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Tuesday 31 July 2018

Reviews: Halestorm, Hangman's Chair, Breaking The Chains, Pelugion

Halestorm: Vicious (Atlantic)

It seems Halestorm have finally hit upon a sound. There critically acclaimed second album The Strange Case Of was raw and rocky featuring some big radio hits that came almost by accident however on their previous album they were actively trying to seek the radio and it meant that Into The Wild Life was too long and far too middle of the road, with only the singles standing out. The gap between that album and this, Halestorm have been constantly on tour and frontwoman Lzzy has become an in demand collaborator for numerous bands as well as a leading light for feminism in the rock world. She uses her sexuality in a positive way doing nothing more than say Vince Neil or Axl Rose did back in the day but it seems controversial as she's a woman. I personally find it a breath of fresh air that Lzzy feels confident enough to take on the boys at their own game while also being on hand to dispense advice to girls and boys around the globe who may struggle with problems (check out her Twitter if you don't believe me).

This take no shit attitude has been reflected in their latest album Vicious which is a product of extensive touring, making the band sound more intense than before and Lzzy's swagger. The songs here brim with sexual confidence, lust, social awareness and defiance, it's the heaviest, darkest material the band have produced. Take a song like Do Not Disturb it's a dirty, filthy bottom end driven stomper on which Arejay Hale and Josh Smith lead, is about anonymous sex in hotel rooms and honestly it sounds like a Nickelback sexcapade however when Chad does it it's sleazy, when Lzzy does it it's empowering (Although can't it be both?).

The Nickelback comparisons don't end there and much like Kroger and co have managed to balance populist melodies and heavy rocking Halestorm seem to have finally nailed it as well, the rampaging Uncomfortable Lzzy and Joe Hottinger riffing like mad, the groovy Skulls, Black Vultures has almost a doom riff letting Lzzy croon and scream and even the ballads Novacaine and The Silence are full of Pat Benatar attitude. Vicious is the follow up I was waiting for from Halestorm after The Strange Case Of... and while it's not groundbreaking it'll see them becoming interstellar. I would say check them out but their UK tour later this year is sold out so just pick up Vicious and play the waiting game. 7/10

Hangman's Chair: Banlieue Triste (Spinefarm Records)

Translating to Sad Suburb the fifth album from French stoner/doom act Hangman's Chair are a band who dwell in the darkness as does their music. Slow deliberate heavy music that creeps rather than gallops relying on low slung riffs, expressive drums and reverbed vocals to get the lyrical themes of this record across. Founding member Julien Chanut (guitar) admits: "I’ve always been interested in suicide, and more precisely hanged men, it is fascinating. When I was a child, I knew someone who did it, and it’s still in my mind." So with this morbid fascination in place (the band name) this Parisian act have crafted an album that is wrapped up in grief, tragedy, bleakness, alcohol, drugs, depression all of which they saw in their suburban upbringing.

It's not supposed to be a happy album an in place it's downright bleak drawing from the band members own experiences especially 04/09/16 which deals with an unnamed member of the band's drug overdose and hospitalisation, Sleep Juice is about insomnia and Sidi Bel Abbes is about the Algerian town where a former band member was buried after being killed in a hit and run in 2010.  Think Type O Negative on valium and Hangman's Chair musical style will be easy to understand, it's dark, maudlin and disconcerting with some very good collaborations such as Marc De Backer from Wolvennest and French synthwave artist Perturbator on Tired Eyes. Banlieue Triste is not a record for the faint of heart or anyone of a nervous disposition, thundering doom rock in its rawest form Hangman's Chair is brilliant. 9/10

Breaking The Chains: We Are Breaking The Chains (Dutch Music Works)

Remember back in the 70's 80's when charity collaborations were a big thing, we had The Concert For Bangladesh, Band-Aid and for metalheads there was Hear N Aid. Well it seems the Dutch have revived the genre with We Are Breaking The Chains an album featuring 40 of the Dutch rock and metal community collaborating in the name of  Bikers Against Child Abuse. Some names you may know are vocalists, John ‘JayCee’ Cuijpers (Praying Mantis), Irene Jansen (Ayreon), guitarists Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation, For All We Know, Maiden uniteD), Timo Somers (Delain),
bassists Rob van der Loo (Epica), Johan van Stratum (VUUR, The Gentle Storm, ex-Stream of Passion) and drummer Ed Warby (VUUR, The Gentle Storm, The 11th Hour).

As you can see members of some of the biggest Dutch metal acts are here and much like the Ayreon project there is a genre mix but things are mainly kept to the power/symphonic metal and AOR. t opens with the acoustic laced Superhero but Angels On Wheels brings a percussive loudness which builds and builds into a powerful end. We go symphonic/folksy on Believe In Me with this segueing into saccharine Follow My Way and the bouncy Valley Road. I'll be honest there are no bad songs on this record, some are better than others but the record keeps you entertained with the the eclectic mix of musicians involved who are all doing it for a great cause. It's a testament to the Dutch scene that they can produce an album of this quality with so many people involved, I've always carried a baton for Dutch bands and Breaking The Chains is validation to why. 7/10

Pelugion: I (Self Released)

Coventry Metal 2 The Masses winners Pelugion have very conveniently put all of their recordings together in one place just before their New Blood Stage appearance at this year's Bloodstock Festival. With this clever bit of marketing the three piece have now got a CD that contains every Pelugion song ever made.  

Monster (2016) comes from 2016 and has a real Sabbath groove to it which seems to be the overarching style of Pelugion's music vocals & bass Andy Sweeney has a whiskey smoked hued vocals and locks in with drummer Brandon Balou providing the heavy grooves for Bide My Time (2015) however tracks such as Desire (2017) and the Metallica-esque Bane Of Humanity (2018) give John Pittaway the chance to shred away with big chords and thrashing riffs.

Clearly a well oiled machine they have a fusion of styles even bringing a huge amount of prog for Serpent's Mistress which brings a nod to The Sword with it's sprawling psych styled middle section. I is a very confident, assured EP from a band who are on the cusp of that next leap in their evolution as a band, check them out on Friday when they play the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock and bang your head. 8/10      

Monday 30 July 2018

Reviews: Epica, Powerwolf, Sodomized Cadaver, Axis Of Despair (Reviews By Stief & Paul H)

Epica: Epica Vs Attack On Titan Songs (Nuclear Blast Records/Ward Records) [Review By Stief]

Quick question; How do you make an animé about a group of trained soldiers flying around like spiderman, taking down giant creatures by slicing their necks open even more metal and epic? By throwing Epica at it of course.

This EP, the second by the dutch Sextet, is a collection of covers of the soundtrack to the popular animé Attack On Titan. From the opening of Crimson Bow And Arrow to the closing of Dedicate Your Heart, Epica are going in with all pistons blazing. Simone Simmon's operatic tones are perfect for the already epic music of the show.

Overall, it's a fun thing to hear from a band such as Epica. The songs from the show are already fast paced, operatic metal pieces, but in the hands of Simone et. al it takes it to another level. A veritable  feast of strings, growls from Mark Jansen and excellent solos from Isaac Delahaye. The EP also boasts instrumentals of each song, just in case you wanted to hear each song without the vocals. It's great when worlds collide, and it'd be great to see an EP this from similar bands. 7/10

Powerwolf: The Sacrament Of Sin [Deluxe edition] (Napalm Records)

(Disc 1)

It's been 3 years since Powerwolf's last full album and boy is it a corker. Right from the outset, you can hear the improvements in both vocals and production. Atilla Dorn's voice has come on leaps and bounds since the early days of Lupus Dei and Bible Of The Beast. The rest of the band sound a lot tighter and it feels Powerwolf are at the top of their game with this latest offering. There are some genuine stand-out songs from the album, one being Stossgebet, sung in Powerwolf's native German, it's obvious from the almost military rhythm that Powerwolf has definitely been influenced by fellow power-metallers Sabaton. Album opener Fire And Forgive has all the Powerwolf staples; Tolling bells, dramatic strings, choral singing, chants in Latin and excellent harmonies from the Greywolf brothers.

Falk Maria Shlegel's keyboards paired with the machine-gun drumming of Roel Van Helden all meld into pure power metal. Powerwolf also try their hand at power ballads with Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone, slower than what you'd normally be used to with Powerwolf, but it works nonetheless, Atilla's vocals working well with the different style. Essentially, if you're a Powerwolf fan, you're probably going to have this in your collection as soon as possible, and for those just looking for some excellent power metal, then you can't really go wrong with this album 10/10

(Disc 2)

But wait! there's more! We here at the Musipedia don't do things by halves, and we listened to the deluxe edition of The Sacrament Of Sin, which gives us Communio Lupatum, 10 Powerwolf tracks covered by various bands.  Not satisfied with covering Animé themes,  Epica also appear on this album, covering Sacred & Wild. It's a great take on a great song and as with the rest of the songs on the bonus album, each band gives their own unique twist on Powerwolf's music whilst still retaining the sound of the original song.

Some of the stand out covers for me are the aforementioned Sacred & Wild along with Battle Beast's cover of (personal favourite) Resurrection By Erection and Kreator's Mille Petrozza working with Caliban's Marc Gortz giving Amen And Attack a thrash twist. Some of the covers are hit & miss, Caliban's dark/industrial take on Kiss Of The Cobra King is a required taste. Amaranthe and Eluveitie also make an appearance, both giving interesting takes on Army Of The Night and a very folky swiss version of When The Saints Are Going Wild respectively. Definitely worth the extra money if you're thinking of picking the deluxe edition. 9/10

Sodomised Cadaver: Verses of Vorarephilia (Immortal Souls Productions)

I was surprised when this arrived for review. A compilation of the Welsh Death Metal outfit’s first two EPs, 2014’s Vorarephilia merges and 2016’s Verses of Putridity into one handy sized bollock crushing release. Released in late 2017, this is a timely reminder of the power of one of Welsh metal’s most extreme bands. This release features drummer Gavin Davies, guitarist Ryan Howes and former vocalist and guitarist Ray Packer, now leading the chaos with Cranial Separation.

