfare, The Stage is album number 7 for the Californian outfit and the first with new drummer Brooks Wackerman who replaced Aron Ilejay in 2015. The album is also the first with Capitol records after a decade on Warner Bros.

A concept album based on themes of Artificial Intelligence (AI) The Stage is, despite claims to the contrary a typical AX7 sounding release. Slick production, huge drums, guitars raining down solos and riffs and the instantly recognisable vocals of M. Shadows. The problem for me with AX7 is that they've always retained a sound that whilst truly metal, washes completely over me with absolutely no impact. Take Paradigm as an example.

Battering drums, raging riffs and a big hook. Not a flicker. In fact, Paradigm is one of the catchier tunes on the album as well as the second shortest, with only God Damn clocking in under 4 minutes. God Damn is actually a blistering tune, with a powerful intro, harmonies on the chorus and a variation between crunching riffs and flamenco guitar is the middle eight.

The Stage is probably two songs too long, with five tracks well over six minutes each in length. The band have clearly poured  some of their longer term influences into this release, with closer Exist merging a range of styles. At nearly 16 minutes long it's an ambitious piece, huge chunks of Metallica apparent throughout (nowt wrong with a bit of that), with the subject matter focusing on the Big Bang and a narrative from astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson Tyson.

I'm not sure it totally works with clunky interplay, uncomfortable time changes and a variety of approaches which make it difficult to appreciate. The synth work in the middle which merges with some raging drumming and guitar work is a classic example. However, the message of greater life in the universe and mans preoccupation with destroying himself is particularly relevant at this moment.

Let me state for the record that I wish AX7 well. They've been through a lot, with the death of drummer The Rev rocking the band more than could have been expected. They remain a force in the world of metal, hated and loved in equal measure. The expectation on them to be the next big thing from the metal media not helpful. I don't find this album much more exciting than their “massive” 2013 release Hail To The King. But the band are in an arena where they can pretty much do what they want. Good luck to ‘em. 7/10

Crowbar: The Serpent Only Lies (Nuclear Blast)

Album number 11 from New Orleans sludgers Crowbar. It's a heavy, brooding affair with a return to the Crowbar of old. Massive riffs, plodding sections heavy enough to crack concrete and some heads down pace at times to keep you on your toes. Opener Falling While Rising sets the tone, a behemoth of a tune. Kirk Windstein’s vocals remind you that this man must gargle broken glass before breakfast.

As for the riffs, well, fuck me there are riffs pouring out of every orifice. Plasmic And Pure drags the listener and smashes his head against a wall. Windstein and guitarist Matthew Brunson absolutely devastate whilst drummer Tommy Buckley and returning bassist Todd Strange lay down an impenetrable backline. Windstein stated in an interview that he wanted fewer lyrics to let the “riffs breathe”. He has delivered what he promised.

The massive Surviving The Abyss and the brutal title track bear witness. The Serpent Only Lies transports the listener back to the days of Crowbar and 1991’s monstrous Obedience Through Suffering. The beast may be a lumbering creature, but Crowbar 2016 remains a very dangerous beast. 8/10

Taken: Taken (Self Released)

Power metal from Pamplona? Yeah, we will try anything once here at Musipedia (apart from Phil Collins –he can fuck off from the start). Formed from the ashes of Dreamwalker in 2013, Taken has ingested Helloween’s entire catalogue, adopted Klaus Meine’s vocal intonation and used their special set of skills to deliver a really generic, routine power metal album. 100mph from start to finish, the songs are uninspiring, power metal by numbers.

Modern Messiah highlights that vocalist David Arredondo can't actually sing that well, whilst a track titled Wormy Brains means that it all becomes personally too much for me. The keyboards often drown the guitars, the format is repetitive and overall it's just not very good. Dragonforce lite. 5/10

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Reviews: Taylor Hawkins, Stefan Berggren, Trees Of Eternity, Duskwood

Taylor Hawkins: K.O.T.A (Self Released)

Another Foo Fighters hiatus, another Taylor Hawkins solo project, following on from two Coattail Riders records and his Birds Of Satan records K.O.T.A takes a departure that sees Hawkins in full 'solo' album mode, with previous releases he has formed another band with this release he does a Prince and plays everything sans some bass from Wiley Hodgden, Coattail Riders’ Chris Chaney, and Foo Fighters’ Nate Mendel.