Tracks such as Cannibal Butcher, Visceral Shredder (I think I had one of them once; brutal machine), Skull Fractured Massacre, Perseverance and of course the (semi) legendary Raped By Ebola all stalk and then strike. Now with a revamped line-up of bassist Charlie Rogers, Desecration/Extreme Noise Terror’s Ollie Jones alongside Howes and Davies. You should get your ears wrapped around this before cramming into the Sophie Tent to see them scorch the earth at Bloodstock in a few weeks. 8/10

Axis Of Despair: Contempt For Man (Southern Lord)
Axis Of Despair is a new grindcore band from Sweden. The first incarnation of this four-piece slab of brutality dates to late 2013 and the line-up and name finalised in 2014.  The band feature former and present members of band such as Nasum, Livet som insats, Coldworker, Nervgift, Overtorture, Infanticide and Volturyon. Contempt For Man is their debut release and follows a couple of Eps released in previous years.  The band line-up is vocalist Joel Fornbrant, Oskar Pålssonon bass, drummer Anders Jakobson and Kristofer Jankarls on Guitar. Grindcore rarely does much for me but this 33-minute, 20 song release just kicks you in the nuts.

Fornbrant’s grizzled growl fits the aggression of the band’s music perfectly. The rest of the band descend into utter chaos as they plough through track after track, most of which are around the minute mark. Huge riffs (Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike), massive grooves (The Pain Maze) and some pogoing punk edged chaos (A Brutal Truth) all blend into a maelstrom which would get your neighbour’s BBQ ablaze within seconds. This is incendiary stuff which will appeal to grindcore fans and metal heads alike. Flytand Död and Crush The Empire, both of which are around the three-minute mark go full throttle, the later bringing this great chunk of easy listening to a close. 7/10

Reviews: Mortiis, Construct Of Lethe, Mist, Sunstorm (Reviews By Paul Scoble & Paul H)

Mortiis: Perfectly Defect (2018 Reissue) (Omnipresence) [Paul Scoble]

Mortiis; the band and alter ego of Havard Ellefsen, have been going since 1993, when Ellefsen was sacked from Norwegian black metal legends Emperor. Although, this is the one piece of trivia that most people know about Mortiis, it’s really just a footnote in the carrier of one of the most important industrial acts we have. Mortiis was a solo act until 2001, when Ellefsen expanded Mortis to a full band for the album The Smell Of Rain, and so that live gigs could be a possibility.

Perfectly Defect was originally released as a free download in 2010, and apart from a small limited run only available at gigs, has never before been available as a physical release. So, why should anyone pay money for an album that was originally given away free? Well, you’d be getting an extra 4 tracks that weren’t on the original album, but were recorded at the same sessions as the original material. This brings the album from 40 minutes to just over an hour. Usually, this is worrying, as it signifies that the album has songs on it that weren’t good enough for original release. But in the case of Perfectly Defect, this isn’t really the case. The quality on this album feels equivalent all the way, there are no glaring dips in standard. I think the missing tracks on the 2010 release were probably down to the length of the album, and download speeds in 2010.

The album features 2 main styles of track. The majority are in a Combichrist/Nine Inch Nails industrial style, with a fairly standard song structure. The other main style is in a more Dance music style. The tracks Thieving Bastards and Hermaphro Superior sound like they are straight off the Prodigy album Fat Of The Land. The more Industrial songs are really good. Great melodies and very strong choruses, mean they properly get into your head, you’ll be humming the tunes to distraction. There are other influences on here other than just industrial, the track Sensation Of Guilt has a definite Dub feel to it, which adds an extra dimension to the album.

One of the main reasons you might want to spend money on an album that is 8 years old, and was originally given away for free, is that it is really good. Great songs, and thumping bangers, what more could you want. Great Album. 8/10.

Construct Of Lethe: Exiler (Everlasting Spew) [Paul Scoble]

Construct Of Lethe are a 3 piece Death metal band from Virginia in the US. The band was put together by Tony Petrocelly in 2010, to record material from Petrocelly’s older, now defunct bands; Bethledeign and Xaoc, although Construct of Lethe quickly became an original project in it’s own right. The band, completed by Dave Schmidt and Patrick Bonuin, have produced one EP (The Grand Machination) and an album (Corpsegod) before the album Exiler.

The album features 7 tracks of hard, dense technical death metal. This is a style of technical death metal, that is much more in a Dying Fetus, De Profundis style, than in an Obscura or Alkaloid style. This is technicality used to make the music harder and more extreme. In some places the band go in a Gorguts direction, using super technical rhythms to push the extremity. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a very musical album, the solos are fantastically tuneful, and add a definite respite from the tough, discordant rhythms. The drums, as well, are terrifically well played, and really add to this album.

What makes this album stand out from a lot of technical death metal, and death metal in general, is the quality of the song writing. The songs have clearly had a lot of work done on them so they work as songs, rather than as ‘4 minutes of our style of technical death metal’, which is how a lot of this sort of metal comes across. After a few listens, you know which track you are listening to as soon as the song comes on, rather than having to look at the song listings. The album has a great flow to it, which does make it stand out amongst its peers. If you are looking for a hard, tuneful, well played and written technical death metal album, well, you’ve found it! 8/10 

Mist: Free Me From The Sun (Soulseller Records) [Paul H]
If there was a more appropriately named album now, then I’d love to read it. My Forest Continues To Burn, A Day Without Damp Underwear? Maybe not. For those who read the gibberish I write, you may recall that when Newport’s finest, Skindred were tearing up the main stage at Bloodstock in 2017, I had nipped into the Hobgoblin New Blood Tent to check out Mist, a doom metal outfit from Ljubljana, Slovenia, who impressed me greatly. Free Me From The Sun is the band’s debut release, and it’s a brilliant 50 minutes of sheer misery. Wave after wave of gloom filled riffs, punishingly evil drum patterns and the haunting vocal of Nina Spruk, whose depth and range blew me away when competing with Benji Webbe last summer. 

Opening track, The Ghoul drips with angst and melancholic depression, and the album maintains the evocative shadowing throughout. With more than a nod to the godfathers of doom, Candlemass, as well as the inevitable meandering riffage of Sabbath and Trouble, this is a stunningly well executed doom metal release which deserves massive exposure. Tracks such as Altar Of You, Ora Pro Nobis are powerfully imaginative, whilst Blaz Tansek’s gargantuan Iommi style riffage on Disembody Me is huge, thunderously heavy and just superb. I’m putting this album in the November playlist; hopefully the funeral march will feel slightly more comfortable with black clouds and bone chilling temperatures. Ignore the heatwave and get on board the doom train. This is just brilliant stuff. 9/10

Sunstorm: The Road To Hell (Frontiers Records) [Paul H]
For many, the road to hell could be being locked in a room with melodic AOR style rock music being piped at you. I wouldn’t go that far but if melodic keyboard/guitar duelling complete with saccharine coated vocals would make you confess to a murder, then the fifth album from Sunstorm may well be one that would reduce the need for thumbscrews.

The main man here is Joe Lynn Turner, average vocalist with Rainbow, stand-in for two years in Deep Purple as well as Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and Fandango. Yeah, its not the most impressive CV in the world but he certainly has a decent set of pipes in the world of AOR. Alongside Lynn Turner, who suffered heart problems earlier this year is Alessandro De Vecchio on keyboards, Simone Mularoni on guitar, bassist Nik Mazzucconi and drummer Edo Sala; three of whom worked with Lynn Turner on 2016’s Edge Of Tomorrow.

The Road To Hell is a polished, composed and very safe affair, full of refined melodic hard rock, gorgeous chorus harmonies and flashy lighters aloft tunes. The ghastly Everywhere fulfils the required rock ballad, whilst tracks such as Calling, My Eyes On You and the title track will either excite you or make you dry heave. Listening to this album is like eating a giant bar of Toblerone in one go. The initial sugar rush quickly replaced by a slight nauseous feeling which you address by ramming more of the triangles into your cake hole. A queasy feeling that you can’t quite resolve. I think I’d rather eat the Toblerone than listen to this too often, although there are occasions when you really feel you want something wrong for all the right reasons. This might be one of those times. Just don’t do it very often. It’ll make you fat. 6/10

Sunday 29 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Pelugion By Paul H

Pelugion interview

Pelugion managed to win one of the most prestigious Metal To The Masses finals this year in Coventry. The band have been plugging away for several years and with that win of course, comes the slot on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. I caught up with the band to find out about them and their road to Bloodstock.

The band’s history is this: “We met in college roughly six years ago and then went on to form Pelugion one-two years later. Some of our highlights so far include playing Godiva Festival, Birmingham’s HRH Metal and now, of course, winning MTTM!” Pelugion is: Andy Sweeney (Vocals and Bass), Brandon Balou (Drums) and John Pittaway (Guitar)

The band’s Single Bide My Time is full of huge riffs which instantly get the head nodding. It’s a fine listen. So how would the band describe their sound? “Our sound is a blend of classic Sabbath and Metallica, but with our own modern twist. It feels fresh and unique to play and hopefully it also comes across that way!” And what about the main influences for the band? “Undoubtedly Sabbath, Metallica, Soundgarden and Black Label Society. The three of us also take influence from artists completely unrelated to our sound which may not come through in our songs, but if you were to ever be on a car journey with us, you’d be surprised at what you hear!”

So, with that teaser leading neatly into the next question I asked the band to surprise us with something they also like? What’s the guilty pleasure? “As previously mentioned in the last question, come on a car journey and you’ll definitely hear some! However, to name a few; Abba, Elton John, George Michael and Michael Jackson!”

We were honoured to be a small part of the South Wales M2TM this year. We covered the events with reviews and publicity and judged both semi-finals. Pelugion obviously worked as hard as every other band to get through to the final and I asked them to tell their road to the final story. “This was our fourth time entering the competition having gotten to the final the previous three times. Each heat/semi/final over the past three years has been an unbelievable and heart-warming experience for us. All the competing bands we’ve encountered have always been courteous and extremely helpful. So, all in all the road to finally winning M2TM has been a pleasure!” That’s great to hear and one of the consistent messages throughout these interviews is that camaraderie that exists between bands. Despite the intensity of the competition, this has been another year when metal has been the winner.

I know the scene in the Midlands and surrounding areas is strong. Did Pelugion feel confident they could get to the final? “We always like to have an inner self belief which I think is always good for any band to have but partaking in M2TM and coming up against the tremendous amount of talent we have on offer in the Midlands is daunting! Every time you’re waiting for a name to be called out is always nail biting!”

I moved on to the build-up to the final; how did the band manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone? “The main thing for us this year was altering our set and introducing new songs. It felt like it helped to keep our audience engaged throughout the heats and finals as it was hopefully unpredictable!”

Next up we looked at that winning moment, when you get announced as the winners is something special and we’ve it all. I’m sure there were a range of emotions going through, but I asked the band to tell us a bit about how it felt. “It really, really was! Being in the final three times prior, we were expecting another name! When it was ours we were rendered speechless! An unforgettable moment for all of us”.

So onto Bloodstock itself, and the band have a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage. As I’ve mentioned before, bands on the Friday will share the stage with our Welsh brothers in Democratus. Are the band happy with the Friday slot? “We’re over the moon with the Friday slot! Heck, we would’ve been happy with any day but to play on the same day as Judas Priest is fantastic! The three of us will definitely be checking out Democratus!” There you are Steve Jenkins, that’ll be a fiver you owe me!

What about the festival itself. Who are the bands you are looking forward to seeing at BOA this year? “Judas Priest, Gojira, Mr Big, Suicidal Tendencies, Power Trip, Act of Defiance and Cannibal Corpse to name a few!”

For those who don’t know the band, this is the opportunity to sell their set. What can we expect from them and why should those who are undecided come and watch?

The honest answer followed “If you’re looking for a band that wants to reignite the old school balls to the wall Rock/Metal of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, come check us out. If you like Sabbath with a twinge of Metallica, hopefully you’ll love us! Also, we don’t swear so we’re kid friendly!”

I caught the band out with the next question which focused on Bloodstock. What about the festival. Why should you go?

“Well, embarrassingly we’re losing our Bloodstock cherries too! Although, Bloodstock has such a good reputation we know that it’s going to be a blast. There’s amazing bands, alcohol, memorabilia and best of all, Motley Brew; a whole vendor dedicated to TEA AND COFFEE!! What’s not to love!” Indeed. There is nothing not to love.

Pelugion have played with some decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far?

“It’s impossible to name all the bands we’ve enjoyed great gigs with in the past few years, but it’s rare we gig with bands who aren’t awesome and polite. A big highlight was Hard Rock Hell where so many brilliant bands took part. The venue staff treated us great!”

And finally; the band have got plenty of UK gigs lined-up in the next few months including a fabulous looking M2TM showcase in Leicester the weekend before Bloodstock. What does the future for Pelugion look like? “The future certainly feels bright for us and hopefully we can feed on everything that will come from playing Bloodstock. With our upcoming video and EP more people will be able to check out Pelugion and show us some love”.

Many thanks to the guys for answering our questions and good luck to them. Be sure to check them out at the Festival on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Friday 10th August

Saturday 28 July 2018

Reviews: Burial Invocation, Elvenstorm, Fireproven, Bulletmen (Reviews By Paul H)

Burial Invocation: Abiogenesis (Dark Descent Records)

I don’t know much about Turkey save that I had two fabulous holidays there a few years ago courtesy of a friend’s fantastic generosity. There certainly wasn’t much in your face death metal but like many countries where secularism sits shoulder to shoulder with much harder line religious beliefs, I would imagine Ankara's Burial Invocation don’t get to play a lot of wedding parties. The band formed in 2008, ceased in 2012 only to reform in 2014 and hit their fan base with a masterful, raw but highly incendiary debut album. With some gargantuan tracks kicking your arse for long durations, this isn’t your normal death metal.

It reminds me of the doom infused death of Finnish outfit Vainaja. In fact, four of the five tracks are nine minutes plus with the centrepiece the 12-minute title track. Elements of thrash and routine metal can be found melding solidly with the traditional death metal sound. The band comprises original members Cihan Akin on guitar and brutal death growls, Aberrant on drums, alongside newer members Can Yakdy Darbaz on guitar and bassist Ozan Yildirim. Powerful, purposeful and staggeringly well paced, Burial Invocation have laid down a monstrous release which deserves wider exposure. Get them to Eradication Festival Gavin Davies. 8/10

Elvenstörm: The Conjuring (Massacre Records)

Fronted by the spirited Laura Lombard, French power metal outfit Elvenstorm’s third full release opens with the blistering Bloodlust, a track which comically appears to increase in speed as it progresses to the point where you aren’t sure if they will just continue to ramp it up until someone explodes. It’s a maniacal start to an album and to be honest, it never slows down.

Combining power metal with traditional heavy metal, The Conjuring follows themes of fantasy and Satan Elvenstörm have a path and they make sure they follow it. Ritual Of Summoning and the seven minute plus Cross Of Damnation demonstrates the musicianship of Michael Hellstrom, Benoit Lecunona and Antoine Bussiere. Bits of Maiden, Helloween, Primal Fear and Gamma Day litter the album but that’s no bad thing. Now in their tenth year, Elvenstörm have a vitality and intensity absent from many bands of their genre. 7/10

Fireproven: Future Diary (Self Released)

This debut release from Finnish progressive metallers Fireproven was released a couple of months ago. The band, a four-piece play intricate progressive music which skips from Djent, to prog and even thrash as the album develops. At 63 minutes it’s a bit of an undertaking but the investment does provide rewards with some quality tracks. Subtle keyboards from Ilari Hannula add layers to the band’s more aggressive approach, such as Sea Of Fear where the growling vocals of Juha Väätämöinen contrast with brother Janne’s clean voice which directs the band more towards The Pineapple Tree. 

However, as the album develops, much of this album sits more comfortably with Dream Theater and the intricacies of Pain Of Salvation. Heavy enough to satisfy most metal heads, complex enough to sate the appetite of the progressive crowd, Future Diary is an impressive and creative first album with sufficient content to demand repeat listens. 8/10

Bulletmen: There’s Always Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Self Released)

Whiskey soaked Southern Rock always sounds great and this album from Madrid's Bulletmen contains some fabulous slide guitar work. Nothing Better showcases the guitar work of Gustavo Polo who hits all the right notes. The AC/DC style stomp of Mr Tragic Time is an earworm, although the vocals of Tomas Ugarteburu don't always cut it, especially when he drifts into Vince Neil territory and to be fait irritating, especially when he struggles to hold some of the high notes. 

The ballad Drowning In This World is probably the weakest song on the album, vocally disjointed and musically flat. It’s not all dire ballads though with Hard Working Man a real boot stomper, albeit once again vocally challenged. I love the speed and enthusiasm of this band. Their Southern style is magnificent. Unfortunately, the vocals let the whole thing down at times. 6/10

Friday 27 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Aonia By Paul H

Sheffield Metal To The Masses winners Aonia have been plying their trade for a good few years. I was fortunate to be able to ask the band the a few questions before they head to Bloodstock for their show on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. This is one interview I’m glad I did via email as the band appeared to have sufficient fun answering the questions I’d sent them. If I was interviewing them in person I think I’d still be there! Massive thanks to the band for adding some humour to a rather dry process. If you weren’t sure about whether they were worth seeing at Bloodstock, hopefully this interview will help you make your mind up. Or maybe not. Brace yourselves.

Paul: You’ve got quite a mixture in the line-up. Seven members, all from completely different backgrounds and with a huge range of influences. Can you give us a potted history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up?

MEL: Line-up – Jo and myself on lead vocals, James (‘Carrot’) and Przemek (‘Slick’) on guitars, Tim on keys and sex jokes, Matt on bass, and Dave on drums and sarcasm. Carrot and Matt also provide backing vocals. As for a potted history of the band -

TIM: Historically, Aonia prefers deep, preferably glass or earthen-ware pots with no hole but plenty of depth to fit as much beer in as possible. Off shoots tend to prefer smaller glasses filled with Jack Daniels or Single malt whisky, though there are some who are happier with a nice cup of tea. We also have a Polish variety who prefers black coffee and enjoys floating on top of a lot of water. My likes are food, alcohol and big boobs. I love Aonia.

MEL: I’m not sure how relevant -

DAVE: We all started life as little seedlings, trying to make our way in the world of music by learning our craft and working hard to be better than we were yesterday. As we grew stronger we were potted up with a good compost mix to energise us to grow into far more productive and vibrant beings. Through the years as we all grew stronger and bigger and began to take on our own defining shapes and colours, getting potted up in bigger and bigger pots where we got more recognition for our defining characteristics and appreciated, someone somewhere decided we 7 little seedlings, which had grown into 7 mature vibrant plants should all be planted together in one big pot called Aonia, and with some manure from the past and sunshine in the future, we should be one great combination. Blame Monty Don's influence for that one.

MEL: Carrot’s old band and my old band folded at about the same time. He and I joined forces with our remaining members, who left over the course of the next few years. We’ve had some line-up changes, which is always sad, but each time it’s made us stronger and more determined. Our current line-up has been going strong for nearly two years now, and we’re releasing our first full-length album on October 6th at AoniaFest in Sheffield.

Paul: There is no doubting where your sound sits. The latest single Violet Hours is certainly much more developed than City of Shadows and demonstrates how the band has developed. Whilst we hesitate to label bands, how would you describe the band’s sound?

TIM: Vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person's ear.

MEL: Okay, so we’re going down the science route again. Just please don’t bring temporal relativity into it again, dude. I’d describe us as operatic, progressive metal – I think Jo came up with the name ‘oprog.’ And it has certainly evolved since the City of Shadows EP – for one thing, we’ve got Tim now. On the City EP, all the keys were done by me…and because I wanted to replicate them live, they had to be simple enough that I could play and sing at the same time. We also didn’t have the dual vocals – or any vocals other than me. I actually sing the tenor line on the title track on that EP. It’s nice to have an ACTUAL tenor now!

DAVE: I would describe the band as for most people, just another band.

MEL: True. We once sold an EP to a guy wearing a Beyoncé t-shirt. He was a work-friend of our ex-bassist who stopped by a gig out of politeness. I consider that one of our greatest victories.

DAVE: We have a few odd quirks that make us unique, which is great. If we're not your cup of tea we might not blow you away, but you might just think we were pretty decent. But for a select few, not many can really describe why but they love our sound. Not for cold hard labels matching their iPod’s catalogue, but just because something in our music tugs at their heart and their guts and connects with them.

SLICK: The band's sound is a blend of many different styles that we express in our instruments when playing. It is heavy, melodic, soft, hard, sharp...

Paul: It’s a bit of a challenge to ask you to name the main influences for the band, given there are seven members with a wide range of influences, but I will anyway.

TIM: Each member brings his own influences – mine are pretty much everything I hear. At the moment I am listening to a lot of Aonia music – I blame the new album and Bloodstock for that! I understand one of our many influences is Mary Berry – it isn’t entirely clear how this works, though we have had some spectacular cakes at our gigs!

DAVE: Indeed Mary Berry is one of my great influences, as with Monty Don.

SLICK: My main influences are guitarists like Greg Howe, John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Plini, Polyphia, Sithu Aye, exceptional multi-instrumentalist Jordan Rudess, Jazz/ fusion expressed by Scott Henderson, Frank Gamable and many more. I very much like to listen to bassist like Jolenda Charles, Victor Wooten, Richard Bona....Their sound, expression, interpretation, and compositions are the biggest influence to the way how I play the guitar and interact musically with other members of Aonia.