It is also probably he most personal record to date, though just a 6 song EP it sees Hawkins telling tales of his suburbanite existence and drawing on his past follies, crafting Sprinsteenian stories. Groove driven Range Rover Bitch and Bob Quit His Job are observations of American life as Hawkins lives them the latter actually about his neighbour Bob doing what the title says. However he also digs deep with Southern Belles touching on his down south upbringing and Tokyo No No is a cautionary tale from the Foos early days of being young, dumb and reckless.

Each song is a self contained narrative that forms part of a wider more meditative whole and as I've Got Some Not Being Around You To Do Today closes out the EP, Hawkins once again captures the imagination and displays that away from the Foos mother-ship he has his head firmly rooted in 70's Cali sound. 7/10  

Stefan Berggren: Stranger In A Strange Land (Pride & Joy Music)

Stefan Berggren is a former singer of Whitesnake off-shoot Company Of Snakes, that survived until 2004. Berggren was behind the mic between 2000-2002,l he has also served time in Snakes In Paradise, M3, Razorback and the Berggren Kerslake band. The Swede also had the unenviable task of being the Coverdale in what was a reactivation of the original line up of Whitesnake (Marsden, Moody, Murray, Lord & Paice) for a show in 2001, but on the basis of this his debut solo record you can see why he was chosen, his vocals are the perfect fit for our David rich, deep and soulful just like the leather lunged screamer himself with a touch of Paul Rodgers creeping in at times. As I've said Stranger In A Strange Land is his debut and it sticks with the traditional sound that Berggren has been a part of for most of his career, this is bluesy classic hard rock that sits comfortably with the first few early 70's 'Snake albums.

Sands Of Time starts the record and sees Stefan shift into Bad Company territory with layered acoustics and slow pace, its a track that eases you in, before the strut of Coming Home gets your hips shaking with it's heavy soul. On the album Berggren has reached into his address book for old friend such as Bernie Marsden, Neil Murray (both Whitesnake), Marcus Jidell (Avatarium - Guitar) and Joakim Svalberg (Opeth - Keys) they put their seal on the tracks they feature on. The record taps a blues vein as I've said none more so on Keef's Song which is a tribute to The Rolling Stones seemingly invincible and irrepressibly cool guitarist, while the title track has more in common with Deep Purple or Uriah Heep due to the great use of  Moog. This record may go under the radar a bit which is a shame as it's got class and flair if you hanker for some slithering blues rock. 7/10

Trees Of Eternity: Hour Of The Nightingale (Svart Records)

Doom metal at its core is a depressing genre, slow, chugging guitar playing, haunting vocals and a very dark atmosphere all round. However Hour Of Nightingale may just take the cake, the music is desolate, down tempo and bleak, exactly what you would expect from a band formed by Juha Raivio of Shadow Of The Sun along with members and ex-members of Katatonia, October Tide and Wintersun. What makes it particularly harrowing are the ghostly vocals of Aleah Stanbridge she soars above the gloomy ambient melancholy with a baleful fragility on A Million Tears and Condemned To Silence (where she is complimented by low male vocals).

This isn't the heaviest of doom records taking more from the ambient soundscapes but this enhances the glum but emotive nature of the record. This album has had a long gestation period, finally though it has seen the light of day in albeit in very regretful circumstances as vocalist Aleah passed away earlier this year from cancer, so in part this record serves as her epitaph and it couldn't be more beautiful, the title track being particularly mournful and sobering affair. Hour Of The Nightingale is a heartbreaking record but it is wonderful to listen to really displaying the talent of all those involved, it also serves as a lasting testament to singers sadly now lost talent. 9/10

Duskwood: Desert Queen (Self Released)

Heavy stoner rock from Somerset, think Clutch or Wolfmother but with more cider apples. Desert Queen kicks like a mule, Obelisk the song that opens this album is a pounding rocker with fuzzy guitars and great hollered vocals from Liam Tinsley. Titan is a grooving bass driven number that builds in its final part. Duskwood are a very competent band and play with a swagger rare in a band that were only formed in 2011. With heavy riffs galore from Greg and Laurence while Aaron and Jack are the flaring boiler room for tracks such as Hurricane. It's not big or clever but it is slightly psychedelic stoner rock album that brings the riffs in big order. 7/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Cadillac Three (Live Review By Paul)

The Cadillac Three, 02 Academy, Bristol

I'm not sure whether Southern rock has undergone a resurgence of late or whether it has always been welcomed with open arms in the U.K. The success of Georgia’s Blackberry Smoke, Texans Whisky Myers and associated acts has demonstrated that this genre is currently in rude health. A very busy 02 Academy supported this theory as Nashville trio The Cadillac Three rolled into Bristol in support of their second album Bury Me In My Boots.