MEL: There’s definitely a huge range in the band. Jo and I listen to a lot of operatic metal – Nightwish, Avantasia, Epica…Jo’s a huge Kobra and the Lotus fan. We also both used to sing opera – Jo still does; she has a couple concerts a year with the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra – so we have influences like Lesley Garret and Sarah Brightman along with classic composers like Bach, Handel, Delibes, Sullivan. Carrot’s really into his black metal as well, so that adds an interesting aspect with melodies and progressions you wouldn’t really expect.

Paul: Melissa and Joanne have played with Blaze Bayley and recorded with him. He’s one of the nicest people in metal today. What were the experiences in Sweden like?

MEL: Actually, we’ve all played with Blaze – he was kind enough at the first AoniaFest to join us onstage for a rendition of “Man on the Edge!” Plus he’s a guest vocalist on our upcoming album. And I completely agree – he is definitely one of the nicest people in metal today! Blaze is a total legend and a really lovely, down-to-earth guy with a great sense of humour. He’s also ridiculously intelligent. After recording the backing vocals and voice actor parts for the second album, we had a celebration at his house and he was making jokes about the laws of thermodynamics and quantum theory. He’s completely passionate about his music, the story he tells through his song writing and his lyrics, and the performance he puts on for the fans. Beyond that, he’s given us advice on our stage show, our song writing, our lyrics…he gives so much of himself to build others up. I can’t praise the guy enough for how amazing he is or for all the help he’s given to us.

JO: The whole experience with Blaze has been phenomenal. From being in the studio for each album to the gig in Sweden it's just been an unbelievable. Blaze and the Absolva guys are so good at what they do and they are such nice people. Sweden was such an awesome experience; we were treated like rock stars throughout by Blaze's manager (Mark Appleton) and the rest of the band. That show actually was one of the best live experiences I've had, so many talented people on the same stage...I just wanted to do it again and again. The after party was also something I'll never forget....what happens in Sweden, stays in Sweden!

Paul: Many of the bands that get through to Bloodstock tend to be thrash, black metal or hardcore and yet Within Temptation and Nightwish have headlined in the past, Nightwish close the festival main stage this year and Delain have headlined the tent in the past. Are you surprised that symphonic metal doesn’t feature more heavily amongst the new bands?

TIM: I would like to think that the bands are chosen on their individual merits, whether they be black metal or symphonic, or progeratic metal. There are very many great bands out there, and I think Bloodstock tries its best to represent the whole genre of rock and metal music.

MEL: Is it ‘progeratic?’ I thought we were going with ‘oprog.’

DAVE: No, I’m not surprised at all. It’s all about demographics. Yes some big symphonic type bands have headlined, but a much larger number of headline acts have been other genres, making them smaller in scale too. We're just a representation of the metal scene in the UK; there is just a lot more thrash and such out there, of sufficient calibre to make Bloodstock, so to have more symphonic type bands would be over representing the genre.

SLICK: I found out that there are certain periods in which metal style has bigger and smaller popularity. In the early metal days, it was thrash metal, then it moved to death metal, then black and doom. Now we have an interesting mixture of all of that and symphonic metal is slowly getting its recognition.
Paul: Metal To The Masses 2018: You obviously worked as hard as every other band to get through to the final. Tell us your road to the final story.

TIM: That’s the one-way system in Sheffield again. Next time, we hire a van and driver!

MEL: That one-way system is a nightmare.

DAVE: Sat nav really was the only way I’d get to the final, and that’s having lived in Sheffield and had many goes at driving there in the heats.

JO: The metal to Masses competition was an awesome journey. We had every faith in ourselves that we would make it quite far in the journey but when we got to the final we had no idea who would make it through as the competition was so intense.

MEL: We’ve been entering the M2M competition since the Earth’s crust was cooling and primordial life was starting to form. Or it feels like it anyway! Every year we’d get knocked out and go home crushed. But we didn’t give up. And all those setbacks were for the best for a few reasons.

First, when you win the M2M, you have to send a shedload of information through within 24 hours – logo, photo, video link, etc. This year was the first year we had a proper professional logo, a decent band photo, a professional video.

Secondly, the timing was right this year. We’ve got an album coming out in the autumn. We just finished our European tour with Alwaid. We’re in a position to be able to ‘ride’ on the hype from Bloodstock and use it to propel us forward, rather than just being a flash in the pan.

Finally, we are in a position now to deliver a performance worthy of Bloodstock. Our stage show is the best it’s ever been. Our music is the strongest it’s ever been. Our line-up is the best it’s ever been. If we’d been put through in the past, we’d not be as professional, as memorable, or as prepared as we are right now. Bloodstock knew – better than we did – when the best time for us to play Bloodstock is.
As for the actual competition this year, it was intense. The bands were of a superb calibre – the Steel City really is metal to its core. Any band in the competition would have done Sheffield and Bloodstock proud. After each stage we were certain we’d be knocked out, so we went away, tightened the nuts and bolts, added more visual aspects, and pressed on.

The line-up for the finals was incredible. So many bands with amazing musicianship, great crowd interaction, phenomenal stage presence - so it came as a total surprise to find out we won. (No one was more surprised than Jo. Seriously, she full-on ugly-cried. There are photos and everything.)

Paul: How strong is the scene in Sheffield? Did you feel confident you could get to the final?

DAVE: Very. Yes.

TIM: Well, after the first round, we pretty much knew the way so getting to the final proved quite easy, the only major problem being that all the bands with which we played were awesome and any one could have won, especially in the final itself.

MEL: Speak for yourself. I’m directionally impaired, even with a sat-nav.

SLICK: Yes. The scene in Sheffield is strong and some bands out there are amazing. We are working hard to be where we are and I believe we are confident in what we do.

MEL: There are some incredible bands in Sheffield. People are very supportive of the scene, and there are some fantastic venues who give up-and-coming bands a chance to shine – Corporation, The Mulberry, The RS Bar, The Dove and Rainbow, and West Street Live to name a few. People like Jake and Gareth – who organised the M2M – are really driving the scene forward. There are so many talented bands in Sheffield, and they – and the amazing support from the metal fans – are one reason we moved AoniaFest to this city. Great local bands to check out include Burn Down the District, Arkdown, This State of Ours, Soul Shredder, Firegarden, Ba’al (last year’s M2M winners), Air Drawn Dagger, Psython, Sobriquet, and Dychosis. I’ve probably forgotten one in that list. Or ten.

Paul:. Tell us about the build-up to the final; how did you manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone?

TIM: We stopped using the bubble machine.

MEL: That poor bloke in the white T-shirt…

DAVE: We just made it all up as we went along. You say this like there was a plan involved...

SLICK: We did what we can the best that we can.

MEL: That’s basically it! We tried to just focus all of our energy on the M2M competition, made sure we spread the word – and people are so lovely and supportive and really wanted to see us make it, so they made the effort to come out and show their support. I can’t thank our Aonia Family enough. Without them, our music is empty.

Paul: That winning moment, when you get announced as the winners is something special. I’m sure there were a range of emotions going through but tell us a bit about how it felt.

SLICK: Excellent!

JO: When they said we had won I actually fell to the floor because I couldn't quite believe it. I also cried....what a girl. Rob Bannister has banned me from crying at all at Bloodstock!

MEL: It was weird for me. I’m totally histrionic and I think everyone expected me to cry or shriek or run around like a lunatic or something. Hell, *I* expected to cry or shriek or run around in an overwhelming flood of emotion. I just didn’t. My husband and friends who came to the final were totally bouncing in the car on the way back; they kept saying, ‘You’re playing Bloodstock!’ and I was just…deadly silent. I think it was such a shock – a good one, of course – that I flipped completely from my normal way of reacting to things and became a to-do list android. That still hasn’t worn off. Expect a 100% complete breakdown as soon as we finish playing.

TIM: If you could put the feeling into a pill and bottle it you’d make millions until it was listed as a Class A drug and made illegal (after which, of course, you’d make even more money)! To play against such tough competition and come through, to hear Aonia announced as the winner, to be there with all your band mates (well, except our lead guitarist who was in Germany selling his Jordan Rudess endorsed guitars), to have all that pent-up adrenalin released in one sublime moment was incredible. I almost shat my pants!

MEL: Gross.

DAVE: My only thought was ‘oh.’

MEL: You have no soul, dude.

Paul: You play on Saturday on the New Blood Stage. 30 minutes to capture interest and win some new fans. What can we expect from you guys – why should those who are undecided come and watch?
DAVE: Boobs? Nuff said.

MEL: That’s normally Tim’s line.

TIM: We will give the full Aonia show – expect smoke, lights, passion, loud music, big solos, extreme boobs and all round good-eggness.

SLICK: We are getting prepared to be the best at what we are doing. We are hoping to offer rather a unique mixture of metal styles which for an open-minded person should be interesting.

MEL: To borrow a phrase from Monty Python: “And now for something completely different.” We are LOUD. We are big in every way. (No, not just our boobs, Tim.) With four vocalists, two guitars and keyboards, there is a huge mix of melodies going on. Our drums and bass desperately try to keep everything together like a teacher on the last day of term who’s been told they aren’t allowed to show films. (NB: I’m a teacher. I’m doing this interview on the last day of term. I wasn’t allowed to show movies.) Every band says they’re different. I know that. But I firmly believe that we are – with the exception of Therion, I can’t think of another band that is similar to the sort of music we make. Also – our corsets light up, thanks to our Mistress of Merch and Costumes, Laura. It’s neat.

Paul: For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?

TIM: Dude – its Bloodstock!

JO: Great bands, a sense of togetherness, beer and so much fun!

DAVE: If you’re a nice person, you should definitely come; it’s lovely. If you're not...well...just come and be nice.

MEL: Bloodstock is amazing. I’ve been every year since 2007. It offers something for everyone. Every year I see people complaining, asking for ‘More [subgenre of metal]’ – which tells me that they must have a great mix because everyone feels like there isn’t quite enough of their preferred subgenre.

Also, the people who go are incredible. You can have the best conversation with the person behind you in the queue for the bar because you’ve seen the band that they have on their T-shirt. My husband regularly disappears on escapades with people because he ‘met a nice dude’ and wandered off to drink and play games. (One year he disappeared and we couldn’t find him for AGES. We all summarily freaked out and eventually found him in the SOPHIE tent drinking with Evil Scarecrow.)

Additionally, it’s laid out so well. Once you’re camped, the arena is about a 5 minute walk – maximum – from wherever you are. Bloodstock is just an incredible four days where ‘weird’ is the new ‘normal.’ Then you go home and spend a couple of days wondering why you can’t hear music in the background and why random people in the street don’t want to have a conversation with you.

Paul: Apart from playing BOA, you’ve got some history over the past few years. Give us a couple of highlights.

DAVE: For highlights, that sounds like a job for a hairdressing professional. I mean, I’d give it a go, but I don’t think that is a 'how hard can it be' sort of job.

SLICK: Performing with Blaze Bayley, playing great festivals, the road to Europe…that was cool.

TIM: For me it is Dames of Darkness and our recent tour of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

MEL: Definitely Dames. Also, SOS Fest in Manchester was incredible, such a well-run event and a similar feel to Bloodstock, with the likeminded metalheads meeting up, but on a smaller scale. The Eurotour was incredible; Alwaid are such kind people who really looked after us while we were abroad for the first time. And we’ve had some great shows at the Corporation – Leaves’ Eyes, Xandria, Kobra and the Lotus…and playing the Resolution in Whitby during Whitby Goth Weekend. You haven’t lived til you’ve performed “Bohemian Rhapsody” and watched 250 goths singing along. That’s another place with such a great vibe, full of friendly, lovely people.

Paul: I must ask, why is Tim called ‘The Machine’ and how do put up with all that Dream Theater?

JO: He's actually a robot.

DAVE: Who is Dream Theatre?

MEL: Dream Theatre are Tim and Slick’s tribute band to Dream Theater. (No, seriously, “Dream Theatre” exists. Aonia have played with them and everything at a Metal Mayhem event.)

TIM: I’m ‘The Machine’ because I always keep going and give 100% to everything I do. I live life to the full, take everything in its stride and don’t complain, just get on with it. I was introduced to Dream Theater very late - by Tracey Abbott of Overdrive and Witchfynde - with the Systematic Chaos album - but was blown away by the musical skill of the whole of the band and, moreover, the range and styles they play. You get everything from crunching, hard driven metal to intrinsic, beautifully orchestrated and written anthems. I have met Jordan Rudess and consider him one of the greatest keyboard players of all time. If anyone wants to listen, there are 4 albums I wholly recommend – Systematic Chaos, Metropolis 2, Scenes from a Memory, Images and Words, and Train of Thought – but all their albums are worth checking out.

SLICK: Tim plays some badass section on the keyboard, possible only to him or a machine! If you compare him to Jordan from Dream Theater, you will see that both are exceptional and simply cannot come from this planet.

Paul: Finally, you’ve got the album in progress. What does the future for Aonia look like?

MEL: ‘Finally’ is right, haha. It’s been a long time coming!

DAVE: Who knows? It’ll never go to plan, even if we had one!

JO: The future is what we make it...we are going to smash the hell out of Bloodstock, keep pushing to be better and keep bringing you more and more music!

SLICK: The future looks busy and interesting, promoting our music, enjoying playing it. Happy days!

TIM: BOA is a huge step for us and we are doing everything we can to justify being on that stage. Keep an eye out for AoniaFest II on October 6th when our new album, The Seven, will be released and for many more gigs hopefully this year but definitely next year when we shall try our hardest to play as much of the UK and Europe as possible.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Hefferfest 2018 (Live Review By Paul H)

Hefferfest - The Old England, Bath Buildings, Bristol

I can’t hide the amount of admiration we have here for black metal buddies Agrona. Not only do they have one of the albums of the year in Realm Of The Fallen, but every show is played like it’s a stadium headline set. The band were on the last night of a gruelling trio of gigs which saw they traverse the UK, Birmingham to Leeds to Bristol in 48 hours and despite another punishing hot day it was essential to get across the bridge for another fine evening promoted by the excellent Eradication Agency.

A late addition to the bill saw Bloodstock bound Cranial Separation (8) open the evening. As chaotically loose as ever, Ray, Chris and Sam, who was incredibly playing three sets during the night, never fail to make you smile. Their brand of death metal is getting better on every viewing and despite a sparse audience (the curse of Sunday night shows in the summer), Cranial whipped through their set with brutality and much humour. With the promise of much more sexiness and sex toys at BOA, the band’s ‘love song’ closed things off. Fucked By A Jackhammer is their anthem, one that Corpsegrinder and co would be proud of. Barely a Yeah Man either. Must be saving them for the Jaeger Stage.

When you have technical issues, sometimes it’s best to just get on with the show. Unfortunately, South Wales shoegaze black metallers Levitas (6) were somewhat fixated by theirs and it showed. Liam Wolf was massively distracted throughout the set, to the detriment of the performance. Having seen the band in Fuel recently I know what they can do, but tonight they struggled a little. Sam was now on set number two, with things a little more complex in timing but he was managing well. It wasn't all bad with their four tracks powerful and full of emotion. Helen Kinsella and Rhys Williams’ down tuned riffage adding atmosphere to their music but it really wasn’t their night as the sound gremlins did their worst.

I’d not seem Bristol trio Blasfeme (7) before but holy hell, they pulverized. Struggling with limited bass sound and way behind schedule, Blasfeme delivered a high octane filled set of blistering black metal which matched the external temperature outside. A curtailed set was bloody enough and the sight of Matt Fothergill wielding a fender telecaster like the reaper carries his scythe was incredible; not often seen in the sea of black metal. With some crushing tracks, Blasfeme are certainly worth checking out if they are in your area.

Despite their road trip and the heat, it was nothing short of the full set from headliners Agrona (8). Clad in their corpse paint and battle armour, I was particularly glad I’ve never had a desire to play music. I was sweating in my shorts as it was. Regardless of the pathetic crowd (size, not the quality of the 20 souls assembled) Agrona was full of their usual power and face melting riffs, howling roars and screams and with Sam still battering the crap out of his kit. There is no such thing as a poor Agrona gig. Selected tracks from their debut release were enthusiastically received with Alyn’s vocals on Storms End leaving you wonder why he didn’t do it on the album. With the set times way behind, the band sensibly cut their show to around 40 minutes but put everything into it. From opener The Treacherous Dead to the finale of Summoning The Void, this was another fine set in trying circumstances and for a fiver an evening that deserved a far larger crowd.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Reviews: Redemption, Vultur, Manticora, Falcun

Redemption: Long Nights Journey Into Day (Metal Blade Records)

Redemption guitarist/keyboardist Nick Van Dyk had this to say about their seventh album: "If there's a consistent message to Redemption's music, it's that life is a struggle and there is pain and fear and doubt, but, ultimately, it is a thing of beauty and wonderment. If you push through the struggle, the rewards of that process itself, along with what you find on the other side, are joyous and a fantastic gift." This is pretty much the theme of every Redemption album so far having dealt with a huge amount of darkness on their last album The Art Of Loss they have brought in more light on Long Nights Journey Into Day which is based upon Eugene O'Neill's play Long Day's Journey Into Night, which focuses on the decay of a family that's plagued by addiction.

Again it seems Redemption aren't taking the easy route again this time however there has been a few changes in the ranks as former vocalist Ray Alder returned to Fates Warning so in his place are the emotive pipes of Evergrey's Tom S. Englund who like Alder is no stranger to the progressive metal genre so he slots in well handling the complex arrangements and also being well versed in the art of capturing the human condition in his lyrics so fitting into the high brow Redemption was easy. Lead guitarist Bernie Versailles also sits out this record as he has since his aneurysm in 2014 here the band use Simone Mularoni(DGM/Empyrios) and the legendary Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) to take the leads along with keyboardist Vikram Shankar filling out the band. 

The record deals with a myriad of themes The Echo Chamber a political track about the 'sheep mentality' promoted by social media, Indulge In Colour is a brilliantly melodic powerful track and the expansive title track closes out the record spectacularly. Even the cover of New Year's Day by U2 can't dampen it. Come away from Long Nights Journey Into Day with a sort of catharsis that no matter how bad things get there is a silver lining waiting for you. Brilliant work yet again from Redemption. 9/10        

Vultur: Entangled In The Webs Of Fear (Sevared Records)

Guttural death metal from Greece as Vultur ramp up the heaviness for their debut album, this Athenian gore soaked, death metal band have taken the old school death metal influences of Morbid Angel/Immolation and replicated them here on a record that is drenched in the blood of a thousand corpses opening up the gruesomeness with the title track which opens with low roar from frontman the aptly named Giannis Grim who barks throughout as the low end bludgeoning destroys you with it's viciousness as they peel riff after murderous riff. There's no let up and no chance to take a break, beating as it's tracks such as the ferocious Murder Castle, the relentless Slithering In Carrion and the chunky Incubation Of Grimness even the solo filled beginning of Ritual Excarnation gives way to yet more aural pummelling. If death metal that can peel the flesh is your thing then get Entangled In The Webs Of Fear. 7/10 

Manticora: To Kill, To Live, To Kill (Vicisolem Records)

The first part of a two part concept album from Danish band Manticora based on the frontman's 319 page novel, opens with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto 1 In B Minor Flat and I've certainly heard worse ways to open an album however what happens after this is some of the most generic power metal I've heard for a long while, first of all the production is not great everything is a bit airy and fuzzy especially the drums, much of it lost in the mix however I wish frontman Lars F Larsen was lost a little more in the mix as he has bloody dreadful vocals, ruining any enjoyment of the album for me, he's flat too often but this is their 8th album so clearly someone likes them. I don't. 4/10

Falcun: Kingdom Come (Eat Metal Records)

Apt record company name, Falcun clearly eat, drink, sleep and live heavy metal drawing from the NWOBHM scene they bring the denim, leather and steel of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon with galloping basslines, dual lead guitars and semi-operatic vocals that move from growly mids to soaring highs while they run through some classic metal tunes. Now you'd think I would be talking about a band from the UK, USA or even Sweden but no they hail from that bubbling pool of metal India specifically Kolkata, now for any band to break out of this burgeoning scene is a big deal for one to do so without being in the more extreme style of metal is even rarer.

Maiden is the biggest influence here with fantastical themes the lyrical inspiration for Abhishek Dasgupta (vocals) to do his best air raid siren impression as Anirban Dasroy and Samrat Daas (guitars) weave like Murray and Smith. Locking down those Maiden grooves are Debarshi ‘Bob’ Chakraborty (drums) and Nilavro ‘Rony’ Ghosh (bass), ok so in places it's shameless copyist but you can't fault the passion here, they are playing what they love in a territory that is still growing and gaining acceptance, for a debut and classic metal fans your Kingdom has come! 7/10   

Wednesday 25 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With A Ritual Spirit By Paul H

A Ritual Spirit Interview

The metal scene in Scotland is no less intense than it is in the rest of the country. Winners of the Glasgow Metal To The Masses was A Ritual Spirit, a four piece outfit from Edinburgh. I caught a few minutes with the band to find out more about the Scottish winners.