It's rare that a support band totally grabs you by the bollocks and doesn't let go until they've finished but by god, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown (9) did just that. A 45 minute set that just oozed quality, Tyler Bryant and his band really got a very cool Academy smoking hot. Playing a range of tracks from their latest release Wayside and 2013’s debut Wild Child Bryant, guitarist Graham Whitfield, bassist Noah Denny and crazy drummer Caleb Crosby demonstrated a maturity far beyond Bryant’s age as they rocked out from the beginning. Their set was superbly paced, building in intensity to a crescendo which had the crowd baying for more. Big things will surely happen for this incredibly talented young man and his band.

With such a storming opening, The Cadillac Three (7) had their work cut out. They started brightly with I'm Southern igniting the capacity crowd. Unfortunately in my opinion, the recent spike in their popularity has given a degree of arrogance which detracts from the quality musicianship of the band. Frontman Jaren Johnson’s preference for spitting was particularly unpleasant and whilst his southern drawl is the ideal fit for the band's music, his slovenly attitude at times diminished the appeal substantially. The band have promoted themselves as a hard drinking outfit and they appeared to revel in this, with drummer Neil Mason swigging from a bottle of bourbon throughout the show.

Despite this the band have some great songs with Bury Me In My Boots, Tennessee Mojo and White Lightening all making an appearance and receiving a rapturous reception. However as the set progressed I found my attention wandering somewhat, the pace in the middle of the set dropping off quite noticeably. Interest was rekindled with a superb Peace, Love & Dixie, set closer Days Of Gold and the first encore, a smashing cover of Tom Petty’s Honey Bee, complete with Tyler and the Shakedown. Overall though, The Cadillac Three, enjoyable as they were just didn't impress as much as expected. A huge reception from the crowd suggested that once again I'm in the minority. There again, lots of people think that The Dead Daisies are good and it's a fact that they are dreadful maybe I'm right after all.

Monday 14 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Lacuna Coil (Live Review By Paul)

Lacuna Coil – The Marble Factory, Bristol

This year’s surprisingly heavy and very good Delirium release was sufficiently tempting to facilitate a return across the Bridge a mere 48 hours after we had seen Blues Pills at the same venue. Although Lacuna Coil has been around since the late 1990s, they are not the most frequent visitors to these parts. Two shows in the Welsh Capital, 2006 and 2011 and only a few more in Bristol, the last being in 2014 at The Anson Rooms. Their appeal is widespread but it was still a pleasant surprise to see the gig sell-out.

Of course, the problem with sell-out gigs in smaller venues such as The Marble Factory is that it becomes very tight in terms of space quite quickly. Taking a steadier approach to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic, Mr B, Mrs H and I arrived at the venue just as openers Genus Ordinis Dei closed their set to a huge ovation from an already very busy venue. From the little we heard they sound like a band worth checking out.

Having made our way to the far right we were pretty pleased to have found space on the barrier which afforded a great view of the majority of stage action. Main support Forever Still (5) was up next. The band, from Copenhagen gave it their all but their generic, rather bland songs, combined with multiple off stage enhancements (backing vocals, additional guitars, synths etc.) soon became a little dull and whilst they got a decent reception from the crowd, it was more pleasing when their set ended.

No such problems for Lacuna Coil (9) who were simply on fire. The Milan based outfit hit the stage with Ultimate Ratio, the closing track on Delirium and proceeded to blow a hole in the roof of the venue. Tighter than I’d ever seen them, and with the front duo of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro in stunning form, the Milanese based outfit tore through a set rammed full of classics and a healthy seven tracks from the new release. This was the first night of the UK tour and the Bristol crowd set the bar high. There was excellent audience participation during Heaven’s A Lie, Trip The Darkness and Our Truth before the cover of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence engaged even those who weren’t as familiar with the back catalogue.

A bone crunching Nothing Stands In Our Way led to the three track encore. First up was Delirium, followed by the heavy as fuck Zombies from the underrated Broken Crown Halo. Just when you thought that was it, Lacuna Coil finished everyone off with the LOG style House Of Shame, possibly the heaviest track they’ve ever written. A fine performance from a band that is right back on track.