As with all my interviews for Bloodstock, I started by asking the band to give us a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up. Guitarist Steve starts the story: “Oli (singer/guitarist) and myself formed the band after leaving another band in 2010 and got together with Dave (drummer), our bassist at the time left in 2012 and after a few line-up changes we now have Martin on bass” Oli continues “Yeah we spent 2010 writing songs and recording our own demo then unleashed them into the Edinburgh live scene in early 2011” Bassist Martin comments “I knew the guys from the Edinburgh scene; my previous band had played many shows with A Ritual Spirit. When they asked me to join it was an easy bedding in period “. Drummer Dave finishes the history: ‘I knew Stevie from a few years back and got asked to 'help out' while they searched for a permanent drummer. He knew damn well that I'd enjoy hanging out with the guys and playing their songs and that I'd eventually join full time”

I’ve only checked out a couple of tracks on YouTube including Visceral Decay which is a great track. A Ritual Spirit has a sound which is lighter than many of the bands at Bloodstock this year. How would the band describe their sound?

Steve:” We’ve always said we’re a rock band. People seem to have a tough time nailing down who we sound like, we’ve had everything from Metallica to Placebo thrown at us, but we like to think we sound like A Ritual Spirit”. Martin: “Metalgrunge or "Munge" if you like “. Dave: “LOL at 'Munge', what about 'Gruntal' though?”Oli: “Full Gruntal Munge? Can I say that?!“

I think you just did Oli so now we know; full Gruntal Munge. I hope that’s clear!

Who are the main influences for the band?

Steve: “Metallica, Alice in Chains”; Oli “I'd have to say Nirvana too, it's pretty cliched to say that nowadays but they influenced me pretty heavily in the 90s“

Martin: “ Stevie and Oli do the majority of the writing but what is contributed from myself is heavily influenced by the likes of Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry“

Dave : “I've got loads of influences, but I can't play nearly as good as any of them so I'm not sure they actually count! Anthrax, Lamb of God, In Flames, the heavier side of things. Bloodstock is definitely going to be my cup of tea!” Oli generously and no doubt correctly adds, “Dave's a way better drummer than he says he is “.

So, with a wider range of influences than some of their fellow artists, could they surprise us with something different they also like? What’s the guilty pleasure? Steve is straight in: “70s funk and soul, grew up loving it” Oli adds his own:” Folky singer songwriters – The likes of Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, John Martyn and more recently Tom McRae. Mark Lanegan too but obviously that goes back to the Screaming Trees days, really enjoying his solo work though “. It may be Martin who hits big with his response: “80s disco. Can't help it. I'm not even sorry”. But Dave hits the jackpot with his answer: “Tiffany, I Think We're Alone Now. Still got it on my playlist to this day “.

Oli adds, (I think) tongue in cheek, “I think we might need to find a new drummer!”

The band released their debut album Carnival Carnivorous in 2013. What kind of reception did they receive? Were they happy with it? Steve starts with a quite reasonable point: “At the time we were really happy with it, we worked hard on it and to have your own album in your hands is always a great moment, when it came out it was really well received, and we sold out of physical copies pretty quickly “. Oli reflects.” Hindsight’s a funny thing, at the time I was over the moon with it, right now with a bit of perspective there's a lot I'd change. It's not even been five years since its release but it's almost nostalgic talking about it now. Kind of like an ex-girlfriend who you remember fondly but you don't want to see again because you know you'll end up ripping each other's eyes out!”.

Dave adds his view “I'm dead proud of it. It's the only time I've gone into a studio with only a rough idea of what I was doing on the songs - Normally I can't play what I'm supposed to, but that's another story! I recorded some drums and left Stevie and Oli to fire some guitars and vocals around them. I loved what they'd done when I heard it all for the first time “. Oli continues “Unfortunately that was when Iain, our original bass player left the band so Stevie and myself had to fill in on bass duties, we spend a week recording the music and then the next four or five months tracking vocals whenever we could afford another session in the studio “.

The band got to the Semi-Finals of the Scottish MTTM in 2017. What persuaded you to have another go in 2018?

Steve: “We loved it the first time, the venue the Scottish M2TM is held in (Ivory Blacks in Glasgow) is a great place, the staff and organisers Kelvin, Fede and Rob are great, so we thought yeah let’s do that again”. Martin added,” the competition itself is one thing but it’s also a great opportunity to network and promote. We've met some great people and gained new friends and fans”. Dave agrees: “Yeah, great way to meet new pals that play music and enjoy hanging out. I'm pretty poor at going to see bands play, these gigs helped me get out the house and check out some Glasgow based bands that might not manage to play through our way “.

What about the band’s road to the final? Oli starts the story. “We did one of the early rounds as a three piece because Stevie was ill, in another round the van broke down on the motorway and to top it all off Martin's wife went into labour the night before the final. I'll let him tell the rest of that story... “

Martin continues. “Yeah that was some journey. A lot of fantastic bands were involved, and we feel privileged to have won. But the final itself - I hadn't slept as my wife gave birth in the early hours of the morning so I was on another planet come our performance. We must have done something right!”

Big congratulations to Martin and his better half. Impressive staying power!

One of the joys of doing these interviews is that we are slowly getting a feel for the metal scene across the UK. I asked the band about the Scottish metal scene? Did they feel confident they could get to the final?

Steve again. “We’ve always believed in our music, but we knew it would be tough “. Oli continued, “Yeah the scene's pretty strong up here, there's some fantastic bands around and we were competing against some of them in M2TM. We went out in the semi-finals in 2017 so we were definitely aiming for the final this year” Dave is also happy to give a view. “With us having that 'lighter' sound mentioned earlier, I never really imagined we would win and get to play Bloodstock, but always wanted to win each heat so that we'd get to go and play another gig in Glasgow”.

How did the band use the build up to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone?

Steve explained, “We are from Edinburgh and the final is in Glasgow, we haven’t played Glasgow a lot, so we haven’t had a chance to saturate them with us...YET! But we noticed a few faces coming back in the heats which is always good “. “Yeah”, adds Oli, “we changed the set each show to keep it interesting for the audience and ourselves. By the semi-final we had a set we were confident in so we kept that for the final “.

What about that winning moment? I asked the band to tell us a bit about how it felt. Steve is first to explain. “Surreal to be honest, I can remember looking at the other guys in shock” whilst Martin added “sheer elation. I think we didn't fully realise what had happened until a week later but when we were announced as winners it felt like all the hard work had paid off “. Dave added “I was stunned and remained stunned for a good 2 weeks afterwards. Dead chuffed as well though” I was full of adrenaline, literally shaking! “

The band has a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage and will be sharing the stage with our Welsh brothers in Democratus. I’d say that Friday is a score but are they happy with that?

Oli confirms he is; “As a Welsh brother myself I'm very much looking forward to Democratus! Yeah I think we're happy with our Friday slot “. Dave continues,” I’m happy with a Friday slot for sure. I'd hate to see the state of us on say the Sunday after a few days camping and drinking. I'm pleased that we can come and do our thing on the first full day, and then relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend afterwards. Looking forward to seeing a few bands and I have loads of friends that I don't see that often heading down for the weekend, so really looking forward to hanging out with all them at some point “.

Whilst the band are playing, they are also there for the weekend. Who are A Ritual Spirit Who looking forward to seeing at BOA this year?

Steve starts: “Suicidal for me and of course the mighty Priest!!!” Like many, Oli identifies Gojira. “Gojira on the main stage and Dead Label on the Sophie stage but I'm probably more looking forward to seeing the bands on the New Blood stage, always like to come home from a festival with a handful of decent new bands to listen to”. Martin meanwhile is looking forward to something else altogether. “Heavily looking forward to Devildriver. Haven't seen them live before but I've got the records, so they are a must see for me.” Dave is more expansive “LOADS! Suicidal, Onslaught, Priest, Gojira, Paul and the lads in Obzidian who I've known for years now, Unyan and his latest band Drudge, Valafar (Finally!), Mr Big!!“

And to be fair, who doesn’t want to see Mr Big?? No? Then you are a fool.

So, what can we expect from the band? Why should those who are undecided come and watch?

Oli is straight on it. “We're a straight up, slightly rough around the edges heavy rock band. We play with passion and honesty, from the heart. If you're a fan of metal, grunge or rock there should be something in our set for you “. “It's more than just the edges that are rough at times!“ adds Dave. Oli continues “Aye, our cover of Spoonman at Wildfire Festival last year was pretty rough. So was the hangover the next day come to think of it”.

Amazingly, the band are BOA virgins. Still, why should you go to BOA?

Oli starts:” I think we're all popping our Bloodstock cherries this year, can definitely recommend the M2TM process though” Dave hasn’t been either as he admits. “I've never been I'm sorry to claim, but all I hear from people is how brilliant it is. It sounds like a really well laid out event with great people and bands, but without the 15-minute walk between stages to catch your favourite bands that are playing back to back “. That’s one of many reasons why BOA is so amazing.

We moved on to the final couple of questions. A Ritual Spirit has played with some decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far? “A lot of the bands we’ve played with have become real friends“says Steve. “Definitely gigs with Darkness Divine and Freak Show, it’s always just a really good night “.

”We've done a few shows with Warrior Soul, they've been pretty cool “adds Oli whilst Dave reminds the band of “that time Kory Clark joined us on stage while we murdered one of his songs, but he enjoyed it as much as we did LOL. The I.C.O.N. guys were ace to be around. I'd like to do more gigs with Electric Mother as well “. “I wouldn't say we murdered that Warrior Soul song “adds Oli, “more full gruntal munged it! “

After Bloodstock, what does the future for A Ritual Spirit look like?” Amazing and busy!!” according to Steve whilst Oli adds,” we’re currently writing our second album; the first single ...The Ever After should be ready pre-BOA so in the very near future we'll be releasing that. Afterwards more recording and as much touring as possible “. Dave is a little more to point. “Sweaty gigs, loud music and hopefully lots of fun “.

Our massive thanks to the guys from A Ritual Spirit for a full and honest interview. Remember kids, if you want some full Gruntal Munge, these guys are the ones to see. Catch A Ritual Spirit on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Friday 9th July at Bloodstock.

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Dawn Of Anubis By Paul H

Dawn Of Anubis Interview

Dawn Of Anubis were runners up in the highly competitive Leicester Metal To The Masses Final, and earnt the right to a slot on the Jagermeister Stage, often a great way to catch new fans who tend to stick to the main stage area. I caught up with the band to find out a bit more about them.

The band members have been around for several years before forming DOA so I started by asking them to provide a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up.

“We all started as a covers band called The Bench that rocked which went on to be very successful gigging 2-3 times a week but it took over from playing our own music so we started Dawn Of Anubis as an outlet. The band’s line up features: Lead guitar/ backing vox: Tom Ion; Rhythm guitar: Kyle Ahearne; Bass: Harold Billingham; Drums/ backing vox: Sam Roswell and lead vocalist Billy Chamberlain.

DOA have released an album called The Eye. Having listened to their latest songs Now Way Out and Broken Souls as I wrote this I was struck by the different styles that each song has. I asked the band to describe their sound for those who haven’t heard you? “Our first album ‘the eye’ was our first ‘sound’ our more recent track are developed versions of our first sound and we do not define ourselves as one genre. We have a mixture of influences within our music“. Okay, so who are the main influences for the band?

”Each member has different influences but main influences of all members include bands like A Day To Remember, Of Mice And Men, Whitechapel”

As in all my interviews, I like to find out about the guilty pleasures. “Country music is a big love of a few members within the band specifically an acapella group called Home Free“.

Inevitably, it was time to move on the Metal To The Masses and I asked DOA to provide their road to the final story. “Our road began with a music video for our track Broken Souls. We dropped the video the week before or first heat to build some hype, and from then on we ended up dropping a video on every single one of our rounds giving back to the fans that gave us constant support. It seemed to have helped getting us all the way to the finals“

As we know from our interview with winners Seven Hells, Leicester has a solid metal scene. Did the band feel confident they could get to the MTTM final? “After our first heat our confidence really increased it hit us, we can do this, and it just drove us on“. And what about the build-up to the final? How did DOA manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone? “We did in our opinion just enough pushing on social media to keep people interested with being too pushy sharing our videos giving away tees all helped towards the end goal”.

I’m sure there were a range of emotions going through the band so I asked them to tell us a bit about how it felt when they were told that they had a slot at BOA. ”We were very happy when we heard another slot had been opened up for one band and we knew then and there we’ve done it, that slot is ours. Some band members shed a little tear!” It’s pleasing to know that a tear or two was shed. This is emotional stuff after all. Good for them!

DOA have a Sunday slot on the Jagermeister Stage. It’ll be tight for five on that small stage. So what can we expect from the band? Why should those who are undecided come and watch? The band are clear about this: “We are something new and fresh and up and coming, become part of our experience and say you were there at the beginning as we aren’t going to stop”.

As well as playing, who are the band looking forward to seeing at BOA this year? “Mortishead are a huge favourite of ours and are really looking forward to seeing them again, oh and the almighty Gojira!” Indeed. Who isn’t waiting with anticipation for the French headliners?

The band haven’t experienced Bloodstock before but they are clear about why you should grab a ticket. “There are some excellent bands on the line up that’s a selling point enough. For us it will be our first bloodstock experience and we are very much looking forward to it“

Away from Bloodstock, the band have been around for a few years so what are some of the highlights so far.“Our biggest highlight within Dawn of Anubis has to be playing uprising as a part of the metal 2 the masses final it was an incredible evening that we will always remember”. And finally, what’s next for the band? “We are in the process of writing a new album full of our ‘up to date’ sound. keep your eyes peeled!” And no doubt your ears pinned back.

So if you fancy something that may be a bit different to the main Bloodstock fare, head for the Jagermeister Stage on Sunday 12th July. Give these guys a cheer and discover another of the UK’s up and coming bands. Many thanks to Dawn Of Anubis for their time and we wish them a cracking Bloodstock experience.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Reviews: Devin Townsend Project, Obscura, Snew, Embrace Of Thorns (Reviews By Rich & Paul H)

Devin Townsend Project: Ocean Machine - Live At The Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv (InsideOut Record) [Review By Rich]

This live release signals the end of an era and that is the conclusion of the Devin Townsend Project which is the band which has been recording and touring with Devin Townsend for the past 9 years. I have had the fortune to see the Devin Townsend Project perform live multiple times and they are a fantastic bunch of musicians who perfectly compliment Devin Townsend. If this is to be the final release from the band then it is an absolutely spectacular way to bring it to an end.

This live album which was recorded in the Ancient Roman Theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria is comprised of two sets. The first set is a fan requested greatest hits set performed alongside the Orchestra Of Plovdiv State Opera which adds a whole new dimension to songs which are already magnificently epic. The set spans Devin's solo career showcasing his diversity as a writer and musician with songs from albums such as Infinity, Accelerated Evolution, Ziltoid The Omniscient, Terria and latest album Transcendence. The orchestra adds a subtle extra layer to the songs making the huge and larger than life songs such as Truth, By Your Command and Bad Devil sound even more spectacular whilst bringing an added layer of poignancy to the softer and more introspective songs such as Canada and Deep Peace.

For the second set we see the Devin Townsend Project minus orchestra performing the entirety of the classic Ocean Machine: Biomech album. Seen as Devin's first solo album (although this was actually the ridiculously and brilliantly silly Punky Bruster: Cooked On Phonics album) this was the first album where we were introduced to the huge, epic and progressive sound we now associate with Devin. It's an album seen as one of Devin's finest and the live performance is absolutely flawless maybe even surpassing the original recordings. There are a few minor subtle changes throughout which only the hardcore Devin fan will notice but which don't detract from the original songs. There's a reason this album is so highly regarded and that is the quality of the songs from Life To Night to Hide Nowhere this is chock full of timeless classic Devin. The highlight though is the sombre and melancholic trilogy of Funeral, Bastard and The Death Of Music which to me is some of the finest material Devin has ever written and here it sounds absolutely sumptuous.

This is another superb live album from Devin Townsend and an absolutely fitting way to bring Devin Townsend Project to a close. Devin himself is continuing on as a solo artist with multiple albums on the way and a few of the other DTP members have gone on to form iMonolith so we haven't seen the last of these talented musicians. Hopefully one day the Devin Townsend Project will return but until then this is a fantastic way to bow out. 10/10

Obscura: Diluvium (Relapse Records) [Review By Rich]

Technical death metal is a style I have a tricky relationship with. When it is done right it's a wholly rewarded, inspiring and awe-inducing listening experience but it can so easily fall into the trap of becoming pretentious musical wankery with lots of style but very little substance. Germany's Obscura have always been one band from this subgenre that stood out more than most especially with their brilliant 2009 album Cosmogenesis. The albums that followed that release were solid yet slightly unspectacular and with the release of fifth album Diluvium there's definitely a marked improvement.

Obscura have always stood out amongst the legions of other technical death metal bands due to the inclusion of influences from the progressive metal genre which has given the band a more interesting and expansive sound than many of their contemporaries. The man who holds this band together is lead guitarist Rafael Trujillo with his blinding playing which whilst flashy is always within the context of the song. The songwriting is vastly improved on Diluvium with a more structured and cohesive songwriting approach and the inclusion of some new elements such as the symphonic strings on Ethereal Skies. There is also a melodic sensibility evident especially on the title track and brilliant Mortification Of The Vulgar Sun.

Whilst the best material Obscura have released in years there are several songs which my memory simply will not retain proving that Diluvium maybe is an album that requires several listens to fully digest. Despite a few minor shortcomings this is easily the best release the band have put out since Cosmogenesis and will definitely be making the top album lists for many people in 2018. 8/10

Snew: You’ve Got Some Nerve (Self Released) [Review By Paul H]

With a sound that sits comfortably in the AC/DC and Rose Tattoo arena, Californian band Snew’s fourth release is basically one big party album, full of stomping hard rock. Although the press references Deep Purple and Whitesnake as similar outfits, this album veers much more towards the antipodean stomp of Angus and Angry. Simple yet effective four bar boogie, completed by the gravel soaked vocal of Curtis Don Vito, who manages to achieve a cross between the sleaze of Bon Scott, the snarl of Mark Torino and the shriek of Udo Dirkschneider.

With tracks including the thundering Holy Hell, UR Freaking Me Out and the smouldering thump of You Tell Me and Revolution Is A Closed Loop all drenched in the blues and tightly delivered by Andy Lux, the excellently named Lenny Spickle and Mark Ohrenberger, You’ve Got Some Nerve is an album built for long drives, late night parties and any time where you are having a good time. It won’t break the mould for originality, but it does put a smile on your face which is what you often need. Heads down rock ‘n’ roll. You’ve Got Some Nerve! 7/10

Embrace Of Thorns: Scorn Aesthetics (Iron Bonehead Productions) [Review By Paul H]

Scorn Aesthetics is the fifth album from the Greek black and death metal outfit who have been around since 1999. This is the first album since 2014’s Darkness Impenetrable and it’s a blistering thunderous affair, once you’ve got past the band’s ridiculous names. Yes, the band members pseudonyms are guitarists The Fallen Angel Of Fornication and Herald Of Demonic Pestilence, vocals and bass from Archfiend Devil Pig, bass from the angelic Rampike and drummer Maelstrom. 

When you realise that these mask the slightly more traditional names of Nick, Kostas, John, Stergios and Haris then they don’t seem quite as sinister. Regardless of this, their music is evil and full of nihilistic anti-religious vitriol which spews forth as if from the arse of old Nick himself. Penultimate track In Our Image, After Our Own Likeness, all nine-minutes+ is probably the pick of the tracks, a brooding, malevolent snarl which opens slowly but picks up speed like a raging bull. If you can get past the ridiculous names, and yes, I know this is part of the whole black metal thing, Embrace Of Thorns is a band you really need to get involved with. Their brutality and smouldering hate perfect for a sunny afternoon. 8/10

Monday 23 July 2018

The Spotlight Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Cadence Noir By Paul H

Cadence Noir Interview

Cadence Noir won the North Wales Metal To The Masses Final in June. The band are no strangers to BOA, having played the festival in 2014. A complex outfit with members from all over the country, they have caused quite a stir. I began by asking the band to provide a bit of background and to introduce the current line-up

“Formed as an acoustic duo in 2010, after frequenting almost every open mic in the East Midlands, we added Emma on Violin in early 2011 before realising that the energy the 3 of us had together meant that it was obvious we were in dire need of a rhythm section. A happy meeting at a jam night in Nottingham in 2011 with Tom and our original drummer Rob lead to the creation of the aural chaos now referred to as Cadence Noir”.

The band’s current line-up is Ade – Guitar/Vocals, Tom – Bass, Emma – Violin, Dave – Drums, Nick - Guitar

I’ve read numerous descriptions of the band’s style and I’ve seen the phrase ‘Goth Folk ‘n Roll’ used. After apologising for asking a question they’ve been asked hundreds of times I asked them to describe the Cadence Noir sound.