Another Point Of View: Impericon Never Say Die Tour (Live Review By Stief)

Impericon Never Say Die Tour, Marble Factory, Bristol

That's right folks, it's time for the annual Impericon Never Say Die! Tour, something I've never actually attended before, but enjoyed nonetheless. Thanks to the wonderful British traffic, we walked into the Marble factory in time to see fourth band on the bill, Obey The Brave (7) whose metalcore riffage was quite frankly, pretty brutal. However, when Carnifex (8) take the stage, the brutality is taken up about 10 notches, the entire of the factory turning into a pulsating mass of circle pits and headbanging. Throwing out new songs such as Drown Me In Blood and Slow Death, the band also mix it up with classics Lie To My Face and set closer Hell Chose Me.

Next up were the lads from Oz, Thy Art is Murder (8) who yet again take the brutality dial and turn it up a few notches. Lee Stanton's double bass pedal is consistent throughout the entire set, and Kevin Butler's Bass threatens to pull the building apart at points. Stand-in vocalist Nick Arthur of Molotov Solution sounds perfectly in place, his vicious screams and animalistic growls fitting right in with the band's sound. Much like Carnifex, the band throw out some newer stuff from last year's Holy War, such as the titular track and Light Bearer as well as songs from Hate, including final song Reign Of Darkness. All in all a great mix.

As Whitechapel (9) take the stage, the crowd are ready for them, and they know it, tearing right into Mark Of The Blade and Elitist Ones, before reaching way back to their roots with Vicer Exciser. Phil Bozeman's vocals are angry and savage, but shows his clean vocals are just as good with slower song Bring Me Home, moving from clean to vicious in moments, the crowd swaying, lighters held aloft. The band manage to cover a lot of ground in their roughly 50-minute slot and with crowd pleaser The Saw Is The Law as an encore, the band leave the stage without much pomp and circumstance.

Oh and the final count for circle pit requests from bands: 12.

Sunday 13 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Blues Pills (Live Review By Paul)

Blues Pills – The Marble Factory, Bristol

As we headed to Bristol for the first time this week we had to fight all the way there through the heavy rainfall that lashed down as we drove.

Our mood had been dampened not only by the abysmal weather but the news that main support act Kadavar had to withdraw due to illness. This didn’t stop the band’s extensive merchandise being displayed for sale at the venue along with some rather fine Blues Pills garments and some interesting leatherwork from the other support outfit, Stray Train.

A healthy crowd welcomed the Slovenians Stray Train (7) who had the task of warming the crowd up on a cold night and also filling the void created by Kadavar’s absence. They took up the mantle and delivered on all levels with their warming brand of classic rock getting heads nodding and feet tapping. Perhaps a tad generic musically, the band possesses a real asset in vocalist Luka Lamut whose soaring voice had more than a passing resemblance to Myles Kennedy. Playing a good 35 minutes with tracks such as Plastic Princess and Wonderful off their debut release, the excellently titled Just 'Cause You Got The Monkey Off Your Back Doesn’t Mean The Circus Has Left Town Stray Train were competent and entertaining with the confidence of a band who’ve been on the road for a while.

Blues Pills (8) need little introduction. Since our first viewing at Hard Rock Hell in November 2014, the Swedish based outfit has developed massively. This year’s stunning Lady In Gold has helped and their performance at Steelhouse Festival in July was a total triumph. The improvement is in the tightness of their musical interplay and in the confidence of Elin Larsson, whose Joplinesque moves are now frenzied in comparison to that cold November afternoon in Pwllheli. A commanding figure, she whirls and swirls like a dervish, blond hair cascading over her face as she smacks hell out of her tambourines.

The band opened with the powerful Lady In Gold and showed their topical side with Larsson sarcastically dedicating Little Boy Preacher to the 45th President of the USA. With two albums now in their catalogue, the band now have more room for expression and no-one takes more advantage of that than guitarist Dorian Sorriaux. Splendidly decked out in a red velvet jacket and snazzy shirt, the Frenchman makes playing the guitar look effortless. His performance throughout the evening was great but during Astral Plane, High Class Woman, Ain’t No Change and Devil Man it was astonishing.

Unfortunately the sound was pretty appalling and despite moving several times to both sides of the stage, the overpowering drumming of Andre Kvarnsrom and Zack Anderson’s thumping bass lines muffled Sorriaux’s guitar sound with Larsson having to work really hard to be heard. A beautiful solo encore of I Felt A Change by the frontwoman allowed a brief respite but with a thunderously heavy Rejection the penultimate encore crushing the skull once more, we made our exit. A superb band, let down on this occasion by a disappointing sound mix.