“Our violinist Emma likes to quote a meme showing a fellow in corpse paint sporting an accordion shouting ‘I only listen to Post Glam Speed Folk!’ – A not entirely inaccurate description. Genuinely, we take all the best parts of Metal, Folk, Blues, Punk and Rock’n’Roll… and then ruin them”.

I think that probably covers it quite nicely although the proof is to see the band in the live arena and make up your own mind. I moved on to ask who are the main influences for the band? Where to start? “Well… There’s more than a few…” Emma – Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon; Ade – Limp, Korn, Deftones; Dave – Tool, Opeth, Dream Theater; Nick – Ugly Kid Joe, Alice In Chains; Tom – Ozzy, Maiden, Sonata Arctica … None of which can be heard in our music!!” So, what about the guilty pleasure? This one’s easy. “Truthfully. The music we make. It really is”.

As I noted the band hail from a range of cities across the UK and played in the Liverpool MTTM heats last year. The band obviously worked hard to get through to the final of the MTTM in Wrexham this year. Was last years’ experience helpful in planning 2018? “Last year we performed at EBGBS as our Violinist Emma is from Liverpool and as far as we were concerned at the time it was just a cool gig for us, we had no ideas of grandeur and just enjoyed performing alongside the other acts to a fabulous crowd. Believe it or not that was genuinely the plan for this year too. Ade grew up in Wrexham and had always wanted us to do a gig in his home town. We genuinely didn’t expect it to go any further than that”.

I asked the band if they felt confident that they could get to the final.

“Again, honestly no. Our bassist and his partner were awaiting the imminent arrival of their 2nd child due shortly after the first heat so our original plan was to just enjoy the gig then take a couple of months off. We are eternally grateful to Tom’s partner Lorraine for letting him back out to play the semi and to our surprise, the final”. Good on you Lorraine. Look how it turned out!

I wanted to know about the band’s build-up to the final, and how they managed to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone? “Throughout the gigs we diversified our set lists, and were very thankful to the audiences whose votes got us through to the final, I think we gained quite a few converts over the course of the competition and it was truly amazing to see the crowd respond to our performances. The final was always going to be an intense affair with Redwood Avenue, Impavidus and OMV all wanting to progress and giving it their all. Our genuine belief at the time that we had no chance of winning meant that we were just honoured to have gotten to perform on the stage at Central Station, a long-held ambition of Ade’s. As such we were all relaxed and just enjoyed playing the show together, maybe that helped in the end”.

How did it feel when Cadence Noir was announced by Rob Bannister as the winning band? “When we heard our name, Ade dropped in what he describes as “horror” and Em swore rather loudly in disbelief. The calibre of the competition was so high that some of us had already decided to order our tickets the next day. We were stood at the back of the crowd ready to get the drinks in for the winners when Rob shouted us out. It took a few minutes to sink in and we were elated to have made it but felt awful for the other bands”.

Moving on to Bloodstock 2018. Cadence Noir have played the festival before but are now on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on the Saturday. What can we expect and why should the undecided come and watch? “Some people might remember our 2014 set on the Jägermeister stage being a raucous, bluesy, mainly acoustic affair – four years on we are bringing a louder, heavier, slightly angrier prospect to the New Blood stage. Our unique brand of folk-shred riffs, the occasional breakdown, and lyrical storytelling, ranting, wry humour and frequent strong language give us more metallic cutlery for our place at the table, but we’re still a fresh taste. We’re musically eclectic and proudly mad”.

“You have to see us live to get the full force of the delivery though - if you’re undecided, the best way to decide if we’re worth watching or not is to watch us in the tent instead of YouTube. You can expect sing-alongs and jigs to breakdowns and bluegrass. If you’re looking for something you haven’t heard before, or our description ticks even a few of your boxes, you’ll be welcome in the pit”.

It’s a bit of a Welsh invasion this year with the guys from Sodomised Cadaver, Democratus and Cranial Separation all playing. Do you class yourselves as a fifth Welsh and more importantly should we invite you to the party?

“Along with our many achievements as a band, Mr Noir boasts multiple childhood Eisteddfod certificates along with the associated mental scarring and aversion to Daffodils. Lost his virginity in Llandudno, his soul in Rhyl and has a fully complete if slightly soiled Euro 2016 sticker album entirely dedicated to Gareth Bale”.

I think that is a yes, solely on the Euro 2016 sticker book. Remember kids, Gareth Bale is god.

For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go? The band are effusive in their praise. “As a festival there is truly nothing else like it in the UK. The diversity of the bands on offer as well as the range of food and entertainment make it a most unique prospect. Also, there’s a real sense of community amongst everyone, you’re never far from making a new friend, bumping into an old friend, or seeing a naked guy with a bum bag. (Seriously. It doesn’t matter where you are, he’s there)”. Not sure if that is a selling point but yes, we’ve all seen naked bum bag guy at the festival. More’s the pity!

Cadence Noir have played with some decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far?

“Supporting Evil Scarecrow is always going to take some topping. Uprising Festival in Leicester last year was an amazing experience as well, the line-up was terrific with particularly stand out sets from Bossk, Kill II This, and Barb Wire Dolls – we shared the bill with fellow M2TM 2018 winners Pelugion from Coventry. We were also lucky enough to get to go out to the Czech Republic for a couple of gigs in 2015 and whilst it was a very tiring introduction to driving across Europe, the whole experience was amazing, and we feel it really bonded us all as a band as we had just gone through a couple of line-up changes”.

The band has UK gigs lined-up in the next few months. What does the future for Cadence Noir look like?

“As we approach our 8th year of stubborn existence, we are continuing to gig UK wide and are hoping to keep the momentum going after our BOA appearance this year by bringing our live shenanigans to as yet untouched territories of our fine nation and even possibly a bit further afield. We are pleased to already have a few dates in for 2019 and indeed a return to fair Wrexham TBA later this year along with a few shows with some of this and previous years’ M2TM Winners. Not as busy as Witch Tripper, but busy enough with luck!”

Very few bands are as busy as Witch Tripper to be honest. Diolch yn fawr iawn to Cadence Noir for their great interview. Alongside many other great bands over the Bloodstock weekend, these guys should be well worth checking out.

Reviews: Lost Domain, Gioeli-Castronovo, Reaper, Stonewitch (Reviews By Rich & Matt)

Lost Domain: ...In The Waiting Room Of Death (Krylight Records) [Review By Rich]

...In The Waiting Room Of Death is the highly impressive debut full length album by Swedish band Lost Domain having previously released a self titled EP back in 2013. Lost Domain play progressive power metal reminiscent of bands such as Kamelot and Evergrey. The songs are dark in tone with plenty of crunchy riffing and impressive drumming with the fantastic vocals of frontwoman Catalina Leonte elevating the strong melodies and catchy choruses throughout the album. There is a nice variation of songs throughout from the power metal leanings of Silent Cry, the headbanging friendly Beneath The Bridge, the atmospheric ballad Desole and the melodic death metal leaning Rebellious Angel which also features Bjorn Strid of Soilwork on guest vocals (that man sure does get about!) The songs are all boosted by the strong punchy production job on the album. Lost Domain have produced a very impressive debut album which combines strong melodies, catchy choruses, strong riffing and a dark tone. Definitely a band to keep an eye on. 8/10

Gioleli-Castronovo: Set The World On Fire (Frontiers Records) [Review By Matt]

Johnny Gioeli is probably best known as being the vocalist of 90’s hard rockers Hardline, their 1992 debut Double Eclipse album still holds up as one of the best records of that period mainly due to Gioeli’s vocals and the contributions of Journey members Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo, since that album Deen has played with Ozzy, Revolution Saints and is now in Dead Daises while Johnny still leads Hardline as well as being the singer for Axel Rudi Pell and Crush 40 (Sonic fans let me hear you). However 25 years after Double Eclipse Castronovo and Gioeli have reconvened to record their own album for Frontiers. Being a Frontiers release there a level of slickness that every album has and like Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section or The LA Wrecking Crew the studio musicians on this record a pool of brilliant players who make these songs come alive with Alessandro Del Vecchio on keys and production.

The music on Set The World On Fire rarely moves away from the melodic rock style both have been so heavily involved in for their careers. Both men take the lead vocals, as those who have seen Journey or Revolution Saints will know Deen is a very good singer in his own right however it’s Gioeli’s smooth tones that catch the attention except when both are harmonizing on tracks such as Fall Like An Angel and the bouncy title track. At times it’s more Journey than Journey but that’s not a criticism due to the men’s shared history, Set The World On Fire is mostly classy melodic rock with one too many ballads and the cover of Need You Now by Lady Antebellum which doesn’t need to be there. 6/10

Reaper: Birth Of Chaos (863193 Records DK) [Review By Rich]

Birth Of Chaos is the independently released debut album of Liverpudlian thrashers Reaper. Being a bit of a thrash aficionado and having not previously heard of Reaper I was eager to give this album a spin. Two things that can be said of Reaper is that they know how to thrash and they sure can play their instruments. Birth Of Chaos is an all you can eat buffet of absolutely relentless riffs that I was more than happy to devour. This album is very much rooted in old school thrash metal with a nice balance of more melodic thrash and the violent and aggressive style.

Highlights for me included the melodically tinged World At Redemption, the all out thrash assault of The Crypt and the Megadeth inspired Wings Of Darkness. Unfortunately what does let this album down is the paper thin production with the bass rendered almost inaudible and the drums lacking any power. With a better production this album could lay waste to continents. Production issues aside Birth Of Chaos is a fantastic thrash record which whilst suitably melodic is also a savage beast of a record. 8/10

Stonewitch: The Midnight Tales (Legion Of Death Records) [Review By Rich]

The Midnight Tales is the second album by French band Stonewitch and is a very old school sounding release combining a classic doom sound with traditional heavy metal. The band wear their influences on their sleeves and throughout you can hear elements of bands such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Angel Witch and Iron Maiden. The Midnight Tales starts off very strong with a trio of brilliant songs from the very classic doom inspired The Phoenix Risen, the speedy NWOBHM driven A Blood Run Cult and the pure classic metal worship of A Farewell Drink.

 This is a splendid start to the album but from this point onwards the quality drops ever so slightly and things get rather repetitive with songs such as Wild Lands and The Midnight Tale both opening with a somber acoustic intro before turning into a dark melodic epic. Putting these two songs at separate points in the album rather than right next to each other would have helped improve the flow of the album in my opinion. Stonewitch have released an album where they showcase their love for classic doom and traditional heavy metal. It's not original but is a well played and well written ode to the years of metal past. 7/10